Thursday, September 11th, 2014
My own blurry iPhone photo from that night
From my Brooklyn apartment, I can see One World Trade Center. A couple weeks ago, the crescent moon hung in the night sky right beside it. Everyone walking down my street took a second to capture fuzzy pictures on their iPhones. That night, the brightly shining One World Trade Center seemed like it pierced through the atmosphere to touch all the people who lost their lives in that exact location 13 years ago.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out what happened. The guidance counselor brought out all the fifth graders into a common area to break the news to us. We all sat stunned as she told us about the towers. Students sitting cross-legged around me immediately started to cry for their parents.
“My dad works in that building.”
“My mom had a flight today.”
A calm, normal school day in Westport, Conn. suddenly turned into a frenzy of phone calls and tears.
I think this was the day I figured out what kind of friend I want to be.
My dad worked in Stamford, Conn., so I felt comfort in knowing his whereabouts. But I had several friends in complete fear for their fathers. I had neighbors coming up to me bawling, telling me as they caught their breaths they couldn’t get ahold of their dads
The only way I knew to help was by showing every ounce of support in my little body for my friends. I sat with them in the front office, holding their hands while they called their parents off the hook. Even when my dad came to pick me up early on his way home from work, I decided to stay with my friends.
At 10, I never faced such dire times. The most I had to comfort my friends through was the death of their beloved beta fish. But as I sat in the office, staring at the glowing aquarium in the corner, I knew this was something so much larger than telling them they could buy a new fish at the store tomorrow.
In those moments of uncertainty, I knew I wanted to be the person my friends could rely on for unwavering support—even if it meant not saying a word. When I did have something to say, I did my best to put some semblance of a smile on their faces with a silly aside. Today I find myself doing the same through break ups and layoffs.
Thankfully my friends’ fathers were safe and sound. We were too young to know the geography of Manhattan. The distance between the towers and Midtown was out of our realm of comprehension, but what I did know was I wanted to shine bright for my friends in dark times just like the Freedom Tower does every night.
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Thursday, July 31st, 2014
Whenever I need a quick, mindless break from life and work, I like to scroll through Instagram. Among pictures of majestic London cityscapes and my friends’ adorable
cats and new apartment decor, I happened upon a picture of a newborn baby , who had tubes connected to him in every place imaginable. My heart broke as I read the photo’s caption.
The baby’s mother, Amelia Barnes, recounted the tragic highlights of her son’s birth. On July 8, Amelia was due to give birth to a healthy baby boy. But the baby’s heart rate monitor start going off after eight hours of labor. Amelia had an emergency C-section. Seven minutes later, Landon was born, but his heart still wasn’t beating. Medical personnel resuscitated him after 15 minutes, but his brain and kidneys began to fail along with his heart.
After two days, Landon was removed from life support and shocked his parents by living for 17 more hours. In those magical hours, Amelia and her husband, Justin, were able to have a photo shoot with their son, and Amelia shared many on her Instagram and blog called Landon’s Legacy. Looking through the beautiful family photos, you almost forget the baby has never cried, will never meet the family dog or leave the hospital in a car seat.
Amelia isn’t the only person who has experienced such a loss. With the power of Instagram, she was able to connect with other people in similar situations and create a virtual support system.
In addition to helping others heal with her, Amelia is creating a dialogue on postpartum bodies with the help of social media channels like Instagram. In a world where celebrities grace covers with instantly thin post-baby bodies, Amelia’s photos of her still-swollen belly are refreshing and honest. Even as a woman who has never given birth myself, I’m inspired by her body confidence — even during the hardest time of her life.
Instagram can be more than a way to pass time. Filtered photos and hashtags can reach across the world to tell her story to people she will never meet. To read more about Landon’s Legacy, visit http://ameliakyoga.tumblr.com/.
Image: Red heart with cross sign in female hand, close-up, on light background via Shutterstock
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Thursday, July 10th, 2014
The feminine care company, Always, is trying to change how we think about the phrase “like a girl.” They recently came out with a new campaign to support their cause. Since it debuted on June 26, the #LikeAGirl video message has been viewed about 32 million times on YouTube.
In the video, people are asked to perform certain actions as a girl. Both men and women run, throw, and fight in a dramatically negative, weak, and ditzy way. Then young girls are asked the same questions. They perform in a way that gave me chills, filled with strength and confidence.
Watching this made me immediately think of my 16-year-old sister, Kendall. She is the most athletic person I know. Most of her life has been spent on sports teams—from softball to cheerleading. As stated in the commercial, “a girl’s confidence plummets during puberty.” At 12, my sister won a national championship with her competitive cheer team. As a base, she lifted girls the same size as her to do elaborate stunts. But my sister has never valued her athleticism. We grew up in a town that glorifies football players. Girls sports, on the other hand, are side notes. Even though she went to cheer practice six days a week for the past six years and runs three miles a day, Kendall does not have as much pride in her athleticism as a boy her age with the same athletic drive as her would. The highlights in her hair and the shirt she just bought at the mall seem to be more laudable than the amount of flips she can do without stopping and how fast she can go around the track.
But my sister isn’t the only girl who feels this way. Girls’ athleticism is generally undervalued. #LikeAGirl proves this. Most of all, the underlying message is doing things like a girl makes one appear weaker than boys.
Doing things like a girl truly means doing things like my sister—with persistence, passion, and focus. It means achieving goals and not being afraid to show strength. No matter how old your daughter is, fostering confidence in her physical skills is essential and to encourage her to be proud of being a girl.
Take this quiz to see if your child is ready for team sports!
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Thursday, June 19th, 2014
My mom will tell you she’s “allergic to the sun.”
But this wasn’t always the case. She grew up basking in the Florida sun. Those days, however, caught up with her when I was in elementary school. Doctors found basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, on her nose.
I remember coming home one day in first grade to my mom’s face covered in gauze following her first surgery. “She looks like a mummy,” I would tell my friends on the playground, as I thought of my mom in pain.
With the first day of summer just days away, beach day invitations are starting to roll in. With every response I give, I think of my mom and the subsequent surgeries she’s undergone to remove more BCCs from her face. And when I pack my beach bag, I’ll think of a new study published in Nature on June 11.
The Institute of Cancer Research found sunscreen inadequately protects from melanoma. Researchers found mice exposed to UV rays still suffered damage to the p53 gene despite having sunscreen on. The p53 gene typically helps defend skin from UV rays, and when it’s damaged by the sun’s radiation, risk of melanoma forming increases. Sunscreen is essential because it helps slow impairment to this gene; however, its sun defense isn’t absolute. That’s why it’s key to take precautions beyond SPF to guard us from the harmful effects of the sun.
Nowadays, my mom has changed her sun protection habits. You’ll find her decked out in her favorite cowboy hat, wraparound sunglasses and long-sleeved cover-up dress. She’s a pro at finding the shadiest spot at the pool or beach and highest SPF on the market.
And by her side, you’ll find me wearing the biggest, floppiest hat and Jackie O shades.
Test your sun protection habits with this quick quiz!
Image: Mother And Daughter Under Beach Umbrella Putting On Sun Cream (ShutterStock)
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The Parents Perspective