Ashley Inside My Head

Love, Loss and Learning

My husband and I rang in the new year in our pajamas, finished a bottle of champagne, and snuggled into bed with our sick puppy – a far cry from our typical New Year’s Eve celebrations. A few weeks prior, our 9lb maltese-yorkie mix pup, Bo, came down with a rash on his belly. Bo-Bear the morkie has been the center of our world for nearly five years (no really…search #bobearthemorkie on Instagram).

Given Bo’s spotlight status in our lives, it’s easy to see how and why we spent the last three weeks of December seeking answers about his evolving rash, recurring fever, and overall shifted demeanor. After three vet visits, one round of fluids, 3 different antibiotics, a steroid, allergy medicine, and topical mouse to hopefully clear his skin, Bo had an awful full-body yeast infection. In the final days of 2015, he seemed to be getting better. Nick and I were super optimistic and we were doing everything we could to get him back to healthy pup status. (One day, I made him homemade chicken and rice meals, while Nick drove to 6 different stores on the hunt for a special antiseptic shampoo.) At the advice of both vets we’d visited, we had also booked him the earliest appointment possible with an animal dermatologist at the Regional Veterinary Referral Center in Virginia. There are only about 150 veterinary dermatologists in the country; the appointment was for January 25th.

On January 1st, Bo’s health took a turn for the worse. After realizing he had become cold to the touch, had a stark white tongue, and couldn’t even keep his eyes open, we called the emergency vet and were instructed to bring him right in. We took turns holding him tight in a blanket with a heating pad and quickly getting ready to leave. When we arrived at the vet, they rushed Bo out of my arms. Sitting in the patient room waiting for news, my stomach dropped out of my body. Just minutes later, the vet returned with the news that Bo had no heartbeat when we arrived. Hopefully it was  reassuring, they said, to know that he had likely died in our arms. At just 4 ½ years old, the dog that had been our first baby, our third family member, the center of our world, was gone with no rational explanation.

It seems unfair that on the first day of the year, a day to reset, a day given to all of us to mark new beginnings, we had to mourn such a loss. But I found a level of comfort in the fact that there were so many other people in the world mourning and hurting too, and probably in much worse situations than ours.

The first days with this new void in our lives, my husband and I alternated moments of severe grief, wondering why and becoming angry when the other wasn’t struck with grief at the exact moment as the other. It took a few days to understand each other’s triggers, extreme pain points, thoughts of guilt, and ways of coping. In an effort to distract ourselves, we went on walks, to the mall, and to the movie theater. One night after a movie, I walked into the apartment, realized Bo wasn’t home, and proceeded to dump his entire bin full of toys all over the living room floor. I threw myself into them and I bawled – tears, snot, slobber (mine and probably Bo’s) everywhere. I slept with as many of Bo’s favorite toys and stuffed animals as I could that night. And my husband still loves me…I think.

Our friends and family responded in an amazing way. The outcry of support, the calls, the texts, cards, flowers, social media messages, and more were signs that we were loved, cared for, and showed that Bo had touched not just our lives, but theirs as well. I tried to watch the Disney/Pixar film Inside Out that weekend. My husband, Nick, couldn’t watch the first time; I watched it twice. I obsessed over how Bo could bring so much joy to our lives, yet so much sadness in his death. But I took solace in the fact that our sadness was a result of the overwhelming joy he brought.

My husband and I have learned a lot in the two short weeks since Bo’s death. As silly as it is, we’ve learned to talk to each other directly again, rather than conversing through Bo. (“Bo, tell your poppy you’re ready to go outside!” This was real…if you’ve loved a dog or cat, you know what I’m talking about.) We’re taking comfort in one another’s presence and have made an effort to arrive home together after work so the other doesn’t suffer the blow that comes when you walk in and realize your best friend – who greeted you with love, acceptance, smiles, and licks – isn’t there anymore. And most difficult for me, we’ve had to shift our projections of what life milestones will be like without Bo. He won’t welcome our future children into the world with us, or get to run in a tiny yard in our first home.

Last weekend Nick whisked me away to New York for my birthday – a much needed respite. We reflected on the love Bo brought to our lives, how the unexpected loss has changed us, and what we’ve learned from loving our first dog, grieving together, and leaning on those we love most when our strength isn’t enough. In 2016, January 9th was the start of our new year.

– Ashley Respecki

Inside My Head Karen


I’ve been reflecting SO MUCH on the topic of enabling.

What I write in this post is my perception and perspective. I’m not a medical expert and do not have university psychological training. I’m reflecting on the word “enabling” based on my experience and my conduct. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds, but on occasion, it still rears its ugly head.

The hardest part about admitting I’m an enabler is looking at the intentions of my conduct. My perception tells me I’m being loving, thoughtful, accommodating, understanding, forgiving, looking-the-other-way, empowering and supportive.

How can that be wrong? How can I possibly be labeled an enabler?

It’s not these characteristics that define enabling. It’s the conduct and motive behind the behavior. The root of ‘why I do what I do’ is the enabling part.

Sorry to break it to ya, but fear is the root of all enablers. And fear distorts our lens on reality and we end up responding in a way that is unhealthy.

  • If I don’t show support, the person will think I’m selfish.
  • If I don’t show understanding, the person will think I’m controlling.
  • If I complain, the person will think I’m high maintenance and needy.
  • If I get upset, the person will think I’m irrational.
  • If I express my honest thoughts, the person will think I’m picking a fight.
  • If I feel hurt, the person will think I’m projecting my issues.
  • If I say no, the person will think I’m unloving.
  • If I don’t agree, the person will get mad at me.

So I better not act in these ways, whatsoever! After all, I don’t want people to think of me in this light.

An enabler is worried of how they’ll be perceived:

  • Will you think I’m selfish?
  • Will you think I’m controlling?
  • Will you think I’m needy?
  • Will you think I’m irrational?
  • Will you think I’m picking a fight?
  • Will you think I’m projecting my issues on to you?
  • Will you think I’m unloving?
  • Will you think I’m causing problems?
  • Will you think I’m unsupportive?
  • Will you think I’m thoughtless?
  • Will you think I’m unloving?
  • Will you think I’m inflexible?
  • Will you get mad at me?

It was 2009 when I went through counseling, and at that time was told I was an enabler. This diagnosis was a true gift. What enlightenment! Thank you, doctor! I had no idea! It transformed me and launched me on a new path; a path where I learned to find my voice.

How do you stop being an enabler?

  1. Seek professional counseling. The doctor will move you through this healing much faster than you can do it on your own.
  2. The phrase I started to say, and continue to help others say who struggle with this similar vice, is: “This is not okay with me.” By using this simple phrase, it allows opportunity for conversation. You are not projecting. You are not being unloving. You are not being unsupportive. You are merely stating how it makes you feel. In a healthy relationship, the person you are speaking to will want to hear more and the conversation will have a mutual dialogue, a mutual engagement. Start with this simple phrase and grow your confidence.

Mutual empowerment on how we feel and think is healthy. One person catering to another’s wishes, thoughts, actions, wants, needs – but is not reciprocated – is not healthy. If the game is one-way, you may want to explore the dysfunction of enablement.


– Karen Thrall

*also published on





Awesomeness in the World Karen

Worthy of Love

A few years ago, I dated this guy who, after 7 months, said to me, “I don’t have feelings of love for you.” I was quite taken back. I had not heard that phrase before.

“You have no feelings of love?”

Like, I love pizza. I love this movie. I love golf. No feelings of love?

It was important to him that I know this ‘truth’.

My truth, in response to him was: “I need to be with someone who loves me. I want to be loved.”

The irony is we continued dating.

I conjured an enabling theory that could keep me in this dating relationship: “He doesn’t know how to love. He’s been so hurt. Be patient, Karen.”

A few months later we parted ways. His intentions were clear and it continued to play out: this relationship was not a loving relationship and would never be one.

Karen Thrall could not ‘fix’ this. I could not ‘change’ this. I could not act better, try harder, do more, serve more, give more.

I struggle with being an enabler. It’s something that rears its ugly head on occasion. I’ve come a long way in progress; but it still shows up every so often. It’s a pattern I created in my life from a very young age. Perhaps it will be a life-long journey. I hope not.

However, I look back and look at my present and celebrate, because I can see how far I’ve come. I can see how much I’ve grown, matured and advanced. I’m a work in progress. As long as I continue to grow and learn, this bane will be a gift to me.

A few days ago, the memory resurfaced. It’s a sentence that stuck and I’ve allowed it to fuel feelings of unworthiness: to believe I was not worthy of love.

Why would I allow my inner-person to embrace these feelings of unworthiness? Why would I allow my self to entertain the notion that I’m not worthy of love? How did this lie creep into my subconscious, into my life?

The story I share is just a story. It happened once. In my entire life, I’ve only heard that phrase once. How could I possibly allow one phrase to have that kind of power?

I was chatting with my sister about it last night. Musing upon this memory and the effect it had on me.

She said, “Starting now, it no longer has an effect. It’s that easy. The bottom line is, you’re worthy of love. Choose it. Make the switch immediately.

It’s exactly what I needed to hear. Replace the lie with truth.

I am worthy of love.

I chose to share this with you, not for your sake, but for mine. Today I reclaim the truth that I’m worthy of love. And I say to Karen, “Please forgive me for letting feelings of unworthiness cloud your heart, your soul and your hope.”

I am worthy of love. Not for what I do, not because of who I am, or what I say. I am worthy of love because I am worthy of love. There are no stipulations or criteria. There is no merit system. There is no checklist. There are no conditions. There are no hoops for me to jump through. To be worthy of love is the beauty of being human. When you’re born, you are instantly worthy of love. This is what I truly believe. And I stand strongly on this truth. Not wavering, not clouded.

How people treat you with regards to your worth does not define your worthiness.

You are loved. You are worthy of love.

I’d like to share this gift of truth and self-acceptance with you. May it touch your heart as it has touched me this morning.

Today I shed a memory that does not help me shine. I shed a memory that darkens my self-worth. I shed a memory that caused me to question my worthiness. And today, I re-launch the solid, non-negotiable truth that sets me free to truly live: I am worthy of love.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on





Inside My Head Karen

4 Reasons We Get Upset

I was recently asked, “When we’re upset with someone, is it because we see our reflection in their behavior?” Sometimes, yes, but not every time.

There are four reasons we get upset with people.

  1. They mirror us.
  2. They hurt us.
  3. They harm us.
  4. They offend us.


This one’s a tricky one because it takes swallowing your pride to admit you see yourself in their behavior. How do you know if the annoyance, the nuisance, the irritation is a reflection of you? Ask yourself, “Have I ever acted this way?” Although you may have answered with a small, whispering “yes,” a yes is still a yes (sorry to break it to you). If you can identify ever so slightly with the negative behavior, find a position of understanding before resolving. If someone is reacting emotionally to you, and you have in the past reacted emotionally to someone else, how did you get over it? What did you need to help you resolve? Then offer that same helpful resource in resolving this conflict.


Hurt is a normal part of relationships. Your feelings can get hurt. You may feel misunderstood, rejected, overlooked, ignored, dismissed, patronized, insulted, provoked, challenged, the list goes on. This is normal. Being hurt is the lowest form of offense. We get upset if the car in front of us slams on their breaks, or we spill coffee on our shirt or the dirty dishes are still in the sink. If you experience hurt – good news! – it’s fixable and resolvable. Stay in it and figure out how to amend the situation. Avoid phrases like “You are” and “You never” etc. If someone hurts you, share the specific story of what hurt you. The story, not how it made you feel, is key to the resolve. If you only share how you feel it comes across as accusatory.


If a human being speaks threateningly to you, is physically aggressive, verbally aggressive, demoralizing, bullying you, demands submission, dominates you with fear, calls you names, and so on, you are in harm’s reach. And you need to seek help and you need to be rescued. Here’s the good news: you can stand up with confidence against aggression of all forms. You are a delightful human being worthy of love, respect and honor. You have one life to live, and your life is not at the mercy of a mean oppressor. Aggressive behavior is very intimidating and can quickly paralyze our thoughts and our ability to express our thoughts. You have a voice and your voice matters. Even the slightest verbal statement will liberate you. You can start with a simple phrase such as, “This is not okay with me.” Please seek out help.


When you feel a human offends you, find out why their behavior is offensive. For example, if they are making racial discriminatory comments, then yes, that makes sense that you’re offended. If it’s not that blatant, then perhaps they are offending your personal core values. For example, if your core value is that your words and actions match and people can count on you, but you have a friend that is unreliable and not following through on their commitments, then your values are offended. To resolve core value offenses, share your experience or story and share what is important to you and what you value. Find that shared value and try again.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Awesomeness in the World Karen

Leaving An Impression

It was early in the morning. I decided to take the train to work. I wasn’t doing very well. I felt sad and chose to sit in the back corner of the car so I could stare out the window while wearing my invisible-you-can’t-see-me cloak.

The doors open and I watched her push his wheelchair onto the train. They must have been in their late 70’s, possibly early 80’s. An elderly Chinese couple. A bald man whose face was round and jolly. His eyes were content. His countenance peaceful. Her hair was white and coiffed in a classic 60’s rolled voluminous style.   She was wearing a tweed, three-quarter length coat with white gloves and her satchel rested on her wrist. Her lips painted red and her eyebrows lined perfectly.

I felt love. Love for these two. I watched them from a distance. They caught my attention. I was instantly smitten.

And something interesting happened. My spirits lifted.

Somehow, these two strangers, who not once glanced my way nor had any idea I was there, brightened my day.

My grey cloud vanished. My perspective cleared up. I smiled warmly. I was given a second chance to a new day.

They brightened my world. Not with anything they said or did – just their presence captivated me.

Quite amazing the power we have, and we rarely are aware of it.

You leave an impression – whether positive or negative – you leave an impression. And you influence your environment.

Never underestimate that you’re capable of brightening the day of those you come into contact with.

Every day matters. Anytime, anywhere, anyone. Someone will be influenced by you. You matter.

You matter to people like me.

To the strangers in this world, thank you for being you.


– Karen Thrall

*also published on



Inside My Head Melissa

Being Present

I wanted my first post to be good, honest, and something you’d like to read, but last week held a lot of events that even when written down and made flashy with em dashes and explanation points ended up being not very good at all. The phrase “Should I write about this?” has been said multiple times over the past week, but my mind has been elsewhere, too foggy to concentrate on that question. I’ve been constantly going over the to-do list in my head and adding new bullets and pushing other “to-dos” further into the future.

“Why don’t you write about that?” The “that” in that question is the list I made late last week, which was not a to-do list or not intended to be a to-do list, but a things-I-absolutely-need-to-be-happier list. This list included everything from “I need to be more self-confident” to “I need to buy a vacuum” (really opening up to myself on that last one, I know).

Perhaps it’s the endlessness of summer heat, but I am having a hard time staying present and it’s wearing on me. I am overwhelmed, I have a pinch of sadness, and I am desperately looking forward to October – a month that currently has few to-dos.

There’s something about the DC humidity that causes me, in very real and very inconvenient ways, to lose my mind. I find it hard to focus. I get easily upset about minor things. I cram too much into every day, or I do nothing at all. It’s a challenge to stay present – to hear stories, to remember conversations, to appreciate sensations: sights and touches, the heat of a September afternoon.

My roommate, Ben, came home last week to find me mid list making and close to tears. He had work to do and I had a to-do list that felt miles long, but instead, we went for a walk. We left the apartment with no destination and ended up getting ice cream.

“Can you believe,” I said “with everything we have to do tonight, we’re doing this?”

I took a spoonful. It was a flavor made with spices and the man behind the counter had informed me that despite being cold, it would taste scalded.

I ate for a moment, and thought. I closed my eyes. I lost myself in the act of tasting, which, for only a moment, seemed to require my full attention.

“Are you getting it?” Ben asked.

I looked up. Yes, I said, I was.

– Melissa Grant

Inside My Head Karen

Fear + Humans = Normal

Karen Fear
photo credit @michaelhull




Fill in the blank.

My Aha Moment: Every human on the planet can write something on that line.

Isn’t that incredible?! Think about that for a moment. The entire human race, from every region of the planet, can identify with fear. It manifests itself differently in all of us. What might create fearfulness in one person may help another experience fearlessness.

Someone is afraid of heights while another is fearless of heights.

Someone is afraid of large social gatherings while another is fearless and the life of the party.

If I’m a child, I may be afraid of the dark or afraid of monsters in the closet. If I’m a teenager, I may be afraid of not having friends or being picked last in classroom games. If I’m an adult, I may be afraid of not having enough money or afraid of getting a serious illness.

Doesn’t matter what the age, what part of the world you live in, or whatever status you perceive to have – you do experience fear. We all do. Whether fleeting or immobilizing, momentarily or hauntingly – fear is real.

I was reading a bunch of quotes on the Internet about fear. Countless quotes on fear! That in and of itself is mind blowing. Could it be the topic of fear is one of the most researched, talked about, counseled and examined? Does fear land in the top 5 psychological analyses? (I don’t know. These are genuine questions.)

These countless quotes were actually pretty inspiring: encouraging us to let go of fear and reminding humans we can overcome fear.

As I reflected on my personal life, I notice my fears morph. What might have caused me fear at one point in my life, no longer causes me fear. Each fear I encounter is usually associated with The Unknown.

My Resolve #1:  Fear is universal and woven into the human race. The reassurance: someone identifies with each of us.

My Resolve #2:  Fear changes and Experience is its overcomer. The reassurance: we will learn deep truths and get through it.

My Resolve #3:  Fear does not isolate us from community. The reassurance: we belong and we are loved.

My Resolve #4:  Fear is waiting for us in our tomorrow world. The reassurance: we will conquer yet again.

My Resolve #5:  Fear does not make us weak. The reassurance: we are strong and perceptive.

My Resolve #6:  Fear commands us to trust that which we do not know. The reassurance: we’re being propelled into new understandings and empathies.

My Resolve #7:  Fear is a gift to others. The reassurance: because of our fears, we are able to support someone else in his or hers.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Awesomeness in the World Karen

Character is More Important than Reputation

karen - water
Photo credit: Andrew Phillips

One thing I have learned over the years is this: character is more important than reputation. I’m not the only one who holds this stance. I think those who know what it’s like to endure hardship relate to me.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Our reputation is based on what people think of us. Did you know we only have 3-5 seconds to make a first impression? Does it have to do with our character or reputation? It has to do solely with our reputation. How we treat an individual will determine their opinion of us. How we conduct ourselves publicly will influence the onlookers’ view of who we are.

When I went through my divorce in 2010, I immediately began to feel shame for having a failed marriage. Will people think I’m not good with relationships? Will people think I don’t place a high value on commitment? Will people think I quit? Will people think I did something wrong? Have I disqualified myself from continuing to coach people in their business or personal lives? These are big topics, and these questions are fueled by how my reputation may have been affected.

Reputation is viewing someone’s environment with partial knowledge. As humans, we are presented with an immediate story and therefore make a quick assessment. This is normal human behavior, and will remain this way today and in the future to come. This assessment is based on what we see and how we perceive the situation. The majority of humans want to think the best of others. We want to give individuals the benefit of the doubt. We ward off negative opinions and potential judgments, and we try very hard to not perceive wrongly. That takes conscious effort.

When time is on our side, we have the opportunity to establish stronger bonds with people and, in so doing, we learn more about the individual because we have the privilege of walking alongside their journey with them. This is when reputation morphs into character.

Going back to my divorce as an example, I had a small circle of friends where I found my refuge. It was a circle of eight people. I closed out the world and “disappeared” into my family, my eight friends, my therapist Dr. Kirk Austin, and my work. I was overwhelmed with pain and, well, I was a broken person. One of my closest friends, Tanya Cassidy, said: “you’re like a fragile bird.” My mom and dad were huge supporters and I found great comfort in their encouragement and love. My sister would listen to me process through countless hours of sorrow. Dr. Kirk Austin was an incredible gift to me as he helped me unpack, first, my behaviors and dysfunctions; and then he helped rebuild my true identity. These pillars were my oasis, my haven and my voice of hope. My career was my place of escape. I immersed myself in work I love that had nothing to do with my hardship. I wanted to keep giving; it was a place where I knew I could grow and regain my strength and confidence. My colleagues saw my shortcomings, my anxieties and my tears. My management team was the ones I’d celebrate with, build business with, experience success, and where I could listen and support their work.

My children walked through the deepest valleys with me, and I went through profound grief knowing they were victims of the tearing apart of a traditional family unit. This, by far, was the biggest pain I had to overcome. There is nothing that will ever separate my children from my love. And although we had to work through a painful process, we are stronger for it; we are closer for it; and our love is deeper for it. Healing is a beautiful gift. And it enriched our relationship.

When you experience the pangs of a negative reputation, you will get over it. Don’t fear. It is fleeting. People are kind enough to forget. People are kind enough to give you a second chance. Don’t despair. We all have a story in our lives that we’re reluctant to share, in fear that it will affect our reputation. No need to be reluctant. It is the very story that you wish to bury that will be a tremendous gift to others. When we overcome an event in our lives, we instantly become a carrier of hope.

What people see on the surface is fleeting. It is not raw reality; it is the perception of reality. Observing someone momentarily can only produce one result: a reputation.

It’s in the journey we walk with people where we engage with the richness of one’s character. (Allow me to be poetic for a moment, please). In the depth of your soul, in the warmth of your heart, in the contemplations of your mind is where character abides. With each story, we can choose how it will influence who we’re becoming. This life is a continual journey of becoming. Who we are becoming can only grow in powerful ways when we engage our character.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

What does Abraham Lincoln mean by ‘character’?

Using three different English dictionaries, character is defined as (1) “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” (Oxford) (2) “the complex of mental and ethical traits marking a person.” (Merriam Webster)  (3) “the quality of being determined and able to deal with difficult situations.” (Cambridge)

I have a new phrase I try to say often: this is my story.

This is my story is my commitment to invest in my character no matter what curve ball is thrown my way. When I choose to allow each chapter of my life to be a new opportunity for growth, I am only left with one outcome: a richer character. This conviction creates immeasurable hope inside me. It tells me “all will be well.”

If I want to grow in the area of trust, then today is the perfect day to grow this character trait of trust. If I want to grow in the area of kindness, then today is the perfect day to grow this character trait of kindness. Character is choosing moral, ethical and mental outcomes regardless of the circumstances.

Today will either be an effortless day or a challenging day. Either way, my character has an opportunity to delve deeper. Every day matters.

In reading 30 Lessons For Living by Karl Pillemer, the people highlighted in this book, in my opinion, exude tremendous character and wisdom that comes from experience. They have journeyed life, and as they reflect back, they see how it helped develop their character.

For character to truly be enriched, it requires events where we have the privilege to grow and learn. Regardless of the circumstances, your character is ready and available to be enriched.

Reputation is fleeting. Character is long lasting. Always choose character first and foremost. Good repute will follow.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Book Reports Libby

The Year of Magical Thinking

Last week I received a call from a friend, the mother of my son’s friend. Her son, who had just turned seven years old, died. He got sick, was hospitalized and while in the care of doctors, had a brain hemorrhage and died.

On so many levels, for so many reasons, I am heartbroken.

I am doing my best to navigate the murky waters of being a friend and, at the same time, a reminder of what she and her husband have lost. I am trying not to be sad all the time. I’m talking to people in order to process it while trying hard not to make this about me.

A friend of mine – who lost her mother to a long bout with brain cancer – recommended to me that I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a book looked upon as a classic take on mourning.

The book was hard to read; Didion lays all her emotions bare. And while it does not specifically address the death of a child, many of the things she goes through are universal. One thing stuck out to me: it was just an ordinary day.

That phrase is terrifying – there is no advance notice of death. Even if someone is sick for a long time, the actual passing is still difficult; without time to process, it’s devastating. You cannot prepare.

It can also be a comforting phrase – this means that every day is a special day when you spend it with people you care about. It’s an opportunity to make a memory, build a relationship, or share an experience. And in mourning, the most ordinary of things are the things you remember – and miss – the most.

I will continue to be sad, but I will also stop lamenting that every day is not a rainbow of fun, sunshine and candy. I will embrace the ordinariness of the everyday, because I have commonplace, I have mundane, I have one more day.

– Libby Bingham

Awesomeness in the World Karen

Faith Can Be Painful

Karen FaithI’ve been thinking about the phrase, “Don’t lose faith”. In the Disney movie, Pocahontas sings “Just around the Riverbend”, and asks the following question: “Do you still wait for me, dream giver? Just around the river bend?”

In the New Oxford American Dictionary, faith is defined as “complete trust in someone or something.” Words affiliated with faith are: trust, belief, confidence, conviction, optimism, hopefulness and hope.

My close and dear friend, Heidi Cave, exudes the most faith of any person I know.  One thing she taught me – that I will never forget – is how painful believing can be; yet no matter how painful, one must never stop believing.

Heidi survived a devastating car accident that took the life of her friend and left her severely burned, costing her the loss of both legs from the knees down. She went through months of recovery at the Vancouver Burn Unit. She was fighting for her life on a daily basis. Her memoirs can be read here: Fancy Feet. Now an author and key note speaker, Heidi tells her story of overcoming tragedy and clinging to hope. I am so proud of who she is and the inspiration she is to countless people.

Being part of her journey, I was privy to the hardships she would face. When we’d hang out or when we’d talk on the phone, she would express her frustrations. She would vent; cry; process. She would let me see her discouragement and her vulnerability.

Believing, hoping and not losing faith was a daily battle.  It was hard work for Heidi to survive; to try and walk again. It wasn’t easy to come to terms that, in a blink of an eye, her life was dramatically changed.

But here’s the part that, to this day, impacted me. The most amazing thing would happen! She’d put her prosthetic legs back on, stand back up, and try again. She taught me that emotions are temporal. They are real, yes. But they are fleeting. Yet, she never dismissed the emotional impact of her trauma. She taught me that what we feel in the moment is not what defines us. Sure, go ahead, feel every ounce of it. And when you’re finished, remember that it’s the heart and character of what we do next that is foundational to faith.

What did Heidi do next? Every time, Heidi stood back up. With passion in her eyes, she would show us again and again that her faith never lost any ground whatsoever. Yes, there were moments of discouragement, but her fighting faith superseded all emotions.

Faith is intense determination. Faith can be painful. It is ugly sometimes. However, faith – true faith – is relentless. Faith is the conviction to keep your eyes on the mark and keep pressing forward. Faith provokes in us a tenacious spirit. Heidi is my role model in witnessing what faith truly looks like. Heidi believed she would walk again. Heidi believed that a brighter life awaited her. Heidi believed what was just around the river bend.

It is with great love and admiration and loyalty that I write about my extraordinary comrade, Heidi Cave. Thank you for showing me what “Don’t lose faith” really looks like.

– Karen Thrall

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