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.

Blessed.

I’ve been struggling with what to post next on here. How do I compare to my last post? It was so personal I feel like people expect that kind of post from here on out, especially since I received such amazing feedback. You don’t realize the wonderful people around you until a special moment like that. I have been so blessed to have such spectacular people in my life, whether I know them from 15 years ago or met them yesterday.

Before writing my last post I had some hesitation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself out there like that. Vulnerability isn’t my greatest strength, but in the end I decided to just close my eyes and click publish. I am beyond thankful that I did.

To help encourage others to stop holding back and hiding the things they think make them damaged I want to share one response I received from someone who used to be a very dear friend of mine. You may think you are bruised and broken, but it is those scars that make you the beautiful person you are today. Don’t ever think you aren’t good enough, and don’t ever let someone make you feel bad about yourself because of the things you have been through or have done in the past. Once you open up and put yourself out there people will accept you more than you think.

While most people posted comments on my Facebook post or in my blog comments one very special person sent me a message. It was more personal, so I understand why they didn’t want to leave it in the comments. I’m not a person who cries often, but this definitely brought me to tears. I wasn’t looking for sorry or anything like that, I no longer hold any grudges and I hope others can let go of grudges they hold against me. But this was just what I needed to hear:

First, I want to say I have a slight hatred of that school, and who I was when I attended it. Some of the hatred comes from how sheltered we were, and some comes from the ideas, (or way of life?) that they tried to push down our young throats. I’m glad for the beliefs they instilled in me, but short of that, I hated my years at that school. I also want to say I am sorry, because I remember those rumors, and I remember telling you I was disappointed in you when you asked me about that situation all those years ago in class. I had completely forgotten about it until I just read that blog, and I sit here haunted by it. I was NEVER disappointed in you. It was something I was instructed to say, and I hated that I said it then, and now I hate I never apologized to you. You were, and ARE, a beautiful woman and I am glad to have met and know you. And I really enjoy your blog : ) Hope you are doing well.

Judgement.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the judgements we pass on others before knowing anything about them. “The waitress was such a bitch.” But do we ever take the time to think that she might have something going on in her life that is making it difficult for her to deal with our petty bullshit and need for “one more thing?” We, and I’m including myself, have been so self-centered that we cannot reach past our own assumptions, life, problems, needs or anything else to consider that other’s also have lives. Everyone around you has a story, a problem, something bothering them, something bringing joy into their life. We are all different and I’ve spent so much of my life focusing on that and how I don’t fit in here or there and I’m tired of it.

The worst part is we have all been on the other side of the judgements. We’ve had rumors spread, lies told, but yet here we are still passing onto others when we know the pain that it brings.

I’ve been on the fence about using this example because it’s really personal, but I used to say I wanted to use the shit I’ve been through to bring light into the lives of others and help other people learn. So I’m going for it.

Middle and high school were difficult times for me, especially during my time at a private Christian school. I’m going to try to leave out specific names of places and people because that’s not really what’s important here.

I was in seventh grade when the rumors of me being a flirt and a little loose with the guys started. It was probably around the time I was caught kissing a boy in the stairwell, but honestly I can’t remember exactly. All I knew was that me being friends with mainly guys was somehow socially unacceptable and made me a floosy. I don’t know how because at the time I didn’t even know what a blow job was and didn’t have any desire to do more than kiss a boy, but you know how rumors work. Before I knew it I was sleeping with every guy in school, and our school went up to 12th grade.

Kids are already trying to figure themselves out at this age, so you can image how this affected me. I always tried to pretend to be tough and not care, but the truth was I cared a lot.

That summer between seventh and eighth grade I had something taken from me. I had very little say in the matter and I didn’t realize what had happened until days later. Maybe I was that whore everyone thought I was. If I wasn’t I would have stopped, said no. But now looking back, I didn’t know how. Thankfully, I’ve found my voice.

As I told my best friend about it I bragged, pretended to be more grown up than I was, but inside I was torn apart. This girl who always said she wanted to wait until marriage, that was no longer an option. The worst part, I started to believe I was this person in the rumors. I believed I was a whore, that I wasn’t worthy of my faith and my God. When I was kicked out I felt like I deserved it. So I didn’t fight back, I accepted this version of myself that was tainted, something I never said I wanted or planned.

That’s the problem with lies, eventually we even start to believe them ourselves. We spend so much time tearing down others and so little time thinking about how our actions are really affecting those around us. I know we were only in middle school, but that’s one of the hardest times of our life. It shapes us into the person we will be someday. I only hope that I can continue to take the bad and use it for good.

Recently I had a semi-encounter with someone I used to attend that school with. Apparently she wasn’t going to go anywhere that I was present. Nearly 10 years later and here we still are believing the awful rumors of our childhood. I am still that broken person to so many people – so many people who don’t know me at all. This one particular girl, I can’t remember ever even talking to her. What is it that makes her feel that way about me? When I heard this I felt myself being pulled back to my eighth grade self. For the first time in so many years I cried because of what someone else said about me.

I am one of the most confident people I know because I choose to be. Happiness, confidence, joy – those are things we choose to be. They don’t happen by accident. But here I was at 24 years old letting some stupid idea of me, that had nothing do with who I really am, get under my skin. That’s when I realized that I had to stop doing the same to others. Whether someone knows what you say or think of them, it’s a terrible thing to think your opinion is so important that it should be used to tear others down. We are all beautifully different and that should celebrated. Never forget to stop and think about what someone else has going on. Because that girl you just called a whore, maybe what was taken from her wasn’t her choice.