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Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'll hopefully put some of my pictures up over the weekend - sorry but an attempt to catch up on sleep has taken a priority...
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I love happy endings!

Yesterday I went to have a birthday lunch with my mother, and she handed me an article from the wall street journal on Monday about a mother who had been searching for her two year old son since the earthquake and had tracked him down to a hospital in Milot. I raced through the article reading the details about the baby's leg being amputated, his arrival to Milot at the same time I got there, etc. When I saw the picture of the mother holding a photo of her missing son my heart stopped. I knew exactly who the boy was. I tore through my pictures and compared one I had taken of our Jean Pierre and I knew it had to be him. I frantically started emailing two of the peds nurses I met down there that were staying down there longer than I was. They both emailed me back that it was Jean Pierre! The updated article from the wall street journal today says they flew the little boy to be reunited with his mother! Here is the article from today and there's a link on that page to the article from Monday:

And the reunion article!! http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703795004575087683673968688.html

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Sunday, February 21, 2010


I have finally made it home to find that the 5lb 6 week old puppy I left has doubled in size. Saw Jimmy Buffett in jacksonville Saturday night which was amazing as usual. Thanks so much to the people that worked so hard to get me back in time! Back to work tomorrow but hopefully will put some pictures from my camera up here soon
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Here are the last two pics from my phone me and Tim Traynor, your worst nightmare and me with John, my favorite surgeon to work with EVER and my new hero and my birthday savior, Dr Lovejoy III
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I'm coming HOME!

Its official: I'm coming home today (won't be back in Atlanta til Sunday night I think-going to see Jimmy buffett in Jacksonville tomorrow night!)! I'm at the airport in cap Hatien and the plane is here and I will be on it soon. I owe all of this to both Dr. Lovejoy's and Carol Fipp. They worked so hard to get me home and have saved my birthday!!

I'm so overwhelmed and exhausted but will put up many more pictures when I'm home. I dropped my camera today and broke the screen on it but I'm pretty sure the pictures will be fine. At least I saved breaking the camera for the day I was leaving!

It was bittersweet (but mostly sweet) to do the schedule for the last time and pass off my sharpie markers and give up the control of the board (or lack thereof). The last 12 days have been hard and everyone works crazy hours everyday. I finally took a break yesterday afternoon to go see the citadel but aside from that I was working all day/night everyday.

And the Lovejoy surgery team has been ABSOLUTELY phenomenal. Words cannot express how much I loved working with them!! They are all such amazing people!

And of course I couldn't leave without having to do a little work... I ran the board for a little bit and then we got word that a helicopter would be arriving in 20 minutes to take two spine injury patients to the USS comfort bc we couldn't operate on them here. So Suresh, the neurosurgeon who actually made me like neuro a little bit (but I'm totally going back to cardiac when I go back home... We actually had a cardiac surgeon down here who found someone who might need a pericardial window-of course they find this the night before I leave...) and I ran to the tents to get the patients who hadn't been told that they were going to the comfort yet. So he took one and I took the other and we basically said you're going to the comfort NOW. But the best part of the story is that when we got the patients on the stretchers ready to go, they realized they couldn't find the key to the ambulance to pick them up. So the patients were carried down to the field and got on the chopper. The ambulance key was found shortly after that.

Alright time to get on the plane and attempt to relax. We work so hard everyday that I don't think I've had any time to think about it all. Definitely going to be hard to look back on it all-prob a rough couple days. I need some Jimmy Buffett and a margarita!!
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

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We have been SO busy its crazy. We average 25 cases a day and we have really only 2 fully functioning ORs. Its a lot to handle. But I did make time tonight to go to the pediatric ward with my roommate Denise who is one of the few people who has been here as long as I have. She is absolutely incredible. At age 12 she was diagnosed with bone cancer and given a 10% chance of survival. At age 19 she had her leg amputated above the knee. She does not want her real age disclosed although she looks like she's 25. But now she is happily married with 3 kids. She is such an inspiration to the amputees bc she can show them that they can still lead a normal life. Some of the patients down here cannot fathom the possibility of a prosthetic limb. Its amazing to see the reactions the patients down here have to seeing this girl walk in and show them her prosthetic leg. One of the other volunteers told her that they had never seen the patients happier bc it gave them that much hope that they might be able to lead a normal life. The pictures are the kids in the peds ward. There was one girl with am amputated leg who really connected with Denise who was sobbing when she left. It was heart breaking.

The one that really got me last night and today was a young 23 year old girl transferred from the USS comfort with crush injuries to her left arm and leg. While on the ship, she refused amputation and they did everything they could but her arm and leg were infected and they removed all the nerves and muscles from her arm and explicitly said her hand would never function again. When we rounded last night she refused amputation even though she was told the infection was already damaging her kidneys and she would die. She was very upset but said that she didn't want any amputations bc God told her not to. They brought her over to the pre op area to discuss things with her today and it was too much for me. She's so young and we are telling her that she can either have an arm and leg cut off or she can die. It was so hard bc it was a girl my exact age and it hit way too close to home. I can't imagine how I would feel being told those options at such a young age. She agreed to the amputations and we're supposed to do them tomorrow. I just am realizing how much I take for granted everyday.

That's it for tonight. Thanks to everyone for keeping me in their thoughts and prayers!!
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sorry for the lack of posts from me but I have been so busy everyday. Its crazy. Here is a picture of the schedule board I'm supposed to manage everyday and one of the great ortho surgeons down here right now

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentines Day from Haiti!


Check out the video clip above from Santana who's down here filming a documentary. The team in the video was down here 5 days after the earthquake for a week and is the group I'm working with now. They're great but you can blame them for the lack of blog posts as I'm wiped out from another incredibly long and busy day! WARNING parts of the clip are graphic so not for the squeamish

Oh and today I scrubbed the first ever VP shunt in northern haiti! We did two today bc we have a neurosurgeon from DC who's awesome. But these kids had heads the size of soccer balls-it was crazy

Happy Valentines Day! Love you all!
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Way too tired tonight and probably will be the next couple of nights-the next group of ortho surgeons arrived and were operating immediately. I'll be staying busy! But here's a pic of the coolest looking helicopter I've seen so far. I was unloading people from choppers today! We got some patients and then they took one of our girls to the USS comfort for a CT scan and brought her back.

Hopefully i'll have time to update this tomorrow but considering our case load, I highly doubt it. Love you all!
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

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We have a couple kids waiting to have their dressings changed and this girl is a riot. I asked her to show her teeth when she smiled for the pictures. She told her dad (and the translator told me) that when I saw her teeth, I would laugh so hard I would pee in my pants. And sure enough she was missing all four front teeth.

And this little boy had most of his toes amputated and a skin graft to his foot-i showed him how to make glove balloons while waiting and he had a field day-except the peds nurses are gonna kill me bc the permanent purple marker rubbed off all over his hands...
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I'm so mad bc my blackberry just deleted this incredibly long thing I typed up so i'll try to do it tomorrow but now I need to sleep. In the meantime here are some pictures. The baby girl is the adorable girl found 4 days after the earthquake under the dead bodies of her mom and siblings. There's some boys learning to use their crutches. There's one of my favorite boys who is in the process of having his foot fixed in the OR every few days. And there is a cute little boy in the pediatric unit!

And just a little shout out to everyone involved in gathering and sending supplies-most everything that arrived today went straight from the truck to the patients! They told me those diapers didn't hit the ground til they were under a baby's butt! So thank you so much! Keep it coming!

And my apologies-i typed this last night and hit send and it didn't go through bc I attached a bunch of pictures. I'm trying to figure out the best way to get pics up so we'll see!
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Hope I don't fall asleep writing this...

These last few days have been crazy. I feel like I've been here forever but its just been a couple of days. Everybody says they feel that way and I think its bc you get so used to the chaos and insanity. I'm apologizing in advance if this post is extremely scattered but I can't even begin to put all of this into words so its just going to be a hodgepodge of stories I think... Sorry.

First to finish the story of last night where the doctor locked himself in his office so we were trying to fly in his pt to deliver the baby, he did unlock the door and come out of the office and agree to do the c-section. But only if he could do a different one first. So last we heard everything was fine! And unfortunately the doctor was an American which is kinda embarrassing.

Well I've been running the OR and its been running pretty smoothly. Most of our cases now are amputated limb stump revisions and dressing changes and skin grafts etc. We're moving out of the acute phase and into more of a rehab phase which is going to be a very long process. We had a great ortho group from notre dame that left yesterday and I have 2 general surgeons from new York leaving tomorrow which leaves one surgeon until the big orthopedic group arrives Saturday.

On my first day running the OR I didn't even think to check if I had a PACU (recovery room) nurse and sure enough when our first case was over I realized I had none and had to recover the pt myself. So I got on my cool walkie talkie that I wear and called the guy in charge of the nurses to try to round up some help for me. Thankfully he came walking over with two Haitian nurses and one of them spoke English very well. I was way too frazzled to find out much besides their names and that they were my new PACU nurses. Well at the end of the day I talked to one of the nurses and asked her what shifts she worked bc I wanted her to come back (she was absolutely WONDERFUL! In her downtime when I told her to just relax she was begging me to give her something to do and I jokingly said she could go to the ICU and help out if she wanted, and she actually did!) and I had just assumed she was from Milot and worked at the hospital. Well then she told me that she was actually from port au prince and was there during the earthquake. She told me about her house being absolutely destroyed and her friends dying and that she and her son came to this area bc her mother lives in cap haitien. She decided that she wanted to volunteer for a few weeks and help us out. I was almost in tears by the end of our conversation and the only thing that stopped me was I could see the tears welling up in her eyes and I knew if I started crying it was all over but she was truly amazing.

We had some more patients choppered in today and it was pretty funny bc most of us were at lunch. All of the sudden this silence comes over all of us as you start to hear the helicopter sound (we didn't know when they were coming) and everyone shoveled a couple more bites in their mouth and scattered. I have never seen that room clear out so fast. Well I went to the OR and there's a giant UN truck outside the door to the hospital. The UN rarely drives down the street and takes pictures of themselves but never actually does anything that would remotely help the situation. So I walk in the front door and these Chilean UN guys have carried in a man seizing on a stretcher into PACU. They placed him on a bed, took a picture and walked out the door. Needless to say the UN is not on my good side right now. We didn't know the man's name, where he came from, if he was choppered in, or anything. I even want to go into it bc it will just infuriate me. (but now the guy is fine just apparently had not taken his seizure meds in months...)

I'm so tired and falling asleep and have so many more stories but i'll end on a positive note. There were a few extremely sick children that would most likely not survive staying here bc of infection risk, lack of equipment, etc two of which were the 5 year old boy and girl. So a group of people worked incredibly hard and got Shriner's hospitals in the US to accept them. Well everything was all set to transport them and get them there and everyone was so excited. The parents had been told that their children would be back in a few months and given all the contact info. Well 10 min before the kids are supposed to be taken to the airport, a message comes over the radio that the UN had stepped in and said because of what happened with the other group taking kids out of Haiti, these kids were not allowed to leave. Well phone calls were made and finally the prime minister of Haiti called the UN and said that the kids were leaving and they needed to back off. About an hour later the kids were headed in the ambulances to the airport. They took great pictures of them on the plane-they loved looking out the windows! Long story short, they have all made it to their destination hospital safe and sound and have a much better chance of surviving. The message about their safe arrival came over the walkie talkies and they said "we want to thank you all-thats 8 more lives you've saved today" and there wasn't a dry eye in sight!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

I promised Sheila I would update this today bc I was going to have some time this evening but between the nightly meeting, posting the OR schedule in all the tents, and this:
So Patty is an awesome nurse who flew down from Oregon on a flight with a nurse midwife who was going to a different smaller hospital around here. There were apparently a lot of pregnant women injured in the quake at this hospital. Patty told her that if she got into trouble to give her a call. Well Patty's phone rings and this girl is freaking out. One of her patients is 36 weeks and preeclamptic (blood pressure of 220/120) with pulmonary edema. The doctor in charge went to his office and locked the door. (That is not a joke) So the nurse midwife is panicking bc she thinks they need an emergency C-section but can't do it by herself. Well Tim who runs the show over here is making phone calls and checking the terrain near the hospital trying to see if they can get a helicopter to get her and take care of her here. Tim did a phenomenal job-he is amazing. However there are so many holdups between getting a chopper to landing it to flying through Haitian air space etc that we're not sire if she'll make it over but we'll see. It may wind up taking a few hours so I'm getting some sleep!

I don't have time to write more now bc I need sleep. Hopefully i'll get a chance to tomorrow! Love you all!
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Welcome to Haiti!

Omg what a day. No pictures from today bc I was way too overwhelmed. This place is amazing. They have really stepped it up to take care of all these people. The count today was around 420 patients (this was originally a 70 bed hospital...) they bulldozed a field and put up these MASSIVE tents lined with cots that are all full with patients and their families. The patient care culture is different down here-the family is at the bedside round the clock and they're the ones cleaning the pts, cooking the food, feeding the pts etc. Its amazing to see how involved all the family members are bc back home, the family rarely participates in the daily care and the nurse does everything. The only side of it that's hard down here is that some people don't have any family left or their family is in port au prince. There's a woman who has a fractured pelvis and lumbar who is actually able to stand but they don't have the equipment to operate on her here but she wants to go back to port au prince bc her 2 young sons are there by themselves with no one left but without an operation, she probably won't survive the trip to port au prince...

We heard a story tonight about a little baby boy probably 18 months who was choppered in after having his leg amputated and his chart and armband just said "baby boy" bc he had no one left to even tell someone his name. One of the volunteers took him to a mother there with her 12 year old son and asked her to take care of him and she gladly has been taking great care of him. And they gave him a name and he's now responding to his new name and bonding with his new mother.

Two of the cutest kids are a boy and a girl burn victims-one non-quake related (his shirt caught on fire) and the other was in the kitchen during the earthquake and a big pot of boiling water fell on her. They are actually getting set up to go with a group of other kids to be treated in the US bc they just won't survive staying here.

It is definitely more primitive down here and you make the best of what you got-in the OR they wash and reuse lap sponges and suction containers, etc. There's flies flying around and lizards climbing up the walls. The OR has one sink that serves as a decontam sink and the scrub sink for the six rooms. Philips donated new monitors for all the ORs and before that, they just didn't monitor the pts during surgery. The concept of anesthesia making the pt comfortable during surgery was new to them bc they were used to just having the pts more on the awake side bc they couldn't monitor anything.

Oh and speaking of the OR, I showed up and got my tour and then was taken to meet Colleen, who I was told ran the OR down here. I figured she would tell me what to do, where to go, etc. Well she kept introducing me as her replacement and I thought she was kidding. Turns out, its no joke. Starting tomorrow i'm running the OR bc Colleen's leaving. This is about to get very interesting... Oh and my favorite is there is a pediatric orthopedic fellow from Texas who wears cowboy boots in the OR (with shoe covers over them) it made my day!

One of our first cases is a 2 month old baby that was found in the rubble under about ten dead bodies, and
the pressure on his hip caused a massive ulcer. Its absolutely heart breaking.

Alright I have got to go to sleep (ps I totally made friends with the right people bc I got upgraded from a cot in tent to a matress over a cot inside an actual room!) bc I know tomorrow's gonna be a long day... Hopefully i'll take pictures tomorrow. Love you all! Keep us in your thoughts and prayers!
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Wheels Down I'm Here!

I have landed! We have bribed Raymond with a delectable publix salami sandwich and will hopefully breeze through customs and immigration. The "international airport" is about the size of a trailer and everone speaks french so I have no idea what's going on. Then I'm off to the thirty minute ride to the hospital tha I have been told is like one big pothole. Should be awesome. The flight was great and the weather was perfect for flying! Fayne just had one minor pitstop at 28000 feet... (she gave me full permission to put it up here!)

Fayne is gonna leave me to go spend a few days and turks and caicos to wait for a shipment of supplies from a Delta cargo plane that they are flying for free. Only problem is the plane is too big to land at Cap Haitian so they've got a smaller plane to fly it to the hospital. We're trying to work on a rendezvous in turks and caicos for a day or two...

Oh and it seems like my phone is working much to my surprise!
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Next stop Cap Haitien!

Landed in Jacksonville - it was a perfect flight and the weather is gorgeous! Herb and Phil are the best! we're loading up $50,000 worth of donated prosthetic limbs and refueling and heading straight to Haiti. Hopefully my phone will work!!
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Bon Voyage!

And we're off!

The plane is loaded up and I somehow filled my massive suitcase. Wish me luck!
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Geaux Saints!

Just finished last minute supply shopping but not packing until after the big game. Go Saints! (And the jersey is from when my brothers played for the Sandy Springs Saints that have finally come in handy!) What am I gonna do on sunday for the next 6 months...

Oh and during the festivities, I met George Rogers -he won a Heisman with South Carolina, played for the Saints, and won a super bowl with my favorite Washington Redskins! I tried on his bling-what do ya think?!

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More loading the plane

Thanks for the pics Fayne! (this time its not my fault if they're sideways haha)

And we had to document my mother unloading the truck she drove (yes, its got a hemi) in her mink. That's our Sheila!
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Just go stand next to the propeller and smile"

So we went to load up the plane today with some of the supplies for the hospital, and I am just very thankful that I will be in this:

And not this:
(But some people did come look at this death-wish chopper while we were loading the plane - I do not know what would possess anyone to even consider sitting in one of these things even on the ground - anyone who would fly one of these should probably be put on suicide watch ASAP)

So we had a lot of donated supplies to bring down to the hospital, and I met our amazing pilots, Herb and Phil, and the lovely Fayne who is riding down with us to help unload the plane.  The flight should be a lot of fun!  And it sounds like it's going to be a lot shorter than I thought - we're leaving Atlanta around 7am and we're supposed to arrive in Cap Haitien around 11:30am, and that's including stopping in Jacksonville to pick up supplies and maybe stopping in one other spot to refuel (I have requested a stop to refuel and relax in Turks and Caicos on either my way down or back home...  I'm not holding my breath...)

I then went to REI to buy a mosquito net (I asked the saleswoman go to the back and find me a green one because I liked that one better than the white one - she stared at me for about a minute, but in the end, I walked out with a mosquito net in a lovely army green color) and 100% DEET bug spray that is pretty scary looking - I have never felt more out of place in a store in my entire life.  I usually find shopping quite enjoyable, but REI was extremely overwhelming.  I am clearly not the outdoor type, which will make the next few weeks very interesting...

And I have spent over an hour arguing with Verizon wireless over getting my phone to work down there.  Hopefully it will work once I'm there, but there's no guarantee.  Oh and when I asked if I would be refunded all the charges to upgrade to an international plan if I got down to Haiti and my phone didn't work, they actually said that no, even if nothing works, I still have to pay for everything.  Sweet.  But they also told me that if my phone does by chance work down there, incoming text messages are 5 cents, but outgoing texts are 50 cents.  So if you really want to text me, please don't be offended if I don't reply - you just aren't worth those 2 quarters to me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

And the fortune cookie says...

Well I'm trying to figure out how to get pictures up here from my phone, and I thought my fortune from the chinese food was fitting (how does the little man putting the fortunes in the cookies do it??!). I'm gonna have to work on not taking the pictures sideways.
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For those of you who think I'm crazy...

Here is a little background on my trip to Milot:

The hospital I'm going down to is Hospital Sacre Coeur (I think it's French for Hospital of the Sacred Heart - I really should have taken French instead of Latin in high school...) - for more info on the hospital go to http://www.crudem.org/

So my mom is in the Order of Malta group that helps run the hospital, and when the earthquake hit, my mom was involved in sending medical supplies down to the hospital.  They also needed staff for the hospital, and so my mom asked me if I would go down and work in the OR down there.  So I contemplated it for a little bit and decided to go!  And I had planned to leave on Feb 12th and at the last minute, it got changed to Feb 8th.  And I also don't know when exactly I'm coming back - I should be coming back sometime during the week of February 15th, but the flight schedule changes a lot - I basically have no idea.  And I probably won't have any idea until a day or two before there's a plane coming down that I can fly back on.  For those of you who know how obsessive-compulsive I am (especially when it comes to travel plans), you should all be really impressed that I have agreed to these arrangements...  I'm just trying not to think about it and hope to at least be back for my birthday (February 24th - for those of you who have not started shopping yet, you have a little more time...) and hopefully will be back to see Jimmy Buffett in Jacksonville...   

So I'm going down there to work in the OR for a week or so and help out!  Hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures up while I'm gone (but I'm not sure if the "Can you hear me now?" Verizon man has tested the reception in Haiti...)  So wish me luck!!

And no, I'm not going to be attempting to steal any children on this trip so you can spend my bail money on my birthday present.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

To Blog or Not To Blog

So I'm going down to Milot in Northern Haiti on Monday February 8th, and my sister suggested I make a blog about it.  I thought about it for a while (mostly just realized how it might be hypocritical considering how much fun I have making fun of other people and their blogs) and was pretty torn, but now that I'm about to leave, I've decided to go ahead and do it (mostly bc Katie will harass me like when she wanted to see our pictures from Disney World on facebook... loser) - Here is a bit of the rationale:

-I have a very bizarre sense of humor.  Things that I find amusing, other people might find distasteful and offensive.  I work as a nurse in the OR in cardiothoracic surgery, so to get through the day, I have to laugh at things that most people find creepy or weird - but they don't work in the same environment that I have to deal with every day (and probably wouldn't want to... unless they're masochistic).  If you are easily offended or politically correct, I suggest you just stop reading now
-I love making fun of other people's blogs.  And although I probably should stop now that I am a "blogger," I really enjoy making fun of them too much.  Sorry.
-I really don't think I'm particularly that interesting or entertaining.  I loathe the idea of twittering bc who really cares what I'm doing every moment of every day?  I don't even really care that much about my life.  But this trip is on the list of the more outlandish things I decided do in my life so maybe just for a little bit my life will be somewhat interesting to a few other people

-I'm pretty awkward in person - those of you who have been victim to my attempts to tell a funny story or joke know that I usually wind up laughing too hard trying to get the words out that no one can comprehend what I'm saying and the only person finding the whole thing funny is me.  I also am not that funny in person - but I can come up with a witty text message response every now and then.  So as much disdain as I have for people who blog, I probably will be a little less awkward than trying to recount my trip in person
-Now I don't have to tell the same stories over and over again because I can just tell family and friends to read this instead of having to actually have a conversation with them (just kidding...) 

So here is this little blog - and feel free to make fun of it (because if this were someone else's, I'd find many enjoyable ways to belittle it)

Oh and here are some little things about myself that might help explain some of the oddities you might find here
-I'm an almost-24 year old Pisces and I like long walks on the beach
-My sister(s) and I have a slight obsession with Broadway shows, and hence an unhealthy obsession with "Glee" (I may or may have worn out my tivo watching this part)- I would actually be extremely mortified if someone went through my ipod and saw the disturbing amount of showtunes on there
-I hate (and that is not even a strong enough word) anything pertaining to citrus fruits, especially oranges.  The only exception would be limes, especially if it is garnishing a strong drink
-The majority of the discussions between Katie and myself regarding this blog somehow became recaps of our favorite show, Little Miss Perfect.  Michael Galanes is AMAZING.  I have requested that Katie inspire me with a quote or video from Michael daily if possible.  I think that Michael could somehow use "Wow Wear" to bring about world peace.

Well that's all I can really handle right now because I'm still in denial that I created a blog.