Tag: mormon mental health

“One of the Worst Ways to Die”…Why would God let this happen?

    Recently while reading the Book of Mormon—Alma chapter 14 specifically—something new hit me that I had never realized before. It’s always really cool when that happens, so I’m going to share it! In this chapter, missionaries Alma and Amulek are thrown into prison for nothing more than preaching the word of God. Even worse, anyone who believed in their words—women and children mostly—were burned alive while Alma and Amulek were forced to watch. Alma 14:10-11 says, “And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” That’s a bit intense…Okay, IT’S VERY INTENSE.
Quick story (and this might be just as intense…fair warning): I’ve briefly mentioned before that when I was in preschool, my mentally handicapped, very sweet & pure, beautiful neighbor…was murdered in her own home by somebody she barely knew, but had trusted. I will not go into details, and I never will in a public setting/online. It is not my story to tell. However, I will say this: the doctor who did her autopsy and examinations said that, even after everything he has seen professionally, my neighbor was killed in what he (AN EXPERT) believed must have been “one of the worst ways to die.” As a young girl, I trembled at the sound of those words. Still, that phrase sends shivers down my spine. We know horrible things can happen to good people. But to know somebody who was so pure and innocent, and know they suffered like only few others would understand and it led to her death…that’s something you hold onto for the rest of your life. I learned what real evil was at only 3 years old. Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and any other fictitious villains in my world at that time were nothing compared to what I learned real evil was capable of. As a child, I would ask my mom about this a lot. I would ask her, “she (our neighbor) wasn’t even capable of making a lot of her own decisions, she wasn’t capable of living alone (she lived with her parents, even well into adulthood), she never did anything wrong EVER, she was almost a perfect person, she loved us and we loved her so much. Why would Heavenly Father let something like that happen to her? And why would He let it be THAT BAD…as in ‘one of the worst ways to die?’” I’m not sure if my mother’s answer was just to comfort me or if this is what she really believed. Her response was always something along the lines of, “Heavenly Father loves her more than we can ever imagine. I’m sure He really hates what happened to her. I don’t think He let her suffer too much before taking her home to be with Him.” While that could very well be true, after reading Alma 14, I realized that Heavenly Father probably did let her suffer through EVERYTHING she was put through. Weirdly, it makes sense to me now that I understand better. Hear me out. Her killer is behind bars for the rest of his life without parole, thank heaven. Heavenly Father knows all and He is very just. But order to be completely just, He needs the heavyweight evidence—the full suffering ‘testimonies’ of the victims. Once that criminal is judged, Heavenly Father will be able to judge him perfectly because God refused to cut any corners even when my amazing neighbor was suffering horribly. Today, she is in paradise with God, her biological father, and many others she loved and cared about. She is not suffering anymore and never will have to again. She is also no longer handicapped either and is so happy. I know it. It warms my heart.
It’s easy for us to think to ourselves, “why me? I’ve done everything God has asked me to do and I’m still going through this horrible trial” [‘fire,’ if you will]. It can be even worse when that trial is brought upon us by the choices and actions of other people. “Why would God let them do this to me, and let me suffer so much, when I’ve done nothing wrong?” I often find myself wondering if Heavenly Father doesn’t love me as much if He let’s me suffer significantly, or I think He must be picking favorites and I am just NOT one of them.
It’s just not true. Heavenly Father’s love is unconditional, eternal, and indescribable for every. single. one of us. His love is unconditional, eternal, and tremendous for YOU. He doesn’t pick favorites. There is nothing in this world we can’t accomplish, no matter how hard it is…or even despite the outcome. Death is not the end. His plan is perfect. Even our worst trials are part of an eternal plan of justice, mercy, love, and most importantly: everlasting happiness. As we go through the trials of life, let’s not forget His plan. Remember that “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good…fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” 💕

Good vs Bad

Picture of what was one of the happiest days of my life. Dalyn and I were talking a while back about what were the “worst days of our lives” (deaths of certain family members, hospital days, when my parents got divorced—which I realize now is actually a great thing but it was hard at the time, etc.). We of course started talking about what were some of the “best days of our lives” (wedding day, finding out we’re pregnant finally, the night before Dalyn left on his mission that he spent with family, the days we had the most spiritual and faith-building experiences ever, etc.). We quickly realized that it was soooooo easy to list off our happy days, which had more than quadrupled our bad days in number for sure. They just kept on coming! Even though the bad days can be traumatizing and devastating, the good ALWAYS outweighed the bad. The crazy part too, is that a lot of what happened in our “worst days” always had some good come from them, or even turned out to be complete blessings in disguise! For example, when I was 13, I didn’t want my parents to get divorced. I didn’t want two houses, two Christmases, two wards, two completely different worlds of people and family and even friends. Yes, I had to deal with all that, and still do in some cases. However, I have no idea where I’d be if my parents had stayed together and my assumption is that I’d be far worse off. Ludicrous, right? Seriously though! Without that trial, I wouldn’t have had to stand on my own two feet in several instances growing up. I wouldn’t have had to discover and build my testimony of Jesus Christ until later in life when it could have been too late. I would not have the relationship I have today with my biological brother—nor would I have ANY of my other siblings AT ALL. To me, the thought of that is worse than any bad day I’ve ever had. I would not have grown up with specific knowledge and standards for what I wanted out of my life and future marriage. I wouldn’t be with Dalyn had I not learned so much from this. The blessings always outnumber, outweigh, outlast, and straight up OUTDO the bad days and trials. CHALLENGE:list your worst/best days & think honestly. & if I’m wrong—call me out.

LGBTQ+ Mormons (Part 2) | Clearing the Air…What is “Okay?”

     Hey! Welcome back. This is the post that might be a bit more controversial. Before we get started, I want to remind my readers that my blog posts are not necessarily ‘church doctrine.’ Regardless, I have researched this topic thoroughly in LDS Church doctrine. I also have a decent amount of personal experience on the matter. With that said, in this post, I would like to address a few misconceptions believed by many Mormons and non-Mormons alike. These myths surround the LGBTQ+ members of the Mormon church and I–based on my experience and understanding–do not believe are right. I am, in no way whatsoever, trying to ‘preach.’ I am just sharing what I genuinely believe to be correct based on personal revelation, experience, and LDS church doctrine. I want to put it out there for those of you who want help knowing how to handle something you never imagined going through. In this post I want to clearly state, bluntly, what God commands of us and what is expected of every member of the LDS Church. Specifically, I have seen so much confusion on what is “okay” and what is considered a sin in the eyes of God.

What is “Okay” (and even encouraged):

  • being gay/lesbian/transgender/belonging in the category of LGBTQ+ at all
  • being different
  • loving those who belong in the category of LGBTQ+
  • having, raising, supporting children/teens/adults who are unique/LGBTQ+
  • treating the LGBTQ+ person/people exactly the same way you treated them before
  • inviting them to parties, events, holidays, etc. without an ulterior motive for ‘conversion’ or persuasion
  • asking genuine, non-offensive questions about their life
  • listening to them speak about their problems, without giving unsolicited church-related advice
  • hugging them when they cry
  • hugging them when they are happy
  • hugging them just because 
  • postitive, loving counsel
  • giving advice when solicited, church-related or not…and even giving lifestyle/same-sex dating advice if you both feel comfortable
  • sharing testimony with them when they desire it and are comfortable with it
  • REFUSING to treat anyone differently for their beliefs, differences, sexual orientation, etc. and following through to the letter

What is Considered “Sin” in the Eyes of Heavenly Father: 

  • acting on same-sex attraction, gender identity, etc.                                                                                                     ****This is where it gets difficult. Yes, as of right now, Heavenly Father’s commandment is that relationships are to be between a man and a woman and that gender is essential to His plan. However, that does not mean that anyone who commits these acts deserves to be told that they are going to Hell–as members of the Church, we believe that all people (unless a son of perdition) will go to some degree of a beautiful Heaven regardless, so this has never made any sense to me. It is literally false doctrine, and very painful for a person to hear. It does not mean that they deserve to be “kept at arms length.” It does not mean that they are confused by the devil and need to be “converted,” “fixed,” or “cured.” It is not confusion. It is not a lack of faith. It is not because they did not pray hard enough to make it go away. It is something that they are born with and that Heavenly Father knew they would have to experience, and never planned/plans to take it away from them. Without it, they would not be the same person/people we know and love.
  • conditional love for others
  • name calling
  • gossip
  • offensive joking, whether in the presence of the LGBTQ+ community members or not (as far as you know)
  • altering the way you treat the person who just came out
  • judging/deciding what their fate shall be in the next life. Only God knows all. Only God knows us. Only God can judge.

What is Not “Okay:”

  • blaming “the Church” for the sometimes hurtful, offensive, mean remarks or actions from its members. I could be alone in this belief but in my opinion, because we believe Heavenly Father is in charge of the church, to blame the church for its imperfect people’s actions is to blame God. I personally believe Heavenly Father wishes His children to love one another unconditionally, without offending each other. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect and this literally happens to everybody at some point in their church-attending experience.
  • insisting that the LDS Church must change its standards and policies because times are changing. Like I mentioned before, God knows all and He is in charge of His church.
  • on the flip side of that coin: insisting that the LDS Church will never/should never change its standards and policies because God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” While this famous phrase is scripture and is true, God’s continuing revelations to His Prophets do change and have changed before (i.e. the law of Moses, Blacks in the Priesthood). This is not to say that God has changed or will change, but that society and His children have changed and are ready to receive that new revelation. I repeat: God knows all and He is in charge of His church. My point here is: we have no true idea of God’s plan is. We do not always fully understand why God’s commandments are the way they are, but we know they are right. We also know that when His children are ready, commandments can be altered by our Heavenly Father but that does not mean it will happen for sure.

This is an extremely touchy topic. The reason I have been so upfront and honest in this post is because I think it is absolutely necessary. I really feel like, until now, the truth has not been laid out in a clear format like this. This is something so sensitive. It is one of those things that is very difficult to understand until you experience it yourself, whether you belong to the LGBTQ+ community yourself or have a close family member/friend who does.

My little brother told me he is gay before he told my parents. I spent months trying to comfort him and let him know how much he is loved by me and his earthly and heavenly parents no matter what. I kept telling him that I believed he would feel best after he at least tells our family. That way, he would never have to feel like he was hiding behind a facade in front of them. One day I was at the gym with my mom, The Ellen Show was on one of the televisions in front of us and I thought I could cast out a hypothetical line to see what I could catch from my mother’s response. I asked, “So Ellen and her wife have been married for a long time now. When they enter into the next life, do you think they will still want to be with each other for eternity when the vail is lifted? I cannot imagine changing your mind after spending most of your earthly life with somebody.” She responded, “I don’t know.”        Unsatisfied with this answer, I fished deeper, “Do you believe gay people really are gay?” I knew about my brother at this point, my mom did not. I knew he was born with it. I knew he did not make it up. I knew he had genuinely struggled with this his entire life. I know my brother very well and I know he is not just confused or lost. I waited in anticipation for her answer, I will never forget it, “I think they believe they are that way.

My heart broke. Maybe Riley was right to be afraid to come out. Maybe they really would not believe him. However, just like I know my brother, I also know my mom. I knew that she–like me–knows my brother very well too. I knew that once he told her, she would have a huge faith crisis and she would be confused because it is contrary to what she originally believed. BUT! That she would ultimately realize for herself that Riley did not choose this but it was something he was born with and that it was somehow, someway part of Heavenly Father’s plan for my sweet little brother. I was right. Only a short while after that, he come out to our parents. They were extremely tormented and confused, mostly because they knew that Riley could not have chosen this for himself and that he did not lie for attention, nor was he confused or any other possible excuse commonly used for coming out of the closet in a religious culture. I think it is so difficult to wrap our LDS brains around the possibility of an LGBTQ+ Mormon until it becomes a reality in our own life. Because of that, I think it is difficult for members of the LDS church without this experience to fully understand the origin of same-sex attraction and gender identity, the gravity and weight of the trial, and the lack of understanding you really have of God and God’s plan until then. I am so grateful for my little brother and his bravery. I do not judge him for his differences, lifestyle, or choices; nor do I care. He is still my brother. He is still my partner-in-crime and I know Heavenly Father loves him, maybe even more than I do. I know that Heavenly Father will work things out however is best. I know that Families are Forever. 

LGBTQ+ Mormons (Part 1) | Unconditional Love for the “Unconventional” Person

So your devout LDS child/niece/nephew/sibling/cousin/friend/person just confided in you. They told you they are gay/transgender/etc. You are in shock. You are thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know Mormons were gay…I didn’t know it was possible.” Some of us even think, “Are they just saying this to get attention? Is this their choice? Are they sure?” In most cases, we very quickly realize that is just not the case–especially when we really know the person who just came out of the closet. Then we think, “What should I do? How should I react? How do I treat them from now on?” I will touch on those questions later in this post. Then the next questions are usually something like, “Will they be excommunicated? Will I have to cut them out of my life forever? How could God do this to me…to them? This is my child/niece/nephew/sibling/cousin/friend/person! I never imagined this for them. Have they been going through this hurt, for their entire lives?” The answers to those questions are, put simply and respectively: No they will not be excommunicated for simply coming out, No you should never cut anyone out of your life for recognizing and becoming who they were always meant to be, God knows all and God knows their hearts and loves them so much and we do not fully understand the His plan, Yes they most likely have been struggling with this for as long as they could have ‘crushes’ on what you might have assumed was the opposite sex or as long as gender roles were enforced.

Hey everyone! I am making this post in collaboration with a video my brother and I did on my LDS youtube channel a while ago. It is about loving unconditionally, specifically those in the LGBTQ+ community. You can watch it using the link above. My brother and I filmed this video a long time ago. However, I could never figure out exactly what to put in words on this blog for some reason…until today. We watched the new documentary by Imagine Dragons singer, Dan Reynolds called “Believer.” It is about the effect that the LDS Church has on LGBTQ+ youth. Anyway, I agreed with basically everything said in the film. It was then that I realized how I was going to explain my thoughts here…bluntly. It is not as necessary to be blunt in this first post on the subject. Although, part 2 may be a little bit more controversial.

As for the answers to the questions of “What should I do now? How do I treat them from now on?” The answer may seem complicated, but it only requires just a few simple steps.

Step #1. LOVE THEM TO DEATH & Treat them exactly as you did before you found out.

Step #2. KEEP LOVING THEM…no matter what they do, say, become, decide to act on,

‘side’ they choose, life choices, etc.

Step #3. repeat.

   Seriously! That’s it.

   And no, this simple 3-step-plan is not to help you ‘love them enough so they come to church.’ This 3-step-process is to ‘love them unconditionally because they are humans, children of God, and deserve it regardless of what trials they were born with.’

Jesus Christ commanded that we love everyone and withhold our judgements of others, as Heavenly Father is the only qualified, righteous judge. For some reason, the LGBTQ+ community is sometimes subconsciously considered an exception of this commandment. This is false. We are to love everyone, no matter what. 

My Experience with Mental Illness in the LDS Church | Part 2

     Hey everyone! So last week I wrote about my experience with mental illness. This week I am going to talk about how it effects my testimony and relationship with the church.

I never really suffered from anxiety and depression when I was growing up. I will admit, however, that I can now look back on my teenage years and recognize small tendencies I had towards anxiety and depression. Nonetheless, I did not start suffering full-time (I do not know how else to explain it) until I became an adult and started struggling with my chronic physical afflictions. I grew up in a beautiful family. Everybody seemed happy. I never actually witnessed any of my family members suffering with mental illness, so I thought I was the only one when I was first diagnosed. I eventually learned that some of my happiest and most positive family members have experienced their own trial with mental illnesses as well. It is just not something people like talking about, which is understandable. I don’t personally prefer to speak about my experiences either. However, I feel that with the path Heavenly Father has given me in life, and the platform that I have, I must share my experience to help others. There is something very important and specific that I want to talk about here regarding mental illness in the LDS church.

I do not share the most negative portions of my mental illnesses in detail in public/online. I believe too much detail might make those who are suffering similarly, feel even worse. For that reason, I will touch on this experience only briefly. One of the most difficult parts of the peek of my anxiety disorder, was how it effected my testimony.

I have written about my life-changing ordeal on the Church History Trip in 2014, where I genuinely believed that Heavenly Father had forgotten about me and stopped caring. I quickly, effectively, and memorably was corrected by the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8 & 122: 9 (full story in my blog titled “Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?”). I knew Heavenly Father was telling me that He had NEVER left me and that He NEVER would. Ever since then, I have always known the love of God and that He really exists. I have never doubted it. Although, I confess that when I began suffering with mental illness, that I physically could not feel the Holy Spirit. I would attend church and feel like I was going through the motions, even through the most uplifting talks and meetings where I found myself to be the literal, only “dry eye in the house.” It was so strange. How was it possible for me to feel so many negative things outside of church, and then when I would try to reach out to my Heavenly Father through scripture study, prayer, or church attendance to feel completely numb? How could I get so annoyed with the other members of the church who did nothing but smile at me in the hallway? What kind of a person am I to really dislike good people for no reason like this? How could I believe in the gospel that I couldn’t even physically feel was right anymore? Like I previously mentioned, I had never forgotten that Heavenly Father existed and that He was always there. I really believe that one of the main reasons I experienced that wonderful night on the CHT was to help me later on in life when I found it easy to forget God. I held onto that knowledge, even though it was extremely difficult.

Finally, I understood why I had felt so negatively and why I felt so far away from the Holy Spirit. I was introduced to the amazing and informative website: www.lds.org/mentalhealth . (HIGHLY RECOMMEND for anyone who struggles with or knows somebody who struggles emotionally). There I learned, among so many other beautiful things, that mental illness really can build a wall between us and the Spirit of God. I had no idea that was even a thing! Ohhhh, but I was sooooo relieved to hear it. It wasn’t really me. It wasn’t really God or the Gospel. It was mental illness. It was something that was not my fault, and that I had no control over (something else I worked hard to accept before this.) I found this website a few months or so before I started taking medication. I spoke last week about how the medication is what made the biggest difference in my life and most effectively improved my mental health. Everybody is different. This is not always the case for those who suffer with mental illness. But for me, it was exactly what my body needed.

    

     As a hopeless romantic, teenage girl, I watched the 2004 movie The Notebook a lot. It is a classic, tear-jerking chick flick. There are spoilers ahead for this movie, so skip to the end of the blog if you do not wish to read them but this is pretty important to the story. Anyway, right after I had started taking medication, I was able to attend church a few weeks in a row (something that is rare for me with my physical illnesses). Each week I felt closer and closer to my Heavenly Father and I felt my testimony and relationship with God was fully restored. One morning while sitting in sacrament, I was saying a little “thank you” prayer to Heavenly Father in my head. I wanted to thank Heavenly Father for helping me get back to feeling the spirit, helping me get back to being my positive self, and for being there the entire time. While I was praying, one of the final scenes from The Notebook popped into my head. It was the part when ‘old’ Ally finally recognizes her husband and remembers everything. She asks him, “What happened to me?” and he responds, “It’s okay. You just went away for a little while.” I felt Heavenly Father was telling me, in a way I could understand (yes, The Notebook, cheesy…I know, but that’s what Heavenly Father knew I would understand…I definitely speak the language of chick flicks!) that He was there all along, waiting for me patiently while I was “away.”

I wanted to address how difficult mental illness can be for members of the church in this blog, specifically how it effects testimonies and feeling the spirit. Unless you experience it for yourself, you never fully understand how challenging it is to feel God’s presence and even believe He exists at all. Like I said before, if I had not experienced what I had on the CHT in 2014, I might have lost my testimony completely before I was able to fix my chemical imbalance. I had to hold on– more tightly than ever–to my knowledge that God is real, that He loves us all, that He never forsakes us, EVER! My advice to those who struggle is to first of all, get help. Second of all, hold on tightly to what you know to be true. Remember those experiences of your life when you knew for a fact that God exists and that the church was true. Keep those memories locked inside your mind. One day, hopefully soon, you’ll be able to look back when you are speaking with Heavenly Father and He will say, “It’s okay. You just went away for a while, but I was here every step of the way. I am so glad to have you back.” God never leaves us. He never forsakes us…no matter your thoughts, no matter your actions, no matter how you feel about yourself. Heavenly Father has NEVER left you and He NEVER will. I swear, ask Him yourself! 

 

 

We will NEVER stop running.

Every summer my entire family–grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, everyone–goes on vacation to Coronado Island off the coast of San Diego. The beach is beautiful, the weather is amazing, and the best part is relaxing with the whole family. One morning, my mom and I decided to go for a run on the beach. That year there were huge sand dunes scattered along the beach. Each were about 5-8 feet tall and maybe 6 feet wide. We had no clue why they had randomly popped up this summer, but we ran around them regardless.

We ran along the water as the sun rose on the horizon (think Lion King-“Circle of Life” kind of stuff). It was magnificent and beautiful. All the sudden, we hear a stampede behind us and loud chanting. Startled, we looked to see what the noise was coming from. We discovered a group of Navy Seals running straight towards us (again, think Lion King). Coronado Island houses a large Naval base. It is not uncommon to see them going through rigorous training late at night or early in the morning.  They caught up to us very quickly. We like to brag that we “ran with the Navy Seals” like super fit, cool people. Before we knew it, they sped passed us without any hesitation or difficulty. We were not “running with the Navy Seals” for very long! Now that they were in front of us, we got to observe their training methods as we ran. We noticed several of the Navy Seals were carrying heavy loads on their backs and shoulders. Some carried small boats, some carried sandbags, others even carried fellow Navy Seals! These specific Seals seemed especially exhausted, sweating profusely and breathing heavily. We also noticed the Navy Seals did not avoid the mountainous sand dunes like we did. They ran full speed up and over them without skipping a beat, whether they carried heavy loads or not.

We watched in amazement. We were running at a slower speed, without heavy loads on our backs, and avoiding all obstacles. Yet, we seemed even more exhausted than most of them. Their military leader (I am so sorry, I am not familiar with the proper term and I do not want to mess it up…so I will just refer to this person as the “military leader”) was leading their chant. He would start by yelling, “Did you stop running?” They would reply, “We did not stop running.” He would chant again, “Did you stop running? I believe you stopped running.” They would chant in reply, “We did not stop running.” Finally, the military leader would chant, “Will you ever stop running?” And in perfect unison, they replied, “We did not stop running. We will NEVER stop running.”

I could not help but shed a few tears watching this in the sunrise of the beautiful beach. In life, we are constantly running. Sometimes we are carrying heavy loads. Sometimes we might feel like we are even carrying the burdens other people on our shoulders. Sometimes we feel like we are carrying more than we can handle, all while running through difficult obstacles. Everyday we are tempted to give up. We can feel like stopping, dropping our burdens on the floor, and letting the tide wash us away forever. Unfortunately, we do not always have the option to simply run around our trials and obstacles. We do not always have the choice between running vigorously with a heavy load, or a peaceful walk on the beach. I do not know if a peaceful walk on the beach through life is even possible. We will hear the constant chanting of the world–asking us if we have ever stopped running and if we will ever just give up. We have a responsibility to ourselves to respond, “We did not stop running. We will NEVER stop running.” And to keep our word, and never break that promise. We cannot stop running. The moment we give up the fight against trial, against the adversary, against hate, against negativity, against fear, is the moment we give up on ourselves and our eternal happiness. Do not let that happen. If you are here now, you have never truly given up. Promise yourself that you NEVER will. Promise to keep that promise…and promise to keep that promise.

After the Navy Seals finished their run, they sat and relaxed in the shallow water of the beach. The look of relief on their faces was obvious to anyone watching. For a few minutes they talked and laughed like it was all worth it. They did not at all seem like they regretted their decision to join the Navy. They did not at all seem like their training was too hard for them to handle, at least not while they rested in the water after they finished. They probably knew their intense training was going to prepare them for whatever they might need to accomplish later. No matter how hard we feel our life is, God never gives us ‘training’ that we can’t handle. It sucks, but you keep running up and over obstacles without hesitation. Before you know it, you will find yourself relaxing in the cool water and realize that it was all worth it

 

 

 

 

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to my grandma and grandpa, who helped make this blog a reality. Thank you. I love you guys so much.