Shitty Body Image from a Shitty House Dog


As mentioned in an earlier post, Nelly, the Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix is a bundle of joy coated in the sour covering of a past unknown. Much can and has been learned from the beloved Shitty House Dog. Besides patience, kindness, laughter, and a handful of other things, Nelly has taught me to love myself just a little bit more.

From time to time I look down at my toes only to be met by a warm, round belly staring back up at me. Weight gain fueled by food, friends, and drinks has taken up residence on my body. These pounds have accumulated from binge eating Chinese food, Moon Bread, and Bird burgers. Food happens, and so does weight loss and gain.

Most days I am met by Shitty House Dog’s belly turned up at me. If you are willing to pet it, she is willing to show you her trouble spot. This vulnerable place is covered in scars from her past, sharp nails that took a vet and three techs to trim, and a uniformly done spaying procedure. This soft and sensitive place is what most of us try to hide.

I understand that Nelly is a dog. Nelly does not experience the same body shaming that most people do, yes. Nelly lets it all hang out because she accepts that she was built to be bigger, yes. But why cannot I, one of her humans, receive my body with as much love.

A Bit of a Back Story

Entering college, I expected to gain the pounds so kindly called the freshmen fifteen. I unlike some of my peers ended up losing the weight because I did not adjust well to the food accommodations. Some could eat plates of it while I could smell it and get nauseous. For two years I lost weight because eating was not appealing and when it was, it was only a quick snack. I also took up bad habits such as living off of black coffee for several days at a time. Losing the weight was exciting. I was smaller than I was in high school and I was down several sizes. Losing that weight also came with an unfortunate side-effect. The side-effect was that with any and every weight fluctuation came the panic that I would gain all of the weight back. I entered into a world of questioning my food, gaining weight, and not enough time in a day to balance my diet, and exercise routine.

To make matters worse, I spent a year living in a house where people watched what they ate. I lived with some of the healthiest humans on the planet. Transitioning into a house where not being fit was not an option, gaining the 21 lbs when you turn 21, and being so poor that I felt panic thinking about grocery shopping was difficult. The insecurities of my body that I had conquered in the past once again engulfed my now slightly larger body. During this time I focused so much on what others thought of my body that I lost sight of what I cared about.

According to myself, no one looked like me. Even though we were all made to look different.


Shitty House Dog and Shitty Body Image 

As you can probably imagine (or not), summer for the people outside of societal beach bodies is a struggle. Wearing a tank top without the arms for it, wearing shorts with cellulite, and fearing all situations that could possibly include a swimsuit make for a dark summer. Adopting Nelly a few days before one of the biggest lake weekends sent me down a spiral of swimsuit panic. Both of our chubby bodies would soon be seen by friends, family, and strangers out on the lake. While I looked at Nelly clutching my not so itty bitty swimsuit and cover up, she looked at me with the excitement that she would soon be out on the water, laying belly up on a boat, soaking up all of the sun while people told her she was cute. Thanks for leaving me hanging Nelly.

As the summer got hotter and my layers grew, I realized that by comparing myself to those born into the acceptable beach body was doing me no good. I was not going to spend hours in the gym and pass up (now occasional) Chinese food for the hopes that I would someday look like a model. I did realize that Nelly loved runs and licking my face during 8 minutes abs at home. I was already eating a much better diet and stressing every calorie caused my food to taste like guilt.


Now I’m working on saying “it is okay to have body fat and it is okay not to.” I have found the people that look like me and the people that do not. Bodies are bodies and if they all looked the same we would find something else to pick on. Nelly still embraces her body as it grows just a little bit rounder and I am learning that life goes on with or without the chub.


Sleep well my potato pancake and I will continue to try to eat well.


Lessons From A Shitty House Dog


How Does One Obtain A Shitty House Dog?

Much like many things in my life, Nelly the Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix, fell into the laps of my partner and I. On a good day, Nelly is a 45lb ball of joy sprawled across your lap waiting for a long belly rub. On a bad day, Nelly is hiding in her kennel after releasing a puddle of urine on the carpet out of fear.

Nelly entered our lives after two heart breaks as my partner and I were feverishly searched for a dog to bring into our lives. We decided that our lives would be made better with a canine in it. The first heart break came after we had followed a dog on the popular site, Her name was Anna and she was a black Boston Terrier mix that was adopted hours before we could make the drive out to Grand Rapids to meet her. The second heart break came after Jake decided to stop at the local animal shelter to explore our options. After he fell in love with Ash, a tan pit bull terrier, the apartment complex squashed any hopes of having this beautiful creature in our lives because of breed assumptions.

We were heartbroken.

That evening my partner located two dogs in the Midland area that fit what we were looking for. Moose the 25lb terrier mix and Patty, the dog that ended up to be our Nelly. First we called about Moose but the phone went straight to voicemail so we decided it was not meant to be. Next we called about Patty who her family called Lucy. Their family picked up and we planned to meet the following day.

That night Jake and I headed to the store to pick up anything we could to look like responsible future pet owners. We felt elated with the idea that the next morning we would possibly have a new member of our family.

On July 2nd, Jake and I headed to her home to meet Patty/Lucy/Nelly. She greeted us on the front lawn with her paws in the air, tail wagging, and belly waiting to be rubbed. We took her for a walk around their neighborhood to solidify our love for this happy and chubby dog. After an hour of sitting with her and the family, they handed over her leash and sent us on our way to enjoy the 4th of July weekend.

Nelly’s Past

Little is known about Nelly’s past. She was found in mid-March as a 3 year old stray. On her face were several scars from what looked like dog bites. The Humane Society of Genesee County took her in, and labeled her as a “pit bull mix.” After a short stay in Genesee County, the Humane Society of Midland County picked her up. There they labeled her as a Bulldog/Boston Terrier. After sometime in Midland a family adopted her.

Little did the family know that Patty/Lucy was going to be a handful. She had no respect for authority, personal space, or your side of the bed. She would push her way out the front door and run down the street. She even once jumped over their 6ft high privacy fence. Patty/Lucy was a handful for a family with smaller children. Eventually without being able to convince Patty/Lucy that this was her home and she should stop trying to run away, the family listed her on Petfinder in hopes that someone could manage this stubborn dog. This is where Jake and I came into her story.


What Makes A House Dog So Shitty? 

Nelly is a great dog. When she wants to be. If given the opportunity she would spend the entire day in your lap as you lose circulation in your legs, without a care in the world. She will lay there barking and running in her dreams. She enjoys a nice long walks, sometimes by the beach but not in the water. If you say “R-U-N” she will run back and fourth from you to the door until you catch up with her. She loves bath time and prefers drinking water out of the tub. Nelly also hates her kennel and when people grab her collar. She eats the back of doors, has ripped up our carpet, and broken out of several of her cages.

Nelly had a desire for running out the door. One day she decided that while I was opening it to put the trash outside that she would take herself for a walk. Of course she did not want to listen to me and every time I got close enough to catch her, she would take off running. After running through most of the neighborhood trying to catch her, an unsuspecting neighbor began to park his Prius. Nelly loves car rides and decided to invite herself into his car, through his partially cracked driver side window. I yanked her chubby body out of the window, apologized, and hung my head very low as I walked her back to the apartment. Shitty House Dog.

One morning after returning home from breakfast at a Chinese buffet, my partner and I found Nelly, tucked inside her kennel. Her kennel was still standing but she had pulled the bars around the door back in an attempt to escape. Bloody and wet from panting, she laid in her kennel excited and regretful. Shitty House Dog.

Her title of Shitty House Dog has a larger story to it than just being naughty. On a crisp Fall Monday Jake arrived at the apartment around 4PM to be hit by the overpowering smell of what a Shitty House Dog smells like. While away at work Nelly had, for lack of better terms, exploded. Something she ate tore through her like the flu. Both her front and back end tried to expel whatever evil was rampaging through her body. In an attempt to get as far away from the mess, she pushed the plastic protective base out from the kennel which then smeared it further across the carpet. The first thing Jake did when he got home was put her in the tub for a quick cleaning before he started to tackle the rest of the mess. As she laid on a towel drying and watching Jake begin to devise a plan to begin cleaning, the evil forces inside of her stirred and out of both ends came her hot bile lava.

For two long days the sad Shitty House Dog battled her stomach illness. She lost a few pounds and a lot of fluid but she came out as the victor.

That is truly how Nelly came to be known as the Shitty House Dog.

Lessons Learned From a Shitty House Dog

Patience because if you let a Shitty House Dog rain on your parade then all of the beautiful floats that have been created will melt around you.

Love because trying to convince a dog to love you as much as you love her is like trying to convince a toddler to eat the green mash sitting on their spoon.

Kindness because even though she pushes her limits, Shitty House Dog wants to be there for you.

To laugh because Shitty House Dog does the darnedest things.

Talk to your partner about dog parenting styles because talking about it before inviting a Shitty House Dog into your life will help keep the both of you sane.

As hard as it is sometimes to love Nelly/Shitty House Dog, I would not want it any other way.


Townie Time

Townie /taʋnı/

  1. A local of the Mount Pleasant, Michigan or surrounding area.
  2. Someone who decides to stick around the Mount Pleasant, Michigan area.

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Back in January, I posted about the excitement and anticipation I felt for leaving my cozy college town of Mount Pleasant, MI for the “adult world.” I talked about the weird feelings I had of loneliness as some of my closest campus confidants left and did exactly what I was waiting for.

Well as my final undergraduate semester wrapped up and I enjoyed my final weeks with my friends still in Mount Pleasant, I stumbled upon a gift from God in the form of a Graduate Assistantship through the Leadership Institute. I’m a believer in the saying “things happen for a reason” because if I wasn’t, I would be an angry human being. I knew that I was unhappy in my choice of an undergraduate degree but I did not know what to do about it other than try it out in the real world. This opportunity came at the perfect moment in time as the realization that I was not headed down the path intended for me. Now I’m headed down a much different path. I’ve headed down a path where I see myself making a difference in the lives of students.

In this process I am also headed down another path that I never thought I would enter: The townie path. The word townie is derived from no real word other than town. The term of townie is sometimes looked down upon because townies are seen as people that never truly moved on. The idea that I will soon have lived over half a decade, which is about 30% of my life, in this town was a reality that I never thought I would encounter.

But here I am. Embracing my new life in the well-known. I’m trying to find new ways to become involved in my community and future places with backyards because who doesn’t love a privacy fence. I have even noticed the Mount Pleasant Oilers section at Meijer. I’ve started to become the news hub for my closest campus confidants that have left the 48858/48859 for their next chapter. All in all, right now this is where I’m supposed to be and I like it.

I won’t be here forever so I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.


But I still have class…

The “adult world” can be a scary but rewarding place. It’s full of bills, paychecks, a 401K, deductibles, goals, advancements, bosses, coworkers, caffeine and rewards. It’s overwhelming but worth the stress; at least that’s what I’ve been told. While my once closest campus confidants graduate and learn about their health insurance plans, I prepare to buy my books and sit through my last semester of college. “Enjoy college while you can” is what last year’s graduates say, “I can’t wait to start my job” is what the more recent graduates say. Who am I supposed to listen to?

As I walk around campus I know I’m going to miss every part of it. From the burn mark on the side of Warriner Hall to the construction zone on east campus that will soon be the biosciences building. I’ll miss the hot days when your backpack causes you to sweat just a little bit more and the cold days when you pray that if you do slip, no one is around to see you. I’ll miss the professors, the library, the learning and of course the people. I’ll miss the late nights and early mornings. This intense fear of missing any and every moment has caused an irrational fear of missing out (FOMO). I have to pick and choose what to do I can and cannot do. Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 8.28.15 PMWithin the last year I’ve struggled as the people who were my usual “go to people” threw on their cap and gowns, walked across stage (they walk up in two lines and either go to the left or the right, there actually isn’t a stage for them) and switch their tassel from right to left. I watched as they moved away from the safety of Mount Pleasant, became full time employees and took on the responsibilities of being an adult. I began to struggle with the issues that arose in my life because the difference in getting an A or an A- is no where near the struggle for paying bills and working over 40 hours a week. My complaints of making a latte or calling an alumni for a donation were no where the struggles of preparing to travel again for work or presenting to a team of investors. I began to feel inferior when their work friends asked “what do you do?” and my response of “I’m a student” was suddenly uncommon. I was the one putting extra pressure on myself as a student. I started to believe that being a student wasn’t enough. Some how I began to down play the 18+ credits I was enrolled in (at one point dual enrolled), the multiple leadership roles I had obtained on campus, the two campus jobs I was working and the social life I still maintained. I began to forget about the nights where you think studying will never end and the mornings you think the sun will never rise. I ignored the nights where I stayed up all night with my roommates, some of which are now the people off being real world adults, talking about our goals and dreams. Though I found the secret to getting over my personal criticism of “what does being a college student really mean?” I still haven’t conquered the heart pains of losing some of my closest confidants.Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.19.08 PMAs I take on this next semester, with the remaining close friends I have, I have to enjoy the little moments with them too. I have to focus on them and our last college moments together. We will always have more moments together, but they won’t be spent in my sorority house living room, or jokes between phone calls at work. They won’t be those quick catch ups in between classes or standing outside before a meeting starts. They won’t be Bird Thursday’s at 4pm or Monday mornings moaning about starting the week, even it it is noon. We will start having experiences of attending our friends weddings and seeing each other’s first apartment outside the Mount Pleasant city limits. We’ll create new memories together while laughing about the old ones. We will have new favorite restaurants, bars, TV shows to binge watch together and friends to make memories with. I guess in the long run it’s actually pretty amazing. I’m lucky enough to continue my relationships, whether they’re on or off campus.

11138540_10206631755455757_2729649916087612000_nI have no more than to say: thank you for being a piece of my life and I love you a whole lot.

Welcome To CMU

11350431_10153325498127866_5464017373766886692_nThis summer close to 4,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students meandered onto campus, followed closely by their family members to experience their first Central Michigan University (CMU) orientation. Over the summer 36 student and family mentors worked closely with professional campus staff members to coordinate 11 orientation sessions. Orientation consists of educational sessions for both students and family members. Family members learn about financial aid, campus life, the bookstore, safety and eat lunch at a residential restaurant. Students schedule classes, meet with advisors, receive their student ID and discover places where they can get involved on campus. The day ends with Reunion Central. This is the time family members take full advantage of this time to ask questions, explore, make phone calls to find the entire family and eat ice cream cones.

10407973_10153325498842866_2925108577260570278_nI spent my four weeks of orientation working with the family team. What does it mean to be a family academic orientation mentor? This means I had the opportunity to work closely with the family members that decided to take the trip to Mount Pleasant for the day. I met the fathers who feared that their daughters might meet a boy on campus. I met the mothers who asked where their sons would get their laundry done. I met the first time parents along with the second, third, fourth and fifth timers. I met the parents of twins, the parents of adopted children, the family members who weren’t their parents and the parents who had graduated “not that long ago” from CMU. For some family members this was their first time visiting Mount Pleasant and for others they had spent the day before exploring campus so they knew where every building on campus already was. I had family members that could give my tour and family members that had stories to tell about their off campus experiences. I had the good, the bad, the funny and the fast walkers. This truly was the experience of a lifetime. I would never trade the experience of being an Academic Orientation mentor, even for all the khaki pants in the world.


A Day In the Life of an Academic Orientation Mentor

5:15 am: First alarm goes off; snooze is hit shortly after and repeatedly.

5:30 am: You mutter “let’s go” and roll out of your twin bed.

6:45 am: Everyone reports for breakfast downstairs. During the walk to residential restaurant, you pray they will be serving “tri-tators” this time.

7:00 am: Daily morning meeting with Michelle Howard, the director of academic orientation. This meeting included numbers for the day, weather, daily awards and of course the moon phase.

7:30 am: Clean-up and head to our various starting locations on campus.

8:00 am: Registration, welcoming eyes, smiling faces and groups begin to form.

9:05 am: Meet my group of family members for the day.

9:30 am: Programming begins.

12:00 pm: The best part of the family member’s day: LUNCH!

4:00 pm: Reunion Central begins. Family members and students reconnect, catch up on their days and indulge on the provided snacks.

4:30 pm: The best part of the mentor’s day: DINNER! This time is spent catching up, sharing stories from the day and stuffing our faces after another day on the sunny Mount Pleasant streets.


Site Leader Hannah


Pulling into Washington D.C. at 7:30 a.m., two hours earlier than we had expected something hit me. It wasn’t the stale car smell from being in the car since 10 p.m. It wasn’t everyone commenting on the amount of seafood restaurants, which is odd. What hit me was the fact that I was a site leader for this break. My co-site leader and I had the power to, in theory, make or break this break. Looking back, I realize how dramatic I was but at the time I could feel the pressure. During my 2015 spring break, I spent my time leading along side another amazing Central Michigan University student (she’s the princess of CMU). We traveled down to Washington D.C. with a group of 9 students. The mission of our week was to work along side the Beacon House staff.

The Beacon House is a nonprofit, community-based organization that provides tutoring, mentoring, cultural, athletic, recreation, and nutrition programs to at-risk, low-income children, ages 5-18, who reside in and around the Edgewood Commons community in Ward 5 of Washington, D.C. This mission is to assist at-risk youth to identify and pursue educational objectives that culminate in college or vocational training, and, more generally, to prepare them for productive involvement in their community and society. Since 1991, when Beacon House was founded, their goal has always been to lift as many children as possible up and out of their often difficult circumstances.

During the first half of the day we helped clean and organized the facility in preparation for their Black History Month celebration. The Black History Month celebration had been postponed due to weather. The second half of the day we spent with the kids. We did homework, read and hung out. These were some of the sweetest and most interesting students I have ever met.


Character Counts Week

October 20th kicked off Character Counts Week 2014. This is a program more recently adopted by Tri Sigma. My plan for this program was to “blow up social media.” I planned a competition within my sorority so that if we educated ourselves first, we could prepare to educate others in the future. I worked with a committee of six to collect the pictures and data from each day.

Point break down

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.56.02 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.56.22 PM I believe this week was meaningful. Yes it was a competition, but it got everyone involved. We reached over 100 pictures tagged with #SigmaPayItForwardCMU on Instragram and even more between Twitter and Facebook. Everyone in my committee was given a word and then planned a picture or post that went along with it. This helped to disperse work amongst us. They came up with ideas and pitched it which I believe helped to get the entire chapter involved. Day 1 focused on responsibility. We had everyone focus on their future because we are responsible for it. We also incorporated responsible role models. On Day 2 the focus was on the Golden Rule and/or respect. People posted about friends, family, etc. who they believe live by the Golden Rule or pictures that they felt were examples of it. The focus for Day 3 was trustworthiness. We all gathered at the house for “Sigma Time” our usual Wednesday night get together to do a trust activity. Kelsey facilitated a partner activity where your partner had to describe to you a drawing while you drew it without seeing the picture. Day 4 we incorporated the Sigma Pay It Forward Cards. Sisters had to pass them out and take a picture as the cards went around campus. Other people on campus posted pictures which was really cool.  Day 5‘s focus was caring. Sisters called, emailed, sent a text message, etc. to someone they care about then posted it to social media. On Day 6 people posted about citizenship whether it be volunteering, voting, or their first time for jury duty.

I look forward to next year’s Character Counts Week because I believe we will be able to spread this to the Greek community and possibly the CMU community.

Below are some pictures from our chapter using #SigmaPayItForwardCMU.

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Leadershape 2014

What is Leadershape?


A few months ago I signed up for a program called “Leadershape.” Everything I had ever heard about this program was “I can’t explain it, but it changes your life.” That isn’t very descriptive… Going into this ‘life changing program’ I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed it would be an awesome experience but I under estimated the impact the program would have on me. Being the skeptic that I am, I was hesitant to dive right into the program. I found myself sitting back and watching. That was my biggest regret of the week. This week I surrounded myself with some of the most kind hearted and impactful people I have ever experienced. Leadershape opened my eyes to myself. It showed me that I have the ability to stand up for what I believe in, stick to my core values and do something amazing in the world.

My sophomore year of college was extremely difficult. It put me in a bad place. This school year forced me to second guess myself. I felt lost. I felt dumb. It drained me of the enthusiasm for life I once had. This week rejuvenated me. I feel enabled, confident and that I have a million options again.

Leadershape is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Everyone should experience this program. It is amazing how much of a change I felt and saw not just in myself but the entire group.

Now I plan on being an active citizen to conquering my dreams. In my perfect world children would never spend anytime waiting in the foster care/adoption system. Every person/couple seeking to create a family would choose to adopt instead of having a biological child. A family is a family, whether it’s biological or not.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Eagle Village: Mentor Status

Eagle Village was successful yet again. Last year I went as a mentee, now I’m a mentor. I’ve been through all of my firsts so now it was time to watch my mentee’s leadership style. We climbed high ropes courses, challenged ourselves, built relationships and had an amazing weekend. We worked closely with members of the 2012 and 2013 cohort. Now I get to watch my mentee grow, build relationships, get involved and be a leader. I’m extremely excited to watch their cohort. I have good vibes about them.


Cheers to a new year. With my 2012 LAS cohort and the brand new 2013 cohort.1237033_10151691796179075_1996948639_nCheers to my wonderful mentee. He challenged me, spoke up in the group and stepped up for challenges. I’m extremely excited to see where he goes with not only a broadcasting major, his time at Central but, most importantly running his own magic company: The Magic of Trino. I can’t wait to watch my baby mentee blossom.

Sophomore LAS

LAS… It’s more than just a program to me. It has become my support system, my rock, my best friends and so much more. We have cliques and sometimes we set that aside. We argue but then we laugh about it. Sometimes we’re crabby and take it out on our peppy friends but we love each other in the end. Through this program I’ve really begun to grown and prosper. This scholarship is more about the program and the blessing it brings to me. Entering as a freshman we’re paired with a “mentor” through a draft process. Then at the end of our freshmen year we use the same process to select a “mentee”. A mentor’s job is to hang out, answer questions and help them with the transition.  Some people go above and beyond that and get close. A mentee’s job is survive their freshman year, strive and get involved. Some pairs are lucky enough to become real friends.


This program beats anything I’ve seen before. It gave me the upper hand coming into college. I was once reserved, scared and easily intimidated. I still struggle but through this wonderful program, the support of my cohort and family I’ve broken out of my shell. All the credit goes to the wonder staff of Central Michigan University’s Leadership Insitute. One man and two women are behind the scenes with several students from the program. Dan Gaken, the director of the institute, is our father figure. He keeps up with us, jokes around with us and reminds us why we’re a part of this program. Jesi Parker, the Assistant Director, is that aunt that we all wish we had. She’s quirky, personable and loves each of us as much as she loves her cat. Caity Sweet, the Leadership Institute’s Administrative Secretary, keeps us in line. She gets out there with us,   she carried the most rubble in wheel barrels during our service project and always has a smile on her face. CMU did a fantastic job selecting these amazing people. They represent what Central is really about: kind, caring, compassionate, personable people making a difference through leadership.

971285_10151692046854075_1309441257_n(Left to right: Dan Gaken, Director of the Leadership Institute; Jesi Parker, Assistant Director of the Leadership Institute; Erin Smith-Gaken, Dan’s wife; Caity Sweet, Administrative Secretary of the Leadership Institute)