When life is gone, stuff remains

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Last week I was popping into a few antique stores in search of a modern-rustic (oxymoron?) spoon rack for the set of silver spoons I recently was given from my grandmother’s collection.  While in and out of the stores I noticed several signs for an estate sale nearby.  It was a beautiful sunny day, so I went.

When I first walked in the door I noticed the amazing view!  The house overlooked the escarpment and river – I was in the USA but I could see Canada clearly across the water.  I perused the entry table and saw several sets of silver spoons.  There must be a spoon rack!  I asked the first two estate sale workers I saw, but they were positive there was no spoon rack available.  Another speed bump in my search for what was apparently an elusive find, yet I continued on and decided to browse through the house (my true motivation was to just look at the house – it was grand and unlike other houses I had seen before).

It wasn’t long before I felt extremely uncomfortable.  It seemed pretty obvious that this was someone’s long-time home and I think it was pretty safe to assume that the person had passed as everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was being sold.  For example, I saw a woman walk out with a plastic cutting board.

I felt like I was intruding into this person’s life.  I heard people laughing and balking over finding or not finding something – it all felt really disrespectful.  I kept thinking about who this person was as I trampled my unfamiliar feet through their bathrooms and hallways.  There were skis and snowboards, there was a meditation room, an office with a telescope – it seemed like an adventurous person had lived there.  There was a ton of possessions.  Clothing, kitchen ware, sofas, desks, lamps, silverware, pillows, books, movies, electronics – the list goes on.

Aside from feeling like I didn’t belong in the house looking at things that weren’t mine, the other major thought I had was how we really “can’t take it with us when we go”.  There was so much stuff!  I understand why a family would have a full estate sale, even down to the plastic cutting boards: it’s just too much!  How does one decide what to toss, donate or keep?  Memories are in everything we own.  It’s a huge job especially amid the sadness of losing a loved one.  Also, this stuff filled a mansion – how could anyone move it all?

I left the sale feeling very odd.  As I have tried to make sense of my mixed emotions that day, I have also been paring down my possessions.  I’ve been asking myself what to toss, donate or keep.  I have remembered things and felt emotions as I’ve gone through the items in my home.  I think that’s it – memories are in everything we own, but they are not physical.  We can take memories with us whether we have the stuff or not.

I hope that no one ever has to hold an estate sale for me.  I hope that I can find life and memory in people and relationships, and while stuff can be the vessel I use to make memories (like skis or a telescope), I hope I don’t ever put more value on it than on those in my life.

If a bunch of strangers do someday go through my things and make jokes or act disrespectfully in my home, I will come back as a ghost to scare them and their children.

A note on mental health

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I was just reading about Scott Stapp, the lead singer for Creed, and his ongoing struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. A quote of his from a video that was described as “concerning” was this: “God has been removed out of American culture … except for it’s printed on our money, because what I’m starting to realize is that’s what’s really become the God of America: money.”
The more dangerous and scary aspects of his psychosis aside, this in and of itself is a brilliant and insightful quote. It’s a shame that it was probably not heard by a lot of people because it was among more paranoid and less-believeable quotes from him.
I find this is one difficulty with psychosis – deep and emotional thought and truth from the person experiencing the psychosis can be lost or not given full worth because of the nature of the situation. I often wonder if people with schizophrenia and similar brain conditions are more in tune and sensitive than people without it, yet we brand them as less than or assume we need to fix them.

School Uniforms

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Hot topic alert!

I read an article this morning on school dress code regulations from Everyday Feminism and it made me think.

My husband grew up in the Catholic school system in Ontario, Canada.  I grew up in the public school system (albeit I attended a very good school in a nice part of town) in Arizona.  He wore a school uniform, I had a dress code.

*In my experience, our dress code was not strictly enforced.  This means that I was never given warnings about what I wore, nor were the majority of the kids I hung out with.  This could be skewed, because we were the good students, athletes, and involved in clubs – maybe that gave us an invisible armor that protected us from criticism.  Maybe not.  I can’t say, because I was not a teacher.  I was a student.  I was a student that pushed the limit minimally – a sliver of stomach showed, my shorts were short (but I am short in stature, so that may have camouflaged the length a bit), and I wore tight clothing.  I never bared cleavage because I didn’t have any and it wasn’t a body part I wanted to show.  However, outside of school, I was slightly more daring – a little more stomach, a little shorter shorts/skirts, skin tight everything.

In a perfect world, dress codes and uniforms would be solely intended to benefit the students and their families, and there would be no hidden agendas of trying to make every child who is different in anyway (socio-economic status, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation specifically) look exactly the same.

If we lived in a perfect world, or at least attended a perfect school, let me argue that a school uniform/dress code is a good thing.  I lean more toward the school uniform because there is less room for individual judgement and gray area.  I believe that everything outside of the uniform, I’m talking hair, makeup, nails, jewelry, should not be given a code.  I believe that a uniform, with kind intentions by those who require it, is a way to show respect for the learning environment and it teaches boundaries.

I want school to be a place for free expression through thoughts and voices.  I want every person to be able to develop arguments and opinions on everything they believe in and be known for their mind and spirit.  I see how it could be construed that not allowing for free dress could hinder a youth’s expression, but I feel that not having the outside speak for them, kids must speak for themselves.  I think this develops good social skills and conversational skills.

I feel that the school environment needs boundaries.  Everyone should be allowed to think for themselves and have the freedom to express their free thought in school.  I do not think that kids need unlimited freedom in dress.  I think too much emphasis is put on how shocking one can be through dress or how much attention one can get from the outside – I want kids to develop their minds and learn to shock with their voices!  It’s too easy to put on an “Anarchy” shirt – tell me why you believe in anarchy!  Develop thought and express it.

Now, for the topic of revealing clothing and respect.  This is tough because there are some people who choose to wear minimal clothing because they like it – they do it for reasons for themselves, not other people.  However, the damaging part is there are women and girls who do not have a strong sense of self, who are struggling with self-esteem and self-worth, who don’t believe they are worthy of attention for just being themselves, and so they try out revealing dress as a means to attention.  I was more on this side of the spectrum for a very long time.  For the young women out there who are like I was, a uniform would be beneficial because it takes away the opportunity to give themselves less than they deserve.  It gives them the opportunity to see that they can get attention for their minds and kindness and humor, etc.

I know my opinion is not going to be the popular one, and I also give myself the freedom for my opinions to change over time and with new education and experiences.  Where I am now, with the work that I do with youth, with my current life experiences, I am on the side of school uniforms as long as there are not oppressive underlying intentions.  Like I said, in a perfect world.

Dressed for 80's theme day at school.  My shirt says, "Sizzle Grip: Maximum Heat".  The skirt it one that I would use scissors to cut shorter every time I wore it.

 

This is me, dressed for 80’s theme day at school in 11th grade.  I had probably just turned 17.  My shirt says, “Sizzle Grip: Maximum Heat”.  What does that even mean?  This is the skirt that I would use scissors to cut shorter every time I wore it.

Does this outfit say, I am ready to learn and develop my own thoughts and express them to you with confidence?  No, it doesn’t.  It distracted me from the real reason I was at school and allowed me to focus on outside attention – attention I was getting only because of the way I was dressed.

90’s Tweens vs. Today’s Tweens

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I read an article from a great blog I follow called Everyday Feminism.  The author, Shannon Ridgway, brings up some good points.  I, like Shannon, spent ages 9-12 in the 90’s.  So, let’s explore how things are different for today’s tweens vs. the 90’s tweens.  (One difference being that we hadn’t coined the term “tween” yet.)

Me, as a "tween".

Me, as a “tween”.

1)  Cell phones.

When I was in middle school, the only people that had cell phones were business-people.  I would call my mom at home from the pay phone at school (I was devastated when the rate climbed from $0.25 to $0.35, because it required two coins).  For those who are curious: when I had no coins, I would call my mom at home via a “collect call”, and say really quickly what I needed.  My mom would answer and hear, “You have a call from MOM PRACTICE IS OVER COME PICK ME UP!  Do you accept the charges?”  That way it wouldn’t charge the house.  Ahhh the resourcefulness…

Now, a lot of young people have cell phones for different reasons.  Whatever the reason, phones are not just for calling and texting: phones have internet access now!!  They can take pictures and post online in under five seconds.  No wonder cyber bullying is so bad.  Remember how bad kids were in person?  Imagine how bad they can be behind the safety net of the ethernet.  Let’s not forget that once something is online, it is out there forever.  Imagine googling yourself in your 20’s and finding that picture of you from middle school at a pool party where someone labeled you “fat ho”?  You can’t escape that stuff!  There is an app developed for sexting (even though that claim is denied from the developers).  Snapchat.  It allows someone to take a picture or record a video.  Once you send it, the receiver is only able to see it for a few seconds before it is deleted.  Well, that’s what we think.  Click this link for more about SnapChat.

Let’s be real: kids have too much power.  They are irrational and impulsive because of their intense emotions and should not have the power to ruin someone’s life…because sometimes they will be irrational and impulsive and they don’t realize that there are some actions they can NEVER take back.

While we’re on the subject…

2) The Internet.

We had the internet.  I went on AOL (for the kids of today, this was basically like texting, but you had to both be signed in and type back and forth on the computer in order to chat).  For me, in my home, the computer was in a spare room and we could only be in there with the door open.  My brother and I also had to SHARE the computer.  The computer was the only thing that had games and internet and word processor to type our school assignments.  We had to time manage and work out deals for computer time.  Oh, and we also had DIAL-UP!  This means that until we got a second phone line for just the internet, we had to make sure nobody needed the home phone in order to go online.  The internet was also very ssssllllllooooowwwww and had a lot less websites than it does today.  In fact, I didn’t ever visit websites.  I only went online to chat on AOL.  Now, there are websites dedicated to making fun of people.  Kids even know how to create websites!  Let’s not even talk about porn; it is rampant and so easily accessible.  Kids have their own computers, if that even matters!  With internet on phones, kids have full access to whatever is online at all hours of the day and night.  Parents: consider limiting your child’s wi-fi access or access to electronics, period.  Have conversations with your children.  You are not powerless.

This is me playing outside with friends.  What a novel concept.

This is me playing outside with friends. What a novel concept.

Facebook came out when I was in my first year of college.  Some people were using Myspace but I didn’t really like it.  It seemed a bit “To Catch a Predator” and it creeped me out.  Facebook, however, was meant to connect you to other students and you could only use it if you had a legitimate university email address.  I am infinitely grateful that we didn’t have facebook before college.  I don’t think that the majority of kids are mature enough to have access to something like this.  I see bikini pictures on facebook of kids I know today and I cringe.  I see publicly displayed breakups and four-page scrolls of comments trash-talking others.  It’s ugly and it shouldn’t exist.  There are parents who properly control their kids access to websites and internet time and phone time, but there are those who do not and I think it is damaging.  It is also too easy to “facebook-stalk” people.  Do you know what we used to do when I was in middle school?  If we had a crush, we would get our friends to prank call the person and we’d have a good laugh.  We would “dare” one another to say hi to the crush at school.  It was easier to not get as obsessed and go into the scary territory of going through the profiles of every girl that posted on your crush’s wall.

Twitter.  This makes kids think that every thought they have should be broadcast to the whole world.  It shouldn’t.

If twitter was around in the 90's, you betcha I would've tweeted this sweet pic from summer vacation.

If twitter was around in the 90’s, you betcha I would’ve tweeted this sweet pic from summer vacation.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t meant to be a rant.  I love vine and twitter and facebook and youtube for the good things they give us.  I love that there is so much great humor out there for everyone now.  Kids are so creative with certain videos they make.  I also love being able to spread information and messages of positivity with so many people.  I just think that we need to control the negativity a bit more by having open, honest conversations with our young people.  Our actions have impact.

3) Reality television.

Otherwise known as “the death and destruction of everything that was once sacred”.  Reality t.v.  Blech.  Why can’t we just be honest about shows being scripted?  Let’s not trick the youth of today into believing this sh#t is real.  Kids have brains that are not as mature as adult brains.  When they see reality t.v. they are processing it into messages about how they should act, how their bodies should look, what things they should have and how they should treat the opposite sex/friends/family.  Reality t.v. has also created a big desire among young people to strive toward 15 minutes of fame.  Most of reality t.v. is centered around women as sex objects.  For children who are not parented in a way that teaches them that reality t.v. is not real and that in real life there are consequences for actions and that not all people act the way they see people acting on t.v., there can be devastating effects.  It’s like a war on the psyches of youth today.

4) Clothing styles.

This look for 5th grade graduation can be described as "mom's shirt and friend's skirt".  I was a not a traditionally feminine girl.

This look for 5th grade graduation can be described as “mom’s shirt and friend’s skirt”. I was a not a traditionally feminine girl.

I really feel like the pressure to look good for girls has not changed.  There were tight clothes, makeup and hair for me and there are those pressures for girls today.  I actually had a boy tell me when I was 15 that he liked when I wore dresses/tight jeans/shorts to school and when I did my hair.  He described me as being a 50/50 girl: hot 50% of the time and not hot 50% of the time.  He said that if I wanted to be hot all the time I should not wear my gray athletic shorts or put my hair up in a messy bun anymore.  (Feel free to take a moment to gag.)  Unfortunately, I think this one hasn’t changed.

noname-8

There I am in the WORTH shirt. I loved and still love athletic clothing. That guy from high school can deal with it.

5) Popular Celebrities.

For us, it was Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce.  One thing they have that the popular celebrities of today don’t really have as much as, are curves and muscles.  Thank goodness the celebrities of my day made having a butt a good thing – that was one thing I could relate to!  I am not putting down any celebrities for the way they look – it’s just that who is popular impacts the way girls want to be seen.  Miley Cyrus is very thin, Selena Gomez is very thin, Kendall Jenner is very thin, the models are thin.  We had Cindy Crawford and models with some shape.  I think that for my generation there was a bit of a backlash against the uber-thin, but unfortunately for this generation, I think that thin is back in.  Being thin is not bad.  The pressure that young girls who do not fit the “perfect”mold put on themselves to fit the mold is what is damaging.

6) The reality of it all?

I think that growing up is hard.  I think that we make it harder than it needs to be on ourselves and on our young people.  Life is really simple.  Do good, put effort into your work and relationships, be kind to others.  I think that we have changed the definition of happiness and success into something so complicated that we have created more problems than we have solved.

What can we do?  Support our young people and breathe positivity into their lives.  Take some pressure off ourselves and lead by example.  Be our authentic selves and stop letting so many outside influences impact us in negative ways.

Two of my many supports: dad and grammy.  Don't worry--there's juice in that wine glass.

Two of my many supports: dad and grammy. Don’t worry–there’s juice in that wine glass.  Grammy’s however, is straight up whiskey and water.  Atta baby.

Thank a Teacher

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October 5 is Thank a Teacher Day (something I learned on facebook about 3 minutes ago).  While scrolling through my news feed I saw this video by Take Part TV on Upworthy’s website.  It’s worth sharing.

For me, I was influenced by many of my teachers.  Thank you to Mr. Dorson, Mr. Sanchez, Ms. Newton, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Schearer, Ms. Kutcher, Mr. Eriksson, Mrs. Daranyi, Mr. Schumacher….just to name a few of the many.  I wish now, that I would’ve paid more attention in class and soaked up all they had to offer me.  Oh well.  Que sera, sera.  (I actually know what that means because of my Spanish teachers.)

The best thing my teachers did for me is that even though I could be that annoying student who always wanted to share her work and raised her hand for most questions (I’d be waving it around when no one else had their hand up, but the teacher would be scanning the room desperately for “someone we haven’t heard from yet”), my teachers called on me and encouraged me.  They talked to me before and after class and made me feel like an individual.  Thank you.

Thank you to my coaches, as well, who took the extra time after school to teach me on the field.

Theresa Vail: The New Face of the Miss America Pageant

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theresa vailTheresa Vail is fluent in Chinese, an accomplished archer, a member of the Army Dental Corps, a university graduate with a double-major, and will be competing for the Miss America crown this year.  I was happy to read about her this morning because she has taken it upon herself to empower women through competing (and succeeding) in male-dominated sports.  She is also open to sharing her experiences with bullying during adolescence and to breaking the mold of standard pageant beauty (although she is fit, pretty, blond, and has nice teeth, she will be showing two large tattoos during the swimwear portion of the pageant).  See a local news article about her here, and a magazine article here.  Also, read her blog at missoutdoorgirl.com.

While pageantry makes me cringe on some levels (the whole physical beauty part of it really), I see the positives to it for many women as pageants provide scholarships, leadership experiences, and philanthropic opportunities.  It provides the contestants with the forum for being positive role models.

I appreciate that Theresa is bringing a new face to women who compete in pageants and sharing her unique life story along the way.

 

Our Deepest Fear

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This is a poem shown to me by a wonderful woman, Sarah, whom I have had the pleasure of getting to watch grow through her teens.  She is smart, caring, beautiful, and a giver.

Thank you, Sarah.

OUR DEEPEST FEAR

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,

gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously

give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.

a return to love – marianne williamson

Unconditional Love

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I had a thought today:

You know how parents can love their children unconditionally?  What if we use that model and love one another unconditionally?

I am going to try to remember that this week.  I want to take others for who they are.  I do not want to point out their faults or complain when they are not the person I want them to be.  I am going to simply love them for who they are and what they are trying to do.  I will see the good in them and the simplicity of their intentions.  This is what I hope others will do for me.  Too often I think we personalize others’ actions when really, it’s not about us at all.  This week I will try to be less self-centered and realize, it might not be about me.

I do not want to interrupt anyone, make snap judgments about anyone, or try to manipulate others’ actions.  Live and let live.  See the good.

Don’t you think this will bring peace and harmony to us all?  Especially with the little annoyances we let ourselves get so wrapped up in each day.  Let those annoyances go.  See the positive.  Change your point of view in different situations.

I am going to challenge myself this week to change my outlook.  Will you do the same?

A New Perspective

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I was talking with a friend last night about how fortunate I was to have been raised by two parents who gave me so much, when I had an epiphany.  It was not only the things they had done for me that helped me become confident and well-rounded, but it was equally the things they had never done.  I know about the advantage they gave me in life by offering me endless love, encouragement, support, safety, opportunity, humor, faith, family, and guidance.  But what about the fact that they never gave me shame, fear, insecurity, disgust, sadness, hurt, pain or neglect?  I have a newfound understanding that parenting is not just about what you can offer your child, but about the things you need to be mature enough to not put on your child.  Growth and development is so complex and there are so many ways to injure your child’s self-worth.  So, I thank my parents this morning, as I sit on my porch in a home I share with a loving husband, for the things they did not give me.  Have a blessed morning everyone!IMG_0850_0102_102My mom and dad who followed me from a very warm place to a very cold one, to help me spread my wings.

Seriously? – Lift Each Other Up, Don’t Push One Another Down

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This is a new segment of the blog I am going to title Seriously?  Too often I find mind-boggling things that make me wonder why people were even given the ability to express irrational thought.

The first contribution to Seriously? comes after doing my morning scan of internet headlines.  I came across one that read “Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge Dismissed As Britain’s ‘Queen Wag’ By Feminist Author Joan Smith.”

I didn’t want to jump to conclusions right away, so I read over the article.  Apparently, Joan Smith, a feminist author whom I really know nothing about (therefore my opinions are based solely on this article I have just read), believes that Kate Middleton has done nothing since graduating university other than support her partner and get married in a large ceremony, and Joan Smith thinks this is terrible.

Seriously Joan Smith?  You are a feminist and you’re going to publicly shame and put down a woman?  My number one hope for women everywhere is that we help each other by not tearing each other apart and cutting each other down – especially when one has a platform to be a role model as an author does.  A big part of feminism, for me, is that women can choose to be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do (as long as it’s not hurting anyone).  This includes this right to support your partner, get married, have children, etc.  Although that may not be a choice fit for Joan Smith, I hope that she would be able to accept that it is Kate Middleton’s choice and that is fine.

There is enough pressure on women by our societies that we do not need to add to it.  It is wonderful that we have outspoken and uber-motivated feminists like Joan Smith to fight on the front lines for women everywhere.  It is also great that we have women who choose to support their families emotionally and raise children.  While some women work, some volunteer.  Seriously, just because a woman is not outspoken about causes doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have any.

Seriously!  Let’s put more attention into our own lives and try to see the best in each other.  If women don’t support and respect each other, we can’t expect anyone else to.

The same goes for the other author mentioned in the article, Hilary Mantel, who has publicly commented on Kate Middleton’s weight as being “painfully thin”.  Seriously Hilary Mantel?  You’re going to criticize a woman’s weight?  Come on!  This causes a huge offense to the feminist community because weight and micro-criticisms of women’s bodies is a major issue with our media and it is affecting young and mature women everywhere.  God forbid people have different weights and different shapes.  Seriously?  Let’s put the focus elsewhere and work together.