Monday, April 25, 2016

[tanning] and why it makes me want to scream





Four inches doesn't seem like that much, does it? Looking at the small space between the zero and four really seems like just that, a small space. It's funny how when put it in a different context though, four inches can seem so much bigger. If you went to your hair stylist and asked for a trim and they accidentally cut off four inches, I'm sure most of us would end up in tears. If I were to help you hang a picture and you realized that I was actually four inches off from center, I imagine you would ask me to re-hang it. So when my doctor told me, "You have to have surgery but the scar should only be about four inches" you can imagine my dismay.

I have a large large to me, scar on my stomach. It's about four inches in length and about one fourth of an inch in width. I don't even want to begin to tell you how many one inch scars I have across my back and shoulders; it's easier to forget all the times I've been told by my dermatologist that they have to biopsy something leaving, yet again, another small scar.

I proudly went tanning for nearly five years of my life. There were times when I would even "double dip" and go to one salon in the morning and one at night to make sure that I was getting as tan as possible. I felt better when I was tan, I thought I looked better tan, and it seemed the various colors in my closet just looked even better against a tan canvas. Yes, I heard horror stories of people who had gone tanning. I knew it could cause cancer. I saw the god-awful videos in health class with people missing chunks of skin from their face. I also knew thought I knew, that it would never happen to me.

April of 2012 I was lying in bed watching Dr. Oz when they had a whole episode about skin cancer. I laid there lazily thinking to myself, "I've never even gone to a dermatologist before, I should probably go." So I made an appointment and went in with low expectations. That day my doctor biopsied five different spots from my stomach, to my shoulders, to my back. She told me they seemed like nothing but, "Better safe than sorry." I got a phone call one week later that said, "So all your test results came back and you're fine, except for that one we looked at on your stomach...That one came back as melanoma." This isn't real. "But it'll be fine, it's a simple surgery, and we'll make sure we get it all out."

I had surgery and it turns out my doctor was right and I was and still am fine. I see my dermatologist regularly to ensure that I nothing else comes up, but my dermatologist likes to remind me that my skin is just cancer waiting to happen given how badly I treated it.

So here's the deal. I am really, really, really pale and had I taken the health warnings seriously or maybe not had the mentality of "not me", I would probably still be pale but with a few less scars. It's like with every scar, you can see how many times I was stupid enough to go tanning.

When I'm perusing through Facebook and see pictures of my loved ones: cousins, siblings, friends, acquaintances, etc. with these obvious tanning bed tans, I want to scream. You are literally the person causing the harm to yourself.  I always thought that a mere four inches was a very small space, that was until it was in the form of a scar. From the time we're born to the time we die, this is the only body we have. Let's start by treating it right.






Friday, April 8, 2016

Validation


It was Valentine's Day weekend and my sweetheart had gotten me tickets to the Brad Paisley Concert.  We dressed up, went to dinner, and arrived just in time for the show to start. We decided we wanted to dance and due to the people seated next to us, realized it just would not be possible. We peered around the venue and spotted a beer garden that had room to dance and tables to stand at and watch the show. While Marcello was in the restroom, I stood at a table sipping my drink when I made eye contact with an older man walking by. We exchanged smiles as he went and sat down a few feet behind me. As I looked past the older man, I saw Marcello coming back to the beer garden. He began running towards me, which of course made me laugh, and then scooped me up to begin dancing with me. It felt like we were the only ones in the room and we could not take our eyes off each other. We laughed, we danced, and were having a great time when this older man approached our table and stated, "I'm sorry to interrupt you two but I have to say whatever you have going on, keep it going. You have a great thing going here." We thanked him as he stated, "You remind me of my wife and I thirty years ago. I see the way you two look at each other and you can just tell there is really something there." He then waved his wife over to us to introduce us, as they shared their story and asked us about ours. 

As we parted ways, the older man stated, "You're going to make it and in thirty years you'll be at a Brad Paisley concert again, just like us." 

“You have to validate yourself first, and then you will receive the much-deserved...validation from the rest of the world.” --A.D. Posey

Sunday, April 3, 2016

[engaged]

I've heard endless amounts of stories about how people met and eventually married their husbands or wives. I can't even begin to count how many of those people told me that they knew they were going to marry their husband [or wife] by the end of their first date; simply stating, "When you know, you know." And while I coveted these experiences, I secretly despised them for making the process of love sound so simple.

And then I met Marcello.

And I fell. in. love.

November 20th was just like any other day. I was at work when I received a text message from Marcello that said, "I'm so sorry babe. I just realized I forgot our anniversary yesterday." We had been celebrating our monthly first date anniversaries for some time. Embarrassed that I too forgot, I responded back, "No worries honey! It's not a big deal." Marcello quickly responded, "Can I take you out to the dinner to make up for it?" Of course I obliged.

As I drove home from work I decided to stop and get my nails done (fortunately) and then Marcello sent me another text that said he had to go to his office for a late meeting. I found it odd, but given the nature of his work I didn't dwell too much on it. Marcello finally came to pick me up and said, "How about we go to the restaurant we had our first date at?"

We went to one of my favorite restaurants, purely for the sentimental value and grabbed a bite to eat. After eating Marcello told me that a friend was night fishing on the pier and he wanted to introduce me. I quickly said no and told Marcello it was freezing outside and that I would just wait in the car. Marcello then pleaded, "Please come. I would really like to show you off." I stuck to my guns and said, "It's so cold. Really, I'll just wait in the car." Marcello pleaded again, "It'll take five minutes, please?" I finally agreed and we started the cold, long, walk to the pier. I got colder and colder, walking faster and further away from Marcello. For unknown reasons, the cold brought out an intense, fierce, and fiery anger in me. I began telling Marcello off as I walked five feet in front of him. "Seriously. It is so cold. I don't like anybody enough to walk in the cold for this long." Marcello was incredibly apologetic stating he owed me "a million favors."

As I neared the end of the pier I heard Marcello say, "Is that Harper?" As I turned to tell him, "Why would Harper be on the pier?" I looked up and saw my sweet long haired dachshund running towards me with a ring box connected to his collar. My eyes teared up as I turned to see Marcello down on one knee. He said the most beautiful speech asking me to be his wife and all that could come out of my mouth is, "I'm sorry I was such a bitch to you." Marcello laughed and said, "So you'll marry me?" and of course I said yes.



Friday, December 25, 2015

bitter [sweet]

As a ninth grader at Eisenhower Junior High School I was given the opportunity to go to La Caille Restaurant. La Caille is an upscale restaurant in Sandy, Utah that allowed us to dress up for a night and learn about dining etiquette. While many moments from the night have stuck with me, one thing I'll never forget is the dessert they served.

We were given Bananas Foster. I remember being in awe as my dessert was presented to me consumed by flames. I heard whispers around the room, "Did you know this has alcohol in it? We should try drinking it." I took a large spoonful and placed it in my mouth. My awe and excitement quickly turned to disgust as I realized a had a big mouthful of rum sauce that was about as pleasant as drinking sour milk. My face must of conveyed my disgust because a beautiful server knelt down and whispered, "It's kinda bitter, but if you get ice cream with it, it'll taste sweet." She was right.

I never imagined that ten or eleven years down the road that I would be coming back to this memory of something being so bitter sweet.

I recently quit my job of three years after being offered a social worker position in a psychiatric hospital. I was elated. By taking this job, I knew I would be inching closer to achieving those long term goals I had in my heart for many years. I walked into work with great intentions of giving my two weeks notice with a smile. I sat in front of my boss only to feel large, hot tears filling my eyes as I begrudgingly stated, "So this will be my two weeks notice..." The next two weeks it was a constant sliding scale of wondering if I made the right decision, to being thrilled at the opportunity of a new start, to being devastated to leave something I knew I loved.

Those two weeks went by rapidly and I found myself working my last shift knowing the next day I was moving on to my next career path. I cried, a lot. I laughed a lot talking about all the memories I had made with coworkers, residents, and families. And then the eight hours were over and I found myself meandering back to my car. I got in my car and cried, even more. I drove down the entrance road and quickly "checked" myself. While I held back my tears, I forced myself to remember all the good parts. My tears quickly turned into a laugh as I remembered so many silly memories. This is the point where I heard the Dr. Seuss quote ring true, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Oh! How bittersweet this life can be.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

so [proud]

It was a Sunday morning and I decided to hold an impromptu group at work. The residents were suppose to draw out of a basket one slip of paper that had a question scribbled on it. Questions varied from, "What is your favorite childhood memory?" to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Each resident was to grab a question, read it aloud, and then state their answer. When I facilitate groups, I normally don't participate. For some reason, one resident was adamant that I drew a question from the basket. My hand fumbled around the inside of the basket as I searched for a slip of paper. A piece of paper slipped between my two fingers as I nervously went to read it. 'This better not be a weird question or I'm putting it back.' I looked at the paper and read, "What was the proudest moment of your life?" I didn't have to think very hard or for very long, I knew within seconds what my response would be. 

"The day I graduated with my Masters would be the proudest moment of my life." 

The residents looked at me nodding their heads. I didn't feel a need to explain further and continued the group along. As I walked out of my unit later that day, I thought back to that question and my response; wondering if I could think of a day I was more proud and I couldn't. 

It feels like I graduated yesterday. The feelings that surged through my heart and soul as I stood on that stage to be hooded by a professor I adore, is unbelievable. The announcer read my biography, as I scanned the crowd looking for my Dad. I made eye contact and watched as he put a fist in the air as if to say, You made it! My heart was full, my future felt bright, and I could not have been filled with more gratitude. As I exited the stage, I expected a let down. Like the moment would slip away. It never did and as I reflect on all the work, sweat, and tears that this degree took. I couldn't be more proud than I am now and that is a really cool feeling.

"This part of my life, this part right here? This is called happiness."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Listening to Addicts: [the lessons I've learned]

My first day at my internship I met a woman who was planning on retiring shortly after my arrival. We didn't talk much. One of the few times we did talk though she told me, "Write everything down. Every day, just write something." With how much I love writing I didn't question it and I started writing. Some days I wrote a whole page, other days I wrote a few lines, and some days I scribbled a quote on a scrap piece of paper. For ten months, I have been writing. Last night, I decided to look at some of my writings. I had not only my thoughts and impressions of working with addicts, but I had more quotes from these addicts than I realized. As I flipped through each page, I was humbled by how much I had learned from these beautiful, absolutely beautiful, people suffering from addiction.

1. Take accountability.
      -"Everyone needs to take accountability for their own life. None of this is happening because of so and so down the street who did you wrong. That's a blame game. You are choosing to kill yourself because of your use...because of your anger."

2. Apologize.
     -"Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9, AA twelve steps) "The day I apologized to my family for everything I'd put them through I felt like I had a little bit more of God with me that day."

3. We're a lot more than the mistakes we make.
     -"Despite all that, all the bad things we've done. We are not failures by any stretch of the imagination."

4. Sometimes we just need help.
     -"People tell you that you gotta get out of the hole you dug, but I need help learning how to put the shovel down. You know what I'm sayin'? I always hear, you made your bed go lay in it. Well can someone show me where the new sheets are?"

5. Positive communication is key.
     -"We should give positive, healthy, criticism to others....that means telling someone they're really good at something when they're actually mediocre."

6. Patience is also important.
     -"It's a sign of emotional immaturity to want everything now. I'm almost 66 years old and in my old and battered age there's all these things that I want but I've learned that all good things are going to take a little more time than the not so good things."

7. It's okay to be angry but it's not okay to be mean
     -"I was one angry cat.... I was fighting people, gettin' arrested, just being a real nasty person for a lot of years. Then one day, I was sitting there on the side of the street watching all these nice, happy people pass me and I thought, 'Nobody likes me because I'm angry as hell and let everybody know it.' So I finally decided, I may be using because I'm pissed off or maybe I'm pissed off because I'm using, but there ain't nobody who needs to feel all that bullshit I'm feeling too and now people want to be around me. That's really cool I think."

8. The truth shall set you free
     -"You gotta be honest. I'm not trying to preach because I lied to myself and others for a really long time but by being honest, you gain freedom. By being honest, you gain your sobriety. Honesty is really, I mean really, the key to recovery."

9. "Earn your life."
     -"God has given us one life. One chance for, hopefully many years, to give something back. I know I have something to give this world and by using and destroying myself, I haven't been giving shit to nobody. My whole purpose now is to be ready for the day I die, so I can kneel before my maker and let him know, I earned the life you intended for me."

I'm sure there's more to learn but this feels like a good start...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saying [goodbye].

At my internship my clients were asked to write a goodbye letter to their substance of choice. As I watched them scribbling ferociously at their papers, my mind wandered. What do I need to say goodbye to? What would my letter say? My thoughts were interrupted when one of my clients began reading his letter aloud. Tears filled my eyes as he stated, "you have caused me nothing but unhappiness. And if you ever try to come back for me, my strength, my higher power, and my desire for a sober life will kick your ass."

I thought all day. What do I need to remove from my life? What goodbye letters do I need to write? 

Say goodbye to....

People who make you feel like you're hard to love

Posting everything on social media

Frivolous spending

Acrylic nails that destroy my real nails

People who thrive on making you feel embarrassed, humiliated, or miserable

Friends who aren't really your friends

Eating healthy when I don't want to eat healthy

Being overly concerned with the opinions of others

Not following my intuition

Going to places I don't want to go to with people I don't want to be with

Passivity.

Saying things out of anger

People pleasing

Running out of eggs, milk, or bread

Impulsivity 

Oh and I almost forgot one! Goodbye smarty pants brown noser in the front row who makes me contemplate quitting school every day (Class of 2015!)

Because if you say goodbye, what are you saying hello to?




Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lady Doctors

I'm a young, healthy, 24 year old women; of course I have annual gynecological exams. . .

Earlier this week, I finished my annual exam and was making my way to the lobby. I had pamphlets and prescriptions in my hand and I was walking with a purpose. As I neared the elevators I heard someone say, "Hi Stefanie." I instantly thought, 'who knows me here?' As my eyes scanned the room, I saw a hand raised up waving. I recognized the person who said hello as a coworker and my first thought was, 'Is he here with his wife?' As my eyes moved over I recognized another staff from my work and then a resident. Then it hit me... These two staff members were transporting a youth from my work to see the doctor.

My face instantly turned hot as I realized I was standing in the lobby of a gynecologist's office, seeing two of my co-workers. And because I'm incredibly socially awkward I waved and said, "Wow this is really weird! See you guys at work!" and promptly walked away sweating bullets with a red face. 

I. Was. Mortified.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dear [grad school]

Dear Grad School...

This is not a letter of happiness nor one of gratitude. You are incredibly difficult. I'm ashamed to say that when my friends were dealing with you last year and saying things like, "I'm dying" and "I just don't care anymore", I chuckled to myself thinking I would be able to handle you so much better.

I. was. wrong.

You have been one of the most difficult feats of my twenty-four years of life. While it's easy to look at the lack of social life I have, the 13 pounds I gained last year, and the thousands of dollars I've spent on text books. I'm choosing to look past these, as they are but minor details, and focus on what's really important. What I wish someone would have told me before I started grad school....

1. Sleep is not a necessity. It's actually an extracirrcular activity.
2. Coffee....it's what's for dinner.
3. You may cry while you write papers that are worth 40% of your grade. That's totally fine.
4. People love to ask how school is going but get really uncomfortable when you say truthful answers like, "I hate it."
5. Any contact you have with people will usually be at work or in one of your classes. For the next year you'll feel like you're being held hostage and you are...by grad school.
6. You'll hear a lot about self care,but yet again, you won't have time for that.
7. Find a really good concealer to cover your bags under your eyes. I recommend well rested by bare minerals.
8. If your homework is to read several pages from some textbook, that essentially means you don't have homework
9. If you start feeling really confident about a paper your writing, thinking maybe you'll get an "A", have someone else read it. You're actually just tired, it's not that good.
10. Group work is totally something they still make you do and it still sucks as bad as your first group in high school did.
11. You can totally work full time and still do grad school. You'll just be in your car ALL THE TIME.
12. Speaking of living in your car. It'll be gross and people will hate riding with you. You don't have time to vaccuum that shit out though.
13. The good news is though, you usually don't have finals during finals week, giving you an extra week off. I prefer to use that week to clean my sadly neglected house.
14. You'll inevitably gain weight but that is okay. There is a pair of pants somewhere out there that will fit you and once financial aid comes in you can go buy them :)
15. Lastly, there is a handful of really awesome people you'll meet that will help maintain your sanity and help you out when it feels like your life is in shambles. Those people make it all worth it.



Saturday, January 3, 2015

[heeeey]

New years eve 2014. I'm walking in the streets of downtown and it's magical. Everybody is so happy, everybody is excited for a new beginning, and everybody is ready to celebrate. Passing crowds of people randomly yelling, "Happy New Year!" and exchanging high fives. It's just a good vibe.

As I made my way towards the space needle to see the fireworks, a man was standing in the middle of the intersection on vine and 4th, waving at cars to continue moving forward as he says, "excuse me. you can go first." I'm watching this guy and thinking, he's totally drunk and going to get hit by a car.

It was kind of weird because we made eye contact. I always seem to make eye contact with the wrong people and I saw him sauntering towards me. I continued walking, pretending we didn't just meet each others stares, as he yelled, "Heeeeey pretty girl." I yet again, pretended I didn't see him or hear him and kept talking to my friends as we made our way through the crowd. He finally caught up to me and somehow managed to place himself in front of me, stopping me on my path. He then proceeded to say, "You know what pretty girl? Life is hard and then you die but if you keep being fucking good to people, like keeping...keep...keep...like caring about people, when you die, you'll be remembered for all that niceness you uh...gave them. You know that?" Then he tapped my shoulder and continued onward yelling at others in the crowd, "Money isn't everything. You look like Justin Bieber!"

Part of me thinks he was totally off his rocker and seriously intoxicated, but the other part of me feels like maybe I needed that message and the only way I could get it was from a drunken stranger being belligerent downtown.

Cheers to you drunk sir wandering around downtown and your wealth of knowledge you shared with me that night.