To My Happy Place

To My Happy Place

Love you long time.
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Dear Camp Timbers,

You have been apart of my life for 11 years, helping me become the person I want to be in many different ways and helping me learn new things. You helped me open my eyes to different perspectives and to try new things when you are given the chance to try it.

When I first started to come to camp as a seven-year-old, I was one of the shyest ones in the cabin, but you taught me to get out of that shell. I've learned so many things here:

1. To be true to yourself

2. Be your crazy goofy self

3. Face your fears

4. How to unplug from social media.

I kept going to camp all the way through, I was a teen camper and a CIT (counselor-in-training) and I learned a lot more than, for example: how to be a great leader and patience. Now I'm on staff and I've learned more, over the years of being a teen camper, a CIT, and being on staff I've learned more about myself; my strengths and weakness. I've learned to embrace my strengths and weaknesses.

No only have you taught me lessons but you've given some of the best friends a person can have. Friends that have learned the same things I have, friends that empathize with me, and friends that I will have for a long time. They are some of the truest friends I could possibly ask for.

I've met some of the best role models here that have taught me how to be myself, how to speak up when I need to, to go for my dreams, and to achieve my goals and that it's okay to take a longer time to achieve your goals.

Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if I didn't have you. Would I still be shy and barely have any friends? Would I still be afraid of heights? Would I ever try new things? Would I know how to be myself? Would I still know how to unplug from social media? I feel like the answers to those questions are not the answers they are now.

If you weren't in my life I feel like I would be the shy girl that has a total of three friends. I would be the girl that didn't try anything new so I would be afraid of heights my whole life. I would be the girl that didn't know how to be herself in front of people that weren't her family or her close friends. And because of that, I'm glad that I have this place, that I'm not the shy girl and that I'm not afraid of heights as much as I use to be. I'm glad that I'm able to try new things and be myself.

If I didn't have this place I wouldn't be myself. I have so many memories that make me smile and laugh. You are my second home and I'm sad to say goodbye but I will always remember the impact you had on my life.

Cover Image Credit: Cecelia Hopkins

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Here's Why You Shouldn't Donate to The Salvation Army This Holiday Season (Or Ever)

No, I’m not a grinch or a scrooge. I’m just a member of the LGBT+ community that is tired of seeing my community suffer at the hands of organizations that are supposed to help us.
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The holiday season is upon us, bringing mall Santas, twinkling lights, and the well-known bell ringers with their red buckets stationed outside busy department stores. The Salvation Army is a mainstay in the memories of our childhood holidays. I remember a number of years where my parents would give each of my sisters and I a handful of change to put in the shiny red bucket as we walked into Wal-Mart to shop for our family Christmas dinner. On the surface, the Salvation Army is an organization with good intentions of helping the less fortunate, especially during the holiday season. However, a quick Google search exposes the organization’s discriminatory practices.

The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian denomination and an international charitable organization. Their mission statement, as stated on their website, reads: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Despite their insistence of nondiscriminatory practices, however, there have been several instances of discrimination, specifically against members of the LGBT+ community. In July 2017, a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn, New York, was found by the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) to be discriminating. Three other centers in New York City were also cited as being discriminatory. Violations within the four centers included refusing to accept transgender people as patients or tenants, assigning trans people rooms based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their lived gender identity, unwarranted physical examinations to determine if trans people are on hormone therapy or have had surgery, and segregating transgender patients into separate rooms. The NYCCHR had been tipped off about the mistreatment, and testers from the commission went to the cited centers and found clear evidence of the mistreatment. One of the clinics told the testers outright, “No, we don’t [accept transgender patients].” Another clinic’s representative said, “People with moving male parts would be housed with men.”

This isn’t the first time the Salvation Army has discriminated specifically against transgender people. In 2014, a transgender woman from Paris, Texas fled her home due to death threats she received related to her gender identity. The police told her, “Being the way you are, you should expect that.” She went to Dallas and found emergency shelter at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, run by the Salvation Army. The emergency shelter allowed her to stay for 30 days. Towards the end of her 30-day stay, she began looking for other long-term shelter options. One option many of the other women staying in the shelter had recently entered was a two-year housing program also run by the Salvation Army. When the woman interviewed for the program, she was told she was disqualified for the program because she had not had gender reassignment surgery. The counselor for the program later claimed there was a waiting list, but it came out that two women who arrived at the emergency shelter after the transgender woman had already entered the program. The transgender woman filed a complaint with Dallas’s Fair Housing Office, which protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She was able to find other housing through the Shared Housing Project, a project that aims to find transgender people with housing who are willing to support those without.

The Salvation Army’s Christian affiliation drives the organization’s statements and beliefs. The church has a page on its website dedicated to its decided stance on the LGBT+ community that seems to paint a nice picture. Their actions, however, tell a different story. There have been several accounts reporting the Salvation Army’s refusal of service to LGBT+ people unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services “open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.” The church claims it holds a “positive view of human sexuality,” but then clarifies that “sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.” This belief extends to their staff, asking LGBT+ employees to renounce their beliefs and essentially their identity in order to align with the organization. The Salvation Army believes that “The theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality.” Essentially, gay people can’t get married. Unmarried people can’t have sex. Therefore, gay people are forbidden from being intimate with one another. This is unfair to ask of any employee, especially considering that one’s relationship status does not interfere with how well anyone can do their job.

If you are still looking to donate to a non-homophobic and transphobic organization this holiday season, here are some great pro-LGBT+ organizations with outreach similar to that of the Salvation Army:

  • Doctors Without Borders: medical and emergency relief
  • Habitat for Humanity: homelessness and housing
  • Local homeless shelters: search the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website for shelters near you!
  • Local food bank: find your local food bank through Feeding America here.
  • The Trevor Project: a leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT+ young people ages 13-24.
Cover Image Credit: Ed Glen Today

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Dear Elf On The Shelf, I Hate You. Love, Me

Love them or hate them, Elf on a Shelf is here to stay.

Janine
Janine
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Every year it's the same thing. Families stuff themselves on Thanksgiving and then the next day brings, no not sales, but…The Elf on a Shelf. I spent about seven blissful years not having to worry about the little red visitor (no, not THAT visitor) who invaded my home every Christmas season. But, once I remarried and had 2 additional sons, my sister in law just had to introduce them to that Elf. He (or she if you have daughters) watches your kids during the day and then returns to the North Pole every night to tattle, I mean, tell Santa how the kids are behaving. Of course, the elves need assistance getting around, so now, every night until Christmas Eve, my husband and I (and many other parents) are forced to move these little creatures around the house to make our children behave.

I cannot tell you how many times I have forgotten to move the elves (yes, we have been blessed with more than one. It seems my boys each want their own private surveillance). I would wearily climb all the way up to my bedroom and settle down as if for a long winter's nap, and it would hit me. It was back downstairs for me. Now it is after midnight and I am pacing around my house trying to find a new and innovative way to hide these little buggers. There are so many places that an elf can hide where it cannot be touched (did I forget to mention that touching them means certain death and some pissed off children?). But, nothing gets the adrenaline pumping in the morning than to realize that you have forgotten to move them, and your kids are stirring in their beds.

It reminds something one of my friends said, "I can't believe anybody would celebrate a holiday where a jolly prowler breaks into your house and leaves gifts." Ah, Squidward, if you think that's bad, try three tiny stalkers invading your home for a few weeks.

And just the other day, one of my sons made the most interesting observation: "Mommy, I saw a tag on the elf. How come he's a toy?" Now the real fun begins.

Janine
Janine

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