Creating New Thanksgiving Traditions

Creating Thanksgiving TraditionsAs we approach the Thanksgiving holiday social media is a constant feed of traditional foods, stories of family tradition dating back to ‘as long as I can remember’, and reminders of open spaces at our tables. As a proud Jewish American family, Thanksgiving figured prominently when I was growing up. It was a time for family and close friends to gather at my grandparent’s house. And there were always new faces ever year, young people who were away from home. Strangers, one would say. But in my grandparent’s home, no one was a stranger. These were my Thanksgiving traditions.

There was no separate kids’ table. Everyone sat together. Formal dining table next to however many folding tables and chairs were needed. The good china and crystal gleamed on the table, for kids and adults alike. The kitchen table was overflowing with desserts of all types. Traditional Pumpkin Pie, check. Sweet Potato Pie, got that too. Cookies, there was a wide assortment. Candies and chocolates, both store-bought and homemade were carefully displayed on beautiful trays. My  grandma was an entertainment goddess. Didn’t matter if there were 10 or 300 (her biggest Passover Seder had over 300!), she made it look so effortless and made everyone feel welcome.

My grandma passed away in 2013. She was in the hospital on Thanksgiving of that year. I had begun prepping the night before, not knowing my grandmother wasn’t feeling well. On Thanksgiving morning, as I was organizing my cooking schedule I got a call telling me my grandma was in the hospital. You don’t simply drop a list-full of food and hope it magically is prepared when you return. Honestly, I don’t even know what we did for Thanksgiving dinner that year. All I remember is being at the hospital, talking to doctors about final plans, making decisions I didn’t want to make, and hoping that I wouldn’t be saying my final good-byes that day.

Thanksgiving 2014 came along, not quite a year after my Bubbe died. I wasn’t in the mood to make a big dinner and spend my entire day in the kitchen. There wasn’t going to be a house full of people. Maybe years ago, but not that year. There would be 5 of us because Grandpa Tommy was not close enough to join our family gatherings.

Long ago, when it was just CycleGuy and me, we decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at a local resort. It was more of a way not to hurt anyone’s feelings because back then, in our early 20s, we were a young couple and had been invited to various homes for the holiday. Rather than having to choose, we had dinner by ourselves then made the rounds to our friends’ homes to laugh, have dessert, play games, and, of course watch sports on TV.

In 2014, I felt like the tradition of a big family gathering wasn’t much of a tradition. I would spend two days cooking and many more cleaning, for what would be a fancy, but still not-too-long dinner. BabyGirl didn’t have expectations of any specific experience. For her, really, it was just another day. Her traditions were more connected to the morning hike with her dad and an evening of playing games and eating dessert. It didn’t help that my last Thanksgiving memory was filled with beeping machines and the smell of industrial cleaners.

CycleGuy suggested we go out for Thanksgiving. I can’t even tell you if anyone had invited us over, because I don’t remember. Thanksgiving 2014 was the first year my whole family was gone. No grandparents, no mom, no uncle. Of course I had CycleGuy and BabyGirl, AuntZoni and Grandpa Tommy. But if all the family you grew up with is gone, you understand. I hope you don’t, though.

This year we’re going out for Thanksgiving. It’s become our tradition. I make a few things, those favorites you want as leftovers. But instead of spending days in the kitchen we spend time together. There is the annual Daddy/Daughter hike, followed by the cajoling to practice violin. (Music moms, you know my pain!) We talk, we look at ads, we watch parades on TV. I cook and bake at leisure, knowing that dinner is going to be ready when we are.

I was talking with a friend, recently, about Thanksgiving traditions and mentioned that I wonder if our going out to dinner will leave BabyGirl feeling empty when she’s away at college and friends talk about their family Thanksgiving traditions. Will she feel like she missed out on a house full of people eating, talking, laughing? Will she feel like her experience of getting dressed up and going to a resort make her not fit in? I started wondering about the traditions I’m creating for her. My friend didn’t really offer much, other than to say that traditions are what you make of them. Some people’s big family Thanksgiving isn’t really a fond memory. A tradition. A memory. But not necessarily good.

I have great memories of Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s house. But those are my memories. It’s not for me to recreate those. It’s more about creating experiences around Thanksgiving, no matter what they are, that fill BabyGirl with joy, love, happiness, appreciation, and gratitude. And if going out for dinner on Thanksgiving does that, then there’s nothing wrong with creating this new tradition.

May your table be filled with your favorite foods and surrounded by your favorite people. However you celebrate, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you’d like to share how you celebrate, I’d love to know!

Sara

My Love/Hate Relationship with STEM Education for Girls

STEM Girls

 

As a girl who grew up loving science and math, but eventually moved away from it, I have a love/hate relationship with the recent STEM and coding movements. I know math and science are important, especially for girls. Then again, the only female math or science teacher I had was my 10th grade Biology teacher, Mrs. Head. Even then, it wasn’t like it was so special because she was my aunt’s sister so I already knew her.

I always look back and say that I probably had one of the best STEM experiences in high school because almost all my classes were filled with other girls. If my memory serves me correctly, I’d say that the top 25 of my class (of which I was one!), half were girls. This is out of over 400 kids. Back then – 30 years ago, Class of ’87!! – it was unheard of for so many girls to be at the top of the class.

I’d say, for the most part, my teachers didn’t have issues with ‘the girls’. There was one (male) science teacher who would often put us in boy vs. girl teams, but I never saw it as a gender issue. For the most part the girls were equal to the boys, and we usually won, so I saw it as a way to tap down the testosterone surge of awkward high school boys. Maybe I was naive. And, if so, I’ll just keep it that way. Sure, that teacher had favorites – all of them boys. While  he made it very clear to me that he was never going to accept that I was as smart as the smartest boys, he had to pretend when every time he asked me to prove my worth I did. As a matter of fact, he didn’t want me to go to a state science competition because I was the only girl selected and we’d need a female chaperone. I was required to ask the female teachers if one would like to be my chaperone. Luckily I wasn’t asked to pay more to have my own hotel room, but he make it known that ‘his boys’ had to share a room while I got my own. At the end of the day, I won! None of ‘his boys’ won their divisions. I did. Not only did I win my division, my project and presentation were selected as one of the top three overall. Boom! Oh, and he had to present my award at the school assembly even though he didn’t want to.

I’ve looked back on that one incident and how, despite my hundreds of hours of work between 11pm and 3am having my mom drive me to the university two days a week for several months so I could work with a professor and his team of Ph.D. and Masters students, for me it was never trying to prove I was good enough. At that time, I didn’t see that he didn’t want any girls on his science teams and did everything he could to keep us off. Part of that was teen cockiness. But part of it was because my mom always told me that I if I did the work she’s make sure I had the same opportunities.

Then I went away to college. And the teen cockiness was knocked down quickly. I selected my program – constructional engineering – because it’s something I was really interested in learning and doing. I was one of about 6 girls in the program, and that included the graduate students and office staff. That should give you an idea of where I found myself. The professors were openly sexist. The teaching assistants had no time for me. In my advance physics class I was one of a few girls. I was the only girl in my physics lab. I was one of 3 girls in my Advanced Differential Calculus class, but the only freshman. I looked around, day after day, and saw few women. The women I saw were so busy keeping their place at the table there was no time left to make sure I even had a place in the room.

Now, as a mom to a girl who excels in math and science in a world where STEM education for girls has become a focus of education I’m not the advocate I once thought I would be. Yes, BabyGirl has been involved in robotics and science camps, often being the only girl. Yes, BabyGirl spent a summer in the NASAGirls program and has attended girl-only summer STEM camp at the local universities.

The push for STEM-everything, which is really coding-focused for the elementary and middle school ages, doesn’t seem genuine when it comes to girls, though. Sure, there are amazing organizations like Girls Who Code, but their local programs are connected to a school and if you don’t happen to go to that school you’re on your own. And what if you don’t want to code?

What if you don’t want to code? Can you tell me what’s out there for girls who don’t want to code but love science and technology and engineering and math? I can tell you. Not much. With all the great programs that use STEM as their basis, there is such a predominance of coding that kids are learning that STEM is coding. Girls are being taught that STEM equals coding.

So when they don’t like coding, they don’t like STEM. If they’re not good at coding they start to think they’re not good at STEM. They’re not good at science or math. And that’s where I have a problem.

I was fortunate. Up until about 10 years ago, education was about the various types of science – biology, botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, and so many others – and math. It wasn’t about coding. I hated coding. It’s one of the reason I left my engineering program in college. It’s not that I wasn’t good at it, it’s that I hated staring at a screen with a bunch of nonsense to try and make some stupid design or have a series of number print out on a card. Science and math weren’t fun any more.

And that’s where I am today as a mom, trying to convince my daughter that math and science are fun. That they are used in real life. That there’s more to STEM than coding.

I believe that coding has its place in STEM. But it would be great if schools and the STEM movement would move beyond that focus and create programs that actually try to keep girls interested in science and math beyond elementary school. I say this because I know that there are awesome science and math programs and careers out there for girls, but they have to stay interested long enough to be able to see them as viable college and career options.

What are your thoughts about STEM education for girls? Has your experience been different?

Sara

How the Movie ‘Hidden Figures’ Sheds Light on Women in STEM to Give Young Girls More Role Models

Hidden Figures One Sheet

Based on the book of the same name, the movie Hidden Figures has grown from a small-budget, limited-release film to one that has expanded release and is receiving critical acclaim. The book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, written by Margot Lee Shetterly, brings to light several of the key African-American women who worked as ‘calculators’, and then mathematicians, at what is now NASA. Long before computers, people did the work of calculators. During their time, beginning in the 1940s, these young African-American women not only dealt with the sexism of the day but also were constantly reminded that ‘they’ were different. Regardless of the caliber of their work, it was several decades of being ‘colored’ and treated as third-class citizens that each of them had to contend with to do jobs where they could use their talents and pursue work that allowed them not only to contribute the space-race but also contribute to their self-satisfaction.

Although it was first released in select cities, I knew I wanted to see the movie and take BabyGirl to see it too. For decades young black girls never knew that there was a foundation in math and science careers set for them by the women portrayed in the movie and many others like them. As a bi-racial child, it is important to me that BabyGirl learn about her African-American history. Equally important is to teach her that while she’s grown up being told girls can do anything they set their mind to, sexism still may play a role. It’s easier to find stories of women who’ve overcome sexism in the workplace to become successful. But to have a story where even if they could overcome the sexism, the color of their skin was a constant reminder that they were ‘less than’ when it came to the type of work being done for the space program.

The theater was mostly empty, with BabyGirl significantly bringing down the average age. The movie moves along quickly and keeps you engaged. If you’ve never experienced racism first hand, there are a few uncomfortable situations that are even still pertinent today. The sexism can be brushed aside as something ‘of the time’. I think most of us are accustomed to women’s roles in the 50s and 60s. The music, the costumes, and the historical accuracy are so well done that you’re not distracted by something that doesn’t fit. The writers deserve a lot of credit for these because they could have easily left us trying to reconcile things on our own. Instead, they give us a truth that is closer to their reality and not one that we need to construct.

Now open nationwide, it’s very easy to encourage everyone to go see Hidden Figures. The reasons, though, are multi-faceted. It’s a story to encourage girls in STEM education. It’s a story that shows young black girls that despite thinking the path was only recently created this is a trail that was blazed a generation ago and has much deeper roots. It’s a story to remind us that thinking big and doing what seems impossible is a foundation of this country – for all people.

I think everyone who sees it can find their connection. As a parent, I feel connected to Katherine Johnson’s parents who were strong advocates for their gifted daughter. As a girl who loved math but felt pushed out by ‘the boys’, I know how difficult it must have been for these women to do this back in their time. As an American I see that we have come a long way, but still have room to improve.

Any time we have the opportunity to tell the stories of people whose stories were ignored, we need to do it. To think that major advances or events happened with only certain people perpetuates the misinformation that we’ve become conditioned to accept as fact. Today we have a platform to tell these stories. But we also have the responsibility to ensure that similar stories of today are told in real-time.

We can’t continue to tell stories like this as history. Girls of all color deserve to see themselves in women who are, every day, ensuring that this trail not only becomes smoother but also goes farther. In 2018, we will have the first African-American crew member on the International Space Station. Jeanette Epps, Ph.D., may not have set out to be the first but by telling her story in real-time we’re not left wondering if there is a place for girls in math and science.

History helps shape the future. Without stories like these kids, girls especially, grow up thinking they don’t belong. However, we can’t rely on history. Especially not when today we have amazing women of all color doing exceptional work in math and science, breaking down barriers that are remnants of an era we need to put behind us.

This isn’t just a story about black women who pushed “the system”. It’s a story about Jim Crow laws, feminism, self-respect, perseverance, love, and history. It’s all of these that are woven together to create a screenplay and bring to life the story of just three of the women who did the impossible. And helped their country do the impossible at the same time.

We need these movies. They give us hope and perspective, two things we need our children to have so they can go out on their journeys to do great things. And at the same time they show us that sometimes by just doing your job the way you think it should be done, you can make history.

Sara

Hanukkah Apps, Videos, and Favorite Tech Gifts

Hanukkah Apps

This post is part of an ongoing series of lifestyle tech as a participant in the Verizon Insider influencer group. I’m thrilled to be part of this group for the past several years and I hope you enjoy my unique perspective on tech for families and entrepreneurs. There are affiliate links in this post, which help me to run this site and buy cool tech I think you’d love to know about.

This year Hanukkah starts on December 24th. This is so exciting! No only do I have something fun to do on December 25th but I get to take advantage of all the sales. And though Hanukkah is a festival holiday and, traditionally, not a big gift-giving holiday, it’s become more and more a celebration that includes gifts. Gifts go well with latkes and pear sauce, right?

What I love about tech is that it allows everyone to get in on the games and fun smartphone apps. Even songs, lots of Hanukkah songs! So I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite Hanukkah tech, from apps to videos to small gifts to things that may qualify as ‘the big gift’ this year.

Fun Hanukkah Apps

Light My Fire (iOS, Andriod) – Created by The Jewish Museum in New York, this app allows you to select one of the many exquisite Hanukkiah from their collection. I love this, especially for college kids and young adults who may not be able to light actual candles where they live. It’s also great for little kids so they can participate in lighting candles. I think it would be a great option for seniors who may not feel comfortable with open flames in their homes or senior living apartments and for parents of kids with special needs that may not be able to light candles in a traditional way.

Menorah (iOS, Android) – This is a nice app, with music by Mo Kiss, that lets you light the candles and sing along. Again, great for those in need of a virtual menorah.

The Chanukkah App (iOS, Android) – With a virtual menorah, some history, and a virtual dreidel game it’s a mobile party! This app features the blessings in 7 languages as well as incorporates social sharing so you can celebrate with your friends all over the world.

‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah (iOS, Android) – An extension of the 2012 musical album of the same name, this app brings lots of fun holiday music to your smartphone with an epic musical battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. Something new and fun to give a tech/music spin to your celebration.

Match 8 Hanukkah Game (iOS, Android) – Tired of playing dreidel? Who isn’t! Here’s a fun little game to distract you from whatever it is you need distracting. This candle lighting game will test your skills at speed lighting. A great app for kids of all abilities to get involved in playing Hanukkah games.

Chai on Chanukkah (iOS) – A top app among Jewish families with special needs kids, everyone gets in on the festival fun!

Hanukkah Match Games (iOS, Android) – A Hanukkah twist on the traditional game of matching tiles. Fun for young kids and helps them make a Jewish connection.

Festive YouTube Videos

The Chanukah SongAdam Sandler Chanukah Song (3:55) – The original by Adam Sandler. In 1994, Adam Sandler wrote a Hanukkah song for SNL’s Weekend Update and it’s become a classic. Before this there really weren’t very many non-traditional Chanukah songs, so this is really the one by which all modern songs are measured. Most are parodies, but The Chanukah Song and it’s subsequent versions are all classics. Sandler’s Chanukah Song Part 4 was released in 2015, at a fundraiser with Judd Apatow. (Image Source: NBC)

Sesame Street: Hanukkah With Veronica Monica (2:43) – if your kids love Sesame Street, this is a fun little video of the Hanukkah story. If you like this one, check out Shalom Sesame.

The Maccabeats – Candlelight – Hanukkah (3:41) – Candlelight is a Jewish parody of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. With over 11 million views, I find myself singing this all year ’round. Funny thing is that when this song came out BabyGirl had never heard Dynamite and months later when she did she thought it was a parody of Candlelight. True story!

The Maccabeat – All About That Nais (2:55) – Not as popular, but still fun, this parody of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass is a nice little story about latkes, dreidels, bubbies, and presents.

Six13 – Chanukah (Shake It Off) (4:34) – New to the Jewish a Capella scene a few years ago, Six13 puts together a Festival of Lights parody of TayTays Shake It Off. It’s a fun little ditty!

The Story of Hanukkah (2:15) – This is a storybook video of the story of Hanukkah geared to help young readers. Perfect for kids!

Favorite Hanukkah Tech

OK, so there isn’t really such a thing as Hanukkah tech (other than the cool electronic Hanukah menorahs) but when it comes to gift giving, Chanukkah can present more challenges than just how to spell Channukkah. Since Hanukah is a festival holiday, many of us grew up with little emphasis on the gift-giving  part of the celebration. Some small gifts for each night (candy, puzzles, games, etc.) or maybe one “big” gift (a bike, designer jeans), but gift giving has only recently become associated with Hanukkah so it can be difficult to figure out the ‘right’ gift. And that’s why I’m taking the stress out of your holiday and giving you some suggestions for gift options for your Hanukkah-celebrating friends and family. [Note: Chanukah begins on Dec. 24th this year, so waiting for those after-Christmas sales is highly encouraged!]

Bluetooth Trackers – These little devices that attach to your keys, slide into your wallet, fit nicely in your center console of the car, attach to a zipper in your luggage, or connect to your child’s backpack, are awesome gifts. I’ve used the Tile, Tile Slim, and Mynt trackers and all have saved me from what could have been stressful moments. When I switched planes (and airports) to allow for a family to stay together, my Mynt tracker gave me peace of mind when I saw that my luggage had arrived to my destination. The Tile tracker was with me on a three week trip to DC this summer and when I left my luggage with the concierge I could see it was safe. And when I can’t find my phone, these little devices let me get an audible tracker even when my phone is on silent. Retail: about $20 each

Portable Speaker – When we went to Israel, we took the UE Boom with us so we could easily listen to music. We take it with us when we travel because it’s so easy to use and doesn’t take up much space. CycleGuy loves it for taking business calls because it turns his smartphone into a real speakerphone. The UE Boom 2 is shockproof and waterproof, making it even more versatile. The UE Roll is small, lightweight, and so easy to use for those with active lifestyles. These range in price, but are well worth the money!

External Smartphone Battery – Let’s face it, we’re busy people and don’t have time to worry about our smartphone running low. Sure, we can get a car charger or connect at home. But, with music and games, social media, and all the photos, those long-life batteries don’t always sync with our busy lives. I have 7 or 8 different powerbanks, each for different purposes. I have the ultra-thin charger for those times I’m going out and have a small evening bag. My original Mophie is always in my purse and CycleGuy has one in his messenger bag. I have a few larger Limefuel chargers with multiple ports so BabyGirl can always plug in with friends.

Multi-Port USB Charger – Seriously, you need one! Instead of plugging in all over the house or fighting for outlets at a hotel, a multi-port USB charger is a dream. I have three of these and they are the best! We have 7 smartphones, a Nexus, two iPads, wireless headphones, CycleGuy’s bike light, and quite a few other things that need to be charged and we can do it with such ease and convenience. A few brands I like are Anker, this value-priced Sabrent 4-port hub, this Photive 6-port rapid charger, as well as the more permanent option of changing out your outlet to a Top Greener Dual USB wall outlet.

Of course, who wouldn’t love a new phone? Sometimes that’s a very personal decision, but if you’re looking for a smartphone that is unique and has really cool add-on options, check out my experience with the Motorola Moto Z Force Droid. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge either.

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Sara

Dine Out to Help End Childhood Hunger in America #NoKidHungry

nokidhungry

When you think of childhood hunger, what comes to mind? For me, it’s usually those ads with kids in Africa with the distended tummies and some soft voice over about how for just pennies a day we can feed a starving child. I hate those ads. Not because I don’t support what they do, but because I feel like they’re preying on my kindness and desire to make the world better. As a kid, even though I didn’t have a lot of food, compared to those kids on TV I was eating like a queen.

A number of years ago I was at a conference and there was a booth about the No Kid Hungry program. I had never heard of the program and found out it was just a few years old, having rolled out as part of Share Our Strength in 2008. I knew exactly what they were trying to do. End child hunger in America.

It pains me that in this great country so many kids go to bed hungry every night. Even more kids deal with food insecurity, not knowing if they’ll have anything to take for lunch or to eat when they get home from school. We don’t think about kids in our own communities going without meals. Unlike many of the poorest countries in the world, as we go about our day the likelihood of encountering a child who deals with hunger or food insecurity isn’t something we see.

Yes, we know it exists. Yes, we donate to food pantries. Yes, we realize our kids go to school with students who get free or reduced meals. But it’s actually hard to really see and grasp.

Most people don’t know, but for almost all of elementary school I got free lunch. There were no snacks waiting for me when I got home. Meals were simple. Not as in simple because mom was busy. Simple as in “pretend tomato soup” made with ketchup and hot water, or half a sandwich because if I ate a whole one my mom would have nothing to eat. And meals were even more simple as the month wore on if my grandparents or my uncle didn’t “happen to stop by on their way home from the store.” I don’t think I ever went hungry in the sense that there was no food at all or that I went to school or to bed without eating something, but there was definitely a sense that if there was more food I would eat it.

I went to school early, usually leaving the house to catch the 6:45 a.m. bus so I could have breakfast. There were a lot of us, probably 10 kids, so it didn’t really seem all that weird. I wasn’t bullied or made fun of because I ate breakfast at school. In the summer, I rarely ate breakfast. Which is a habit born out of necessity that dies hard.

Every Monday my teacher would give me five lunch tickets. If I lost them, I wouldn’t have lunch. I diligently wrote my name on the back of each ticket, in case they got lost, and then put them in my pencil bag. I remember in 4th grade my lunch tickets were yellow. Some kids had blue tickets. Years later I understood why some kids were handed blue tickets and some kids yellow. It’s humbling to realize that my mother had to ask for help, yet she did everything so it wouldn’t affect me so much.

I know what food insecurity is. I understand how it can impact your ability to learn and pay attention in school. I have a great appreciation for the food that I am served because I often had a choice of eating food I didn’t care for or going hungry. When you’re 6 or 7 it’s a pretty easy choice.

Although we didn’t keep kosher – imaging trying to do that when you’re dependent on other people providing your food – there was a long list of food I couldn’t eat. I rarely ate meat, even at school. You don’t realize how often schools serve ham, or cheeseburgers, or sloppy joes until you have to trade your friends your main dish for their peas or carrots or corn. You don’t realize how few vegetables are actually served until you ask a number of the kids around you ‘are you going to eat that’ as you point to whatever vegetables they’ve pushed to the side just so you don’t feel hungry any more.

I don’t worry about if I will eat today. My daughter will never know a home without food, nutritious or otherwise. At nearly 50, I am still affected by the lack of food when I was a kid. Today, I have the privilege of choosing organic, nutritious, fresh foods. I also have the ability to be part of the solution to put an end to a situation I know too well.

Dine Out for No Kids Hungry is a month-long promotion in September to help end child hunger in America and get more people involved in solving this problem. There are thousands of restaurants participating across the country to help bring an end to child hunger and kids dealing with food insecurity. By dining out at a participating restaurant a portion of the profits from your meal will be donated to Share Our Strength. Go eat out!

With your change you can be the change. Kids should never have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Please learn more about No Kid Hungry by following them on Twitter, Like their Facebook page, and share your support of those restaurants and companies donating by tagging your photos with #NoKidHungry.

 

Note: It’s not easy to share stories like this, but as I get older I realize how important it is for me to shed the fear of sharing and do it to help kids like me. This is not a sponsored post.

Sara

The Silence of the Stanford Sexual Assault Victim’s Parents

Stanford Sexual Assault Pin

In March, former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of three felonies related to his sexual assault of an unconscious woman. In June, the judge sentenced the 20-yr old Turner to 6 months in jail. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Judge Persky said of Turner. “I think he will not be a danger to others.” As people got wind of this, outrage erupted. The outrage has been visible on every social network and in nearly every major news outlet.

The Stanford sexual assault victim’s impact statement has been published on countless websites and was read live, in full, on air by Ashleigh Banfield, anchor of CNN “Legal View”. She crafted a very vivid and powerful picture of who she was before the rape and how her life has changed. She addressed Turner directly. It’s quite a powerful narrative and definitely worth reading and sharing with others. It’s an excellent piece to use to talk to your teens, sons and daughters alike.

We’ve heard from a childhood friend of Brock Turner, Brock’s father, and Brock himself. All three have failed to grasp the gravity of Brock’s choice to sexually assault an unconscious woman. The friend, Leslie Rasmussen, a female, blamed political correctness for putting her friend on trial. Rasmussen went on to question why the jury should believe a woman who doesn’t remember anything. Rasmussen seems oblivious to the fact that being unconscious and unable to recall what happened is exactly why her friend was convicted. She tries to suggest this was some crazy alcohol-fueled college kid misunderstanding. Brock’s father, Dan Turner, also made a statement on behalf of his son. It seems Brock is so distraught that he can’t eat a nice steak or steal potato chips and other snacks from his father. And being the concerned parent, Dan goes on to say that his star-athlete son shouldn’t have to pay the rest of his life for ’20 minutes of action’, as if punishment is meted out based on how long the crime lasted. Dan also seems to think that his son could easily pay for his crime by talking to students about the perils of drinking and sexual promiscuity. Not once did he show any concern for the victim or how difficult her life has become since his son raped her. Finally, we get to Brock Turner’s statement, which is a diatribe about how he was forced to drink to have friends and he was doing what he thought drunk college kids normally do. Only his story was one that was crafted to explain everything away and shift blame to anyone he could.

In brief interviews, we’ve heard from the two students that chased, tackled, and held Brock until the police arrived. Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, both from Sweden, spotted Brock Turner on top of an unconscious woman and after a moment thought there was something wrong with the situation. It’s because of them the crime was reported. Had they not come along and intervened it’s likely the victim would have been left alone and when she regained consciousness, unable to recall what happened, returned to her home.

We’ve heard from most everyone involved with the parties of the Stanford sexual assault. And while we don’t know the victim’s name or identity, it’s her prerogative to remain anonymous. I don’t blame her. She’s been through enough. She doesn’t need to become the poster child of a movement. In fact, her voice is likely more powerful because we don’t know her. She represents every woman. She is all of us.

The people we haven’t heard from are her parents. I’m sure they were with her throughout the ordeal. In her statement, the young woman barely refers to her parents. I’m sure it was especially difficult to watch this circus and witness first hand the trauma of seeing their daughter dragged through a trial. I’m certain they were there to support their daughter, perhaps not knowing what to say or do but wanting to take care of their little girl.

No one has talked about her parents, so I will. I know they have a story but it’s so intertwined in that of their daughter they remain silent. If they come forward they risk removing the anonymity she’s worked hard to maintain. When it comes to the victim, rarely do others get to provide in-court statements about how awesome the victim is and how she’s changed because of the horror of being through such an awful crime. Victim impact statements are often singular, not a parade of friends and family providing insight and context to the life shattered. Unfortunately, many victims don’t even get to give a statement lest it be viewed as inflammatory or degrading of the defendant. Yah, seriously! Some judges limit what a victim can say because they don’t want to make the defendant feel bad.

We may never know the hell her parents have gone through. Parents of sexual assault survivors often stand in the shadows. Not because they’re not deeply involved in the care and support of their child. Rather, their pain is often so entwined in a story that doesn’t belong to them.

As parents we advocate for our children. Even as they become adults, we’re still there for them. Our child gets very sick and we start a website to keep everyone informed. Our child is killed in a senseless act of violence and we think nothing of talking to the news and sharing photos of our baby, even if that baby is a grown man or woman. Our daughter is involved in an abusive relationship, we’re open about it so we can educate our community. But when your child is sexually assaulted, raped, it doesn’t matter how old they are you are enveloped by a cloak of silence despite having a story to tell. Being the parent of a sexual assault survivor is its own story, yet it’s kept silent. Parents of sexual assault victims often suffer in silence not knowing that others have a shared experience and understand their pain, are able to overcome the sorrow they feel, and continue to advocate for their child.

So while we provide support for Jane Doe, give a little extra thought about her parents. People who have had to stand by and watch as the judicial system allowed her to be victimized over and over. A mother and father whose heart was broken upon hearing what happened to their little girl. Two people who sit in silence knowing that they don’t get a voice and an opportunity to tell you how they feel and how amazing their daughter was. And still is.

I feel for them. While I won’t go into detail why I wanted to give their silence some perspective, just know that I know this silence is isolating. And at times it’s deafening. They’re without a support network, much like other parents of sexual assault survivors. It’s a difficult position to be in, but like the many who’ve gone before them on this quiet journey they will emerge stronger. That is, if the silence doesn’t break them first.

Parents of Sexual Assault Survivors

Sara

Alice Through the Looking Glass is Over the Top but Still Entertaining

Alice Through The Looking Glass PosterPhoto Credit: Disney

You cannot change the past. It always was. It always will be.
Although I dare say, you might learn something from it. ~ Time

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG) is this summer’s sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 colorful and spectacular remake of Louis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. With all the familiar inhabitants of Wonderland (or Underland if you’re a local), we see the calm and thoughtful White Queen, Mirana, (Anne Hathaway), the perpetually infuriated Red Queen, Iracebeth, (Helena Bonham Carter), the childlike Hatter (Johnny Depp), the morphing Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), and the caterpillar which became a butterfly in the 2010 movie (voiced by the late Alan Rickman), Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to help her friend Hatter find his family, who he thinks may still be alive.

During Alice’s adventure, we’re introduced to Time (played by Sacha Baron Cohen). A steampunk character who controls time, he brings a great deal of humor to a movie that could have been too uptight. Since Hatter does not have as big a role, it was nice to have another character bring a few laughs even if they were puns that seemed to try too hard. In her reprised role as the Red Queen, Carter gives the villainess a humanity and history that seems to soften her. As the quasi-girlfriend of Time, Red Queen allows us to see her history and understand why she also wants to go back in time.

Alice plays two storylines, with her life in London not really getting enough treatment to make us care. And while I have never seen Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I’m not sure there really is a need to understand that story to appreciate this new adventure. We know Alice is now a sea captain and while she was gone her mother made poor financial decisions. While this story gives us something to start with since Alice lives in our world, I think it’s there solely to connect to the end since Alice can’t stay in Wonderland forever so we need to know what she’s going to do.

Nonetheless, even with the bumpy plot, the visuals and pace keep you engaged. Part live action and part computer animation, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a feast for the eyes. Whether it’s the adorable robot-like helpers in the lair of Time, the heart-shaped world of the Red Queen, or the colorful Wonderland there’s always something to catch your attention. You can’t help but love the little soldiers working for Time. And, Time, himself, while dressed in black, has a colorful personality that keeps you hoping for the best.

I can see the movie getting mixed reviews. If you’re a Tim Burton fan you’ll love the movie. If you’re a purist when it comes to the retelling of classics, you’ll likely hate it. The movie bears little resemblance to Carroll’s novel, other than the characters. I think teens will enjoy the movie because it incorporates familiar characters and is entertaining. From a music perspective, there’s Pink with ‘Just Like Fire’, which just about everyone will love. And, of course, the fantastic Danny Elfman, adds the additional musical dimension to the show to keep you connected.

Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a good movie. Not a great movie and not better than Burton’s Alice. It’s entertaining, visually appealing, funny, and, overall, a lovely story. It’s a nice way to step away from reality for a moment, enjoy a colorful film, and be entertained for about two hours. Oscar worthy, I doubt. Unless you’re talking about the makeup and costumes, those are pretty spectacular.

Sara

6 Fitness Tips From a Reluctant Exerciser

Fitness Tips for FitbitFTC Disclosure

Let me say, for the record, that aging is not for the faint of heart. It seems that there’s a new study every week about how to age gracefully. Social media is full of posts with tips and tricks. But the reality is there are no quick fixes and since ageing is a part of life and everyone experiences it differently, you play with the hand you’re holding.

About three years ago I won a fitness tracker. In the world of health and fitness trackers that’s a long time ago. Compared to today, it was bare-bones. It tracked my steps and my sleep. It wasn’t very accurate and I would often get discouraged. As part of the Verizon influencer team, I was recently sent a FitBit Charge HR to show me how far fitness trackers have come and help keep my 2016 fitness journey going.

At the end of January I joined a gym, which for this reluctant exerciser was a big step. I saw a coupon on a daily deal site for a 30-day trial for less than the cost of lunch. I figured if I went a few times I’d have gotten my money’s worth. I ended up going about 5 days a week. I was going to get my money’s worth! Near the end of the 30 days I found out that my health insurance has a deal at the gym and for the cost of a nice meal out my whole family could join.

That was the start of my commitment to going to the gym and slogging through the ‘weight loss’ option on the elliptical machine. All of March and April I dutifully checked in at the front desk, cleaned off my machine, put in my Plantronics Backbeat Fit wireless headphone, and listened to podcasts as a way to distract me from the fact that I was at the gym.

I’ve now had my Fitbit Charge HR for a few weeks and I’m a bit obsessed with it. Before, I wasn’t tracking my steps or my heart rate so all I could rely on was the machine. But in these few weeks I’ve learned a lot and I want to share 6 fitness tips I learned with you.

  1. Those machines at the gym lie! Whether it’s number of steps, heart rate, or calories, you’re not getting the real information. I found out that that the machine I like bumps up my steps by about 20%. Sure, I’d like to get credit for reaching my daily step goal. But this is one of those times where we need the truth. I might not be able to handle the truth, Sir, but good fitness and heath can’t be built on a foundation of lies.
  2. Knowing your heart rate is more important than you think. There are different ranges of fitness heart rates and you need to be in the right zone to meet your goals. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re good to go on a more intense fitness routine, but we need to get the heart rate up and start sweating sometimes. With the heart rate feature on the Fitbit, I open up my app and constantly monitor my workout so I know when I can push myself and when I need to just pace myself.
  3. Don’t wait to reward yourself with a fitness tracker. There are so many different options and price points, if you get yourself a fitness tracker now you’ll meet your goal faster.
  4. Get up and move! We sit way too much. I know, we see this a zillion times all over the news and social media. We’re too sedentary, and as a keyboard jockey I’m right there with you. So set alarms to remind you to get up and move. Even if it’s just to do a few hundred steps, you’ll appreciate the diversion of your time. And don’t be afraid to wander around your house just to get in your last few hundred steps. There are times I’ve closed the door in the bathroom to run in place or do jumping jacks to get to 10,000 steps for the day. It’s a reminder that I need to spread out my steps so I’m not up at 9pm walking laps around my house instead of snuggling with my family.
  5. Track all the things! If you need to keep track of your food or water intake, do that. Maybe you want to go old school and use a journal or notebook. Whatever you decide, if it’s something you need to track then do it. We lie to ourselves all the time and we don’t pay attention to serving sizes and ingredients when we’re being tempted by cupcakes and, well, pretty much anything other than vegetables.
  6. Listen to something you enjoy. Whether it’s music, podcasts, audio books, streaming video, or old voice mails from your best friend, find something to keep your mind off the time. I’ve found a few great podcasts that keep me moving and motivated to get to the end of the show. And when I was at the gym during the Preakness, I popped open the app to watch it live. Nothing like horses running at full speed to get you moving! Get a comfortable pair of earphones and get moving. As I mentioned, I have the Backbeat fit wireless headphones. I had been using the wired ones that came with my phone but the movement bothered me and I felt like one crazy move and my phone is going to go flying. With the wireless headphones I feel like I can pay attention to my heart rate and move around the machines without worrying about my phone.

I’m the farthest thing from a fitness expert, fanatic, or lover, but if this Fitbit Charge HR can get me up and choosing the gym over surfing Facebook on a Sunday morning then there’s some kind of magic in it. I have a mantra – Exercise is fun! – I say to myself as I drive to the gym; knowing one day I might actually believe it.

Now that BabyGirl is a teenager I can’t say any of this is ‘baby fat’. Sure, ageing has brought new challenges. But it’s also brought knowledge and awareness. Tools like my new Fitbit (which you can get from Verizon) are perfect for those of you who might be reluctant exercisers like me. It’s a great reminder to get moving and to do it in a safe way. To paraphrase Lao Tzu, the daily journey of 10,000 steps begins with just one.

Fitbit Charge from Verizon

Sara

5 Tips to End Distracted Driving Among Teens

Teen Distracted Driving

FTC Disclosure

Spring is in the air, and for many parents of high schoolers talk has turned toward prom and graduation parties. I look back on my experience in high school and better understand why my parents, and my friends’ parents, were worried about us driving. Like kids today, we weren’t bad drivers. But, like kids today, we often did stupid things after prom and at graduation parties. Today, though, every conversation seems to wind its way to the topic of distracted driving or texting and driving.

Distracted driving is nothing new when it comes to teen driving. Young people have faced distractions for decades. Today it’s texting, for my generation it was changing the radio or cassettes, for my mom’s generation it was radio stations and 8-track tapes. And, of course there is alcohol, shenanigans, and a host of other potential distractions. But when it comes to technology, we forget that every generation has their new thing that is problematic.

So what do we do? Obviously, teens are going to drive to prom and graduation parties and we can’t change that. What we can change, though, is their commitment to stay focused on their driving. And, honestly, that starts with us.

I’m not a big believer in having kids sign a ‘no texting while driving’ contract when the parents aren’t going to do the same thing. We’re their role models. If we do it, we’re giving them permission. Just like drinking and driving. We can tell our kids not to drink and drive, but we also demonstrate our commitment by not drinking and driving. It’s not different when it comes to other distractions.

Teens 15 to 19 have the highest incident of drivers involved in accidents while distracted. While they’re out celebrating the last thing we want is for any of them to get hurt or hurt someone else. So what can we do?

5 Tips For Helping to End Distracted Driving

Don’t drive distracted yourself. We set the example. If we’re picking up our phones, that mean they can too. I know there are important messages we need to see. But are those messages really that important to put the people you love most at risk? In March, 2016 the New Zealand Transport Agency released a video with a slightly different approach to the traditional horrifying texting and driving ad. It’s a new approach, and I think it could work better. While I’m still affected by the texting and driving crash videos, I think many kid are desensitized or don’t think it could really happen to them.

 

Know the law. If the law of mom and dad won’t work, maybe the state law will. Currently, in the US, 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, ban texting while driving. The fines can be hefty, and getting a ticket, even if that’s the worst that happens, can put a damper on the fun of prom or the graduation party. However, distractions don’t only come from picking up your own phone.

Have someone else navigate. As the driver, their job is to get themselves and their passengers to the destination safely. Since they’re not always experienced with driving around town, have the teen ask a passenger to put in the destination into the GPS or map. Have you ever tried to type in an address to Google Maps or the vehicle GPS while driving? I can barely figure out the navigation on a car I drive daily. Imagine how challenging it can be for a teen who’s not used to driving.

Use a blocking app. If you’re not sure you or your teen can break the urge to check your phone when you hear the notification or know that friends are posting cool things to social media, use an app to block texting while driving. Just like not having chips in the house because you have no willpower, remove the temptation to be distracted while driving. I often pull out my phone at a stop light, but more and more I’m realizing that even that small glance means I’m not paying attention to what’s going on around me.

Empower the passenger. Most of the focus is on getting the driver to avoid distractions. However, just like educating the kids about not getting in a car with their friend if the friend has been drinking the same goes for getting into a car with someone who’s not paying attention when they drive. I know there’s less risk of being the lame-o if you refuse to get in the car of a classmate who’s drunk or noticeably impaired than if you don’t go along with all the “fun” when it comes to distracted driving. It’s new territory for us as parents to let our kids know we’ll go pick them up if they choose not to get in a vehicle with someone texting and driving or engaging in other behaviors that put the passengers at risk. You’ve seen the videos. Maybe your kids have too. But it’s worth watching again.

The end to distracted driving starts with us. But we don’t know what other parents are modeling for their kids. And because we don’t know what other people are modeling and teaching their kids, we have to teach our kids not only that they don’t text and drive or drive while distracted but that they don’t get in a car with someone who doesn’t take seriously their obligation to protect their passengers.

Accidents happen. We can hope our kids always arrive safely, but there are other drivers out there and we don’t have any control over them. We may not have full control over what our kids do when they get behind the wheel or hop in the car with one of their friends. However, what we can do starts long before the engine starts.

 

Image Credit: Viktor Hanacek

Sara

The Hooters Hypothesis and the Double Standard of Shaming Women

Hooters Hypothesis - The Double Standard of Shaming Women | @ SaraFHawkins savingforsomeday.com

Every once in awhile a post will pop up on Facebook by someone who’s irritated by Hooters. The post usually mentions the stupidity of taking kids to the restaurant and goes on to talk about how the female servers are dressed. Always, the conversation turns to what the servers are wearing.

As the first in the genre known as “breastaurants“, Hooters has been around for about 30 years. I remember when they first opened when I was a teen. For over 3 decades female Hooters servers have been wearing the same skimpy outfits of orange short-shorts and a white tank top with the Hooters name on it. Back in the mid 80s it was just something kitschy that few people probably expected to last. It was so “out there” that for about 20 years they really had no competition. Now there are others and it’s not just sports bars, but there are coffee shops and BBQ joints, too.

In my understanding of restaurants you don’t stay in business if you don’t have decent food. That makes me think there’s more to Hooters than what meets the eye. And this is where I get to make a confession. My grandmother, z”li, ate at Hooters several times a month for about 5 years. She had been out shopping and wanted a quick lunch and asked the cashier for a suggestion. The cashier was, in her words, “a nice young man”. I’m sure he was probably in his 20s. At the time my grandma was probably in her early 80s. Maybe he thought it would be funny to send this little old lady to Hooters. Maybe he was being sincere when he recommended the Hooters nearby. Despite whatever he though, off to Hooters my grandma went. And it began a wonderful relationship between an octogenarian Jewish woman and Hooters.

I had the privilege to have lunch with my grandma at “The Hooters”. I also heard about her first visit, the time “these nice businessmen” paid for lunch, the time she took one of her fellow Gold Star Widows members, and the countless times she had “such a lovely waitress”. And not once did my grandma ever say anything about how the servers were dressed. Not once. And this from a woman who was devoutly Jewish and who thought it risqué to wear a sleeveless top without a sweater or blouse over it.

Now it’s 2016 and we’ve spent the last several years talking about not placing blame on rape survivors based on their clothing choice, that what women wear is not an invitation to judge them, that young girls should not be exposed to body-shaming, having conversations about fat-shaming, encouraging body pride, and so on and so forth. Yes, we’ve had the dialogue. And we’ve become outraged that women on the red carpet are asked about their clothing but men are not. Seriously, we’ve talked and talked, and typed, and tweeted, and hashtagged this conversation into the mainstream.

Stick with me, because here comes my Hooters Hypothesis. There’s an exception when it comes to Hooters. And on that I’m finally calling BS. It’s hypocritical and, well, BS, to preach about a woman’s right to choose what she wears without being shamed for it, and then with that same breath degrade the women who work at Hooters. If you don’t want to go there or take your family, then don’t go. But stop with the shaming. I’ve seen your posts, the ones where you’re sighing over the “hunky” server. The one of the “hot” backup dancer. The post of the “amazing looking” bartender. Those. I see them. So does everyone else. So shut up about the women who work at Hooters.

That is, unless you’re willing to talk about how much confidence they must have, how brave they are to work in a place where some (male) patrons have little self-control when it comes to their hands, and what courage looks like to deal with people like you who think it’s perfectly OK to shame them for working an honest job.

Do I want my daughter to aspire to a job at Hooters (or Tilted Kilt, Twin Peaks, or the others?) Not really. Then again, I’m raising her to be a strong, confident, and independent woman so it’s not really my choice.

What I do want is for the shaming to stop. Across the board. Let’s just stop shaming women. It does nothing for the younger generation of girls to see and hear such negativity. It does nothing for the young women who are just trying to make an honest living. And, in general, it give boys and men permission to do the same thing.

Cocktail waitresses in Vegas should be able to wear whatever themed outfit the casino requires without thinking what you’ll say about her. Hooters can require short shorts. Airlines can go back to hot pants and go-go boots for all I care. Seriously, it’s not that difficult to just not patronize places where you feel uncomfortable going with your spouse or kids. And if enough people don’t go then maybe the business will rethink it’s required clothing. Because, honestly, this is probably more of a “you” problem than a “them” problem.

The conversation should not be about what “these women” are wearing. It should be about the fact that people should not be degraded or ridiculed for the clothing they wear. We should all be teaching our kids (boys and girls) to be respectful of (both men and) women regardless of what they are (or are not) wearing. So, just stop with shaming women who work at Hooters thinking it’s OK because they somehow deserve it.

It’s your turn, now. What are your thoughts on this double standard?

Sara