There's No Bond Quite Like A Cousinly Bond

There's No Bond Quite Like A Cousinly Bond

Growing up with cousins makes holidays, birthdays, and everyday life more of an adventure.

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I am one of the lucky ones to have cousins on both sides of my family. On my dad's side, I have cousins that are older, as well as the same age as me. They went through everything before I did. When I was a little kid, I always felt like they could do no wrong. My cousin, Kadie, would pick me up from school and I always felt so cool just because I was hanging out with her. We always bonded over our similar music taste. Her younger brother, Caleb, is only two years younger than me. This meant that we always got to go to the same schools and have some mutual friends. It was nice to have someone at school that would always have my back, no matter what.

On my mom's side of the family, I have four cousins that are twelve years old or younger. Julee and Jamee are twins, but couldn't be more different. Julee is really into art and gymnastics. Seeing her learn new tricks and watching how excited she gets to show them to me will NEVER get old. Jamee likes to sing and dance and I'm convinced she will be a star one day. We could talk for hours about what music we are listening to these days and which artists are our favorites.

Trey and Jack are the youngest and have more athletic abilities than I can ever dream of having. They can beat me in baseball, soccer, kickball, and more. As rough as they are on the field or court, they will always be my sweet little guys. Luckily, Rylee is only two years younger than me and we get closer and closer every day. We're always "beating each other up" and making jokes. Our moms always claim that they are going to stop taking us out in public, but we're just having fun!

Don't take your cousins for granted. My life wouldn't be near as fun without all of mine.

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One Moment Changed My Family's Life, And I Will Never Forgive Nicotine For The Years I Lost

I knew a storm was coming even before that dreaded phone call.

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At 12 years old, I got a phone call that honestly changed my life.

The phone rang. It was around 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night. My mom had a board meeting that night and Dad had been taking care of us. The home phone rang repeatedly. I checked the number, I didn't know it. Dad said, "Who is it"? "Not a number I know," I replied. We let it go to voicemail.

Only a few moments later, the ring came again. "The same number called again." "Let it go to voicemail. Probably telemarketers."

See, it made sense that my mom wasn't home because her board meetings were, frankly, unpredictable. Little did we know, this would be a very unexpected phone call.

It sounds implausible, but I could tell something was wrong. It wasn't much later than I usually expected her, but it was late enough that I had been concerned for at least half an hour. I have no idea how I knew, but I knew.

Finally, they called my Dad's cell phone. That moment changed all of our lives as quick as a pencil's led snaps.

Since then, I have had a hatred of cigarettes, smoke, and nicotine.

My mom has COPD and needs a lung transplant. It's seven years later and she's still making it through, but it's not easy. It's not easy for any of us.

After that day I had to grow up at 12 years old. Even today, everyone thinks I'm 2-4 years older than I am. I'm mature because I had to grow up fast.

Sometimes I think of that as a blessing. In some ways, many of the things that resulted from that moment were. My mom stopped smoking, I really learned how to support myself and be self-sufficient, and I've gotten to travel to raise awareness about the real-life consequences of smoking.

But in so many more it has been the worst thing to happen to me. Hopefully, the worst thing that will ever happen.

In that time, and in my high school years, I got to constantly be concerned about my mom. I spent my 13th birthday visiting my mom in the hospital. During those dark times, all I really wanted was to bring red velvet cupcakes to the hospital and go to Taco Bell. I felt lucky to even get that. Every time I got a call during school I knew what was on the other side of that phone.

At 14, I was asking my parents about our money concerns. They told me to not worry, but I knew better. I knew that it was desperately hard for them to afford me, my sister, and all the hospital bills.

At 15, I was cooking, cleaning, and beginning to look at colleges. I had no idea how I would pay, but I knew I needed to for my parents. (Also, I sucked at cleaning and I only knew how to microwave.

At 16 I actually learned how to cook, and I began applying for colleges. I did it all on my own. I found scholarships, I wrote all my essays, all without help. My mom didn't need to worry about that.

Now, I've made it to college and I'm two years in, but 3.5 hours away from home and 4 hours from the hospital that my mom will inevitably someday get her lung transplant at.

One day, I got a call right before class. My mom got 'the call', and she was going to get ready to go to the hospital for that transplant. I cried for 30 minutes and almost missed class. It was the middle of the week, I had work and an exam on Monday and she would be 4 hours away. How could I go? On the other hand, though, it's possible that the transplant wouldn't go well, and this would be my last chance ever to see her. How could I not go?

That lung turned out to be non-viable, so it was a fluke, but regardless, the situation was real in the moment.

I fear constantly at college that I will get that call again. A call that could mean my mother's life will be completely turned around for the better or it could mean her life ends.

I worry every day about my mom and I have for the past seven years. I will never forgive nicotine and tobacco for taking away my childhood and making me fear for my adulthood, a part of my life that might not include my mom.

Don't let nicotine ruin your life. Don't make your children grow up too soon.

See more about my Mom's story from The CDC, "The Doctors," or Columbus news.

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To The Cousin Who Is More Like My Sister, I Am So Thankful For You

Here's to a lifetime of dance parties in living rooms and conversations that light up any room that we're in.

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Dear sister,

In the short six months I have gotten to know you, my mind is still blown by how fast my heart found so much joy in spending time with you. There are days where I wish that I would have gotten to know you sooner, like WAY sooner, but God's plan for our lives doesn't always match up with ours - and in this case, I think His plan worked out pretty great. And sure, we could call ourselves second cousins and dabble in all the technicalities, but what fun would that be?

We both know that "sisters" is a much better word to define this beautiful, weird, and spontaneous relationship of ours.

I think about all the beautiful gifts Jesus has given me in my life and you're pretty high up on that list. Yes, even on the days where I've called you a panini head and the times when you threaten to hang up on me on FaceTime because of how I annoy you to wit's end. Even then, I find myself so thankful that you play such a big part in my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted a sister that I can share my love for Jesus, Indian food, (specifically, lamb curry), cute redhead boys, cliché chick flicks, and worship music. And now here you are. Sometimes I'm still in shock that Jesus has been so good to me that He would bring you into my life, but He's just that good and is just that faithful to His promises - and you can hold on to that truth for the rest of your life.

I hope you know that whenever you like a boy you can tell me and we can talk about how boys are the absolute WORST and then proceed to talk about how Jesus is WAY better, and then end with scrolling through pictures of our celebrity crushes.

I hope you never get tired of being goofy because that is most definitely one of my favorite things about you. You bring out the goofy side of me and It's the most fun. It reminds me that confidence can be found in being yourself- which sometimes means you just need to break out into a singing and dancing session in your bedroom. I hope you never lose your wonder of getting to know Jesus personally and wanting to pursue a life of chasing after Him because that is the number one thing that will get you through your teenage years. I promise you that.

On the days where you feel so incredibly overwhelmed by all that life is I hope you know that I am always for you. I will always pick up the phone to pray for you, and I will always listen to your rants.

I hope that we are for each other just as much as our moms are for each other. I hope that one day we sit in the kitchen laughing and sharing stories from our time together just like our moms do now.

I hope you never doubt your worth and always appreciate your culture, wearing your Indian dresses with pride because you know that your ethnicity is a beautiful part of who you are and what your story is. Because sister, if there is a life lesson you should learn right now it's that when you walk through life with confidence in who you are it's pretty dang hard for anyone to tell you otherwise. And I hope that no one ever does. I hope you continue to walk through life with your head held high because you know who you are and you are proud of it.

I hope you find joy in the mundane of life because seeking joy in the routine of your every day is what gets you through the hardest of days. I hope you know that joy will be your strength, no matter how old you get. And that finding joy can range from sharing a night of laughter with your family to getting chick fil a one the days you crave it the most (every day).

Even though we don't live in the same state, one of my favorite things is to have our weekly FaceTime calls that usually consist of an outburst of dancing, sharing stories from our life, doing yoga, or having a study session, which..more often than not is interrupted by your brothers walking in or a dance session breaking out.

Sweet friend, It has been such a joy to know you, to see who you are, what you're passionate about, and to already watch you grow into the amazing young woman that you're becoming. I can't wait to cheer you on in every big moment that happens in your life. From when you get your license (yikes, I know) to when you become a Doctor (yes, you will be). I can't wait to watch you grow in confidence and courage and boldness. You are going to be a great leader, someone who selflessly serves others, and someone who treats others like Jesus would treat them.

Sister, I hope you never get sick of calling me sister, because it makes my heart glad to know that we share that type of bond. I hope that whenever you have a day that makes even the smallest things terrible, that you can read this and feel a small ounce of joy in knowing that this is a relationship that will last a lifetime. I pray for you to always know your worth, know that you are loved beyond all measures, and to know that you are and will be resilient in any circumstance that comes your way.

So sister here's to a lifetime of laughing so hard we cry, crying so hard we laugh, and dancing around in the living room because we have so much joy in our hearts - no matter what life throws at us.

Here's too more late night talks in the guest room with the warm lamp lights and more back popping sessions on the living room floor. Here's to a lifetime of joy, adventures, and stories. I can't wait to walk through so much more life with you. I love you.

glowing queens Christina Thomas

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