“Mom, he figured out how to be a dad.”

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I saw this post on Facebook today and, don’t tell anyone, but it made me cry.

My dad, who I’ve written about a little, has two children and a step son other than me. He was a much better father to them than to me, and there was a point in my life where it really did make me jealous. What was so special about them?

But as I grew older and met them I realized that I’m happy he finally stepped up. I’m happy that he didn’t spend his life as an angry man. I’m happy that he finally met a woman who he loves and makes him happy. Seeing someone change for the better should never make me feel jealous.

I love Jackson and Kaci, my brother and sister on Alan’s side of the family. I know very little about them (trying to work on that), but I’ve always known I wanted to be part of their lives. When you love someone you want what is best for them, despite yourself. My mom was amazing and all I could ever ask for in a parent. In the end I love who I am and wouldn’t change anything about my life. So even if I don’t have Alan, I’m so glad they do.

Empowerment.

Last week I received an awesome compliment on my blog from a friend of mine.

“I love reading your blog. Woman empowerment, yay!” 

Isn’t that something? Empowerment is simply talking about the things I think and things I have experienced. Something so basic can mean so much if you’re just open and honest about where you’ve been and what’s on your mind. We often think we are all alone with no one around to understand us, but we fail to try to explain ourselves or relate to others.

Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to talk about myself. Not in the “where I went to school, talk about my pets, job, career, school, etc.” kind of way. I can talk for hours about myself and at the end not really tell you anything meaningful. I find it so difficult to really talk about who I am and the things that are constantly on my mind. Very few people have seen my heart, and I think that’s part of the reason I started this blog. I’m so tired of not being open about the things I’ve been through, and since talking seems to escape me most of the time I figured using writing would be the best alternative.

The world would be so much more understanding and open if we all were just honest about our opinions, feelings, experiences. We could start to really relate to each other and the struggles we face every day. Every person is different and unique, so the only way to really know those around you is an open dialogue. The more we understand one another the more we love one another.

Unhappy Equal Pay Day.

Let’s pretend for a second that I think the statistics for the gap in median pay between men and women who hold the same position are a load a crap. Let’s pretend I think it really is just part of some crazy feminist liberal agenda. Let’s pretend I think it’s all just a lie and this group of “crazy” people just takes a few stories and blows them out of proportion.

That woman who spent 20 years at her job only to learn the men who worked under her made more money than her – She’s one in a million.

That woman who was told the man who has the same job as her makes more because he has a wife and kids to take care of – She’s not the norm.

Let’s say I believe all of that. Why would I not support of legislation that would require companies to pay men and women the same? Even if it only is a small percentage of the female population being discriminated against, why would I be opposed to doing something to help those women?

If women are only asking for something that would require equality, not superiority, why would anyone fight that?

Because these women aren’t one in a million. These women are the norm, not everywhere in every job at every company in every city – but it’s happening. There are women making less then their male counterparts, saving less for retirement, having less money to help raise their children. This is unacceptable.

Equal pay legislation is not the end-all-be-all solution, but it’s a start. Whether it’s a demographic that makes up half of this country’s population or  only a fraction – we should be upset when there is discrimination.

Seriously, stop slut shaming.

This morning one of my best friends sent me a screenshot of a conversation taking place on Facebook about how dance and dance costumes were inappropriate for young girls after they had all seen a video from a dance competition. The oh-so-intelligent commentators were blaming dance for the rise of teen pregnancy and saying the dance teacher must have been a stripper at one point in her life. Basically what they were doing was slut shaming 9-year-old girls and the dance teacher.

I don’t even have to watch the video to know that if it was over the top or inappropriate the competition would have disqualified them, stopped them from performing such a routine. There are rules and as dancers we follow them.

These days we are so quick to judge a girl by what is she wearing or how she dances or how much she cusses or whether or not she has piercings and tattoos that we forget about the people underneath all of that. So what if I want to go outside wearing a dress I can barely sit down in? How does it affect your life if my child wears a crop top and skirt as a dance costume? It’s ridiculous that we are teaching our daughters, friends, co-workers, family that the problem is not society and but their bodies are what needs to be fixed or covered. The way any girl dresses should not be to blame for the inappropriate comments she received or if she is sexually harassed or raped. Here’s a lovely comment from one of these darling people:

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This mom is telling her daughter that if she dresses in a certain way she’s “asking for it.” Why can’t we focus on teaching girls to be themselves and teach boys how to be more respectful. Although, I think guys in general get a bad reputation because they aren’t all the pigs we portray them to be.

I danced for almost 17 years. No one I danced with got pregnant at a young age.

It was my life on weeknights after school and even on the weekends. I had no social life outside of that dance studio, and while at times I resented that it was the best thing my mom could have ever done for me. Dancing gave me confidence, kept me in the best physical shape of my life and gave me a group of friends who I love more than any of you could understand. It taught me teamwork and how we all have to lift each other up to be better in the end.

Not only did I feel better about myself, but my teachers were like second moms. When I was at home my mom kept me in line, when I was at dance you better believe Miss Tiffany or Jana were right there making sure I didn’t screw up. They expected more from me and in turn I expected more from myself.

Young girls today are raised thinking they have to compete with other girls, even their friends, to succeed in life and get what they want. They are raised thinking their bodies are never perfect and that if they want to show them off they will be hurt or punished for it.

Shame on all of you.

The challenge.

Last night I was having dinner with my Uncle George. He has always been someone who has pushed me a little further – yeah, an A- is fine, but why didn’t you get an A+ – and I love him for it. We all need someone to remind us that, while we are wonderful, amazing people, we can always push ourselves a little more and challenges ourselves in new ways.

So when the topic of writing came up he immediately asked why I don’t write more, everyday to be exact. My answer – I don’t have anything to write about. Uncle George being who he is immediately called me out on that. While I told him to stop yelling at me, I knew he was right.

I’m always telling people to be more comfortable with who they are and to realize how uniquely beautiful they are, but sometimes I don’t take my own advice. Why don’t I write more? Because I don’t feel like what I have to say or write is interesting or important enough to share with the world. We are all important and interesting enough to put ourselves out there. It’s just a little easier said than done.

My life is full of new experiences, meeting new people and putting myself out there like I never have before. I should want to share that. I should want to tell people the things I am learning along the way, things I have messed up or dropped the ball on. But I’ve been too scared, which most likely isn’t the correct word for the emotion I feel when thinking about writing. It’s more of a combination between scared and lazy. My couch is really comfortable. The struggle is real.

So, hopefully, you will be hearing more from me soon, and I challenge each of you to put yourself out there more and do something that scares you.

In loving memory.

Unfortunately we have all known someone who has been affected by cancer. Whether it’s an acquaintance or a close family member or friend, it’s never an easy thing to experience. My family lost one of the most amazing, loving men – my Uncle Chuck Hanline – years ago to pancreatic cancer. I know this is something you usually just say when someone passes, but there is no one more caring than my Uncle Chuck.

There wasn’t a day that passed when he didn’t put his family and those he loved above himself. Every morning from the moment he woke up until he fell asleep it was 100 percent about us. His daughters, parents, siblings, friends and really anyone he came in contact with were always at the heart of everything he did. This world really was a better place with him in it. That’s why I’ve decided to do something to keep his memory alive.

This fall I will be participating in a 150-mile, two day bike ride in Washington, D.C. and Maryland with my friend Maria. All funds raised go to the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Sibley Memorial and Suburban Hospitals for cancer research. It’s going to be a long road to preparing for the ride, and I’m going to need help and support along the way. Even $1 donations (thanks Mike) make a difference.

Not all stories end with heartbreak. Recently one of the strongest women I know celebrated her one-year anniversary of being cancer free. We can continue to bring this joy to the lives of many by raising money to further cancer research. Please help me reach my goal of $2,500 and maybe even surpass that goal!

Click here to make a donation today!

15 things I always forget to thank my soulmate for.

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The other day my best friend Haley and I were hanging out with a good friend of ours and she said she’s jealous of our relationship. Jokingly Hal and I always talk about how everyone wants to be us, but it didn’t ever occur to me that not everyone has that closeness we have. My relationship with Hal is easy and fun and perfect, the way all relationships with our friends should be. So in the effort to be sappy and remind Hal how much I love her here are 15 things I always forget to thank my best friend for. Happy Valentine’s Day soulmate.

1. Most importantly, thank you for being so low maintenance. I love that we can either plan a huge night out or sit at home in our pajamas watching Netflix and it’s equally as fun.

2. Thank you for knowing when to push me to open up and when to sit in silence.

3. Thank you for always being able to read my mind. It doesn’t matter what is going on or where we are, you always know what’s going through my mind and it’s such a relief to not always have to explain myself.

4. Thank you for always being 100 percent honest with me. People underestimate how open we are with each other, but I love that even when people tell me not to repeat something I at least have to tell you. They should all know you don’t count and everything they say can and will be repeated to Hal.

5. Thank you for being there for all of the most important moments of my life – dance competitions (duh), graduation, moving day and even when tragedy strikes and my life falls apart.

6. Thank you for never letting how different we are stand in the way of our friendship.

7. Thank you for never judging me even when I know you would never dream of doing whatever nonsense I’ve gotten myself in to.

8. Thank you for hating the same people as me.

9. Thank you for all of the random funny texts, pictures, SnapChats and Instagram posts. I love knowing that we can go months without talking to each other but we are always thinking of each other.

10. Thank you for never failing to pick up where we left off no matter how much time has passed since we talked to each other.

11. Thank you for always supporting me even when I know you disapprove.

12. Thank you for all of the shots you’ve let me take even when I shouldn’t because you know at least for a few hours I will feel better.

13. On those mornings when the alcohol is no longer making me happy, thank you for sitting around all day with me doing absolutely nothing.

14. Thank you for never letting me down and always being there when I need you most.

15. Thank you for showing me that I don’t need a boyfriend to find real closeness. You are my soulmate and always will be, having an amazing boyfriend is just a bonus to the amazingness that is already my life.