Last week I attended an annual meeting for 360 Youth Services. To kick off our all day planning for our Board of Directors, we were shown a movie about bullying. Surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis. With the advancement of technology, online bullying has skyrocketed and we have unfortunately seen some of the painful outcome of bullying. As I watched the movie, it took me back to junior high school. It was an incredibly painful time but in retrospect, thanks to a strong circle of family and friends, it provided a great life lesson.
I’ll never forget walking in to gym class for my first day at a new school, in a new state, a new city and no friends. 7th grade at a school in Florida that was experimenting with open classrooms. Rooms were divided by chalkboards only, and hallways and restrooms had no ceilings. I wonder what Einstein came up with that great idea, it rains in Florida. But that was the least of my worries.
The 2nd period bell rang and I was off to m y first P.E. class. In 7th grade, it meant changing in front of other girls (I was raised Catholic, need I say more?) So, it’s bad enough to be awkward, chestless and sporting a uni-brow in a girls locker room, but to be new – painful. Little did I know it would get worse.
I hadn’t yet grown in to my over sized brown eyes when someone across the locker room said, “Hey big eyes, what are you staring at?” The entire locker room of girls looked at me. I came back with a zinger, “Uh, nothing.” She walked over to m e (mind you, I’m a lover not a fighter) and said, “Keep those big eyes to yourself. I catch you looking around again and those eyes will be shut so no one can see how ugly they are.” Nice gal, eh? Now here’s the interesting thing. She wasn’t much bigger than I was, but mean, oh was she mean. I didn’t look at that girl for the rest of the year for fear of losing my sight.
I’m telling you this story because perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation either personally or with a child, neighbor, friend. One of the things that I know now is that pain triggers knowledge. Though I’d much rather learn through pleasure, some of my most powerful lessons in life have come from painful experiences. And what I learned from that particular experience is how important it is to extend kindness to others, and stand up for those who can’t find their voice. From that locker room experience, empathy grew.
To this day I will never forget that girls face. From time to time I wonder where she is and what ever happened in her life that made her so angry, so ruthless. My hope is that it was a phase for h er and she is doing work with the Dalai Lama somewhere. O.K. not likely, but I do hope that if she had children, she raised them with kindness and understanding versus anger and ignorance.
As a kid, sometimes you feel so isolated, so alone and when just one person comes to your defense, somehow the world becomes less scary. When I hear about bullying at school, FB and twitter I don’t know how the world has become so ugly, so disconnected from the human heart. Is it simply because there’s more people in the world and ugliness has become acceptable? (Political ads? Really?) Or is it that writing words somehow exempts them from being real. “I didn’t mean it, I was just kidding…” Words written, texted or said can be as painful as a punch in the stomach, a slap across the face.
Each and every day, it’s my goal to extend kindness and generosity. It’s my hope that if someone is in a situation where they need a voice to help them, I can pipe in. With less physical contact and face to face interaction due to technology, it’s more important than ever to positively reach out and touch someone. If I knew where that girl was, I just might reach out and thank her for helping me to become who I am today, big eyes and all.
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it!
By Nicki On August 14, 2012 No Comments
This past week we celebrated my youngest child’s 21st birthday. The event was incredibly special, and someone even commented, “Wow, if this is her 21st birthday, I can’t wait to see what her wedding will be like!”
Turning 21 is sort of a mixed bag. It’s the reminder that all the really big times in your life have passed, becoming a teenager, getting a drivers license and becoming eligible to vote. Then 21 arrives and it’s the first legal drink. Although the focus may be on that first legal drink, I think it’s much more than that. As I watched my daughter make her way through the evening, I sensed she realized the incredible opportunities that lie ahead, as well as the harsh reality that the journey to adulthood is just beginning.
For many, turning 21 may be the first “legal” drink, but likely not the first. So when that 21st birthday comes around, is the celebration really about getting an alcoholic beverage with complete permission? Or is it the fact that the first legal drink denotes the end of an era? Perhaps it’s both. It’s acknowledging and toasting to the end of college, and accepting that real world responsibility is just a stone’s throw away.
I see that first legal drink as much more than getting a legal drunk on, it seems to signify the last “hurrah” before getting down to business and seriously addressing, “What’s next?”
The evening of my daughter’s birthday, I couldn’t help but admire who she has become, and what amazing potential she has. For her, she may be feeling disappointment for all the college memories she’ll be leaving behind, as well as the worries about that first job, apartment, and real life adult responsibility. For my daughter and her older brothers, turning 21 was likely a time of introspection and melancholy. Funny, it seems to be the same for me.
By Nicki On August 7, 2012 No Comments
Though the Olympics play a rather large role in getting people active again, it’s a bit of a paradox when these average every day folks see Olympians touting their devotion to fast-food restaurants and junk food, primarily McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. These companies are the proud Olympic Partners.
Wait, let’s see if I’m getting this right, the most stellar physical athletes in the world claim that junk food is their go-to food when training and performing? I’m not buying it, but unfortunately plenty of other people will because, “Heck, if it’s good enough for Olympic athletes, it’s good enough for me!”
In my opinion, there’s a sense of responsibility on behalf of the Olympics and the athletes. Remember the scuttlebutt over American Olympic uniforms being made in China? People were aghast. Doesn’t the fact that hamburgers, fries and soda are being condoned by athletes and the Olympics ruffle a few feathers, somewhere?
The athletes are doing their fair share of getting the junk food message into the living rooms of families watching the events. LeBron James, Loul Deng, Apollo Ono, Shaun Johnson and others are pitching foods that just don’t connect to their performance and physical fitness. It doesn’t make sense to me. Oh wait, I hear a “ching,ching” in the background- money. That’s right, that silly little thing that often trumps just about everything else, integrity, health of our country (which by the way has a huge obesity issue) and well, good old fashioned conscious.
Though we are incredibly proud of the performance these athletes have executed, the blatant promotion of “carbage” is somehow disheartening. I will say, Subway stays away from deep fried foods and does offer veggie sandwiches. But for the most part, junk food is NOT what allows these athletes to perform at such a high level. Basically, it’s false advertising.
Some will ask, “What’s the big deal with having junk food once in awhile?” Well, the fact is that there are those who understand moderation, but tell that to an 8 year old who loves the gymnasts and sees them promoting McDonald’s, suddenly that is what she’s going to clamor for. If he or she is lucky enough, she’ll have a parent that understands moderation. But for many others (remember the obesity issue I mentioned earlier?) not the case. Bottom line, it’s a mixed message, pure and simple.
I have to give kudos to Ryan Lochte, who obviously didn’t let the endorsement cash get to him. He gave up junk food two years ago. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard anyone praise his efforts not only from a physical fitness and health standpoint, but for someone who didn’t get sucked in by a multi-million dollar contract.
I’m certainly not a purist, but when it comes to inspiring the next generation of athletes, there is some responsibility that should be realized by the Olympics and the athletes. In my opinion, promoting fast-food restaurants and soda is no different than promoting Marlboro reds after a long workout. (Yes, junk food can contribute to cancer). LeBron, got a light?
Here’s to your health!
By Nicki On May 9, 2012 No Comments
I have had an interesting and blessed life, really. I know some people say “My life is blessed,” and it seems empty. I mean it. My life has been blessed because I’ve had the good fortune of having some incredible people in my life. My life has been interesting in that I was a product of “War of the Roses” long before Hollywood made it the norm.
It was in the early 70’s when normal marriages stayed together despite any arguments or differences within the unit, except for mine. Today, people treat marriage as a throw away. Easily tossed aside in search for a better one, and when that fails, it’s on to the next one.
My parents were born in the 30’s. They married young with a child on the way. However, they took a very difficult circumstance and made it work, unfortunately it was temporary. My Dad entered the service, became a medical professional, and his wife and 3 young children settled into an ideal life in the ‘burbs. The American Dream at it’s finest.
I was born in the early 60’s and don’t recall the death of JFK, Vietnam or the proliferation of drugs. While my parents were trying to figure out their own relationship, I was busy dreaming about marrying Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson, either one would do. But as financial success found it’s way into my family, emotionally and physically the American dream was falling apart. Honestly, I was oblivious as it was commonplace for me to fend for myself. I wanted for nothing, was extremely independent and found kindness and generosity in neighbors and family friends at a very young age.
Because of my parents misfortune and mismatched relationship, my 2 sisters and I were forced to figure out life, love and living normally, (whatever that was), on our own. I can’t speak for my sisters, but for me being on my own came easily. I suppose I was somewhat prepared. My folks spent so much time working to mend their marriage, which ultimately failed, they unknowingly forgot about the 3 people that relied on them to show them the way, heal the pains that life hands out and offer wisdom when the situation called for it. Because of that, I chose to find it elsewhere most often from compassionate women who willingly and graciously offered their guidance.
I’m not a terribly religious person, but I do believe that through faith, love and a belief in the God (seeds planted in Catholic School), the right people were placed in my life. I’ve had plenty of mothers without even knowing it, until now. Along life’s route, I knew it was my responsibility to find joy, love and a normal life on my own, through my choosing. I knew that I had an opportunity to either make a great life for myself or sit back and blame the world and my family for every mistake I would make, as well as never giving them credit for every joy I would and still continue to experience. But in truth, it was my myriad of Mom’s that helped me through the process.
My son’s friend has a tattoo that reads, “Create Your Own Luck.” Perhaps I did that as I look back on 50 years and consider myself quite lucky.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m thankful for the incredible “Mom’s” in my life that have gave me advice, unconditional love, support, motivation and consequences for every decision I’ve had to make.
One of those people was my Grandmother. An immigrant to the U.S. in 1922 and a widow in the 40’s, she created a life that was unbelievably rewarding. She asked for nothing and gave everything. She adored her granddaughters and never once overlooked an opportunity to tell us how much she loved us. I’m fortunate that my children had the opportunity to meet her. I also had two “Aunts” who though family friends by nature, were as much a blood relative to me as my real Aunts that I never had the opportunity to know. These women gave me the confidence and reassurance I needed to believe in not only who I was (around my teen years) but they helped me well in to my child rearing years, never missing a birthday or sharing their valuable time with me. Then there’s my Mother-in-law who defies every stereo type of a bad mother-in-law. I have always felt like her daughter. Then there is the surplus of neighbors, teachers, friends and writers that positively influenced my life in ways they’ll never know. That’s why when I think of Mother’s Day, I not only reflect on my own children, hoping I’ve been somewhat on the right track with them, but I also reflect on the many women who mothered and mentored me oblivious to their powerful impact.
Whether you have children or not, my guess is that at some point you have touched a life more deeply than you’ll ever realize. Mothering isn’t only about changing diapers, staying up until wee hours trying to hush a crying baby, it’s about reaching out a hand when few others will, it’s about kissing away pain that seems unending, it’s about giving a young woman the assurance that the world is her oyster. I believe that women have the ability to love fiercely, teach endlessly and live in a way that sets the stage for others to emulate, proudly and gratefully.
This Mother’s Day is for all women that strive to make a positive impact on the other women or young ladies in their life. May you realize the power you have to change the life of someone that quietly reaches out and is lucky enough to find your hand.
Happy Mother’s Day!