A personal debate.

Waking up this morning there’s a good chance the very first words you heard on your tv or radio, the very first words you saw displayed on your phone, wether it was a tweet or a news alert, said something about the democratic presidential debate last night. There really was no getting away from it. If you’re a rare breed and managed to turn all news and social media off for an entire day you’ll have to do it again tomorrow because we’re in for an instant replay as 10 more of the 24 democratic hopefuls debate our future and the well-being of our country.

As you listened to the debate, or the recaps and opinions this morning, what can and can’t be done, what we need and don’t need, and how to go about getting it, what did you think? Did it cross your mind at any point if you’d be able to stand up there in front of millions of people and declare what is right for your future? Your answer might be a confident yes or maybe it’s a resounding no. Me? I have my own, highly critical, often argumentative inner debate every day. The debate that often determines not only my future but my day, Is not one of a political nature but is the debate I have with myself. Instead of being on a stage saying what I’ll fight for, I have a one on one boxing match with myself. One minute I think I can do anything I set my mind to, the next I get a punch right to the gut that says, “no you can’t, what makes you think you’re so special?” I debate all kinds of things. Seemingly ridiculous things, like should I get my hair cut the way I want, or should I just style it the way everyone else would like it? As if I have any idea what that would be. Yet I debate it over and over again silently to myself. I should really try to look more feminine, says that pesky little voice that sounds oddly familiar, like I’ve heard it a thousand times before. I nod my head in agreement, because after all, the cashier in the grocery store keeps calling me sir. Proof!

Thank god, a minute later as I’m approaching my car, bags still in hand, I straighten up my backbone and begin the debate. “Who cares, he didn’t even take the time to look up at me.”

Do you know how much time I spend debating with myself what to do with my hair? I wish I was talking to a crowd in front of me right now so I could see the wave of nodding heads. You’re following me right? It’s scary. We spend so much time debating who we are, based on how we dress, style our hair, wear our makeup. How we think people see us. How in the world do we have time to think about the things we say are really important to us. No wonder we never get around to doing the things we dream about. How do we win an argument with ourselves that we’re worthy of great things in life when we can’t stop arguing with ourselves over wether we look good enough. Imagine if I wore my hair exactly the way I wanted, expressing myself authentically and powerfully, exactly as I am. No compromises. I like me better already, and you probably would too. I want to live my life powerfully. I want to make a difference and a lasting impact on other people’s lives. I don’t have time to be debating with myself, especially over things as simple as my hair, which by the way, stay tuned for my new style in the next couple weeks, because I’m going for it!

Do you think “the girl on the right” (photo above) debated with herself about how she looked? I’d imagine she stood in the space she created for herself and said “this is me”. As a matter of fact she didn’t even think about it, and just presented her authentic self, with no concern about how different or unique that might be. Her self esteem hasn’t been chipped away at quite enough yet, she still thinks she’s ok just the way she is.

Let’s leave the debating to the politicians and stand in our own strong space, determined to be the change we can be in our own lives and others. Lets be so authentic we don’t even have to think about it and just present as ourselves. Let’s win our inner debate, so when the really tough issues come up in our life we have the strength and confidence to win the fight.

In her words…

Quetcy was 17 when I featured her as the Troy, NY Girl Noticed. Her bravery and resilience does not go unnoticed. She owns her story and continues to push through. She has allowed herself to be vulnerable in telling her story.

With her permission I share this with you in her words.

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“The Story of Me” by Quetcy Jacobs
Everyone has a story, some stories are good and some are bad but through all the stories there are meaningful messages to them all. I hope to share my story with you all and I hope to inspire all of you who read this.

It all began a little before birth, I was born premature to a mother who was addicted to all sorts of illegal substances and she did things that weren’t healthy for her or the babies that she was carrying; or even those around her. She was an unstable individual. Let’s just say my journey into this world wasn’t easy. If any of you were to look at me, physically I would appear average, if any of you were to look at me, mentally I would appear average. You wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at someone what there life story was. This is why I am sharing mine with all of you. I don’t really remember much from birth so I am going to skip a few years…

My birth mother was unable to care for me in the proper way, and because of this I was given to my paternal aunt. From the moment that decision was made, I remained in the custody of my aunt for a few years. Those years weren’t the best years of my life.

There were some days that were good but there were some days that were bad. As a child, I was physically and mentally abused. As far as education went, my aunt and uncle, whom I called “mom and dad” rarely took me to school. I didn’t really have friends, I didn’t even know how to make friends. I lacked so many skills that are important to a child’s development. On the days that I didn’t go to school I remember being very sad. School was like an escape for me. An escape from the chaos and havoc in my life. I felt like I was living a different life while I was at school.
I was always kept inside, isolated from the outside world. Due to the instability of my environment, living with my paternal aunt and uncle, I was removed and put into foster care.
My years in foster care were from ages 7 till about the age of 10. I bounced around from foster home to foster home. I wasn’t an angel. I was at times a misbehaved little child. I was very rambunctious. I was afraid to let anyone in. Afraid, that someone would hurt me. My life didn’t really get better until I was about 10 years old. On my tenth birthday my then fabulous social worker, took me to the park where I was going to meet my foster parents that were soon going to be my adoptive parents. That visit to the park was one of the best visits. I remember playing scrabble with my soon to be foster parents and laughing. It was then that I knew my life would completely change…. for the better!

I am very happy with the life that I have now. Two moms and a family that I can call my own is the greatest thing that I could ever ask for. My parents are the light of my life, they are my whole world. They inspire me to reach for the stars and strive to be the best that I can be. Both of my parents believe that education is very important so I made it a point to make education a huge part of my life. I managed to graduate at the top of my class and I even received the only scholarship that there was from my principal as well as getting a music recipient award from my music teacher.

“Flash Forward”
Fast forward to the year 2016-17
I am 18 years old about to be 19. I am an active member in the LGBT community. I am happy to be in a community that accepts individuals for who they are, flaws and all. Back then being gay, wasn’t the easiest thing for anyone; but things have changed quite a bit, especially when the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. This was a huge positive turning point for many.

Knowing that you no longer have to hide is one of the greatest things in the whole wide world! I love life, even though life is hard I manage to find the good in every situation no matter how big or how small. When my skies are grey, I use the one gift that God gave me. My voice. I sing whenever I can. I sing in the car, in my room, and in public. I just recently sang at my parents wedding. I am still so happy that my parents were able to get married.

Over all, life is rough but with love and God on your side everything will be okay. I leave you with this: “ We may not have it all together, but together we have it all”

I just want to thank Lori Pratico for giving me the opportunity to write in her blog and share my life experiences with those around me. I hope that you all find my story inspiring and leave knowing that you are not alone!

If you would like to share your story, email girlnoticed@gmail.com 

Break out the bathing suit.

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Memorial Day weekend. Even though I live in Florida and can go to the beach any day of the year, it still ended up marking the day to pull out the bathing suit, see if it fit, and decide how I would define my body image this summer? Would the runway judges in my head be saying “bravo, you look marvelous”, or “eh hem…what are you thinking? Cover up and get your excuses ready, because honestly you just shouldn’t go to the beach or pool at all.”

I had a bold reminder of where that thinking comes from when I spoke to my mom on the phone Saturday. She was deciding at 73 years old what to wear to a Memorial Day party, since she’ll only wear 3/4 length sleeves because she doesn’t want her arms to show. She was thinking of not going because it was hot and she didn’t know what she’d wear. I asked “Mom, what’s wrong with your arms?” and I received a resounding “Oh, they’re horrible, all skin and wrinkly, it’s terrible.” Never mind that my mom lives in a senior community and she’s probably the most fit and stylish one there.

Surprisingly for myself, I chose to go with “bravo, you look marvelous”. Ok, maybe not marvelous but certainly good enough. I suppose after blogging last week that “I am ok, when I say I am”, I did indeed decide to say, “I am ok, just the way I am.”

The result, I had a wonderful weekend enjoying the beach and ocean with wonderful friends. I kind of figure we are all, at some level, a little self conscious. We can all find something we don’t like about ourselves. This weekend I chose to focus on enjoying myself, and it worked.

If this was a tough weekend for you, if you just can’t be seen in a bathing suit or even short sleeves, what would happen if you didn’t care and just had fun? It may feel like a very vulnerable place to put yourself in, but you slay vulnerability by doing the very thing that feels scary. Vulnerability looses it’s power when you take action, and you end up coming out on the other side of it with a new found courage.

Try it, and if you didn’t get out to the beach or pool this weekend, call me. I’ll meet you there next weekend.

An Exciting Day, and how you can be a part of it!

Hi! It’s a busy, exciting day for Girl Noticed! Tonight at the brand new Pembroke Pines City Center is the Grand opening of THE FRANK Art Gallery and Exhibit Hall. Girl Noticed was asked over two years ago to be a part of this exhibit and opening, and is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to paint a mural as well as exhibit work in this great space. Thank you Jill Slaughter for all your hard work and the opportunity.

The mural at the Frank is part of the Nationwide Girl Noticed project and carries the message “Just Being Me”. The two subjects painted on the wall are Myra Wexler and 6 year old Valerie. They are an example of how at any age a girl/woman should feel free and proud to be herself. The photos I referenced for the mural were chosen at random after I had chosen the two of them as my subjects. How amazing when I found photos of them both making the same hand gesture. I thought, wow what a great example of how at any age a female must embrace who she is.
There are also two paintings on canvas that accompany the mural and are now a part of the new traveling exhibit titled “Girl Noticed, “Just Being Me”. Lily and Kiana’s parents were asked to take photos of them being themselves, and they also submitted videos of them talking about why it’s important to be noticed and be yourself.  Those videos will also be part of a future show that is in the works.
A third portrait is being worked on, although I wasn’t able to finish in time for tonights show, is of Valerie’s awesome sister Karina. There’s only so much time in the day to paint! If you would like to be included in this ongoing series, take a photo of yourself “just being you”, and email it to girlnoticed@gmail.com to be considered. Videos are also being accepted. Check out our Facebook page Girl Noticed to view the videos Karina, Valerie, Lily and Kiana made and submit your own by email. You could be part of a future exhibition.
All of the subjects in the Frank Exhibit tonight are from Florida except for Valerie, who I met in Colorado while doing a Girl Noticed mural there. I chose her because I wanted to work with her mom, Misty Elizabeth, a photographer who is raising two young children on her own, working and going to school. She values her time with her kids and sets an example for them to follow that I admire.  Myra is know in the art scene as The “Queen or Miami” her eccentric sense of style and flair for creative uniqueness made her perfect to show your valuable at any age.
The dripping paint in the mural signifies that life is unpredictable, and our fluidity as women is not only necessary but essential.
Meanwhile, In Cincinatti … 
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I am in Cincinnati working on my 10th state Girl Noticed Mural.
I will not be able to attend tonight’s opening, so please take lots of photos and tag #girlnoticed when you post! My daughter Grace will be there taking photos as well, so make sure to say hello!

“Silver Dollars and Silver Boxes”

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I found myself laughing and telling this story the other day, and after telling it I began to reflect and realize how we carry our stories with us everyday, everywhere we go. We shape ourselves into the characters of those stories. So when you tell your story weather it be to yourself or someone else, be careful the role you choose for yourself.

“Silver Dollars”

As a child I loved going to my grandparents house. Well, Grandmom and Grandpop Manlio that is. Those were the grandparents whose house always smelled like warm bread and old garlic. (if you’re Italian you get that.) always seemed to have my favorite cookies, served me tea in a china cup and kept a coffee can full of crayons with a coloring book in a drawer tucked away for me. We went there often.

Then there was Grandmom and Grandpop Lewis, now don’t get me wrong the love was certainly there, but I just never felt quite as comfortable. The garlic and bread smell  was replaced with stale cigarettes and cigar, and usually me and my brother sat on the couch quietly while the adults talked. What I did love was how my grandmom everytime we left would stand on the front step, waving and yelling “tootles” at the car pulling away. My grandfather although he wasn’t really scary at all, to a little girl was quite intimidating . His tattooed navy arms had large worn hands, one that held a cane and the other a blunt end of a half smoked cigar. He rarely said much to me, but always greeted me with a smile and pulled a silver dollar out of his pocket to present to me and my brother with every visit. I would go home each time and place my new silver dollar in my special hiding place. A little silver box tucked under some old blankets in a drawer.

One day I decided it was time to spend my silver dollars. I was in the 2nd grade, and believe me I knew this was a choice I probably shouldn’t discuss with anyone. About once a week while walking to school I’d stop at the candy store and buy one dollar’s worth of candy. Um, I’m 48, do you have any idea how much candy you could buy for a dollar 40 years ago? A lot! I’d leave the store with my little brown paper bag full, dump it into my desk and through the week randomly award my classmates with a piece of candy. I was the freaking candyman!!! Until a crossing guard alerted my mom to the fact she thought it was unusual she saw me coming out of the candy store with so much loot every week. Needless to say the gig was up, and I probably was never more scared for my life then when my mother confronted me.

The keychain above was my grandfather’s. I’ve carried it with me off and on for years. And it serves as a small reminder “always give even if you might get your ass kicked for doing so.” I loved as a child that feeling I got when my classmates lit up, or a kid that was having a bad day I could make smile, because I chose to be kind to them. It was being “able” to give that made me happy not necessarily having the candy.

Many years later I read a book by Florence Littauer called “Silver Boxes”. The book was about this poem she had written. And in an instant I realized how the box had been just as important as the actual treasures. Use your words thoughtfully, you never know there impact.

“My words were harsh and hasty

And they came without a thought.

Then I saw the pain and anguish

That my bitter words had brought.

Bitter words that I had spoken

Made me think back through the past; 

Of how many times I’d uttered

Biting words whose pain would last.

Then I wondered of the people

I had hurt by things I’d said;

All the ones I had discouraged

When I didn’t use my head.

Then I thought about my own life.

Of painful words I’ve heard;

And of the times I’d been discouraged

By a sharp and cruel word.

And now clearly I remember

All the things I might have done;

But, by a word I was discouraged

And they never were begun.

Lord, help my words be silver boxes.

Neatly wrapped up with a bow;

That I give to all so freely,

As through each day I gladly go.

Silver boxes fill of treasure,

Precious gifts from God above;

That all the people I encounter

Might have a box of God’s own love.”

 

Wake Up And Notice.

I tell my story late at night in my dreams, where no one will notice.

My life has always felt like a “story”, and in telling my story, I have always felt like I was a narrator, never quite sure when the page should be turned. Pieces all put together in random parts, not knowing what fits where or why those parts feel so fictional at times. Then again it’s always been easier to narrate, tell the story as if there’s a cast of characters, than actually come to terms with the fact I am the main character and I’m living it, and the supporting roles are being played by real people and the events actually happened.

So often I close the book, put it on the shelf and act as if it’s of no importance. Just a dusty novel whose pages are yellowing. After all, there’s new exciting novels to write with bright white pages that hold sparkly inspiring words and are bound strong together with hard covers. They stand so tall and handsome on the shelf.
Eventually and inevitably my eyes will find themselves gazing back.  My fingers clumsily fumbling through the fragile pages of my life. There’s a story that’s gone unnoticed. A story that was never really given the respect it deserved. Respect and compassion not found in the telling, but from the recognizing and owning it as my own. I realize all the sparkle and strength in the world can not compare to or diminish the heart and soul that is held in the pages of my life that I have yet to acknowledge. After all knowing where I came from is no less important than knowing where I am going. You don’t need to notice me, I need to wake up and notice myself.

Be the next Girl Noticed!

Send us your videos, or statements of why you should be noticed,

and you could be our next Girl Noticed.

Videos should be under 1 minute

and say  “I am _______ notice me”  You fill in the blank!

You could be the subject of our next mural!

email: girlnoticed@gmail.com