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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

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December 2014

2014: What A Year! My Top Ten Posts & More

2014 is fast closing in on us and what else is there to do but reflect back upon our 365 days of the year past. For me, 2014 was a bit of a high – as I took on larger than life challenges like the most important Boston Marathon to date as well as pursuing my other new favorite form of healthy exercise, Crossfit.

Despite the challenges that remain from my breast cancer battle, the only sense of control I retain is the ability to stay as healthy as possible physically, mentally and emotionally. All three aspects of health are certainly easier said than done, right? Particularly, when you lose someone close to you that battled a different subtype of breast cancer, but lost her battle this year – should it have been you? How do you console the pain in HER sixteen year old daughter when your own sixteen year old daughter clings to you?

As I ramp up for what I am preparing to be an even more BADASS year in 2015, I share with you my top ten blog posts from 2014 based upon how popular the selections were with YOU. Thank you for following my crazy journey through life. Buckle up and hang on tight because 2015 will prove to be that much more spectacular indeed.

top posts 2014
Photo courtesy of Candace, Lucky Scarf

In order from most popular, starting with number one:

  1. Collateral Damage
  2. How Do You Say Goodbye?
  3. Right on Hereford, Left On Boylston
  4. 26.2 Miles of Inspiration
  5. A Graphic Look at PINK, A Survivor’s Plea
  6. Breaking Bad
  7. The Unexpected Ride
  8. A Letter To You On How to Prevent Breast Cancer
  9. Mother’s Day Revisited
  10. Have You Ever Looked *THERE*

Happy New Year’s, my friends!  I hope you continue to come along for the many adventures and share some of your own.

With that, for more reading pleasure, check out my talented blogger friends over at their respective sites below. These gals certainly are creative with so many DIY projects that I am green with envy.

bloggers

1. Candace from Lucky Scarf
2. Stephanie from Sandpaper & Glue
3. Michelle from Weekend Craft
4. Kelly from A Lovely Life, Indeed

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Time to Teach: Accountability – Is It Gone?

Accountability, What IS that?

This week I find myself with BOLD opinions; the very opinions that once fueled the actual name of my blog itself. Intentionally, I will share my thoughts with you on some sensitive and touchy matters currently at hand. I hope you will share your insight as well in return as we navigate the waters that challenge our very basic human rights.

As we rolled into Thanksgiving week, you saw Facebook statuses galore about all the gratitude people have for pieces of their respective lives. Recipe swapping was on high rotation and the swirls of Black Friday with retail promises of bargain scavenger hunting were relentless.

Thanksgiving week for us in Central Massachusetts also means one thing: FOOTBALL. Yes, we have one of the biggest rivalries that go back over 100+ years. Leominster versus Fitchburg is akin to our own Super Bowl and the traditions that go along with the rivalry may likely be as old. One of our favorite traditions in Leominster is the Thanksgiving Pep Rally, where all of the high school students pile into the wooden gymnasium and watch the insanity while they engage in school pride.

Until this year, that is.

Apparently, a long story short, a student from LHS talked about a shooting to happen during the pep rally just a few days before Thanksgiving. Imagine that scene: thousands of students gathered into a small gymnasium celebrating traditions when someone merely mentions the idea of a shooting. You hear about school shootings on what appear to be a regular basis now; but not in YOUR child’s school. The actual thought made me sick to my stomach and I felt nearly as vulnerable as I did when I brought my first-born home from the hospital sixteen years ago; burdened with the task of keeping her life safe for at least the next eighteen years.

School? Isn’t school supposed to be a safe place? Not in 2014, it seems that school is a vulnerable place to send your child. However, the mall and movie theaters are now both places where murderous shooting rampages have occurred in very recent times.

school shootings

Yesterday, my oldest had her high school go into lockdown. Because of cell phones and social media, we were given unofficial notice of this lockdown with no solid information to base our worry upon. Rumors were rampant and nerves quickly went into fray as details were filtered and exaggerated through the same social media and cell phone dialogues.

Within minutes, I knew that a student or students had entered the school wearing ski mask(s) and carrying bags. My initial reaction was fear: my daughter hadn’t answered her text from me and I quickly remembered the aforementioned Thanksgiving threat. Within a short time, a friend of mine who works at the high school let us know that there was a lockdown and all was okay.

Later, after speaking with my daughter, I realized the severity of the lockdown and listened to her recount her fears as she had no idea what was going on but saw the dozens of state and local police running through the hallways with their “massive guns” drawn.

The school’s explanation of the day is that the Center for Technical Excellence students returned from working outside in their winter gear, entered an unauthorized back door and proceeded through the halls while still wearing their gear. A fellow student was alarmed and contacted his parent, who in return called 9-1-1.

Even though this particular set of incidents turned out okay, I asked myself this week, once again, why public shootings, particularly school shootings seem to be on the rise or happening with more frequency. My theory is harsh, bold, but an opinion that allows me to cope with the WHY such violence seems to be happening.

I blame the parents. Yes, I do. For my argument, I will exclude the mental health argument as that is one discussion that will stand alone and separate. I understand the mental health issues in this nation are underserved and signs point to the need to address and support the community in this regard. However, my argument here today is directed back to the parents.

I am an “old school” parent. I parent firmly, sometimes harshly but with unconditional love. I understand that my children need to be raised with character that they will not only be contributing members of society; but that they will have the best tools in their lives in order to cope and handle their surroundings. I am not a perfect parent; I am far from it. However, my children are raised to do well in school; respect their fellow humans; treat people with kindness; and above all else – my children will own their accountability for their actions, including the words that may come out of their mouths.

People have been asking why the shootings by young people at schools and other public places seem to be on the rise. Again for sake of argument, I will acknowledge that I believe a certain number of these violent acts are attributed to mental health issues. However, my speculation of some of the cases that may be those on the rise is a growing population of children who have been coddled and over-pampered at home. Yes, I blame the parents. The helicopter parents who don’t or cannot say no to their children. The hovering parents who sort and work out every notion of conflict in their child’s life from toddler throughout college.   (Yes! There ARE those parents who contact college professors demanding an explanation for a poor grade!)

My theory is we have a generation of young adults who have never been given the coping skills or mechanisms to handle being told no, of being rejected, of having things not go their way. Add in the technology age where instant gratification and a constant connection to everyone and everything; you have a melting pot for spontaneous combustion even when the coping skills are there.

Do you remember high school? What an awkward time in your life that is! How many of us faced the badgering of our fellow classmates for one reason or another? How many of us had our hearts broken by our first loves? How many of us were rejected by a crush? How many of us felt inferior, insecure, or just plain not good enough or perhaps out of place?

I was bullied as a child (trying being the ONLY hearing impaired and Jewish kid in your small, rural Oklahoma town). I was picked on as a teen (again, trying explaining that hearing aids are very similar to eyeglasses but for your ears). I also made poor choices that led to additional ragging on and badgering by my peers. As bad as that all made me feel, I also knew that there could be no outward display of reaction. I had to cope with the behaviors of others towards me, even if it made me feel absolutely horrible. I had to cope with the consequences of my actions – good, bad, or otherwise.

The point I intend to demonstrate is that my parents certainly went to bat for me when a situation was out of my control (i.e. some of the bullying) but otherwise, I was taught to learn from my own battles, to learn from my own mistakes and decisions and handle the consequences there on out.

My fear is that way too many parents are too involved and that the younger generations is not obtaining the emotional coping skills needed to function in life. When children are not told no at home or held accountable at home, there is no way we can expect them to cope with being told no in the real world. When things do not go as they expect, they are ill-equipped to handle the emotions of rejection (whether it be in school, job related, socially related, etc.). My inclination is to believe some of these public displays of violence are a build-up of the perpetrator being unable to cope with the overwhelming emotions and hence, he/she acts out violently.

I understand this *theory* is a bit generalized and vague; however, a lesson remains to be learned from these recent acts of violence. Our children learn from home; these kids learn by example and by action of us. Love on them unconditionally; however, give them space to solve their own challenges. Offer support and advice but let them figure it out.

As our children hit middle school and high school ages, it remains very hard to sit back and let them solve their dilemmas. However, there are critical life skills to be learned in doing so.  What CAN we do?

Color-School-shootings

  • Teach them how to stand up for themselves in a multitude of scenarios, but let them actually execute the decision that fits them best and let them learn from the experience.
  • Continue to teach them kindness and compassion as they enter these hormone-filled and “strife” filled years. “Be nice!” “Share” “Don’t hit!” “Say Please & Thank You” should not stop once they are past the ornery toddler years.
  • Teach them to stand up for their fellow peers when it is right to do so. Remind them that no matter how badly their broken hearts feel at that moment, with time, broken hearts do heal and we grow stronger from the experience.
  • Teach your children that under no circumstances are violence the answer.
  • Teach them to find a better way to cope.
  • Teach them accountability. Stop blaming everyone else and take a deep look within.

A friend of mine shared this quote with me this week and I shall share it with you by ending on this note:

“Peace on Earth and it begins with me.”

Accountability – Do We Owe It?

Personal accountability seems to be at an all- time low. Do you agree? Owning our actions, our words and every aspect of our daily lives seems to be tantamount. For everything that goes wrong in our lives, we seem pretty quick as a society to cast blame outwardly. Perhaps, it is time we start to reflect inwardly and own up to our personal responsibility for holding ourselves accountable.

accountability

My intention is for this to be a several part series as accountability applies to many components of our lives: from work, to health, to our children, and to each other as a society.  My first post hits a sensitive nerve on a topic way too close to home:  our health and cancer.

Nod your head in agreement as I casually comment on how the cancer diagnoses seem to be rising; or rather, how you know of this one and that one who has battled or is currently battling some form of cancer. Yes? Of course! Even though I am a cancer advocate, I am meeting someone new each week – EVERY @#$&%@ SINGLE WEEK – to whom I am introduced to by someone who wishes for me to offer the “been there, done that” spiel to their friend, their neighbor, their colleague, their aunt, or even themselves.

Personally, I am beyond frustrated as each year BILLIONS of dollars are poured into the various cancer fundraising vehicles….and yet, every week as I mentioned above, I am talking to *new* people with cancer regularly. The so-called quest for a “cure” makes me even more nuts as I do not believe the solution is on the horizon. I wish for the scientists to continue looking for the elusive piece of the puzzle, but in the meantime, what do we do *NOW*?

Why are we not talking about the responsibility we owe ourselves in ensuring our good health?

acccountability sign

What is *CAUSING* these seemingly higher incidents of cancer? Why are we not looking for the root cause just as much, if not more than, the cure?

Cancer is normal. Yes, cancer is very normal. Cancer happens to our cells as part of basic biology; always has and always will. What appears to be different is that our immune systems have become somewhat compromised and our ability to fight off various cancers has diminished. What on earth is compromising our immune systems? Where do we begin………

Whereas I do not wish to get into a scientific debate here, I simply want people to recognize the power of accountability. If we know something carries a higher risk of causing cancer, why do we do it?  Why do we not take a more preventative approach to better health?  Why do we take our bodies for granted?

Prior to 2007, I was one of those people who took my health for granted. I most certainly did. I was barely into my thirties at the time, why would my health even be on my radar aside from regular physicals?

Did I ever stop and think about what I put into my mouth? Sure, when I felt my love handles being more than a handful or when my folds of my stomach climbed upward into flabalanche status. I thought more about eating healthier for a few weeks at a time, but purely for the sake of losing weight for vanity sake. I never once thought about extra weight putting me at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Wasn’t I too young?

Did I worry about microwaving plastic, melamine, or using other modern day items of convenience, including Styrofoam? Why would I? I was much too busy and chaotic to worry about things that made my life faster, quicker, more convenient, more on the go and just *easier*.  Why would these things possibly impact my health?

Did I think about the lotion I rubbed vigorously into every inch of my skin post-shower? No. Why would I? I smelled good and my skin was soft. Did I think more about the different face cream I smoothed into the creases around my eyes or my smile lines? No. What about the cleanser I used at the end of the day to remove my make up?  Who cares what ingredients were in all of these different products?

Did I worry about the stress in my life? Sure, sometimes I did but not as a Mack Truck about to steamroll my very core being into a fight for its life. When I thought about the often times incapacitating stress in my life; I did not picture being able to make choices to *fix* my chaos, I only daydreamed about an escape…..or more so, a *time-out* so that I could focus on just me for a moment.

Oh, I got that so-called time-out alright.  What went wrong in me that I was just shy of a Stage three breast cancer diagnosis at age 33?  I have had plenty of time to consider all the potential *causes* of my cancer.  For a while, I racked my brain thinking of what *it* was that directly caused my disease:

  • Was it all the McDonald’s, Bagel Dogs and ramen noodles I ate in college?
  • Was it the chemicals I was exposed to all the times I spent hanging out with dad at his construction sites?
  • Was it the mercury I used to roll around in my hands after breaking an old-fashioned thermometer?
  • Was it all the body care products I used that were chock full of parabens?
  • Was it the insane amount of stress I was under from a ridiculously demanding job coupled with being a care-taker to my aging and high-maintenance parents while managing my own young family?

Who knows?  The list could go on and on and on…………

I will never know the precise *trigger* of my cancer and I am okay with that. However, I now know my health really begins with ME. I have to be accountable and held responsible for ME.

My children have a much higher rate of disease now, thanks to my diagnosis. I want to enable all three of my kids to be pro-active and make better choices than I was ever equipped to make. I want my friends to be pro-active instead of reactive. Why go through the horrors that I did?  Having watched my best friend go through a much different cancer battle in the past year makes me want to SCREAM this at all of you!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Do we not owe ourselves some level of accountability? If we knew a battle lies ahead, wouldn’t we run out and get whatever weapons we could in our arsenal, to help us protect and defend our home lines; the very place where our most beloved reside? Of course we would! Why are we not using the same concept with our bodies and our health?

We *KNOW* that eating a palate of fresh vegetables, clean meats and plentiful amounts of water are ideal.

We *KNOW* that regular exercise is good for us.

We *KNOW* that exposure to certain chemicals increases a multitude of health concerns and issues.

We *KNOW* that stress wears us down, makes us sick and causes friction in our daily lives.

Where’s the accountability? What can we do to effectuate change *BEFORE* it is too late?

For me, I do not want to get cancer again so my changes have been pretty dramatic. I want my children to learn from me now, post 2007-2008 and post-cancer. I want my babies to be equipped to make better life choices than I ever did. Will they? I do not know but I want them to have a balance. Yes, Slim Jims are disgusting and totally unhealthy for you. However, having an occasional Slim Jim through-out the year will not cause extensive damage because you are eating your healthy nutrition all the other times, coupled with regular exercise, stress maintenance and using the lowest possible chemical exposure on top of it.

For you, promise me that you will *think* about your accountability here and there. Give yourself a handful of reasons why you should be pro-active when it comes to YOU! We live in a fast-paced, uber-convenient society that takes nearly every luxury for granted. Find five…….. (5)……only five (!) ways you can be more aware in your life. What matters most to you or what is easiest for you to own accountability for in your life?

Here are some easy examples:

Check your grocery cart before checking out. Are there any products that you can find a better version of that has less processed or chemical ingredients? Maybe you do not need that product at all.  Read your labels.

Check your personal care products. Find safe products or perhaps find ones that will work for you with less toxic chemicals. What are your children using? You will find them safer products, right?  Read your labels.

Check your exercise routine. You do not have to be all insane and crazy like some people we know. (Ahem, are you looking at me?) Even if you *despise* exercise, there are so many ways to incorporate a little more in your daily life: park further away, take the stairs, or find a friend to take a walk with before you share that bottle of wine.  What works for you that you will create a habit of?

Check your daily stress. Many of us feel trapped and unable to make a change. Sometimes, a lower paying job or reducing the household bills will make all the difference in the amount of stress taxing you on a regular basis.  Change begins with YOU.

Find a buddy to help keep you accountable. Write your five goals down and share it with your spouse or your friend. When you hit those five goals, aim for five more and before you know it – you have made massive lifestyle changes and you are paving the way for your children, our future generations, to live in a *hopefully* healthier, less cancer filled world.

Are you in?

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