Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you well!  It is getting very cold here now and all of the leaves have fallen off of the trees.  I am getting ready to fly home to see my family for the first time in four months.  This week is Thanksgiving, a holiday where we celebrate all of the things we are greatful for.  I am so excited because all of my "family" will be home this year to celebrate.  My mother's best friend and her whole family are flying out as well.  I am not very close with my grandparents or aunts and uncles, so her family is like my extended family, I love them to death.  There will be both sets of parents and then the four girls.  We are all around the same age, so it's like having a lot of sisters.  On Thanksgiving day both of the moms will get up early and start making a huge meal.  Turkey, stuffing, corn, potatoes, and lots of sweets!  I am getting hungry just thinking about it!

Well I have not been able to get a card back from you yet, but thats ok.  I will just tell you a little more about me.  This week we were told to think about what our strengths are.  Out of everything, this has been the hardest to think about.  I think part of the difficulty is that boasting about my own strengths feels a little bit silly.  I guess I don't always fully acknowledge my strengths, I just rely on them to get me through the hard times.  I know that I have them, but putting them into words seems impossible.  How do you qualify something so large with a few words?  Instead of listing my strengths maybe I can show them better by telling you about some times that I feel I have been strong.

When I was 18 I had my first real boyfriend.  We met during my first week at college and in the beginning it was wonderful.  The first few months were filled with smiles and kisses and laughter.  I was so happy to have found someone who loved me and I could be totally devoted to.  We were freshmen in college and like many kids our age, weekends were spent partying with our friends.  When my boyfriend would drink he always got a bit more aggressive.  The more he drank, the worse it got.  He was different with alcohol.  He was possesive and dominating.  The first time he hit me he appologized right away, claiming it had been an accident.  I was confused.  I loved him.  I trusted him.  I promtly covered the bruise with makeup and didn't tell anyone.  Soon this other side was coming out even when he wasn't drinking.  Playful encounters would become intense, with pushes and tackles instead of hugs and wrestling.  I confronted him about it and the verbal abuse started.  Comments about my weight, my intelligence, my life.  I was becoming beaten down on the inside then as well.  When it began to get warm out and all of my friends put on their cute spring dresses I remained loyal to my long sleeves and jeans.  My arms and legs by this point were constantly covered in bruises.  I tried to leave him so many times but couldn't for reasons to this day I cannot explain.  Then one night he made a mistake.  We were at a party and he got upset at how much I was talking to another guy.  He asked to talk to me outside.  I remember walking outside.  Pushing.  His face pressed close to mine.  Hands around my throat.  Gasping.  Then a flurry of action.  Other people.  We had been right outside a window and people in the party had seen what was happening.  That night I found my strength.  I had him arrested.  Sometimes I think it takes great moments of confusion and weakness for us to find out how strong we really can be.  That experience changed my life.  No one has the right to treat me that way.  I am a strong woman and I can do what is needed to protect myself.

Strength can come from pleasant experiences as well.  I love outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, swimming, and climbing.  When I was in high school I went rock climbing with my classmates.  I am not the physically strongest person and was sure that as I approached the base of the rock we were going to climb that it was an impossible task.  As I began to climb my body ached.  Cuts opened up on my hands and knees from the sharp rock face.  But rather than slow me down, these physical obstacles pushed me.  Every inch I moved up was an inch further than I had been a second earlier.  if I had managed one inch what was keeping me from the next?  Scanning the rock for the best holds.  Jamming my hands into cracks to support me.  Pushing my muscles to the absolute limit.  I reached the top and looked down on what I had accomplished.  Standing on top of that rock I had the greatest sense of power, strength.  Nothing is impossible!

I guess when I think of these stories, strength, in my life, means me.  Myself.  I am my greatest strength.

Best Wishes,


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