Friday, February 28, 2014

Coping With The Unexpected

Every once in a while, something will happen in our lifetime that we never thought we'd witness...let alone be a part of. Sometimes it's a technological advancement, a natural disaster, a ground-breaking medical discovery, or even sometimes it's something more personal. For me, it was being the maid of honor at my mum's wedding this January.

The last few years have been life-altering for me and healing from my parents' divorce was the first big step. We're living in a time where it seems like everybody gets divorced, so it helped that I had a lot of people I could lean on for support when I needed it, but it was still an excruciating thing to witness and try to adjust to. And if I'm to be completely honest, I still haven't fully made that adjustment. Every once in a while I'll have a dream where my parents are still together, where we're on a family trip or all just hanging out together at the dinner table. When I have dreams like these it's makes me realize that these things will never happen again and it's like the wound has been reopened and an entire container of salt has been poured in. I will never have Christmas dinner with both my parents at the same table, I will never go on another fun family trip with both of them, I'll never see them cuddled up on the couch watching TV together, I won't ever see them exchange gifts again. I will never see any of those things that were once priceless to me happen again.

I imagine that having your parents divorce when you and your siblings are adults is a whole different experience than having them divorce when you're young. I don't think one is any easier or more difficult than the other, just different. My younger sister wasn't out of high school yet but my brother and I were and we were both in serious relationships of our own. My parents had their issues like any other couple (obviously, considering the divorce) but they were also my role models regardless. My parents got married when my mum was only 19-years-old and were together for over twenty years. My whole life I have wanted nothing more than to be somebody's wife, to make them happy, and to raise a family of my own. So as a young adult who was striving for a serious and happy relationship of my own, witnessing my parents divorce made me feel hopeless. Like if they couldn't succeed I'd never be able to.

As soon as I started to make progress in healing from the divorce, the next step came along before I was ready for it, and it was even harder. Watching my parents start to see other people. I'll never forget the first time I saw my dad kiss a woman that wasn't my mum or when I saw my mum kiss her now husband for the first time. It's something you never expect to witness in your life because everything is supposed to be perfect and your parents are supposed to be together forever. Once I realized that it was truly over and they were moving on, I knew that it was time for me to move on also. I did a lot of reading and research around the time that my parents split and I learned a lot. Some of the things that I realized I had to do in order to get through it as healthily as possible were:

1. Do not compare. I learned that regardless of how naturally it happened, that I had to fight to not compare the people my parents were seeing to my other parent. "My mum is more beautiful", "My mum is more successful and sweeter", "My dad is better looking", "My mum is more giving", "Dad is funnier", etc. were things that were constantly going through my head when I met a woman my dad was going to take on a date, or a guy that my mum was talking to. I had to constantly remind myself, and still do, that this isn't about me. It's not about who I like more, who I think is "better", or the fact that I wish my parents were's about my parents and what makes them happy.

2. Don't be negative. Staying positive might have been the most difficult thing and I still have negative feelings about all of it from time to time, but I learned that the negativity is useless. Being negative about my parents' divorce, their new relationships, or my mum's wedding wasn't going to change any of it. My negativity wasn't going to bring my parents back together or stop a wedding. I had to realize how much mine and my siblings support meant to my mum and be there for her for this new chapter in her life, and to be happy for her. Again, her wedding was about her and her new husband, not about me. Hopefully one day I will be married, and that day will be about me and the man who will be at the altar with me. But mum's wedding? That was about her and her husband and I needed to accept that.

3. Accept the situation but don't expect affection. Acceptance is the key to moving on in any situation because acceptance means that you're no longer fighting something. Once I realized that my negativity wasn't going to change anything, I had to accept the situation for what it was. I had to focus on my mum and hope that this new chapter in her life would bring her the happiness that she deserves. However, I also accepted the fact that I might not have the "ideal" relationship with my dad's girlfriend or my mum's husband right away. It's easy to form a bond and love your friends and your boyfriend/girlfriend because after all, you chose to have them in your life. Something about your friends attracted you to them and made you want to have them be a part of your life, same as your partner. And it's easy to love your parent. While you didn't get to choose your parent, there is a natural love that you will always have for them. However, the person that your parent chooses to be with after a divorce might not be a person that you like, you might not be drawn to their might even be strongly repelled by their personality. That's where acceptance vs. affection comes in. You can accept this person into your life because you can't change it, but you nobody in this situation should expect affection and a bond to be formed between the adult children and the parent's new partner. If affection and a bond form, that's fantastic. But it can't be expected from either the children or the new partner. 

4. Be respectful. All of these things sort of tie into respect, but respect alone is definitely important. Respect that your parent deserves to be happy, deserves to find love again, and deserves to continue on with their life. At times it might be hard to find positive things about the new person in your parent's life, but you have to put in the effort and make it happen. What made me realize this was recognizing that, "Holy shit. I'm sharing my mum with this man now." My entire life my mum was my dad's, my siblings', and my own. Once the divorce happened, she was mine and my siblings. On her wedding day, my brother walked her down the aisle and when he was asked, "Who gives this woman?" he responded with "Me and my sisters". That's when I lost it during the ceremony by the way, tears were pretty much impossible to hold back. That's when I realized that's what was going on. My brother, my sister and I were giving my mum to her husband. We were telling him that we were accepting him into our lives and sharing our mother with him. The woman who raised us, whom I love more than anything in the world. That's respect. From that moment on, my siblings and I were trusting this man with my mother's health, her heart, and her happiness.

Anyways! My mum got married in Hawaii this January and the trip to the islands was so much more than a trip for a wedding in my eyes. Yes the wedding was the focus as it should be, but I got to spend a week on Maui with my siblings (who I don't get to spend a lot of time with anymore), my mum and her husband, my grandparents, and my aunt. I only see my aunt on major holidays and maybe a few times a year when it's not a holiday. Same with my grandparents. Spending a week with them I got to learn so much more about each of them and I got the chance to strengthen our relationships. Ever since the trip I've made more of an effort to make use of, and appreciate, the time that I have with them...meaning more visits to see them, which I love! My older brother lives with my dad and we both have such different schedules so it's rare that I get to see him for more than a few minutes at a time. My little sister lives across the state where she's going to school so I only get to see her every few months. So, this trip meant a lot to me. I hadn't been on a vacation with my sister since I was 17. Laying by the pool, watching stupid videos on Vine, laying in the bed making silly videos and laughing...all those silly moments with her that week made me infinitely happy. Especially because I didn't know when I'd get to see her again. Which I still haven't.

I love both of my parents more than words can say. I don't resent either of them for what happened. I understand why sometimes these things happen. I accept it. I'm proud of both of them. I'm thankful for both of them. And I'm excited for both of their futures and what's in store.

The wedding was very tiny, with more people in the wedding party than in the audience, and my mum made a beautiful bride. Once we get the finished professional photos of her wedding I'll be posting some. But for now, here are some pictures of our trip (: 



The one time I get my brother to smile for a picture and I'm making a stupid face


She couldn't have looked more beautiful

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Heartbeat At My Feet and The One in My Memories

Sorry guys, but here it is. The unavoidable post about the two dogs that have brought more happiness into my life than most people ever will. I may or may not be a crazy dog lady, but I'll never confirm or deny it.

My life changed on August 15, 2010 when I was sitting on the beach in Santa Monica and I got a text with no words, only a picture of the little guy that would quickly become by best friend.

 I'll rewind a little bit though. Shortly after I graduated high school I bought my first car. While my mum and I were walking around the dealership checking out the used cars, I was talking to her about how I couldn't wait to get a dog now that I was moving into my own place. I didn't know where I was going to get the dog, or even what kind it would be...I just knew that I was going to name him Kaiser. Before I could finish my sentence the dealer said, "Hey! My dog's pregnant!" And that was it, I left the dealership with a car and a promise of a puppy! I waited for my little guy to be born for nearly two months. That summer my ex-boyfriend and I went to visit his family in Santa Monica like we did each summer. We actually had just broken up right before the trip so I was extremely hesitant about going, but because the plans had already been made I went. This time his aunt asked me to go on Good Day LA to showcase one of the Boxers that was with Boxer Rescue LA at the time, an organization his family was very involved in. I was super shy at the time but because I'm so passionate about animals and wanted to get involved too, I agreed to it. The night before I went on, I got to spend the night with the dog that I would be taking on TV so he could get comfortable around me and I could get to know his personality a little bit. He was an old, beat up male Boxer with one ear...whose name was Kaiser. I had my heart set on naming my puppy Kaiser for months before I met this dog and here I was...hanging out with the first dog named Kaiser that I had ever met...the same week my puppy was born!

When I got back to Washington the first thing I did was drive to the car dealer's house so I could meet my puppy. The second I held him I was absolutely in love. Less than a month after he was born, Kaiser's mom got sick so I had to take him home on September 11th at very short notice. At less than four weeks old he was far too young to be taken from his mother, but we had no choice. For the next four weeks I bottle feed Kai every two hours.

At night I wouldn't be able to fall asleep because I was too focused on the thought that I had to be up again in two hours, and if I did fall asleep, by that point I only had a half an hour left before it was time to feed him again. While I was at work my family had to help out. It took a lot but it was so worth it. The bond that we built was incredible, I think Kaiser really thought I was his mom. And in a way I was. 

I had a lot to talk about at that point in my life and my new puppy was the best confidant. I spent many hours nurturing him and just loving him while he listened and never judged me. That might be one of the best things about animals (: Like I mentioned, that summer I had just graduated high school, bought my first car, and moved into my own place. I had also just broken up with my boyfriend of two years who had been living with me, and of course when this of us had to move out. He went back to living with his parents and I felt bad about all of it. The failed relationship and then him having to pick up and move right after we had settled in. But that wasn't all that happened that summer. When I was 18, I wasn't at a healthy point in my life in general and to top things off, my parents had just informed my siblings and I that they were going to be getting a divorce. With all of the unfortunate things going on in the first few months that I had Kai, there were the good things to. Like the start of a "new" romance with the man that I'm still with today. I say "new" because I had actually dated him years before. It's weird how things work out sometimes. Between all the crying, heartache, and giddy in-love,18-year-old girl crap...that poor dog heard it all and he still adored me. At the end of that summer, my boyfriend moved away for school so it was just me and Kaiser everyday. He was with me through some of the biggest transitions in my and made sure that I was never alone, no matter how alone I felt at times.

On January 15, 2012, I left the house in the snow to go hot tubbing with a friend. When I pulled up to my house a few hours later I was talking on the phone with my boyfriend and I told him I had to go because my mum and sister were looking at me through the living room window and they were crying.

My grandma had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before and my first thought was that she wasn't doing well, or they had found more cancer. However, the second I walked in the door I knew it wasn't gramma. Kaiser wasn't there. He wasn't in the living room window spinning in circles waiting for me to come in like he always did. He wasn't laying down sleeping, he wasn't playing outside. Instantly I started to panic and started yelling. I was yelling, "Is it Kaiser!? What happened!? WHERE IS HE!?" and my mum told me that he was in the garage. I ran to the garage and opened the door, fully expecting to sit with my dog until he died. But when I opened the door, the garage was silent, I didn't see Kai anywhere until I noticed a box in the middle of the garage. He was already dead. Kaiser loved snow and that night when my mum let him outside to go to the bathroom, he must have been so excited that he ran a little farther from the house than normal and he was hit and died instantly. He wasn't even a  year and a half old. My mum didn't want to call me while I was with my friends and ruin my night, so she waited for me to get home. After Kaiser died, I didn't sleep for days, I didn't go to work, I didn't leave my bed, and I hardly I ate. I thought that I would never want another dog again and I blamed myself more than anything. If I hadn't had left the house that night, it never would have happened. My only job had been to love and protect this little life, and I failed.

In December 2012 everything changed very unexpectedly. A picture of a puppy was posted on facebook saying that he and a few others needed homes.

The next day I drove to a secondhand pet supply store and bought the bare minimums, drove to the reservation, and brought home Vinny. I hadn't told my mum (who I was living with again) or even my boyfriend. Actually, the first person to find out was my little sister. Vinny, like Kaiser, was only about a month old when I brought him home. He had been born on November 13th but the puppies needed homes as quickly as possible. I don't know why I brought him home because at that point, my heart was still hurting over Kaiser and I didn't know if I was fully ready for another dog, but I felt like he needed me. When I picked Vinny up and I pulled out of the parking lot, I looked over at him in the passenger seat and just started bawling.

 Even with all the bottle feeding I had to do with Kaiser, Vinny seemed much harder to raise. He was my little problem child. Now as he's grown older, I see so much of Kaiser in him. Vinny's now almost as old as Kaiser was when he died, but twice as big! If I didn't know any better, I would swear that they were the same dog. Don't get me wrong, Vinny is an incredibly unique little guy of his own, with his own quirks and personality. But he reminds me so much of Kaiser. Before Vinny, I would only cry when I thought of Kaiser. I couldn't recall any of the happy moments with him, I couldn't remember what his snuggles felt like or the little things he would do, I could only remember what it felt like to hold his body in the garage. If I was lucky, I could hear the sounds he made while he was running in his sleep when I laid down at night, but that was it. Now that I have Vinny, I remember it all. I remember the silly things Kaiser did, all the times that I would carry him around the house even though he was way too big, the goofy looks he gave me, the time that I put him on the trampoline, the time that dork fell off of our two story roof (and survived-long story), everything. I don't know what I believe about the afterlife yet, or if there even is one. But I do believe that somehow Kaiser sent me Vinny, call me crazy. And I'm so thankful because now I can't imagine my life without my little sidekick and I'm so grateful that I have him.

On January 15th 2013, it had been a year since Kaiser was killed and I thought I'd take Vinny to his grave to decorate it with me. For a few minutes, my spastic little puppy just laid there next to his grave like he knew exactly where we were. Some of you who have never had a truly special bond with an animal will read this and be like, "Whattttt the helllllll....", but those of you who have experienced that bond and who have lost it, you will know exactly what it's like. Animals are so special and we can learn so much from them. Now I'm done reminiscing and being emotional, here enjoy some adorable pictures of Vinny playing in the snow that we've had for the past few days and a flashback of his very first taste of snow! Now go love on your pet. And if you've lost a special pet and feel like you don't have it in you to get another, or you feel like you'll be "replacing them"...I highly recommend giving it a shot. There are so many animals out there that need love and they each have so much to offer. Don't deprive yourself of experiencing that bond again. It's not what your last pet would want anyway. 


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Monday, February 24, 2014

Guilt, Shame and Regret: Living With It Or Letting Go

Shame is closely related to guilt, but there is a key qualitative difference. No audience is needed for feelings of guilt, no one else needs know, for the guilty person is his own judge. Not so for shame. The humiliation of shame requires disapproval or ridicule by others. If no one ever learns of a misdeed there will be no shame, but there still might be guilt. Of course, there may be both. The distinction between shame and guilt is very important, since these two emotions may tear a person in opposite directions. The wish to relieve guilt may motivate a confession, but the wish to avoid the humiliation of shame may prevent it. 

–Paul Ekman

At one point in our lives all of us experience both guilt and shame to varying degrees. But what’s worse? Knowing that you did something wrong and feeling guilty, but being too afraid to tell? For example, cheating on your wife and carrying the burden of that secret. Or is it shame? Telling your wife that you cheated and then before you know it, her family, friends, and maybe the whole town knows about it? Then you’ll likely have both. Guilt because you know that what you did was wrong, and shame because you now have an audience for your wrongdoing. People know, so you have something to be ashamed and embarrassed of.

In my opinion, guilt alone will kill you. Guilt is worse because it’s useless. It makes you feel useless, hopeless, low, and it doesn’t ever seem like it’s enough to make a person change direction or grow. However, like Ekman said, the burden of guilt might drive a person to a confession. That’s where shame often comes in, and where progress is made.


“Regret nothing because at one point in time it was exactly what you wanted” is a quote that I used to live by when I was younger...when I was naive and thought that life was that simple. I had this quote on the cork board in my bedroom, the mirror in my bathroom, and even on my Myspace page (eek). As an adult, I’ve learned that this quote isn’t as valid as I had always hoped.  As an adult, I’ve learned that we don’t always do things because they’re “exactly what we wanted”. Sometimes we do things out of the belief that they’re necessary, because we’ve exhausted all of our other options, because we’re forced to, because at the time we thought it was the “right” thing to do, because we thought it would be what was best for us. Sometimes we do things that are the opposite of what we want, in hopes that it’ll help us get what we need. And then there are those of us who suffer from mental illnesses or disabilities that prevent us from even having the ability to really choose our actions at times. Those of us whose emotions are sometimes not influenced by outside forces, or even our own rational thoughts. But rather, our emotions, thoughts, and actions are influenced by hormone imbalances, structural differences in our brains, etc. Those of us whose well-being is affected by forces that most people will never experience, but I don't want to get into that.

I do believe there is some truth to 
“Regret nothing because at one point in time it was exactly what you wanted”, but it’s not black and white. Life isn’t as black and white as I wanted to believe it was when I was 12 years old. Life is full of blurred lines, grey areas and overlaps. However, it can still be black and white, just not in the way that we wish it could be. Life can have those pure white moments, where everything seems so clear. And those pitch black areas where you feel completely lost and you can’t even begin to see what you should be doing or which way is up…so you just start to frantically wander. Sometimes you find your way out and sometimes you dig yourself even deeper into the darkness. 

Guilt is something I grew accustomed to while growing up, but it never lasted long. I was that 8 year old kid who would take $3.00 off of her mom’s dresser so she could buy a hot lunch at school…and then run back a few minutes later and put it back, along with a pocket full of whatever change I had because I felt so bad for even considering taking a few dollars from my own mum. When we all know that if I just asked for it she probably would have given it to me. For the majority of my life I haven’t been very good with guilt. Once I acknowledge that I have done something wrong, the guilt sets in and it eats me alive and tears me up until I confess.
Shame on the other hand, is something I’m not quite as used to. Yes, there is a certain amount of shame that comes with every confession. Once you free yourself of guilt, there is a period of time where you have to deal with shame. The shame of your mum finding out about your new tattoo and the fact that you hid it, the shame of your parents finding out that you had been experimenting with drugs, the shame of your parents finding out that you lost your virginity, the shame of your little sister having to take care of you when you come home completely trashed. Yes, unfortunately those are all real life examples from my life, ha! And I'm sure a lot of you have been there too. But no matter how ashamed you feel or how much it feels like the end of the world, the shame fades with time until it no longer hurts you or those involved. And eventually, you aren’t ashamed of these things at all because you realize that they’re all a part of life. Sometimes though, shame lasts a lot longer than it should. And when that happens is when we start to realize that we may be living with regret, which is a much more difficult and seemingly permanent thing.

There are the smaller regrets we have that vary in significance. The silly tattoo I got behind my ear as a last minute decision that I just
prefer wasn’t there, but I often forget that I even have it until somebody asks me about it. Or the fact that I didn’t apply to Universities when I was in high school. I took AP classes, graduated with honors, participated in extracurricular activities, etc. I could have easily gotten into a nice University but for whatever reason, it wasn’t very high on my priority list at the time. I regret this because I know that right now I could be graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree like some people my age and getting a better job. But this “regret” provided me with a blessing in disguise. For many years I thought that I had wanted to pursue nursing. If I hadn’t gotten my job at the nursing home in 2012 (which I have since left), I never would have learned that I didn’t really want to be a nurse and I would be graduating with a degree and going into a field that didn’t make me happy. So, while I still wish that I would have worked to get into a University, I’m glad that I figured out that I wanted to go down a different path. Those are regrets that I can live with and they’re also things I can change. I can go to a University once I have the money and I can pursue my dream career. Heck, I can even that one tattoo removed someday. Sometimes though, there are the regrets that haunt you almost every day. Things you did that you can’t take back and things you did that have caused large amounts of pain to you and those who love you. At this point there is only one thing you can do, and that is to try your best to accept the past for what it is and make sure it doesn’t become a part of your future. Unless that is, that you learn from it and apply it to your life so you never make the same mistakes again. The last few years I’ve been trying to decide if regret is permanent or if we can move on, forget, and truly rid ourselves of regret.

Rather than telling myself “Regret nothing because at one point in time it was exactly what you wanted”, I choose to tell myself not to regret anything because everything that I have done, good and bad, has made me who I am today. All the things that I have done that have made me proud, and all the things I have done that have caused guilt, shame, and regret have made me who I am and will continue to shape me into the best person I can be. So while you might be feeling guilt, shame, or regret right now…just remember that all of these things have made you who you are.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Struggle, Pain, Perseverance, Coping and Love

It's frustrating when people look at the lives of others and assume it was all just handed to them, or that it has all come effortlessly. It's frustrating when people watch others overcome obstacles or work through hard times in silence and say how envious they are that it was "so easy for them". I too have done this, but it's something we all need to work on. We've all heard the quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about" and it's absolutely true. All of us at any given time are trying to deal with some kind of stressor in our lives whether it's money, our job, family, relationships, health, etc. and we all have different ways of coping. 

People often imply that they don't think I have feelings or say that I'm "heartless" or "don't care". For those of you who think that, I'm truly sorry because I don't want any person that I cross paths with in my life to think that I'm emotionless or that I don't care about others. I'm sorry that I try to not show a lot of emotion, that's how my dad raised me. He didn't like it when my siblings or I got emotional or "over dramatic", he didn't like it when we cried. I'm sorry I don't play the victim card whenever something less than favorable happens in my life, that's how my mum raised me. And I'm sorry that I choose to force myself to climb my way out of the graves that have been dug for me, even if I dug them myself, when obviously there are times I'd rather just lay there and die in them. That's what I have trained myself to do.

My advice for those of you who think "life" and hardships are magically easier for some people, maybe you're looking at it the wrong way. Maybe it's no easier for other people, maybe it's even harder. Maybe the way they attack their problems and conquer them just makes it appear easier. And hey, maybe it really is easier for some people, but I promise I'm not one of those people. I wish I was! I'm actually a very emotional person (those who know me well might even say that I'm too emotional at times), very vulnerable, very quick to anger, and very easily put in a slump. Which brings me to what most often gets to me emotionally. I, like most of you, have plenty of stressors. I get overwhelmed with work easily, I'm broke as shit, I come from a fairly recently "broken" family, I'm 21 years old and live at home with my mum and her husband (which is clearly less than ideal), I'm currently not attending school due to money and only have my AA while my peers are graduating with their Bachelor's Degrees, etc. But, none of those things are my main stressors in life. I'm a very passionate and loving person. For the most part I'm an independent person, but my happiness depends largely on my relationships with those that I love. Love and relationships are what stress me out the most! Whether it's with my family, friends or boyfriend. These two things stress me out the most because they are the things that I hold at the highest value in life. Jobs come and go, money is earned and spent, situations change, life is a roller coaster, but I believe that everything will be okay as long as you have love and good people in your life...and I wish more people truly valued their relationships.

Loving people doesn't mean walking on eggshells around them, lying to them because you're afraid of hurting them, hiding things from them to "protect them". That's all easy, and real love isn't easy. Loving someone is always being honest with them even if it kills you both, even if it rips you both to shreds. I think that's why I get myself into so much trouble sometimes. Not only because I'm a passionate, opinionated, outspoken person...but because I also wear my sins on my sleeves. I don't hide who I am, I don't put up a front, and I don't bow down to anyone. I think that is why I have the most incredible relationships with the people in my life; be it family, friends, or my boyfriend. Because my relationships are based off of real love, not some fantasy. And they grow through that suffering and hurt that most people try to avoid. The people who can put up with me are truly some of the strongest people out there. They are the people who are willing to do what it takes to keep our relationships going. And maybe that's what gives me the extra strength that I need to fight certain battles...the faith that others have in me and the strength that they provide. So, I'm sorry if any of you have ever thought I was careless or emotionless. I have more emotions than you know, I'm just not always comfortable sharing them with the world. Privacy is one of my methods of coping. Yes, I'll confide in my close friends or my mum. But other than that, I like to figure my life out in the peace and quiet of my own mind. I've found that the less people you tell about your problems, the less opinions, the less advice, and the less outside influence you have in your head. And that allows you to just focus on what your head and your heart are telling you.

I've come to learn over the past year that I've been neglecting myself and mistreating myself as a person. I've been bending over backwards to please others, even when it kills me, just to see if maybe that would bring me more happiness...making them happy no matter what the cost. Unfortunately, it has only brought me and those around me pain. I've learned that the true happiness you give to people in your life won't necessarily mean mandatory suffering on your part. It's all about balance. You can't just give, give, give when all anybody does is take from you. The second you realize that and start to respect yourself and your needs, the ones you love will take notice and they'll start to respect your needs more as well.

That being said, my loved ones mean the absolute world to me. Without them I don't know where I would be. And after everything I have endured with each of them, I can honestly say that I will never purposefully do anything to hurt them or to sacrifice my relationships with them. "Life" isn't easier for me, I'm not "stronger" than anybody else, I'm just determined to live a life filled with love and positivity, and I will do everything in my power to build that life for myself and the ones I love.

Dig your heels into the ground and take whatever comes at you head on with full force. Prioritize, figure out what means the most to you, refocus, and constantly strive to better those things. If you're constantly stressed and realize that it's often over the same things, acknowledge that it's most likely because those things are important to you. And if that's the case, give them your full attention and do something about it. 
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do You and Your Partner Speak the Same Language?

A few months ago, my mom and her new husband both read a book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts before their wedding. As a sucker for anything even remotely related to psychology and a hopeless romantic, I was excited to read it but also sceptical. I mean, the cover of the book had a couple walking on the beach together with a heart drawn in the sand. I thought "Okay, this is going to be cheesy", but I gave it a shot and I can honestly say that this book is one of the most informative, powerful, and life-changing books I've ever read. Gary Chapman is not only the author of this New York Times bestseller, but also a relationship counselor, hosts seminars, and has a radio program on relationships and marriage that airs on more than 100 stations.

Have you ever believed that you were doing everything right and then all of a sudden your partner tells you that you don't make them feel special anymore, or that they don't feel like you love them or care about them? Or are you the one who feels unloved? Have you spent countless hours confiding in your mom or your friends about how you don't think your partner loves you anymore? This could all be due to the fact that you two don't speak the same language.

In The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Chapman discusses the five languages of love and helps people learn to understand and "speak" each of the languages; words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Chapman believes that all people enjoy each of these to varying degrees, however each person usually speaks one primary language. If you don't really understand the concept of "speaking different love languages" I'll give you a quick example.  Let's just say that Mark and Susan are married. Mark's primary love language is receiving gifts so he feels really loved and special when Susan buys him things. Susan's primary love language is acts of service, so she feels really loved and cared about when Mark does things to help her out, such as helping with dishes, washing her car or doing laundry. We often do things for others that we wish they would do for us because those are the things that make us feel loved, so automatically we think that these things must also make others feel loved . So, Mark spends a lot of money buying gifts for Susan, and Susan spends a lot of time doing favors for Mark. They're each trying their best to show each other that they love each other, but because they don't speak the same language, neither of them feel as though they're being loved adequately. Make sense?

In this book, Chapman describes each of the languages and gives real life examples of couples that he has helped in the past. The chapters are categorized by each love language so it's easy to reference and a quick read (I was so sucked into it that I finished it in just a few hours). At the end of each chapter, he gives steps on how to speak that particular language to your partner. Once you've finished reading, at the end of the book there is a love language test that you can take if you are unsure what your primary language is. If you're curious about what your primary love language is but don't want to buy the book, you can take the test online by clicking here. However, I strongly recommend reading the book as well so you can have a better understanding of each language, your partner, yourself, and how to use this knowledge to build an incredibly strong relationship with the one you love. Chapman's books and teachings are primarily directed at married couples, however, this book can benefit everyone, whether you're dating, engaged, married, or single. I actually got my boyfriend to read it because I thought, "Hey...if we can learn about these things now and start making positive changes in our relationship now, then this will only benefit our relationship down the road and possibly save us from a lot of heart ache and misunderstandings." And guess what? He actually enjoyed it.

My boyfriend and I have been together for over three and a half years and have always had a happy and healthy relationship, with our hiccups of course. But I'm excited to say that things have just gotten better and better since we each read this book. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts really opened my eyes and taught me that not everybody communicates love in the same way. Cody and I now know how to love each other fuller and to the best of our abilities and have started to integrate aspects of all five languages into our relationship because, like Chapman points out, we all enjoy each of the languages to certain degrees :) But, we also have learned what our primary languages are and make sure that we pay special attention to those!

Chapman has over 30 books for sale here, from the one I read to Hope for the Separated, The 5 Love Languages of Children, The 5 Love Languages Singles, The 5 Love Languages Military Edition and many more. This man has literally dedicated a large portion of his life to love and helping others succeed in love and happiness. I definitely plan on reading as many of his books as I can and hope to attend a seminar of his one day.

Over 5 million copies of The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts have been sold and it's been translated into 38 languages. It's truly a remarkable book and I recommend it to all of you. I honestly believe that if each couple sat down and read this book, discussed what they learned, and worked harder to speak each other's languages that the divorce rate would be lowered significantly and there would be a lot more couples out there who feel fulfilled, happy, and excited in their relationships. If you're looking for a good read, I can't recommend this book enough. If you decide to give it a read, please comment on this blog or contact me elsewhere and let me know how if you enjoyed the book!

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Does it Emasculate Men? Degrade Women? Destroy Marriages? That and So Much More.

I saw this video back in January and it put the thoughts that I have had towards this industry for years into better words than I could have ever strung together. Pornography is something that I have been very passionately against since the very first day that I could make sense of what it really is. With that being said, I hope that you all, men and women, young and old, will watch this video with an open mind. LISTEN to what this man is telling us because it is the truth. The average age of people being exposed to porn is 8 years old? Are you kidding me? This statistic makes my stomach turn. Imagine an 8 year old child in your mind right now. Now imagine them being exposed to porn. It is disgusting, it's not right, and it's an image that leaves me feeling physically ill and absolutely disgusted with humanity and how low we have allowed ourselves to fall. 8 year old children should be playing with Barbie dolls and action figures, watching Disney movies and building forts outside...not being exposed to sexual acts. Whether you're religious or not (personally, I am not), there is still a huge message here that we can either accept as the truth or we can ignore and continue consuming and spreading this poison. Whether you want to accept it or not, things as "small" as watching porn or going to a strip club all grow from the same tree and stem from the same roots (as the example given in this video) as sex trafficking. It is all a disease that takes advantage of the weakness of human beings.

One thing that gets me, is that people pass off pornography as being normal, natural, and healthy. Yes, nudity is natural. Yes, sex is natural and healthy. However, you cannot pass something like watching pornography off as "natural" simply because it makes you feel like it's a justifiable thing to do. It is not natural for two (or more) members of a species to be filmed having sexual relations so other members of the species can masturbate while watching it or to use it as some other form of pleasure. I'm sorry if that's blunt, but natural is simply not a word you can use to describe pornography. And sadly for the people who use "normal" to describe this situation, the definition of normal is "conforming to a standard; usual; typical; or expected".  Just because something is "typical" does that mean that it's a good thing, or the right thing.  Normal doesn't mean that something is good or positive for society, it simply means that it has become standard, that people have made a certain behavior the norm. Why strive to be a part of this norm? Why not strive to be something different? Something healthier? Something higher?

However, as the man talked about in the video above, this video is not meant to BLAME men. That's not what he's setting out to do. What he wants to do is show us that everyone is a victim to this industry. Those who create it, those who produce it, those who consume it and watch it, everyone. He wants to show that in order to stop this, we need to help the people who have fallen victim to this industry. Without demand there will be no supply. In order to put an end to sexual exploitation there needs to not be a constant demand for it. A lot of men (and women) continue to watch porn because there are so many influences out there that make them feel like it's harmless. All the jokes that people make about it, all the movies that are basically making pornography mainstream, the friends who urge each other to "watch this video I found" or "check out this strip club". It all makes people forget about those who are being hurt and forget that society as a whole is suffering from these seemingly small acts. And what's worse? Men are afraid to take a stand against it and speak out against the industry for fear of being viewed as "weird" by other men. With stupid memes circulating saying "90% of men watch porn and 10% are lying" or "If you don't watch porn you're gay" (which is the most ignorant thing I've ever heard for so many reasons, but that's for another day) I can see how it would make men nervous to even think about taking a stance against it, let alone actually going through with it. Men are thought of to be the problem, we need to help them and encourage them to be part of the solution.

This brings me to one of the bravest acts I've ever witnessed. A friend of mine saw this video circulating back in January, and he then decided to open up about a part of his life that he had kept secret up until that point. He didn't only open up to his friends, coworkers, or family....he opened up to the entire world on his blog. He did this in hopes that his story will help others who can relate. Not a lot of men open up about this topic, especially not men who have come out on the other side of this addiction. His triumph over addiction is incredibly beautiful and inspiring. If you guys have time, only if you really have TIME, to absorb his words, not just skim...please give this a read. It's a side of the story that many of us have never heard before. I'd like to thank this particular friend so much for taking a leap and reaching out and sharing his story with what could potentially be millions of people who are going through exactly what he went through. I urge all of you to click here to read Matt's story. Hear how detrimental this industry is from a man. A man who was once addicted to it. 
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

By Sharing Your Romance....You Are Killing It

I'm all about social media. It's fun to share ideas and to have discussions, it makes keeping in touch with friends and family a little bit easier, it's interesting to see the things that others share, etc. But there are some things that shouldn't be shared on facebook, twitter, and other social media websites. In my opinion, every detail of people's romantic relationships shouldn't be gushed about online. Rather, they should be kept private and sacred.

With yesterday having been Valentine's Day, we've all seen tons of Valentine's Day related posts for a few days or so, and now today we're all seeing the aftermath. Observing all of this, I've realized that social media really is killing romance. Personally, I think it's fine to post a quick little picture of the two of you together and caption it, "Me and my Valentine!" or to write a little something sweet to your partner on his/her "facebook wall".  However, today people are out of control, posting pictures of the gifts that their lover bought them or gushing every detail about their romantic night. Come on people, there is nothing less romantic than that. I've seen people post, "I have the best Valentine ever! ______ got me _____, _______,_______ and ______!"  The most shocking is that I've even seen close up pictures of cards that girls have put online so we can all read what their boyfriend/husband wrote to them. I've also seen photos of the bedroom. Girls have taken photos of their bedroom that their partner has beautifully decorated with roses, chocolates, candles, and oils and shared them with everybody online. Please tell me how this is romantic. I would really like to know.

What happened to taking pictures of things like that for your scrapbook or to keep the memory of that moment for yourselves? Why do we now feel like these things should be shared with everybody online? If your man (or woman) wanted the world to read what they wrote in their card or to get a detailed report of everything they did for you yesterday...they would have put it online themselves. I know that a lot of people are going to get offended by this, seeing as a lot of people have posted things like this today, but it's honestly just something I can't stand seeing and I think it's a lot more damaging than people think it is. I don't want anybody to feel embarrassed or wrong for (over)sharing their relationships, I just want people to question why they're doing it. Why are you making sweet Valentine's Day gifts for your partner? Are you doing it because you love them and you want to show them that, or are you doing it because it would make a cute faceook photo? Are you doing it so you can get credit from others? Are you photographing these moments so you can keep those memories vivid forever, or are you photographing them so you can share it on facebook? And most importantly, if you are choosing to share these on yourself why. Are you trying to prove that you and your partner are happy together? If so, who are you trying to prove it to and why? Nobody needs this proof besides the two of you. Are you trying to make others jealous? Why? Those things aren't what Valentine's Day is about, those things aren't what being in a relationship is about.

I had a fantastic Valentine's Day and I did what I consider to be the proper thing to do, kept it private. However, the proper thing is slowly drifting away from also being the "normal" thing. Now it's considered normal to post close-ups of the card your partner wrote for you, post pictures of every gift they buy you throughout the year, post screen shots of the sweet texts they send you, post pictures of them doing sweet things from you...literally every detail of your relationship. And we're always wondering why relationships don't seem to last anymore. It's because there is no privacy, no intimacy, no genuine romance, nothing. If you're in a relationship these days, it better be loud and proud on social media or things must just not be going well.
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Monday, February 10, 2014

"One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching."

Each time I go on a hike with friends rather than alone, it completely changes the experience. The fist hike I went on with two of my very best friends, Nathan and Adam, changed my life more than any other hike before. In fact, maybe more than any previous experience. 

Oyster Dome is a hike up to part of an exposed cliff on Blanchard Mountain, and the view at 2,025 feet is jaw dropping. I've hiked to this particular lookout several times, but in October of 2013 I hiked it during the fall for the first time. Everything was wet but I didn't think anything of it because it seems like it's always wet in this part of the state so I'm used to it. However, when walking beside the edge of the cliff down to ask these girls if they would take a picture of Nathan, Adam and I, I slipped and fell. I slid about ten feet before the friction of my flattened body and digging my finger tips into the rock stopped me, a hand's width from the edge of the cliff. By the time I had gathered my thoughts and realized that I wasn't falling, I heard the items I had been holding in my hands hit the ground over 2,000 feet below. For a second I just sat there in shock. Nathan and Adam were both panicking and if I remember correctly, the two girls simply said, "Holy shit." It was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I thought I was imagining how close it was, but Nathan had said that in his mind, he saw me go over the edge.

Up until that day, I didn't value my life. I was not only careless, but the thought of my own death didn't affect me at all. I've read many people's descriptions of moments when "their lives flashed before their eyes" during a near-death experience and each story was unique and different...though I never believed any of them to be true. My life didn't exactly flash before my eyes, but all of a sudden my mind was flooded with memories of my younger sister and I. These memories came in the form of pictures of her and I from our childhood and just vivid memories of moments we've shared. After a few moments, I composed myself and walked up to the girls and had them take the picture of the three of us like I had wanted, and we hiked back down the mountain.

I hugged the two of them like I had never hugged them before and had a little breakdown in my car on my way home. I called both of my parents and both of my siblings, as well as a few other people, and told them how much they meant to me. That day I realized that our lives aren't simply for ourselves.We are bound to and intertwined with so many other people. I realized that I didn't value my life before because I felt like I was alive simply for the sake of living, if that makes any sense. Now, I feel like I'm alive for the sake of loving. I realized that I do care that I'm alive. I care because the thought of not being with my loved ones kills me inside. Part of me says, "Well, if you were dead you wouldn't miss them...clearly" but part of me still acknowledges that I would much rather be with them and enjoy the beautiful gifts that come with life. I have yet to hike Oyster Dome again, but I plan to as soon as the weather clears up a little bit. Maybe this time I'll have a little more respect for the mountain and for my life.



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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Life's Short. Live Passionately.

This morning I woke up and skimmed through my facebook newsfeed. There were the usual weather complaints, depressing news stories, and funny photos, but among all of those things...I'm glad that a passionate, emotional, and positive post about life caught my eye. A woman I met last year was sharing her experience of losing her youngest brother two years ago. She started off by saying that she has felt all the anger and pain that you would expect somebody to feel after losing such an important person in their life, but then quickly went on to write about how the experience has been "an awakening" one for her.

This woman gained a whole new perspective from the loss of her brother and made something positive out of one of the most heart breaking things we could ever experience in life. Now she's trying to share what she's learned with others. She pointed out things that we're all "aware" of, but tend to turn a blind eye to because we'd rather pretend that we're invincible. She said that we aren't promised tomorrow, or even tonight, and therefore the right moment and time to say your apologies, your "I love yous", "I adore yous", and to give forgiveness and hugs is right now. She wrote about how she now loves as fully and passionately as she can, and about she finds joy in all places and always chooses to be joyous. There are times when joy finds you, when something happens that makes you feel happy. However, often times we have to create this joy ourselves, we have to choose to be happy. The last thing she said was to not only be kind, but to be so kind to others that you forget how to be any other way and to extend compassion towards all people.

Often times my attitude towards the day is heavily influenced by what I wake up to. If I wake up frantic because I slept through my alarm, I tend to be at a higher level of stress during the day. If I wake up and the first thing I do is watch heartbreaking stories on the news all morning, I tend to be more depressed. And then there are mornings like today, when I wake up and see something that inspires me or provokes thought. And days like today I tend to be more appreciative and more positive. Living passionately has been something that I've always strived to do. When I love somebody, be it a friend, family member, or romantically, I tell them and show them that I love them every chance that I get. I express my love for the people I hold dear in every way that I know how to because when I die, or when they die, I want them to not be able to question my love for them. When I support a cause, or am against a cause, I make a stand and I make it loud. We only have one life and one voice and I refuse to let either go to waste.

One aspect of my messed up brain that adds a lot of unnecessary stress to my life is that I am always paranoid about the future.I don't think there's a day that goes by where I don't dread the loss of a current relationship, my dog, my parents, etc. I am constantly coming up with traumatic events in my head and trying to figure out how I'm going to cope with them. Morbid? Very. Everyday I work towards overcoming my habit of living halfway in the future. There is a positive side to it though...the passion it brings to the present. Part of the driving force behind why I'm so passionate about life and love is simply the fear of losing it all.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Take a Hike

One of my greatest passions is the outdoors. Ever since I was a kid, being outside is where I've felt most at home. I grew up on a dairy farm in Custer, Washington where I spent most of my time building forts out of hay bales in the barn, playing with our animals, shooting BB guns with my siblings, or exploring in the trees out in the field. As an adult, I'm pretty much exactly the same.

Two things I enjoy are going on hikes and photography. And lucky me, I live in the perfect area for both of those activities. My house is less than ten minutes from the ocean, twenty minutes away from some of the most beautiful hiking trails, forty-five minutes from snow-covered Mt. Baker, and two hours from Seattle. I'm not a professional photographer, heck, I don't even own a legitimate camera...yet. I just love exploring my state and taking pictures with my iPhone.

Hiking is one of those things that just has countless benefits and I wish more people would take advantage of that, especially people who live in an area where the opportunity is right in their back yard. The endless health benefits alone should get people interested! Hiking lowers your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, improves fitness, improves the health of your heart and lungs, lowers your risk of high cholesterol and various types of cancers, reduces depression and risk of early death, helps with weight loss improves your quality of sleep...the list goes on. Hiking is cheap! All you really need is some suitable clothing which you likely already own, a good pair of hiking boots (or even just decent shoes, depending on the hike), and at most, a day pass to hike the area. However, the most important reasons aren't because it's affordable or because it's healthy because honestly, there are other things that are cheap and good for your health.

There are other things that hiking can offer you that most activities can't. Each time I go on a hike I experience a unique perspective. When you're at the summit or at a lookout, you see things from a perspective that you likely haven't before. Sometimes you can see places you've been that you've never seen from above, buildings that seemed huge now seem miniscule. But most importantly, being at the top always makes me realize how tiny I am. It makes me realize how beautiful and vast the world is, and how I'm but a tiny speck. Another benefit is that it simply builds your confidence. If you set out to reach the summit of a particular hike and you get to the top, it's one of the most rewarding feelings. You accomplished what you set out to do and you get  to drop your pack, take a seat, and soak in an incredible view in the company of your friends, or what's even better sometimes, soak it in by yourself.

I've been hiking since I was a little girl but I just recently started taking pictures of my hikes in September of 2013. The first hike I ever decided to photograph was the hike featured in these photos, the Excelsior Peak hike on September 18th...which ended up being one of the more difficult hikes I've ever been on. We started our hike from North Fork Nooksack Valley instead of Damfino Lakes Trail and because of that decision, our hike had an elevation gain of 4,000 vertical feet instead of the Damfino option of 1,500 feet. It was an extremely tough hike but well worth it when we got to the top and the forest opened up into beautiful meadows. I wish it would have been a clearer day, but it was still stunning.

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