Tuesday, February 23, 2016

5 Reasons Why Being Friends With Your Siblings is the Best

There is a saying my Dad would always say to us when he wanted to make us laugh, “You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend's’ nose.” This saying was usually met with a chorus of “eww” as we all dodged each other's fingers, but my dad was absolutely right, you can pick your friends. Family on the other hand, is luck of the draw. Still, there is something pretty magical that happens when you take your relationships with your family members to the next level and become friends. Specifically, when you become friends with your siblings. Now, I’m not meaning Facebook-obligatory- like their posts-friendships. I am talking about daily contact- genuine interest in their lives- wanting to see them more than during the holidays-secret language-friendship.

It’s true it is not always easy to be friends with your brothers and sisters, and there may be periods of time when you are closer to one over the other. But the beauty of this is, you will never be without each other. Family is forever, and if you are lucky enough to consider your brothers and sisters your friends, you will always have someone there for you. Now, being friends with your siblings can happen naturally, but there are elements to it that take work. When you have a busy life, you have to decide to be friends with each other and make the effort just as you would with any other relationship. That being said, long ago I decided that my brothers and sisters were more than just my siblings, they were also my friends, and I soon discovered he following are reasons why being friends with your siblings is the best:

1. You will never run out of inside jokes
No matter who you are, sharing an inside joke with someone is one of the most fun ways to feel connected. When it comes to the people you grew up with, there are a plethora of moments that when reminded of will evoke endless giggles and eye watering laughter- usually while other people look at you in confusion.
2. So much between you is unspoken
There are multiple layers of understanding and familiarity with your siblings and so, when you talk to each other, you are able to surpass the backstory and get right to the heart of the matter. Answering each other’s text messages with one word, or a GIF works because there is already a lifetime of context to rely on.

3. You have seen them at their worst moments and still want to be around them
Think about all the gross things you have seen your siblings do growing up. Maybe one of you was a terrible person as a teenager, or went through a weird phase. Whatever  bad or gross things we have witnessed our siblings do, it hasn’t scared us away. We didn’t really have a choice when we were younger, and now that we do, it’s forgotten- or it gets added to the list of things we use to make fun of each other- see #1.

4. No one knows you better
I would like to think as we age, we also grow. We learn from our mistakes and we become better people. That being said, our siblings know who we are at our core, and that doesn’t change. Since the development of our personalities are intertwined with each other no matter how we change, our siblings will always know us best, and there will be very few people in our lives who can say the same.
5.   The Love
The love that exists between siblings is only second to the love between children and parents. Even the love between spouses takes a close third. I have the privilege of remembering when each of my siblings were born, and the instant rush of emotions I had for them when I first laid eyes on them is a feeling I can’t explain. Only seeing my own child after her birth can top the moment. The love in a friendship between brothers and sisters creates an unbreakable bond, and it is for this reason that friendships like this are meant to last forever.

I am excited for the day when my daughter has a little brother or sister of her very own to play with, take care of, and love. I only hope that I can instill the same sense of  closeness that my parents  instilled in me and my siblings. At the very least, my brothers, sisters, and I will be a model for all of our children, just as my father and his siblings have been for us.

I know I’m lucky to have this kind of relationship with my brothers and sister, and I’m grateful everyday that the universe chose me to be their sister, and more so that they chose me to be their friend.

Friday, February 12, 2016

I Get it Now

Having my daughter absolutely changed my life. In the harder moments I think to myself how lucky I am to have such a loving mother who has provided me with a great example of limitless love. So, this weeks blog post is a poem, a dedication of sorts, to my mama.

I get it now
When you say I am your baby, even though I’m 29
Why you hug me a little longer
Why you place your hand on mine

I get it now
Why you woke me through the night
To make sure my fever broke
Even when you worked a double shift
And the fatigue was settled on your soul

I get it now
How my accomplishments can bring you pride
Why you clapped the loudest
Why it may have made you cry

I get it now
Why every school trip you would attend
Even when I was not excited
And would rather sit with a friend

I get it now
How my growing brought both joy and sorrow
How you hated watching me outgrow my clothes
And loved to see what I would do tomorrow

I get that without a YOU
There would not be a ME
I get why you stepped back, why you let me be

But most of all
I get it
How love can change and grow
Into something magical,
The bounds of which I still don’t know
How it becomes unstoppable
A force of nature-sure and true
It all makes sense to me
I understand my love for her
I get it now, because of you

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Harsh World of Teenage Girls

I work at a school of all boys, so  it is easy for me to forget what it’s like to work with teenage girls. I recently took a job teaching ACT prep on Saturday mornings to boys and girls at a local high school. As the girls trickled into my classroom passing me at the doorway, I realized how much time went into their looks. I mean, it was an early Saturday morning! If I was in high school at the time and I came in for an ACT prep class, I probably would be in jeans and a hoodie. Not these ladies. So many of them had a full face of makeup and glossy bouncy curls, or smooth straight hair. At first, I thought to myself, “Wow! How do they already know how to apply their makeup so well?” I then realized, due to the internet and the immediacy of information, anything can be found online. This may sound like a perk of modern society, but is this really a good thing? I started thinking more and more about what pressures young girls face today. I came to the conclusion that being a teenager is much harder today than it was when I was one. The following are not only things that make life harder for teenage girls, but also are things I didn't really have to deal with when I was younger:

1. Makeup and hair tutorials

When I was in high school my greatest worry when it came to make up was making sure my eyeliner was even and my eyebrows were plucked just the right way. I also had terrible skin that I was trying to figure out ways to cover, but guess what, so was every other teenager I knew. Today people have access to hair and makeup tutorials. These are plastered all over the Internet.On the surface, makeup and hair tutorials may seem harmless, and even beneficial. Instead of fumbling with makeup for the first time, or just doing what your friends are doing (which they just learned from their older sisters), you can watch other girls go through a step by step instructional video of how to apply the perfect lip liner. You can't go far on YouTube or Instagram without finding a video about how to clown contour (yes, that’s a thing) or braid your hair in a crazy complicated way. In reality, however, I think it just places an unnecessary pressure on girls to look like the women in these videos. A girl’s style and expression is no longer hers, rather it is just a replica of the latest trend and video. Have you mastered the beach waves look yet? That’s okay, just look it up. How about the perfect smokey eye? Well, Pinterest has over 100 pins that can direct you to a how-to on that. Whatever the look- there’s a video, and although that may seem like it makes a girl’s life easier, it creates a situation where girls' expectations of themselves are unrealistic.

2. Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter...etc
Now, we all may laugh and think to ourselves that a selfie is no big deal, but to many teenage girls taking a perfect selfie is very important. Don’t forget, these selfies are being posted on social media. Getting as many likes as possible is not just a form of validation but is more so a form of social currency for our youth. Having an active and popular presence on social media is a whole new measure of popularity and happiness for teens today. Every hangout, hookup, and latte are now being posted as evidence of how "cool" they are, when in reality these are simply manicured versions of their lives. For teenage girls especially, wanting to fit in and look the part derives a lot from whether or not they are accepted on social media.

3. Reality TV
There is nothing more terrible than watching a TV show of so-called “real people” who are taking extravagant trips, have their own Glam squad, and can shop wherever they want when I myself consider buying an outfit at Macy’s as a splurge. There is nothing real about these people, yet they are portrayed as people we can easily emulate. I can't imagine what it would be like as a teenager to sit and watch shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, thinking that this is the way real people live in other parts of the country. I have to admit, I myself am a sucker for a trashy reality TV shows, but I also know that these shows are just that- trashy TV. When I was in high school, the amount of reality TV was pretty minimal. I spent my weekday nights watching love triangles unfold on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill. Of course, like all TV and movies, there were always elements of fantasy- but that was okay because these were shows of fiction. Reality TV is created in a way to perpetuate this idea that anyone can be made into a celebrity with the right look and following, and that’s simply not true.

4. Online Pornography
WOAH- What?! Yes- I am going there-and I hope you have an open mind to continue reading. Now, online pornography has never been something I have thought much about. I know it’s out there, and I know it’s free and easily accessible. But it wasn’t until I saw the documentary, Hot Girls Wanted, that I really began to think of the damaging effects the online pornography industry has on the youth of America. Think about it: before the internet, teenagers had to figure out creative ways of getting their hands on dirty videos and pictures, and because of that it wasn't done as often. Today, anyone with Wi-Fi can download and watch videos ranging from amateur videos made by frisky couples to hardcore violent sex acts performed on seemingly young girls. In fact, according to the documentary, videos featuring teenage girls are the number-one-searched type of pornography. How does this affect teens? Well, boys who are watching these videos (at an even younger age than before) may believe that this is what a real sexual relationship is like, and girls who get into relationships with these boys may be forced into participating in sexual acts that make them uncomfortable and even put them in physical danger. Both young men and women are at a great risk of going through their adolescence with this unrealistic view of sex, and to me that is scary.

Now to some who are reading this, it may seem like I am making a lot of assumptions, and I’m sorry. I am not trying to say that all teenage girls are victims in this cruel world of beauty, celebrity, and social media. I just realize, that as an adult, figuring out how to look past the veil of materialism, vanity, and artificiality is hard! Figuring out who you are as a sexual being is scary and tricky at best. So, I can only imagine what it would be like to deal with this as a young girl. We all remember what it was like to be a teenager. There was a lot about it that wasn’t fun. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted from life, and I was able to figure it out on my own through a journey of triumphs and mistakes- all of which are memories and not regretful moments plastered all over the internet.

I know these 4 challenges are just the tip of the iceberg for what the youth today have to deal with, but I think it’s a starting point for important discussion to happen. As parents, teachers, counselors, etc, we have to face the fact that although there are many things we can relate to with youth today, teens are living a very different life. It’s important to talk to them about these challenges, and not pretend like we always know what they are going through. If we look at what girls (and boys) are facing today and have those hard conversations, we will help them to not only make better decisions as teenagers, but develop the confidence and skills to continue making those positive decisions into adulthood.

It’s pretty crazy for me to think that one day my very own daughter will have to learn how to stand on her own in a world that will lay perpetual societal pressures on her shoulders. I know it won’t be easy for her or me, and I just hope we are both up for the challenge.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Millennial Mama

I decided to change the name of my blog recently. I did this because I feel like my life has greatly changed and I want the opportunity to write about these changes. Before now, I have stuck (most of the time) to writing about experiences in my classroom, but I have quickly discovered, there is so many things I want to say about topics other than education. So much of my identity has surrounded being a teacher, and although that is still a major part of who I am, I owe it to myself to explore the other sides of me.

I will still write about my classroom experiences, but I also want to write about what it’s like to be a woman during this day and age. I want to share my strife and triumphs of motherhood. I want to post my ponderings of marriage and my imaginings of poetry and short stories.

That is what I intend to do here, and I hope that as a reader you are able to enjoy and relate to the thoughts I formulate into words and post on this blog. I know it seems silly to even write this kind of post- but I wanted a fresh start-so here it is- ready set go!