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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fighting Back

I loved to blog! At least I did until the devil convinced me otherwise. Negative thoughts broke through my defenses and persuaded me to stop. So I listened.

A yearning, however, to write, share, and connect with others still beckoned to me. For a while, I even believed my writing wasn’t good enough to share. Then I concluded this is my journal—my thoughts, feelings, and hardships. It’s not about writing perfect, but about being real.

So let’s catch up!

Perhaps the reason I stopped sharing was because my emotions were all over the place. It’s been a roller coaster ride with my health. And, I guess, I just needed time to adjust, especially when the bad news was delivered.

Hearing things like “You’ll never get better.” “You’re disabled.” “You should quit your job and focus on finding a treatment.” hurts on so many levels.

It’s even harder when my body confirms what my mind hears. Every day that a new nodule surfaces or a new location swells upsets me. When I can barely walk or use my hands, it scares me. Because even though I try to remain positive and walk by faith, my subconscious wonders. If what I’ve been told my whole life is true.

Is my body incurable? Will I get worse?

Even though I try to be focused, determined, and positive about it all, still I struggle at times. I don’t want the enemy to destroy me! So I have decided to try a different approach and work on self-healing. I already know and understand that God is not going to heal my physical scars (and I truly don’t want Him to), but I believe that He can help me overcome my hardships. Instead of being upset with my body, I want to nurture and love it. I want to be the best me that I can be! And by no means am I ready to give up! This is my life and I refuse to allow anyone or anything to take it from me!

My wellness plan:

·        Pray

·        Seek God’s guidance and wisdom

·        Read His word daily

·        Spend more time with loved ones

·        Laugh often

·        Smile

·        Healthy, gluten free lifestyle

·        Exercise at least five times a week

·        Take vitamins and herbs for the conditions

·        Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night

·        Meditate

·        Keep a gratitude journal

·        Write as often as possible

·        Ultimately believe that my body will heal

·        Love unconditionally

·        Continue on my life’s purpose

·        Find the problem areas in my life and work on fixing them

·        Spend at least a few minutes each day outside

·        Ignore the negative voice always trying to stop and hurt me

·        Be brave

·        Be optimistic

·        Be an Overcomer

Is there a part of your life that needs nurturing? Are you the best you that you can be? I truly believe that we all have the ability to overcome our hardships. I recently read a quote that stated pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

This day I was in so much pain that it took everything inside me just to smile.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Survivor: How I found acceptance through Zippy

I will never forget the horrid feeling of being bullied. Words, sharp as knives, swiped at me over and over until it felt as if I would crumble. I remember trying to escape the pain and running to my safe haven. Looked inside a bathroom stall at school, restrained tears fell and begged God for help.

Scarred and ashamed, I believed the nasty words. When the bully yelled that I was ugly, it just confirmed what my heart already thought. And when they made fun of my scars, I had tried to pray away, my heart broken into a million pieces. Their words were so devastating and heartbreaking because I had already thought the same things daily. Even though the pain was unbearable, I kept it locked inside me. I didn’t want to share my feelings or heartache with anyone.

The day I looked into a coffin of a child, who had taken her own life, my feelings changed and my heart decided to do something to help. Years prior that could have been me. There was a time when I begged God to remove me from my pain—when I no longer wanted to live.

In my efforts to help others, I penned a children’s book about a little zebra without stripes.
But I couldn’t get it right. One million drafts later, God opened my eyes and allowed me to see things differently. When I finally wrote the ending, a lifetime of burdens and heartaches were destroyed. My scars and condition no longer hurt me. Acceptance is powerful. It transforms our heartaches into blessings.

My scars were no longer a burden, but beautiful blessings. God did not curse me with scars. He blessed me with life. The only thing about my life that changed was how I viewed it. We can cry over all of the things we don’t have, or we can learn to be thankful for our unique blessings. Sometimes we put too much thought into what we want for our lives ,and fail to see that God has a greater purpose for us. All I wanted was unscarred hands, arm, and foot, but God gave me so much more.

Every day I’m thankful to be alive and for the opportunity to raise my children. I’m so thankful to go into schools and promote kindness and encourage everyone to celebrate their differences and life. My scars have transformed me into a stronger person. I’m more compassionate and willing to help others along their journey.

I have learned that words and actions can only hurt us if we allow them to. Stares and whispers no longer have any control over me. All a stranger might see is my scars, but it is up to me to show them my heart. If they are staring at me that just means I have their undivided attention, and should use that moment to reflect God.

I know that every single day comes with challenges and obstacles, but I’m so grateful for each one. If given the choice, I would keep my scars. And I pray every day God will bless me to help someone in some way.

 “Zippy and the Stripes of Courage” is free on Amazon June 22, 23, and 24 only. I sincerely hope that you will download your free copy and share the information with others. You never know who might be struggling with their own issues and would benefit from reading Zippy’s story.
It can be downloaded on the kindle, kindle app for iPhone and iPad, or your computer using the free kindle app.

While I’m no poet, this poem slipped out.

The Survivor

Scarred and ashamed
Filled with pain
Afraid to live
Bound by fears


God and acceptance
Squelched the bonds
Purpose and thankfulness
Transformed the inside


Now a window to God
Inspiring and helping others
A testimony of power
Reflecting God’s ultimate plan


Monday, April 29, 2013

The Test

Our ability to prevail comes from inside of us all. It is our gift from God.

I parked at the end of the long, parking lot. It took me several minutes to climb out of my vehicle, and then another minute or so to convince myself to take that first step toward the store. I limped and each step was difficult, but not impossible. (I leave the closer spaces for someone who needs them.)

By the time I got inside the store my legs trembled. Overwhelmed, my eyes filled with tears. Every step became even more difficult. I stopped in the aisle and called my husband. I wanted to bury my head in his shoulder and allow him to carry me out of the store. When he answered the phone, he sounded busy so I swallowed my tears and didn’t mention my dilemma.

Even though I was alone, God was with me. He encouraged me to try –take one step, then another. With tears in my eyes and pain shaking my whole body, God gave me a test. Give up or try. Those were my only options. A part of me wanted to give up, but something greater urged me to try.

I John 4:4 KJV

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

I stood up tall, wiped my tears, and smiled. With every step, God showed me that true strength comes from Him. Our enemy is powerless against God.

The next few weeks were tough, and I worried about the next obstacle. It got even harder after my knee locked and I fell one Sunday morning, but I still hobbled to church. Sometimes it’s hard to smile, when I’m so scared, and the devil continuously torments me.

Overwhelmed and feeling defeated, I decided to buy practical, comfortable shoes. None of the shoes appealed to me, and the thought of giving up made me ill. So instead of comfortable and practical, I bought red high heels. Just holding them gave me courage and hope.

A few weeks later, I had a school visit. I had bought every shoe support imaginable, but nothing helped. Determined to go to my visit, I pulled out my heels. It seemed crazy, but they boosted my spirit and gave me hope of a better day. Sometimes all we need is possible.

I completed the school visit in my heels, without limping, and rejoiced inside for my victory. When I pulled into the grocery store, I reached into the back for my comfortable shoes. And then, I stopped.

With two cysts and superficial blood clots in my leg, I stepped out of my vehicle in heels, prepared to stomp my fears. Not only did I walk without limping or tears, but I smiled.

My feet and leg ached, but I ignored the pain. When I finished my shopping, I bought a beautiful bouquet to celebrate my life and ability to overcome.

Every day brings new challenges for me. Now I have cyst or nodules on the joints in my hands, elbows, and knee along with my other challenges. But I still exercised this morning and worked today. I’ve scheduled five new events and conquered my fears. I can’t allow the worries and what-ifs of tomorrow to stop me. God expects us to walk by faith for Him. One God Moment can triumph a million negative thoughts.

I may fail God, but He will never fail me.

 How do you overcome your challenges?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What I Learned Being a Caregiver for My Wife by Cameron Von St. James

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances” on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Cameron Von St. James.

On November 21, 2005, my wife was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, and it was a day I will never forget. On this day, I took the role of caregiver in my wife’s life, and I was not prepared. Three months prior to Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis, we celebrated the birth of our first child, Lily. When we received the diagnosis, I thought we would be celebrating our first Thanksgiving and Christmas with Lily, but instead our world was in chaos over planning Heather’s treatment.

As her caregiver, I had to help make decisions about Heather’s cancer treatment. We had three choices laid out for us by Heather’s physician: the local university hospital, a specialist in Boston, or a regional hospital that was very good, but lacked a specific mesothelioma program. My wife was still so in shock and terrified about the diagnosis that I had to make the decision myself, and emphatically, I told the doctor, “Get us to Boston!”  I felt that seeing a mesothelioma specialist would be the best course of action for Heather, and I wanted her to get the very best treatment available.

The two months following the diagnosis were chaotic. In the past, Heather and I worked full time. After her diagnosis, she was not able to work, and I could only work part time while caring for her and Lily. I was overwhelmed with responsibilities such as spending time at my wife’s doctor’s appointments, making travel arrangements, going to Boston for treatments and providing care for Lily.  The list of tasks on my plate grew and grew by the day, and I often felt as if I would crumble under the pressure.

I also remember thinking we are going to end up broke, with our drastically reduced income and our ever-expanding bills.  This only added to my immense stress.  As hard as I tried to stay positive, I often had terrible thoughts that my wife might die, and I would be left a homeless widower with a baby to raise all on my own. When I was faced with this type of fear, I would lie down on my kitchen floor and cry my eyes out. Even though I felt helpless, I never allowed Heather to see me in these moments of weakness. I wanted to remain strong for her, and I knew that the last thing she needed was to see my fears.

Without the help of family, friends, and even strangers, I would not have been able to do it. They offered us everything from desperately needed financial assistance to kind, comforting words. We are so grateful for all the help we received, and we advise everyone who has cancer to accept any help offered.  It took me a while to let go of my pride and start accepting these offers, but I learned that there is no room for pride in a cancer fight. No matter how big or small, it all helps, and will remind you that you are not alone.

I learned that being a caregiver is filled with uncertainty and stress. It may be the most difficult challenge of your life that you cannot walk away from. You will have bad days, but don’t give up hope. Use your resources to help you remain sane.

It took many years for life to return to normal after Heather’s surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Despite the terrible diagnosis and frightening odds against her, Heather battled through and remained strong and determined while doing it.  Today, over seven years later, she is healthy and cancer free.  Mesothelioma is no longer a part of our lives, and we hope that by sharing our story of hope and success, we can help others currently battling cancer today. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raising a Child With a Limb Difference! by Katie Kolberg Memmel

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances” on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Katie Kolberg Memmel!

“Love your kids like crazy! Be strong and bold advocates for your children. Through your strong example they will, in turn, grow to be strong and bold advocates – not only for themselves, but for others as well… and for the world around them.”  
A quote from “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born With a Limb Difference” by Katie Kolberg Memmel

Over the past couple of years, I’ve connected with many inspiring people via the internet – including Candida Sullivan. I just love how broadly the internet impacts (in good ways) the world we live in - don’t you? When Candida asked if I’d guest write for her blog this month, I felt honored. She told me that April’s theme would be “Overcoming Circumstances.” I want to thank her for this unique opportunity, and allowing me to share my story with you. Hopefully my insights will make a positive difference.  

As I pondered her theme, I decided that the most basic advice I can offer is this: in order to overcome circumstances, we need to first acknowledge that there is an issue that requires overcoming. And once acknowledged, we need to take action. I do not believe there is a human being on this earth – past, present or future – that didn’t or won’t have something that they need (or want) to overcome. Certainly, each person views their circumstances differently – some present upbeat and positive outlooks, while others complain and sulk – but nonetheless, there’s something that each individual is working on. Guaranteed!

In my younger years, all I dreamed of was to become a mother. So, in 1985 when my husband and I found out I was expecting, we eagerly anticipated our brand new roles of mommy and daddy. Though I’d received decent pre-natal care, ultrasounds were not performed routinely back then. Entering the delivery room, we had no idea what was about to happen. I gave my last push and the doctor exclaimed, “It’s a boy!” At the age of 24, I had given birth to my first child, Tony Memmel – and he was born missing his left forearm and hand.

People talk negatively about “judging.” But in all fairness, I believe there are times that I don’t think we have a choice. I find that judgments of many varieties are made easily and spontaneously. Why, without hesitation my doctor – a professional who’d witnessed hundreds of births - instantly judged our new situation. Though his mouth was covered with a surgical mask, I could read the shocked look in his eyes, and knew something was wrong. My husband also judged the situation as he gently turned my head toward his chest, sheltering me from seeing my newborn son. And when I wriggled free, I also immediately judged. From that very first minute I wondered everything a young parent might wonder: What now? Is everything else okay? Will he crawl? Will he hold a bottle? Will he have friends, play sports or music? Will he ever get married? Before my son had a name on his birth certificate, I’d negatively plotted out his entire life…

I loved my baby – please never doubt that. However, I’m never very proud to admit that I cried about his arm - in fact I cried really hard. I just didn’t know what the future would hold for my sweet baby boy.

About a week into my motherhood adventure, my pastor asked me a thought-provoking question. “Kate, have you considered that God might use this situation for His larger purpose?” 

Ummm, no… I have not considered that. Can God really use a situation like this for His greater good?  I liked the thought and decided it may have merit. With this new thought in mind, Todd and I set out to raise a happy, confident, and independent young man. Piece of cake…

Because of my own early snap judgments, I assumed that other people would judge our situation too. Their possible negative opinions of our new family made me afraid to go out into public with my baby. Often when a stranger admired Tony, they’d notice his arm and become quiet – awkward. At that time, it would have been easier for me to simply stay home.

But a persistent voice kept talking inside my head… How will you raise a happy, confident and independent young man if you never expose him to the outside world? You need to go - get out of the house!  Sometimes the voice had no name. Other times the voice came through loving family members or friends who wanted the best for us, and encouraged my participation in any and all events.

Remembering my pastor’s question, I forced myself out – no more hiding. If the location seemed scary, I figured it was even more important to go. Consequently, Tony and I went everywhere - the mall, the beach, pools, getting fit for prosthetics. When I felt sad and needed to talk about our situation with other people, I acknowledged that emotion and sought support from those who’d gone through similar situations before me.

Along the way, something interesting happened. I got good at confrontation. I learned to look up, make eye contact, and answer questions without crying (although there were days I went home and cried – not going to lie). Through these encounters, I chose to present myself as an educator - welcoming rather than discouraging questions from others. Through this repetition, my son heard my answers and learned his own truth. Every step I took was a step he took - and eventually, he found his own voice. “I was born this way,” he began to say boldly.

Were kids ever cruel or judgmental? Sure, you bet! So are adults! So are siblings! And in the beginning, so was I, right? People can be cruel and judgmental in every scenario of life. It helped me to remember that whether someone has one arm, or freckles, or glasses, or braces, or red hair, or green snow pants, or shoes that don’t tie, or straight (or curly) hair – the list is never-ending - if someone has it in for us, they’ll be cruel. BUT, I’ve found that the best defense is a good offense. I asked myself what can I offer this situation - Kindness? Humor? Constructive sarcasm? I needed to acknowledge my issues and take action. What might have happened if I’d hid in my house after Tony was born? What if I hadn’t challenged myself to figure out our new situation? Our life may have turned out very differently.

As things turned out, Tony Memmel has become an inspiring and talented man of faith. He’s a college graduate, a public speaker, a musician, a traveling singer/songwriter, who’s married to a beautiful young woman (Lesleigh). He hasn’t let his arm stop him from doing anything he’s wanted to do, including playing the guitar. For his schedule and information, visit  

 In 2012, at the age of 50, I proudly wrote and published my very first book, “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born With a Limb Difference.” (Read reviews at It chronicles my/our parenting and family’s experiences of raising Tony. The book is a labor of my deepest love for my family. If you choose to read our full story, I hope you enjoy it.
God’s Blessings to each of you as you overcome your own circumstances.

Katie Kolberg Memmel’s “Five Fingers, Ten Toes…” is available through Amazon as both a Kindle download as well as a paperback.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Overcoming Obstacles Through God by Evelyn Sites

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances” on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Evelyn Sites.
Hello, my name is Evelyn Sites. I am 55 years old and this is the first time in my life I have purposefully take a picture of my hands, not because I have been ashamed- there doesn't seem to have been a reason to do this until now.
I am supposed to write about overcoming something in my life. I have overcome so many things that it's hard to choose what to share. But in the interest of helping others, which I believe is God's calling in my life, I think I would like to share overcoming anxiety. I had severe anxiety (and depression) for many years. Anxiety manifested in my life as bad relationships, self loathing, and a near constant battle in my mind for many years. I used alcohol to medicate, and really believed for many years that I didn't deserve any better than walking around feeling like a dark cloud hung over my life. Having "birth defects" (which I have recently learned is Amniotic Band Syndrome) was only a small piece of my troubled life. I'm not going to revisit all the reasons that contributed to becoming such a miserable person; I want to revisit how God walked with me daily (and still does) and gently but persistently led me to healing from debilitating anxiety.
He worked in my thought life by teaching me to challenge negativity little by little, AND teaching me that it's all about Him, not me! God taught me to love myself enough to make good choices because He loves me! Change did not happen over night, and I worked hard to be an overcomer; but all the credit goes to God who through His limitless mercy and grace made me realize I have a purpose in life. He not only made me realize I had a purpose, He taught me how to serve that purpose. Revelation 12:11 tells us we are overcomers by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony. Thank you for allowing me to share.  May God Bless you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Battle with the Beast by Alicia Bowling

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances” on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Alicia Bowling!

My name is Alicia Bowling and I’ll never forget the phone call that changed my life forever. It was a Wednesday, September 13, 2006 to be exact. I was feeding my six month old baby girl and waiting for my husband to come home from work at any moment. The phone rang and I noticed the number was from the doctor’s office. I realize that no news is good news but why were they calling me so soon? I just had the ugly bump on my hip biopsied just Monday. Well if it’s cancer at least its skin cancer and they can just cut it off and I’ll be fine......These were the thoughts going through my head.

I answered the phone and the nurse on the other end was very persistent that I come to their office right now!!! The urgency in her voice immediately made me cry. I asked “is it bad?” She said, “I can’t give you that information over the phone. I’ve already contacted your husband and he is on his way to get you. We just need you to get here as soon as possible so the doctor can go over your biopsy results and we already have you set up to see a surgeon today.”

All the way to the doctor’s office we felt numb. I guess just in shock and preparing to somehow absorb what the doctor was about to tell us. She came in with my report and said, “Your biopsy came back as Invasive Malignant Melanoma. At this point it’s already a stage two just based on the biopsy but we suspect it’s already spread to your lymph nodes because of how deep it’s spread into your subcutaneous tissues. Your chance of survival for stage 2 is 60% in 5 years and if its stage 3 your 5 year chance of survival is 30-50% depending on the extent of lymph node involvement.” I was in complete shock. All I could say was, “so this could kill me?” I thought skin cancer was something you just cut off and you’re fine. I had no ideal just how serious this was.

Later that day we met with the surgeon and he scheduled surgery for Friday, September 15. I was not prepared for how large the excision scar for the melanoma and lymph node removal would be. I looked like I had a huge shark bite on my left hip that had been sewn back together.

The following week I received the news that the Beast Melanoma had spread to my pelvic lymph nodes and I would have to endure a year of toxic chemotherapy. Yes, an Entire YEAR and studies show it only helps 15% of patients who take the drug. The first month was high dose treatments Monday thru Friday (5 days per week) and then 3 days per week for the next eleven months. I started the chemo just one week after my baby girl had serious kidney surgery to repair her blocked ureter and re-implant into her bladder. Needless to say it was a difficult time but looking back I felt light. I know God was carrying us the entire time.

I remember going to the chemo suite for the first time and reading the warning label on the drug the nurse was getting ready to pump into my body. It read “WARNING: Alpha interferons, including INTRON A, cause or aggravate fatal or life-threatening neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, ischemic, and infectious disorders. Side effects include neutropenia, fatigue, myalgia, headache, fever, chills, elevated SCOT(liver enzymes), nausea, vomiting, depression, alopecia (hair loss), diarrhea, and thrombocytopenia. Depression and Suicidal Behavior, including Suicidal attempts and Completed Suicides have been reported with treatment with Alpha Interferons. Patients should be monitored closely with periodic clinical and laboratory evaluations.” When in these kind of situations you just do what you have to do to survive and for me it was letting this nurse pump this toxic stuff into my body and pray it works.

I won’t go into great detail about the entire year of chemo but I’ll tell you it was the hardest thing I have ever physically had to endure. Imagine having the flu for an entire year. For an entire year I ran a fever, had vomiting/diarrhea, bone pain, and the worst part is the memory loss. I don’t remember my baby girls first year of life. I remember being angry at times because of not being able to do things I normally could do on my own. If I’m being completely honest it was hard for me to see others out there living their lives and I felt like mine was at a standstill or a living hell.

It angered me to see people complain about doing tasks that are considered a privilege to those fighting to live. It was the most humbling thing I’ve ever been through to allow others to help take care of me. We had an enormous amount of medical bills and it was amazing to feel the people who rallied around us. It was as if God was using these people to help hold us up. I was taken off the drug three weeks shy of finishing the entire year due to severe effects from the drug. I had a TIA (mini stroke), blood infection (treated with Vancomycin), and blood levels severely low that landed me in the hospital for a while.

I wish I could say my cancer journey ended after treatment in November 2007 but it didn’t... In November 2008 I became pregnant with my baby boy Andrew and He was born July 23 2009. I wasn’t supposed to have any more children and was on birth control when we became pregnant with Andrew. In July 2010 I developed a second Melanoma Primary tumor on my shoulder and had surgery. Then In January 2011 I developed yet another Melanoma Primary and endured yet another surgery. After testing at Vanderbilt’s Melanoma Clinic I was told I have a genetic mutation which puts me at high risk for developing multiple melanomas. I’m already at high risk for this disease spreading since its spread to my lymph nodes so I get scans every 3-6 months.

My life consists of getting anything unusual on my skin biopsied and getting scans. I live with lymphedema in my left hip from having my pelvic lymph nodes removed. I have over 20 scars on my body and yes it’s disfiguring but it’s better than the alternative.

Living with the thought that this cancer could come back and kill me is a reality but I’m not going to let that thought control my life. It’s a daily battle and especially when it’s scan time to not let my mind run away with the anxiety of what could be. The Lord says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It’s in those moments when life feels completely out of control that God reminds us that He is in control. I had to also remind myself that Fear is not from God. God does not give us a spirit of fear but of POWER, LOVE, and a SOUND MIND. We can’t forget the reason we fight so hard--WE FIGHT TO LIVE! Each day we grow older is such an honor and a privilege. Don’t take one single day for granted. Get out there and live!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Perseverance and Determination by Amanda Romero

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances” on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Amanda Romero!
My name is Amanda Romero and I was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome. And to put that in very simple terms, it’s like putting a lot of rubber bands on a fetus’ digits/limbs while they’re still forming in the womb. My fingers and toes are affected, and I have a band on my right leg. I’ve had a lot of surgeries to help separate my fingers and toes to give me the most use from what I had.
Throughout my life, my mom has been my number one fan always encouraging me to do what I wanted to. She was there to wipe the tears off my face when I was bullied at school, and she was always the first to tell me “Don’t ever say you can’t do something because you can do it if you put your mind to it.” But this story is the one exception where she didn’t have the “you can” attitude.
When I was in second grade, I was introduced to musical instruments. The minute my eyes saw the violin and my ears heard it I was in love. That day, I begged my mom to sign me up for music lessons. I wanted to learn how to play the violin. That was probably one situation that she didn’t want to be in: encouraging me while trying to face reality and the probability that I might fail. She told me no, she didn’t think it was possible for me to learn how to play the violin.
When middle school came around, I had the opportunity to sign up for choir/art, or I could learn to play an instrument. Knowing that my mom was not going to support me, I signed up for beginning orchestra behind her back. When she found out, she went to my grandparents for support. You’d be surprised to hear that they supported her and not me. They tried very hard to talk me out of it. I was just setting myself up for heartache and failure. Looking back on it, I know they were just trying to protect me. I mean, look at my hands; it doesn’t even look possible that I could play an instrument.
On back-to-school night, I had the opportunity to meet my future music teacher. Knowing that no one was supporting me so far and that I would need her cooperation if I was going to learn, I went up to talk to her. I kind of shoved my hands in her face and told her I wanted to learn how to play the violin. “Will you teach me?” And she said, “Yes, we’ll work with what you have.” That was the first positive feedback I received from an adult in response to me wanting to learn how to play the violin.
Fast-forward to the future, I can play the violin, viola, bass, and piano. I realize I will never be an expert pianist because my fingers are lacking in length, and I’ll probably never be able to compete with the expert musicians (but neither can half the people who know how to play something – so I don’t really feel bad). But my accomplishments in middle and high school show my perseverance and determination to do something I wanted to do. One of my greatest accomplishments was playing third chair in the first violins for my district symphony. I don’t actively practice the string instruments nowadays, but I always look back on this struggle as one of my greatest accomplishments. And my mom is back in my corner believing I can do whatever I set my mind to.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Accident by Christine Hickman

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances” on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Christine Hickman!

You would think that living with a physical barrier would shape someone for the worse; when in reality mine has done just the opposite. My name is Christine Hickman, and I overcame a horrific ATV accident in 2008. I was riding passenger on a Cub Cadet vehicle when three of my friends and I flipped the vehicle. Being the only one with my seatbelt on; I was trapped. The bar on the side of the vehicle trapped my right leg under the Cub Cadet. This resulted in my right leg being crushed from the knee down.

Waking up in the hospital I knew my life would be different. I had no idea how different it really would end up being.

Not wanting to fall behind in my classes I struggled to finish high school with my peers. All I wanted was to walk across the stage with the same group I had went through school with. I pushed myself to the limit to go through physical therapy and keep up with my schoolwork. Graduating in the top 5% of my class, and actually walking across the stage was the highlight of my recovery.

I have had five reconstructive surgeries, months of physical therapy, and many days of wanting to give up over the past five years to be able to walk again today.  I am still recovering physically, but I have grown tremendously mentally and spiritually. If I learned anything from my experiences as a handicap teenager, it would be that it is okay to be different. Sometimes it takes being in a wheel chair to get a different view of the world.

I would not change one thing that has happened to me over the past five years. People may stare and point at my scar, but I know what it took to be able to wear this scar with pride. Being different is a blessing in disguise.
 I know I have been able to experience life, and I will never take a day for granted. The growth I have taken from my experience has shaped me into a woman I would have never dreamed of becoming before my accident. Sometimes it takes a life-changing incident to make you realize what you are truly capable of.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Let Them Stare! by Meg Zucker

We all need some inspiration from time to time! So I decided to dedicate the month of April to “Overcoming Circumstances”.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to introduce you to Meg Zucker.

Let Them Stare! by Meg Zucker

Those stares!  No matter how many years I’ve endured the uninvited attention, and even learned to brush it off, I still sometimes find myself surprised at how unabashedly some people will gape at me.   And while I’d like to think it’s because I’m so gorgeous, I don’t kid myself.   I know they often fixate on me because I look quite different from the norm.  That’s to be expected.  But what I didn’t expect was that along the way, I might begin to inspire others to be less self-conscious.

I am a wife, mother to three children, working lawyer, and woman who happened to be born with ectrodactyly, a genetic condition where I only have one finger on each hand, shortened forearms and one toe on each foot.  Before I arrived, no one else in my family was born with ectrodactyly.  In fact, with no one around me missing any digits, I didn’t even think it was a condition.  Somehow I just naively assumed that this was not genetic and merely a one-off fluke, or perhaps while she was pregnant my mom ate some bad fish?  Yet, whatever the cause (and a bad meal was not it), the hardest part of having this condition is not the condition itself, but rather the years of caring so much about what others think of me and how they might react.

For instance, I remember compiling photos for my wedding montage and realizing that in so many of my old pictures, I had hidden my hands.   It’s hard to believe, but I finally had someone willing to commit to and accept all of me, and yet I was still having trouble accepting myself.  It took a few more years as well as giving birth to two of my three children with my condition before I finally embraced my difference. 

Despite my extremely unique appearance, I feel and experience life as able-bodied as everyone else.  In fact, unless I am reminded by another, I often completely forget about it, as do my family and close friends.  I am sure of this because sometimes a friend will suggest that I join her for a manicure and I’m forced to remind her that for me, that special time together would only last about two minutes.    Close friends aside though, I am rarely allowed to forget for long.  Just the other evening, I was in Manhattan on my way home from work purchasing a cute top for a friend’s daughter at Forever 21.   As can be expected during the holidays, the store was crowded and I was focused on completing my purchase and catching my bus home.  When it was finally my turn to check out, the sales clerk turned to me.  I noticed her noticing me as she asked how I wished to pay for my purchase.  “Credit card,” I responded matter-of-factly.  As she rang up my charge, she smiled a weird grin.   I knew what was coming.  “Ma’am, do you need my help in signing your receipt?”  “No, thanks.” I replied, hoping the conversation would end there.  No such luck.   As I began to sign my name, she continued, “You do that so well!  I am so impressed you can write like that.  But I can finish helping you sign the receipt if you think that might be easier for you.”   At this point, I tried to hide my annoyance. “Not unless you are also offering to pay for my purchase!” I offered back with a slight smile.   By her expression, I am sure that I embarrassed her with my reply.  But let’s face it, she embarrassed me too.  And that all is ok—if you live in my shoes, it just has to be ok. 

Along the way, I have observed that many have their own version of two fingers to hide.  Whether it is an unattractive physical attribute or an insecurity lurking beneath the surface, they feel similarly vulnerable to how others view them.   While the difference might not be so significant at first glance, it can even change behavior.  I cannot tell you how many times I have watched women decline to purchase a striking strapless dress (the one they like the most) because they don’t like the way their upper arms look, fearing how they’ll be judged.  Of course, there is also hair loss.  Ironically though, it’s the comb-over rather than the receding hairline that garners more negative judgment.  Another example is financial security.  People cannot necessarily keep up with their peers, yet they like to portray an image of wealth, regardless of what is going on behind the scenes at home. 

I wish they could understand what I have learned:  People may judge me, but I cannot control their thoughts. At the end of the day, there will be many, many opinions, and if I choose to internalize them, I’ll always be hiding.   Rather, I choose not to hide it, but to flaunt it.  In that way, I now feel perfect.  Let them stare!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

For His Purpose

Jesus loves me! Every day I try to stop, remove my thoughts and mind from the world, and show God and His love. Regardless of what I’m going through, nothing overshadows His love. He proved it to me, and the world, on the Cross at Calvary.

Love is often demonstrated by giving. Anyone can claim to adore us. Words might come easy, but the display of affection shows us the true testament of the heart. Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross and suffer, but He did it anyway. It was God’s plan for Him. The very reason He lived.

I can’t even imagine the battle Jesus faced in the garden. The Bible tells us that He prayed until His sweat became as great drops of blood. It was there, alone with God, that He decided to go all the way—to fulfill His purpose.

We are all faced with that same decision and choices.

Serve God or Serve the devil

Go to church or Stay home

Try or Give up

Give or Take

God’s will or Our will

We are capable of more than we realize. I was in the grocery store yesterday and the pain in my legs and feet was so bad that I wanted to sit down in the floor, cry, and call my husband to come carry me out the store. Through my tears, God reminded me of the power of obstacles. It is easy to claim what we think we might do in certain situations, but how do we actually handle these circumstances?

I prayed and asked God for strength. Then, I used every ounce that He gave me to put one foot in front of the other. I wiped my tears, smiled, and reassured myself with every breath and step that I could walk out of there with my groceries. God helped me to overcome my adversary and showed me His unconditional love.

I keep waiting for some advancement in technology or a miracle drug to ease the hardships in my hands. One of my biggest fears as a child was the loss of movement or function in them. I remember crying as a little girl, with the pain in my hands and shoulder. The doctor would always tell me it was bursitis and arthritis. I hated those terms as a child.

Now, it’s much more than that and it will never get better. Gosh, it’s so tough to say those words and realize they are true. The joint spaces in my fingers are narrow and certain movements, such as writing and typing, make them rub together or stick. Because nothing actually works correctly in my hands, they get fatigued and cramp from overusing them. Some days this happens after only a few minutes. The only way to prevent this is to stop using them.

These past few weeks, I’ve thought about my life and ability. My mind and heart have contemplated the tough questions and answered them honestly. I’ve heard every plea for me to stop, take it easy, and rest. Concern and love etched in the faces of my family and friends touches my heart, and shows me love.

At the end of the day, it comes down to God and me. He understands and knows the formation and challenges of my hands and foot. After all He is the One who made them. And He showed me they are perfect to do His work!

God doesn’t excuse me from doing His work; no discharge in this war. I was born for His purpose. He has prepared me my whole life for this. He will never give me something to do for Him, and not help me do it.

My heart has so much to give. I want to help people and make differences in this world, and do everything He purposed for me to do. The harder the enemy fights to stop me, the more I want to do for my Lord.

When I autograph my books it is hard for me. Some people tell me to get a stamp, but that would be taking the easy way out. Love and prayers go with each book and signature, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to do each one.

I do as much as I possibly can, but at the end of the day I often fail and come short.

Please help me get my message out there! I don’t do any of this for me. I do it for God, and all the ones He blesses my story to touch.

· Share my blog with a friend or on Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

· Review my books online or post them on your blog to reach even more people.

· If you have a business, carry my books in your store.

· If you have friends in the media, ask them to do a story on me.

· Interview me for your blog or allow me to guest blog on your page

· If you know someone with Amniotic Band Syndrome, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Cancer, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, Emotional Disturbances, Limb differences, or any other difference, please tell them about my books.

I pray that my circumstances never stop me, but that God always blesses me to overcome them.

P.S. As I prayed for God to heal my scarred hands as a child, Nick Vujicic prayed for God to give him arms and legs. It certainly puts things into perspective for me. I may have pain and challenges in my limbs, but I’m so thankful to have them.

Author shares message through Zippy the zebra