Donating To Goodwill is cleaning up and helping out

I love to shop.  I love clothes.  I know I’ve written before that I have a hard time finding cool clothing in my size, but one of my favorite things to  do is to head down to Goodwill and check out what I can find there.  I usually find something that I can add my own special twist to and make a great outfit.  But, I don’t only shop at Goodwill, I also donate to Goodwill.

The revenue from the sale of my donations helps fund job training and placement opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantages directly in my community. That’s cleaning with a purpose! It’s not just about cleaning up my room and donating stuff I don’t really use.  It’s so much more!

In my town, we’re in the middle of building a brand new bigger Goodwill. In fact, the Goodwill in our neighboring town is so popular that there is often nowhere to park!   I love that so many in my area are helping not only with local jobs, but by buying recycled items!

So, here’s a peek at some stuff I donated:

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  • 12 Shirts
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 Pair of leggings
  • 2 light Jackets
  • 4 tanks
  • 2 pair of shoes

And by using the Donations Impact Calculator, I can see that I’ve helped with 2.5 hours of on-the-job training!

impactgoodwill.jpgThese days, its so easy to buy, buy, buy new things because trends happen so fast. We all end up with so many things that we don’t know what to do with- well, donate them to Goodwill!  Not only will you be helping the earth, you’ll be helping people in your community with jobs and training.

What will you donate?


Every Body Is a Bathing Suit Body

It’s summer.   That means that school has ended. Graduations have happened.  The weather has gotten warmer, and things are more relaxed.  Than means time spent with friends outside at the park, at the pool, at the beach, lots of places.  It also means time for bathing suits and judgment.   Whether you are too fat or too skinny to fit the impossible ideal of what others deems as a “bathing suit body”, you can be ridiculed for how you look. Some people will say you shouldn’t be wearing a bathing suit and if you do,  you open yourself up to being shamed.  I say:

ENOUGH.

every Body Has A Bathing Suit Body

Every. single. body.  is a bathing suit body. EVERY ONE.

Got rolls? Thigh rub? A big stomach, flat stomach, no hips, big hips, big boobs, little boobs, one boob, no boobs, thin thighs, thick thighs, stretch marks, skinny legs, big butt, flat butt?   You still have a bathing suit body.

You have a body that houses a wonderful, amazing person who deserves to enjoy summer, no, life in whatever clothing you want to wear. Just like everyone else.  You deserve to NO LONGER hide yourself away from summer fun for fear of being seen in a bathing suit, and judged.

Can’t we just agree that everyone has a body….. and everyone can wear a bathing suit?   Can we agree to see people for the PERSON that they are, not an object to be judged?  I promise you,  your kids, friends, and loved ones want to spend time with YOU, and they are not thinking about what you look like in your bathing suit  They are too busy having a good time with you.

The pain is real. Judgment and shaming hurts. A lot.  I know. Last summer was the first summer in years that I’d even wear a bathing suit.    For years I hid behind long shorts, long tee shirts and  even in the house to avoid opening myself up to more judgment.  I never wore a bathing suit.  But that has stopped.  It wasn’t easy, but I made a promise to myself that I was going to love ME, and that included my body.   Sure, there are changes I want to make, but as it is, right now, right this very minute I promise to honor it and myself by skipping the shame and putting on my bathing suit, and joining in the fun.

It wasn’t easy, It isn’t easy. But, it’s important to Love The Skin You’re In.

Love the Skin You're InSo this summer let’s all skip the shaming and put in a bathing suit, ok?

 

The awesome cartoon was drawn for me by my pals Stephanie and Kelly. You have to check out their awesome cartoons about real life! 

Life Can Be Bright Again

4 Minutes.   What can you do in 4 minutes?

You can heat up a frozen pizza in the microwave. You can run to the bathroom during commercials watching a TV show.  You can maybe swap the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and start it.  It’s not enough time to empty the dishwasher. It’s also not enough time to watch a whole show, or to play a video game.

But, in 4 minutes,  13 teens in the US attempted suicide.   Think about that.

In the time that it took for you to make lunch, 13 teens reached their breaking point, and tried to kill themselves. Let that sink in.

4 minutes. 13 teens.

Sometimes it just takes ONE MINUTE. One minute to decided that you can’t handle the pain anymore before you make that move. I know. I tried.  When I had enough that I decided to die would be easier, less painful than living, it took just one minute.

It has taken years to get better.  It took MONTHS to decided to live. A YEAR to enjoying living again.  But, I got there. I am better.  With my Moms help, counseling and a lot of work, I decided to be brave and take a chance on being happy again.  I am HAPPY.  I was in a place where I thought that I could never ever climb out of, and yet, I did. Inch by inch, second by second, I climbed my out of the depths of despair to a place where life is GOOD again.   I had decided to #BeBrave.

Train wrote a song. “Give It All” that really brings it into perspective.  It’s a heartbreaking song, and the video, well, it broke my heart. Mainly because of how hard my Mom sobbed at the video.  She told me that she she thought, actually, she STILL thinks about how she would have dealt with the loss if I had succeeded.  I think about how hard it was to decide that life was worth living.  I also think about how THANKFUL I am.

“Hopeless with no faith that life can change and shine bright again”

That’s how I felt.  But I was WRONG. Life CAN change. It CAN be bright again.  That is why I share my story. This is why I teach people to be Brave. Because if you can just be brave for ONE MORE DAY,  it will change. It will get bright again.

“‘Give It All’ is an important song to me,” says Train front man Pat Monahan. “The song is about the deep losses in my life, as most of us have also experienced.” He continues, “When we approached SoulPancake about producing this project, they instantly got what we were trying to do. We all want to make this not just another music video, but one that can inspire and empower people. The dancers, Izzy and Ashleigh, are two teenagers who endure the struggles as millions of others their age.  It’s heartbreaking to think that so many will view their situation as hopeless with no faith that life can change and shine bright again. With the help of SoulPancake, we want to be a voice for those who are struggling, to those who have pressed through and those who are healing.”

Have faith. (3)I’ve been writing a lot lately about DancingMan Sean O’Brien and how powerful being able to dance, or NOT being able to dance can make you feel. The dancing in this video is amazing. Izzy and Ashleigh are quite simply,breathtaking.

Take a minute, please to watch the video. It’s worth even second of the 4 minutes that it lasts.  And think again, at the end, about the 13 kids that tried to die during those 4 minutes. Think about learning to #BeBrave and help stand up to bullying. Every single person who decides that they will Be More Than A Bystander can help save a life.  Like I say in my song, Brave, It’s will get better… if you just stay….. Brave.


A Letter to Dancing Man

Dear Sean,

You don’t know me, but I feel like we’re sort of friends. I know a lot more about you than you do about me. I’ve read your story. I even wrote about your story.  I’ve seen the photos. I  watched you dance with Megan Trainor on Today, then followed along closely on Twitter while you geared up for a fantastic party. I wished I were there. Even though I wasn’t able to be there, I danced along.

I have to be honest with you, Sean.  I’m not always comfortable dancing. After years of being beat down, it is still really hard for me to get up and dance in front of others.  I still feel judged. I know I am judged. But I screw up the courage and do it.  The night of your party,  I danced ALL NIGHT LONG  and borrowed my strength from you.  I was invited to the party. Even thought I wasn’t able to go, I was with you in spirit. I was at an Ed Sheeran concert and I danced ALL NIGHT LONG.  I thought of you, and what amazing things were happening. My whole family was dancing with you. Each of us know what it’s like to  want to JUST DANCE, but being ridiculed for it.

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I hope you realize how impactful this dance party was.  I’m pretty sure you do. You’re not just DancingMan, you’re Sean,and I’m sure, like me,you’ve lived through many, many times you’ve been bullied because of your weight. I’m sorry.  I’m sorry it happened, but I am SO  thankful to you that you answered the Twitter call, and decided to put yourself out there. I know from experience the pull to hide, to not acknowledge the pain, or to laugh it off as if it doesn’t bother you even as it burns a hole into your soul.  Thank you, for standing up for yourself, and ALL of us.

I  really hope that  Hope CassandraElyse and all the amazing ladies who decided to stand up for you and up TO those who fat-shamed you realize that they didn’t just stand up for YOU, but for SO MANY other.  Man, they know how to #BeBrave, for sure. The fact that they started the Dance Free Movement is incredible.

This was about you, but it was also about every single person. who has been made to feel unworthy. It was for every person who isn’t a size 2 or 6 or even a 16 that is told to sit down, back down, fade into the background  simply because their body isn’t what some one else deems attractive.  It was for every person  who  felt like they weren’t allowed  to dance as if it were a right reserved only for the thinner people.  Dancing is a right for everyone.

I loved seeing the photos of the party. I loved seeing you smile, the dance floor FILLED with people of all colors sizes, genders, style and become just a group of people CELEBRATING EACH OTHER.  That’s what a dance party should be about!

You are completely right when you say: Big-hearted-People-1.pngI wish this world would become a place where people are judge by who they are, not how they look.  If we can do that, I’m am sure we can help end bullying.  I think that the #DanceFree movement can catch on, If we all decided to #BeBrave and stand up for ALL of us and reclaim our right to dance, we can make it happen.


Distractred Driving- Just Don’t Do It

You know how parents tell you all kinds of things and they mean them, but maybe they don’t always live them, all the time? Well, my parents aren’t perfect.  They talk to us a lot about  things, like drugs, and who our friends are, and all kinds of important things. They preach to us ALL THE TIME not to text and drive. ALL THE TIME.   My Mom is pretty good about telling up to quiet down, or she’ll make my turn down my music if she’s trying to concentrate on her driving.

That is why I freaked out when one day while stopped at a light she grabbed her phone to check her messages.   One thing my Mom has told me about driving is that although it appears easy, you must always be alert and pay attention. Even at a light.  Because there is a chance that someone else is distracted and might hit you.  What you think might “just be a text” might not be.  Check out this video.

This video gave me chills.  Because it’s so right.  What if it’s not just a text?  What if it’s a moment that changes your or someone else life, forever?

What’s really cool is that video was made by a teen,  just like me.   Marlowe Lexvold a high school student from South Haven, Minnesota who made the video for Project Yellow Light.  Project Yellow Light is a national contest and scholarship program that asks students to create short videos teaching other students how dangerous it is to use mobile devices while driving.  Marlowe won the grand prize with  her video going on to become a Public Service Announcement along with a $5000 college schlorship.

There were  a bunch of winning videos. Go watch them. Then come back and tell me that you think driving distracted is ok.

Distracted driving kills! According to a 2013 NHTSA report, ten percent of all drivers aged 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. To help spread the students message about distracted driving, NHTSA, along with the Ad Council is turning  winning videos into public service advertisements, which will be distributed to more than 1,600 media outlets nationwide.

“Distracted driving is deadly and young drivers are most at risk, so we need to make sure they get the message,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “The Project Yellow Light contest, which uses peer-to-peer messaging, demonstrates how creative public awareness efforts can reduce distracted driving on our roads.”

Marlowe wasn’t the only winner. There were High School and College categories. High School Second Place went to Aneyza Clark of Dallas, Texas with a $2000 scholarship and third place to Ryan Robert Reid of Fairburn, Georgia with a $1000 scholarship. The college grand prize winners were brothers Sam and Wrenn Senser from South Bend, Nebraska, ($5000)  and second place  Lindsey Brown of Culver City, California, ($2000) and third place Tiago DeSouza of Hagerstown, Maryland. ($1000). All scholarships were provided by Mazda Motorsports. U-Haul will also provide both first place winners with up to $2,500 in moving expenses.

The thing is, studies have shown over and over again that distracted driving kills kids our ages. In Connecticut, where I live, even when I get my license, I’m not allowed to drive in a car with ANYONE ELSE, for at least 6 months unless it’s  my parents or someone over the age of 20 who has had their license for 4 years. There are restrictions after that, as well. I’m not allowed to use a cell phone, even hands free, until I’m 18!  They are serious about distracted driving.   We all need to take it seriously. And a great big shout out to other teens working hard to make a difference!


Selena Gomez Is NOT Fat!

Yesterday I had a chance to talk to Selena Gomez. I got to take a few photos with her.  I got to hug her, dance a little with her, and tell her what an inspiration she is. I got to tell her that I thought she was wonderful. I got to tell her EXACTLY what I thought of her, and nowhere was the thought that Selena Gomez is Fat. 

Selena Gomez

Yeah, I know, right? I actually took a once in a lifetime moment and started dancing with her  while we were both grooving out to Jennifer Hudson at We Day Illinois.   Then I screwed up my courage and asked her, PLEASE, for a pic.    Selena introduced me at WeDay when I performed with Colbie Calliat and Babyface as part of a HUGE celebration of young people who are doing their part to change the world.  Selena was a co-host, and  I was hoping all day to meet her.  When the moment came, I took it.   She was so gracious and kind and honestly, I would have loved to just go sit down and chat with her.

Today, When I saw this screen grab of an Instagram exchange I was FLOORED.   WHAT??

selenahater

Honestly.  What the hell is this?   THIS is  why young women (and men!) have body images issues. This is why people think that no matter what they do, they can’t win.  Being judged solely on a your physical appearance sucks.  I know.  The most common thing I used to hear about me was that I was fat. (Well, actually, I HAVE fat, but that’s a whole other story). The size of my body was what people judged me on.   They didn’t see all the other things I’m about. Now people are beginning to see me, the REAL ME -the person inside who is dedicated to helping others #BeBrave and stop bullying. I’m all about teaching others to #BeMoreThanABystander and stand up for the bullied. I’m a fantastic singer and songwriter who hopes to share my music with the world someday. I am so totally more than a size on a pair of jeans, or what some people decided was acceptable as beautiful.    For what it’s worth, Selena is flat out gorgeous, incredibly talented, and NOT FAT.  More importantly, she LIKES herself and her body. That, my friends, is TRUE beauty.  At one We Day, Selena had THIS to say about Bullying:

“I know what it’s like to be judged and to be put down. I know what it’s like to have other people form opinions about you without even knowing you, trying to dim your light. I know what you guys go through because I go through it every single day. But I don’t let it get to me. You are not defined by an Instagram photo, by a Like, by a comment. That does not define you.”

Selena Gomez Bullied

I decided what I think is beautiful.  And I think both myself, AND Selena Gomez are beautiful.

I love Selena and you know what? After hating myself for years, I love me, too.  We’re both strong women who have decided to love ourselves for who we are, and not let others petty  opinions rule us, anymore.   


It Gets Better

Someone asked me today to explain why bullying is such a problem. Surely it isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be? It IS real, and it is REAL problem. But, the problem is much more than just bullying,  Bullying might be the main problem, but it leads to so many other issues. Depression, self harm, self-loathing and hopelessness and suicide are all SYMPTOMS of bullying.  We need to take bullying as serious as some other diseases that are killing kids.

  • Meningitis affects 600 to 1000 Americans every year.  15-20% of them will die.*
  • About 6.8 million students experienced bullying in 2011.**
  • About 2.2 million students experienced cyberbullying in 2011**
  • Suicide killed 41,149 people in the United States in 2013. making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans***

We need to take bullying as seriously as a deadly disease. Because, quite honestly, it can be. It is.  There is a vaccine for Meningitis, but there is no shot for kindness. There is no vaccine to teach others how to be good human beings – no special pills on how to treat others.  There is no magic cure for hatred.  I wish there were. I wish it were that easy.

I don’t have all the answers.  What I do know is that when I was bullied, I hated myself, I self-harmed, and and I wanted to die.  I fought back, minute by minute, to get better and my biggest advice to those who want to help end bullying is this:

It Gets Better

We all need to Be More Than A Bystander. We need to stand up for ourselves and others. We need to let people know know how bullying is killing our souls.  Most of all, the MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, is that

It Gets Better.

We need to let people that are being bullied that the day will come where they are happy again. They will see the light.

#BeBrave.  It gets better.

*Source:  National Meningitis Association
**Source: National Center for Education Statistics
***Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Why Zayn Is Leaving One Direction

I just read that Zayn Malik has decided to leave One Direction.

I’m heartbroken.  I’m heartbroken, selfishly, for me, for the Band, for the fandom, and most of all for Zayn.

In his statement, he said he was leaving “because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.”  Zayn says: “My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined. But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologies to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”

zayn-.jpg

The thing is, I’m heartbroken, but I can understand why he felt he needed to leave. Why?  WE did this. Some of the FANDOM did this.  When we stop seeing and loving them for the music that they shared with us, and started thinking we OWNED them.  If I’m really honest, I have to say in a lot of ways some of his fans bullied him.  They used their power as a fandom to harass him, causing a frenzy simply because he had his arm around him.  If any girl is lucky enough to date on of The Boys, they are also unlucky as it’s guaranteed to unleash a torrent of hate on them for no other reason than the fan ISN’T dating them.  How can you hate someone simply because someone likes them? How do you hate on someone because they have something you don’t, and most likely, can’t?  When people started the whole “Larry” rumor, it destroyed an important friendship between two people who made magic- with MUSIC.

When we’ve forgotten the most important rule there is, BE KIND, and TREAT OTHERS THEY WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED, then we all lose.   Here’s the thing. I get it. I, like most fan girls, would dream of dating one of The Boys. I also recognized that it was improbable, and as someone who really, truly cares about the band, and The Boys as people, I’m happy for them. I’m happy when they get girlfriends, and new cars, and new haircuts and even happy when Harry shows up with is crazy outfits.  I’m HAPPY they  are happy.

Some people  will think that the reactions of the fans  is overkill.  Please, don’t.  One Direction is much more than just a bunch of boys singing together. They are a group that helped bring together so many people.  The truth is, One Direction helped save my life.  They helped me find my way back of a dark, scary place.   They helped me find my happy,   So, if being in One Direction is making Zayn  unhappy, I’m glad he found the strength to #BeBrave and do what’s best for him.  To #BeBrave, you have to stand up for the bullied, stand up to the bullies, and stand up for yourself.  He’s doing what’s right for him. he’s being Brave.

Sometimes, making the right choice for yourself seems like the worst choice for everyone else. But, if you really care about someone, you have to support the choices they make, even if you don’t agree with them.

Zayn, I’m sorry to see you go. I’ll miss you – your voice, your style, your incredible high notes, and your kindness.  But I wish you well.  I’ll still love One Direction. I’m still going to 4 concerts. I’ll still hope to meet the band at one of them. I want to thank them.


Brave

There are a lot of things I have been in my life:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Confused
  • Depressed
  • Angry
  • Hopeless
  • Hopeful

But the thing I am most proud of, is that I decided to be Brave. Brave enough to stand up to the bullies, stand up for the bullied, and to finally, thankfully, stand up for myself.  I nearly killed myself because I was bullied.  My story, sadly, isn’t that unique, except that the bullies didn’t know I was overweight because of a medical problem, all they saw was a fat girl. They didn’t see ME, the girl inside. I had to learn to be brave, and get stronger.  Here’s a song I composed and wrote about it.   We should all learn to #BeBrave, and we can help end bullying.

Sometimes, you need to Be More Than A Bystander  and by standing up for  or standing with someone is the best way to help them.  Please share if you know someone who needs a little courage, a little strength,  some hope, and love. Help them #BeBrave.

 

Many many thanks to my friend Miette for filming and producing this video.


Just Dance!

When I read the story about  #DancingMan it broke heart, then made it SING! Somebody caught a man dancing, and took photos of him  making fun of him.  #DancingMan saw what they were doing, and hung his head in shame. The caption of the original post read:

Saw this specimen trying to dance the other week.  He stopped when he saw us laughing.

dancingman

When I was 13, I went to a dance at our local teen center and I was so excited to have a good time.  I had decided to just HAVE FUN, and yes, I danced. I danced until  I overheard a bunch of guys laughing at me, saying, “What is Ally doing dancing, she’s so FAT!”  It broke my heart.  I wrote about it.   It really affected me. Even now, I’m a little self-conscience when I dance. It took me a while, but I have learned to dance again!

Oh, God.  How many times in my life have I stopped doing something I love because other people made fun of me?  How many times I have I hung my head and tried to act like I had I really didn’t think I had  the right, the audacity to embrace joy and happiness even though I’m not what some people think of as beautiful or acceptable!  NO MORE.  Now I do what I want and most of the time I feel great about it.  Sometime, though those old feelings come back and I slink down and hide.   I push myself to remember that I am worthy of feeling, being and doing whatever makes me happy.

I’m SO excited that Cassandra and her crew were able to track down #DancingMan , whose name is Sean, and invited him to a big dance party with lots of women who want to dance with him. It’s gotten bigger and bigger, with Pharrell, celebrity dj’s and others wanting to join in this dance party!

I want in. I want into the fabulous dance party that is about this one man, Sean, who was made to feel awful when all he was doing was dancing. I can’t go to the party, it’s in California, but I sure as hell can have my OWN party the night they they’re dancing!  In my house in Connecticut, I’ll be boogieing down with my family celebrating all that is FABULOUS about dancing-  the freedom, the joy, the way that dancing lets your  laugh with your body to the beat of music that moves your soul.   Not just me, but my Dad, who wept today, remembering being made fun of for dancing, and yet, still will get up and dance with my Mom, because they love each other. My Mom, who laughs and says she does the “preteen girl hop” when she dances, but she still dances,  all the time, and my little brother, who is learning how to dance, and still laughs and loves it!  The bullies haven’t gotten into his head about it, yet. I won’t let that happen.  I will dance, even though I think I’m not good at it, but secretly like to dance with myself.

Won’t you dance with us?  We can ALL be #DancingMan or DancingWoman- let’s just be #DancingPeople and  spend even 5 minutes dancing together, where ever we are. Let’s Be Brave and DO IT!  Who wants in?

justdance