Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just checking in!

Hello avid readers, new readers, and curious people who don’t care all that much about what I write but ultimately respect me for doing my own thang. I was on this really productive trend of writing a couple of times a week for the course of . . . well a week! Then grad school started up again and I was reminded that I don’t truly have a social life, it was just a big fat myth I allowed myself to live out during the entirely too short (and kind of oddly placed) spring break. Spring break in March? Yes.
That’s all in the past now (unfortunately) and now I’m hitting my nose back to the grindstone academically, which leaves significantly less time for me to ponder about the inner/outerworkings of life and be inspirational and all that. But for you, my dears, I’ll make my best attempt.
So what’s new . . .hmm. HMM.
Well I’m thinking quite seriously about sponsoring a child through Children International, which is a charity that is not only extremely credible, but an inexpensive option for those who wish to commit to a sponsorship, but also have to worry about paying their own bills. It’s a mandatory $22 bucks a month, but you can send extra money during holidays, your child’s birthday, or anytime you feel like tossing a little more in.
In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter whether you believe in karma, or are spiritual in the least bit, it’s just important to realize that there are people who live and survive their lives in extreme poverty. It’s a significant reminder because I for one find myself worrying a bit too much about buying nice clothes, or looking the way I want to look and there are people, children who do not have that luxury. Instead, they’re wondering where their next meal is coming from, or whether or not they’ll ever have an actual bed to sleep on.
I apologize if this sounds cheesy ( I know it will to some), but I feel that it is our human responsibility to take care of one another. Yes, there is an abundance of ignorance in this world, and there are days when I wonder what the point is of being a giving and generous person when there are clearly plenty of people willing to cut you down on a daily basis.
You can’t fall into that trap. You have to fill your head with all of the cheesy clich├ęs you know and just pummel through it all, because in the end, only kindness matters (shamelessly ripped off from Jewel, sing it girlfriend!)
And that goes for most things.
Let your freak flag fly and all that!
Do a little dance, make a little love, get down to----no…that one doesn’t really work. . .
But anyway . . . do what you can for whoever you can, because you never know when you’re going to need some help yourself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Out of the box, but into a Tupperware: Something for all of the teachers out there.

I've been doing some thinking about the state of our economy and job market, more specifically my job market . . . which is education.

It's a hot topic these days and nobody seems too sure what the real outcome is going to be for our American education system.  I have some fully formed thoughts on the subject, and other free half-baked ideas floating around as well, but the biggest question I have is this: why can't we view education like we view all of the other really important jobs in our country? 

Education is so important because it literally shapes how our society will run as our country grows and changes with time. Yet there is more bullshit in the education system than half of the other industries I know of. 

We need teachers that will utilize tools like the internet, and also get down on the same level as their students in order to get them to think for themselves and really be phenomenal problem solvers. Because, lets face it, this country has got problems. And I'm not insulting America, every nation has major issues that need to be worked out. It's in the history books, it's humanity. It comes with being alive. Life has issues.

But we'll never get anywhere if we can't teach children how to think outside of the box in order to solve issues. 

Standardized tests will NOT teach children how to problem solve, cooperate and work together in a crisis situation. These aren't just skills one needs in order to run a country properly, they're skills one needs in your everyday office job, where the work keeps piling and you have an inexperienced team and a deadline looming in the future. 

Students who graduate from  communication, law, and journalism programs are required to complete several full internships, but most education students only need to student teach twice in an environment where there is a lot of hand holding. 

So how do you fake it to make it, if you aren't sure what faking it even feels like? 

Why do we preach out of the box teaching, then criticize it when it's not done to a certain standard. 

I understand that tenure was put into effect to protect teachers but I disagree with making it impossible to fire an incompetent teacher just because they have some level of seniority.

If we are going to preach about teachers being creative and confident in their jobs, then we really need to take a stand and push for that quality of teaching in our schools and in life. 

It is so important that we teach children how to think for themselves because I feel like politics right now is bogged down by too many opinions. 

You can't please everyone, you need to just do what works. Hands on teaching WORKS. I've seen it work. You can't put observable and measurable terms on a spark you find in a child's eye when something clicks. Or when a child runs home to tell their mother what they did in school.

Hands on teaching is not an approach to be stowed away as a last resort, you need to keep trying new things, every day and when you find something that works, not just stick with it, keep trying new things. Like a writer trying new techniques and styles, a teacher needs to be down with the newest exercises and trends. A teacher needs to be informed, and when they're not they need to be actively searching for information. ALL THE TIME. A teacher needs to throw themselves into working with the hardest kids and not give up until they GET THROUGH, even if it's in one little way. A good teacher never gives up on being a phenomenal at what he/or she does. It does not work like that.

Teaching is not just an occupation, it's a burning passion, just like any job within the arts. It takes creativity and focus. It takes control, and having the ability to make an executive decision. It takes knowing when something isn't working. 
It's like painting a picture, realizing it doesn't work, but then starting over again. 

Artists do it. Writers do it. Teachers, REAL teachers do that too. Their children are their masterpieces. 

Real and true teachers, also like those starving artists, do not really care that much for getting credit. Yes, it's nice, but it's also realized that a job well not will not always come with two pats on the back and a pay raise. 

Sometimes it comes with knowing your students will be able to confidently speak in public . . . 
or . . . be able to speak at all. 

Sometimes it's enough to know that your students will be intelligent enough to accept other people's opinions even though they don't always agree with them. 

Sometimes it's enough. But should it be? 

The system NEEDS to change because our nation, our world changes. Every day it changes but there are still so many schools that are years behind. 

It's not enough to just acknowledge we need to do something, we need to use our voice, we need to not be afraid to take risks and do what we need to in order to fulfill the duty as a good teacher. 

So please, even if you aren't a news reader, just try to read one article about what's going on with our education system, just be the least bit informed, because when it's time to vote, when it's time to actually say what we want for the education of our nation's children, we need to know what the ask for. 
Thanks :)

Body Image (and my new obsession)

Let me tell you a really awful habit I have. Every day, when I get dressed, I always look in the mirror at my bare stomach.  My gaze always falls on my little nub of a tummy that sits in the middle of my body. Then I look down at my thighs and search for extra flab and cellulite, finally my eyes travel upward, towards my upper arms, where I observe to see if I've lost or gained any flab there. While I've tried helplessly NOT to do this, it's a completely subconscious behavior.

Why do I do this to myself? I actually think it's a mixture of reasons. First of all, when looking in a mirror, one usually will find their flaws first, before focusing on the positive. The stuff we like is already the way we want it, so it doesn't need to be improved upon or fixed. If we like the way our hair looks, we aren't going to mess with it, so we don't stare at it for too long. It's just a normal human reaction in some ways.

However, the other reason, I believe,  is owed purely to the fashion photography that beauty magazines keep pushing down our throats. In order to be considered "thin" we need to not have an ounce of body fat, when in reality, some body fat is essential to our survival. Also as women, we naturally will always have a little more fat on our hips, thighs and stomachs, because we carry the babies. We're kind of made to be like sexy pillows. 

There is one thing to be said about taking care of yourself and eating healthy, but obsession is another issue entirely, and it can be a scary one. We don't just obsess with our own bodies, we become obsessed with everyone else as well. It's almost as if we are searching for physical flaws that reflect our own, so that we know it's okay.

 And it is ok because as long as we're healthy and doing what's right for our own special body type, 5 or 10 pounds is not going to make or break us. 

Over this previous weekend my friend Heather and I were in American Eagle and I pointed out a poster hanging over a display of tanks and camis. You can see the poster here:
on page 17 of the catalog.

The image features girls and guys dressed in beach wear laying down. There are several super skinny models, but the one model in the middle is a tiny bit curvier. At the time I told Heather "Wow that's really refreshing to see someone who's not completely emaciated on an American Eagle Ad, front and center." But now that I think about it, it's sad that I defined this beautiful young woman as being a "bit curvier" because she's not AS stick thin as the rest of the models. She's still really skinny!! If I saw her on the street, I wouldn't think twice about calling her skinny either, but because of her placement on this particular ad, I recognized her as a plus sized model, which is ridiculous. 

Yes, it's refreshing that not all of the models look half-starved to death, but I also think it's really sad that the most normal body type displayed is this one girl. 

Just tonight the singer/song writer Lenka tweeted that countless people on Youtube posted comments on her new video telling her that her nose is weird. She then wrote "Um, I am aware of it, thanks to." 
Once again, this woman posted an adorable video of her latest song and is very successful in the music industry, but instead of people noticing whether the song is any good, they're criticizing her nose being weird. Which she says she is aware of, so this is probably something that has bothered her in the past. 

No one is perfect. Everyone has their weird noses, chubby thighs, and in my case a high pitched voice and a crooked mouth that makes me look like I snarl slightly when I sing sometimes. 
Who cares!? 
We're all different, that's what makes us beautiful. And what we find, ugly, weird, or downright awful about ourselves, others will sometimes find endearing and special. 

We can't keep playing this game with ourselves. Occasionally we come across a great ad campaign, but we can't depend on the media to apologize and make amends for the damage it's done over the years. They're out to make money, they want us to be obsessed. 

Instead let's be obsessed with helping people, and making others feel good about themselves, and putting some positive vibes out into our own communties. 

That's my new obsession. Maybe you could make it yours. 

I leave you with this old, but beautiful video that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty did a while back: Evolution

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What it means to be a hipster.

I'm particularly influenced to write this because of a short blurb I read today on 

Basically has a feature where people can identify if a bar has too many hipsters. And the problem with that, of course, is that if there are too many hipsters, you'll obviously be surrounded by the most pretentious people you've ever met.


What is with us and our obsession with creating names or yes, I'm gonna say it, labels for people that we think dress, eat, or act a certain way?

The comment in Gawker made it a point to mention how ridiculous it is to apply the term to every skinny guy wearing thick glasses. Ok, true, but that's neither here nor there. Why apply the term to anyone? Some of the most amazing people I know are considered in one way or another to be a "hipster." 

Like any group of people, you're going to find the few that embrace the label and go out of their way to act out the actions of the stereotype, which makes it harder to not label them in the first place. But come on. 

The urban dictionary definition of a hipster is really " a state of mind,it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers" is that really such a bad thing? 

I know this, I love to read about fashion, but sometimes the photos of thinner than life models make me feel fat, when I'm far from it. And sometimes I feel like I won't truly be cool unless I own whatever type of bag is being advertised not-so-subtly as the Spring 2011 trend. 
I won't pretend that I don't follow fashion, I find it endlessly intriguing, especially it's psychological effects, but I wear what I like, whether it's "in" or not. 

Maybe it's not such a bad idea to be a little "hipster" and stop letting other opinions affect our own. Some people are really good at this from the get-go, but me, not so much. It takes practice. 

It takes being insulted, coming home and crying about it, but then going out wearing the same thing anyway because YOU like it. 

I guess it's kind of fitting that the ones doing the labeling, the "anti-hipsters", are the people who are  judging these bars. The hipsters probably don't really care and will continue to go where they like anyway.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hello. I am Me.

I can't be anyone else, because I've never known otherwise. Yes, I have my flaws, well I'm human in that sense. We all say or do stupid things to try and impress the people that we are impressed by. It's a game for some people, schmoozing their way to the top just to feel . . . what? Important? Maybe.

I'm not the smartest girl, but I'm proud of what I know. I'm proud that I read at least one article about the world a day, and I'm proud that I remember most of the books I read in high school. I don't know everything, but there are some things I know a lot about. I might be ditzy, but some people would say that makes me fun. 

I'm not the prettiest girl, but I love how I look. I love how my eyes are huge and that they are blue and match most of my favorite clothes. I love that I can wear my hair long and look romantic, or wear it short and look sophisticated. I love my legs, which are thin at the calf but attached to strong thighs from dance and soccer. 

I may not have the best singing voice, but I love that i can carry a tune. I love that I LOVE to sing and that music can calm and relax me or bring energy into my veins. 

I may not be a fashion expert, but I love that I know how to look put together. I love making outfits and getting complimented on them, but I really love giving advice to other people and helping them make outfits and helping them get complimented. It feels really good when someone notices that you look nice, because you tried so hard to look nice. It's not fake to give a compliment, it's just recognizing that someone took some time on their appearance and they care about themselves.

Some people may have a distaste for my personality, but you can't please everyone and you meet a lot of people in life. When the majority of these people think you're awesome, a lot of them will think you're annoying. But distaste sometimes comes from jealousy, something I try to overcome, because jealously is a wasted emotion. Instead of wishing you were someone else, or could be like someone else, try improving yourself into your own best friend. Drop jealously when you feel it and realize that the person you're jealous of most likely doesn't know it and isn't trying to make you feel that way, they are just living their life and not caring, something we should all strive to do.

I'm like everyone around me. On most days, I love who I am, but on some days I'm disappointed in myself. Sometimes this can feel like I don't really like me, but it's just a result of negative feelings running rampant. 

I listen to a fun or cheesy song to make myself feel better. Or sometimes I treat myself to dessert since i usually pass it up. 

Let's try to banish the "I'm so fat," talk because that doesn't make us feel better, and it makes  the people around us think we are self-absorbed. I do it all the time, and it's just not a nice thing to say to the body that grew up with me and the body that takes me to work, and class. This is the body that allows me to dance when I want to, to jump, to sing. This is the only body I'll ever have, so I better get used to it. I can improve it, but it will always have the same build. In my life I will gain weight, and I will lose weight. I will be pregnant, and then I won't again. I will get old. I will get wrinkles. But aging is inevitable and there are ways to stay beautiful when our youth isn't our primary aspect of ourselves anymore. 

I am Me. You are you. And I think it's really amazing how different we all are, but that we can  find things about ourselves that are almost identical.

I believe in telling people when they influence you. I believe a compliment is genuine if you really just want it to make someone feel good about themselves. And I believe that most people are too preoccupied in what's going on in their own lives than to criticize what you do in yours. 

I love fashion, but the clothes in my closet cost money. And money is something I am not in an abundance of. So I shop my closet. And I try to create with what I've got. 

I've realized that maybe we really would all be better off making the same amount of money, or not using money at all. We should care about the well fare of all people. Maybe the native american tribes had it right. Or maybe it's human nature to want more and more. I know I find myself wanting more sometimes, and I don't like it. I don't want to be that way. 

You need to be grateful of what you have before you can really appreciate anything more you might achieve.