Why Girls Need Sports

“I think sports gave me the first place where this awkward girl could feel comfortable in my own skin. I think that’s true for a lot of women—sports gives you a part of your life where you can work at something and you look in the mirror and you like that person.” Teri McKeever

As I think back to when I was a relatively new and young athlete, I like to think that I was part of something incredibly special in my sport. I believed this because I never faced the same social obligations that girls nowadays do when it comes to being athletic. We did not do sports to impress (well, maybe a little) or to use simply as a means of having something to post about on instagram, but we did sports because of the way it made us feel. It made us feel strong. This was not so long ago. In fact, the social changes that I observe now in female athletes is so shocking because of how quickly things have changed. Girls have been heavily involved with sports for a long time so rather than discuss why some girls choose not to do sports, I’d like to discuss some of the challenges associated with encouraging girls to excel and go above and beyond reaching their athletic goals.

I became a coach because I knew two things; one was that I liked to teach people new things. I enjoyed the challenge of explaining what to me would be a simple task. Second, I felt I made more of a contribution to the sport as a coach than an athlete. Being inspired by many female role models it was important that I do the same with my athletes. Our biggest “ah-ha” moments usually happen because somebody opens your eyes up to something that you did not see before. That is what coaching is about, helping athletes find “ah-ha” moments all the time. Focusing on female athletes alone I discovered so much potential and so much powerful energy but it was being held back by this unknown, yet strong barrier. This is what I have been working on, breaking down this barrier and making sports something that girls can go to, give their all and know they are powerful.

What are the supposed challenges?

Social Challenges: Girls in particular are socially oriented. We learn this early on in coaching, in order to build a team you have to build the relationships. Many girls will opt-in or out of a sport solely based on what social interactions they are provided with. Likewise, the effort they put into the sport will be largely based on the effort that their peers exert into it as well.

Quality Challenges: It is no secret that there is an underlying crusade to build up girls self-esteem and make them feel “pretty” or “accepted”. Girls know this. They know that usually if they are in some program geared towards only girls the topic of body-image and self-confidence will be heavily discussed, even more than the actual activity. Not all girls want this. The idea with sport is not to make girls feel like they own this inequality or issue, but to provide them with a program that will challenge them regardless of this and provide them with independent role models.

Opportunity Challenges: Similar to above, opportunities for girls to empower each other are few and far between. This could be due to a lack of qualified female coaches and/or a lack of athletically minded girls themselves.

Girls who are strong together are strong themselves. All three challenges tie together and feed off of each other. So how can we encourage girls to reach their full powerful potential in sports without creating an environment that assumes low self-confidence and weakness?

Strong girls lead strong girls: From the first moment you put on the jersey or pick up the ball or line up at the start line, girls are role models. We are all role models. Whether we are five years old or fifty years old, the responsibility to be a strong role model lies within all of us. An environment rolling with strong and independent women will create even stronger girls. Strength means acknowledging failure and triumph equally. This environment will encourage hard work and perspiration just as much as it will encourage positivity and humility.

Opportunities that are not there must be made: Creating the foundation for a girls program is difficult and is met with several challenges, some which we have little control over. These can include financial, demographic and geographical issues. However despite this there is support in this area if you know where to look. Dedication to the research associated with beginning a program is what coaches are all about, but can be made even more meaningful if young people take it upon themselves too.

Encouraging families: Parents imprint a lot on kids. I have met athletes who choose to only meet the bar because if they go past the bar they know their parents will become overly involved and kids know that this is not right and it will no longer be about them. On a more unfortunate note, some girls are made to believe that sweating or having muscles is not feminine. Often it is through subtle comments by parents that we realize this. Kids pick up on this stuff. Setting fitness goals as an adult is important. Encouraging your girls to keep at a sport is important.

Expect accountability and responsibility: From an early age explain that being on a team or in a sport is a responsibility. Sure, it is about fun too but what ends up happening if emphasis is only made on this idea? Kids will quit when it stops being fun for a moment and they meet a challenge. You are registered on a team, see it through to the end of the season. It does not matter your skill level. When a parent lets a child opt-out halfway because of insecurities, they are indirectly supporting their child’s doubts and this teaches the child that the answer is to stop.

Being part of a team and belonging to a sport can take girls a lot of places. They will travel and learn independence and build life-long relationships while doing it. They will learn how to manage conflict and work with people. Most importantly, they will be role models. Encourage your girls to keep at it even through social challenges. Having a heart for sport is a beautiful thing and embracing it will only grow a stronger young woman with confidence and ability.

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Dear Only Children

Let me tell you what I learned in school today:

An “intentional family” are two or more people who are not related by blood or marriage but call themselves a family and usually share much of their lives with each other.

Today I am sharing with you my intentional family. As I have ended up in many places over these years I find I end up with a lot of intentional families, you have probably already heard of some of them but I do not want to try to recall which posts those would be in. It could be a scavenger hunt for you though, if you are up for it.

After deciding that Dal was not my thing and taking some time to consider what I wanted, I was offered a room to rent, food to eat and a family to call family. Thinking about it now, I actually did not know much about these people. The only way we were connected was through paddling, I worked at a place, they paddled at a place. Bam. Intentional Family. Little did I know that within…months of being part of this family I would feel like I had lived there forever. In just a little over 3 months time, it will have been a full year that they have had to deal with me :-) I say that with humor…hoping they take it that way too.

Without giving too many details about this group of people, I think they deserve the privacy, I will tell you this: Most people do a great job of making a house a house. Once you become part of this “house” you feel as though you have a place but usually no purpose. Then there are those who make a house a home. In this home you feel like you have a purpose, not just as the person who sleeps there. You have your values and beliefs and you can be proud of them. I will admit, I am a ball full of high expectations for people and that is likely not to change any time soon. I am a handful when I have problems and I usually do not shut up about it until I am certain they will not return. In THIS home, you feel like you were meant to be there all along. Sure, nothing can change the bond and understanding between a parent and their daughter but I like to think that you can come pretty close. That is my naivety shining through, always thinking that people care as much as you do. I am optimistic enough to believe that my struggles and re-directions happened for a reason and that I was meant to end up in a family who have equally as high moral expectations of me (even when I sometimes do not want them). To be apart of something that has taught me more about family in a short year than I have experienced in my lifetime is rare. I say this because I learned how to be an only-child in my family and while my parents (from what others have said) did a decent job of not making a classic stereotype of an only-child, I still was very much alone to my thoughts and was in my own world.

So, what have I learned about not being an only child…

1) “Yours, Mine, Ours” is a very real thing.

My only ideas about what it was like to have siblings came from watching a few brief episodes of 19 Kids and Counting, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The Brady Bunch and the famous, “Yours, Mine and Ours” (the old version with Lucille Ball). The plus to this is that I now know who my clothes are going to, the downside is I get to watch my once favourite clothes be worn by someone who wears them much better.

Also, “hand me-ups” is a thing now.

2) “It WAS clean” is something I end up saying in my head a lot.

Growing up being the only young person to do chores means you watch your own work. One minute something is there, you remove it, it is now gone. Being in a slightly larger family, one minute something is there, you remove it, the empty spot is replaced with something else by someone else. Trust me, it took me awhile to figure out this strange magic.

3) You have to label things.

Or colour coordinate them, shower poofs and tooth brushes are great examples of things that should not be shared.

4) I can get laundry done a lot more.

Rather than having to wait for a whole load of only my stuff to be ready (which, when I was at home could take at least the week), the perk is someone is always laundering something so…do you mind throwing this hoodie in too, please?

5) Coordinating weekends is not a one person show.

I use to wonder how odd it was that parents would get all their kids signed up in the same activity, close to the same time. “Where’s the freedom in that?” I would think. Extra time is freedom, people. For example, in one weekend, there was a double sleepover, a 5-hour long college shopping adventure, a paint store adventure and a shopping mall extravaganza.

6) Competition exists everywhere.

Maybe this is just unique to this situation but I find myself hanging from a chin-up bar a lot more often than I used to. Or competing against a husky during a run is a lot harder than it sounds.

7) More people, more opinions, more dinner conversations.

This comes in handy when writing research papers. What is your take on the evolution of childhood?

8) Asking “How was your day?” is a long process.

The day of someone who works, someone who studies in college, someone who studies in University and someone who studies in grade school can easily set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Whereas previously asking the question took as much time as answering it.

9) I thought I needed an alarm clock. Having other people who get up earlier than you do will do just fine.

If for some reason you have overslept your allotment of sleeping hours, someone will always make sure you are not too comfortable in the warmth of your bed.

10) You are almost never alone.

While I enjoyed my early days sitting in my room imagining worlds and creating the next vaccine to cure stuffed animal cancer (which was really just over stuffed parts of a toy sheep), I think I secretly longed for company. I will tell you straight up that the thought of associating with another child disgusted me but yet I feel like I had always missed something. It is the idea that though you may not be doing the same thing together, the comfort of human warmth surrounds you everywhere. It is something that I never really felt up until these last few years.

What I am describing to you might just be your ordinary every day living. But, to someone like myself, your ordinary is far from my ordinary. It is amazing the power that family can have on you. Family you are born to, family you acquire. I am enough of a realistic person to know that I cannot reach every person that I meet, but I do think I hold enough optimism to try and give it a go anyhow.

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“Gotcha Day”

I am doing a bit of memory recollection here, thinking of a question a very curious little adoptee asked: “When is your “Gotcha Day”. Gotcha What…?

Using this 11-year old girl as a source, “Gotcha Day” is the day your parents…got you…and for some reason we feel the need to make it sound zazzy. My response obviously was that I had never heard of a “Gotcha Day” and I for some reason completely forgot the day of my adoption because I was almost 2 when it happened. Needless to say, the idea sort of bothered me.

I can see how celebrating an adoption day is a wonderful thing for parents. Parents that have spent hours and hours sweating under the noses of social workers and government officials have a right to celebrate this long, arduous process. The final step being the day they received their child and had them placed in their arms. Perhaps for me I see it from the adoptee stand point (of course), I think ninety-percent of children on their adoption day are placed in their parents arms kicking and screaming bloody murder. You would to if you were man handled into the arms of a stranger. This same process continues until a ‘bonding’ takes place over hours and hours of long hotel nights and a final fight for freedom on the airplane ride home. So I guess to me, adoption day seems to be more like a celebration of a loss of family. Is “Lost Ya” day appropriate? Your children’s home was your family and now congratulations, here is your new family who you may have only seen pictures of and they may have just stared at you through a glass window in the days prior. Rejoice!

Fast forward to the years following when everyone is happy and those first brutal moments are just a memory. I suppose “Gotcha Day” is worth celebrating. Critics to my thought may point out that “Gotcha Day” offers a definite point in history where a child becomes part of a family, whereas they might not have any other such date as a birthday may have been more of an estimation. I completely agree. Perhaps my stance on the topic comes from the idea that “Gotcha Day” could be rather sad for an older child who will definitely experience loss, whereas a younger child would not know any better once they got older.

Gotcha Day. Yay or Nay?

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Musings from a Repeat Freshman

I am trying something new, rather than saying that I promise to update my blog more regularly (not almost a whole year later) I will just say that I am doing my best. I started blogging because I felt I had something to say and then I got over it so had nothing to say. From that point on I was kind of spinning my wheels and casually, with much half-ass’d’ness made a few posts here and there.

Well this is new. The New Ornmadee. I am the one who still plans on commenting about stupid adoption comments and who will occasionally still have random meltdowns because I feel like I do not really know much of who I am. Good for you and lucky for you too, you will get to see a glimpse more into my life. You see I think I solved a few of my adolescent problems that you might be familiar with because you have been following me with such dedication (THANK YOU!). If you are looking for the formula to perhaps help someone or maybe yourself, I will simply say I solved mine by changing my life. Literally moved away, went to school, dropped out of school, went back in and now I am here. Those of you with younger children incapable of being responsible for themselves or lacking independence but most important, common sense, do not suggest this approach with them until you are certain they will not do something stupid.

Anyways, I lectured, now let me get to it…

The last you heard of me was when I ranting about silly girls and selfies. Previous to that, I was discussing the issue with the world telling you that you can be anything that you want but being broke and poor is not a good thing but do what makes you happy but do not live under a bridge with a random guy named Steve. I might have exaggerated that. You basically got my low down on how much I disliked lectures of ethics and “How to Win Arguments” all in an attempt to become a high paying lawyer. Then you heard what I really wanted, to be a low-paid coach who works with kids with really high expectations. Because you love curve-balls so much, I will tell you what New Ornmadee would like now. I still aspire of being that low-paid coach with kids who have parents with really high expectations but I think I have found my day-time calling and I want to top it all off with being an average-paid teacher who instructs middle-school kids with dreams in their pockets and candy cigarettes in their hands. So if my previous two posts were not obvious enough, I did end up leaving Dalhousie and dropped the lectures with 150 people, half of which slept through it anyways. I moved to Mount Saint Vincent University where now I spend my time reading about childhood development, history, English, a side of Biology and Psychology. Because how much did we enjoy English and Social Studies at the age of 13? I did. I was also one of the few who did. So now I am attempting to raise that statistic one weird history tangent at a time. Also, just between you and I, teaching math or science would be reliving my Elementary and Middle school struggles day-after-day.

Maybe somewhere in my studies on childhood and family development I will be able to learn a bit more about how and why I turned out the way I am. Most people usually accept their destiny but I am one to play the same record over and over.

Hear my thoughts on my courses, will I repeat the same “Eh..maybe not” scenario this year? Or might I just be able to find the perfect sweet spot where I can read about ancient childhood practices or over-analyze “Dracula”.

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A picture of “my kids”…because no matter what, coaching will always have a strong place in my heart.

 

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Thanks for the Compliment

Okay, I realize that this blog is supposed to be about life and growing up and adoption but I feel I must rant about this one particular thing that has been bugging me FOREVER.

When I was growing up, maybe I was just a super sheltered kid, or I cared not to take part in typical teenage girl insecurities but I never really once doubted how I looked and how others thought of my appearance (okay, I might have a couple of times). This was probably because I did sports and wearing sweat pants and a sports bra was a far better outfit than squeezing myself into a dress that could double as a shirt. There was one particular year when I sort of had a mental breakdown in the car with my father because it was the fourth year of having braces, and I had had like a million eyelid surgeries (not opening that case up!). For that one time, and one time alone I felt incredibly un-pretty. But, other than that I was comfortable in my own skin. Girls my age I believe were fine too. However those “girls” also happened to go to a gifted school much like myself, where compared to other public middle schools we would have probably been the outcasts that everyone made fun of, that is until we would kick their butts and graduate before them :-) The point is, now that I am surrounded by girls who are younger than me I am noticing a terrible trend. Either girls think they’re ugly, or girls know they’re pretty but deny it. I realize those who read this blog are probably over this phase, so take a second re-adjust your brain and imagine this:

My instagram homepage (so NOT my page, people) is full of people’s selfies (yes, guys take selfies too), you know, the picture somebody takes in the bathroom posing awkwardly, or a super blurry, cheap cellphone snapshot taken in the mall or something?

A facebook page with a whole album dedicated to the face. Zoom in shots, smiling faces, the classic “duck” face, the kissy kissy, the surprised face, the super dramatic look off into the distance.

Because these two networks work with Twitter, imagine these same pictures in a “tweet”, and let’s go for broke and add them into Tumblr too.

Accompanying each of these pictures (not just the album as a whole but EVERY INDIVIDUAL PICTURE) you will find a stream of friends who deem it necessary to remind their friend that they are “pretty” or maybe they will add some sexy innuendo, “damn gurrrrl” or “that’s my babe”. Okay, so they are pretty repulsive especially if these comments come from 11 to 15 year olds. But that is not even my beef. NO. My beef is the fact that now that these people have been given these ummm… “compliments” per say, the receiver finds it necessary to reply with, “No, you’re definitely prettier” or “Thanks but I’m far from perfect”.

If you’re past middle-school you probably know exactly what’s going on. It’s a simple fishing excursion. Who doesn’t want to go out there and catch some compliments?

So why does this happen? I really have no idea.

All of the courses I took in childhood development and teenage behaviour did not cover selfie syndrome. It covered self-esteem issues and body image, but not denying ‘pretty-ness’ or ‘rate or date’ activities. So how do I, as an older person and a role model to younger girls approach this situation. I’ve posted before about body image and self-esteem, so I can guarantee that I will not be holding a “feel good” conference or lessons in plucking eyebrows. I have never really told a girl that they’re “beautiful” oddly enough, unless it’s their first prom or graduation or something. I admit I have said, “Oh your hair is pretty today”, but when I am asked to describe somebody, I know that I always leave out descriptions that define their physical appearance. Why is this so hard for girls to do now? When I was younger and was asked to describe my friends or vice versa, you heard, “She is intelligent (they wouldn’t even say ‘smart’ because there is a difference between the two as well!), passionate, strong..” or “She is confident and she is gentle.” Oddly enough, the girls who took pictures of themselves (very few at the time) were known as the middle-school try-hard’s and were just as lonely as what you would call the “outcasts” today. The “rate and date” Facebook status did not even exist, mostly because none of us had Facebook…but nonetheless, the kid who won a scholarship or who could run the fastest was seen as a God, while the self-absorbed kid was simply a goner.

I guess where I am going with this is that people need to start telling their kids to accept compliments about themselves. People will call them “beautiful”, you cannot avoid it. It is not a bad thing to be complimented once and a while about physical appearance. But kids need to stop fishing for compliments. Kids need to stop deflecting what is meant to be a nice comment. Yes, sometimes the giver is simply telling them what they want to hear but that is not the point. Denial of the message in the compliment does not make anybody look modest, especially if you’re familiar with what they’re fishing for. It just makes them look needy and insecure.

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The Reality of Things: Part 2

In middle school and high school we are taught the necessary skills to get into post-secondary institutions. While many schools would like to say that they prepare you for the ‘real’ world it is honestly not very true. The fact is, what they teach you in high school is nothing like the ‘real’ world at all. The inspirational posters on the walls that always say, “Do or do not, there is no try” or “Follow your dreams” are a heck of a lot more loaded than they appear to be. From Day 1 everybody tells you to follow your dreams; your teachers, your parents, your friends and you even manage to convince yourself to and then the ‘real’ world throws every single reason at you why you shouldn’t. You’re broke. You can’t advance. That’s a terrible career. No job security. You’ll get rich and have no one.

That was the crux upon finishing a season of work that changed my heart and entering University, something which I had desired for myself since Day 1. Move-in day was awful. It was raining outside, everything was so gray, I had just finished a summer where I hardly slept but would do it all over again. It was a terrible transition. I got into my blank, white room and dropped all of my things on the floor and walked to the cafe a block away. I started thinking, mulling it over a cup of Chai tea and a date square that I never actually wanted but convinced myself to buy. What exactly did I want? I wanted a degree in Law & Society. Why did I want it? Because I thought I would make a good lawyer? Because others thought I would make a good lawyer? Because I could secure myself a decent job with a great income? Then the ‘real’ world threw a question at me, “What is one thing you cannot go a day without thinking about?” And it hit me, I could go days without thinking about school, but I am always thinking about coaching. I see little motivational phrases of graffiti art and I snap a picture and send it to the kids. I walk into the book store with posters reminding the world about “International Girls Day” and all I think about is what I could do with that as a recruitment strategy. I write up essays only to find myself finishing the evening looking up coaching grants and club development grants. I sit in seminar rooms completely uninterested in what’s going on. Everybody tells me that first-year University courses are boring, they’re certainly not wrong.

I compiled a list of what I wanted in my life. Had you asked me ten years ago what I wanted and I would have said I wanted to be the most educated girl in the world and be as rich as a veterinarian. Ask me now and I honestly just want to be something with purpose. I want to struggle to be successful but I want to be happy the whole time while doing it. I want a job that earns me enough to live on my own but not necessarily a mansion and I want a job where I can build relationships and watch my work make a difference. I always want there to be a threat or a risk, so I know that I always have to stay fresh and updated. Four years from now I may be educated, but will I be happy? I’ll say it now because it is becoming the very true reality. Undergrads with BA’s are not what they used to be. They’re not getting careers, instead they’re getting jobs to pay off what was supposed to be their entrance into a career. It’s old fashioned to think otherwise and while some end up lucky, most do not. It is the reality of a constantly growing world with many technologies taking over what were once useful jobs and professions. So where does that leave me? It leaves me thinking about what it is I want to accomplish and how I plan on getting there. At this point there are no shortcuts, and to be a coach there are no shortcuts. There is risk. For example I cannot be too picky if an opportunity arises, I have to go and get it-wherever it may be. Being someone who finds separation and leaving behind the old a difficult thing to do, I certainly picked a profession that will test my emotional power over anything.

I catch myself thinking several times a day what it is to live a life of a coach. I began coming up with a list of reasons why I do coach but also why I do not:

I do not coach because of the money, in fact its a little scarce.
I do not coach because of the hours, quite frankly they are not good.
I do not coach because its easy, its one of the more challenging things I have done.
I do not coach for my ego, there is too much I cannot control.
In short, I coach because I believe I can make a difference.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with a coach’s crew selection, coaching style, practice set-up,  I challenge you to take a closer look into their heart.  Why do they do, what they do?  Its funny, because as an athlete I always felt like the destiny of my team was in my hands, and now as a coach I feel the same way except with a greater deal of judgement.
So there, I want to coach more than I want to be a lawyer. I want to struggle more than I want to know that I will have stability and security. It will screw me over one day, but I am a firm believer that things always work out the way they’re supposed to and that by following what you see to be your ideal way of living you are attaining success instead of simply existing.
Coaching is a profession of love.  You cannot coach people unless you love them. -Eddie Robinson
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Milestones Change Everything Part 1

Let’s see, the last post I had was on May 19, 2013. It is now October 25, 2013. Sorry folks! Life caught up to me a bit but I am trying to be back in action!

What do I mean by milestones? In earlier posts I suppose milestones included 18th birthdays, graduations and cars. For those of you who didn’t know already I took a year off following High School to earn some money and figure out what it is that I wanted to do with my life. I worked three jobs at one point last year, I worked as an educator at a retail store in the mall, I worked as an AfterSchool recreation leader and as a private swim instructor. I guess the main reason why I never posted too much last year was because I was just working…not really much else. Finally, I applied to two Universities and got into both! Then I began my move out to Nova Scotia and the start of my coaching job for the season. Really nothing changed from the year before so I figured it didn’t make much sense to rewrite what you already knew.

Alright, so the summer: I once again found myself in Sackville, NS as the Head coach of the Atom Boys & Girls Program. Rather than coaching just girls like the year before I had the gut-wrenching thrill of coaching boys too. Mad respect for school teachers. On top of this, they changed the age categories for racing groups so I had an extra year of kids on top of what was already a packed group of athletes. This extra year happened to also be “that” year…you know…the one where they’re changing and stuff? Kids have got stuff going on in their lives and boy did I ever get the brunt of it this summer. Having tubs of ice cream and kleenex on site was really helpful.

Fast forward to what I think was the highlight of my summer. Being a coach I never really thought of going back into competition, mainly because I was convinced that my body couldn’t handle it anymore (multiple surgeries seemed to be a message from the Gods to stop). But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe all of those challenges were exactly what I needed to realize that heck yes! I can race in a Junior Women’s War Canoe this year, I’m feeling better than ever! The girls were racing at the Qualifying event and needed another in the boat. Our War Canoe coach had two choices, an 9-year old girl (who I am sure would have done wonderfully as she was coached by me…hehehehe) or me, an “old dog” as he referred to my racing experience jokingly. So he picked me, and 500m later and several grunting and painful noises and sounds later we came off with a never before 3rd place and a shoe-in at Nationals to be held in Montreal, QC. This is where my passion was reignited. What seemed to be practices headed for absolutely nowhere (our group had a few motivational issues) I figured I was just going to practice to be an extra body in the boat. Lo and behold, a few weeks later I was packing up the car with three others and driving to Montreal. Being a coach of the younger category I’ll admit I kept my distance from the U13s and U16s, mainly because at times it got overwhelming. But that trip to Montreal changed my life in a way I never thought it would. I am the type of person who is in it to win, I’m not about to go out and race knowing that we didn’t put it all out there in both practices and in races. And yes, the 500m Juvenile felt pretty bad. But it was during our 500m Junior race when I looked around and saw how much we just proved our worth and our small town club. We placed 4th. We were 0.03 seconds from a bronze medal. I wasn’t even disappointed, I threw my paddle down, had the biggest smile on my face because we knew, we all knew that someone from another club was going to get fired:)

Following our Nationals excitement it was time to get back to the reality. We were all going back to or starting school. I had a definite mental breakdown in my room the night before leaving. Was University even what I wanted? Had I been feeding myself a line this whole time? My heart wasn’t even in it and I wasn’t even in my dorm yet.

Nationals 204-2

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I’m BAAACCCCKKK.

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Okay, so I really have no excuse as to why I have not written in over a month. I have truly been exceptionally lazy. Between two jobs and keeping my head on straight from them I can safely say that I want out of here…NOW!

Updates, updates, updates:

I got into both Universities that I applied to and have chosen (drum-roll please…): Dalhousie University! Here is the real zinger, a while back you might have heard that I was interested in Kinesiology, and even way before that I wanted to be a teacher and then way before that I wanted to be a veterinarian. After considering what I was interested in this year I wanted to pursue CanoeKayak coaching further because of the lack of female representatives in coaching the sport. Considering it all and what I felt was right or me, I am choosing the path of Law. Way before I even wanted to be a veterinarian (we are talking elementary school, people) I had an avid interest in human rights, animal rights and basically being right about everything. I am obsessed with it and have spent most of my life advocating for various causes etc. Little did I know or realize that while I was busy dreaming up schemes of being a physiotherapist or teacher I had a knack for representing causes and other people/things, writing, working, being fair, persuading, not suffering fools gladly (as my father would put it), being persistent and being aggressive when need be. Thinking about the possibility of going into Law has me super excited. Of course, don’t take my word for it because as you probably know my mind wanders constantly. But for now, Law & Society with a minor in Gender & Women’s studies seems like the deal maker.

This summer I am coaching again, my other definite passion despite its frustration and difficulties. Maybe if my Law thing doesn’t work out I will try my hand at moving up the ladder in coaching even more. For now though I am happy with taking the training courses to compliment the needs of my athletes and keeping my mind fresh.

Another thing you may not know is that I am just crazy enough to drive from Calgary to Nova Scotia in two weeks for my big move. My little Mazda 3 better be ready because this girl is bringing the whole friggen house.

Oh and I am running a half-marathon in a week, can you say OUCH!

I am so excited for what lies ahead, the adventure, the fear, the difficulty, but my dream of FINALLY going to University and living in the province of nice people is coming true.

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Generation Power Girl

self-esteem

I recently attended a seminar for work and it left me incredibly baffled and annoyed. Entitled, “How to deal with Adolescent Stress” I had no idea one of the topics would be about body image, and how young girls find themselves increasingly stressed about how they look and needing to fit into their peer groups. One of the solutions which many programs already implement are programs aimed at young girls/young women only, with activities aimed at boosting their morale about themselves and understanding the ugly side to media portrayal. This is where my rant comes in, I simply do not believe this is the solution. Hear me out:

I think older people have this idea that we (young people) have no idea how media portrays us to be. We know. From a very young age we were made aware and were self-aware of the obscenely skinny models and picture perfect faces. Although for a time some of us thought this to be what the perfect woman embodied, later on we did learn that this is in fact not true. We learned this from our parents and our teachers. But then something happened. There was this uprise of programs entitled, “Go Girl” or “Power Girl” aimed at boosting a girl’s confidence and perspective on this fake beauty even more. I recall Dove being a pioneer in starting these campaigns for girls and women having them believe that real beauty is makeup-less and curvy. Reading through the events page in one of Calgary’s city magazines I found, “Young Women of Power Conference”. Its description is as follows:

“An all-day conference for girls ages 12 to 18ish consisting of active group sessions about hair care, Zumba, boxing, friendship and more aimed at helping girls see that they are more than enough. Speakers include _______________, slam poet champion, ______________ of the Pregnancy Care Centre, and rising pop-star _______________.” (spaces left blank on purpose!)

This is what “power” conferences are becoming. Apparently knowing how to care for your hair and how to zumba are quintessential tools in making strong young woman. I put in bold that one line about “helping girls see that they are more than enough” because that is the crux of these programs.  It is frustrating really, these conferences have this idea that girls do not know what they’re worth in society but they do know! They know exactly what society expects them to be, they expect them to be insecure about their image because media portrays women as being unrealistically perfect! Conferences are simply just supporting what society labels girls to be.  These conferences have already assumed that girls nowadays have low self-esteems. When conferences tell girls to ‘love themselves’ or to ‘feel beautiful just the way you are’ they’re ultimately saying to accept the world’s views on them as it is. The world view being that girls are crippling at the hands of perfect, skinny models on product advertisements.  It is okay to not feel perfect, but we do not feel this way because our confidence has been shot, we feel this way because that is what society has trained us to understand. Girls do not need self-esteem boosters, or people shouting at them telling them they’re gorgeous, flaws and all. What girls need is the opportunity to be able to do what they want to do without fear of facing stereotypes or sexism. True and righteous power comes from equal opportunity-not from ‘feeling’ beautiful. Girls need engineering programs not aimed at “promoting the engineer in the girl” but having them simply know that the engineer in them was there the whole time and now they can prove it. Girls need science programs that do not advertise statistics about the number of female scientists vs. male, but rather just programs that offer science to girls with an eye for science! Nobody needs to tell girls in sports that they should feel accomplished because they have muscles, or real girls are athletic. Girls just need the opportunity to participate in sports and competition without sexism.

Programs that support girl’s self-esteem no doubt are only trying to have their best interests in mind, but the ‘feel good’ aspect of life is not everything. Learning to love who you are and who you are becoming are certainly important in every day life but there is so much more. Perhaps people need to realize that what girls need most is opportunity and guidance in their endeavors. They (or I guess, we) do not need forks in the road or barriers known as stereotypes but need a clear path.  Instead of telling girls to be happy and smile, perhaps we should tell them that they have every right to be pissed with how society expects them to be. This will warrant for change, the key is understanding that the realization of injustice causes change-not simply just settling for what society wants us to be with a smile.

Now, after reading this, watch this video and you may begin to realize what I mean about supposed “Power Women” mantras. What is YOUR definition of REAL beauty? The definition of beauty is not always what you see, but definitely who you are. Let’s change “Power Women” and actually give us power, not just “love who you are” statements and tearfully made videos.

“Real” Beauty Sketches

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Learning English

“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center, so we lost our center and have to find it again.” -Anais Nin

Happy Easter to everybody who celebrate it!

Learning to speak English (or whatever the native language is)  is perhaps is the most worried about first tasks on the long list of what to do post-adoption. I myself can say that while I do not remember the exact first steps my parents took to teach me English it certainly could not have been easy considering I never really wanted to say much around other people. I was very shy and to this day find social interaction something that I need to improve on. I think my lack of desire to interact with others at an early age stemmed from my desire to feel connected to my parents first. Being taken from the only home I knew to Canada, what I lost in connection to the mother-land I had to make up for in connection to my new parents. This meant being hyper-focused (yes, even an infant can be hyper-focused) on being constantly surrounded by them! When I was pushed into social situations perhaps I felt like I was being torn away again and forced to interact with more people because I would eventually lose my new parents like I lost my home-land.The same goes for going to daycare, my mother thinks that my reason for crying constantly before I went was that I felt that possibly I was being taken to another children’s home and my parents were leaving me.

I define being introverted for myself as preferring to stay at home rather than go out and party. I would rather quietly observe my surroundings first instead of putting myself out there. In band camp in Grade 8, I took with me two very large veterinary books and expected to read them while I was there instead of talking to the other girls in my room about girl problems. As a younger child I was known to be shy, and my parents would apologize for my shyness or lack of social interaction. While sometimes my actions were in fact snobby, sometimes I felt like I had to have an excuse for being the way I was. There must have been a reason why they apologized for my shyness…was it wrong?

Almost every person I know who has been adopted (which is really not that many) has been held back a grade in school because their parents wanted them to improve their English and ability to interact with others in English. Like I said in my earlier post (Bullies on the Brain, you can read about it here: http://adoptingmorethanme.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/bullies-on-the-brain/) I never really took to people like some other kids did. I was not that kid that could plop herself down on the floor with another kid and begin a friendship builder. I believe that because I had this lack of desire to interact with others my age, I took to books. I believe that taking to books helped me learn English better than being forced to use my English with others. You see, not all kids who are shy are destined for a life of improper language skills, nor should they be labeled “snobby”. They simply just need another option. Growing up, being in a room full of small children (aka. kindergarten class or preschool) a place where one should feel comfortable I was at my most uncomfortable. There are almost no pictures of me where I am happily involved in a play station, instead I am being toted around by the school teacher. This improved as I got older though it took A LOT of work. I think this is where open-mindedness comes in. People expect kids to be extroverted, anybody who happens to be introverted is automatically labeled as “shy” or “snobby”.  I was shy, I was easily timid and nervous about being in the company of younger people. I am however more introverted than extroverted and no amount of social interaction at a young age could have possibly changed that. Back to the real purpose of this post: Had my parents held me back in school one more year to become better associated with people I doubt would have changed much. It would not have improved my English, nor would it have had me turn into more of a social butterfly. The way I chose to communicate was through books. I read a book, and regurgitated it back almost right down the exact written words themselves. I attended those library reading sessions as a toddler, said nothing and participated in nothing during those sessions but as soon as I left, could recite every poem or song that I had learned.

Through the use of books I think I learned what language was, it is not just repeating “Mommy” or “Daddy” after hearing it, but it is understanding the words itself. I quickly soared through the school curriculum for reading and was reading at a Grade 11 level by the time I was in Grade 7. In Elementary school we had this weekly Friday rotary schedule. We would choose an activity that we wanted to do each Friday. In Grade 5 I chose Theatre. It was with one of my favourite though super tough math teachers. I believe that I chose Theatre because it was the closest thing to reading. By reading when I was younger like I said above, I understood the meanings of the words. I understood the emotions behind them in stories. I think this is why I surprised myself in Theatre rotary and surprised my teacher. The once very quiet almost all of the time student was reading scripts like Rapunzel and Shakespeare with emotion, character and volume! I remember my teacher told my mother this with great surprise and excitement. Perhaps all was not completely doomed yet.  I never joined drama because drama was far more ‘out there’ than I every wanted to be but occasionally reading scripts and reading from books aloud, I found volume that I never had before. This is what Theatre rotary taught me about language.

I only learned how to interact with people because as I got older I really had no choice. The natural consequence of not talking is that very few people talk to you back. Regardless of whether you are introverted or extroverted, you need human interaction. The difference between being a hermit and introverted is just that, you choose to be solitary versus you enjoy the warmth of human companionship without the rowdiness. I think once people figure that out they will accept more quiet, more solitary personalities as being equally important to society just as much as  boisterous and high-energy ones. For my job I have to be able to talk to parents with confidence and talk to kids with confidence and talk to whoever with confidence. While I did not progress very fast in terms of being able to speak publicly or speak with confidence I learned at a rate that supported my personality. Had I been told to put the books away and forced into social situations constantly  I think a part of me would be very confused now, almost like I was turned into something that I was not meant to be. Thankfully that never happened.

The moral of the post is, we are not created the same. Sometimes things happen and we have reason for it. I was not abused when I younger, or suppressed but I ended up being the way I am. My parents did everything that any other parent would think to do. When your kid doesn’t talk to others, something’s got to be done. They did however realize the importance of my books and its connection to how I would choose to learn English and later discover my public volume which I discovered in Grade 5. Though this method may not work for some, it worked for me.

I wanted to leave you with some things that I found helpful when I was trying to find my voice as well as learn to deal with social situations:

-Obviously I read. For as long as I can remember my father read to me when I was little (and not very literate yet in English) and gradually I took over, reading to him.

-I enjoyed making small groups of friends, one at a time rather than all at once. My mother always put together birthday parties with this in mind. There was not going to be twenty kids bouncing around a table. Maybe five or six.

-Going to library reading sessions. While it may have been completely useless as far getting me to interact DURING the class, I certainly took something from it afterwards and that is really all you could hope for. Sometimes you do not get it all.

-My parents encouraged me to make my own friends, I do not remember once having them take my hand and go over to a group of kids and have me introduce myself. Because I was not going to. If that meant I spent a few lonely years that was okay, eventually I would find someone who I felt fit the position of being my friend. The first play mate I remember? It was a boy!

-My mother and father’s ways of dealing with shyness are vastly different. My father was more a gentle sort and allowed me to pursue my shyness and hang by his side. My mother was very pushy and although sometimes it seemed overboard I would not actually have the job I have now if it weren’t for her pushiness when I was in Grade 7. She signed me up to be a day camp volunteer. From there, it opened doors to coaching and working with various organizations! It is important to have that connection with someone who lets you be who you need to be and someone who wants you to try different things.

-My strengths were celebrated and my weaknesses were not mentioned as being problems. Yes, when I was younger my shyness was often apologized for but as I got older and my parents got to know me better, it became more a case of putting me in situations where my shyness did not have to come out. I did not have to feel like I needed to protect myself with it. This meant not pushing me into groups after a certain point.

-Rather than my mother standing in shock and being all “No way, she’s good at Theatre?!?” my mother acted like I had been good at it all along! I think this helped me in Grade 5 as my weaknesses played no part in my love for Theatre but I simply found something that had been previously hidden before.

Anyways, that is just the way I learned English and how to interact with those around me, much of it was done through SELF-exploration. Being someone who now works with kids, I find we are steering away from self-exploration and trying too hard to find the solutions to social problems too quickly.We are expecting success only from extroverted people and expecting very little from introverted, labeling them as not participating in an appropriate manner or as we see fit. This idea needs to change and once that idea changes and we realize that the two need each other to be successful I think more people will accept both ways of learning. When both ways of learning are accepted and supported who knows what brilliant minds could come up with next.

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