Browsing Tag:

family

  • Holiday

    My Family’s Christmas Traditions

    My Family’s Christmas Traditions

    I have a large family, so part of my immediate family’s holiday tradition is juggling houses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If we pull out the microscope and dive into my mother’s side of the family’s tradition, we’ll find BBQ sandwich platters and two rounds of Dirty Santa.

    Dirty Santa, for those of you who have that quizzical look, is traditionally a game where people bring a gag gift wrapped (or in a bag) to a Christmas party. At first my family went along with this, until people began to get upset with the dollar amount they spent on their gag gift versus the dollar amount spent on the one they ended up with. It’s not like there would have been a melt down if we had continued to do it the first way, but during this season of giving, we upped the stakes.

    Instead of gag gifts, there would be actual secret presents. Each person would bring a $10 present(s) and put it in a pile in the center of the room. This would lead to everyone drawing a number out of whatever bowl, hat, or bucket was available that year, and would begin playing. The rules are simple for our household:

    1. Place hidden (wrapped or bagged) gift in center of the room with other presents
    2. Count how many people are playing and put individual strips of paper in a hat with numbers representing the amount of people on them
    3. Everyone draws a number
    4. # 1 gets to pick a present first
    5. # 1 opens their present and shows it to the room
    6. # 2 picks a present and shows it to the room
    7. # 2 can then decide to keep their gift or “steal” # 1’s gift

    This continues with each number thereafter. A gift can only be “stolen” 3 times before it is stuck with someone. The person that is # 1 will get a chance to “steal” someone’s gift after the last number has gone. It’s all fun and games until a 10 years-old is crying over not getting what she wanted because cousin Tony wanted it, too.

    In the end, everyone leaves happy with a single present and the fun of hanging out with family.

    My dad’s side of the family is a little different. We actually cook food for this one. If you’re anything like me and are not a seasoned Chef, then I have some good news for you. I could easily burn a packaged sheet of cookies with the directions listed plainly in front of me, but I never go wrong with these two family recipes: French Potatoes and Chicken Dumplings.

    French Potatoes are identical to some Scalloped Potatoes recipes but sound fancier. You start off by peeling, washing, and cutting potatoes into chip-like slices. The preparation for both recipes is the only bad part.

    Then, heat up equal parts mustard and butter in a pot. Add in some salt. I’m not giving you specific amounts, because it really just depends on how many calories you’re feeling like eating that day. Give it about an estimated cup-cup and a half of each, minus the salt (that’d be a lot of salt, but there is never enough butter). The next step is to layer some potato slices onto a lightly greased pan. Cover the first layer with the butter, salt, mustard mixture. Add some parmesan cheese from those little bottles, next. And continue this process until all your potatoes are covered in heaps of sauce and cheese. Sounds healthy, right?

    Here’s a plain list of ingredients:

    Butter (to your heart’s content)

    Mustard

    Parmesan Cheese

    Salt

    Potatoes (of course!)

    Heat your oven to 350 degrees or 400 degrees if you’re impatient like me. I’m sure there’s some cooking logic somewhere that argues changing the temperature does not work the same just faster.

    Leave in for 45 minutes (or 30), and voila!

    The next recipe, the Chicken and Dumplings, are a favorite with my family. I even make these throughout the year if I’m feeling particularly culinary. You just need a little patience or some extra hands for this one.

    Grab two cans of regular (or large) size biscuits from your local grocer. I’m sure you could make them from scratch, but I’m just not at that point in my life right now.

    Roll out some parchment paper or clean your counter space. Cover the area with some Self-Rising flour. Make sure to have extra flour because the rolling process for these biscuits can get pretty needy (I definitely could have made a pun here, but I’ll spare you).

    Break open the cans, place a single biscuit onto the floured surface. Cover it with a little bit of flour and use either a roller or plastic cup to flatten it out. Then take a knife and slice the flattened pieces into long, thin strips. Continue this process until both cans of biscuits are now heaps of thin dough.

    Take two cans of Cream of Chicken soup (Campbell’s or off-brand both work) and place them into a large pot on the stove. Add in a cup of water for each can and toss some pepper and salt for taste. Let boil on medium heat for thirty minutes. Then, toss in the dough strips. Let cook for fifteen-twenty minutes until dough is cooked. You may need to stir a lot near the end of the time to keep it from sticking to your pot.

    If you’re not begging for more after your first taste, then I’m not sure you’re a real person.

    Here is a list of ingredients:

    2 cans of Cream of Chicken Soup

    2 cans of ready to make biscuits

    Salt

    Pepper

    Self-rising flour

    I hope that you enjoy some of my family’s holiday traditions, and feel free to comment your own down below!

  • Mental Health

    Grieving During the Holidays

    Grieving During the Holidays

    I have so much to be thankful for this year, that the past two years seem almost like a fleeting nightmare. Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. The food, the family, the festivities. It was all an endless possibility for joy. I find myself missing the way I felt back then, but I understand that what I have gone through brings me here today.

     

    Grab a comfortable seat, a blanket, and possibly some tissues, because this ride is going to ring you for all you have. Or at least, it did for me.

     

    It all started with my first retail job. I gave up my right to have Thanksgiving with my family so that I could cater to the afternoon shopping rush. I only did it for money. I needed to pay for school at the time.

     

    A couple of years of missed Thanksgivings started to weigh heavily on my relationship with my non-immediate family. This was the only time of year, aside from one day at Christmas time, that I got to see any of them.

     

    Flash forward to 2016. My sister is going to have a baby! She flaunts her bump everywhere she goes, and I’m buying little pink and purple things everywhere I go. Forgive me for loving those colors. Baby Squid would have worn them regardless of being a girl. Oh, yeah, she got her nickname because her ultrasound looked like an adorable baby squid.

     

    Over the Summer my grandmother gets sick. She already had cancer, but it got much worse. By the end of July she was saying her last goodbyes with an occasional word to her future great-grandchild. She passed away quickly.

     

    I quit my job, stopped going to class, and felt like life was fleeting. We had always been so close. It felt like a limb had been removed from my body.

     

    After seeking some help, I turned to the positive things in life. My sister was five months pregnant by the end of August. She would be the first grandchild and niece to a family of five children.

     

    As the months went on, my sister got sick. She battled viscous pancreatitis, causing her to be hospitalized for the remainder of the pregnancy. I stopped going to class again so that I could stay at the hospital with her. The whole family took turns.

     

    The doctors kept feeding us good news about the baby, saying she was healthy and the only one to worry about was Jamie, my sister.

     

    Come November, I wondered how Thanksgiving would feel. My grandmother was gone, and Baby Squid was becoming a high risk pregnancy.

     

    Two days before the holiday, Jamie was released. We planned a large feast with our immediate family and her husband’s. That night, she got sick again.

    We rushed her back to the emergency room and waited for several hours to hear anything back from the doctors. Finally, we were told that she would need to stay at the hospital until the baby was born. Three more weeks of hospital time. I was so selfish. I had finals the next week.

     

    One week later, as I was submitting my final assignment for a creative writing class I was in, I got a horrifying phone call. This is where you’ll need those tissues. I’m certainly desperate for some right now.

     

    My sister was dying and so was her baby. Her heartrate had dropped drastically, and Squid’s was nowhere to be found. They rushed her into an emergency c-section without knowing if it would kill them both.

     

    I just wanted a nice Thanksgiving. A nice Christmas. To get finals week over. Yet there I was, sitting in a hospital waiting room, watching my brother-in-law’s parents crying and hugging their son. He kept mumbling something about losing his wife and first child on the same night.

     

    My mom came out from behind a large metal door with red eyes and shaking her head. My niece didn’t make it.

     

    Jamie was still battling the blood loss somewhere in that godforsaken hospital. Would we lose her, too?

     

    Half an hour later a nurse came out to let us know that Jamie was doing fine, but in reality she would be broken for the rest of her life. We walked into her hospital room to see her holding my stillborn niece and babbling incoherently. She was on drugs and could barely comprehend what had happened.

     

    The doctors said it was a freak accident and that nothing could have prevented it. But it still feels like something could have been done.

     

    I am not sharing this story to make you feel sorry for me or for my family. I just want you to know that things can get better. Having grief, especially during the holidays, can be hard. It requires the help of all your loved ones and sometimes professional council.

     

    My sister got pregnant again the next year. With a baby boy. We called him T-rex, because his ultrasound kind of looked like one. I still miss Squid and my grandmother, but it is okay for me to be happy again. And it’s okay to still be sad sometimes.

     

    I have had time to heal. I am back in school full-time. I work retail again, with Thanksgiving off. And I have a beautiful nephew that I love so much.

     

    Try to remember the good things in your life as this holiday of “thanks” nears. I am thankful that my sister is alive. I am thankful for my nephew. I am thankful for all my family. I am thankful for my college education. I am thankful for this in internship so that I can share stories like this one with young girls who may experience similar grief.

     

    Here are some links to grief webpages if things get a little too tough:

    https://www.dougy.org/grief-resources/how-to-help-a-grieving-teen/

    https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/bereaved-family-friends/coping-grief-teenager/teen-grief-books

    https://www.verywellhealth.com/working-through-grief-10-helpful-tips-1132522

  • Book Review

    Grapes of Wrath: A Book Review

    In the book Grapes of Wrath, published by John Steinbeck in 1939, a family is forced to move out of their homeland and migrate towards plentiful land. The Dust Bowl posed a great threat not only to this family but all farmers and their loved ones. One important underlying message in the book is the importance of the women in a household. Ma Joad in the story is seen throughout the book as a hero and a mentor.

    First off, she is very welcoming, through allowing strangers (including homeless men) to sit down and share a meal with her. On the journey there, she puts on a fire, makes food, and sacrifices her food in order to give to the poor, hungry children around the camp. (SPOILER) She also keeps quiet when crossing the border to California in order to trick the guards into letting them through because the grandmother was sick when in reality she was dead the entire time. Ma was lying next to a corpse all night! While many believe that the man is the real center of the family, Ma Joad is able to break these types of gender roles and assumptions. Not only is she extremely confident, decisive, and friendly, but she also serves as the literal backbone and center of the family, supporting them throughout the entire experience.

    The book even mentioned her as the “citadel of the family”. She nurtures her daughter, Rose of Sharon, through the course of her pregnancy, while also managing to keep her impulsive and aggressive son, Tom Joad, in the right state of mind. Ma Joad is able to represent all women across the world. She is able to depict the idea that a family would not survive without a woman; a woman is just as important as the male in a household. A woman like her must be able to carry not only physical things but emotional things on her shoulder as well. She is an excellent representation of how women are capable of withstanding hardships and gain strength throughout the way!

  • Movie Review, Movies

    The Incredibles II Movie Review

    The Incredibles II Movie Review by Jana

    The Incredibles II is finally back after a fourteen year wait! I’m going to be talking about my general thoughts on the movie, and give it a score out of ten. Keep in mind this review contains spoilers for The Incredibles and The Incredibles II.

    –SPOILERS AHEAD–

    WHY I LIKED THE FIRST MOVIE
    The thing I loved about the first movie was the politicized nature of the supers, and the way the movie subverted common superhero tropes. I think it’s fair to say that The Incredibles subverted tropes similar to the way Watchmen had subversive politicized superhero tropes, but certainly not to the same extent as Watchmen. Instead of existing in a society that fully embraced them, the heros in The Incredibles faced backlash for civilian casualties / property damage they caused while performing saves. Another thing I loved about the first movie was the excellent score, which I’m happy to report is not absent in The Incredibles II.

    THE VILLAIN PROBLEM IN THE INCREDIBLES II
    The second movie had an interesting villain who I would have loved to have been more fleshed out. Evelyn/ Screenslaver is a fascinating character whose motivations felt poorly explained and even lacking in important details in her big villain monologue to Elastigirl.

    Her distrust of supers goes back to her father’s love of them, and his reluctance to use the family’s safe room while they were getting robbed. He instead opted to try and use his direct line to supers who arrived too late, and he was thus killed for his over reliance on supers. Evelyn’s father was shown to be an important political figure to supers and advocated for their rights.

    Basically, Evelyn dislikes the way the general public overly relies on the actions of the supers and wants the public to go back to distrusting them. Also, her hatred of supers ties into the way she uses them to try and give the supers a bad name: screens. Her villain identity is called Screenslaver, and she used screens to hypnotize people into following her orders. Screenslaver delivers a monologue regarding the way people are overly reliant on technology, and seems to make this point very well by demonstrating her ability to hypnotize anyone looking at a screen. She fashions screens into goggles for the supers, and forces them to act in a way that makes the general public distrust them.

    This is such a fascinating character with commentary about people’s reliance on technology, and I would have liked it if we got more backstory and explanation about this character. It’s worth acknowledging that she might have gotten more fleshed out in scenes that didn’t make it to the final cut.

    THE FAMILY FOCUS
    Like the first movie, The Incredibles II was as much about superheros as it was about the Parr family dynamic. I loved the way Bob and Violet’s father / daughter relationship evolved, and gave Bob room to make mistakes as a parent. Additionally, Helen’s move to front and center superhero for a short period of the movie was excellent. Bob’s jealousy when Helen was selected to carry out a mission instead of him wasn’t condemned or painted as a negative aspect of Bob’s character. Rather, his jealousy was understandable, and he made a visibly painful effort to demonstrate his happiness for her success.

    This tied into how he grew as a parent for all of his children. While Helen was out on the mission, he had be the sole caregiver for his children, something he clearly wasn’t used to. His jealousy seemed to make him resent this work at first, but as he got better at these parental duties, he began to enjoy carrying them out more. His frustration over not being able to understand Dash’s homework led to him pulling an all nighter to learn the math so he could help his son do well on the test. His comically botched plan to save Violet’s relationship with her love interest backfired and led to a heartfelt apology where he admitted to some degree of fault for the relationship’s undoing. As a quick aside, the way the family weaponized Jack Jack’s powers was hilarious; holding Jack Jack like a gun and saying, “pew pew” to make lasers shoot out of his eyes was comedy gold. Another brilliant moment I enjoyed was at the very end of the movie when Evelyn/ Screenslaver was arrested. Violent makes the comment, “Yeah but she’s rich, so she’ll probably get away with a slap on the wrist.”

    Overall, I’d give The Incredibles II a 7/10 simply due to how enjoyable it was, but wish it could have offered a more fleshed out villain.

    Catch a sneak peek here:

    https://youtu.be/i5qOzqD9Rms

  • Articles, TRENDING

    How You Can Help Migrant Families

    How You Can Help Migrant Families

    If you’ve been following the news, then you probably know about the migrant crisis at the US/ Mexican border. If you don’t know about the crisis, this article will include a brief synopsis of the situation, and then explore different ways you can help. These ways include making donations to appropriate organizations, contacting your senator/ congressperson, and by joining Birmingham’s protest on June 30 at 4:00 PM at Kelly Ingram Park.

    A BRIEF SYNOPSIS: WHAT EXACTLY IS HAPPENING?

    Migrant families are being separated upon entering the US. According to The Independent and as of June 15, 2018, almost 2,000 children have been separated from their families since the Trump administration instituted its “zero tolerance” policy. The “zero tolerance” policy refers to the Trump administration’s efforts to, “seek criminal prosecution of every person caught trying to enter the US illegally … which the government hopes will act as a deterrent [to future migrants]” (Buncombe.) We know that the detention centers keeping these children have already been accused of child abuse, including forcibly injecting them with drugs (Smith & Bogada.)

    Then, on June 20, 2018, Trump signed an executive order aimed at ending family separations by detaining families together (CBS NEWS.)

    Trump’s executive order doesn’t even come close to fixing things and according to The Washington Post, Senator Elizabeth Warren visited a detention center and reported that no children are being reunited with their families.

    These families need your help. So how can you help them? Well, one way would be by donating money to organizations aimed at helping the cause. Be sure to read up on each organization and see how it uses it money. Always research an organization before you donate to make sure your money will be well used.

    WHERE TO DONATE

    ActBlue Charities: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kidsattheborder

    The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kidsattheborder

    ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/donate-aclu

    Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: https://asylumadvocacy.org/donate

    We Belong Together: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-a-brighter-future-for-immigrant-women

    Human Rights First: https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/donate

    Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights: https://www.theyoungcenter.org/donate-to-the-young-center

    Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: http://las-americas.org/get-involved-2/donate/

    Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee: https://www.fianzafund.org/donate.html

    The Florence Project: https://firrp.org/donate/

    Kids In Need of Defense (KIND): https://supportkind.org/donate/

    Women’s Refugee Mission: https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/donate-now

    CALL YOUR SENATOR/ CONGRESSPERSON

    Another way you can help is by calling your senator/ congressperson, which the ACLU has a perfect resource for:

    https://www.aclu.org/issues/stop-speaker-ryans-anti-immigrant-bill?redirect=node/68167

    You simply put in your phone number, email address, and zip code, and your call will be routed to a government representative near you. Once connected, introduce yourself and say,

    “Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I’m urging the Senator to denounce Trump’s family separation policy and use all of Congress’ authority to stop it.”

    Contacting your senator/ congressperson is a good way to help if you can’t afford to donate any money.

    PROTEST

    The Families Belong Together organization will be hosting nationwide protests. Birmingham hosted one in Kelly Ingram Park at 4:00 PM on June 30, 2018. If you want a more concrete way of showing your dissatisfaction, then show up to the protest to make your voice heard. Read more about the protest here: https://act.moveon.org/event/families-belong-together_attend1/search/

    Additionally, peaceful protesting is another good way to make your views known if you are unable to donate any money personally.

    SOURCES:
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/children-separated-trump-immigration-policy-zero-tolerance-parents-border-a8401526.html
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/border-wall-mexico-migration-deterrent-kirstjen-nielsen-donald-trump-jeff-sessions-a8340456.html
    https://www.revealnews.org/blog/immigrant-children-forcibly-injected-with-drugs-lawsuit-claims/amp/
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-executive-end-family-separation-at-border-immigration-today-2018-06-20/
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/desperate-to-get-children-back-migrants-are-willing-to-give-up-asylum-claims-lawyers-say/2018/06/24/c7fab87c-77e2-11e8-80be-6d32e182a3bc_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bfb3ce2de756
    https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a21623492/children-separated-from-families-border-how-to-help/

  • Articles, Fun, Portfolio, Tips, Travel

    10 Activities to Do This Summer with Your Family

    Ideas for Summertime Adventures with Family

    Summer is the time for unwinding and relaxing. We all love summer because it means no school and no responsibilities for a few months. However, sometimes we may wonder what we can do with all of this time that we now have on our hands. One of the best things you can do this summer is to spend time not only with your friends but also with your family. Here are some activities you can suggest to your family that you can do together this summer. You will have fun and bond with those you love.

    1. Go hiking – This is a fun way to get out of the house and explore nature. You can unplug for a little while and see beautiful sights that you wouldn’t see every day.
    2. Go kayaking – Kayaking is another excellent way to get out into nature. It can be relaxing at times and other times it can be scary and exciting.
    3. Visit your favorite amusement park – Everyone loves amusement parks. It is one of the best places to go as a family.
    4. Go fishing – Warm summer days are the best and most enjoyable times to go fishing with the family.
    5. Visit a museum – Museums aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but, if they are, then going to a museum is the perfect family-friendly activity for the summer. It can be especially fun if you have younger siblings to take with you.
    6. Go on a short road trip – Summertime is the time to get out of the house and explore. Whether it is as far as your backyard or to the beach 6 hours away, getting out and going to places you haven’t been before will create lasting memories.
    7. Go camping – If camping is something you like doing, then summer is the time to do it and enjoy the beauty of nature while doing something you wouldn’t usually do.
    8. Watch a movie at a drive-in movie theater – Whether you are going with family or friends, everyone loves drive-in theaters during the summer. It isn’t expensive and is fun for everyone.
    9. Go swimming – This is the most obvious one, but you can go swimming in more than just a pool. You can go to a river, a lake, or even a waterfall. Everyone loves swimming because it is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.
    10. Make s’mores by an outdoor fire – Whatever you decide to do with your summer day, the best way to end it is by a fireside with hot s’mores and friends and family by your side.