Tip Tuesday: Save Our Youth

I recently went to a community meeting to talk about the issues with gun violence and how we can protect our community from it. It was focused on youth and spoke about the causes of gun violence, but didn't quite get to the solutions. There were different races in the room, which pleased me, but instead of being a constructive brainstorming session, it was more like  a sharing session. Those needing a place to be heard about the hardships they had faced, and more specifically the hardships they faced with police. 

I'm glad I was present, even though I was discouraged not enough solutions were tossed around. The whole reason that working in youth development moves me so much is the possibility to be a mentor to a young person who may not have anyone else. And maybe, just maybe, you are that person who will help them truly succeed. 

So where as I couldn't voice my ideas for solutions in the meeting, I'm taking the power of this blog to voice them here. If you too want to see the youth of today have strong and successful futures, thus creating a strong society for us all, read a few of my tips on how to do that. 

1. Mentor, mentor, mentor!  I believe that those of us who have had a positive upbringing and have found success in our lives have a responsibility to assist others in doing the same thing. I'm not implying that you can change someone, but you can be that positive influence in their life that can help them find their own way. Check into these avenues for mentoring:
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Girl Scouts
Energizing Education 
The Hub Teen Center 

2. Report positive things going on to the media. People may have too many bad things to say about "kids today". But when you know of youth doing something positive help spread that word. It may inspire others to do the same. Email addresses are listed by each reporter's stories. Get in touch with them! They are always looking for content.

3. Talk about gun violence in schools and youth centers. I haven't been in school in 10 years and to my recollection there wasn't much education about gun violence in schools. If you are in a position to speak of this in schools, take the opportunity to do it. 

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Tip Tuesday: Helping People During the Holiday Season

If you're anything like me the over abundance of food and over abundance of consumerism during the holiday season leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth for the season in general. 

I love the holidays because I get to spend time with loved ones.

But I don't love how everyone stuffs themselves full to discomfort while others have little or nothing to eat. Or how we are taught that love can be communicated through gifts we give and receive. Or how hundreds of thousands of employees have to work on the holiday, just so people can get a deal on new items they want to buy for gifts. 

So if you are also like me, you may be looking for ways to return this holiday season to the original intention-thankfulness and charity-take a look at some of the opportunities here. 

 1. Adopt a family and purchase them healthy foods or other necessities. More information on that here.
2. Write a letter to a soldier who is away from home for the holidays. Sites like anysoldier.com or adoptaussoldier.org can help you find where to send letters or care packages.
3. Pay it forward. Pick up a strangers tab at Starbucks, pay someones bill who you know is struggling, take notice of these opportunities and actually do it!
4. Don't shop on Thanksgiving night! The only way businesses will stop being open is if we show that the demand is not there. 
5. Volunteer on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. You may be surprised how good it feels to help may a strangers holiday even better. 
6. Gather winter outerwear to donate to those who don't have proper clothing for the winter season. Donations can be taken to Community Action Agency (517-784-4800) or Cascades Wesleyan   Church (517-240-8208).

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Why I Have Thought About/Think About Covering My Hair

The only reason that I think about hair coverings is because I lived in a Muslim country for two years. I was exposed to this practice and it has become less foreign to me that other women who have never experienced it up close. Experiencing this closely for two years has challenged me to examine the act of covering or not covering your hair more than the average Westernized woman.

First and foremost I want to clarify that women covering their hair for religious reasons is not a symbol of repression in women. It rather is an expression of freedom. Women in certain cultures, namely Islamic and Jewish, find that their hair is a very powerful tool for attraction and that by showing it they are leaving themselves open to be objectified by men. 

Is this not truly the case?

How much time and money do women spend on their hair wanting it to look supple and voluminous as a tool to allure men?

So by covering their hair, some women believe they are granting themselves more freedom not to be judged by men for their looks alone. They force men to judge them on their character. This encompasses an entire lifestyle of dressing modestly as well. Many women in these religions believe that since they are only having sex with their husbands, that their hair is only for their husbands to see. 

I'll mention my own reasons for wanting to cover my hair. 

1. Like the women I mentioned, modesty. I don't want to be judged solely on my looks either. 
2. Doing your hair can take a lot of time and energy. It's amazing how much time and money some women spend on their hair all just have it lay just so. Hair is meant to keep you warm! Not to get you a mate!
3. There are many days I would rather not fuss with my hair. It would be nice to just throw on a scarf and go. 
4. Head scarfs can be awful cute!  
5. I love culture and covering my hair sometimes makes me feel like I am part of another culture. 
6. It makes me feel like I am someone else and that can be fun sometimes.

Covering your hair in the United States can be as uncomfortable for women as it is for Muslim women to have their hair exposed. It's because it's just out of the norm and people may be wondering why you are doing it. Most head covering is for religion symbolism or for covering up thinning or balding hair.

I do not want to cover my hair for religious reasons, I want to do it for the reasons I mentioned above. I need to stop worrying about what people might be thinking of me and just wear a scarf on my head when I want to.

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Tip Tuesday: What to Buy When You Have Several Wants

I like to keep my personal finances on a pretty strict budget. Not as tight as to where I can't deviate even a dollar from what I've planned, but I like to keep my spending in my "personal" category on the low side.

My personal category encompass all those non-necessity wants. Each month I think about what it is I am wanting and try to space out large personal spending so that any given month is not to heavy in the personal category. But often times I have more wants than disposable income. I don't feel like I want for a lot of things, but I try to keep money spent on these things to a minimum as I try to use as much money as I can to save and get out of debt. So whereas I COULD spend more money each month on things I want, I choose not to because I value that safety net and progress on my student loans more than stuff.

Here comes my tip-choosing which "want" to buy when you have multiple ones. This is the thought process I go through. 

1. How will this item add value to my life? Will it add value on a daily basis or will it be something that I just enjoy every once in a while?
2. Can I get on without it? If I've been getting on without it before I can think about if I can continue that way. If the answer is yes, I can put off purchasing it for a different month, or not purchase it at all. 
3. How much do you want to give in to your every whim? Take it as an opportunity to teach yourself that you can't always get everything you want. 

Overall you really can take this as an exercise in wanting less to begin with. As I try to move farther from materialism I learn to let go of things that I sometimes want and notice that my life is not any better with certain things in it. More clothes are not going to make me happier or healthier. 

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I am not Alex Cash

Having been educated in journalism getting a persons name right has always been a priority for me. I cringe when I see someone's name spelled incorrectly and make it my professional quest that whenever I use someone's name in print, it is correct. 

A few months ago I was quoted in a news article. But instead of being quoted as Alex Cash, I was quoted as Alex Cross, by mistake. I'm not Alex Cross  I thought, I'm Alex Cash. 

However, this mishap came along at a time that I was just beginning to to think a lot about the identity we create for ourselves, and how important/unimportant it is. So after my initial frustration, I turned it into an opportunity to relinquish control.  

I am not Alex Cash. 

I am a human being, with complex thoughts, feelings, experiences, and hopes. Just the same as every other human being existing on the Earth. A series of molecules arranged in a certain way, turned into something we all recognize. A-l-e-x-c-a-s-h is nothing but eight letters that people use to identify me apart from those others. Those letters do not make me unique, there could be hundreds of there Alex Cashes in the world. 

We work our hardest to create an identity for ourselves through the actions that we do or do not do and the way we make our outward appearance look. Sometimes we search so hard for that identity, sometimes most of our lives, and once we find it we feel we are set. 

But  I am now beginning to see identity as a barrier or a box that we put ourselves in. For example, I have had red hair my entire life so being a redhead is a huge part of my identity. Were I to not be a redhead anymore, I might be losing part of myself. But when you think about it, it is just hair, meant to be on our head for warmth, it doesn't make me who I am or what I am. Staying 100% true to the identity we've created can pose limitations for what we are capable of or stop us from doing what we really might like to do. Feelings often change but identity is harder to change if we keep ourselves boxed in it.

I never want people to say about something that I do, "that really wasn't like her." I don't want to have a preconceived set of things that I will and won't do already set up in peoples' minds. Because in fact, I truly have the possibility to do a huge range of different things. 

Letting go of your identity or the notion of it is no easy thought. But my first step was not being mad about being called Alex Cross. Recently I colored my hair burgundy because I really wanted to even though that really isn't like me.  

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