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3. What are you most afraid of right now?

I am most afraid of never having a child. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant since we got married in 2016 with no success.

1. What are your best qualities?

I like to think I am a kind, empathetic, compassionate, patient, and loving person. I am a very positive, optimistic person, and I like to see the best in people. I also think I'm kinda fun to hang out with.

2. What are your worst qualities?

I am bad with money and live beyond my means. I am extremely trusting and gullible and will buy whatever you are selling. I also think I tend to think everyone else thinks similar to me, which is very untrue, and can lead to selfish, insensitive behavior. I think I am loyal to a fault. I will stay in something way too long, even though it's not good for me. I recently read a quote that resonated with me, "You disrespect yourself every time you say yes when you want to say no. You call it loyalty/love/friendship. Really you are just hoping someone will see how amazing you are and choose you. It shouldn't work that way. Choose yourself. That's how you teach them. By choosing you." I have a hard time saying no and choosing myself. I need to work on that.

4. What do you love the most about your body?

I don't know if it counts, but I have always gotten compliments on my hair, so it has become something I love about myself. After my abdominal surgery I began losing my hair due to the trauma of the illness/surgery. I lost about half my hair. Nobody tells you that's gonna happen! That was very hard for me because it is the thing I considered my best physical feature. Luckily, it did grow back. I think my feet are pretty cute too.

5.What about yourself do you wish you loved more?

MYSELF! I've learned a lot this year from my sister who introduced me to body positivity. The more I thought about it the more I realized how much shit I talked about myself. I've spent a lot of my life making myself into what other people wanted me to be and trying to please others. The media is always telling us we need to look a certain way, dress a certain way, act a certain way. When we don't look or act that way we end up constantly hating ourselves because what they want us to be is unattainable. I will never have the body of Kim K and that's okay! I think it's time to start loving myself! To figure out who I am, what I want to look like, what I want to wear, and what I want out of life. And to love it all! It's very freeing! When you let go of all of the unattainable beauty standards and stop telling yourself you aren't good enough you feel free to be yourself. And that's the best!

6. Tell us the story about how you earned your stretch marks…

Well, I have always had some digestive problems since I was a baby. When I was 26 years old I had to have my sigmoid colon removed. That was my first abdominal scar that runs horizontally at the bottom of my stomach, similar to a Cesarean Section scar. When I was 29 years old, little did I know, adhesions (scar-like tissue) had been developing since my first surgery. These adhesions caused a small bowel obstruction to occur. The pain hit me while I was on vacation with my girlfriends in Lake Tahoe, celebrating all of us just graduating nursing school. It took the doctors a few days to figure out what was going on. They told me they were going to take a look laparoscopically to see what was going on. This is a minimally invasive surgery that leaves little scarring. When I woke up from surgery they said they had discovered 11 centimeters of necrotic (dead) bowel and they had to open me all the way up. When they told me they used staples to close me up I was instantly devastated because I knew that would leave a big scar. As the next 3 weeks progressed I developed an infection and was vomiting a lot. Because of my stomach muscles contracting from the vomiting my incision dehisced (superficial layers reopened). This lead to my scar being even wider and more gruesome. I now have the vertical scar the runs from my belly button down just past the other horizontal scar across the bottom of my stomach.  

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7. What was your response when you first noticed your stretch marks?

It was interesting because when you are ill your only thought is to do what it takes to get better. It was the doctor that did my first surgery that made me think about the scar, even before the surgery. He said that I was young and pretty and that I will want to wear a lot of bikinis in my future so he was going to make my incision low enough that I could wear a bikini and hide my scar. And he would use glue to close the wound, which would make the scar even less noticeable. I thought it was a weird thing to say but all I could say was thank you. And that doctor did do a great job. My stomach has always been the thing I hated most about myself. I've always been disgusted by it. So now that I was going to have this scar I just thought I already hated my stomach and now it's going to be even more hideous. I've always strived to be thin. And now, faced with the reality of having a scar on my tummy, I thought well, if my stomach was flat, and I was thin, the scar wouldn't look that bad, right? But no matter what weight I've been at, I've always hated my stomach. Even at my thinnest, pre-scars, 113 lbs. I've felt it sticks out, it's round, it's flabby, it's ugly. When my next scar came I just thought the ugliest part of myself is just getting uglier and uglier. Now I have to try and be even skinnier to make up for this mess. I was so mad at that doctor for using staples to close me up. And for discharging me from the hospital, even though I had an infection, which lead to my wound opening up. I wasn't grateful for him saving my life. I was just so mad at him for scarring my body. When I was finally home after basically not eating and hospitalized for 3 weeks I was excited to get on the scale. I thought, this whole illness thing will at least have the bonus of losing weight. When I stepped on the scale and saw 122 lbs I was disappointed. I thought, how could I have not lost more weight than that?! Looking back now I know that is so fucked up! What about being thankful to be alive?! It came from others too, because I was thinner than before the illness. People would say, you look so good, whatever you're doing, keep doing it! Well, I almost died and was hospitalized for 3 weeks. Should I keep being doing that to keep the weight off?! I think we need to reprioritize and being skinny should not be our 1st priority! Especially over health!

8. Describe your journey with body acceptance..

With my scars I have learned over the years to accept them as part of me, part of my story. And they are an easy thing to hide if I want to. I've always hated my stomach and just dreaded the thought of having a belly. I even have grown to hate that word, belly. One day a couple years ago I was fed up. I thought, I'm so sick of this. I'm so sick of hating my belly! I'm sick of these negative thoughts about myself. But I didn't know how to get rid of them. Those thoughts and the ideal of what I'm supposed to look like have been ingrained in me since I was about 10 years old. How do I change it?! And then my sister introduced me to body positivity. Right now I'm reading the book "Body Positive Power Because Life is Already Happening and You Don't Need Flat Abs to Live It" by Megan Jayne Crabbe and it is helping me a lot. It feels so good to let go of these negative thoughts and to love yourself, in and out. Life is short and we only get one body. We need to love what we were given and take care of it. Worrying about having flat abs is a complete waste of my time. I love to exercise and eat healthy and feel good in my body. I also love to not feel guilty when I enjoy a chocolate eclair and a glass of milk that is NOT nonfat. These are the pleasures in life that bring us joy. I want to spend my life enjoying it, and loving the body that is allowing me to walk around this crazy world to do it.

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9. Do you practice self-love as often as you'd like to?

I do not. It is something that I am working on. I struggled even starting these interview questions because the 1st question is "what are your best qualities?" To me you are asking "what do I love about myself?" I had to think about that for a few days. I am good at taking care of the exterior me. I like to go get a pedicure or take myself to the movies. But when it comes to the mindful part of me, I suck at it. I have tried not to think about that too much because I'm scared I won't like what I think. But it's time for me to really work on myself from the inside out and give her some love and attention.

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9. What is one of your qualities you wish shined brighter than exterior appearance?

The love and kindness I feel for people. I know everyone's life is hard and we are all trying to get through it the best we can with what we were given. It's why I became a nurse. I want to help people, in a non-judgmental way. I've been told by people in the past that when they first saw me or met me they thought I was stuck up. People see a blonde girl who is keeping to herself they think stuck up. But they get to know me and find I was just being shy at first. But because of that I have tried to become less quiet and shy and more outgoing and friendly, so people feel comfortable around me.

10. What about self-love are you continuing to work on?

Loving my belly! I really like Lizzo's song "Soulmate." I'm my own soulmate and I need to love myself and choose me. I need to concentrate on the things I love about myself and make those things shine. I need to figure out what I want out my life and choose that by loving myself.

11. How do women need to improve interacting with one another?

Women and Men need to be kind to one another. Like Ellen says at the end of every show. It's that simple. Be kind to one another. I try to always give people a smile. If you are smiling, it can be contagious. If a girl gives me a dirty look I just smile. If I see an outfit or some shoes that I like on someone, I tell them. Compliment each other. We are all humans trying to do the same thing, live our lives. We are on the same team!. 

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12. What lesson do you hope to instill to your children about self-love & body acceptance?

If I am lucky enough to become a mother I want to instill in them to be thankful for their bodies, to not take their healthy body for granted, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I want to teach them to take care of their bodies with love. If I could put them in a bubble and shelter them from the worlds brainwashing of what they are supposed to look like I would. When we are a child we are so pure and innocent. Nobody has told us we aren't good enough yet. I didn't even know that I had ears that stuck out until someone made fun of them in high school. I didn't know that I had a belly that was different from my friends until someone pointed it out when I wore a bikini at age 10. We don't know anything is wrong until someone points it out, and then it's in your head forever. And so begins the cycle of self hatred and changing to make people like you and not make fun of you. So I want to tell them to be strong and stand up to those people and hold on to the love that you have for yourself. If someone tells you your ears are too big tell them that you think your ears are beautiful and that you have excellent hearing and for them to bugger off. I want them to be strong and confident and loving!

13. What is something you wish you could have told yourself at your most fragile state?

It's going to be okay. You are going to get through this. You are strong. You can do it. You can take care of you.

14. What is the best compliment you've ever received?

That I made someone feel comfortable in their own skin, like they can be themselves without judgment when they are around me. That's the best! I have a few friends that call me an angel, I hold that very dear to my heart.

15. How have you evolved as a human over the last few years?

I have tried to stop breezing through life just checking things off my to do list. I've tried to stop and think about life, to reflect and work on myself. I have tried to live by being my authentic self. I was always looking ahead in life thinking things like, "my life will start when I graduate high school." "Life will be better and easier once I become a nurse." "I will feel loved and secure once I get married." Well turns out that's all GARBAGE! My life has been happening all along and completing a goal doesn't magically make life better or complete. There's not one magic cure for everything to be alright. Once I'm skinny enough, once I have more money, once I get married and have kids, and so on and so on. I want to live MORE and in the NOW! I want to figure out who I am and what I want and I want to love it all! So now that I've figured all that out in the last few years it's time for me to take action and do it. My life will always be a work in progress until I die. My 96 year old Nana has taught me a few things. 1.) "Never Give Up!" 2.) "Accept your path." 3.) "If you have a brain, you have a problem."

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