mi familia

Just a warning, this blog post is about to get super cheesy.

I know everyone says this, but I truly believe I have the best family in the world. Even when my brother is annoyed at me for making us late to church or my dad’s joking has gone just a tad bit too far, they are still the best people I know, and they are still my favorite people to spend time with.

About my dad… For a huge chunk of my life, and for most of my memory, my dad worked as the Director of Public Relations for John Force Racing. That meant he traveled a lot on weekends to all of the races, and he worked from home for the most part during the week. He loved it, and he was amazing at it. He was, and still is, the very best in the business. Ask anyone who knows anything about sports PR and they will agree with me. Despite loving it, at the end of the 2016 racing season, my dad decided to take a step back from the racing world. I think it really hit home for him that I don’t have much longer before I go off to college, and Nick isn’t far behind me. He decided to take a job at Heritage Auctions, so he wouldn’t have to travel as much and could be around for Nick and I more.

As much as I loved having him home on weekends and having him home every night, it was weird. It was weird to see him wearing a tie all of the time and to hear him talk about handbags and art. After a few months though, that weirdness changed into something different. It became increasingly clear that my dad was not an “indoor cat” as he called it. Having a 9-5 job and pretty much just churning out press releases was not for him. His passion is in event PR, where he can be out and about meeting and talking to people. Heritage Auctions is a great company, it just wasn’t the best fit for him. Like I said, for most of my memory, my dad worked for JFR. I never noticed it when he worked there, but he had this glowing passion for what he was doing. At Heritage Auctions, there was no glow, and I hated to see him unhappy. He tried to hide it, but the passion and zest for the work he was doing was just not there.

And then, about a month ago he came home and told Nick and I that he had given his two weeks notice. Nick and I were surprised, because it seemed so sudden. What we didn’t know was that my parents had worked out the math and budgeting to where we could make it work as a family. Since then, he’s been working for his friend Tony Fay. He works from home most days and is working on a variety of projects that he is passionate about. He has a fire in him again and the difference in his overall mood is astronomical. I am so stinking proud of him. He’s always told my brother and I to do what we are passionate about, and I’m proud of him for following his own advice and setting an example for Nick and I. All of the money in the world is not worth him doing something that he is not passionate about, and I will live every day of my life being appreciative of the lessons that he has taught me.

About my mom… Firstly, she is an angel. Anyone who calls her anything less is simply wrong. For the ten years that my dad was flying all over the country for work, she was at home figuring out how to cart two busy kids around, work, and keep her sanity intact. Even now, when both of my parents are home I still always automatically put her name down when I need something signed. She is one of the smartest and most creative people I know, and she never gives herself enough credit. She is the DIY Queen. If she attempts something off of Pinterest it is almost always successful, and often turns out looking better than it did in the original picture. In any room in our house I can point out at least five DIY things she has done. Growing up, all of the other kids were always jealous of Nick and I’s Halloween costumes because she always knocked them right out of the park. Nick was Darth Vader one year and his chest plate even LIT UP.

On top of being a sewing and spray painting goddess, my mother is a social worker at a dialysis clinic. Social work is one of the most underrated, underappreciated, and underpaid professions out there. I don’t know where she gets the patience to deal with some of her crazy patients, but she does it with grace and class. She is a paperwork aficionado and a therapist all rolled into one and the world is greater for it.

Lastly, whenever someone tells me that I look just like my mom, I always tell them thank you for such a wonderful compliment. My mother is the most beautiful woman out there, both inside and out. I hate that she doesn’t always see that, which is why I try to remind her as much as possible. I love how much I’m like her. I get my craftiness from her, my love of finding a good bargain from her, and my perfectionism from her. Last weekend when we were in Fayetteville visiting the University of Arkansas, we had the option of going out for dinner. We chose to order pizza and watch HGTV in our hotel room instead, and that was the perfect night. Whenever I think of her I think of the children’s book Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my mommy you’ll be.”

About my brother… Nicholas Todd Werner. Gosh, I love him so much. He’s truly the best little brother a girl could ever ask for, even though little isn’t really something you could call him at this point (he is currently 6’2”). He will be 16 the day after Christmas, which is truly crazy to me. He is growing up too fast. First and foremost, he is one of the smartest people you will ever meet. He has the most amazing memory, which he puts to good use in school. It’s always been extremely frustrating for me because he picks everything up so easily, and then tests so well. But despite being uber smart, he’s incredibly modest about it. He never brags about it, he just does his own thing.

On top of that, he is also one heck of an athlete. He made the varsity swim team as a freshman, which is really difficult to do at MHS. Even though he is not the fastest swimmer on the team, he is one of the coaches’ favorites. He is extremely reliable and punctual. He doesn’t goof off or complain, he just works hard and consistently improves. He has the attitude and motivation that coaches’ dream about having in their athletes.

And if that is not enough to brag about, he is also super sweet. Anytime anyone I know finds out that Nick is my brother, the first thing they talk about is what a sweetheart he is. I hate to cook, and he knows this. So whenever we’re home alone, he often pops in my room and asks if I want him to make me a grilled cheese. He makes the best grilled cheeses too. He knows the perfect moment to flip them, and he knows that I like having two types of cheese. Additionally, since he’s so tall, he is also at the perfect height to give really good hugs.

I sing his praises now, but we used to fight all of the time. That didn’t really change until my freshman year of high school and his first year of middle school. I think we both became so busy, that we didn’t see each other as much. So when we did see each other, we didn’t want to spend that time arguing. Now I feel like we have a deep appreciation and respect for each other. We are both very different people, and that’s okay. One of my favorite parts of my week is driving him to swim practice and us talking about our day. He is one of my best friends, and I love knowing that he will forever have my back, just like I will forever have his.

So for now, that is all. Thank you for letting me brag on my family for a bit. They make it so easy, and I want the world to know how awesome they are. I would not be the person I am today without all of the things they have taught me, and I’m proud to be my parents’ daughter and Nick’s sister. Between the bar that my dad and my brother have set, it makes it near impossible to find a guy that meets those standards, and I’m pretty fortunate to be able to say that. At some point I’ll make a post bragging about my grandparents, because they are pretty fantastic as well. It only makes sense that the people who raised my parents are also the best!

Post Mission Week 2017

Before I publish any blog post, I usually wait two to three days after writing it before I share it with the world. Out of all of my blog posts, the only two exceptions to that rule have been my last two. I regret nothing I’ve shared on this blog, because it is my personal truth. However, I do want to go back to waiting a few days to think about the impact of my words before hitting the publish button.

Even though I sometimes share my blog posts on Facebook, I never really expect a ton of people to read them. In my mind, my blog is still a secret part of the internet where I share my crazy thoughts and passions. My last blog post created a different kind of stir than what I am used to. A couple of my friends who were also on Mission Week are subscribed to my blog, so they get an email whenever I posted something. They both read my last blog post on the way to our worksite and shared it with a couple of other girls in their vans. Throughout the morning I had a few people approach me saying they had read what I had written and appreciated me using my voice.

About an hour before lunch that Wednesday, I stapled my finger with the staple gun while installing insulation underneath the house. Not gonna lie, it hurt a LOT. Luckily, one of my awesome work team adults, Robin, was a nurse and she was able to get my finger bandaged up pretty quickly.

After she did that, Pastor Tina called me over to talk to her and M’Kenna* behind a truck and out of view. She had set out a blanket for us to sit on, and her, M’Kenna, Robin and I sat down to talk. They had read my blog post and were deeply concerned about what I had written and what it had revealed about a few of the boys’ behavior on the worksite. Pastor Tina told me she appreciated what I had written, but she wished I had said something to her before writing it. I completely agreed with her, and that is something I deeply regret doing.

We then talked about feminism, and they gave me a chance to release some of my pent up frustration. I told them that what it came down to was that I just wanted to be taken seriously for the work that I was doing. And I wasn’t just talking about that worksite. I was talking about all women, in pretty much all aspects of life.

Pastor Tina asked me what I wanted to come from all of this. I told her I thought something should be said to the whole group, and she agreed with me. I told her I didn’t want anyone to be specifically called out, because that would only muddle the overall message. She asked if I wanted to speak too, and I politely declined.

Later, at lunch, Pastor Tina and Mr. Gene (her husband and the resident construction expert), talked about how everyone on the worksite was working hard and that everyone should be treated with equal respect. They reminded everyone to be more careful with their words and the impact that they may have on different people. Pastor Tina expressed to everyone that even though no one may have been intentionally sexist, it had become apparent that there was some underlying sexism on the worksite, and that it needed to change.

I was satisfied with what they had said, and was happy that they had addressed the issue. In that circumstance, that was the best course of action. After they spoke, more people figured out that it was my blog that spurred that conversation. To my face, everyone seemed to have a pretty positive reaction to it. I had one negative comment on my blog, but I dealt with it, and I’m okay with it. The boys who wrote it needed to hear what I wrote and what Pastor Tina expressed. Even though they disagreed with it, they needed to know that they deem as seemingly harmless jokes are wrong.

Despite what you may have thought based off of my last blog post, Mission Week is still and will forever be one of my favorite weeks out of the whole entire year. I love it. It’s a week where I can help better my little corner of the world, build upon my relationship with Christ and spend time with some of the best people I know.

I did not let my week be dominated by what I had written and the ripple effect it caused. I am still happy I wrote it, because nothing ever changes if no one ever says anything. I’m pleased with the after effects of what I wrote, because it pushed everyone into an uncomfortable conversation.

After the week was over, and I was talking to my Mom about it, and she mentioned something that really got me thinking. Pastor Tina is a feminist in her own right by being a pastor. In such a male dominated field, and in a job where many denominations don’t even allow female pastors, she’s a bad*ss just by following what God has called her to do. It made me realize how many feminists I really know, who are quietly or not-so-quietly challenging the status quo and improving not only their lives, but the lives of those who will come after them. And I love that.


*M’Kenna is a sweet young woman who was the sort-of nurse throughout Mission Week. She was Pastor Tina’s pastoral intern this summer and meeting her was one of the best things to come out of writing my blog post. She was there when I needed to talk and she gives great hugs. Getting to meet her kind, strong, feminist and God-loving heart was one of the greatest blessings of my week.

Another Note: A few people commented on FaceBook wanting to know where all of the adults were when a few of the comments I mentioned happened. There were 36 teenagers and 9 adults. The adults couldn’t be everywhere at once, but they tried their best. As the oldest group, we were given a special project. At the ages of 17 and 18, they shouldn’t have to babysit us anymore. We should know by now what is appropriate to say and do.

Worksite Sexism

Right now as I’m writing this, it’s night 3 of Mission Week 2017. Today was our second day on our worksite and I am already exhausted. To switch it up a bit this year, all of the seniors and recent high school graduates are together on one work site that is over an hour away from the church. It’s very different, but for the most part I like it.

The homeowner that we are helping is a man whose home experienced massive flooding over a year ago and still has a ton of damage. A few groups have come before us and helped with small projects, and we’re redoing insulation, dry wall, repairing the foundation, clearing out trash, replacing doors, building a new deck, etc. It’s a massive project, which is why we have a team of about 36 high schoolers and 8 adults there at the site. The sad thing is we won’t even be able to do everything that needs to eventually be repaired in these short four days.

But what I’ve been thinking about, and what my friends and I have been talking about quite a bit, is how sexist some of the guys in our group are. We’ve been mocked, ridiculed, belittled, and been manhandled by quite a few of them. We’re doing the same amount of work and performing at the same level, yet they treat us like we’re inferior. It’s interesting because I haven’t noticed this on a Mission Week before, and this is the sixth year I’ve participated. I think it may have to do with how many more guys there are on the worksite than what I’m used to, and I notice it more now than I ever have. I try not to get offended easily, but some of the things I heard were just downright disrespectful.

Here are a few examples of the things that have been said to my friends and I:

  • “Are you sure a pretty thing like you should be down here? You’re gonna get dirty.”
  • “You’re so skinny. You’ve always been skinny. You’re so nice to look at.”
  • “Geez. It must be her time of the month.”
  • “I’m surprised you’re helping with the ice since women usually don’t do anything.”
  • “Yeah women are property.”
  • “Why don’t you let us boys do this job?”

It’s super insulting, because us girls signed up for Mission Week to work. And we’re working our asses off, just like the guys. We’re climbing ladders, using saws, carrying heavy loads, crawling underneath the house, etc.

Yesterday, we had to clean out old insulation that was underneath the house. Most people didn’t want to do that job, because there were a ton of bugs, a potential for snakes, and many people are claustrophobic. Three guys stepped up and put on the white suits, mask, and safety goggles. When the work team leaders were going around asking who was interested, they pointed the question at the boys, for the most part assuming the girls would not want to.

I hate bugs, spiders give me the heeby jeebies, and if I see a snake I’m likely to scream. But every Mission Week I like to do something that scares me so I can grow and push my boundaries a little bit. I volunteered to go down there and clear out debris. Most girls applauded me, but many of the guys tried to talk me out of it. I suited up and went down there. And then I stayed down there, longer than any other guy. The suits get hot, but I wanted to prove that girls can do anything that guys can do, and we can do it just as well, if not better.

I thought of it like this. A few months ago I spoke at Mansfield Speaks, a speaking event that my school hosts that’s similar to a Tedx Talk. I spoke about feminism and why men should be feminists too. But I can’t give a speech about feminism and then turn around and say “I can’t do that, that job is for a guy.”

Today, I suited up again to help install the new insulation. I also helped repair some plumbing that was underneath the house as well. As I was climbing out from underneath of the house I was thrilled to see two more girls underneath the house on the other side. I was proud to see two more powerful young women showing the boys that we can do anything, just like they can.

As a young woman it’s frustrating and infuriating to hear guys my age talk about women in such a derogatory way. And most of the time they don’t even see how what they just said or did was wrong. Today when I finally snapped at a guy for manspaining me and calling me “sweetheart” even after I told him to stop several times, he accused me of being on my period. That shouldn’t matter. I was doing just as good of a job as he was, and even if I was bleeding out of my vagina, that would of just made what I was doing that much more impressive.

I’m forever hopeful that as guys mature and continue to witness the powerful things that the women around them are doing, they’ll eventually see that we’re just as strong as they are. But until then, I’m going to continue to challenge myself and show the boys who is boss, and encourage other young women around me to do the same.

——————————————————————-

Below is my speech from Mansfield Speaks, in case you are interested.

“About a year and a half ago, I was at a drag race in Ennis, Texas. My dad had worked for a drag racing team for the past ten years, so I’ve grown up around the sport. I decided to take my boyfriend at the time with me, because they’re an interesting way to spend a Sunday and I thought we’d have fun. We were standing near one of the pits, watching the cars warm up, when a guy who was probably in his mid fifties walked up to stand next to us. Now granted, he may have been a little drunk, but he started talking to my boyfriend. He mentioned that the drag races were a perfect date to take your girlfriend on. Keep in mind, I was the one wearing the John Force Racing tank top, and the one pointing out different racers and cars. I politely told the man that I was actually the one who took my boyfriend to the races, not the other way around- and he looked shocked. He then began quizzing me on the sport, asking me about five questions about the drivers, cars and history of drag racing. When I was able to answer all of his questions, he then turned to my boyfriend, said “good luck with this one,” and walked off, calling me a ‘feminazi’ underneath his breath. A few days later, I was telling a friend about it, and she told me I shouldn’t have said anything, because I could’ve embarrassed my boyfriend, and that I shouldn’t have worried about being such a feminist.

It was those two events that pushed me to learn what being a feminist really means. In today’s society, feminism tends to be a dirty word. People think it means that you hate men, or think that you’re better than them, when in reality that couldn’t be farther from the truth. They confuse feminism with misandry, which is really unfortunate, because feminism actually kinda rocks. The real definition of feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of all genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, ability, and sexual orientation. Which I know that sounds really long and scary, but it’s actually quite simple. Feminism means equality.

When I first auditioned for tonight, my speech had a different direction. I was surprised to learn that many men think that because they are male, they can’t be a feminist. I’m here to tell you that feminism is inclusive to everyone, which means men can be feminists too. Because believe it or not, men benefit from feminism as well. 

Up until the age of 8 or 9 boys and girls cry about the same amount. And then suddenly it’s not okay for the boys to cry anymore. Boys are taught that showing emotion is emasculating and that if they want to be seen as a man, they shouldn’t cry. This leads to men learning to bottle up their emotions without a proper outlet to let those feelings out. Because of that men commit suicide at a rate of 3:1 to women.

Having emotion is normal. It’s human. And we should not look down upon men who choose to show it. If a guy is grieving, let him grieve. It’s not girly or gay. It’s healthy, it’s normal, and it should be encouraged. Feminism promotes the idea that everyone should be able to share their emotions without fear of retaliation.

According to a recent study at the University of Michigan, men on average receive 63% longer prison sentences than women who commit comparable crimes. The study also found that women are twice as likely than men to avoid going to prison if convicted of a crime. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, currently 93% of their inmates are men. Another example is if a couple with kids is getting divorced, the mother is granted primary custody 68% of the time. 

Feminists want equal rights of all people, even in the areas where the patriarchy benefits women. We want an equal playing field. The idea that women are delicate flowers or that they are naturally better caregivers is simply not true. And if you commit a crime, your gender should not come into play. 

In commercials and and on TV in general men are depicted as bumbling idiots who mess up the laundry or don’t know how to handle their kids and then their wives have to come in and fix it.

Once again, feminists believe that men are just as capable of carrying out household chores and raising their children. What gender you are should play no role in your ability to do anything. Likewise, women can do anything that men can do, and it should not be seen as threatening to her partner. Just because your significant other excels at something, does not mean that you are any less amazing.

When a girl walks out of her house wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s Texas, and it’s crazy hot, she’s often told that what she is wearing is too revealing and that she is asking to be catcalled, or worse– raped. This idea that men are incapable of keeping it in their pants is absurd.

Feminists like to believe that men are capable of controlling themselves. That they aren’t controlled by some animal instinct. And most importantly, that men are decent human beings. This isn’t hard to understand. Feminists like to believe that when a girl tells a guy no, their ego is strong enough to handle it. Feminism is basically saying that we see you as a human, past your gender and past what society stereotypes you to be.

But men shouldn’t be feminists just because it benefits them. They should be feminists because they respect women and strive for equality in all areas. Feminism is awesome. It should be celebrated. It should be encouraged. And it’s something everyone should be a part of. Tonight I hope I changed your perspective that men can and should be feminists too, because feminism matters.”

Terrified.

Currently as I’m writing this, it is 11:02pm on November 8, 2016. I turned 17 years old today, and Donald Trump is ahead by 35 points in the polls. I am terrified.

I’m terrified that a man endorsed by the KKK is in the lead right now, and that after tomorrow people of color won’t feel safe in their own communities anymore. We’ve made so much progress in the past 50 years,  and we can’t go back now. Because Black Lives Matter.

I’m terrified that a man with the temperament of a two-year-old will have nuclear launch codes. And if I’m being honest, that’s even insulting to two-year-olds.

I’m terrified that a man who threatened to ban a whole religion from our country will have control of our borders. Doesn’t he know that America was founded with the idea of religious freedom?

I’m terrified that a man who probably has no idea what real love even is, will get the power to tell some of the best families I know that they aren’t actually a family, or they aren’t worthy parents. The LGBT community deserves to feel safe and respected.

I’m terrified that a man who called immigrants rapists and murderers will  have the power to make legal immigration into our country that much tougher. America is a country of immigrants.

I’m terrified that a man that resembles an orange Cheetoh will have the power to get to control what I can do with my own body. Because what does he know?

I’m terrified that a man who clearly has no respect for women, will be the man who millions of little girls and boys will look up to. Because they need to know that the way he acts is NOT acceptable.

I’m terrified that a man who has lost millions of dollars and has evaded paying taxes for years will control our economy. He’s not a businessman, he’s a con man.

I’m terrified that a man who said that John McCain wasn’t a war hero will be the commander of our military. He doesn’t know what a sacrifice like serving our country even means.

I’m terrified that a man who has mocked people with disabilities will have the power to pass legislation that will either help or hurt this minority group. If anything, he should be the one who is considered MENTALLY disabled.

I’m terrified that a man that has demonstrated over and over that he does not understand how our political system works, will be the head of that very same political system.

I’m not only terrified, but truly heartbroken. I honestly thought our country was better than this. I’m crying the hardest I ever have as I write this. For months our country laughed off all of Trump’s antics. From the video tapes, to the Twitter rants, to the hateful rhetoric. We let him go on, never apologizing– because “that’s just Trump.” But sadly, this man will now probably be our next president. I’m just praying that the country can hold it together long enough for us to have better candidates by the next election. Because by then, my opinion might just matter. Happy birthday to me, and good luck to us all.

Dear Blank,

The following is a letter I wrote a few days ago. It’s to an unnamed family member. I am not a confrontational person, so whenever I get really heated about something or someone, I usually write a letter to let all of my emotions out, and then not send it. But due to a few things that were said during the debate tonight, I felt inclined to share this letter in particular.

Dear Blank,
As much as I love and respect you, I’ve decided to unfriend you on Facebook. I unfollowed you over a year ago, but since most of what you share and post I disagree with, I feel like I need a complete break. I could give you a whole list of things I disagree with, but I don’t have all day and neither do you. So I think I’ll share the one that’s been on my mind the most lately. And that’s your stance on abortion and Planned Parenthood.

While you call it murder, I call it a lifesaver. Why you ask? Because Planned Parenthood saves the lives of thousands of mothers every year, not to mention provides many other much needed services to both men and women. They provide Pap smears, breast exams, HIV tests, and sex education courses. Did you know only 3% of what they do is related to abortions?

But since that’s what you seem most bothered by, I’ll delve into that. I am not sexually active, but if I were and I came home pregnant, what would you say? That I deserve it? That it’s my own fault? That I should drop my plans and my dreams to raise a child I’m not ready for and can’t emotionally or financially support? I am 16 years old, just like so many other girls, whose best option would be an abortion.

As long as the abortion is done safely, there are no long term health risks to having an abortion. And if you do it early enough, it’s not a baby, it’s a group of cells. It is far from murder.

So many people are not ready to be parents or don’t want to be parents. Whether they’re too young, can’t afford it, or they just don’t want kids. Not to mention, child birth puts a mother’s body through a lot. Women still die from childbirth, even in 2016.

I’ve noticed that you still often say you are killing a child. And you’re probably thinking there’s always the option of adoption or just sucking it up and raising the child. But that’s really not fair to the child. Currently there’s too many kids that need to be adopted, and not enough parents willing or able to adopt. The child has a strong chance of being placed in foster care and not having a stable home. And if the child wasn’t wanted in the first place, that’s not a stable home either. Instead of focusing on helping unborn children, I think everyone should be focusing on children who are already born, and having trouble thriving.

Now I get it, you may still be the ignorant type that says “well if you don’t want to get pregnant you shouldn’t have sex!!” And that leads me to my next point: rape. I’m going to use myself as an example again. If I was walking home from school one day, and a guy pulled me into his van, and forcefully raped me, and I became pregnant from it, shouldn’t I be allowed to have an abortion? I wouldn’t know the guy’s health history, so there would be risks for the baby, and the psychological consequences of me having my rapist’s baby could be devastating. Not to mention I’m still only 16. There needs to be a way out for rape victims.

And I hate to be so blunt, but you are a man. When a woman gets pregnant, the man essentially gets to choose how involved he wants to be in the pregnancy. But a woman has to deal with it. And sometimes abortion is honestly the best option.

Now I know you’re a smart man and you’ve probably heard this all before. Why it’s not getting through to you is beyond me. But if you claim it’s because you’re a Christian I’m calling BS. I’m a Christian too. I go to church every Sunday, and after my church service is over I teach a Sunday School class to 1st graders. On Wednesday’s I hang out with my church’s youth group, and I’m part of a small group full of young Godly women like myself. I volunteer for my church’s VBS every summer and have yet to miss a mission trip. I’ve been baptized, I went through confirmation, and I read my bible regularly. I am every bit of Christian that you are, and I’m perfectly fine with abortion and Planned Parenthood. So until you get off of your high horse, consider us family, but not Facebook Friends.

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                                              Abby

My Faith Story

If I’m being honest, I don’t talk about my religion all that much. I’m not usually the first to bring it up, and if it is brought up, I’m not usually the loudest in the conversation. I don’t know why exactly that is, but I have a general idea.

Ever since the first grade, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. As I grew up, society taught me that often times, if you write or talk about your faith, you may not be taken as seriously when writing about other things. Christianity has often been given a bad wrap- as sometimes being intolerant and biased in judgment. Because I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, and not be seen as someone “with their head in the clouds,” I would usually leave religion out of my writing.

On top of that, I’ve never felt that I’ve had a really distinguishable faith story. I always heard of the people that went through great tragedy, and then at the darkest point in their lives, they finally turned to God and had their “moment.”  I’ve lived a pretty calm and happy life- I’ve had my “moment,” (which I’ll get to in a minute), but it wasn’t anything as dramatic as that. I guess I felt, why speak up if other people had more interesting things to say than I did?

During mission week this year, during one of our group devotionals, our leader, Darin, asked a few of us to share their faith story. Another girl in our group had just finished talking about how she escaped a bad town and life, and now she’s here, and loves Jesus more than ever. I felt like that was a tough act to follow, but I decided to speak up anyway. This is what I basically told them:

I’ve grown up in the church. My middle name is Faith, so what else would you expect? When I was a baby my parents helped found a small Presbyterian church in Cedar Hill—that’s where I was baptized– but it didn’t last too long, so most of my memories are from the church we joined after that. From the time I can remember up until the end of 5th grade we went to First United Methodist Church in Duncanville. I remember going every Sunday, just because that’s what you did on Sundays. My parents were part of a really close knit Sunday school class called the Pathfinders, and so our families kind of grew up together. I remember going to VBS and Friday Night Camp. I remember for a brief period of time when my mom worked for the church as a children’s coordinator. I remember because of that, spending so much time at the church one summer, running around with my brother, that I joked that it was our second home. Church and Jesus were just always there when I was growing up. I didn’t fully understand it for myself, I was so young, but that’s what we did.

The summer before 6th grade, we moved to Mansfield. Suddenly our church in Duncanville seemed like a long drive, and a lot of the other families we loved had already left. We started visiting churches in Mansfield. We visited a Lutheran church first, called St. John. It was comparative in size to our old church, and I liked the Sunday school class they had for my age group. It didn’t seem like as big of a change from our old church, which I missed a lot. We also visited First United Methodist Church in Mansfield. I didn’t like it as much. It seemed too big and the kids didn’t feel as welcoming. When my parents told me we were going to go with FUMC and that I was going to go through confirmation there, I was upset. I wanted no part of it.

I still went through Confirmation. I grew to like it. My two leaders, Steve Abbott and Cindy Henderson, were fabulous. I made a few friends. I went to the retreat at Glen Lake and had a really good time. I went to the service where I affirmed my belief in Jesus and became a full member of the church. I did all of that. But it still hadn’t fully hit me yet.

But then the summer before my 7th grade year, I attended my first United Mission Week. And boy, was it life changing. In some ways, I wish I had done that before confirmation, because you don’t fully understand what those words mean until you experience something like mission week. Like I mentioned in my previous post, the worship and the experience of it all is like no other and is incredibly moving. On the last night of that week, I went to the prayer room that Pastor Sharon set up. It was beautiful, with candles and a fountain, with comfortable places to sit and kneel. I just remember praying in a corner, soaking in the day, when I felt God reach down into my heart and tell me he had so many big and wonderful things headed my way. He told me that He would be sending me a special person in my life, and that I just had to wait. That was my “moment.” After that, everything changed. I started to pay more attention in church, and everything just started to make more sense.

A couple of months later, I got a phone call from a woman named Melony Harmon. I was on my way to a cross country meet and it went to voicemail. Later when I listened to it, she was inviting me to join her small group. I forgot I had filled out a card asking to be placed in one during mission week. For some reason, I thought I was too busy for that (what did I even know about being “too busy” in the 7th grade?), and I ignored it. A few days later, Melony called my Mom. When my Mom asked me about it, I said sure, I’d at least check it out.

For our first small group meeting, we met at the church on a Sunday afternoon. We continued to do that every Sunday for the first year. There were about seven of us total, and those ladies changed my life. Melony Harmon changed my life. Every Sunday for an hour, we would just talk about God and life. It was the most helpful and beneficial thing I could do. It rejuvenated my soul every week, in more ways than one. It was there that we all worked through our fears and our insecurities about our faith, and asked and answered each other’s questions. We don’t meet as much as we used to, but when we do, it’s like nothing has changed.

I still see Melony regularly. She’s become like a second mother to me. She was the person God sent me, and she’s truly been my angel. She’s seen me cry so many times, made me laugh even more, and spoiled me rotten. I’ve grown so much closer to God through her.

Since then, I still go to church most Sundays, I NEVER miss a mission week, I volunteer at VBC every year (it’s the same thing as VBS, but instead of School, it’s Camp), and I’m now a regular volunteer for this thing called G:Force on Sundays. It’s basically Sunday school for 1st-4th graders while their parents are in the church service. I love it so much- teaching kids about Jesus and watching them grow up is one of my favorite things in the world.

So yeah, my faith story may be a little basic in some ways. But every story is different, and that’s mine. I’m also learning that I can be a devout Christian and a clearheaded journalist, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. But I think that’s just part of it. My faith story isn’t done yet. It continues to grow and develop with every passing day, and luckily, I’ve got a pretty awesome crew of people to go through it with me.

Elevate

I’ve been struggling with what to say about United Mission Week 2016* for over a week now. It’s hard to put into words what this week meant to me, and what exactly happened in just a few days. I should be used to it by now– this was the 5th year I’ve participated– but every year is a brand new experience, with new challenges and memories.

Physically, my work team (team 3) and I took off some of the rotten siding on a house, replaced it, and then painted the whole house. It was a lot of work, but we worked our tails off and it ended up looking awesome. I learned how to use three different saws and sweated more than I ever had before, but it was all worth it.

The woman who owned the house was a grandmother who was taking care of her three granddaughters. On the last day, when she took a look at our finished product she said she couldn’t believe she was looking at her house. Being able to help give someone the chance to feel proud of their home again was the best feeling in the world.

Besides work, our team bonded through a photo scavenger hunt throughout Mansfield, multiple Sonic runs, and the mutual feeling of bliss of a relaxing shower after a tiring day. By the end of the week, that team became my family. For a few of them, I thought I had known them for years, but you don’t REALLY know someone until you’ve been painting trim with them for six hours.

Emotionally, I had my soul rejuvenated. There’s just something about the worship that strikes a cord with your heart. I know it sounds cheesy, and there’s no good way to describe it, it’s just something you have to experience for yourself. One of the best things about mission week is that no one cares if you’re wearing makeup or not, or if you look silly raising your arms up to Him. We’re all so exhausted and emotionally vulnerable, that it all feels very raw. When we’re singing, we’re singing at the top of our voices, no matter our talent level, because we want to be heard. We’re all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what tear-jerking message Amanda shares with us, because that’s what we’re here for. Everyone is relaxed, and the messy little details of our lives don’t seem to matter anymore.

This year, the theme for mission week was Elevate. It means to be a better person today, than you were yesterday, and to continue to grow closer to God. What stuck out to me was that does not mean that you are better than anyone else. It just means to love better and live louder. One phrase that was used a lot was “live love loud.” I love that. And I love United Mission Week.

P.S. HUGE shout out to Darin Charles and Seree Plumlee- two of the best work team leaders ever!!!


*United Mission Week: It’s what my church, First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, does in place of a mission trip. Instead of traveling somewhere, we stay in Mansfield and basically do what you would do on a mission trip here, locally. We sleep at our church and shower at members of our church’s houses. We started doing this 5 years ago, when our youth group got too big to travel all together. They were having trouble finding places for us to all sleep and shower, so they came up with this, and haven’t looked back.


A Few Stats About This Year’s Mission Week:

  • This year was our church’s largest mission week ever.
  • 29 Work Teams
  • 139 High Schoolers
  • 85 Middle Schoolers
  • 5 Special Needs
  • 30 High School Adults
  • 22 Middle School Adults
  • 12 Special Needs Adults
  • 40 Leadership People

Plus, the countless other people that helped- whether it be to cook, bring the work teams snacks, families who opened up their showers to sweaty teenager, etc. Because of all of these amazing people, we were able to make a huge impact on Mansfield and the surrounding area for the 5th year in a row!

My WJMC Family (that I haven’t even met yet)

Two weeks from today I leave for Washington DC for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference hosted by George Mason University. 22 days ago I printed off the transcript for a chat forum that I missed for the conference. I was hoping it would answer a few a questions I had. What I found was so much better.

In the forum, a few people were talking about this group chat that was going on, on an app called GroupMe. A girl named Kayla offered up her email address, saying if you wanted to join the group chat you could email her. I immediately emailed her, and by that afternoon I was in the middle of the craziest conversation of my life.

I was the 74th person to join the group chat (there will be about 280 people at the conference), and since then there’s now about 80 of us. At any given time, there’s anywhere from 2 to 15 people talking at once, so it’s a little insane. In the chat we have people from all over the country, spanning from California, to Maine, to Saipan, which is a US owned territory kinda near Japan.

We talk about everything from music to TV shows to what’s going on on the news to food to what’s going on in our towns to politics to our hobbies to our own personal issues to what we’re wearing at the conference, etc etc etc. We’ve pretty much covered it all. We’re all around the same age- 15 to 18 years old- but we all have different outlooks, experiences, and opinions. We’re not afraid to talk about controversial issues, such as gun control rights, immigration, gay rights, etc. We don’t always agree with one another, but with as many people that are involved in the conversation, that’s near impossible.

But no matter if we agree or disagree with another person, we are ALWAYS polite and civil. We let them share their opinion, and instead of immediately calling them an idiot for not having the same opinion, we ask them to clarify or explain why they feel this way. And instead of arguing over who is right and who is wrong, we all gain a greater understanding of why people see things from a certain viewpoint.

I know I can be stubborn at times, but it is truly fascinating and enlightening to learn why people see things from a different point of view. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m sometimes wrong, and even if I still don’t agree with a few people, I at least have a more well rounded view on the topic.

After we’re done talking about a certain issue, as controversial as it may be, we move on. We don’t hold grudges and we aren’t resentful. What I find interesting is, if a group of teenagers can do that, why can’t adults do the same? If you go on Facebook and read the comments for really any given topic nowadays, many of them are hurtful, rude, and ignorant- and they serve no purpose other than that.

That’s why I love this group chat. I may not agree with Amanda on every single thing, but if she sends a message in the group chat at 2am saying she’s scared because an earthquake just woke her up, you can bet that I’ll be one of a dozen people sending her comforting messages until she falls back asleep. No matter what, we’re always supporting and encouraging each other, and the most incredible thing is, most of us have never met in person.

A lot of the people in the group chat suffer from anxiety and general self doubt. Before joining this group chat most of us were super nervous about not knowing anybody and whether or not we’d be able to make friends at the conference. This group chat has calmed a lot of nerves and for many of us, provided an online support system. We have truly become what our group chat is named, WJMC family.

I’ve had the chance to Skype with a lot of people going, but I can’t wait to meet them all in person. It’s so cool to have a group of people that love writing as much as I do. But I think it’s our various differences and how they all come together that’s even cooler.

 

I lost, but I’m not a loser.

I had a plan.

Freshman year: class rep. Sophomore year: student body historian. Junior year: student body vice president. And to end with a bang, senior year: student body president.

This is the story of how that plan fell to shambles and how I’m finally okay with it.

I’ve been in student council since the sixth grade. Mind you, in sixth grade it meant nothing. All I knew was that what few friends I had made since moving to Mansfield were in it and that if I stuck with it, it would look good on college resumes. I also just liked the idea of student council- that you had the power to affect what goes on in your school and help to make it an overall more enjoyable experience for everyone. It was an open club, with about 70 of us in it. We didn’t do much. All I really remember is arguing over what our tshirt would look like and collecting box tops. It was completely run by Mrs. Church and Mr. Lindsay, not really a STUDENT government, but hey, it was sixth grade.

In seventh grade, now in middle school, the numbers thinned to about 50.  The eighth grade “officers” were in a class with Mrs. Crumby and the seventh graders (still an open club) met before or after school about twice a month. Even still, I don’t remember doing much other than helping set up a couple of dances and organizing a canned food drive. Really the eighth graders were the ones running the show and it was still just something I felt cool to say I was in, but not something I was truly part of.

My eighth grade year things changed dramatically. Mrs. Crumby went back to school to get her masters so she could become a librarian, and Worley scrambled to find a new sponsor. They landed on Ms. Lewis, a new teacher who didn’t quite know what she was doing. A once well-oiled machine of a club came to a grinding halt. Eighth grade student council was no longer a class, and the peppy, fun loving Mrs. Crumby was no longer its fearless leader. Student council went from being a very in demand club to something hardly anyone knew about or wanted to be part of. That didn’t stop me. I still ran for student council president, won, and did my best to return it to what I thought was its former glory. That year we had eight students in the council. It was the first year in its history that officer positions were offered up to seventh graders. While I saw friends from the Wester student council (another middle school in our school district) go on fun team bonding retreats, I was trying to convince our principal that our longstanding tradition of having a Valentine’s dance was still worth having. I felt like we weren’t doing enough, but at the same time doing the most that we possibly could with our limited membership and strict administration.

Despite that, I still applied to be in student council in high school. They took three people from Worley and three from Wester. I remember doing a happy dance with my friend Bailey when we got our letters saying we got in. I couldn’t wait.

High school student council was finally what I always pictured: fully run by the students and planning the events that made school fun. Freshman year I was also in the marching band, so I didn’t get to dedicate as much time as I would have liked to the council, but I still loved it nevertheless. There were about thirty officers and I just loved the group dynamic and almost everything about it. I had finally really found MY people. The kind of people that genuinely enjoyed learning and applying yourself. The kind of people that were as uber organized and passionate and nerdy and amazing as me.

Sophomore year I was old enough to join the newspaper staff, so between that and student council, dropping band wasn’t that difficult. I was the student body historian (still on track with my plan), which I loved. It allowed me to be crafty and use Mod Podge, and if you know me, that is my dream. I was also the Teacher Appreciation Committee Head, which was also a lot of fun. I loved showering the teachers with love, because they really don’t get enough of it. I wrote for the newspaper, but I threw myself more into student council, because for as long as I could remember, it was my priority. I sort of thought maybe senior year I would go for an editor position on the newspaper, but I never put too much thought into it.

A few weeks ago, I ran for student body vice president. It looked like I would be running unopposed, but last minute, a friend of mine decided to run against me. I was really hurt, because he knew how much student council meant to me and just the way he did it was a little sneaky. I gave the election my all, but I still lost. I’ll be honest, I cried A LOT that afternoon. My plan had fallen apart, and on top of that, I couldn’t get it back on track because to run for student body president, you have to hold another student body position the year before. I ended up taking a class rep position, that way I could stay in the council, but it felt like a major demotion. I was heartbroken. Up until then, I lived in a world where if I worked hard enough, I usually got what I wanted.

A few days later, Mrs. Watson, the newspaper sponsor, asked me if I’d be interested in having an editor position next year. Since I was planning on putting most of my eggs in my student council basket next year, I didn’t apply for one, thinking I’d be too busy. I immediately said yes, and a few days later she announced that I would be the news editor. There will be five editors total, and I’ll be the only junior. I’m hoping this will lead to the editor-and-chief position my senior year, but we’ll see. I am so excited for this opportunity. I’ve loved being a staff writer this year, so I’m really looking forward to dedicating more time to the paper this coming year.

Writing has always been my passion, and I plan on majoring in journalism in college. This will look better on my writing resume for when I go to apply to journalism programs, and will give me more experience in general. I think the reason why I didn’t think of it before was because I’m the type of person that if I start something, I like to finish it, and finish it fabulously. Since I hopped on the student council route first, it was hard to get off of it and focus on something else.

I will still play a part in student council- I applied to be the Teacher Appreciation Committee Head again- but it will no longer be my number one priority. I’ve gotten over losing my election: I know my friend will do an excellent job. I’m now on a different path, and that’s okay. I guess it’s the old saying “if one door closes, another door will open.”

I don’t know where my high school career is going to take me in the next two years, but I’ve learned not to invest so much in plans I made when I was still in middle school.

So I lost, but as you can tell, I am far from a loser.

 

 

 

 

**And if you want to see pictures of the kick butt scrapbook I made, you can look in my photo gallery. I may do a post about it later.**

A Teenage Girl’s Take on the Transgender Bathroom Debate

When I made this blog, I wasn’t expecting this to be my first post. I was expecting it to be about something fairly happy-go-lucky such as a book review or something about student council. But as the insanity of this whole transgender bathroom debate increases, I can no longer keep my mouth shut. I know this is most likely just another opinion being thrown into the void, but I don’t care, so here goes.

I’d like to start off by saying that I am a sixteen year old straight, born and identified female. What does that mean? It means that this debate doesn’t affect my life at all, just like it doesn’t affect the millions of other people that are bitching about it (and I’m not one to cuss, so you know I’m not messing around).

Transgender people make up half of one percent of the population of the United States. That’s about 1.6 million people. That’s not a lot. They’re just normal people trying to live normal lives, and who are trying not to draw any more attention to themselves. When they go to the restroom, they’re doing what the rest of us are doing. Peeing, trying not to think about the last time this toilet seat has been cleaned, washing their hands, and getting OUT. They’re not peeping into your stall or molesting your children. Why? Because transgender people know how hard they’ve had to fight for their rights, and they’re not going to do anything to screw that up. Especially now.

Now, I am well aware there are risks to allowing transgender people to use the bathroom they identify with. I am not naïve, so I know there’s a high chance a few bad people will exploit this to gain access to women and children when they’re vulnerable. But that just goes back to educating the public on rape culture, and what’s appropriate. But that’s a whole other discussion. My point is, yes there are a few bad apples, but that doesn’t justify labeling a whole group of innocent people as potential pervs.

If anything, it can be more dangerous for transgender people to use the restroom they belong to biologically. If a transgender woman tried to use the men’s restroom (like North Carolina is insisting she do), she could easily be attacked. Or the other way around, I’m pretty sure if a transgender man walked into the women’s restroom, at least one woman would freak, even if he was only doing what his state was insisting him to do. The world is a scary enough place for transgender people that the last thing they should have to worry about is where they can pee.

And on top of that, the idea that school districts such as Rowan-Salisbury are now allowing their students to have pepper spray in the event that they run into a transgender student in the bathroom is just atrocious. I’m a sophomore in high school, and let me tell you- it ain’t easy. You’re balancing classwork and extracurriculars and jobs and relationships and planning out your future, all while trying to figure out who the hell you are as a person, and what that even means. If someone is brave enough to already have figured that out and has shown the world, they should be rewarded for that and shouldn’t have to worry about getting maced while using the toilet. Not to mention, school officials should never be purposefully encouraging violence.

But the bottom line is this. Let transgender people pee in the restroom they identify with. They have enough of other obstacles, that most people (like me) wouldn’t ever dream of having to deal with- and the restroom shouldn’t be one of them. There are so many bigger issues going on the world today like hunger, sex trafficking, global warming, etc. that we shouldn’t even still be wasting valuable time, money, and other resources talking about this. Besides, if you’re so worried about the genitals of the person in the stall next to you, they’re not the perv- you are.

-Abby