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My First Pregnancy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Happy New Year everyone!

According to my WordPress, it has been over a year since I’ve written and posted a blog…. that is crazy! I guess I will blame it on planning a wedding then getting pregnant a few months later.

Let me just start by saying that Dylan and I were not planning to get pregnant, but we were also not actively preventing it. We had decided that if we got pregnant, we were 100% okay with being parents this early in our marriage.

Ever since we discovered we are expecting, I’ve wanted to write about my experience. Even though I’m 31 weeks pregnant now (7 months), everything still remains vivid in my mind. I’m going to go through the different stages/experiences I went through from finding out at week 5 to now, 26 weeks later.

July: Dylan and I were finishing up a month-long vacation in Rancho Palos Verdes (L.A. area) and I wanted to visit the beach one last time before we left. Mubs (Yvette, Dylans mom) and I went on a lady date to the beach, and searched for sand dollars. We found so many beautiful ones to bring home and grabbed some lunch at Whole Foods afterwards.

On our way back from the beach, we talked about Dylan and I having kids. I vaguely mentioned that I hadn’t had my period recently, and based on my estimate, thought I was around two weeks late. My cycle is not super regular, so I didn’t think too much of it, but knowing that two weeks late could equal pregnancy, I mentioned that I should probably get a pregnancy test.

The next morning, first thing, I went and bought two pregnancy tests. I brought them home, peed on the stick, and waited. Sure enough, two blue bars appeared, indicating that I was pregnant. I have taken several pregnancy tests over the last five years, and never gotten a positive result. Even still, I doubted that it was accurate. I came out of the bathroom, in shock, and told Dylan and his mom that I just took a pregnancy test and it came out positive! We immediately called my parents and Dylan’s dad to share the good news, to which we were met with the utmost excitement.

To keep this section short because there is still a LOT to write about, I will just say that I was still in disbelief. I wound up scheduling an OB appointment for the same day in San Pedro in order to get a blood test to verify the pregnancy. Even after the blood test came back positive, I knew the high rate of miscarriage and also didn’t feel pregnant, so none of it felt real. I went on a roller coaster ride of questions and thoughts. “What if the baby dies?” “What if the blood test was wrong?” “What if we aren’t ready to be parents?” “I hope it’s a boy.” “I am SO excited!” “We need to start saving money now!”.

So many things went through my mind. I was immediately in a panic and so protective, worried about doing ANYTHING to hurt this fetus inside of me. I was also so anxious to find out, boy or girl, when am I due, when will I get an ultrasound? I told my work right away, probably the day after I found out, so we could start discussing maternity leave.

We came home, and not a week later, I was T-boned in a car accident. I called 911 right away, telling them I was 8 weeks pregnant. Already my entire mindset had shifted from “am I okay?” to “is the baby okay?”. This also marked the beginning of my morning sickness, which brings us to the following month.

August: Despite hardly being able to walk or function, I was able to celebrate my birthday with my family. Through the nausea, I forced myself to eat pizza (one of the VERY few foods my body would tolerate) and Dylan took me out to a dinner where I also had to force down what used to be all of my favorite foods (pasta, bread, and more pizza).

I would say that August 2018 was probably the hardest month of my entire life. The car accident happened the last week of July, and I spent that entire week recovering from the wreckage that was my neck, spine, and head after being T-boned.

The last few days of my recovery from the accident, the nausea started. The thing about pregnancy sickness is, nobody can prepare you for it. Each woman is different, each pregnancy is different, and you never know whether you are going to have it or if you do, how bad it is going to be.

Mine was horrible. “Morning sickness” is a bullshit term. Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue were 24/7. I was unable to eat anything, and laying on my stomach was the only reprieve. I probably spent 75% of about 3 straight months laying on my stomach to rid myself of the nausea. All I did during the month of August (and beyond) was work and sleep.

In the mornings, I would wake up, and immediately feel so sick I could not stand up. I would try drinking water, and the nausea would worsen. I would try eating Saltines, and the nausea would worsen. I can’t remember exactly when, but at a certain point, every morning I threw up. Even if I hadn’t eaten anything, I would wretch and throw up yellow stomach bile, every day. That was my morning coffee for weeks and weeks on end, probably over a month. As soon as I stood up, my stomach would turn and I would run to the bathroom.

Brushing my teeth made me gag and then throw up. Drinking water made me throw up. Food was out of the question, my body was not interested in consuming anything. I started to drop in weight, 2 pounds… 5 pounds… 10 pounds. I wound up losing between 15 and 20 pounds over the course of 10 weeks. My body was starving, thirsty, and so fatigued, but would not allow me to nourish myself. I was paranoid about the baby’s health. The only thing I could stomach was saltines and Powerade, and even those would sometimes come back up.

You guys, I couldn’t even vomit in the toilet. If I got up to vomit in the toilet, the smell of the TOILET WATER would make me throw up for the next 5 minutes until my stomach was empty and lots of bile had made it’s way back up. I had to miss morning meetings at work just to spend my morning throwing up.

It was the middle of summer, so it was deadly hot outside, and even standing outside for 2 minutes made me throw up. I had become so familiar with vomiting, I felt prepared for a lifetime of food poisonings and the flu. Vomiting used to be the worst thing in the world, and it had become a daily occurrence, usually multiple times a day for me.

Dylan was my personal angel during these weeks. He took care of me. He had to carry me to the bathroom many days because I was too weak to walk. I didn’t even leave the house for probably an entire month for two reasons: 1. The car was almost totaled and was in the shop for the entire month of August and 2. I could not make it down the staircase (let alone back UP the staircase) and any movement in the car was enough to make me SICK.

The Emergency Room: By the end of August, I was a physical and emotional wreck. One day at around 12pm, I began to feel an excruciating stabbing pain in my lower left side, a pain that reminded me of past ovarian cysts I’ve suffered through. Thinking it was that, I took some Tylenol and tried to sleep. The doctor told me to take Unisom (usually used for sleep, but also great for nausea) which helped me sleep for a couple of hours. I woke up, and the pain was back. I sat myself in a position where I was most comfortable, but the pain was still so bad I couldn’t move. I continued to take Tylenol at the right intervals and tried to force myself to sleep.

The next morning at about 5am, the pain had not subsided. I had spent most of the night before awake, sobbing to myself and trying to heat, ice, and comfort the pain as best I could. I was only 12 weeks pregnant at the time, so I was terrified I was having a miscarriage. There was no way of telling whether my baby was alive, because he hadn’t started kicking yet. Being that our car was out of service, I woke Dylan up and asked him to Uber with me to the ER. He helped me down the stairs, into the Uber, and wheeled me into the ER.

In the ER, I was in excruciating pain. I was delirious from it. I was sweating, shaking, and crying the entire time. The doctor came in and asked me what was wrong, we told them I was pregnant and had extreme stomach pain. They immediately ordered ultrasounds and blood tests, but first they gave me nausea medicine to counteract the sickness that would be caused by a shot of morphine (which they also administered). The morphine took an eternity to kick in, at least thirty minutes. My mom had met us at the ER and was sitting at my side, looking concerned along with Dylan, who had been holding my hand the whole time and telling me I was going to be okay.

That day, I feared for the life of my unborn child. I thought I was having a miscarriage for certain, and that all the pain and suffering I had gone through in the previous month was going to end in tragedy. Once the morphine had finally kicked in (I was still in extreme pain even AFTER the drugs), the ultrasound tech put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me across the hospital to an ultrasound machine.

Laying on that ultrasound table was so unbelievably painful. I was choking back tears the whole time but trying to stay still while she put pressure on my stomach, then biting my lip while trying to flip over without irritating my pain further.

When my uterus popped up on the screen, the first thing I asked was, “is my baby alive?”. She said, “you didn’t hear it from me, but yes, your baby is alive”. In that moment, all the pain was worth it. I knew that my little one was still alive and growing inside of me, safe in my womb.

Fast forward to the end of the ER visit, and the doctors told me there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. My theory is that my body was so fatigued and so stressed from not eating and drinking that this pain just… happened. They said it could have been gas, which is just insane to me. Morphine couldn’t even relieve the pain I felt.

The best thing to come out of this day was the nausea medication they gave me when I first arrived. I asked them what that was, and they gave me a prescription. After receiving that prescription, my entire pregnancy changed.

DYLAN: I just want to take a moment to say that my husband, Dylan, is an actual hero. When you get married, you vow to love each other in sickness and in health, and he took care of my every need while I was sick. He carried me to the bathroom and helped me stand up when I could hardly put my legs under me. He brought me water, Powerade, medicine, and anything else I needed while I laid in bed barely able to sit up. He comforted me when I was overwhelmed with emotions over the misery I was going through. He was and is an absolute angel. I would not have been able to make it through pregnancy without him.

September: All the sickness described above, continued. But now, I had something to help.

After my ER visit, I took home that prescription of Zofran. I previously albeit briefly mentioned that Unisom was helpful for nausea, but this relief only lasted an hour at best and made me sleep, so it really wasn’t helping my nausea, it was just drugging me to sleep all day so that I didn’t feel sick (which is horrible).

I mean no disrespect at all by this, but at this point, I felt like a cancer patient. I was sick all the time, couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand, couldn’t eat. I very seriously considered buying a shower chair because I literally could not stay standing in the shower. I would collapse. I was so weak, had lost so much weight, and was so sick all of the time that I couldn’t even clean my own body. Circle back to the Zofran, and everything changed.

Every morning, I still woke up and was extremely sick. Melt-under-the-tongue Zofran tasted absolutely repulsive, so I had to have a routine every morning to prevent myself from throwing up. If I messed up one step of this routine, I would become ill and vomit the medicine or the saltines I had eaten. Every morning I woke up, made sure to stay laying down (sitting up made me nauseous), and ate about 5 saltine crackers. This was a feat in and of itself, and most mornings I had to force them down. Then, I would dissolve a Zofran under my tongue, and wait about 20 minutes for it to kick in.

Once the Zofran kicked in, I could wake up and maybe eat a banana or something small. Throughout September, my eating was still extremely minimal due to the nausea. Zofran also only lasted about 4 hours, so I was taking it several times a day in order to keep myself from throwing up. Once I started eating again, I noticed I had an extreme aversion to meat. The smell, the look, everything about meat made me gag. I could not even think about eating a hamburger or bacon, two of my favorite foods.

My diet in September consisted of vegetable soup, Spaghettios, saltines, and Powerade. I continued to not be able to drink water, so Powerade it was. I truly believe that the Powerade provided many of the vitamins my body was not getting from food.

Speaking of vitamins… another big thing that changed at the end of September was the prenatal vitamins. I had been taking prenatals every day, faithfully, and they were making my sickness 10x worse. I knew the prenatals were affecting me because I would feel sick just hours after taking them. I did some research and found out that iron is MAJORLY disturbing to many people’s stomachs, therefore, sacrificing the iron in your prenatal is alright as long as you are not anemic (I was not!).

I went to Whole Foods and bought a Folic Acid and Calcium + Vitamin D supplement, and the sickness became exponentially easier to handle. I went through so much guilt and worried for weeks about this, because everyone SWORE dramatically that prenatals would prevent your baby from any kind of ailment or disability (false).

The truth is, prenatal vitamins are mostly an American thing, pressuring American women to pump their bodies full of vitamins in order to ensure the baby gets all the proper nutrition they need. To be honest, the prenatals were preventing my baby from getting all his nutrients, because they were making me sick. I would throw up the vitamins and any food I ate, so the baby wasn’t getting ANY nutrition at all. Makes a lot of sense right? (note sarcasm).

Anyway, September was a doozy as well but not as hopeless and miserable as August, which brought us into October…

October: This month was lovely. We found out we are having a BOY!!!

Probably halfway through the month I was able to start eating normal foods (not from a can) again, slowly but surely. The baby started kicking, and I passed the 20 week mark, which made my concerns for losing the baby drop.

November: Feet began to swell, belly started to get big, and Dylan and I took a swaddling and newborn essentials class at the hospital. The heartburn began, making it difficult for me to lay down without throwing up in my mouth.

December: Sleep has become difficult, as my belly has become so big I can hardly turn over without help. Heartburn continued throughout December, bringing us to January.

January: This baby is beating up my ribcage. His kicks are actually hurting me, which is not fun. He also likes to kick my bladder, making me jump and have to hold it in so I don’t pee my pants. I’m ready to hold our little one in my arms now, but I will patiently wait 9 more weeks until that can be a reality.

Needless to say, the past 7 months have been the most difficult – but also, the most magical months of my life. Seeing my belly swell from a tiny little bump into a large protruding balloon has been amazing. Feeling his kicks and feeling him react to Dylan and I’s voices has been incredible. Thinking about holding our newborn and raising him makes Dylan and I more excited than we have been for anything else.

Dylan and I’s relationship has always been incredibly strong and constant. In the last seven months we have grown closer than ever, bonding over our son and preparing for the greatest adventure of our lives. I tell him every day how thankful I am for him, and he tells me every day how happy he is and how excited he is to be a dad.

Even through all the pain, emotions, and difficulty, pregnancy has been a blessing. I am so thrilled and excited to be a mommy, as I’ve always wanted to be one. Now, it’s just around the corner and I can’t wait.

Love,

Elise

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In Sickness

Yesterday and today I stayed home from work because I have this awful head, chest, throat, and sinus sickness. I am lethargic, I can’t stand up without getting dizzy, and I have enough phlegm stored in my face to use up all the tissues in the house.

It is so frustrating.

For me, being sick is so stressful because I can’t be myself. I can’t work as hard, I can’t keep the house clean, I can’t even take care of myself… and it makes me feel helpless! Being sick is hard and sooo boring!

Working from home of course helps, but I still get really down and stressed when I’m sick, which does NOT aid in me getting better. I am so full of emotion and frustration over something so small, and I know that my anxiety makes the simplest of inconveniences (especially ones I can’t control) more difficult to handle.

It’s stressful because I work so hard and put my all into everything, and it’s just not possible to do that in this physical and mental state. It’s difficult because I am so critical of myself and so worried all the time about doing enough at work, at home, and in my regular daily life.

I am having a hard time taking it easy on myself and just resting while being sick instead of being worked up and anxious. This week has been tough on me, and I need help getting back to my normal self.

I need a pick-me-up. So I resort back to my self-taught meditation that grounds me and brings me peace.

Since I was about sixteen, I had to be strong and take extra steps to feel normal and stop blaming myself for something that is out of my control. I repeat these things in my mind to remember who I am:

“You’re awesome, you are kick ass at your job, and you have done much more than you ever thought you could while being sick

You HAVE to listen to your body and provide self care when needed

You have an incredible support system of family, friends, and a baby dog Zombie who loves the crap out of you to take care of you while you’re sick

You can choose to let go of stress and frustration and focus on what is good to get you through it

You have always taken care of yourself and there is no shame in letting someone else take care of you when you’re weak”.

~

To anyone else who has this problem of self criticism, just a word of advice: encourage yourself. It does work to think positive thoughts and to make yourself come out of a slump, no matter how small or silly it may seem. And never feel bad about taking care of yourself.

In order to be the best version of you, you must practice self care. I am going to take my own advice tonight by doing this.

I am going to return to my couch and eat a nice healthy dinner with a glass of red wine and watch Netflix with my love, while remembering that sometimes small problems seem big when they’re right in your face, but when you keep walking it will disappear behind you the further you get.

Thank you for listening to my venting and self-love speech, and have a good night, friends.

 

 

Inheritance

As always, it’s been forever since I have shared any stories or thoughts at length…

But when something is really heavily weighing on me, this is the only way I can get that weight off my chest.

So here goes.

My Grandma Kitty passed away on May 6th, just a few months ago. She was the most selfless human being alive. She adopted my mother and her twin sister, my Aunt Marlene, when they were small. She mothered them as if they were her own. Throughout her life, she continued to care for her 6 children as well as caring for other women’s children. At the age of 73, she took on a newborn baby boy named Ray and cared for him for almost ten years until he was able to go back to his father.

She sent all 21 of her grandkids money on their birthdays and Christmas, without fail every year. She waited on us hand and foot when we came over, offering to make us tea and food and telling us to choose whatever channel we wanted to watch on TV. She taught us all how to play cards and scrabble, and she loved yard sales and costume jewelry.

She was a spitfire, always saying what was on her mind and making everyone laugh. She was tough. She thrived through two open heart surgeries and many other issues as unfortunately towards the end, there was pain from growing older. She stayed the same wonderful, happy, and intelligent woman until the end, and even celebrated her 83rd birthday with a pool party full of great conversations and laughter.

When she went to the hospital in May, we all knew it wasn’t going to be good. She had had a heart attack, and multi organ failure had begun due to sepsis. She was strong, holding out and forcing herself to breathe for days while her family began to mourn and spent some precious last moments with her.

We all wept by her side and held her hand and helped the nurses give her what she needed. She talked to us, even though she was in a state of cloudiness and discomfort, she knew who was around her. To my surprise, the night before she passed, she even had conversations with us. She said, “Elise, my Elise” and talked to me about the ugly dolls she used to have. It was actually quite spiritual spending time with her before she passed. She spoke of God and Jesus and passing through to the other side. She was a very spiritual woman so I am thankful she was able to hold God’s hand as he took her home to be with Him.

Fast forward to now, when the family is still mourning the greatest loss but finally somewhat accepting it… and unfortunately we are tasked with dealing with the physical things that must be managed after someone passes- including their belongings.

My mother, father, sister, and I were invited over to her home to choose an item to remember her by, and collect any other items that might be useful to us in our households or for decorative purposes- all things that would fill our lives with her presence so we can feel peace about her passing and have her memory all around us.

Before now, I had never lost someone I was very close to… sure, I have lost people I cared about before, but they were people I never got to know deeply, or friends who passed while I was young…

One way or another, I have never been in the position to take something from someone who has passed away, even as a memento.

It was strange, looking in her home, searching through her things. Seeing things she wore often and holding little items she treasured. Everything smelled like her, reminded me of her… but she was and is gone.

Her things are remnants of her, but to be truthful, things are just things. When we all pass away, our belongings will be given away or sold, and they might carry on from generation to generation, but we will nevertheless be gone. Thinking about that while looking in the rooms and closets of her house… it was an out of body experience actually. I kept uncontrollably saying “Oh Grandma…” with a sigh and sadness in my voice.

It was very odd, to be holding her memories, yet mourning her passing…  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. And although I have some items that will be well-loved and used for years, I will always look at them and remember the hole that her leaving this Earth has left behind.

My mom, dad, and sister were there with me, providing peace and comfort. It is funny how death brings some closer together, helping them to get through the difficult times and lean on one another through loss.

My Grandmother was a beautiful woman, and we have some of the best memories together… but now I have some special things to keep close to myself and share with my friends, family, and children someday.

Thank you Grandma, for all that you gave me while you were on this Earth, visible and invisible. And thank you for all that you left to me after you went Home.

Love you always.

I’m Not Hopeless I’m Just Realistic

It’s January 3rd and I can’t help but talk about New Year’s Resolutions. I used to have them, every single year… a long list of things I was going to do or not do in order to better myself. My lists were ridiculous, with 15 or more “resolutions” piling up, making me feel empowered and ready to kick ass in the coming year.

Unfortunately, most of those resolutions never happened. I’m not saying that I have never followed through on a promise made to myself in the new year, but if I’m being realistic, I maybe tried to implement 2 or 3 out of 15 things for the first month and then either forgot about them or just gave up. I have always seen a change in myself after every year, though, and I don’t think it’s because of resolutions. I think it is because I am self-motivated to improve.

This year is different as a whole- I do not have a list of actions or bad habits to sever that will ultimately make me a “perfect” version of myself (as if!). However, I have been hearing tiny little nudges in my brain to change some things that aren’t working for me, and I’m having a bit of a crisis.

Some things that I am struggling with, even amongst the freaking amazing life I am living:

  1. Finding Purpose

After spending life as a student, how in the world do people continue their lives and find a career? I am proud of all I have accomplished, but this year, I really want to move towards my dreams and goals. I want to thrive, I don’t want to feel like I’m just surviving, treading water when I can be doing butterfly stroke, you know? I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but the wheels are turning so there’s a start.

2. Loving Myself

I am absolutely not saying I don’t love myself- I do. I am confident and happy and secure with who I am. I just don’t spend enough time loving myself in a way that benefits my health and wellness. I don’t take soothing baths when I know I need one, I don’t take dance classes or do yoga or hike or write enough to calm myself. Being confident is great, but taking time every day to love myself has never happened- I am too busy working or loving other people! And that is completely acceptable, but I need to balance my time loving myself and loving others.

3. Communicating

You know all those videos and posts going around about how bad millennials suck? I disagree with pretty much everything they say, except the part about us having a hard time communicating in friendship situations. I am pretty happy having only one or two very close friends, but I don’t want that to prevent me from forming more friendships with people- I don’t want my independence to be an excuse for not forming healthy, deep bonds with others. I don’t want to prove what they say about millennials.

4. Time Management

I think about this every day- if I work 8 hours a day, take a 1 hour lunch, and spend 40 minutes traveling to and from work, that is almost TEN hours a day that is spent surviving (working to earn a paycheck that sustains my life). That is 41.6% of my day. If I spend 8 hours sleeping, that is another 33.3% of my day. Total, that is 74.9% of my LIFE. The other 25.1%… what the heck am I doing with it? Watching Grey’s Anatomy? That’s not loving myself. That’s being lazy. And sure, I can allow myself an hour of laziness per day. But beyond that, I am using poor time management skills and I am not loving myself! Of course, I will never be ale to spend the rest of my life watching no TV… some days I just have to binge. But come on, Elise! How much time is wasted watching TV when I can be writing, innovating, chasing my dreams? Living life next to this amazing man of mine an our sweet puppy?

5. Being Selfless

This one is the hardest, because I feel like I was so selfless for so long that everyone just trampled all over me and that turned me into the opposite. I want to shut my mouth and listen when others are talking and I want to correct them or say something negative. I want to learn from those wiser than me. I want to put aside my feelings for the betterment of someone else’s day. I want to stop thinking things are about me when they’re not. I want to give more of my time to doing things that will help others. I want to learn humility and patience because those traits are traits of a selfless person. I want to not be hesitant while I type that I want to learn humility and patience.

Basically, this year I want to be realistic in the ways I better myself. I don’t want to spew out a bunch of resolutions that are hopeful but just fizzle out in a short amount of time. I want to make changes within myself that positively change things and people outside of myself.

To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that I won’t forget about some of these in a few months. And that’s okay- because it’s not a hopeless thing to say, just realistic.

Situational Depression

On December 12th, 2015, I moved from Phoenix to Boston. I moved to be with the love of my life, the wonderful, handsome Dylan Ortega who I had been dating long-distance for 9 months. I went from a city that reaches 120 degrees in the summer and doesn’t dip below around 50 degrees in the winter to a city that goes up to 100 degrees in the summer and dips well below 30 degrees in the winter. I went from a city with cactuses and dirt and mountains to a city with cracked sidewalks and man-made parks and green. I went from a state where education is poor to the education capital of the world. I went from living next to a party school to living next to Harvard. I moved from a place where it would be so easy to get a job, I take it for granted to a place where people won’t even look at my resume because I didn’t graduate from an Ivy League school.

Not only was moving from Phoenix to Boston a climate shock, it was a culture shock. Living in the city is like living life with the fast forward button held down.

People all over the world dream of living in San Francisco, New York, and Boston. They dream of the city and the opportunity and the liveliness of it. I never dreamed to live in any of those places. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying about leaving Arizona. Arizona is hot. It’s hot and it’s full of memories and it was time to move, and I knew that. But Arizona itself is not what I miss. Just some parts about it.

Anyway. I shall continue.

I strictly moved to Boston to be with my Dylan, to close the 2,500 mile gap that was between us for 9 months. When I decided to move, I was unsure about Boston. I had visited three times: once in April, once in July, and once in October. I had seen three of the seasons, and wasn’t totally in love with the city, but I knew it was going to be exciting and different and fun, just like my visits. And some parts were (and are) fun and exciting. Unfortunately though, many parts were extremely difficult.

This is what caused my depression and anxiety living in Boston:

  1. Winter

Holy crap, does it get cold in Boston. When people hear I am a transplant from Phoenix, they all ask how I’m handling the cold. If I’m being honest, it’s not the cold that is a problem. You can wear a coat, leggings, a beanie, snow boots, scarves… but you can’t convince the sun to stay out longer. Arizona doesn’t have daylight savings because there’s no daylight to save. There’s enough to go around in Phoenix. Not in Boston… the days in the winter were literally less than 6 hours long. What. The. Heck. Where is the sun? After spending a winter in Boston, I understand why Edgar Allen Poe was so freakin depressing (I am a major fan of his writing, so no disrespect). Jeez, though. The sun is gone, it’s freezing outside, and the sidewalks are covered in deadly ice. I don’t think I left the house for weeks at a time. When I did, I was always mumbling curse words to myself about how stupid the ice was and how much I hated winter. Not to mention, an entire 4 months without sunlight caused me to be white as a ghost. Like a freshly born baby after the redness dies down, I became pale. The paleness of my skin matched my soul, which was barren (please excuse my dramatics, I’m sort of joking, but there’s a little truth in it).

2. Horrible Roommates

When I chose to move to Boston, originally we (Dylan and I) decided it would be best for me to get my own place. As we grew in our relationship and after I visited for 3 weeks in the summer, we realized that living together was the best option as we got along really well and didn’t foresee any issues living together right away. We were 100% correct about that. It was so smooth moving in with him, no issues whatsoever between the two of us. Just excitement for us to finally be together. Anyhow, upon making that decision, instead of Dylan moving out of his perfectly good room during the winter, we figured it was worth a shot to ask his roommates if it was cool for me to move in. In exchange, we agreed to pay extra bills so they’d save some money, instead of talking to the landlord and paying him more. The agreement benefited everyone. They all agreed, so Dylan and I were paying between $200 and $300 extra per month, while the roommates were each saving about $50-$60 a month, with the slight inconvenience of an extra person using the bathroom.

Unfortunately, they turned out to be dirty, abusive, and money-hungry. A few months in, they all ganged up on me and asked me to pay more money to live there, even though we were already paying bills FOR THEM instead of paying the landlord more. The girls were disgusting, leaving wads of hair in the shower drain and blood on the bathroom floor and NEVER cleaning up their dishes. They were incredibly disrespectful, making me feel unwelcome every chance they got, and even though the before deal was agreed upon with the promise of open, comfortable communication, they decided they would try to get me evicted from the apartment.

Now, this all sounds really dramatic. Truthfully, if we are going to break it down into cause and effect, I politely asked the girls/boy to clean up their messes (and I only asked them to clean up the really nasty ones, I actually took on the responsibility of always doing dishes, taking down trash, doing general cleaning here and there) and they got offended. They chose to, instead of talking to me and trying to figure it out, attack me and tattle like toddlers who had a disagreement on the playground. That tattling came along with their hopes that I would be kicked out, which would mean homelessness, seeing as I have NO FRIENDS, NO FAMILY, and NOT ENOUGH MONEY to live in Cambridge. As a person who takes things, well, personally, it’s safe to say I hope I never see those people again. If I do, I will really have to control myself or they will get an earful of crazy white girl mania. When someone hurts me that deeply, I feel O.K. cutting them out of my life, because why would I want to keep a person around who added to my depression, causing me to go on medication and begin to hate myself? Yeah, exactly. Bye-bye, horrible people.

Thankfully, to end this spiel, the depression caused by seven months living with assholes is finally relieved, because Dylan and I moved out of that apartment and into a beautiful six-bedroom house walking distance from my work. And the house is full of dudes. Messy, but not crazy B-words. Just sayin’.

3. Competition

I’ll keep this one short because I just wrote four paragraphs about my arch nemeses. Basically, Boston is so fast-paced, so innovative, so educated, so full of money… that I am completely and utterly intimidated. I am intimidated. The strong, confident, fighter in me is slowly dying. I spent a few months not working during the winter so I could finish school and adjust to the transition, and then I started searching for jobs. The job search, and I mean office jobs, not hourly, bottom-of-the-barrel jobs, caused me to hysterically cry for hours on end while Dylan held me and told me I would find something. After I gave up on the big companies, (and some really strange interviews that I can write about later) I went for some hourly jobs. I worked at Whole Foods. Someone there looked identical to a person who emotionally abused me and took advantage of me, and guess what? They had the same name. How’s that for bad luck? I worked at a hair salon. The owner was terrifying. I spent the entire week sweating like a chubby kid who just ran a mile. Like, literal pools of sweat soaking my entire shirt. Gross. I worked at a comic book store for 3 months, with someone who caused me major anxiety attacks and sent me home crying multiple times. I am now working at a stationery shop, where I sell fountain pens and notebooks and cards. Each job has had its’ perks, but hourly jobs…. ugh. I want Monday-Friday, only working mornings, and vacation time. I want to build friendships with the people I work with and for, just like I did at Whole Foods in Chandler, without working nights and weekends. I need that time with my Dylan. It keeps me sane.

I digress.

I have gotten four jobs (which is great, but I just wanted to be happy with one job) in a city that is so competitive, you basically have to have a college degree to get a job selling T-shirts and comics. Ridiculous. I need something that fulfills me, not something that just sends me home with a paycheck. Not to mention I tried to follow my dream of becoming an interpreter and applied for an interpreter program in Boston, only to be rejected by the program. I’m a summa cum laude graduate, who is 20 years old, who made the Dean’s list almost every semester, who did extra curriculars and worked full time to pay rent. And a stupid school in Boston wouldn’t accept me. Sucks. The competition is ridiculous, and after moving across the country and spending a winter depressed and being abused by roommates, I couldn’t handle it. That was it. Dylan and I talked about moving back to San Diego.

Also, sorry, cause I said that would be short and it was totally not. I’ve just been bottling all these emotions for too long, guys. Too long.

4. Family

Last, but certainly not least family. In fact, this should probably be listed first, but my brain is so full of things to write I couldn’t organize it all.

I did NOT realize how difficult it is to live life thousands of miles from the people who have supported me forever. Not just my mom, dad, and siblings, but my extended family, my best friends, my friends, my old teachers, the people I vaguely know but would recognize at the grocery store… everyone familiar, comforting, and friendly. Even just my regular customers at Whole Foods made my days better while I was waiting to be with my love. Seriously, if you are prone to depression, forget about winter, forget about negative influences, forget about competition or feeling like you’re not good enough, because being away from family trumps ALL of that. When the winter is cold and the days are short, and you have no family to go visit and drink hot cocoa with and play board games or watch movies with, it’ll feel colder and the days will feel shorter. When people around you are terrible and you just want to slap them all in the face and your family isn’t around for you to cry to or complain to or even to protect you from the evil people, your shoulders will sag even lower and your heart will be heavier. And when the competition is fierce, and you don’t have family to encourage you and tell you you’re way better than the rest of the losers out looking for jobs, it’ll seem even more impossible to find work. Having the love of your life by your side is not enough. Dylan has adored me, taken care of me, wiped my tears, fed me, and done everything in his power to make me happy. And he has. But I can never be the same me without my support system, my family, my friends around, in reaching distance.

You never know what you’ve got til it’s gone, right?

Right.

Well, those are the things that are causing/caused my situational depression while here in Boston. It’s not Boston, it’s not the weather or the people. It’s the distance. It’s the difference between here and home. It’s the seclusion. It’s hard. It has been an insanely eye-opening, earth-shattering experience, which I am thankful for. But I’m tired. I feel like I’ve aged five years in 8 months. I’m. Just. Tired. And it’s time to rest.

Big news coming soon!

Love,

Elise

****EDIT- I never wrote about how I have dealt with this depression. Here’s the short version:

  1. Travel to see family in AZ, NJ, CA, TX, etc.
  2.  Buy clothes, and shoes.
  3. Eat. Lots of food. I’ve gained like 15 pounds living here.
  4. Snuggle Dylan and cry in his arms

And you know what, I’m not ashamed. I’m not ashamed or guilty over extra money spend or weight gained or needing to spend time in other states, and I’m not ashamed to admit I spent some time crying over all of the listed problems I have with living in Boston. Dylan has taken excellent care of me and he continues to do so every single day (he’s the best!).

Paper Planes

Paper Planes

My mother could have taught a much better art class, I think to myself while I look at the dozens and dozens of bouquets of flowers in front of me. My mom, with her bright red hair and soft blue eyes and big smile, could have taught us kids how to fold paper planes. She was magic, which no other art teacher could claim, and her paper-folding took us kids to another world.

I stood uncomfortably, regretting my choice to wear heels to my mother’s funeral. Twenty years after my fourth grade art class, my mother just passed away from a cancer that took advantage of her womanhood- breast cancer. All the chemo in the world couldn’t save her. I start to cry thinking about all the things that couldn’t save her. In black from head to toe, I thought back to Mrs. Ysaguirre’s fourth grade art classroom.

She was a boring teacher, only giving us coloring sheets and crayons, never thinking outside the box or teaching anything that challenged us artistically. One day, in my fourth grade art class, my best friend Jake and I were fed up with coloring. We wanted papier mache, we wanted to sculpt clay, and we wanted to be the next Van Goghs or Picassos. Jake and I, in an effort to stay occupied and with bitterness toward our teacher, started grabbing crayons and lining them up three at a time, holding them out in our hands and taking turns chopping the others’ crayons in half. We giggled, and this continued for a few minutes until Mrs. Ysaguirre caught us, yelled something angry in a language we didn’t understand, and sent us both trying to stifle our giggles to the principal’s office. The principal dealt out the normal punishment, a call home to parents and a day of after school detention, or more likely helping the teachers grade papers because they didn’t get paid enough to do it themselves.

Lost in thought, I shifted my weight, hoping that my dad wouldn’t call me to the stage to speak about my mom. After high school, I hadn’t really been in contact with my dad; he had divorced my mom and was a very private person, so if felt like I didn’t know him much at all even though he raised me for 18 years. I continually tried to choke back tears as I thought about that phone call home. The details were vivid in my mind.

I was sitting at the kitchen table, doing homework when he called, and I heard my mother’s end of the conversation. “Hello principal! She was what?” My mother stifled her own giggles. “No, no sir that is very serious, thank you for telling me. I will punish her accordingly.” I looked up from my homework, at my mom’s curly red hair and her friendly smile, and I waited to be sent to my room as punishment. She sat down beside me, and said, “Let’s make a paper plane,” I sighed in relief. If the principal had called my father, he would have been livid, and likely would have grounded me for misbehaving at school, seeing as he wasn’t much of an art person and didn’t understand my frustrations with my foreign art teacher.

My dad still doesn’t understand, I thought. I am a thirty-year-old woman and my dad still doesn’t understand me. I must have been fidgeting a lot, because my brother nudged my arm with his slick black tux-wearing elbow, “Hey, you okay sis?” he asked me compassionately. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just remembering mom’s paper planes.” He immediately understood and squeezed my hand, relieving the pain I was feeling.

Mom began to fold a paper plane, and told me to close my eyes and think about flying. When she finished folding and told me to open them, the room transformed into a clear blue sky, and I looked down and realized my mom and I were flying atop a giant paper plane! Giggling in delight, I hugged my mother and said, “Let’s fly over the ocean!” She replied, “Okay, but I want to show you something first.” We imagined all this together.

Standing hand in hand with my brother at her funeral, all of the memories of my mom’s magical qualities came back, stronger than ever before. Her frizzy red hair, just like Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus books, her artistic ease and ability to create something beautiful out of nothing, her imagination… she was amazing, and even as a thirty-year-old, I thought back to all the adventures we would go on after that first paper plane ride, every time I would get in trouble at school, every time I was sad or depressed or lonely, and even into adulthood when I went through the toughest times in life. When I got pneumonia. When I was mugged in Europe. When I had a miscarriage. Mom was there through it all, and we would always sit down and make paper planes, pretending to fly other places away from our pain, worries, and fears and starting new lives elsewhere. It didn’t matter how old I was, we would pass the time, folding paper planes and talking and throwing them into the air, pretending we would be on an actual plane flying to Paris or Jamaica or New Zealand, where we could just vacation and not be sad.

That day with my mom, the first day we folded paper planes when I was 10 years old, I started to see that imagination could take you anywhere. From that day forward, I taught all my friends how to fold paper planes, starting with my best friend Jake. “Jake, come here!” I half-whisper, half-yelled to him across the hall the next day at school. He groaned, “Kara, you got me in big trouble yesterday!” I hugged him, “I know Jake, but I’ll make it up to you, come on let me show you something!” We ran hand in hand to the cafeteria, where we found an empty table and I helped him fold a paper plane. I told him to use his imagination, and at first he was skeptical but then he finished folding and opened his eyes, and we were flying over a battlefield in what looked like a video game, reaching back to our bow and arrows to shoot into snarling monsters and fire-breathing dragons.

Finally letting go of my brother’s hand because of the pooling sweat, I wiped my hand on my pant leg. My dad was finished speaking finally, and we were to walk through the grass back to the building to eat together and share memories of my mother. I didn’t hear a word he said, but I know it was something generic about how she would be rejoicing in heaven and how she was a good person while she was on Earth. I took a deep breath, and to avoid talking to my dad I ran as quickly as I could while wearing heels to my car to grab some paper, then ran again to catch up with my brothers and their kids. We got into the building and all sat together at a large round table, like at a wedding. My younger brother, Gabriel’s kids were six and ten years old, and I wanted to teach the younger one how to make paper planes.

Jake looked over at me soaring on my paper plane through his imagination, passing treacherous caves in mountains and roaring monsters, and he yelled, “This is so cool!” I smiled, and flew next to him, silently thanking my mother for providing Jake with this magic she had so selflessly shared with me. Jake had a hard time at home, and it didn’t help that I got him into trouble. Jake laughed, and I could see in his eyes that he had forgotten about his own mother, who hits him and calls him mean names at home but treats him really, really nicely in public. We flew and flew until the sun started to go down in Jakes imagination, then when we finally landed we were back in the cafeteria, flying our paper planes around the building.

I leaned over to Isabella, my youngest niece. “Hi sweetie, do you want to do some arts and crafts?” She smiled and said, “Yes Auntie!” I helped her fold a plane, and told her to close her eyes and think about her Barbie movies. She did, and giggled as the magical paper plane took her to another place. Tatum, my other niece, was already a pro, and her grandma had already taught her. She had the magic in her too, just like Isabella and just like me.

Jake was able to escape his mother’s torture from then on, and my mother actually wound up adopting him three years later, when we were thirteen. He became my younger brother, even though it was only by a few months, and his daughters became my nieces. Even though he was not blood related to us, Jake unknowingly was passed down the magic from our mom, and as we all sat at the table waiting to eat food and remember our mother’s life, we made paper planes and remembered her kindness, her love, and most of all, her imagination.

I (Used To) Hate My Feet

When I was in seventh grade, my feet were a size 8 and in the nearly 10 years since then, they have not grown at all. The rest of me has grown into a twenty year old woman, all the rest of me growing- except my feet.

You can probably envision a tiny 12-year-old with size 8 feet that aren’t proportionate with her body… and you can probably also envision the kind of bullying that might have taken place for that 12-year-old girl, who already had a million insecurities.

It wasn’t super often, but occasionally from the seventh grade on through high school, I was told my feet were big. I remember vividly a friend saying that to me, and I remember it causing me to be incredibly insecure about my feet. I don’t have a close-up photo of my feet in high school, but here’s one of me in my natural habitat (the dance room) and my feet are visible:

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So, as you can see, 15-year-old Elise has perfectly normal, not too big or too small feet. All the same, because of a few comments from my friends, I was insecure about them. My feet, which are given to me, not made by me, which are not even part of culture’s standard for beauty (weight, skin, hair, body type)… were hated by me. This is so ridiculous that it’s kind of funny. I hated a part of me I had no control over, a part of me that was so arbitrary and actually a blessing to even have (some people who are in wheelchairs or have lost their limbs) and reflecting on all that time, I am face-palming majorly.

Fast forward almost six years, and I look at the two feet that have walked me through life, on rocks, roads, sidewalks, barefoot through dirt, mud, swimming pools, walked on balance beams and performed on stages across Arizona; feet that have given me balance and recovered from broken bones, feet that have pushed furniture around my room because I was too weak to do it with my hands. My feet never received any credit when I hated them. I only valued them for their appearance, and hid them from people, never wearing flip flops for 7 years of being a teenager.

Here are my feet now:

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And I love them! I love that I can pick things up with my toes, and that I can point my toe beautifully when some people’s bones don’t allow them to, and that when I paint the nails they look even prettier. But what’s different about them now versus when I was 12-19?

Absolutely nothing. What’s different is my attitude towards them. Now, I am a confident woman who does not need to be reassured by people that my feet are visually acceptable, or that any visible part of me is acceptable. No visible part of ANYONE is unacceptable, and it’s time we realize that. It’s time we realize the great detriment to our well-being it is to be told we aren’t “good enough”, “pretty enough”, or “proportionate” enough…

So, if you lend any of your time to hating parts of yourself because of what other people say, you are in for a very miserable life. You will never be in charge of your beauty, and that is unacceptable. And if you spend any time mentally, verbally, or over social media shaming other people for ANY part of their bodies, you should stop immediately. Shaming someone else does NOT build you up, because no matter how beautiful you are on the outside, if your heart is ugly, it shows.

But, I digress… I spent years thinking my feet were ugly, too big, too weird-looking. That was so so silly! I never felt comfortable in flip flops or cute sandals, so I limited my foot wear choices, I always crumbled my toes under my feet (they’re flexible like monkey toes) so that people couldn’t see them in dance class, I always wore socks or ballet shoes when I could to cover them up, and I was always ready to defend myself if anyone made a comment about my feet. Not anymore. If someone ever makes a comment about my feet again, I will use that opportunity to let them know how superficial it is to judge people based on their appearances, and how distasteful it is to make negative comments about a person’s appearance as well.

Let my teenage hatred of my feet remind you that your God-given qualities are so valuable, and your self-confidence and security as a person are so important that you should NEVER let comments about your feet, hands, eyebrows, shoulders, ankles, or any other body part make you hate it.

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Elise