Loo.

First selfie

The past few days have been so hard on us, as we lost our sweet little dog, Loo.

It started with a smaller than usual appetite, followed by some pretty nasty constipation. I researched everything I could to try to help his tummy, from switching to wet food to giving him pumpkin puree, but nothing helped. Soon he stopped dancing around in his crazy, uncoordinated way. Shortly after, he stopped barking when we came home. He lost his zest for life, and all the while, his appetite steadily decreased along with his weight. He just wasn’t the same.

Sunday, Loo refused to eat anything- not even peanut butter or cheese, his two favorites. I had called a vet on Saturday, hoping to get him in on Monday, but it was clear that we were dealing with something far more serious.

We called this his “cinnamon roll”

We took him to the emergency room right after church, where we learned the horrifying news- our little man’s kidneys were failing him. They were unsure whether he had a bacterial infection, disease, or cancer, but one thing was sure: if they didn’t hospitalize him ASAP, the outcome was grim. Quite honestly, even if we decided to put him in the hospital, there was no guarantee that he would ever recover fully, if at all. Loo was done dancing, regardless of if we treated him or not.

Tanner and I made the difficult decision to say goodbye, and decided that I would stay home with Loo on Monday, for his last day on Earth. I invited everyone to come say goodbye- a dog this sweet deserved as much love as possible. He, too, still had so much love to give. So many people came to say goodbye. So many people came and held him while he snuggled quietly in their lap. It might seem weird to have wanted people to come over to say goodbye to a dog- especially one that many hadn’t ever met before- but it felt right, and I was not emotionally in a place where I felt okay being alone for an extended period of time. There were so many tears, but even more cuddles.

Tanner was given the go-ahead from work to head home early, and we were able to sit together for about an hour, holding Loo, praying, and crying. I wanted so badly to be able to tell Loo I was ready to let go, and that he didn’t need to hold on anymore, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

These smiles were a bit forced.

I am very good at going into denial, and throughout the day I kept telling myself that this didn’t have to happen. He didn’t have to die. He would get better… Right?

I had to remind myself that his poor kidneys begged to differ, and there was nothing we could do to guarantee his recovery. Letting him go was the best option for him… Even if it was the worst option for me.

He steadily got worse throughout the day until he would go several seconds between breaths, and we knew that we absolutely had to put him out of his misery.

We went to the vet, and at 4:06 PM, Loo drifted off to heaven, after one final family prayer. Our kind, caring vet gently took him to the other room to take his little paw prints, and Tanner and I held onto each other and wept. I felt like my body was collapsing into itself, the pain hit so hard. I’m never going to see that little booger again. At least, not on this earth.

My boys.

One of the reasons why letting him go was so hard, is I have so many doubts. Will I see him again after this life? Everyone I know says we will, but how do they know? The thought of never seeing him again hurts, it hurts so much. It’s a kind of pain that only people who have lost a dear, loved pet can understand. We were not sealed to Loo. In the next life, he’s not going to be ours. Will he even WANT to see me again? I tried, but I know I was not the perfect “mom”. I made mistakes. I didn’t love him as unconditionally as I should have- he was a stubborn little thing whose strength was NOT obedience, which was frustrating.

I feel like I should have been so much better. I wish I could have spent all day, every day with him. I wish we had known he was sick sooner, so I could have cherished the time we had together more. I wish I had cuddled him more. I wish I had let him sleep with me. I wish, I wish, I wish. I’ve been praying harder than ever that someway, somehow, Loo can forgive me of my shortcomings. I hope he knows that even though he had a tendency to sometimes be annoying, I loved him deeply and am so lucky he chose Tanner and I that day back in September.

Silly pup.

Perhaps it seems silly to be so completely grief-stricken over such a tiny little dog, but he was the first animal who was truly mine and Tanner’s. (I mean, yeah, we have our betta fish Toby, but dogs are a LITTLE different.) He was our baby. He went on so many adventures with us. I wanted to watch him snuggle up to our (human) babies. I wanted him to be in our family pictures.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. At least, if it were up to me, which it never was.

Grieving is so strange. I have never felt so many conflicting emotions before. At least with our family I have full confidence that our separation will be temporary- it’ll feel long, yes, but we are sealed together and cannot be ever TRULY separated. But with pets… I just don’t know. Within the past 48 hours I’ve gone from hopeful to being in complete denial, to utter despair, to anger, and back again. I don’t want to be left alone, but I don’t want to see anyone. I know it was the right thing to do, but I worry that we took him too soon.

The last picture I took of him. I think
he knew it was time to go.

Eventually I will be okay, but right now, I am not- and that fact needs to be okay too. I don’t WANT to be strong. I do not want to try to swallow my pain and put on a brave face. I want to feel this grief. I want to explore these complex emotions and familiarize myself with them. I want to curl up in my sadness and let it wash over me until I feel that I can move on.

I believe that that is an important thing. Grief should not be swallowed. It shouldn’t be ignored, or made to seem as though it’s not as big a deal as it really, truly is. Pain is unpleasant, but we can learn so much from it. So I intend to take my time to heal, to feel better, and to move forward at my own pace, in my own time, in my own way.

Some of that healing may come in the form of a new dog. I need to remember that we are NOT replacing Loo- because a dog like that cannot EVER be replaced. But I need a dog to fill the emptiness that has overtaken this house. It feels like a cave without Loo’s jingling collar and clicking nails. So while we may adopt a new friend sooner rather than later, it’s not because they are a “rebound”. There is a place in our family that can only be filled with furry paws and a wet nose, and we need that.

Friends, losing a pet hurts. I know that now. I am so sorry for anything I may have ever done to minimize your suffering. I stand with you. I feel your hurt, and understand it. Even if your sweet, furry (or feathered!) friend didn’t pass, but was given up, it stings. Come over and we will talk it out. I can’t promise I won’t cry, but I can promise that it will feel good to talk about it with someone who understands. Call me. ♥

-Haeley

I hope to see you again someday, sweetheart.

Birth control.

Today I officially stopped taking my birth control.

I didn’t stop because we’re trying to get pregnant just yet- but if we did, we would be so excited! We’re still enjoying our time alone though. ;^)

I didn’t stop because of some moral objection to family planning. I believe that birth control is a blessing to those that need/use it, and I’ll admit it’s been terribly convenient to not have to worry about condoms and such.

I stopped because loathing myself was not worth the convenience of popping a pill every morning.

Crying every Sunday because I couldn’t fit my brand new dress wasn’t worth the lighter periods every month.

Dreading and actively avoiding family gatherings so they couldn’t see my weight gain wasn’t worth not having a baby before we felt ready.

I’m not writing this post to scare everyone away from ever using birth control pills, because they are very helpful to many people and work just fine with no adverse effects, but all bodies are different, and I felt like it was important to share my story.

Before we got married, we discussed birth control. I REALLY did not want to take the pill because I’d heard stories about women who gained a lot of weight, got really emotional, etc. I didn’t want to be one of them. I didn’t want to sacrifice the body I’d worked so hard for in order to keep from getting pregnant. If I was going to gain weight, I would prefer it be from pregnancy rather than a side effect of pregnancy prevention. Does that make sense?

I did my research, and decided that I would try an IUD. We weren’t planning on having a baby for a while, it wouldn’t require any pills, and I wouldn’t have to refill a prescription. And- my insurance covered it! I knew the risks, and decided to take a chance. I was NOT going to take a pill if I could help it.

When I went into the doctor’s office, I felt confident. I was informed, and I was prepared for anything.

Except finding out I wasn’t physically able to get an IUD.

I have a retroverted uterus, which means it tilts toward my spine rather than towards my belly button, like most people. It’s also smaller, because I haven’t been pregnant before. Having a retroverted uterus isn’t a bad thing, and I shouldn’t suffer infertility because of it, but my doctor told me that IUD insertion would most likely be extremely painful and it might not work very well because of how small my uterus is. (IUD’s are often recommended to women who have given birth previously, because their uteruses are usually more able to keep the IUD properly in place.)

After I was told this, I was crushed, to say the least. I asked what my other options were, and I was given a few samples of the NuvaRing, which I LOVED. Unfortunately, my insurance covered very little of the prescription, so it cost over $100 for a two-month prescription. So after I finished my sample of the NuvaRing, I called my doctor and was prescribed a pill.

At first, I didn’t notice too much of a difference. It was annoying to have to remember to take it every single day, but being able to control my periods was nice. Plus, the pills were small enough to swallow without water, which made taking them much easier, as I could take them anywhere. I figured it wouldn’t be so bad… Until I began gaining weight.

Now, the birth control is not completely to blame for this. I began eating sugar again, and my eating habits changed to accommodate my new husband’s and his family’s while we lived with them. Still, I do not believe that I could possibly have gained THAT much weight from making a slight change alone. I went from a size 8 to a 16 in less than 8 months. I went from a medium in shirt size to an XL, and even have had to purchase 1X and 2X.

Going from the best shape of my life to arguably the absolute worst shape has been one of the most painful, gut-wrenching experiences I’ve ever been through. I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire life, and watching all of my hard work fade away so quickly has hurt in ways I never thought possible. Many, many nights have been spent sobbing into my husband’s shoulder. The kind of weeping where you can’t help but make noises like a dying animal. The kind of sobs that shake you until you’re not sure how to feel normal again. It’s in those moments where I enter a dark place. There’s no other way to describe it other than dark, emotionally, mentally, and almost physically. I sink into myself when I enter that place. It’s scary and it’s complete and utter misery.

I never knew the weight of the word hate until I was using it to describe how I felt about myself. Hate is such an awful word, and it legitimately hurts to say when referencing yourself. The weirdest part of it all was when I would say it aloud, I felt a deep, profound sadness, different from anything I’ve felt before. It almost felt as though when I said that I hated myself, I could feel God’s pain at hearing those words about one of His children. I could imagine Him desperately trying to comfort me while trying not to show how deeply I’d hurt Him.

Since then, I’ve tried not to use the word ‘hate’ in reference to myself, which can get difficult, because as the weeks have gone by, I’ve just gotten bigger and bigger and have lost touch with the girl I used to be. I miss her. I miss wanting to show off my beautiful self, and being proud of how well I took care of myself. I want to feel sexy and desirable for once in my marriage.

And starting today, I’m going to win her back. I’m going to get back to where I was, and more.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is this: Ladies, do your research thoroughly, and after you’ve done that, go with your gut. There are HUNDREDS of methods of contraception you can use. Don’t limit yourself! Condoms may not be your preferred method of birth control, but they can be very effective if used correctly. Same goes with spermicides. Be smart about birth control, and don’t let anyone bully or pressure you into thinking one method is better for you than others. Because, let’s be honest, some birth control methods are better than others, but often it’s a case by case thing. Above all, if you don’t want to do something, a lot of the time you don’t have to. I wish I had known this when I started the pill, because then I wouldn’t have ever TAKEN the pill to begin with! It’s MY body, and I get to choose my birth control. And if my birth control ever fails and we are blessed with a baby, it will be just that- a blessing. In the meantime, I will do what I feel comfortable with, and what I feel is best for my body.

~Haeley

Ps- I really hope this post hasn’t come off as overly preachy or self-absorbed. I’ve tried my best to be very transparent and honest in the writing of this, and as such, I think I’ve used a lot of I’s and me’s and my’s, but it’s a personal story, so you’re going to get personal pronouns. I hope this post helps someone to be brave, or, at the very least, feel less alone. Birth control sucks, but we’re in this together.

Pps- if you or someone you love is looking at birth control options, here are some links I’ve found to be helpful:

  • The RxList website is very helpful if you’re looking at potential side effects of various birth controls and other medications. 
  • Skinny Mom has some GREAT insight on natural family planning.
  • There are now some apps that supposedly help gain easier access to birth control.

Our Engagement Story.

Today is our one year anniversary of when we got engaged-on my roommate’s birthday, no less. I’m only *slightly* sorry I kinda stole her thunder that year…. I love you, Grettel!

Anyway, I know it’s a little out of the order I’ve had for writing down our story (does anyone even care that I’m writing it?), but dudes. It’s our anniversary, and I HAVE to celebrate/commemorate somehow.

Let’s get one thing out in the open: my engagement was not a romantic affair. There were no flowers, no soft music, no flash mobs, no elaborate speeches. I did get a spider though, and you’ll hear about that in a minute. All in all, it wasn’t the proposal that dreams are made of, that much is true. But I think the more important thing is the fact that I actually got engaged (and later, married), and the mechanics of it all don’t matter half as much in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, let’s actually start the story.

Once we decided that we were going to get married, we started planning on getting married in December. That way, we would have all year to save money and prepare as much as we could, and we rationalized that family is usually in town during December, so it would be easier to get them to spare a day for us. Tanner discussed it with his mother, who promptly told him that December was actually NOT a great idea, because Christmastime is the most wonderful stressful time of the year, and it would be more difficult to organize everything, get married, go on a honeymoon, and still enjoy Christmas. (Bless you, Terra. Bless. You.) Also, let’s be real. With Christmas so close, we probably wouldn’t get as many presents. (I know, I know, selfish, but presents are so helpful to newlyweds!!) We talked it over, and decided to plan for sometime around May.

So with the date officially unofficially set, and seeing as it was the middle of February, Tanner needed to pop the question SOON. When the question of rings came up, Tanner’s mother remembered that she had a ring from her grandmother, Tanner’s great grandmother. Again, we talked about it and decided that that ring would work out perfectly. I’ve always had a love for vintage things, this ring was a precious family heirloom, and it wouldn’t cost poor Tanner an arm, a leg, and our firstborn child.

The second week of February, I left for St. George, Utah to attend a theatre festival for a week. Originally, Tanner and I had planned to go to his grandmother’s boat over the weekend to hang out with his family and have a nice weekend away. Unfortunately, the St. George trip made that impossible, so I went to Utah and Tanner went to the lake. On my way home from St. George, Tanner and I were texting and he asked if I wanted to go to the lake the next weekend, because apparently his grandmother had some ‘stuff’ she had to do there. Later I learned that she really DID have things she needed to do, but I thought this was just a cover for his real intentions. I just knew I was getting engaged next weekend, and shared the news with everyone in the car.

Fast-forwarding to the next weekend, we made our way to Roosevelt Lake to meet up with his family. I was able to meet his grandma, and we had a lovely evening on the dock. While we were there, his mom got up and asked Tanner to come with her. We both got up to go, but she clarified that she just needed Tanner. I immediately got butterflies. She’s going to give Tanner the ring!!!!!!!!!!! I thought to myself. I tried not to look at the boat, but I couldn’t help myself. I took a quick peek just as I saw Tanner’s mom hand over a tiny white box. Now I knew without a doubt that I was getting engaged soon. We spent the rest of the evening together, and I pretended not to know about what had just happened.

The next morning, I got up and saw Tanner. He pulled me aside to tell me that, yes, he had the ring, and even though he wasn’t going to propose just yet, his mom felt I needed to see the ring in person to decide whether I wanted it or not. Tanner said he was going to go get it, and disappeared in the back room of the boat for about ten minutes. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I was SO IMPATIENT WHY WASN’T HE SHOWING ME MY RING YET?!?!?!?!?!
He came back a few minutes later, and said he was in the bathroom. He avoided all my questions about the ring, and eventually I gave up. I would be seeing it soon anyway.

We went out to the dock, where his family was sitting. We joined them, and immediately he and his mom started texting. I felt super uncomfortable because I was worried that Tanner was telling his mom that I had been asking about the ring, and I wondered if I shouldn’t have done that. I looked back and forth between the two, watching his mother’s facial expression get more and more incredulous. Oh, great, I wasn’t supposed to ask about the ring. She hates me, I know it. What have I done? Ugh ugh ugh she’s not even officially my mother in law, and I’ve already screwed up. While I panicked over my apparent stupidity and impatience, Tanner got up and went to the boat without me. Tanner’s mother, grandmother, and I sat in silence until his mom asked if I wanted to go on a paddleboat ride with Tanner. I said that it would be fun, while secretly worrying that she was just trying to get rid of my face so she could enjoy the lake in peace for a bit. Tanner returned, and his mom announced that the two of us were going to go on a paddleboat ride. Tanner agreed, we got into the boat, and his mom snapped a picture of us.

Low quality because this is a picture of a picture
 from a picture on a phone. Figure that one out, dudes.

We paddled out in silence until I was sure we were out of earshot, and then I asked Tanner what was wrong. He’d been acting really weird all of a sudden, and I was worried I had offended his mom somehow, and I just. Needed. Answers.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he said in a voice that CLEARLY INDICATED THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG.
“….Are you sure, cuz it sure seems like something’s wrong,” I said. “Also, is your mom okay? I’m worried I might have offended her somehow. Why were you guys texting each other?”
“No, you haven’t offended her, it’s just…. Okay. My mom wants me to propose to you today. Like, right now.”

Oh. Oh. Oh my sweet goodness, I am about to be Betrothed. My stomach did somersaults while I tried to maintain my composure. We talked about the pros and cons involving getting engaged in the next few minutes, the major issue being that he hadn’t asked my dad for permission. He wanted to ask him in person, especially since he’d only met him just once before and didn’t want to spoil my dad’s opinion of him. But on the other hand, we were practically engaged already, and it seemed silly to waste any more time.

During this time, I had been staring straight ahead and paddling as hard as I could, but I decided we should focus on each other and the conversation we were having. I stopped paddling, and looked over at Tanner just as a HUGE SPIDER
CRAWLED
DOWN
HIS
FACE. Now, I pride myself on not being afraid of spiders, but this was an exception. There was a huge spider on my beloved’s FACE. HIS FACE, PEOPLE. What if it bit him? What if it was radioactive? I can’t handle the responsibility of being Spiderman’s wife!

So I did the only responsible thing left to do, and screamed repeatedly. Tanner casually swiped the spider off his face and INTO MY SIDE OF THE BOAT. I continued screaming, and Tanner stomped the spider to death. He then tried to continue the conversation as if he wasn’t in mortal danger mere seconds ago. I, on the other hand, was still quite rattled, so I hyperventilated and mumbled such nonsense as, “such a… Big spider,” and “ohmygosh on your FACE.” Tanner eventually got tired of me reacting like a normal person and asked me to calm down. I took some deep breaths and eventually returned to normal.

We still hadn’t decided whether or not he should propose right then, but we DID decide that I should at least see the ring. Tanner pulled it out of his pocket, and I opened the box. Inside was a dainty white gold ring with a round, blue stone adorning the top. It shone beautifully in the sunlight, and made a star pattern appear on the stone. It was beautiful. I tried it on, admired it for a moment, and slid it off my finger. I awkwardly handed it back to Tanner, who held it in his hands, sighed, and said: “will you marry me?”
I shrugged, and said “Sure!”

Let’s take a brief moment to realize I had just shrugged off MY OWN PROPOSAL. AND THEN SAID ‘SURE’ LIKE SOME IDIOT. In my defense, however, ever since we had decided to get married, we would joke around and say stuff like: “hey, wanna get married sometime?” and then the other would say something like: “yeah, I guess. I’m not doing anything right now, anyway.” We never took these seriously. They were never real proposals, so I just assumed that this was the same thing! I was expecting something a little more elaborate, so the fact that Tanner had actually proposed went right over my head. Until I saw his face and realized he was serious. Then I quickly said, “I mean, YES! Yes, of course!!!” He put the ring back on my finger and we kissed.

Then we realized he hadn’t asked my father. Crap.
Tanner dialed his number, and as he stumbled over his words (he was a nervous wreck and it was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen), I admired my beautiful new ring, snapped some pictures, and tried to process the fact that I was FINALLY going to get married.

Okay, I realize that saying FINALLY is a little dumb, considering the fact that A) I had just barely turned 19 a few weeks ago, and B) we’d been dating for only 5 weeks. But I’ve been wanting to get married since I was 12, so it felt like a long time to me. Cut me some slack.

My dad gave Tanner his blessing, and when Tanner told me, the tears came. This was really happening! We decided to hold off on calling everyone for a little bit, and began paddling back out.

Apparently, I’m just not allowed to have a nice moment ever, because this was the moment that my bladder decided it needed some attention too. So we paddled as fast as we could back to the docks, where Tanner’s mom was waiting for us. She looked at us expectantly as I jumped out of the boat and ran for the bathroom. I also had no idea what to say to everyone (I’m guessing that shouting “I’m ENGAGED, b*tches! wouldn’t have gone over well), and wanted a moment to myself to collect my thoughts, so it was the perfect crime. As soon as I walked out of the bathroom though, I was ambushed by my fiance (fiance. Not boyfriend anymore! Holy cow!), and we *officially* announced to everyone the happy news.

We went on a celebratory boat ride, where I finally called my parents.

 I called my mom first, but she didn’t answer, so I tried my dad. He answered, and we reveled in the craziness of it all. Before he hung up, though, he said that he wanted to tell my mom the good news.

Oh dear.

My mom called me back just minutes after I got off the phone with my dad, and I had to figure out a backup plan, fast. So I tried to casually ask her if we could stop by later that afternoon, and she said of course. The whole time I was talking to her, my new family looked at me like I was going crazy. What the heck was wrong with me, not telling her I had just gotten ENGAGED? After I got off the phone with her, I explained the situation, and they forgave me.

The rest of the day went by in a blur, as phone calls were made, a date was set, and preparations were begun. I was engaged to the boy I loved most, and we were completely unprepared for the next hectic 90 days.

~Haeley

2015….

A year ago tonight I sat upstairs at my parents house, cuddling the dog so she wouldn’t be afraid of the fireworks. A year ago today I was texting Tanner as it got closer and closer to midnight. He actually wanted to come over and spend the holiday with me, but we decided against it. At that point we were just friends, and I had no idea that in about a week’s time we would share our first kiss. I had no idea that almost two months later, I would be engaged. I had no idea that by midnight of 2015, I would be sitting in my apartment next to my husband, with our dog snuggled up by our feet.

2015 was quite the year. One of my favorite things to do when the time comes is to look back on the past year and see how different everything has become. This year, however, was especially crazy. So many things have happened in such a short time that it doesn’t seem possible for it all to have happened in a year! And yet, somehow, it all did. And we miraculously survived it all, too!

I honestly can’t believe how extremely blessed I have been this year. I married my sweetheart, gained an absolutely incredible new family, and have grown in so many ways. I think that the person I was at the beginning of the year would be proud of who I am now, and that’s comforting. I don’t feel that this year was a year of digression for me. It was a year of fantastic progress! I have become so much more independent! I have learned what it means to put someone else’s needs ahead of mine, and I have learned just how enjoyable it is to take care of someone. I really believe I was born to be a wife and (someday) a mother. Tanner has brought out a strength in me I didn’t know I had, and he has helped me grow and become someone I needed to be. I hope I have had the same effect on him.

This year also brought along difficult challenges. Learning to live with someone so completely different from you takes a lot of compromising and giving when you don’t really want to. I never realized how selfish I was until I got married, which is rough. I’ve cried more this year than I have in many years past. I’ve had to learn that sometimes you’re wrong, and you need to accept it. And I’ve also learned that sometimes you need to realize that neither of you will win, and the sooner you kiss and make up, the better. I’ve discovered that you can’t be passive about something important to you- even though you’re married now, you still need to stick up for yourself. You are still important.

All in all, 2015 was kind of a mess. But it was such a beautiful one.

-Haeley

Part 5: Winter Formal

*I totally suck at writing our story, but I’m going to try to be more diligent about it.*

Ever the gentleman, Tanner did not want to have asked me to a dance solely through text message. So  he carefully and cleverly crafted the perfect invitation over the course of the next few days.

Tanner kidnapped me one night, and we drove around for a little bit, listening to the Winter Formal playlist he painstakingly put together. Then we pulled into the park, where we danced in the glow of his headlights. He gave me a rose with a note tied to it (it said “I wanted to give this flower something beautiful to look at” ((I melted. He’s the sweetest)), in addition to a thumb drive which housed an official cuddle buddy application (which was HILARIOUS). We danced until it started raining, and then went to our respective homes. And so it was set. I had a date to Winter Formal, and I was determined to have fun!

Until the week of Winter Formal came around, and I began to feel uneasy about my friendship with him. He had told me he liked me, and didn’t expect his feelings to be reciprocated, and he made sure I knew he would respect my decision in regards to who I liked. Still, he was very open about how much he liked me, and flirted with me constantly. I began worrying that he was reading too much into our friendship, and that even though he knew I liked someone else, he was still trying. 


While I loved the attention (don’t hate me, who doesn’t love attention?), I didn’t want to lead him on. I told myself I didn’t want to make things awkward, however, so of course I made things really awkward. Because that is how I roll. 

I started unconsciously leaning away from him when we sat together at devotional, and I stopped texting him back as often as I had been previously. Because the most graceful way to let someone know you’re not interested is to completely ignore them. Right?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as smooth about distancing myself from him as I thought I was, and Tanner caught on. 

The day before Winter Formal, he messaged me on Facebook. We made small talk for a little bit, but eventually things took a turn for the heavy. We talked about how I liked someone else, and Tanner told me that all he wanted was for me to be happy, and if that meant me dating someone else, then he would be okay with it. He said that as long as being friend-zoned meant we could still be friends, then he would love to remain so. We agreed to meet at the institute building to attend a YSA event together-just as friends. 

After I put down my phone, I cried. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. This was my best friend- the person I spent the most time with, and I had just broken his heart. Even though our entire conversation was through Facebook, I could just picture him shrugging it all off, trying to seem sincere and like he really was happy that it looked like I might date someone else. I knew that that wasn’t the case, however. I knew that he was hurt, no matter what he said. He said this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and he was sure it wouldn’t be the last.

I hated that. I hated that girls had done that to someone as wonderful as him in the past, I hated that I had just done that to him, and I hated the thought of anyone else doing that to him in the future. 

The worst part was imagining him with someone else. That made me feel sick. He was MY best friend! I didn’t want some stupid girl getting in between us! As I thought about it more, I realized I was being ridiculous. I didn’t own him, I wasn’t romantically interested… Right? Plus, it was absurd to not want him to have a girlfriend, especially since he had just told me he hoped I ended up with who I wanted. I was being selfish.

I walked into the Institute building and immediately found Tanner. We awkwardly sat at the same table, chatting and pretending I hadn’t just ripped his heart out. Eventually, we decided that the Institute event was boring, one thing led to another, and we ended up leaving early to walk around Wal-Mart. The evening ended with us as friendly as before that terrible conversation. We even held hands, which confused us both to no end. I had literally JUST friend zoned him. What the heck was I doing?! His hands were just so warm and comforting. 

I know. I hate me too.

At the end of the night, he dropped me off and we agreed to meet the next morning for our day date before Winter Formal.

The next morning, Tanner picked me up and we drove around aimlessly for a while before deciding to watch a movie. The problem was, my roommates were doing something at my apartment, and his dorm was less than ideal, so we eventually sat in the Institute parking lot in his car, and watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. We got frozen yogurt afterwards, then Tanner dropped me off so he could go to a choir rehearsal. 

That evening, I got ready as carefully as I could, and to be honest, I was looking hot. I snapped a few selfies (for posterity, duh), and waited for my date to arrive. My roommates were getting ready to go too, and in the midst of the excitement, Tanner knocked on the door. My roommates sprang into action, locking the door and telling me to hide so I could do a “big reveal”, but that’s not my speed, so I fought through the small crowd of shrieking girls, and flung open the door to reveal a flustered Tanner. I brought him in amid more shrieking, and my roommates insisted on taking pictures. I deleted most of them because they were super blurry, but I kept this one:

We walked across the street to the dance, and Tanner told me I looked absolutely beautiful. Once there, we discovered that the dance didn’t start for at least another hour, so we did what we always did when boredom struck- we went to Walmart.

It also helped that I told him I’d been craving blueberry muffins, so I got some of those too. ;^)

Finally, we headed to the dance where the party was starting in earnest. Tanner was the perfect dance partner, and we danced to the slow songs, rocked out to the fast songs, and sat on the sidelines during the stupid songs. I loved it. We were sitting at a table talking when one of my favorite slow songs came on. I hopped up and dragged Tanner on to the dance floor, where we danced underneath a lantern. I swear this moment could have come straight out of a movie, the way he held me close and looked at me like I was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. I didn’t want the song to end, and when it did, we sat down and I realized I had some SERIOUS butterflies goin’ on. 

This is the song we danced to. It still gives me butterflies.


We danced the rest of the evening until the DJ announced the last song, and at the end, he reminded us that it was a full moon…. Meaning that if you kissed someone at midnight, under the clock tower, the two of you would become True Gila Monsters. A prestigious title, indeed. I toyed with the idea of kissing Tanner. and the thought gave me a serious case of nervous giggles. Tanner proceeded to bug me about it, trying to get me to talk, but I refused to say anything, because I wasn’t sure if I was absolutely positive that I wanted to kiss him. I like to be sure about these things, especially since Tanner’s heart was on the line, and I did not want to hurt him again. 

And so the evening passed, and I didn’t kiss him. But as he dropped me off and we were hugging goodbye, I held him extra close. But at the last moment, I chickened out. I just had to be positive.

It was super hard to sleep that night, because I kept thinking about that dance, and how close we were to kissing.

~Haeley

We moved!

Oh my goodness, friends, I have missed you. 

Unless you are completely disconnected from all my other forms of social media, then it might surprise you to learn that as of October 16, 2015, Tanner and I are independent adults with our own apartment!
And up until a week ago, we had no internet- ie, no way to blog. :^( and that’s so sad, because I’ve wanted so badly to keep you all updated on what’s been going on lately. So without further ado, I will now word vomit all over this page. Be prepared for multiple posts.
If I’ve learned anything through the exhausting process that is apartment hunting, it is the importance of trusting in the Lord and being patient with His plan for you. There were so many nights that I just cried and cried because I felt like nothing was ever going to come of my efforts to move us, and we wouldn’t be able to move out and learn how to be our own little family. But eventually I came to the realization that this issue was bigger than me, and I needed to put my trust in the Lord. And so I started praying for guidance, and things began to click.
One weekend while we were in Mesa looking at apartments, I was talking to my mom when she suggested I reach out to one of my friends who had lived in a nice complex with her husband when they were first married. I hadn’t thought of that, so I shot her a text right away. She responded quickly and gave me a bunch of options they had looked at, in addition to the apartment they eventually decided on. I logged on to the websites, and found that only one of the complexes had any vacancies- the same apartment complex my friend and her husband lived in! Luckily, I had been to their apartment numerous times, so I knew what it looked like and what it offered.
So, like any highly impulsive person would do, I sent an inquiry before talking to Tanner about it. I had been trying so hard to find us something, and this just felt so right, that I couldn’t wait. And I didn’t.
The staff responded quickly, and we sent in an application even quicker. Things were finally happening! We would get this apartment, I was sure of it. 
Our application passed, and we were then ready for the next steps- placing a holding deposit, which we sent in post haste. The leasing agent called us a few days later and informed us that they could hold the apartment for about a week, in which time we had to find jobs in the city, or we wouldn’t be approved to move in. Turns out you need to be gainfully employed before moving in somewhere- who knew? 
We figured it wouldn’t be a problem. We’d been filling out job applications like it was, well, our job. We had to hear back from someone soon! I set up an account on Care.com in order to apply for nannying positions. I got a few requests, and set up some interviews. Things were falling into place! 
Or so it seemed. 
On our way home from another weekend in Mesa, after some interviews, I found out that neither of us were hired for any of the positions we applied for. To make matters worse, the leasing office called us and informed us that our week was up, and unless we had proof of employment right then, our only hope of getting into the apartment would be to find a cosigner. We had three days.
We contacted our family, to no avail. Nobody could afford the risk that came with being a cosigner, and frankly, I didn’t blame them one bit. I didn’t want a cosigner anyway, yet I still felt disappointed. Everything seemed so promising! Why couldn’t one thing work out for us? Just one?
I tried not to let it bother me, but when we had to call the complex and let them know that we couldn’t lease from them, I was shattered. I had tried so hard! I just wanted to find a home for me, my sweet husband, and our pets.
That Sunday, a fast Sunday, we were sitting in the foyer of the church building, discussing what our next course of action would be. One of the ladies in Relief Society walked by, and stopped to ask if I had put my information in the Relief Society directory. I answered that no, I hadn’t, and we were in fact planning to move soon. Her face lit up, and she asked if we had found a place to live yet. We said we were still looking, and she wrote down her phone number and gave it to me. She had just decided to rent out her little house in Mesa, and hadn’t quite figured out all the logistics, but told us to contact her and we would figure it out.
This seemed like an answer to our prayers! Not only would we get a place to live, we could potentially live in a HOUSE, rather than an apartment! We daydreamed about all the possibilities ahead of us, and excitedly told our family about the prospect of starting our lives together in a house. 
The next morning, we found out that both of us got the jobs we had applied for, and it didn’t seem like life could get any better. Then we called the lady we could possibly rent from, and found out that rent there was far out of our price range. 
I felt completely deflated. Was Mesa simply not in the cards for us? Were we supposed to stay in Cottonwood, a town that had next to no opportunities for newlyweds? 
As I sat upstairs, trying not to completely lose it, Tanner came in. 
“We should call the apartment complex again. They probably still have the slot open for us, and we can move in next week.”
“I doubt it. I checked the website this morning, and the earliest availability is in late November. We can’t wait that long, we should just give up.”
“Well, let me at least check. Give me their phone number and I’ll call.” I reluctantly gave him the number to the apartments, and he called.
When he hung up, he informed me that we had called just in time! There was a slot still open, and they could even reapply our holding deposit! We finally, finally set a moving date and we began preparations.
We moved on October 16th, and life has been so wonderful. Sure, we’ve had ups and downs, and we’re still figuring out this whole “responsibility” thing, but being married has become even more enjoyable now that we can focus exclusively on each other. I don’t mean to say that living with my in-laws was detrimental to our marriage, but it was difficult at times to try to adjust to being married while at the same time adjusting to a new side of the family. It’s so nice to be able to watch our apartment progress from rooms full of boxes to our first home. 
Saturday mornings have become my favorite part of the week, as Tanner and I get to spend time with just each other, waking up late, snuggling our dog, and making breakfast, and staying in our underwear for as long as we please. ;^)
I truly cannot believe how blessed we are. I read a quote while we were in the thick of apartment hunting, that read: “If a door closes, open it back up. It’s a door. That’s how they work.” That’s what kept me going through all the rejection, and disappointment. I’ve learned to rely more heavily on the Lord, but I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to be stubborn. I am so lucky to be living this crazy life alongside my best friend. It’s messy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
~Haeley

Meet Loo!

Relatively early on in our courtship, Tanner discovered that he was, in fact, dating a crazy dog lady. Dogs are my absolute favorite animals, and it’s been that way for years. From a young age I would only read books about dogs, I drew dogs, and when I discovered the Internet, I spent my time searching “funny dog pictures” on Google. So it was only a matter of time before I had a dog of my own, really.

In the interest of transparency in our relationship, I made sure Tanner knew what he was getting into, in terms of my insatiable dog hunger, and in his infinite kindness, he promised that we would get a dog before our first anniversary.

Every so often, I would bring up his promise, and he told me he would deliver. One Saturday, we decided to look at the Cottonwood Humane Society to see if our first dog was waiting for us there. While there were several sweet dogs, there were none that were small enough to belong in an apartment. And so we decided to try the Sedona Humane Society to see if we would have any luck there. The Humane Society in Sedona was extremely nice, and the dogs seemed to be very well taken care of. As we reached the last cage, we saw the profile for a tiny black terrier named Bruce Wayne. He was at an adoption event about 20 minutes away, however, so we didn’t meet him there. Of course, with his size and his name (my husband is the biggest Batman fan I’ve ever met), he seemed perfect for us. So once again, we hopped into the car and drove off as fast as we could to the adoption event.

Once there, we discovered that Bruce Wayne had found his forever home, but there were still a good number of dogs to adopt. We were eventually convinced to adopt a sweet young dog named Homer. He had been abused before being rescued, and was missing some toes. He was quite a bit larger than we were hoping for, but we decided that it would be okay. We would find a place for him.

Homer

We spent the rest of the day trying our best to bond with him, but it was hard. All he wanted to do was stay outside, tucked in a corner of the backyard. We decided to sleep on it and try again in the morning. I was determined to make this work. I wanted nothing more than to give this poor dog the home he needed.

The next day I left for Mesa to attend my friend Kaitlyn’s farewell. Tanner stayed behind with Homer, to try to break through with him and get him to be comfortable with us. Halfway through the day though, Tanner called me and said that Homer was absolutely terrified of him and his dad. They had tried everything to get him to be comfortable, but he remained outside, scared and timid. After talking it over, we decided the best thing to do would be to give him back to the shelter. I was heartbroken. I felt like I had failed somehow. I felt like we would never be responsible dog owners, and that this poor dog would be homeless forever.

Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that Homer needed something different. If we were moving into a house with a big backyard and had more time to spend working with him, he would have been a great pet. But the fact of the matter is we are not in a position to have a bigger dog right now. And that’s okay.

Tanner was determined to find me a dog, however, and kept up the search. One day, he stumbled upon a website called Pet Finder, and we had fun searching dogs we felt could fit in with our little family of two. We made a list and narrowed it down to two: a senior shih tzu named Minks, and a chihuahua/mini pinscher mix named Cheekie.

Minks. Doesn’t he look like the happiest ball of fluff?!

And Cheekie, also called “The Professor”. Check out the eyebrows!

They were both sweet looking dogs, and we emailed their respective shelters. We heard back from the shelter with Cheekie almost immediately, and learned that he was still available. He would even be at an upcoming adoption event in Sedona in just a matter of weeks! We decided to go for it.

So last Saturday we went to meet little Cheekie in Sedona, at the PetsMart. It was a HUGE adoption event, with various humane societies and pet rescue centers uniting to try to adopt animals ranging from tarantulas to kittens to snakes, and, of course, dogs. We actually passed Homer out front, which was a bit awkward especially since the members of the Sedona Humane Society recognized us, but I tried not to let it bother me. We did what we thought was best, and now we were going to adopt another dog in need.

The rescue center that housed Cheekie was running late, so we took some time to look around at all the adoption options. Shortly before we were going to leave, the rescue center finally arrived, and we got to meet Cheekie. He was surrounded by other dogs, all yipping and barking. There were TONS of little chihuahas running around, in addition to a very fluffy dog who looked softer than any of his companions. Roberta, the lady in charge of the rescue center, picked him up and offered him to me so I could hold him. The minute this little dog was in my arms, he melted into me. He was softer than a rabbit! Roberta explained that this was Vinnie, a one eyed, toothless little sweetheart who loved cuddles. We told her we were also looking at Cheekie as a potential pet, and she ushered us into a room where we had the opportunity to “meet and greet” the pups.

Cheekie wanted nothing to do with us, but Vinnie stayed close by, gladly accepting the soft treats we offered. After a little deliberation, we decided that Vinnie was the one for us, and we adopted him.

It’s been almost a week, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. Since then, we’ve renamed him Loo, and it fits him perfectly. He is the happiest, snuggliest dog I have ever met. He loves us and we love him!

A lot of people initially think he just winks a lot, but nope! There’s only one eye in there. When he was rescued, his right eye was ruptured and badly infected, in addition to teeth so rotten they all had to be removed. That was only a few months ago, and he is living proof that what doesn’t kill you really DOES make you stronger. These setbacks haven’t slowed him down a bit! His balance can be a little bit wonky sometimes, but that’s to be expected.

This little guy is half cat, I swear. He’s unbelievably soft, and naps are his favorite thing, second only to belly rubs. He sleeps in his own bed through the night, and doesn’t wake up until we wake him up. It’s a pretty nice arrangement.

“this belly ain’t gonna rub itself, Mom.”

We’re in the process of trying to fatten him up a bit, because he is the boniest little guy. He’s barely five pounds!

We gave him a bath a few days ago, and while he didn’t put up much of a fight, I’m sure he would prefer us to never, ever stick him in a tub again. Sorry buddy, but cleanliness comes first.

I took him to the vet on Monday, and everyone at the office loved him immediately. Frankly, I don’t blame them! He’s a pretty cute pup. The vet suggested we put him on a canned food diet to help him bulk up and to make eating easier for our toothless wonder. Loo is a BIG fan of canned food, and ate it all up very enthusiastically.

Unfortunately for him (and us), it upset his tummy, and we’ve been dealing with gas and diarrhea something fierce (that dog can CLEAR. A. ROOM, lemme tell ya). Fortunately for him (and us!), I’ve got a Pinterest board dedicated to dogs, and I pinned several upset stomach remedies. The recipe from Everyday Roots is my favorite so far. I made Loo some mish mash with plain yogurt, rice, pureed pumpkin, and boiled chicken. We made sure to chop up the chicken into tiny pieces for him to eat easily, but it was a hit!

….It might help that I had him fast yesterday to help ‘reset’ his system, but we’ve had no issues with gas nor diarrhea since then, so I’d say this was a success!

I barely got this shot in time. He dug right in and
didn’t come up for air until the bowl was clean!
 Poor hungry puppy.

And just in case you’re wondering, the mish mash doesn’t taste too bad! Yeah, I tasted some. Don’t pretend you weren’t curious too. Not something I would eat on the reg, but Loo enjoyed it! ;^)

Having a dog has actually done so much for our marriage. I didn’t think it would change too much, but it’s really pulled us together in a way that nothing has before. We’re both focusing on another living thing, and we have become a team because of it. We look out for each other all the time, but having another member of the family to love and care for together has been such a fantastic learning experience. Since Loo is not able to take care of himself fully, we’ve bonded over sharing the job of making sure he’s taken care of and given the love and attention he needs. And can I just say how fulfilling it is to watch Tanner be a “dad” to our little dog? He’s the bee’s knees, I’m telling you. I’m so lucky I married a man who cares about animals as much as I do. Loo adores him, and loves nothing more than to cuddle up to him when we’re relaxing. I know that having a dog can never come close to having a baby, but if this is any indication, Tanner is going to be an absolutely outstanding father. I wouldn’t want anyone else loving and taking care of my babies- fur or otherwise.

Having a dog has really made so many improvements in my life. I can’t wait to see how our little Loo will bless our life years down the road!

~Haeley

ps- if you are interested in adopting any of the sweet dogs that we considered, I would highly recommend it! Knowing you adopted a dog in need is such a satisfying feeling. Save a life and make your life better all in one fell swoop!

Click here to view information about Homer. Help him find a forever home! He needs it.

Click here to go to the Chiquita Chihuahua Rescue website. This is the rescue that we got Loo from! They are a fantastic center. Check them out!

Click here to see Minks. He seems like such a sweet old soul!

On existing.

Throughout Tanner’s and my engagement, one of our biggest worries was where we would live over the summer. We planned on returning to EAC in the fall, but didn’t want to stay during the summer because the job options were slim, and the friends to socialize with would be slimmer. We had some potential job openings in Mesa, but the cost of rent for three months was higher than it was worth.

And so, after a lot of discussion, we made the decision to move to Cottonwood for the summer with his parents, in order to work there, and save as much as we could so that when we returned to Thatcher, we would have some money saved up and we could begin our life as a married couple there. 
About halfway through the summer, we decided to extend our stay in Cottonwood, because I had a job, and Tanner would have a job that would pay a little bit more than his current job was, and we decided to search for an apartment there. Our rationalization was that Thatcher didn’t really have that many options for us, and we would have a tougher time finding jobs in a small town overrun by college students applying for the same jobs we were. Plus there was a small college here that we could attend, so there really was no reason to go back.
At first, it seemed like a solid plan. But then I began getting depressed. My whole life had been conveniently shuffled into a routine of waking up, staying home alone until it came time to go to work, driving the 30+ minutes to Sedona, working until 8:30 pm or later, and driving home in the dark to a husband who was exhausted from working all day. I would eat dinner quickly, and then we would collapse into bed, almost too tired to even speak to each other. Rinse and repeat. 
I hate how accurate this is.
Now, I’m a very social person. Being with friends and family is what I live for! But I was hardly interacting with anyone aside from occasionally having some free time with my in laws or going on dates with Tanner. I had absolutely no friends here. It’s not for lack of trying, however, I can assure you. But our ward is full of elderly people, and while I adore their spunk and kindness, I just don’t think it’s feasible to try to have a game night with a bunch of people 75+ years old. And my job doesn’t really allow for bonding with my coworkers, as I stay in the front and seat people while the servers bustle around serving them. The closest friend I have is my manager, who sometimes comes to the front to talk to me. 
Let me say that again:
The closest friend I have, outside the family I am currently living with, is. My. Manager. 
The guy who is paying me to work for him. He’s the person I consider my friend. 
Does that seem sad to anybody else, or is that just me? 
I’m absolutely not trying to say that I don’t dearly love my family, nor do I want to spend less time with them, but friends are such an important part of life, too! There’s no sense in denying that, and for the past three months, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing to myself.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about being introverted vs. being exroverted, introverted meaning a quieter person who is easily drained by social interaction. It doesn’t mean that they never socialize, or hate having friends, it merely means that they don’t rely on other people to keep them going. They are usually seen as quiet geniuses, choosing not to be with other people constantly because they would much rather read a book, or ponder the intricate workings of the universe. 
Extroverts, however, are more social, and thrive on being involved with people and activities. This also does not mean they never want to be alone, but it does mean that socializing energizes and revitalizes them. Because of this, extroverts are often seen as flighty, or people who only care about attending their next party.
Case in point: when I looked up the word “introvert”, really deep, thoughtful quotes popped up. When I searched for extrovert….. I got partying weirdos. There’s a bit of misrepresentation here. 
I am an extrovert. I love people! I love having friends, and getting out of the house makes me feel so good!
However, these past few months I haven’t had much opportunity to do those things, because there’s not really anyone my age here. Neither of us are enrolled in classes (something I continually kick myself for), so we’re not meeting people that way. And on top of being in a ward that primarily houses the retired, we were recently called into nursery, so I see even less people there. I’ve tried time and again to convince myself that I’m just being selfish, and I should appreciate the blessing of being employed, and being married. After all, I’m married to my best friend! Why would I need or even want to be with anyone else now that I’m married? I’m just being stupid. It’s a good thing that we both have jobs; I’m just depressed because we don’t have a place of our own yet. Yes, that MUST be the case! Life will magically get better once we live in our own apartment, where we can continue working and going to a church full of older people that can’t really attend a game night outside of their retirement community. And we’ll eventually go to school! Maybe! But everything will get better once we have our own apartment. 
Friends, I fully convinced myself of this. I had decided that I would be content living in a place that is essentially a dead end for newlyweds because we had jobs. I was denying myself the luxury of having friends in favor of having a job. 
Rather than realize how depressed I had gotten, I was bound and determined to merely exist, rather than live life to the fullest while we’re still young. 
I tend to forget just how very young I am- I’m not even 20 years old yet! Why on earth would I think it was a good idea to settle down in a town that has literally nothing to offer us, other than jobs? Don’t get me wrong, having a job is so, so, important, and I’m not trying to dismiss that. But the thing is, we just have JOBS, not a CAREER. We can find a job pretty much anywhere! We still need to work towards a career, and we shouldn’t be putting that on hold just because we have a job. I sure don’t want to be a seating hostess the rest of my life- no way! So what am I doing sitting here, not pursuing my dreams, because I have a job that I hate? 
Mesa has so many actual opportunities. We can find jobs, there are HUNDREDS of apartment complexes to choose from, and there are so many college programs there. Not to mention, friends! Actual friends!
I realize now that being an extrovert is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not anything I should try to cover up or suppress. I need to accept myself fully, and that means taking my life by the reins and doing something about my situation. Yes, moving will be hard, and yes, it’ll be scary starting on square one again, but I am going to do it with my best friend by my side, in addition to my other friends, who will love and support us, and come to a game night where they don’t have to bring an oxygen tank. 
Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have to give up some of your most basic needs and pretend you’re okay. To quote from the movie Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement: “being married is about being yourself, only with someone else.” 
Oh, Helen Thermopolis. So weird, so wise.
I thought it was kind of a funny statement at first, but there is a lot of truth to it! I got married not because I wanted to hide away certain aspects of my personality in order to be a housewife; I got married because I found someone I can be 100% myself around. And being 100% real means acknowledging that sometimes it’s okay to do something scary, because it will benefit your family, but it will also help you live your best life. 
And I fully intend on living my best life. After all….. Happy wife, happy life, right? ;^)
I kid, I kid. But I’m excited to move to a place where we are going to have options, schooling, and friends! Oh, I am SO excited to have friends again. And I am so excited to be LIVING, not just existing. 
Mesa, watch out. The Rhinehearts are coming for you!!
~Haeley

(ps- I’m every bit as disgusted as you are by my excessive use of stock photos. But I needed something to break up the monotony of my words. Bear with me here.)

Inches.

I have never been the skinny girl.
I will never be able to talk about when I was a tiny, slender little teenager, who never knew just how skinny she really was, because the reality is this: I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. Granted, I’ve never been over 200 pounds, nor have I accrued major health problems due to my weight. Nevertheless, I have struggled. It’s hard to be a chubby girl surrounded by “perfect” figures everywhere you look- magazines, TV, and the girl sitting next to you in your 9th grade English class.

I haven’t always hated being bigger, however. In elementary school, I started a secret club for the “fat girls” in our class- a club that lasted for about ten minutes until we were discovered and had to put a stop to it, for fear that someone might feel left out. We didn’t start the club because we wanted to hate on skinny girls- it was just a group where everyone felt alike. We all knew what it was like to be a chubby girl in elementary (oh, the struggle!), and it felt good to have comrades.

In 7th grade, I had gotten bigger, but it didn’t bother me too much. I told myself that the uniform pants that didn’t fit and took me ten minutes to wrestle on around my girth made my butt look good, and it didn’t matter that I was overflowing around my waistband; my peers wouldn’t notice.

Hopefully they didn’t notice my
unibrow, either,

By 8th grade, I had officially reached the point where my bellybutton was visible through my shirts, because my stomach stuck out that much.
I didn’t necessarily care, though. I was still curvy, meaning that even though I had to carefully maneuver myself in between the desks at school so I wouldn’t knock something over with my large hips, it was okay. Those child-birthing hips were dang fine!

Eventually, I realized something. I was wearing a size XL while others my age could still fit into children’s sizes! I was a size 16 when most of my friends hadn’t even cracked a size 8 yet. All of a sudden, I couldn’t stand myself. I needed a way out. I just wasn’t sure how I would find one.

9th grade came around, and I finally decided to make a change. I made a goal that I would stop eating sugar completely. I had done some research, and I knew how bad it was for your body. I hoped I would lose some weight by doing that, but  mainly wanted to see if I could go a whole year without consuming any sugar.
It was hard. It was so hard to say no to the things that I loved and craved, but I was stubborn. I WOULD make it a year without eating sugar. At first, a lot of people teased me about my choice, and tried to convince me to sneak an Oreo here, or taste a brownie there. But I stood firm. I was determined.

And eventually, the most amazing thing happened! I began to lose the weight I had packed on throughout the years. I watched my pant size go from a 16, to a 14, to a 12, and, finally, a 10. A 10!! I was one size away from being in the single digits! I no longer had to buy shirts that were extra large, or even large. I was a solid medium.
As it came time to go to college, I began to panic. I could NOT gain the freshman 15. I just couldn’t. I hadn’t worked so hard for years to let it all go to waste because I was living on my own. So I made my mind up to be the healthiest I could be, and for the majority of the year I achieved just that. I was smaller than I had ever been, and I felt better about myself than I did in years- I could even fit into an 8 in some clothing brands!

I finally, FINALLY felt good enough about myself to want to highlight some of my best features, so I did. I had a little bit of a pooch around my tummy, but when I lied down, it would disappear and my stomach would be flat- something that was a new sensation for me. I watched with delight as my face slimmed down to reveal cheekbones to rival Kim Kardashian’s (in my mind at least), my thighs shrunk down from all the bike riding I was doing, and I was just… Happy. I wasn’t skinny, but I was finally in a place where I felt beautiful most of the time.

Then I started going out with Tanner, and we started eating out at restaurants more often, and my bike wasn’t used nearly as much as I was more often found in the front seat of his car. One thing led to another, and I started eating sugar after more than 4 years of abstaining. I didn’t notice any major changes until one day, after struggling to button my favorite pair of capris, they ripped apart on my thighs. In a big way.

From there it just got worse. I barely fit any of the clothes I had bought in Thatcher, and one by one I watched my jeans rip and tear as my waistline grew. For the record, I don’t blame Tanner for any of this. Weight gain is a common thing when you start going out with someone, because your eating habits change to accommodate visits to restaurants, and your significant other’s personal preferences. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s natural. But it still is difficult to accept.

I have watched myself grow from a 10 to a 14 in just a few months. It’s like I’m trapped in a balloon, but the balloon is me. I can’t even look in a mirror anymore. It hurts too much. When I lay down at night, there is a bulge where there used to be a flat stomach and hip bones. A lot of my shirts are difficult to take off because they get stuck around my fat arms. I hate wearing jeans more than anything, because they just don’t fit me. The jeans that I bought in a size 13 are now giving me a muffin top, and they cut off my breathing. So I wear mostly yoga pants, or skirts, because they’re stretchy and they don’t make me look like a busted can of biscuits. I’m not wearing yoga pants because I’m lazy, nor do I want to strike lust into the hearts of men. I wear them because they are more  forgiving than my jeans, and I feel like I can hide the fact that I’ve gotten fat when I’m wearing them. So, for anyone who’s personally offended or disgusted by yoga pants, chill, okay? Sometimes they’re a security blanket, because they fit when nothing else does.

Do you have any idea how painful it is to watch the body I worked so hard for disappear? I have a double chin again. I hate getting dressed in the morning, because I have to figure out what is going to fit me today, all the while praying I can button up my pants. It. Hurts. So. Much.

One of the worst parts about being unhappy with your appearance, is you’re basically not allowed to talk about it. In today’s society of body positivity, you MUST love yourself
AT
ALL
TIMES.
Feeling fat isn’t a thing anymore! You’re beautiful just the way you are! Curves are beautiful! Just embrace it! LOVE ALL YOUR FLAWS. NEVER CHANGE.
It feels like I’ve been muzzled. Every time I’ve brought up my dissatisfaction with myself, I am immediately silenced.
“You’re not fat, you’re beautiful! Stop thinking like that. Don’t say things like that again.”
Why is it okay to discuss our fears and worries until it comes to our waistline? Why do I have to unconditionally accept the fact that I’m getting bigger? Why, for heaven’s sake, can I not talk to anyone about the pain I am feeling? Telling me to stop feeling that way just shows that you’re uncomfortable talking about this issue and it would be better for everyone if I could just stop.

Sometimes, I need someone to listen to me. I need someone to understand how I’m feeling, and rather than dismissing it with, “but you’re beautiful!” offer some support. Remind me that I can do this. I lost all the weight once, and I can do it again. I don’t want to be alone, and I especially don’t want to be quiet about it.
I think that it’s okay to not be completely satisfied with your appearance. How am I ever going to change anything if I just sit and accept the fact that everything I worked for is gone? How will I better myself as a person if I just decide that I don’t need to keep trying; as long as I’m “happy”?

It is okay to want to change. And it’s okay to be sad about this. I don’t hate myself as a person, I just know that I shouldn’t have become lax about the goals I had in mind. Emotions, good AND bad, are an important part of the human experience. It’s okay to be sad about the inches I’ve added on.

That will make the disappearance of said inches all the happier.

~Haeley

A year.

365 days ago yesterday began the most eventful year of my life. I figured it would be, but I had no idea just HOW eventful it would be.
Isn’t it interesting just how much can change in just one year? Looking back and remembering is so crazy. This year not only taught me many things about the world, and the people around me, it taught me a lot about myself.

The day I moved in and was truly on my own was surreal. Walking into my apartment for the first time with my parents by my side and a host of boxes in the car gave me butterflies something fierce. This was it. In only a matter of hours, my parents would leave me on my own, and I would begin life as an adult. Was I ready? Could I do this? I guess I would find out soon enough. We had a good day together, organizing my things, trying to enjoy each moment we had together.

Then it was time for my parents to go. It was a bittersweet moment, watching them drive away. Granted, they would be back in just a few days for my class registration, but it still felt kind of scary. After they came on Wednesday, I had no idea when I would see them again.

However, as scary as it was, I was so excited. I was on my own! My life was beginning in earnest! There was no telling what would happen now.

Over the next few months, I grew in so many ways. Before I moved, I was worried that eventually I would stop going to church, because the decision was 100% mine. But I never willingly missed a Sunday! And I really enjoyed my ward. There were some genuinely good people there. It was comforting to know that my faith was strong enough to carry me through independent life, and it made me feel good knowing that I really did have my own testimony, and I wasn’t blindly following my parent’s beliefs.

I learned that being alone doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. I spent a lot of time on my own, since I didn’t have too many friends in Thatcher. At first, I was a bit sad about not being as much of a social butterfly, but in time I came to accept that sometimes it’s okay to be friends with just yourself. I took so many walks and bike rides in that pretty little town. I loved exploring by myself, and I found so many beautiful places that I never would have, had I stayed home feeling sorry for myself. I think everyone should take advantage of where they live. There’s beauty everywhere, if you look hard enough! Take some time to yourself, and enjoy who you are when nobody’s around.

Among learning how fabulous I look with purple hair, and how performing arts might not be for me after all, I learned something even more important: give everyone a fair chance when it comes to dating.

Not saying that you should keep dating someone you know is wrong for you, or putting up with unsavory behavior because you don’t know that you’ll find anyone better, of course. But give people a chance. I dated around a lot in the months before Tanner. I dated people I was not interested in, but I went anyway because people can surprise you sometimes! I went on many a date where I hardly knew the boy, and at the end of the night, I had made myself a friend. Heck, I wasn’t really all that interested in Tanner when we went on our first date! But I gave him a chance, and I’ve never regretted it.

Dating is so much fun! Don’t be afraid of asking someone out, or going out with someone you don’t know super well. Use your best judgement, of course, and don’t go out with someone you’re pretty sure could kill you in your sleep. ;^)

Who would have ever thought that on the one year anniversary of my moving out, I would be going on my third month of marriage? I’m so glad I was able to attend EAC. It taught me so much about life, about love, and about who I am. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunities He did, and although I miss Thatcher something fierce, I got a pretty cool keepsake out of the deal, don’t you think? ;^)

What a wonderful, stressful, scary, crazy, awesome year it’s been. Who knows what will happen in the next year? Only time will tell….

~Haeley