Friday, October 23, 2015

Be the change...

A tragedy rocked my little hometown to the core this week.

A teenager, a 16 year old boy, took his own life.  Leaving a very loving, very devastated family behind.  The PROJECTED reason? Bullying.  I don't know for sure that this is the reason that Tommy isn't with us anymore, but it has started a serious discussion around here.

This has been a subject that has been a very hot topic for years.  We have workshops.  Our children attend anti-bullying assemblies.  We drill into our children that there is zero tolerance for bullying behavior. We try to teach them to report it, and speak out against it. But it seems as if it never really gets better, regardless of the action plans that schools and communities seem to put into place.  I feel like there are a couple of reasons for that, and if we open our eyes, they aren't hard to pinpoint.

First of all, do kids really even understand what bullying is anymore?  It's not just physical.  It's not just a group of kids encircling one kid on the play ground and pushing him around.  It's not just shoving a kid into a locker.  It's RELENTLESSLY tormenting someone.  It's not giving this kid a break.  And a lot of times, it's sneaky.  Its done when the teacher isn't looking.  It's done when walking home from school, where there isn't an adult to stop it.  It's on Facebook, or Instagram, or snapchat.  Social media apps, such as After School, have given kids a way to torment others, completely anonymously, allowing them to hide behind a computer screen.  It doesn't just stop once kids walk out of the doors at school.  It follows them everywhere.  It's when someone actually makes a sport out of ruining someone else's day.  But this term has been used so loosely.  I've heard my own children use the term when someone just doesn't talk to them.  I have had to explain, there is a huge difference between someone not talking to you, or going out of their way to be your friend, and bullying.  But because this term has been pounded into their heads, and gets used so frequently, I have witnessed a generation of kids that misuses a very serious term, and has desensitized the rest of us to this word.  It has almost become a situation of the boy who cried wolf.  And in cases like what happened this week, it sounds like we should have listened.

Second of all, I think we, as a society, need to take the blinders off when it comes to bullying.  EVERYONE is susceptible to being a victim of bullying.  It knows no socio-economic boundaries.  It does not discriminate.  Just as equally, everyone is also capable of being that bully.  Bullies don't just come in the form of the big jock with the crew cut wearing his letter jacket.  Your kid may be getting bullied, but as parents, we need to open our eyes to the fact that our own kids may be the bullies we speak of.    Breaking this cycle has to stop at home.  We need to teach our kids right from wrong, hold them accountable if they don't make good choices, and be AWARE of what our kids are doing.  Monitor their social media, get to know their friends and their parents, pay attention, and lead by example.  If you bully your children, you can almost bank on the fact that they are passing that on to someone else.  And if you bury your head in the sand, and think your child is incapable of doing wrong, or would never do that, you can bet they're probably doing it, and knowing they're getting away with it.  Step up.  Make your kids take responsibility for their actions.  Teach them right from wrong.  Teach them compassion.

People are so quick to place blame on school administrators and teachers for not doing enough to prevent the bullying, or stopping it once it starts.  But our educators are paid to educate our children, not raise them.  That is our job. Fingers have been pointed at three administrators in particular this week concerning this topic, saying that over the years they haven't done enough.  But I ask you this: how do we expect these 3 administrators to know what is going on in the lives of over 1000 kids in our school system right now?  Shouldn't that be the role of the parents?  When I got in trouble at school, I got a call home, and that was the worst punishment imaginable.  But too many parents become defensive and combative when problems are brought to their attention, rather than sucking it up, accepting the fact that their kid may have screwed up, and handling the situation.  It sucks, you don't  want to imagine your kid may be part of the problem, but it's time to get realistic.  We have created an environment where educators don't feel comfortable approaching parents for a variety of reasons.  Whether it's because nothing gets done, or because they end up feeling attacked or because it's just easier, that bridge has, in many cases, been burned.  But have any of you stopped and thought about this:  the frustration we feel, many of our educators feel as well.  Why?  Most of them are parents of children currently in the school system.

So I propose this:  Let's all step up.  Let's hold each other accountable.  Let's stop being scared to approach another parent to have that difficult discussion.  Let's be the change that we all keep saying needs to happen.  I promise you, that if one of the "popular" kids, stepped up and said, "this is wrong and I'm not taking it anymore"  they would quickly see the influence they have and many would follow suit.  And if you have been one of the people bullying, it's NEVER too late to change how you treat people.  Young or old, we are all given another chance to change each and every day.  There are some people that are natural leaders, and some that are natural followers.  I can honestly say that I don't ever remember "bullying" someone.  But I can also remember plenty of times I saw it happening and did nothing to stop in.  As an adult, reflecting back, I wish I could change this, but I can't.  So I am drilling into my children the importance of it.  Not once, did I ever have a friend turn their back on me because I stood up for something that was right.  We need to stop being so scared.  I am very proud of some of the young people that I have seen speak up in Abilene this week.  They have shown class, and compassion during something that people their age aren't equipped to handle.  And this gives me hope.

Today, as Tommy is laid to rest, let's all decide to stop fighting.  Let's pull together.  Let's stop talking, and start doing.  Let's make this town, this school district a better place for our young people, and many generations to come.  Change can start with one person, I believe it already has.

Friday, September 4, 2015

We still do: 5 years later

Today marks five years that I have been married to my husband... And this man deserves a medal.

If I'm going to be completely honest with myself, and everyone else, I can be challenging.  I don't handle stress well.  I am moody.  For the most part, he handles me pretty well in all of my moods.  I can be funny, dramatic, anxious, sensitive, snappy, happy, and emotional, sometimes all the same 5 minute conversation.  He just rolls with it.  I came with some "baggage" in the form of a 5 yr old and a 7 yr. old at the time we got married.  I came with a lot of hurt, and pride, and one hell of a broken heart.  He stepped right up to the plate:  Good thing he is always up for a challenge, and good thing he thinks I'm cute!

In the past five years, I have learned a lot.  One of the most important things I have learned is something my mom always told me, but it took me experiencing it to fully understand what she meant.  That lesson is this:  love isn't a feeling, but an action.  Love is a choice.  Love is a verb, an act of doing.  Loving someone, and being "in love" with someone are two completely different things.  "In love" is a feeling, those famous butterflies.  Butterflies die.  Feelings come and go, and come back again.  Feelings sometimes fade.

Love, however, is an action.  It is a commitment.  It is a choice.  It is choosing to wake up every day, and honor and support this other person, even when they are at their worst.  It is showing them understanding, and acceptance, even when you may not wholly understand them, or their NASCAR obsession.  It is choosing to put them above all else in this world, even when you want to run away.  It is supporting them when they are unsure, and and reassuring them when they are scared.  It is being the light in their darkest days.  It is keeping them grounded, when they are getting a little big for their britches.  It is putting them in check when they need it.It is building life, and a family together.  Russ chooses to love me.  And I choose to love him.  And it isn't always easy.

The whole "don't go to bed mad" thing is a crock.  That's going to happen.  I have gone to bed so mad at Russ I can envision myself flipping him right off of the side of the bed once he is in a good deep sleep.  There's going to be times that you go to bed mad and that you wake up, still mad.  But you can still love that person.  When I come home from work on a Tuesday night with some shopping bags, having spent more money than I made that night, I'm sure he has gone to bed a little on the mad side, but he still loves me.  When we have skipped date night so he can watch the end of the game or race, I may have stormed off to bed mad, but I still love him.  I would still be there in a heartbeat for anything he needed.  I am still committed to him.  I am not going to walk away from him, from our marriage, our kids, the life we have built, because I may be angry with him about something.  I still choose him.  No matter what.  I choose the man that I committed to love before God.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Marriage is clearly not all rainbows and puppies.  It is sometimes yelling, and fighting over money, and baby puke, and a messy house, and busy schedules, barely seeing each other throughout the week.  It can be exhausting, emotionally draining, and frustrating.  But it is can also be worth it.  It is a partnership that if treated like the sacred covenant it is, is meant to make both people involved the best they can possibly be, together.

Thank you, Russ, for loving me at my worst.  Thank you for this crazy/beautiful life we have built.  Thank you for being the husband and father you are.  Thank you for being my partner in crime for the last 5 years... Here's to many more!  Happy anniversary!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To the man who just can't keep his comments to himself...

Cutest Bumble Bee I've ever seen!
Recently, Ashlynne had her very first dance recital.  I was on my way back from Texas from Mary Kay Seminar and burned back into town just in time to make it to the recital.  It was a nature themed recital and her class was dressed as bumble bees.  She rocked it out, and was awesome!  She was so proud of herself, as was I.  It takes a lot of guts to get up on a stage, in front of many people you don't know, and perform.  It takes an extra lot of guts to do so when you have a visible difference, and physically you don't move as well and aren't as flexible as the other girls on the stage.  After her performance, where she had A LOT of friends and family, just she and I were walking back to the car, where I was letting her know just how proud of her we all are.

Enter stage right:  The one man who has to make an ignorant comment.

"That's the reddest bumble bee I've ever seen!"

I had to have had the biggest look of disgust on my face.  I didn't respond.  I tried to just keep my conversation with Ashlynne going, hoping she didn't hear him.

"How'd she get such a bad sunburn?"  He was making sure he was being heard.  AND making sure we saw him staring.  Now it was my turn to turn red.

"She doesn't have a sunburn, she has a skin disorder."  Once again, trying to just turn my conversation back to Ashlynne, he interrupts again.

"Oh, but why is she so red? I mean, she's SO red."

What I really want to say is this:

"Yes, we have eyes too, we see that she is red.  And while she has a skin disorder, and has very red, dry skin, and limited movement, she also has ears.  And those work just fine.  And you are offending that sense in every way possible.  You are clearly, elderly, which means that you have probably seen many things in your lifetime, and if you have reacted this way to everyone you have come across that is different, I'm surprised your jaw isn't wired shut. You know when you're saying things like this to a child, you are chipping away at her confidence, and her self esteem.  People like YOU are the reason it is so hard for her to get up and do these things.  And then, when she does, and she feels great about it, you march right up and open your mouth and take some of the wind out of her sails.  Shame on you.  But I want to thank you for once again teaching me a lesson in self control, patience, and understanding, because everything in me right now wants to verbally assault you. But I won't, because you aren't the first @$$hole, and you won't be the last."
These girls did awesome!!

But what I really say is:

"She has ichthyosis.  That is why she is red, and her skin is dry.  But I think she's the cutest bumble bee I've ever seen."  And I take Ashlynne's hand and simply walk off.  But my daughter's spirit won't be broken.  She just made crazy faces to his back when he walked off, and laughed it off.  She just shook her head and said "Old people..."  She won't let people like that keep her down.  She is still going to do dance, she enrolled in Lyrical for this session.

One thing I will never understand is why some people feel that it's ok to make ignorant, rude comments to a child.  Think them to yourself, ask someone else, but she is a CHILD!  But something I have learned is this:  Common sense, and common courtesy... they aren't very common.  Maybe we should have an awareness month for that....

Saturday, June 20, 2015

To my ex on Fathers Day: Thank you

I have an amazing husband, and a pretty close to perfect dad.  But I also have a complicated little family unit.  Between my husband and I, we have four kiddos.  We have his, mine, and ours.  I have two children from before our marriage, he has one, and we have our explosive red head together.  I went through some tough times in my younger years.  I was married, and had Ashlynne when I was 20.  When she was a few months old, her father left.  At that point, I met Devin, over time became engaged to him, and had our amazing little man, Gavin.  After a few years, this relationship fell apart.  But his relationship with his son never suffered for it.

In honor of Father's Day, I'm going to do something most women rarely do.  Something I wish more moms took the time, and thought to do.  Something I wish more moms would do, while taking a step back and putting their anger aside.  I'm going to give a HUGE shout out to my ex. Because he deserves it.  Yes, I want to honor this man, that I couldn't make a romantic relationship work with, for the fact that he never took our differences out on our son.  Because of the love and commitment I see him put forth into being a dad, I admire him so much.  It wasn't always rainbows and roses, in fact, it was pretty rough for a while.  But over time, I have come to consider Devin one of my best friends.  We have one very important thing in common, Gavin.

Gavin and his Rad Dad 
I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but we have a pretty good set up.  Devin and I truly do get along amazingly well.  This was something that took my husband quite some time to figure out.  We couldn't be together, yet when it came to our son, we were rarely apart.  I can see how from the outside looking in, it is a strange set up.  No, we don't live together, but he was over for every holiday, first days of school, birthdays, and any other important date.  He still comes to my parents house for holidays, and stops by my grandparents' house just to say hi.  And why not?  Isn't this best for Gavin?  It's not "my time" or "his time" with Gavin, it's Gavin's time.  He offers things that Russ and I can't, and vice versa.  He knows that if I make any suggestions, or express any concerns on anything going on with it comes from a genuine place, and the same goes for me.  We are doing everything we can to try to make the lives of Gavin, and the other kids, the best that we can.  He is still very active in Ashlynnes life, and he and Logan are buds too.  If he is going to take Gavin for ice cream, and Breckyn wants to go, he takes her too.  If he is going swimming and I can't take the other kids, he loads them all up.  In fact, Breckyn loves him! That's "her" Devin.

He had one doozy of a life.  An absent father that was never in his life, and a mother that passed away when he was 13, left him with little guidance.  He was a wild child, and made a lot of mistakes.  As far as a positive male role model goes, I guess you could say he didn't have one.  But the day Gavin came into this world, he started turning his life around.  He was not going to repeat the pattern or let history repeat itself.  So the same went for he and I.  When we split, he was a big part of breaking the cycle of those typical nasty relationships where people use their children as weapons. It took a lot of work, on both of our parts, but when we split, after both of us trying our butts off to make it work, in very short order both of us realized we didn't want it to be ugly.  Those things are hard enough on their own without creating more complications for the other person.  Neither of us needed that, but more importantly, neither did our son.

So this Father's Day, I want to give him props.  Thank you for proving everyone wrong!  Thank you for being such a good friend to Russ and I, and a good buddy/ family member to the other kids, and an AWESOME dad to Rad Dude.  While our romantic relationship didn't work out, I'm still convinced I couldn't have picked a better dad for Gavin.  And I couldn't have picked a better friend.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, May 29, 2015

ALS: Are you aware?

As many of you know, May is Ichthyosis Awareness Month.  Every year I flood people's time lines with info about Ichthyosis, and pictures, and facts.  I do my best to help educate.  This has been a cause close to my heart for 12 years now, my soap box if you will.  But nearly five years ago, another disease struck close to home and it shares its awareness month with Ichthyosis. This disease is ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.  I don't know much about the physiology of it, and what exactly it does to attack the body.  All I know is how it affected a man that I cared very much about, and how it devastated my best friend's family.

David was a great man.  Growing up, Alexis's house had a revolving door for all of us loud, obnoxious girls.  With her mom and sister coaching our softball team, we were constantly running in and out before and after games and practices.  We would take over their entire house for a sleepover, and were never turned away, regardless of what else was going on in their life.  David had 2 boys of his own, and all of a sudden, he had about 10 of us girls thrown at him.  Never once did I see him lose his patience with us.  I remember his sitting in his recliner, in his work clothes, laughing as we would run through the house with our shenanigans.  He never told us to quiet down, go home, or go outside.  He took it all in stride.  He even started helping coach our softball team.  He did however stop coaching first base when I put him on his butt with a foul ball....

About five years ago, some weakness started in his legs, and he thought it was his back acting up again.  After several trips to the chiropractor, and a couple of falls, he made a doctor's appointment.  I remember before his appointment, his daughter, Sara telling me that they thought they had it narrowed down to 2 things, and they were hoping for M.S.  At their appointment, they got the news they didn't want to hear.  It was ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  A death sentence.  And he was at his grandson's t-ball game that night.  That was in June.  He was at every ball game that summer.  He was at the fair, and by the time the demo derby rolled around, which is a big deal to his family, he was using a walker.  I had done some research on it so I wasn't completely clueless as to what was going to happen, and I was in shock that it seemed to be happening so fast... and still in shock that it was happening to them.

He passed away the following June, after ALS ravaged his body.  He was able to give Alexis away at her wedding, and he and his wife, Linda, had a dance, all done from his wheelchair.  These wedding photos would be the last family photos they would all have together.  He left many, many people behind who loved him, and who were devastated to see this happen to him, and all of those who loved him.  It was a terrible disease.  And for me, it was a terrible year, watching it destroy these people that I love and have considered family for so long.  I watched it take an emotional, physical, and mental toll on not only David, but the entire family.

This is the face of ALS... This is David
This past summer, something went viral that many of you may have heard of, or even participated in.  It seemed that everyone was talking about it, and strategically planning who they were going to nominate to do it next.  The "Ice Bucket Challenge" swept the nation, and the purpose was to raise awareness, and money for ALS.  It raised millions of dollars, and raised A LOT of attention for a disease that is rarely in the news.  A lot of people admitted to participating, but not knowing what it was necessarily for.  And because of this, it received some back lash. Well I just want you to know, that David, and the others robbed of their daily functions and lives, is who it was for.  We did it for all of those families out there who are currently watching it destroy one of their loved ones, hoping and praying that there is a cure before their "David" take his last breath.  And someday, with all of the people devoting their lives to research, there will be a cure.  There has to be, because too many people believe in this cause.  Some of the greatest people I know hold this cause very close to their heart.  And they have a reason to.  They personally watched its affects on a person they loved very much.  A person that can never be replaced, but will continue to impact their lives with the love he showed, and the legacy he left for them.  ALS, took his body, and his physical presence, but it can never erase the memory we all have of his smile.
Ride on David...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Did you really just say that?!

Engaging in conversation is an everyday aspect of my job.  In fact, it's a HUGE part of my job.  Because of that, and the multiple conversations that are had daily, I have many "did she really just say that" moments, from myself, as well as my clients.  Here are a list of some of my most recent favorites...

* "Man, do you know how dirty balls are?" - A school principal talking about sports practices and the risk of spreading the flu via basketballs.  I think she realized what she said at the same moment I did...

* "I can't do anything too crazy with my color today, I just started dating a guy who is ex-Amish."  I'll try not to scare him.  That was a first for me.  Luckily, it was one of my good friends, and after it came out of her mouth, we were both laughing so hard we were almost in tears!

* "Just a hair off", - Sometimes I don't know if people are intentionally making a joke while saying this, or if they are just using the figure of speech, but it makes me "hee hee" inside every time someone says it.

* When a bald mad walks by the salon, stops, and asks for a perm.  Clever.  And stylists NEVER hear that one (insert sarcasm here).  Working in a high traffic mall, I'm surprised if I don't hear it at least once a day.  However, we appreciate you trying to make us laugh.

* "Do you guys do haircuts here?" .... well what do you think she's doing to that girl in that chair over there?  They aren't making dinner!

* When ringing a customer out and you tell them how much their haircut is going to be and they say "Dollars??"... well, yes.  I don't take payments in Hershey Kisses.

* A single guy sitting in my chair "I've sworn off dating hairdressers, they're all crazy".  Yep, we are, and I'm holding very sharp scissors very close to your head... Need I say more?  I have all the control here.

* I did a tight fade on a guy the other day with a hard part shaved in... while leaving he says "I'll be honest, this turned out way better than I thought it would when I walked in here".... I didn't even really have a response.,.. Thanks, I guess...

*And the worst, and probably the most offensive.... When someone of a different ethnicity walks into the salon, looks me up and down, and asks me if I am capable of doing their hair.  A couple of weeks ago, I literally had a guy walk into the salon, while the salon was packed with customers, and ask "Do you guys do dreadlocks in here?"  As soon as I opened my mouth to answer him, he yells "Who am I kidding, ya'll white girls don't know how to do my kinda hair!"  So. Rude.  That is something I would NEVER do to someone, nor would it be even remotely acceptable if the tables were turned.  If I walk in somewhere that I don't feel comfortable getting a service done at, I leave.. without making a scene.  Believe it or not, not all of my clients have the same kind of hair texture as I do.  I have worked with every type of hair texture, and am capable of doing anyone's hair.  However, if you don't trust me to do it, don't make a scene, don't be rude, just don't come to my salon!  If you don't think I can do your hair, that's fine, call around to salons, and find someone who you feel comfortable with.  But don't belittle me just because my hair texture isn't the same as yours.  It doesn't make me incapable.

I could go on and on with some of the moments where I have to hold back laughter or sarcastic comments, but I'll leave it there.  To my other stylists, I'm sure you can relate to some of these scenarios.  And to my clients, keep the material coming!  Love you all!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Update: Mom's Road to Recovery

Since March 2 life has been crazy.  As many of you know, my mom was in a serious car accident involving a semi losing its load of steel beams in front of her.  She was very lucky that her life was spared, and that she didn't have life threatening injuries.  I was so relieved when I got the news that it was "just her leg and foot" that was injured.  No big deal, right?  I couldn't have been more wrong.

The past 9 weeks have basically been a living hell for her.  Several hospital stays later, she spent a combined total of 34 in Wesley Medical Center and Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita, KS.  Eight surgeries later, the bones are fixed in her right heel, foot, and ankle, and the heel on her left foot has healed.  However, lately it feels that if we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all.  Bigger problems produced themselves in the form of fracture blisters on her right foot.  These blisters showed up immediately, delayed one surgery, and have worsened over time.  After her fourth surgery, they ended up having to remove some of the dead tissue, leaving a hole in the side of her foot down to the bone.  They put a wound vac on it to keep infection down, and sent her home in the care of home health.  With each subsequent surgery, the dead tissue has spread, and the hole has become significantly larger, covering the entire side of her left foot, and stretching to her ankle.  At this point, they called in a plastic surgeon to do a muscle and skin graft.

Muscle was removed from her abdominal area, and skin from her thigh to try to cover the hole left by the dead tissue.  The night of the graft, she was rushed back into emergency surgery because there was little to no blood flow to her foot.  They implanted a sensor to alert them to low blood flow in the foot, and after flushing the veins and arteries to make sure there were no blockages, they have not had the same problem since.  However, through all of this we discovered that there are 3 major blood vessels that feed blood to your foot, and mom only has one functioning that was damaged in the wreck.  So needless to say, the muscle graft and skin graft rejecting, resulting in another surgery to remove the work they had done.

After the failed graft, the surgeons in Wichita sent her home, saying they didn't feel there was anything else they could do to help her.  They told her that they want her to have the best possible chance at keeping her leg, so they set her up with a referral to KU Medical Center in Kansas City.  Her consultation is today at 1:30.

So this is where we are.  Eight surgeries and several hospital stays later, the bones are fixed, but other problems have made it unsure as to whether or not she will be able to keep her leg.  The possibility is there that she may not.  However, my mom is a fighter, and she is not emotionally ready to give up.  So she has our full support, and instead of Wichita, we will now be hitting the road to KC.

They didn't know this would be their last goodbye
But that's just the physical part.  For me, the anger has set in.  Her life is altered forever.  The things that this wreck, her immobility, and her time holed up in the hospital have taken from her are some things that can never been replaced.  She missed Easter with her grandkids (which is a very big deal to her).  She has missed all the activities she used to do when babysitting Breckyn.  She has missed weddings, and birthday parties.  But more importantly, she never got to say goodbye to my grandma.  She was coming home from caring for her when the wreck happened.   My sister got her up there once to see her, but when Grandma went downhill fast, Mom couldn't get to Topeka.  And no one can give that back to her.  Someone else's negligence robbed her of that.

We are, however, overwhelmed with the love and support we have received from family and friends.  People stopping by to check in, family members coming to stay to help out, cards, flowers, and prayers.  She has seen how many people care about her and it is very heart warming.  People keep asking if there is anything they can do to help.  My answer is this:  Most importantly right now, she needs the good thoughts and prayers.  We're hoping to get some good answers from KU, that they can help her.  Right now, she refuses to look at any other option.  So keep the prayers coming, for her, for the doctors, and for her spirits.  She is strong, the strongest person I know, but there is only so much a person can take.  Just pray that this time around it is good news she is taking in!!