Mismatched Mess

of life, love, fashion, & forgetting to update


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Blackberries

Wild blackberries grow along the wooded path we enjoy walking. A wooded path that runs alongside the River Stour, providing a small escape from the city. This fascinated me.

It reminded me of my childhood. It seems like a dream. Family loaded in a car, traveling to the magical forest of Harleton, Texas where buckets full of blackberries awaited.

The hot summer sun made the days longer. Sweaty, uncomfortable hours that stretched into eternity. Time didn’t matter, until it did; until it was uncomfortable. Juicy blackberries staining our hands and mouths red, thorns pricking our arms and legs, mosquitoes leaving itchy welts along our skin. Foot races between mother and daughter, father and daughter, sister and sister. A memory that seems like a dream, stretched into a timeless, shadowy vortex; swirling fact with fiction.


What is fact? What is fiction?

What can the imagination truly erase, if it’s written on someone else’s memory? Can we control our stories if they all just end up as hazy dream-like substances floating along our subconscious? What will be remembered if we let it all fade away?

The power of remembering is a gift. Even when it’s a curse. Even when you remember guilt or pain. At least you remember. Even when you want to forget…it’s probably better to remember. It’s easier to remember pain. That gives you the power to blame. Blame yourself, blame someone else…blame gives you power to color your memories in pain, even if it wasn’t all painful.

Remembering through ‘love’ might be harder. To color your memories with love, where there was love. To scream and fight and wrestle with the idea that love still exists, even in the moments that are factually, historically painful. And to remind yourself everyday that love still exists when the evidence isn’t in front of you. When it’s not something tangible, anymore, does love grow stronger or weaker? Or does that depend upon the stories you create? And does it grow weaker if you can’t control the story? If it’s written on someone else’s memory, does it grow weaker if they don’t, also, make themselves remember that love exists? The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ comes to mind. Does it? Will it?

Multiple stories. Multiple memories. You can’t know what you’ll easily forget; what will hurt the most to remember. You remember the sun making you tired as a child. You remember blackberry bushes scraping your skin. You can’t know how other people see the same story. You just remember they were there. They were a part of something. It was real. You weren’t alone.


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New Home | Writing Day 11

12 tears old. A time of energy, growth and happiness. The previous age–11–was the exact opposite. New school, new home, no friends. At 11 I remember arriving early to school and not knowing where to go. Every single day. I remember science class, my new teacher turning to the news on September 11th, 2001 and watching my new classmates cry. I remember rushing to the computer after school, trying to find more information about the twin towers. 11 was a year of fear. 11 was a year of silence. 11 was the year my math teacher told me I was terrible.

But at 12, things were looking up.

I finally found friends. I was involved in clubs and projects and had settled into a new house. We didn’t stay there long.  We moved again soon after. But, like with all childhood memories, some moments stick out.

I remember sharing a room with all of my siblings. But I don’t remember it bothering me. My fondest memory is standing in front of the mirror in that room, with the fan blowing my hair and singing ‘I Could Not Ask For More’ into a hairbrush. I didn’t even like country music.

I remember discovering Hot Cheetos. I could eat bags of them. I’d get in trouble for doing that. I still pride myself on my love of spicy foods and sauces.

I remember one room in the house that was ‘under construction’ the entire time. The floors were original wood. So original that the floor still had a faint red pattern in the shape of a rug. It was painted there long ago. That was to be my room when it was finished. It never was. I didn’t complain.

I remember having a trampoline in the back yard. That was fun. But then I remember the time we were warned that it wasn’t a safe neighborhood. It became less fun after that.

I remember the dogwood tree in the front yard. We rarely went to the front yard. But in the springtime, it was beautiful.

I remember getting my first hair cut at 12. I remember going to the mall…not the mall in town with two stores and a Blue Cross in it; the mall in the ‘big’ city. I bought $300 worth of clothes and felt so guilty. I tried not to ever do that again. I kept those clothes separate from all my other ones. Neatly folded in a large shopping bag right by my bed.

At 12 I remember having late night adventures with friends. I remember the internet really started making sense. (I remember Neopets). I remember I was in enough advanced English and History clubs and school projects that I could get out of math class. I skipped most of math class actually. My new math teacher–the one who might have helped me enjoy math at 11 (before I had given up because I was “terrible”)–was too nice to fail me.

I remember packing up and moving away. I don’t remember protesting. I don’t remember being sad about leaving my new found friends. I just remember starting over at 13; new town, new house, no friends. But I was less silent and more ready this time around.


Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences.

I know I’m showing my age with this post and I know it’s most likely considered ‘young!’: 9/11, the brand new snack Hot Cheetos, the Internet had chat rooms and games….

Oh and in other news: don’t be a jerk to kids. That shapes their future. I tried really hard at math, but still struggled and that teacher basically gave me an excuse to just give up completely.


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To Live Forever

MAGICMOONLIGHTSTUDIO57

“In every letter, in every line, she saw him. He hadn’t changed – he’d only grown into the man he’d meant to be.”

Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars

“To my dearest….”

I read the faded script, ink dried on the page years ago, paper soft with age. Tucked between a loose brick on the bottom of the wall and a piece of driftwood, the letter seemed to have called for me to read its words.

My mind wanders through possibilities. Was the letter ever read? Was it laid here on purpose so many years ago? A secret hiding place between young lovers, a place to share their affection without being caught.

Did this letter fall from someone’s belongings? Perhaps the belongings of a mourning family, as they walked along this same pathway. Their husband, mother, brother…this letter a keepsake to that person, who kept it all these years.

I fold the yellowed page and return it to its envelope. Filled with possibilities and nostalgia, I daydream about the owner, wishing I could return it to its rightful place.

Part of me connects so deeply, I can’t even explain. I’m reminded of rifling through my grandparent’s memories. I’m reminded of reading the notes my parents wrote to each other. I’m reminded of the hundreds of small notes my husband and I wrote when we were younger.

I slip the letter in my purse, but thinking about it, I return it to its spot. Perhaps the letter will never be read again. Perhaps I was its first reader. There’s something beautiful about the mystery. That the words were even written at all provided a cathartic sense of love and purpose to the writer.

Beyond that, the story is unknown. But the writer’s appreciation for this mystery person will live on forever through his words. For what better way to live forever than by proof of deeds done from love?


This was part of the Writing 101’s Blogging University. Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.


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I Was A Band Roadie

Modern Miracle Crammed in the third row of a vehicle hooked up to a trailer of music equipment, I rode the miles of open highway to our first destination. It was time to tour. Get out. Stretch. Divvy up hotel room beds. Then back in the third row, travelling to the gig.

It was usually a small church, or an outside venue. Sometimes we performed to a massive crowd, other times…not. Get out. Set up. Cables and guitars, drum kits and sound checks. And me. T-shirts and stickers, SD cards and tripods. I was a roadie. Girlfriend to a guitarist and absolutely crazy in love with this band.

When I became part of the Modern Miracle family, I was immediately enamored. The energy and excitement to hear their music, to see my boyfriend perform…I was inspired.

38102_412366495669_3548101_nRight out of high school with a new laptop and Photoshop Elements, just beginning my college courses on multimedia, I had the desire to create something beautiful for this band. I sat in my dorm room listening to their music on repeat attempting to create something that expressed the emotion of the lyrics. I don’t think I’d look back at my first attempts to use Photoshop without training and call it a masterpiece…but I learned to use it through my passion for this Christian band.

As my place in the family grew, I started photographing them in concerts and photo shoots. Then I started creating t-shirts and posters and banners. I became interested in re-designing their Myspace page. If anyone remembers, the classic Myspace had a lot of really great features, if you knew html. So I learned html. I spent hours perfecting their page, creating a beautiful aesthetic. I eventually began creating Myspace page layouts for several bands. I had, perhaps, a year of html experience under my belt before I first took a class on it. Through the beauty of music, I had come into my calling.

Modern Miracle

Modern Miracle was a constant source of inspiration for me. The lyrics were poetic stories ready to be unraveled, the music was a strong force to be reckoned with, the band members were a multi-talented family willing to do what it took to get their music out there. For me, the songs were worship. I felt connected to God by listening to them. And I knew my work was worship, too. I worked to create beautiful pieces of art and I worshiped God while doing it. By art, I mean Myspace layouts and t-shirt designs…but it was all for God.

Let our dancing feet set fire with the powers of your Holy Spirit.
We are anointing every word we say. Let it resonate.

I’ve never been so connected to music before or after this band. I appreciate music; the talent, the energy, the effort. There are a few bands I love. But there’s a difference.

With Modern Miracle, there was a raw passion that went straight through me. All the hours spent at band practices and concerts. The time forming bonds with each of them. The late night work sitting on my dorm bed creating. The connection my boyfriend (now husband–plot twist!) and I made when we talked about this group.

Seasons change, life happens. I wouldn’t trade anything to go back, but I do miss that time of my life. I miss the people, especially. Perhaps that’s what caused such an emotional response—having the band members there, laughing and joking; creating unique, original music. Music that held their talents and skill; their pain and joy. I didn’t just listen or watch, they didn’t just play and sing, we grew into who we are now…and we did it together.

Turn from the world. Double portion for shame.
Suffer your own cross for spiritual gain.


This was part of theWriting 101’s Blogging University. The prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you? – (No. hehe)
All photos by me. ‘Diamond Palace’ video credit to D2S Records. Quoted lyrics are from the videos that follow them. Listen to one more song they never got to record!


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Smelling the Tulips | Writing 101: Day Two

amsterdam_netherlands_tulip_fields

‘They’re my favorite flower,’ I hear my grandmother say, as I gaze over the vast field of never-ending violet. Ripples of color sway lazily with the breeze and, breathing deeply, I’m transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen. The soft smell of tulips sitting on the kitchen counter next to the coffee pot as Elvis Presley sings hymns softly in the background. She liked listening to that CD in the morning. I make my way through the field taking photos I can’t wait to post, excitement I can’t wait to share.

The things that connect us. The purple tulips in May, on her birthday. The slightly burnt coffee every morning strictly at 7 am. The voice of Elvis Presley in the morning. Things that connect all of us. The entire family. I don’t have to explain my nostalgia for Betty Boop, because they have the same nostalgia. I don’t have to wait for the laugh track when I mention my appreciation of salt and pepper shaker collections because they appreciate them too. They get it.

mamawThis woman who lived a full life, filled with everything from a childhood in the country to one of glitz and glamour. She lived. Her feisty, talkative personality filled her house with laughter. Her love of collecting filled her home, literally. But it was beautiful. It was all beautiful. Specifically I’m not talking about her milk glass collection or china teacup sets. Or her extensive, beautiful gold and diamond jewelry, mostly rings. She treasured those rings and wore them, all at once, on special occasions. No, I mean sneaking in her wardrobe as a child and playing dress up in her 1970’s polyester nightgown-and-robe sets. I mean waiting until she went to the kitchen to slip into her storage room to gaze wide-eyed at her giant collection of Betty Boop coffee cups and dolls and shirts. Once I gave her an old life-sized cutout of Betty Boop. She displayed it in her living room for years.

Finished Painting of Baker Homestead

We were never incredibly close. Or, perhaps, we were. To be close to Mamaw, was to savor the small moments. To be present and willing to listen; to be patient and willing to wait. I wasn’t a good roommate. I wasn’t. After college, I was just grateful for a room in her home at all. I came home exhausted from work and shut myself in my room to decompress for hours. I couldn’t stand watching The Bachelorette with her–even ironically–so I left that to my cousin. I would snap back with an attitude after 30-too-many-times her telling me to not wash my dishes/clothes/self while she was watching her evening shows. She couldn’t hear them, otherwise. I was patient, but I still think about the times I was not. Of course, she had an attitude as well. The kind of attitude that comes with the privilege of aging and not caring at all if what she said offended. To be close to Mamaw was to not care if she did offend, because you knew she was just trying to tell her funny story for a good laugh. Or she was just trying to make sure her precious Betty Boop valuables weren’t broken by the hands of a curious child.

I drift in and out of these memories of my grandmother. Visiting the fields of tulips is like an amplified megaphone; each petal, each smell shouting a memory directly at me. The beauty of those flowers, stretched miles and miles and miles, is overwhelming and awe-inspiring. These fields connect me to my grandmother, they connect us all. They affect me like they affect my family. There is a beautiful trust in that. Even thousands of miles apart, I know I am not alone. Through a simple song by Elvis Presley, we can share a memory, a story, a laugh. Through a single tulip, we can ensure our family history will be remembered in the most beautiful way.

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This was part of the Writing 101’s Blogging University. The prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

I’d love to visit Amsterdam during their tulip season for my grandmother! It’s on my Bucketlist, even. This spring I at least hope to visit one of England’s beautiful gardens.


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I’m 25

24 was a great age for me.

23 was allowing negativity to build up all around and inside me. 23 was about realizing that mistakes were made. 23 was about learning lessons. So 24 was about embracing those lessons and changing my entire attitude.

At 24 I healed. At 24 I opened up. At 24 I stopped letting negativity decide my choices and started finding ways to produce positivity.

I learned that silence is wise, but responsible confrontation is healthy. I learned when to use either of these methods.

I learned a great deal from working with young girls; about how my actions and choices affect others and how I allow others’ actions to affect me. I learned that justifying wrong actions for wrong actions is life-draining. I learned that I had changed, not at my core, but just by opening up and allowing myself to grow into a better version of myself.

At 24 I learned to dance unexpectedly, be happy with being dorky, be healthy.

I learned to get rid of the ‘things’, learned what it means to leave everything and everyone behind, learned to not let fear stop me.

25 will be something else entirely. Mistakes will be made, like at 23. Personal growth will happen, like at 24. And we’ll see what else I can learn and see and do at 25.


Birthday Things
My Year of Adventure
25 Things To Do at 25

 


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Girl Hate

Last night at church, I broke up a pre-teen fight.

Two girls in puppy love with the same boy, a third girl out to help one and hurt the other.

The two girls ended up ganging up on the third child because she ruined the chance of ‘love’ for all of them by her lies and slander.

Sigh. It was tiring.

Mostly, because these are small children using phrases like “relationship” and “love life.”  *shudders* But also because the glaring hate these young children showed to one another with no regard for anyone’s feelings but their own was unacceptable and absolutely pointless.

This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with young children being hurt, offended and incredibly rude to each other. They gossip, openly compare and criticize each other’s looks, and form cliques.

Those comparisons keep a lot of us women down, I think. We are competitive in one way or another and it hurts when we end up on the short end of the stick. The two main personal insecurities I’ve compared to others have been my fashion and success. Yeah, hair goes up there, as well skin, teeth and makeup, but some are just more prevalent than others. (I’m writing a post about some more of my insecurities that will hopefully be up soon, so I’ll keep this part of ‘girl hate’ short.) Many of us probably have that ONE thing we constantly compare to others. When you notice that one thing you’re comparing is better than someone, you rejoice, but, if–by your measure–that other person excels, then it’s easy to go on the offense. Jealousy, gossiping or unnecessary self-criticism may occur.

All day I’ve been tied up with stories of teenagers killing their friends for petty reasons; boyfriends, drama and just not wanting to be friends with them anymore. Killing. Murder. It hurts my heart. Obviously, these are extreme cases of girl hate, but why? How does someone think so little of another human being that they go ahead and decide planning a cold blooded murder is acceptable? Or what about bullying;that they can form joking ‘killing clubs‘ and harass others online and in person all because they aren’t liked? OR, taking it down another notch, how it seems every girl ever on the Internet prides themselves on the drama they create. If “I hate drama, don’t start drama or I’m gonna go crazy on you” is in someone’s About Me, you can bet they are the real starters of said ‘drama’.

But, even those of us who don’t cause drama, don’t bully, don’t KILL—even we’re allowing constant comparisons and hate rule us, and teaching our children to do and feel the same insecurity we do.

 I want to change the girl hate I’ve expressed and challenge the hate I’ve experienced.

It has broken friendships and caused others pain. It has also caused me pain. I know of specific hate directed toward me that people think I don’t know about. It’s difficult to keep that down when society says it’s ok to tell the world about people’s ‘fakeness’, but I know that spreading it would not vindicate me. I also know that people are complex and girls can over think everything. That specific ‘hate’ toward me could have stemmed from something I said or did. It wasn’t fair that they chose to act that way, but was it ok for me to cause mistrust in their life?

My past is not blameless. I realize my faults and failures. I realize how and when I compared myself to other women. I’m done letting my insecurities take precedence over friendship, even if that means telling all those secret insecurities to the world just to get it off my chest. I want to challenge myself to step out from my own comfort zone and give others positive encouragement and support where I used to just give silence or neglect.

With that, I hope to continue reaching out to our younger generations of girls to help them see that we can all be FOR each other. Even if it means I’m going to embarrass myself along the way, I really want to make my wrongs right. I want to stop the girl hating and help in my tiny little way to empower girls to feel okay about themselves and feel that it’s okay to spread love.


 

Speaking of women love, check out these amazing posts about empowering women to love and accept themselves and those around them!

 The Wine Stain 

Rookie Mag


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Inside/Out: Issue 04 | Fear (A Collaborative Blog Hop!)

 

 

One of my favorite bloggers, Ashley from The Wine Stain, did a guest post on Clear The Way recently (you can read her outlook on ‘age’  here), which I absolutely loved. I ended up scrolling through more posts from CTW and found this Blog Hop!

Every month, Danielle + Kate team up for a collaborative series Inside/Out to share how a particular trait manifests in their own personal spaces – minds, hearts + spirits – and on the outside with others in their lives. I love that this is a blog hop and was welcome to join in by writing my own post  for Issue 04: Fear.insideout_fear-1-1

 

 INSIDE


My childhood was spent in much fear from my constant confusion in trying to figure out where I fit in in the world. I remember it fully started in the fifth grade when I chose to leave all my friends behind and go to the only middle school in town that offered advanced placement classes. I knew no one and really struggled finding friends. Most of the time I would hide in the bathroom or empty spots in the hallway during free time. I had been with the same few classmates since Kindergarten who were natural friends and didn’t know how to make friends with others. It caused me to be incredibly quiet, anti-social and awkward. That awkward part made it easy for some students and even a teacher to pick on me. There was constant inner turmoil that made me fear stepping outside of my own quiet thoughts and into this new world. (It wasn’t until I got into history fair, invention convention, and gifted and talented programs that I was able to slowly make a few friends. It took a while to understand how to use these tools of creativity to connect with people.) I think this was when I really started reflecting on being happy with myself. I struggled with the anxiety to fit in, but that struggle shaped me into who I am today.

OUT


Going back to learning the tools to use to connect with people;  I struggled with that all through junior high and high school as well. However, as I began to shape my interests (theatre, art, music…) I became close friends with people who had the same passions as me. It took me a long time to come out of my shell, but the more I put myself out there, the more I was comfortable with myself and with others.

Even today, I find myself constantly battling my inner introvert, not because I don’t like who I am, but because sometimes it’s easy to let that fear of wondering whether I fit in overcome me. The best thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to fit in with anyone. Being happy with who I am and what I can contribute to society far outweighs any anxiety I may have. There are so many things I’m unafraid of, for instance this giant move to England coming up soon. I don’t cower in my shyness when I need to speak to people or go places. I cower when life requires me to open up just a bit more. I tend to keep a wall between people who could become close friends and myself. It’s a matter of letting go and allowing people to see me as a vulnerable person that I’m realizing and working on now.

YOUR TURN


1. Write your Inside/Out post, using the imagery provided if you’d like.
2. Choose “click here” + follow the instructions. Your post will show at the bottom of everyone’s post that uses the code, so you only need to enter once.
3. If you’d like to, use #insideoutfear on social media to promote your post.

Click here to enter your link and view the other amazing bloggers who joined in!

*Note: the above image should only be used for Inside/Out posts and proper credit for Lucky Number Seven + Clear the Way should be given. Click image for original source.


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Insecurities and How Mine are the Bomb

curlyhair

Looking back, my journey with naturally curly hair has been a big battle. Curly hair is so difficult to manage, and when I was a kid, it seemed  the “only” way to manage it was by hiding it completely under a fog of de-frizzers and heat or chemical-straightening options.

In fact, my pre-teen years were spent thinking my hair would just eventually ‘calm’ down as I aged. I had no idea what adulthood (and arguably reality) actually looked like.

My teenage years were spent straightening my hair as much as possible. I didn’t understand my natural hair and it was frustrating that no matter how carefully I followed the (sans heat) steps to “sleek, straight hair”, all I got was brushed out fluffy, frizz.

Eventually, I learned a few tricks of the trade which got me past the wear-it-in-a-low-bun phase, but just because I learned how to better manage my hair doesn’t mean I understood my unique texture. Maybe partly because of all this:

2005 Seventeen Magazine Covers

These Seventeen magazines, circa 2005, were my teenage go-to’s. Maybe once or twice a year there would be an article on ‘curly’ hair, but the model clearly did NOT have curly hair, merely shiny, soft curling-iron curls. (Probably something that fueled my naive hope to “grow up” and get calmed, sleek beautiful waves.) I never saw anyone else with the type of hair I had, except my family members.

Honestly, the hair in these magazines aren’t even the biggest issues, though, which is kind of the point of my attempt at airing out my own insecurities. Just look at those magazine captions. Was I the only one who was disappointed when their oh-so-helpful tips and tricks for ‘Perfect Hair, Skin & Makeup-For You!’ failed oh-so-miserably? Thanks, Photoshop for giving me unrealistic views of women! Little did I know my skin, makeup, lips, outfits, body and especially my frizzy hair would never look like those magazine models!

Even now, as a graphic designer who spends every day in Photoshop I still have trouble disassociating the models–as human beings–from their overly-Photoshopped magazine versions of themselves.

Except when Photoshop blunders like this happen:

photoshop fail

I saw these two movie covers in Hastings with two totally different versions of this poor guy. To note, his arm is in a different position and his chest and abs look like two totally different people. Even the angle of his head is weird and the scar on his side is different. I mean, at least keep the Photoshopping consistent, right?

I’ve seen amazing shifts lately, in general, with people really starting to grasp the idea that this built-up view of perfection is all a digital hoax. In fact, it almost seems like a trend to call foul (fowl? sports metaphors? what?) on companies who really take liberties with changing their models’ appearances. For instance videos like this one which shows a beautiful person transform into a completely different person (including hair texture!) all with editing tools, and ad campaigns like this which shows, not only different age and body types, but also features an amputee and paralympian competitor. Also, i can’t forget to mention my frizzy haired saviors from Naturally Curly who have helped me truly understand my hair texture and help all people celebrate their hair instead of hating it.

Honestly, these small changes are awesome. It’s not enough, but it’s a start. I would love to see this ‘trend’ of awareness become more than just a trendy eye-opener and really seep into our culture. Photo editing isn’t going away. It’s a fun tool that nearly everyone uses these days. (Instagram filters for the win) So it’s not JUST about shaming companies who use it unnecessarily. Yes, they have a powerful way of influencing people and they should use that for good!

However, it’s also about changing those everyday conversations we all have. Instead of  “I’m so fat!” how about trying to edit our perspective into a body-positive one; “I’m so awesome, and I’m proud that I’ve been exercising.” Giving ourselves positive motivation can completely change our outlook. Then suddenly our positive attitudes are all like, “Look how awesome my legs look!” In fact, look how awesome this chick’s body-positive messages are; so much so that I would love to have her confidence.

Or, going back to one of my biggest insecurities: ROCKING my frizz on East Texas days like today that are so humid my hair could possibly balloon up into an mad scientist-esque proportions.

A body-positive society starts by changing our inner-conversations, which leaks out into our everyday conversations, which could eventually completely change our childrens’ conversations. Maybe future generations won’t even notice or worry about their ‘imperfections’ because they are surrounded by people like us who decided to change their fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, frizzy hair-shaming ways.

Let’s change the conversation. Let’s motivate ourselves, not to ‘be skinny’ or ‘be perfect’, but to be happy with who we are.

We are all more awesome than the Photoshopped versions of ourselves.

 

 


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Learning From Children | Underlying Issues of the Innocent

Pre-Teen Girls During 'Tablecloth' Fashion Show

Taylor and I have been working with a small church’s children’s group for the past year. Ages range from sometimes 3 all the way to 12. In one room. Yeah.

But, most of them, thankfully, are within the 9-12 range which helps us find age appropriate lessons and activities.

Because of this job (it is Taylor’s job, but I volunteer), I’ve had a lot of time to observe young girls. I’ve learned their behaviors, cliques,  gossip habits and insecurities.

I’ve learned that one girl goes out of her way to look less poor to her friends. One 12 year old is extremely self-conscious about her teeth; another about her stomach. An 11 year old plays dumb, a 7 year old is so scared to talk she’ll sometimes start sentences excitedly and then immediately stop, almost cowering.

Another pre-teen was molested  as a child and desperately seeks that same level of attention with older boys.

Most of them come from poor, drug-filled households where it’s likely that–if one of their parents isn’t either out of the picture or in jail–they just got out of jail. Which isn’t to say the adults take ALL the blame–this is, after all, the life they grew up in. How does one end this cycle?

Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know how to answer that. I don’t know how to answer many questions regarding the serious issues these young girls face. It’s constantly forcing me to realign my perspective when I ask myself after an exhausting and frustrating children’s session, “Why do they act the way they do?!?!”

Well, Alyssa, why?

Why do they feel the need to prove they aren’t poor? Why do they choose to gang up on another to bully them? Why do they seek men’s attention and approval?

Every week is like a concentrated slap in the face showing me the deep rooted fears and expectations that society has placed on all women.

What these girls are learning from their mothers, they will teach their own children. Of course, I don’t hope for that. I do see a small societal shift in women’s behaviors and I can hope that these girls, specifically, choose to better their lives as they grow up and break a generational cycle of poverty, drugs and heartache.

I have really struggled with all the layers of issues these girls* have made me fully aware of. I think the easiest, yet also most intricate, issues to deal with are the ones directly related to all women. From media to our own mothers and grandmothers, we are given so much “advice” about behavior, appearances and the like that our minds have contorted around some of the most messed up ideas that truly have become part of our ‘norm.’ Like many other newly enlightened women, I’m searching for the balance between losing the chains of societal expectations and still feeling like I understand the strong and beautiful reasons behind what it means to be female.

I’m going to try to voice my thoughts in future posts on the subject of being a woman, as well as all the other major issues mentioned in this post as I rethink my own views and also combat the views these young pre-teen girls already think to be true.

Advice, opinions, help would be oh so appreciated.


 

*Not to say the boys of the group have no issues. We only have 1-4 boys come, sometimes 0. Perhaps there are no boys in the area, or perhaps boys not feeling connected to church and/or groups of peers is an entirely different issue to be discussed. Taylor does a lot for the boys as well as the younger children (As well as the preteens. He’s awesome). My heart has been set on these pre-teen girls from the beginning. Clarification over.