Thursday, July 30, 2015

AM~Erica is Talking Suicide

So anyway...

If you've been around for a bit, you know I've stepped up in my advocacy & education for mental health & suicide awareness. I've blogged on it quite a bit (reminder HERE), but I just want to come out and talk about a few things. Just outright.

It's what we should be doing. Amm-i-rite? Having the open conversation to keep it real & honest? It's supposed help break the stigma surrounding it. Right...RIGHT?

Well, this is what we need to be doing.

Found this perfect gem on's FACEBOOK PAGE.

I've said that I need to talk out my struggles so I don't act on them. It's what's worked for me lately. I'm not on medication now, and haven't been for a long time. That wasn't always the case. Trust me, when I was on my meds...I needed them!

Some people need to be on them all the time. Some don't. All of our journeys are different. We cannot forget that. What is working for one person doesn't mean it works for the next person. Just as we were all made differently, different treatments will affect us differently. I can tell you what worked for me, but that doesn't mean it will work for you.

Just like all the different mental illnesses & disorders out there. They are not the same! Many can have the same symptoms, but it's different for every person who has to live with any of it.

Much like those of us who suffer with suicidal thoughts. The thoughts I have, plus the means I would use in my skewed reality, might be very different than those someone else might think or try to use.

(means & methods of suicide to be discussed here)
~if need be, scroll to 'END TRIGGER WARNING'~

I was recently having a conversation with someone who had a run-in of sorts with a guy who was putting down those who have suicidal thoughts. He called anyone who brought up taking their own life a coward, then he said if he heard someone say that, he'd test their cowardice by handing them his gun to see if they'd do it. Then doubted they would, because, you know, they are cowards and all.

OMGoodness!!! Isn't that just horrible?

This is obviously someone who needed some education. I know the person I was talking to tried to explain to this guy that how it's not cowardice, but a cry for help. Also, this person asked the guy if he'd really be OK with someone taking their life by his accomplice of handing his gun to them...what if they used it?

I want to talk about this a bit more. About the means & methods.

When I attempted my suicide, I took a lot of pills. Not an overdose of one thing, but one or two of as many pills I could get my hands on in the house while swallowing them down with one can of Coke. I had enough pills to last me thru every sip or two of that can. And I do mean sips. There were no big drinks taken...just slowly consuming the pills & sipping enough liquid to get them down. I don't know what all I took, or even how many all together, but I do remember 1 or 2 Anacin being in there.

That was my means of choice in my skewed & blurred reality, and it all just needed to end.

I obviously survived it. So, I have lived experience. And, I know I'd never use that type of method again since it didn't work.

I also know what my next means would be in an upcoming attempt I would use. I don't want to! JUST. KNOW. THAT. But when I'm that low, I can feel it...

Here's the deal...
If you know someone who has suicidal thoughts, they probably already know how they want to end things. So if you know what they have talked about using as their means...please make sure they cannot get to it...or that it would be difficult for them to try to use it. Don't leave the opportunity open to see if they'd try it! If that's the case, and they use the means, they are successful in completing their suicide because you didn't think they would...that's on you. Harsh? Yep...because it's true.

Now then, remember that guy that would test the cowardice of someone talking suicide by handing them his gun? If he heard me say I was having suicidal thoughts, and if he handed me his gun...I'd use it.

My original means was to overdose. This was even before I knew I had a mental illness of any sort...I just wanted it to end. But I didn't want to hurt myself. (Remember? I was in a skewed reality...and a teenager.) If that guy heard me talk suicide at that time, and handed me his gun, I wouldn't use it. Why? It wasn't the means I wanted or the method going thru my head. So I guess he would have thought I was a coward. Even though he had no idea what pain I was feeling...the hurt I was dealing with every day of feeling like a worthless failure. I just wanted it to end. But not by someone walking up to me with a firearm & telling me to use it.

Nowadays, when I'm low, I do sense the cold feeling of the metal barrel. I used to feel it against my temple for quite some time, but it has very recently moved position, but the same means, nonetheless.

This is why I cannot have a firearm in my house! And it's why I have the feelings I do about guns & it's connection with anyone with mental illness. (read it HERE, if you dare)

But guess what. Just because that's what I'd use, someone else with the thoughts have a different means lined up. If you walked up with a gun to someone who is actually thinking about hanging themselves, overdosing, jumping off a high spot, cutting themselves, asphyxiation, or anything else...the gun won't suffice.

Don't get me wrong, there might be a few who might be willing to use any method "necessary", but for the most part, a method & means is already in their heads...and that's where the focus is.

By the way...that guy was part of a Christian motorcycle group. Think about that for a moment.


I know that was heavy! But I hope it makes sense. We are supposed to be talking about this, right?

Part of why I wanted to bring this up, too, is the fact that we all can look for signs of someone in crisis. If you turn your back, pretend you don't see it, or prefer to stay oblivious to it, it could be a matter of life & death. Literally.

Words are important, especially in promoting a cause or a charity. I try to step up to track down journalists & bloggers who are careless in their wording in articles or on the news. I won't do it publicly to shame them, but will send a private message to them, if possible, to let them know about how words matter. But if that option isn't available, a public comment may have to be the route...if even that's allowed.

Recently, I learned about some more change up in wording & terminology. I'll share them with you, then I'm going to give my take on it as someone with lived experience. So, here goes...

The term "Warning Signs" is now passé. We are supposed to use the term "Invitation."
So, if someone is showing signs, it's supposed to be an invitation for you to maybe take action in some way.

I have no issue with striking the alarmist word of "Warning," but I want to talk about "Signs" & "Invitation."

These are two very different things. They cannot really be lumped together.

If I am having a conversation with you about where my head is at or that I'm feeling low, that is the invitation. I don't do that with just anyone. It would be my hubby & maybe another person or two. But it's directed to anyone I'm discussing my darkness with, especially in the moment.

Now, just because I haven't invited you into my conversation, it certainly doesn't mean you can't spot signs of crisis. (reminder of the Five Signs HERE) <<=== *IMPORTANT LINK*

The invitation is talking about it. The signs are what you show.

When you go to the DMV (oh yes...I just brought that up), you are invited to check in to where you need to go. Then you head to your place, but you can see the signs of what is happening for others there at the DMV.

Invitation; Signs. Two different things. Yet both are extremely important!

When you're driving, that stop sign ahead is meant for you. *Invitation*
As you pull up, you can see the other stop signs or yield signs & you know what the others are supposed to do when they see them. *Signs*

Not necessarily the best examples, but just a thought process into the difference between the two. They cannot really be lumped together. But they can achieve the same thing in the end. In this case, it could be about life or death. Much like in the vehicles...if you ignore the invitation, or if the other signs are ignored, it could be very ugly!

Also, we are still having the issue of having the word "committed" paired with "suicide."
Let me be clear: this continues to add to the stigma. It sounds like a crime has been planned out. This is NOT the case! And we have to stop using it, as well as calling out others (even media) for using this terminology. The individual died by suicide, completed suicide (I'm not fond of this one, but it is used), or took their own life due to fatal complication of mental illness. The fatal breaking point is maybe the worst side effect/symptom of mental illness.

The thing I do is commit to live...not commit to die. Let's not forget that!


Whew! There's a lot to unload here. But vital things in the realm of mental health/illness & suicide conversation & understanding.

The more you know, people. The more you know.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AM~Erica's Boiling Point Reached

So anyway...

As many of you know, I have shared my disdain for how our school district has handled a lot of things in the last couple of years. Last school year really had me questioning many things. (A reminder HERE <<=== then read the link with it, too, for additional background - then the blogception that will happen. A rabbit hole of background, if you dare.)

With that said, and put BACK out there in the same type of position, again, I feel another open letter is in order. Why the open letter? I need to see what other parents had anything close to what we dealt with. Also, these kids need advocates for them thru this madness. I'm willing to step up & say something in hopes that others will step up to speak up, too. Also, finding anyone from the district, on the school board, or the superintendent are not exactly easy to just find & meet up with.

So, here goes:


Dear Independence School District, ISD School Board, and Dr. Dale Herl,

As a frustrated parent, I am finding this is becoming much more of a regular occurrence than not. Which is not a good sign. The levels of disappointment and anger I have reached are beyond measurable at this point.

Finding a positive, the school district does try to make strides in keeping up with the times. However, I am not sure how tested these methods are.

A couple of years ago, when class registration for high school's upcoming year, there was an idea to do it online. That's fine. But all the students who needed to sign up for classes had to show up to the school AND use any available computer in the library while being on a server that could not handle that much traffic at once. It also included classes no longer available, as well as classes that were supposed to be available, but not listed. The students were frustrated. The parents were frustrated. The counselors were frustrated. The server system was frustrated.

It was a total mess.

Now then, as my son enters his senior year of high school, he has found that he has had to make a schedule change, right off the bat, every year so far except for his freshman year. But he does say it's because he was just starting out and didn't know any better.

For this upcoming school year, the seemingly "optional" online registration (new this year) seemed like a nice amenity to have. So imagine our shock when we went to register our youngest just to find out online registration was mandatory. This is fine, but we took the wording in information to be optional. We found an onsite Chromebook (not our favorite to work with), since we didn't want to head home to register online, just to have to go back up to the school to finish enrollment. (more on this in a moment)

Imagine our additional shock that we had to create yet another online account to set this up. We already have an account set up on Power School to see our kids' grades, and even register for online summer school, but we still had to set this up completely separately. But we still used our kids' ID number from Power School to be able to connect our new account to be able to ensure their mandatory online enrollment. Confusing, but we went with it.

Some of the information in the online fields were pre-filled out from past information we'd given on forms in years past. A little freaky, but fine. Just keep hitting "Save" on all the areas so you could move on to the next page.

This included refilling out information for the health forms, now part of the online process. Odd, but fine. We had to go with it, or the kid doesn't get registered for school. I get it.

When all of that is complete, we can go to the school's office for residency verification & be assigned a teacher (for elementary).

By now, we get it. We realized why we didn't get a large amount of forms mailed to us for our high schooler, like we would usually get. We had to go to the newly set up account, add a kid with their student ID (the one that matches on Power School, but the account isn't attached to the Power School account, remember?) to go through the same process as our youngest.

As I got to the part about Primary Contact, and all my info had been pre-filled in (just like before), I had to put in a couple of things. I tried to save it. It wouldn't save. I tried changing things that might need to be changed, but nothing. I couldn't move on.
I gave it a rest & tried to come back.
The registration process for our high schooler said, "In Progress." It took me right back to the page I'd left off. Still no saving. My stress levels were building. Nothing seemed to be working. So I had to break down and call for help.

When I called the number, I spoke with Edna.

E:   *answers introducing herself*

Me: Hi. I am trying to register my son online, and I seem to be having trouble.

E:    First you have to fill out all the fields, make sure they are saved...

Me: *cutting her off* Excuse me. I wasn't finished & I need you to listen.

E:    Oh, I'm sorry. Please continue.

Me:  I am on a page where everything is filled out, but it won't seem to save. I've tried changing some
        some things, but it won't seem to save.

E:   Well OK. If you don't mind, can I log in to see what's going on?

Me: Sure!

E:  OK, I'll need your email address.

Me: *recites email adress*

E:   Thank you. Now, can I get your password?

Me: Hold on. Let me go to another room so my kiddos can't hear it.

E:   *laughs* Oh, I understand.

Me: OK. *gives password*

E:   Thank you. Now which child are you wanting to register?

Me: *face palm* Umm...[Teen Boy], the one in progress.

E:   Of course. Oh, I see the problem! You need to put in an employer.

Me: I've been trying, but it won't save. I put it in on [Lil Guy]'s registration & it took fine. I've filled
       out everything else, but it won't seem to save here.

E:   Well, this does seem to be acting like a booger...
       Oh! I see the problem. You have a space after your email address, and this system is very sensitive.

Me: Are you serious?

E:   OK. It's saved now.

Me: *a bit irritated how that worked out, but not at Edna* OK. Thank you very much! know those pre-filled-out fields? That's what screwed me over. I couldn't move on because of an extra space in a pre-filled-out field. How frustrating!! I'm thankful Edna could help me, but what hangup in the process! But I got to move on with the rest of it, including the health form section.

But it's done & now I can get my son to the school, on the selected day he was given, to do residency verification and get his schedule. Fine.

Here's where it gets really hairy...

First, we approached the "Start Here" table in the main foyer. A couple of students, apparently part of Student Council, were there to get us "started." We were asked, "Did you register online?" We answered with a yes, and were abruptly handed a salmon-colored form & told to head down the hall to the library.

There's a line that had formed, even so quickly after the hour & a half lunch break had ended. We took a moment to look at the form, make sure we had our residency verification in hand, as well as the mandatory dance contract that has to be signed to have on file. The salmon form had a list of check-off points to stop by, only 3 (or four, if you count "register online") were required.

As we moved our way SLOWLY into the library, we were SLOWLY approaching a table where parents were signing half-sheets of paper stacked on a clipboard & being handed a booklet of papers. When we finally got to the table, we were asked by a woman in scrubs, "Have you registered online?" Umm...yes, or we wouldn't be there in the line, but yes. Then she proceeded to say they needed me to fill out one of the super-simplified half-sheets to have on file if the student needs major health needs within the first week of school because they won't have access to the health info we put online.

But we filled it out just to hurry & wait to SLOWLY make our way around to residency verification. We finally got there! We were to sit down across from one of the four staff members checking documentation (which is not how it worked at the elementary school, but I digress for now). The first question we were asked was, "So have you registered online?"
UGH!!!!!!! *ahem* Yes. Yes, we registered online. It's noted as "REQUIRED" on your salmon sheet. We couldn't move on to going through the process at the school if we hadn't done the mandatory pre-registering online. Why do we keep getting asked this?
Anyway, we were not asked for the student's name, but instead asked for our address first. It was a weird part of the process. But we got through it fine, and then went on to the next on our list: getting the bus pass.

As we got up to the table, there were 3 people working the table with stacks of papers. The woman stepped away to apparently take some sort of bizarre call, so it left a couple of men to handle the families. When it was our turn to step up, we were asked, "Last name?" (glad it wasn't if we'd registered online) So I replied, "[Boy], first name [Teen]." The man in the middle seat detested, "Whoa! A step at a time! We have files to go through!"
The other man kindly picked up on it, then asked if he was going to be a senior. We acknowledged that he had the right student, but the man in the middle was still sorting.

MiM:  What's the first name?

Me:       [Teen].

MiM:  Ah! There he is. So, a freshman?

Yikes! After we went through that weird station, it was time to head to get his schedule.

Remember when I said that my son has just come to realize he will have to change SOMETHING on his schedule? We could not fully brace for what we encountered...

One of my husband's staff also has kiddos at THS. She gave him a head's up that both of her kids' schedules had major missing entire blocks: like no 2nd block class listed, as an example. Apparently it had happened to others, too. So we tried to brace.

When my son got his schedule, he was almost immediately handed a schedule change form. And for good reason...
As he looked at his schedule, he was missing 2nd block, 4th block, and had two 8th blocks. Then he was told that if was taking Advanced Placement World History, then they were scheduled completely wrong, so that would have to be changed. And he didn't see any of his 2nd semester classes listed. On the gold form to make schedule changes, my son had to make notes on 4 of the 5 categories to do so. That's insane! And? The room was full of other students doing the same thing. We didn't see a single student leave that room with a schedule that was fine. Not. A. Single. One.

This never should have happened. For a district to, not only add yet another class to the already crowded high school schedule, but to also force online registration all at the same was too much.

My question really is whether or not this was all tested out to make sure any glitches were taken care of.
Also, for a district to want to cut back on budgeting, like paper usage, there was so much paper & ink used to have such a large populous of the student body schedules to be screwed up.

Oh, and we won't hear anything until August 7th...but start calling if we don't hear anything by the 9th.

All. The. Paper.
All. The. Ink.

Half-sheets & screwed up schedules all due to not matching up with the online registration. That was mandatory.

WHAT A WASTE!! Waste of time. Waste of resources. But teachers need to watch their budgeting & such. Especially on those resources. Right?

In this mess, what was actually accomplished?

Then, when my son made his changes to turn back in, he looked so defeated. He showed me something on his schedule that made my heart sink to my stomach...
He got a new counselor. Again.
See, this will be his 4th year at this high school. This will be his 4th counselor.

He's worked so hard to try to build a relationship with his counselor. Not just for helping him through his high school experience, but to help get him a good reference for college. One of the requirements from his top colleges he wants is to get a reference from their counselor. This is crushing right now. Especially since we just visited his top choices & this is what they are looking for.

As he walked out of that room, defeated, we realized we were still holding on to that dance contract. No one had ever asked for it! We finally ended up asking the "Start Here" table students what to do with it. The girl asked him if he'd already gotten his schedule. Well, yes. Then she shrugged, said she just handed hers to the principal at some point & didn't know from there.
So, we are still hanging onto that stupid dance contract!

It took us over 30 minutes to do what should have taken 5-10 minutes.

Realizing that he has a new counselor, it just hit us the amount of turnover in this district within the last couple of years. It's heartbreaking. My older son was reminiscing that, not only is he on his 4th counselor, but his 3rd principal.

When our youngest went to register, we already knew many of the teachers were planning on hightailing it out of the district. Lil Guy's teacher is new to the district; three of the four teachers in his grade are new this year.

Appears exciting, but that is a lot of turnover!

To use a levy to make it look like all of these new teaching jobs are being created, and baiting teachers from across the state boarder to try to fill positions, is really sneaky. There is no consistency, and I'm concerned for all the new teachers entering. Do they have any idea why there were so many teaching positions? It's not because there was a new school building or two to staff.

When we left the high school today, I was infuriated! My son was so let down. When we got into the car to head home, my son, a gifted speaker & debater, could barely finish a sentence about how crushed he felt. I'm not sure he did finish a sentence for most of the way home. He was choked up with so much defeated emotion.

The more I bring up about the direction this district is going, the more frustrated I become. I want my kids to have a good education; I want them to go to good schools. Because of the fact we were sent here, and then provided a wonderful place specifically to get us to these schools now has me concerned about where this district is headed. There are people from here who had/have faith in the district. And they are seeing it crumble as we are. And we have to attend here.

With that said, I will fight for my kids to have better in the district we were made to believe it once was. Because we don't see it. Today had me at my boiling point. My rising senior, too.

My son's final year in this district, and he already wants it done.
That's heartbreaking!

I'm concerned that decisions are being made based on only trying to move forward with times & for the sake of power, but not with the wellbeing of the students or any faculty in mind. That needs to change!

And it needs to change NOW!


~ A Very Concerned Parent Trying to Advocate for the Kids & Faculty


People who are part of this, raise your voice. Get word out there. Email, blog, call, show up to meetings, etc. ANYTHING we can if you care about your kids in this district. For anyone who grew up here & wanted your kids here, it's not what it was when you went through. It's also not the same leadership, if you want to call it that. If you don't take off blinders, you're kids will fall through the cracks. Not just of our system, but any higher education plans afterward. This is going to affect your kids if they are in sports, too. I guarantee it.

So, anyone else want to speak up? Our kids should not be going through this. At all.
Neither should the educators.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Monday, July 27, 2015

AM~Erica and the 'NO' Button

So anyway...

Our summers go by so quickly. By the time July hits, we are supposed to be in the relaxing part of the year. Amm-i-rite?

Not for us. Actually, July has been a blur in our real life timeline. It gets so full of stuff, it's like someone pushing the fast forward button as we keep looking to the next thing...all while trying to enjoy or be IN the thing we are doing at the time.

Here's how it goes:
Around Independence Day, we work trying to get some time in at the lake. Which we did this year.

We are having meetings to prepare for VBS (vacation bible school), then we are trying to get things set &/or finalized for vacation. Then we have VBS for the week (where I've been the storyteller for these past 4 years). It takes incredible set up and possible set changes for these 5 days. Imagine when I'd try to beg, plead, cry & have bribes ready when I was trying to recruit actors. Even doing the story with just me & Teen Girl can be taxing. Oh, and we add in a prep meeting for Creative Arts Camp.

Then, we move into vacation time. When we spent the previous couple of summers in Colorado, though we did several things, we had time know...relax. This wasn't the case this year. Our speedy, information-filled trip to Chicago was a bit harrowing. So, not much relaxing.

When we get back from vacay, Teen Girl & I promptly jump into heading up the dance classes for our church's Creative Arts Camp. It was originally called Worship Arts Camp, but had to advertise it more secularly so it could be shared in the schools. Kids can sign up for the week & take in 3 classes of an array of creative things! Performing, art, playing an all sorts of ways! This is my 5th year doing it with Teen Girl. It's really an impressive deal. It's also a WHOLE lot of work! And usually the crazy in the kiddos is flowing by the 3rd night. Plus there's a showcase of all the things on Friday.

WHEW!!! Let me catch my breath...

As things are finally supposed to be settling down, I've realized something...I've got a whole lot of stuff to do still coming...

Here's the thing...
My "NO" button has been malfunctioning for years. Every time I try to fix it, there's something that doesn't connect. And I have issues saying "no" to things.

In my intensely-seemingly packed schedule, I began to think through everything I'm a part of & have coming up. I keep thinking that I should have said no somewhere! But I don't know where that would have happened...

Then I started thinking about it...I've got a lot of things I'm passionate about. I know where my gifts lie. When some of these things crossover, I tend to get asked to volunteer with things...things I know I can do AND be passionate about! How can I say no?

As I began sorting out everything I have had going on, as well as everything I have coming up, I began to realize these are things I have been invited to do & be a part of!

Between doing VBS, Creative Arts Camp, being on the committee to organize this year's DeFeet Hunger 5k Run/Walk (by the way, you can register now HERE), accepted a position on the Greater Kansas AFSP Chapter Board of Directors (find out about our chapter HERE), getting ready to step up with our church's children's Christmas program, been made a moderator on the Welcome to Steampunk social media site (we have a great group HERE), gearing up to help & plan our church's Trunk-or-Treat event...not counting any stepping up we need to be doing as parents for school stuff. There's a lot. There's so many great things I'm so blessed to be a part of! Things I'm excited about! Things I can get excited about!

But I realized why I believe my "NO" button malfunctions when I'm invited to these things.

See, when you have a history or onset of mental illness, like depression, you have these times of feeling worthless. You aren't, but you sure feel that way.

All of these gifts you possess, all the friends you have, all the things you have to look forward to...and you can't feel them. It's empty. Even if you go thru the motions of doing them...still...just...worthless.

When you are someone with mental illness, you have to become self aware enough that you can self care before it spirals. One of the self care things is to destress; you're not supposed to take on a bunch of things. But... get invited. You get asked. Someone recognizes you for your gifts, your presence, your passions. At times, these invites come in like a tidal wave! And we say yes to all the things...because in the times we aren't asked to do anything...well...we go to a place where we feel empty & worthless again. Even when we aren't.

It's a tough cycle to be in, yo! And it becomes hard to set boundaries when you feel needed; when you feel wanted. You feel awful, but you have things to do! They are supposed to keep you going..

...and then it all becomes so overwhelming! All of a sudden we have too much to do to keep up with! And we long for our barren place of not being wanted.

The cycle starts all over again.

Now then, I just wanted to put that out there for anyone who hasn't been in the position to understand this before. I do hope this help.

Just know that I'm OK. As of this writing...I really am OK. As I was thinking thru everything, it hit me why I have trouble saying no sometimes, and to give you some perspective, maybe.

I'm truly excited for the things I'm a part of! I'm so excited for the things coming up!

I also have ideas swirling in my creative brain that I am not going to act on right now. Some things I would love to...but it would be too much right now.

See? I can get my "NO" button to function a bit...even if it's to myself for the moment.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Thursday, July 23, 2015

AM~Erica's Storyteller Confessional

So anyway...

I'm a story teller:
I love telling stories.
I'm the most story-telling storyteller
to try to tell a story.

If I've said it once, I've said it hundreds of times (and will continue to do so as long as needed), I am a storyteller.

Everything I post about is a story about something going on in my experience of life. Whether I've stumbled onto it or created it, it's still within my experience...and I don't mind sharing. BOOM! A story to be told.

Whether it's in the way I dress, a way I celebrate, any makeup I choose to wear, the accessories I put on, with family, with friends...take your pick of what I share, it's about telling a story. Even the characters I create usually have a backstory.

I even like expanding on one particular aspect of an experience to form a story. There's greater meaning in much of what I come across. Or at least in my perspective.

Sometimes, I have an odd perspective. That's how it is.

One of the avenues of storytelling that has actually been raised in a manner of shaming is the selfie.

Ah, the selfie!

Love 'em or hate 'em, they have taken over our social media feeds, texts, snapchats, etc. You name it, there's probably someone attaching a selfie to it.

OK, maybe not YOU...but obviously many.

Hi. I'm Erica. I'm a taker of selfies.
(please respond with, "Hi, Erica.")

OK...I'll admit this really is merely a sampling.
There are, indeed, many more out there on Facebook & Instagram.

This has been an issue that has been swirling around the interwebz & face-to-face conversations for quite some time, now. Really it surrounds the perception of whether it's narcissism or self-expression.

In a world where we are bombarded by any given Kardashian & all connected to them, I believe this is a dark side of the selfie.

Don't get me wrong: each to their own, yo. But there's a lot that has come out of that family on the mere "merit" of a video. Not a talent or philanthropy...but a lot of "self" from it that our pop culture world has dangerously soaked up like a sponge absorbing battery acid. We want to soak it up (try to keep up with them?), yet it's very corrosive!

Still, there was a book of selfies put out by Kim. Just all these "perfect" (to her) selfies that she chose from the thousands she's taken. Whether it's how her husband chose to dress her, how she looks at a gala she somehow got invited to, how she looks in a bikini by the pool, how she looks in the bathroom mirror on that day, how the light hits her's pretty much about how she looks at any given moment. (just check out the Amazon reviews HERE) Yes, as a reminder, it is called "Selfish." It was also a top selling book.

This is a good reason why selfies have been given such a bad name. This term, along with media & pop culture, have been "Kardashian'd". For the most part...they are NOT news. Yet they are always in our faces somehow.

But I want to look beyond the Kardashian'd selfie that I have seen several take part in...and instead try a different perspective.

Just this week, I came across a couple of posts specifically about the selfie.
There's this one from Hello Giggles (HERE). I like a couple of things said in it, but wasn't fond of the overall tone of it. It's still bigger than that.
So, here's this blog post from OLD SINGLE MOM (selfie post HERE). I love this one! It's much of how I view a selfie. It should give the story of what you're doing, the mood you're in, and should make people wonder what's next! You know...telling a story.

Greater than just how you look, what if we are perpetuating a story?
Not faking a story!! Telling your story! There's a difference.

Now telling a joke with a selfie is one thing: if you're posed in front of a castle claiming it's your new's funny. But at what point is faking this too far?

In the news lately, it's come to light that rapper 50 Cent is in a lot of trouble for faking a lifestyle. He's in legal trouble and going thru bankruptcy for living the liar's life. His story was fake.
Do I believe is was probably shot at some point...yes. But to live grandly, put it out there like you're doing so...and to have it turn out to be a lie so you could appear a certain way...well, that's not OK.

Same with selfies. Are you pretending your life is awesome & great, you have the best stuff, you only take amazing trips...but it's only backdrops. Do you share your hurts & pains, too?

I do.

See, I don't mind sharing the good stuff, the fun stuff, the silly stuff...but I will share my pain & my causes, too. It's beyond just sending a silly face or posing pretending I'm hot (unless I'm outside sharing how I'm melting). How are you branding yourself? And is it hurting your image when you just post your cleavage & duck lips? (I've seen a lot of that.) Or are you greater than just that? Are you showing how your brain works? Are you showing how this experience has become a part of you? It's great you feel good about how you look in a moment...but can you "tell" why?

When a painter paints a self-portrait, or a photographer snaps a self-portrait...there's thought that goes into the results. There's a story they are trying to tell. It's part of their visual autobiography. Taking a selfie by the beach is one thing, but being semi-posed isolated by the fence, wearing a scarf, with a backdrop of many in swimwear enjoying the ocean behind you can truly tell a story of being different than many others.

A black & white shot can accentuate more in the drama or beauty of a situation that can be greater than just the color of the moment...and vice versa.

Maybe you need that great self portrait of how huge that piece of pizza is next to your head. That's right! And you can admit that you ate the whole thing...and maybe another slice or two. It tells a story.

There's also a time & place for selfies. It can be taken in the mundane. Sometimes there's tremendous story that can be told in the mundane. But it's different than "just because I was bored."
However...sometimes some amazing portraits can come from "just because I was bored."

Confusing? Yes. But it can create a story if done right.

You know what? It comes down to something like this:
There's much more interest in a story you're trying to tell about yourself. It builds connection to others. It speaks to many more than just snapping a bathroom mirror pic because you think your lashes make you look awesome.

The Hello Giggle article used the term "self-fashioning" as we really are branding ourselves in whatever we post.

For me, there's more than just "smile for the camera & say 'cheese'"'s about expression & story.

Right? At least I hope that's what you get from what I post.

And I cannot tell you to NOT post selfies. Duh! It's something I do from time-to-time. But maybe I can lay down a challenge for those of you to attempt to tell your story & treat your selfies as a visual & inspirational (or example-giving...whatever) autobiography.

So...go forth & tell your story!! In many forms: how you dress, in a blog,...even a selfie.

Join me, won't you?

* Side Note: my hubby feels very 
differently and doesn't fully agree. the hubby partakes in SOME selfies from time-to-time with some coaxing from me

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Sunday, July 19, 2015

AM~Erica and the Recruiting Reliance of Hogwarts

So anyway...

This past week was a wild & crazy adventure. It also happened very quickly with a lot information flying!

Three days of this happening in a row, I began to realize that we need to thank J.K. Rowling for something else: promoting excitement in education.

When you read the Harry Potter book series &/or watching the Harry Potter movies, did you sense the magic? Did you sense the excitement of wanting to attend a school like Hogwarts?

It was about being part of a select population who got invited to be a part of the magic; to be a part of the long-standing tradition in that castle. Right? Many of my friends-o-geekery would love to get a glimpse of it, at least.

Yes, yes - Universal Studios, in Florida, has the experience set up. It's a start...but not the classroom setting & learning like in Hogwarts.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Universal Studios

There's many who are fine with the magic of it. Makes sense - Hogwarts is supposed to be a school of wizardry & magic. But there's something deeper happening within those walls beyond a swish & flick of a wand or flying around a quidditch field. What long-standing traditions could you learn & take in? What amazing skill could you learn about in the classroom with the professor, highly skilled in their field of knowledge?


*cue the toy piano/celeste chime of "Hedwig's Theme"*

Our family took in our vacation this week. Though it was hard to call it a relaxing time away, it did involve some family time. However, it surrounded one family member in particular: Teen Boy.


We took this time for college visits. Yes. I said it. College. Visits.

Don't get me wrong, he's been on a couple already, but these visits were to be different...much, much different.

Our son is of the smarticle sort. He's very intellectually driven, for sure, and needs to be somewhere that he can pursue his future interests along with other people he can have the kind of conversations with him that he needs to have.

See, at our house, we can't keep up with his brain. I'm VERY right brained. He is VERY left brained. I love my son. I really do. But I find myself smiling & nodding at him often because I have no idea what he's saying to me. I will say that his wealth of knowledge amazes me. And it gets amplified when he does his ongoing research for debate & extemporaneous speaking. So he's also on top of a lot going on in the world!

With that said, imagine how we felt when he was setting up visits at places like Washington University, University of Chicago, and Northwestern University.

People! He was getting correspondence from these schools asking him to come visit! It wasn't by owl or anything, but it was really exciting! Especially since he was really drawn to a couple of these places.

See? Smarticle kid.

It was interesting, as he looked into these schools, how at least one of them gave a selling point of being like Hogwarts. Interest was piqued.


As we visited the schools (one each day for three days in a row - it was a lot), I discovered that they all used this particular selling point. In different ways, but oh-so-the-same, all three of these schools relied on Harry Potter & Hogwarts references as selling points in their selling of themselves for recruiting of future student purposes.

Between the architecture of the buildings, the long-standing traditions (have I said that enough yet?), and even classes offered at times, these were the qualities drawn upon for these campuses while showing possible future students of these institutions what it could be like.

OK, no one was flying over head on their Nimbus 2000 stick, and there was no practicing of levitation or transfiguration going on within the courtyards, but there was a sense of them trying to find & show the magic for these upcoming post-secondary students who grew up reading & watching the Harry Potter series. Which is a brilliant move, I might add.

These schools boasted about their Hogwarts architecture, the select student population, and even a class or two. One of the schools even has houses that you are sorted into based on your personality & interests. That particular school also said they did that LONG before anyone knew about Harry Potter.

Washington University - St. Louis
University of Chicago
Northwestern University - Deering Library

When we looked at Teen Girl's current school, they did say they offer a Harry Potter class on an on-again/off-again basis. They are the Griffons (GO GRIFFS!), and their arts building is in Potter Hall. They even have academic buildings of Popplewell Hall & Eder Hall (which all sounds SO Hogwartsesque), and even a clock tower that plays music in chime-form. They don't have the romantic style of the gothic-centric architecture that other schools have, but there is that Hogwarts selling point, again.

See? Missouri Western State University even has a Griffon door!

Now, I must tell you, we were taken with two of the three campuses we visited. I won't say which two right now. I will also tell you that we really felt that MAGIC in one of those places. We could sense our son's soul on 2, but could feel it settling on the one with the extra dose of magic. That's also the campus that I encountered a BUTTERFLY (if you know what that means to me), as well as a CARDINAL (which you may remember what that means, too). Again, I will not say which one at this point.

The beauty of these prestigious schools was amazing on its own. I also found it amazing how understanding these places were about how unsettled their students can be in their degree focus. They understand that what they thought they might want to do may not be the best fit for them, and the schools are willing to work with the students on finding their path. It was beautiful to know that, as a freshman in college, they may not know what they are fully wanting to do when they come in. They have an idea, but it doesn't have to be concrete. They also have ways to help them figure that out in their time on campus. Because apparently there's opportunities to try out your degree area & see if it still is a fit for you or not.

*SIDE NOTE: That's right, kids. You should NOT have to pick 
your career path when you are a freshman in high school.
(some will understand this reference)


All in all, though so much was crammed into a few short days, it was clear that the academic aspect was strong on this trip...and it had no shortage of Hogwarts visions in recruiting & selling. All for furthering education.

J.K. Rowling's writings of Harry Potter at Hogwarts has truly been attributed to raising awareness on so many things, like MENTAL HEALTH, diversity, a sense of belonging, and now this:
I want to take this moment to thank her for giving a sense of excitement and magic to furthering a higher education! What another wonderful piece to take away from her delightful storytelling.

And, in the near future, we'll see where the magic rests for Teen Boy....

*grabs tissue & listens to "Hedwig's Theme"*

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How AM~Erica Celebrated Disneyland's Birthday

So anyway...

As I love to celebrate things, and love finding things to celebrate, sometimes there's events/holidays that just sneak up on me. Either I really did forget, I didn't realize it was a holiday, or I'm just learning about a celebration that I think we need to jump on the bandwagon with.

We had been on a whirlwind college visit tour for a few days, so we hadn't kept up on much else happening. As we got back into town, I started realizing a semi-celebration happening that I didn't even realize!

Teen Girl is our Disney geeky-guru. As much as we love Disney around here, she's our nerd.

Now, she's the one that flagged me down about LEIF ERICCSON DAY, so imagine my surprise when she wasn't bringing up this particular event.

When it comes to birthday's, anniversaries, people who follow her on Twitter, etc., Teen Girl will find a way to Disneybound (an outfit that is inspired by anything Disney-related) for whatever occasion it may be surrounding whichever movie/show/character. She'll even break into the soundtrack, if it's called for.

Yesterday, I started seeing some posts from people about Disneyland. Then I realized it was a celebration for Disneyland opening 60-years-ago! There was a birthday celebration going on for Disneyland! Awww!!

How? How did Teen Girl not share this information? So I asked her about it. She told me she thought it happened a couple days before that...when we were smack-dab in the middle of college visits for Teen Boy. I guess that's why she didn't say anything...but that's weird. Generally she would have anyway.


We had nothing at home! We hadn't been to the store since we were out of town. So, shortly after we rolled back into town, to the store we went!

My brain started going into high gear as to what to do in a pinch & on such short notice. So, after discussing it with my hubby & looking at Pinterest for ideas (as one does anymore), I planned an easy go-to for dinner that would fit the theme for Disney, plus I found a dessert I thought I could make that would be as fitting. (more on that in a moment)

Now, recently, I discovered that I had been dressing as Minnie Mouse off & on over the past few years. It was for one thing or another, but hadn't realized she was my go-to of choice until I came across some pics. I started chuckling at the fact. I had never really been as drawn to Minnie...or had I?

Here's what I've run into with my own flavor of some Disneybounding Minnie thru the recent past:

2008 - Disney Day at Cambridge Preschool, Chesterfield, MO

2014 - Halloween Hustle 5k, Lee's Summit, MO

2015 - Steampunk for the fun of it

Yep. There it was! So I decided to stick with her as a fun Disney go-to. I can obviously Disneybound her pretty well!

I mean, I have Disneybounded other characters, too.

2013 - Ursula for "The Little Mermaid" musical at Starlight Theater

2014 - Cheshire Cat for cub scout Halloween party

I think I do it more often than I realize. Not as much as Teen Girl, but often enough, nonetheless.

However, I felt it fitting to stick with Minnie for Disneyland's birthday. Amm-i-rite?

So I had this stuff to put on:

2015 - Disneybound Minnie Mouse for Disneyland's 60th birthday

Then, it was time for prepping the dessert - fake-out Dole Whips! Apparently enjoying a Dole Whip is a rite of passage when you go to Disneyland. I was unaware of this until...well...Pinterest. Of course. I've been to Disneyland, but I don't remember much. Here's what memories I have from Disneyland when I visited at the age of 4:

* I remember going thru the "It's a Small World" ride. Vaguely...but I do remember.

* I very vaguely remember seeing Cinderella in her light-up ball gown during the electric parade.

* I was told that I fell asleep in my mashed potatoes.

Obviously a Dole Whip was no where along that memory lane.

So it was researching a few copycat recipes & seeing what I could get. It needed set up time, so I had to do it early. And it was at this point that Teen Girl is trying to figure out what I was planning...

First, she asked what was for dinner. I gave her a few hints without giving away WHAT the meal was & what Disney flick it was attached to. Finally she worked her way down to pasta.

Me:  Yes. What kind of pasta?

TG:  Long noodles?

Me:  Yes. What would the long noodles be called?

TG:  Spaghetti?

Me:  Yes! With?

TG:  Umm...meatballs?

Me:  YES!! Do you know why?

TG:  *thinks hard*

Me:  What Disney thing would spaghetti & meatballs be tied to?

TG:  *light bulb*
         *crumbles to floor in puddle of tears*

Me:  Uh...did you figure it out?


Me:  So, I guess you know then? What do you think it is?

TG:  *speechless weeping*

Me:  OK. *laughs* Just do charades, then.

TG:  *sits up & puts hands in front to appear like paws*

Me:  Yep! Lady & the Tramp!

TG:  *collecting herself a bit* So, are you making a dessert, too?

Me:  Yep. Any guesses?

TG:  *looking at ingredients laid out* Wait...are you making...DOLE WHIPS??

Me:  Good job! Yep...I sure am!

TG:  *crumbles to floor into puddle of continued weeping*

So the plan was to have spaghetti & meatballs for dinner, followed up with Dole Whips (or a version of)

I got the Dole Whip concoction ready to freeze so I could take a breather before starting dinner.

In the meantime, Teen Girl had decided to Disneybound as Lady. Fitting. Amm-i-rite? And she shared that one month after Disneyland opened it's doors, "Lady & the Tramp" opened in theaters! So there you go! We got some Disney trivia from our Disney geeky-guru that tied in beautifully to our dinner! BOOM!
But then she changed her mind & changed to The Tramp for her Disneybounding. No pics of her take on Lady, but here she is inspired by Tramp:

2015 - Tramp Disneybound for Disneyland's 60th birthday

So we enjoyed our dinner of spaghetti & meatballs:

(Sadly, we did not have "Bella Notte" playing in the background)

However, my hubby & I had the same idea:
We would reenact the famous spaghetti & meatball scene from "Lady & the Tramp"!!'s how the story goes:

Baby Girl, would you PLEASE get a couple photos of your dad & me?
You might need a bowl, too.

What kind?'re gonna do Lady & the Tramp. Aren't you?
And do I need the bowl in case I vomit?

You guys are disgusting. I might be sick.

Wait. We aren't done? You want more?

This is too much! I'm gonna vomit.

You mean we still aren't done yet??

You all are disgusting. I need a bowl to throw up in...
I can't believe you made me do this. I hate my life right now.

And, look! We are adorable!!

I mean we should have danced like a prince & princess (because we all know that I'M A DISNEY PRINCESS). But we see how Teen Girl reacted to our spaghetti shots. The kids get adorably freaked out when hubby & I get the urge to dance. *sigh* They will appreciate it later in life. I'm sure of it!


We finally enjoyed our Dole Whips...which I'm excited they turned out so well! Have a couple of other versions I want to try with it. (my version I made, HERE) My hubby even wanted seconds! Woo Hoo!

We ended the evening by deciding what to do as a family. We have several Disney movies we could have taken in, but we also know, bless her heart, that Teen Girl would say every line word-for-word AND break out, loudly, into song. We love her, but we also want to watch & enjoy the movie. I'm not a game player, but decided to do it, anyway. We do have a game that is a Disney version of Kids vs. Parents (or something like that), but we decided to play our families favorite game. It's Apples to Apples. We love that game (and one I'm willing to play).

We sat around the table, played, and even tried to play cards that might have Disney connections if you tilt your head & squint. Well, except for when the cards of Disneyland and The Little Mermaid. Those were played in the same round, by the Teen Girl...who began to weep because she had to choose between them.

With all of this, it made me wonder what they were doing for the occasion in Marceline, MO. We almost went thru there on the way home from our trip, but decided not to. I kind of wish we did stop by. But another time.

No matter. We celebrated the 60th birthday of Disneyland by spending it at one of the happiest places on earth: with our kiddos.


Here's to many, many more....

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica