Friday, December 11, 2015

Completed Anti-Bullying Video

Within just 6 weeks of working for The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation, I'm SO excited to share this anti-bullying video that I was able to create with the help of many.  I'm thankful for everyone who sent in video clips, and for the many people who have shared it with their friends to raise awareness for vascular birthmarks, and to encourage people to ask others about their birthmarks, and to accept us as we are - while fighting back against bullying.

Check it out, y'all: 

If you have a vascular birthmark and want to participate in the next video, email me a clip!!

The Travelin' Chick,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 Things I Want Kids Growing Up with a Physical Difference to Know

To those growing up with a physical difference,

If you’re anything like me, people often stare your direction, and you feel like you’ve heard it all in regards to your physical appearance. And if you’re anything like me, you didn’t ask for this journey — but you’re on it.

I was born with a port-wine stain birthmark that covers half my face, which travels all the way to my brain (causing another condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome) and caused my facial features to be asymmetrical. In the last few years, I started to blog about my journey with a facial difference and how the world often reacts. As I write, I learn.

Below is a list of lessons I’ve learned over the years, as well as a list of things I wish I had realized growing up. Our physical differences may be different, or maybe you have the exact same type of birthmark in the exact same location. Either way, perhaps you need a boost of encouragement, or maybe you just need to know you’re not alone in your journey.

1. You have a voice. It took me nearly 20 years and my photo going viral to realize I had one. We have the power to stick up for what is right; we have the power to stick up for others and more importantly, ourselves. What you have to say is important. Use your words. Speak them, write them, blog them, YouTube them, put them to a melodious tune. Whatever way you communicate best — do it. What you have to say is important, and people will listen. Write that book, sing that song. You have a story to tell.

2. There are some days and situations you overcome with zeal, and other days you barely survive — and both days are OK. Sometimes there are days that are emotionally draining, and depending on your condition, some of you even experience health scares that leave you unsure if you have another day left on your life’s timeline. But here you are, reading this article. You’ve made it this far. You’ve survived, you’ve overcome more than you realize. You are amazing.

3. Remember to laugh. Life can be hard, physical difference or not, and laughter is crucial. For example: Half my face is purple, so I refuse to wear certain colors. When I shop with my friends, I often find myself telling them, “Um. No. That doesn’t match my face. A girl’s gotta color coordinate!” Find the humor and joy in life. Look for the positive in every situation. The world is a brighter place when you do. And remember — sometimes the smallest moments are the greatest ones.

4. It’s OK to wonder what life would have been like had you been born “normal.” Just because you ask doesn’t mean you lack confidence, and you don’t have to feel guilty for wondering. I have days when I wonder what I would look like without my birthmark and asymmetrical facial features. I even wonder how my personality would be different, had I not grown up with regular laser treatments, strangers’ awkward gawking and comments. It’s not healthy to obsess and dwell on these curiosities, but it is OK to wonder from time to time. The more speaking and writing I do, the more I come to realize that most people wonder, “What if I looked different?” After all, that’s how makeup and hair dye got invented; it’s what sells high heels and Spanx.

5. If you’re a girl, remember, you are beautiful and stunning. If you’re a guy? You are handsome with tons of swag. This summer I made a new, encouraging friend of the opposite sex. He heard a part of my story and kept emphasizing how beautiful I was, both internally and physically. I found myself blushing, awkwardly looking to the ground, unsure of how to respond. Beyond my grandfather, I don’t recall anyone from the male gender telling me I was beautiful — and for months I’ve tried to recall other men giving me the same compliment.

Having a guy tell me I was beautiful while standing face-to-face was one of the most internally painful social situations I’ve ever been in. It was, and still is, a foreign experience. Bluntly put, most comments I’ve received about my looks have been negative and hurtful. Growing up, I quickly learned to be on the defense when my appearance came up — especially around new people. I’ve always believed and told myself I was beautiful, but I realized through this experience that I never expected or anticipated a man unrelated to me to think the same thing. But they do, and they think the same about you. And they’re right. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down.

6. There are online support groups you can join. Only three people out of 1,000 people have the same condition I have (according to the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation), and even fewer have their birthmarks predominantly placed on their face. Until a few years ago, and in all my life, I had only seen a couple of people in-person with the exact same birthmark I have — and we never even said hello. Until I was about 21 and started blogging about my story, it never dawned on me that there were online groups I could join. After all, I didn’t have a “birthmark mentor” to tell me teach me these things.

Now, a few years later, I’m in several groups, and I work for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation, which also provides a lot of insight and support. You may feel alone in your day-to-day life, but there are people all over the world who relate to and understand you. My family gets my situation to an extent, more than most people. They’re the most supportive family I could ever dream of, but they don’t live with my condition 24/7. When I finally connected with people who also had the same condition? Wowzers. These people get me completely. (At least, the birthmark part of me.)

7. Only you know what’s best for you, especially in regards to your health. Do your research, listen to opinions. But most of all — make sure you make your decision with your parents and doctors by your side, using their wisdom and knowledge to the fullest.

When I first announced on social media that I would be having laser treatments, people became angry — and they weren’t afraid to voice their thoughts. But here’s the thing… They didn’t know about my condition. They only knew I had a “purpl
e”birthmark, and that was the extent of their knowledge. They didn’t know the medical complications that could arise if I chose not to have the treatments again.

Sometimes, people who have the exact same condition are also strongly against the treatments. The treatments aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Each journey looks different for everyone. It’s OK to vary in opinions. The treatments aren’t what bind us together; it’s the journey and support.

8. Your condition doesn’t define you. Yes, it’s a part of you, but you are still you, no matter what people say. No matter what you look like. Be confident. You’re a rock star.

9. There are amazing people who will support and encourage you — people who will get to know you beyond what they see. Sometimes it can be discouraging when people stare or make rude comments. Thankfully, not everyone reacts in a cruel and hurtful way. I’ve always been able to make friends easily, but it did take me a while to find a good group of close friends who are always there for me. We’ve all been hurt by someone, but don’t ever be afraid to make new friends. For every unkind person, I believe there are at least twice as many beautiful, kind people.

10. You can change the world. You have just as much power as anyone else. Shoot for the stars, go for the impossible. Embrace your passions and dare to dream. You can do anything you put your mind to, and you have an endless amount of potential. You make the world a more beautiful place.

Love always,

The Travelin' Chick - and your mentor with a physical difference,



This article was originally featured on The Mighty.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Being Vulnerable (Why Writing a Book is Hard)

Amberly is also a speaker and writer.  In fact, she's one of my
favorite speakers!  Invite her to speak, and check out
her blog! She's pretty amazing and has a great sense
of humor!  
"I've been working on my book, but so far I still only have one chapter written...And I've noticed my best writing comes at night," I told my friend and mentor, Amberly.  Responding, she told me, "Some people say that we write best at night, because after a long day, that's when we let our guard down.  That's when we're most vulnerable."  


I've been trying to write my book (a memoir) for a few months now, since about May.  In August, I celebrated the completion of one chapter.  (Give or take some later modifications as the book develops.)  But since then?  I've been stuck.  Writer's block and I have been hanging out daily, becoming instant best friends.

Here's the thing...I love how my first chapter has turned out.  But it was a process.  A vulnerable process.

Typically, being open, raw, and vulnerable has come easy to me when writing my blog.  Actually, I usually write when I feel the most emotionally raw.  I've never thought twice about being vulnerable with you, my readers.  But now I'm writing a book. While I do go deep on some of my blog entries, I feel like they're way more surface in comparison of the book I'm working on.  With my book...With the one chapter I've written...I've dived down deep, scuba diving into the depths of my story, exploring areas I didn't know were there.

In my book, I'm wanting to share both the highs and lows of my story with you - which is pretty much the equivalent of giving you a key to my house...A key that lets you into my life, allowing you to watch the joyous moments of celebration, as well as very personal, hard moments, that found the ugly cry as a companion.  In my book, you'll see moments with incredible encouragement and triumph, but also the moments where I just wanted hide under a rock, throw in the towel, and quit.

Once my first chapter was written, I found myself writing to my friend, "I have to say...Writing this chapter on this one subject, I learned a LOT about my own situation and a LOT about myself.  As I was writing it, I caught myself thinking a few times, 'This is not what I planned to write in this chapter - at all.  This is a bit more honest than I planned to be - with my readers, but more importantly, with myself!!'"

Being vulnerable...Yikes.  What a scary concept.

I'm sure I'm totally backwards...But I'm not afraid of being vulnerable with my readers, I'm afraid of being vulnerable with myself.  I'm afraid the potential discomfort I'll experience as I dive down deep, continuing to learn important lessons from my own story.

Something you may not know about me: I've not always had a healthy relationship with my emotions.  Actually, I use to be terrible with them. If there were a marathon where people run from their emotions, I would have won first place.  Hands. Down.  I've been known to burry emotions and struggles down deep, moving on before I should.

The older I get, the better I am at handling my emotions.  It's still not perfect, but the relationship with them is healthier.  (Writing has been a huge help in recent years.  In the last few years, I've also been blessed with some beautiful friendships with some amazing people, which is something that I once majorly lacked.)

And here's the thing...I'm afraid of being vulnerable with myself.  I'm afraid of the lessons I still need to learn, the lessons that I'll learn as I write my story in an in-depth level.  I'm afraid of what I may dig up...the possible emotions I've buried, the emotions I'll have to finally handle.  I'm afraid of being honest with myself.

Yet, in the midst of this...I know that sharing my story and encouraging others is something God has called me to do - no question.  No matter if I am published by a traditional publisher, or go down the self-publishing route, this is the calling I'm meant to follow.  This book is meant to be written.  Maybe it'll one day change and encourage the life of a future reader, maybe not.  But one thing I know for certain?  Readers or no readers - pen in hand, it'll change my life as the author.

The lessons I have yet to learn may be scary, but I know they'll stretch and mold me into a better person.  I know they are lessons that need to be learned.

I have to stop running from my calling, I have to stop making up excuses.  I have to dare to be brave, and honest...I have to dare to be vulnerable.

How is God asking you to be brave?

The Travelin' Chick,

Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope (@travelin_chick).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Anti-Bullying Project

Since posting my last blog entry about my experience at the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF) Conference that I attended earlier in the month, I now have some cool new to share with you!

I'm now the new Social Media Coordinator and Ask/Accept Anti Bullying Campaign Manager for VBF!!...And I'm really excited! 

Lady week we announced my new positions with VBF on Facebook, and Dr. Linda wrote: 

This is Dr. Linda, President and Founder of the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF). I am so thrilled to announce that Crystal Hodges will be joining VBF as our Social Media Coordinator and as the VBF Ask/Accept Anti-Bullying Campaign Manager.

Crystal currently lives in California and is earning her degree in American Sign Language (ASL). She has become an internet phenomenon with her campaign for acceptance for all people with differences, while sharing her story through speaking opportunities and through her blog. She is a social media whiz and we are so excited that she will be bringing VBF to the forefront of social media.

And hey - here's the thing...Right now we're working on a new Ask/Accept Anti-Bullying video project - and we would LOVE to hear from you!

Check out what we wrote on Facebook, and the video below.  Then, send us YOUR videos!

One of the goals of the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation’s Ask/Accept program is to raise awareness about vascular birthmarks and to combat the bullying and taunting happening to individuals with birthmarks. The phrase Ask/Accept is simple. Ask me about my birthmark (or my child/loved one) and Accept me (or my child/loved one). That being said, we need your help! We're putting together a video - and that's where you come in. We'd LOVE to see a 10-20 second video of you that includes you sharing your name, where you're from, the phrase "Ask/Accept” - and 1-2 additional sentences. Make the video about your own birthmark, or make one about your loved one's birthmark. We are hoping to receive clips from people of all ages from around the world! Check out the attached explanation and example, and send your videos to: by November 15, 2015.

I can't wait to see your videos!!

The Travelin' Chick and VBF Social Media Coordinator,

Click here and "like" me on Facebook.

Friday, October 16, 2015

What if I stare?

I’ve always known storytelling was important.  I’m constantly found telling stories, and I love to hear
them.  But until this weekend, I never realized how important story telling really is.  I never fully realized the impact that the written word can have on others.

In the last couple of years my blog has really taken an unexpected turn.  It started as a place to write random stories about whatever was happening in my life, especially while traveling.  Slowly, it instead became primarily about my facial difference, and the experiences that I have on a regular basis.  My travel blog turned into something I never saw coming.

I’m pretty sure I wrote about this once in another entry, so I’ll try to keep it short…But when I was 16, I went to a conference (The Revolve Tour) and heard Natalie Grant speak, sharing about her story and struggle with bulimia.  I left thinking, “That’s what I want to do!  I want to be a speaker.”  Yet, just as quickly, I thought, “…But I don’t have a story to tell.”  It wasn’t until about 2-3 years ago that I realized that my 6-year-old lie of, “I don’t have a story to tell” was completely wrong.  Apparently, I do have a story to tell…just by being born with half a purple face.

This weekend I went to Newport Beach and Irvine to attend the Vascular Birthmarks Conference.  I heard about this conference a couple of years ago, and since it was in my home state this year, I decided it was finally time to attend.

Truthfully, I was nervous.  Don’t get me wrong – I was also super excited to attend.  I’m constantly craving to learn about my ongoing condition, and craving to connect with people in similar situations.  But here’s the thing…It wasn’t until this July that I finally met someone who looked just like me.

This summer I met a wonderful Australian family, Ryan and Mandy Longeran, and their daughter Sophia.  Unlike my birthmark that covers half my face, Sophia is two and has a port-wine stain birthmark covering the majority of her whole face.

I was nervous about meeting them in-person.  I loved chatting with Mandy on Facebook on a constant basis, but was wondering if we’d have an equal connection when we finally met during their trip in the States.  But wowzers…We clicked instantly, as though we had known each other for years. Sophia is beautiful and has the most gorgeous blue eyes you’ve ever seen, and her parents were wonderful.  For the first time in my life, I met people who understood life with a facial port wine stain, as well as a condition called Sturge Weber Syndrome.  (They are my Aussie “soul family”.  Feel free to follow their story on their Facebook page – Ellen Meets Sophia!)

Meeting them was great!  Yet, I still found myself (once again) nervous, knowing this conference would be filled with people who looked just like me.  

“Why am I so nervous?” I found myself asking.  And then the answer hit me, “…What if I stare?”

People constantly stare at me, gawking at my difference.  (Oh, the stories I could tell you!)  Staring is annoying, it can be hurtful…So, what if I stared?

Yes, I have a port wine stain that covers half my face…But the people I interact with on a daily basis don’t.  I’m accustom to seeing my difference in the mirror, in my photos, on my face…but not on other people.

The idea that there are other people who do look like me was encouraging, but also mind-boggling…Almost a foreign concept.

…So, what if I stared?

I was afraid of staring, of coming across as rude.  But that wouldn’t be my intentions.  If I stared, I knew it would be because I would be in awe of a room full of people who were like me…People who get it…People who understand, people with similar stories – and only for the second time in my life.  An experience like that is a rarity, a blessing.

The conference was amazing.  I learned more than what I thought possible.  I even had the honor of meeting and having appointments with three teams of doctors who are at the top of their fields. (I met with specialists in regards to the Port Wine Stain and laser treatments, Sturge Weber Syndrome, and reconstructive surgeons.)  Questions were answered; new dreams of possibilities were created.  Hope was given.

One of my very favorite parts of the conference was connecting with people like you, my readers.  I had at least 5 families come up to me and ask, “Are you Crystal?  The blogger?”…And I loved that they introduced themselves to me.  I loved meeting them, and I loved hearing their stories.  (If I met you and seemed a bit out of it, sorry!  There was a LOT to take in.  I was a bit overwhelmed.  I promise I’m not usually so socially awkward!  Ha!)

The last reader to come up to talk with me was a mom.  Her child was recently born with a port wine stain birthmark.  With tears in her eyes, she thanked me.  She thanked me for writing my blog entries; she thanked me for creating and sharing my video.  She told me that my video was a good bridge in introducing her daughter to her friends, and for explaining her condition.  (And wowzers…I almost cried with her.)

My goal has always been to encourage others, but I had no idea how much of an impact my former travel blog had become.   I had no idea that my blog and video had become such a lifeline for many parents who found themselves in a new and unexpected journey.

If I met you at the conference this weekend, please know you have encouraged me – and more than you’ll ever know.  Some of you may have noticed I’ve been MIA for the last couple of months.  Needles to say, I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block problem lately, but you’ve rekindled that fire to continue as a storyteller.  And, may I add, you are incredible parents.  You are going to conferences to learn as much as you can, connecting with people in similar situations early.  It took me nearly 24 years to have a chance to meet anyone like me (we had limited resources when I was a child – thank goodness for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation and social media!)…But you’re allowing your beautiful young children to have those experiences now, before they’re 24-years-old – and that is powerful.  Together, you are creating world changers.

If you or your child has a vascular birthmark of any kind, I highly recommend that you attend the next Vascular Birthmarks Conference.  There’s a lot packed in such a short amount of time, but it’s well worth it and you won’t regret attending.

The conference alternates every year between California and New York.  (This year it was California, next year it will be in New York.)  You’ll get a chance to meet and have appointments with top doctors from their fields, have questions answered, and you’ll meet new friends.  I thought I knew a lot, but this conference showed me how much I still have to learn.

In addition to the seminars and appointments with doctors, they also offer makeovers for those interested.  Daycare is provided, and this year, the first 50 families to register (from out of town) received a free hotel room for the night before the conference.  You can even get the conference fee waved, and receive breakfast and lunch.

Oh, and it turns out, this conference is a safe place to do some occasional staring.  Apparently, everyone there is in awe of people who look just like them too.

The Travelin’ Chick,

PS: My mom will be writing a guest entry for my blog soon, sharing about her experience as a mom attending the conference.

Click here and follow me on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Why I'm not 'Too Ugly for Love' or 'Undateable'

For many, it's a dream come true to hear from a casting agency inquiring if you're interested in a role on their TV show.  I guess it's a dream for me, too.  There are certain talk shows that I would LOVE to hear from and be a guest on.  It's on my God-sized dream board to appear on The Ellen Show and to participate on What Would You Do.

A couple of months ago, I did receive an inquiry from a casting agency for a reality TV show...but it wasn't a quite a dream come true.

To sum it up: A man in the UK saw my YouTube video and emailed me.  He asked if I was still living in the UK as he was looking to feature people on a reality TV show...People with "significant medical conditions" who were "looking for love".

When I inquired about the specific name of the show he was casting for, he avoided my question.  So, I went to Google and did my own research.

The casting agency that reached out to me works for two shows with the description he gave me:  Too Ugly for Love? and The Undateables.

I know a few people in the UK who enjoy the shows; however, a majority of the people from the UK that I've connected with are strongly opposed to them.  Having limited access to the shows,  I only want to focus on the titles...and I'll be honest -  I'm not fond of them.  Maybe the show helps educate others about different conditions by raising awareness.  But I still don't like the titles. There's a lot I could say about the titles of the shows, but that's not why I'm writing this blog entry.

Here's the thing - I'd rather focus on the positive.  I'd rather tell you why my facial birthmark doesn't make me too ugly for love, or undateable.


So here's my list: 10 Reasons my Birthmark doesn't make Me 'Too Ugly for Love' or 'Undateable'

Big Ben
1. I have a unique perspective on life.  This comes from both my unique appearance and my experiences in life.  I know there is more than one way to look at a situation.  From firsthand experience, I know we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover - or a person by how they look.

Live, Love, Laugh - and take selfies with Flounder.
2. I know how to laugh.  I have a sense of humor.  I have to laugh, whether it be at myself or at a situation.  I know I can't take everything too seriously.  When someone asks if I painted my face with face paint, or a child asks if I got my birthmark from "eating a hamburger",  I laugh.  Laughing is such an important part of my life and I try to have a good laugh at least once a day.  Life would be too hard and complicated without those moments of laughter.  Sometimes (depending on what's happening in life) you have to search for those moments, but they're well worth it - and I can't wait to laugh with a significant other.

3. I'd add a bit of color to a man's life. (See what I did there?)  Not only will the purple hue on my face add in some color, but my life is never boring.  There is always a story to tell.

4. My family is amazing.  They've never treated me different because of my facial difference.  They still pushed me to do my best, they still tell me that I can do anything I put my mind to.  They encourage me to reach for the stars.  They've encouraged me to be proud of who I am, as I am.  When I laugh, they laugh.  When I cry, they cry.  They love me and they support me, no matter where I am in the world.

5. I (typically) have a lot of patience.  I get asked a lot of questions and I get stared at often.  It usually takes a lot to push me over the edge.  Sometimes I have to explain my birthmark and condition 20 times a day, sometimes I don't have to explain it a single time...Either way, I don't mind.

6. Life isn't always easy, and I get that.  I'm basically a pro at knowing how to persevere.  (Well, kind of.)  Life is hard.  It's not easy...But I never quit.  I never give up.  I may get knocked down on occasion, but I always get back up.  When the wind gets knocked out of me, I learn to breath again. The staring and the comments?  The medical procedures?  My image going viral?  All these things have had a part in teaching me to persevere with joy.  Life is a journey and we can all learn from both the good and bad times...and although it may take a lot of creativity and juicing practice, there's always a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

In March 2011 Japan experienced a tsunami.
That July I went to Japan to help with disaster relief efforts.
7. My heart is compassionate.  This kind of goes hand-in-hand with having a unique perspective in life.  I know what it's like to struggle, to go through a hardship - both because of my birthmark and general life experiences.  When I see others struggling, my heart breaks.  I'm still working on this skill set and I'm far from being perfect at it, but I always strive to find ways to encourage those around me.

8. I am one of a kind.  Birthmark or not, there is only one me.  I'm a California native, but traveler at heart.  I strive for the adventure of a local – seeing what they see, smelling what they smell, and tasting what they taste.  I’ve travelled to 11 different countries (living in two international lands) and am constantly receiving a new stamp in my new, yet beat-up, passport.  Baking is an addiction, but one I use to hopefully bring joy to someone’s day.  (Truffles are my specialty!)  I’m an author, speaker, and photographer.  I’m also bilingual, as I have been studying the visual language of American Sign Language.  (Although, I am trilingual if include sarcasm.  Like I mentioned above, humor is also a constant enjoyment in my life.)  Dreams are what I strive for  - and I don’t dream small.  I dream God-sized dreams, knowing that nothing is impossible and have a bucket list that is never ending.  I've even been pooped on by a dolphin.  No one else is 100% like me.  I'm the only Crystal Hodges in this world that fits my story.  I'm special, I'm unique.

9. When I date or marry - my boyfriend/husband won't be taken for granted.  I get that my birthmark isn't up every guy's alley, and that's okay.  Especially when it includes laser treatments every two months, rude comments, and constant stares.  When I was an infant and young child, my parents were constantly asked if they burned me, their child.  I know that other people close to me are affected by people's harsh comments and gawking.  Whoever I date/marry will probably have similar experiences themselves.  Whoever I marry (if I marry) - I know he's been worth the wait.

10. I'm confident.  I know who I am.  My birthmark doesn't define me.  I can wear makeup, or I can go without it.  I'm more than my physical shell.  I'm proud to be me - birthmark and all.  My journey has been a unique one, that's for sure, but I'm proud of who I have become.  I know I'm not perfect, I know I make mistakes...But I know I'm dateable.  I know I'm beautiful, both inside and out. Although I hope to continue to grow and become a better person, I wouldn't change who I am.  My life has been an adventure, and I know my journey has a lot of amazing things on the way.  


I know that not everyone with a facial birthmark or facial difference will relate to my list.  Not everyone has such an awesome family, not everyone feels confident.  But this is my personal list.  This is how I've been molded throughout my experiences and my life.

After reading this blog entry, and if you're struggling (whether you have a facial difference or not), I hope you are encouraged to make you're own positive list as to why you're beautiful and/or dateable...because you are.  You are one of a kind.  You are a valuable.  You are a unique and beautiful person that is worthy of being loved.  You are especially valuable and worthy enough to love yourself.

Although the titles of the TV shows stung my heart momentarily, it is kind of cool to say that I was contacted by an agency to see if I would be interested in appearing on a TV series.  But more than that?  It shows me that if I can get the attention of an agency in the UK, maybe the talk shows in the USA will one day have the same interest...This experience reminded me that anything is possible.  I was encouraged to continue dreaming big dreams.

I was reminded that even though I am single, I am dateable.  I am beautifully and wonderfully made.

The Beautiful Travelin' Chick,

Friday, June 26, 2015

To the Nurse Who Thought I was Sleeping

To the nurse who thought I was sleeping,

"What happened to her face?" I heard you ask - and not in a friendly tone.

Even though I was still very groggy, I briefly opened my eyes.  I was still in the procedure room and your team had just adjusted me from my stomach and returned me to rest on my back.  The anesthesia I had been under was wearing off in a record time.

Closing my eyes, I thought, "Did I just dream the nurse's question?  I must have."  But it my gut, I knew it hadn't been a dream.  The question hadn't been created as a hallucination from the anesthesia that my brain and body were emerging from, and neither was my feeling of hurt.

The more I woke up, the more I was confident in what I heard you say...and the more it made me feel terrible.

As hospital staff parked my bed in a room in recovery, I asked my two anesthesiologists who accompanied me for confirmation, "Did I just hear one of the ladies in the procedure room ask what happened to my face, or did I dream that?"  Instantly the man responded, "Yep - you heard her correctly!"

"Oh," I told him, "You can tell her it's just a birthmark.  I don't mind people knowing what it is.  I actually write about my birthmark and story on my blog, and I am a public speaker on the issue."

Continuing in conversation with my anesthesiologists, it took all I had to not express my frustrations as I mentally processed the experience and tried to understand how exactly I was feeling.

Once my doctors finished checking on me and doing all that they had to do, they went and told my mom that she could come back to see me in recovery.  Just seconds after she entered the room she asked me, "What's wrong?  You're not acting like you, even the 'you' coming out of anesthesia.  What happened?"

I tried to brush it all aside and denied that anything was wrong - but mothers always know better...Especially my mom.  (You should meet her one day, she's pretty great!)

My heart felt heavy.  I felt frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was tired.

You may not know why I was in the hospital, why I was having a procedure done.  After all, you don't know me.  You don't know my story.  However, walking into the hospital that afternoon, I checked in to have a procedure done on my neck.  Two years ago I was in a car accident that injured my neck and shoulders.  The experience has been long and tiring. To help with the pain and symptoms I've been experiencing for the last couple of years, my doctor recommended that I have injections in my neck joints - six injections in total.  This procedure was (and still is) my new sense of hope to escape the ongoing pain.

Today, a week later, I finally talked directly to your manager.  We had a good, 45 minute, detailed discussion.  I told her that I was hurt, that I was frustrated...That I was there for my neck - not my face.  Your words, and the attitude in your tone, were not the first thing I wanted to hear after a painful procedure.  In fact, that's the last thing I wanted to hear.  She understood, and she was equally as disappointed in the situation.

My amazing mom.
Your manager then explained that she reviewed my file to figure out what happened, and to figured out it was you who made the comment, you asked the question.  (No worries - she didn't mention you by name.)  She explained to me that when I entered the room to have my procedure, I had one nurse that I met beforehand.  When the procedure was finished and I was prepping to leave the room, I had a different nurse due to a shift change...I had you.

You had no way to know that when they turned me from my stomach and onto my back that my face wouldn't be the norm.  According to your manager, since you switched mid procedure, you didn't see much about my file, nor were you informed about any medical conditions that I have.  You went in blind, without any "warning" about my face.

I'm guessing that you probably thought I was still asleep.  You probably thought that I wouldn't hear your words, I wouldn't remember them.  But I was awake...I do remember.

I guess it's also a possibility that you meant your question, "What happened to her face?" to translate to, "Is she okay?  Is she having some kind of reaction?"  But it didn't.  Not with your choice of words and tone infliction that you combined together.

Bluntly: It translated to an unprofessional, careless attitude, and sounded as though you were just being nosey.  Also? Your words have affected me.  They have hurt...But they inspire me.

You probably don't read my blog, for if you did, you wouldn't have asked the question that slipped through your lips.  You'd know my story, name, my face, my experiences.

I want to let you know that you're not the only one to choose the wrong words on occasion.  (Not to excuse what you said.)  Within just 1 1/2 years, and with other hospital employees in a variety of departments, I've been asked if my birthmark was face paint.  Another woman asked if my birthmark was an allergic reaction to the flu shot, and during a hospitalization, another nurse (while I was awake) rudely asked my attending nurse, "What happened to her face?!??"  When I started to react, she pretended like I wasn't awake and sitting in front of her when she continued to ask my attending nurse (still attitude infused), "Oh, is it something she's had for a while?"  She never addressed me.  She never talked to me.  I was invisible.

A few weeks later, during a time when I was incredibly sick, a receptionist recommended that I switch makeup brands so I can hide my birthmark better as, "it probably bothers other people more than it bothers you".  (You can read more about my experiences on my blog entries, It's Just a Birthmark!, Exchanging the Negative for the Positive, and Worth more than Gold.)

That's just the hospital setting alone, completely excluding my experiences at the dentist office, at college, online, and when I'm out with friends.

Knowing the words that have been said about me and to me while awake, I don't want to know what may be said about me behind closed doors - or when I'm asleep having my gallbladder removed or during a third ankle surgery.  I don't want to know what has been said when I'm not awake, the things I don't hear, what I don't remember.

Your words hurt, but they inspired me.  Your words refueled my desire to make sure that a change is made in health care services, regardless of the hospital and organization I'm in.  People (phyiscally different or not) should feel safe in a hospital setting...but lately, I don't.  After experiences like this, I'd be tempted to start wearing makeup to surgeries if I knew my doctor would allow it.

You'll probably see me again in your department in the weeks to come.  This time, I'll be there for a different reason.  I'll be there to talk about my story, to explain situations I've been in and why my experiences are not okay - and why.  But I won't just focus on the negative aspect.  I'll be teaching you and your coworkers better responses and friendlier ways to address certain issues.  I'll also be reminding you that I'm more than just another patient, I'm also human - just like you. And just like you, I have a story.  I have feelings.  I am more then whatever "happened to" my face.

Please know, though, that I don't remember who you are or what you look like.  I won't be there to target you or to make you feel awkward.  I won't single you out.  In fact, I don't even remember who you are.  Although I blog about my experiences, I probably wouldn't be able to recognize the people who created the experiences - even if I sat in a room with them.  I strive to remember the situations, the stories, the quotes - but work equally as hard to forget who said it.  Who said it doesn't matter, what was said does. Your ability to grow and learn matters even more.

You're not the first person to say hurtful words.  You're not the last.  But you can learn.  I can't change my appearance, but you can change the way you handle situations, your attitude, and the words you choose.  You can remember that all your patients are more than just an ID number waiting to be "serviced".  You can remember that patients aren't always asleep, regardless if their eyes are closed.

The Travelin' and Inspired Chick,


Do you work at a hospital and have an interest in having me come lead a sensitivity training at your organization? Let me help your organization's patients avoid similar experiences like the ones mentioned above.  Feel free to contact me!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Dear Hollywood, We're Heroes too

Dear Hollywood,

As I sat waiting for my car to be repaired today, a well-known scene played out in front of me.  The company's TV was playing The Dark Knight in the waiting room in which I was sitting.  Glancing up at the screen I watched the big unveiling of Two-Face's shocking facial features.

If you've never watched this particular movie, Two-Face's name is pretty self explanatory.  His face is divided in two halves, one side "normal", the other side being quite the opposite.  He looks different than the average person as he stands out with an obvious signature look.  If he were to walk into a room full of strangers, he's the one that everyone would stop and stare at...Which I know from personal experience.

Although he is a fictional character, the name Two-Face is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears.  Like Two-Face, my face is divided in half.  In my case, however, I have a birthmark that is purple in tone (a Port Wine Stain) covering my left cheek.  As a child, a classmate used this fictional character's name like a weapon against me.  To this day, I can recall exactly where I was standing in my elementary cafeteria when he shot me with his hurtful words that he used to describe my 7-year-old appearance.

Watching the scene unfold in front of me, I started to wonder - what movies show people with facial difference as the hero instead of the scary villain?  As I sat there thinking about this question I posed to myself, only villains came to mind (keep in mind that this is a small, basic list):

  • Scar from The Lion King, a scar being one of his evil definers.  In fact, he's known by his facial difference by his name.
  • Beast from Beauty and the Beast.  He's has a different kind of "difference" as he turns into a human later on, but while he looks different he is shown as angry, bitter, friendless, and controlling.  
  • Two-Face, as mentioned above.  
  • The Phantom of the Opera, from The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm street.  (I've not actually watched this movie, I've only heard of it and seen images from it.)
  • Penguin from Batman Returns.
  • Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series.
  • Witches, based from a lot of different movies (warts, long and crooked nose, green face).

Maybe there are movies that portray people with facial differences in a positive way, maybe even as a hero!  But dominantly and stereotypcially, we're portrayed as evil, bitter, isolated, and ugly people.

I know that there are villains that look "normal" in the movies.  But those who look normal also have a lot of representatives playing heroes.  There is a healthier balance.

If you're going to portray people with facial differences as evil, please balance our good and bad guy character representatives. Help show the world that we are heroes too.  Show that we, too, have positive value in this world.

We may not look like the stereotypical prince charming or Disney princess, but we're heroes too.  Maybe we're not all out saving the world in a dramatic, Hollywood way like Superman or Batman, would, but we are impacting it.

Many people with facial differences can tell you endless amounts of hard stories full of struggle and pain.  We've all been bullied.  We've all been made fun of and stared at.  Unlike many teens who are bullied, when we graduate high school, we don't graduate the way that much of society often treats us - all because of how we look.  Having a facial difference equals to a lifetime commitment to harsh treatments.

Yet, these harsh stories, these hard experiences...They don't make us villains.  They don't make us evil.  These experiences help us learn to be overcomers that are full of strength and compassion.  They help us see the world in a different, beautiful way.

We're just ordinary people who just happen to have extraordinary circumstances.

I work at a elementary school.  During today's lunch recess, I noticed a distressed child on the blacktop.  After spending a few minutes with her, I was able encourage this weeping child. She was sitting on the hot, summer blacktop, and I was trying to help her gain the strength to stand on her own two feet again.  As the child cried out her sorrows, she told me that another child rudely yelled at her to "shut up". While we stood their talking, I tried my best to remind her that her words and thoughts matter.  I reminded her that not only do her words have value, but she also has an enormous amount of worth...I told her that she matters.

As her tears started to dry on her flushed cheeks, I tried to share a bit of insight that took me many take years to understand: Ultimately, no matter what other people say to us or how they may treat us, we have to decide how we're going to let their words and actions impact us.  We're the one in charge of how other people make us feel, because no one else can decide that for us.  Maybe someone is trying to hurt us with their words or actions, but we have to choose if we're going to brush it off or embrace their painful words as truth. No matter what others try to say and do to us, we know who we are - and that's what matters most.

Maybe not everyone with a facial difference is changing the world in a noticeable way - but some of us are changing the world of those weeping children sitting on the hot blacktop, and that child's world is the world that matters.

We are educators, writers, speakers, nurses, and doctors.  We are business men/women, actors, singers, and college students. We are brothers, sisters, moms, dads, daughters, and sons.  We are people with a purpose and a calling.  We are people with a story to tell, living in stories that feature us as heroes to those around us.

Maybe we don't look like the average Joe, but we are still beautifully and wonderfully made, full of potential with a lot amazing things to offer the world.

Help us teach the current and future generations that have unique facial features that they can be heroes, that they can do anything they put their mind to.  Help us teach them that they don't have to be isolated, bitter, or angry...That they can dream big dreams and achieve those dreams!  Show them that they have value.

Hollywood, you have the power to make a change.

We, too, are the heroes.  We are the good guys.

Please stop encouraging and embracing the stereotype that we fight against on a daily basis.

The Travelin' Chick and a Beautiful Hero,

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ode to Stinky Offspring

About 11 weeks ago I became an aunt to a beautiful blue-eyed, red-headed little girl!!...And what a joy she has been!!  In expectancy of my sweet little niece, Madison, I wrote her mom and dad a poem before she was born...based off of children being stinky and messy.  The title?  Ode to Stinky Offspring.   (It's super classy.)  I guess you could say that writing cheesy poems is one of my best hidden talents.  (Ha!)  

In honor of Mother's Day, and with permission from my sister, Amanda, I wanted to share the poem and an adorable picture of my niece with you.  Maybe you're not a mom, and that's okay!  Maybe you're an aunt, uncle, or a teacher.  Mother or not, if you've had any experience with small children, I think you'll enjoy it too! 


Ode to Stink Offspring
Written by: Crystal Hodges (with a little help from her mom, Rhonda!)

Your baby girl will be made with sugar, spice, and everything nice,
Look at her smile!!
but for you I have some advice.
Little offspring are stinky,
And a bit of her poo may get on your pinky.

But when she goes poo,
make sure you get all that yucky goo.

Diaper duty will make her auntie gag,
For when I cover my mouth, that's your red flag.

Changing that nappy will make me queasy,
Don't make me do it, oh pleazy, pleazy!!

Sometimes her spit-up,
Will be licked up by a pup.

There will also be lots and lots of slobber,
From your precious little daughter.

Grandpa will teach her how to properly poot,
And you'll want to give him the boot!!

Sometimes her poot will leave you crying out, "Oh baby, baby!"
Some air freshener may be needed, maybe, maybe!!

She might even share a soft substance from her little nosey,
Proving you with the cutest little boogie.

Offspring also like to play in mud,
Which might make you go, "Oh crud!"

With all that stinky wrath,
You'll have to learn how to give her a bath.

You'll do alright,
For her grandma will show you the light.

But even with all the weird baby smells,
We'll all be under her precious little spells.

Even if she smells funny,
She'll be as sweet as honey.

She'll have a squishy little bum,
That will be loved by her dad and mum.

I can't wait for my niece to get here,
Even if I have to wipe her stinky little rear.


The Travelin' Chick and Madison's Aunt,

PS: Being an aunt is the best.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Card Board Testimony

About two weeks ago my friend Denise ask me if I'd be willing and able to partake in the creating of a card board testimony for the California Free Will Baptist 2015 state meeting.  Denise did a great job putting it together.  What a blessing it was to see the video for the first time last night and to see how lives have been - and continue to be - changed because of Christ!  

Our God is an AWESOME God!

The Travelin' Chick,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

You're a Walking Audiobook

Being born with a facial difference, I find myself in more interesting situations than normal - or at least, that's what I've been told by several family members and friends each time I share a new story.   About two or three years ago I found myself in one of my usual situation.  There were the typical rounds of staring, followed by the typical, awkward dialogue.

My mother, sister, and I were on one of our mother-daughter trips in Los Angles.  Since no mother-daughter trip is fully complete without some shopping, we decided to head to a mall near our hotel.

Before we fully stepped into one of the jewelry stores, the staring had already begun...This time by the store clerk.  As something shiny caught the eyes of both my sister and I, we found ourselves standing in front of one of the jewelry cases.  It only took seconds before the lady walked out from behind the counter and stood right next to me, briefly glancing at my sister to ask her if she could pull anything out for her to look at, quickly glancing back at me as she continued her staring.

I don't remember us trying anything on in that store that day (which is a rarity for three women in a jewelry store), but I do remember that lady never leaving my side - nor her wide-eyes ever leaving my face.  Eventually, as her eyes widened even more and her face broke my American comfort zone of personal space, and this is how the conversation took place...

Store Clerk: "What happened to your face??!?"
Me: "Oh, it's just a birthmark.  I was born with it."  (As I finished my statement and the lady's gawking continued, our mother-daughter trio picked up on each other's cues that it was time to leave.)
Store Clerk (still with her face just inches away from mine): "Ohhhhhhh...That must be an interesting story to tell!"
Me (while walking out the door): "Uh-huh...I guess so...Have a great night..."

Depending on the story and how the curious person treats me, combined with my internal dialogue's  witty sarcasm, I often walk away from situations telling my friends, "This is how I responded to the person...but this is how I wanted to respond!"

To replay my last response, this is how I responded: "Uh-huh...I guess so...Have a great night."

Yet, in that moment, when she told me, "...that must be an interesting story to tell", this is how I wanted to respond, "Yeah, sure.  It is super interesting.  I was born...the end."

Just to re-emphasis -  my internal, sarcastic responses aren't usually a 2 for 1 type of deal: "Share a comment or question about my birthmark, get sarcasm free!"  My sarcastic, internal dialogue is only reserved for very special experiences, such as ones like the one I've mentioned in this entry...ones that uncomfortably make me feel like a zoo animal on display.  As odd as it may sound to some, sarcasm and humor have been one of my many coping mechanisms when I find myself in hurtful situations in regards to my facial difference - and I keep my internal response (at least, until I'm away from a situation) to myself as I process the experience.

About a year ago I started to remember my high school years and having the opportunity to attend an amazing event called The Revolve Tour.  To summarize: The Revolve Tour  is/was a teen girl edition of Women of Faith (I think this event is no longer running).  During this two day even there were many different music artists performing, as well as many inspirational speakers.  Some of the performers and speakers that were a part of my two years attending this event were: Tammy Trent, Hawk Nelson, Group 1 Crew, Natalie Grant, Chad Eastham, and Jenna Lucado Bishop.  (There were more presenters than that, but those are the ones I remember most.)

Natalie Grant has always been a favorite music artist of mine and going to an event where she was singing and speaking was such a highlight of my high school years - and I got to do it TWICE.  While I had always known about her amazing musical talents, it wasn't until these events that I had the chance to hear her incredibly testimony...A testimony where she struggled to fulfill her desire to feel beautiful (starting after her boyfriend at the time made a comment about a woman pictured on a magazine), finding bulimia as her companion during her search of self-acceptance.  Finally, she found herself in a moment of realization that she shared with The 700 Club, "...I’ve never heard God speak audibly but the Holy Spirit speaks to us on the inside, and it’s like I felt him saying ‘My grace is enough. My grace is enough.’ And that Scripture began to transfer from my head to my heart. I remember looking at that toilet and going, 'I am kneeling to the wrong God. I’m kneeling to this god of myself because this is what I do to make myself feel better and to feel accepted, and to look a certain way'..."

After my second time attending this event, I left feeling inspired in more ways then one.  The variety of music was amazing and each testimony gave me goosebumps.  Yet in the midst of all this, after attending this event twice and hearing Natalie Grant's story, around the age of 16 I found myself thinking, "This is what I want to do.  I want to be a speaker, just like Tammy Trent and Natalie Grant."  Then, my thoughts continued, "...But I don't have a story to tell."  Before I realized it, my new-found dream was forgotten and buried with self doubt.

Although I do still keep my internal dialogue's sarcastic responses system on-call for special situations, I've come a long way since this interaction with this store clerk.  When the situation in that Los Angle store occurred, I was open about my birthmark and happy to answer any questions that came my way - but I wasn't nearly as excited about those opportunities as I am now.  At the time, I didn't see the beauty in the opportunities that I had when people verbally expressed their confusion or discomfort with me unique feature.  Throughout the last couple of years a lot has happened in my life and God has been doing a lot of work in both my life and heart.  He's helped me realize that although the way the lady treated me and her tone of voice were not okay, in the end, the lady's words were right.  I do have an interesting story to tell...It's probably just not one that she would expect in response to her question, "What happened to your face??!?"

Children who see my face for the first time will often ask me, "Did you color your face with...MARKERS?!??"  They become incredibly disappointed when I explain that I didn't, and that it's just a birthmark.  Yet, maybe their first assumption is actually correct.  (Bare with me!)

Maybe, in a sense, my birthmark is like a marker...Like a highlighter to a page, my birthmark is permanently drawing attention to my face.  Like many eyes that are drawn to read a highlighted line in a book, many people stop and ask me about my permanently, purple tone, highlighting the left side of my face.  I'm asked many question, often being asked my story in a roundabout way.  I guess I'm the equivalent to being a highlighted, living audiobook - but the main story goes so much deeper than the walking, audiobook cover that the world sees.  The main story within my chapters is not nearly as much about me as it is about Christ and the unconditional love that He holds for me - and anyone who is willing to accept the gift He has to offer the world.

As I continue to grow in Christ every day, I continue to dream new dreams - literally and figuratively.  Last night, for example, I had a dream where I was in some kind of meeting with a bunch of people, including Toby Mac​.  After telling him something along the lines of, "I enjoy the status updates you post on Facebook", he and I somehow ended up in an in-depth conversation talking about our dreams and stories.  In addition, in the last two months I've had at least 7 dreams (no, I'm not kidding) where, each time, I have the honor of somehow bumping into Natalie Grant​.  Each meeting resulting with me asking her, "Can I share my story - my testimony - with you?"  Each time she joyfully tells me that she'd love to chat as we go and sit down at a local Jamba Juice (or something) to talk.

I really have no idea where this Toby Mac dream came from (maybe because his song, "Beyond Me" has become one of my life theme-songs lately?).  However, now that I'm chasing after my temporarily forgotten dream of being a speaker, new God-sized dreams have been forming in my heart during the last year or so.

This was taken at one of the Revolve Tours
where I had the opportunity to meet Natalie Grant.
One of my "God-sized dreams" includes being able to re-meet Natalie Grant, have the ability to tell her the impact she has had in my life while telling her what God is doing in and with my life since her influence first took root in my heart, and to share the stage with her.  Lately I have literally been dreaming about my dreams - and each time they feel so incredibly real. I don't know if all these dreams are just my brain's way of helping me keep my dream alive, telling me, "this dream means something to you", or if it's God's way of saying, "Keep striving/praying for this dream I've put in front of you - it's there for a reason!!"  (I've also always dreamt about speaking for the Revolve Tour or for the Women of Faith conference - since the Revolve Tour is no longer running.)

Although she doesn't know it (yet), by following God's guidance and by sharing her story with a stadium filled with thousands of teen girls, God was able to use Natalie's words to inspire me to dream a dream that is becoming a part of my reality several years later.  Just the thought of being able to share the stage and work along side someone who helped inspire me in such a powerful way just brings me such joy - especially since both of us have chapter in our stories with the common theme of true beauty.  One day I hope to have the chance to inspire someone else to dream, just like she inspired me.

I have a lengthy list of God-sized dreams and I'm going to keep praying and dreaming new dreams...Because with God, they have an endless potential of becoming a reality.  And whether they stay a God-sized dream or if they become a God-sized reality, I will never let self doubt bury my dream, or more importantly, my story, ever again. Not only did God give me a story to tell just by being born with my purple, highlighted, left cheek, He gave me an even greater story to tell just by loving me.  He made me an a living audiobook.

We're all walking audiobooks.  Whether it be through your words or actions, what story do you tell others?....What story do you want to tell?  What dreams do you want to become a reality?

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Unexpected Response to, "I Love You"

When you listen to the words of 4-year-old Rayna Lopez, you can instantly tell that her brain is older than her given age.  She can count to 100 and can spell a multiple amount of words.  She’s wild and rambunctious, but caring and observant.  Her goofiness comes from her dad, and her creativity is the product of mother.  Rayna has a resume filled with an endless amount of silly faces and she already has a plan for what she wants to do when she grows up.  Claiming on of the noblest of paths, she confidently states, “I just want to make people laugh!”

This 4-year-old has strong opinions of her own…and she’s never shy about letting them be known.  When she found out she was going to be a big sister last year, she instantly wanted a sister – not a brother!  When asking her what would happen if she got a baby brother, she would bluntly state, “We’ll just send him back!!”  With a plan in mind she continues, “We’ll send him back to someone who wants a baby brother.”  (Don’t worry - her wish came true!  She now has a sister, Erica!)

Rayna, unknowingly, has a way of encouraging others – even in life’s most simplistic moments.   Asking her who her best friend is, her ocean-blue eyes light up and meet my gaze by saying, “You!  You’re my best friend!!”  When asked why that is, her answer is the most beautiful of them all, “Because I love you!!”…And what’s not encouraging about that?

In the 4 years I’ve known Rayna, I’ve learned more from her than I ever expected or thought possible.  For example, right before she turned 4-years-old, I leaned over to her and whispered in her eager small ear and told her, “I love you!”  With a shy yet understanding smile, she gently responded, “I know.”

Often when we tell others, “I love you”, we await the typical response of, “I love you too”…Not Rayna’s two worded answer of, “I know.”

Although her response wasn’t the typical reply that is expected, in that moment, those two words meant more to me more than I can fully express.  Hearing her respond with “I know”, I realized by those two words combined together that I must be doing something right.  Not every child in the world knows or realizes they are loved, but by the age of 3, it was clear that Rayna has recognized my love for her early on.  Whether it’s through my actions or words (or both), she gets the full message that she’s a special person in my life.  Just knowing that she knows and understands the love that I have for her means so more than simply hearing the usual reply of, “I love you too.”

Rayna has brought more laughter to my life than any other single person I’ve ever met in my 23 years of living.  She’s a blessing that was brought into my life at the perfect moment.  This brilliant child constantly brings an endless amount of joy through both the good times and the bad.   During a rough time in my life when my heart was completely shattered and broken, causing me to feel as though I’d never be whole again, she healed my heart in remarkable ways in which no one else has ever had the power to do.

Her childlike perception helps see me see the world in a extraordinary, beautiful, yet often forgotten, perspective. She’s an irreplaceable and extraordinary girl and when I grow up…I hope to be just like her.

And although she’s only 4, she’s my best friend – because I love her.  (And I'm not afraid to say it!)

The Travelin' Chick and Rayna's Cousin,