“I will walk together.”

I’ve mentioned before my great love of the Japanese rock band the GazettE.  (And the reason the ‘e’ is capitalized is just because it looks cool).

the GazettE

(Left to right: Aoi, Reita, Kai, Uruha, and Ruki is sitting).

I first was ‘introduced’ to them by my friend Mirriam Neal’s blog.  She had pictures of Aoi and Kai (with the awesome hair pictured above) and I was curious.  When I first looked into their music, I was a little confused and weirded out.  I thought they were okay, but they weren’t anything I’d come in contact with before.  But I still went foraging through the internet to look for their clean music.  (While I don’t speak Japanese, the overall theme of a song is still very apparent in the music even if the words are foreign to the listener.)

I acquired a bit of a collection, but I branched out into other types of j-rock.  A lot of them are good, but I quickly realized that the GazettE is one of the cleaner bands.  It’s so hard to find songs even in my native language that are clean and it frustrates and angers me to no end.  So I was certainly impressed and proud that the Gazette didn’t block me out of their artistry.  That’s not to say that all of their stuff is perfectly clean — it’s not.  But something that I love about them is that if they choose to make something inappropriate for someone with my standards to listen to, the content usually includes only swearing or themes of violence.  In today’s world sexuality is glorified.  It’s pathetically hard to find a song that doesn’t highlight this in some way.  That’s one reason why I don’t listen to a lot of modern pop music (plus it’s not really my thing).  One has to search diligently on the internet and be prepared to wade through things no one should have to come in contact with just to find a good song.  It’s pathetic and disgusting.  But for the most part, the GazettE stay away from involving that particular theme in their music.

Aoi.Reita(The GazettE)

(Aoi and Reita).

The GazettE get life.  None of them have had it easy, perhaps Ruki, the vocalist, in particular.  He was treated very poorly by his family to the extent that he had nothing to do with his father until the band began to get popular.  These guys have seen sadness and pain but not only has it made them fuller, better people, they’ve been able to help others through their experiences.  That’s how hardships should be used.  So many of their songs are uplifting, and many of them deal with harsh topics such as abuse and death.  One of my favorite songs is Miseinen, and to paraphrase the song, it’s basically a story of growing up.  In youth, you rebel and your pride lifts you up, but that’s not really how it’s supposed to go.  It’s okay to rely on friends and family, to be broken, because it makes you stronger.  I think it not only sums up the amazing mentality of the band, but the hope we can have for our own lives.

The GazettE have helped me very much in my life.  I have a very hot temper and their music is one of the few things that calm me down sufficiently.  As anyone who knows me understands, I struggle so much with math.  (And my dad’s an accountant.  Sad, right?)  I would get so wound up that my emotional state would be on the range between ‘frustrated’ and ‘angry’.  I don’t like being mad.  It leaves a bitter feeling that’s hard to shake.  So as I studied up in my room, I’d turn on Baretta and Best Friends.  It really helped.  One fan has said, “They understand what my family doesn’t.”  And while I don’t share those feelings about my family not understanding, I love that I can listen to a couple of songs by the GazettE and then be calm enough to express myself to those close to me.  ‘Cause it really stinks to be so frustrated that when I try to speak, all of it boils up and I wind up doing something I regret.  Or even if I’m feeling down, listening to Cassis calms me and gives me hope.  To me, that’s really the GazettE’s message: hope.  Both in their music and how they live their lives.

The GazettE

They’re actually really shy, private people.  My dad avoids the topic of them because I think they make him wary, which, in my opinion, is kind of funny.  Mirriam and I talked quite a bit about them the other day, and the way she described them when her mother looked askance at them was that they’re sweet babies.  And she’s right.  They have such sweet spirits.  Their music is downright awesome — they’re a highly talented bunch.  But their spirits have the opportunity to speak through it.  They try so hard to be tough, but they’re polite and funny and just genuinely people who make me smile.  When I’m upset in any way, they’re one of the things with the highest percentage of cheering me up and giving me hope.

the GazettE. I love their smiles. :D <3

I could go on about them forever, but I’ll just keep this short and sweet.  The GazettE have reached into my heart and give me confidence and help me strive toward who I want to be.  I have a very strong fear of failure and they help calm me down and let me see more of my potential.  I don’t know them and they don’t know me, but the hope and strength they give me will forever be something I treasure.

Cheers!

Ana

P.S. New album in August!  Someone tell me how it is, as I’ll be on a mission.

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Such a Pity

My mother had the love and wisdom to introduce Jim Henson’s film ‘Labyrinth’ to us as children.  It’s pure magic.  For those of you who don’t know the story/need a refresher, here’s the synopsis:

Fed up with her stepmother’s insistence that she watch her baby half-brother, fifteen-year-old Sarah wishes the infant into the care of the goblins and their malevolent king.  Desperate, Sarah fights her way through the Goblin King’s dangerous labyrinth with the help of some unlikely new friends to reclaim her infant brother and defeat the evil king.

Labyrinth haha! Love this!

(I just couldn’t resist, guys, and I’m not sorry).

We loved this film so much as kids that my sister painted the most adorable picture of His Royal Jerkface, complete with awesome hair, that was up on the door forever.  Dang, I wonder where it went….

(Complete sidenote, but this is exciting — my mother agreed to let my daddy buy me white bread hamburger buns!)

It’s been over a decade since I first saw the film, but my love for it has just grown throughout the years.  I love the goblins, I love the music, I love Sarah’s hair, I love Jareth’s smile, I love the blinking glitter—  What’s not to love?  It’s a story of overcoming obstacles for the love of your family.  Sure, it was released in ’86 and there are some aspects that really need help, but it’s still a sweeping tale rife with beauty, magic and mystery.

Jennifer Connelly was only fourteen when she was cast as Sarah.  I think it was her first real role, and to tell the truth, she was a terrible actress back then.  (If you haven’t seen a Beautiful Mind, do yourself a favor and turn it on.  While not perfect, she does a fantastic job and the story is too amazing for words).  But she did the best she could and I think her nose is adorable.  I love her nose.  As for the character, Sarah begins as a frustrated teen, and while I totally understand her point of view — y’know, father remarrying someone quite unlikable, being expected to be the perfect child, perfect babysitter, and losing the attention of her father, just to name a few things — she does go about dealing with it all in the wrong way.  She’s embittered toward the little baby and resents that she’s constantly pulled from the world of fantasy she has created around herself as a buffer from the unhappiness of her life.  She thrives on story, and her favorite book is a small, worn thing that she’s constantly quoting.  It’s called ‘the Labyrinth.’  When she wishes away her brother and the story actually begins happening, she quickly realizes that the adventure is not as great as it was in the book.

Sarah: For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great — You have no power over me. Labyrinth, 1986

(I think this is the most beautiful picture).

As Sarah goes along her story, winding through the labyrinth, she meets three folk who will become her dear friends: Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus.  At first Hoggle gets on her nerves and she treats him rather rudely, but she ultimately has a good heart and learns to trust him.  Ludo, a big, furry yeti, wins her over immediately due to his sweet nature and adorable childlikeness.  Sir Didymus is a fox-looking knight, and I think she’s amused by and appreciative of his gallantry towards her.

Despite Jenny’s sadly lacking acting ability, Sarah’s personality and abilities do shine through.  She loves stories and fantasy, and she’s brave and determined.  Though Jareth, the Goblin King, takes every opportunity to throw things in her path (literally and figuratively), she doesn’t let it deter her.  She’s nearly turned to mincemeat, dumped in a bog, mindwashed, sliced in half, shot, but she continues steadfastly in her mission to save her little brother.  As she realizes how far she’s willing to go to get him back, her dormant love for him blossoms and when her adventure ends, the audience senses that forevermore, Sarah will love and protect Toby no matter what.  She learns the true meaning of love and how it can change her life for the better.

Sarah begins as a lonely child, a girl longing for attention and love.  But as she learns what it means to trust others as well as herself and becomes aware of how much she is capable of, she transforms into a woman.  Her journey through the labyrinth wasn’t just to save her brother — it was to learn about herself.  She is brave, loyal, compassionate, and strong.  She has a heart that is capable of loving and forgiving despite betrayal and hurt.  At the end of the film, we see her putting away the relics of her childhood as she realizes that if she wants to move forward, she can’t be held back by her pain and loneliness.  As wonderful as these childhood books and toys were, no matter how much they helped her, she understands it’s time to move on to different tools, ones that will carry her into womanhood.  Still, one can’t outgrow love and friendship, and she invites all her friends back and they celebrate together.  She still needs them, and perhaps she always will.  They remind her of who she truly is, and they encourage her to be her best.  They have become her family, and it’s beautiful.

Sarah from Labyrinth. I'm putting this on my

(Sarah and Hoggle).

Hoggle — whose name always seems to be mutilated most embarrassingly — begins as a grudging ally of Jareth.  Originally entrusted with taking Sarah back to the beginning of the labyrinth, Sarah bribes him with her plastic bracelet.  Hoggle says of himself, “See, you’ve got to understand my position.  I’m a coward, and Jareth scares me.”  It’s true, Hoggle is a coward, and while he’s extremely touched when Sarah calls him her friend, the instant he hears a terrifying roaring (which happens to be Ludo) he takes off, despite Sarah having taken his little bag of jewels in an attempt to make him stay and lead her to the palace.

Hoggle was my favorite character when I was a kid.  He’s funny and curmudgeonly, unaware of how utterly adorable he is.  He pretends to be hard, but he’s really just an old softie.  He begins as a ‘fend-for-myself-’cause-it’s-safest’ guy, but as Sarah worms her way into his heart he realizes there’s more to life than regretfully doing the Goblin King’s bidding.  Jareth bullies him into giving Sarah an enchanted peach, and Hoggle can’t forgive himself.  He sits alone, huddled by a fire, and says softly, “She’ll never forgive me.  What have I done?  I’ve lost my only friend.  That’s what I’ve done.”  He himself claims not to have any pride, and subsequently his self-esteem is all but non-existent, which Jareth takes full advantage of.  Sarah helps him to realize his true importance and that he can be loved for himself.  When Sarah and the others approach the gates to the Goblin City, Hoggle braves runs across the wall and stops the electronic goblin machine that was trying to kill the little crew.  When Sarah rushes to see if he’s all right, he confesses that Jareth made him give her the peach, tells her that he doesn’t care what she thinks of him and he ain’t interested in being friends.  Softly, she replies, “I forgive you, Hoggle.”  He’s shocked, and is further moved when Sir Didymus adds, “And I commend you.  Rarely have I seen such courage.  You are a valiant man, Sir Hoggle.”  And Ludo gently taps him and says simply, “Hoggle and Ludo friends.”  Sarah thanks him and gives him back his pouch of jewels, and buoyed up by the love surrounding him, he stands and heroically declares, “Well, what are we waiting for?  Let’s go get that rat who calls himself Jareth.”

A movie I've adored for many years. I love the smile on her face in this picture.

(Sarah and Ludo).

Isn’t Ludo adorable?  When Sarah finds him, he’s hanging upside-down from a tree, being tortured by a small group of armed goblins.  Sarah saves him, and he asks if she’s his friend.  When she replies in the affirmative, he’s overjoyed.  He’s basically a big puppy-child, his sweet nature and unconditional love something Sarah desperately needs.  He’s playful and kind, almost incapable of understanding evil, such is his innocence.  He’s easily frightened and sticks very close to Sarah while in the glittering, ominous forest.  He is able to control rocks, calling them his friends, and this ability is what saves the small band during the Battle of the Goblin City — the poor goblins didn’t know what hit them.

Ludo is extremely loyal, and while he knows to protect himself, his nature is one that is primarily kind and gentle.  His heart is large enough to hold the world, and he, more than anyone, is the one who teaches Sarah how to let her own goodness free from the restraints she had built up.

Sir Didymus, Hoggle and Ludo (Labyrinth)

(Didymus, Hoggle, and Ludo).

Sir Didymus is kind of a loony.  He believes himself to be the bravest and most noble of knights and is gallant to the point that there are times you might want to headdesk.  When Ludo all but defeats him in a ‘ferocious battle,’ Didymus yields and adopts Ludo as his brother.  He’s willing to fight to the death for any cause that comes his way, even if his sheepdog steed isn’t so keen on his courtly ideals.

Didymus lacks a few brains cells despite his bravery.  Anything that moves ought to be fought, he lifts a weapon and he’s immediately won, and is constantly convinced he’s unbeatable.  For instance, when he finally convinces his mount to stop running and they are encircled by some of the goblin cavaliers, he says, “Don’t worry, […] I think we’ve got them surrounded.”  He’s humorous but doesn’t get it, chivalrous but makes mistakes, and rushes headlong into any situation that bears a promise of a noble fight.  And he looks cute and cuddly until you see him move — he’s almost like a squirrel.  Oh, so adorable, right? — then its teeth are sunk deep into your finger.  But he’s still cute.  Although he would be deeply affronted to ever hear that.  Warriors are not ‘cute.’

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. Turn back, Sarah. Turn back before it's too late!

Jareth.

King of the goblins, expert in the art of magic, and a royal jerk.

How can you not love him?

But there are times when anyone in their right mind wants to whack him about the ears.

But there’s just something about him that draws you in, just as it did Sarah.  Jareth is immature and manipulative, but there are times when you see past that.  The one-and-only David Bowie portrays him and even got to compose all the songs for the film (the score was done by Trevor Jones).  He’s dangerous and has obviously spent way more time than he would’ve liked among his rather idiotic subjects.  He goes around whisking away babies and the magic of the labyrinth turns them into goblins within a day.  He does everything in his (considerable) power to intimidate and stop Sarah, often in ways that would harm her greatly to say the least.  For him, I don’t think it’s so much about keeping the baby — it’s about conquering this headstrong young girl who’s doing way too well in overcoming his labyrinth.

Jareth fascinates me.  There are so many layers to his character that you just long to peel back to see the real man inside.  Like all the characters, there’s definitely an arc during the course of the movie for Jareth.  He’s proud and dangerous, and when he offers Sarah the chance to find her brother, I really don’t think he actually expects her to do it.  What he’s counting on even less is the help his own subjects — most especially Hoggle — toward the girl.  He’s insufferably domineering over everyone, cruel and mischievous, and likes to think he’s on top of the world.  He wants the baby.  He wants control.

Yet there’s something beneath his glittery cruelty that compels and sparks the mind.  Something I love that Bowie did with the music was tell Jareth’s story.  The first song, Underground, alludes to Jareth understanding Sarah’s pain at being rejected and ignored.  The second, Magic Dance, is a hilarious, catchy romp that almost has to do with little baby Toby.  Jareth dances among the goblins — the puppeteering is amazing, says the puppeteer’s granddaughter — as they sing the playful number.  Jareth is very childish and insists the goblins laugh when he laughs, shut up when he wants them to, and otherwise do his immature bidding.

(Jareth and Toby).

His relationship with — at? — Sarah is quite interesting.  At first you get the feeling that she’s just another specimen to watch and do his bidding, a sort of test rat to run through his maze.  But he seems to be genuinely intrigued by her.  As she nears his fortress, he pulls string to make her fall into a sort of trance.  In her dream, she’s in a ballroom, looking for Jareth, and the song that plays — and that he later sings — hints that he’d like her to stay.  He seems honestly concerned and sad when she breaks free, though it could’ve been worry for her mind slipping back to rescuing her brother, but when she regains her memory and finds him and Toby in the palace’ Escher room, his attitude is strangely raw.  The entire scene is basically Sarah running around trying to get to a gravity-defying Toby as Jareth sings Within You.  The song begins as he’s berating her for turning his world upside-down, but finishes in a rather sad way.  He says he believes in her and softly asks her to “Live without [her] sunlight.  Love without [her] heartbeat.”  He seems almost overcome with emotion.

(The dress, guys.  The dress.  The hair.)

Okay, one of the main reasons I’m writing this blog post is because of a problem I have with fangirls.

Guys, Jareth is pretty, mysterious, and we all love him, but he’s not some whimpering puppy you can take home to mama.  It frustrates me how blind girls can be to the ‘sexy’ guys faults.  He’s not nice.  Yeah, he has pain, but that doesn’t mean he’s some poor, innocent baby you can cuddle and allow to dawdle after you forever.  He won’t.  Maybe someday he can change, but until then, stop acting as if he’s some misunderstood darling who only wants love.  Yeah, he does want love, but the way he goes about it is twisted and cruel.  And he would be the first to admit it.  Excuse my harshness, but use your heads.  (The same principle goes for the majority of guys in today’s popular stories).  And as much as I love him, I try to see him as the manipulative jerk he actually is.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t redeemable, but I’d need to love him from afar.

Okay, after that rant, let me finish my little yeah-I-love-Jareth monologue. Anyway, the last scene between Sarah and the Goblin King is so dynamic.  He tells her to beware, for “[he had] been generous up until now, but [he] can be cruel.”  When she doubts this, he tells her he has done everything she wanted.  He took her brother, reordered time, turned the world upside down … and all for her.  He claims that he’s exhausted from living up to her expectations of him. She then begins the most powerful speech of the whole movie, one that is incredibly moving and inspiring.

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen.  For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great.”

He interrupts.  He’s afraid.  He offers her her dreams, and as she steps forward, steadfastly continuing the speech, and in near desperation, he says, “I ask for so little.  Just let me rule you, and you can have everything that you want.”  There’s a certain line that Sarah can never remember, and she visibly struggles as he leaps on his moment.  “Just fear me,” he says, “love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.”

Sarah looks up, and his fear heightens.

“You have no power over me.”

Those were the words that destroyed him.  When Sarah spoke them, he twisted through the air, collapsing, until he turned into his owl form and Sarah reappeared in her home just as the clock struck midnight.

I genuinely believe that Jareth cared for Sarah.  She’s different, someone who believes in him and has the strength to overpower even him.  David Bowie said, “He’s completely smitten,” and adds, basically, that her purity and goodness was another thing that drew him to her.  But Jareth doesn’t know what it is to love.  His heart is so hardened by what he has done that he can’t understand what it is to truly care about someone.  And I pity him for that.

I love the ending of the film.  Sarah has grown, she recognizes that there’s more to her than the lonely child she was before.  As she invites her dear friends back into her life, I get the feeling that these unconventional companions are going to be her example of unconditional love.  They are her family now, and we finally get to see her truly happy.  Outside her window, a white owl perches on a branch, but as the celebrations continue, Jareth flies away toward the moon.

Ludo: [in the mirror] Goodbye, Sarah.  Didymus: And remember, fair maiden, should you need us... Hoggle: Yes, should you need us, for any reason at all... Sarah: I need you, Hoggle.  Hoggle: You do?   Sarah: [nods] I don't know why, but every now and again in my life - for no reason at all - I need you. All of you.   Hoggle: You do? Well WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SO? *Epic Goblin party ensues*

The story of Labyrinth is love.  For family, for friends, and for yourself.  Sarah’s friends help her find herself, and she does the same for them.  She understands how much her brother means to her, and I like to think that those dear friends from the labyrinth will be the companions of Toby’s life as well.

Love really can conquer all.

Cheers!

Ana

P.S. It’s further than you think.  Time is short.

Stereotypes and Modesty

Modest is sexy.

It’s a fact of life.

Unfortunately, people so often are of the opinion that being ‘modest’ means wearing frumpy old-lady clothes.  Clothes that are so bad they have never been anywhere near the spectum of ‘fashionable,’ t-shirts that could double as tents, jeans that come up to your ribcage.

That opinion is rather sad, actually, because so often the cutest clothes are the ones that are modest.  The ones that speak for themselves and flatter you while still leaving things to the imagination.

Others also think that modesty is restricting, that it’s oppressive and keeps you from fully expressing yourself.  I think this opinion is twisted.  Our bodies are a gift.  Say you had a precious Ming vase, ‘kay?  Would you put it in your front yard to bleach in the sun and for every neighborhood child to trap dragonflies in?  No — you’d keep it on display in your house, probably in a special case to protect it.  Your guests would be honored to view it, to have the opportunity to marvel at its unique beauty.

Teen girls! You are valuable! Please read this article from a great website, full of resources for young and old!

We are each important.  You wouldn’t pawn off your gold watch for a bag of plastic bugs, would you?  We are of too much worth to sell ourselves like that.  We aren’t cheap — we are priceless.  It’s time society recognized that.  Instead, we are expected to show off our assets, let everyone know how ‘sexy’ we are, but really, that’s just degrading.  Society preaches respect and equality, yet both men and women are looked down on if we show an ounce of it for ourselves and our sacred gifts.

Something about many of the modesty lessons is the reaction of the opposite sex.  I hate it.  “You’ll help the boys by dressing modestly.”  “Don’t tempt the girls by sagging your jeans.”  Yeah, it’s important to help and respect those around you, but I think the true reason to dress modestly is for ourselves.  We need to show the world that we are confident without showing off, that we respect ourselves enough to keep those sacred parts of us away from the cheap, low-minded bidders prowling around with glittering eyes.

On redefining sexy: | 12 Stevie Nicks Quotes To Live By

(Quote by Stevie Nicks that I found on Pinterest).

Another subject I’d like to touch on is stereotypes.  For instance, my style is basically that of a Japanese rocker.  I wear spiked boots, skull-embellished shirts, hip belts and skeleton-cameo necklaces.  As weird as it sounds, I almost feel most complete when my nails are painted black.  I’m usually in black and have a growing collection of spikes and leather.  But I’m always modest.  I live in a small town that wasn’t sure what to do with me when I first came, and that really confused me and made me sad.  I don’t try to be tempting and I strive to be kind and polite with clean language, but I was still rather labeled as a sort of rebel, an unwanted divergent.

I would even wear the nose-thing. XD

(Reita from the GazettE).

That’s one kind of stereotype.  When you see a girl with frills and pink lipstick, don’t label her as shallow and brainless.  When you see a girl with false eyelashes even longer than mine, don’t immediately conclude that she’s a tramp.  This is something I really struggle with, don’t get me wrong.  I’m one of those people that just naturally labels and judges.  But as I’ve gone throughout my life, made friends, worked at Subway, I’ve learned to see past the skin.  True, you don’t agree with the girl who comes in with her neckline down to her bellybutton.  But maybe she’s nice.  The young man with the scowl over there might be bullied and doesn’t know how to show that he’s not mean and rude, or maybe his attitude is a protection against those who wish to hurt him further.  Maybe the girl dressed as a hippie is beaten at home and the way she copes is by clinging to the ideals of peace.

Mormon chick, baby! ;D  This is the sweetest picture, too!

(Isn’t this picture perfectly adorable?)

This post is as much for me as it is for everyone else.  True, there are some folks out there that you instinctively know to stay away from.  You aren’t always going to want to be friends with everybody.  But we mustn’t forget that beneath the outer layer, there is a child of God, one that is precious in His sight and should also be in ours.

We should also notice our own worth.  Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes — that’s what Christ’s Atonement is for.  We live, we fall, we get back up.  And we never do it alone.  We have the potential to rise above it all — yeah, it’s gonna take a long time to get to that point.  But who says we shouldn’t try?

Cheers!

Ana

(Sorry, I had to).

An Open Letter to Everyone

I’m proud to be part of a writing group whose members simply call it ‘the Pack.’  We follow the writer Mirriam Neal (our pack leader), and encourage each other in every endeavor we — either wisely or ridiculously — choose to pursue.  It’s through this wonderful group of girls that I met my best friend.  These awe-inspiring people have taught me the true meaning of friendship and unconditional love, even for those of us that are the most flawed.

We’re an odd bunch.  Any one of us will admit that.  And I think that unorthodox-ness sometimes makes us feel inferior, other, or unwanted.

I recently read a blog post by a very, very dear friend of mine.  The overall feeling I got was that she doesn’t see her full worth.  I look at her and see someone funny, beautiful, and wise beyond her years.  Her soul is inspiring, whether it’s making me giggle or see the world through the beautiful stained-glass window she has created.  She thinks she’s awkward and hard to love, but all the qualities that she thinks make her lesser are what I love most about her.  They make her who she is.  And if someone doesn’t love you for who you are … get rid of them.

I am here to tell you of your importance.  As I’ve come closer to Christ, I’ve truly began to understand the power of love for others.  I may not know you personally, but I testify to you that the qualities you have are not what make you inferior, but what make you special.  Perhaps you have a strange sense of humor.  Perhaps you like to read about neuroscience.  Perhaps you don’t get metaphors.  Perhaps you have difficulty around people.  I don’t care — you are special.  You, just by existing, make the world a better place.

Think about it: where would the world be without you?  I can tell you most assuredly that it would be empty.  Maybe the world would continue to spin, but it would feel the absence.  Have you ever seen the Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life?  It’s one of my dad’s favorite movies, and I finally watched it last December.  It’s about how a man who feels everyone would be better without him is shown how the world would have been different had he never been born.  In the end, he realizes how many blessings he has, and what a blessing he has been.

You are a blessing.  Maybe you’re a social butterfly, maybe you’re Muslim, maybe you’re a survivor of abuse.  You are unique, wonderful, irreplaceable, inspiring.  I want you to look in the mirror and see what I could see: an amazing individual who deserves every chance.  Someone who is loved.  Someone who deserves to be loved by themselves.

Learn to love yourself.  I love you.  But most importantly, God loves you.  He’s given everything for you, and I want you to know that no matter what you feel, you can always turn to Him.  Maybe you won’t get your answer immediately, but He is there, His hand outstretched, just waiting for you to take it.

Don’t cut.  Don’t cry.  Know that there’s someone out there, even if she doesn’t know you, who prays for you and cares about you.  If a perfect stranger can do that, please do it for yourself, too.

With all the love in my heart,

Ana

(Read this adorable thing I found).

This is exactly how I feel about you. (yes, you!!!) :: if you know the artist who drew this, please let me know as I'd love to give them credit. the site this links to searched but could not find the source and neither could I. xoxo

Who Says Humanity is Fading?

This could be the piece of information a loved one is desperately looking for. Spread the word. Support the fight. #RiotAgainstI have a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  It’s a collagen-deficiency disorder that causes great pain — trust me on this.  It’s so rare that even out of the percentage of people with it, only a few of us lucky ones are bothered this much by it.  What I know can only be divine intervention, my best friend, Sarah Y. Westmoreland, has the same condition.  It’s because of her that I know as much about it as I do.  Normally the pain sets in in the late teens/early twenties, but Sarah was in a wheelchair by the time she was eight.  I don’t know whether or not you believe in miracles, but being a degenerative disease, it does not get better.  But through a kind, wonderful physical therapist, Sarah has been on her feet for nearly a decade.  This is a miracle.  True, we often were glued to the couch in exhaustion and pain with our little teacups as April went around and asked us what was wrong and we responded, basically, that we felt old.

EXACTLY!

(Part of EDS is that it’s very hard to get up in the morning).

It hurts, guys.  I’m in a flare right now and can barely type.  My back feels like I have knives shoved into it, my elbows feel like someone’s trying to rip them from their sockets.  I got stuck in the middle of the kitchen because my ankle was in so much throbbing pain I couldn’t put weight on it, but my mom can’t even help me into a seat because when she touches me, it hurts somewhere else.  Mind you, this is a flare and it will go away after a time.  It could be a week.  It could be a year.

EDS

I work at Subway and I love it.  But a few weeks before I left on vacation, so circa early December, the pain began to set in.  I had felt it coming on almost ever since I started work, but I’m the kind of person that when I’m on duty, good luck getting me to slow down.

.

(Most accurate thing I have ever read).

Right before I left on my vacation, I asked to talk to the general manager.  I explained about the pain, EDS, and that I really didn’t want to quit but felt that I might have to.  Liz, Kayleen, and Marlena told me to go rest up for my two weeks, then when I came back we would figure something out.

So I go to work two/three days after I return.  I have my cute little Subway outfit on, my tiara behind my visor, and my Mrs. Handel sweatshirt over my arm.  Marlena runs up to the edge of the counter and welcomes me back, then proceeds to inform me that Liz and Phil (the owner) had made a new job entirely for me.  I’m basically to be the face of Subway, greeting people that come in, chatting, and cleaning the lobby as best I can while making our customers feel happy and welcome.

Who does stuff like that?  Who creates an entirely new position for one worker, especially when that worker has a disease that is almost completely invisible and that even the doctors don’t know about?  I work three days a week tops, and at most for an hour and a half.  I usually make it around an hour, but I’m hoping that as I take it easy I’ll be up to full capacity eventually.

They let me come to work covered in braces, and I’ve been all but forcibly kicked from the premises when I start showing signs of pain.


Okay, so that was a while ago.  I have come back from my hiatus.  See, the pain was so bad I had to go in spurts, and now it’s better, thank goodness.  Not gone, it still hurts, but I can actually type now.  And then I forgot.  So, back to business:


The kindness shown not only by my bosses and coworkers has amazed me, especially as I’ve been working for quite a bit now and am very valuable to the store.  It has to be hard on them to lose a good worker, as I’ve seen happen way too many times.  They actually just had to let me go, seeing as they aren’t getting a whole lot of business right now and I’m kind of useless.  But they were amazing about it.  Marlena, my store boss, had me help fill out the quit-paper, we had a nice chat, then when I got up to get a sandwich and leave, she gave me a hug and told me to keep coming back.  Marlena is kind of a hard-edged person, so when she gives you a hug, it means a lot.  Everyone I’ve worked with is the same way.  Even if I had to be let go at a time when all their most valuable hands are either leaving or getting kicked out, they still have had it in their hearts to make sure I felt loved and appreciated, when really, there wasn’t anything I could do that was capable of earning appreciation.  I’m definitely popping back in and getting a six-inch chicken teriyaki.  And begging a handful of jalepenos from Mikey.

Show Low Subway Earns Statewide “Store of the Month” Honor

(I’m second to the right — don’t ask what I was doing.  I look scared.  Left to right: Ralph, Phil and Kayleen, Amber, Chris, Liz, Mikey, yours truly, and Rhiannon.  This was ages ago, so not all of us are there anymore.  Oh, yeah, and Liz again.  We won the statewide Subway of the Month Award!)

Then there are perfect strangers.  We were in the city — a three-hour trip away, ugh — and lining up to get tickets for Imitation Game.  I could literally barely walk.  I had to take baby steps, lean against the pillars on the way to the ticket window, and was trying very hard not to be crabby.  Walking like you’re 100 years old when you’re still a young woman is embarrassing on many levels.  Especially when in a big city where you’re supposed to be having fun.  This older woman sitting on a bench — she was probably in her seventies — was watching me struggle, then called, “Honey, are you all right?”  I smiled and responded that I was, but that simple act of kindness, accompanied by the knowledge that my condition wasn’t troubling anyone (I feel bad when poor drivers have to wait for me to cross the street), lightened my heart considerably.  When I’m at church, where I’ve been in Nursery so long not many people know me, so many people ask if I’m all right.  I have to explain constantly, but I don’t mind.  I am honored that I am a recipient of their kindness.  It’s made easier to explain by the fact that a friend of mine that’s also in the ward also has EDS.  Tessa is amazing — she has three kids and when her printer broke, she wrote her entire talk out by hand.  If you don’t have EDS, you can’t know how much that must have hurt.  I never would have done that, at hers is even worse than mine.  She and Sarah are constant inspirations to me.

Blog about disability - comment below it that made me cry: "Daddy, are you going to work with those people who have different possibilities?"

(This is absolutely awesome!  I need this, guys!  Mall, here I come!)

That so many people care gives me so much hope for the world.  Perfect strangers, good friends, my family — as long as people like them exist, the world is a beautiful place.  They’ve really shown me what love and caring is all about.

Cheers!

Ana

A happy zebra. Must have been watching "Stripes."

(P.S. The zebra is the mascot for EDS.  Isn’t this’un so cute?)

 

How to Handle a Woman

I love walking home from work.  It takes me a little less than an hour to get from Subway to my house, and I go at a firm clip, singing to myself and paying little to no attention to anyone else around me.  (Except cars.  My balance has never been exceptional no matter how much I argue with it, so I have to make sure I stay alert or I’ll topple into the street.  That would be bad).

But of the times I make my happy way along the road, the most irritating are when the guys, who are big and safe in their cars, decide to pay attention to me.  The first time it happened, it was a lovely, sunny day about three o’ clock in the afternoon.  I was suddenly startled by a shout of, “HEY!”, and look over to see a grinning stranger staring at me from a truck at the other end of the street, waiting for the light to turn green.  My mouth was full of my half-price sandwich and I went on my merry way.  Next thing I know, this car that I did not recognize scared me out of my skin as its driver leaned on the horn as he passed me.

This is not fun.  It’s not like it happens every single time I walk home, but considering I’ve only done this a few times, it makes up a pretty good percentage of my leisurely strolls.  I feel like they think I’m an object ready for purchase.

Heck, I know I’m pretty.  Even in my faded sweatshirt, no make-up, and my hair flat on top and the rest flying everywhere in the wind.  But that does not give a man the right to call me as he would his dog.  I have feelings, a life, and as an individual, it is wrong for them to believe they are allowed to objectify me.  Just because I’m a lone chick does not mean they can catcall and examine every part of my body as if admiring a racecar.

But today as I worked, two ladies that have come in before entered, laughing and talking.  They had brought a young man that was teasing them and smiling, and I treated them as I would any customer, with kindness and a healthy dose of fun.  I was doing the first lady’s sandwich — after she totally didn’t realize she needed to tell me what she wanted, which wound up being a hilarious situation — and the guy exclaimed, “My gosh, girl!  Your smile is immaculate!”  I’m hardly ever awkward, but I informed him that it was probably the retainer I had to wear that day and bared my teeth to show him the blasted pieces of plastic.  He said, “A retainer doesn’t make a smile.”  He paid me a compliment, but he was so respectful and kind while doing it that I understood he didn’t have the poorer intentions of the other men that I’ve come in contact with.  He seemed to only want to say something nice to a girl he thought attractive.  That, guys, is how you should treat women.

As I left that day, the aforementioned experience was cast into sharp relief against something that happened as I made my way across the parking lot.  I needed to cross from a few parking spaces to the street, and there was a car turning right in front of me.  Politely, I stopped and waited for the blue hunk of metal to pass, neither noticing or caring who was driving it, until the car slowed, then stopped, as the man inside turn to ogle me.  I carefully avoided eye contact, and after a moment he continued — slowly — down the parking lot, and I went at a good, brisk pace to my sidewalk domain.  Later, as I was reaching home, I swear a man was this close to getting into a car crash from how far he was craning his neck to examine me.  It’s disgusting, folks.

Here you have two examples of how some men treat women.  I know plenty of females that behave the same way around guys, and that’s just as offensive.

I’m an individual with thoughts, feelings, and dreams.  So are you.  It is not right that others disregard that perfectly blatant fact for their personal amusement.  It’s normal to check someone out.  You see a cute person and your eyes are drawn to him/her.  It’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction, and I readily admit that I do it all the time, whether I realize it immediately or not.  The difference is that I remember that these guys have very important souls inside them.  They aren’t a display in some window at the mall.  I have no right to disrespect them by ignoring their personal space.

I’m not sure how to express the intensity of my feelings on this subject.  I believe that as children of God we all deserve to be treated as such.  I am not a body, or a face, or a voice.  I am a woman striving to conquer the life I lead and come out on top, same as you.  How dare you treat me in such a demeaning fashion?

Please put a stop to this.  It’s ridiculous.  And if someone has treated you like this in the past, remember that you have the power to let it hurt you or give you strength.  They had no right to ignore who you are inside to pay attention to your assets.  Show them you’re more than that.

Perhaps I should be sorry for the rant, but I think it a necessary thing to say.  I’ve never asked for the attention I have been receiving, and after this I’m going to go back to ignoring it.

Cheers!

Ana