Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Stand With Planned Parenthood Because They Stood by Me

I've talked about my support of Planned Parenthood before because they've helped me when I needed them. I don't think I've ever shared the story that was the genesis for my appreciation for them, but I thought I'd do so now. Whatever your political inclinations, I am speaking from my own experience and need and I know that I was and am one of millions of women who have needed medical services and Planned Parenthood was there.

Here's the story: It was about 6 months after I moved to Nashville and a year after my mother passed away. I needed to a gynecological screening and all that entailed and didn't have a local recommendation or  a doctor that could fit me into the schedule in a timely manner. I passed the Planned Parenthood office nearly every day on my way to work (nonprofits tend to be grouped together in every city--it's a combination of cheap real estate and being near those you serve), so I made an appointment.

The doctor and nurse practitioner who saw me were great. They were sensitive. They took their time. They listened to me and even consoled me a little when giving my family history I cried a little recounting mom's recent death from breast cancer. I had my exam. They said they'd follow up and I left all taken care and feeling thankful for the service.

Every woman I know has had an irregular Pap smear at one time or another. It happens and most of the time it's not a big deal. However, to have an irregular Pap smear that could be a sign of cancer when you just lost your mom to cancer and you're in a big(ger) city alone is scary as shit. The nurse there must have remembered me and realized this because she called me back into the office to talk through it, took another Pap, didn't let me get hysterical and rushed the results. All because, she said "I knew you probably didn't have anything worry about and I didn't think your mom would want you to worry either."

I don't remember her name. I don't remember exactly what she looked like. I remember she smelled like "Beautiful" from Estee Lauder (which my mom used to wear) and that she was kind to me.

I have had other experiences at Planned Parenthood since that have been just as effective (but not as emotional, thankfully). And I find it utterly ridiculous that when nearly 75 percent of women do not have a primary care physician but do make it a point to see a gynecologist, that we would take away one of the most effective services for them. Or that we'd let men talk down to other women who are qualified to be speaking about women's healthcare simply because those men were elected.

I may not always agree with everything Planned Parenthood does (there has yet to be an organization that I've completely agreed with), but I support them.And I just wanted to share why.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Eight Years And Eight Pounds

Left: Me in September 2007; Middle: Christmas 2009;
Right: July 2015. 
There are days in my life when I feel like magic is possible. Or that some coincidence or divine hand guided me in a direction I never knew was possible. Stretched my abilities or limits. There are times that I like to think it has been the guiding hand of my mom putting me back on a path towards my true goals. I'm not entirely sure that has been the case, but I can't prove it wrong, either.

I always remember the first few days of August much better than the last few days of August. A weird month that has been so meaningful in my life for different reasons. Today is a day to celebrate the happy part of the month.

Eight years ago, for some reason that I'll never really understand, I decided that I was ready to try to be healthy. I was going to fight my obesity with small steps. Quite literally small steps. I took a walk every morning before work. I tried to eat better. And slowly the small steps were making a difference.

I started my journey eight years ago at 239 lbs. About a year later, I was 90 lbs lighter and a lot healthier. With the help and encouragement of my co-workers and Patrick, I ended up losing another eight pounds.  And gaining a lot of self-confidence. I ended up hitting my low only two pounds short of the official 100 lbs lost mark. It kinda pissed me off, but primarily I was pissed because I had reached a plateau.

Since then, I've gone up and down like a yo-yo. A slow-moving yo-yo but a yo-yo nonetheless. I've never come close to hitting 200 lbs again, a vow that I made myself, but I have fluctuated back and forth by 35-40 pounds.

Here I am again. I'm eight pounds away from my lowest weight as an adult. Ten pounds away from saying that I've lost 100 lbs from my heaviest. I work out six days a week and do better on my diet than when I was in my 20s.

And I am thankful. I am thankful for whatever lead me to change my life eight years ago and thankful for whatever has pushed me back toward those changes time and again. I am thankful for my friends and family who have encouraged me and supported me whatever the fluctuation has been.

And I am thankful for Patrick, who loved me at all of these weights, and who has shown me again and again that he always will. Which is freeing.

Eight years. Eight pounds. And the knowledge that this challenge will always be here. Frustrating, but thankful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Remember Whensday: Remember When I Thought I was Black? (Not at all like Rachel Dolezal)

I actually never thought I was black. And I definitely never pulled a Rachel Dolezal. I'm fairly certain my paleness was obvious from birth. But lately I can't help but think about race.

I was born in a small town in Southern Indiana where we had one black family in my elementary school. The daughter of the family was in my grade. The son in my brother's. We weren't in the same class which pretty much dictates the sphere of friendship you have in elementary school, so I never met them.

Then I moved. Evansville was more diverse. Or at least slightly more diverse. My best friend in my neighborhood, which was the slightly older kids' sphere of friendship, was black. (She's actually still black, but she's no longer in my neighborhood. Hence the "was.") To say I didn't notice we were different wouldn't be 100 percent accurate, but to say that it was all that noticed wouldn't be accurate either.

I was just fairly oblivious.

I think oblivion is not a bad place to live in as a kid, at least for as long as you can. But there comes a day in every person's life, no matter what their race, when they suddenly become aware of race in a very real way. Mine was in sixth grade.

Still living in an age of ignorance, my friend asked me if I wanted to join her in being a part of the Academic Olympics she was doing. DID I?? Uh, yes. I am nerd. Always have been. Always will be. The chance to learn the answer to various trivia questions, be a part of a team and spend a Saturday at a commuter college testing my knowledge versus other teams sounded like a dream weekend for me. (Less so for my parents who had to tote my ass around, but that was none of my concern because that's what they were there for, right?)

I went to the meeting and there were so many kids that wanted to do this that they split us into two teams (to be fair, there were about a dozen kids up for this). I was assigned to the team that didn't include the friends who had invited me, but it was cool. I liked meeting new people. I went to the practices, studied my area of expertise (science and history--full on nerd-dom) and had my dad quiz me in the car on the way to the morning meet.

Dad cheered me on and when we advanced, he watched us all the way through the finals. We got second place. He was proud. Even more proud than I really expected him to be, but I basked in the glory. My friends' team didn't place and I got a medal. They were jealous. Here was my team:

A few years later I was going through the pictures and realized something. . . I was the only white person at this event. I asked my dad about it. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I found this picture of my old Academic Olympic team. I don't remember being the only white person there.

Dad: Yeah, it took me a while to realize that you were competing in the African-American Academic Olympics.

Me: There was a separate Academic Olympics? That seems very wrong to me.

Dad: It was in February. For Black History Month. And you were oblivious. I didn't know whether to be proud that you'd won or proud that you didn't seem to notice anything different.

And I didn't. I didn't notice it at all. I didn't notice my team mate's "Black by Popular Demand" t-shirt or notice the ribbing I got from them because "all your answers are George Washington Carver." (Which was not the truth, btw).

Clearly this wasn't the moment that made me come face to face with race.

It was a few months after this picture. I was in Mrs. Woodruff's homeroom in seventh grade. We were placed into homeroom by the very scientific selection of alphabetical order. Luckily my neighborhood friend, Tiffany, was in there with me. I was describing a cute boy I had seen at the Dairy Queen the night before (because it was seventh grade and it was homeroom. Aside from finishing up leftover homework, there was nothing else to do.)  I described the boy as black and the conversation (as I remember it) went as follows:

Her: What did you say?

Me: I said he was black.

Her: What color is my skin?

Me (nervous and feeling like this is a trick question): Brown?

Her: It's African-American. And don't you forget it.

That was the moment when our friendship changed. I don't think I'm unique in this. I can assume, especially in Indiana when you're around a bunch of white people all the time, that finding other people that can relate is comforting in a way that other friendships aren't. I still very much remember that exchange (from memory and journal). I remember it being the first time that I was made very aware that I was different. Which was pretty lucky because I'm sure kids of another race in Evansville or anywhere else like it felt different a long time before seventh grade. That's because I was like most other people where I was from, I wouldn't be made to feel different all that often. But other people that I cared about would.

I could no longer be oblivious to race. And that was both enlightening and sad in ways my seventh grade mind couldn't handle. My adult mind still has a hard time wrapping around it.

When was the first time you were made aware of your race?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Woman without Purpose or Project

I have to admit that I'm feeling a little lost lately. Not physically. I know where I am (most of the time), although my time zones have been all messed up and wreaked havoc on my body lately.

Mentally, though, is a different story. I feel like I don't really have a purpose. Before you start to get all worried about my mental state, just stop. This isn't a cry for help or anything like that. It's simply this: ever since I've been about 8 years old, I've always had a project going. Something creative and fulfilling or creative and ridiculous that kept me looking forward to spending time with my thoughts.

Frankly, those things have been missing from my life lately: creativity and free time.

Everyone is busy and to pretend that I'm special because I've been busy is frankly, just sad. Yes, I've been traveling a lot. Yes, I'm juggling a lot of demanding people all at once. But if I made things a priority, I would get it done. I just have a hard time not being a people pleaser. I don't think this unusual. It's why so many women will push their husbands to the hospital for a sniffle but nearly die of walking pneumonia before they see a doctor themselves.

Instead of prioritizing creativity and art and just a release, I have used my free time to be with my husband and rest. There's nothing wrong with that. I can't think of anyone that would fault me for those choices. But I miss having a purpose.

Do moms feel this way? Like really?

I feel like so many times I read mom blogs or talk to my mom friends and the idea that their kids aren't their purpose in life is something none of them will admit or talk about. I'm not saying kids aren't a worthy endeavor, but I rarely heard dads talk about their kids in the same way. I wonder if moms would have their mom cards revoked for admitting such things.

By contrast, adults without kids are often asked to nail down their life's ambitions and to always have them at the ready to serve the dual-purpose of being a reason for their happiness and existence AND the reason they chose not to have kids. But I'm majorly digressing here on a subject that really is a post for another day.

I need to find a project. A reason to write (a deadline or conference or something to shoot for). A reason to tell stories again. To create stories. To make myself and my creativity a priority.

And to sound less obnoxious when doing it than I have here.

Any advice?

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Tell Me Why

I recently watched the Backstreet Boys documentary, "Show 'Em What Your Made Of," and it took me back. For a few years, I was obsessed with the Backstreet Boys. My friends who knew me then instantly cringe at the memory of me regaling them with the latest single or tales of Nick, AJ, Brian, Kevin and Howie.

To be honest, it was a very tough time in my life when I started listening to BSB. The summer of 1999 was a mixed blessing of working an internship at the Evansville Courier where I met lots of great people, some of which I still keep in touch with today, and working with my mom. But I was not super excited about being home for another summer while my roommates held down the fort in Bloomington.

I got the ear worm that is "I Want It That Way" stuck in my head and decided to capitulate to its charm by blaring it nonstop. It soon turned me into a full-on, non-ironic fan. I bought all albums and bootlegs that I could get my hands on. I watched MTV specials and music videos. My dad even bought me tickets to their concert in Indy for my 21st birthday. Anne and I got tipsy at a Hooters before the concert and figured we were the only non-parents there who were imbibing.

Things really escalated when mom's cancer came back.

That seems weird to say, but looking back, it is actually a habit I have. I throw myself at things, become moderately obsessed. I did it with BSB, and before that Matt Damon, and before that Indiana basketball. I was the only girl I knew that could name the lineup of the 1976 Indiana Hoosier National Championship team. I spent my sophomore year of high school reading every book that had to do with basketball in Indiana. It's why when my friend told me she was teaching at Crispus Attucks in Indy that I immediately said "That's where Oscar Robertson went."

I used to tape every Hoosier basketball game if I wasn't able to watch it live and then stay up late at night, after some sports practice or another, homework and a job to see how the game turned out. Back then basketball was something to think about other than my parents' divorce. It was something I could study that wasn't going to make me deal with my looming future or the weight of the immediate past.

And that's actually what BSB was for me, as well.

I could download songs on the Internet and listen to them for hours on end. They weren't particularly challenging songs. They were pop songs, which was a genre I had sworn off most of high school. I almost felt like I was regressing by liking BSB. I had never dove into the New Kids on The Block fad as a kid, but in my early 20s, I was following a boy band. It didn't make sense to me, and yet it made complete sense to me.

I watched the documentary the other night and it hurt a little. That time of my life hurt and the songs were both smile-inducing and soul-crushing memories. The morning of my mother's funeral, I was in the shower when "I Want It That Way" came on the radio. It wasn't played all that much by that time, but just hearing the chorus that morning made me burst into tears for the first time since the night she'd died.

I will always love the Backstreet Boys. I will never completely understand why. But I like to think they provided me with a respite from my life and thoughts at a time when I really needed it.

And for that, I will always be a fan.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Guess who's back?

Remember me? I'm the person who used to blog. Previously known as Ashley.Currently known as the person who does nothing but work. But I'm changing that. Because 2014 wasn't a ton of fun. It had all the elements of fun, but none of the actual fun. Essentially I was a fun facilitator. I made fun possible for other people. Which was great for them but not so great for me.

That's what my goal is for 2015. Have fun. Be intentional. Make my own decisions and not let decisions make me. Know that I am not that important. There are other that can do things faster, better or just as well as I do. It is not life or death that I mark everything off my to do list every day. It is okay to say no. Limits are my friend. Setting them is my gift to myself. It will make me happy. It will give me sanity. Sanity and happiness will make me more productive. But in the end, no company, client or account will ever love me like my friends and family.

As I take a deep breath and languish in the last few hours before returning to work (yes, I was there on Friday, but when you're at work and you're not getting 20 emails an hour, you're not really feeling like it's work), I will remember to be happy. Have fun. Be intentional (does this sound like a mantra? It might end up being a mantra. Or it might end up being something that I chant to myself in the corner as I'm rocking myself in the fetal position after I get 100 emails within the first 3 hours of work).

Be happy. Have fun. Be intentional.


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