Out of the ashes.

“At times it seems, if for no other reason than the size of the global population, that there has never been more pain, more disease, more famine, and more heartbreak on the planet than now, and yet God has trusted you with this moment in history! You are to be a force for good on this earth. Chayil. When everything around you is in the midst of chaos, when your own world is quaking, you are to be she who rises… she finds her brave and she rises.”

I’m not gonna lie, I’m scared. I’m so afraid that I’m going to die from this cancer. This past 5 months have been the hardest since I was diagnosed. I’ve argued with God, I’ve said that I don’t know if he cares about me. I pray and hope and wish and nothing seems to change.

It’s been 11 months on the 8th that I’ve know I’ve had cancer. It’s taken every. thing. from me. I’m on a medicine that is right up there with chemotherapy drugs. My hair is falling out, my vision has changed, bright light gives me a headache, I’m in pain all the time, I sweat like I’m running from the popo, I forget a lot of things, most of all it took away the person I worked so hard to become. My self-confidence is shattered. Like so many pieces I don’t know where to begin shattered.

As most of you know, as part of my treatment plan I’ve elected to have gastric bypass. I’ve completed every task, yet because of insurance changes and too many hands in the basket I legitimately don’t know when I’ll have it. Y’all, this could be the difference between life or death…

Now that I’ve told you all the dark and dirty let me tell you where I’m going with this.

Last knight about 4am I lost it. Crying, sobbing, thinking I’m literally losing my ever loving mind right here. I’m afraid of dying, afraid of this cancer, afraid of never amounting to anything, afraid of never find true love, and afraid I’ll never get the chance to hold my babies. Afraid that God has forgot me. Then my precious momma told me, “Samantha, there is not anything more you can do tonight. Give it to God and go to bed.” I’ve been struggling with this past semester, between the fatigue and the memory loss I didn’t know if I’d make. Today at 9:30pm I finished my final paper of the year and submitted. I gave it to God and he gave me the strength to persevere. When I was sobbing I looked at the verse of the day and it said,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A little after that it goes on to say, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I had never had such peace as I did when I read that. I don’t interpret this to mean everything will work and be sunshine and dasies, but that out of the ashes something will come if it. I don’t know what the next day holds. All I can to do is put one foot in front of the other. Faith it till I make it. Put on my brave and give it to God.

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Body Image

I recently wrote this essay for an English course and was rather quite proud of it. I thought I would share.

Have you ever noticed what a negative body image our society has? In Western society we are bombarded with images of what ideal beauty “should” look like. It seems the main focus these days is that we should fit a specific mold it’s considered the social norm. As a result, we have a horrible problem on our hands that affects young and old alike; we have a very negative body image. We see it everywhere, in line at the supermarket, on our televisions while our children watch their favorite shows and even in those very shows. We are swamped by images that society tells us is true beauty and the “mold’ we should aspire to; and if we want to be accepted, then we must comply with this. How are we not to be persuaded by these images, which tell us that we are not good enough? It’s human nature to want to be a part of the group, but at what cost are we willing to fit in? Body image is something I have dealt with my entire life. I was bullied in school because I was always the “bigger girl.” I was bullied constantly and hated school because of it. I suffered from horrible self-esteem, had no confidence, and hated my body. Now, as an adult, I have a huge passion for the Body Image movement and breaking those stereotypes and negative connotations that are associated with being fat or not measuring up to the social standard of “beauty”. With the adage that the youth are our future, why are we teaching them to see outward beauty or being a certain size as the most important thing? Images of beauty in Western society are harmful because they lower one’s self-esteem, present an ideal image that young and old feel forced to replicate, and lead way to prejudice and stigma towards anyone not fitting the “mold.”

These beauty standards in Western society are harmful in such a way that they create low self-esteem in people of all races, ages, and genders. Self-esteem is crucial to one’s very being; it helps people be the best possible version of themselves they can be. These ideal images we see in our society are at the root of the issue. In an essay by Shari Graydon, author of In Your Face, Graydon writes,  

Yesteryear’s magazine racks sported exponentially fewer publications devoted to fame voyeurism and advising women on the finer points of dressing up, dressing down or sculpting our bodies in pursuit of a profile that we’d be happy to avoid dressing altogether. Cosmopolitan and Vogue are now buried under a deluge of other fashion and ‘fitness’ magazines, while a host of new titles supplement the print lessons available to male readers regarding what’s ‘desirable’ and ‘ideal’ when it comes to the sizes and shapes of women’s body parts. ( Gerdes 41)

This is an example of what causes self-esteem issues for people all over our country. These images displayed make people feel like they are not good enough as they are and since this is the epitome of beauty, they should replicate it by whatever means necessary. In an article, Kristen Anderburg who is a contributor to Off Our Backs, the longest running feminist newspaper in the US states a revelation former supermodel Ann Simonton had when she saw what these ideal images were doing first hand; “And it hit Ann that these models were the pinnacle of beauty that society was holding up as every woman’s ideal, yet it still wasn’t good enough” (Anderburg). In the same article, Anderburg goes on to imply that Simonton took a hit to her self-esteem when she realized that, even though she was in a group of people considered the epitome of beauty, she still wasn’t good enough as she was. Like Ann Simonton, women of all ages and races take a direct hit to their self-esteem when faced with this mass amount of images telling them to look like “this” or “that” and that men won’t find them attractive if they don’t fit the 36-24-36 measurements. As a result, this causes a doubt of one’s self that wouldn’t have been there previously. This doubt cripples women in so many areas of our lives.

Just as self-esteem plays a huge role in the body image issue, so does the way these images of beauty make young and old feel like they must replicate them. This is such a huge loss to our society, as it basically implies that we must all be carbon copies of one another. This diminishes our diversity. Lynda Wiechinik, a contributor to The Oyen Echo reports on a study that states “one-third of college age women would trade an entire year of their life for the perfect body” (Wiechnik). An entire year! A year of one’s precious, amazing, crazy life just to have that ideal body. That very idea has been developed by copious amounts of information that says your body is not right the way it is. Media seems to portray one type of image that is considered ideal, this image happens to change over time and is always represented in various publications. An essay by Deborah Rhode says, “In 1984 the US average female model was five feet four inches and one hundred and forty pounds. Now the average is five feet ten inches and one hundred and ten pounds” (Rhode). Only five percent of women fall into this category. These standards make people feel forced to alter themselves to fit that ideal. These images presented have such a monumental effect on our society, as Rita Freedman, clinical psychologist says, “It can enhance and protect you as well as torment you… it echoes with the sound of your mother’s voice and the faces of a thousand cover girls who left a mark on your memory” (Valentino). This statement is an accurate representation of how these images affect us all.

As we have seen, people tend to be stereotyped if they do not fit in with these ideal images of beauty. We see it all the time; when one doesn’t look like the models, actors and actresses, and other celebrities who our culture dictates as the personification of beauty, there is a certain prejudice and stigma that follows.  In an essay, Natasha Walter states that “the emphasis on presenting oneself as physically perfect has an impact on women throughout society” (Walter) and when women do not meet that standard they are subjected to cruel and senseless remarks that follow them throughout their lives. These people who happen to make up the majority of our society are labeled weird, ugly, and lame; just to name a few, are all based on the outward appearance and never given a chance to show what they’re really like or what they have to offer because they are already labeled and categorized by our society. Often, they are assumed un-valuable and tossed aside. There is a stigma that comes along with the prejudice that say if they have this assigned label then there must be something wrong with them because they don’t fit into the “mold” that has been assigned as ideal and pleasing. These prejudices and stigmas that are cast upon people follow them for the rest of their lives and more often than not affect how they see themselves.

As we’ve seen, these ideal images of beauty that Western society places on people are harmful to us all in many ways; they lower one’s self-esteem, make both young and old feel pressured to replicate these ideals, and lead way to prejudice and stigma that follows many for the rest of their lives. When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, does it really matter so much to fit in with society when it has such a high cost? In the iconic words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Falling leaves.

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 “Falling leaves.

Things change.

The air turns cooler.

The blooms of Spring turn to to the crisp-ness of Fall.

Things change.

The bright colors of Summer turn into their darker brothers and sisters.

It’s almost as it one season dies and lend it’s spirit to another.

Things change.

Time continues to move forward, as always. Never stopping for anyone.”

I’ve been thinking about change recently. 2013 was the biggest change I’ve ever had to endure and it seems that my life is ever evolving now. Never staying the same, always keeping me on my toes, yet always leaving an air of the same things. I’ve changed a lot over the past year, some ways for the better and some ways not so much. I’ve also been thinking about how God has been there in these things. No matter how good, bad, or horrible it has been. He’s been there and never let me fall. I’ve went through some dark times and I’m forever grateful for that minuscule glimpse of hope that He’s gave me to keep holding on to fight another day. And some days I ask why because it is so hard sometimes to just get out of bed and shower and carry on with my daily activities. This week has been one of those weeks; I’ve been sick with a sinus infection and dealing with that old health issue that no one knows why it’s happening, My car battery died, then my window motor broke, I find myself wanting so many things and being very ungrateful and un-content with what I have, I’ve missed my allotted days of school and am slightly behind with some of my classes, I’m dealing again with being content with my singleness and find myself asking “what’s wrong with me!?”. I haven’t been eating clean lately and haven’t been able to workout. But then I stop myself and think, God has provided for almost every one of these things. He provided the money to have my battery replaced and my window to have a temporary fix, He provided a way to see the doctor in both cases, I was able to speak with someone about school who knows the issue and seems to be on my side, I have everything I need and a roof over my head. And most of all, I have hope that tomorrow is a new day, full of His grace and mercy and new opportunities and chances. Change isn’t a one time deal, it’s all around me for me to seize and make my own. I have to remind myself of that, often it seems. I started school in August. I was so scared and nervous. I’ve never had good experience with school, I was always bullied or the kid who was always bigger than the others. So it was natural for me to have these feeling prior to starting. However, once I got there I have found I love it. I’m so excited to see what each day holds and to see the people I feel like I’m starting to make friends with. There still are those mean girls and guys, but so far it hasn’t been too bad and I’m at a point now where I can hold my own and I’m not afraid of my spirit anymore and will not omit pieces to make anyone feel more comfortable. I have this want and willpower to change the things I’m not happy with in my life and the one I’m working on is my body. While I’ll always be a big girl and never a size 2, I’m ok with that. I just want to be confident with myself and how I look. I believe in the body image movement and feeling positive towards yourself, so I’m embracing that and working towards feeling that way about myself. I’ve found on this journey that I actually like to sweat and enjoy the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement, I’ve seen the fruits of my labor and I like that. So while reminding myself that change isn’t a one time deal, I’ll do what I can, when I can. I’ll eat foods that are good for my body when I can and when I’m feeling good and up to it, I’ll exercise. If one day I eat pizza or a chicken sandwich from Wendy’s because I’m in a hurry. I’m not gonna beat myself up over it. It’s not a race and I’m not competing with anyone, I hope we all make it. Yeah, change seems to be my motto in this season of my life and it’s a season I’m embracing with open arms.

My first college paper… The House that made me.

The house I grew up in and live in to this day, is a place of solace and peace for me. It’s one of the main places I have the strongest memories of my dad. Now that he has passed it’s even more important to me. It’s one of my most favorite places. I feel safe, loved, comfortable, and accepted as soon as I drive into that long dirt road.
I can smell freshly mowed grass and pine, from the tree that sits at the bend as I pull into the driveway. A weeping cherry tree sits beside of that huge pine tree and is the picture of southern elegance in the spring and reminder that beauty fades in the winter. An old white house with its weathered appearance sits at the end of that long driveway. Fields used for hay sit on either side with a cow pasture in front of it.
You can find any tool or piece of equipment you need to help fix up a tractor or lawn mower out back, there is always the smell of diesel fuel and gas lingering in the air. There is the garage where my first car is parked. It’s a silver Jeep, personalized with stickers to make it my very own. See that maple tree beside it? There used to be a swing set there, now a picnic table sets in that trees cool shade. I recently saw that old swing set, rusted at the hinges, but still just as sturdy as it was the day it was bought. I can remember many times swinging as high as I could go and the wind blowing in my hair while my dad was working nearby. My mom tells me stories of times on it when I was a wee toddler, she says she can hear the squeals of laughter and conversations I had there.
There’s a building that sits nearby that my dad built with his own two hands. I remember watching with wide eyes as he built it from the ground up. I can remember the smell of wood as it was being cut to exact measurements and the sound of a hammer, pounding the nails into place. Over there are the dog kennels where some of my childhood best friends lived. You can now find my fiercely loyal and loving border collie, Lexi there. There’s never a dull moment with her. She’s always very vocal with her barks and always willing to give you a big, sloppy wet kiss.
As you make your way back to the old, white house there’s a wraparound porch that my dad put in lots of hours to build, I remember because I helped him some. As you walk you can hear the creaking and popping of it weathered boards. The house is just big enough for the three of us, but it over flows with love. That kitchen there, is where we cook dinner and eat around that table. There is always booming sounds of laughter and loud conversations filling the room. I can smell the fresh scent of laundry being washed nearby mixed with the aroma of my mom’s famous homemade spaghetti or one of her batches of oatmeal cookies being made as you walk through.
The living room is the heart of the house. With the sound of a football or basketball game being played on the TV or laughter coming from someone reading a funny story of the computer that sets in the corner. Big, fluffy couches where you can find my small, furry dog Buddy curled up in my mom’s lap or maybe taking up one of the most comfortable recliners. It always smells like comfort and peace to me. It’s where you can come to laugh at something funny or cry and pour your heart out, whatever the case may be.
It’s the house where I learned to be brave, believe in God, know that I am no better than anyone else and nobody else is better than me, witnessed miracles, grief, happiness and sadness. This is the house that we may not have had a lot of money but we had love and that was enough. Yeah, that’s the house that made me.