Sunday Thoughts: New Year’s Resolutions.

There’s just something about a new year, isn’t there? I love looking back on the past year and thinking about what I would like to improve, and what I would like to maintain over the course of the next year. I used to feel a sense of loss when I thought of the old year being over; lamenting over how I never got a chance to do A,B, or C. But now I look forward to a fresh start: a chance to better myself and my family!

I’ve noticed that, this year in particular, there have been more people mocking new year’s resolutions than participating in them. To a certain degree, I can understand where they’re coming from. It might not be the best idea to purchase a gym membership if you aren’t fully committed to getting into better shape, for example. It’s not smart to radically change your diet or force yourself into restrictive eating habits over the course of 24 hours, when just the day before you were gorging yourself on whatever greasy, nasty food you could find. That’s not realistic, and unless you have a strong sense of self-discipline, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

However, if you are serious about improving yourself and making a positive change, I think it’s worth it to make resolutions and stick to them. In the past, I have been really good about adhering to my resolutions, for example, when I chose to stop eating processed sugar in 2010. I made it for 4 years without eating a single Oreo! Because I paced myself and set realistic goals, I was able to achieve them. That’s what I want to do this year, too! So by writing my goals down and publishing them, I hope to be able to regularly check back on them and update you all on my progress! What are your resolutions?

  1. First and foremost, I will stop eating sugar again. I’ve always felt best when I’ve chosen to stay away from processed and refined sugar, and I feel that it’s an important part of my identity. Another bonus is weight loss, which brings me to my next point.
  2. I am going to lose 50 pounds this year. I’ve spent too much time hating myself and being unhappy, and I need it to stop. For my sake, and my husband’s sake, I need to love myself. I’m going to begin a workout routine, and I plan on sticking to it. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again.
  3. Speaking of skin, I want to begin a better skincare routine. I have been researching Korean skincare for a while now, and I think it’s something I want to try. I don’t take good enough care of my skin, so beginning an intensive routine should give me a nice wake-up call (and dewy, flawless skin, too!)
  4. I want to start cooking more, and with that comes meal planning. There have been too many mediocre pasta dishes in our home this year. IT. MUST. END.
  5. I want to start planning things, writing to-do lists, and create a budget we can thrive on. To achieve this, I am wanting to start a bullet journal! I’m excited to share that process with you. Frankly, I’m excited to share all of these with you!
  6. I want to keep my apartment clean. It would be so much easier to do if we didn’t live here! I want to get better at that so that I’m prepared for random guests whenever it happens. Which isn’t very often, but still. I want to be prepared.
  7. I want to do more projects! I want to focus on my art and improving my home. Creating makes me happy. I need more of that.

Well, there you have it! My New Year’s Resolutions. It’ll be fun to come back a year from now and see where I started, don’t you think? :^)

 

-Haeley

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.

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

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

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

Dear me.

Dear me,

Let’s talk for a minute, Haeley-to-Haeley. Cool?
I promise I’m not mad at you, so don’t freak out. I just need to remind you of a few things.

I need you to take a step back and appreciate your life for the crazy, wonderful, mess that it is right now. I need you to remember that these days won’t last forever, and you’ll eventually look back on them with incredible fondness.

No, you’re not dying, divorcing, or anything traumatic. It’s just…

You’re not pregnant.
And that’s okay. The two of you aren’t trying to have a baby yet, anyway. Still, your baby hunger is real, and boy is it persistent. Each month is a mixture of emotions for you as you simultaneously hope your period doesn’t show up, while at the same time worrying that it won’t. It’s a strange state of being, isn’t it? What would it be like to wake up one morning and not be doubled over with cramps? What would it be like to be a few days late and secretly hope that your period just wasn’t going to come? What would it be like to watch those two pink lines show up on a pregnancy test, confirming what you were hoping and praying for?

I’ll tell you what it would be like- or, at least, what I imagine what it would be like. It would be amazing. It would be the biggest rush of emotions, knowing that there was a life growing inside of you, and that in a few months, you and your husband would be parents. It would be so exciting, while at the same time being scary and daunting.
I have no doubt that it would be worth it, either. Having a baby to love and care for is the dream, after all!

But it’s not the dream right now. And what you need to understand, sweet girl, is that it’s okay! Please remember that although you may feel older than you are, you’re still only 19. You are still in your teens, Haeley! You’re still a baby! Having a baby will be wonderful, and beautiful, and scary, and the most wonderful thing is you are still so young. You can wait a few years, I promise. You’re okay. Your biological clock isn’t ticking quite yet. ;^)

For now, I want you to enjoy this part of life. You only get to be a newlywed once, you know. So take advantage of it! Go dancing with your husband, and feel free to forget what song is playing because you’re too busy kissing him to pay attention. Enjoy how excited you get when you come home from work and he’s there, waiting for you and only you. Cuddle up to him each night and hold him as close to you as possible, because this time is limited. You have the rest of your life to be a mom, but you only have right now to have it be just the two of you.

So go ahead, live your life to the very fullest. Feel free to be as passionate as you want to, in whatever you’re doing. The two of you are so, so young, so go out and LIVE while you can! Take a random trip to a city you’ve never heard of. Stay up all night watching movies without worrying about waking up the baby. Go on dates as often as you want to without worrying about a babysitter. Make sure your siblings are annoyed by your constant cuddling and general lovey-dovey talk.

Haeley, you’ve wanted a relationship like this since you were 12. Do you know how lucky you are? Start appreciating the lovely little family you have right now, and know that in the Lord’s time your children will come to you. But don’t worry about it right at this moment, please. Enjoy being a newlywed while you can, and love that sweet husband of yours with every last ounce of yourself.

Because someday, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, because the little creature the two of you created needs you. And someday you will have to find a babysitter in order to spend a little alone time with the boy who still gives you butterflies when he holds your hand.

Someday, you will be utterly drained and exhausted, but more full of love than you ever thought. Someday, you will have a beautiful little child running through the sprinklers, giggling and squealing, and you will marvel at just how you lived without them. And throughout the years, you will watch that child grow up into their own person, and eventually they will find their own spouse, and you’ll remember this time again, when it was just your husband and you, and you’ll hope your children are even half as happy as you are.

These years are coming, Haeley. They are. And they will be the best years of your life, but those years have already begun. Look into Tanner’s eyes and know that all you need is in front of you. He is so wonderful to you. sweetheart. You couldn’t have done better.

Remember that.

Love, me.

~Haeley

Not a fairytale.

Last week was full of new experiences. Last week was the first time in our married life that Tanner and I have spent any time apart, other than when we are at work. I had the opportunity to babysit for a family in my parent’s ward for a week, and I also was able to attend the sealing of one of my dearest friends to her sweetheart. It was the first time I’ve attended the temple since my own sealing!

Becoming, for all intents and purposes, a single mother of four for a week offered some killer perspective on motherhood for me. The first few days were rough, figuring out the kid’s personalities, their schedule, and how to communicate effectively were really hard, but eventually I figured it out and was able to hit a groove. I also got really acquainted with sleeping as lightly as possible, in case any of the kids needed me during the night. I had a few (very) early mornings, which were hard on me and my sanity, and I learned that even taking a 2 minute bathroom break is a bad idea, because that’s when little fingers get slammed in a door by older siblings.

Being on my own with four littles all week, I gained a huge respect for single mothers. They are superheroes. Basically all mothers are superheroes, because kid-wrangling is HARD STUFF! A few times my sisters came to help me out, and lemme tell you, they were a Godsend. Even if they just played with some of the kids, it was wonderful to not have all that pressure on just me. I’m so, so blessed to be able to have a husband who will become a fantastic father someday. I know he will be indispensable when the time comes! Granted, I’m sure it gets a tiny bit easier when you’re the one who’s had them around from conception, so you’ve had time to get used to the idea of motherhood, and you’ve been with the child since birth, so you know all their little nuances and quirks, and you love them more than life itself, but if I learned anything this week, it’s that I am NOT ready to be a mom yet. I’m going to enjoy taking care of just the two of us for a while before we bless the world with another Rhineheart. ;^)

I know that we’re still newlyweds, and we’re clingy, sentimental, love birds who just can’t keep their hands off of one another, but good HEAVENS being away from Tanner was hard on me. Half of the reason I slept so terribly all week was because I had no one to cuddle up to! How strange it is to me that for the past 19 years of my life I’ve not wanted to share the bed with ANYONE, but now that I’m married I can’t stand the idea of NOT sharing the bed! I love having him there beside me. His presence calms and relaxes me, and I didn’t get to enjoy that for a week!

Being apart helped me appreciate him more, and it made me realize how much I really need him. Especially when we become parents. There were times this past week where I had been woken up before the sun, and aside from being completely exhausted I was covered in drool, tears, boogers, food, and myriad other substances that I did not even want to think about. I had been pinched, sassed, and ignored the whole day, and all I wanted to do was curl up next to Tanner and try not to cry my eyes out. But he wasn’t there, so I just had to soldier on all by myself. I think this is just one of the many reasons why families are so vital. I know I wouldn’t be able to function by myself! I need my husband! And, eventually, our kids will need BOTH of their parents. Again, I’m so lucky I’ve got that guy.

Towards the end of the week, I went to my friend Annie’s sealing. I got one of my sisters to watch the kids so I could be a part of that special day, and I am so grateful I was able to go. Walking through the doors of the temple I was immediately overwhelmed by a sense of peace. I saw Annie’s parents in the lobby, and I couldn’t help but be positively giddy for their family. Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in me, but nothing makes me happier than weddings. Knowing that two people have found the person they know they can’t live without is so beautiful! Now that I’m married, however, that feeling of joy is increased tenfold, because I know how great marriage is!

Before the ceremony, I saw my old elementary school teacher, and sat by her. It was so great to be able to see her! Every time I’ve been able to reconnect with that sweet woman, my day is made better.

When the time came to enter the sealing room, I felt the Spirit so strongly. These two were going to be making such a powerful covenant today, and I had the privilege to witness it! What was even more exciting is that they were sealed in the very same room Tanner and I were sealed in, just over a month before. As I sat through the ceremony, I thought about what a blessing it was to be able to be here for this ordinance. I remember, throughout all our elementary years, Annie and I dreamed about this day. We played “house” in the sandbox countless times, pretending we were wives and mothers with adoring husbands. As we got a little bit older, we would daydream about boys and what it would feel like to kiss one someday. We planned our weddings, talked about crushes, and discussed what our plans were when we became mommies someday in the distant future.

As the years passed, and we graduated from elementary school, we kind of lost contact. But I thought back to our growing up years often, and thought about the time we would both be married someday. Every now and then we would talk, and I still felt that comfortable friendship we had developed so long ago. We were finally able to discuss what it actually felt like to kiss, and, yes, it was every bit as awesome as we hoped it would be.

Then we each got engaged to our sweethearts within weeks of each other, and it got even more exciting. Our dreams were finally coming true! We would really start living the fairytale life we had hoped for all our lives!

Well, real life is far from being a fairytale. Marriage is wonderful, and living life with my best friend is the biggest blessing I’ve received, but it is also hard. We’ve had to make sacrifices, and have had to compromise, and have had to come to terms with the fact that life just doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to, despite your best efforts. We’re never going to ride into the sunset on a white horse, never to worry again. We’re never going to magically solve our problems at the drop of a hat, and we’re never going to have little woodland animals clean our house- which is actually a big bummer.

Right now, the reality is that being married is tough. Each of us has a job (which is SUCH a good thing, don’t get me wrong), but the hours conflict terribly. Tanner gets up super early and is still working when I have to leave for the evening shift at my job. We hardly see each other except for weekends, and even then I often have to work. If I were a Disney princess, we wouldn’t have this problem.

We are also struggling to find a place of our own to make a home. Apartment hunting is tedious, applications can be expensive, and finding a place that isn’t falling apart or in a scary neighborhood is not a walk in the park, to say the least. Craving independence and having to be patient is not ideal, and if Tanner was a dashingly handsome young pirate, sailing the seven seas and racking up a fortune in jewels and doubloons, we wouldn’t have to worry about how we would pay for rent AND car insurance and still manage to have enough for groceries.

Real life isn’t a fairytale. In real life, prince charming snores, and the princess has really bad morning breath, in addition to an expanding waistline and hairy legs. In real life, we don’t get to be independently wealthy. We have to work for every single penny we make, and even then it’s hard to scrape by. In real life, sometimes your relationship simply isn’t as passionate as it used to be, because now the two of you have so many responsibilities it’s all you can do to kiss your spouse goodnight before falling asleep and repeating everything the next day. Real life has a lot more arguments, diapers, sleepless nights, bills, and heartache.

Real life is not, and never really will be, a fairytale.

But I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. Fairytales don’t have the late-night belly laughs. Fairytales don’t have the spontaneous ‘dates’ that consist of filling the car’s tank and grabbing some ice cream. Disney princesses will never dance in the canned food aisle with their prince because their song came on over the radio. They will never search Yelp for a new restaurant and find a new favorite place to get pizza on a lazy afternoon. Fairytales will never tell you how exciting it will be when you and your husband get your first pet together, nor will they ever tell you how fun it is to dream about your future home with your lover. And fairytales can’t even eclipse the wonder and joy that will fill your heart as your family grows over the years. Why would I want anything less than real life and all the joy it brings?

This past week was one life lesson after another, and even though they weren’t always the most exciting, they taught me so much. Being able to go from an established family to the temple and see the beginning of a brand-new family was beautiful, and I’m so, so glad I was present for it. It’s so comforting to know that we had so many opportunities for our lives to change to the point where the temple wasn’t an option or a goal, but we stayed true to our standards, and now we will be blessed for it. I hope that Annie and her sweet husband have a beautiful life and a celestial marriage, and I hope they are able to enjoy everything that life has to offer.

I think I’ll take a happy life and marriage over a fairytale ending any day.

~Haeley