On Love and Loss

On November 19th, my sweet grandpa passed away.

Three days later, my nephew was born.

My grandpa Gene was kind and caring. He met the world with his heart wide open — as soon as you walked in the door you were family — no one was ever turned away. He and my grandma traveled, almost constantly. Visiting family and making new friends, who of course, they would start visiting during the next year’s round of trips,

When she was two, my cousin Morgan called my grandparents the “Rolling Balls,” because she couldn’t pronounce Roybal.

He loved nothing more than having everyone together eating, laughing and singing. It didn’t matter how long you were visiting two days or two weeks. When it was time for you to leave, he was always sad to see you go, “You have to leave so soon?” he’d say, “Stay! Stay! I’ll take you to the wineries, I’ll take you to San Francisco.” Nothing was more important than being together.

He also had a mischievous streak. He loved to laugh and play good-natured pranks on all of us, but of course, mostly on my grandma, especially if he could get us grandkids involved in the trouble. One time he, my little brother and our cousin bought a small plastic snake and hid it in my grandma’s bed. That night when they were pulling the covers down, I heard my grandma scream. My brother and cousin ran into the living room, thrilled that their prank had gone well.

I will miss his booming laugh and the way his face lit up when I walked into the room. He would call out, “WHITTY!!!” It didn’t matter if he hadn’t seen me in months or if it had only been a few days. He had a gift of knowing what was special about every person and letting them know it.

He was my grandma’s best friend and soulmate. Her “honeymoon.” He loved her with every part of himself heart and soul. He was devoted to her and every night would go to bed before and lay down on her side of the bed so that her side would be nice and warm when she came to sleep.

Oh how I miss him. We are all here thinking, “You have to leave so soon? We wish you could stay.”

 

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In sorrow, there is joy.

Baby Grayson has the sweetest face. He is loved more than anything. He has his wonderful big sister, Gabby, to show him the ropes. He has the whole world ahead of him and the best start in life.

He has a beautiful family to gather around him and hold him up, no matter what he does or where he goes. The same family that will gather around my grandpa to sing him up into heaven.

I haven’t met Grayson yet. But, I can’t wait to hold him next month and tell him stories about all the adventures of the Rolling Balls.

 

 

 

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Sassy Paws…

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When I started volunteering at PAWS last year, Zach brought up the idea of bringing home a furry friend. I quickly shut him down. I couldn’t imagine the idea of opening myself up to another heartbreak. I missed Kitty far too much.

But, on Friday October 27th, 2017 — things changed. Zach met Sully, and put his foot down. He knew I was scared and that I wanted to avoid getting a pet. But, he thought it would “be good for me.”  So, after a little bit of discussion and a lot of jittery nerves, we brought home Sully, whom Zach quickly rechristened Salazar.

He is an adorable and perfect boy cat. I was afraid that bringing another cat into the home would remind me of all my special times with Kitty and reopen old wounds. But, luckily, he is the opposite of her. In the best way. He has his own personality and his own wonderful traits. Kitty is perfect. Salazar is perfect.

I’m sure I’ll have so much more to say about him once we start having more adventures and once I get to know him a little bit better. But for now, those are all the updates on Salazar Slytherin Sassypaws Sanchez Stevens.

Zach was right — but don’t tell him I said that.

Me too.

 

blanket.jpgWhen I opened my Facebook and saw the “me too,” hashtag I didn’t know what to make of it. Honestly, at first, I thought a couple of my friends were accidentally drunk posting responses to conversations they were having.

But, when I looked it up, I saw it was in response to sexual harassment and people speaking out because of Harvey Weinstein. One in five women will experience sexual assault or harassment in their lifetimes — this means that the number of “me too” posts that I see while scrolling down my page is probably far too low.

My first instinct when I saw this hashtag, was to just keep scrolling. Then, I thought about adding my voice to the crowd. And then, I thought that I shouldn’t because it is an embarrassing and shameful thing to talk about — and then knew that, that was part of the problem.

When we don’t talk about sexual harassment and assault, we buy in to the culture of suppressing and silencing victims. And, while speaking up is a 100% personal decision and victims should never be shamed for choosing to not speak up; they should never fear to speak up for fear of being shamed.

As such, those of us who can give voice, should give voice.

So, while I don’t think adding my voice to the fray really helps anything, maybe if it helps one person, then that matters.

When I was 17 I went on a date with a guy who was a couple of years older than me. We had gone out a few times and he was always pushing for me than I wanted to give. But, I didn’t want to be called a prude and when he would ask me out I didn’t want to be rude — because we are all taught to be nice. I even cancelled on him a few times, but could never flat out say, “No, I don’t want to see you anymore.”

One evening, in September of my junior year of high school, we went on a date to the drive-in movie theater and he sexually assaulted me in his car. That evening was a nightmare. I kept trying to “nicely” leave and get away, because I’m from Utah and I’m a “nice girl.” But he kept pulling me, literally, back in.

After, he dropped me off in a Target parking lot and drove away.

I told a few friends what happened and eventually, my family. If you have ever wondered what it is like to throw a grenade at the people you love and then watch the chaos unfold — I think this is the closest you could get.

My best friend and I had a falling out because she didn’t know how to process the emotion. I gave my mom the burden of telling my older brother — she waited until he was safely back at college, hundreds of miles away.

I told my younger brother — no means no, no matter what.

We were all unprepared to deal with what had happened; and the places we turned to for help didn’t offer any support. When we eventually went to the police, the questions all revolved around — “She’s only 17, why was she on a date alone?” “This is Utah, if you had called louder for help, someone would have helped you.”

I’m from Utah where many people go on “group dates” until after high school. So, me, a non-Mormon, going out on dates alone was clearly the problem. In Utah, like much of broader America, the culture supports males not being held accountable for their actions. It is the woman’s job to make sure things don’t go to far. It is the woman’s role to make sure that neither one of you is in a situation that could be dangerous. If things go too far — there is only one person to blame.

After talking to the first police officer, we went to the department of child and family services. I was interviewed on camera and had to give a written statement. When I left, I was given a soft pink and white blanket that was made by a kind volunteer. I still have it and sleep with it. A reminder that there are good things and good people, even during the worst of times.

Nothing ever went further than that. I think at one point an officer talked to him. After the slut shaming from the cops and the internal trauma my family faced, we kind of … just shut down.

It was so much easier to just go back to normal, to stop talking about things and eventually to stop thinking about things. I stopped bringing it up. Years and years went by and I never talked about it. I never told anyone else what happened and, after awhile I stopped believing that it mattered. I was fine, everything was fine.

But it keeps happening. And it will keep happening. I hope that speaking up changes a few minds. We need to build a culture that punishes the rapist and doesn’t silence the victims.

We need to do better.

 

Date Day Turns Three!

I can’t believe that Date Day, a tradition started by Zach, in September of 2014 is three. They grow up so fast!

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US!

As mentioned above, Zach set up surprise date. It was wonderful; since that first date, we have gone on 36 consecutive surprise dates. We trade off months planning, everything is a surprise, and we can’t plan something that either of us has ever done before; and each date must include one activity and one new place to eat.

This month, we tried something new — technically, September is Zach’s month to plan date day, but for the last two years we have each always had the same months. Over and over. It is surprising how fast that got old, I was always planning something in December (lots of Christmas options) and Zach didn’t like having his date day fall in the same month as my birthday.

So, to switch things up, we made this September Date Day Anniversary Month — which is just my over-the-top way of saying, we planned September together and will switch months now. Zach will start with October and I will have all the months that he had last year. Keeping things spicy! 😉

For Mega-Date Day, we decided one thing — where we would go (Bellingham) and nothing else. That way, as we wander around the city the things we decided to do would be a surprise to both of us. From there, we took the day slow and just did things as they came to our minds — pretty much the most Zach and least Whitney way to do things.

But, it was wonderful and I am so happy that we are rolling into another year of date day, marriage, togetherness — all the things.

 

 

Volunteer Winos!

Today, Zach and I had the greatest day ever! A few months ago for date day, we went to Bainbridge Island. We did our activity and drove around and surprise, while driving we saw a winery and had to stop.

It is a very small operation, run by one man named Mike. As he gave us the tour and tasting, he started talking about how when bottling and harvesting he needs a lot of volunteer help. He talked about how they make a day out of it and his chef friend comes and makes a special lunch that pairs with the wines that we bottle that day.

As soon as Mike started talking about it, Zach was hooked. We signed up to be on the mailing list and put stars by our names, indicating the we would be open to calls-for-volunteers.

Ever since that day, Zach has been asking me if I have gotten any emails from them. So, like a kid in candy store, once a month he would ask and I would tell him, “Not yet…” .

But finally, the call for bottling help came and we signed up! I’m so glad that we signed up and that Zach didn’t let me back out.

We started the day at 7 a.m. sharp — off to catch the ferry and make it to the island. I was feeling a little sick from too much late night “wine tasting” the evening before and spent the first three hours of volunteering like this:

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But! Despite the rocky start, once I woke up, (in time for lunch) I had the best day ever. Lunch was Korean-inspired potato salad and Korean Bahn Mi. I had to eat it really slowly to not upset my sick tummy, but once I settled in everything was DELICIOUS.

There were about nine other volunteers — some were newbies like us, but one woman, Sonya had been coming to bottle for about eight seasons. We had a great little team. One person was in charge of filling the bottles — my job was to take the bottle from that person and as quickly as possible, get it in the corker so that the wine was not exposed to air — which ruins the wine.

I loved the work! It was very methodical and meditative — I was totally in the zone! Extra bonus — as “payment” for working all day (half the day for me) we each got two bottles of wine! Woohoo, just what I need right now!

I loved seeing some of the behind the scenes aspects of wine making and being part of the process. I loved getting to know my fellow volunteers and spending time with Zach. Not to get mushy, but to be totally mushy, he is super smart and fun and I love his adventurous spirit. Shucks.

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Corking machine! And, the thing I’m holding does a pretty good job too. 

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Seattle — One Year Later

One year ago, Zach and I moved to Seattle. We packed up our Escape and made the two-day trek to our new residence. We stayed overnight in a crappy hotel in Oregon, and made the rest of the way to Seattle the next morning. We arrived about noon. We got to our apartment before the property manager, but since the door was open, we went in to look at our new place.

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Who could cry while looking at that face???

I immediately sat down on the ground and started crying.

It’s not that it was bad, or even, not what I expected. It was small, yes. And, when I thought of all the stuff Zach would be bringing into it, it seemed even smaller.

It wasn’t home.

The next day, the aforementioned stuff arrived. Our apartment was stuffed to the brim with all the things Zach didn’t want to get rid of before we moved, or ever. We couldn’t walk — we literally had to carve a little path to get from one room to the other.

While, we eventually sorted through all the junk and after a few fights of what we were keeping and definitely not keeping (including a heated battle over three reams of printer paper) — we got rid of a healthy portion of it.

The last year was a year of ups and downs. I missed home. I was lonely. Zach was gone a lot — busy and trying hard at school. But, we also discovered some new places and made some great friends. I got a new job! A great job that gives me the opportunity to work with amazing people and learn new things.

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Sometimes it can be pretty here.

Finishing this first year, I can’t help but wonder — what should I expect from the next year? I have been so hesitant to put down any type of roots here, but the fact is that for the foreseeable future we are going to live here. So, I should enjoy it. Just a little.

For the beginning of year two in Seattle — I want to focus on building friendships, continuing to love my job and exploring the area with Zach. I have learned that I am allowed to let myself be happy — I can put down roots here and build a life, and still miss home.

I hope year two builds on what Zach and I started last year. And … when I say “I hope” what I really mean is I will take active steps to make this happen.

“We’re waiting for God to show up.'”

I find this song comforting when I’m upset, and tonight I need comfort.
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I have no words to express how disgusting today’s events were. That it is 2017 and we are still dealing with this shit. That angry, white people will do anything to defend an immoral institution and continue to violently suppress marginalized groups.
 
Today’s events were an act of terrorism — and, I am terrified. I feel helpless and don’t know how to respond to such unfettered hate.
 
We can condemn these actions and say, “This is unacceptable!” But, we live in America, where since its founding, this behaviour has been not only accepted but, for many years, encouraged and sanctioned by the government. This land was forcibly taken from Native Peoples, it was built by slave labor and on the backs of minorities, and it is clear, that force will be used to retain that power.
I have no answers. I have no leads. This country is broken. What does salvation look like? Is there a way to fix this or will the white nationalist win with their, “if we can’t have it, no one can,” rallies?

Return of the Angsty Teen

I tend to fixate on things. I find my favorite things — stick with them forever and never branch out — The Office, I watch it on repeat and rarely start a new show; About Time, my go-to movie whenever it is my turn to choose; and angsty teen rock bands, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. I love them forever and will always day dream about John Nolan and tell everyone about the old feud between he and Jesse Lacey.

My taste in music hasn’t evolved since I was 12.

When I was 17, I went through a “concert phase.” I went to every alternative rock show that came through Salt Lake City. I would push my way to the front row, grab onto the bars and spend the next four hours getting crushed, kicked in the head by crowd surfers and drenched in other people’s sweat and spit. So fun!!!

A few weeks ago, when I heard Taking Back Sunday was coming to Seattle, I knew I needed to go. When I bought the tickets, I was moderately excited. Despite how much I love them, like most people, I have calmed down A LOT since I was 17. I looked forward to spending my time at a table in the 21+ only section of the bar and leave the mosh pitting to other people. After all, you don’t need to be right next to the stage to hear the music. Duh.

I’m sure you can tell, that is not where this story is going.

When we got there instinct kicked in! I was powerless to stop it. I moved my way to the front, around the third row, and hung there for the first two bands. Right before TBS got on, I turned to Zach and warned him, “Things are gonna get cray.” And they did. (Zach’s Note: I’ve got a bad feeling about this…I’ve got a bad feeling about this…)

The concert was AMAZING. And, I completely reverted back to my 17-year-old self — fighting people to keep my spot and clutching the front row, screaming my lungs out and ogling John Nolan and Adam. They are STILL as sexy as ever ;).

Luckily, Zach was behind me. He was a great shield and I got humped by zero strangers! I used to take my friend Zooface to concerts, who was an amazing shield. He is huge and was always a brick wall between me and less-than-savory characters. If anyone acted up, he could literally lift them and throw them somewhere else. Zach did a pretty good job filling those shoes.

At the end of the night, I was bruised, covered in confetti and straight up filth, and soaking wet. I was also a little worried that after seeing a whole new level of psycho in me that Zach might be reconsidering our marriage.

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Covered in … what??

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My whole dress was soaked.

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Someone handed me the setlist!!!!

We made our way back via the light rail, and I was floating the whole way home (but, not literally. It was actually quite a long walk). Back at the apartment, I showered and scrubbed the grime off my body before passing out on the bed. This morning, I am still bruised, sore and soooooooooo happy. 🙂

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All tuckered out.

Beef to Beans

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Is this a real board game?

I don’t normally write about my vegetarianism on my blog. I’ve learned, over the years, to not, “shove it in people’s faces.” That’s frustrating enough. The self-righteous (and highly-combative) side of me thinks, “I’m doing something healthy for my body and the planet, it aligns with my beliefs and I’M THE ONE WHO HAS TO SHUT MY MOUTH?” But, yes. That is usually how it has worked — I am the obnoxious vegetarian.

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But, today I read an article by The Atlantic about how making one simple switch could get the U.S. legitimately close to meeting the emission goals set for 2020 without any other major changes (though if we could get with the program, that would be great). The switch — eat beans, not beef. If you don’t like beans??? Just stop eating beef and eat something else …

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This isn’t even asking you to go vegetarian (because that would be CRAZY). You could still eat chicken, pork, eggs, cheese — whatever.

This is (or should be) appealing for a couple of reasons 1) it is personal, not policy, driven change 2) it is a small change in diet that can make a big impact on your physical and global health (cutting back on global meat consumption is one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions).

I know a lot of people won’t make this change, even though it is simple. Even people who are aware of and alarmed by climate change. This makes me so sad. A lot of things have been making me so sad lately.

Can’t we stick it to the man and eliminate beef???

Happy Anniversary, Zach Zach Stevens!

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Last year, I married my best friend.

We met in November of 2011.  It didn’t seem like we had a lot in common at first, he was very anti-vegan and I was very, very vegan, but our friendship steadily grew through a shared love of Katy Perry and bi-annual library sales.

Though I moved around for a little while through 2012 – 2014, we kept in touch. When I came back to Utah, Zach and I met up for dinner at The Pie Pizzeria in Ogden. We were there for almost four hours; I left the restaurant that night thinking, “I’m in love.”

A few months later we started dating and I never looked back. After one year of dating, we moved in together March of 2015 and on a trip to Yellowstone over Labor Day Weekend, Zach proposed. We were camping and I hadn’t showered in three days, so I knew that he really meant it. 😉

Our wedding, on July 2, 2016 was perfect. We rented the Tracy Aviary and had boxes and boxes of pizza from The Pie. Surrounded by all of our favorite people, we recited our handwritten vows and only cried a little*. My friend Kent performed the ceremony and did a wonderful job.

Near the end of the night, Zach requested Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC and drunkenly came out to the dance floor to boogie, slapping his legs along with, “Knockin’ me out with those American thighs.” After the wedding, we had a fabulous honeymoon in Canada and Montana. Then in August, it was off to Washington to begin our new life together in Seattle.

There have been a lot of ups and downs throughout the year as we adjusted to a new place, Zach dove into the full-time MBA program and I started a new job at the University of Washington. Despite the challenges, at the end of every day I have a snuggly, handsome and hilarious husband to come home to. The tough times feel less tough when you have someone like Zach to go through them with, and I know that it brought us closer together.

So — even though things are not perfect, I know that I did everything right. One year in, here is to many, many more.

*It’s all relative.