Why #BlackLivesMatter to me

I’m not black. So, why would a parenting blog written by a 43 year old Stay At Home Dad of six kids write anything about race? In a word, compassion. I spent the better part of the last week and a half watching multiple tragedies unfold, often in real time. I saw videos of Alton Sterling’s death. I saw Philando Castile die while his girlfriend watched it happen and broadcast it live on Facebook. I saw almost a dozen police officers get shot (five fatally) in Dallas while protecting a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Through it all I wept. I watched those videos and what struck me was the humanity of each person. Each of those lives mattered. Those men were husbands, fathers, sons, boyfriends, best friends…and now they’re dead. I watched the 15 year old son of Alton Sterling bravely standing by the woman speaking, trying to comfort her, only to break down moments later and sob uncontrollably. I want Daddy. I want Daddy. I didn’t see color. I saw my own 11 year old son for a moment there. I wept again for that young man, now fatherless. I watched in shock last Thursday night as the police officers were gunned down in Dallas. I wept. I prayed for our country. I prayed for peace. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for compassion.

As a parent one of the most important things I’m trying to teach all of my kids is compassion. I will have failed as a parent if my children are not compassionate people when they leave home. But, I cannot teach that if I’m not compassionate myself. I believe that being compassionate is the ability to look at things from the perspective of others, to understand them better, so that I can help them accordingly. For example, on Sunday afternoon I was driving home from the mall with two of my kids and there was a woman standing by the side of the road trying to get across the five lanes with a heavy-looking large pull-cart behind her. I stopped my van and motioned for her to cross. After two cars whizzed past she had a chance to cross in front of me, but the oncoming traffic was approaching and she was slow. So, I turned to the left and blocked the two lanes to shield her, to ensure her safe passage. I was about to leave when she told me that she was trying to catch the bus which just blowing past the stop (because she was too slow to make it there). She asked for a ride to the bus terminal a mile away and I instead offered her a ride home. I introduced myself and made a new friend, Samantha. I had been less than two minutes from home, but drove this lady 15-20 minutes to her apartment building in downtown Tacoma (and then 15 -20 minutes back home). Samantha talked the entire way there, telling me about her mother (dying of cancer) and her husband (disabled with seizures after getting shot in the head) and her own injury (motorcycle accident at age 16 that nearly severed her foot) which caused her to limp even now at age 55. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Samantha is black. Interestingly enough, though, the color of her skin wasn’t a factor in my ability to show her compassion when I saw her standing by the side of the road. All I saw was another human being who needed a little bit of help.

I guess this brings me back to the events of this last week. I am saddened by what seems to be a lack of compassion among many of my friends. The black lives matters movement began as a way to draw attention to the ongoing problem of black people being disproportionately targeted by some members of the law enforcement community and then unfairly treated by the legal system. I’ll admit that when I first saw the #blacklivesmatter hashtag a couple of years ago that I ignorantly responded with #alllivesmatter. I didn’t understand. I thought that it had to be one or the other. Thankfully, I have some pretty awesome friends who either wrote or shared articles that showed me the error of my thinking. Some of these friends are dad-bloggers (like me), who have teenage children (like me), but have black skin (unlike me). I learned that these men have been racially profiled all of their lives. They’ve been stopped by the police dozens of times simply because of the color of their skin. I think in my 43 years of life I’ve been pulled over exactly three times. Twice for speeding (deserved) and once for going through an intersection on a yellow light (undeserved, no ticket). Not once for having a broken taillight or a wide nose. Philando Castile, who was days shy of his 33rd birthday, had been stopped 31 times by police over the years. He’s 10 years younger than me. I seriously doubt that he’s that bad of a driver. My friends shared that they’ve had to have conversations with their kids about how to respond if when they have an interaction with police so that their kids will come home safely. For real. This is where I started to really begin to understand how much white privilege I have but I don’t even realize it. I can let my son ride his scooter a few blocks to a nearby Walgreens to buy some candy, even while wearing a hoodie, and not worry that he’s going to get shot by a neighborhood enforcer or a police officer. He’s even managed to sneak a Nerf gun in the waistband of his shorts into public and no one complained or called the cops on him. Moreover, I don’t get pulled over “randomly” when driving around town running errands because I might look like a suspect due the color of my skin or the width of my nose. The inherent privilege of being white in America was something that I had to make an effort to learn about, particularly about how minorities don’t share that privilege. I don’t have to be sorry for being white or ashamed of it. Yet, I believe that I do have a responsibility as a human being to treat others with compassion and to fight for justice wherever I see the need for it. Sometimes that means that I need to educate myself, to learn the stories of my brothers and sisters who don’t look like me, to mindfully build the bridges that lead to a true change of heart and compassion.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit tricky for some people. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” upsets a lot of people. They think it means that only black lives matter and that black lives matter more than anyone else. Nope. Nope. Nope. Black-Lives-Matter-quotesThey love to fire back with All Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they do. But, until we, as a country and as individuals can act like ALL lives matter then there will remain a need for movements like Black Lives Matter. For example, just last week I shared several things on my personal Facebook page about the deaths of Sterling and Castile. There weren’t many comments and my feed wasn’t filled with anyone posting stuff saying All Lives Matter in response to those two men dying. Yet, within a few moments of the shooting of the police officers in Dallas my feed was full of people sharing pictures of the badge of the Dallas Police Department and using the phrase Blue Lives Matter. People were showing compassion and concern for the victims and even their communities and families simply because the victims were police officers. I respect the men and women in blue as much as anyone and believe that they have incredibly difficult jobs that require them to be “on” 100% of the time. One momentary lapse could cost them their lives, so the national outpouring of compassion for their families is well deserved. But, why couldn’t that same compassion be shown or expressed for the victims just a few days before? Or for any of the countless victims of black on black crime that All Lives Matter folk love to derisively reference? If ALL lives matter then even the lives that some might deem “worthless” should matter. If ALL lives matter then no one will rest until there are ZERO incidents of police brutality. I believe that I can say Black Lives Matter at the same time that I say Blue Lives Matter because I value both groups. Why? Because we’re all human beings. Compassion doesn’t depend on color.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks it’s okay to racially profile people based on their race or ethnicity or any other trait. I don’t want to live in a country where abusive or racist cops are tolerated and the good cops suffer the tragic consequences. I don’t want to live in a nation that points out the high rate of black on black crime as an excuse to say that the police can use excessive force or that exposes the record of victims in a not so subtle way of saying he got what he deserved. We’re better than that. We owe it to our kids to be compassionate for one another. Step out of your comfort zone and educate yourself. Talk to your kids about this topic. Help them to understand so that they can grow up without the racial tension that is so prevalent in our nation today. As a SAHD, I get to see my children interact with others in a lot of situations where there’s no adult hovering over and directing their every move. I’ve noticed the ease that my 6 and 3 year old daughters have in playing with boys and girls of any skin color in places like a children’s museum, a McDonald’s play place or the playground at a park. I’m thrilled that my 11 year old son’s best friend is witty, respectful, silly, smart, and loves to catch frogs just like my son. The fact that he and my son don’t share the same skin pigmentation is irrelevant to their friendship. Why do we, as adults, make such big deal about this? Why is it so hard to show compassion for one another?

I want to leave you with a quote from my friend Janice, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her daughter and one of my daughters became friends early in grade school and were best friends until we moved to Washington state four years ago. Her twins, now 17, are black and were adopted by Janice and her husband as babies. As a white parent raising black children she offered a unique perspective on my Facebook page last week when I posted a (much shorter) version of this blog post calling for compassion.

Thank you so much, Carl, for speaking truth and compassion. My son and daughter, who you know quite well, are deeply upset. When a 17 year old girl was treated with over the top brutality by Madison, WI, police my daughter became very upset and agitated. When I spoke to my son about the gentleman who was murdered by police officer in Minnesota, he said, “Mom, can we not talk about this now” as he turned his face and his eyes swelled up with tears. My twins have been experiencing this grief and fear on regular basis. They have been ignored, verbally called “n” word, followed in stores, gawked at, frowned at, not given food while waiting in line after ordering and more. The macro and micro agressions cause a human to be in a state of constant vigilance, increase anxiety, create emotional stress and more due to lack of safety and peace. Yes, they are humans with huge big hearts of compassion! They are giving, gentle, hard workers who do treat others with respect. However, when they walk out the door into “society”, they play a game with loaded dice. We need truth and reconciliation talks to really understand our history and the violence against black bodies. Perhaps readers of this thread would like to read, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thank you again, Carl. It is very hard to turn toward this violence and actually see it for what it is. My 17 year old shared, “I think I will go to school here because I haven’t been shot yet.” The war against black bodies hasn’t ended. The slave codes allowed the beatings, rapes and murder. We as a society have much work to do. I’m open to suggestions as I’m blinded by grief.

So, I ask you, my dear readers, what are YOU going to do to help bring healing to our country? Are you willing to cultivate compassion in yourself and in your children? I know that I am and I hope that you are as well.

 

 

*****Here are some links to articles that I’ve found helpful in educating myself regarding Black Lives Matter and policing in the United States.*****

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person

Solutions

The Problem with Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

See beyond “the police” for change…

The video of Alton Sterling’s son is the video you should watch

Adrian Perryman’s Video

http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-memorialize-police-officers-killed-dallas-sniper/story?id=40488652

Why does Serena have to be sexy?

Earlier this week Sports Illustrated magazine announced that they had selected tennis star Serena Williams to be their Sportsperson of the Year. The SOY award is given to “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” As a dad with five daughters, I was really pleased to hear the news the SI had finally chosen another female athlete as this award has been dominated by men since the award’s inception in 1954. Serena Williams’s selection was only the third time that a woman had been selected for the prestigious award without sharing it with a man. Chris Evert won it alone in 1976 and Mary Decker in 1983, several have women “shared” it with a man, and the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won it as a team in 1999. The name of the award even changed this year to be more inclusive of women. All said, it’s a pretty big deal for her to win this award. It was a topic of conversation on sports talk radio shows and was all over the internet. As a sports fan myself I would be the first to admit that I don’t follow tennis much at all. Sure, I know who the Williams sister are and knew that Serena had nearly won the Grand Slam in 2015 but fell short in the U.S. Open in September. I also knew that Serena and her sister, Venus, have been surrounded by controversy over their long careers but that they have overcome so much adversity because they’re strong, athletic and outspoken individuals who happen to also be black in a very white sport. Yet, I didn’t really know that much about either of them because, quite frankly, I didn’t really care. I don’t really watch much tennis and it’s barely on my sports radar. After hearing the few minutes of talk on the radio I was actually looking forward to reading more about Serena Williams and sharing her story with my daughters once my copy of SI arrived. My copy arrived on Wednesday and I was beyond disappointed the moment I pulled it out of my mailbox and glanced at the cover.

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SI Cover

Serena Williams graces the cover of SI sitting on a throne-like chair, wearing a lacy bodysuit, sheer stockings and heels, while staring directly into the camera. It’s a look that one might expect on the cover of the annual SI Swimsuit magazine or Cosmo. I get it that she has strong and sexy legs. But what does that have to do with this award?  What hit me the moment that I saw the cover was how the cover was the ultimate disrespect to her as an individual and to women as a gender. Why does she have to be sexy? I want my daughters to be strong, smart, confident and compassionate people. Their value as women is not at all dependent on their sex appeal. And, just as much, I want my son to respect all women because of who they are as human beings not because of their looks. Yet, this photo pretty much reduces Serena to being a sex symbol, posing provocatively on the cover under the proclamation Sportsperson of the Year. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would have looked for any of the previous 61 years’ worth of winners to have had a similar cover photo? The thought of Brett Favre or Tom Brady or Tiger Woods sitting on a chair trying to  look all sexy like Serena makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. In all of the years of this award the cover has never ever been so disrespectful. Check out the screen captures of all of the previous covers from SI’s website.

Do you notice how nearly every single previous cover was of the athletes either in their sport’s uniform or a head shot? Again, I ask, Why does Serena have to be sexy? Why couldn’t the SI cover have been an action shot of Serena from one of her matches? Or a pose of her in one of her tennis outfits? Or a head shot? The article itself is a compelling because it goes into great detail to explain why Serena Williams is and was such a deserving recipient of this award. S.L. Price really educated me (and, I’m sure, countless others) about what a wonderful person Serena is and how much she has changed and matured over the course of her prolific career. I’m now a Serena Williams fan because of what she has done with her talents off the court more than here amazing success on it.

Indeed, in 2015 Williams hit this rare sweet spot, a pinch-me patch where the exotic became the norm. She danced with Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve. She spent a night telling bedtime stories to the children of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Growing up, Williams had devoured every Harry Potter book, marveled at the business empires of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart. Now J.K. Rowling was tweeting against a critic of Williams’s body, now Oprah was hustling to watch her at the U.S. Open, now Stewart was calling Williams “the most powerful woman I know.” President Barack Obama, the most scrutinized man alive, told her how great it was to watch her.

[In 2015]…Williams, 34, won three major titles, went 53–3 and provided at least one new measure of her tyrannical three-year reign at No. 1. For six weeks this summer—and for the first time in the 40-year history of the WTA rankings—Williams amassed twice as many ranking points as the world No. 2; at one point that gap grew larger than the one between No. 2 and No. 1,000. Williams’s 21 career Grand Slam singles titles are just one short of Steffi Graf’s Open-era record. Such numbers are reason enough for Sports Illustrated to name Serena Williams its 2015 Sportsperson of the Year.

excerpt from Sports Illustrated article

I would encourage you to follow the link above (or click here) to read the entire article about Serena Williams. It’s lengthy but worth the time to begin to understand and appreciate her as a person and as a celebrity who has truly embraced her power and celebrity status to help others in real and meaningful ways. Like all of us, she has her faults (tennis pun fully intended!), but in overcoming them, it also shows her determination to make herself better; to right some of the the wrongs of her past. She is a remarkable person and a role model for young women like my daughters. Serena Williams is such a worthy recipient of the 2015 SI Sportsman of the Year award because of her many accomplishments on and off the tennis court. I only wish I wasn’t left with one nagging question, though. Why does she have to be sexy?

Whatyadoing, Dad?

Whatyadoing, Dad?

It was a simple and polite question from my 14 year old daughter that both broke the silence of the room and announced her arrival. My youngest daughters had been asleep for a while already and the older kids were in their rooms and I had the sofa, a laptop, and a quiet house at the same time, which meant that I might, finally, get to write a blog post that had been stirring around in my brain and my heart for a few weeks. Yet, here was my daughter, sitting on the sofa next to me, asking me what I was doing. IMG_3066So, I told her that I was (finally) going to write this blog post that would explain my disgust with the conservative governors, U.S. Presidential candidates and the House of Representatives about their response to Syrian refugees. I would neatly correlate that to how so many of them (conservatives) were the same people who responded with #AllLivesMatter whenever they saw #BlackLivesMatter, yet, here they were not acting like ALL lives mattered when given the opportunity to help out those in need. There was a definite NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) tenor to their nationalistic responses and calls for tighter border controls in the face of such an “imminent terrorist threat”. I had all sorts of links saved from articles that I’ve read over the last month or so. I was so ready for this blog.

I was really on a roll as I shared my thoughts with my daughter. This blog post was going to be really amazing if her reaction was any indication. She actually seemed interested in what I was saying and a pretty lively discussion ensued.

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Suspected Terrorist in Planned Parenthood shooting

We talked about the awful and tragic events in Colorado with the Planned Parenthood shooting and how, once again, the conservative Presidential candidates had trouble showing compassion for the situation and the people involved. We talked about America’s obsession with guns and the Second Amendment and how neither of us could imagine that the Founding Fathers could have possibly envisioned protecting the rights of average citizens to have high capacity automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons so that they could engage in terrorism against one another. Then our conversation came back to the Syrian refugees and the notion that ISIS or DAESCH (or whatever they’re called now) would be sneaking operatives into the United States among the refugees.

IMG_3065I mentioned that we should be far more afraid of angry white men going on shooting rampages in public places (schools, malls, hospitals/clinics) than terrorists. I also mentioned, again, how disappointed and disgusted I was at the number of people that I know personally who call themselves Christians yet are unwilling to extend a helping hand to these foreigners in their greatest times of need because they might be terrorists. I may or may not have gone on a small rant about the hypocrisy involved in that line of thinking.

 

As the conversation paused for a moment I noticed that we had been talking for about 45 minutes at that point. Then my daughter said something that was completely unexpected yet filled me with such immense joy. I’ll have to paraphrase it as I don’t recall her exact words.

Dad, I want to do something to help the refugees. I read that there’s an organization that is helping out kids and families that are fleeing Syria. I want to donate to them. Could you please take some of the money out of my savings account and do that?

Yes. So much YES! Here’s my 14 year old daughter, who had saved her hard-earned babysitting and allowance money, asking me to donate to help out others. As a parent, this is how I hope all of my kids will respond to the plight of others: compassion, love and action.

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Terrified child refugee

As we finished our conversation I realized that my long-winded blog post was going to have a much different ending than I had imagined in my brain 45 minutes earlier. So, here’s my new ending. Would you consider joining my amazing daughter by making a donation to help the Syrian refugees? If that doesn’t do it for you, then how about making a donation to a charity that helps veterans or homeless people right here in the United States? Please, just make sure that you actually do something. Make a difference.

Here’s a link to donate to the United Nations Refugee Agency efforts.

I Made A Veteran’s Wife Cry

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Robert and his wife and their service dog.

While at a KFC in Aberdeen, Washington, I made a veteran’s wife cry. On Veteran’s Day. And then she hugged me before he, the veteran, shook my hand. And it all happened because my two year old wanted a glass of water. I was heading home with three of my kids and we had stopped for dinner at KFC before the final 90 minutes of our drive. We were eating our food when I noticed that I had forgotten to get my little one a drink. (You’d think a Stay At Home Dad of six would know better, right?) So, I walked up to the counter to ask for a water cup only to find a couple already ordering their food. As I patiently awaited my turn I noticed that the gentleman appeared to be a Vietnam Veteran (based on the jacket he was wearing which stated as much). Being that it was Veteran’s Day, I spontaneously decided to buy their dinner as a token of my appreciation for his service to our country. As he prepared to hand his credit card to the cashier, I stepped in and offered mine instead. I simply told him that I would be honored to pay for his meal since today was Veteran’s Day. I didn’t even know what the total was for their meal. I was prepared to swipe my card, request a water cup, and go back to my kids. Instead, his wife started to cry.

She looked at me and asked for a hug, which I, of course willingly gave her. As we finished our hug, her husband extended his hand to thank me. colorsRobert Ash, the veteran, told me that he had served two tours in Vietnam and then served in the Gulf War while in his 50s. He explained that he’s the National President of the Combat Veterans International, “a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting all veterans to the best of [their] ability, with an emphasis on combat veterans.  [They] share a fellowship and a common interest in motorcycling.”

The Unforgotten Run

The Unforgotten Run

He explained that his group also holds a ride called The Unforgotten every Memorial Day to pay respect to fallen soldiers. (Click here to see a video about it.) He proudly told how they drive, as a group, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Bremerton to Mt. Tahoma Cemetery. I told them how much I appreciated and respected the sacrifices that countless men and women like him made in service to our country and how living in the PNW near an active military base (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM) has really opened my eyes to the sacrifice and dedication of the loved ones of those who are serving. I’ve always held our veterans in high esteem as my grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and my uncle was a Vietnam vet. I have several other relatives and many friends who have served or are currently serving in our Armed Forces. Yet, there I was, on a rainy Veteran’s Day in a small fishing town in western Washington, shaking hands with a man who served at least three tours overseas. It’s crazy how life works sometimes.

As I returned to our table with my daughter’s glass of water, I was kind of shaking my head at the randomness it all. I share this experience with you not to draw attention to me doing something nice for someone else, but, rather, to show how easy it is. I don’t know about you, but there are few times in life when doing a nice thing for someone else is as easy, obvious and rewarding as this was for me. It was a chance encounter at the KFC counter that happened because my kid wanted a drink of water.

No Love at 425* in new Papa Murphy’s ad

Since we haven’t had a TV in our house in nearly four years I don’t see many commercials. Yet, today I learned about the latest Papa Murphy’s ad from my SAHD brothers at the National At Home Dad Network who posted this on their Facebook page today.

Extremely disappointed in Papa Murphy’s for their new “Re-Bold Your Man” ad campaign, which so drastically misses what modern fatherhood is all about, and falls back on such ridiculous concepts of masculinity. Terrible on so many levels.

Playing with your kids and delighting in them doesn’t take away your manhood, it only strengthens it. And what partner wants their kids’ dad LESS engaged with them, and pines for a father more interested in sports than in fully engaging in play? It just makes no sense.

See the ad here, and let us know what you think: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/AL8x/papa-murphys-pizza-re-bold-your-man

DeBolded

I’ve watched the short commercial a few times and my first reaction was that it was cute to see the dad playing with his girls like that. If you’re a dad with daughters, chances are pretty good that at some point you’re going to find yourself getting the full-fairy treatment, much to the delight of your girls. I find the initial portrayal of the dad to be pretty positive, actually. Yet, according to the voice-over this dad is being “de-bolded”. I’m pretty sure that’s Papa Murphy’s euphemistic expression for something more graphic than I’m willing to put in my blog. The basic message to dads and moms is that such an actively engaged and loving father is not to be desired or upheld as the goal. Oh, no no no. You’re not a man if you’re actually enjoying spending time doing something that your daughters want to do. Nope. Instead, this dad needs to be saved from himself. His masculinity needs to be re-bolded by a bold Papa Murphy’s pizza and, of course, football. Seriously, Papa Murphy’s? I think you need a time-out to ponder the larger implications of this seemingly benign commercial.

Please don’t think for a minute that I’m offended by this. This is the type of ridiculousness that we face daily as men who choose care for our children as our full time career. Don’t call me Mr. Mom or Babysitter! I learned a long time ago that getting offended or butt-hurt by the ignorance of others does very little to actually create the positive changes which I desire to see. So, instead of getting angry, let me try to explain this in a way that even my five year old daughter could understand. It is my hope and prayer that my son, if he becomes a dad, and my five daughters, if they become moms, will each take delight in being a parent as much as I do in being their dad. I hope that they will not give in to the pressures of our society to assume certain gender roles. I hope that they will choose the career that is best for their individual situations.

Big Cheese Dad sporting a tutu

Big Cheese Dad sporting a tutu

Fifteen years ago, my wife and I decided that it would be best for me to be the primary caregiver as a SAHD while she pursued her advanced degree and established her career. While other men blazed the SAHD trail many years before me, I know that making such an unusual choice was one of the most BOLD things I have ever done. There is no shame in being an actively involved, loving and nurturing father. I love my job more and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe that the world needs more dads who are willing to play dress-up with their girls than those who are obsessed with the performance of their sports team. Modern fatherhood and masculinity are not bound by the stereotypes of old. We (ALL dads, not just SAHDs) are more engaged than ever in the lives of our children. Gone are the days of the bumbling and inept dad. We are boldly going where few dads have gone before!

Another beef that I have with this commercial is how it portrays the mom and daughters. First, the mom is in the kitchen. About the only thing missing was an apron. The 1950s are calling…they want their stereotype back! Second, this mom should be supporting and encouraging her husband for showing their daughters that he’s comfortable enough with his own masculinity to play dress-up and get his nails done. He shouldn’t have to be re-bolded because he’s actively engaged with his own children. Are you suggesting that my wife will be happier with me and think I’m more of a manly-man if I ignore my kids and choose instead to focus on sports and food? Clearly, I’ve been doing it all wrong! Third, why couldn’t the daughters be playing catch with their dad and mom, or helping to change the oil, or riding bikes, or anything but the stereotypical “girl” activity of playing dress-up? Please. These gender stereotypes are so lame. I want my children to be free to express themselves without the constraints of our messed up societal expectations for their gender roles. This goes for my girls as well as my boy. Finally, if you’re bent on portraying this stereotypical commercial, at least do it right. No mom is going to re-bold serve greasy pizza to “her man” on the sofa without a plate or napkin..and a BEER. And that white carpet is going to get ruined if the girls are painting his toes without a towel under his feet. I’m so disappointed with you, Papa Murphy’s; I know that you can do better.

In the end, I’m not looking for an apology from Papa Murphy’s. After all, I’m not the one that’s truly being hurt by this ill-conceived commercial. This is hurting all of our families by reinforcing outdated gender roles. I would love to work with the ad people at Papa Murphy’s to create something that truly promoted family values that didn’t lean so heavily on old gender stereotypes. Until such a replacement ad is launched, there will be no Love at 425*. Instead, it’s more like Feel the Burn at 425*.

Badgers and Packers and Cubs…Oh, My!

Four games in four cities in three days. Two thousand miles away from home. Easy as an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass. Sometimes everything just falls into place and a simple trip to see a football game turns into an epic guys weekend. Here is the story of how my buddy Eric and I shared an unforgettable 96 hours together in mid-September. Back in 2011 I moved with my family from Wisconsin to Washington state. Despite moving into the heart of Seahawks territory I remained true to my Green Bay Packers. I can say “my” Packers since I’m an actual team owner, one of the thousands of people who purchased a share of stock to support the Packers. Well, in 2012 the Packers had a visit to Seattle scheduled for a Monday Night Football game. My oldest daughter and I wanted to go to the game, but tickets online were pretty pricey. On a whim I called the Seahawks ticket office and found out that I could get a half-season ticket package (four games) for about $25 more than it would cost me to buy the ticket online to the one game. While I’m no math major, that decision was pretty simple. Even though the now infamous “Fail Mary game” ended on one of the most controversial calls in NFL history, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Clink (CenturyLink Stadium). I was able to bring my friend Eric to the final two home games at the Clink. He’s a native of Tacoma and a life-long Seattle sports fan. During one of those games together I told him that we should plan a trip to Lambeau Field in Green Bay the next time the Seahawks played there. Eric was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find reasonably priced tickets to the game, but I assured him that I knew people who had tickets. One of the perks of growing up 35 miles south of Green Bay, I guess. I also knew that one of my long-time friends from college days had access to his mother-in-law’s tickets, as she had finally gotten four of them after waiting on the season ticket waiting list for nearly 40 years. One way or another, I was confident that I could get us tickets to the game.

Despite the heartbreak of the NFC Championship Game in January, in which the Packers practically handed the game to the Seahawks, Eric and I remained friends and continued to discuss the possibility of a road trip to see a Packers-Seahawks game in Wisconsin. While the dates were not set, the NFL had released the opponents for the 2015 season, and, sure enough, the Seahawks were slated to visit Green Bay. I emailed my buddy, Todd, to see if we could stake a claim to two of the tickets for the Seahawks game, whenever it would be. His MIL graciously gave us access to all four tickets, and the NFL released the date for the game in April. The Seahawks would travel to Green Bay for a Week Two matchup, on September 20th. Eric was relieved that it would be early in the season, as he didn’t relish the prospect of a freezing cold December game. After checking with our wives one more time, we bought tickets to fly in and out of Chicago. Other than one layover at O’Hare Airport, Eric had never been in the Midwest in his life. He told me that I was in charge of pretty much everything since I had grown up there and knew what we should see and do. Challenge accepted.
Over breakfast this summer we were discussing our upcoming trip and I mentioned that my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, might have a home game in Madison that weekend. A quick glance at the schedule confirmed that there was a game that Saturday afternoon at 2:30 pm. Since it would be a non-conference game against Troy I figured that we could secure tickets for less than face value. So, that pretty much would take care of our plans for Saturday, but we still had to figure out what to do on Friday. I suggested some of the tourist sites in Chicago (Millennium Park for the Bean, Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue, Ed Debeveck’s, Sears or Hancock Tower tour) and then casually asked if he’d be interested in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. That perked him up right away. As a former college baseball player, It’s on Eric’s sports bucket list to attend a game at every MLB park. This would be a perfect opportunity to cross another one off his list IF the Cubs were home that day. Thanks to my handy iPhone I was able to see that the Cubs would be hosting their long time rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, that afternoon at 1:05 pm. Bingo! This was shaping up to be a pretty fun weekend if we could manage to pull it off. Cubs. Badgers. Packers. Three games. Three iconic venues. Three days.
A few weeks before our trip I made a hotel reservation for our first night after our cross-country flight at a cheap Super 8 motel that provided a free shuttle from the airport. I also reserved a car. It was nice not having to worry about having enough space for car seats and luggage. Just two guys and two bags. My mom, who still lives in my hometown in Wisconsin, was gracious enough to agree to host us Saturday night. Everything was falling into place as we met for breakfast a couple of days before our trip. As we were eating, it occurred to me that we might be able to sneak one more game into our trip. About 75 miles north of Chicago is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the home of the Brewers. Turns out that the Brewers were hosting the Cincinnati Reds that evening at Miller Park at 7:05 pm. If we left Wrigley around 4 pm we could probably make it to Milwaukee for the Brewers game. Eric and I were pretty stoked at the idea of a two-city, four team, MLB doubleheader. Cubs. Cards. Brewers. Reds. We could do this.
Day One, Thursday-Travel

Armed with a pocketful of cash, a couple of reservations and a carry-on bag, Eric and I made the short drive to SeaTac airport. Of course we were each wearing the shirts for our respective teams while we walked through the airport, so we looked like an odd couple, I’m sure. I, the Packers fan, endured a fair amount of ribbing as we passed through security. Once in the waiting area for our plane it became apparent that we were not alone in our plans for the road trip. There were a lot of Seahawks AND Packers fans waiting to board the flight to Chicago. High fives and fist bumps and good-natured smack talk flowed abundantly. “Hey Packers fan, how about that onside kick?” “Yeah, how about that goal-line pass in the Super Bowl?”

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On our way!

Once on the plane one of the flight attendants quietly came by and gave me a fist bump, telling me that she was a life-long Packers fan. Eric and I ended up talking sports with a mega Seahawks fan seated in front of us, a woman who was going to the game with a relative who’s a Packers fan. They had had a wager on the NFC title game, in which the loser had to buy tickets for the game in Green Bay for the two of them. Nice how sports brings us together like that! Once on the ground in Chicago, we found our hotel shuttle and made it to the Super 8 about 20 minutes later. Thanks to the kindness of the gentleman checking in after us who swapped rooms with us, Eric and I got a room with two beds instead of just one king. (Thanks for nothing, Hotwire.com.) Because of the three hour time difference we had a little trouble falling asleep. Either that or the cheap beds which weren’t exactly comfortable. I guess we got what we paid for. Eric had astutely commented on our way to our room that his wife wouldn’t have stayed in this kind of hotel. I agreed that mine wouldn’t have either. But neither of us particularly cared. $74 for a room and breakfast was pretty cheap.

Day Two, Friday-Baseball Doubleheader

Friday morning was a little overcast, as the storms from the previous night cleared off to the east. I got our rental car and we hit the road just after 9 am, headed to downtown Chicago. We had fun counting the numerous Dunkin Donuts stores along the way, although we didn’t stop.

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View north up Lakeshore Drive from Hancock Tower-Chicago

Eventually we made it to Lake Shore Drive and parked at the Hancock Tower ramp. We made our way to the basement of the tower to buy tickets to go to the observation floor. Several of the attendants gave me some grief for wearing my beautiful Packers shirt less than a week after the Pack had come to Soldier Field and beaten the Chicago Bears to open the season. Eric tried to join in the ribbing until the guy taking our tickets informed us he was a Patriots fan. Ouch! Those Super Bowl memories are so painful! Even though it wasn’t a super clear day, the view from near the top of the Hancock Tower was still pretty impressive. I suppose it was the short and sweet tour of Chicago from above. It was pretty cool to see all the roof top pools and lawns and gardens. After about 30-45 minutes we made our way back to the car and drove toward Wrigley Field, arriving in that neighborhood just after noon. I dropped Eric off to work his ticket-scalping magic while I parked the car. He managed to find us a pair of upper deck tickets on the first base side for $50 and we made it to our seats with 20 minutes to spare before the first pitch. It was enough time for us to get some Chicago dogs for lunch.

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Wrigley Field-Chicago

I know it’s upsetting to you purists, but we put ketchup on our dogs. The game was fun even though neither of us had a rooting interest. The Cards jumped ahead early and the Cubs came back and took the lead for good. We stayed through the 7th Inning Stretch and sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” along with (a video of) Harry Caray and the packed stadium of fans. We got back to our car and started making our way toward I-94, which would take us to Milwaukee. Of course, Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon isn’t known for going particularly smoothly, and this was no different. We finally made it to the interstate only to find it slow down again a miles later. We passed a bunch of signs for “Golf Parking” near the Six Flags exit in Gurnee, IL. We had no idea that there was a PGA tournament there that same weekend until one of Eric’s former colleagues texted him later that afternoon. His friend had seen pictures that Eric had posted of Chicago and wanted to know if we were still in town. His buddy happens to be the caddy for a popular young player and would’ve been able to hook us up with tickets to the golf tournament if we had been able to use them. It’s probably a good thing that we didn’t know about the golf tournament until it was too late, otherwise we might have tried to fit that in our already-packed schedule.

 We arrived at MIller Park about 15 minutes before the first pitch.

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Miller Park-Milwaukee

It was just beginning to rain but that didn’t matter since there’s a retractable roof to keep everyone dry. We didn’t see anyone scalping tickets but found a “Goodwill” special for $12 bleacher seats right next to the bullpen in left center. Cheap is good. The game itself was pretty forgettable as the Brewers and Reds were basically fighting for the basement of the NL Central division. About the only remarkable thing was the three homers that were hit to the bullpen right next to our seats. The people-watching was pretty fun as both Santa and Elvis made an appearance in the stands and there were a lot more people wearing Seahawks gear at the ballpark than I had anticipated. We obviously were not alone in our idea of taking in a Brewers game in advance of the big Sunday night showdown. We moved around the stadium and were allowed to sit in the lower level for a couple of innings before taking off after the 7th inning. After we left the game I took Eric for a true Midwest experience. Frozen custard. The FroYo in the Pacific Northwest is nice and all, but I really miss the deliciousness of frozen custard. We decided to make the 90 minute drive to Madison that evening so we could sleep in the next morning.

Day Three, Saturday-Madison

Saturday morning was bright and beautiful. It was Badger game day. After a hearty breakfast we drove to pick up the tickets from a dear family friend who had given us a pretty sweet deal. We visited for a few minutes before heading toward downtown Madison. On the way there I drove Eric through our old neighborhood on the near west side,

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Abe Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall

the beautiful and sprawling University of Wisconsin campus and State Street. Our destination for lunch was The Old Fashioned, a well known establishment across the street from the state capitol building. Despite living in Madison for nearly 20 years of my life, I had never been to The Old Fashioned. We were heading there on the advice of Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks and a former Badger. Eric and his kids had met Wilson during training camp in August and Eric had asked for a recommendation of some place to eat on our trip to Madison.

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The “Wurst Platter”

Without missing a beat, Wilson’s rapid response was “The Old Fashioned”. If the star QB of your team tells you to go eat somewhere then you know you’re going to go there. We weren’t alone in our desire to eat there and had to wait 45 minutes for a table. Eric got the “wurst platter”, an artery-clogging collection of four German sausages on top of a bed of some greens. The best part of our trip downtown was the sideways glares glances Eric kept getting for wearing a Seahawks jersey. At least he was smart enough to wear the #3 of Russell Wilson, who is pretty much adored by all Badger fans for his one season in Madison.

After finishing our lunch we drove toward Camp Randall Stadium and parked in the driveway of the co-op house I lived in as a freshman.

Pre-game at Union South-Madison

Pre-game at Union South-Madison

Yeah, I helped park cars there back in the fall of 1991-92. Fun memories. We walked to Union South where we watched the first couple of songs of the UW Marching Band’s pregame performance before walking over to the stadium. The game itself was only memorable for two Badgers being ejected for “targeting”, yet the home team still won, 28-3. The UW student section is (in)famous for having a lot of fun, and I’m pretty sure they did not disappoint. They did their vulgar take on the old Miller Lite “Less Filling, Tastes Great” commercial by chanting “Eat (Poop)” and “(Firetruck) You” at each other. Eric was proud to point out that the “Wave” had started at the other UW, the University of Washington in Seattle,

Camp Randall-Madison

Camp Randall-Madison

although he had never seen it done like they did at The Camp: regular speed, super fast, slow-motion, reverse and split. I bragged to Eric that the students would also join in singing the songs that blared over the PA during time-outs, so we were entertained when the students sang heartily along with the Foundations’ classic Build Me Up (Buttercup). What was impressive was how they continued on for an additional thirty seconds or more after the music had ended. (Check out this clip from a game a couple of years ago to see/hear what it’s like.) Of course, no Badger experience is complete without the famous end of Third Quarter Jump Around, during which the entire student section (and thousands of others who don’t care how silly they look) literally become a thrashing sea of red and white jumping to the music. I find it particularly fun to see how the visiting players on the field are watching the students and joining in the fun, even though they’re on the field. We left the Stadium just after the 4th Quarter started and right before a fire-alarm went off. Apparently an oven in one of the kitchens inside the stadium overheated and triggered the alarm, which delayed the game for a few minutes. I was glad that we were already out of the stadium. Before we left Madison for good I had to take Eric to one last truly Madison place. Michael’s Frozen Custard on Monroe Street, just a mile or so from Camp Randall. It’s probably good for my waistline that I live 2000 miles away from the decadent Turtle Sundae. My mouth is watering just thinking about the delicious concoction of creamy vanilla custard, rich hot fudge and caramel topped with amazing fried and salted pecans. Ok, I’m done.

I headed the car northeast from Madison as we were destined for my hometown of Neenah, about an hour and forty five minutes away. My mom still lives there and had graciously offered to let us stay with her that evening. As was the case for the entire trip, Eric was in charge of tunes so I could concentrate on driving. Since we both had iPhones we pretty much had an endless supply of songs. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we listened to some Justin Bieber during this trip. Eric’s excuse was that his youngest son really likes the Bieb’s music. My excuse was that I had to attend a Bieber concert in Tacoma with two of my daughters in 2012. (Eric and his family also attended that same concert.) We jammed with Taylor Swift and belted out some old-school Phil Collins and Chicago. It was fun being crazy and not having to listen to one or more kid whining about what song was playing or that it was too hot or cold or queasy. We just drove. Since we had the frozen custard after the game instead of dinner, I decided that another midwestern treasure was in order for our dinner so we met my mom at the Neenah Culver’s where I enjoyed a Deluxe Butterburger with cheese (of course!) and some crispy onion rings. Thankfully my mom lives about five minutes from there so we were able to relax at her place and digest for a bit. But our night was not yet over, as we had decided to take advantage of our guys’ weekend and go see a late movie at a local theater. Our bodies were still on West Coast time so the 10:45 pm start felt more like 8:45 pm to us. We opted for Straight Outta Compton, which, for those of you that know me in real life, is not exactly in my musical wheelhouse. Eric, on the other hand, grew up on the West Coast and knew a lot of the songs and events portrayed in this musical biopic about the rise of N.W.A. and their influence on rap and hip-hop music and culture in general in the late 1980s and beyond. It was certainly an eye-opener for this Midwestern native, yet somewhat sad in that a lot of the depicted experiences of racism and police brutality in the film felt all too familiar. At any rate, we were glad that we hadn’t taken our wives to see the movie as it wasn’t exactly a date-night kind of film. We returned to my mom’s house for our final night of sleep before returning home on Monday morning.
Day Three, Sunday-Green Bay
We woke up “early” to go to church with my mom before taking a quick tour of the sights of my hometown. Much of the older historic part of town was closed to traffic for the day because of the Fox Cities Marathon that was being run that morning.

Thanks for hosting us, Mom!

Thanks for hosting us, Mom!

After a stop at Starbuck’s (Eric is native to the PNW, after all) we returned to my mom’s house for brunch and the start of the early NFL games. We both managed to change into our game-day jerseys just in time to get a picture with my mom before heading north again. This time we were headed to Pulaski, a small town west of Green Bay by about 15 miles, where my friend Todd lives with his family. We had been invited there to spend the afternoon with them and to indulge in another fine Wisconsin tradition: grilled brats! Even though Eric and Todd had never met before in person, we all enjoyed a relaxed afternoon of conversation as if we were old college buddies seeing one another after years apart. After we finished dinner and said goodbye to Todd’s family we made the short drive to Green Bay. Destination: Lambeau Field.

We found a place to park in the driveway of my friends Keith and Karel, who live just a few blocks south of the stadium. I’ve known them since I first started going regularly to Packers games in 2005 and parked in their yard on a whim. Even though I hadn’t seen them since moving to Washington four years ago I was greeted with a hearty hug from each of them. It was here that the fourth and final member of our group met up with us: my buddy Gene, who I met back in 2005 when we moved to the area where he was living and our daughters became friends. As the four of us walked toward Lambeau, I had to keep from grinning too much from thinking about the fact that here were three really good friends of mine all in one place at the same time. How cool was that?

Behold, Lambeau. The foursome (L-R): Gene, Todd, Eric , Carl

Behold, Lambeau. The foursome (L-R): Gene, Todd, Eric, Carl

We made our way through the throngs of people outside the stadium, taking in the sights and smells (bratwurst, again!). Eric even managed to meet a Minion who seemed a little perturbed at his outfit.

Packers Minion

Packers Minion

I also ran into an old high school friend who was in the area on a business trip and was able to use his company’s luxury suite to take his parents to their very first Packers game. Once in the stadium we made our way to our seats and watched the players go through their final warm-ups before the 7:30 pm kickoff. While I’ve never been to an actual NFL playoff game, the atmosphere inside the stadium is what I would imagine it to be like. The setting sun gave way to the bright lights which made the green on the field seem that much brighter. The fans for both teams cheered as their teams entered the stadium for the national anthem, which was wonderfully performed by a former Packers player, Esera Tuaolo. Then it was game time!
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Lambeau Field-Green Bay

The Packers dominated the first half but only led 13-3 at halftime. There was a bit of unrest among the Packers fans and a certain degree of smugness among the Seahawks fans; like we’ve seen this before but don’t want to think about it or say anything. As such, when the Seahawks came out and scored two touchdowns in the 3rd Quarter their fans became really loud and obnoxious again. Thankfully, this time Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers dominated the 4th Quarter and sent the Seahawks back West with a 27-17 loss. Despite wearing “enemy” gear into the heart of Packers territory, Eric made it through unscathed. He wasn’t alone in his assessment that Packers fans were really quite nice. Green Bay is not like Oakland, where you literally fear for your safety and well-being if you wear the opponent’s jersey to the game. Once we made it back to our cars we gave final goodbye hugs to Todd and Gene and started our drive south to Chicago. We left Green Bay at 11 pm and our flight was scheduled to leave less than 12 hours later from O’Hare.

Day Four, Monday-Travel
We stopped once for a bite to eat somewhere between Green Bay and Sheboygan. The farther south we went the more the traffic thinned out until I drove right through Milwaukee with almost no traffic at all. At some point along the way Eric drifted off to sleep in the passenger seat while I enjoyed the post-game show on the Packers radio network. At about 2:45 am we pulled into an oasis/rest stop on the north side of Chicago. After a quick bathroom break we both fell asleep in the front seats of our car. After three short hours of “sleep” I woke up and a short while later we were back on the road to return our rental car before heading home to the airport.

Welcome back to Washington!

Welcome back to Washington! This view of Mount Rainier never gets old.

Even though our flight was delayed in Chicago a little bit we made it back to Washington just fine. For some reason the flight home was a bit more subdued than the flight just a few days before. I know that gloating isn’t supposed to be celebrated, but you have no idea what it’s been like to be a die-hard Packers fan living near Seattle for the last four years as the Seahawks have risen to prominence at the expense of my beloved Packers. So, yeah, this was a pretty sweet plane ride home for me, proudly wearing my green and gold.

Now that a few weeks have passed since we had this epic guys’ weekend, I marvel that we were able to pull it off so smoothly. The long odds that all four of those teams (Cubs, Brewers, Badgers and Packers) would have home games that all lined up like that for us to attend in just three days was pretty fortunate. The fact that we were able to pull this off and pay only face value or less for any of those tickets was also pretty sweet. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how grateful we both were to our wives for encouraging us to go on this adventure while they stayed home and took care of our kids.

A Look In The Mirror

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Student/Blogger Felicia Czochanski

I was talking on the phone with my 20 year old daughter this morning and asked her what she thought about an idea I had for an upcoming blog. I told her about Felicia Czochanski, 20 year old, a junior at Fordham University in New York City who recently wrote an article for Cosmo magazine entitled “People Judge Me Because I’m Pretty“. Her main point was that she wants to be appreciated for more than just her looks and to be respected as a person for who she is and what she’s accomplished. I read the article and, like many of the commenters, thought that even though she had a decent message, she came across as pretty self-absobed and bratty. As you might expect, there has also been a very significant and unfortunate nasty backlash against this young woman, with far too many commenters crossing way over the line and attacking her in very inappropriate ways. When I read her article I thought that it would be pretty funny to write a parody of her post, calling attention to either my height or career choice as a Stay At Home Dad. I even got about half way through a draft. Here’s the first paragraph I had drafted.

I’m a Dadly Dad. I’m 6-foot-8 with blonde no hair, blue eyes, a Dad Bod, and six kids. You can typically find me in sandals and shorts and t-shirt. You can also find me glaring at cashiers and old ladies at the grocery store who feel compelled to call me “Mr. Mom” or that it’s clever to say, “Does Mom have the day off today?”. Cut to me dumping the rest of an icy cold Mountain Dew down my throat and putting on my biggest smiley face until I reach my destination.

So, I asked my daughter what she thought of my idea. Should I write about being judged for being tall or for being a SAHD? She paused for a few moments. “Dad, can I be honest with you? I don’t think that you should write it at all. You don’t understand what it’s like to constantly get stared at and catcalled because you’re pretty. I don’t think you should write it even if you’re not bashing her. She’s getting enough harsh responses already. Even if what you write is funny, would it be kind and uplifting to her if she were to read it?”.

I love the fact that my daughter had both the conviction and courage to be honest with me at that moment. That was a perspective that I really hadn’t considered in response to this young woman’s story. It made me sad to think that I was so close to possibly contributing to the public backlash against this lady without even knowing it. But, it also made me proud that my daughter would call me out on it in such a loving and respectful manner. (She must have some amazing parents!) Seriously, though, it makes me really consider what I think, say and do. Immediately a favorite verse (Philippians 4:8) came to mind:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

I’m going to try to use this brief look in the mirror as motivation to refocus my energies and efforts on lifting others up and encouraging them. Life is hard enough and I’m sure we would all benefit from the unexpected kindness of others, even when we don’t deserve or expect it. If I want my own children to be compassionate, kind and considerate human beings then I need to make sure that they see and hear that being modeled consistently at home. I’m pretty sure that my daughter knew that truth when she shared with me her honest opinion on the phone earlier today. I hope that I can continue to be the positive change that I want to see in the world. As for me, I’m going to reach out to Miss Czochanski and try to encourage her to ignore the nasty people and embrace her inner beauty.

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