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Viewing Blog: My Purple Wig, Most Recent at Top
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Welcome to My Purple Wig! This is where author and high school student Kristina Coia talks about living life as a teenage girl... and loving every minute of it!
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1. LiveStrong

This weekend, I felt like I was in a beehive. All around me were swarms of black and yellow Tshirts, posters, and baseball caps. People buzzed about everywhere filling out registration forms or pinning on numbers. We were three thousand strong, and we were united.
“Livestrong” was created to raise money for cancer research, but a few days ago, it raised more than that. In all of the participants of the “Livestrong” Run, I saw hopes being raised. I saw awareness raised, and not just cancer awareness. I saw the idea that people can unite for the good of all come to life.
I had never before witnessed something like that. It was truly a sight.
When people join together, it makes them strong individually. Many think that the world can’t unite, but after seeing such a wonderful congregation at the Run, I disagree with the skeptics. Surely not one of us is perfect, but we all have the ability to put aside our differences to fight for what we believe in.
Does that still sound like a load of preschool garbage?
Let me explain.
Being a part of the fight against cancer was a liberating experience. I watched as people who had battled the disease crossed the finish line, and were handed a yellow rose for their achievement. That is something everyone needs to see in their lifetime.
This not-so-small-scale example of human unity and courage is enough to convince even the most skeptical person that we are all capable of joining hands across the nation and across the globe. And, in reaching out to others, we ourselves become better, more admirable, more confident people.
Do something, big or small, right now. Plan to join in the next charity run. Plant a tree. Donate some old clothes to a shelter. Anything that you do in your lifetime to help others enriches you tenfold.
Need some persuasion?
Try it out.

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2. New Chapters

Turning the page doesn’t always mean the book is ending. It means that there are better, more exciting things to come. This “book” which is our lives is constantly being written. Characters enter and exit the story. It is filled with grand adventure, some peril, and perhaps some romance. And, if we play our cards right, there will always be a happy ending.
Sometimes, starting a new chapter can be tough, especially when certain things get left behind. But the book keeps going, and so should we. This summer, I am learning to say goodbye to old, familiar things and brave the threshold of a fresh start. It isn’t easy, but what I have learned so far is that turning a page doesn’t have to be frightening. In fact, new beginnings are what make a story wonderful.
Take last Friday, for instance. It was midnight (well, Thursday night, but you get the idea) and a huge group of my friends and I went to see Toy Story 3. Now, before I begin, let me tell you a little about my history with the Toy Story movies.
The main character, Andy, was a preschooler in the first movie. So was I. Then, in the second, he was about 7. So was I. This movie opens with Andy during the summer before he goes away to college. Get the picture? So, imagine a movie theater packed with 18-year-olds all sobbing because they, too, were all leaving their homes, loved ones, and toys in search of their own lives.
Did I mention that I graduated high school last Friday, the day the movie came out?
I had been anticipating this sort of thing. Everyone realizes that the “last time” is now. Last time to see friends, go out to dinner with grandma, give Fido a belly rub. At least until December.
It’s safe to admit that Friday morning in the three hours I had to sleep before school; I grabbed every teddy bear I could find and brought it to bed with me.
So, how could I possibly say that leaving all this stuff behind is okay? Well, even though saying goodbye might sting a bit, it’s like a band-aid. It’s got to come off when the wound has healed up. But the reason many people find it hard to start a new chapter is because they are afraid of what lies ahead for them. They are afraid of what they don’t know.
Well, everything comes down to confidence, in the end. If you know yourself and are comfortable with who you are, you can be sure that, no matter what, you will still have the courage to be yourself.
What?
Let me put it this way. If you are afraid that you won’t make any new friends, think about how you made the friends you already have. They were attracted to your personality, the brightness of your smile or the funny joke they overheard you telling. Don’t worry about making new friends. You did fine just being yourself before. Your confidence is a surefire way to connect with the right people, and your respect for yourself will bring about respect from others.
The same goes for any other worries. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting college, high school, a new job, or even moving to another place. Being yourself means being able to overcome whatever obstacles are in your way.
Don’t ever fear the next page in the story of your life. If you keep your chin high and always remember that you are perfect just the way you are, there will always be a happy ending.
And don’t forget to go see Toy Story 3. It’s awesome. But make sure you bring a teddy bear and some tissues. And maybe a Barbie doll. And some Twizzlers, but buy them at the theater, don’t smuggle them in. Okay, that’s all.
3. "Do you hear the people sing?" Do you want to?

This is an article I wrote for my high school newsletter, The Cherokee Scout. Cherokee High School’s spring musical, and my last CHS performance, will be Les Miserables.

“Do you hear the people sing?” Do you want to?

Cherokee's esteemed Drama Guild is proud to present this year's musical production of the widely acclaimed musical spectacular, Les Miserables. This stunning, Tony-winning drama follows the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his mesmerizing development from eighteenth century rogue to a saintly nobleman caught in the turmoil of a revolution.

So why see a show you can’t even pronounce? (It’s Lay-Mizz-Err-Ahb, by the way.)
Well, first of all, Valjean’s story has inspired many since its publication in 1862, and has dazzled audiences since the musical opened in 1980. Hounded by wayward hero, Javert, a policeman whose “black-and-white” views obstruct all reason, Valjean is constantly on the run after breaking his parole. En route to freedom, he is saved by a Holy Man who believes Valjean has the power to become a beacon of light in a shadowy world.

Years later, Valjean had shed his criminal past and has become incredibly successful while France’s streets are infected with poverty and despair, thick with prostitutes and thieves. As the years pass, he witnesses the horrors that take place and stands beside the young men who have chosen to fight against the hierarchy which created such misery.

The second reason why you should see Les Miserables? Susan Boyle. That’s Right! The song she sang on Britain’s Got Talent was one of the most famous songs from the musical. Are you convinced now? Filled with captivating music and intricate lyricism, brimming with suspense, blazing with romance, and peppered with comedic charm, Les Miserable is an experience that you simply cannot miss.

Tickets go on sale 4/19/10 for show dates beginning on 5/21/10 for anyone interested.

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4. With a smile and a song!

Today was such a beautiful day here in New Jersey! I'm getting ready for my senior trip to Disney in a few weeks and I thought I would dig up an older blog of mine:
Happy Spring!

Snow White had the right idea. In celebrating springtime, we all think about the original morning person, herself. Poor Snow White was almost killed by that Huntsman guy, and yet she
still chose to live in a bubble of blissful ignorance. Or was she really
just a happy person?

I prefer the latter. Snow White is famous for her obnoxious operatic voice, when she should be known for her incredible ability to “fill the world with sunshine.”
Think about it. No one else would be able to survive the evil
queen’s horrid lack of hospitality without some form of sarcastic zinger
or grunt of disapproval. And, when you’re forced to live in a crowded,
dirty cottage with seven old, smelly guys, not a single one of us would
feel the need to gather woodland animals for a spring-cleaning
sensation, complete with a sing-along.

We can all learn a thing or two about our own happiness through Snow White’s example. Though we don’t have to add a sound track to every motion we
make, we should look at every day as a new way to enjoy life. No matter
what we’re up against, we can make our own happiness.

For example, when you have a big project due, a vocab test to take, need to find a ride to school because you missed the bus, and just figured out that you put your underwear on the outside of your
pants, don’t sweat it! Be like Snow White and find a way to get rid of
the Grumpy in you. The first thing to do: take a deep breath. This is a
good idea, whether or not you are having a bad day!

Second, think of what could be worse. You could have a science lab due, or maybe you could’ve completely forgotten your underwear! So, go to step three: think about what you’re grateful for.
Be glad that you studied for that vocab test, and that you are able to
go to school. Step four: smile. Find something good in
your day. Don’t wait for someone else to hand you joy. Celebrate
whatever!

Just whistle while you work, send your dreams down into a wishing well, and use a smile and a song to get through your day, just like Snow White.

“There’s no use in grumbling when raindrops come tumbling. Remember you’re the one who can fill the world with sunshine. When you smile and you sing,
everything is in tune, and it’s spring, and life flows along. With a
smile and a song.”

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5. Determination

Everyone dreams about greatness. Those who achieve it have a little luck, plenty of faith, and an unfailing determination. Determination is the driving force behind every successful person, and requires patience and a strong heart.
I am not an extremely patient person. I also can’t deny that I have doubted my efforts. A lot.
But I am learning through my little, “young adult life lesson” moments. There are mornings when I wake up, thinking that there is no way in the world I could ever make it in the big leagues. And then I drink some coffee and everything seems right with the world again.
Caffeine-driven? Maybe. But keeping determination by your side can be quite a task. Every day that passes can seem like another notch on the yardstick of broken dreams. (Yes I did just use an incredibly awful metaphor. You’re welcome.)
Though it is a challenge, staying determined can not only keep up your stamina and help your efforts of reaching your goals, but it can also make a world of difference when it comes to your confidence. Saying “I can make it” instead of “I don’t know why I got myself into this” is better than a bubbly foot soak after a 3-hour hike uphill. It can be one of the most important things you ever do.
Let’s say, like me, you want to become a famous singer. Working hard, through songwriting, performing, and networking, is the main thing you do to “make it big”. Fate and luck are the only other things that can control what happens. That is, unless you let determination guide you. Determination can help you stay focused on your goal.
Determination is a way of life. If you have a dream, go for it. Let nothing stand in the way. If you believe with all your heart, everything in life will fall into place. How do I know? Because the key to staying determined is optimism in your everyday life.
There is so much power in the little things. Things that might go unnoticed. You get to work safely in the morning. You make it to the movie theater just in time to get the last two tickets. Your friend gives you the rest of her chocolate chip muffin because she wasn’t hungry anymore. These things, if recognized and appreciated, will help you to stay positive no matter what happens. And staying positive is the caffeine for your mental stamina.
If you have dreamed a powerful dream, send it out to the world, and believe that you truly deserve its success, then you almost have everything you need. It is when you enjoy the ride, and never give up, even if you hit a bump; that you will undoubtedly see your dreams come true.

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6. Inspiration

I write. I write music. I write music and lyrics, heartfelt poetry in journals and silly stories on wrinkly paper airplanes. Writing is a wonderful expression of creativity. It calms and invigorates, challenges and rewards. And, most importantly, writing craves inspiration.
Being inspired can be a mystical thing. We find the word “Inspiration” on coffee mugs, greeting cards, and “Go get ‘em!” wall posters. We see inspiration in Nike commercials and Rocky parodies. We mock inspiration as goofy fashion designs made of duck feathers and oil paintings of bizarrely posed, overweight disrobed women.
So what is inspiration, really?
Inspiration is the very thing that moves us forward. It sets our pulse racing and dares us to set the bar higher than we ever dreamed possible. Inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time. To feel inspired, a person must dismiss the stresses of life and simply observe life. What does nature do? What do inorganic things—buildings, clothing, machines—do?
When I write songs, I draw my inspiration from other people’s stories and personal emotions. The words are a part of the natural flow of an experience. The tempo of the music matches the feeling a person would have if the lyrics were happening to him.
If you desire inspiration, you can find it anywhere. Everywhere. You don’t need a coach shouting encouragement. Just notice the craftsmanship of the bird’s nest outside your window. You don’t need a great revelation, complete with dramatic music and fireworks, to create a wonderful story. Just witness the lovely, small moments an elderly couple shares sitting side-by-side on a park bench.
Finding your own creative inspiration is the first step toward inspiring others. By expressing our true selves through music, art, and literature, we become more unique and more understanding of others. We learn to respect ourselves and the wonderful things we have accomplished. And, in turn, we learn to respect and appreciate others’ accomplishments.
Finding inspiration can be incredibly valuable. Finding inspiration can set off a chain reaction which can change the course of our lives.
And all we have to do is open our eyes and let it find us.

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7. "Procratience"

The easiest thing in the world to do is procrastinate. To wait until the last minute because you don’t want to face cleaning your closet and you don’t to want to write a report on the history of existentialism. So, if procrastination is waiting because you don’t want something, is patience the exact opposite?

The two have the same general setup: you wait around for something to happen. Then, why is procrastination so easy and patience so hard?

When you are patient, you wish that time would pass more quickly, such as waiting for that Fed-Ex box with a Snuggie™ inside. Patience is a virtue, and it isn’t always easy.

Here’s a thought: what would it be like if we created a new way to wait called “Procratience”?

The next time you feel sluggish and dread giving grandpa his weekly therapeutic foot scrub, use procratience! Think about how happy gramps will be when his feet no longer smell like sour milk! And when you just can’t wait for your Salmon-Skittles Supreme Casserole to come out of the oven, be procratient.

There are plenty of fun, productive things you can do while you wait!

Waiting is tough. But with the right attitude, you can make it through in one piece.

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8. Live Like A Kid

I’m obsessed with being a kid. Not with being childish, but with that pre-K excitement that only a shiny “Great Job” sticker can bring. I try to equate this kind of obsession to a mid-teen crisis of sorts, or a childhood “Bucket List”, considering I have barely six months of legal childhood left.

But, in reality, it is actually a very healthy thing I have grown to appreciate, something I try to playfully flick at others in my life.

It is simply a child’s view of the world.

Now I don’t mean we should all throw tantrums in the cereal aisle at WalMart. I mean that we should appreciate everything in life with a pristine and slightly impractical enthusiasm. So what if a broccoli casserole just exploded in your oven? Did you have fun making it? Are you mature enough to order pizza and clean up the mess?

I hope so.

Are you enough of a child to laugh it off, smear a little of it on your nose, take a goofy picture, and giggle every time you open the file on your desktop?

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

At a time in my life when being “grown up” is no longer encouraged, but mandated, I find myself clutching at old, familiar things while contemplating new wisdoms like a seven-year-old contemplates his new, “big kid” bike. It’s a strange type of growing, no longer upward toward the sky but inward toward the heart, no longer wishing for more trees to climb, but wondering at how many I have climbed, and at how many I have yet to discover.

Being a grown-up is a tough responsibility, and sometimes we scribble right on top of it, never realizing that it came and wondering later where it went. The most important thing to do, then, is never to grow so old that we forget to grow up and remember to retain the innocence of childhood. A child wishes to be older, appreciates his youth, and cherishes the smallest details of life.

When you can truly view life like a child, you are able to see, hear, and feel life as it’s happening, and experience true generosity.

Of course, there can be a few side effects.

Thinking like a kid can lead to extensive coloring book collections, Disney Princess lunch boxes, and pink painted tiaras made from soda bottles and hot glue. But I’m okay with this. It’s a cushion of sorts, absorbing the new discoveries of my shiny new adult mind with a gentle cuddle, covering them with “Finding Nemo” rub-on tattoos, and tucking them safely away.

It’s a pretty nifty thing. I like it.

So I have learned to smile for no reason, to hum “Under the Sea” while doing laundry, and to make every day of growing up a special adventure.

Relax. Laugh. Enjoy.

Because every minute is important. Live it with fervor. Live it genuinely.

Live it like a kid.

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9. Confidence


For anyone who has seen a Shine Through program or has read Falcon’s Prey or Lymeria, you probably picked up a pretty obvious “Confidence is the way of the future!” vibe. For six plus years, I have been using writing as an esteem booster, and for four of those years, I have used motivational speaking to encourage others to find their own ways to gain confidence. But it was only this past summer that I myself learned the most important thing about confidence.
It came like a slap in the face. Simple, easy, obvious, and smarted like no one’s business. Why hadn’t I realized it before? It’s not like the idea was so otherworldly that I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming. The scary thing was that it was all so there, like a shop window you pass on your way to school, but fail to notice. Then, on a rainy day, as you find shelter under the awning after dejectedly walking home from missing the bus, you notice. How could you have not seen the beautiful things inside?
I have been practicing the art of self esteem my whole life. I have also enjoyed the fine sport of a good challenge. So, naturally, when I was shoved into the role of Lola in Damn Yankees a few weeks ago, I accepted the character as a worthy opponent. Boy was I in for a ride.
During the short breath of air before senior year, I discovered just how tough one of my biggest fears truly sized up to be. Lola was a fierce, sassy Latin seductress who drove men wild and got all the big dance numbers. I am a short, operatic piece of white bread who giggles at uncomfortable intervals and dropped out of tap class in the seventh grade after the first day. Nonetheless, I announced my determination and dedication to both the director and choreographer with a brave face and mounting courage. It wasn’t long till I was stepping on everyone’s feet and being told that my “sexy” voice sounded like Forrest Gump. It was turning into a long summer.
Opening night came on a Thursday. A long Thursday. A hot, sticky, muggy Thursday.
Being a veteran of the theater since age six, I had only occasionally experienced the butterflies and the shakes. Acting has always been, well, my thing. And I was always proud of the hard work I put in to make each performance my best. On that stifling, suffocating Thursday, I was perfectly ill.
Stage fright. Was I seriously falling victim to stage fright? Well, first the nausea, then the headache, and as I popped a Tylenol for the abdominal pain, my teeth chattered so loud that my friend offered me his jacket…in August. It was stage fright, the bane of the acting world, the vampire that seemed to suck all confidence out of my jugular. I felt the cold breeze of terror slide beneath the walls and through the cracks of my one true stronghold. After years of struggling with my self esteem, with bullies and loneliness, I had never once thought that my acting could ever be the target.
I moved out of the dressing room, where most of the cast sat in a messy circle singing the Beatles, and wandered off into the wings, or the side of the stage where everything was blindingly dark. I didn’t want to be seen in all my nervous glory. As I clung to the curtain ropes and tried desperately not to hyperventilate, I pondered.
Why this? Why now? I was finally at the moment in my life where things seemed perfect. My whole life I had wanted half of what I have earned over the past few years, and I can’t possibly be more grateful for it all. I have ventured far from being the friendless, overly-obsessive fat kid. I even refused to do many things that I loved out of fear of judgment and disappointment. Now, I have more friends than I can count, am starring in roles I had only ever dreamed of playing, am the author of two novels, have had the opportunity to reach out to young people across the nation, am complimented on my previously non-existent sense of style, and I’m loving life more and more each day. I thought that, if I could valiantly vanquish Lola in all her skimpy costumes and Charo-esque accent, I would finally have reached the top of my mountain, and could sit back and enjoy the view from my throne.
So it’s obvious why that slap in the face hurt so much. I realized, after sprinting uphill to receive my prize of a life’s supply of self esteem, I would never be able to.
Confidence is not a destination, but a sometimes bumpy, always scenic road that can lead you nowhere but up.
At the moment, I was struggling through a pothole.
The lights on the stage faded to black and I realized in a panicky hiccup of time that it was my turn to go on. Still keeping my head high, but feeling my knees tremble, I felt my way across the stage and sat on the chair placed slightly stage left, my heart pounding louder than the percussion from the orchestra below.
I had about twenty seconds to collect my thoughts and keep myself from fainting. What was I supposed to do now? The realization that I could never have perfect confidence was enough to throw me off balance, and with the added stage fright, I needed to resolve things fast. So, even if I completely conquered the Lola beast there and then, I would not be the queen of anything. Okay, that didn’t help…
But if I overcame my insecurities anyway, I would still be proud of my performance and still have a lot more self esteem than when I started. Better… And, if I knew that I would always have challenges to face, Lola wouldn’t seem so monstrous. Getting warmer… And most importantly, if I let go of all my inhibitions with this show, and realized that I was no superman, then I would be able to relax and enjoy the challenges and rewards that life would bring with a brave heart and a deeper appreciation. A little preach-y but as close to perfect as it would get with three seconds to go…
I took a deep breath. The lights came up.
And I had the time of my life.
So now, with Damn Yankees behind me and a life of improvement before me, I feel just fine. Knowing that I will always have a battle to fight makes me stronger. And knowing that my confidence will only grow brighter whether I win or lose makes me look to the future. We are all capable of making ourselves just a little better than we were the day before. That piece of proverbial comfort food may be just what we need to push ourselves just a little farther each day.
It gives us a gratitude for the things we have and the excitement to try new things. Confidence is always right beside us, waiting for our permission to give us a little nudge or a great leap to do what we never dreamed possible. So pack your sunscreen and charge your cameras. The long road of confidence is a beautiful thing. Snap a few pictures. Write a few postcards. And above all, enjoy the journey.

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10. Mothers Day


There are a lot of things that we take for granted. The plastic wrappers that individualize cheese singles, those couple of seconds between songs on a playlist that give our minds a chance to cool off from the previous song and get psyched for the next one. But possibly the most important and most common thing that we take for granted is the impact a parent makes on our lives.
So, maybe your relationship with your mom isn’t that great. She’s still the reason you’re here, and the one who paid for the cheese singles and the iTunes cards. And maybe your relationship with your mother is wonderful. Do you recognize every red sock pulled out of the laundry to rescue your white hoodie? Every yellow light sped through to get to your three-hour-long clarinet recital? Every time your toothbrush magically appeared in your sleepover duffel when you swore you had left it on your sink?
Mother’s Day was inspired by common meetings held by mother’s who lost their children in battle during the Civil War. Their meetings brought awareness to a mother’s role in American society, leading to a Mother’s Day Movement on the second Sunday in May of 1877, regarding the temperance movement, similar to a modern Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Ever since then, the observance of Mother’s Day has continued every second Sunday of May since.
What’s the big deal? Mothers have been our first everything. Our first best friend, our first idol, our first hero, and the first one we went to when we were sick, upset, or simply felt like bugging someone. Clearly, Mom deserves some recognition for being there every time. Conveniently enough, there’s a specific day on the calendar to do just that!
So, if you don’t have a fortune to spend on jewelry or flowers, or enough creativity to create a photo collage, or enough time to clean the house with a toothbrush, take just one minute to say thanks. You don’t even have to do it in person! Write a list of the things you appreciate your mother for; things she would never expect you to notice, like the fresh carton of milk in the fridge or the cell phone charger (which you thought you had lost) that wound up sitting on your bed when you got home from school. Put the list in her purse or wallet, or any other place where she’s bound to find it. And, if you’re that reluctant to say anything, send her a text that reads “tnx”. Those three letters will mean more than any number of gardenias or begonias.
Every day is Mother’s Day, so let Mom know that you appreciate her. Start to notice those little things that she does for you. Those things can add up quickly, and deserve an expression of gratitude every once in a while. Don’t take your mother for granted. Show her you care.
Happy Mother’s Day!

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11. With a smile and a song...


Snow White had the right idea. In celebrating springtime, we all think about the original morning person, herself. Poor Snow White was almost killed by that Huntsman guy, and yet she still chose to live in a bubble of blissful ignorance. Or was she really just a happy person?

I prefer the latter. Snow White is famous for her obnoxious operatic voice, when she should be known for her incredible ability to “fill the world with sunshine.” Think about it. No one else would be able to survive the evil queen’s horrid lack of hospitality without some form of sarcastic zinger or grunt of disapproval. And, when you’re forced to live in a crowded, dirty cottage with seven old, smelly guys, not a single one of us would feel the need to gather woodland animals for a spring-cleaning sensation, complete with a sing-along.

We can all learn a thing or two about our own happiness through Snow White’s example. Though we don’t have to add a sound track to every motion we make, we should look at every day as a new way to enjoy life. No matter what we’re up against, we can make our own happiness.

For example, when you have a big project due, a vocab test to take, need to find a ride to school because you missed the bus, and just figured out that you put your underwear on the outside of your pants, don’t sweat it! Be like Snow White and find a way to get rid of the Grumpy in you. The first thing to do: take a deep breath. This is a good idea, whether or not you are having a bad day!

Second, think of what could be worse. You could have a science lab due, or maybe you could’ve completely forgotten your underwear! So, go to step three: think about what you’re grateful for. Be glad that you studied for that vocab test, and that you are able to go to school. Step four: smile. Find something good in your day. Don’t wait for someone else to hand you joy. Celebrate whatever!

Just whistle while you work, send your dreams down into a wishing well, and use a smile and a song to get through your day, just like Snow White.

“There’s no use in grumbling when raindrops come tumbling. Remember you’re the one who can fill the world with sunshine. When you smile and you sing, everything is in tune, and it’s spring, and life flows along. With a smile and a song.”

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12. Trick or Treat

Halloween Night is quickly approaching, guided by costume stores popping up on the corners of every mini-mall, napkins and plates haunted by cartoon depictions of full moons and black cats, and seasonal episodes of your favorite cartoon shows on every channel. So, why on earth is Halloween relevant to self confidence?

Some Halloween traditions were taken from ancient traditions, including the wearing of costumes. Long, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away…) people would try to scare away the evil spirits that came out of the shadows on Hallow’s Eve by wearing frightening masks. The masks were these people’s defense against the ghosts that they were afraid of. But, when you wear a mask, don’t you do the exact same thing?

Many people choose to wear “masks” because they feel as though they need to hide from the world. But an even greater amount choose not to be themselves, and to put on a “mask”, because they are afraid of who they really are. These masks are a defense mechanism, designed to shield them from the criticism of others. What in the name of Salem, Massachusetts does that mean?

For example, let’s say that your friend Becky decides that she is now the biggest Jonas Brothers fan in the world. You, personally, prefer the soulful sounds of Kenny Chesney. Becky is absolutely bonkers over the Jonas Brothers, and you feel that, if you revealed that you were more of a Kenny girl, Becky may not feel the same way about you that she did before. You are afraid that your difference in opinion will put your friendship in jeopardy. (“I’ll take State Capitols for 400.” Okay, I know. That was an awful joke. Moving on…)

If you are the kind of person who hides behind a “mask”, you will ditch your beloved Kenny Chesney and pretend that you, too, are a Jonas girl. (Because Becky already claimed Joe, you settle on buying the T-shirt that says “Mrs. Nick Jonas”.) If you are confident in yourself and in your friendship, you will be able to admit your love of country music proudly. That does not mean that you both won’t be friends anymore. It just means that, in some ways, you and Becky are different.

In the Shine Through program, a motivational program designed to inspire self- confidence, participants learn that masks can be dangerous. When you wear a mask, you not only sacrifice your likes and dislikes, you can sacrifice your better judgment. When it comes to things like favorite music artists, wearing a mask doesn’t seem like such a big deal. How much can it hurt to choose one artist over another? But when it comes to things such as drugs, alcohol, and everything encompassed in the “bad influences” bubble, wearing a mask can really hurt you. So, in some ways, it is very okay to be different than Becky. Your choices are your own, and, by removing any masks you may wear, you can not only improve your self-esteem, you can keep yourself safe. The whole goal of the Shine Through program is to teach ways to take off these masks so that you can make smart healthy decisions in every aspect of your life.

And that’s perfectly okay! Being yourself means being confident about what you believe in, and standing up for what you feel is right, when the opportunity arises. There is no reason to hide behind a mask because you feel scared to be yourself. You are the only you that you know. Don’t be ashamed to embrace who you really are! And remember, just because it’s Halloween, it doesn’t mean that you have to wear a mask.

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13. Wildlife Warriors


There is nothing wrong with being a vegetarian tree-hugger. Nothing at all. You do know that many of the world’s largest animals aren’t carnivores, right? Being concerned with the welfare of our earth and its inhabitants isn’t just a type of fashion fad we follow. It’s definitely not a selling technique used by companies by labeling their products “green”. Keeping our globe clean and thriving, as well as keeping our fellow critters safe, is our responsibility as the dominant species. So, why not take some time out of your day to do something to help Mother Nature out a bit!

A while ago, I decided to become a Wildlife Warrior (through the Australia Zoo). Ever since I was little, I have been obsessed with tigers, though I am not quite sure why. Most young children have kittens on their school folders or little bunnies sewn onto their socks. I had tiger print lunch boxes and wore those creepy shirts with tiger faces on them. But that’s a story for another day… Anyway, as a Wildlife Warrior, I got the opportunity to “adopt” a tiger from the Australia Zoo. It was so neat! I got a picture of my lovely little (gigantic) Bengal tiger, Khan, and some info about him. Every little tiger-loving girl’s dream come true, right?

My point is that, when you help out, you always get something in return. Let’s say you find that a cashier gave you too much change for the donut you bought. If you return the money, you will most likely get a “thank you” from the cashier and the sunny feeling of a good deed. But, come on, it’s the twenty first century. We should get a little more credit for helping someone out! And so we will. When I gave to the Wildlife Warriors fund, I got the opportunity to take care of my very own tiger (technically speaking). Every time I look up from my computer, I see Khan’s picture, and it makes me so happy to know that I’m doing something good!

So, what happens after you return that extra change to the cashier? Who knows? You may find a ten dollar bill in your back pocket that you lost six months ago! You could have earned good luck for a whole day! There are just two little tricks to this “reward” thing.

First of all, you can’t look for your reward. Second, you can’t do good deeds just to get a reward. It doesn’t work that way. You can never know where your reward will come from or what form it will take. For example, there were four abandoned kittens in my neighborhood. Because, as I mentioned, I am a tree-hugging vegetarian animal-lover, I gave them food and shelter in my garage, and my family gave them plenty of attention to tame them, in order to find them loving homes. I know that I did a good deed, and was filled with that mushy, gooey feeling when each little fur ball found a good owner. I didn’t look for any reward because I felt that the kittens’ safety and happiness were enough for me.

There was one kitten left: the feisty little runt. No one wanted her! She was like the little cat in the movie Oliver and Company, only without the Billy Joel-obsessed doggie friends. So, in the end we had to keep her. I named her Sombrita, which means little shadow in Spanish (don’t ask), because she loved to pretend that she was still a wild cat, playing under blankets and behind curtains. I didn’t look for my reward, but now, every time she pops out from underneath a pillow or a tablecloth, I can see that this little kitty was precisely the thing I received for doing something good.

You don’t have to save kittens to be a good person. You don’t even have to donate to a big charity, even though that would be nice. Try picking up a candy wrapper that businessman just threw on the ground. Be nice to the planet and bring your own cloth grocery bags the next time you go shopping. Just doing the tiniest little things can have the biggest rewards. So don’t mock us tree-hugging vegetarians. We know that the best way to live a good life is to try and make the world a better place every day.

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14. Summer Olympics


Ah, the summer Olympics. Where the athletic heroes gather from all corners of the globe to share in their passion for greatness. Each country watches with bated breath as their representatives push themselves to the limits of the human body, working tirelessly as onlookers wonder, “Why can’t I do that?”. Just recently, I, too joined the millions across the earth to watch the competitions (while at a sleepover, painting my nails, my cheeks covered with sticky green face mask). While watching the athletes perform, I discovered that the passion to do the impossible has to stem from somewhere. I discovered that these individuals had to be driven, not merely by the desire to be the best, but by the desire to be their best. Gold medalists did not achieve glory by deciding that they were not good enough, but by understanding that they could be the best.

No one is perfect. This is a concept I discovered by watching the fantastic female gymnasts twist and turn and flip in inhuman ways. Not one performance was given perfectly. And these gymnasts were the best of the best. So, if every single athlete ‘messed up’, how was a gold medal rewarded? It was because every single one of those girls were focused enough to redeem themselves after a slip or a loss of balance. Not one of them gave up if their form was wrong or if they took an extra step for balance. The point of their performance was to do their best.

It may be shocking that even the greatest gymnasts in the world make mistakes. But it is not shocking that a person with incredible abilities had to work incredibly hard to achieve the opportunity to represent their country in the Olympic Games. Can you even imagine the hours of training these people have to go through each and every day? That, my friends, is dedication at its finest. So, what can we learn from that? Confidence. Those who are willing to dedicate most of their lives to making their dreams come true have to have the utmost confidence in themselves and their goals. But what if you don’t want to become a table-tennis champion or a gold medal winner for the trampoline? The same rules still apply.

If you want to become a veterinarian, for example, you need to first have faith in your dreams. Let’s say that you volunteer at a local animal shelter, a great way to start out on the road to becoming an animal doctor. Let’s also say that, on Saturday, your best friend in the entire world is going to see the newest action flick and invites you to come along. You have been dying to go see that movie, but you had already promised to volunteer that day. You have to make a decision. Now, let’s say that you have a huge exam tomorrow in bio class that counts as thirty percent of your grade. Yikes. Your best friend in the entire world is having this huge bash at her house tonight and you really want to go. You have another decision to make.

I’m not saying that you always have to choose your dreams over your friends. The point is that you keep your goals in mind when making decisions. If you know that you will work an extra hour the next time you volunteer, then go ahead and go to the movies. But if that is your only day available for the next month, you may want to reconsider. Also, if you think that you could be home by eleven from the party and get a good night’s rest before taking the exam, then go ahead and enjoy the party. But if you will be up all hours of the morning dancing around your friend’s living room, it’s not a very responsible decision to go. That is a champion’s choice. If you have a goal in mind, and you believe in it with all your heart, you have many decisions to make that could help or hurt you along the way.

Being a star athlete takes dedication. It takes the confidence to believe in yourself and your goals. It takes hard work and tough choices. Being the best person you can be is no different. You must create for yourself an Olympian outlook. Knowing that you are doing your very best, despite your mistakes, will make you stronger. Knowing that you never lose sight of your goals is important, and being able to find them again if you have made a mistake is even more important. So whether you are performing in the Olympics or watching them while your avocado face peel dries, you can learn quite a few life lessons from the champs.

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15. Back to School


Ugh. “Back to School” is back again. All the stores are filled with posters of happy, smiling kids with notebooks and markers, apples and ham sandwiches, all promoting sales on animal-print three-ring binders or fifty percent off mega-packs of Post-it notes. Can you believe that summer is over already?

Going back to school is somewhat hard to do, what with getting out of bed before sunrise and having to actually coordinate an outfit instead of just throwing a tee over your bathing suit. Oh, and not to mention, homework… (Is that the theme from the ‘Twilight Zone’ I hear?)

Returning to school means returning to friends, bagged lunches, gym shorts, and, of course, peer pressure. After a summer of fun in the sun, it can be difficult to find your ‘happy place’ again. You know, that place where you can forget about what others think?

Summer tutoring helps students keep up with their studies so that they are fresh-minded when the new school year begins. But unfortunately, there isn’t much tutoring for self-esteem during summer break. We all need to remember how important it is to be ourselves and to keep our goals in mind as we tackle the new school year.

So, when your friends all sign up for soccer try-outs and you really want to play the tuba in the marching band, don’t be afraid to be yourself! Do what makes you happiest. Your true friends will understand! Try new things and keep up with old activities that you love. Make new friends and keep up with old ones. Keep focused and never lose sight of your goals. Going back to school can be tough, but if you approach it with a confident and positive attitude, you can enjoy yourself and make lasting memories. (Oh, and getting rid of the ‘Twilight Zone’ theme song that’s stuck in your head isn’t such a bad idea, either…)

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16. The Road of Life


Just three weeks ago, I bravely faced the open road in a vehicle reading “Student Driver” and took my place as one of the courageous souls who travel the country upon the highways of America: drivers. Okay, so it isn’t all that incredible. But being able to drive is a part of life for many people, and it does teach some pretty important lessons.

For example, you’re cruising along on your way to the shore with the top down, the radio on, and your mom in the front seat (at least until you turn seventeen. New Jersey rule). You’re paying attention to everything you have to be paying attention to: the road, the signs that say “Rest Stop, ext.3”, the other cars around you. And you stop and think, What else does all this stuff mean? Unless, of course, you aren’t like me and are actually paying attention to the fact that traffic is backed up for 30 miles…

So, while you sit there, you realize that life is like a trip to the beach. (Or “down the shore” if you live nearby me… Again, another New Jersey thing. Like tomatoes.) Life can take you to the most beautiful, enjoyable place in the world, if you know how to get there. The first thing you have to do is pull out of your driveway. If you don’t get on the road, you’ll never get there! The same is true with your everyday life. Do you have a goal? A dream? Get on the road! Don’t just sit at home imagining what would happen if you took a chance. Pull out of your driveway and put the car in drive. (Figuratively, of course.)

The next thing you have to do is figure out how to get there. A good way to start is by planning ahead. Grab a MapQuest roadmap beforehand. It’s always good to figure out your best route first. Then, follow the road signs when you aren’t sure which way to go. Life has the same rules. Plan ahead before you leave. Take some time to analyze the best way of achieving your goal. Let’s say you wish to open the best bakery around. First, you might have to go to school to learn about owning and operating a business. Plan it out! Then, when you are unsure about something, others’ advice could help a whole lot, as long as you use your own judgment, as well.

So, you’ve made it to the highway! Hooray! You’re finally in the fast lane on your way to the beach! The most important thing to do here is watch the road and the other cars around you. It can get pretty dangerous in the fast lane, and you want to stay as safe as possible. Once again, you can apply this symbolically. (Either that, or I didn’t get enough sleep last night…) You always have to keep your eyes on the road. If you get distracted by a squirrel or a shiny antennae topper, you could easily get hurt. So, if you get distracted from your goal in any way, it could hurt your chances of achieving it. Also, if you have to pull over for something—anything—you need to get back on. Nothing of little importance should distract you from the big picture.

Ahh, success! You made it through the highway and are now cruising up to the parking lot right next to the sand and the waves. The sun is shining, the seagulls are screaming, and the little girl walking by is covered in chocolate ice cream. You made it! Now you can relax and enjoy the beautiful day. So, when you make it to your dream, your bakery is open, and you can sit back and enjoy your success, there is still one more thing you need to do. You need to say “thanks”. It doesn’t really matter who you say it to. You could say it to your professors at that college you worked so hard to get into, your parents for letting you bake cookies every day since you were three, or even your employees for doing such a great job every day. Just be grateful for achieving your goal!

So, the next time you sit in traffic, whether you’re in the driver’s seat, the passenger seat, or in the back squeezed between two little brothers fighting over the last French fry, take a minute to think about how you can apply everything around you to your own life. Just don’t think for too long, or you’ll miss your turn…

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17. Giving Back


Whenever you go to Dunkin Donuts and see those little jars with the pictures of dying puppies on them, you probably say “aww” and pocket the change you receive for your two-dollar-and-fifty-cents Coolata. Giving back doesn’t mean saying “aww” and walking away. When you give back, you hand over something that is yours, whether it be time or treasure, to someone or something else who needs it more!

Try it out! Look around you for inspiration. Good deeds don’t always have to be a public affair. Something simple, like picking up a neighbor’s fallen trash can, is perfectly fine. Going through old stuffed animals and giving them away to a homeless shelter is even better. Anything will do!

If you were to tell me three years ago that I would be traveling around the country promoting a motivational presentation, I would have told you that you were crazy and recommend for you a number of hospitals that would help you with your problem… But now, I can’t imagine going through my day without knowing that I have made an effort to help someone in some way. It becomes a habit in no time!

A good way to start is by planning to do five small acts of charity per day. It really isn’t that hard! You could start by putting away the clean dishes in the dishwasher without being asked to. Later, you could give half of your ham and cheese sandwich to the kid whose mother packed him tuna surprise for lunch. Elementary, right? (My dear Watson?) (Okay, no more Sherlock jokes, I promise…for now…)

I don’t really like publicizing the things that I have done in the past, but maybe this example can give you a few ideas: For my sixteenth birthday, I had a “fairy tale storybook” theme. I had all my friends (including the guys) dress up as characters from their favorite fairy tale or nursery rhyme. And, instead of gifts, I asked everyone to bring a few books they used to read when they were little to be donated. It was really simple! I ended up with a pile of almost 200 books!

It was such an easy thing to do, and I’m sure it will make a huge difference.

So, get your charitable brain juices flowing! (Umm…okay, so that wasn’t the best image…) Take a few minutes every day to look around and see what good you can do in your world. It will definitely not hurt you in any way! And you can feel proud that you helped just a little bit to make the world a bit brighter than before. (With rainbows and unicorns and bunnies… just kidding. But, that would be pretty awesome!)

And remember: that fifty cents left over from your Coolata could go a long way in helping to save the lives of poor innocent puppies! Don’t wait! Save a doggie today!

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18. "Purple Wig Theory"


The “Purple Wig Theory” in the Shine Through program is all about appreciating and respecting yourself, no matter what. The entire program is created in order to teach ways to be yourself and not change who you are. But, of course, there are exceptions to the rule…

When you learn to Shine Through, you learn to focus on becoming the person you wish to become. This means trying your best to be your best, no matter what others think. The goal is to improve upon yourself in the best possible ways, and not to worry about how others perceive you.

Say you’re a superhero who needs a secret identity. (Let’s make this fun…) You have always wanted to become a math teacher. Your super-friends don’t exactly agree with this idea. (They all are becoming journalists at local newspapers…) But, because they are your true super-friends, you realize they are still alright with your decision!

So, you choose a math teacher as your secret identity. But, of course, you need to go to college first. You have already learned how to Shine Through, so now what? Let’s say that, along with the ability to fly, talk to animals, and shoot heat beams from your eyeballs, you have the power of super-procrastination! (Ta-da!) In order to get to college, you have to learn to refrain from procrastination.

But, wait! The Shine Through program teaches to never change who you are! That may be true, but by improving upon your school skills, you are changing yourself for the better. You aren’t doing it because someone told you to, but because you wanted to. See the difference?

Now, Ms. Superhero, you have mastered the ability to accept the fact that you are different from your super-friends, to learn to like yourself the way you are, and to improve upon yourself to become the person you wish to be! See how easy that is?

I have my own example of improving upon yourself for the better. Last month, I was in my high school production of “West Side Story” as Maria. So, to play the part, I decided to dye my hair a lot darker. This seems pretty shocking from the creator of the Purple Wig Theory, huh?

Well, I decided that, by dying my hair, it helped me to become the character and improve upon my acting skills. Because drama is so important to me, it was worth it! I didn’t change who I was inside, but I improved upon myself as an actor. Still see the difference?

So, the next time you have an opportunity, improve upon yourself! It could be as simple as straightening up your sock drawer, studying an extra hour for your next Spanish test, or choosing to eat more fruit every day. Try it! And never lose sight of that person you wish to become.

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19. New Year’s Resolutions!

Happy New Year, everyone! Now that 2008 is FINALLY here, I’m sure that everyone is ready for a great new beginning and a fresh start. I know I am, (especially after all those Christmas cookies…)

New Year’s resolutions are fun to make, but can sometimes be hard to follow throughout the year. I know I’ve had trouble. Last year I promised myself that I wouldn’t overdo it on the Christmas cookies….Oh, well. You win some, you lose some. But what’s most important is if you try. And when you get through that first month, the other eleven are easy!

This year, I’m making a New Year’s resolution to Shine Through as much as possible. What do I mean? Each time I’m faced with a situation in which I have the choice to follow the crowd or be myself, I plan to be myself.

Huh?

Well, because I can see into the future (…), on January 20th, my friends and I go to see Enchanted in theaters. Again. And they all order a small popcorn, a bag of Skittles and a 16 oz. bottle of water. I’m not the biggest fan of popcorn. (Don’t get me wrong: I like eating it when I’m watching movies in the house where there’s dental floss nearby. And I’m definitely not carrying toothpaste in my pocket. Though there’s nothing wrong with that…)

So, in that situation, I would order myself a big bag of chocolate covered raisins. So, why is that such a big deal? Well, if I was wearing a mask in that situation, I would have ordered a small popcorn, a bag of Skittles and a 16 oz. bottle of water. Why? Because that’s what all my friends ordered. Why should I be any different? It’s a very small situation, but it can mean a whole lot. When you Shine Through, you choose to be yourself in whatever the situation may be. Especially when it involves choosing chocolate over corn…

My New Year’s resolution is that simple: I plan to be myself as much as possible! And you should, too. Besides, you’re the only you that you know. Who else is better suited to be YOU than YOU?

So pull out a sheet of paper and jot down your New Years resolutions, including your plan to Shine Through. (And don’t forget to write down that one about not drinking soda so fast. Don’t forget what happened the last couple of times you did that…)

Have a happy, healthy New Year! And don’t forget to Shine Through!

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20. Mosaic

“…Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end.” -Alice Paul (1885-1977), suffragist and author of the Equal Rights Amendment.

She’s right, you know. We need to be aware of where we put ourselves in that mosaic, and that we like where we are. We must all work together in harmony to create a beautiful and worthwhile piece of art! (Yeah, I know. I just had to say it. But the corny moment’s over now…)

But, even though it sounds like a line from an episode of Captain Planet, (Go Planet!!!), it’s completely true. We all need to decide—or design—the piece of the mosaic we want to be.

What does that mean? Well, how do you become a piece of broken stone—I mean, um, a piece of fine art? You learn to be yourself. If you are to become someone who is worth being part of a mosaic, you need to have the self esteem to become your own person. You can’t worry about what anyone else thinks. You are unique, and that’s what matters when making true art.

Take the Mona Lisa, for example. If she wasn’t herself and decided to be, say, macaroni art, there would be no reason for The DaVinci Code! (And that would really be a shame, wouldn’t it, Mister Hanks?)

It’s a pretty bad idea to not be yourself. If you really were a piece of shattered pottery, (which I’m not saying you are), you wouldn’t want to look like the piece of shattered pottery next to you. An artist would never pick you up to use!

You could stare at any given mosaic for two hours and I guarantee that you won’t be able to find any two matching pieces. (After two hours, you probably won’t be able to find your ride home, either.) But, even though no two pieces are the same, they all work together seamlessly to create a dazzling mosaic for the world to admire! (Okay, maybe I wasn’t completely done with my corny moment. But I’m finished now…I think…)

When in doubt, listen to Alice: it’s a good idea to be yourself, because you are an important part of the grander scheme. (She agrees that it’s also a good idea to sign up for the Shine Through Newsletter. But we’ll get to that later…)

In conclusion, only you can prevent forest fires! Wait, that’s not it.

To sum things up, the power is yours! Oh, wait, no. That’s Captain Planet again.

Oh, right! Always remember to Shine Through! That’s better.

(Okay, now my corny moment is officially over. But it was fun while it lasted.)

Sign up for the newsletter today!
(Just go to the home page and sign up in the grey area above the SJ Magazine article.)

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21. Thank You

This past Saturday, I visited the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to read a selection from "Lymeria" to patients.
It was really fun to be there and play with the kids. (I can't believe I lost that Care-Bear Memory Matching Game twice!)
It made me happy to know that everyone was able, if for just a few moments, to travel with me to the magical world of Lymeria.
I would like to say thank you to everyone that was there: the administration of CHOP, the staff, but especially the kids.....you know who your are...for allowing me this opportunity. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book and that Lymeria becomes a special place for you as it is for me.
I hope to come back soon. (Maybe next time I'll win that game.....)
Kristina

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22. Lucky Charms

Have you ever attempted to search through your entire back yard for a single four-leaf clover? Did you tear out every last flower in your grandmother's precious garden and every blade of grass in your father's precious lawn in a desperate attempt to find luck? Okay, maybe you haven't. I haven't done that either. (Except for those couple of times....last week...)
We all search for luck, whether it's by searching for four-leaf clover (and getting grounded for it), finding a penny on the sidewalk, or chasing a rainbow to it's end. (Or, of course catching Lucky the leprechaun before he uses his marshmallow powers to disappear.) But can't we bring about our own luck?
It's always fun to believe in luck - and, who knows? Maybe you really can get lucky-but you shouldn't rely completely on it. Maybe the reason you aren't getting lucky is because you aren't being proactive. Maybe, if you go after your dreams, the luck will come to you. It's worth a try.
For your next science test, feel free to wear your lucky underwear, but be sure to study well ahead of time. Your underwear can only do so much when it comes to acing that test. Trust me.
If you have a great idea, don't just dream about it or simply wish on a star for it. (That only works for Gepetto-and I'm sure you don't want a fairy breaking into your house and bringing your puppet to life. That would be creepy.)
Instead of waiting for your dream to come true, make it come true. Go after it! Keep a positive attitute and try your best. Lucky the leprechaun won't be able to resist you!

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23. Spring Fever

Got spring fever? I do. What is it about spring that gives us that fuzzy feeling inside? The melting of the snow? The birds that wake you up at five in the morning when you’re still asleep? The idea that you have to start mowing the lawn every Wednesday afternoon? The pollen? The spring cleaning? The ants in your pantry? (The ants in your pants?)

Though all these things most definitely signal spring’s arrival, I think that spring fever comes from the idea of new beginnings. Just like a tree begins to blossom with new flowers, we feel as if we, too, can make a new start. And what better way to start anew than by being yourself?

This spring, as you begin to scrub the places in your house that haven’t been scrubbed since last year’s spring cleaning—gross—you can also begin to think about new ways in which you can practice being yourself. Maybe there’s a school sport starting up this month. If you think it sounds like fun, go sign up for the team, no matter what you think your friends will think. If they really care about you, they won’t care that you like something that they don’t.

By letting yourself Shine Through, you are creating new experiences that you would have never imagined yourself being a part of. Try something new and exciting! Look at the world through your own eyes and you’ll see so many more fun opportunities to enjoy being yourself.

So, grab some Mr. Clean, some tissues for those allergy-induced sneezes, a fly swatter, and some self esteem, and get ready for a great new spring beginning! Just, be careful not to overdo it. You remember what happened the last time you used a fly swatter…

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24. Sweet Sixteen

Now, I know what pops into your head whenever someone says "sweet sixteen". It's that slightly irritating Hillary Duff song, right? I knew it! So, what is so amazing about turning sixteen? Why do we even have special celebrations like bat & bar mitzvahs, quincineras, and sweet sixteens?
Maybe it's just an excuse for a party. Or maybe it has something to do with an addictive desperation for cake with too much icing... Either way, these "special" years of our lives are celebrated because they represent something very important: our maturity.
And, at 16, we're definitely as mature as they come, right? We don't still watch old Barney movies and Disney sing-alongs while playing dress-up at our friends' houses. (I would never do that...)
By the time we reach these celebrated points in our lives, we should have a level of maturity worth celebrating.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean that we all start balding or go through a "four-twenty fifths" life crisis. We should, though, know how to make good decisions for ourselves.
When you Shine Through, you are acting maturely because you learn to make smart decisions about your life and how you live it. By acting like a mature adult, you are expressing your self-confidence and self respect. That's something worth celebrating. (Even if you do sing the "Go Diego, Go!" theme song on a daily basis.)
So, whatever you celebrate, whenever you celebrate it, know that all the cake and decorations, DJs and dances, don't really matter. What does matter is that you have th responsibility of being a mature person, and have earned self-respect and self-esteem. (And, it's also important to do something about that cake addiction. You know, because of what happened last time...)

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25. "I Feel Pretty"


Every girl at one point in their lives has sung the famous show tune whilst getting ready for some big event, in the shower, or at a sleepover at one a.m. I know I have, and really regretted doing so because, for the rest of the day, the song played through my head over and over and over and over…

When you think “I feel pretty”, you often don’t think “West Side Story”, the musical from which the annoying-but-loved little tune comes from. Since January, I have been rehearsing the show, (and have created a love/hate relationship with “I feel pretty”), because I was cast as Maria in my school’s production of the musical. “West Side Story”, aside from its more upbeat and cheery songs, like “Officer Krupke” and “America”, expresses such important, fascinating life lessons. Though we may have seen the Natalie Wood film version at least a zillion times, we probably have taken for granted all the obvious teachings.

During the first couple weeks of rehearsal, I was having trouble understanding my character, and found it extremely difficult to portray that character on the stage. Then, a little light bulb clicked on in my head. I figured out that, in order to understand someone, I had to listen to what they were saying. It wasn’t enough that I knew all my lines. I needed to understand them.

The most shockingly true line that I say in the show is: “But it’s not us; it’s everything around us.” At first, I took the line for granted. It occurs at one of the most emotionally intense moments of the story, when my character is losing all hope that she and Tony, the “Romeo” character, could ever be together in the world that they live in. It seemed pretty straightforward. Maria knew that she and Tony weren’t wrong in wanting to be together; it was everyone else that was wrong in trying to keep them apart.

But, when I really listened to what I was saying, I realized that my line meant so much more. I found out that what Maria really says is that, if you believe in anything at all that is good in the world, and have enough faith to pursue it, you create hope in the midst of those who create hatred. That is one powerful statement that I would have so easily let slip by me.

“West Side Story” is most obviously a modern version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. It is more often thought of as a spin-off of Shakespeare’s poetry, instead of poetry itself. Every word sung in the performance has so much purpose, and is not always recognized. Perhaps the most purposeful poetry in the whole of “West Side Story” occurs in the famous song “Somewhere”.

Everything said within the song gives the hope that the world will someday change if we have enough courage to make peace with one another. For example, the line “hold my hand and we’re halfway there” may be the most compelling. It tells the world how to live in the way we have always dreamed. All we have to do is join hands, make peace, and accept that we are not all the same, and we will have already made it halfway to a peaceful existence, side by side.

You see how just listening can make all the difference?

So, the next time you’re watching “West Side Story”, take a moment to think about what the characters are trying to tell you. Or maybe, the next time your mother is rambling on about something you would usually tune out; take a moment to think about what she is trying to teach you. Or perhaps, take a moment to listen to those you would usually ignore. Maybe they, too, have something important to say. Who knows? Maybe, if we all take just one more moment to listen and understand one another, we can find that place for us that we’ve always dreamed of.
“We’ll find a new way of living.

We’ll find a way of forgiving,

Somewhere.

There’s a time for us.

Someday a time for us.

Time together with time to spare.

Time to love, time to care.

Someday.

Somewhere.

We’ll find a new way of living.

We’ll find a way of forgiving.

Somewhere.

There’s a place for us.

Somewhere a place for us.

Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.

Somehow.

Someday.

Somewhere.”

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