Things Have Changed For Me, and That’s Okay

“Things are shaping up to be pretty odd.”
     I gotta tell you guys, life is strange. I’m in situations I would have never dreamed of being in with people I never thought I would be close with. You never expect life to happen and then it does. How exactly do you prepare for that?

     Answer is, you don’t. You can’t prepare for curveballs in life. And in complete honesty, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Life turns around and says “Well, what about this instead?” to you, and you just have to run with it. It’s not a bad thing at all, just totally unexpected.

     I’ve recently found that being terrified and running away from situations out of my comfort zone doesn’t benefit me in any way, whatsoever. What kind of life do you lead if you’re always running?

       I’m not the type of girl who takes risks without first delving into both pros and cons seriously. I sit in the depths of my blankets and write out every possible negative and positive outcome in my journal and assess what damage may come to me and the people around me. I’m used to routine and having the “same” all of the time. It’s safe that way, I’ve always thought. No one can get hurt that way. 

     While being prepared is an extreme asset to have in jobs and school, sometimes you don’t always need to use it in life. Take the road less traveled, or do something without 100% preparing for it. 

     I’m not prepared when people who promised to stick by my side forever suddenly disappear. It’s out of my norm. They were supposed to stay. It was routine for them to be there, and now they’re not. In that situation, it’s hard for me to come to acceptance of what is and embrace my change. 

     Change is difficult, no matter what the circumstances are. It’s scary, and exhilirating. Change is a ball of feeling alive and fearing the unknown wrapped up into one. But here’s the plus side.

     Change is okay.

      If you’re struggling with change, here is my advice to you. Embrace it as whole-heartedly as you can, even if you are scared. At the end of the day, try to have your love and excitement for life and everything it has to offer trump your fear for the unknown. Personally, I go into every opportunity with the mindset that everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

     Life is extremely short. Try your best not to waste what precious time we are given being afraid of change. What would happen if we all held ourselves back because we were scared?

  • We would stay in our beds because we would be afraid to walk in fear of breaking our leg on something.
  • We wouldn’t leave our houses in fear of catching an illness outside.
  • We wouldn’t get in a car in fear of being involved in a car accident.

     Things are constantly changing, and listen up: it is okay. My life, your life, your neighbor’s life. Embrace it. 

      Life is so good, and it’s going to be greater.
Until next time,
Tay❤
PS::

     Here is a tweet from June 20, 2016. I tweeted “I’ve lost all feelings. Numb af” And exactly one year later, I quoted the tweet and said “It’s been a year and things are looking up for me. It gets better.” I just wanted to share that with you in hopes that you’ll see that really, they do. They do get better.

DJ Strong

     “How do you smile, when you don’t want to? How do you laugh when it’s easy to cry?” 

     I would like to share with you, a story that has completely touched my heart and soul, as I’m sure it has others as well. 

     Diweni Jituboh is a 15 year old girl who is inspiring in the most incredible ways. She’s beautiful and witty, and so beyond her years in intelligence. 

     I first heard about Diweni as I drove through town one night and saw all of these blue signs everywhere outside of the high school. I didn’t pay any attention to it until one night I saw all of my coworkers posting on Snapchat pictures in these blue and pink T-shirts. 

     What was going on? What big event had I missed that A.) We were allowed to wear something other than sweaty, black, uniforms, and B.) I wasn’t informed of.

      When my brother and mother arrived home that night, they were grinning ear to ear in their matching shirts, and I bombarded them with questions.

     My brother said that as he was walking into work that night, a woman in an SUV handed him a shirt and a bracelet and said “Put this on.” He was a little thrown off he said, as I would be too if a stranger threw me a shirt in the parking lot of my work. When he walked into the restaurant, he noticed that all of our coworkers were wearing the same, matching shirts. 

     He said that a girl who had “some big surgery” came into Cotton Patch to eat tonight, and it had been an amazing evening for everyone. 

(Picture taken from her CaringBridge)

     I’m not going to lie. I was angry that I missed it, and that I didn’t get to be apart of it and wear the cool shirts. Fortunately for me, my brother said I could have his shirt. But I had a question ringing in the back of my head as to who this girl was.

     I spent the next hours looking up the hashtags, #PRAYFORDIWENI and #DJStrong on every social media platform I own, and what I found changed my perspective on so many things about life and beauty and appreciation for the little things.

There’s a girl who grew up playing soccer. She could put David Beckham to shame. She’d like to win, but she’d rather inspire. She plays for the love of the game.

     Diweni lives, playing soccer. This game is her lifeline, and I understand what something like that means to a person. And she wasn’t just any old soccer player, this girl was good. One night during a game, Diweni sustained an injury with another player in her knee. She shook it off and finished the game, despite the throbbing in her knee. She went home, she iced it. No big deal. It would go away, right? Well, it didn’t. It didn’t go away. Diweni was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. That’s a lot to take in as a 14 year old girl. 

(Picture taken from her CaringBridge)

     Even with all of the bad news in her life so far, Diweni still maintains her happy persona and strives to smile. I give her mega props, because I know I would be an absolute wreck. I could never handle anything even remotely similar to this. 

 (Picture taken from her CaringBridge)

     Today, Diweni’s life will change, yet again, as she goes in to have a surgery that will remove her tumor from her knee and replace it. I write this blog in hopes that you will hear this young woman’s strong story, and keep her in your thoughts throughout your day today in the midst of what ever it is that you may be doing.

You’ve been through a lot, but there’s a fire you’ve got inside.

     You may not believe in religion or prayer, and that’s okay. Please just send her and her loved ones well wishes and positive vibes, as well as the doctors that will be surrounding her during the operation. 

     Dallas Children’s Hospital is one incredible place, I know in my heart that you are in good hands.

(Pictures taken from her CaringBridge)

      As for you, Diweni, if you happen to be reading this, I do hope you know that your story touched my heart and made me sit back and think about the things I tend to take for granted in my everyday life. Here I was, mad at the fact that I didn’t get a T-shirt, when I didn’t even stop to think what the cause was even about. I think you’re incredibly strong, and all together beautiful. This isn’t what your typical freshman year of high school is like. But hopefully your years will become easier and you will be allowed to enjoy the rest of your time as a teenager without having to worry about cancer. 

     I’d like to take the time to dedicate this song to you, and hope that you find time to hear it before your operation today. You truly are a force to be reckoned with. 

https://youtu.be/bMIYCofzhF0

I know you won’t ever stop, you’ll do more than walk, you’ll fly.

     Stay strong! Keep fighting!!
Until next time,
Tay❤
P.S. Here is the link to Diweni’s GoFundMe, if you are able to donate to her cause. If not, I encourage you to please share her story and her smile to your friends and family. She needs your thoughts. 

https://www.gofundme.com/no-one-fights-alone-djstrong 

(Screenshot of Diweni’s Twitter account)

To the One Struggling on Father’s Day

   “Father, I’m gonna say thank you, even if I don’t understand. Oh, you left us alone. I guess that made me who I am.” -Demi Lovato


    I know you feel like there are pieces of you chipping off every time you log on to social media and see yet another person happily posing with their father for the camera.

     I know you feel pure anger towards every kid who gets to run home today and hug their dad.

     I know you walk by the card section in Wal-Mart and glance at the display of Father’s Day cards, and feel so empty you just want to cry.

      Let’s not even mention looking at old photographs.

     Most of all, I know you feel so many emotions today, including hatred towards yourself on multiple levels. Hatred for being you. Hatred for blaming yourself for the way your father is. Hatred for not doing more. Or even hatred for hating others for their happiness towards their fathers.

     I want you to know you aren’t alone.

     I know how it feels to even dread waking up on this holiday, knowing what the day is to hold.

     Maybe your father is no longer in the picture. Maybe your father passed away tragically. Maybe you don’t even know who your father is. Or, maybe your father is too drunk to remember your name.

     Know that you aren’t alone today.

    We’re all struggling. Why were we dealt the handful of cards that left us with or without our father? Why couldn’t we have that father with the big smile, or that father who hugs too tight, or the father who plays piano?  

     Truth be told, we could wallow all day and wonder “why this, why that?” for the rest of eternity. We will never know why things happen the way that they do.

     You have every right to be mad, or sad, or whatever emotion you want to be. Buy a Father’s Day card. Rip it up. Scream. Do what you have to do.

     The little kid inside of you breaks every time you see someone walking down the street, hand in hand with their father. Because you don’t have that. And you want more than anything to just be able to open up your phone, dial him up and say “Daddy I love you.”

     You want him to say it back. 

     Some of us want him to mean it. To genuinely mean it. But we know he never will.

     Father’s Day is a difficult day for some of us, but we aren’t alone. 

     Rather than being bitter about it, today when I see a girl post a picture of herself and her father hugging and smiling on Facebook, I will try to like it this year. I will try to smile for her.

     I know that for every post out there with someone loving on their father, there is someone who hasn’t had to go through what we have without our fathers. And that sits well within my heart. 

     It’s okay if you can’t, though. It’s okay if today is too hard for you.

     I know what that’s like.

     We know.

     So to anyone struggling this Father’s Day, or any Father’s Day, or any day without a father, know you have plenty of people who feel like you. We feel the sadness, the anger. We know the resentment and the emptiness. We know the hardships. Truth be told, I don’t know if it gets easier. But I know for sure, as humans, we become stronger and we become better as a whole. So even if it doesn’t get better, we will.

     And I think that is enough.
Until next time,
Tay❤

Escaping on The World’s Longest Lazy River?!

Bucket List

       The past few weeks of my life have not been a breeze, I can tell you that much. Stress has been a key factor in my daily life, as well as with my family. We have been so overtaken with weight on our shoulders from life and the way it works sometimes. We really needed a get away, a time where we could just relax.

     This week was Amber’s 15th birthday, and as a surprise, we decided to take her to do something a little more adventurous than your typical dinner and dessert. Who needs 15 servers clapping simultaneously as your cheeks flush with embarrassment when you can spend all day floating in the sun on the world’s longest lazy river? 

     We really ended up killing two birds with one stone, as it was a present for Amber and a time for us all to unwind and just be at peace for a while, even if it was for a few hours.

     In the midst of June in Texas, it is a blazing sauna anywhere you go outdoors. What better way to combat those high temperatures than to spend it all day at a water park? What better way to escape your issues for a few hours than to float away from them, really?

     The night before Amber’s birthday, we finally revealed where we were taking her, and what our plan was for the day. 

     BSR Cable Park is located in the far back roads of Waco, Texas. We first found out about it after seeing one of our friends on Facebook share a post about it. My mom had been dying to go ever since. If you ever have the opportunity to go, I suggest you try it out, because it’s worth the drive. The location is definitely something that threw us off. Through our last few turns before the GPS dropped us off, we went down some sketchy looking back roads. Our initial thoughts were “Great, this place is going to be some POS dump people use to trap naive kids who jump at Facebook posts.” But it was the exact opposite!

     It is a large, gated, community in the back. Once you enter the gates, you can very well see how lovely it all looks. We had planned to do everything that day, including their renowned Royal Flush slide. 

 (Taken from bsrcablepark.com)

     Upon our arrival to the park, however, we came to realize that there was a little mix up in the prices stated on the website and the prices stated in front of our eyes. You pay for each thing you wish to do, but you only have to pay once. Once you pay for one thing, you get a bracelet that shows you can ride the Royal Flush or chill in the lazy river, etc., as much as you please. Because of the off prices from what our knowledge was, we did not have enough money to do both. It was kind of a bummer, but we all decided we would float the lazy river and just make the best of what we had. Besides, we were already there, two hours away. 

     Now, this lazy river was sort of amazing in my book. The first time we went through, it took us a whole hour to make it back to the starting point. Which, actually made me pretty anxious towards the middle of the river because I don’t like not knowing where I am, or how long I’ll be there for.  However, it was gorgeous and had such a clean aura.

     After floating for an hour, we got hungry. We didn’t want to leave the river though. Fortunately for us, at BSR they have these nifty devices you can bring along in the water with you. They have cooler floats! That’s right, a float for your cooler. It has handles on the sides, so while you’re relaxing in your tube, you can just hold on to it.

     We didn’t have a cooler, so we put all of our snacks and drinks into Andrew’s duffle bag and plopped it into the cooler float. Bam. Problem solved. We no longer were withering away. Andrew also decided to bring his Bluetooth speaker with him in the cooler float, so we had our jams as well.

     Just to lay in the float and relax, I felt the weight of the world roll off my shoulders for a moment. I didn’t have to think about anything other than being there with my family and enjoying my day, so that was really nice for a change. If I could take a day and go float the river every week, I think my stress would be better maintained.

     We ended up going around the lazy river 3 times, and then walking over to the pool they have around the Royal Flush. We were all exhausted at this point from the sun and the water. Our original plan was to stay in the park from when we got there at 1, to when the park closed at 7. But at 5:30, we were burned and wanted to go home and shower off the lake water.

     We don’t get many family days, or even days where we do out-of-routine things in general. It was so nice. Of course our problems were still there waiting for us when we got home, and they still lingered in the air as we enjoyed our day at BSR. 

     Sometimes you just have to get away. So go. It doesn’t have to be far. We only went 2 hours. You could go hiking 30 minutes from your driveway, or you could go on a summer road trip 18 hours away. If you’re overwhelmed and can’t seem to catch a break in life, go. Make a break for yourself that you deserve. We all need an escape sometimes. 

     Go.
Until next time,

Tay❤

The One Where We Stop a Child Predator

**Public disclaimer: these decisions I made were based solely on allegations I had seen reported on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and are written as to express the opinions of myself and my brother, not Royse City or anyone else associated with the premises of it. I feel as though my decisions were what were right, in case anything were to happen. This is just my truth, and my truth only. Things may be different to others. Enjoy.**

      You never think that it will happen to your town. Someone says “child predator” and everyone thinks movies and documentaries, never real life situations involving you or anyone you know. This past week, I felt as if I was living in a Criminal Minds episode. Where’s Spencer Reid when you really need him? 

     Royse City, Texas is an extremely small town where the most criminal thing to ever happen was a murder-suicide a while back. We aren’t very crime driven, but since we are so small, it is easy to know a newcomer when they appear. This past week, a strange vehicle was spotted and instantly talked about in a public group on Facebook after he was found in a kid’s park trying to lure children to his vehicle with stuffed animals he had lined in the inside of his car.

      My brother and I are apart of this Facebook group and instantly took notice of it. We were freaked out that it would, first of all, happen in our town, and second of all happen at all. The man was seen at our local Splash Pad water park, where dozens of kids play at everyday. It’s creepy. It sends shivers down my spine.

(The original posts we saw)


     A few days after this initial post was made, we had some running around to do. My brother, our friend Alexa, and I were caught in some traffic on the road that leads right by the Splash Pad. He had just made a remark about how relaxing the water looked trickling down on all of the kid’s backs. I look up and see the truck sitting there in the back of the parking lot almost instantly.

     “Oh my gosh…” I gasp. “That’s that truck, Andrew. That creep who lures kids with stuffed animals, that’s his truck is it not?”

      Andrew and Alexa proceed to squint to the distant Splash Pad. Neither of them can tell at this point, and traffic has us bumper-to-bumper at about 2 miles an hour. In the midst of their confusion and the slow traffic, I find the time to pull up the Facebook post and compare trucks. By the time I do, we have made it to the entrance, and Andrew and Alexa gasp in unison. Without hesitation, he slams on the breaks and whips in to the parking lot. 

     Sure enough, it is him. The truck. The license plate. He’s there, and in the flesh, just parked at the back of the parking lot. My heart starts racing and I feel sick. Sick in a way you never, ever want to feel.  

     He isn’t alone, however. There is a woman parked next to him, and she is sitting with him in his car.

      “Taylore..” Andrew says to me. And before he can even tell me to get out my phone, my camera app is pulled up.

 (Picture taken by me.)

    The woman doesn’t stay long. They talk for a while before she gets out of his truck, and pops her trunk open. And then he climbs out of his truck. And I go numb with fright. Andrew yells at me to take pictures, to take videos of him, but all I can do is just sit and watch him. 

     He is scary. He walks with a limp. The man opens his tailgate and removes a white trash bag filled with stuffed animals. He wearily walks to the lady’s car and stuffs the bag into her trunk, and goes to walk away, holding on to his back as he does. Before she closes it, he turns and snatches a teddy bear that is sticking out of the top of the bag and holds it like a child missing his mother. He grins. The man grins. 

     The woman drives away and the man climbs back into his truck.

     I want to be sick.

 (Picture taken by me.)

     It is a Tuesday afternoon in June in Texas, AKA it is blazing hot outside. The Splash Pad is swarming with children of all ages and their exhausted parents. That is the first thing I take note of upon my examination of the park itself. I’m too scared to look over at the red truck that sits to my left again.

     The second thing that catches my attention is the children running around on their own in the parking lot. They are in their swimsuits. Some of them old. Some of them as young as diaper ages. They are no adults within at least 20 yards from them. They keep running in between cars and disappearing from my sight, forcing my heart into my stomach every time that they do.  I find the courage to look at the man again and I look just in time to watch as he is lowering his passenger seat down to watch the children run around.

     “He’s watching them. Oh my god, he’s watching them.” Andrew says over and over again with his own choice of swears each time inserted wherever he likes. 

     I’m rocking back and forth with my head between my knees, trying to calm myself down enough to make an executive decision. “I know. I know. Just stop telling me that, okay? What should we do?”

     “I don’t know, take a baseball bat to his car?”

     We all know Andrew is smarter than that. 

     I sit up and breathe. “Like the post said, everyone has called the police hundreds of times. If we call, they will just come and tell us that he isn’t doing anything wrong by just sitting here. But he’s clearly watching them and enjoying his time by doing so.”

     “If he tries to approach one of these kids, you best bet I’m not staying in this car for one second.” Alexa then says.

     We sit in silence for the next few minutes, watching him and watching as the kids run around. I imagine if I were a parent sitting on one of the benches, watching their kid playing, not having a single clue that there was a child perpetrator just yards away from me, enjoying watching and seeing my child in their bathing suit. Thinking of the innocence in their minds absolutely killed me.

     “If I were one of those parents I would want to know. I would want someone to tell me.” I say.  “None of them have any idea that he is just sitting there.”

     “So what should we do?” 

     I unbuckle my seatbelt. “We have to go tell them. We can’t just have them sit there not knowing.” 

     “Okay, but you’re doing all of the talking, Miss I Have a Solution for Everything.” Andrew says, his eye still on the man.

     Within seconds, the three of us are out of the car and walking towards the Splash Pad. I feel his eyes burning on us as we do and I wonder if he knows that we know. We can’t decide who to start talking to, or how to start. I decide to pull up the Facebook post to make my life a lot easier., I approach a friendly looking woman sitting on one of the benches. 

     “Excuse me, ma’am. Do you have children playing here right now?” 

     She looks up at me and smiles. “Yes, I do.”

     I sit down next to her and explain the Facebook post and the suspicions on the man in the red truck sitting in the back of the parking lot as we speak. She gasps and looks for her child. When she finds her, she thanks me dearly and explains that she is actually the wife of the high school principal and that she comes here with her kids a lot. She says thank you about five more times and we walk to the next family.

     The sickening feeling started to go away with more people I reached out to. I talked to at least ten parents that day, each of them so relieved to know about it. Some of them left the park immediately. Here is the scariest part of it all:

     None of them knew.

     I no longer felt responsible for anything there at the park that day. If I had logged onto Facebook that night and seen a child had been abducted, I could never live with myself.

      As we are walking to our car, the man is watching us this time instead of the prancing little kids. I feel all of the hairs on my skin stand up and do a shake. Andrew can’t unlock the car fast enough it seems.  

     The man drives off, and before I know it, Andrew is following him. I’m shouting at him to stop, but he says he wants to make sure he never goes back to that park ever again. He follows him at a distance, but close enough to make sure he doesn’t decide to turn around and go back just because we are gone. The man goes to Denny’s and parks there.

     He hasn’t returned to the Splash Pad since.
     This whole situation could have turned out extremely different in multiple ways. I don’t encourage anyone to ever approach someone you think could be a child predator, or any predator at all for that matter. 

       On the other hand, if you feel in your gut that you need to do something about a situation that could possibly turn out badly, listen to what that feeling says. You feel it for a reason. 

       No offense to Andrew or Alexa, but I definitely would have preferred to work on this case with Spencer Reid instead. 

     Call me Detective Tay, I guess!
Until next time,

(Detective)Tay❤

Stop Blaming Yourself, Kid

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“You have suffered enough. It’s time that you won.”

I’ve recently dawned on such a discovery, after spending a lot of time placing blame on myself for things certainly out of my control. This discovery is that these things have not been my fault. I had no control on any of it. I’m far from perfect, I make mistakes, but I have to stop putting the weight of the world on my shoulders for no reason.

I spend so much of my precious time ragging on myself for these things. I blame myself for the slightest inconvenience. I hate myself for it. I have so much hatred for who and what I am that I can’t even stand to glance at a passing by at a mirror. But then I realize, this was not my fault. Other people and outside forces make me feel as if it is me to blame with their insecurities. However, in moments of revelation (and deep conversations with my family and my group message) I come to know that they are so wrong. So why? Why do I still feel the need to bend over backwards to make things right when they are the ones in the wrong here? Why do I feel elephants standing on my chest? Why do I always want to flip my mirror backwards so I don’t have to take one glance at myself?

This society makes it easy to take fault for things out of our control when we’ve been brought up in a generation where self-deprecation is almost vital as a teenager. When the kindness of our hearts overtakes the height of our egos, we jump at the opportunity to make sure the people we love never have to feel one ounce of negativity, even if that means taking the blame for things we shouldn’t have to.

We have to know what we’re worth. And no, that’s not me saying to not take responsibility for your wrong doings when you have messed up or hurt somebody else. Be real. Own up to your mistakes. But we must know right from wrong. Respect yourself enough to know when you are in the wrong, and to know when someone else is doing you wrong. People in this world are messed up. They can mess you up so easily if you aren’t careful. You are worth so much more than what you give yourself. I am worth more. We all are.

My support system is incredible. I’ve been blessed in life with some amazing humans, with hearts bigger than any I’ve ever seen before. We share in our struggles together, not quite understanding why we let people walk over us the way that we do, and then go and turn around the blame on ourselves. Nobody is kind anymore. Our world is filled with people who only care about themselves, and nothing else. I’m lucky enough to know the handful of people who actually still care about others. There is a downside to caring about people in a society that doesn’t care though, because no one will reciprocate anything back to you.

My motto has always been “Don’t be bitter, just be better.” 

When the world is screwed up, and people are just absolutely horrible to be around and you can’t understand, rise above them and just do better. Be better than them. In the long run, doing and being better will get you further anyways.

The world may be screwed up, but that does not mean that you are. You are not to blame for the things out of your control. So listen to me when I say you have to stop blaming yourself. Stop. Just because there is no one to blame, doesn’t mean you have to blame you. Just because you don’t want someone you love to feel bad, does not mean you have to blame you.

Stop blaming yourself, kid.

 

Until next time,

 

Tay