The Triple Dividend Card Bandit

When December 1st hit, our mailbox was inundated with holiday cards. I won’t ever complain about that because I love, love, love getting mail!

I, in turn, am very meticulous in sending out our holiday cards. We send out cards to a moderate list that we’ve honed over our time together. If we tried to send out cards to all our family (particularly my Chicago Polish family – see humongous in the dictionary and there is a photo of us, split into multiples of course because we can’t all fit in one picture) or to everyone that sends us cards, we’d end up taking out a small mortgage, thus the list. We’re not trying to be exclusive in any way, we’re just being realistic.

One thing I am always acutely aware of is how our cards are addressed. I take time to double-check names and how people like to be addressed. I always hope for the same respect but as I learned this year, other people just don’t see things the way I do.

After retrieving the mail one day, I noticed a card addressed solely to me. That happens from time to time, people who haven’t yet met my life hostage (see family note above), people who don’t realize we live together or may not know his name (we do get many with just first names), and then there is the group that knows better. This particular card fell into that group. And I got angry, abnormally pissed, peppered with a special blend of sheer disappointment.

Honestly, I don’t think I even told my life hostage about this because he would tell me it isn’t worth my time. And he’s probably right. He’d tell me something along the lines of I’m letting this take up space in my mind without charging it rent. Okay, I get it. And I did let it go without incident. But obviously, it’s still plagued me.

Why? Because this person is a friend and friends are supposed to know better. Friends have your back. But lately, I’ve been taking a closer look and evaluating, what really makes a friendship?

The New York Times recently re-ran an article from 2012 about friendships. They felt that the topic is timeless and I tend to agree. One of the prominent facts in the article that struck me was the idea of the three conditions of making close friends; proximity, repeated unplanned interactions, and a setting encouraging people to let their guard down and confide in each other. Apparently, these ideas have swirled around sociologist circles since the 1950s but it was the first time I had heard them in this manner.

The card bandit and I used to meet all these criteria but as life moved on, so did some of these factors. The external conditions changed, as the article states. Schedules compress, priorities change, coupling up and children happen. The bar is much higher for having a martini than it used to be for visiting the shot fairy until 2:00 a.m.

Does this mean we’ll never go back to the way we were? I’m afraid so. But I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.

I go through many ebbs and flows with my writing. I think most writers will echo that sentiment. Sometimes I have so many prompts and ideas that I can’t type fast enough. Other times I think about writing an ode to navel lint. Don’t be puzzled, like you don’t know what I’m referring to. Everyone gets navel lint.

I know my relationship with my life hostage is the same way, a variable river of ebbs and flows. Maybe friendships go through that too. Some friends are meant to ride out all the curves, rapids, and boulders along the way. I have a small group of truly exceptional friends who fall into that category. Some come into your life during a second act, but just because they haven’t been there the whole time doesn’t make them any less valuable to you. And then there’s the group like the card bandit. They’ll stay with you through the calm waters but avoid any choppy seas. You’ll still meet from time to time, chat about life, but it will be all on the surface, no depth of field.

Does that make me sad? Yes. I always hope investments in friendship will pay you triple dividends in life. But they don’t always. I guess there is a time and place for every friendship. Even those that know better.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

What is the Recipe for Love?

Have you ever been lost but not worried about finding your way back?

Have you walked into complete darkness trusting your instincts with the certitude of a safe terrain?

Deep in our heart, we trust our decisions because they represent the balance of life experiences, a recipe that can be perfected thanks to the right combination of elements.

When I am in the lab preparing a solution, I think about how life combines some of these aspects. I have to ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes by always checking and re-checking my work conditions. I have to follow these steps:

(1) wearing personal protective equipment (because safety is number one priority).

(2) select unexpired chemicals.

(3) guarantee the cleanliness of glassware and the counter.

(4) verify that I use a calibrated balance.

(5) confirm the correct use of other equipment and elements.

(6) keep my eyes open for any potential contamination.

Careful selection of elements is combined with trial and error calculations because if we miss any aspect of it, chemistry does not forgive mistakes.

When we believe that we have everything figured out, we discover that life continues teaching us lessons. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It is not that we are not confident about walking into a new situation or a new relationship. It is because we don’t know all the answers and when we are faced with the unexpected, we fail to recognize what is happening. When we perfect our technique, we remind ourselves that we have to be present by collecting our thoughts and look at any situation objectively.

I want to tell you a story about self-awareness because I failed to cover the two aspects of it. The first one involved my ability to understand my personality including my strengths, weaknesses, and emotions. And, the second aspect was to understand how other people viewed me – their attitude, response, and perspective in any relationship.

When I think about love, the love of my parents comes to mind, they loved each other so much, the first love that I had ever received. However, my Mom passed away when I was 11 and my Dad was forced to fill a new role. I never saw his pain and grief because he distanced himself to recover from our loss. Did I ever ask about his feelings? I did not. I failed – I failed to understand. Years passed and my Dad found someone else to share his life with, and again, I failed – I failed to understand why.

It was not easy. It took me a long time to decipher that the recipe for love resided within me. I had to learn many lessons through the years (experiment after experiment). I had to embrace heartache, listen attentively, learn from it, fail for it and revisit my Dad’s situation in order to relate. I was very selfish. Self-awareness is about discovering and correcting yourself.

Love does not make sense until something else happens in life. Cherish your memories and keep the good ones close to your heart.

I am from Colombia and I am very proud to be from that beautiful country. One of my great passions is life because I have walked this path by sharing it with amazing people. People that have taught me to see the world in a very different way. Extraordinary individuals have showed me what I have never could discover by myself. I am an eager reader of science, poetry, politics, and music (yes, the meaning and composition of song lyrics). I have a great appreciation for art, languages, and the expression of everyone's perspective seen from the lens of a camera. I love Astronomy and one day I will be in space. I am a Research Scientist in Corrosion Engineering and writing is a great way for me to tell the world how I feel.

The Unknown


Here I sit, at 29 years old ( I know.. I know.. I’m still young), wondering why I can’t figure anything out in life. I don’t think I’m alone. I’m starting to think that this may be an impossible task. How can you ever have life figured out? How can you ever have yourself figured out? Maybe the answer is… that you can’t!

These are questions I am always asking myself. People are changing every day. Most of the time you are changing without even noticing. All of a sudden, a year has flown by and you are nothing like you were the year before. You could have grown for the better, or, maybe you’re not doing so great. Who cares! Your situation will never stay the same.

I am not one to trust any type of relationship to last forever without pain, let downs, boredom, or drifting apart. This can be romantic relationships,  friendships, family, etc…I have grown apart from people I thought I could not live without.

I’ve been hurt by every single person I have ever trusted.

Maybe that is just life.

We are all human.

I do it to other people too. Are people supposed to be like this? Because it seems like we all are the same in a sense. Some people try to be a saint while others enjoy being the devil. Either way, we all lie, don’t say things that we should, say things that we shouldn’t, are confused, think we know what we want, and we all strive to be our version of happy.

You build your own life and start moving in a different direction. You get married and settle down, you lose your friends and make new ones, you raise your kids and lose focus of everyone else on the planet. Most people get divorced and start over again. Changing all over again, over and over. These changes within you, and within the people around you are constant. Every day you go on with your life without noticing how you are changing into someone else.

Some people learn from their experiences and become more humble, while others are terrified of the world and become bitter. Everyone takes a different path. You travel your path with expectations that you can never fully control. You have no idea what your life will bring.

I always wondered what my “purpose” is going to be. Maybe it is to help others and work my life away. Maybe it’s to raise a family. Maybe…it’s nothing at all. That is the scariest, yet the most beautiful part of life. We don’t know anything…and that’s okay.

Why do we feel the need to know what our future holds? Why can’t we just let things fall into place instead of trying to control everything? I am exhausted from trying to control my entire world.

I do not believe that everyone has a soul mate. I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. I do not believe that everyone comes into your life for a reason. I believe that things just happen, and we are just people who make a bunch of mistakes. We are people who never stay the same.

Love will come and love will go. Friendships will be made and destroyed. Happiness will come and so will pain. Life can be simple; it’s only complicated because we make it that way.

Maybe I should just go with the flow and see what happens. I try to manipulate my life and it never works out. It’s like I have control, but I don’t. I don’t think a person can be truly happy while trying to control every aspect of their life.

I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know who I will be in the next year, 5 years, or 10 years. I do know I won’t be the person writing this today. Who knows if I’ll be married, single, kids, no kids, working my life away, jobless. It’s all unknown. And I’m okay with that. Accepting the unknown might just be my key to happiness.

 

Meghan Farr
Meghan has an Associates Degree in Human Services, Bachelor's in Human Development and Family Studies, and a Minor in Psychology.

What Taking a Selfie Taught Me About My Life With Cerebral Palsy

I’m a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a former honor society president, a respite care worker, a mental health and disability advocate, and a published writer, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is… taking a selfie.

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  While most other 22-year-olds are celebrating graduations and new beginnings in advanced degree programs or in the workforce, I’m celebrating participating in a hallmark of “self-absorbed, social media-obsessed” millennial culture.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a seemingly simple selfie virtually never reveals the complex truth concealed behind it.

I have lived with mild hemiplegia cerebral palsy since birth.  Essentially, the muscles on the left side of my body are significantly tighter and weaker than those on my right side.  Consequently, I perform tasks that many people complete with both hands exclusively right-handed.  Simultaneously holding and angling a phone and reaching over to press a button to take a selfie with my left hand is nearly impossible.

Nearly.

I recently discovered that in the search for self-love and peace with my body and my physical abilities, I was settling for comfort over physical functionality.  In viewing my body through a lens of love and acceptance, I was inadvertently losing the will to foster growth, to push my body to accomplish the impossible.  Embracing my body exactly as it is, tight muscles and all, meant accepting an artificial limit on my physical prowess.  I was forcing myself to plateau in the name of self-love.

As a millennial woman who is constantly inundated with an unending stream of perfectly-posed selfies, I longed to be one of those girls who could snap a cute selfie with either hand — despite my cerebral palsy.  However, I convinced myself that any attempt to take a selfie exclusively with my left hand would result in either a broken phone or a broken spirit, so I carried on with the hackneyed routine of extending my right arm to the perfect angle to take a flawless selfie.

One night, with pin-straight hair, razor-sharp eyeliner, and clad in a cozy, oversized sweater, I felt restless.  Adventurous.  I wanted to try something different, something that would push me in a way I had never dreamed possible.  Despite being caught in the throes of reoccurring body image issues, I was feeling my look, and I wanted to document it.

I immediately knew the perfect way to challenge myself.  With my left hand, I grabbed my phone and began angling it to take a selfie.  Slowly, gingerly, I reached toward the shutter button, trying my hardest to simultaneously keep a firm grasp on the phone and prevent my slightly shaky left hand from wobbling it and, in the process, blurring the picture.

I pressed the button.  The distinctive “snap” of the shutter filled my ears as I discovered that, miraculously, the photo was clear, and my phone remained in my affected hand — not shattered on the floor of my bedroom.  I smiled wider as I realized that I had stopped settling for “good enough” physical capability and had begun reaching towards growth.

Snap.  Snap.  Snap.

Over and over, I pressed that button, relishing the unquellable surge of pride I felt in my body for accomplishing something I never believed I could.  After a lengthy series of critiques, I finally took a selfie I deemed Insta-worthy, and, like a stereotypical millennial, immortalized my left-handed selfie success on social media.

It isn’t the most flattering selfie I’ve ever taken, the prettiest, or the most perfect.  On the surface, there’s nothing particularly special about it.  But it’s more than just a selfie; it’s a symbol of growth, of achievement, of rising to meet challenges, of refusing to plateau.  It’s physical proof that self-love does not equate to settling for “good enough.” It’s a representation of joy in its purest form — knowing the power of pushing the body to its limits to make the impossible possible.

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

Keeping Faith

“Where is it, Where is it?”

 I mutter as I dig through my jewelry box.

My favorite part of my morning routine is accessorizing my outfit.  All the different colors and options; I love collecting jewelry.  But there is one accessory I never leave home without; my silver ring with the word Faith engraved on it.

Frustrated, I exclaim, “How could I have lost my Faith!?”

It’s easy to lose your faith.  Something didn’t go the way it should; your friend lets you down, you miss a deadline at work, you get into a fight with your mom.  You can lose faith in friends, family, coworkers—yourself. So…how do you find it again?

First, tell yourself that it’s okay.  You are allowed to go through a phase where you’re not sure where to turn. When my world has been turned upside down, my strategy is to look upward, inward, and outward.  I look upward to pray, inward to evaluate myself, and outward to my friends and family for support.

Some other strategies that are helpful is to list the people you do believe in. God, your sister, your best friend from elementary school. No matter how lost you feel, if you look closely you will find someone who can shine a light in the darkness to help you find your way back.

List the things you are grateful for. Even if it is just your dog or the free makeup samples in a magazine, it’s something.

What I’m grateful for in my dark moments:

–          My spirituality: I pray a lot and read devotionals, and they are always full of hope.  It is something I believe in when it seems like there is nothing else.

–          My sense of humor: I can typically find humor in any situation and sometimes that helps to alleviate the stress of it all.

–          Friends and family: No matter how many times they have heard it, I know I can always count on the people in my life to encourage me and lift me up.

A few days later, as I clean out my suitcase from a recent trip, I spy a little twinkle of something near the lining.  I pull back the zipper and there it is…my Faith ring.  And isn’t that how it always goes—Just when you’re about to give up, a little glimmer of hope catches the light.

Sabrina Deshner has over 10 years’ experience teaching leadership concepts within higher education and non-profit organizations and has a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. She strives to make a positive impact on individuals through teaching them the importance of personal and professional development and in her spare time does health and wellness coaching. She has a passion for learning, creating new things and sharing stories. You can typically find Sabrina reading, writing, dancing or traveling...oh, and watching Netflix. The quote that she lives by is from George Bernard Shaw, “Life is not about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself.” Some of her favorite things include: visiting NYC, her nieces and nephews, the color pink, Disney Princesses, and the Golden Girls.