First Days


BackpackTear streaked faces with runny noses along with convulsive crying are a constant on the first day of school for many parents of five year olds.  Parents don’t fear it will be okay, I know you’re nervous.  Oh you thought I was talking about the children…well they too have their moments.  However most often it is the parents who are the most devastated that their little baby is now truly a big kid.  Sadly, what was often thought the safest place for children has become a place of uncertain safety, adding to parents fears.

I clearly recall my first day of kindergarten.  During the walk to my school, my mom kept reassuring me that I would have fun and learn new things.  When we arrived to my classroom, I encountered a new class mate who was crying her eyes out.  She was worried her mommy would not come back.

My mom advised me when she was finished speaking with the teacher, she looked for me.  She was happy to see that I was comforting another child and quickly slipped out the door.  I do remember looking up and seeing that she was gone and feeling a little bit panicked but remembered what she told me.

Through the years my mom and I would talk about my first day of kindergarten often.  She was always so proud of me and the fact that without hesitation I was comforting a new classmate.  My mom believed that was an indication she had instilled in me the need to be compassionate toward others.

First days can be tough and scary.  They involve getting to know new people or places.  We are taken outside of our comfort zone and put into unfamiliar territory.  Whether we are a 5-year-old, new to the school system or a 14-year-old going to high school or 18-year-old entering college, it can cause internal angst being put into new situations.

Another first day of school significant in my memory is high school.  Being an only child, I let Seventeen magazine be my guide for all things related to teen fashion and lifestyle.  Starting at around the age of 13, I purchased the latest edition of my favorite magazine monthly…by the end of each month the pages were dog-eared.  My outfit for the first day of high school was inspired directly from the pages of Seventeen.

However, on this the day when I felt very grown up it wasn’t my outfit that received all the attention.  Walking to my school a fellow male classmate looked at me and laughed.  Yes, he laughed at a 14-year-old female who was trying to find her way in the world.  When asked what was so funny, he replied “your cheeks”.  I was devastated.

The first minute I had the chance, I looked at myself in a school bathroom mirror.  Even in the awful contraption that was suppose to be a mirror, I realized I had applied way too much blush.  I did indeed look funny and started to laugh at my own reflection.  I didn’t wear much makeup after that day…nor do I to this day except for special occasions.  I have since learned the proper method of applying blush but still very seldom wear it.

First days can be scary days indeed.  They can provide us with queasy stomachs make us want to run and hide.  However, we become a little stronger and a little more knowledgeable dealing with situations that are new to us from these experiences.  All our lives there will be first days.  First dates are first days with a new potential partner.  There are those first days on a new job, when we feel a little unsure of ourselves even if you possess years of professional experience.  I can only imagine the first day for a surgeon.

Across the United States and in other countries around the globe there are many first days occurring.  New graduates starting their first professional job or new students starting their first day of school all may feel nervous.  Innovators developing start up businesses.  As I told my new classmate a long long long time ago it will be okay…you will do great.

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Built By Bullies


bullyingMy first encounter with a bully was when I witnessed a classmate have milk poured on their head.  I was 5 years old and waiting for my mother to pick me up from half day kindergarten.  I recall thinking that the act was mean but the kid who did it was much older, so I stayed silent.

I recall one day during class when another classmate, lied about sharing a snack with me.  Because of the lie, I kicked her right in her shin.  Our teacher believed me but I still was punished because kicking is not nice nor was it allowed.

Both of the incidents mentioned helped me to understand that I never wanted to be a bully nor mean person.  Overall I was a compassionate child who cared about others.  I didn’t like to share but if I had to I would.  I also would stand up for someone who was wronged.

Move from kindergarten to 3rd grade at a new school.  In addition, a new school where I started after the school year had begun.  Due to a change in my family dynamic my mother didn’t register me into school until October of that particular year.  I often think had home schooling been popular she may have chosen that option.

When I began at the new school, I had what were considered fancy clothes or rich girl clothes.  All of my school clothes were sent from my grandmother.  A huge box filled with dresses, pants, tops, under garments, shoes, and even hair bows came each year.  All of my clothes were brand named.  Oh did I mention that my school was in a neighborhood that had multiple incomes including those in public housing.

One day when I was late getting to school, I decided to run away for the day.  Not from home but from school.  My plan was to visit a family member who lived on the other side of the city.  In my 8-year-old mind, it seemed like a good idea.  I was blessed that God sent an angel that day.  A woman working the ticket booth at a parking lot saw me and stopped me.  She called my school after I told her where I attended.

During the drive back to school with one of the school social workers, I explained I had run away because girls were mean to me.  So when I we got back to school all the girls of my 3rd grade class were hauled into the counselor’s office.  Having to face these girls was scary but that was one of the building blocks that made me face my fear of bullies.

Throughout elementary school there was one of the main mean girls that consistently picked on me.  She would taunt me and do what kids do to make life miserable.  I use to dread going to school and my mom having been a shy child understood.  My dad taught me how to defend myself and I eventually did punch one male bully in the gut.  This stopped him from bothering me.

The crowning point of me dealing with bullies happened one day on the playground during recess.  I was in the 7th grade at this point.  My arch nemesis was pushing me literally and figuratively.  Maybe it was my budding pre-teen hormones or maybe she had pushed me once to many times but I went off.  I spewed every curse word I had ever heard my dad or older cousins use directly at her.  The bully who had taunted me for years looked completely and utterly shocked.  Then I said, “okay let’s do this.”  I raised my fist up and made my stance firm like my dad taught me.  She backed down and after that moment never bothered me again.

Standing up to my childhood bullies was tough but it helped make me the person I am today.  I am stronger and more confident in the issues I can conquer.  Life is not always filled with people who we like or with whom we agree.  Until recently, I still held angst toward the mean girls from elementary school but now I know they helped build the activist that I am today.  Along with loving parents and good friends, I am a person who believes in helping people no matter their situation.

My journey through the maze of childhood bullying has helped build a confident, determined, and defender of those less fortunate.  I know my 8-year-old self would be pretty proud of the woman I have become.  However, every child is different and these days with social media bullies have new resources.  In the end any person child or adult who bullies needs to be confronted.  It is amazing how quickly bullies back down when you call their bluff.

For information about bullying and how to handle it go to http://stopbullying.gov.

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Pressures of Perfection


NSPL_LogoWhat doesn’t kill you…makes you not dead. Oh you thought I was going to say what doesn’t kill you…makes you stronger. Well sometimes that is not the case. There are situations that people make it through and wish they were dead.

My life has not been perfect but I’ve overcome various obstacles in my path. Though I’ve worked through challenges, I know that there are others who sink into the quicksand. With the beginning of school starting in August for kindergarten to college it’s important to provide students with physical as well as emotional school supplies.

Most importantly for high school to college students being perfect and accepted creates pressure. I completed my undergraduate studies well over two decades ago, however, I still recall the feelings of wanting to fit in. I was blessed with a great core of classmates and close friends; many of those same people are actively in my life today. Like most teenagers, I wanted trendy clothes and to be invited to the fun parties. Sometimes I had the “it” outfit and sometimes I didn’t but I survived.

With increasing suicide rates on college campuses it is important to pack more than physical supplies. Emotional health is important and the understanding that no one is perfect. No matter the outer appearance most people male and female have inner turmoils.

Students, there is someone else going through the same confusion or frustration. Don’t let the perfect facades you see fool you. Every campus has resources to get help with the emotional stress of college. If you feel pressures get help; you will not be the first nor the last to need help.

Parents, you know your child.  Trust your gut and stay active in their lives.  It is your responsibility even when they are in college to know what is happening.  You don’t have to know everything but if need be a little prying can be the difference between life and death.  Yes, I am that serious.  Be sure that in addition to school authorities that your child’s roommate(s) have your contact information.

Classmates, roommates, sorority sisters, fraternities brothers, and friends you are the closets people to those who may need you to speak up.  Trust what you hear and what you see.  Yes, I know you are dealing with your own drama but you are in this together.  Your fellow classmate may be angry initially for your interference but in the end they will be grateful you cared.  We all just want someone to care about us when the day is done.  Someone there to let us know we are not alone.

To those students who are seeking to be the best possible in all aspects of life…take time to breath.  Don’t fear falling down in the literal and figurative sense.  Do the best that is within you and know when to seek help, whether academic or emotional.  Always remember the perfect person to your left and right is just as insecure as you….it’s okay.

Finally, if you feel alone or overwhelmed, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  You can also chat online via the website for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Above all know that you are precious and there is purpose for your life.

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Finding and Staying with the One


Over The YearsAfter over 30 years in a committed relationship including 20 plus of those years in a good marriage, I am often asked how my husband and I have make it work.  There is no perfect relationship but with some key tools there are strong relationships.  We met in college and first started out as two crazy college kids with healthy libidos. Through friendship overtime we developed into a couple.

Here are what I believe to be some of the most important components to our relationship.  Just like all aspects of life focusing on some basic rules will help lead to success.

No Agenda

When my husband and I first met, we didn’t have an agenda.  We were young and still teen-agers and enjoying life.  Just like other young couples we had our ups and downs.  But early into our relationship, we realized that we are young.  We didn’t focus on where the relationship would lead.

New relationships should not focus to hard on the future goals of the relationship.  With time six months into dating then decide where things are going.  This is more so for younger couples.  Most times mature individuals 35 or over have goals in mind but even then let the relationship have time to blossom.  During the beginning of the relationship just enjoy each others presence and the newness of your romance.

Self-Identity

My husband and I both kept and still have our own identity outside of our marriage.  We have always had our interests and things that are important to us as individuals.  We do share many interests but even those items we can enjoy separate from each other.

Individuals in healthy relationships should have other people in their lives.  With that said healthy relationships do not work well with outside influences, whispering advice in your ears.  Sometimes family and friends mean well but need to not give unsolicited advice.  However, if and when they do you need to learn how to filter out the noise of nonsense.  So always keep the friends that respect you and your relationship.

Communication

During our early relationship even during the no agenda phase my husband (then boyfriend) talked.  Honest and open talks about our day, goals, and dreams.  We spoke about our childhood as time passed and we felt comfortable to peel away the façade of perfect.  Neither my husband nor I tolerate drama, so we became close and closer over time.

My granddad said it best, “I never learned to read minds, even after fifty years.”  With the passing of time and the growing of our commitment to each other, my husband and I begin to develop talks about what next.  Let your relationship dictate how the conservation will develop.  Remember that honest communication requires sincere listening.  In addition, continual communication is needed, there is no expiration date on communicating.

In conclusion, when you enter into a new relationship allow yourself to be friends first.  Even if there is a physical aspect friends communicate and accept each other at face value.  Time will tell you where the relationship journey will take you.  Watch and see how your new partner interacts with family and friends; you will be given an insight into how they will treat you too.  

Finally, I purposely did not throw around the word love. Love is made of energy and energy can and does grow over time. It can also contract and dissipate.  As I stated in the first point no agenda allows the buds of love to take hold; if that is indeed meant to be the direction of the relationship. With that note always trust your instincts, there are instances where love or respect may no longer exist. Remember love yourself and above all else enjoy the journey…may yours be long and joyous. 

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Who Was Chuck Taylor?


Converse All Star Logo BlackOMG! Say it ain’t so! Converse the company behind the iconic Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker, started selling the new Chuck Taylor II today.  Why change something that has worked for 100 years?  Well while my brain thinks it’s a bad idea…my feet are saying thank you.

I have yet to try a pair of the new technology with a throwback design Chuck Taylor II sneakers; however, my feet most times fat and sore after a long day in the original Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars are excited.  With Nike technology and dare I say arch support the new version of the beloved sneakers will be better for overall foot health.  The new design is a throwback to when Chuck Taylor’s name first appeared on the sneakers.

All this talk about these beloved sneakers made me wonder who was this guy…Chuck Taylor?  I knew he was a basketball player but beyond that I had no other information.  So thanks to the digital age I was able to get some insight.

Chuck Taylor was not a professional basketball player but played in high school and college.  However, he loved the game.  Taylor as an employee helped to develop the iconic design of the Converse All-Star sneakers.  He gave input to help enhance the flexibility and added the patch that holds the logo for ankle protection (yes, there is a purpose for the patch).  The addition of Chuck Taylor’s name was added to the patch in 1932 and hence became the known forever as Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Taylor was a great supporter of the game of basketball.  During his early years at Converse he created a yearbook that included highlights of some of the best players.  He also took his love of basketball around to colleges and created basketball camps.  He utilized this format to sell the sneakers that bore his name.  Taylor was well loved and respected among the basketball community.

Even though he didn’t get any compensation for his name being part of the Converse All-Stars; he was said to fully utilize the company’s expense account.  Soon after he retired he succumbed to a heart attack in Florida.  Without the determination of a young man looking for a job at a shoe company…we may not have the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, today.

I think I own approximately seven pairs of Chucks in various designs.  I first fell in love with them when I was 7 years old, while shopping with my mom.  Specifically, they were red high-tops.  Ironically, I do not own red high-tops but I do have low Chucks in red.

Overtime even iconic designs must evolve.  With the addition of arch support and enhanced cushioning, I am sure Chucks II will also be the choice of artists, musicians, students, school teachers, cool people and even basketball players for years to come.  Share your thoughts…are you for or against the new Chucks II?

Sources: http://hoophall.com; http://Wikipedia.com

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A Rare Jazzy Bird


I write this post while listening to Amy Winehouse songs.  I recently saw the documentary simply titled Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia.  When I first saw it advertised, I thought it was a bio-pic.  I learned later that it was a documentary.  I wondered how much of a documentary it could be since her life seemed so short.  However, I failed to remember that though her life was short, she lived it during the coming of the digital age.

Amy-WinehouseThrough footage from friends, family, interviews, performances and the paparazzi along with her own commentary it was an in-depth look into Amy’s life.  I was pulled in from the opening footage when she was a teenager, venturing through her rise to paparazzi hounding celebrity status and then to her sad death.  During the whole documentary, I found myself thinking maybe the end will be different…maybe she will live.  But we all know that on July 23, 2011 a talent, a voice, a rare bird went silent.

I didn’t discover or rather appreciate the pint-sized powerhouse until she did a duet with Tony Bennett.  I knew of her before then but just thought of her as an odd bird with a soulful sound.  During the first scene of the documentary you realize that she was born or rather earned that soulful sound at a young age.

I know I will get dinged for saying this but Amy Winehouse story is so reminiscent of Billie Holiday.  In addition her unique jazz sound is not like other artist of her period.  During an interview on a British talk show she says “they tried to give me elocution lessons.” She laughs that raucous laugh like a seasoned fisherman.

Her ex-husband (he is not worth his name being typed) has reportedly and repeatedly stated that he is not responsible for her death.  Even though she died of alcohol poisoning and not a drug overdose, I believe he definitely contributed significantly to her untimely death.  Her co-dependecy with him and introduction to hard-core drugs as well as bouts of cutting themselves were all part of her downward spiral.

The most important of Amy Winehouse inner circle, her parents were blind to her demons of bulimia and alcoholism.  In addition her spiral included covering the pain of her paternal grandmother’s death, one of few stable family members in her life.  Even her promoter who then became her manager didn’t do right by her when she was alive.

Sadly Amy Winehouse death from substance abuse wasn’t the first; the year following her death Whitney Houston died in part due to substance abuse.  There is a list of celebrities who like Amy died at age of 27 including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.  For celebrities whose stars are rising it would be great if their inner circle is true and strong enough to stand up to their glow.

Entertainer Yasiin (Mos Def) Bey; her best friends; and her last bodyguard seemed to be the most concerned for her…however without support of her family there was little they could change.  They were not able to break through or break her away from the cocoon of fame and wealth.  Sadly it seemed when she was on a true comeback to herself, she lost the fight and her life.  We the world lost a rare jazzy bird.

Enjoy this video of Amy displaying her soul-stirring talent.

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Heatstroke…Is No Joke!


On average 38 children die from being left in unattended hot vehicles each year.  In 2014, there were 32 deaths due to children being left in hot vehicles.  As of July 20th of this year there have been 10 reported deaths of children associated with being left in unattended vehicles.*

road-safety-kids-in-hot-cars_rdax_443x249Last year, my husband and I had the honor and responsibility for caring for my niece on a hot day in June.  It didn’t matter what small stops we had to make she was taken out of her carseat if we had to run into a store, even for a minute.  In response to the “I keep the car running, when I run into the store.” I ask this question, what happens when the vehicle unexpectedly stops running?  It happens.  You run into the store with car running and get into a long line or conversation then return to a lifeless and helpless body.

If this sounds drastic, if I sound like I am trying to scare you then you would be correct.  Leaving a child or an animal or elderly person in a vehicle unattended is not acceptable.  A child even as old as 6 years of age may not be able to exit the vehicle before being overcome by heat.

We all have a lot on our minds.  However take a minute to always check the back seat or seats.  They are your children or responsibility. Don’t hope that someone else will account for them getting out of the car.  When you are returning home from vacation or at the end of the day be sure everyone has exited the vehicle.  And if you have to make a stop then please by all means take the time and effort to take in your child.  In addition guess what if your home is air conditioned, your pet would probably like to remain indoors.

Finally, there is no excuse for leaving anyone who isn’t able to care for themselves in a hot car even for second while you run inside the convenience store, dry cleaners or wherever.  Our planet is getting warmer every year not cooler so it is imperative that you get out of your head and pay attention to those who depend on you.

Please always play it safe…children depend on you to protect them.

*Source: kidsandcars.org

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