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  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Home Life, Lifestyle, Relationships

    Not Your Average Family

    family

    I wish everyone in the world could experience the look of bewilderment I receive when I try to explain my family dynamic. Yes, I am one of six kids. Yes, four of my siblings have a different mother. Yes, I am a 20-year-old with four nieces and nephews. Yes, my oldest brother just hit the 40-year milestone.

    I might not have a traditional family, but I wouldn’t change my upbringing for the world.

    I imagine my older siblings and I get along so well because they spent most of their life raised in a different home. We didn’t have the stereotypical sibling experience of being at each other’s throats 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Except for my younger, full sister. She’s a terror). I would see my half-brothers and sister every other week, which isn’t much time, but we made up for it.

    Reflecting on my childhood memories, my favorite times have always included them. My brother Zack, a high schooler at the time, showing me what “cool” music was while laboring over yard work. Baking Christmas cookies with my older sister, Katie, while belting out “Winter Wonderland” at the top of our lungs. My oldest brothers, Darin and Chad, instructing me on how to throw the perfect spiral, urging me to stay outside in the brisk Illinois air until I perfected it.

    While these memories, along with countless more, have made my childhood so special, I’ve realized, just in the past few years, how important my siblings are in shaping who I am.

    My Siblings Shaped Me

    The summer before my freshman year of college, I received a gift from my older sister: a necklace with an angel charm. But placed on the box was the true gift—a sticky-note asking me to be her maid of honor. Shock rippled through me. All of my older brothers were married at this point, but this proposal hit me the hardest; I felt like it was just yesterday that Katie and I were dancing to “Crazy Frog,” pajama pants pulled up to our belly-buttons. And now she’s getting married?

    Months passed, and I moved to Alabama for college. For the first time, I had been away from my family. It was also the first time I could truly sense my own identity, learning how much of a role my siblings played in it. Fall break rolled around at the same time as my sister’s wedding, and I was so excited to return to the mundane cornfields of the Midwest. More so, it would be the first time in years that all my siblings would be in the same room.

    We’re Back Together

    The last time we were all together was Katie’s high school graduation in 2012. One of my older brothers had a falling out with my parents and hadn’t spoken to them in years. My other brother had entered the Air Force, living in Iraq, Hawaii, New Mexico, and most recently, Florida. My oldest brother was fighting over custody for my nephew.

    Life had gotten in the way.

    Although I had never been more excited to see my siblings, I had also never been more nervous. Would they talk to me? Would there be a fight? God forbid, would something ruin my sister’s wedding day?

    I’ll never forget how I felt as I walked into the wedding rehearsal. I froze and looked around at the familiar faces. Faces I had grown up with, that I had shared so many memories with, but somehow, they looked like strangers. I can only compare the feeling as walking up to a podium, preparing to give a speech to a 400-person lecture hall. It was nerve-wracking.

    But then, all at once, I couldn’t remember why I was even worried in the first place. My brothers and sisters hurtled towards me, enveloping me in the most loving, warm embrace. I’ll never forget it.

    Despite everything, we’re still family

    I Idolized my older siblings in my younger years, but as I grow up, I realize how flawed they really are. How flawed we all were. But I never should’ve doubted the indestructible bond of family.

    I would never trade the unique dynamic of my family, or the lessons they taught me. I learned how to throw a football (a perfect spiral, might I add). How to flawlessly decorate a Christmas cookie and how to execute an impeccable punch (thanks, Zack). But from them, I also realize the gratification of being an aunt. To not take everything so seriously. To not grow up so fast.

    I learned that these people have shaped me into who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

    Family teaches you invaluable lessons like how to throw a football or that it’s okay to like stupid stuff. Madeline has ten invaluable lessons that she learned before turning 20, check them out!

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Home Life

    Watching a Loved One Fight for Their Life

    loved ones

    I always knew that I was extremely lucky to grow up with my mom’s parents close, both in proximity and emotionally. Nana and Pops, my grandparents, mean absolutely everything to me. I am so thankful for every minute I’ve had with them and hope for many more, but like everyone else, they are getting older.

    As people get older, they tend to move slower, need more assistance than they did to speak louder or help them with more around the house. That is to be expected. They looked after us when we were young, so we need to look after them as they get older.

    no one is ever quite prepared to watch someone you love dearly deteriorate, both physically and mentally, due to a diagnosis.

    Every Wednesday of my childhood, Pops would pick up me and my brother to take us on an adventure. He would take us to get a snack, usually from wherever he had a coupon for, and to an activity. For years, on every single Wednesday, we went to the museum, the zoo, the riverwalk, or the movies. When we got to middle school, the weekly Wednesday fun stopped and everyone noticed something was different about Pops. Our funny, kind, car-obsessed Pops was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and we were all terrified. What does this mean for him? What does this mean for us as a family? How is he going to stay positive even though he can’t do everything he wants?

    What is Parkinson’s Disease?

    Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by the progressive loss of nerves in the substantia nigra, a part of the brain. This eventually causes involuntary tremors, slow movements, rigid muscles, balance issues, and memory problems. The diagnosis meant that some things would simply have to change, whether he wanted them to or not. He would have to learn how to compromise and ask for help. For instance, my grandparents take pride in their yard. He cannot move around to take care of it, so he uses the lawn mower as transportation. That way he can pick up the pine cones and tend to the flowers. I think the hardest part for him is understanding that no matter how much he wants to do something independently, sometimes his body just isn’t able to.

    As the symptoms progress, his life is altered more and more. He has trouble staying awake, following conversations, and he is losing control of his body. Pops was once a man capable of serving in the Air Force, and now he can’t button his own shirt. But that’s how life goes sometimes. He has been persistent, we’ve been patient, and that’s all we can do.

    I’m proud of my grandpa, because he never gives up. He is fighting with everything he has left. I’m proud of my family for supporting him through anything and everything. Hold on to every moment you have. Support them and love them, even when it’s frustrating. Most importantly, never let them lose their hope.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Home Life, Lifestyle, Relationships

    How to Make Your Parents Proud

    parents

    Many of the parents I know, including my own, give everything for their children. My parents allow me to go on endless adventures and support me through any opportunities I have. They let me study abroad for the summer, they are allowing me to go to residential school for the next two years, and they are always positive lights in my life. The least I can do is strive to make them proud, right?

    Growing up, I had ideas of what my parents expected from me. Regardless of the amount of truth in these ideas, I agreed with some… but was extremely confused by others. I thought they wanted me to follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a lawyer. Or that my mom wanted me to stay close to home and my dad didn’t want me to ever grow up.

    Me with my dad

    I didn’t know who I wanted to be, because I wanted to be who they wanted.

    I don’t know where I got these ideas because my parents have always been supportive and encouraging in everything I do. Is it even possible to make your parents proud if you don’t grow up to be like them? I wasn’t sure at the time. But yes, it certainly is possible.

    My ideas of my parents’ expectations couldn’t be farther from the truth. My parents always wanted me to be whatever I wanted, with a few actual expectations. They taught me that I could be whoever I wanted to be, as long as I was kind, hardworking, generous, and had integrity. Honestly, I am ashamed that it took me so long to realize what they were doing. They want the best for me, but they wanted me to make mistakes. They allowed me to learn on my own, probably because they knew I wouldn’t listen if they told me directly. My parents never truly placed any expectations for my future, because they want me to be independent.

    I have to figure out my own life, with their guidance, because it is mine, after all.

    My mom and dad’s goal is for me, and my brothers, to be happy, healthy, and love what we are doing. It’s that simple. Although, it’s cliché, it’s true, all you have to do to make your parents proud is be yourself. If I would’ve spent my life trying to make my parents happy, I would’ve missed the opportunities I had to accomplish things that truly make them proud. It is important for me to fulfill my own expectations, with the help of my parents. I take everything I am given to the fullest potential and hope that I can add to their pride, through doing what I feel is right.

    Parents should let their children live their own lives, let children make decisions, and fail sometimes. I know my parents enjoy watching what I can accomplish independently, after learning from them my whole life. I experience whatever is on my own path, regardless of what is on the paths beside me. Dreams have to be fulfilled by the dreamer. You can’t live someone else’s dream for them. The only way to succeed is to follow your own dreams, and have the ones you love support you along the way.

    Spend time with your parents and family! Here are some ways that you can grow closer this summer.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Home Life, Lifestyle

    The Power of Influence

    influence

    Anyone can be influenced

    Oftentimes I hear that children are vulnerable to influence, but that isn’t necessarily true. Adults can be just as easily influenced, but like to think they aren’t. Children are usually more open-minded than adults. This causes them to be more easy going and more likely to go with the flow. However, anyone can be influential, regardless of age. Everyone is influenced, whether they realize or not, by the people around them. It’s natural. Some people are influenced negatively and pressured into doing things they wouldn’t normally do. Others are influenced positively, and stop doing things that they normally do that could be harmful. Others are influenced to do anything, just so they can fit in. Regardless of others’ age or reputation, they still have the ability to influence you both positively and negatively.

    Influencers in my life

    The People that Influence Me

    I attribute most of my positive traits to the people I spend the most time with, who lead through demonstration. Within my family, there are a few women who I am most thankful for. First, my Mom showed me how to be strong, independent, and generous. Secondly, my Nana taught me to make my voice heard, be sassy, and confident. My Aunt Glenna showed me how to be kind, patient, altruistic, and loving.

    I spent the majority of my childhood with my gymnastics coach, Mrs. Ashley, who is my family. She taught me many useful lessons in life, like to always be the best I can be, but always work harder. Not to accept defeat, ever. I will sometimes fail, and that’s okay, but failure is supposed to be used as motivation to conquer whatever obstacle is holding you back. My school teachers taught me about their specific subjects, and also how to be successful and helpful.

    My mom taught me how to be strong, independent, and generous.

    Influence can come from anywhere

    My younger cousin, Hope, reminds me simply just to be happy. Each of my friends taught me something about relationships. Some friendships showed me that people can be dishonest, others just change over time and you grow apart. The best friendships are the ones where you learn something every day, usually just how to love and be accepting. Each experience and person we encounter makes an impression on our lives, but we choose how it impacts us and how we can help others. All of these women created the person I am today, without even realizing it. I hope I can make a fraction of the positive impact they had on me, on someone else.

    Hope reminds me to be happy!

    Initially, I thought influence typically comes from someone who is older, wiser, and more experienced. While that can be true, it also works the other way around. Some might think that discussing the power of your personal influence is conceited, but it really isn’t. Each person has the ability to interact and change people’s lives, so it is important to be positive. I strive to use what I have been taught and help others, even if it’s just through being myself.

    I think it’s safe to say that age doesn’t necessarily determine how much of an impact you have on someone. The age of role models is irrelevant, it is their qualities, and the content of their character that is significant.

    You aren’t just influenced by the people in your day-to-day life, celebrities and social media hold lots of influence too. If you’re looking for inspiring women to teach you about being the best you can be, check out our Wonder Women section, specifically our Sheroes!

  • Articles, Body Image, Confidence, Fashion, Home Life, Mental Health

    How to Turn a Bad Day Around

    Girl down in the dumps

    There are lots of ways for a day to go bad: school, bad break ups, and even family drama can turn a standard day into a nightmare. Sometimes life can get really frustrating to the point where you just want to stay in bed for the rest of the day. Through self-care, like this routine on www.girlspring.com, you can feel good in the long run, sometimes all you need is an instant pick-me-up to straighten out the day. 

    Here’s a list of things you can do to get your bad day back on track.

    Have a good laugh

    Laughing is hard, especially if you’re not in the mood for it – but sometimes that’s all you need to drive the negative vibes away. There is even scientific evidence to back this up, with NBC News reporting that smiling can trick the brain into happiness. The news site reported that smiling “spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin.” The hormones you need to make you happy. If you feel like you need a quick chuckle, Buzzfeed is full of jokes, as is Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter. There are many ways to pick yourself up and a quick internet search could put a smile back on your face in no time.

    Exercise

    We know what you’re thinking: who needs exercise? It’s tedious, sweaty and an absolute chore. Well, who said anything about push-ups? Exercise can be something as fun as ice skating, swimming or biking around the neighborhood. Exercise is a refreshing way to boost your mood. Very Well Health explains that you only need to do 30 minutes a day to get the benefits, particularly when it comes to improving your mood. It can even be something as simple as walking the dog.

    Wear your favorite clothes

    Clothes are like a second skin, and can affect or even reflect your mood for the day. A study by the University of Queensland showed that we either dress how we’d like to feel, or, more often than not, how we’d like others to think we’re feeling. This is why going out can be such a chore, especially if you’re having a bad day. The trick is to have go-to clothes for going out and clothes for staying at home. If you are at home, relax in the comfiest clothes you can. Sometimes all you need to do is put on your favorite comfy pants to lift your mood. The stretchy bootcut yoga pants on Woman Within are made from a soft knit material and have an elastic waist in order to provide maximum comfort – the definition of home relaxation. The clothes you wear at home should be easy to slip into and you shouldn’t have to worry about how they will fit your body.

    Meet friends

    On the other hand you could go out. And why do it alone when you can invite a couple of friends? Go out and see a movie – or invite them over for some pizza. This isn’t about forgetting what ruined your day, but creating new memories that will top any bad experience. That way when you look back, the first thing you’ll remember is how much of a good day it was.

    Treat yourself

    Craving for some sugar? Get a tub of ice cream. Something greasy? Order pizza. Or maybe it’s been a while since you did your nails. Treating yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of things to do at home, like a skin-care routine, watch TV or take a long nap that will help lift your mood. In the chaos of the life, sometimes the best thing you can do is find some quality time for yourself. It is a good way to recharge your batteries, especially after a really bad day.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Holiday, Home Life, Lifestyle

    Spring Break with Parents vs. Spring Break with Friends … What do I do?

    Spring Break

    Spring break season is upon us.

     

    In our heads, we think of this glorious, week-long break from school as a time to relax and recuperate from the trials and tribulations of spring semester. But in all actuality, is it really as revitalizing as we make it out to be?

     

    Spring break falls into two categories: making memories with friends or spending quality time with your parents. Although both have their pros and cons, spring break is never actually as relaxing as we make it out to be.

     

    I spent this past week in Arizona with my parents. After long days packed with hiking at the Grand Canyon, searching for wild horses and watching baseball in the desert heat, I’m finally back home– and let me be honest, I’m more tired than I was before the vacation.

     

    On the other hand, a group of my closest friends spent their spring break in California. Even though laying at the beach, sightseeing around Beverly Hills and chatting around a bonfire doesn’t seem to strenuous, they’re ready to return to everyday life, as well.

     

    So if spring break is going to inevitably end up in exhaustion, how do you make a decision on what you’re going to do?

     

    In my opinion, spending vacation with your parents is always the way to go. Yeah, you’ll miss your friends (and probably encounter quite a bit of FOMO), but after a short week, you’ll be back together again.

     

    Spring break-ing with parents is much more smooth– the group is more organized and overall does more activities (and hey, not paying for everything with your own money is a perk). You don’t have to worry about travel or living situations, and they’re you’re family, so you know you’ll get along. Sometimes.

     

    Experiencing new things with friends is always a good time, but truthfully, spending too much time with them could produce some difficulties.

     

    I missed my friends this past week, without a doubt. But there’s nowhere else I would’ve rather been than with my family. Plus, family vacations aren’t forever– milk it while you still can!

     

    If you’re debating on whether to spend spring break with friends or family, follow the number one rule: family comes first. Besides the perpetual state of tiredness after it’s over, a great time is guaranteed.

  • Bullying, Home Life, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Stress

    Broken Glass: Short Story

    Jenna Prez raced home from school blood dripping down her face as the bruise on her forehead pulsates. She didn’t take much time throwing her bookbag down and running off to the bathroom the check the damage. She stares in the mirror not cleaning herself up but letting the blood drip from her mouth, and tears from her eyes. Why can’t the leave us alone, she thinks, can’t they mind their own business. Jenna goes to an all girl catholic high school where she met her first girlfriend, Regina Price. She had always known she was not attracted to boys, but until Regina, she wasn’t sure she was attracted to anyone. They had kept their relationship ‘on the down low’ for the past three months enjoying the secrecy of their teenage love. They would go on secret dates and hold hands pretending only to be best friends. There secret was well hidden until today when another girl, Janet Kinkle, saw Jenna kiss Regina on the cheek under the bleachers during gym. Jenna and Regina were unaware of Janet’s presence until they got back to the locker room where six of Janet’s friends were waiting on them. As soon as Jenna and Regina walked through the door, the other girls pummeled them to the floor scratch and punching them while yelling derogatory terms for lesbians. The coach, eventually, heard the commotion and broke up what was going to seem like a fight and not a clear attack on two innocent girls. Jenna and Regina were sent to the office for their misbehavior and were sentenced to three days of suspension while also having a call to home for what they had been hiding. The principal didn’t punish the other girls because she understood why they were enraged by this ‘immoral’ behavior. Jenna hears a loud knocking on the bathroom door, and she checks the time on her apple watch. Her mother was home from work. She builds up the courage she can and opens the door, and as soon as she meets her mother’s eyes, she is slammed into the door by her mother’s hand. Her mother slapped her across the face with tears in her eyes stating Jenna would never see Regina again, and she is disgusting. Her mother walks away, and Jenna shuts the door once again staring at herself in the mirror- not crying or speaking-only staring. She had no one in her life who fully accepted her but Regina, and now Regina was gone. Jenna was completely alone. Her breathing becomes heavy, and she slams her fist into the mirror breaking her reflection.