Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memo to Girls' Clothing Manufacturers


To: Girls' Clothing manufacturers

From: A concerned mother

My 15-year-old daughter is not a video vixen.

I just thought you should be made aware of this fact since most of the dresses you make in her size are too short or too tight for her to wear in my opinion. A few years ago when I was looking for a dress for her eighth grade graduation this unfortunate situation came to my attention. Now two years later while looking for a dress for her fall harvest dance, I find that the situation has not improved.

Once again, most of the selection was too tight and too short in my humble opinion. Even my daughter said, “Mom, that’s too low.” I thought we would have to buy a skirt and blouse until we found the right dress. Not too low in the front, not too high on the thighs.

Now I don’t consider myself a prude. My prom dress was strapless, but it was long and formal. But maybe I am a bit old-fashioned in this day and age. I just can’t see my daughter in a dress where she has to fight to keep her breasts from popping out and keep tugging down to keep it from riding up.

That’s what I see too often at these dances and other functions--girls pulling up and down to keep their dresses on.

Another mother shopping the other day commiserated with me. She said most of the dresses made the girls look like prostitutes. I prefer the term video vixens—the young ladies who populate the videos of popular music these days, half-dressed and shaking what their mamas gave them.

This dilemma is not just for teens.

Another mother told me she searched for weeks to find shorts for her then 6-year-old that weren’t too short or had inappropriate words like “juicy” written on the back. One friend has contemplated taking up sewing so that she can make clothes for her daughter. Another friend looking for dresses for her 5 and 7 year old daughters for a daddy-daughter dance said she had a hard time finding something appropriate.

I just want you to know I think there is a market out there that you can capitalize on. There are other mothers out there looking for dresses and other clothing that don’t make their daughters look like Puritans or nuns but at the same time leave something to the imagination. There are some mothers out there who want their child to remain children for as long as possible, although the world keeps trying to make them into mini-adults. They want their children to relish in the simplicity and innocence of childhood because they know they will have the rest of their lives to be grown up.

I cannot blame you for all of this. Someone buys the dresses that you produce or you wouldn’t make them. I think too many mothers are living vicariously through their daughters and wishing for their younger days. I see it on that horrible, disturbing television show “Toddlers and Tiaras” as mothers pressure their pre-schoolers to win beauty pageants and disgrace themselves. They parade their babies in sexy outfits in beauty pageants with their already flawless faces caked with makeup to make them look like grown little women.

This summer at a music festival I saw women my age and old enough to be my mother wearing outfits that Beyonce would be afraid to wear. One grandmother had a red number on with a neckline that plunged to her belly button and her breasts were sagging almost as far. I wondered how anyone let her get out the house or how she looked in the mirror and thought, “Girl, you looking good.” I see the pictures on Facebook, women who refuse to age gracefully but think that Daisy Duke shorts that almost look like bikini bottoms and super tight, cut up jeans are still for them.

But I want my daughter to know that it’s wonderful to dress up and wear beautiful clothes. How you present yourself to the world is important. But you don’t have to dress according to what the world says is desirable. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to show everybody her breasts and butt to be attractive. I want her to understand the wisdom of the scripture in Proverbs that says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (Proverbs 11:22)”

I want her to know that she is a lady and she should dress like one. I want her to understand that her beauty should not come from her outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. “Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)”

That inner beauty will never go out of fashion.

So dear clothing manufacturer, please keep this market in mind. I think you might be surprised by the demand.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To Sweet or Not to Sweet

We are eating ourselves to death.

Trust me. I get it.

Americans are obese and African Americans are particularly plagued by health issues related to their diet and lifestyle. It has been reported that 70 percent of African American women are overweight or obese. African Americans suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure at detrimental and deadly rates.

Many of our health issues can be resolved, alleviated or aided by eating a healthier diet. Too much of the wrong foods can kill. But foods can also heal.

Not only are the adults obese, but our children are overweight and out of shape.

Trust me. I get it.
I am an absolute advocate of healthy eating. My mother taught me that. As a child, she made sure that a healthy diet, full of fruits and vegetables was a part of life. She still preaches a vegetable with every meal and at least one green vegetable a day. My husband also insists on teaching our children about putting the right things in their bodies. No white bread. Whole wheat 12-grain bread. There was a little complaining at first but not anymore. Lots of fruits and vegetable. Little red meat. Bacon or sausage every blue moon. I can’t remember the last time I had a pork chop. Chicken and fish. Cut down on the candy.
I support First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.

But no cupcakes at school for kids on their birthday? What is the world coming to?

At a PTO meeting at my son’s school last month, parents were informed because of a health initiative grant received by the school district, children were discouraged from bringing cupcakes to school for their birthday. All fundraisers also had to be approved by the higher ups and cookie dough (our biggest fundraiser for the year) and chocolate sales were also discouraged.
Bringing cupcakes to the school on my children’s birthdays was one of the highlights of my now teenagers early school years and something that my son still looks forward to. I must admit it was something I enjoyed as well since as a child my birthday near the end of August always fell just before school started so I didn’t get to celebrate with my classmates. It seems like some of the fun of childhood is being taken away. Instead of cupcakes, pass out carrot sticks?

In the whole scheme of things, this is not earth shattering but it still feels like a loss.

No cupcakes for birthdays? My husband noted that if I was a teacher, I would appreciate the kids not getting a shot of sugar from a birthday cupcake in the afternoon.
Trust me. I get it.

But I also believe that banning cupcakes is not the recipe for healthier children. I think we’re better served by making sure that children are active, school meals are balanced and healthy and most importantly that children and parents are educated and encouraged to practice healthy eating and lifestyles at home.

I’m not beating the drum like some anti-government advocates saying keep your hands off my cupcakes. I don’t plan on occupying the school district offices. But as I asked in the meeting, “You mean there can’t be any sugar in the school?”

I read recently that some schools have banned sugar all together. A few years ago a principal claimed that after banning sugar from her school, test scores rose and discipline problems declined. Maybe there is something to this sugar free thing. And kids can always have their treats at home.

But as in most things in life, I believe a balance is required. Advocate and educate for healthier eating. Cut back and out sugary drinks and fatty snacks. Exercise and practice a healthy lifestyle. But also realize that indulging in a cupcake every once in a while is one of those sweet treats of life. And because like your birthday it doesn’t come around every day, it makes it that much sweeter, special and something to be savored.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Advice for Your 16-year-old Self

The other day I was having a conversation with my daughter. She was telling me the latest controversy among her group of friends. A minor thing seems like the only thing when you’re almost 16 years old. As I listened to her talk about the world of teenage girls, I couldn’t help but thinking, “Thank God I’m not in high school anymore!”

My high school senior yearbook photo
 Don’t get me wrong. I had a good high school experience. But when you’re in high school there can be so much drama. You’re trying to figure out who you are and how you fit. Nowadays there seems so much pressure to be popular. Although I’m sure there was that pressure when I was 16 too, but in this generation of Facebook, Twitter, instant communication and cyberbullying, the pressure cooker of peers seems to be even more intense.

I often tell my daughter, “You won’t even remember most of these folks 10 years from now.”

The advice I gave her the other day in regard to dealing with friends and misunderstandings and the general drama of hormonal girls was, “This too shall pass.”

As I prepare for my 25th class reunion at the end of October and my daughter turns sweet 16 in November, I think about the advice that I was given when I was that age, how much of it was really true and how much did I follow.

I received (and for the most part followed) excellent wisdom and advice based upon God’s Word from my parents. I was also blessed to have friends who had parents with the same values as my parents. My neighbor told me college would be some of the best times of my life, to enjoy it to the fullest. She was right and I did.

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “God gave you some sense.” One of the millions of nuggets of wisdom from my father was, “You have to learn to live with people because you’ll have to live with them for the rest of your life.”

I find myself passing these lessons to my children, including a few variations and bits of wisdom that I have picked up along the way of this journey called life (check out 43 lessons I’ve learned in 43 years).

But I was thinking, if I was to go back in time and speak to my 16-year-old self what would be the most important words of wisdom that I would want to impart to that young lady on the brink of adulthood? It probably wouldn’t be much different than what my parents told me. It’s some of the things I know and that I tell myself and live by today. It’s what I tell my children and other young people.

But I think I would tell my 16-year-old self something like this:

“In life you will have heartaches and pains, trouble and trials. Sometimes you will feel like giving up or a failure. You will also have joy and triumphs, laughter and love. Through it all, remember God is with you. Love freely. Forgive freely. Tell those you love that you love them. Our lives are our choices. Learn from the past but don’t dwell on your mistakes. Savor every minute. Take advantage of every opportunity. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Always remember who God says you are. Wherever you go and whatever you do, leave the place a little better for you having been there and take something from the experience to make you better. Don’t waste time. But make sure you stop and smell the roses. Don’t be held captive by fear. Life is short. Live it.”

If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 16 (knowing what you know now about yourself and your life’s journey), what advice would you give to yourself?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You Never Know What's Wrapped Up in a Child

Upon hearing of the death of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, I learned from media reports that he was adopted. Born in 1955, he was the biological son of university graduate students. I thought about how his mother made a decision to bring him into this world, but I'm sure at the time she could have never imagined that her baby would grow up to be described as "a pioneer" who "changed the world."

It got me to thinking about others who people have dismissed or would have never thought would be lauded and applauded by the world or accomplish "great" things. It got me to thinking about how some people might have acted differently if they had known what those children would grow up to be. It made me think we never know what is wrapped up in a child.

It also made me think that it shouldn't matter if we knew or not because whether we make "great" accomplishments by the world's standards or not, that by God's standard we all have a calling, a gift and greatness that He has placed inside of us. For far too many that calling is crushed when we are children because of the cruelty of others. 

I wrote these thoughts/poem/musings as a result of those reflections.

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

I wonder if that woman knew that you would grow up to be you
If she would have made you sleep on the porch
Would she have despised you because you were darker
Esteeming the fairer
Judging you by her hatred of her own and the color of your skin
If she knew the greatness you had within.

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

I wonder if those kids who poked fun at you
Would have been so cruel
Mocked your dark skin and called you ugly names
If they knew one day of your fame
That your name would be chanted across the world
Did they just see a poor little brown boy
Playing in Indonesia’s dust and dirt
If they knew the greatness within
Maybe they wouldn’t have said those things that hurt

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

I wonder if the girl giving birth out of wedlock
Could have known that the child she made a decision
To bring to this world
Would one day change it
That news of his death would be broadcast around the earth
On the very devices to which he gave birth

You never know what’s wrapped up in a child

What’s wrapped inside every child
Is greatness that God placed within each and every one of us
For we were created in His image
Every child is great
Every child is Oprah, Obama and Steve Jobs
Every child has a gift that God has placed inside of him
We all have a call
A gift to share with the world
Even if that gift is just a kind word to help someone else along the way

Never forget what is wrapped up in a child
And treat every child, every person
With respect for their humanity
Love for their eternal soul
Treat every child with dignity
Treat every child
The way you would want to be treated
Don’t crush the beauty
That is wrapped up in every baby

Top At the Well Postings for September 2011

Here are the top two items read on At the Well for the month of September. Read them again or for the first time.

Peace and Blessings,
Monica Fountain

Just Another Day: 9/11/01
At the Well Headlines

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