Thank them each day

We had a great day celebrating dad’s birthday and catching up! I wish I had the opportunity to do this more; maybe one day we’ll all be close to each other (distance-wise, of course ha ha).

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Forget dolls, give me a boob job

Little ones have more to worry about than how to share their favorite toy. 

I’m always impressed when I am confronted with a question that stumps me from a small human. But I don’t particularly enjoy answering the tough questions. Especially when they have to do with body image or confidence. It’s a delicate subject, and parents/guardians assume the role of values clarifier.

I have worked and volunteered at camps with younger students, taught tennis lessons to 4 year olds, babysat any age range you can think of, etc. My first priority is to protect any child that is under my supervision. That means protection from the obvious: bodily harm, the sun, eating things off the floor, you name it. I have noticed that something else is usually nagging at kids now, in 2013, other than the fact that they can’t dance on a countertop or touch a hot stove.

Children—girls especially—are concerned about their outward appearance. I don’t remember being genuinely concerned about my appearance until I was in fifth or sixth grade. That’s when things were about to get real…aka puberty. I was a serious tomboy who refused to wear anything other than a skort so I could play football with the boys on Boot Hill. I learned several life lessons on that hill, so I’m glad I made that executive decision at such a young age. I digress.

It doesn’t necessarily concern me that young girls are aware of their bodies. This is a great thing and will prove advantageous one day. What I’m blown away by is the fact that so many elementary aged girls are disappointed with their weight. I suppose this is inevitable considering the amount of women we see fully dressed on-screen (big or small) and in other traditional media are few and far between. Hell, even I blush at Victoria’s Secret commercials sometimes.

I’ve watched current Disney Channel shows by force, and this is the pattern I’ve noticed: the “young girl” playing the lead role is usually, in real life, 17 or 18. She is witty, but it’s only because she is taking shots at other actors/actresses on the show. She is constantly searching for her next beau, who will make her happy. Her friends are usually not as “attractive” as her, by societal standards. Why would they be? They’re not the lead role. She is struggling between being a rebel and following the rules, which leads to her deceiving her parents. Blah, blah, blah. I have built up disdain for these shows. The acting is pretty terrible, the plot lines are non-existent, and everyone on the show looks PERFECT 100% of the time.

Where are the role models? Where is the strong girl who doesn’t care if she has the perfect outfit on? Why can’t kids just be kids for as long as possible then join the rest of the cranky world when they’re old enough to go to PG-13 movies?

If I could give advice to every little girl about growing up, this is what I would say:

  1. It’s cool to be smart
  2. Right now it doesn’t seem like being in charge of a bunch of boys is that much fun, but believe me it is
  3. You are worth more than your makeup
  4. You are also worth more than the tears you cried after a school dance (I’ve been there.)
  5. You have the ability to do incredible things when you least expect yourself to
  6. If you don’t keep your head up, no one else is going to hold it up for you
  7. Your parents can’t fight all of your battles
  8. Friends come and go
  9. Find your niche—hopefully it’s a productive one

I’m not a parent, so I’ll accept any and all criticism. Hopefully, if I am blessed to parent children, this blog post will come in handy.

Thank goodness for nostalgia

This might get sappy. 

I was fortunate enought to have an epiphany in 2009 at the ripe age of 17. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted out of life. I was self-conscious, a little awkward and second guessed most things that came out of my mouth. I applied for several camps to attend–mainly leadership based–during the summer of 2009.

I was selected as an alternate for The Mississippi Governor’s School two weeks or so before the session began. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that three weeks out of the summer before my senior year was a lot to sacrifice. Little did I know the impact those short three weeks would have on my happiness, my character and my aspirations.

Here’s a brief timeline of my MGS tenure:

  • 2009 – I was selected as a scholar
  • 2010 – I was selected as a Resident Assistant in Training
  • 2011 – I was selected as a Resident Assistant for my very own wing of amazing ladies!
  • 2012 – I was selected as the MGS intern and as a Leadership Facilitator

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Through my various experiences and roles within this program, I realized a few things. Hence, my cardinal rules of MGS:

  1. You have to take chances…if you’re comfortable all of the time, you’re not doing life right 
  2. There will be tears-happy ones, sad ones, angry ones, ones of self-doubt
  3. Summer camp will always be a romantic setting, and you will fall in love
  4. The people who devote a few weeks out of their life to something as special as this program are some of the greatest people on earth
  5. You will meet your best friends (who you WILL stay in touch with) because of this program
  6. Leadership is about so much more than taking personality tests and facilitating icebreakers; I learned this through experiences with people who were 4 years younger than me
  7. Lessons will be learned that cannot be expressed through mere words, so I won’t even attempt to do so
  8. Columbus, Mississippi is one of the hottest places on earth
  9. Laugh with everyone you can, even if you get flustered and tired
  10. Express exactly how you feel exactly when you feel it

Gov School granted me confidence in so many ways. I can’t express enough accolades for the program nor can I affirm the people I have met through it enough. I have met my best friends, my mentors, and built a support system because of MGS. I hope the scholars of 2013 leave with the same experience.

The problem with social media

All that glitters is not gold. 

This is a paragraph devoted to what “grinds my gears.” Picture this: you’re out with a friend or significant other and you notice that a couple sits down at the table next to you. Immediately, both take out their phones and find more interest in an inanimate bright screen than the person sitting across from them. It’s sad to witness, honestly. In reality, this scenario is a telltale sign of what’s to come or worse–what’s already here.

The human species has thrived through interaction. Oral history was necessary to create cultures and maintain lifestyles. We have evolved drastically, sure, but interpersonal relationships are still critical to society. I can’t imagine texting my Paw Paw Rufus. He gets frustrated when someone calls on a cell phone, for goodness sake. If I want to speak to him, I drive or walk to his house, sit down at his dining room table and have a face-to-face conversation. These are the memories I will carry with me forever, not the ones I post on Facebook because I’m bored.

I understand the importance of social media. My degree focuses specifically on strategies, research, establishment, etc. I learn each day about how companies use SoMe to influence audiences and encourage loyalty. I get excited when I learn about a newly released platform and want to create an account as soon as I can open another tab. I become consumed with books about word of mouth, crisis communication and how everything is now influenced by the average Joe through personal accounts.

Even with the infinite love I have for my personal accounts, I have tried purging the virtual reality of SoMe from my life on a few occasions. It becomes overwhelming to keep up with each platform and post interesting content that my connections actually care about. Facebook, Twitter and other accounts provide instant gratification through the amount of likes and retweets…but those numbers can’t hold a candle to a story Paw Paw Rufus tells me about when he was learning how to two-step.

What we need to do is take more time to talk to people, regardless of who they are. We need to talk to the person next to us at the doctor’s office or in class. We need to get back to the mentality of making someone’s day a little better by just asking how they are. If we’re only here for such a short amount of time, why don’t we use every spare moment to foster more positive relationships–in the real world?

My Mom

Sentiments abound, folks.

My mom is a badass. As I was growing up, I never really understood why she was so intense all the time. Sure, she had fun but it wasn’t a top priority. You see, she worked in a male-dominated field. When she came home from work, she would still carry the weight on her shoulders. I could tell by age 5 that her job was stressful.

I’ve always believed that she walked around her office and told people what to do. Now I see, though, that her position was more critical than that. She was able to negotiate through scenario after scenario and turn the worst of enemies into the best of friends. She would always say to me growing up, “You’re lucky that you can take classes like Trigonometry. We girls had to take typewriting and home economics.” It never resonated until I entered a university setting.

I love the fact that mama Sharon is sarcastic, cusses like a sailor, treats my friends like her friends and has insight about everything I have questions about. I can’t imagine not having her to confide in on a daily basis. When something good, bad, whatever, takes place in my life she is the first person I think of to tell. I appreciate her more than she will ever know, even if she doesn’t think it’s  safe to follow my passion for activism in different countries around the world.

I guess, in reality, my ultimate goal when I was younger was to make her proud. I recognize it now without any sort of affirmation.