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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Carly Cottle

Let me start out by saying this: Carly Cottle is the truest, kindest, most loving spirit I've ever known. Having her as a friend has made me a better person. Having her in my life reminds me that gratitude and kindness are not dead and that some people just carry a little more than the rest of us. Her 30 Days of Thankful post is bellow- feel free to fall in love with her.



Hi all! My name is Carly Cottle. Little, and proud sister, of Ash. I am 22 years old and a soon to be graduate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. (Currently engaging in a little happy dance while I type this out because saying that just feels so sweet after four long years as an undergrad.) Aside from my giant passion for working with the little humans, I would consider myself to be a bit of a life enthusiast.



I am a Las Vegas native but seventeen weeks ago, jumped on a plane to Galway, Ireland to complete my Student Teaching. I wanted to share this experience of mine because it has radically restored the gratitude I have for this precious life. It has humbled me to be still, inspired me to marvel at the small things, and encouraged me to celebrate the mundane and the people found within it with an abundance of love, grace, and compassion.



I chose to embark on this journey abroad for so many reasons. I wanted the opportunity to be anonymous. I wanted the chance to be brave. To be out from underneath my security blanket, away from everything and everyone familiar to me. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted my eyes to be opened to something bigger than everything I thought I knew. I wanted to explore and I wanted to learn. To amerce myself in the unknown of another culture. I just wanted an experience that was completely my own, to courageously weave through the way in which I wanted.



When I arrived in Galway, the first couple nights were my most challenging. I moved into a large, vacant house by the sea with no Wi-Fi, no friends, and no sense of direction as to where I was going when I was to step foot back outside of the house. My roommates were to arrive the week after I got there so I was feeling quite apprehensive walking into a large empty house all alone. I remember unpacking my things, sitting on my new comfy, yet dusty bed in an emotional state of “What the hell did I just do?” My heart was pounding and my eyes were heavy. I had a world wind of emotions running throughout every inch of my body. Part of me was so angry with myself for feeling this doubt in my decision to come abroad. I remember thinking, ‘This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be scared, to be out from underneath familiarity. So why am I feeling this way?’

I wanted to be out of my comfort zone, yet I didn’t seem to like uncomfortable. I wanted to be away from everything and everyone familiar to me, yet I seemed afraid of the unfamiliar. I prayed a lot that night, asking God to stop me in the midst of my anxious thoughts and send me the strength to be still. I knew there was purpose in my feelings of fear, doubt, and reservations; I just didn’t yet understand what that purpose was.



That next day after spending a lot of time in prayer and being consoled by my gracious mom, my oh sweet and gracious mom, I decided I would no longer spend my precious days alone in this new place feeling anxious, afraid, and lonely. I would spend them doing what I came abroad to do. This was my experience after all, so I was going to challenge myself to work alongside my fears and amerce myself in the journey, just as a vowed to do before I left.

That day, I booked a cheap hotel room and bus ticket to Cork.



I’m not sure if it was my continuous prayer, the consoling from my sweet mother, or if it was the fact that I challenged myself to find beauty and comfort in the unfamiliar, or maybe even a combination of all three, but being alone didn’t feel like being alone anymore. It felt like an opportunity to discover who I was in a completely raw and vulnerable state. I can’t tell you how fulfilling and liberating that week alone was. I discovered a side of me I didn’t know existed. I think it was buried deep under all of that fear of the unknown, I didn’t even recognize I had.



Today, seventeen weeks into this journey of mine, gratitude means something completely different to me than it did before I left. I have met so many wonderful people throughout this journey. I have made close friends, created lifelong friendships, built relationships with my most unique, wild and rambunctious kiddos, and met sweet strangers who have restored my faith in human connection. I have witnessed the vastness of this beautiful country; I have been so privileged to live in for these months. I have hiked mountains, soaked in geothermal hot springs, and sat dangling my feet over the edges of tall, rocky cliffs. I remember each courageous thought, each silent prayer, and each feeling of emotion that made up each of these moments during this journey. My heart has absolutely been filled with joy and gratitude for every single bit of it. The places I have been able to see, along with the people I have meet along the way, have made an imprint on my being, in ways I don’t think I will ever be able to explain.



Each day that I am here, my heart continues to fill with gratitude.

Gratitude for the people I’ve met, for the places I’ve been, and the strength I’ve gained to be still.

I have learned to trust God, and to trust myself. This experience is embedded in the fabric of who I am. It has replenished and restored me. It has laid my heart brave and inspired me to never stop seeking what I am most passionate about.



So whatever your passion is or whatever you consider yourself to be an enthusiast for, go at it full speed and chase it. Make a list of empowering vows along the way, and chase it. Love it and nurture it, even if it scares you. Welcome it with unbolted arms, a heart soft and exposed, and intentions that are filled with love and purpose. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and brave. Agree to disagree with your fears, and do your best to find beauty in the scary and the unfamiliar.

Let your heart be filled with gratitude as you sit back and marvel at your wild and precious life because well, it absolutely deserves that kind of love and recognition.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

15for16 - Haley Jakobson


This is a new series on my blog tailored to what you would tell your teenage self, or early-20's self, or basically any self you felt needed a little more guidance and self-love. A year ago, I studied abroad in France and sat in all these moments that I wished my 15-year old self could have known were coming. Moments of radical forgiveness and grace, moments that promised eventually, it would all be more than okay. Life unfolds as it should and I'm grateful for the great unfolding that is mine, but that doesn't take away from the times that were tough and trying. The times I journaled for hours, wishing words could be a bridge to take me anywhere else. At 22, I would just hug that girl and share what I know to be true. What was true for me ended up in a list of 15 things, and I thought of how we all probably have our own list of 15. Don't we all have bits of wisdom and revelations with each passing day, month, and year? I'll be sharing the thoughts of writers and artists and friends and strangers. 15 things for any age, thoughts you would tell that self of yours.

First up is Haley Jakobson. If you don't follow her on Instagram, do. I read a post of hers and wept. (it's this one if you want to cry too). She's incredible, vulnerable, and true. Her post is bellow, 15 things she would tell her 16-year-old self.



1. everything you know about love isn’t true. 

2. keep writing poems in your math notebook. someday people will eat your words right off the plate and lick the scraps. but also, do your math homework, because apparently discipline is a cool thing you can spill your dreams into. 

3. you don’t have to lick anyone’s dick “like an ice cream cone.” 

4. I’m sorry for what’s coming.

5. when they begin to tell you your blood is made from sin and your fingers tarnished in charcoal betrayal, crawl deeper into your mother’s arms. 

6. beat your chest like fury, shove your budding womanhood into their lockers, smear your skin with the smell of their ignorance so they have no choice but to breathe their own unfairness. prove them all fucking wrong.

7. you can stop telling yourself you wanted to have sex with him.

8. when the gynecologist blinks at you with pity in her eyelashes, tell her how dare she, tell her she’s the reason people can’t get up in the morning, ask her if she ever was a girl with collarbones sprinkled with moondust and didn’t she ever make the mistake of searching for answers in a boy?

9. when you dare to look at your vagina in the bathtub, please don’t make it into a house of shame. 

10. you didn’t want to have sex with him.

11. someone will love you. 

12. a couple someone’s.

13. when you go to that dinner with Grammy, please hold her hand a little longer. you won’t always get to do that. 

14. the walls of your high school are crushing you, your classmates are hiding their own monsters inside your gentle mistakes, your teachers cannot grade the ancient waterfalls washing your ribcage, you are a poet and a prophet and words like entire galaxies live in between your molars.

15. start flossing.



Monday, November 14, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Nissa Chan


Hi all. Ashley and I have had a bit of a break from posting. I know there are heavy hearts between the two of us and all around the world. I hope whoever is reading this knows you are loved, seen, and acknowledged as a powerful, necessary force.  This past year has been so eye-opening as I make friends with people of all different backgrounds, orientations, races, and statuses. I don't know how we heal and learn to respect and appreciate people if we don't take time to listen. Listen hard and long to their stories, their cries,  and their fears.

I am so, so grateful that Nissa is sharing her story as apart of #heysistercampaign 30 Days of Thankful. It seemed like an appropriate thing to share right now. I hope you enjoy and learn from her vulnerability and honestly. Here is her autobiographical short:

Love to all of you xoxo



To contact Nissa:
ACD Media Studios
(336) 365-8560
 You can find her online at:
Instagram:  ACDMediaStudios & SolidariteKitchen



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Ashton Mantolino

Today, the beautiful Ashton will be sharing her story as part of the hey sister campaign, 30 Days of Thankful. My heart is heavy today and I opened Ashton's story to remind myself that we have a power. We can share. We can grow. We can listen. Part of the magic of our lives is that we have one. A life to discover, unfold, love, and fight for the kind of world we want. Enjoy the read, xo.
             

This year has been a whole new world to me.  Being diagnosed with cancer was not on my “to do” list before I die, but somehow it crept onto what I needed to conquer before I turned 30—or even started a life of my own!  My name is Ashton Mantolino and I started my journey this year of post college, first year teaching and the battle with Non Hodgkin’s diffused large B cell lymphoma, stage II. 
              I remember the day I was diagnosed. I was in the hospital after a biopsy to my chest with a tumor 15 cm right over my heart (close to the size of a pencil). I was weak, tired and panicking about unplanned lessons for the upcoming week, not realizing that a week after my surgery, I’d be resigning from my job after less than 3 months as a second grade teacher.

              My doctor walked in and my heart flipped. “So Ashton, my name is Dr. Gollard, I am going to be following you for awhile. Your diagnosis is Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma…”  I remember his voice trailed off and everything went quiet. My whole life flashed before me. I zoned back into reality and felt my mom tightening her grip on my hand, she laughed in relief and said, “Thank God!” like it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I felt angry at first because to me cancer was cancer-- didn’t matter what kind, but lymphoma’s survival rate was high and that was her greatest relief. It took me a long time to accept it and it took me a long time to understand that it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me… dying was.  I learned that I was part of the 2% of lymphoma patients diagnosed with anterior mediastinal lymphoma, meaning that most lymphoma patients have tumors in their lymph nodes found in their neck, groin, and abdominal areas and mine was surrounding my heart vessels.

              I admit it scared me. A 90% survival rate sounded relieving to the ears but 90% was still just 90%.  In my first treatment I was confined to the hospital for almost a month.  I hardly remember my first treatment but it was after, that I vividly remember most.  On the 4th day of my chemo infusion, I woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom; my mom helped me up and sat me down onto the toilet. I remember looking up at her and that was it.  I woke up and bright lights were on in my room, I felt the tile underneath my body, the smell of blood, at least 10 pairs of eyes on me and the sound of my mother’s voice screaming my name.  Somehow, I developed a GI bleed from all the medications I was on and not eating that it created multiple ulcers in my stomach that were not caught in time. I bled out and passed out from it. I almost lost my life that night from internal bleeding and my heart slowing down to a mere 45 bpm. I received nine blood transfusions after.   Two weeks after, I contracted a really bad infection and no one was allowed in my room without a gown, a mask, and gloves.  I felt like an experiment. I remember my primary doctor told me as I laid there hopelessly one day that this was the worst it was ever going to get and that I had to fight. She said, “You are too young to give up. Just think, one day you’ll get married, you’ll have babies, you’ll have a life… but you can’t if you lay here and you give up.”  I knew then, that all the prayers in the world would help but not save me, I had to save myself. 

              Being the person I am, I’ve learned to fight for what truly belongs to me and I know deep down inside this was just another chance for me to show the universe that the challenges it threw at me wouldn’t stop me.  I finished my last round of chemo on October 11th. I did six rounds of a vigorous regimen that often left me in pain, exhausted and questioning God at times… but as I write this now, I find the most gratefulness in my heart.  I gained a completely different perspective on how I look at life.  I found a whole new appreciation for human uniqueness during my transitions of hair loss, weight gain from the chemo, and accepting who I’ve become.  I am a warrior of life and I don’t plan to stop!

Monday, November 7, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Chloe Bortmas


One of my fondest memories while studying abroad was meeting sweet Chloe, who is sharing a personal narrative today as part of our hey sister campaign. We spent so many days walking the streets of Pau, France, indulging in patisseries and having long life talks. Grateful for your kind heart and goodness, Chloe. Thanks for being a part of our project! xo





Hi all, my name is Chloe Bortmas. I am a 21 aged student at the University of Mount Union in Ohio, where I study French. This time last year I was studying abroad in France. It sounds like a dream, and in ways it was, but it also tested me to my limits. I went through a period in my life where I was completely out of my comfort zone, away from the people I loved, and all while trying to learn a different language. All of these things combined turned into many anxious nights. While I was going through these changes, I realized I had a lot of people on my side who would not let me quit. There were days I wanted to buy a plane ticket and fly back to the states, but I knew I had people who were fighting for me and believed that I would come home so much stronger. I think that is one of the amazing things about being a woman. If you really look for it, you have women all around you who want you to succeed. Without some of the women I met in France, I honestly do not know what I would had done without the nights of laughing and talking about life. Or the women back home in the states, who would stay up late just to talk and pray with me. The five months that I was abroad changed me. And I am eternally thankful for that. I learned that going out of my comfort zone is what life is intended for. And life is certainly not intended for you to go it alone. This month, and every day I am beyond thankful for the women in my life who are always by my side and never let me give up, even when things get hard. I’m also so very thankful to be home this holiday season in the states. So here’s a huge thank you and hug to all the beautiful women out there who never let me quit and all around the world who encourage other women to go out and explore this beautiful world.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Hannah Blum

Part of the magic of the #heysistercampaign is the women we meet. It's humbling and completely motivating each time we learn another woman's story. Ashley and I are huge advocates of reaching out, getting help, and letting everyone know we may be fragile beings but we are never alone. Hannah is a beautiful person who was willing to share her narrative and is our first feature. Read, enjoy, and share. xo. 



My name is Hannah Blum. I am a 27-year-old vlogger, and blogger advocating for mental health. When I was 19 years old I had a mental breakdown which placed me in a mental hospital for a small amount of time. I received a diagnosis of bipolar II and feared my future living with this condition. It has been quite a journey ever since. I spent so many years letting my disorder and the stigma that surrounds mental health conditions strip me of my confidence. Then one day I realized that this is the mind I have been given, and I have to learn to love it while I have to live with it. Today, I am thankful for my struggle, because it allowed me to find the strength I needed to build myself back up. I am thankful for the people along this road who have empowered me and sacrificed their story so that I can share mine. I appreciate those who have doubted me because they are my biggest motivation to seek change. My life will always be a rollercoaster ride, but I control the speed of it today. I have learned to enjoy the ride instead of fighting against it. Most of all I am grateful for the opportunity to reach out to others and give a little bit of hope to those in need. Everyone has a story and it deserves to be shared. We are fortunate to have unique platforms that allow us to open up the conversation about mental health and other issues in society that should be, and need to be discussed. We can give a voice to those who have been silenced by stigma, and I am thankful for those who speak up for others. Every day is different, some harder than others, but if you can find a little bit of color in each day, even when the sky is gray, you will succeed.

Personal Links: 

My HealthyPlace YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OGpF1DMhf8
My HealthyPlace Blog "Mental Health for the Digital Generation": http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/

My personal blog Halfway2Hannah: www.halfway2hannah.com
Instagram: @halfway2hannah
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