Sunday, January 30, 2011

"What WILL you do?"

I found this blog post and thought it was brilliant. This post tells you how to answer the question, "What do you do?" As a graduating college senior, people often ask me, "What WILL you do?" Of course, my mother implied that it may not be very nice to answer with, "How the hell do I know?" so I've been inspired to modify it a little bit. You see, I am graduating with a liberal arts degree (International Studies with a minor in Economics) in a bad economy. I mentioned in a previous post that I may be living off of volunteer stipends for awhile. However, I'm only 21 and realize that people are just curious and don't necessarily expect me to have everything planned till retirement. Here's what the long version looks like.

One: I really want to go back to Africa. I know it may be awhile before I see Kenya again but the classes I took over there and the things I experienced made me curious about the rest of the continent. Africa is much more diverse than our American education gives it credit for. The cultures, the people, the imperialist influences, the music, it's all different. I wouldn't mind doing work in West Africa (of course, this may result in me asking for French lessons for my birthday). Options I have on the table: Tostan, Peace Corps and any Africa organization that I can find. Of course, this would not happen till 2012, due to application processes and, if applicable, the need to raise funds (as well as to perfect any French skills I gain).

Two: I want to do something with youth. I am applying for City Year, a program with Americorps. This would allow me to tutor children and young people as well as to work with youth groups and plan projects. This would be for the coming August up until next June. Of course, I need to hear back from them before I can make any Africa/abroad plans because my departure date depends on my acceptance or rejection from this program. If I do get in, yay. If not, I will look for other opportunities to work with young people during the year I remain in the U.S. Tutoring, volunteering with an organization that works with trafficked girls, and some others come to mind.

Three: I would like to find a way to include music in all of this. I used to do music quite a bit in high school and in college, it stayed dormant. That was, until I realized I could take voice and guitar lessons as part of my credit hours. Then, upon bringing my guitar to Kenya, I realized how much of a role music plays in culture, in livelihoods (for some people), in giving others a voice and how much it brings people together. It factored into many of my encounters with people, my research, and my dealing with culture shock. I don't know how, but I'd like to find a way to keep up. Currently, I still play, I am taking voice lessons again as well as piano, and I sing in my church choir. We'll see. I don't expect to become a pop star (Lord, have mercy) but I do know that music does fit somewhere in the grand scheme of things.

I do know these three things. I also know that I would like to go to Italy at some point for an extended period, provided I come up with funds to do so. I do not mind taking this time to experiment and find out who I am. What I don't want to do is to get locked into a job/career and not end up taking that time. I also don't want to commit to grad school (and more debt) when I'm still not sure what I'd go for (right now, I am thinking either a Master's in Development Management or an M.Div but that's all subject to change). I do not know what the future holds but I'm up for exploration.

How's that for an answer? :D

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I hope Egypt makes the switch, soon and more peacefully..............

Praying for all involved, including a few good people still over there................

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Young and Expensive

After graduating college (especially in this economy), let's face it. Most of us won't be making that much money. They call it a starting salary for a reason and those of us in my field might not see much more than a living stipend while we take opportunities to establish ourselves. At the same time, we feel like we should live lives of kings. With sophisticated clothes, an apartment in downtown DC, fancy restaurants, why shouldn't we take advantage? The problem is, the lifestyles we seek to live are lifestyles we simply cannot afford, at least in this stage of our lives. With small starting salaries (provided we achieve employment), student loan debt, and a high cost of living, it just isn't doable. Something's gotta give.

It just amazes me to see how many young people splurge on everything. Constant shopping sprees, rents close to what they make in a month, take out, restaurants, bar hopping, lattes every morning from Starbucks. Is it any surprise that we're freaking out at the month's end, wondering how we'll pay rent, pay back student loans, get groceries? Forget about saving for retirement, this is paycheck to paycheck plus a credit card! Is it any wonder we don't get to do the things we want to do, like travel more, pay back our loans more quickly, possibly save for a wedding should it come up? We miss out on so many opportunities just because we can't live without our Starbucks and our happy hours. Or because, we HAVE to have our cushy one bedrooms on the Hill instead of sharing a room in Southwest. Does this make any sense?

The thing is, we can't and shouldn't have it all right now. In order to make the big bucks with accompanying lifestyles, we have to work for it (and, for some of us, maybe consider a career change). In the meantime, we can't just blow our money on stupid things. If having your own room is important, that's fine, but live somewhere you don't have to spend most of your earnings on to afford it. If having your morning coffee is important, make it yourself and bring a thermos, or just drink what's in the office. You don't have to blow your money on Starbucks. You don't have to go to expensive places to hang out with your friends (if you do, you need new friends). You don't have to constantly shop to have a nice work wardrobe.

I'm not saying don't ever splurge. We all do on occasion. However, saving is important. You need to have a cushion in case something happens. Like, you lose your job. Or, something happens to you and your insurance won't cover a huge portion of the costs. And it's not too early to think of retirement. If you have a good job, you should put at least a small amount of savings away (and employers will usually match it). Social Security payments just don't cut it anymore and pensions are virtually obsolete. Also, if I ever develop a condition in my old age that makes it impossible for me to work, I'll have wanted to save while young to cover whatever expenses I need. Or, if my kids got in a bad situation (not of their own fault), I'll want to be able to give them some assistance.

Yes, I still intend to have a life of travel and adventure. I understand that I may be living on stipends and part time jobs for awhile as I accomplish my goals and establish myself. It may be a couple years before I can start my retirement fund. In the meantime, I will work hard to not live above my means. I need to take care of myself and to be smart about what I spend. I hope other young people take this to heart.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Will I raise my kids in my faith?

Most of you know that I was not raised as a Catholic. Rather, I converted into the faith as a teenager, though I had been exposed as a child via Catholic school and various Catholic relatives. Still, my parents ultimately gave me the choice. I have to say, I hold a ton of respect for them for not forcing us into a religion that they couldn't even bring themselves to subscribe to (unfortunately, I've seen that happen to many of my peers). Of course, because I was allowed to have a choice, people ask me if I would extend the same choice to my own children.

I have been conflicted for awhile. You see, I want my kids to be able to appreciate faith and I know I appreciated it because I chose it. However, my parents also chose to raise me with their values (hard work, education, humility, propriety, a willingness to serve, and a willingness to question) and I have to say, if they hadn't, I would not have been able to make the choices I have made. If I brought this attitude of appreciation into the lives of my children, from baptism on, they could very well choose to appreciate faith.

What about the hard questions, questions I still hold? What about when my kids start questioning, particularly if my daughters want to know why they can't be priests or if my kids come out to me? I will tell them what the Church says (and why, people seem to forget that) but that their mom also struggles with these things. I will encourage them to keep studying (from a variety of sources) and keep looking for answers. I will encourage them to pray. If their prayers lead them elsewhere, I will support it, but only if they've honestly sought and studied (not because they want to sleep in on Sunday or play video games all day). I at least want to bring them up with the basic values, traditions and practices of my beliefs so that it serves as a firm foundation for the rest of their lives. And they will KNOW it. Mama Katie will make sure they KNOW what's in the Bible, what's in the Catechism, what Pope Whomever is saying. They're not going to be like the kids who go through Confirmation without knowing even what all seven Sacraments are.

What about the priest scandals? Look, those piss me off as much as they pissed anyone off. And the deflection I saw from the top was enough to make me wanna buy a baseball bat and scare the living daylights out of anyone who even LOOKS at a child inappropriately. It was even more maddening to see my own diocese go through scandal after scandal after scandal. What were they THINKING??? At the same time, they are also in danger of abuse from teachers, from relatives, from family friends, from strangers. Let's face it, it's downright terrifying to be a parent sometimes. What I can do is educate my children that, if someone says something to them or touches them in ways that make them feel uncomfortable, they are to tell me immediately. That they don't have to worry about protecting the other person, that we will do everything to keep them safe. That includes, ESPECIALLY includes, those who have a hand in the spiritual formation of my kids.

All in all, I want my kids to grow up knowing that faith in SOMETHING is important. They need something that grounds them, centers them, and something they can turn to in all aspects of life. I can at least give them the basics. When they're older, the rest is up to them (and God).

What'ya gonna do when life comes for you?

Excuse me for the Cops reference. All I can say is that life is coming and it's coming quick. I will be turning 22 this year, graduating college and trying to figure out at least the next couple of years. It is hard to believe that I am graduating. It feels like yesterday my parents had dropped me off at AU at the start of my freshman year. In that time, I have changed my major, held down two jobs, acquired a minor, lobbied Congress, written music, gone out with a few guys (ooh la la), studied three languages formally, went back to my roots, went to six countries, and done a bunch of other crazy things. Now, everyone wants to know, what's next, Katie?

Because I can't keep secrets if they're about me, most people know that I'm applying to Americorps and Peace Corps. The Americorps program I want would be for this coming year and Peace Corps wouldn't happen until next year. I am also keeping other options, such as a year with Tostan, an African organization I really like (the only issues are that I would have to pay for it and I need to speak a high level of French. Also, Americorps and Peace Corps have loan deferment). I would like to give a couple years of service and my passions involve development, business, youth and music. Not that they'll all be married all at once, but I've got the time to explore. At some point, I'd like to go to Italy for awhile, study Italian and music, and just explore my roots a bit further. I figured I might as well do all the crazy gigs now, go after the wildest dreams I have (provided I have the means to do so), before I commit to what people call a "real" job. Let's face it, no employer wants to hear, "I'm going to Senegal for a year, is that OK?"

I have come to realize that there is no reason I cannot do these things. The ability to travel, to give service, to be changed, to learn, to grow, those are all adventures. If I am able to make it work and take care of obligations, such as student loans, then I'm going for it. I'm only young once and I've always been unconventional. I refuse to live with regrets. When I get into a career, a family, grad school, I am IN. I just want to take care of some things first.

As Bon Jovi would say, "It's my life!" We only come around once. I want to say I went after it for all it was worth.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The dreaded six-letter word

Beauty. This word conveys so much good and yet so much controversy. Ladies, let's admit it. Most of us think we're ugly on some level. Too fat, too skinny, too dark, too pale, too dry, too oily, and don't even get me started on the hair. To make things even worse, society bombards us with images of women with skin so flawless, they have no pores and thighs thinner than my pinky yet stronger than a horse. We deal with pressure from friends, from family, from lovers, from spouses, all who say, "You would look so much prettier if you would (insert drastic, soul sucking change here)" or, "Boys would like you so much more if you would (insert torture worse than Dante's Inferno here)." Even compliments such as, "You look nice," can seem loaded, like, "you're not a stunner or anything but you look OK." Trust me, if anyone has struggled with any of the above, it has been (and still is) me. However, I think I may have found an antidote.

One, we need to take care of ourselves. There is no need for a fad diet (they don't work) but we should try and eat healthy. Sometimes, we don't have time to cook and we may not have the funds or access to organic goodies, but eating a balanced diet is so crucial to a healthy body, as well as glowing skin and gorgeous hair. Drink lots of water. Exercise according to your ability and your interest (you don't have to be lifting all the time, but swimming, walking, dance class, kickboxing class, Pilates DVD, all of that counts). Exercise gives shape and tone and also is good for preserving health and keeping us young. Of course, hygiene goes without saying and it's good to at least keep our hair trimmed every couple of months. Basic steps like these go a long way.

Two, we need to figure out what style works for us. Some women rock long hair, others short. Some like it straight, others curly. Some want crazy colors, others are more neutral. As long as it's healthy and you feel good, who cares (sometimes, even employers don't!)? Same goes for makeup (hell, if you don't like makeup, don't wear it!). As for clothes, as long as they're seasonably appropriate (meaning, you're not wearing short shorts in a blizzard), clean, and suit you (your style, your shape, your culture if applicable, etc), it doesn't matter! OK, it does, but you can still find appropriate clothing for various occasions that reflects who you are! Find what you like and rock it.

Third, all of the above means nothing if we don't try to develop inner beauty. There is a quiet confidence present in the sexiest of ladies. A woman may not be conventionally attractive yet can stun an entire room with her smile, her laugh, and her impeccable inner strength. There are a couple secrets to achieving this. One, we must develop our skills and talents, knowing we have something valuable to contribute to the world (and acting accordingly). Two, we must be humble and gracious to all those we meet. Now, humility isn't about beating ourselves up. To be humble means to not act either less or more than you are (trust me, still working on it). It means controlling impulses and only acting defensively if there is something worthy to defend (such as our lives or that of someone else's, also principles). Three, we must love other people. While many of us dream of romance, we sometimes forget the love of our family and our friends. In addition, we forget that each person we meet is just another person and should be treated with respect (which comes out of love. Not "warm and fuzzy love" but a desire for good for other people).

Finally ladies, we must love ourselves. If we don't love ourselves, there is no point in trying to improve ourselves. If we don't love ourselves, we can't love other people. For the Catholic/other Christian ladies reading this, Jesus even said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Well, if you can't love yourself, you're going to do a shitty job of loving your neighbor!!! My religion teaches that we were made in the image and likeness of a benevolent deity. By nature, we ARE beautiful. Let's start believing it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Adult Decisions

It's my last semester of college. What do I do with my life? I mentioned applications for Peace Corps and Americorps but, while I aim to finish the latter app soon, I am not so sure anymore. A few things I want to take care of are starting to take shape, plus there are other opportunities that I feel sound a bit more like me.

I would love to do a year with Tostan. For those that don't know, Tostan is an organization based in Senegal that does work in mostly Francophone West African countries. They are a wonderful organization that is mostly local (99% of the staff is African) and does sustainable work (as in, their communities are not constantly dependent on volunteer assistance). They seek to not only aid communities in improving health quality and education but to encourage democracy via community involvement. As of now, the only issues I have are: A) a need to learn French and B) I would need to raise the money necessary to sustain myself (could easily work two jobs to that end).

Another thing I would like to do is go to Italy for an extended period and study both Italian and music. This is something I have been wanting to do for awhile, especially because there are many programs within the city of Florence that offer these opportunities. Of course, I have other reasons for going to Florence (such as needing to connect with the "land of my fathers") which nearly seals the deal for me.

I would love to do both of these. I'm in my twenties and would like to take advantage before heading to a "real" job, to grad school. I'm only young once. But we'll see what happens.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Can (Predominantly Straight) Men and Women Be Friends?

I may wonder why I am asking this question. I myself have many male friends. Throughout adolescence and young adulthood, I found I got along easier with boys. They didn't bring their drama into things and we talked about interesting topics such as politics, war and the merits of both Star Wars and Monty Python. Two of my best friends in the world are guys (and they sure like to give me careful, I know a female relative in each of your families :D). At the same time, as I've gotten older, I've found myself reaching for my female friends a bit more. While I certainly want my "bros" to stay in my life, I have noticed friendship dynamics changing. As we find ourselves settling into adulthood (including long term relationships and marriage), we also find ourselves adding some consideration for decorum. While I do believe men and women can be friends, I also think that these friendships tend to have more boundaries than same-sex friendships do (assuming, of course, that all parties are straight).

First, there are things I talk about with my girlfriends that I just won't talk about with the boys. These issues range from, "Does this look OK?" to, "I'm on my period, I'm bloated and this SUCKS!!!" Fashion and biology aside, I find I want a female confidante, someone with whom I can just chill and talk about all sorts of things. While some of my male friends are sensitive and compassionate (and I do feel comfortable talking about things with some of them), they can't really play this role. You can't really have a slumber party with your straight male best friend, it looks and sounds completely inappropriate, even if all you were doing was chatting, watching a movie and eating popcorn. I also wouldn't find it appropriate to constantly confide in one guy when you're dating someone else. Sure, you can be close friends, go out for coffee, keep in touch, but there are just lines you can't cross. For me, I feel more comfortable having the "no-holds-barred" conversations with the girls.

Second, sometimes lines get blurry before you even realize it. It's great if it turns into a loving, romantic relationship that ends in marriage. It's not so great when you've been buddies forever and, all of a sudden, you have feelings and he doesn't. Or vice versa. That can make a friendship turn awkward. Of course, then it turns into, "I want to keep our friendship going," but this can prevent people from moving on because there's always that hope. Sometimes, everything turns out fine, especially if there are periods when you don't constantly have contact. It's harder when you see/talk to them every day. Also, sometimes it does turn into a romantic relationship only to end in a really bad breakup and consequent end to the friendship (though, given time, there is the possibility of patching things up).

I think it's good to have friends of the opposite sex. I think these friendships give us perceptions and insights that neither romantic nor same sex friendships can provide. Like I said, I love my boys! However, it is good to be prudent. You don't have to observe every gendered expectation out there (and I would tell you to challenge them). Hell, if none of this post works for you, don't follow it! Just always make sure you consider your own values, your own boundaries (of course, this should go for any friendship). For me, I've had some personal experience with these, which is why I'm writing this post. Good day, everyone!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Going Back to School Tomorrow...

Tomorrow, I return to the District for the first time in about five months. Having been out of the country, I naturally feel a bit of disconnect. I am nervous about seeing people I haven't really talked to for awhile, especially because I know I've changed. I am also nervous for a different reason. This is my last semester of college. Afterward, I actually need to do something with my life. Hopefully, that something does not involve waiting tables, at least not for too long. What to do, what to do?

I am considering a year with Americorps to work with children and youth. My goal is to finish my application by next weekend. This program would allow me to tutor children and young people, serve as a mentor, work with after school programs, and plan community projects in a U.S. city. Of course, competition is stiff and there are no guarantees for getting in. I also have started a Peace Corps application, knowing it takes at least a year. Work with Americorps would qualify me for Peace Corps but, if Americorps does not work out, I can at least talk to a recruiter about how to make my application stronger.

In addition, I am looking at programs with Tostan, a wonderful development organization (Peace Corps would be valuable but it's not development in the way I see it). The only catch to that is I need to save money and learn French (most programs are in West Africa, particularly Francophone Africa and yes, there is a French requirement). Professors think I should do research but, again, that takes a year to apply and write a proposal.

I would love to come back to Kenya. My colleagues have told me they're praying I come back by 2012. In addition, one of my Kenya mates said to me before I left, "Kenya in 2012?" I want to, but I want to do something constructive. Peace Corps will not send me back to Kenya and Tostan does work in West Africa. I would like to take the opportunity to do something else, but I do feel I left some unfinished business in Kenya. I am still in the "I just got back from Kenya, it was freakin' amazing and now I miss it like hell," stage (yes, there is one, just talk to two of my dear friends). So, I don't know.

Grad school is out of the question for now. The programs I am interested in require field experience first, which is understandable. I also would like to pay off one set of debts before I assume another. I am taking peaks at my friends' GRE books and keeping my eye out for programs but I do want some "real world" experience first. Plus, I can use a break from studying. It's out there but I'm waiting awhile.

So, to anyone who asks me, "What do you want to do after graduation?" the answer is, "I don't know, I'm still figuring it out." Of course, don't expect a five-year-plan and don't expect a run down of what I can possibly expect to do with a major in International Studies and a minor in Economics ("I'm going to make decisions that affect YOUR life!" is my response to that one). I haven't decided if I'm going with God*, the government, or an independent organization, or if I just want a regular job. Hell, I haven't even bought my schoolbooks yet! I can assure people that I will do something I love, I will do something constructive, and I will work my ass off, giving everything I've got. This, I can promise you.

*For those who may be offended about my "going with God" comment, I was going for a bit of snark here. I always go with God, I was simply referencing Catholic orgs (NOT proselytizers) and trying to be just a little cheeky. I do not mean to offend, nor do I mean to jeopardize my immortal soul. Thank you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dear Bishop Olmsted............

Dear Bishop Olmsted,

You never cease to amaze me. First, you excommunicate a nun for allowing a vitally necessary medical procedure in a hospital that's supposed to take care of sick people (including mothers whose first trimester pregnancies may worsen deadly conditions). Second, you strip same hospital of Catholic status (and funding) for allowing these procedures to continue (never mind that this is the only case of abortion seen, that sterilizations are NEVER performed at this hospital, and that a family would have lost BOTH mother and child if this had not been allowed to occur). Third, you stay remarkably quiet on other life issues, including those in need of transplants yet who have lost coverage for these transplants due to state cuts in Medicaid. Nice going! You have shown yourself severely lacking in both compassion and a backbone. You hide behind your cloak of power and prestige while people, including members of your own flock, continue to struggle and suffer. How's that for Christian charity?

Dear Bishop, you are supposed be shepherd, yet I think you forgot a few basic tenets of our faith. First, Christ taught us that part of our duties include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, healing the sick and many other duties that involving giving charity and dignity to those who are suffering. In the case of the mother, she was in her first trimester of pregnancy (meaning the baby was not viable yet), had a severe lung complication, and could not still be pregnant for the surgery she needed at that moment. This mother was a mother of four, she would have died, left behind these children and, in addition, her fifth baby would have died. Even our Church states clearly that if, during a pregnancy, the woman suffers from a condition where both lives are stake, efforts must be made to save one life. So, even by our theology, Sister Margaret was doing the just thing. She was healing the sick, much like Jesus Christ had commanded us.

Second, I am stunned by your hypocrisy and that of others in your rank. One thing that continues to appall me is the willingness of the bishops to shame politicians for abortion legislation, yet I hear almost nothing if these same politicians choose to support the death penalty, voted to go to war in Iraq (which Pope JPII had referred to as an "unjust war"), cut funding for nutrition programs, cut funding for health care and education, or live morally repugnant personal lives. Our Church demands a consistent life ethic, one that holds that no human life is more valuable than another. Yet, I find that you and others will ONLY support those if they fall in line with the politicians they choose to back. You all speak of abortion out of convenience, yet you choose life out of convenience. These patients have just as much of a right to live as you claim unborn babies do. Yet, you chose to stay silent. Christ never stayed silent. Aren't you supposed to follow his example?

Bishop, life is not a matter of convenience. Life is a gift from God and must be cherished. If that's not enough to convince you, then maybe you need to talk that over with the Almighty. Remember, Christ said not all those who call out, "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If you denied the poor, you deny Him. Kings have a long memory, especially if they're the King of Kings. I'd rather see you sleepless here on earth than sleepless in Hell. Just sayin'.


A Pissed Off Catholic

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Workouts are for Women :)

I cannot say enough about what P90X has done for my life. I've only consistently done it for this past week (though I've tried to follow something similar in Nairobi, when I didn't have it). Already, I feel a significant improvement in my posture and carriage, more flexibility, and less stress. I had been trying for awhile to find a physical activity that worked for me, from rugby (yes, I did rugby) to running to workouts you'd find in magazines. I am happy to say that I have found one. I want to encourage all the women in my life (men too, but especially women) to find something that works for them and stick with it. In addition, I'd like to bust some myths.

1. Workouts make you look manly: Look ladies, if you're not pumping steroids, you don't have that much to worry about. You can do pull ups, lift weights, and do crunches all day long but you still won't gain a manly physique. We don't have the testosterone for that. Actually, if you lift weights, as a women, you typically go for a lighter weight and more reps, so you'll get a long, lean look. In addition, you'll have a more developed shape and better posture. Strength training also helps us keep our bodies strong for childbirth and builds and maintains bone density (preventing osteoporosis). Finally, it can work to prevent heart disease and a variety of cancers. What's not sexy or feminine about THAT?

2. Workouts are boring: Not all workouts are as seen on TV. Go for whatever turns you on. Do you like kickboxing, yoga, ballroom dancing, swimming, running, or cycling? Go for it! Of course, don't forget other aspects of your fitness. You may love cardio, but strength and flexibility are important components. At the same time, you can find fun ways to incorporate all components. Talk to your doctor or a trainer at your local gym.

3. All workouts are too intense and I'm too out of shape: I cannot emphasize the following enough. START SLOWLY!!! The only reason I can do P90X is because I was already in relatively decent shape to begin with. I had to walk everywhere, I was waiting tables (manual labor if there was any) and I was going to the gym at least three times a week. Even if you get outside for a walk for thirty minutes, you're already making change. Some movement is better than none and, if you start at a level too high for you, you put yourself at risk for injury. There are light options. Again, talk to your doctor or a trainer about these.

4. I can just lose weight with a pill or diet: First, unless this is to improve a medical condition and was prescribed by a good doctor (not one who simply wants to make nice with Big Pharma), skip the pills. They're dangerous, they've got side effects and you just don't need them. Second, yes, diet is important but not a fad diet. You need to eat a balanced diet (with whole foods), supplement for what you're not getting (vitamins and good workout drinks are helpful), and drink tons of water. At the same time, it's not everything. Exercise does even more to help maintain weight by increasing metabolism. It helps you maintain your shape and works well with a good diet. Bottom line: if you want it, you have to work for it. That's the only way to get lasting results.

Ladies, I ask you to consider the following. We are more likely than men to get osteoporosis, are at risk for heart disease as well as a variety of cancers and are the only ones who will participate in childbirth (the most arduous work a woman will have to do in her life). Wouldn't it be nice to keep our bones intact, prevent diseases that can strike us down before our times, and have an easier time bringing some bundles of joy into the world? I don't know about you, but I want to run after my grandkids and lift them up when I'm old. I want to be around for the crazy adventures I plan throughout my life. And, if I can look great in my grad dress in the meantime, that would be awesome. Hence, I keep up with my P90X. Let's bring it!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dean Obeidallah and Race

My family and I were watching Axis of Evil last night. I first heard of it in my World of Islam class sophomore year, when a classmate used a Dean Obeidallah clip for a presentation. Now, my family has Netflix which means I was finally able to watch the entire show. Of course, there was a lot of laughter in the Gerry household. In addition, there were some deep thoughts, particularly when Dean Obeidallah mentioned what it means to be white. He said that white isn't necessarily a color but a status. He meant that in the sense of, when white people do bad things, no one blames it on every white person they see. Whereas, if one Arab or Middle Eastern person does something for example, they must all be responsible.

It was definitely a moment for me. I have tried to explain the concept of white privilege and found I could not put it as well as Mr. Obeidallah has. The truth is, white has so little to do with the shade of one's skin. If it did, Jews would not have had to suffer as much as they did and, for a long time, were not even considered white in the eyes of the U.S. Italians and Irish weren't even white for a time (now, you know something's up when they don't think the Irish are white and I've known my share of blonde Italians, northern and southern). Rather, white is more of a concept. It's about who's considered worthy of fair treatment in the eyes of the law, of business, and of society. It's about who's considered cultured, civilized, and contributing. That's something people don't really understand.

No, people should not use their race or past treatment to justify criminal actions. No, people should not use it to hamper their own development because they're afraid of "acting white" or "abandoning their roots." At the same time, there is a real difference in treatment. My black and Latin friends are more likely to get followed (by security in the mall and cops on the road) than I am. Even acts such as speaking Spanish result in being treated differently (friends and I will get asked about citizenship and ethnic origin because we chose to practice our Spanish that day). Jewish friends of mine have gotten accusations about money habits and their role in the death of Christ. Muslim girlfriends of mine have stories of getting harassed or asked ridiculous questions because of how they choose to cover and friends and family get "randomly selected" by airport security just because they look Middle Eastern. Now, Muslims can be white, people from Central and South America can be white, Jews mostly are white, and black people can have white ancestry. But none of this matters because having white skin is not even enough to be considered white.

Yes, things have come a long way. They're still not perfect. We need to keep going as a society, to keep improving ourselves and the lives of others around us. If we truly believe as the Declaration states, that "all men were created equal", we need to start treating each other like it. Instead of fighting over who gets to be white and who doesn't (regardless of who actually has fair skin or not), we should eradicate that idea and start seeing people. Otherwise, we will continue to give our enemies the fuel to destroy us.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Me

At the beginning of 2011, I have already done a few things that surprise me. Due to the extreme amount of change I underwent in Kenya, I decided that I would switch a few things up yet again. Here's what I have done so far.

1. Got a perm. Yes, yours truly is a throwback to the 80's anyway, with her socks-and-pumps, leggings, U2 obsession and huge earrings. I decided my hair should reflect this. You see, I've always wished my hair was curly. When I was little, I had every set of rollers imaginable. As I got older, I would curl my hair for special occasions to hear my girlfriends say, "You look so HOT!" Inspired by this confidence, I decided to go for it. If it truly went to hell, I could just shave my head and start over (OK, maybe not that far). However, I find I like it a lot. I feel more confident about my looks and style and I can now say I love my hair.

2. Got a P90X kit. I am not always good about working out. I try to be but I find I'm just not that disciplined. However, when I'm home, I use my parents' P90X kit and find Tony Horton to be the greatest motivator (and ass-kicker) of all time. I not only do it every day, I don't even hit pause or fast forward like I usually would for a DVD workout. In addition, due to a physically demanding job, a love for travel (a very strenuous activity) and a family history of osteoporosis, I figured it was high time I put on some bone density. Yes, my life is busy, but I can put an hour in each day. I'm at my prime, I need to build up my strength for later.

3. Went to Times Square for New Years Eve. Yes, everyone says it's overrated but I figured I should do it at least once. For me, it was like Inauguration. It was crowded, it was miserable, I couldn't even leave to go to the bathroom. However, when the clock started counting down from one minute, I found it was the magic everyone thinks it is. I never felt so proud to be from this area like I did while listening to Sinatra croon as I'm escaping the crowd at midnight.

4. Decided I am actually open to a romantic relationship. For all who know me, this took AWHILE. I tend to be guarded and I think of my boys as my bros (particularly my "Godfather crowd", you know who you are). However, after a few experiences in Kenya and in the U.S., I realized I wouldn't mind welcoming someone into my life. Just because I am an independent woman who values work and loves to travel does not mean I cannot find someone who values the same. We'll see what happens this year. I am just happy knowing that I'm open.

Love and Peace, everyone! Happy New Year!