Thursday, August 28, 2014

an apology and a promise

it's been a long time since i last posted on here.  believe me, it's not because i don't have anything to say.  i have just allowed school and work to be priorities for the past year, because they had to be.  i'm almost done with school, which will give me more time.  that being said, i'm sorry i've been flaky.  and i promise to write at least two to three more posts before the end of the year.  promises are often broken, which is why i do not take this one lightly in the slightest--and i really hope you all keep me accountable!

big hugs!  xoxo

Monday, July 8, 2013

discovering home

for most people, i think that "home" is most likely the place where they grew up.  it was where they were raised, went to school and maybe college, and sometimes they stay there as adults.   sometimes they leave and come back later.  sometimes they only come back to visit.  and in some cases, people move to other towns.  i think in most cases, home is still the place where they grew up.  they have memories there--both good and bad--that tie them to that place.  it's a sort of nostalgia, if you will.

i'm sort of a unique case because i've kind of lived everywhere, so i've had a lot of what some would consider places to call home.  i spent most of my life "growing up" in pennsylvania.  i went to pre-school/elementary school in nepa (short for northeastern pennsylvania.  ever seen the office? scranton, pa.  around there), then boarding school in hershey, and college in selinsgrove (aka the middle of nowhere).  

after college it was virginia for three years.  i moved there because i was dating a guy in the navy and stayed there after the break-up because i had a job (actually, two) and bills to pay.  but after a couple of years, i couldn't stand my full-time job anymore, so i joined teach for america.  i moved to texas to complete my two-year commitment and stayed there a third year.

after three years of basically living in mexico, i decided it was time to come back to pa to be closer to my family.  i applied to grad school and got in and moved back to philly last year.  this was a surprising decision, because i never felt any strong connection to pa.  in fact, i told my mom when i graduated high school that after college i was moving away.  i did, but i never thought i'd come back.

i've gotten to do some pretty awesome things since i've been in pa.  i've gone to my parents' house for every major holiday, my birthday, mother's day, father's day, AND to help my sister move.  i've gone to new york city, i've seen olly murs three times (and met him and got his autograph), and i got to surprise a group of my former students right outside d.c.  it's been pretty awesome.  
olly murs's acoustic set (photo mine)
best buy in fairless hills, pa

now, this might be where you think that i've figured it all out.  oh, she left pa and then came back.  of course, pa is her home!  she's come full circle!  yay!  

except, that's not how this story ends.

no matter where i lived, it never felt quite like "home."  i'd called pa home, but only because that's where i was from originally.  the places i've lived were simply that: i lived in virginia, i lived in texas, i live in philly.  but even after being back in pa for a year, it still doesn't feel like home.  and as i think about getting older, i realize that i can't keep making major moves every few years.  aside from the financial burden, it's becoming emotionally draining too.  the question still remains: where is "home"?

a couple of years ago, i went back to virginia beach to attend a friend's wedding.  it was the first time i'd been back since i'd left.  while i was there, i had this weird sensation.  everything was familiar, and i felt comfortable.  it felt like home.  i didn't know what to do with this feeling, because it was unexpected.  i was still planning on teaching in texas for at least one more year, so i didn't do much with it.  

during my third year of teaching, i looked into possibly moving back to virginia, but then i found a grad school in pennsylvania, so that was that.  i didn't think about it much.  but after being back in pa for a year and realizing that i don't want to spend the rest of my life here, i couldn't shake the feeling: is virginia beach my home?

when i found out i would have a few days off for independence day, i decided it was time for a road trip.  i asked some friends if i could stay with them, and they graciously said yes.  i packed my bags and headed south.  

as i got off the chesapeake bay bridge tunnel and entered virginia beach, i was glad to be back.  as i drove down independence boulevard and then holland road towards the office where i previously worked, i didn't even need the gps.  i knew where i was, and i knew how to get where i was going.  things were sort of different, but it all felt the same.  just as i had felt on my last visit, things were familiar and comfortable.  i didn't have to think about it anymore, because i knew:  I WAS HOME.  

during my brief visit, i started to think about why virginia beach felt like home.  i hadn't spent my childhood there, so why did it feel like home?  i came to several realizations over the course of the few days i was there:

1) i freaking LOVE the beach.  i love being able to get in the water when i want to.  i love being able to go to the oceanfront and walk down the boardwalk on a sunny day.  i love the feel of a beach town.  i just love the beach.

2) i don't mind the heat.  my friends all complained about how hot it was.  i didn't even care.  i hate the cold.  i will take a hot, humid day over a cold, rainy, snowy one any day.

3) i have good friends there.  i had more of a social life in the few days in virginia beach than i probably have had in few months in philly.  the friends i had when i was there are still my friends.  even people i wasn't so close to when i lived there are friends now.  people made time for me.  they made sure i had somewhere to stay and things to do.  they were happy to see me, and i was happy to see them.  :)

4) i grew up there.  maybe not as a child, but as an adult.  after my boyfriend left, i had to figure things out for myself.  it wasn't easy, but i did it.  i didn't rely on another person to do things for me.  i did it on my own, and there's a sense of pride and accomplishment in that.

the first time i left virginia, it wasn't hard.  i'd hated my job and needed a change.  but i realize now that i didn't dislike virginia, i just disliked my job.  if i'd found another one, i probably would have stayed there.

this time when i drove away, it was hard to leave.  i even cried a little.  i'd finally discovered where "home" was for me, but i couldn't stay.  they say, "home is where the heart is."  right now, mine is in virginia beach.  and while i can't be there just yet, i know that it will be waiting for me when the time is right.

Chick's Beach on the 4th of July

Thursday, May 30, 2013

it's a love/hate relationship

on my way to work this morning, i heard about five (yes, FIVE!) different rihanna songs, all on different stations. and while it's no surprise to me, it's time to confess: i have a love/hate relationship with rihanna.  

i love her music.  not all of it, but definitely more than i care to admit.  when one of her songs comes on, i find myself singing along, tapping my foot, and bopping my head--until i realize it's a rihanna song.  then i quickly change the station, because i HATE what she represents.

there is no doubt that rihanna is a powerhouse.  her voice is incredible, her beats are sick, and her songs are undeniably catchy.  she has indeed earned her superstar status.  she is a ROLE MODEL for young women everywhere, but the question is, should she be?  is she really someone i, as a young woman, want to emulate?  is she someone that we want pre-teens and teenagers to emulate?  time and time again, i find my answer to be a resounding NO.

here's a list of reasons why i think we should question and even challenge rihanna--and anyone for that matter--in her position as a role model:

1. rihanna perpetuates the objectification of women as sexual objects.  she's posed nude and nearly nude for magazines and other media. (i don't pretend that she is the only woman to do this.  on the contrary, she is just one example of too many women who allow this to continue.)  in one music video, she is practically masturbating on-screen.  it's essentially soft porn!  i get that women want to be empowered to feel sexy, and i fully support that, but attractiveness does not have to be a result of bearing it all for the world to see.  case in point:  MICHELLE OBAMA.  

2.  rihanna's romantic relationships are questionable.  no, she didn't deserve to be abused by chris brown (no woman does), but she certainly provoked him.  again, that does not excuse his behavior in any way--let me be very clear about that--but her behavior wasn't exactly innocent either.  then they broke up and years later got back together.  some may see this as a sign of forgiveness, but that's not necessarily true.  i've forgiven people who have hurt me, but i don't necessarily allow them to saunter back into my life.  sometimes it's necessary to keep people out of your life so they don't destroy it any further.  that's a sign that you're taking care of yourself.  considering the behavior she exhibits in her music videos, photos, and real life, i'm not sure rihanna is taking care of herself--physically, mentally, or spiritually.  and that's the real concern.

3.  rihanna employs adult themes that are in some instances provocative, but not necessarily in a good way.  she, like many other "artists," sings about sex, drugs, and violence.  often in photos and videos, she can be seen smoking (both cigarettes and illegal substances) or drinking.  in one video, she insinuates that she murders a man who has sexually abused her.  (evidence that perhaps she hasn't entirely forgiven chris brown, at least not at that point.)  i can't and i won't apologize for failing to see why these are behaviors that empower women, because they aren't.

rihanna may be beautiful on the outside and have a talent that many of us desire, but her behavior and her image are downright despicable, which makes her ugly in my eyes.  as i mentioned earlier, i realize that she is not the only celebrity who is a bad representation of what we should expect from women and girls.  for me, however, she is one that stands out (and NOT in a good way).  i have made a conscious decision to not support rihanna's career.  this is why i turn the station when one of her songs comes on.  this is why  i will not buy her music or her merchandise.  this is why i once warned a choreographer that i would fire him if he put a rihanna song in the music for my cheerleaders (they were middle schoolers).  i feel strongly that rihanna is not someone i want myself or the young women in my life to emulate.

in one of her newer songs entitled "pour it up," rihanna sings:  "who cares how you haters feel, i still got my money"

let me ask you this, rih-rih: how does it make you feel?  it seems that your money isn't buying you the happiness you wanted, because you wouldn't have brought up the issue otherwise.  so, honey, you can keep your money.  because you'll never get mine.

Friday, May 10, 2013

a & f disses curvy girls everywhere

recently, multiple articles have been posted about abercrombie and fitch's ceo mike jeffries and his outrageously disgusting comments about "fat" people.  here's the most cited quotation:

"in every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. candidly, we go after the cool kids. we go after the attractive all-american kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. a lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. are we exclusionary? absolutely. the companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. but then you become totally vanilla. you don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody either."

as a former teacher, i was trained to list the positive first and then talk about how to improve.  well, the only positive thing here is that mike jeffries knows what he wants for his brand.  and when you're trying to sell a product, that's important.

now, let me jump emphatically on my soapbox and talk about what needs improvement--EVERYTHING ELSE!!!

for someone who wants to target "attractive" kids, mike jeffries should really consider how to define "attractive."  if we're talking about physical appearances, mikey didn't exactly win the jackpot.  to save you some time, here's a picture of his ugly mug:


sure, for a 68-year-old man, he's in good shape.  but "attractive all-american" are certainly not words i would use to describe him.  on the other hand, words like "douchebag," "bully," and "overcompensating" seem to sing like morning birds when describing this hideous creature.  at this point, i'm not just talking physical appearances--i'm talking personality too.  

beauty isn't just skin deep, and often the people who are outright GORGEOUS on the outside, are straight up UGLY on the inside.  as a result, their outer beauty is diminished by their inner awfulness.  i'd say the reverse is true, too.  people who aren't drop-dead gorgeous on the outside, but have amazing hearts, are some of the most BEAUTIFUL people on this planet.

i have been a curvy girl ALL of my life.  in fifth grade, we were measured for new cheerleading uniforms; all the other girls laughed at me when i was measured.  in high school, there was one boy who was particularly mean to me in regards to my weight.  i wore guys' clothes and clothes that were too big for me because i was overly self-conscious about my size.  more than once, my mother would tell me that i just needed to lose ten pounds and my clothes would look much better.  

when i look back at pictures of when i was in high school, i realize how SMOKING HOT i was.  even at my skinniest, i never fit into a size 10 (which is the smallest size sold at a & f).  i fit into a size large for like six months.  the world taught me that i was fat and ugly, and i believed the lies.  had i been taught to love myself as i was, then maybe i would've taken better care of myself then so i wouldn't be the size i am now.  and maybe i'd have more confidence.

but despite my weight then or now, i am beautiful and i am freaking AWESOME.  don't believe me?  here's a whole laundry list of the COOL and AMAZING things i've done since i was a kid, in no particular order:

1.  played softball for TEN years
     a.  broke FIVE school records
     b.  taught chilean players how to pitch windmill style
2.  cheered for TEN years; coached cheerleading for THREE years
     a.  my girls came home with trophies from EVERY competition they attended
     b.  worked with the drill team for 1 year
3.  learned to play multiple instruments including flute, piccolo, tenor sax, piano, drums/percussion
     a.  participated in marching band, concert band, county bands, and honors band
4.  acquired TWO foreign languages--spanish and french
5.  traveled to SIX countries that speak another language: venezuela, spain, chile, argentina, puerto rico
6.  obtained a bachelor's degree, graduating magna cum laude
7.  was selected as a teach for america corps member (only 10% of applicants were offered a position the year that i applied)
     a.  completed my two-year commitment
     b.  stayed in my placement school for a third year
8.  completed half of a master's program (i should be done completely by next may)
9.  met multiple celebrities, including olly murs, isabel allende, juan falcon, our lady peace, and michelle branch
10.  created art (mainly wooden trinkets and simple canvas paintings; i'm really good at towel and diaper cakes too), just because

my point here is that you don't have to fit into a specific mold to be beautiful or amazing.  and mike jeffries has NO right to decide that there is a mold and that it has a specific appearance.  i'm half tempted to walk into abercrombie, buy some men's clothes (the ladies' stuff will NOT fit me unless i buy multiples and reconstruct them--and ain't nobody got time for that), and stage a protest.  who's with me!

in the meantime, i encourage you to sign this petition or this one and check out this blog post about mike jeffries.  the author, emily, takes a much more humorous approach then i do!

finally, let's talk about what really makes people beautiful!  leave your comments here or post them on facebook or twitter or simply have a conversation with a friend or family member about what makes them beautiful.  be the antidote to the poison!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

marriage equality

there has been a lot of chatter on the internet recently about marriage equality, specifically in the united states.  the increase is due, in part, to the supreme court hearings on prop 8 and DOMA.  while i cannot sit here and say that i'm thoroughly educated on either, i do want to take a moment to share my thoughts.  prepare yourselves, because i'm jumping on my soapbox.

as i've stated before, i am a christian woman.  many people assume that because of my faith, i should be of the belief that homosexuality is a sin.  some will also assume that i believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.  i don't believe it's as simple as that, though.

here is what i DO think, in very clear terms:

God does not condone homosexuality.  the bible repeatedly says it's a sin.  however, this sin is no different than any other.  it does not carry more weight than murder or coveting someone's possessions or bearing false witness.  SIN IS SIN, in any form.  one sin is not more punishable than another.  remember the verse about not removing the splinter in someone else's eye before removing the plank in your own?  yeah, totally applicable here. 

our founding fathers came to this country for religious freedom, and therefore declared a SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE.  it is this principle alone that denies us the right to use our faith as justification for policies and legislation.  if we use the bible to create laws, then by this policy we can also use the qu'ran or the book of mormon to do the same.  hmmm.  makes you think, huh?  hey, i didn't make this policy; i'm just pointing it out. 

if we are to abide by our founding fathers' principle of separation between church and state, then same-sex marriage is a non-issue.  churches do not have to perform or even recognize these marriages; the federal government, however, is obliged to do so.  period.  it is this argument that leads me to support marriage equality for all.

i've heard it mentioned that people are concerned that same-sex marriages will hurt heterosexual marriages.  i fail to see how this is even a valid argument.  how can the love between two people, regardless of their gender, negatively impact your marriage?  how?  it's like saying the green grass and blue sky affect the taste of your tuna-fish sandwich or macaroni and cheese meal for lunch.  seriously, no relation.

my friend posted this on facebook:  "if its illegal to discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation in EVERY facet of our society (work, school, govt, medicine etc...) HOW can we justify discrimination regarding marriage?"  in response, you can't.  you simply can't.

equality: 1, injustice: 0.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

5 reasons to ABSTAIN from sex

i recently read an article on huffington post entitled 9 reasons to have sex.  as a single woman, this article was tempting, maybe even a little encouraging.  but as a Christian woman, i had to really step back and think about how this would affect my life.  

with that in mind, i've decided to write a blog entry entitled 5 Reasons to Abstain from Sex.  it's a reaction piece, if you will.  and while it doesn't counter each and every point that huffington post makes, less is more in this case.  with this post, i hope to encourage people who, like me, are struggling with what's acceptable according to society's standards and what's acceptable to one's own standards.  so, here goes:

1.  you don't want a sexually transmitted disease.
STDs are gross.  and nasty.  some can be treated, but others never go away.  and those diseases carry stigmas.  do i even need to say anything more here?

2.  or a baby.
unplanned pregnancies, regardless of how careful you are with contraceptive methods, happen all the time.  if you're not ready for the responsibility of another life (food, clothing, shelter, love) or if you are not ready to make the decision to give that life up to another family who can care for it, then you should not have sex.  

people don't say this enough, so let me say it now:  ABSTINENCE IS THE ONLY FOOL-PROOF WAY TO ENSURE THAT YOU DO NOT GET AN STD OR GET PREGNANT.  by not having sex, these become non-issues.  it's one less thing in life to worry about, and seriously who needs any more stress?

3.  you hope that sex will fix or change things.  spoiler alert: it doesn't.
that guy (or girl) you're dating to help get over your ex?  that guy (again, or girl) that is your friend but you want something more?  guess what!  sleeping with them won't change the fact that you're not over your ex or that you have been "friend zoned" or whatever other reason you can conjure.  just like eating a gallon of ice cream won't solve your problems when you're sad, neither will sex.  it may feel good in the moment, but your problems will still be there.  to solve those problems, you're going to have to work.  and it may not be easy, but it will be worth the work.

4.  you're not ready to have sex.
for me, i won't be ready to have sex until i'm married.  some people think that's ridiculous, but i know myself, and  i know what i can handle.  sex before marriage is not something i'm ready for at this point in my life.  whatever the reason, stick to your beliefs.  if someone really cares about you, they won't pressure you.  and if there is pressure, then they don't respect you and it's time to kick them to the curb.

5.  you respect yourself.
waiting to have sex is a sign of strength, not weakness.  it's harder so say no to sex than it is to say yes, especially with the way society and the media have glamorized it.  but think about all the girls or guys you know who are having tons of sex.  i'm pretty sure the terms "slut," "whore," and "dirty" come to mind.  i'd rather be called a prude and have my dignity.  because that's a sign of self-respect.  it shows that i have not succumbed to peer pressure and that i value myself.  and that self-worth is something no one can ever take from me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

resolutions

i don't do new year's resolutions.  they're dumb.  because if i honestly want to make a change in my life, i shouldn't waste time by waiting till january 1 to do it.  i can start making changes TODAY if i want to.

also, people have a tendency to beat themselves up if they slip.  and then they just give up all together.  news flash:  change takes time.  research shows that it takes at least 30 days to create a new habit.  so, you slipped up?  big freaking deal.  start again tomorrow.  or even later today.  the most successful people in the world didn't give up when they didn't get it right the first time, so get over it.  we're human.  we make mistakes.  perfection is unattainable, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.  (insert cheesy cliche:  shoot for the moon.  if you miss, you land among the stars.)

anyway, this year i made an exception.  i guess i just needed some time to mentally prepare myself for the changes i wanted to make.  i couldn't just wake up one day and decide to change--i needed to build up to the impending life changes.  

it is important to note that i did not make my resolutions in august and then wait till january.  i decided mid-december to get my act together and then put my plan into action in january.

one of my resolutions was to start a blog.  here we are.  success!

my biggest resolution, however, is to lose weight.  at 252 pounds, i am the largest i have ever been, and i simply cannot allow myself to gain more weight.  my clothes don't fit the way they used to...i can barely zipper most of my pants.  it's disgusting and frustrating.

my desire to lose weight is driven by multiple factors: my health, my self-esteem, and my desire to have a romantic relationship.  judge me all you want for those reasons (except for the health--that's a no-brainer). but the "why" motivates me to the "how," and i can't afford to do nothing anymore. 

this is what i've decided to do to take better care of myself:

1. cut soda out of my diet.  this has not been easy.  i've still had a sprite here or there and some coke zero.  but the amount i consume now is IONS less than what i was drinking.

2.  stop eating fast food.  chick-fil-a doesn't count.  but mcdonald's and burger king?  their food is delicious, but i can't continue to consume that amount of calories.

3.  eat more fruit and less carbs.  i'm sill working on this.  but grapes and strawberries are freaking DELICIOUS!

4.  exercise.  my workout plan is simple: get to the gym and move.  sometimes i'll do 30 minutes on the bike or the elliptical.  sometimes i use my zumba favorites playlist and dance like an idiot by myself.  sometimes i'll do strength training.  i even made flash-cards with exercises from magazines to help me, because i don't want to just be skinny.  i want to be toned too.

                                                     a post-workout photo:

i keep track of my gym time by placing a sticker on my calendar every time i work out.  juvenile?  perhaps.  helpful?  very.  motivating?  DEFINITELY.  even as an adult, i freaking love stickers.  it's a little reward--yay!  i get to put a sticker on the calendar!  it also allows me to see what my patterns are, which will ultimately allow me to make changes where necessary.  (i realize this is a very teacher-esque thing to do.  whatever.  that's what i am.)

so far, i haven't lost any weight.  but that's okay.  i just feel better about myself knowing that i'm working towards change.  and change takes time.  some things are already easier to do, and that's enough for me.  for now.  :)