Tuesday, July 22, 2014

...And that's not okay.

How I look with Makeup
Waking up this morning, before I even looked in the mirror, I caught myself doing something I've never, ever done. Before even opening my eyes, I was instantly telling myself that today, I am not beautiful.

Yesterday I randomly had a laser treatment as Sunday I received an email confirming an appointment for the next day...an appointment that was suppose to be cancelled.  My treatments are about a three hours drive away - to and from - and I found myself at a crossroad.  Do I cancel my treatment at last minute, even though it wasn't my error?  Do I go and have it done anyway?

For a many reasons I decide to go and have it done.  Before I knew it, I found myself packing a bag and driving the three hours to Fremont on Sunday afternoon.

My appointment went well, and actually, this was my first time going alone.  (Which made my mother extremely nervous, primarily for the drive home after my treatment.)

This treatment, though, was done a little different.  The size of the laser was different and they treated my lip.

I've mentioned in my blog several times that while the birthmark doesn't usually bother me, my lip always does.  It's the physical part about myself that I feel most self-conscious about.

Yesterday, after the treatment, my lip was a little swollen.  I expected swelling...But what I didn't expect?  I didn't expect to wake up this morning to the actual amount of swelling that I had.

Before I opened my eyes I knew...I knew the swelling was bad and I dreaded facing society, but more importantly, I dreaded looking myself in the eyes in my own mirror.

Birthmark with no make-up.
After I opened my eyes, I noticed that my eye also felt a little swollen...But I expected that as that's happened in the past.  (They didn't treat my eye as I'm not comfortable with that idea if I'm awake!)

While laying in my bed I look towards my window and I caught myself thinking, "Oh...Hey...What was that?  What just flew out my window?  Oh, that was just my confidence for the day.  Maybe even for the week."

When I finally looked in the mirror as tears threatened to spill out of my eyes, my suspicion became a fact.  The left half of my upper lip is pretty swollen.

I even walked into my mom's bedroom as I covered my lip and told her, "I have the biggest lip on the block."

As I was driving to meet my friend today, I had a major revelation.  Was I judging me for myself, or was I prematurely taking on the role of judging myself through society's eyes??  The eyes that I knew would soon see me, the eyes that normally react in a negative manner?  Was I judging myself, putting myself down, before anyone else could??

Here I am, this gal who is starting to do sensitivity talks in hospitals and who goes to share with elementary kids about the true meaning of beauty - yet, in this moment, I wasn't even practicing what I 'preach'.  I feel as though I should probably have it more together than I do.

The words that usually make me angry when other people use them against me, I was saying them to myself.

I didn't need society to tear me down this time around.  I was, and am, perfectly capable of doing it myself.

Again, I've never done this before.  Ever.  I don't normally tear myself down in this way.  Enough people already try to do that for me.

If I wouldn't say these things to my friends or to another person, why in the world is it okay to say these things to myself?  Why is it not okay for my friends to put themselves down, but yet, it was okay for me to put myself down?

The thing is, I know it's not okay.  Where was my attempt at holding a positive attitude??  The positive attitude that I do my best to cling onto in every situation life throws my way?

Yeah, the treatments make me nervous.  They're painful and uncomfortable.  The days after, though, are often extremely emotional for me.  I often forget that I'm "different" than everyone else in the world, but these treatments are always a big reminder.

About 30 minute after my last treatment.
I'd post a photo from today, if I felt more
comfortable.  Maybe next time, as my
doctor wants to treat my lip at least 3 times.
And if there weren't medical risks involved,
more than likely, I wouldn't even do the
treatments.  I'm happy with who I am,
as I am.
Sometimes I probably make the treatments seem like an easy-breazy kind of ordeal and I probably play them down, but really, they're hard.  While I'm use to the comments and stares of my normal face, this after-treatment look isn't my normal.  So, when you add an already emotional situation while enhancing something you're already self-conscious about, it's an even bigger struggle.

Today I learned that I really need to work on my self-conscious mindset that I have about my lip.  (And when I write that and read it out loud - it realize that probably sounds kinda lame.) Granted, every woman, every person, usually has something they're not comfortable with about themselves.  Mine just happens to be the lip - and my self-consciousness just happens to be temporarily enhanced, because, well, half of my upper lip is temporarily enhanced and I know this feeling isn't permanent...Just like the swelling.

However, I also realize that unless I figure out a way to deal and cope with this issue, and although the feeling is currently temporary...if I don't gain control of it somehow, I will feel it again next time they treat the lip.  (Which finding a way to deal with it is wwaaaaaaayyy easier said than done, right?)

Often I blog about my stories with the way society reacts to my face, to my treatments.  This time, however, I'm 'tattling' on myself.  I wanted to let you know that for the first time (ever), I stepped into the shoes of the attitude I despise the most.

This time I was the still victim, but I was also the victimizer.  I was the offender...And that's not okay.  I know I am so much more than how I look.  I know I am so much more than my circumstances!  

Maybe I'm a little too honest in my blog sometimes, maybe not.  I don't really know.  All I do know is that I want to share this journey with you in an honest way.  I want to share the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly parts.  I want to be transparent.  

This is just a part of my journey.

I'm so glad that we don't have to feel beautiful to be beautiful.  Aren't you?

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: For those wondering why I decided to do the treatment that I though was canceled:
  1. No matter what I am doing the treatments.  I could either bail out of this one, and do it later when classes start back up.  Which means I'd take off work and school - or I could do it on a day I already had off.
  2. I thought about not doing the treatment because I'm going to the annual Free Will Baptist National Convention.  I fly out on Saturday.  Even my doctor asked me, "Are you okay flying purple??"  The more I thought about it, the more I realized...my FWB friends know my story.  Many follow it and many are encouraging.  I'd rather go visit a group of friends who I know accept me as I am, who are loving and encouraging, than to go and deal with people at my college who are often quite the opposite.  
  3. It's hard to get an appointment in this department.  If I didn't go then, I wouldn't have an appointment for another few months.  I already haven't had one in 4 months (which isn't my fault). The longer I wait, the less effective the treatments will be.
  4. I'd feel rude for canceling it the day of, as they wouldn't have time to find someone to take the space of my appointment.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dramatic Nerves

Have you ever had plans to travel somewhere, but the night before your big trip, you can't sleep?  You can't sleep possibly because you're extremely excited, stressed because there are still a million things to do before you leave, or because you are nervous about your upcoming adventure...Or you have a mixture of all three options!

That's pretty much how I feel tonight.  Yet, I'm not traveling on a big trip.

Tomorrow afternoon is the day when I'll be going to the hospital to share my story their lab department employees.  I'll be able to share my story in regards to my birthmark while doing a little bit of "sensitivity training".

I'm really excited to have such a unique opportunity to educate others, and to hopefully allow them to have a better understanding of what it's like to be in my shoes - or in the shoes of anyone with a visible, physical, difference.  But I'm also incredibly nervous.

I feel as though I've done a lot of public speaking for my age.  I've spoken at churches to raise money for mission trips, to share about missions, I've taken a speech class, and I've shared about my birthmark to K-6th graders.

I always get a little nervous every time I speak somewhere - but not quite like this.

All week I've been trying to figure out the perfect thing to say tomorrow afternoon.  Or, technically, this afternoon since it is currently 2 in the morning.  My "lecture" of sorts will be taking place in a little less than 11 hours, and yet it was only tonight when I finally figured out what exactly I want to say...And I know I still need to make some changes in the morning.

So why am I nervous??

I think I kind of freaked myself out earlier this week.

While thinking about my upcoming lecture at the hospital, I had a big realization.  Yes, I am use to speaking in public and I love doing that.  Yeah, I blog and Facebook about my birthmark experiences on a daily basis.  I even share with people I meet when the opportunity comes up!

When I speak tomorrow, though, some of the people who have said hurtful things and who have victimized me will be there.

(Let me clarify - I really dislike using the word "victimized" in these situations, yet it's the best I can come up with.  I don't like to think of myself as a victim, but in a sense, I guess that's kind of what I am in some situations due to the way others treat me.)

Those who have said hurtful things in the recent past will be there.

The good thing is, I'm not sure I'll be able to recognize those who have treated me in an ill manner in the past.  I don't generally focus on memorizing their faces and names, just the stories.

And although this whole sensitivity lecture is a chance to have my story told, to give them a better understanding of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, I don't want to come across as though I'm intentionally attacking those who have attacked me.  I don't want to come across as though I'm dwelling in the past, or that I'm even angry - because I'm not.  I want to be sensitive, yet honest, in my sensitivity training.  I want them to know that while the past situations did take place, my only desire is to use the past to enhance the future for the better as I'm focused on a bigger, brighter, future.

When I first volunteered to do this, I really didn't think it would affect my nerves like this - but it has.

Speaking to children is a lot easier for me.  When I speak to the children, I feel like I'm working with a fresh slate.  With a new and fresh  attitude that is easier to mold in comparison to adults who have already had a lifetime of molding.  When I blog about my stories, even if those who have treated me a certain way read what I have to say, I don't have to look them in the eyes.  I only look at a screen while I type my message.

For years I've been accepting what people say to me without really responding, without telling them the affects of their words and hurtful stares.  I usually take what people say while later laughing about it, and/or making it into a joke...basically as a coping mechanism, and because some situations really are hilarious.

But now it's time to stand up.  It's time to stop just simply coping!  It's time to stand up for myself and for the others who are affected by the things people say and by the way they're treated - just because they have simple physical difference.  It's time to at least attempt to make a small difference, even if that means only one person listens to what I have to say and takes something away from my few words.

People need to understand that their words have an affect.  Their words have consequences, even ones that they can't alway see.  They can make an impact in a person's life - even if they are a strangers.  They can build someone up, or even tear someone down.

I'm ready to stop coping.  I'm ready for there to be a change.  But more importantly, I'm finally ready to help create the desired change.  (And actually, it wasn't until recent months that I realized that I even hold an ounce of power to make a change!)

Prayers are very much appreciated as I go to speak to the hospital staff in the afternoon.  I'm sure that my nerves are just being dramatic and I'm sure I'll be okay once I start speaking - Starbucks or Jamba Juice in hand!  Please pray for my nerves, open and listening ears, for me to have the right words to say, and for a comfortable setting and atmosphere - for both me and for those listening.

Thank you!  Thank you for reading this, for traveling on this journey with me, and for praying.  You have no idea how much I value the impact you have in my life.

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Cruise Ship that was on Fire

Last week I went on an Alaskan cruise with my mom that was on FIRE...Literally, and figuratively.  

You possibly heard of the cruise ship that caught on fire through different news sources, such as ABC News.  According to a few of my friends and other outside sources, our ship made national news!

After an hour or two of leaving Seattle, our captain of the Westerdam ship (Holland America cruise line) came on over the ship's speakers and told us there had been a fire in the boiler room.  Actually, by the end of it, there were two fires.  This caused us to make a return to Seattle so that inspections and any needed repairs could be made.  We didn't leave port again until Sunday afternoon.

Due to the delay of our second attempt of leaving Seattle, there was no way we'd make all of our stops in Alaska.  The leaders of our ship decided to cut out our stop in Sitka, Alaska, and to continue on to all the other ports.  To make up for the delay and issues that came up, the ship offered a $250 room credit (not per person, just per room).  In addition, they also have given us all 25% off of what we spent on this last cruise towards the next cruise that we may take on their cruise line.   (I'd really like to take their cruise to Antarctica   But sadly, that one will probably be out of my budget for a very long time.)

On the bright side, had we not had
the fire and had to return to
Seattle, we would have missed this
beautiful view of the city.  

Although many were disappointed about not being able to go to Sitka (as that's why many people chose this specific cruise), everyone was really patient.  Other than voicing some of our disappointment, there really wasn't any complaining.  Everyone stayed impressively calm, kind, friendly, and chill about the whole situation.  We were all grateful that the captain decided to return to Seattle.  We all were in agreement that it was better to return and miss a port to potentially avoid any future problems during the trip.  In the end, I even think that Holland America has become one of my top cruise lines to travel with.

Ironically, before the cruise took off the first time - I made a post on my Facebook:

"Here is to a cruise where I won't...
  • get sick.
  • be hospitalized in a foreign country.
  • have an Indonesian stalker.
  • get stuck in a turn style.
  • have a toilet attempt to strangle me.
  • have a family member in the hospital.
  • do a random gravity check, followed by getting covered in mud by a glacier.
  • or get pooped on by a dolphin.

Haha...My cruising experiences are never dull. I'm fascinated to see what adventures will come my way for this one."

I'm thinking that next time I should add hypothetical situations too, since a fire wasn't originally on the list. ;-)  

And just in case anyone is wondering - I've been able to compile the list above throughout 7 different cruises, not just one or two.

I've had many people in the past tell me that they don't want to cruise - they're too afraid.  They're afraid of situations like this, where there is a fire...or situations like the Titanic.  Some just don't like the idea of being confined on a cruise ship, afraid they may feel too claustrophobic.  

Once the fire took place on the cruise I had well-travelled friends tell me, "This is the perfect example as to why I will never ever go on a cruise."

With this cruise being my 7th, I obviously enjoy cruising...But why??

I like to refer to cruising as the appetizer of traveling.  While cruising, you get a little taste of each port...Of each city, state, and/or country.  You get an idea on if you want to make a return visit, or if you're satisfied with the 5 hours your spent there while on a ship.  More often than not, I find myself thinking, "After this cruise I want to hop on the next plane to return here - and I want to stay for a month!"

Another reason I love cruising?  Usually when I travel, it's to do things to help other people - to do work, and not to rest.  I've been to Japan, but to do disaster relief work after their tsunami and to hold carnivals for children in hopes of getting the Good News in their hands.  I've travelled to Mexico, but to help build a house for those who own land - yet sleep on dirt floors and who have no locks to protect the little they have within their tarp walls.

Traveling to do things for others is fantastic.  I love being able to go and to become 
immersed in a local culture, tasting what they taste, seeing what they see, hearing their stories.  I wouldn't trade my years and miles of experiences for anything in this world - and I really hope I can continue to do trips like that.  They are some of the best experiences I've had in my life!! But with cruising?  It's one of the few ways in which I can see the world in a relaxed setting where I don't have to work, I don't have an obligations.  It's one of the few times when I travel where I get to focus on myself and rest.

People say they don't want to cruise because the ship may sink, have a fire, or get stuck in an ocean.  Yet, those same people fly on planes that can have engine problems, have fires, or crash.  They drive in cars that can have the same problems - driving on roads where often their fate are ultimately in the hands of other drivers, in the hands of strangers.  No matter where we go, how we get there, there are always going to be risks in whatever we do - whether we stay home, go for a drive, plane ride, or go cruising.  (Granted, I say all this, but I  have always refused to get on the back of a motorcycle - and my own father has one!)

This last cruise was fantastic and one of my favorites - even with the fire.

I saw Alaska.  I got out of California's blazing heat.  I went to a mushing camp where they keep beautiful husky puppies and train them.  I even went mushing on dry land and got to cuddle with a 6-week-old puppy.  We sailed through glacier bay, I tried a reindeer sandwich, chilled pear soup (YUM!), hung out on the ship's spa, ate fantastic food (which included the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had), toured the ship's brilliant kitchen, went to a towel folding and origami class, and saw some really cool shows presented by the talent living onboard.  We even watched dolphins, whales, and otters while sitting on our balcony (and when eating dinner in the dining room!).  

Glacier Bay.
Funny story: While looking out for whales on our balcony during the first few days, we had no luck...so what did I do?? I spoke whale. My mom thought I was being ridiculous, but within about 5 minutes we had orcas swimming right outside our room. Thank you Dori, from Finding Nemo, for that educational influence and inspiration in my life. I've always wanted to be trilingual, and I look forward to adding this to my resume! ;-)

It's also pretty cool to meet all the people that are on the ship.  One of the fun things about cruising  especially in a smaller group, they often ask you if you'd rather dine alone - or with another group.  When you do this, you never know who you're going to sit with.  I enjoyed my time with everyone we shared a meal with while learning about their lives, hearing their stories, dreams, and cruising adventures.

I met people who sold all that they own so they can live their retirement out of their RV while seeing all of America.  A few neighbors from a gated community near Malibu came cruising together, as one mentioned that they feel more like family than just neighbors.  Some honored their friend's dream of taking the Alaskan cruise - just a month after their friend's death.  I even met a guy from San Francisco who wants to start a show about Cosplays.  
I really wanted to take this
pup home!

The majority of the people I met were also Christian.  I can't even tell you how much encouragement I received from a few of them that I got to know throughout the week.  While trying to make a decision about my future, it felt as though I got the confirmation from a new friend of mine about the decision I've been struggling to make during a very in-depth conversation we had...all while relaxing in the hyropool.

While cruising, I met a man who has lived quite a life.  I loved hearing his stories.  While talking, I had the chance to tell him some of my life goals - especially about wanting to do a TED Talk from my experiences with my birthmark.  He told me something like, "Oh, I've done a TED Talk before.  I'm good friends with the people who started the TED Talk company."  After giving him one of my recently-made business cards, he told me he'd email me soon.  Once he emails me, he wants me to email him part of my story so he can forward it to his TED Talk friends, telling me, "You've already accomplished some of the key things when it comes to doing a TED Talk.  You seem to have a lot of confidence in yourself, and the strong passion to make a positive different out of everything you've gone through."  Maybe through this random connection I'll be able to do a TED Talk one day, maybe not.  Either way - I was inspired and encouraged by the man and my few conversations I held with him, and I think that's equally as important.

Other people I met?  I met some people who have taken 15 cruises (although, I heard of a couple on board who have taken 64 cruises).  I met a lady who recently became a step-grandmother to a beautiful young girl from Madagascar.  The grandmother told me, "My granddaughter is from Madagascar.  She's 15-years-old and just finished her first school year in America.  I wanted her to see more of the world, so I brought just her and I on this trip together."   One of the officers of the ship even ate at our dinner table with us as she encouraged me, "Keep traveling the world!"
This is the eagle one of the waiters
made me.  Cool, huh??

A few times I even used my origami skills that often go unused.  I was able to get to know a few of the ship's staff members as they watched me fold a paper tulip, and one man from Indonesia (one of the waiters) even made me an origami eagle in trade.  Oh!!...and as I was doodling in my journal one evening, an artist even took the time to show me a few tricks on how to draw better with a technic that was new to me.

By the end of the trip, I didn't want to leave the ship.  I felt like I made a lot of new, good friends and was enjoying their company.  I was enjoying the sights of Alaska and the tasty food on the ship.  I was feeling nice, relaxed, and had a great time.

Cruising isn't for everyone, and I know that.  However, I recommend that you try it at least once to find out if it's for you or not...You may be surprised!!  And if you need help with tips, advice, information, or with anything else - let me know!  I'd be happy to tell you all that I know from all my times of sailing the wide, open, sea!

Thanks for the great trip, Holland America!

The Travelin' Chick,


PS: Isn't it nice that I've FINALLY written a blog about traveling again?  The first time in what seems like FOREVER.  Haha.  And side note...All these photos are either from my phone, or a basic camera, except the one of Seattle and this one: