Month: January 2014

A Not So Epic Clash of Cultures

My parents divorced when I was young, so young that I barely remember anything about them being married. When I was 5, my mother remarried to my wonderful dad, Alex, and my father began dating my wonderful mom, Michelle.

I lived with my mom during the school year, wherever in the world that turned out to be. My dad is in the military and we move pretty frequently, so my living locations would change often. Two years after they remarried I got a little brother, Matthew, seven years my junior, and later Allison, nine years my junior.

My mom, dad, and family

My mom, dad, and family

During the summer I stayed with my dad in Idaho. The first time I spent the summer with Michelle was a bit overwhelming. ┬áMichelle had been married before and had four kids of her own, Joe, two years younger than I, Tyler, my age, Lynne, four years older than I, and Josh, seven years older than I. I hadn’t really ever been around that many kids my own age before outside of school, so I didn’t know how to react other than whine and sit in the corner and read. Gradually though, I became more outgoing and consider each of them my brothers-and-sister-from-anotha-motha. (bringing my sibling count to a wonderful I-will-never-be-out-of-family-reach six).

My father, Michelle, brother-in-law, niece, and siblings

My father, Michelle, brother-in-law, niece, and siblings

Now here’s how it relates to this blog- my stepfamily is a mixture of culture all their own. Mexican, Yugoslavian, Native American, and other things I’m sure I’ll learn eventually. Most impacting on their identity is Native American. Specifically, their Lakota heritage (though I believe they have a history of other tribes in their ancestry). The first time I stepped into my step-grandparents house I was fascinated with the finely feathered dream catchers, hand woven quilts, and beautifully painted horse statues. The first time I went to a pow-wow I was enchanted with the beat of the drums and the colorful twirling and shining of the handmade dresses. The beadwork coin pouch I got from one of the stalls there is so worn from my 7-year-old fingers rubbing over the leather that the woven image of a girl droops in the middle.

Before I met them, my only introduction into Native Americans had been Disney’s Pocahontas singing “Colors of the Wind” as her luxuriously long black hair swirled and her cute not-rabid-at-all raccoon stuffed crackers into its mouth. My stepfamily showed me (at a very early age) that while your cultural identity was a part of your background, more than just a little checkbox on a survey, and something to be proud of, it did not dictate how you must act or who you have to associate with. My siblings are just like me, except my older sister and I can’t share base makeup and my brothers don’t have to slather on sunscreen when we go fishing.

My niece in a pow-wow outfit

My niece in Lakota dress

On the same note, your ancestry can be fascinating and learning about others ancestry is equally as enthralling. I was blessed in a Mormon church after I was born (I’m not Mormon, but my ancestors are) and I was given an exceptionally pretty Lakota blanket to celebrate my accomplishments when I graduated high school. My family in Texas prides itself on BBQ and pecan pie and my sister mixed her modern day wedding with her grandfathers Lakota prayers and blessings.

My step-grandpa in a Lakota ceremony

My step-grandpa during the ceremony

Ignorance is one way stereotypes are created. Just because my siblings are Native American doesn’t mean they wear moccasins and weave feathers in their hair. Similarly, just because I’ve got some Irish roots doesn’t mean I look for leprechauns and get hogwash drunk at the local pub.

So, keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to ask someone about their cultural heritage. Some of the stories might be fascinating and each one will open your eyes to cultures outside of your own. Never be afraid of a little learning.

My nieces and I

My nieces and I

“Give me knowledge so I that may have kindness for all.”- unknown Plains Indian

What I Want to Convey and Why it Matters to Me

With over seven billion people in the world today, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling alone or out of place. With so many people and just as many unique personalities, it’s hard to imagine being able to get by without ever meeting someone who doesn’t share the same viewpoints, skin color, or abilities as your own.

Yet for some reason, some try to seclude themselves to people just like them. Some people go their entire lives without seeing and understanding cultures different from their own. Without stopping to get to know the guy who lives right down the street who walks a little different and talks kind of funny, who’s just odd enough that not many approach him. Some people never get the nerve to strike up a friendly conversation with the old lady who rides the bus with them everyday who seems nice enough, but she doesn’t say the same prayers they do.

As easy as it is to forget sometimes, diversity is everywhere if you know where to look. Diversity isn’t just black and white. It has variety and depth, ranging from skin color, to body modifications, to religion, to handicaps, to nationality.

And diversity is a good thing.

How boring would it be to have a conversation with someone who looked just like you? Who thought just like you, who watched the same television shows you do, ate the same food, shopped at the same stores, had the same beliefs, the same sports interests? Would you ever have a reason for passion of any kind if you never met anyone different from you?

I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many diverse people. My military upbringing forced me into new situations almost everyday, where I had to meet new people, move to new places, try new foods and learn new concepts. It was scary, definitely. But it started a passion to know more. I wanted to understand and learn about all the things and people that were different from me and what I had been taught growing up. Some things and traditions have been easier to understand than others, but they’ve all been worth knowing.

That’s why I’ve created this blog. (Not just because I have to have a blog for my class, haha) I choose this theme because I want to know more about the diversity around me. When you look around Auburn, Alabama, it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over and start believing everyone is just the same in this town.

But I know there are thousands of unique perceptions waiting to be seen here and I know there are people like me who want to learn more about things they don’t quite yet understand.

So here’s to first blog posts, may this be a set up for good quotations, the continuation of (hopefully) acceptable grammar and the start of a new look into diversity.