A happy story

One of the things about this job I created for myself is most of the stories are sad. The best way to being an understanding with each other and even ourselves, is to talk about the ugly things in life. It sucks, its annoying, but it has to be done if anyone wants to make any personal growth. However, we can not allow this to block out any of the positivity in the world. So for today’s story I’m going to talk about one of the happy moments in my life.

It was the Christmas Eve of 2010, a year after one of the worst snow storms in North America. In our little trailer, we were doing our best to keep warm. Every went we had to cut off half of the house because we did not have central heat. Even despite the cold, we were all still giddy with excitement.

Christmas was a huge deal in my family. My maternal grandfather loved Christmas more than anything and always made it bright. When I was much younger he would often dress up as Santa and bring us our gifts personally, be Santa knew that we were just that special. Christmas was a time of joy, where no one was allowed to fight over anything. The only screams to be heard were of the children’s excitement when they got everything they wished for. Once I got to be older I because “Santa’s Helper” helping to wrap gifts and give them out to the other kids. My grandfather was always Santa to me though, even after his passing.

I was 16 this year, dealing with being a teenager on top of all of my other chores. This morning I happened to be chopping firewood for my dad, knowing that he would not want to do it once he got home. It was almost lunchtime when we noticed a group of dogs come up our driveway. Three very friendly Dachshunds and an elderly Bulldog. Despite our dogs’ protest, they stayed in our yard all day, playing with my 5 siblings and chasing our cats.

Once night started to fall and the temperature started to drop, the Dachshunds ran home, leaving the Bulldog behind. By this point, he was too tired to climb up the steep hill between our house and his, and the cold made it to where his joints just wouldn’t move like he wanted to. Instead, he hid under my car and whimpered slightly. After a long conversation with my mother, I brought him inside.

He slept in my brother’s room that night, hiding underneath his bed. That morning, after opening our gifts, we let the dog back outside, thinking it would find it’s way back home. About halfway through the day, we realized that wasn’t going to happen. He just sat in our yard, under my car, and whimpered the whole time. He didn’t have the energy to play with the kids like the other dogs’ had so we knew he wouldn’t make it back home alone.

The only issue was, his collar didn’t have a tag. We lived out in the countryside, on 11 acres of woods. Our neighbors all had about the same space, if not more. Out here, people didn’t always put tags on their dogs, because we didn’t really have an animal control. I wanted to put up a flyer, but everything was closed for the holiday. So he spent another night with us.

That next morning, as soon as I woke up, I wrote up a note. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I do know it had my phone number on it and told a little bit about the dog. I went up to our local gas station to post the note. It was packed with farmers, truckers, and hungry people. Everyone was there that day and I, being home-schooled, was not used to people. I stepped in long enough to post the flyer and ran out the door, not stopping to look at anything else. One of the women in line tried to get my attention, but I was to afraid to answer her.

About an hour later, I got a call from a very polite man. He sounded like he was about to cry as he said “I think you have my dog.” After describing the dog to me, he told me he lived 2 houses down from me. I told him not to worry, that I would have his friend home in a moment. Luckily, this dog let me put him in my car and went with me to the house on top of the ungodly steep hill on our road.

As soon as we pulled into the driveway, this old dog started jumping up and down. This was the most energy I had seen in him the whole time during our stay. His owner opened my car door before I could even get out of my seat, tears rolling down his eyes. He took me inside to meet his wife and to ask about how I found his dog. As we talked, I noticed all of the gifts still under the tree. All of Christmas had been put on hold for this pup.

His owner went on to tell me about his son’s best friend, who had been away in Iraq. He was like a son to him, and when he got back, he bought him a bulldog. Shortly after coming home he found out that he had cancer, and passed away on that following Christmas. This man had taken the dog back and it was the only thing he had left to remember a man who had become such a big part of his family. He handed me a hundred dollars, to my surprise. I rejected the money, and his wife agreed with me, but he insisted. He told me it was to pay for the boarding of his friend and as a Christmas gift. I don’t know what I spent the money on, most likely gas and books.

Later that day, when my father came home, he gave me the biggest hug. He had stopped by the gas station on his way home and the cashier had told him about what his eldest child had done. Apparently, I had posted that flyer right beside a “reward for dog” poster that the man had left an hour before. He had offer $75 for anyone who knew where his dog was. My father was so proud of me for wanting to help someone and for not caring about what I was getting out of it. He even bought me a carrot cake and a Yoohoo to celebrate.

I’m not going to lie, I cried through most of writing this. I was taught by my grandfather to give, always. He was very big on helping people and had always taught me not to judge the homeless guys I saw when we were out. My grandfather was a big softy with a mean demeanor and I can not think of a better way to honor him then by reuniting a man with his lost dog.

Thank you for reading this. I hope it helps you to remember that simple acts of kindness can go a long way to changing someone’s life.

Episode 4: What I do for bad days.

This week hasn’t been easy for me. My depression and PTSD have been making life exhausting and I haven’t wanted to do much of anything. I even posted this podcast a day later than I normally do. But that’s okay! Sometimes we will fall back into old patterns, no matter how much progress we have made. This episode is all about what I do every day to keep myself out of the depression spiral. I also gave a few tips for people who love someone with what I call, the brain flu.

I would like to add though, if you are suffering with mental health issues please get help! That can be with therapy, group consoling, or even talking to someone you trust. Please do not suffer alone!

You can also check out http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/ for a complete list of hotlines to call if you feel like you are in crisis mode. These are trained professionals that will get you the help you need.

Suicide Hotline  1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Trevor Hotline (Suicide)  1-866-4-U-TREVOR

GriefShare  1-800-395-5755

So your parents got divorced…

Today our story comes from Brianna Cougill. She wrote to me of her parents divorce, her love for her sister, and survival. This is her story.

So, your parents got divorced. And right now, I’m sure you’re feeling pretty numb. Even if you knew it was coming, that news hits you hard. Let me tell you my story.

At age four or so, I remember pacing around the house, wondering what would happen if my parents divorced. Yes, that young. I remember weighing out the pros and the cons to living with one parent versus the other. I didn’t have a bad childhood really, I went to a good school, had parents that cared, grandparents that doted on me, but… something never felt right. My dad would sleep on the couch most nights. I never really saw my parents be sweet to each other. Getting permission consisted of asking the parents separately and making sure the answers coincided. Sleepovers had to be planned a week in advance, at least, no matter who was hosting them. But, to me, that was life.
When I was six, my sister was born. I was so excited, I was gonna have a baby sister! But… it got bad. I don’t remember too many details, but I took care of her… a lot. My dad started drinking around me, stopped doing school projects with me, and started going on business trips so he wasn’t home as much.
At age nine or ten, we moved into our new house. We built it ourselves on the back of our property, lovely large house with hardwood floors and a large living area for hosting parties. That’s when things started going downhill at an alarming rate.
We had people over all the time, and when we weren’t hosting parties, we went to them. I was pulled out of school to be homeschooled. The parents started fighting in front of us. Dad slept on the couch every night. Drank himself into oblivion. And I hid my sister from all of it I could. When the parents started fighting, I would bring her outside or turn the TV in her bedroom up so we couldn’t hear them. Tickle her until she screamed so their screams were drowned out. Slam the closet door to muffle the doors slamming in the living room. Of course, she knew what was going on. I told her it would be okay, and I would always be here, and that they were just dealing with their issues. It wasn’t our fault. Because we were just kids.
Around age twelve or thirteen is when they sat us down and told us they were getting divorced. I can’t completely remember because I disassociated most of that away. My sister started crying, she was only six or seven. Mom hugged me while I just sat there and stared into nothing. My dad kept asking if I was okay, but I couldn’t speak. My mom just held me while I faded away.
After that, it’s all kind of a blur. I went from having a few friends to nobody, I started therapy, my sister and I split the week with both parents. My dad remarried, my mom didn’t, life went on. I can’t remember ages 12-15 very well at all, I know some key events but most of it is very warped and patchy.
The one thing that never changed was my sister. Through everything, we remained close. It was all we could do to survive. We played together, rarely fought, and only remained angry at each other for a few brief hours before things calmed down again.
The divorce is never your fault. Regardless of what your emotions may be telling you, regardless of what your parents may tell you, regardless of what your friends and family may tell you. Find that person or those people in your life that make it bearable, and hang on to them. It may not be who you expect, or who you think you want. I had friends abandon me who told me they’d always be there, and while I hope that doesn’t happen to you… be aware that even if some leave, others come in their place that are immensely better.
I’m twenty years old now, and I never thought I would make it this far. Keep your fists up, and fight.

Episode 3: Living with ADHD

Tuesday Facebook notified me of a friendly little message from a woman name Kaitlyn. She had seen my post asking for people to tell me their stories and decided to answer the call. All of her life she has been fighting her ADHD. She has been dealing with the stigma behind her disorder and her medication since she was a small child. Even with all of this, she wanted to share her struggles with me on my podcast! It was such an honor to hear her story and what she goes through every day.

This was my first interview over discord. So far all of my guests have been family members so I have been able to just record them in person. I’m so excited that I got to do this. The sound quality was better then I had expected, though we had some connection issues and the sounds cut out for a few parts. Regardless, I enjoyed this conversation very much and thought that it would be a great addition to our empathy story.

Listen here!

Before we go I have some exciting things I would like to share about the future of our podcast. Starting in February I will be highlighting a different charity every month. I will be doing this through out 2019 and hopefully throughout the future of this podcast. The focus will mostly be in Arkansas since that’s where I’m from, but I would love to branch out and bring awareness to any charity or non-profit that is helps people. If you have any you would like me to highlight please let me know!

Lastly, if you have a story to share or know someone who does please email me or click What’s Your Story? at the top of the page. I would love to hear from you!