Friday, November 6, 2015

Thankful for brothers

Now that it's November, it's the season of gratitude, and I just want to mention my brothers here. I don't get to see them too often, but I love and appreciate them, and here are a few reasons why.

Kyle has a quick and sarcastic wit. I really appreciate his humor. Plus, he's much more sensitive and sweet than he sometimes lets on. (And I love the quotes he sends me from his kids.)

Alan is pretty quiet, but when he chooses to speak, he often has something very thoughtful to say. He is not quick to judge, but he is quick to forgive and move on. Plus, he has the funniest giggle.

Ben has a kind heart, and he calls me just to chat. He also loves to discuss and debate, which I love too. He's always been a charmer and a sweetheart.

Sometimes I wish I had had a sister, but there's something special about only having brothers, and besides, they've all married wonderful women who have brought something fresh and delightful to our family as well.

Shawna is kind and understanding, an exemplary momma, and super dependable. She's also easy to talk to, and she checks up on me occasionally.

Valerie is bold and fun, a great momma too, and always willing to try new things and jump in (and include others too). She definitely brings something different and good to our family!

Bonni is a tender-hearted woman who has quietly shown her love and support for my brother and for me. (And I appreciate when she sends me photos of her adorable cat!)

I'm grateful for my siblings.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

So you want to help prevent suicide....

Not too long ago it was suicide prevention week I guess, because people kept posting about it on social media. I kept noticing something.

I think it's funny how we always tell depressed/suicidal people to reach out and create a strong network of support when that is one of the things that their condition stops them from doing. Depression is a condition that folds in on itself. Depression starts out small and over time turns into persistent lack of happiness, then lack of all feeling, then isolation, then loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. Saying a broad "You are loved" on social media doesn't make a dent.

You want to REALLY help someone suffering from depression (you know, the people who kill themselves)? Pay attention. Listen. Read about it. Learn about it. Figure out how to talk to the people in your life who are struggling. And learn how to spot signs of a hurting person because they are often good actors. Don't say, "Snap out of it." "Get over it." "Just think positively." "Things will get better!" "A lot of other people have it worse." Or walk away out of fear or pride. What those afflicted with depression need are people they aren't forced to wear masks around. People who calmly, without expectations, without trying to smile them into feeling better, reach out and say, "I notice. You matter. I'm here. And I know you don't feel it, but you're hella strong."

Here's a brief crash course brought to you by Pinterest.


I have a good excuse for not posting in a while. I got married in August.

It's been absolutely crazy on my end. Since about my birthday (mid July) I've been busy busy busy trying to get everything taken care of for the wedding. On top of that, I was going to the chiropractor to try to fix my increasingly painful back problems, trying to not go crazy from taking birth control, still trying to settle in from moving a month and a half earlier, and several other things.

I'm going to be honest: some of the wedding shenanigans sucked. Big time.

By the week of the wedding, I was thinking maybe we should have just done something extremely simple or eloped. It was causing me so much anxiety and stress! But in the end, I'm really glad we did what we did.

My grandfather sealed us for time and all eternity in the House of the Lord. That's really all that mattered! (I was so relieved to just have that part DONE!!! Finally legitimately married instead of just thinking about it all the time!)

But it was really nice to have all the other stuff too. I loved our family dinner the night before, my beautiful dress, the lovely flowers, our reception at the Proctor house, my family coming in for the weekend, and all the delightful photos I now have to remember the day by. There's only one time where you can dress up like that and have flowers and a cake and a big party with all your friends. I wanted to take advantage of it.

And I recently got all the photos back. I have hundreds. And they're all spectacular. But I'll condense them and share some of my favorites with you!

Seriously, these photos make me SO HAPPY!

And here are photos from the reception.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

One Introvert's Story

My name is Holly, and I'm an introvert. I like peace and quiet. I enjoy being alone. In fact, I need to be alone sometimes. I prefer small groups over big crowds. I feel uncomfortable and overstimulated at dances and parties. You've probably never heard me shout. I get stressed out by noise and contention. I pay attention to everything: words, actions, movements, etc. I notice things most people never register. I sense everything that is going on around me.

I have always been this way.

The problem with introversion is people don’t understand it. It seems to me that most extroverts truly believe that introverts are handicapped people who just need to "let go" and "lighten up" and "stop being lame." And it boggles my mind that in the year 2015, half of our population still doesn't understand the other half; they don't even care to try.

I was a pretty happy kid. When I was young I had lots of friends, but about the time I started becoming self conscious, my family moved. I became a loner, and in a way, I rather liked it. As a teenager, I had some friends, but honestly, not that many. I knew I was different—that I didn't fit in. The words "come out of your shell" and "lame" and "boring" cropped up increasingly, and I tried so hard to make them go away. I tried to be "fun" and likeable. I wanted to be that person so badly, but no matter how hard I tried, I never was, and I only exhausted myself trying; I usually ended up in tears. (EFY was absolute torture.)

After years of trying to be something I wasn't, I finally learned that being who I was was so much better. You see, there are things I can do that most people can't. I can talk people through their struggles. I can listen to someone who needs someone to care. I can give advice to someone who is lost. I can comfort those who are in pain. I can connect with people through writing. I can understand my own emotions. I can usually analyze and think my way through any problem I'm having. These are nearly invisible qualities, but they are important. So, no, I may not be the life of the party. I may not be wild and crazy. I may have a hard time "letting go," but what I can do is so much more.

Even so, I've been burdened with self esteem problems since puberty. Why? Because I never fit the mold. It's not cool to like reading and learning. It's not cool to be smart and get good grades. It's not cool to prefer listening to news radio over music. It's not cool to stay home when you could go out. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that the things I like are "boring" or "lame." Even at age 26, I still hear it! And every time I do, I can't believe that the people I'm hanging out with haven't moved past their tiny mindset from their teen years, where they see themselves on top of the social pyramid, keeping others like me down. I just don't buy into it anymore. And it only makes me want to stay home all the more to avoid the judgment and the pain of being misunderstood and unappreciated.

So please, stop judging introverts. Stop telling us how uncool we are. Instead, why don't you try to understand us? It would go a long way.

Note: It would be wrong to say that ALL extroverts are this way. They're not. I'm marrying one, and he's been incredibly understanding and accepting of who I am. There have been many other extroverts along the way who have been loving and kind. I appreciate them all. (And I love our differences!) :-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stop Being Agreeable and Speak Your Mind!

I just want to throw something out there: your thoughts matter and feedback is really important.

I just sent an email to someone close to me trying to persuade them to make a change for the better. I noticed something, I thought a long time about it, and I realized that it actually shows great care to bring hard things up.

But it's not just for big things. When the waiter asks you how your food was, be honest! Don't just say "great!" and grimace as he turns away. The poor restaurant owner will be forced to close his establishment and he'll never know why.

Don't post on social media about how terrible a place is without contacting them first; they're in that business for a reason—they think they can provide something that people want. Give them a chance to make it right. I've found that most places will make it right because they appreciate feedback and want to provide the best products and services they can.

Positive feedback is the most powerful, and that's why I sent my dermatologist a thank you note for his awesome service recently. How often do you think places receive thank you notes? Not often. It'll make their day.

Positive and negative feedback help people improve, and you're actually doing people a disservice when you're not open and honest with them. There is never a need to be mean or hateful; just be honest.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Youngest

It seems like I'm constantly seeing some post or article describing children who are the youngest in their family. Risk-taker? Limelight-lover? Spoiled? HA!! I think you have it all wrong. First of all, I am the opposite of all of those things.

Youngests are used to taking a backseat to everyone elseliterally and figuratively. They're used to being ignored. Now, I don't like to be ignored for real, but there are many times when I wish I could go unnoticed, or I'd rather watch than participate because that's what I grew up doing.

Youngests are used to hand-me-downs. (Me not as much as others because all my siblings are boys, but I still enjoyed my siblings' old video games and t-shirts.)

They're observant and learn from others' mistakes. Very observant.

They also know how to be alone and connect with people older than them because they're the ones who are left behind with mom and dad in their teen years.

And this one is key: they have to at some point assert their independence because if they don't, everyone will always treat them as "the baby."

That's MY experience anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why do we encourage others to make poor eating decisions?

I was at a female-only gathering recently where food was advertised to be provided. The fare ended up being Domino's pizza, bagged salad, and cookies. It was on a weekday, and many guests came straight from work. They were hungry, and the only filling food was pizza. What do you think people do when they're hungry and food is in front of them? They eat it no matter what it is.

Tangent: I really think people planning things like this should consider providing healthy, fresh options not only for those who want to be healthy or lose weight (which is probably the majority of people, particularly women) but also for those who have food allergies. (For instance, I'm lactose intolerant and don't eat pizza because of the cheese. Lots of people have gluten allergies too.)

But consider this: did you know that one slice of Domino's cheese pizza has 290 calories? Have you ever filled up on just one piece? Ha! Nope. When hungry, we always go for at least two. That’s 580 calories, right there. Have three and you're at 870! That's a ton of calories for just one meal.

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about is a girl who was sitting at my table. A great, nice, talented girl whom I like. She mentioned that she wanted another piece. Quickly, anyone who heard said, "Then get another piece!" She responded "But I've already had two." They quickly fired back, "So?" And I hear things like this all the time: "Calories don't count here!" "You're thin; you can eat anything you want." "Calories don't count on holidays!" "Just do it, you know you want it." But calories do count. All the time. And the foods we eat and the choices we make affect us.

Why is it okay for us to encourage bad habits or behavior? How many of us are trying to eat healthier but still encourage ourselves and each other to eat things we shouldn't? It doesn't make any sense.

I felt silenced. Everyone else at the table encouraged her to eat another piece. I wanted to say, "No! Don't eat another piece. They're terrible for you—you obviously know that. If you're still hungry, wait and eat an apple at home. You'll feel better physically and emotionally." But no, somehow that's not socially acceptable. So she ate another piece.

Maybe it's because they know they don't have to deal with the consequences of another's bad decisions. If that's it, that's selfish. I mean, how many times have you binged a bit and your stomach felt like lead for hours, and on top of that you felt like you just ruined your goals and defeated yourself? I've done it many times, and don't lie—you have too. It's the worst. Why would you want to encourage that for someone else?

Let's look out for each other a bit better, shall we?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A word on leggings

So I've seen a ton of stuff about leggings on Facebook lately. The truth is, if every woman wore leggings, this wouldn't be a conversation at all. We'd all just think it's normal. But right now it's a new popular clothing item, and people aren't sure what to think about it.

We're all a bit too caught up in the idea of *modesty.* If the reason behind modesty is to keep people's mind's pure, you're never going to win. Back in the day, showing your ankles was forbidden. Then it was your bellybutton. In some places currently, a woman's hair must be covered for fear of lust. In temperate coastal places, people hardly wear anything, and it's normal and fine. So clearly there's no universal line to cross with women's clothing that makes something inherently inappropriate. There are cultural expectations, but those are prone to change.

I'm not taking sides. I'm just saying it's all relative. It really really is.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Taylor Swift | Out of the Woods

I just posted about Into the Woods. Now it's time to post about Out of the Woods. Yep, this Taylor Swift song is my new favorite. I just identify with it, and, I can't help it—it's catchy.

This is the best version I could find. Ugh, just go buy it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Agony - Into the Woods Movie Clip

I saw this movie this week. It's a must-see if you ask me, and this is by far my favorite part of the film. The humor of this scene is impeccable!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Humans of New York

I discovered this Facebook page last year, and I'm in love with it. This page draws me in with its realism. The basic concept: a man walks around New York and asks people if he can take a picture and asks a few questions. He leaves us with a photo and a quote. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. Sometimes it's joyful. There are love stories interwoven with tales of crime, abuse, and heartache. There is diversity. There are celebrations, personalities, and a hundred million stories waiting to be told.

Here is a random selection of some of my favorites. (The photographer traveled abroad earlier this year. Some of my favorites are from that adventure.) (And sorry about the inconsistent fonts in this post. I couldn't figure out how to standardize them! Aiiii!)

“I want to be a hematologist. That’s a blood doctor. Well not a blood doctor, exactly. But a doctor that finds cures for blood diseases.”
“How’d you decide on that?”
“We were dissecting frogs in class and learning about how the blood flows through the body. And I went home that night and wrote an essay. And it wasn’t like any other essay I’d ever done. Normally when I write essays, it takes me a long time, but this was the fastest essay I ever wrote. So the next day I was asking the teacher mad questions, and she was like, ‘You know you can get a job in this.’ And she pulled it up on the internet, and was showing me all about hematologists.”

“I was the youngest in the family. I went to Israel first, and the rest of the family was supposed to join me. Nobody made it. We sent letters to each other for the first few years. The last letter I got from Poland came in 1941. It was from my mother. It asked me to send food. Then the letters stopped. I knew that the Germans had occupied Poland, and I heard rumors about the things that were happening. I never learned the specifics of what happened to my family. I never wanted to.”


“My father came from Nicaragua and got a job as a construction worker. My mother immigrated from Puerto Rico and got a job as a cleaning woman. One day he was working high up on some scaffolding at an office building, and he saw her cleaning inside, so he knocked on the window. And here I am.”

"After they beat me, I heard shots. And I walked to the shop next door, and found my neighbor dead on the floor. He was one of the nicest men in the town. Every day he would put out food for the cats. I would tell him: 'You must stop feeding the cats, they are overrunning my shop.' But he would never stop feeding them. He would tell me: 'I have to feed them. Or they will die.'"
(Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan)

“It’s tough to take the right steps when you grow up in this neighborhood. It’s hard to get up and go to school everyday because you see so many other kids who are dropping out, and they still figure out a way to handle their business. A lot of kids around here don’t get any support from their family. So everything is on them. If you have a backbone of support, it’s easy to take your time and go from A to B to C to D. But when you’re looking out for yourself, you’re in a hurry. You’re looking for a way to get from A to D.”

“I’m trying to raise my daughter with the same values that I learned in Jamaica, but it can be hard to instill gratitude and appreciation when we are surrounded by such abundance. When I was growing up in Jamaica, every time I wanted something, my grandmother made me go through the same list of questions: ‘Why do you want it?’ ‘How much will it cost?’ ‘Is it going to make your life better?’ There wasn't enough money for things we didn't need, so we were always forced to ask those questions-- even for simple things like a new pair of shoes. The necessity of that ritual really helped create a deep appreciation for the things we had.’"

"Do you remember the happiest moment of your life?"
"One day, I was sent home from my final exams because my mother had not been able to pay the registration fees. On the way home, a man came up to me and asked what was wrong. 'Nothing,' I told him. He asked me again. So I told him that I'd been sent home from school. He then gave me the money I needed to take my exams. I'd never seen him before, and I've never seen him again."

(Entebbe, Uganda)

“What’s surprised you most about being a parent?”
“The feeling of being called ‘Dad.’ It’s the best feeling on earth. The first time my daughter called me ‘Dad,’ we were playing hide and go seek. I was pretending that I couldn’t find her, and I kept searching and searching, until finally she screamed: ‘Dad!’ It almost made me cry. It made me feel like Superman.’”

(Nairobi, Kenya)

"I was going to one of my first exams, and suddenly there was a bombing. In downtown Damascus! I couldn't believe it! I didn't think this was possible. Windows were broken everywhere, and there were people on the ground, and the sounds of ambulances. Then over the next few weeks, everything changed. The taxis in the streets were replaced by tanks. You no longer knew who was your friend and who was your enemy. Suddenly you could be killed, and nobody would ask why. Before war, you have rights. People will ask why you were killed. When war comes, nobody asks why you were killed anymore." (Erbil, Iraq)

"I'd been studying German for a few years, and I met this woman who gave me the opportunity to go to Germany for a full year. The brochure looked very nice. The program included hikes, volunteer work, singing in church. It was very expensive, but my family thought it would be a great experience for me, so all my relatives chipped in to pay the program fee. I was so excited for months. On the day that I was supposed to leave, I went to the airport, and waited in line to check my baggage. When I got to the front of the line, they told me that my ticket was a forgery. When I tried to call the woman's phone, it had been disconnected."

(Nairobi, Kenya)

"They sometimes ask me about their grandmother, and I only tell them about the good times. I don't want to worry them with all the things my mother and I had to go through when I was growing up."
"What's your fondest memory of your mother?"
"We were so poor that every day she'd have to go out and try to find us some food. And on the days when she came home empty handed, she'd help us forget our hunger by putting on music and dancing for us."

(Jinja, Uganda)

"I'm bringing leaves to my friend!"

"When I was thirteen years old, government troops passed through our town when they were fleeing the rebels. At first I heard the gunfire, and then they came into our house and took everything they could. I was hiding under the bed. I heard them say they were going to kill my mother. One of them took off all my sister's clothes. But at the last moment he was pulled away, because the other soldiers told him there wasn't time for that."

(Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

"I'm coming up on five years of never missing a Sunday."
"How have you changed during those five years?"
"Before I met my creator, all I did was smoke and drink and party. Then five years ago, my aunt dragged me to church with her. I started following God, got off the streets, and stopped hanging out with my old friends. Church helped me to surround myself with people who were committed to changing themselves."

"He's only five years old, but he acts like an old man. Just now, he was just telling us that he was tired of our immature jokes. He doesn't even like to play. After school, he usually comes straight home and reads."

(Nairobi, Kenya)

"I'm losing my eyesight. It's a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. It starts with your peripheral vision and moves inward. It's not too bad for me yet. Sometimes I don't notice when somebody is trying to shake my hand. And sometimes it can be hard for me to keep track of what line I'm reading. But I got the disease from my father, and he went completely blind in his 40's. So I try to spend as much time as possible looking at things like the colors of the leaves and cool cloud formations."

"My happiest moments were when my mom was still alive."
"What's your fondest memory of your mother?"
"One time when I was six years old, we went to pick up my father at the airport. On the way, my mother explained to me the concept of boarding a plane and taking a trip. And then while we waited for my father, we sat in a nearby restaurant, and we planned out all the imaginary trips that I wanted to go on."

(Nairobi, Kenya)

"If I'm ever arguing with her mom, I just look down and remind myself that this beautiful woman gave me this beautiful child. And this child doesn't care who's right or who's wrong, all she cares about is that mommy and daddy are there."

"She shares her yogurt with me."

(Nairobi, Kenya)

“One time we were spinning with blankets on our heads and we spun into the TV!”

"What's your largest goal in life?"
"To find my children. They are five and seven. I told them I was taking a short trip to Juba, and I'd be back in a couple days, but then I got stranded by the fighting. They were crying so loud about my leaving, I had to sneak away while one was playing and one was sleeping. That was almost a year ago. I haven't even been able to hear how they are doing."

"Some people still prefer the arranged marriage, especially in the countryside where tradition is still strong. The thought is that your parents know you very well, and will make the decision based on experience and not emotion. The divorce rate with arranged marriages is lower, because both families are heavily involved and there are many people committed to making the match work. But the tradition is on the way out. It used to be that you didn't even see your wife until your wedding day, and you fell in love after your wedding, as you learned to support and care for each other. But today there's Whatsapp and Facebook, so keeping two people apart is almost impossible. 'Love marriages' are becoming much more popular than arranged marriages, and even arranged marriages involve much more interaction than they used to. Many families still choose to uphold the appearance of an arrangement. Their children will come to them and say: 'I fell in love.' And they'll say: 'OK, let us arrange it.'"

(Jammu, India)

"I can't see, so he guides me. Whenever I make a sound, he will come running. He reads to me. He cooks for me. And he got the second highest ranking in his 6th grade class."

(Nurpur, India)

"He found me and my son on New Year's Eve, sleeping in a construction site. We'd been forced out on the street after my husband abandoned us. He said: 'You shouldn't live like this, come home with me.' He let us live with him for months, and he never asked me for a thing, and he very good to my son. Sometimes I'd come home and find him carrying my son on his shoulders. After a few months, we developed romantic feelings for each other."

"When I was fourteen, I had a friend over to my house and we were sitting on the floor of my closet making jewelry. My mom poked her head in the room and asked us what movie we wanted to see that night, and we said 'Brokeback Mountain.' She said we were a little too young for that, and suggested an animated movie instead. My friend started laughing at my mom and calling her lame. I joined in, even though I actually really liked animated movies. When my mom came back with the showtimes for Brokeback Mountain, I noticed that she was sniffling and her eyes were red. We saw Brokeback Mountain that night, but I've never wanted to watch it again."

"When I was fifteen, I was raped by three boys while competing at a gymnastics tournament. I was so ashamed, that I stood on a train track, and waited for the train to come. At the last moment, I tried to jump away. I woke up after a month. It was the middle of the night, and I could immediately tell that something was missing. I started feeling all over my body, and that's when I realized that I'd lost my arm. Now I counsel teenagers who have been diagnosed with HIV. I'm normally the first to meet with them after they get their results. I try to explain to them that there's a way out of even the most impossible situations."

(Odessa, Ukraine)

“I grew up on an island off the coast of Honduras, and I came to America on a banana boat when I was very young. I’m the superintendent for some of the apartment buildings around here. I always try to collect the clothing and junk that the tenants throw away, and every couple of months, I pack it into barrels and send it back to Honduras. I especially try to find medical equipment. If a crippled man in Honduras has nothing but a stick, a crutch will change his life.”

“I met my dad for the first time when I was fifteen. I visited him in Trinidad for two months during the summer. He met me at the airport and acted like he missed me more than anything else in the world. He ran up to me and lifted me in the air and started kissing me and saying how much he missed me. He carried all my luggage, and gave me money, and stopped by the supermarket on the way home to buy me all this food. He was introducing me to his friends like he was so proud of me. He’d say: ‘Look at my beautiful daughter,’ and things like that. It actually got me imagining how nice it would be to have a dad. Then at the end of the day, he dropped me off at my grandmother’s house, and I only saw him two or three times for the rest of the summer. The last night I was with him, he got really drunk, and he told me that I’d been a mistake. He was laughing when he said it, like it was a joke, and I should think it was funny. I pretended like it didn’t bother me, but it did. I thought: ‘So is that why you never wanted to visit or talk to me all these years?’”