What Do You Hear, What Do You See?

When you listen, what do you hear?  When you look, what do you see?

headvoices

You know. You know the voices I am talking about. The ones that maybe other people have said to you enough that they bounce around your head until you begin to think they are real. They can grow like a tumor to fill your ENTIRE HEAD with lies- the malignant lies that can stop all that good things that are supposed to be in there.  But you know what? Those voices.. THEY LIE.

THEY LIE!

goodenough22

They are not real voices, they are WHISPERS of hate and insecurity and loathing that can eat away at all the good that you KNOW to be true.

Here is what you do: every time you hear something that make you doubt how wonderful you are,  you need to listen harder for the real truth- the words that you know to be true. That you are fabulous, you are loved, you have worth, and  that  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

No matter what you look like YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Make your own beauty. You do not have to be like everyone else to be gorgeous, you just need to be you, and know you are fabulous. Everyone is in some way, you just have to look for it.

You have to come out of the dark, and look into the light!

lights

If you look, you can find it. I love to take photos. I borrow my mom’s camera whenever I can and take photos of whatever I can. I see all kinds of beauty everywhere.

What do you see when you look? What do you hear when you listen?


Bloganthropy

I attended the BloggerBash conference this weekend.  I was excited to be going to a real blogging conference!  I knew that I’d be meeting some really impressive bloggers and  it might sound weird, but you REALLY feel like a blogger when you are in a place filled with people that do what you do.  I wasn’t there just for the conference, however, I was there because I was a finalist for the Blogannthropy award.  What’s Bloganthropy?  It’s about  using social media influence to support social good.

When I was called to sit up on a panel with the other women, I will admit, I was nervous and felt as though I didn’t fit in. There were some fabulous people up there- #1, My MOM! Wendy, of The Wait Is Over, who is my biggest fan, and my biggest role model.  Because of HER I knew that I could use blogging as a platform to share my story and to help reach others who need to hear that IT GETS BETTER!  In my opinion, no one is, or ever will be better than her.   I love that she has changed her blogging cause to be a help to parents who are dealing with bullied kids. She has shown me that I can change the world.

BLOGANTHROPY

Also as finalist were A’Driane Nieves, who is doing some stellar things for woman of color telling the world that EVERY SINGLE VOICE matters, Sarah Donza-Hughes who is determined to spread the word about post-partum pre-ecampsia , Laurita Tellado Calderón, who is bringing awareness about spinal bifida, Trisha Adkinds  who is a Hero Mom and supports Alex’s Lemonade stand to help raise money for  childhood cancers, and Jill Smokler who writes Scary Mommy and pretty much saves Thanksgiving for many, many people who otherwise wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving and she gives voices to women who have stories they NEED to share. They are all AMAZING women who are doing amazing things.

I’ll be honest, I felt a intimidated and scared.  That’s what being bullied, for years and years, does to you.   You have a hard time believing when people tell you good things about yourself.  You look around and thing, WHO, me??  I had to retrain myself to think that I was worthy, I was just as good as other people, that I was important, too, in my  own was, as is everyone. It’s nearly impossible to talk about good things you do because you feel you’re being boastful.  I felt like maybe I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Like there was NO FREAKING WAY I was any way as good as these beautiful women with their incredible causes!

Except,  my cause IS pretty incredible, too.  Bullying is a really important thing to talk about.  It goes beyond just Johnny punching Eddie, or Susie calling Patty mean, but it has progressed to a point where it’s become almost a past time to some kids.  A killer pastime.

Bullying is becoming a killer of my generation.  We are slowly killing each other with words and texts and tweets.  We’re crushing souls. We’re ending lives.

I use my blog, my platform, to combat that.  I teach my message to other that we ALL must #BeBrave .  I stand up for the ones that are bullied and tell them that they WILL get through it, and that it WILL get better.   I stand up to the bullies and tell them that they will NOT be tolerated.  I stand up for myself for all the times I felt as if I were better off dead than in the world where everyone told me I was worthless.

When Debbie  called out my name, I was, quite honestly, FLOORED.  I looked at my Mom to see if I heard right, and she was crying and telling me to get up.  I honestly and sincerely didn’t expect to win. I was honored enough to be a finalist.

The blogging community is pretty huge. Many bloggers are like family that will surround you when you need help the most, pick you up, help you stand, and encourage you to find your way – kind of like a big sister.   That moment, I felt like I was surrounded by a room full of big sisters that were there for me and PROUD of me.   The thing is, I am proud to be part of such an amazing group of people who share a little bit of themselves every day, in every post that they publish.

Thank you so much to Laurie Schacht, Joey Fortman, Marissa DiBartolo, Charlene DeLoach, Ali Mierzejewski  , and the whole Blogger Bash team for hosting such and amazing event that is all bout helping bloggers make real connections and for helping support the social good that blogging can bring.  A huge heartfelt hug and a thank you to my personal fairy godmother Debbie Bookstabber, who has been one of my biggest cheerleaders from the moment we first met.   Your faith and pride in me is second only to my parents!

CKOHeX7W8AAhQ2j

I love blogging, and using social media to help others.  I’m really proud that others feel that my work is worthy of an award. I will keep fighting and working hard to make sure that eventually, everyone will  know how to #BeBrave and that together, we can end bullying.

(Tune in on August 21, 8pm EST to see me on an ABC Special, WeDay, where I join hundreds of others who are doing what they can do to change the world)


Becoming Fierce

Sometimes, people say things and they don’t realize that their words can shatter others.  Even comments made in jest can tear the heart out of someone else.  That’s what happened to Rachel Taylor. Rachel was standing in line  at Old navy when a Mom and her teen daughter  had a conversation about a tank top.  A plus sized tank top. A tank top that was Rachel’s size.

“”The girl picked up a plus-size tank top,  showed it to her mom and said, ‘Look! Me and so-and-so can fit in this tank top!’ Her mom laughed and said, ‘Yeah, you could! That thing is huge!”

Taylor said: “I couldn’t help it; I started crying. I guess the girl and her mom walked away. I have no idea. I sat in the car crying for a long time but eventually went back inside to finish my shopping.”

She went BACK into Old Navy, picked up that tank, tried it on, then snapped a selfie.  Then Rachel said:

11011551_10206956690098072_3704115025948479467_n

 

“I ended up buying that tank top because, it turns out, I look fierce in it!”

HELL YES!  Go, Rachel, Go!   Yes, you look fierce in it, but more than that, you ARE fierce in it!  I know first hand how awful it feels to be ridiculed for the size of your clothing. I spent most of my life being harassed and bullied because I wasn’t a size 2, or 6, 10, or even 16.  In fact,I was told to go throw up and even kill myself because, quite simply, I am fat.  I didn’t wear a bathing suit for years until I decided to Be Brave and snap a pic in my bathing suit last year. I had decided to Be Brave for myself,  Yes, I had decided to be FIERCE, too!  What makes us fierce?

  • Being fierce is being knocked down, and pulling yourself back up.
  • Being fierce is know that every time you pull yourself back up, you WILL become stronger.
  • Being fierce is knowing that you are worth so much more than a size, a number or some persons opinion.
  • Being fierce is knowing your own worth.
  • Being fierce is quite simply, another way to #BeBrave.

WAY (1)

Rachel, I know how hard it is to #BeBrave. I know sometimes we all want to go to the car, and cry. What really makes you fierce is drying your tears, leaving the car and heading backing into the store to try on the shirt, snapping a pic, and sharing with the world the message that you are, indeed, fierce, and anyone else can be, too. ,


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:

11650921_1016977624992547_1262304594_n.jpg

  • 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.

unnamed (3)

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