Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We Love Us

To the lady who judged my family: we’re all broken.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, where to start… what to say… I’ll ask this first: Have you ever made mistakes?

Well, unless you’re Jesus, who I don’t think bothers reading my blog, you probably HAVE, in fact, made mistakes. And I’m probably safe in assuming you’ve made a lot of them.

Yet somehow there’s room in your world to cast judgment on others? On my family?

I know a lot of good families. I mean the parents have done right raising the kids, and the kids are all best friends. I know families who do everything together, even deep into adulthood. I know churchgoing families.

I also know a lot of broken families. I mean where the parents have made more than their fair share of mistakes, and some family members won’t even talk to other family members. There’s been hurt and betrayal and all kinds of sad things. I know families afflicted by addiction.

I’ll tell you one thing I don’t know: I don’t know of any perfect families. No. All families have issues, some graver than others, some smaller. Some families just manage to hide their issues better than others. And that’s fine; to each its own.

Every family has a story. Every family is a work in progress (or regress), and that’s because families consist of individuals making their own choices, however they may be affected by their parents or siblings. And I don’t know of any perfect individuals.

Families are a funny thing. You are closer to these people than anyone else. They know you like no one else does. And yet you can go months without seeing each other or talking. And still, you feel this deep bond and connection with them that knows no boundaries. How is that possible? I have only limited spiritual ideas on the topic, but I do know that it’s something that applies to my family.

I have a mom and a dad. They’re not perfect people. They got married. And they created four imperfect little people. And we have great, imperfect relationships with each other. You know what else we have? Perfect love for each other. I mean, OK, maybe we don’t all know how to express it the best way. There have been fights and violence and unimaginable things. But no matter how my family has torn itself apart, one thing we have always had is love.

Now, you can say anything you want about my family. You can say we’re dysfunctional. You can say we are just a bunch of addicts. You can lump us into these categories if you want to. But you aren’t in it, and so you don’t know us.

You don’t know how my mom took us to the doctor, gave us medicine, put Vick’s on our chest and throat, and checked on us in the night. You don’t know her kind heart for others behind her obstinate front.

You don’t know how many risks my dad took in work to provide, the dreams he gave up, or the worries he has for his kids. You don’t know his longsuffering and protectiveness behind his stern face.

You don’t know the immense musical talent of my oldest brother, his ability to listen and validate you, and make you feel like the most important person in the world. You don’t know his charisma that’s hidden behind his pain.

You don’t know the individuality of my second brother, who creates in his own ways and has a desire to be better, who freely offers words of admiration. You don’t know the care he has because of the words he doesn’t say.

You don’t know the sensitivity of my baby brother, whose intelligence and stubbornness is unrivaled by anyone else in my family. You don’t know the physical affection he freely gives because he doesn’t know you yet.

You don’t know me, my ambition, my work ethic, or my intense desire for all of these amazing people to find balance and happiness.

And wow, we are all broken. But we are not the family that hides its issues. Everyone can see, sometimes even the neighbors. We also don’t hide our love; we share it with each other readily and verbally and often. And even though you've judged us, we'd share our love with you too.

Yeah, you can always count on something going wrong between us. We’re all broken, after all. We’ve all made mistakes.

But so are you. So have you.

And if you really knew my family, well, I don’t think you could help but love us. Because we love us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Sweaty Battles

I can still see my grandpa, brown skin, white hair, dark wash fitted jeans, leaning calmly against the end of the family room couch, newspaper in hand. I’d come in, and he’d have some bit of knowledge or instruction to give me. It was sometimes about how I needed to read the newspaper. Other times he’d tell me an inappropriate joke (e.g. What is the German word for a bra? A keepemfromfloppem). And a lot of the time it was some bit of information about health (read: vegetables, exercise, etc.). But one that he reiterated at least three times in my early youth was regarding aluminum zirconium, a main ingredient in most antiperspirants. “You'll get Alzheimer’s!” he insisted.

Being the sweaty little girl that I was, this limited my options immensely. I checked all the ingredients of deodorants at the store. It appeared that those without the dangerous aluminum were ineffective for me. And so, I gave up and stuck with Secret for most of my life.

I’ve battled with sweat and body odor for as long as I can remember. No matter the season or temperature, I sweat. It’s cold out? I sweat. It’s hot? I sweat. Nervous or stressed? I sweat. Antiperspirants didn’t do much against the forces of my sweat glands. In fact, it just made me smell like sweaty powder. AND it ruined all my clothes. There’s either a perma-crust in the armpits of my clothes, a perma-stink, or a yellowish (or brownish) perma-stain. Cute, right? Oh well. That’s the life of a sweaty monster.

Fast forward to the summer of 2014, when one of my good friends stayed at my apartment for a month and insisted that I switch to regular deodorant. She said it would take a little while to transition, that I might need to apply more than once per day, but it would all be fine.

Folks, it’s been a battle for over two years as every deodorant I have tried has simply been unable to do the job. I mean, if armpits were armies, mine would be the biggest and strongest army. For real. Nothing worked.

I made a special trip to Whole Foods and paid an outrageous amount for this stuff.

It just made me smell like sweaty flowers. I was unimpressed and gave it a whole week.

I tried good old Tom’s of Maine, too!

Tom’s wasn’t strong enough for me. I don’t think I gave it very long either.

For a while I stuck with this one below that I actually found at Wal-Mart. I even purchased it more than once, when I ran out.

It’s unscented and liquid. And it was OK. I didn’t smell too bad after a day, but definitely had to reapply. It was nice because it wasn’t too expensive, and I could get it at Wal-Mart. No specialty stores or online orders. I would use this again if I ran out of my current deodorant.

I ordered this from Vitacost, more than likely, but I can’t remember. I just remember it being too dry. It didn’t go on well and didn’t make me feel protected in any way, shape, or form.

Last December I tried this stuff.

It took forever to dry. I smelled fine on the first day but still got very sweaty. By the morning of day two, I smelled like a boys’ locker room with a hint of sweet lavender. Heaven help anyone around me after a morning workout (I’m sorry). This is what I have used for the past 9 months or so since I ordered it, and I’m not sure how, since I definitely had to apply it about twice a day.

I have realized in this battle against my pits that polyester is my sworn enemy. It absorbs and amplifies every smell my body can put out. Unfortunately, my red personal trainer shirts at 24 Hour Fitness are, you guessed it, 100% polyester. And in the summer, this hasn’t been the best situation, especially when I have only two shirts and am at the gym about four nights a week. Since I do laundry on Saturdays, I had to find an environmentally friendly solution for my stinky shirts in the middle of the week (the lavender roll on stuff was not doing the trick, even after a thorough washing and reapplication). So I did what all Internet-age people do: I Googled it. I made a simple mixture of water and baking soda, turned my shirts inside out, and scrubbed the mixture into the sleeves with a toothbrush. Then I let it air dry. This worked! But seriously? Why is this my life?

Do you people understand the extent of my plight of stink? When you’re manually de-odorizing your shirts with baking soda water? Does anyone else do this? Well, I did it all throughout June, July, and August, making a considerable baking soda mess on my black counters each time.

Finally, on a random mid-week grocery store trip after work a few weeks ago, I decided to see what the men’s deodorant selection held in store. Over two years of desperation led me to this moment. I know Old Spice has a wide variety of deodorant (non-antiperspirant), and as good as it smells, I associate it with my grandpa. And no wonder he wore it. It doesn’t have aluminum zirconium. I had the original Old Spice in hand when I spotted something on the bottom shelf. Arm & Hammer Essentials Deodorant.

You see this picture? This is the image of B.O. Salvation. This beautiful orange capped stick of the sweat gods has saved my life. Or my nose. And other people’s noses, if we’re being honest. Everyone in my life should write a thank you note to Arm & Hammer for saving you all from my stench! Except if I’m wearing polyester. Then I still reek.

You guys, after over a day of sweat, I would gladly let you sniff under my arms. I really would. It isn’t an overpowering fragrance (it was the first day or two). It actually somehow acts as an antiperspirant, because I’m sweating MUCH less with this stuff than any of my roll-on or other deodorants. Even better: It’s an average to cheap price, and it’s available anywhere!

It has been a long road wrought with unyielding perspiration and insurmountable odor. But thanks to Arm & Hammer, my armpits and I have won this battle. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

I Went Skydiving

Oh hey guys. I’m alive. And a lot has changed, and yet life feels pretty calm and steady, with a few exceptions.

Brief recap:

I started as a personal trainer at my gym in Murray back in June. Right now it’s just eating up my evenings and my sanity. So I don’t know how much longer I can do it.

On July 1 I started my position at Alpine. About a week or two ago, I fully took over my predecessor’s role. She still is around and helps me with a lot of stuff, but I’ve really tried to step in confidently and make this desk my own.

With the double paychecks in July and August, I decided to have a little fun. I bought myself a Living Social deal to go skydiving in Moab. I bought myself a ukulele. I bought my mom a laptop. I’ve eaten at lots of good restaurants. And of course I saved plenty (you know me).

So this past weekend, I went skydiving with my uncle Bry down in Moab. Yes, he is really my uncle. He is 9 months older than me.

We booked a stay at Motel 6 in Green River, about 30 minutes from our skydiving location. I did that via Priceline. Wow, guys. Never again. Never. Again.

I booked a double bed non-smoking room. They didn’t even confirm the type of room when they charged me for it, so that was super professional. We got to the room, which had a handicapped parking stall in front of it, and that made me a little leery. We got inside, and lo and behold, there was ONE bed, a wood floor, and it smelled like an ash tray.

I tried my best to keep my cool as I went back to the desk to tell them there was a mistake. But they threw up their hands and blamed it on the booking site, claiming those sites just do whatever they want. Um, no, pretty sure you just gave up the rooms to other people that day. They had no vacancy, and neither did any other motel in the area. I asked if I could get any money back, and he said he’d be happy to do that. He then proceeded to give me a full refund, which apparently meant that I was giving up the room. Again, um, no. That’s not what I said. I said I didn’t want to pay $141 for a room that is half the size of what I booked. He told me they’re all the same price, which is just bonkers. They had no roll away beds or cots. And he said he’d look for extra blankets and pillows for us. They never arrived. Cool, thanks.

Guys, this motel was absolutely lovely. The light switch for the bathroom was on the outside of the bathroom (?!). The door barely cleared the entertainment stand when opened. The entertainment stand had some of the finish/lining peeled off. There were poorly repaired holes on the wall near the toilet where a railing had once been. The sink in the bathroom was a corner one, for those who need wheelchair access. I don’t need wheelchair access, however, so the lack of counter space was an obstacle for me. No shampoo or conditioner was provided, only two small bars of soap—good thing I brought my own!

In the shower (no bath, it was a wheelchair friendly shower), there was no soap dish on which to set the bar of soap. Sooooo I had to put it on the rolling chair, which I assume many naked butts have sat on, so that was pretty disconcerting. The water pressure in the shower was pitiful, probably because it was a handheld shower head. Since the entire bathroom was handicapped accessible and tiled, it was super echoey, which meant that anyone outside the bathroom could hear any mildly loud emissions occurring within (sorry, Bry). One of my favorite things about the room is that since it was in the corner of the building, we could hear everyone’s luggage banging down the stairs early in the morning—very pleasant. And the finisher is that my clothes smelled like smoke when I arrived home on Saturday night.

We had dinner at a place nearby called Tamarisk. I had chicken fingers. I felt super grown up.

Since I was curled up super tight all night, my back hurt the next morning. In spite of that, I ran 5 miles in that Podunk little town. On my run I saw lots of camp chairs on the sidewalk and realized that there was probably going to be a parade because “Melon Days” was going on there in Green River. I got back and got ready and waited an hour for my uncle to get ready. An hour! I don’t understand why dudes take so long. Especially him! He has 1/4 the hair on his head that I do, and didn’t have to do his makeup or dry his hair. We finally left and went to get him some coffee and almost didn’t make it out before the parade was supposed to start. Then we headed to Arches.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to Arches National Park. I wish we had more time to spend there, but we had only about 1.5 hours. We took some pictures of the balancing rock, and headed to Delicate Arch. I didn’t expect the hike to be so intense. I was dripping sweat! Dripping! We took some pictures for honestly about five minutes, and had to turn back around to head to skydive. Still, it was beautiful, and I’d love to go back and really spend some time.

As for skydiving… It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I kind of expected like 30-60 minutes of formal training and working with my tandem partner in terms of what to do and what to expect, and maybe a small plane with seats. But no. We got there, they handed us clipboards of waivers to sign, didn’t explain any of it, and put on this ghetto old video explaining the risks we were assuming by jumping.

We arrived and had to call to be let in. We waited for several minutes before a girl with dreadlocks came out to get us. We went into her office, bought our pictures, videos, and USB in advance, and redeemed our vouchers. She didn’t give us any explanations or training either. She told us we would have about a half hour before we got into the air. Nope. It was over an hour.

There were porch swings and lawn chairs strewn about, and a big cooling fan blowing. The atmosphere was almost too casual. The language of the workers was less than appropriate. And there was tension between the owner and one of the jump masters. The owner called us over to put on our harnesses. He was super abrasive (but funny) and told us that people had complained that they hadn’t received enough training, and that they couldn’t breathe up there. So he was “trying to provide more training.” Are you ready for it?: In order to breathe, put your head back, breathe through your nose, or scream, and when they tap your shoulder twice, spread your arms out. That was our training. He asked if I wanted a jump suit; they required goggles and gloves, no helmet or suit. I passed on the onesie.

When our jump masters came over to meet us, my partner introduced himself to Bry, thinking he was jumping with him. He shook his hand and seemed enthusiastic. He realized a couple of minutes later that he was jumping with me. But he didn’t shake my hand. Instead, he tightened my harness, and thought it would be funny to lift me up in the air by my harness. Hilarious. I hope you felt big and powerful and manly, jerk.

He took video of us in front of the plane, but I couldn’t hear what he asked (for my name), so I look like a goofy idiot in the beginning of the video. He didn’t prepare me at all for what he’d say or ask, and didn’t tell me when he would take video. Some preparation would’ve been nice.

The plane was super tiny and cramped and old. There was electrical tape around the windows, which made me nervous. Bry and his partner Kirill had to get in first, because I was going to jump first. The entire way up was pretty miserable for me. I had to sit in a constant Pilates C position. I couldn’t lean back or put my hands down. I couldn’t lean forward because of the harness. It was terrible. My partner took video again in the plane about halfway up, but again I only caught about half of what he said (you can see that in the video as I lean back to ask what he had said).

He “trained” me a little more on the plane. He told me that when the door opened, I needed to put both of my feet on the step. He said, “In the air, push your hips out, and bring your feet back to your butt like a scorpion,” and “when I tap your shoulder, spread your arms out.”

And that was it.

That was my training.

So you’ll pardon my frustration and anger when my partner spent the rest of the time repeating himself and yelling at me because I didn’t understand what he was wanting me to do, or didn’t do it the way he wanted it done.

But wait, back to the plane. The ride up didn’t make me anxious or nervous. Since they were all so cavalier about it, and hadn’t built up any excitement or trained me at all, I had pretty much lost my enthusiasm. I felt very detached from the situation (contrary to what I express in the video). Once he opened the door of the plane, shiz got real. I let out a little scream almost due to protocol, in an attempt to get hyped about what was about to happen—putting on an act of sorts. It just felt surreal. I didn’t feel scared or resistant to jumping out at all. My heart wasn’t beating fast. I really didn’t feel much of anything.

Since the wind was coming up so fast, it was kind of hard to process what was happening. I didn’t look around much or enjoy the view (it just looked like brown desert). I was focused on pushing my hips down and feet back like he said. I was also trying to keep my mouth closed so I could breathe, per the owner’s instructions. My partner had the video going, so I smiled and hoped I didn’t look horrible. It happened really fast, almost too fast for me to process it or enjoy it.

My eyes watered intensely. Like full on tears streamed across my face. He took off my goggles partway down.

The part that I strongly disliked was the end. He released the parachute, and intended to have me steer it. So he told me three times to take the handles. It took me a second to figure out what handles he was talking about, so repeating it three times only made me feel stupid. I took the handles from him. He told me to pull down on the left side. It basically made us spiral around in circles. He then told me to, “Let up.” So I started slowly letting up. While doing so, he says, “Let up, let UP!” full on yelling at me. Sorry, guy, you didn’t tell me we’d be doing this, and you didn’t tell me to let up quickly. I don’t know what the F is going to happen if I let up quickly on a parachute! It’s not like I do this 15 times a day. He then did the same thing in wanting me to transfer the handles back to him. He said, “Let go of the handles, let go of the handles, let GO of the handles.” OH MY GOSH OK SO SORRY I’M NOT DOING THIS TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS THAT YOU DIDN’T COMMUNICATE IN ADVANCE. Freaking a-hole.

He (more patiently) explained how we would land. I needed to lift my knees into 90 degrees, and keep my knees together. Then I needed to straighten my legs in front of me. I was making moaning sounds from this point forward due to nausea as we swayed back and forth making our way down. I was so anxious to land because I was so uncomfortable. The parachute was lifting up on me, but the earth was pulling down on me, making the harness just dig into my thighs as I tried my hardest to keep my legs together as my stomach was churning. I was so, so uncomfortable, and so sick. His yelling and this part of the jump ruined the whole thing for me.

At the last second, he again yelled at me three times to stand up. “Stand up, stand up, STAND UP!” Then I guess the parachute landed a little funny, so he needed me to walk around to the left, but that’s not what he said. He said, “Move over here.” Oh hey, I don’t know if you know this, but you’re behind me, and I don’t know where you’re pointing to. Try directions, douchebag. Left and right are very useful. Thankfully, the only roughness of the landing was on my ankle, which I feel twinge time and again, but it’s fine. I ran two miles on it this morning.

He took more video at the end and asked, “So what’d you think!?” As I was utterly nauseated from the parachute portion, and as he had made me feel like a complete idiot at the end, I wanted to say, “I want to puke, and you were a jerk, that’s what I think.” So I fumbled around for a word I hadn’t used in the video yet, which was “insane.” And really, it wasn’t insane. I didn’t feel excited at all, and didn’t have that awesome adrenaline rush everyone talks about. Then he made out like he was so nice and fun, and thanked me for coming to Canyonlands, made me high five and fist bump him even though he had been treating me like shiz for the past 30 minutes.

As soon as he turned off the video, my face reflected my true feelings. I frowned for the next 30 minutes as I made my way back to the hangar and literally tried not to vomit.

In all, not the experience I had hoped for. I feel bad because so many people were asking how it went and were looking forward to hearing me say how amazing it was. But it wasn’t. It was uncomfortable and stressful. I don’t do well being yelled at. Here's the video if you want to watch it. 

I tried not to talk about how much I disliked it because Bry really enjoyed it. He’s much more laid back than I am, and either he listens better, or his partner was just nicer and more patient. Anyway, I didn’t want to complain to him too much. I felt sick, and he could see that.

I spent all day yesterday (Sunday) stressed because I hadn’t done laundry, cleaned, or grocery shopped as I normally do on Saturdays. I also stressed as I debated about looking at my pictures and videos, afraid they would reflect the thoughts and feelings I had inside. I finally got the courage to look at them at around 9 PM last night. I am super pleased with how it all looks on video—it looks like I had a fantastic time. I wish I felt the same way about it inside.

Since I know you’re wondering: No, I don’t think I’d do it again. If I did, it’d definitely have to be somewhere close by, and cheap, since now I know what to expect, and it’s not that awesome. I’d way rather go on roller coasters, to be honest. Those don’t hurt my thighs, nauseate me, or yell at me.

I’m sad to look at it as $128 (plus $10 tip), $85 for pics/vid/USB, $141 for that motel, and $25 for gas, plus $15 for dinner, and whatever else for water bottles and snacks… Over $400 for an experience I’m basically just able to say I did. (Technically gas and motel was split with my uncle, but still, you get my point). So there it is. Skydiving: I did it.