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This Is How I Roll – Desperately Seeking Slender in Vegas

There are a million things I should be doing right now other than writing this blog. Maybe not millions, but a ton. Studying for my PT Certification that I feel I am nowhere near ready for, at the gym working on that perfect form I am going to need, helping my Godfather with his house project… the list goes on and on.  I can always find something I should be doing now that I am thin enough to maintain healthy fitness.

But still I find myself drawn here, where I share my journey with you, whether it’s good bad or indifferent, that is what I’ve always been about. We’ve been through a lot together since I started this journey, but now, we embark on dangerous territory.. I must participate in … drum roll please … the social game.
I am just a little over a week for leaving for the WLSFA Las Vegas Event. Now while I am nobody particularly special to this organization, I will say that my involvement with them since last October has taught me that sometimes the little people do a lot that goes unnoticed.
For this Las Vegas event, Laura Van Tuyl and I were literally working around each other’s schedules and doing things we had to do at the last possible moment just because of how busy we both were. She needed some help with some of the projects on her agenda for the event. From the swag bags at the Carnie VIP Lunch to the graphic images on the charms that will be sold and even so far as to working together on an entirely different WLSFA PNW Chapter Project, almost the entire time that life has been dragging me all over the country to take care of people I love, Laura was right there with me. Not only helping me and giving me advice when life got rough but dealing with her own traveling, personal life as well as doing all the WLSFA work that she does. I am literally amazed at how much of her time Laura gives to the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, it is outstanding really. I’ve never met anyone that wants to give back as much as I do until I met some of the women at the WLSFA.
I talk a lot about some of the Ladies that have positively impacted my life in ways that I can never repay just by caring about me, seeing potential in me and encouraging me. Let me talk for a moment about my dear friend Yvonne McCarthy from Bariatric Girl– Several years ago, before my insurance would approve my Gastric Bypass, I wrote Yvonne a six page letter asking her for help because I had nowhere to turn. I’d never heard back from Yvonne, I figured I wasn’t important enough to get her attention or like all the other “celebrities” I’d written, ( Because that’s what she was to me, a WLS celebrity ) my story wasn’t special enough to get her attention. When I saw Yvonne at the OAC Convention in Dallas last October I was really put off by this, I didn’t want to introduce myself or talk to her because I felt she had ignored me. Encouraged by Diana Lyn, I approached Yvonne and told her who I was, about my letter and about her not responding. I have never seen a woman so beside herself that she missed an email in my entire life. 564711_10200840649757685_2055684940_nSince then Yvonne has been one of the dearest friends I have made and stands in a group of women who have supported me in ways they may never even realize. All it takes is a sad blog post or an update on Facebook that I am having a bad day or struggling and I have a text from Yvonne asking me to call so she can check on me.  It’s not often that I put negativity out there, I really try to stay positive about everything, but bad things happen to us once in a while and can get us down and break our hearts, and when that happens I tend to let it leak out a little. Yvonne picks up on it right away, and always knows that whatever I am actually saying aloud, it’s probable a lot worse than I have shared yet, because I keep that stuff very close chested. When I got the opportunity to get together with Yvonne for lunch and shopping in Dallas last month, not only did she insist on buying my lunch, but also my dress for Vegas. She is such a kind-hearted and giving individual I cannot help but love her. She’s taught me to be myself, to see the positive in as much as I can, and to appreciate what I have and not dwell on what I don’t. ( Even if that last part is a lesson I am constantly working on. )
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Then there is Sandi Henderson, who let me tell you, I wish this woman was my Mother, if I had this woman in my corner sooner I think I would have been someone big in this world. She is constantly there to remind me I can do something, to remind me to stand up, fight and make noise as I am put in positions where I can advocate for this community. She encourages me to be the best that I can be, and anytime I ask for help, anytime I put my hand out and say, please stand with me on this I need support, she is one of the women that will be the first to dig her feet in the sand and reach out to her social media network to help me.  I knew that Sandi was going to be special to me when we first met at the OAC Convention in October and I had decided to make the Walk From Obesity my first official 5K run. I was running around and stopped for a moment to catch a breath and fell in next to Sandy so I could talk to her and one of the Sponsor Representatives on the sidelines called out, “Hey Pandora you are supposed to be running why are you walking?” Sandi turned around and said “That is NOT a Positive Message and that is NOT how you encourage someone,” – I fell in love with Sandi right then and there. I’d walk a mile or twenty-five for or with this woman any day she asked me to.
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Then there is Rain Hampton, who is now working with the WLSFA So California Chapter, doing amazing things with fundraisers and young new chapter. Rain Hampton is, quite honestly, the reason this community has a Pandora in it. I don’t mean that to sound full of myself at all but honestly it was my friendship with two people who I met at the OAC Convention in October that forever cemented in me the desires I already had to reach out and try to help this community in their weight loss journeys, Rain and Joy, Rain helped me figure out who I wanted to be and where I was going to go and how to play Switzerland and THAT helped me figure out the direction of Desperately Seeking Slender. Then it was Joy, her place in her journey, how much of me I saw in her and the instant emotional connection that we had that ensured that I would forever work to help people in this community that wanted it. If there is one Joy in my life for every year I continue to have my blog I will be a happy person a blessed friend. Unfortunately Joy won’t be in Vegas, but we are rooming together in August for the OAC Convention.
There are so many people who have come in to my life because of my blog, my attendance at the OAC Convention and my desire to help others and be a part of things like the OAC and the WLSFA. So many people who have encourage my desires for a new career as a personal trainer with an emphasis on Bariatric Fitness and Weight Loss. I could never list them all in one blog. I have to bring them up a little at a time. The ones I talked about today are all part of the WLSFA and a huge part of this Vegas trip I leave for a week from Thursday.
Today, I was informed that I was pretty much going to hate Vegas by a good friend of mine on Facebook. She told me that Vegas was notoriously clicky and that it breeds exclusivity. Well folks, guess what, that isn’t how this Seeker rolls, so I’m going to squash it pretty quickly by saying this…
ANYONE is welcome ANYWHERE I go outside of my hotel room and WLSFA Stuff in Vegas. So… if you want an exclusive environment, don’t invite me. I’m likely to tweet where I am to #DSSeekers and let anyone that follows me on Twitter know so they can join or post it on Facebook. I don’t believe in being exclusive, I didn’t drive all the way to CA from Oregon and decide to go to a WLS Vegas Party so I could go play secret society with my BFFs, I came to have fun with the WLS Crowd and by that I mean EVERYONE. I don’t have a lot of money to go do fancy things, so most of my time will likely be spent checking out casino scenery, walking the strip just because I can, playing some nickel slots in honor of my Father, and just being social with the people who I came all this way to meet, greet and get to know. There are before and after photos I can’t wait to see, people I can’t wait to hug, and stories I can’t wait to hear, because I KNOW you all have them to share.
This last picture is a photo of my favorite Teach, Ms. Karyn and some of my friends from the week I studied at the Cooper Institute in Dallas Texas to prepare for my Personal Trainer’s Certification Test. I like to gather together people who smile and throw their hands up in the air for me like this \O/ So make sure you come see me and we get a picture for my blog!
I believe that I can participate in this event and not fall prey to the Social Status, High School Environment social nightmare that I so often say I hate. No matter what size you are, what gender you are, how much you love or hate exercise, or where you are in your weight loss journey, you and I can find something to talk about and something to share with each other, I promise. I’d love to meet you. I’ll be participating in whatever social media the WLSFA has set up and using my own #DSSeekers tag as well on Twitter and of course you can like Desperately Seeking Slender on Facebook or just friend me personally and keep up with me there! I will also be hosting a peer-to-peer table discussion at the event on “Plastic Surgery from the Patient Perspective.” So be sure to sign up for it when you register if it is a topic that interests you! I’d love to meet you! #Inclusive #WLSFun #DSSeekers #WLSFA #ILOVETHISCOMMUNITY
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Ellen Inspires my new Letter to Joan Rivers about Fat Jokes

Yesterday I wrote a blog about WLS Plastics from the Patient Perspective. There was a reference in it to a school yard bully incident that I used to help people understand the psychological stigma that such encounters can have on you even 20 years later…

The hall was crowded, kids bustling around as they rushed to their lockers to get their books for their next class. She stood at her locker with her back against it, cradling her books to her chest as if she were protecting them.  Her right foot moved slightly as she readied herself to leave but it halted as a frown appeared on her face. Standing in front of her, blocking her way was one of the more popular girls; one of the “mean girls” if you will. “Awe look at the little fat girl hugging her books because nobody else wants to hug her. Stop eating Ding Dongs and Twinkies and you might not leave high school a never been kissed virgin.” The blond-haired girl clutching her books as if there was safety in them, took a deep breath and even though her voice cracked as tears threatened to stream down her face, she responded courageously, “I might be fat, but I can lose weight, you’re just ugly inside and out and you can’t ever change that.”

oca-logo-footerShortly after I posted that article I received a notice from the OAC about a Bias Buster Alert they had posted on their website. ( See: Joan Rivers’ Comments on Singer-songwriter Adele’s Physical Appearance ) When the OAC asks me to do something, I usually do it, and so I wrote a letter to Joan Rivers instantly and fired it off.

Dear Ms. Rivers,

I had the most unfortunate opportunity to view your guest spot on the Dave Letterman show and I feel the need to write you and tell you that I find your attitude and discriminatory comments towards Adele insulting, and a far cry from funny. I feel that your attempt at making fun of Adele based on her size is a sad expression of your views on the morbidly obese.

The fact that you feel that your job as a fashion reporter for the Oscars somehow gives you the right to mock people who are battling obesity is morally alarming and in my eyes pretty much equates you to a school yard bully that is using their public figure status to pick on over 149 million Americans that are overweight or obese.

Furthermore Ms. Rivers your inability to apologize for offending your fans with tasteless jokes that make fun of people based on things like weight and religion has insured that I will never again watch, or in any way support anything you are a part of. You were once a woman I respected and admired for the name she made for herself in her industry, you’ve lost that respect and I can honestly say without some sort of public apology to Adele and the people you offended with your weight biased comments, I will never see you in the same light again.

Jaime “Pandora” Williams  – Portland OR

As I sit here this morning I am still disturbed by this. Now I will say, that I highly doubt that Joan Rivers cares that she has offended me or several other Americans that have struggled with obesity on any level with her comments.  Currently she is busy refusing to apologize for a joke she made about the Holocaust on the Fashion Police last week. I’m sure if the star who is Jewish herself and whose Husband she said lost family at Auschwitz doesn’t care that she has offended her fellow Jews, she cares little that she has offended people who are battling obesity. ( See: Joan River unapologetic about Holocaust, Adele fat jokes )

I used to respect Joan Rivers. Her tell it like it is, call a spade a spade attitude and the way she made such a name for herself was always something I admired. If I am being honest, which I try to be, both with my readers and with myself, her twisted and often taboo sense of humor is something I normally find entertaining and amusing. Joan Rivers has grinned everyone’s ax for years, that is just the sort of comedy that she does. I have to say though, when her making fun of someone was targeted at a person, group of people and issue that hit so close to home for me, I resented her for it instantly.

The other day, I had my first experience where I actually felt discriminated against. I won’t go into details, it really isn’t important, but it happened in the context of business, when my definition of something referenced “Gay Pride” and I suddenly had someone’s “People” telling me that they were not comfortable with that wording. It sort of blew my mind. I found myself having to walk away from the computer.

But strangely enough, you know what bothers me the most about it… I’m jealous. How stupid is that? But it is the truth. I look at Joan Rivers, and I’m jealous that this woman who picks on people, makes fun of their weaknesses and behaves like a catty sixteen year old gossip monger rather than a classy well aging lady gets to be on television and deliver that message to millions of millions of people.  I’m jealous that she has a venue I only dream of having, and I am disgusted by how she utilizes it. It makes me thankful that people like Oprah and Ellen came along and started reminding people how important it is to give back and to help others and to show one another kindness.

Yesterday I felt like I had been living in a bubble where I never really experienced any sort of discrimination because of my size, gender, race, religious beliefs or sexual preferences. Maybe that was because I was super morbidly obese, self-employed and surrounded myself with only people who accepted me and loved me no matter what. But as I start to experience the world more, I realize that some days aren’t amazing even when you are thin. I always thought being thin would change everything and turn the world into a place where everyone followed rainbows and founds lucky pots of gold but I’ve learned over the last couple of years as I live life after gastric bypass and massive weight loss, that just isn’t the case. In fact, I think the world I live in now is a little bit harsher than it was before.

After I read my blog to HJ this morning she told me about a clip on www.AfterEllen.com where Ellen talks about bullying. ( See: Watch Now! Ellen opens up to “A Current Affair” ) Ellen DeGeneres is one of my personal Hero’s. I grew up in the era where my Mother watched Oprah and I fell in love with Ellen. Her motto “Be kind to one another,” is something I try to incorporate into my life.  Each day, when I am dealing with other people I remind myself to be kind and to pay it forward. A very wise man once taught me that each of us is on a personal journey, and during each of our journeys we each have the responsibility to do two very important things. We must know when to stop and reach forward to those more experienced than ourselves for help and we must know when to stop and reach back to those behind us and offer them the wisdom of our experience in the form of a helping hand. This is the theology I live my life by. As I listened to Ellen’s interview, I found myself chuckling a little at how much it applied to how I was feeling today.

 

“When I say be kind to one another, I think, umm… I just want people to, maybe it will seep in… I think people are rude sometimes, and I think people are unkind and I think people don’t pay attention to someone else’s feelings. And I think that there are a lot of kids out there that are bullied…and I think that needs to stop, and I think adults need to know that they are doing the same thing, it’s not just kids. There are adults out there bullying and they need to be kind.” – Ellen DeGeneres

In this same interview Ellen talks about her take on how you can’t control everything, how some things happen because they are just meant to be and how all you can really do is be yourself. For her that means living life as a good, kind and gentle person. Is it any wonder she is one of my personal heroes? There is even a little comment in there about Joan Rivers and how mean her comedy is.

After watching Ellen’s interview today I have to say, I think I got this wrong. I forgot to approach Ms. Rivers the way I would have wanted to be approached, with kindness and gentleness, because I was so upset at the group of people she was making fun of.  So, inspired by Ellen I decided to write Joan Rivers a new letter today.

Dear Ms. Rivers,

I wrote you a letter yesterday scolding you for your weight biased joke against Adele on the David Letterman show and demanding an apology. I apologize, because demanding anything rarely gets anyone anywhere. As a Bariatric surgery patient that often has to explain to people why I chose surgery as my tool to fight obesity and a post reconstructive plastic surgery patient who now gets judged for not being grateful enough for the body her insurance paid for and a woman who has battled obesity since my childhood, it hit close to home and my first response was defensive and off mark.

I called your behavior the equivalent of a high school bully, and while I think it was, I did neglect to give you the benefit of the doubt and credit the fact that this sort of comedy is your job, and what you are famous for doing.

It occurred to me today Ms. Rivers that as someone who has often been made fun of and ridiculed for her plastic surgery selections, I am sure that you understand how that can feel. I’m sure you understand how hurtful it can be. That’s why I would love to invite you to show your fans and 149 million Americans battling obesity, that you don’t really think it is a laughing matter.

You can do so by joining the Obesity Action Coalition and by making charitable donations to the Obesity Action Coalition and the WLSFA. I’m sure once you get to know about the WLSFA you will love them as much as I do! They are an organization that helps fund grant recipients for patients that need plastic surgery to remove excess skin after massive weight loss. As someone who was lucky enough to have her insurance cover several of these procedures I know how life changing these plastic surgeries can be. I am so passionate about these two organizations and what they do in the fight against obesity that I am thrilled to tell you about them so that you have the opportunity to show the world that you’re really not as mean-spirited as your jokes can be and that there is a kinder gentler Joan behind the jokes.

I’ve included links to both organizations for your convenience.

http://www.obesityaction.org/ – http://www.wlsfa.org/

Thank you for your time Ms. Rivers,

Have a great day

Jaime “Pandora” Williams – Portland OR

Thank you Ellen DeGeneres, though you’ll likely never know you did it, you helped me put into perspective my first real experience with discrimination and helped me set the paradigm for how I will deal with these types of things in the future with more positivity and a more kind and gentle approach. You’ve taught me how to find a way to stay true to who I am, as the world shows me more of who it is.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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