Ethel Mae Maxwell: a Truly Remarkable Woman and other Thoughts from the Hospital 

I got word from my Mom on Monday that my Grandma was dying–she’d fallen a few weeks earlier and broken her pelvis and she wasn’t getting better–all I could think about was flying to my Mom. So I immediately got plane tickets, booked a shuttle, found rides to the airport, and it was this that I focused on until I walked into her hospital room and saw her lying there in the hospital bed and my Grandpa sitting bedside her holding her hand. 

We then entered into this surreal reality that you really only experience when you watch a loved one slowly fade away in front of you. There are a surprising amount of practical details–much of our time was spent figuring out meals, working out schedules for hospital shifts, and making sure that everyone had enough cars to get where they needed to be. When you only sleep a few hours throughout the day and night it becomes hard to keep track of time. I think I went almost 24 hours without brushing my teeth because I never actually went to bed. But then there were the quiet moments while I sat there just listening to my Grandmother’s labored breathing, when I found myself very clearly noticing small things and filing them away in my brain like snapshots.

Some of these thoughts are random and unimportant like, “I wonder if I’ll ever be able to drink mandarin spice tea again,” or “Why can they make airports so easy to navigate but hospitals are still so confusing?” Other snapshots are incredibly sad like noticing how her feet made the blanket poke up and she looked so small in that bed. “She’ll never need that again,” I thought with gut wrenching finality when I saw her walker and its decorative fabric basket leaning against the wall. Some things are so sweet they’re almost heartbreaking, like watching my Grandpa scoot around her bedside in his rolling chair with his suspenders and his velcro shoes. They were married just shy of 63 years and whenever we would walk anywhere the two of them would be holding hands.

At one point I sat in the hospital room with my grandma, my mom, my aunt, and my cousin and we talked about things that our mothers used to say to us as kids. We were three generations of strong women. My Grandma raised my Mom, and my Mom raised me in much the same way. In the end, her family flocked to her from all over the West. She was surrounded by all four of her kids from various places in Colorado, Arizona, and Utah–all four of her grandkids came from Colorado, Utah, and Washington to be with her in those final days. We sat up in the middle of the night thinking she would be going soon having a sort of 3 a.m. vigil beside her, laughing and crying, and sharing memories of her. I remember waiting excitedly for their motor home to show up to see what little presents Grandma had brought me from their travels throughout the U.S. I remember the pink card with kittens on it that she sent me when I jammed my finger sliding down the stairs in a sleeping bag at a sleepover. It essentially read, “Feel better soon and don’t be so silly in the future.” She grew up in small mountain towns in Colorado during the Great Depression. She was practical to the core my Grandmother, and she raised all of us to be as caring and hard-working as she was. She has proudly displayed photos of every awkward stage of my childhood from my thirteenth birthday, to my first flute recital, to my graduation. Every time the family gathered we took family pictures around the couch in their living room in front of the orange curtains that have hung in the window for as long as I can remember. Grandma and Grandpa always sat right in the middle. Ethel Mae Maxwell was a truly remarkable woman, and it is this thought that sticks with me the most from those final days. She passed away yesterday evening with my Grandpa and the little stuffed dog he bought for her by her side.

First Vegan Food Review!

I had success this weekend when I tried Tofurky’s Pepp’roni Mushroom pizza and it didn’t suck. It kind of tasted like Little Tony’s pizza-the kind you used to get at school with the square pepperoni. So it was good in a kind of artificial non-gourmet nostalgic kind of way! That made me curious to try more vegan cheese products, so I picked up some Follow Your Heart mozzarella. I cut off a small piece to taste and I almost spit it out the flavor was not exactly what I was expecting and the texture was weird. I made it into a caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, and a balsamic reduction and it was pretty good! But I think that may have been because the vinegar masked the flavor of the cheese…

My take away? I’d give it maybe 2.5 stars out of 5. I can eat it, but I probably won’t repurchase. It just didn’t really add anything for me, and I think it would have been better with salted tofu or just avocado. Maybe it’s better melted? 

What Does the “A” Stand For? And Does it Matter?

With June being Pride month and my social media feeds being taken over by rainbows I have once again found myself mulling over the above question.  What does the “A” stand for in LGBTQA+?  There seems to be a general debate about whether the A stands for Ally or Asexual. Up until last year–I was happy to attend pride as an ally.  A good deal of my friends and family identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Queer.  I was happy to support them and celebrate with them and I always felt incredibly loved and welcome at Pride.  I never really thought about what the A stood for and whether or not I was represented in the “alphabet soup.” Honestly I never used to include the A or the + at all.  But when I was 24 years old and my brother was telling my mom and I about an Asexual friend of his–it suddenly hit me there in my parent’s kitchen that “Shit he’s describing me.”  It was not a welcome realization and I didn’t divulge this thought to anyone or even write it down until months later when I drunkenly confessed my fears to my two best friends.  They were loving and supportive and during the following months I was able to come to terms with my sexuality (or lack there of) and finally begin to accept myself.

I suddenly understood the importance of including letters beyond “LGBT” and last year for the first time I did wonder about my place at Pride.  I wrote in my journal, “I don’t feel ‘Ace and Proud’ If I’m being honest I still feel like a freak.”  But I did look.  I was open to having a different place at Pride–I went to Pride in Seattle and I found nothing–no booth, no rubber bracelets, no buttons with cartoon images of cake or dragons…nothing that applied to me or my new understanding of myself as Ace.  This year I no longer feel like a freak–but I do still think that “What does the A stand for?” is an interesting question.

Now, some people argue that Asexuals don’t really belong in the LGBTQA+ community because they don’t have to go out and fight for the right to not have sex.  And it is true–as a Cisgender, Heteroromantic Ace, I still basically feel straight.  I will not be fired for writing this blog post, I will not be denied health care and I will never have to worry about the legality of my marriage should I ever choose to get married.  I am an ally.  I support everyone’s right to live and love as their most authentic selves.  But here’s the thing:  I have been regularly attending Pride since I was a teenager.  I was active in my school’s Gay Straight Alliance club…and I didn’t realize that I was Asexual until I was nearly into my mid twenties.  I knew I wasn’t gay–I wasn’t an “L or a G or a B or a T” and as far as I knew there were no other options no other labels that applied to me–so I supplied my own–and being unkind to myself as I typically was back then I supplied myself with labels like “Broken” and “Freak.”

Originally I thought this post was going to end with something like, “Does it Really Matter? Can’t the A stand for ally and Ace? I feel welcome at Pride either way.”  But the more I think about it–the more I think it matters.  Because the LGBTQA+ community has a loud voice–they have a platform with which to reach out to people–especially young, vulnerable people who are questioning their sexuality.  Because maybe if I’d been able to go to Pride as a teenager and learned more about asexuality than it wouldn’t have taken me twenty five fucking years to stop feeling like a freak.  Which is why I am writing this because even though I have never publicly discussed this before, I don’t want to feel like I’m hiding anything–I want to go to Pride this year and actually feel Proud.  I am not broken.  I am not a freak.  I am an ally–but I am also Ace, and that is what the A stands for.

 

 

Skin Deep Beauty

I hesitated to write this post because I didn’t want to sound like the whitest white girl complaining about how white she is…and I’m definitely not comparing my experiences with people of color who have faced actual legitimate persecution because of the color of their skin…but I did feel like sharing this.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about beauty standards, body image, and self-acceptance.  I’m nearing my twenty sixth birthday and I’m finally pretty comfortable in my own skin–but it has not always been that way.  I have vivid memories from very early on where I distinctly remember not liking my body.  My best friend growing up was slender and tan in the summertime.  It mostly didn’t occur to me that I should look more like her until I overheard my Grandma and my Mom talking when I was probably seven or eight years old.  My Grandma was worried that I was overweight–my Mom came to my defense and told her that I was just fine–maybe I just looked a little chubby next to my friend because she was such a “skinny pencil person.”  I was devastated.  After that I was constantly comparing myself to my peers–I was fatter than her, whiter than her, uglier than her…she was bigger than me, but her clothes were better, etc. etc.  In fifth grade I remember sitting in my desk and looking down at my thighs hating how big they looked squished against my desk chair in the fluorescent lighting of my elementary school.  In sixth grade I was sitting in the grass with my friends enjoying the sunny weather when they started teasing me about how white my legs were–they weren’t trying to be mean–just observing how the light practically glowed from my very pale skin–I didn’t wear shorts again for two years after that.  In high school I remember looking at Seventeen, Marie Claire, and Glamour magazines and feeling dreadfully inadequate–sometimes I even broke down and sobbed because I felt like I could never and would never be beautiful–I used to slather myself with self tanning lotion and stand in front of the mirror pulling on my skin and sucking in my stomach thinking that if only I could be skinny and have a flat stomach, then I would finally be happy.  It sounds ridiculous now–such a perfect cliche of teenage angst–pouring over pictures of celebrities crying that I would never look like them–but the emotion was real then and learning to like my body is a pretty recent development.  My newfound self worth comes from two things:  getting out of a horrible relationship where I was constantly torn down and made to feel bad about myself, and yoga.  I fell in love with yoga as a freshman at the University of Utah where I took it first as a required gym credit and then several times after that because I liked it so much.  For the first time I had to work with my body instead of hating it.  I felt strong–I liked the way I could move.  I learned to look in the mirror and like what I saw–regardless of how much I weighed or how big my stomach was.  I stopped comparing myself to others and stopped noticing who was tanner than me and bigger than me and skinnier than me.  Now, I am vegan and fifteen pounds lighter–but the happiness and self-acceptance definitely came first.  I like looking in the mirror and seeing a flatter stomach–it’s definitely a good feeling–but I definitely spend next to no time thinking about it anymore.  That being said…I still have yet to be completely comfortable in my own skin.  Key word being skin.  My skin is and always will be extremely light (thank you Scottish ancestry.)  But this Spring when the weather got warm–I put on shorts anyway.  I didn’t buy any self-tanner, my friends commented on how white I was and joked about my inability to tan–but I found that I honestly didn’t really care.20160717_131606