Is That a New Skin Doodle?

ACS_0026I honestly thought that no one was going to notice that I got a new tattoo.

But they did.

A lot of people have asked me about it and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to talk about it. This past weekend, Golden Spike Tattoo in Ogden had a charity event to raise funds for Planned Parenthood. So why did I get a tattoo in support of Planned Parenthood and why is it important for me to talk about?

I’m glad that you asked.

When I was 20, I had no health insurance due to a preexisting kidney condition. I was a broke college student who waited tables. I had no real job, no insurance, no money. But what I DID have was a lump in my left breast. Doctor after doctor turned me away, refusing to screen me for cancer…much less treat me. I was scared, in pain, and alone with nowhere to turn.

As I walked into Planned Parenthood for my screening, crying and shaking with fear, a man spit on me and told me that I was going to Hell.

I ended up having a non-cancerous cyst, but still one that was so large and painful that it needed removal.

When I was 24, I spent five months wrecked by excruciating pain, vomiting, and almost nonstop bleeding. Doctor after doctor told me I was “overreacting” and that I was “too young” to be spending so much time at the doctors’ office.

Defeated, I turned to the one place I knew that someone would believe me when I said that something was wrong with my body.

The nurse practitioner that I saw at Planned Parenthood wrote me a referral to a specialist since I hadn’t been able to see one without a referral, and I had three cysts removed from my ovaries before being placed on hormonal therapy that has kept me from having any cysts since.

I stand with Planned Parenthood because I fully believe in a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, but that’s not my personal story.

I choose to support Planned Parenthood for more than that. I stand with Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood has always stood by me.

Advertisements

Why Do Women Put Other Women Down?

       In a world where women are starting to feel more vocal about their desire for inequality, one of the biggest problems that we still face is each other. Girls, we can fight the patriarchy until we are blue in the face, but until we can start getting along we aren’t going very far. A lot of it isn’t intentional, but women are still just flat out mean to other women. But why? We all know how we do it, but why are we doing it? Here’s three main causes (lame excuses) that I’ve seen at the root of girl vs. girl bullying.

  1. Blending In

From day one, women are ingrained with this ideology that to succeed, you have to be one of the boys. What do the boys do? They put girls down. This starts on the playground and continues to the board room. You see it in girls who are “tomboys”. In order to gain acceptance for the things that they do like, they continuously have to go out of their way to shun and put down things that they don’t like, and the girls who do like these things. These women grow up to continue to criticize and critique the actions of other women. Look, if you don’t like something, that’s cool. But it’s hard enough being a woman in this world without you going out of your way to convince men that they’re right about all of the ridiculous ideas that they have about women. And it’s only hurting you. Because no matter how much you try to say how bad women are, you’re still a woman. And everyone knows it. You’re putting other people down so that you climb your way up. That’s just poor manners.

        2. Competition.

In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “We raise girls to see each other as competitors. Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.” It’s true. It’s sad and it’s sorry and worst of all, it is true. Even as toddlers, little girls hear messages of “well a boy is never going to like you if ____.” Instead of teaching girls not to be loud so that boys will like them, we need to be emphasizing the fact that studying and doing well in school will prepare them to get into good colleges or otherwise prepare them for success in the world. I’m not going to say that I have never been guilty of this. It took a lot of conscious decision to stop falling into this ugly cycle. Because sometimes it is just a subconscious thing. But we have to stop. Pointing out that a girl could stand to lose a few pounds doesn’t make you look slimmer. Telling a naturally thin girl to go eat a hamburger doesn’t suddenly make your curves more tantalizing. Pointing out how many people someone has slept with doesn’t make you any more chaste than you are. Ladies, say it with me, “making her look worse doesn’t make me look better, it just makes me mean.” I know that there’s only a few seats at the table, and I know that sucks. But the answer isn’t to keep other women from getting that seat that you have your eyes on. Team up and bring your ladies with you. Bring more chairs to the table if there aren’t enough.

        3.  The “V” Word

We indoctrinate our girls with this obscure idea that their virginity is the most valuable thing they have. It’s not. Stop. A person is more than their worst mistake, nobody is going to remember what you did your book report on in third grade, and you, young woman, you are so much more than the first person that you have sex with. Or how many people you choose to have sex with. Stop buying into this insane notion and stop feeding it to others. Nobody glorifies this purity in men, in fact, it is mocked and ridiculed. So the message that we send to young people is that sex is for males and not for females. Yet another way men get autonomy and women are supposed to be ashamed of their bodies. And guess what? Instead of rebelling against this notion, women just use it as another way to put one another down. You are more than your sex life, and so is every other person that you know.

What are some of the other ways that you’ve seen girl on girl bullying, where do you think this nonsense comes from, and what do we need to do to stop it?

A little snow can be fun, but a lot of snow can be dangerous

Whenever a situation is not too my liking, my brain often flashes back to a completely different time. Things moving too slow? I’ll daydream about an exciting whirlwind time in my life. Things seeming too hectic and can’t slow down? I’ll reminisce about a relaxing vacation where I somehow managed to turn my cell phone off.

As I write this, it is 101 degrees outside. No, I’m not exaggerating, I just looked it up. I’m craving chilly mountain air instead of this unforgiving desert sun. If there was snow, I would stick my face in right now. Enough with the snowcones, bring on the hot cocoa weather already!

There’s a photo on my desk of my boyfriend and his son playing in the snow last December. The scorching heat outside of my office makes this day feel like ages ago, but my mind takes me back to frolicking through snowy fields and snowflakes on my eyelashes. I’m pretty sure that all kids love snow, but kids who live somewhere where it doesn’t snow often and doesn’t manage to stick for long seem to love it the most.

As we were walking to the park for a snowball fight, my boyfriend’s little boy looked up at me and said, “you know, a thing I learned is that a little snow can be fun, but a lot of snow can be dangerous.”

At first, this struck me as an odd thing to say. There was so much snow here all winter long, and it was still fun and not dangerous at all. He went on to tell me all of the things that he had been learning at school about weather, specifically about blizzards and avalanches.

Over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking about all of the tasks that I take on. Owning a house, cooking dinner every night, a full time job, nonprofit board positions, running for the board of my Home Owner’s Association, yoga, contributing to political campaigns, side projects at work, volunteer projects, taking care of two dogs, going to the gym, family time, tackling my to be read list, fostering friendships, professional development…oof! The list really does go on and on. The problem is that I really, truly enjoy doing all of these things. I never have a moment where I wish that I didn’t have so many commitments, I just wish that I had more time.

But I don’t. And I never will. There are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. I don’t have any more or any less time than anyone else out there, and that is a fact that is simply never going to change.

A little snow can be fun, but a lot of snow can be dangerous.

I can do a lot, but I can’t do it all. Sure, I may be really great at some of these tasks that I take on, but does it always have to be me?

I have two huge problems when it comes to time management and stress management. Delegating and saying no. It’s not that I am a control freak, I just have serious fear of missing out. But no matter how hard I try to balance it all, it always ends up snowballing when I least expect it. How many avalanches can one girl take?

A little snow can be fun, but a lot of snow can be dangerous.

Such wise words from such a young person.

IMG_0616

So I am trying. I narrowed down a list of causes that I am really passionate about, hobbies that I truly love, and things that I really must do. Everything else, I bowed out. When I see others who care about those things, I use my networking abilities to help make those connections. By showing others how to get involved, I have more time to devote to keeping my sanity.

I’m trying to wait longer before saying yes. This is hard for me because I am such an enthusiastic person. But I am learning to say “let me get back to you” and “let me see what my schedule looks like” before committing myself to anything. It’s really helped. Glancing at a visual of my commitments and telling myself that I cannot do more than what will fit into the boxes on my planner has worked wonders for me. It’s so easy now to say “I literally cannot fit that in.”

Lastly, I’ve stopped giving excuses. I used to always revert back to, “I don’t have the time” or “I’m not sure if I am the right person for that job” and every single time I would get wrapped up into doing the thing I was trying so hard to not commit myself to. People are always quick to respond with “aren’t we all?” or “it won’t take very long” or “oh you’ll be so great for this” without realizing the damage that they are causing. People who don’t suffer from Over Committal Syndrome or People Pleasing-itis (both things that I completely just made up, no need to WebMD the symptoms…I’m sure you know someone with these conditions) don’t see how hard it was for someone to muster the strength to say “no” in the first place. But too much snow can be dangerous, and I know that now. So when I say “thank you, but I can’t…thank you for thinking to ask me”, that’s it. No reason, no excuses. And if they ask why I just say “I can’t at this time, maybe in the future I can do this”.

Looking at this picture on my desk has reminded me to recommit myself to these three practices. I want to make people happy, but I have to start with me. I want to do all of the things, but I need to be able to do them well…and that requires time to rest. Memory lane sure has been a necessary trip for me this afternoon.

Perhaps we all have something to learn from the little people in our lives. So pay attention. You’ll never know what childlike wisdom you really need to hear.

Morning Meltdown – Crisis Averted

I woke up in a bad mood this morning. Not necessarily a grumpy or irritable kind of bad mood, more like the overwhelmed, crying into my steering wheel kind of bad mood. Most days, especially recently, I would have just let this attitude guide the rest of my day. I am sad and anxious today and that’s just how it is. Not today. I looked down at my watch (which isn’t actually a watch, it’s a Fitbit, I don’t have a watch…but if I said I looked down at my Fitbit, wouldn’t that have been a little weird? No? Not any weirder than this weird rambling I’m doing right now to clarify what I meant? Ok.) and realized that it was only 8 AM.

It’s only 8 AM and I have the whole day ahead of me. I have the whole day to decide whether I am going to have a good day or a bad day. And I am determined that I’m not having a bad day. Because I don’t want to.

Having that mindset is all good and great and is definitely a great start, but how exactly was I supposed to go about having a great day when the universe CLEARLY didn’t want me to? I took several deep breaths (do you know how much breathing you can do in just two minutes?!) and then set about doing four simple things that made a huge impact.

Start with an attitude of gratitude. I suffer from anxiety and have for quite some time. I know good and well that the majority of the time that I spend feeling overwhelmed is because anxiety causes my brain to hyper focus on what is going wrong, which means that I lose sight of all of the things that are going right. So this morning on my walk from my car to my desk, I challenged myself to list off ten genuine gratitudes before I sat down in front of my computer. I’m doing a much better job of exercising daily and I am already feeling better. That was easy. I have a job that I love and that I make enough money at that I have started to make huge strides in being completely debt free and have actual savings. Spring has sprung and I have plans to be outside all three days of the weekend, and I have been walking my dogs every evening at sunset. That’s three and I hadn’t even left the parking deck. I tried to focus on “I know that ____, and I also know that _____” type of statements. An example that I have had to work with personally in the past is “I know that people expect me to be married and have children already because of my age, and I also know that other people’s ideas of success shouldn’t dictate how I set my goals and priorities.” This allows me to think about things that I actually value and am grateful for, like community involvement, travelling, and personal time. I completed my list of ten well before I reached my desk and the grateful thoughts just kept coming!

Treat yourself. I don’t necessarily mean in the style of Tom and Donna, a la massages and fine leather goods. But do something nice for yourself. Do you enjoy painting your nails or toenails? Maybe it’s hard to do at your desk if you’re at work, but make a commitment to yourself that you’ll paint those toenails tonight at home. I personally love stationary and will occasionally treat myself to a new pack of thank you cards or sticky notes from the dollar section at Target. This morning? I found a compleyed punch pass in my wallet to Parlour Coffee Bar and my heart instantly soared. I treated myself to a free mocha, enjoyed a nice stroll in the beautiful weather, and got to have a lovely chat with my favorite barista – who happens to be an incredible woman that I also consider a friend! Win-win-win-win!

Get to steppin’. – It’s no secret that exercise and bloodflow are not just good for your physical health, but also for your mental health. I’m not about to tell you some awesome super secret that only I know about. Sorry. But I can give you some insight into how I sneak in some movement into my day, even though I have a desk job. Use the water cooler that is a little further than the one closest to your desk. I use the one downstairs instead of the one that is on my floor. Gives me a little extra time away from staring at my computer screen and gets me moving. Need an excuse to walk away from your desk more often? Start drinking more water! I also like to use my breaks at work to take a walk around the block. I use reminders on my Fitbit to remind me to get 250 steps in each hour. I can draft emails, create to-do lists, brainstorm, read industry related articles, or catch up on webinars while walking around the building. And anytime that I find myself wanting to facepalm, roll my eyes, or any other act of frustration, I instead put my arms over my head and reach high while wiggling my fingers. Stretching is much more effective at calming you down than complaining or letting yourself get agitated.

Be nice. – When I am in a bad mood, being overly nice to people is typically the last thing I want to do. Usually it isn’t a conscious decision. That’s exactly the point. You have to be conscious about how you treat others, especially when you’re already down, grumpy, or stressed. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love to compliment people. I like to refer to people as “friend,” and I love to tell them when their hair looks great or that the shade of blue they are wearing that day looks fantastic on them. People always love to hear nice things about themselves. And it’s contagious. I know what it’s like to be having a horrible time and hear someone say something nice to me that helps me, even if only a little bit. So why not put more of that out there into the universe? It’s hard to stay in a funk when you are spending all of your time smiling and being friendly!

Sometimes it’s hard to take control over your mindset, especially when you deal with anxiety or depression on a regular basis. But I’ve learned that the earlier I can start doing little things to counteract my funky moods, the easier it is on me. Doing these things really helps me to keep my thoughts in check instead of getting swept up in a whirlwind of irrational thoughts. Because that’s exactly what anxiety is. It’s not easy, and it’s taken me a lot of time to be in a place where I can actually pause and remember to do these things. I’m not going to lie to you, there are still plenty of times when I forget everything I just talked about and spiral into a meltdown. That’s ok. It’s going to happen. Don’t beat yourself up over having a bad day, that’s the last thing you need. You just leave yourself little reminders and you try again next time.

High tide, low tide, Roll Tide.

Six years ago today my life changed forever. It wasn’t because it was my first tornado or anything. I may have lived all over the country, but I’m southern born and southern bred….I know a thing or two about weather.
Thanks, James Spann.
I know the rumbling and roaring of a train when you’re nowhere near tracks. I know the chilling silence that comes mere seconds after a tornado takes out your neighbor’s freshly planted azaleas. And their birdbath. And their swing set which is now somehow in your front yard. I know what it’s like to wake up in the hospital because 250 mph winds send you headfirst into a wall.
April 27, 2011 was not the first time I had dealt with tornados.
But it definitely wasn’t what I was used to.
348 people were killed across the South on April 27, 2011. 252 of those people were killed in Alabama alone.
What I hadn’t expected was to get stranded 45 miles from my house without power for a week. I hadn’t planned on having my friends and family scattered across the state, yet still somehow all in the line of danger. I wasn’t prepared for the phone call I received that night to tell me how a girl I had spoken with almost every day for the last three years died because her ribs punctured her lung when her house collapsed on her. I called and texted literally everyone I knew after that. And even though there were three friends who didn’t respond to my roll call, nothing prepared me for the day that I got internet back more than a week later, and I found them all on a list of storm related deaths.
I didn’t recognize large portions of my state anymore because all the trees were gone, the buildings were crumbled, restaurants I’d eaten at since childhood nowhere to be seen. What was this, what had happened, and how in the hell were we ever going to be okay ever again?
But we were. And we are. There’s still so many people trying to put back their lives six years later. I’m still dealing with a lot of what I saw. But all the disaster and distruction I saw pales in comparison to the outpouring of love, compassion, and community that followed it.
I’m filled with a roller coaster of emotions today.
There are waves of sadness for the things and the people I lost. Feelings of anxiety when my brain flashes back to those moments when I didn’t know what would happen, when I couldn’t reach my family on the phone. The sinking feeling in my stomach when just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, they projected yet another tornado headed straight for Tuscaloosa. I cry when I think about watching the sky crack open that morning with a flash of green light right before I watched a tornado touch down three blocks up the road from where I was standing.
But there’s so many feelings of joy when I think about hanging out by a fire or playing catch with my friends outside for a week straight because there was no electricity, no gas for our cars, and nothing else to do but worry. Feelings of pride as I saw my state rebuild itself. Feelings of gratitude that even though I lost so much, I managed to walk out not only alive but with my house still standing, my family members alive, and not a single scratch upon me.
It makes me proud of the place I call home to say we’ve come so far since that day took so much away. It’s really hard to be so far from home on days like today, it makes my heart yearn for red dirt.
But it’s a spirit I always keep with me.
High tide, low tide, Roll Tide.

Example #1 Of Why I Am Thankful To Be Done With Dating

Back when I was in college I decided to do this thing where I would just agree to a date with anyone. I didn’t really know what I liked or even who I was so who was I to judge anyone without at least having a real conversation with them?

One morning, this incredibly handsome guy bumped into me outside of the library, spilling my coffee to the ground. At which point I looked down and whispered “I’ll miss you.” as tears proceeded to roll down my face. This is not a joke. “I’m so sorry. Wait, did you just talk to your coffee? Oh my god, you’re crying. I am so sorry.” He rambled all at once. “It’s fine, I’m sorry for the crying thing…my eyes just…kinda…leak,” I said. It was true. They did. They still do. “It’s just so early and I am SO not in my bed.”

He smiled at me and offered to get me another coffee. This is coffee we are talking about so of course I let him. He even got me a larger size for the inconvenience. I’m pretty sure he only did  any of this since we were mere steps from the coffee shop inside of the library, but that is beside the point. I met a guy. At the library. And he bought me coffee. And in a building surrounded by books, he asked me out to dinner while I stared at his cheekbones.
So fast forward to the night that we actually go out. He took me out to eat and while I don’t remember where we ate or what we ordered, I remember that the restaurant was really nice and that I had never been there and I am pretty sure that I never went there again. Give me a break, it was a long time ago. We talked about our classes, how much he missed his dog that had to stay back home with his parents, fairly typical stuff. And then I asked him.
“So what kind of books do you like?”
“I don’t,” he answered quickly and with a smirk.
“What?”
“I just don’t really enjoy reading. I try to avoid it at all costs. It’s so boring.”
“Didn’t you say that you’re a History major? Isn’t reading something you kind of HAVE to do?”
“Well that doesn’t mean I like it. I’m not going to be one of those nerds who takes a book with me everywhere that I go.”
I pulled a copy of Jane Eyre out of my purse, stood up, and left. That’s the only time I have ever just walked out halfway through a date and looking back I kind of feel like I should at least have given him the courtesy of finishing dinner. I never saw him again and that’s fine with me. What isn’t fine with me is that my need to defend books led to me eating a granola bar while I walked to a friend’s dorm in the rain.