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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

breast cancer awareness


12 chairs are formed in a circle.


Women start filling them, all walking in with smiles, with details of pink decorating their clothes and jewelry. Some women with hair, some with only an inch. All with pride.
These women are not related. But the one thing they do have in common, they have all battled or are currently battling breast cancer.

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As I sit in my gray plastic chair, I take in the atmosphere. Light and heavy at the same time. The women look at each other with care and love, the words leaving their mouth all sound hopeful.

From my seat, I find myself in awe. I am extremely emotional and no one has even started talking to me yet. This is for my job, I tell myself.

And it is. But it’s so much more than that.

Sometimes, I think of my sister and her medical history, and I ache for hope. I ache for some sense of togetherness in a world that sometimes makes us feel alone. I long to understand what she has been through.

As a journalist I get to do amazing things. Meet amazing people. This is one of those things with some of those people. Sitting in at a breast cancer support group. Hearing their stories, being given the honor to listen.

As the group starts, I can tell my presence is making the women nervous. I chose to be more dressed up. My young appearance can often be a hindrance when I am reporting. But in that moment, I just wanted to hug those women. Remind them I am human.

The group leader announces who I am, and I see everyone hesitantly smile. “Do I say I’m scared too? Do I say this is hard for me? Do I admit why I am really here?” Questions race through my mind, I wish I could slow them down for long enough to answer.

My heart is racing as I stand addressing all the women in the group.

“My name is Katie Visconti, I am with the Las Vegas Sun…” I pause, trying to formulate what to say next. “People don’t get mammograms or self-check because they don’t think cancer will happen to them. They have all read the article with the same stats, but it’s not personal to them. This is personal,” I stop, looking at each woman. “ You are all advocates for self-love and self-care now. I’m just hoping that this will really sink in for people, there will be a voice associated with those statistics.”

The women still look nervous. I can tell not many want to open up. So I continue,
“My sister had cancer. She was 15. I still don’t understand it, and to be honest, cancer was never important to me until it was my own flesh and blood. I want to share the importance of check-ups. You being here tonight, theres a reason for it. Your stories could save a life.”

One woman nods through welled eyes.

And suddenly, everyone is talking. About the hard parts, the messy parts, the times they doubted everything and everyone.

Women begin to share the importance of loving themselves, caring for themselves, “everyone should get a mammogram!” some yell.

“You have to take the time to understand what you body is telling you.”

“You have to be an advocate… for yourself!”

“Cancer lead me to find compassion.”

“Cancer was my wake-up call.”

“Cancer made me realize to not sweat the small stuff”, say one woman, “Or the big stuff!”, another chimes in.

I am blown away by these courageous, beautiful woman. And even though they were strong for so long, they admit it has not always been easy.

“Losing your hair isn’t scary because you feel naked or ugly, it’s scary because you finally realize you are sick. For me, losing my hair made me realize, ‘I am a cancer patient.’”

I ask the women a question I was scared to hear the answer to, “What does it feel like to hear, ‘You have cancer?’” The whole room responds, so quickly that I don’t get names, just the honest replies.

“Paralyzing.”

“Like being sucked into a dark hole.”

“Your whole world shifts.”

“The rug was pulled out from under me.”

“Terrifying.”

“It’s like being dropped in a foreign country, and suddenly you are trying to understand a foreign language. And they are telling you it’s time to make the most important decisions of your life.”

“It was a Thursday afternoon…” one 62-year old woman drifts off in memory. “They said cancer would never hurt, but it did.”

At this point my heart is longing to understand a world I have not yet been apart of. My body has not endured a pain like this. This discovery doesn’t make me feel ‘lucky’, I know at this point in my life, I am endlessly blessed. But I have to say, looking at this women made me realize, whatever may happen to me, I hope I have half of the grace that these women, these women who were just strangers 20 minutes ago, have. I hope I radiate the light that they so brightly casted on me.

I asked what remission is like. The spitfire of the group replies, “My doctor said, ‘You’re in remission!’ and I replied, “I’m not in remission, I am done with cancer.”

I am now laughing with the women, listening to stories, I am trying so desperately to soak all of it in. My heart is filled with snapshots I will never rid of.

I thank the women before leaving, and begin crying. I hope I see them again. I hope they live a long, beautiful life. I pray, I pray that they be granted another great adventure.

“You brought something very special to the group tonight”, one woman says. And suddenly, three of them are crying.

My goodness, this life is such a beautiful gift.


Monday, October 27, 2014

More than a punching bag

1 in 4 women will be abused by a significant other in their life time.

This means emotional, physical, economic, and sexual abuse.

1 in 4 women will live in fear, their sense of security being shattered by a single person. A single threat. A single punch, that lead to a series of continual violence.

1 in 4 women will have to question the one they thought loved them. The ones that swore to "never do it again." The ones that did it again. and again. and again.

_____________________________________________________________________


On Sunday, I read an article by my local newspaper magazine about domestic violence. Nevada is one of the highest ranked states regarding domestic violence. The Clark County District Attorney's office receives 10 to 20 new domestic abuse cases a day. Last year, there was 30 deaths in Las Vegas related to domestic violence.

30 people who no longer have a voice to share their story.

I am not making the assumption that only women are abused. But according to recent statistics, 75% of cases involve male violence towards women. In all domestic violence cases recording since 1994, 4 out of the 5 victims have been women.
 As a woman, this terrifies me. But what lies within me is greater than anything or anyone that could possibly hurt or scare me. I can think of multiple women in my life who have been abused. I have to stand up for what I know is right. As a friend, a daughter, a sister, and as a journalist that has witnessed abuse, I feel as though I have a responsibility to share.

Domestic violence doesn't just affect one person. Ask the children with their ears pressed against the door listening to their parents scream at each other. Ask the child who has called the police because he saw his dad hit his mom. Ask the daughter who is trying to understand what real love is, because  she heard the words "I love you" but also heard the threats and screams. Ask the son who thought violence was normal. Ask the nations still treating women as property. Ask the families and friends who have lost loved ones due to acts of violence. 


Domestic abuse is the most troubling of all. Because the single person who is supposed to protect you, is the one holding your life over a flame. You have the choice to cling to them in the fear of burning, or leave them and have to worry about burns you may endure.

Sometimes when I read an article about a recent loss to domestic violence, or when I write the article, I think to myself, I never knew him or her. Maybe no one knew the pain and fear happening behind the closed doors.

But today, I open those doors. For the victims who don't get to do so anymore.

We have to stand up for ourselves. We have to realize that our life is ours and ours alone, that our body is the one home we have our entire life. That our spirit, mind, and soul is ours. It never belongs to anyone else. We hold the power. We are women. We bring life into the world, we share, we dream, we believe, in tomorrows, in true love, in ourselves, and each other.

If this post does anything, I hope it brings awareness. I hope that anyone who feels trapped knows that they are their exit. I hope they can feel hope and support in their community.

I hope that if you are reaching for a hand to hold, you can feel mine virtually anywhere.

The ones who love us would never hurt us. It starts with loving ourselves. It starts with realizing we are more than enough.

To the women and men who have been abused, believe in tomorrows again. Believe in yourself.
To the ones lost, to the families mourning, to the children having to make sense of the senselessness, we are granted a new day. A new moment.
To those stuck in a hurtful cycle, to those who wake up everyday scared of the ones closest to you, get help and get out.
And to women everywhere...

Love shouldn't hurt. We are more than punching bags.




Stop by Emily's blog, embergrey.com and share what you are grateful for today.







Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DIY Photo Walls

A few days ago, I posted a photo on my Instagram of my living room. I got so many kind compliments about my d├ęcor that I wanted to share the steps to create a photo wall you love, a wall of memories to make your home unique to you and your family.


 


Photo walls are an easy and affordable way to add some personality to your home. The task can be daunting if you have no idea where to start, so here are some tips I have picked up along the way.


-Find inspiration. Browse Pinterest, your favorite design magazine, your friends' homes, and anything that catches your eye. If you are in love with a time period, or a certain color palette, start searching for things that are a reflection of that.

-Once you have your inspiration, shop thrift stores, garage sales, discount stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory. One of my favorite homes belongs to Yvette Riggott, and nearly all of her frames are from discount stores. Proof that you don't need to spend a lot to make your wall look expensive.

Yvette's wall






- Pick a layout. I think the easiest way to do this is to layout the frames exactly where you want them on the ground in front of the wall, and then you can swap and flip anything you don't like before you nail it on the wall.

-Pick a focal point. On my wall, I choose a mirror. I specifically like doing mirrors in smaller spaces because I feel like it creates an illusion and makes the room seem larger and more open. Yvette's wall has a canvas quote frame.


-If you don't have an extra set of eyes when hanging up your wall, patience is key. I am terrible at taking my time with projects, but there are definitely steps to speed it up. First, hang the center frame. Once you've done that, you basically just want to create balance. The great thing about photo walls is that not everything has been to be parallel.

-Toothpaste!  If you put a dot of toothpaste in the top center of the frame, then press it up against the wall where you think it should go, you have a marked spot for the nail, exactly where you want it. That's a tip from my Aunt Gina. (thank you, xo.)

-Add something unique or special to you. Yvette's wall features her sweet babe's hand/foot prints, on mine I painted "home" on a blackboard twine banner. Go with a common element, like Yvette's heart mirror and frames.
 
Identical mirrors to create balance on both sides

- You can print quotes, prints, abstract graphics, there is no rules!

- Have fun! This is your little wall of memories, and things that matter most to you.
 
Recent Finds:
 
Marshalls: 13.99
 
Coasters: Target, 6.99





Monday, October 20, 2014

For the miles


For the miles we have walked, and the miles we have yet to, there is no one else I'd rather travel them with. For the tough days we have had to face, and the joyous days we've basked in, there's no one I'd rather pass the time with.

Here's to laughing till we can't catch our breath, and jokes that are as weathered as our living room sofa. Here's to staying up late and telling secrets in the dark, and to wishing that there was a way to slow down the time, because you make each moment brighter. Here's to you, beautiful sister.


If we are truly born into the people we are supposed to be, I was born to be Lizzie's sister. My mom found out she was pregnant with Lizzie when I was only six weeks old. I think that a part of my heart was eagerly waiting to be filled with Lizzie's presence. And to be honest, it's the favorite part of my heart I carry.
On our way home from New York a few weeks ago, Lizzie said to me "this is the first flight I'm flying without you!" We have always flown together. It makes the hours go by faster, and the plane rides much more fun.

I thought about Liz and I boarding different planes and I felt indifferent. I love my independence, but I love being an individual with Lizzie. I thought about how there will be flights after this where we won't be boarding together. And maybe there will be holidays we won't be at the same table. There will be a time where we will no longer share an apartment. (Liz, there will be a time where you won't have to do my dishes). There will be a time when we follow our path, and they won't be the same ones.

But like that spot in my heart, my path was built with Lizzie in mind.

So I love that we have miles yet to travel together, and more days to face together, I'm happy we are still roommates.

And when we begin to travel down our separate paths, know that I will be eagerly awaiting the intersection.

Thank you for being you, L. I was too young to wish for you, but I am so glad I was blessed with you.


Link up with Emily over at embergrey.com and share what you are grateful for.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Skincare

I told myself when I started Life Is This that it would never be a beauty/fashion blog. For multiple reasons, but the main one being I wanted a space to really spill my thoughts, fearlessly. I wanted a space that represented a deeper level of thinking. I wanted my words to truly help people.

Often, I find myself trying a new product and either loving it or hating it, and wishing to share it with all of you. But then I think back to the promise I made myself, "this space will not be a beauty/fashion blog."

And then this morning, as I had my favorite face mask applied, I thought, my blog is whatever I want it to be. There doesn't have to be restrictions, posting about fashion once in a while doesn't make my written truth any less truthful. It doesn't mean that I am posting without substance. And it certainly doesn't mean I am not helping people.

I enjoy getting ready, trying new trends, testing out products, I love it all.

Today, I'm going to talk about it, because, well, I want to.

 

Skincare 


I have never had that flawless, I don't see a pore on my face, sort of skin. There has always been some zits, scarring, and letting my friends convince me covering your face in toothpaste would heal everything. (Seriously, don't do this.)

Now, my skin is good, but it owes thanks to many things.

1. Proactiv- If you have acne, or even really bad breakouts once in a while, this is your friend. I love the new system, and it's way less harsh than their last one. Because my skin is temperamental, at night I apply a vitamin c cream instead of their hydrating cream, and that seems to really work for me. The vitamin c also lightens past acne scars, and give my skin a nice glow.
 
 


2. Eating less sugar- I was the girl that would eat 15 Oreos in one sitting. I learned that just because they but 15 Oreos in a row, doesn't mean that was their intended serving size. I try to not eat more than 30 grams of sugar a day. For adults, we are only supposed to have 25 grams anyways, so this is an attainable goal even if you are just looking to keep your body healthier.

3. Water- Water with lemon, water with cucumbers, fruit-infused water, I drink it all. day. long. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces. Also, for every cup of coffee means two cups of water to rehydrate. AKA having six cups of coffee a day is probably seriously dehydrating you, and causing you that weird eye twitch you've been worried about.

4. LUSH face masks- These were sent from the Gods. Lush Catastrophe Cosmetic is good for combination skin, and if you have a super oily t-zone, I found that it really absorbs oils and leaves your skin soft and clean. It has blueberries. chamomile, Irish moss, and calamine. I use this when my skin is off-balanced, or if I have redness.
Lush Cosmetic Warrior- Hellllloooo, this is wonderful. This mask is great for temperamental skin, nasty breakouts, or if you have had a long week with little sleep, and too much foundation and blush for your skin to handle. After wearing makeup all day, I'll use this mask at night to really deep clean my skin. It has garlic, tea tree, and kaolin, which is a clay that absorbs oils and tightens pores. I use the Eau Roma Water before applying moisturizers sometimes. It smells super nice, and I think it helps my skin absorb the moisturizer, but honestly, this is not a necessity.

5. Sleep, diet, put down the sharp tools- Sleeping enough is so important for good skin but I typically get 6-7 hours a night, so I make sure I drink plenty of water and eat right. Foods rich in alkaline, like spinach, apples, bananas, broccoli, and more. This keeps your body's ph levels in balance and releases toxins. Foods with omega 3-fatty acids like walnuts, flaxseeds, and soy beans. The last tip, stop picking, poking, squeezing zits until your skin turns dark purple. This really does damage to you skin, preventing it from healing properly and leaving scars.

If you do have a major breakout- put ice on the affected area, crush up an aspirin with a little water and put it on the skin like a paste to reduce redness and swelling. Once the zit goes down slightly, use a spot treatment with sulfur, or benzoyl peroxide.

I hope this helps someone as much as it has me! What are your favorite skin-care secrets? Any tips past down from generation to generation?

Happy (clear skin) Friday, lovelies!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Your lighthouse

I wrote this post Friday evening in the midst of being really upset. I wrote without pausing, thinking, erasing, and this is what came out. It's raw, and at first I thought, this is wayyyy too personal to share. But that's what life is. It's not always pretty, or neatly lined up, but it's so worth living and sharing. This space is for me to share my story. And here it is.

photo by Nicole Hubbs photgraphy
 
 
 
Some days feel tougher without you.

And some days, I catch myself thinking back to when I was a little girl, and the center of your world.

I picture you sitting in the big leather chair in our living room, and me sitting at your feet.

Most days you wouldn’t say much, but I didn’t mind.

It was enough to know I had you by my side.

 

The thing nobody admits about losing those we love, is that we never really feel our heart make room for them, we just feel the empty space when they leave.

And so even if we try and try to fill our hearts with new things, people carve out a certain place that only they have the mold to fill.


I never talk about losing my dad. Because I lost him and he’s still here. Drinking and wasting away his time. Drinking and pretending things are okay. Drinking and lying, forgetting, and acting like there was never a time that the only thing that mattered, was the people that took the seats of our nightly family dinners.

 

The things I must write are the hardest to share. And maybe that is why I must share them.

I constantly struggle with feeling like enough, because I think back to being his daughter. And if I couldn’t be enough for my own father, how could I ever measure up?

Tonight is the first time in months I have cried about missing my dad. Because the years are passing, and the man I would run to in the night and tell my bad dreams to, is now the one causing the nightmares.

Because I see that I’m growing up, and I miss being little enough to not know what filled his glass. Little enough to not understand that sometimes addicts make choices they don’t even understand.

I miss thinking he was my superhero, before I could fully understand that his vices would make him his own villain.

I remember when my parents divorced and I was 15, I thought, “my dad will clean up his act in six months, tops. Then I’ll have my dad back.”

White round pills, and a glass half-empty can do a lot to someone. Six months has passed nearly ten times.

And five years later, I still catch myself making wishes, on dandelions, on birthdays, on holidays where he is no longer present, maybe this year things will change.


I find myself feeling grateful that my heart can still ache as much as it does because with that I feel hope. And I find myself feeling grateful that my dad’s mistakes have made me face my own. I am grateful that I was wished for, wanted, cared and loved and I believe I still am.
 
What heals me when I feel like this is an old African saying, "Be careful when a naked man offers you a shirt." My dad could not possibly give love and support when he has forgotten how to love and support himself.
 


And dad, if you ever read my blog, know that I am grateful for the years that you were healthy, for the calm before the storm. And know that even through this storm, I am waiting for you to realize you are worth getting better.
That if you took the time to move forward and look up, you would see that I’ve been the lighthouse in these rocky waters all along.
 
 
 
 
Link up with Emily over at embergrey.com to share what you are grateful for.
 
 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New York: Portraits and Places


Here are some more photos from New York. I am still in awe of the beauty of every place we visited, and also the endless love of my family. Photographs have a way of capturing something to marvel at, even in the things that seem mundane.
Missing this sweet place, but missing the sweet people even more.
Allie, the cutest little cousin to grace the Earth.






My aunt and uncle, LOVE them so much.
seriously, my sister is a babe.


Strangers & a beautiful day


I don't see tractors in Las Vegas, and frankly, it was too cute to not take
a picture of.



scenes from a fall pumpkin patch
Add caption

freshly made pumpkin donuts. Heaven is for real.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Starts with {you}



My goal is to inspire.

But not in the way that someone just says, "thank you for that, I needed to read that…"

Caring, wonderful people read my blog posts all the time. I am endlessly grateful for all of you who do, by the way.

But the goal is to inspire those who would never want to read my words.

The hurt, the angry, the ones who do not believe in a good life, in equality, in second chances, and finding beauty upon the disaster.

My goal is to wake up each day and make myself proud. My goal each day is to show up for life, to fight for what I believe in, and hope that those watching will find something to believe in too.

My purpose is to write. To use my words to spread a message, to create something that will not just give people something to read, but give people something to make them want to make a change.

 

There are times when the idea of making a wave in an ocean that is filled with violence, hatred, constant civil and social wars, and tragedy seems nearly impossible. There are times when that ocean of defeat seems to swallow me whole, crashing me against the shore.

 

And there are also times that I am reminded it takes one person wanting to make a difference to begin a small ripple that turns into a wave. That despite all the bad things that happen in the world, acts of kindness, words of empowerment, and doing things with the intention of love, even towards those we don’t really want to love, can make a difference.


I want to inspire those who have lost all hope, those who think they are beyond repair, those who stopped believing in the possibility of tomorrow. I want my words to fall into the hands of those who may not want them, but need them.

 

And the driving force that keeps me writing is remembering that at some point, I was the person who didn’t want my words but needed them. That I was angry, sad, and lost.

That at some point, I decided to pick up a pen, and find myself again.

 

Whenever you question if you are making a difference, remember that making a difference in your life, deciding you want better, is making a difference. It’s the first step to loving and encouraging others, when you finally love and find the courage to be yourself.
 
xoxo.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Picture Perfect

My family could live anywhere in the world, and I would probably think it was the most beautiful, amazing place ever because they were there.

But I am lucky enough to have family that lives in New York. Coming from my usual desert setting in Nevada, I am always blown away by how green NY is.

So, of course I brought along my camera and took pictures of nearly everything. Going through the photos today, I am reminded of how much I love pictures. Moments important enough that you feel the need to stop and capture them. Moments that now have the ability to live on forever.

 I love that pictures of the beach hold so much more than just waves and sand, but also the love and laughter shared with family and friends.

Photos of just a table in a small ice cream shop, remind me of the sweet gelato, walking in the cold and sunny weather, being with those I love.

Each photo reminds me of more than just the setting or object. Each photo makes missing those who we apart of the moment less severe.

And when the years pass, and the things or people in those photos change, that moment I choose to pick up my camera will stay just as it was.

Here are just a handful of photos from my trip. My family lives on Long Island and we also visited Southhold.

 
All of my photos were taken with a Nikon D3200, I am obsessed with the camera and the quality.
 
Wishing everyone a great day, xoxo.















Saturday, October 4, 2014

All my love

On Thursday morning, Lizzie and I packed our bags and headed to the airport.

We waited by our gate, eager to see our family in New York. Our sweet cousin, Allie, had surgery planned for Friday, and we knew we had to be there. To let her know she is oh so loved, that no matter how many states lied between us, we would always be willing to board a plane and see her. That distance is simply just a number of miles and nothing that could keep us apart.

Allie is the sweetest, most thoughtful little girl I know. I have never meet a five-year-old with so much spunk and enthusiasm. She is constantly thinking of others, she has a smile that radiates like the sun's rays, and her little laugh melts me completely.

Seeing her yesterday worrying about surgery, and fidgeting as we walked towards the hospital made me realize I was just where I needed to be. At some point, we all just need to know that no matter what we are about to go through, we are loved and supported endlessly. That people think of us even when they can't be there, and that for some reason, the only thing more healing than medicines and time, is love.

So my sweet Allie cat, I hope you always know that you are loved. That even when I am not right beside you, I am thinking of you.

I hope you know that you have a cousin who believes in everything you want to be. I hope you always know that the times you need me, and the times you don't really need me but just want me around, I will be there.

I hope you know that there are so many people who adore the little girl that you are.




Life is realizing that we are always going to have work, responsibilities, deadlines, bills to be paid, and things we just have to do. Life is knowing that sometimes you drop all of that. You leave it all behind because of who is waiting in front of you. Someone who needs you; a moment that if you miss, you will never get back. Those who hold a piece of our heart will always be more important than work, school, and any other distractions.

Somewhere along the way, we blur the line between what matters and what really doesn't. We think people will always be there, always willing to forgive and move on. I know I could have stayed back this trip and Allie would love me all the same. But I knew where I needed to be.

Here. Hugging my sweet cousin, kissing her forehead and letting her know things are okay, and that I love her soooo much. Playing with Play-Doh. Laughing, loving, and being silly.


Work and school can be put on pause. My love for this little girl will forever play.



xoxoxo

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