Mean Girls

Why are girls so mean to other girls? I know, I know, I’m asking an ancient question that many have tried to answer. I don’t have the answer either. I do however, have experiences.

I was in the fifth grade. Fifth grade is an interesting time for a young person. It’s about that time, for some girls, to start wearing bras and maxi pads– which means stinky body odor and oily skin. If you know me personally, I am not always the most socially savvy person on the block, in fact I have some idiosyncrasies that make me a bit awkward (which my hubby finds absolutely adorable, thank you very much). Although, when I was younger it was waaaaaay worse. I tried very, very hard to fit in with the cool kids, and well, it was very hard to fit in with them when you are a bit of a dork. The reality of the situation, as I remember it, we were not very nice to each other, and because of my special powers of clumsiness, timidity, and trying to be someone I wasn’t,  the other girls didn’t necessarily want much to do with me.

The one thing I wanted to do was be a cheerleader. All the cool girls were doing it, and I didn’t want to be left out. Our school use to have classroom teams for basketball, so that meant classroom cheerleaders for each team. It was all strictly voluntary from our school staff, and the parents. Parents would volunteer to coach the team and direct the cheer team. There would be a mom or grandma that would volunteer their time and resources to sew the cheerleader outfits. IT WAS A HUGE DEAL!

So one day my fifth grade teacher announced that it was that time to sign up for basketball and cheerleading. So all the cool girls lined up and signed up to be in the cheer squad. I rose up from my seat, walked up to the sign up sheet and signed my name to be a part of the squad. One girl stood by me, looked at me and asked, “You are going to be a cheerleader?” I smiled, and announced, “Yup!” with all the excitement it a fifth grader can conjure up. She stared at me, sighed and announced pretentiously, “If you are going to be a cheerleader, then I am not going to be a cheerleader,” and scratched her name off the list. Then her little friend next to her said, “If she isn’t going to be a cheerleader, then I’m not either!” One by one all the girls came up and scratched their names off the list and decided to play basketball instead.

Now of course I was hurt, sad and angry. In fact, I probably would have gone home crying, but for some reason I didn’t want that little bitch to get the best of me. So I kept my name on the list and told my teacher I was still going to be a cheerleader. The next day one other girl decided to join me. So we cheered, us two, and when she couldn’t make a game, I cheered by myself and vice versa. We even received a nice little plaque from our school.

After that year, I decided to not cheer ever again.

Instead I  decided to play basketball.

I didn’t join to spite these girls, who happen to stick with basketball, I joined because I truly had a love for the game. My oldest cousin was a star athlete at the high school, and my grandparents would take me to watch her play, after that I wanted to be just like her.

The girls of course did not want me to be a part of their team. So I ate alone during our away games, I sat alone on the bus, and the worst was being teased for the type of clothes I wore. My folks could not afford the name brand shoes or clothing they were accustomed to. So they all decided it would be great idea to show team solidarity by purchasing the same basketball shoes called Jordans. Jordans were the hot commodity during that time. They were also very expensive. I begged my dad to buy me a pair. It wasn’t going to happen, so in compromise he bought me a pair of Nike’s. As nice as that sounds, he bought them TWO SIZES too big! I think he thought I was going to grow to be six feet tall or something, and didn’t want to have to keep buying me shoes so he bought them in hopes I could wear them til’ I graduated. At least he tried right?

When I came out of the locker room wearing those shoes, I looked like a fucking clown wearing those huge red clown shoes! And every time I ran I kept tripping over myself, (you try running with shoes two sizes too big) so my dad bought me these enormous knee pads for me to keep my knees safe. So naturally the girls had a field day. “Nice shoes you got there, skelator!” Skelator was the name they gave me because I was also skinny like a skeleton. Looking back, I really did look ridiculous! Luckily one of the girls let me borrow a pair of her old shoes that fit much better.

They tried very hard to get me to quit.

The friends I did have even told me I should quit.

I wasn’t quitting.

So I played all the way through high school. I wasn’t the best, in fact I discovered I was better at Track and Field, but it kept me out of  trouble.

So why are girls so mean to other girls? I’m sure there are lots of reasons, but in the end it doesn’t matter.

Here’s a little story that made all that suffering worth it.

I needed a ride home from practice one evening, so one of the girls offered me a ride. She was one of the girls who participated in the teasing back in Junior High.  I didn’t live too far from the High School so it wasn’t a long ride.

As we started to my house, she lowered the music in her jeep, and proceeded to tell me this, “You know Roxanne, I’m really proud of you that you never gave up. Sometimes people influence you in ways that are not always nice, and I’m so happy to see that you didn’t quit. It really inspired me and I hope you can forgive me.”

Doesn’t that make you smile?

Yes, girls are mean to each other, but we are also great to each other. Did you notice how there was always at least one girl who would show some benevolence?

I wish I could say that bullying is no longer a part of a child’s life, but unfortunately, it’s becoming worse and worse. I wish I had the solution and who wants to endure years of teasing and isolation?

However, I don’t think it’s just an adolescent problem. Maybe they learn it from the world around them?

The better question is– Why are we so mean to each other?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday! A Talk about Leadership

I sponsor a Leadership Club for the school I work. We meet once a week and I am always trying to find engaging, interactive activities for them to learn about leadership. What’s funny about me sponsoring this club is that I don’t consider myself much of leader- that is until I had someone very special come in to talk these kids about the real meaning of leadership.

My sister married a charismatic, intelligent, athletic, and successful man. I knew my students would benefit from his stories and inspirational talks. He’s one of those guys who always seems to have a smile on his face and finds the best in everything- a natural leader.

So it was only natural to ask him to come and talk about what it means to be a leader and to share some personal stories to these kids.

Let’s just say the kids didn’t know what hit them. They laughed, they thought hard, and they learned a lot.

He began his talk with singing “Happy Birthday.” When he burst into song, they were genuinely confused. When he asked them why he sang them Happy Birthday, they couldn’t answer.  He asked if they believed that it was in fact their birthday. They of course were skeptical. He explained that since we receive gifts on our birthdays and the mere fact everyday is a gift, thus making everyday our official birthday.

They smiled, thought about it and realized that any day can be a day of re-birth. Or at least that is what I thought about– What does being born really mean?

Growing up birthdays were always a time of excitement, anxiety, and sometimes trauma. It’s strange how certain days can cause so many uninviting feelings. As I get older the less excited I become- I don’t want to be reminded of my mortality.

What struck out the most for me, however, was that a person is never just born once. Finding the good in the bad is a type of re-birth. Finding a new perspective that allows liberation from oppressing, negative thoughts is another kind of re-birth. Moving on from a bad break-up– another re-birth. Forgiving someone when it would be easier to hold a grudge– is being born again.

Everyday can be a birthday- a day to celebrate the wholly, worthy human being that we all are.

What a neat concept to hand off to the kids right? How can one be a leader if they don’t see the gift in themselves? How does one lead others in the right direction if they don’t know how special they are? Well played my brother-in-law.

So Happy Birthday my friends! Celebrate you!

 

Which Side to Stand?

The first time I got married I was 19 years young. Six months after the divorce I got pregnant. The law forbade me from drinking alcohol since I wasn’t 21 yet, but having a baby was acceptable. Divorced, unmarried with only a high school diploma under my belt. I became another statistic- a young uneducated girl who would have to use government subsidies in order to survive.

I stared at the pregnancy test that whispered I was expecting. I panicked. I worried. I cried. I was lost. I was attending college at the time so I was able to go to the Medical Center to seek help and confirm what the pregnancy test had already revealed. The man in the white coat walked into the room where I was sitting and waiting. It was a long wait. He told me I was pregnant. He then proceeded to offer me the options I had. He asked me what I wanted to do. I didn’t know. He said I had a limited time to decide. So I left. I talked to the father about the situation, and decided to keep the baby.

I am so grateful that I chose to keep her.  I am also grateful that I had options. Those options gave me hope and helped me make a decision. I was in a safe environment with no judgement and with support with whatever I had decided.

Today there is a great division among us women- a division of whether we are Pro-choice or Pro-life. It’s a touchy topic and a hot one. We all have our opinions about the matter and we are all entitled to our opinions. It is unfortunate how our zealous beliefs can cause us to be radical and fanatic about one side of the issue. It is unfortunate that we have drawn a line in the sand and said it is this side or you are wrong.

I don’t typically talk about controversial issues or be outspoken about my beliefs, but yesterday’s March and the inauguration of the new President has me thinking about these issues. I could be wrong and a fool for what I am about to say, but I’d like to take a few minutes and talk about this issue.

The issue for me is not a simple binary choice. I don’t think each side is equal. I don’t go around proclaiming I am Pro-life or Pro-choice because I don’t know where I fit. Abortion in itself is a complicated social phenomena where many sociological and moral pressures are in play. With that said, I would be on the Pro-life side. However, until our society, our government and our religious entities faces up to the complexity of those cross-pressures as well as confronting how it is contributing to the problem, I could be ambivalent about being pro-life.

Here’s the crux of the matter for me, the moral dilemma that we should all ponder and look closely to. We shouldn’t be so quick to decide for other women what is best, when we have no idea the circumstances of which she faces. I agree that we have a civic responsibility to vote against violence and crime. Yet, in order to keep peace and justice in our society our police officers must carry guns. The irony behind this is that the government very well knows that in order to enforce peace is to use violence.

We don’t live in a world of black and white. We live in a world of diverse colors. The world in which we reside is ugly and scary. Sometimes it takes a while for some of us women to get our shit together- it took me a long time. Our society tells us that our power comes from our sexuality. I was sexualized at a very young age and not knowing any better I adopted the belief that the way I looked mattered way more than my character. I adopted the belief that in order to receive love from a man I must sleep with him. How many other women in this world believe the same kind of things? How many women in this world use sex in order to feed their children? How many women in this world use sex in order to pay for their drugs? How many women in this world have no business being a parent?

It is unfair for Pro-life believers to push their agenda on these women and demand that it be illegal for them to terminate their pregnancies. There are many other factors that make me uncomfortable in making abortion illegal.

Her name was Victoria. A ten year old little girl who was brutally murdered and raped. Her own mother solicited her to men so that she may get some gratification from it. Any parent who is capable of such a horrific crime has no business being a parent. In my honest opinion, it would have been better if Victoria was never born so that she wouldn’t have to go through such a nightmare. I can’t even imagine my children going through something like that. And that is the point I am trying to make.

If Pro-lifers are adamant about making abortion illegal than they have an obligation and a responsibility to the one woman who they are forcing to have the child- an obligation to educate her and her baby,  a responsibility to her financially, to give her high quality health care, nutrition and no judgement, OR to adopt her baby. If a Pro-lifer stands with a sign and demands that this woman keep her baby and then goes home and does nothing else, is to promote and contribute to the problems our society faces. Isn’t it ironic how we feel so ethical when we stand up for something like abolishing abortion, yet vote against government subsidies, quality healthcare for all, and birth control! To give no thought about the circumstances of which a woman must face if abortion is her decision. To contemplate that maybe there are times when abortion is necessary.

It’s easy to judge from our own perspectives and demand that others believe how we believe.  I am hesitant to proclaim I am Pro-life for these reasons. In fact I prefer the word “choice.” Choice doesn’t mean murder, it means life. Choice means compassion. Choice means no judgment. We as a sisterhood need to be more understanding or at least listen to the other side. I wonder if we who are zealous about our beliefs could sit down and listen to one another, if we would find that we all agree that both sides are about life. We all want a world that is better, safer and more caring than what we have been experiencing.

I am grateful 17 years ago that I had a choice. That choice was mine alone. I was fortunate enough to get my shit together and I have three healthy, beautiful children. Some women are not so lucky.  Sometimes children are born into an inhospitable world, a world created by Pro-lifers.

Let the debate begin.

Looks like George Carlin said it better than I did.

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The Future is Spotless

Just read this: “No matter how spoiled the past may have been, our future is spotless.”

I can’t even begin to explain how much this means to me. I have struggled with shame, guilt and depression about my past– all that wasted time– so many opportunities lost– so much pain–

This blog is a huge part of letting go of the past. Looking at it with a new perspective. The perspective that it no longer has the power to blot out the possibilities of the future. To view the past with lessons learned, levity, and wisdom- not guilt, shame or pain.

Perspective is powerful- yet so limited.

To have the perspective that every day is new- that the future is in fact spotless and that I deserve to have peace, love and hope, as does every child of God.

The memories I write here are no longer hidden in shame, rather they are a part of me that shows the strength, courage, and love of a family, and how those entities are more powerful in the end.

Life will never be easy, or exactly as I would want it, I am learning every day that accepting what is and focusing on the here and now is what keeps me smiling and striving to be better than I was yesterday.

Let’s live this life well.

MLK Day

I love this man! I wish we had more men like him in this world. I sometimes wonder what the hell is wrong with us in that we seem to be back sliding in making this world a better and safer place, or at least it seems that way. All day long on my Facebook feed I saw one quote after another spoken by MLK. It’s great to see so many people believe in his fight and his wisdom …and yet to practice such noble ways- that’s not so easy.

It’s easy to post glittering generalities and say we believe in having a world that MLK dreamed of- and yet racism is still a problem. I’m scared, no frightened and confused that we elected a President who doesn’t hold to these values and doesn’t seem to care about the minorities of our country. The truth is, I’m not scared or confused of him, I’m scared and confused of the people who voted him in.

I suppose I didn’t post anything on my Facebook or Instagram about MLK  because I’m tired of hearing and talking about changing this world, and then continue to live my life as a moderate- one who prefers to sit back and do nothing in times of adversity.  I shrug my shoulders in grief and say a quick prayer and move on.

As MLK said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” I do believe he would be gravely disappointed in us.

 

How to Save the World

Some of us have a little bit of “I want to save the world” complex.  I have spent most of my twenties thinking and believing it was a mission of mine to spread the good news and save others from their eternal doom. Yeah, I was arrogant and naive. I had to find out the hard way that it is impossible to save the world, at least it is impossible for one person to save the world. Who was I to think that a certain person needed saving? Who was I to judge another when I was drowning in my own crap.

So a funny thing happened. I realized that it isn’t a bad thing to have a “I want to save the world” complex.  I realized that it is okay if I save only one person, and it’s okay if that person is me.

And maybe, just maybe by saving myself, the world changes.

 

Twinkies and the Art of Perfection

Who doesn’t enjoy a yellow spongy creamed filled treat? Twinkies were my most favorite treat growing up. That, and other nutritious lacking, sugar packed treat. I had and still have a major sweet tooth. The Twinkie, however, not only satisfied the sweet tooth in me, it had my soul. My grandmother (whom I lived with growing up, you might want to read “The Mystery of My Sister’s Missing Teeth,”  to get a bit of background) would hide the box of Twinkies from both me and my sister. What my grandmother did not realize was that I knew where she hid them. All I had to do was drag a kitchen chair to the kitchen pantry, climb up and behind the cereal box was the beautiful and shiny box of Twinkies. I could hear the angels in heaven sing and play their harps every time I saw that box in all it’s glory. Now don’t worry, I of course would only sneak the Twinkies when my grandmother wasn’t home.

Now if you are too lazy to go read the The Missing Teeth story, here is a quick synopsis. My sister and I grew up with my grandparents, not as in visiting them every weekend, we lived them. So what about our parents? They lived with us too. I guess when my parents hooked up and nine months later when I came into this crazy world, they just kinda stayed put with my dad’s parents. A year and half later my sister came into this crazy world. What you should understand is that it was a GOOD THING that my parents never ventured off on their own, never flew the coop, never set their own path or tasted the sweetness of independence… Oh how thankful we are that they stayed and built a little addition to my grandparents house. If not for my grandparents around, I don’t think my sister and I would have survived-  I am not exaggerating.

My parents loved to party! My dad enjoyed getting drunk and getting high. My mom- well lets just say what my dad does, she does. So while my parents were off partying my sister and I were left home with my grandparents. And while my parents were nursing their hangovers, and while my mom worked to support their habit, my grandparents took the responsibility of taking care of us. Thank you grandparents!! My sis and I will forever be indebted and grateful!

So with that said, my grandparents were not exactly the ideal care takers either- but they did their very best and heck, the idea of raising little children again after you have done your part- well that says a lot. So how does Twinkies play a role in this little story?

Imagine a five and four year old being left home alone (yes, we were left home alone a lot, I will be writing more about that later) and knowing where the Twinkies are hidden, and wanting to satisfy our craving for such a treat, I took it upon myself to grab a couple of Twinkies from its very well hidden place. I COULDN’T WAIT!!!  All that hard work of dragging the chair and placing everything back where it belonged so that I wouldn’t be caught. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into that yellowy spongey dessert- the fruit of my labor. Now as you may very well know, Twinkies come in pairs. So when I opened the clear plastic wrap of the Twinkies I noticed that one of them was a bit cracked. Right down the middle was the grand-canyon of cracks. This Twinkie was unworthy. It was unfit and therefore it shall be given to my little sister. So I ran to the living room and handed her the broken Twinkie.

DO NOT EVER GIVE MY SISTER A BROKEN TWINKIE!!!

That little ungrateful brat took that Twinkie threw it across the room like she was some sort of Major League Pitcher and started screaming and crying! I panicked. So I thought if I gave her my perfect Twinkie she would shut her mouth and all would be right in the world. I was wrong. She took my perfect Twinkie and crumbled it in her hand and threw the million pieces onto the floor. She stood there crying and I stood there memorized. There were Twinkies all over my grandmother’s fuckin living room floor. I knew we would get spanked for this- I knew because before my grandma and grandpa, better known as Pita, left for their errand, she would hang a leather belt on the side of the doorway into the living room. She pointed to that sucker and said, in Spanish, “BE GOOD! Or else!”

And just so we are clear- if one of us got in trouble, both of us got spanked. So there is my little sister screaming her little head off, because she got the broken Twinkie, and I on the other hand, trying my very best to remedy the situation so that we can avoid the ever evil spanking, kneeled on the floor and started stuffing those Twinkies down my mouth.

Guess who shows up while I am still trying to clean up the mess? Yup. My Grandma. I think this is why I never really learned Spanish, because these Spanish words were coming out of her mouth and they didn’t sound very nice- so I think I subconsciously blocked out the ability to learn Spanish that day. Did we get our spankings that day? I don’t remember. I may have possibly blocked that out too.

I don’t think I ever snuck Twinkies out from the pantry again- or I think my Grandma probably found a much better hiding place. Well played Grandma.

I think I am going to go have a Twinkie now. Treat yourselves to something sweet once in awhile friends. Life is too short.

Love.  Please ignore how my underwear is showing and my fly being open. My little sister has always been cooler than me.

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