Sunday, September 10, 2023

Shunick Missing Persons

Well, look at me throwing down 2 blog posts in 1 year. It must mean something else worth typing about is happening. And it is!!! 

First thing, today is my nonprofit's 10th anniversary of having 501c3 status, happy birthday Resource Association for Missing People! And to top it off, we have some new additions to the team that we will be announcing soon. I'm so excited to see what we can accomplish together in 2024. And they haven't judged me from the terrible (I'm trying) flyers I've been learning to make in Adobe.  

Secondly, I started (another) business, but this one is a for-profit and it's called Shunick Missing Persons

It's a consulting and educational company for missing persons. For my law enforcement pals out there, I would love to talk with you about your missing person policy and see if I can make any recommendations. I can also do trainings and seminars on topics involving missing person cases. And to everyone else, I am making educational content online! You can find me on all the social medias:

And you can take a look at my website:! I'm not on Threads because that app just kind of sucks, maybe one day. 

I'm very much looking forward to combining my skills as an educator with my skills as a missing person expert. Hopefully this training will reach the right people. Check out my first YouTube video for the channel:

If any of you have questions, comments, or content you want to see please leave a comment below or drop me an email at

Big thanks to Brandy Cavitt for the awesome logo! 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Finding Community Everywhere You Go

My my my, I'm not very good at keeping up with this blog anymore, that or maybe sometimes I feel I have nothing to talk about with any value. It's amazing how easy it is to get caught up in a schedule and cycle as you get older. I've done plenty of fun things but mostly a lot of work - just how I like it as an extremely type A lady. 

I will say before I get to my point, that I am finally recovered from my brain surgery and feeling more and more like myself every day. It took me personally about 5 years to overcome the side effects of the surgery and medication I am on now - still have a bit of anxiety but I can manage it most days. 

I'm writing this particular post to share my experience in attending the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Conference for the first time. This was hosted by Fox Valley Technical College in conjunction with the National Criminal Justice Training Center - where I have happened to get quite a bit of online forensic training for school. Truth be told, I wasn't aware things like this existed and to be perfectly honest, I never even researched it. My friend Loren from Australia that I have spoken about before got word of it and asked me if I wanted to attend with her - so I did. I hadn't see her in person in 10 years so that was a whole story in itself, but I will keep it to myself. But I will say this, I do not know where I would be if I hadn't met Loren O'Keeffe. While we are here, she recently rebranded her amazing organization from the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN) to If anyone reading this is suffering with a long-term missing person, also known as "ambiguous loss", you may want to take a look at this product they have created: Hope Narrative. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to email me! 

I've been to many conferences in my life, it's par for the course of most professions, but especially in the science and education realms. But this was a conference where I wasn't sure what to expect, the agenda was very diverse and there was a little bit of everything for the attendees - from talks about forensic anthropology, DNA technologies that piece together minuscule amounts of DNA from degraded samples to get potential matches, search and rescue approaches, adult amber alerts (Ashanti Alert, see: Ashanti Alert), police discussing how they create missing person teams and make decisions, the developments for the support for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Populations (#MMIP), many people invested in long -term missing/unidentified people and cold cases, as well as talks from the living victims (family members) of the victims of violent crimes. 

I have never met other people that have made me feel completely normal because we have suffered the same and continue to suffer years after these events have taken place. And it's not to say I don't feel "normal" it's just that there's always something on the back of my mind when I'm interacting in public as to whether or not the person across from me may recognize me, and if they do, what do they know about me? The struggles with PTSD and anxiety disorders, the media, trying to maintain PR representation over our loved one's stories (that, again, are public information and ANYONE can make ANYTHING they want with our loved ones stories), and constantly being bombarded with external people wanting to talk about the murders. And to know that other people's days are also horrible because we woke up to yet another "murderino" making money off of our loved one's death... was not good but it was.. relieving? bonding? I'm not sure how to describe it - I felt validated in the anger and disgust I have with the social media "true crime community" - get a life. 

I could go on and on about this aspect as I did last year but I digress... I again, realize how lucky my family, friends, and community are for not only having found Mickey's remains but also having caught the man that murdered her. Many people don't get both, many don't get either - for them their eternity is never knowing where their loved one is. Never knowing who may be responsible for their death. And one thing I can tell you, regardless of what you learn, there is not such thing as closure. I am going to post a video here that a new friend I made shared in his talk for his organization, Project Cold Case: the video is "I'm doing fine"

And please be aware that not all missing person cases are due to malice or caused by another person. What they call being "voluntarily missing" is even more complicated because they're still missing and you have no idea what has happened to them after they have chose to walk away. I will say, in my very few experiences of working on cases where an adult has chosen to leave their current lives, families, jobs, etc... it is relatively easy to find whether or not they are still alive... but not always. And I certainly don't have access to all the tools that government institutions do - legally or financially. But you know what, if someone really wants to disappear.. they will find a way. 

The more amazing and impressive thing was all of the things these family members have done, not just for their community but for the nation and world. The missing person world is not a very large community and yet the expansive way it permeates into other fields was so wonderful to learn. And for all the families I have worked with or that may be reading this, I want you to know that there are 100s and 1000s of people out there doing things for you every single day. We all care about you, love you, and love your missing person and want them to be brought home. We are as desperate for it as you are and will always help you to keep fighting. It's the only reason anyone does it because I tell you what... outside of a few very specific fields... no one that works in missingness is bringing home a lot of money - we are all doing what we gotta do to keep helping. 

One of the biggest complaints all the Family Advocate Groups (of which there are very few businesses) all receive from the family members we work with is that the police aren't doing enough. And I do recognize why we all feel that way, and I recognize that sometimes that is, unfortunately, 100% accurate - sometimes they aren't doing enough, or anything for that matter. But I have to say, there are so many Law Enforcement Officials that do everything they can and they are grossly impacted by the cases they work on. I would go as far as to say that this was a conference primarily directed at Law Enforcement Officials, and of course there were scientists and a few advocate groups there but these LE people care. A lot. There is a serious issue with a lack of Law Enforcement in our country and because of that, there cannot be a team dedicated to cases like we see in the movies. Maybe for a few days but not for the long haul, it's a hard pill to swallow but there are things we can do to increase engagement, I call it "raising hell" - if you need help increasing police activity on your loved one's case please email me at I will say, the police, detectives, supervisors, etc. were listening to the living victims that spoke at this conference and understood that a missing person case or a murder investigation is more complicated for the loves ones than simply just dealing with the missingness or murder. And that's something not all of them were aware of... we are burning the candles at both ends and in the middle - it's hell on earth. And what more can we ask for than for people to continue to grow and change with each other. 

Many of the things I'm putting here, are things I have already known and experienced because I have been doing this for almost 11 years now and I have helped 100s of people with their missing person campaigns, but it was very refreshing to see the people out there that fight the good fight every single day. I must say, I know that I am an "unusual" person and I think it takes a special type of fire to continue to use your personal experience to try to make a change - and I am happy to be the person selected to do this by our universe. I wish my sister could know that her sacrifice has lead to some good but of course, I would still do anything to get Mickey back. 

Running an organization is very challenging, especially after my brain tumor and surgery that started this blog. When I had my surgery, I had to make a choice do I want to 1) concentrate on building this business or 2) continue to help family members and I choice option 2 because I just couldn't do both at the time and recover and work as an educator. I finally feel like I am in a place where I can begin working on the business side again and I have a few great ideas. So I will use the ending of this to put out a few public pleas/requests. I am looking for 

  • 1) web content editors 
  • 2) funding opportunities - I will do all the work but will accept assistance hahah 
  • 3) someone to teach me how to make TikToks and YouTube videos and 
  • 4) family members of abducted adults that interested in petitioning the state of Louisiana to pass the Ashanti Act here - I know that an adult amber alert would not have saved my sister's life but it may have helped us catch her murderer more quickly - although, let's be honest, he left a lot of evidence behind 
  • 5) will always appreciate volunteers, especially if you have interest in helping our Event Planner get some fundraisers going
  • 6) we will gladly accept any donations here: donate here!
Sending my love to everyone and thank you for reading and supporting me, my family, my friends, my sister's friends, and every single person out there suffering with a missing loved one. 

If you have a missing loved one, please make sure they are in the following databases:

And if you have a loved one that has been missing for more than a year or murdered more than a year ago with no conclusion, consider putting them into:

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Back at it again (no white vans)

Hello friends and foes, it's been a while...

    Well, to anyone that has followed my story or knows me personally, we are all aware that this week is the 10 year mark of my sister's disappearance and murder. Each year around this time, I do what I call a lil' mini spiral (don't come at me therapists, I know it's not the correct term) and just feel down and weird and wonder wtf is wrong with me... but then I realize OHHH it's Mickeys murder/birthday month. To say that I miss my sister is an extreme understatement, there is a hole in my life that will never be filled. It never gets smaller, you just learn how to be who you are with a broken part. I do wonder what Mickey would be like, where she would be living, if she would be married, how many horses she would own now. She should be turning 32 Saturday but... she isn't. 

    Reflecting on the last decade almost feels unbelievable. I look back at myself and see what feels like 6 different lives where I was born, lived, died, and reborn again. Some versions I recognize in myself today and some versions are gone forever. I do blame some of that on the stupid brain tumor and surgery. I realized last year that I am finally happy and then I realized it's because I finally feel like myself again (a 30-something pleasure but also ~healing~).'s like... was this a movie? no... no I remember it... over and over again. But as they say... grief is a cycle that you go through forever - you just get faster at spinning through those stages. A cool move I also made was chopping all my hair off and going back to my natural color so people don't recognize me as much anymore. That has added a lot of positivity into my mental health (I do miss the blonde but not enough to destroy my curls again). Not that I don't love a good fist bump or lil' hug... but being stopped by strangers while you're shopping or on a date or at the airport, and having them want to talk about your trauma and pity you... is not a solid experience - like 2/10 type of experience (+2 because I know they mean well). 

Sorry, I am not a photogenic individual but here is my non-platinum hair!!!

    Otherwise, I wish I could say things were fully back to normal, but I'm starting to realize that will never be the case. I believe I will be contacted by various media companies wanting to use my sister's murder to produce some other true crime bullshit monstrosity for the general public to consume, like it's a made up story. I was tweet venting about this recently (truly send so many good vibes to my twitter friends for putting up with me) but WHY can't a legal agent be appointed for the victims of violent crimes to control their PR rights after their deaths? I would pay whatever the cost, take whatever tests necessary to be able to completely mute people from using my sister's story. Did you know the victims of violent crimes have no PR rights if they are dead? Anyone can make anything they want about my sister and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. Media is supposed to follow a "code of ethics" but it's not law so people can do whatever they want, and that is pretty gross if you ask me. 

    Most people have the taste to at least ask us and then I am able to beg them not to make the <insert book, movie, tv episode, podcast, blog, YouTube video, etc.> but some don't. Just the other day a young woman DM'd me saying she loved a recent YouTube video some random YouTuber "Murderino" made... like cool, cool, cool, cool... so happy you are using my sister's murder for $$$$$$$; along with 100s of stories of other victims of violent crimes that also weren't able to consent. And don't get me wrong, some families gladly and lovingly accept the support and attention but my sister had all of the advantages working for her and there continues to be so much happening in her honor (check out the Mickey Shunick Memorial Park and Biking trail in Lafayette). Personally, I just feel like her story really doesn't need to continue to be told because it's been told in every way imaginable and there are 1000s and 1000s of people that still need support and attention for their missing and/or murdered loved ones. 

    In fact, my org was lucky enough to be used (our data lololol) by the Sociology Department at UL and well... I hate to break it to anyone that doesn't believe it... but missing white woman syndrome 100% exists. And some of the media people I have spoken with are very, very aware that it is their fault. So to the media, I call upon you... start featuring larger spotlights of the crimes impacting men and people of color in the same way you feature white women. Sharing information about crime doesn't need to be factored into your ad revenue... not covering all stories equally is a direct disservice to your communities and it is up to you to change that. Here's the article if anyone is interested in checking it out (I wish I could have you access it for free but I can't): While I'm on this platform FACEBOOK PLEASE STOP CHARGING 501(c)3 ORGANIZATIONS TO REACH THEIR ENTIRE AUDIENCES ON YOUR PAGES. YOU ARE MUTING A LARGE PART OF OUR POPULATION AND PREVENTING THEM FROM SEEING IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT MISSING PERSON CASES. If you're wondering if we tried paying to boost posts to see if it made a huge difference... it does not. 

Ughhhh Facebook *fist shaking*

    I also did a podcast episode with part of the UL research group and her podcast Missing Magnolias, here is the link to that, if you want to give it a listen -mostly me just talking about my experience in missingness:   

    Anyway... what I'm trying to say is... it's exhausting constantly battling people to just let Mickey have some privacy. I actually stopped blogging years ago after some anonymous troll said "if you don't want people to talk about your sister, stop talking about her" so... I did. And guess what, people are still fucking talking about her. So at least I can sit here and shame all of those absolute turds. I was talking with someone about internet trolls yesterday and I gotta say... a big difference between them and bullies is that at least bullies have the backbone to talk shit in real life, trolls just have strong little fingers and constantly shrinking grey matter. 

    What else has happened in the last 4 years since I posted? A lot! I am no longer in a relationship, dating in your 30s is super weird but also pretty fun and a lot more interesting than dating in yours 20s. Mostly because we are all so busy and have adult money and assertive attitudes (at least about what you need). It is super weird to try to explain to people about how I ended up where I am and why I have an organization and talk about family though... but we all have our own baggage, right? Still haven't quite figured out how to talk about my life though. 

    We had a global pandemic, not sure if you have heard about it... I did end up contracting COVID in December of 2021, just about 5-weeks after my booster but overall I recovered quickly. Being an educator during the beginning of the pandemic was an absolute nightmare. Were we working 80-100 hours a week, every week, for a year and a half? Yes. Did we all keep our jobs? Yes. Teaching is interesting and it has its highs and lows but I am still grateful for the job security and the human beings that I get to educate. I started working in a program at my current school and have been lucky enough to be the Biotechnology Director within it for almost 4 years now. My school has also allowed me to build and teach several forensic science courses and laboratories and form partnerships with various LE-related people in the area. In fact, I have gotten extensive training in many forensic techniques and fields and I am getting more training this summer. It has made me substantially better at my job at school and for the nonprofit. I have also continued to work on so many missing person cases and act as a support beam to people. I hate to have to do it, but I am glad so many people feel safe and secure with me in their pocket... unlike some people I have interacted with in the "missing person world" I am just here to be a shoulder to lean on, nothing more. 

    Carmen turned 10 years old in April, I can't believe she's such a little old lady now. We have our little routines down and we live in an area in New Orleans that allows us to go on different walking adventures everyday. 

    Otherwise, life is pretty solid and I am very happy. My family is doing well, I have the best group of friends I could possibly imagine, and I still like my job. The world and our nation seem to be falling apart right now so I try to take joy in the small things in my day to day. Right now, I'm going to take my sister's bike out for a cruise and do some exercise. Go outside and enjoy the sunlight and if you should think of it this weekend, wear something purple for Mickey. Tomorrow I will be attending the concert of one of my favorite artists and Saturday some of my best friends and I will be celebrating Mickey's life at Bayou Boogaloo... with lots of glitter. 

As always, thank you for listening to me complain about existing and for joining me in the fight for missing people,

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Six Years Without Mickey: healing is hard when your sister is popular

A preface: this is more of a post about me complaining about what it's like to experience a national missing person case and not about my sister. But of course, it revolves around my sister.

As may 19th approaches every year, it always brings a mixture of emotions and thoughts about how much my life has changed in the last 6 years. And what is even more unusual is that my family is joined by 100s of other people every year as we mourn the loss and memory of my sister. I know it's been said a million times, but Mickey did not deserve to be murdered and she doesn't deserve to be treated like a cash cow now... because what happened to her was a tragedy and not a sexy story.

In 2012 when Mickey was missing the worst part was not knowing where she was, if she was cold or hungry or sleeping or in pain. It really was like a movie, I stood still while the world moved around me. I had nightmares where all I could hear was screaming and I would wake up in cold sweats. I would stay up all night, not sleeping for days, reading every single blog and website relating to her. We even hired a psychic that is extremely famous to help us find her... of course she was completely wrong and she never sent my sister's possessions back, but that's besides the point.

And then when we found out what happened to Mickey, the worst part was filling in the small details that we didn't know. As much as you try and stop yourself, we all imagined the last moments of her life over and over and over again. I still find myself dreaming of it sometimes, and it's horrible to say the least. And obviously, we have to rely on information given to us by her murderer. Because, how can you trust someone that murdered your loved one to tell the whole story? And he did give multiple stories... so we will never really know exactly what happened, outside of what the evidence told the police.

As time has passed, things get easier and I even find myself feeling completely normal most days and it's shocking because when you suffer a loss like that, you don't think anything will ever be normal again. And you don't think you'll ever be completely happy again. I am certainly not my whole self, and I don't think my family or her friends are their whole selves either. Because a loss like that takes pieces from you, but dealing with a loss like that publicly and having it take 3 months to conclude, takes chunks out of your soul. You don't get those pieces back, you just keep replacing the bandaids. Luckily, most of the time I think all of us think about the good times that we had with Mickey, not what ultimately ended her life.

One thing that makes it very hard to forget about what happened is the media. I recognize that this was a very public case and that we were very open about everything we experienced while Mickey was missing and just after she was found. But my big question is, why do people think it's appropriate to approach you out in public and cry to you about what happened. Or see you walking down the street while you're shopping and scream "Mickey Shunick"? Or corner you in the bathroom and tell you details they know about the man who murdered your sister? It's mind-boggling to me. It's one thing when people say "hey you and your sister are awesome" or "hey I knew Mickey" and they tell you a funny story. But it's another thing for people to approach you with the look of pity on their face... because I don't think we should be pitied. My sister fought for her life, and she kicked her attackers ass... he just happened to have a gun, and she didn't. This whole scenario would be like random people reminding you of the worst thing you've ever experienced on the few occasions you aren't thinking about it... but it happens over and over and over again forever. However, I can't change my face and if you haven't noticed, Mickey and I could have been (fraternal) twins. Clearly I was born with a much bigger head than she was.

I'm trying to express this without sounding like an asshole. Because I truly do love and appreciate the support that we continue to receive, it's just a double edged sword. Especially when I've tried time and time again to channel that energy into other missing person cases and people don't always want to move in that direction. And trust me, I know, that if it's weren't for our community, we wouldn't have found my sister and she would still be considered a missing person. But you know what, we did find her, and there are still COUNTLESS missing person cases open in our communities. It's time to concentrate on those.

I've almost written this blog post so many times, but it's always when I'm angry about something dealing with Mickey. Guess what, I'm super angry right now. Because one of the problems with having a public missing person case, is that people think they own that story and that it's free to tell however they see fit. Media companies, authors, and producers seem to think that our personal tragedy makes a really great story. And I cannot express the level of disgust I feel toward those people. I know it's their job, and they have to ask, but the way they do it is inappropriate. In fact, I would say my biggest regret is making my sister's case so public (not that it was my decision, it just sort of happened). The other side to that is, if we hadn't made my sister's case so public, we wouldn't have found her. It was tips from the public and the constant stream of information from our campaign, the media, and the police and allowed us to solve her case. Since we did make it so public, and I'm her big sister, and I became the "face" of the campaign... my job is still to make sure people don't mess with Mickey. Trust me when I tell you, the fierceness I had while she was missing hasn't gone away, and it has only gotten stronger. If I end up getting sued for libel one day.. so be it... and good luck, because I'm a teacher with health issues that also runs a nonprofit for free.

And the worst part about all of this is, Mickey's case, and everything that happened to her, is public knowledge. So legally, my family and I can't stop anyone from writing a book about her, or making a movie, or making some shitty television show about her. A high school friend of mine is a lawyer and he said they were in the process of getting a law to pass that would allow family members to posthumously take on all PR rights of their dead loved one but it hasn't happened yet. When a company approaches us, all we can do is refuse to participate and beg her friends not to so they can't tell a very good story. At least we're lucky they even ask us... although a few times, they haven't asked us and just assumed we would participate when they're in town.

From what I can remember, we did 3 or 4 television shows, and the only acceptable one that was created was by Dateline NBC. In fact, I'm still friends with those guys and I have nothing but love and respect for them... and it's because they respect us (what up Josh!). Because then you have channels that think it's appropriate to make a television series called "Southern Fried Homicide"... and I can only hope they forget that these are the murders of real human beings that have real family members and loved ones that are still living real lives out in the world. Because how does the murder of people in the south relate to chicken or green tomatoes? It doesn't, they're just sensationalist. But I get it, what could be more sensational than the murder of a young, white, blonde haired, blue eyed woman from a small town in Louisiana? Not much... I guess.

The situation that spurred my motivation for writing this post today is because of an encounter I just had. A young woman added me on Facebook, and we had a lot of mutual friends so I just assumed we knew each other. And apparently we had a Spanish class together in college but regardless, when I looked at her profile after adding her and I saw that she worked for a production company in New York I had one of those "oh God, what have I done" moments. And sure enough, a few minutes later I received a message about a television show about Mickey. And I immediately said no... absolutely not. Then this young woman countered it by saying "no sorry this is about another missing person case I know you have been involved with and the non profit organization you created" so I said I would speak to the mother of the missing young lady whose case she was speaking about and get back to her. And then I connected the producer with the mother. I would love to talk about the organization and other cases I've worked on but I will never speak about my sister with one of those shows ever again. Well, it had been a few days so I started breathing a sigh of relief thinking that they were just going to do a show on this missing woman and I wouldn't have to participate... because, I know better than to think I could talk about RAMP without also talking about my sister on national television. Well, guess who messages me today saying that her boss said "this is really about Mickey's story"

EXCUSE ME? gurrrrrrrlllllllll
Whyyyy youuuu lyingggg thennnn? Mickey's story has been told time and time again, and she is represented by every single missing person case I have worked on since she went missing (which has been over 700 at this point), and I already told your company no... the level of disrespect is so real...why can't these people just be honest. I would never sell my soul to be a glorified con artist with the veil of "we tell people's stories to help other people"... because the internet doesn't exist and we haven't already done multiple shows and interviews.

And what really burns me up even more, is every time we turn down one of these "golden opportunities" to abuse my sister's privacy and rip open the still healing wounds from her murder... I give them lists of names of other missing person campaigns that desperately need the attention and assistance... and guess what? They NEVER approach those families. I just really don't understand. Maybe it's because their stories don't have conclusions yet, but since there's at least 3 other shows about Mickey, aren't they just copying and pasting the same material onto their show but adding a few extra words to make it look like their own work? Pretty sure we spent years in school learning that's not the way it works.

But I tell you what... I'm getting really tired of dedicating my time and energy to fighting people that think they can use Mickey's story for their own financial gain. And I don't mean to be insensitive to my sister at all, but she was extremely private and would want none of this. There's already a park, a bike lane, multiple news stories, a scholarship, multiple television shows, and non profit organization that have all been created in her name. And most of these things we didn't push for, it was offered to us and for beautiful reasons. Because Lafayette, I ain't mad atcha. The bike lane was needed and the pocket park is beautiful. But when will enough be enough? When can I go 3 months without some stranger thinking they can write a really great book about my sister's life? If Mickey would have wanted a book or a movie created... a book or movie would be created.

And now... I digress and apologize for my public venting. Mickey was a badass, a golden human being, an animal lover, a pocket rocket (as my aus friend would say), and very shy and private. Her friends, my friends, my family and I are still trying to move on. And all we want is to just remember Mickey for who she was and not for what happened to her. The only thing to remember about her murder is that she took a horrible human being off the streets that can no longer hurt other people.

With that being said, please join me in remembering the beautiful soul that was and is Michaela "Mickey" Elizabeth Shunick, who was taken from us 6 years ago this Saturday and would have turned 28 this coming Monday. And finally, may the people who want to use her story for their own personal gain piss off for eternity.

With love,

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Two Years

On this... the day of my two-year anniversary... I vow to blog a little more (I recently watched The Godfather 1 and 2 - number 2 is life changing). To be fair, I wrote quite a few posts throughout 2017 but I felt it was best not to share them. Most of them were at times that I was very upset about various things and once I cooled off I realized there was no point in sharing those thoughts. 

TWO YEARS since brain surgery. What is happening? Life is basically normal, although last weekend Jordan, one of my best friend's Jen, and I sat around talking about the ways that I am different. Jen used the word "blunt" but what she meant is that I'm bitchier now. It's not necessarily a bad thing that I'm more assertive but sometimes I could be nicer about things probably. It's been beneficial to me at work, but I think my friends are growing tired of my sassiness. I am still way too nice to my students so there's that. 

Brain updates: no tumor regrowth! My surgeon said based on the nature of the tumor, it's very unlikely it will ever grow back but that's not a 0% chance which means I will always worry about it. You should see me when it gets close to my MRI time... anxious, nervous wreck with a string of insomnia and binge eating wrapped around it. I had a bought of really bad headaches for about a month last year (with about 3 days of constant migraine) and I was convinced my tumor was growing back. I had already created a plan about when I would have surgery so I could recover and go back to work and how I would pay for it. But... no tumor, no cries. 

As far as seizures and auras go, it's been better but some of that stuff remains. I still get the occasional aura and it's always at the worst times... like when I'm teaching or at a party with people I don't know. No big partial seizures or tonic-clonic episodes have occurred (as far as I know, because if I were alone I may not). The generic Keppra, levetiracetam (try saying that 5 times fast), at the 2,000mgs I was taking every day was impacting my life on every level. I finally sat down with my neurologist, Dr. Peterson in November and asked if I could lower my dosage. I'm now taking 1,500mgs a day and life is brighter, beautiful, and better than ever. I take 750mgs in the morning and 750 at night and the difference is so marked. Before I was always lethargic and had nearly debilitating anxiety, and no energy. Just 500mgs less and I'm back to my old self. There is still some lethargy and some moderate anxiety but with enough sleep, a decent diet, and regular exercise I can overcome that. In defense of the Keppra... some of that could have been because I was still healing and recovering. For everyone that has ever experienced true, long lasting anxiety, I am so sorry. It is horrendous and completely out of your control. All you can do is try to make it a little bit better everyday. 

I do 100% believe that if I did not have this anti-convulsant medication, I would be having at least partial seizures greater than just a quick aura. Recently, I've developed an uncontrollable thumb twitch that happens several times a day. It's only been two weeks, but this is the type of movement I wrote off as something else in the past. I can't tell if it's muscle exhaustion, stress, or neurological so I'm waiting it out. I got a new phone for Christmas (thanks Daddy) and I've been on the computer pretty much nonstop so I'm hoping it is just over use of my hands. If worse comes to worse, I will have to increase my medication again -- but I REALLY don't want to. Another issue is happening while I sleep and it's some minor tongue and cheek biting on the right side of my mouth. I know it happens to everyone, but it happens frequently for me. I just started wearing a mouth guard this week to see if that will stop the chomping and grinding. When you have a seizure disorder (that I call epilepsy as a blanket statement), you have to figure out if you're having seizures for preventative measures. If I think I'm going to have a seizure, I don't want to be driving and hurt myself or someone else. This happened to my friend Jade recently and she literally had no idea she was having seizures until she woke up and her car was in a ditch. Luckily, she was ok.

Life updates: life is good. I'm going to put the past year in a nut shell and elaborate in later posts. Biggest news: I moved in with Jordan, and we still like each other. He and I make a good team and are truly a yin and yang couple. My parents and brother have already come to stay with us, it was really fun. My parents are almost done with renovating their home since the flood in 2016. Next big news: two of my best friends (Lyndsey and Matt) are getting married and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. Something I haven't mentioned is that aside from my super bestie Brooke, I've had a group of best friends for the last 12 years. All the girls have known each other for even longer than that, but Lyndsey, April, Dani, Jen, Meredith, and I will be friends forever and ever. Lyndsey made the mistake of asking April, Mer, and I to all be in her wedding but we have been doing a great job so far (with massive help from Loo's sister (the MOH) and cousin). The bachelorette trip is in 2 weeks -- I'll let you guys know if anyone breaks any bones. We are going to a cabin in the woods in Arkansas. 

I'm kicking my own butt at work. I was given the task of creating a forensic science lab and lecture with the hopes of one day having several classes students can take that want to go on and get a bachelor’s degree in forensic science. The class started this semester and so far, my class is going well and the students seem very excited, I can't wait to get into the dirty stuff. This summer I got quite a bit of training, I even went to a "forensic research facility" (aka a BODY FARM OMG) and I will never be the same. It doesn't matter how much you prepare, you can never prepare for seeing a human body, unpreserved, sitting in the Texas sun... and I saw quite a few bodies, at various stages of decomposition. 2017 was really a year of dead bodies, and I don't mean to sound insensitive when I say that, I just don't know how else to describe it. I went to a cadaver lab with one of my colleagues and his comparative anatomy class (excellent class, you should take it) and then I went to the body farm. It gave me a whole new perspective on life... and death. We are truly amazing animals, there's a reason we are at the top of the food chain. 

Nonprofit updates: I did my first bit of public speaking at SUNO located here in New Orleans. One of the mentors that I've been working with is Dr. Pamela Marshall that runs the Forensic Science program there. When we first met I told her about my organization and some of the research we were doing with a classmate of mine in conjunction with UL and the University of South Florida (it's HUUUUGE and I can't wait to share the findings). Pam has very similar goals for her program and thus, we hit it off immediately (thanks Clint). Pam asked if I would be willing to speak at SUNO about my experience with having a missing and murdered sister and what I have learned. Jordan and one of my bosses came with me for moral support because I knew I would be a bit of a mess, but I ended up doing very well. There were minimal tears although I did end up making half of the room cry. Speaking to students going into Forensic Science and Criminal Justice as a teacher and a human being was impactful for all of us. I hope I gave them some insight into what people on the other side of the case are going through. 

Also, as a quick note, I convinced the lead detective from my sister's case Stephen Bajat, to be on my advisory board for work. I don't know if he knew I would never leave him alone but every time I call, email, message, whatever... he responds with open arms. The Lafayette PD is filled with some loving, courageous, amazing individuals and I cannot say how much I appreciate them. 

RAMP is still kicking butt, my only regret is that I just don't have to time to dedicate to the other activities of running a business outside of paying bills, doing our taxes, and working on missing person cases. The classmate I mentioned earlier is Michelle Jeanis and she is now working at UL as an Assistant Professor in Sociology. She originally approached me about using our social media profiles to do research into missing person cases in late 2015, early 2016. When I tell you that this woman is kicking ass for missing people, it is an understatement.  Michelle and her team at the University of South Florida have already completed a massive study --publication pending-- and now we are planning on starting another one. We are looking into the impact of social media on missing person cases (FACEBOOK PLEASE STOP TRYING TO CHARGE ME TO SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT MISSING PEOPLE). She has made connections for us that I never could have done on my own. The RAMP team is still strong, and we are doing what we can. Our first priority, as always, is to work on missing person cases first, and try and raise money and reach our other goals second. Maybe one day I’ll come in and say “we got a huge grant and hired someone and everything is about to blow up” but for now, we are going to come out with our research and try to change society’s ides about missing people.

I have a lot more to say but this post is already entirely too long. I’ll be back soon with more stories about myself. The best thing about a blog is that you can be as egotistical as you want, because it’s a public diary. Love everyone, hope 2018 is treating you right.