Yet: Standing Between an Alcoholic and her Granddaughter

“Yet.” Every time she entered a rehabilitation center the word would appear on the wall. “Yet” meant if you haven’t hit your bottom—yet—just go out and try again until you make it. “You just keep going down until you finally get to ‘yet,’ and hit bottom,” she says.
My name is Ashley and my grandmother is an alcoholic. I spent 17 years of my not knowing her, and that would have been even longer if she had not found that bottom.[ashley]
– – –
After 18 years of marriage, my dad’s parents divorced and my grandma was struggling to hold things together. Dad was 12 at the time and his sister Pat, 17.
As the youngest, my dad was mostly shielded from knowing anything was wrong. “Not then, I didn’t know,” he says. “Not until I was about 15, and it didn’t get real obvious until I was almost 17.”
But his sister witnessed almost everything. “She became very withdrawn and wanted to get away from the world. She spent a lot of time in her room. The ability to communicate that had been her strength almost disappeared,” the sister—my aunt Pat—recalls.
And that began for the nearly 30 years that follows my grandmother’s life as an alcoholic. Vodka was the drink of choice. The descent began slowly; she had always been a social drinker, but eventually it got worse. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, I would be in the hospital a few days, and I would come home—of course it was much worse than that,” she says.
She remarried three years after the divorce and lived with her husband on the tree farm where they still live today. Her husband would tell my dad about the alcohol she had hidden when we visited, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do. Each day she would wake up and spend the day drinking, but no one could stop her.
Growing up I didn’t know anything about this part of my grandmother’s life. My dad had moved to Kentucky when he was 18 and raised his family there; grandma lived in Michigan. We went up to visit once a year, and my aunt, who lives in California, brought her to visit us every spring.
As a child I was always embarrassed by the way grandma looked; polyester made up the majority of her wardrobe, and she always held her hair back with brightly colored scarves—quite the contrast to my other grandmother who was always perfectly put together, and what I thought of as the norm.
Today, Grandma Phyllis looks like any other grandma. Her silver is always pulled back and held in place by barrettes above each ear. She no longer dresses in polyester, but has replaced it with fashion more suitable for the times. But the changes go deeper than her outer appearance—she is a more confident person and has her life back in order.
Dad had told her when we were young that if she was ever drunk near us he wouldn’t let her see us, so she was able to pull herself together for those few days a year.
“I could tell it was hard for her, because I would notice her shaking,” my mom says. “But she wanted to be able to see you, so she managed to stay sober for a few days.”
The bottom came one day in May, 2001, when she passed out in her home and ended up at the hospital in a coma. “My mind wasn’t right,” she says, “I couldn’t walk.” Finally, this was Yet.
She couldn’t do much else. She was paralyzed from the waist down, and could barely use her arms. From the hospital she was moved to a nursing home and had to begin therapy so she could learn how to walk and regain the motor skills of everyday life.
It was hard for my Aunt Pat to see her in the nursing home, she could barely use her hands. “We went there and she was coherent, she was very weak, and I think very embarrassed, but we didn’t care.”
At this point, my own life changed more than I ever could have imagined. My grandmother was going to move from Michigan to Kentucky so my family could support her during her recovery, and I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t all that thrilled. The grandmother I never really knew, the one I had seen probably twice a year, and even then only for weekends, was moving into our lives.
I’m supposed to be the favorite of the four kids in our family because I’m always willing to help my parents, so I wanted to be as supportive as I could in this situation. Mom and I spent our time looking at assisted living facilities and rehabilitation centers while dad was in Michigan getting everything in order. Each place we found seemed to produce a new problem: they were already full, too far away, or had reservations with her health care.
Eventually we found a place, a little further from our house than we would have liked, but otherwise a good fit. That fell through; it turned out to be a total care facility, more than she really needed, and we had to search again.
My parents were finally able to get her into an assisted living community, only five minutes from our house. It was a lot like a hotel, except everyone had walkers and canes.
“It was good for her to be there,” Mom said. They remind the residents to take pills and prepare their meals for them, but they can still have their independence.”
While she was there she began her alcohol rehabilitation at a nearby hospital. The job of getting her to and from these meetings every day fell to my mom. Not only did she take her to the meetings, she attended them too, something grandma says is probably one of the things that helped her with getting through them initially.
“I don’t think I could’ve done it because I didn’t know anybody,” she says. “But as a stranger it was also easier for me to become involved.”
Mom admits she sometimes worried that someone she knew would see her at the meetings, and think she had a problem, but she soon got over that. At every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting the members introduce themselves and say their name and add after their names “I’m an alcoholic.” When it got to mom, she would say her name, and explain she was there to support her mother-in-law.
It wasn’t an easy time for the rest of us either. My older brother was 19 at the time, and wasn’t spending much time at home, but my youngest brother was 13 years old and my sister was 15, both were very involved in sports and neither could drive. I was often put in charge of transporting my sister, and that left Mom with my brother and grandma. Dad was always working or doing something for others because he can’t seem to turn anyone down who needs help.
At first mom was taking grandma to AA meetings six times a week. “Some days I was okay with it, and other days I got aggravated,” she says. “If I had other things to do, I didn’t feel like I had time for it, but I knew it was important.”
Dad spent as much time as he could with grandma. He visited her every morning before work, and otherwise as often as he could. We kids we weren’t as supportive; our school, sports and friends took up the majority of our time, and as teenagers, we weren’t as concerned with anything outside our lives.
To my brothers and sister she was Beer-ma, a nickname my brother came up with when she first moved to Kentucky. We would be prodded into visiting her, and occasionally my brother and I would drive her to meetings, but otherwise we tried to avoid the situation as much as possible. Most of my friends knew grandma was sick and living in Kentucky, but I didn’t tell most of them anything else.
Alcoholism is something that happened to other people, not me; it didn’t fit in the world of private schools and well-to-do lives of everyone around me. But alcoholism has attacked more than just my grandmother’s life. It is a worldwide plague that can destroy the lives of not only an alcoholic, but the lives of their families as well. Alcoholics Anonymous alone has more than 2,000,000 members more than 150 countries.
After four months of assisted living, grandmother had regained the skills she needed to truly live on her own. She moved into an apartment a few blocks from our house to continue her recovery.
One Saturday my parents were out of town for business, and called to suggest we drive over and visit grandma. It wasn’t a long trip, but we didn’t want to go. After an hour of pretending that we couldn’t go, my sister and younger brother piled into my car and off we went. To our surprise grandma was up and ready for the day. She offered us a drink, and we sat around her table talking about the weather and what everyone had been doing. She told us of some new friends she had made, and how she liked to walk outdoors every day, discovering the area around her new home. This was nothing like the frail person she had been when she first moved to Kentucky.
“In hindsight I can see I couldn’t have coped with what I have now,” my Grandma says. “I never could’ve coped with it. Even though I wanted to come home real bad then I couldn’t have taken it. I had to have just me to learn how to handle things, everyday stuff.”
Things around our own house continued on as usual. I began my last semester of high school, and was busy thinking about prom, graduation and my last summer before college.
It then became apparent the number of people who should be invited to attend graduation was greater than the number of tickets the school allotted to each senior; I had eight tickets and nine family members in my immediate family.
“Why should I tell someone who has been a part of my entire life that they can’t come when I haven’t even known grandma until now?” I screamed at mom as we were driving home one night.
“If that is how you feel, then you can tell her yourself,” mom told me, knowing that I would never bring myself to say such a thing.
But it wasn’t fair. I wanted both of my brothers and my sister to be there, along with my parents, my mom’s parents, and my aunt Pat. These were the people who had seen me grow up, who had been there for all of my young life’s tragedies and triumphs. My grandma wasn’t on that list, but I knew I was acting like a spoiled brat.
The solution was simple because my little brother had a baseball game that same day anyhow, but he would have skipped the game if I’d asked him too. I was angry, but there wasn’t anything I could say.
“I knew at the time what you were saying to me,” my Mom remembers. “But I had to do what I knew was right. She wanted to become a part of your lives.”
– – –
On May 24, 2002, my grandmother celebrated her first year of sobriety. It has been almost four years since that date, and she is still sober. She moved back to Michigan right after her first anniversary, and continued with her recovery.
Grandma was at first going to AA meetings every day, “now I go four times a week, but church also counts so that’s five. I thought when I got to two years I’d cut down, but I kept thinking that’s just kind of hurrying things—maybe three years. Then I got to three years and I thought the same thing. Now I’m so used to four times plus church on Sunday that it would seem funny to miss them.”
AA has changed her life: not only has it helped her stay sober, but she is really interested in the work they do there. “I think that’s what keeps me going,” she says. “Most all their stories are a lot worse than mine. They’ve lost family, they’ve lost jobs, you name it they’ve lost it. A lot have been in jail, some in prison. The meetings are an eye opener for me; I didn’t have it so bad as I thought it did.”
She said she also realized that she could never take another drink again, unless she was ready to repeat what others around her had gone through.
“It’s a disease, it’s an incurable disease. You have to decide if you want to die from it, or if you want to live.”
Grandma has made her decision and has the courage to go to meetings and say “I am an alcoholic,” and then help others around her. Her strength is what makes me most proud of her. It has also brought back the mother my dad and aunt grew up with.
My aunt says that, “Seeing her now reminds me of how she was when we were kids. My mother has a gift and she is realizing she can share that with others, and she is doing that again. She is getting involved in a lot of different things, and she is enjoying it.”
Grandma’s latest venture was to the 154th Annual Kentucky Alcoholism Convention. The convention took place at a hotel near our home, so she traveled with members of her Michigan group and was able to see my family and attend with friends she made at meetings.
“Seeing her this weekend is the best. She was so happy and energetic,” My dad says with a smile.
As for me, I have slowly been building a relationship with Grandma. After my graduation I followed her up to Michigan for college and now we live only an hour apart.
The first few visits were awkward, both of us searching for things to talk about with many long gaping silences. But slowly we have grown to know one another, and have created new memories of our own. I drive to see her when I can abandon the piles of work I let stack up for the weekend, and she finds a new restaurant to take me to each time.
We’ve also had our share of trips back to Kentucky together. The last trip was an adventure of its own. We were on a back highway in Ohio when I was pulled over for the first time in my life. After frantically searching through my cluttered glove-box for my registration the officer told me she could just issue the ticket without it. I was so rattled by the cop and my own lack of organization that I started to cry.
My grandma just kept knitting in the seat next to me, and put her arm on my shoulder to comfort me. She didn’t say anything, but just let me knew she was there, and I appreciated it. She doesn’t give her opinion unless asked, and she never, ever judges me.
“She’ll never be pushy, but she will be there, and there is nothing better than that,” my aunt tells me when I share the story of my ticket.
Grandma told me the same thing about having family around to support her during her recovery. “That was important to me, knowing I was being looked after by my family. They showed me with their love and their caring what was the best thing, but they didn’t say you have to do this, they just suggested that we have looked into this, and maybe this is something that will help you,” she says about all the housing and rehabilitation programs my parents and aunt suggested for her.
There were tears in her eyes as she told me she no longer has to worry about ‘yet’; she’s seen the bottom and knows what it’s like there. Now her only worries are meetings, knitting, and making sure I’m well fed when I visit.

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In A Crunch

[books]Your head is buried in a book, pages of notes are scattered around and the last drop of coffee is exhausted when you feel your eyes begin to close. With a jerk—you’re up again and as you glance at the clock—you get that sinking feeling. It’s 4:00 a.m. and your exam is exactly five hours and ten minutes away.
Many of us cram, especially for finals, and most of us also know that short-term studying only has short-term results. But with busy schedules of balancing classes, work, activities and the all-important social life, who has time for anything else? Well, it may pay off to start studying earlier, unless you want all that tuition to go to waste.
As we begin studying for finals, we are more often than not studying to remember for the exam, but not necessarily to gain knowledge. But to increase our understanding, what we are studying needs to be learned not just the night before, or a few days before, but over months or years.
Psychology professor Norman Abeles suggests studying in small portions so not everything is crammed into the night before. “One difference is you’re more likely to feel like you’re going blank and panic during the exam, and another problem is students will do it the night before and not get any sleep.”
MSU students have many study-time strategies. “I write things out,” Noora Kobty, psychology senior, said. “That helps me memorize better than reading.”
Biosystems engineering junior Matt Lindsey takes a different approach. “I repeatedly do problems over and over until they are pounded into my brain,” he said.
Andrea Bozoki, M.D. and assistant professor of neurology at the MSU Clinical Center said that if you are successful at learning the material from a college class, the information will end up in your long-term memory. “For now, it’s just an episodic memory,” Bozoki said.
Both students agree, the greater the interest they have in a subject, the more likely they are to remember the information later, something Bozoki relates back to the brain.
[lack] “You become aware of something in your environment via a sensory organ (such as your eyes, ears or hands),” Bozoki said. “This awareness is modified by how much attention you are devoting to it and to what degree you analyze the incoming information.”
But awareness isn’t the only thing that can help with recall. Another way is through rehearsal, which is either re-encoding the same data or forcing repeated retrieval efforts.
“Lack of sleep makes it more difficult to pay attention to questions, and the details of questions,” Abeles said. Bozoki adds that at the cellular level, each time a particular set of neuronal connections are re-stimulated, it results in chemical changes that reinforce the strength of the binding.
“This process is referred to as Long-Term Potential,” Bozoki said. “Establishing these chemical changes also take time, [even] days. This is why it helps to study the same material several times and why you are better off beginning to study for an exam well ahead of time.”
Lindsey takes this kind of advice to help his study habits. “I try to start about three or four days before, no more than an hour and a half at a time.”
But like most MSU students, Frank Dinito, first year student at Cooley Law School, studying the night before or “cramming” is something that always seems to happen.
“I start studying the night before, more cramming than anything,” Dinito said. “But we have to memorize and apply, so I do learn the material.”
But quickly studying before an exam, Abeles agrees, is better than not studying at all. “The more ways you attempt to the learn the material, the better,” Abeles said. “Rehearsing the material several times is also helpful.”
Her study suggestions include reading, then outlining the reading, having someone else ask you questions, and then studying with others to review.
Another suggestion Bozoki has for students is to study the material in the same state you plan to take the exam. “No drugs or alcohol while studying, unless you plan to take that same substance when you go in for the test,” Bozoki said. “Research shows that what someone learns in an altered state is best recalled in that same state.”
[side] She also said making connections between the material you’re learning and things you already know, eating foods high in protein and sleeping after studying are all ways to improve your memory of the information you’re trying to learn.
“It is important for professors to make up exams that will cover the material in a comprehensive manner, and not focus on details that will be forgotten later,” Abeles said. “I like essay exams, but I understand that in large classes that is not possible.”
So whether you start studying for an exam two weeks before, or crack open that book for the first time all semester, the night before, the trick is to just study.
Of course, it will probably pay off—both for the exam and for lifelong learning—not to put off hitting the books until 4:00 a.m. of finals week.

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Sure, You Can Have My Number

[side] So you’re out with your friends and you’re having a good time when someone comes up and starts talking to you. At first you think nothing of it, but a few drinks later, he’s getting pretty friendly and wants your number. Telling someone you’re not interested can be hard, with or without being intoxicated. For the morally correct way, you could tell them you’re not interested, but if you’re like some MSU students, you’ll have the person think they’re calling your number, when in fact, they’re dialing the Rejection Hotline.
“We started it completely just for a joke; I put the first recording up to make my friends laugh, and then they told their friends. It started flying around the Internet, and then we were getting thousands of calls,” Jeff Goldblatt, creator of the Rejection Hotline, said.
Goldblatt is a 28-year-old entrepreneur and president of Dream Pursuit Communications, LLC – the parent company for the Rejection Hotline, The Telemarketers’ Nightmare and
“I’m always coming up with random stuff exclusively to entertain people,” Goldblatt said.
The Rejection Hotline does just that. It’s a funny voice recording one person can give to another to avoid giving him her real number to let him know she isn’t interested. The original voicemail was put up in summer 2001, and after the enormous success of the hotline, the Web site began in early 2002.
“I think it’s hilarious,” Meagan Stockemer, telecommunications senior, said. “I would give it to somebody really skeezy.”
To date, there are hotline numbers in 30 cities across the United States. In 2004 over 13 million calls were made nationwide to the hotline, with over a million to the Detroit number.
“The Detroit media had a field day with that after Valentine’s this year, and the Associated Press referred to Detroit as the most rejected city,” Goldblatt said. “But that isn’t necessarily true – the vast majority, probably 90 percent, are calling because they heard the message was funny.”
Jessica Koch, kinesiology junior, said that is how she heard of the number.
“A friend of mine gave me the number. I called, and then I died laughing,” Koch said. “I don’t think people give it to people to be mean, I think they give it to people as a joke.”
Mike Fibiger, kinesiology sophomore, agreed after hearing the message. “I would give it to someone as a joke, but even that’s pretty mean,” he said.
So what does a hotline such as this say about our society? Dr. Barnaby Barratt, Farmington Hills sex therapist, believes this type of thing can be avoided.
“If people want to be mean and nasty and reject people then they can be mean and nasty, but there are other ways to reject people,” he said.
Barnaby said a hotline like this allows us to evade certain social skills.
“Our society lacks two social skills: learning to say no gracefully, and learning to receive no without taking it to heart,” Barratt said. “People shouldn’t take rejection personally. When dating you get a lot of no’s and some yes’s. No doesn’t mean anything against you; it means that, at this particular time, for reasons of their own, that person isn’t interested.”
Rejection from the hotline is something both Koch and Fibiger would take personally.
“I think I would cry,” Koch said, if faced with getting the number seriously.
“It’s pretty harsh,” Fibiger said. “I don’t think I could handle getting this. I would be pissed off.”
Which is why Goldblatt wants people to understand the hotline is all in good fun and a public service. Keeping losers at bay, one rejection message at a time.

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Ethnic Eats

Strolling through East Lansing, it’s easy to find just about any ethnic food to fulfill an exotic appetite. Just a few options include Japanese, Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican and Korean foods, which are all within reach along Grand River Avenue. Ethnic foods have the reputation for being healthier than traditional American and European fare, but not all sushi (or hummus or curry or tortilla) is created equal.
Is one type of ethnic food healthier then the next? According to Ronda Bokram, a nutritionist at Olin Health Center, there should not be any worry as to which is the healthiest. “I can’t really say there is a healthiest ethnic food,” Bokram said. “It’s about how you eat over time.”
[enjoy] When students are looking to try different cuisine they shouldn’t just be worrying about how healthy the food is, they should just be enjoying it. Bokram said that opening your mind and taste buds to something we aren’t familiar with can be a learning experience.
Mediterranean foods are a healthy choice because the diet is abundant in starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood. Animal fats are consumed in small amounts and poultry is eaten more often. When red meat is eaten, it usually consists of a lamb dish.
“The food we serve is alternative to mainstream,” Julie Sawaya, owner and general manager of Woody’s Oasis Bar & Grill, 211 E. Grand River Ave., said. “We use a lot of olive oil, a lot of garlic; both of which are very healthy.” Olive oil includes antioxidants that can protect against aging and chronic diseases and eating less red meat seems to increase health by lowering cholesterol.
Spanish senior Erin Carlson thinks that Mexican food is the “best” diet. “It has all the ingredients you need, carbs and proteins,” Carlson said. Corn-made tortillas, protein-rich beans and chiles, which are believed to boost metabolism and help control cholesterol levels, are staples in most Mexican food. The cuisine is also made up of a variety of fruits and vegetables that are enhanced by different herbs and spices. But beware, tortillas can pack hidden calories because animal lard is often used in the dough.
[new] Carlson admits that being a Spanish major may bias her opinion, but while she studied abroad in Mexico she learned that Mexicans have very different ideas of portions than Americans. “I went to the Hard Rock Café with my host family for an American meal, and my mom said now she knew why Americans were so big.”
Angel Romero, mananger of Panchero’s Mexican Grille, 125 E. Grand River Ave., also agrees that Mexican food is healthy and good for the body. “The beans are vegetarian, rice is vegetarian; the chicken is really good too, no fat in there.” Vegetarians are less likely to be overweight than non-vegetarians because they have lower rates of coronary artery disease, gallstones, cancer, kidney stones, colon disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Another option for students to consider is sushi, which consists mainly of rice, vegetables and seafood. Soy sauce and wasabi paste, a Japanese horseradish sauce, is said to be an effective anecdote to food poisoning and adds extra flavor to the rolls.
Leigh Beckmeyer, a waitress at Sushiya, 124 West Grand River Ave., said that a “majority of our customers are students,” said. “It is fashionable because America is really cultured. People like to go out and try new things. Not everyone can eat burgers every day of their lives.”
Another exotic option to consider is Indian food. “We prepare our foods with turmeric powder, an herb that is pretty healthy,” Arvind Kumar Chaundhary, an employee of India Palace, 340 Albert Rd. in East Lansing, said. “For eight years I have worked here and eaten food and never had any problems. This food is something you can eat every day; a lot of different styles and a lot of vegetables.” Spices such as turmeric powder are used in curry, which Chaundhary said is what differentiates Indian food from other foods. “American food is dry; here grilled chicken is made with curry sauce which makes it different,” Chaundhary said. Curry is also thought to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The palatal possibilities are endless for students when it comes to figuring out which ethnic foods to try. Packaging senior James MacCreery believes that Korean food is the best. “It’s spicy, which helps your metabolism, and there is usually not a whole lot of fat, and not a lot of carbs,” MacCreery said. “When I eat Korean I don’t think about what I’m eating. If I go to an American restaurant I look at what I’m eating.”
According to Bokram, we don’t have to be afraid of the carbohydrates and fats, but rather we can learn from them. “A real positive thing about other cultures is they don’t have to diet as much,” Bokram said. “They can just enjoy the food.”
While it’s unclear which cuisine is the best for you, balance is always a key to healthful living, and so is fun. And everyone knows it’s fun to order the one thing you can’t quite pronounce from the menu.

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Bronzed Beauties

The countdown to spring break is in its final stages and you know what that means. It’s time to give your skin a golden gleam, and what better way to achieve that during the drab winter months than with the traditional “fake-bake” festivities?

Whether students are going away for spring break or not, getting a tan is a goal for many. So in preparation for the time off, many students head to tanning salons to prepare for bathing suit weather. And if they aren’t going to the beach, many students want to make it look as if they did.

At Tanning & Co., 423 Albert Ave., the countdown to spring break begins in early February. “We get slammed,” Kelli Careathers, an employee and LCC psychology sophomore said. “Spring break is the busiest time of the year.”

During this time, it is crucial for those who tan to be aware of the decisions they are making. The Indoor Tanning Association, which represents everyone from salon owners and tanning bed producers, to the makers of protective eyewear and lotion, help with this educational process. Melissa Haynes, communications director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said it’s important for consumers to be educated on tanning and aware of the risks behind it.

While the association does not have any regulations of their own, they do follow regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA labeling requirements for radiation emitting devices warn consumers to avoid overexposure which can lead to eye and skin injury, as well as allergic reactions. The warning also states those using the tanning devices should wear protective eyewear, but as many frequent tanners know, wearing protective goggles isn’t a strictly enforced policy at most tanning salons.

In addition to the FDA’s disclaimer, tanning salons also provide guidelines to new tanners to help evaluate skin type and to determine the length of time spent in the tanning bed. Danger of overexposure is caused by the delayed effects of UV rays, so young people are often unaware of the damage being done to their skin. “I know that I should worry, but I don’t, not yet,” Cathy Deluca, journalism junior, said.

“The primary thing that can happen when people go to a tanning bed for the first time, or even when they haven’t gone in a while, is sunburn,” Dr. Robert Gielczyk, of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said. “Sunburn is the short-term, though, obviously cancers are the long-term, and as people get up in their 40s, 50s and 60s, they can start getting skin cancers, wrinkling and signs of aging, as well as discoloration.”

Another problem those who tan can face is the sensitivity to light from medications they are taking. Dr. Charles Ellis, professor and associate chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, says to check with your doctor. “Often found in the younger population are commonly used oral antibiotics for acne. Some of them can be recognized because their generic names end with ‘cycline,’” Ellis said.

Not everyone agrees this is a risk they want to take. “I don’t use tanning beds because of all the negative things I’ve heard about them,” Kelly Briody, kinesiology junior, said. “It isn’t like I completely avoid the sun, just the direct light of tanning beds.”

Aside from these negative side effects of overexposure to the sun, there are also positives, including vitamin D, which is found in UV rays.

“Moderate exposure is good and necessary, as long as no one gets burned, which is something the Indoor Tanning Association wants consumers to know through education on tanning,” Haynes said. “Tanning beds have a set time so consumers can only go in that long, but we give them guidelines. At the same time they can go out in the sun as long as they want.”

Gielczyk said there is no safe way to use a tanning bed, but if you are planning to, he would recommend going to a reputable place that can help determine the right exposure times. These guidelines can help consumers determine how long and how often they should tan, which can prevent overuse of tanning beds.

“By the way, there’s no evidence that tanning before going on vacation helps protect you. Instead, use sunscreen and time your outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day,” Ellis said.

Jason Jakubus, building and construction management sophomore, believes everyone looks better with tanned skin. “I believe that’s why we all go,” Jakubus said. “But people want results fast and get additcted, which is dangerous.”

This addiction to tanning is something Careathers said she sees in a lot of people. “It is addicting,” Careathers said. “Having darker skin from tanning can really boost your confidence, and it’s just relaxing to lay down in the beds.”

Many people tan because they are unhappy with their natural skin tone. Suzanne Buzzell, food industry managment junior, said she doesn’t like how light her skin is. “I hate how I look when I’m pasty,” Buzzell said. “And after going to Florida over Christmas I didn’t want to lose my tan.”
The same holds true for Jakubus. “I like to maintain a decent skin color,” he said. “I don’t like during the winter months when I get pale and my cheeks turn red. Nothing beats the summer sun, but that does not exist in the winter.”

So whether your motives for tanning are a personal confidence boost, or you want others to envy how perfectly tanned you’ve become after crusing in Cancun, keep in mind the risks when it comes to tanning. Listen to tanning salon employees and protect your skin and eyes when relishing the sun’s rays. The apparent goal is to look like a god or goddess, not a burnt lobster, so don’t overdo it.

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Weighing the Risk

Many girls on campus are probably taking some form of birth control, the most common form being the birth control pill. Although as girls, we may think we know everything there is to know about the pill, there are some precautions and concerns to consider while taking it.
The 2004 National College Health Assessment said that 53 percent of MSU students who use contraception or whose partners use contraception take birth control pills.
Nicolle Stec, a sexual health educator from Olin Health Center, said that many students do not understand how the pill work. “In my humble opinion, all too often students do not know the side effects of birth control, nor do they understand how the birth control method itself works.”
MSU junior Jenna Street said she didn’t know the side effects.“I know I wasn’t informed of many risks, and it does bother me,” Street said, who has just started taking the pill. “It makes me wonder if they just didn’t care or didn’t feel it was necessary for me to know.”
In fact, having a yearly check up with a gynecologist and requesting a prescription is all it takes to get the pill at Olin Health Center, while at Planned Parenthood, it’s not required to have a yearly check up. Many girls don’t want to talk about birth control with their parents, so they turn to friends and the internet for information, both of which are not exactly the most knowledgeable sources. Because parental consent isn’t always necessary, Mom isn’t there to go along and sign the papers and ask all the other embarrassing questions that you yourself wouldn’t even have thought to ask.
On and around campus there are many options for getting the pill, including Olin Health Center and Planned Parenthood. Information on birth control pills provided by Planned Parenthood states that risks of using the pill include: blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs, heart attack or stroke, and liver tumors.
Mary Kint, a nurse practitioner and an assistant medical director at Planned Parenthood says blood clots are the biggest risk Planned Parenthood vocalizes to patients.
“We tell them about all of the potential risks,” Kint said. “But we are most concerned about blood clots, so we make them aware of those side effects and tell them to come in if they see any.”
In addition to these risk factors, the warning from the Physician’s Desk Reference (2004), stated that cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects from oral contraceptive use. This risk increases with age and heavy smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day) and is quite marked in women over 35 years of age. Women who use oral contraceptives should be strongly advised not to smoke. More specifically, risks increase for heart attacks, blood clots, stroke, liver cancer, and gallbladder disease, although the risk is very small in healthy women without underlying risk factors.
So the question remains, if women do know of these risks do they think the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks?
“I’ve heard of a lot of risks and concerns from taking the pill, but I guess the whole protection thing outweighs them,” Shannon Lewiki, an MSU sophomore who both smokes and takes birth control, said. “Of course it worries me, but I guess I don’t really think that anything will happen to me.”
So what can you do to determine whether birth control is right for you?
“People just need to be educated as to their options, the benefits and risks of their options and have the final decision in how they control their contraceptive use or non-use,” Stec said.

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