Thursday, May 22, 2014

I'll Teach you a Thing or Two

           " Life is a road and I want to keep going on- starting out on a journey." - Donna Lewis


Hey. Hey, HEY!

That's right, I'm back, much like that volcanic zit from your pre-teen, puberty years. This youth-based simile will seem really witty once I explain the new and interesting direction my life is taking.

Piqued your interest? If not, that's ok; I haven't really earned it. I've slacked on my blogging and I'm semi-abashed about it. But I actually have a good reason. Excuse. I have a reasonable excuse.

You see, I've been busy. Not only that, but I was under a self-imposed cone of silence. It was self-preservation, really. I needed the money.

Ok, it's been three paragraphs- I'll get to the point. I'm moving to Phoenix, Arizona, where I will live with none other than ex-Hermana Bryant while I obtain my teaching certification through a program called the Arizona Teaching Fellows. Whew. That felt good. It's been sort of a secret for months now.

Why? Well, it's simple really. I had a job (well, up until this last Thursday), and I wanted to keep it that way. On the mission (yes, I went there), we constantly told people how important it is to "perseverar hasta el fin," or endure to the end. Easier said than done. I had to remind myself my last few days on the job that even when the end is in sight, you can't just let yourself start to lag- you have to cross the finish line first. And even when you do, there's still more work to do on the other side of it. I'm getting tired just thinking about it. And I've never been much of a fan of jogging or running.

Me, at my desk. Ooooooh.

A close-up. Of my desk.

I told you I worked my very hardest, even on this, my last day. Note the trickle of sweat, the hand clutching the mouse, and the serious expression on my brow.


Anyway, the point is, I'm moving on to yet ANOTHER adventure. If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was the one who coined the phrase "out with the old, in with the new." Since graduating college (hell, even in college), I don't think I've lived anywhere more than a year or so at a time. I'm like a nomad, a roaming gnome, big foot- I can't stay in one place for too long or apparently, something in the universe will implode. Part of me likes to say that I hate this constant change, I long to put down some roots, blah and etc. But I think it's the natural privilege of someone young and unattached. Or as my cuzzin Trevor would say, "I does as I pleases." So there must be another part of me that is pleased by being able to explore and try new things.

Which is ironic, really, because I never would have guessed as much by my track record (the same record that shows how much I've moved). When I first went away to college at seventeen, I was a hot mess, minus the hot. It took me two weeks to really adjust to and enjoy college life. I was sad to leave home and everyone I'd known since, well, forever. I'm kinda sentimental in that way, at least. Anyone who was my roommate in college could tell you the horror stories of what I was like when I would come back from Christmas or Summer break. One of my favorites is when Tessa, a housemate who would later become a good friend, moved into the first off-campus apartment I had lived in. I must have been a real treasure, because she called her now husband and said "I don't think I can do this." He advised her to help me move my thousands of boxes, most of them books I'd managed to collect in my time working at at a resale book warehouse (spoiler alert: the boxes were HEAVY), into the apartment. It's hard to be pissy and not make a friend once you go through an experience like that. You know, like Harry, Ron and Hermione in the first Harry Potter? Yeah, just like that.

The Summertime Sadness also hit me when I went on the mission. My parents helped me and my luggage out of the car and I warned the Elder (man missionary) that "just so you know, I'm probably gonna cry soon." And I did. And it only lasted a half hour, and I was golden for a year and a half. So I'm hoping that when I leave tomorrow morning on my wild and wily exodus, the meltdown will be substantially smaller. Five minutes? Is that reasonable?

Anyway, I am actually pretty excited to be a teacher in spite of the fact that, much like the mission, I initially tried to avoid that career path until it became clear I could no longer do so. Coming back from the mission is when I figured out I wanted to teach. Go figure. So right now, I am as ready as I'm gonna be for my sweet and sour adventure. I will have my dad in tow (at the age of 26, apparently I'm still not old enough to make a personal voyage). But let's be serious, I'll enjoy the company and someone to eat some of the road trip goody snacks. I have a bridesmaids dress I have to squeeze myself into, after all. Hna. Bryant will become Hna. Peralta soon, so I'm not the only one who has new adventures to look forward to. But now, whilst still in limbo, I'll enjoy the time left with my mom, my sister, and my cat. And really, that's as good as it gets.

Oh, and here's the obligatory pics of me in the musical The Masked Canary that I was in. Yeah, that one, the one that took up a good couple months of my life and was pretty much the best musical I've ever been in. And the only one. Long live the Masked Canary! End scene.

Me as Sidekick, and Dan, the manager of the Liberty Lake Safeway, as Old Timer. My buddy Brittany Trader is in the background; the guy next to her was the bad guy of the show and he pulled her up on stage during part of the second act.

There's only room for one Masked Canary on this stage! I gave it my all, but show after show, came up short.

Farewell for now,

Sweeney

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slimmer Me, but Same Ovaries- My Hopefully Helpful Overshare

Well, I finally did it. Or undid it, as the case may be. In my last post, I may have mentioned how I've been home from the mission for a year (I think I should start getting points for any post that doesn't mention my mission). Well, in that year, I managed to gain weight. A lot of it. I like food. A lot. Anyway, I just finished doing the HCG diet again, round two, and from September until now, there are forty-two pounds less of me. Which is quite an accomplishment. But the fact that I managed to gain that much weight so quickly is disturbing, to say the least. Not solely because I felt less attractive; actually, I don't feel like I was that bad-looking.


BEFORE


But I definitely feel better now, and I can't help but give myself the occasional wink in the mirror, whenever I chance by one.

AFTER

 (In both photos, there's food. Not coincidental).

 And on top of everything, the real reason I decided to do the dirty word, a.k.a. DIET (I always love to say that dieting is for quitters), was for health reasons. Because in my condition and with my condition, I really shouldn't just let myself go... crazy. Ha ha, that was funny.

Wait, what? Condition? What condition? Well, it can be embarrassing to talk about. Scratch that, it IS embarrassing. Because just like being overweight, this condition is the catalyst for every taboo of what is traditionally considered culturally attractive. And it can be hard when your body is in open rebellion, and seems to be mocking your every effort to feel confident. I know this doesn't make sense, yet. Allow me to elaborate.

The condition that I have affects either one-out-of-every-eight women or one-out-of-every-fifteen, depending on what source you're consulting. If not treated, it can lead to diabetes and heart disease. It definitely can cause infertility. It's known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Here's a more succinct description taken from Web M.D. :
 Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a group of health problems caused by out-of-balance hormones.It often involves irregular menstrual periods beginning in puberty or difficulty getting pregnant.PCOS may also cause unwanted changes in the way you look.
I'll never forget my first year of high school for many reasons, but the most notorious one that comes to mind is when I started to freak out because anytime I'd wash/brush my hair, it would come out. Not a few strands here or there, but large clumps. I went from having long, enviable locks, to thin, straggly hair. But to make up for this, my body graciously provided the lost hair in other places- chest, neck, stomach. My acne was volcanic; the type that forms an impenetrable red surface that even pliers wouldn't have been able to break. My hormones were severely out of wack, and apparently, as the name implies, I had cysts hanging out, having tea parties on my ovaries. I mean, that's what I would do. If I were a cyst. They may or may not still be there; I really don't know.

The best part of all of this? I had no idea what the hell was going on. I went to the doctor and blabbered on and on about all my symptoms. Nothing. The only time I came close to figuring out what was wrong with me was when I was in the waiting room, right before I was about to get my wisdom teeth out during my Junior year. I read an article about a girl who was describing happenings with her body that mirrored exactly what I was experiencing. I was thrilled to realize my body wasn't some anomaly and that I wasn't going to have early on-set Crypt Keeper-itis. Unfortunately, before I could really finish the article, I was whisked away to be anaesthetised. It wasn't until after my first official semester of college that I was diagnosed with PCOS. So about four-and-a-half years after I started experiencing symptoms.

Even after being diagnosed, I don't think I really accepted it. I distinctly remember waking up some mornings during my Sophomore and Junior years of college with my hands in my hair. It was like a subconscious thing, like having phantom limb syndrome. I think I just couldn't make myself get used to the loss of it. I guess knowing about the beast you're dealing with doesn't make it easier to, well, deal with. Mostly because I didn't ever really care to disturb it. I figured if I left it alone, didn't poke it with a stick or look it in the eye, then we could mostly leave each other in peace.

Once again, food. Uncanny, no?
But that's not how it really works. My lack of research about PCOS hasn't really been a detriment, but it probably would have been a smarter way to handle things if I'd educated myself more. I know the symptoms and side-effects of PCOS, mostly from personal experience, but every now and then, something new will rear its head. For example, about a month ago, I went in for a check-up. Some med student was in the room with the doctor, shadowing her. He got to hear her describe all about how PCOS causes weird hair growth and irregular periods. Lucky guy.  As my doctor was listing the symptoms I was already familiar with, she mentioned one with which I wasn't- anxiety. What?! Well, that explained a lot. Something I probably would have know if I had done a little more research. But what I've learned first-hand from all this is that ignorance truly isn't bliss. It's just ignorance, and it doesn't change facts.

So, the question may very well be, "why are you talking about this?" Well, I'm writing this for all the teenage girls and women who are going through changes they can't explain. I'm writing this for all the candid blogs and articles that may or may not yet exist on the subject. I'm writing because, once again, I have very personal, raw experience with the subject, and can offer and insider's opinion. And I'm also writing this for my fourteen year-old self. Because even though since I found out about my condition I haven't, until recently, been a rigorous researcher, I would have loved to have had more resources and info available to me when I was trying to figure out what I was going on with my body so I wouldn't have felt so upset and alone. Nothing beats a case of isolophobia like knowing that there are other people who know what you're going through. Obviously, I wouldn't wish this on anybody. But since it will inevitably continue to effect other women and their ovaries, I might as well lend my voice to let them know that it's gonna be okay.

Not the sunshine and burritos type of okay, but the manageable, you-can-go-on-with-your-life kind. Because PCOS is a syndrome, it's not curable. The best treatment is weight management because one of the biggest indicators of PCOS is significant weight gain and difficulty losing it. This is usually due to the the fact the PCOS bodies often are also insulin resistant (cells in the body produce too much insulin in order to for the blood glucose to stabilize within the cell). Blood sugar goes up, energy often goes down, and hunger increases. Being insulin resistant means that avoiding high carb and sugary foods is the best way to keep from the weight getting out-of-control and leading to Type II Diabetes. I myself am Prediabetic, but I take a drug called  Metformin that helps control my blood sugar and  insulin levels. There is debate about whether or not Metformin is the best way to treat PCOS. But there's debate over everything these days. I also use a Progesterone cream (it comes in drops and pills as well) that helps with hormone imbalance and controls some of the less-than-pleasing physical foibles PCOS presents. And back in the day, when my periods were off-the-charts irregular, I was on birth control. Consulting with your doctor, usually an endocrinologist, on a case-by-case basis is key, as well as getting blood work done to check your  blood sugar and hormone levels.

And really, although I may take a few pills and spend some extra time with my tweezers and razor (and, my new B.F.F. the No No!), life ain't so bad. I no longer feel controlled by my syndrome; I am more than my condition- I am above it. And I sure as hell ain't defined by it. I still have days where I'm bummed by the several inconveniences, but at the end of the day I'm still me, one sassy Sweeney. And as the guy  I sorta dated who had Tourette's once told me in regard to his own condition, "really, I can either be upset about it, or I can laugh and make fun of myself. I chose the latter." And I choose to agree with him. Which is why from here on out, if you ever here me say that my eggs are bad/rotten, well, you're in on the joke now.

Oh, and happy beginning of March. Just beware when we reach mid-month; those ides are a killer.

Hormonally yours,

Sweeney

Some additional links on PCOS for those who are extra interested:

* http://progesteronemenopause.com/progesterone_cream_faq.htm
*http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-treatment-overview
*http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737989/
*http://www.babymed.com/fertility-news/clomiphene-metformin-or-both-infertility-pcos-polycystic-ovary-syndrome
*http://www.babymed.com/fertility-news/clomiphene-metformin-or-both-infertility-pcos-polycystic-ovary-syndrome

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mission Misssin' Reminiscin'

There's a guy I work with at Vivint named Brandt. I think he's great; he's one of those nice Mormon guys who seems like the type who lives what he believes without imposing his views on anyone. One time, he and another "colleague" of ours were talking about their significant others. Instead of barging in on my love life or lack thereof, they very kindly and timidly asked me if I had a "bu, bu, bu, boyfriend!" I said I didn't, to which they both immediately urged me to take my time, no rush. I don't know why that was nice to hear, but it was. Even though I'm pretty independent, there's just something nice about knowing that SOMEONE out there shares a similar view to my own. Then he came up to me at my desk today to inform me and another friend sitting nearby that he'd had a dream about me- and that I'd ended up with a great guy. There's just something about him that makes his comments and actions seem genuine and consequently, it makes me happy. He's like a fortune cookie, and while I don't put too much stock in the fortune, I feel fortunate that there are people out there who want the best for me. We all deserve to feel like that. I hope I've helped some feel that way at some point.

And now, on to the point of this post- for me to talk about how freaking insane it is that today marks a year since Hermana Clark and I flew on an airplane to Miami from the D.R., then went our separate ways on separate flights, each arriving back to our respective homes (California for me, Arizona for her). As I recall, I went and immediately got released from being a missionary, and then went and ate a huge burrito at my very favorite restaurant, Las Consuelas. I then went home and watches several episodes of Season 3 of "The Vampire Diaries." I remember it like it was a year ago...

Anyway, I realized today that during this year, not a day has passed where I've not thought about the mission, the people, my companions, the language, any of it. I wonder if that is a symptom that will ever fade away. I doubt it. Something as simple as hearing a Spanish word or phrase sets me off. Not to mention that the only friends I really talk to on Facebook are my Dominican ones. Face it- I've been scarred for life. And I may never recover. Anyway, I don't really feel like using a bunch of gushy words. I'm just gonna post a couple pics from each phase of my mission and call it good. Bien? Bueno.
THE MTC DAYS- BOTH PROVO AND DOMINICAN
Stopping to smell the flowers. No roses were sniffed in the taking of this picture.

My District (the guys I ate and studied with all day) at the Provo Temple. Loved these guys.

For the first few weeks at the MTC, my life was turned COMPLETELY upside- down. Going to bed at 10:30p.m.? In what world?!

Everyone and I mean EVERYONE, is required by an unspoken mission law to take a picture with this map, located in the mess hall-ish area. Bonus points for the indicate-with-finger-where-you're-gonna-serve pose.

Yes, I was on a mission. But I was still the creepy girl who liked to take weird photos. Unfortunately, the really good ones can't be posted here. I made a promise, after all...

Me with Sister Robinson and Sister Kelly. We all met during our Washington D.C. internship program, and we were all in the MTC at the same time. Legit.

Did I mention I loved these guys?

Hna. Lauriano and I. She was a teacher at the Dominican MTC. Plot twist- I would later serve a good chunk of my mission in the ward/area where she went to church.

This was back in the day before the sister's mission age was lowered to eighteen. We were a small bunch; only four of us in this photo actually were serving in the D.R. The others went to Puerto Rico and Fiji.

I was sick that day. My teacher, Hno. Rubio, always thought I was nuts. The two girls were my companions Hna. Eteaki and Hna. Schillemat. We had some interesting late night convos for sure.





THE REAL DEAL- AREA #1 LA YUCA

Ok, I'm adding an absurd amount of pictures. And now I'm just craving fried bananas.

Our humble home, complete with our "air conditioning" and mosquito nets.

Our bathroom. I was always amazed at how slanted an uneven the floor was. We had a pet spider named Henry that hung out on the ceiling.

The Franqueli baptism and the familia Soledad. They are seriously special people.

Halloween. My trainer, Hna. Brown and I, traded clothes and identities. I practiced her creepy smile, and she tried out my award-winning one.

Isabela, with her brother Angel and her mom.

Man down, man down! Down the man hole...  I guess people would always steal the pot hole covers for the metal.

There aren't words. We also caught plenty of mice, which we would put in bags after we caught them and beat them to death with brooms.

Leading the Christmas choir

Choco lacio! We made our hairs smooth and shiny, the chocolate way. Great product.

My nickname on the mission was "La Bestia, " or "The Beast." I wasn't a very docile competitor...


When a missionary was within a transfer or two of ending the mission, we'd say they had died because they were thinking of home a lot and life on the other side. This was the tombstone we made for our district leader, Elder Ferreras. So dead!

Our makeshift Christmas tree, complete with popcorn chain.

One of my favorite people ever, Rosa. We were teaching her our tradition of Pizza Thursday, which I did throughout the mission, on and off, by the way.

Our Dominican family photo. I have my mouth open like so many of the Dominican kids always did in their photos.



AZUA- AREA #2

These photos are all sorts of out of order. Hna. Bryant was the girl I trained and my last companion in Azua. This was during her first week on the job, and this was us at a big parade celebrating Azua's liberation from Haiti, or something.
Some more of my favorite people; the ever-faithful Eladio and his very awesome, very Catholic wife.


Being without water is HARD

Celebrating my 10 months on the mission with smurf-like ice cream that your buy out of peoples' houses.

That tool on the far left was the elder that was in 2 of my same areas. We were together for half my mission. Pretty cool.

One of the sisters who left Azua  after only one transfer left this on the door when I returned with Hna. Bryant. Uh-oh...

Mission impossible? You have no idea.

Our two-tiered wonder of a chapel

Mom sent me water balloons. Fun was had, windows were broken.

Fun at choir practice.

Those fine folk on the left- the Browns, our mission grandparents. They made life for us pure paradise. At the end of every transfer, we ate at their house.

Hna. Lund, my step-mom, o sea, my second companion. In spite of an odd first couple of days, we became great buddies.



Hna. Lund was sick one night. The elders brought us street chimis ( a burger-like item with cabbage, tomatoes, and shredded meat). I'm pretty sure this was the cause of my amoeba.

Celebrating the New Year

Don't forget: Sin condemns, but Christ gives life.

Me: excited as hell to be on a guauga bus ride to a location 45 minutes away. Lund: been there, done that, almost done with her mission at this point.

Tiny Bibles! Good-bye huge pain in my backpack.

I told Lund about Hna. Brown and I switching identities for a day. She liked it so much, that we did it too!

My first night ever in Azua was at a ward activity. Which was good; took my mind off how sad I was to be leaving La Yuca.


AREA #3- QUISQUEYA

Hna. Dawe and I. This was my last Quisqueya transfer, and we'd both just gotten haircuts.

I was so glad to get Paus as a companion, even if it was only for one transfer. She's great. And we both loved Romeo Santos. The King stays king!

We went to this park on the P-day (free day, sorta) before Christmas. Apparently inadvisable, since lots of thieves hang out there. Oh well. It was fun.


Both of my Dominica Christmases were superb.

I taught both these guys, loved them both. And after I left, Carlos (left), even got baptized!

I started teaching Perla in my second-to-last transfer in Quisqueya. Love her. She was super smart. I made her this scripture case out of a cereal box. I made an awful lot of them, actually, for lots of people.

My favorite peso design

My first day in Quisqeya in my all-Latin house. Ai, carramba!

When I first moved to Quisqueya, somehow, half my luggage ended up in Azua. I had to make my bed with a combination of blankets and clothes.

Hna. Alfaro and I, climbing endless cases of rickety stairs.

Elder Pickett! Love him! We both got hurt playing volleyball. I am now regretting that there are not more photos of other elders I thought were awesome, but this post is already hideously long.

I sucked at two things: making tortillas and cooking rice. But when a Latin helped me, we managed well enough.

This guys did not want to lay down and die. It took several legs whacked off before we could get him still enough to kill.

Me, trying to retain my artistic creativity.

It was very popular to dye baby chickens every color imaginable.

Hna. Consuela, my personal hairstylist for my 7.5 month stay in Quisqueya.

The Chinola, my very favorite tropical fruit.

You may be noticing several themes in some of these photos... this one was our bishop's idea. He wanted to have a missionary wall in our church building. Which lasted about a week.

My first day of my second transfer in Quisqueya with Hna. Rodriguez. I lived with her the longest amount of time on the mission; four straight transfers, and for three of those, we were companions.


Euody, our super stud baptism.

2nd transfter in Quisqueya. Weird transfer. Very weird. But at least Hna. Arias (bottom right) spoke fluent English AND Spanish.

This is Elder Carlson again. We visited him in the world's grossest hospital when he had Dengue.

Once again...

Besides making scripture covers, my other unofficial job was decorating missionary agendas (the booklets we used to write down appointments, track our goals, etc).



Paus and I took out a Greenie from the MTC to experience mission life.

I did her hair, and it looked fab.

Rodriguez loved to get fancy-looking. The vanity. I only really bothered when we had special events, like mission conferences when a whole bunch of us missionaries got together. I knew I'd just sweat off all the make-up and hairspray anyway.



Elder Bryner, our District Leader, made clay figurines of our district. They were awesome.

Hna. Rodriguez loved to pretend she hated American holidays. I forced her to carve apples (in lieu of the expensive pumpkins) and fill them with caramel afterwards. Pretend all you want Rodriguez... you loved it!

She and I continued the tradition of Pizza Thursday. My favorite by far was this one with popcorn chicken, corn, and peppers.

I never went to the beach. Except once. Like the rebels we were, Rodriguez and I ran off one day before a meeting to take pics here. She was such a bad influence on me.

Money doesn't grow on trees. But huge avocados do!

Like I said, bad influence. Somehow she convinced me to let her carry this cat in her bag all day and bring it home, where it meowed all night and threw up worms on the floor. Needless to say, I made her find a new home for it the next day.

When it rained, it poured. And if you can't go around it, you go through it.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST- AREA #4 SAN CRISTOBAL

Never let it be said that I don't finish what I start. Or rather, I started training Bryant, and she finished the mission with me. It was even better the second time around. Except for all the doctor trips and car accidents and  stuff...
Ah, the Bryant face. It can mean "I'm annoyed," or "I'm pissed," or "this is amazing." Sometimes even all three. In this case, she really liked the chicken and yucca we were eating.

Hna. Sandra, our good buddy. She, Bryant and I would go to Cacucha's house all the time to help her with her doll business.

This special guy broke his foot and let us decorate his cast with stickers.

Animals like learning about Jesus too.

I did her hair almost everyday. This day was extra special; we were celebrating her year mark on the mission.

Sometimes, we did fun things as a district. Even though I was only in San Cristobal for one transfer, it managed to be a very unique, frustrating, and great one.

Our end-of-transfer Spanish class party. Hollywood-themed.

At the evil Dictator Trujillo's boat-shaped home. This picture wouldn't have been allowed in the states; we were sitting high up on a ledge with no guardrail. It was very windy .

It was VERY windy that day. Our skirts kept blowing up. But it was educational, we enjoyed the tour, and, like everything, it was an experience.



Quelito's baptism

A really great family we were teaching. They made us dinner and got all excited when we came over.

The colmado next to our house, where we bought overpriced food on occasion. The owner always promised he'd play George Michael for us- but he never did. Before I left the mission, he sold the colmado, and it was repainted to look as it does in the picture above.

Hna. Clark and I on our last night on the mission, outside the mission house. Tell the world that we're coming home!




Wow. Even though I told my mission story all in pictures, it still felt long-winded. In some ways, I regret the pictures I didn't take. And none of the pictures posted, save the ones in the La Yuca section, are even in order. But that's ok because a). I'm now too tired to worry about the extra work of rearranging them and b). it feels more like my memories that way. I don't really remember things chronologically; it's usually a memory here,a memory there. Anyway, to keep a long story long, I'll just end by saying that the mission was a year-and-a-half of the weirdest, hardest, strangest, most powerful experiences of my life. And I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. But instead, I go into the future, and a part of me will now and forever more be the type of girl that can shower out of a bucket, kill a mouse with a broom, and talk with a diverse group of people about things that are important to me, when the situation so demands. So, to Hna. Sweeney, the fearless (except on Sundays), I say thanks. Thanks for not quitting when it got hard. And thanks for giving me the experiences I'll hold dear for a lifetime. And thanks to all the people who didn't give up on her, even when she was being a pain in the buttock. And on the word 'buttock,' I make an end.

Officially annual,

Sweeney