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It’s Grade Four Long Jump. Not The Answer To Stop World Hunger.

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BY ABBY MAC

I stand on the sideline of the long jump pit measuring the scores of each grade four girl, at the school athletics carnival.  I smile and tell them well done and try to dismiss the obsessive parent in the background who insists in telling each girl their exact measurement, how far behind or in front they are from the previous girl and the exercises they need to do to be a better long jumper.  Then, the teacher makes a crucial mistake.  She asks for volunteers.  That parent I was trying to ignore is now in my face, her necklace jangling and earrings swinging side to side.  She’s bouncing up and down to be selected.  She’s the only one volunteering.

Now she has a job at the long jump.  All she has to do is measure how long each girl jumps.  Round it off to the closest centimetre and if you really want, millimetre.  The first girl jumps, she starts measuring and for the next five minutes debates whether she jumped 1.02 metres or 1.03.  Her two year old son, Miller (???) who is a great “helper”, jumps out in front of the girls each time they’re jumping.  Miller, seems to have trouble to know what the word “no” means, but I am reiterated to that he is a great “helper”.  The mother starts talking to me again, trepidation and excitement mixed in her voice.   Her daughter is about to jump.  Will she meet her PB?  Oh, how nerve-racking?  Her daughter jumps, and just like her brother Miller, doesn’t seem to understand me when I speak.

“You fouled.  I’m sorry.”

This is where you're meant to jump from.

This is where you’re meant to jump from.

 

“I did not foul,” yelled the little girl!

“I don’t think my Lily* fouled,” yelled the mother/volunteer.

“I’m sorry but the rules are you have to jump before the white line.  Lily jumped whilst she was in the sand.  That is way over the line,” I informed them.

 

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This debate continued for another five minutes, arguing that we could just grant her with the benefit of the doubt.  Eventually, the little girl stormed out of the pit (she actually walked to where she was meant to jump from, which I could technically measure her from there because that was the last footstep in the pit, but I didn’t because it wasn’t the OLYMPICS) and her mother ran over to the tantrum-ing little girl  and reassured her that she was still the best – she would do better on the next jump.  Once their little pep talk was over, the mother raced back over to me where the following conversation took place.

“My Lily, she just gets really sad when she fouls so I just have to make sure she is okay.”

“Right.”

“Yes.  Yesterday, she was doing discus and she threw a really good shot but it was a foul, as well.  The sports teacher there, Mr Clohe*, said that was the best shot he had ever seen and if it wasn’t a foul then it would have been the best discus throw ever.

Because Grade Four discus would compare to something like the Olympics.

“I can imagine.”

“Grace was just great!”

This mother continued with her fascination of being the coolest, most knowledgeable and completely over-rated mum there.  She compared kids in my grade with each other (how does she even know their names?  Her own child is in grade four???) and went on to measure every jump to 1.03792 exactly.  And she annoyed me.  A lot.

I stood at that athletics carnival and had a look at the parents who were there.  I listened to their conversations such as, “I cannot believe the technique they are teaching for shotput!” (Grade Three) and “I was so angry that my child did not get a PB in high jump, yesterday!” (Grade Three, again).  I looked in utter disbelief and thought:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE WORLD?  WHEN DID ANYBODY CARE IF A SEVEN YEAR OLD DIDN’T MAKE A PB?  THEY’RE SEVEN?  WHEN DID THEY EVEN GET A PB?

Initially, I was just struck in absolute shock and then I became quite angry.  These parents, these obsessed and pressuring parents, are become so fanatical with their child and minor achievements such as the extra 0.000001 they added to their long jump PB that one day, that child will just give up.  That child will feel so much anxiety and pressure to win or get a PB that their fuse will just burn out and in turn, so will they.

This constant obsession that our society seems for our children to be able to play Grade Five piano when they’re five, winning nationals for swimming, cross country and netball, academically receiving A++ in every subject and being socially perfect is just rubbish.  I cannot understand why a parent would choose to inflict such pressure onto their child – such pain for a child to endlessly desire to live up to their parents’ growing, changing and heightening expectations and let their child run until the ends of the Earth just to please, but, nonetheless, it happens.  I see it every day.  I see what the parents want and what the child wants.  I see the polar opposites trying to meet and then one day, everything that child has ever done and the person they have become is stripped.  They get to a point where they can no longer cope with any pressure at all so they let everything go.

 

Let your child grow up.  Let your child lead their own life and nurture their talents, gifts and weaknesses.  Your child should be the most beautiful thing in the world to you, no matter their PB in Grade Four long jump, and if you can’t appreciate them just as they are, then you’re not being a true parent.

 

Did you know any parents who pressure their children?  Do you do it?  Why?  Do your parents pressure you? 

The Way to Solve Bullying Is Not Through Awareness

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BY ABBY MAC

Through all the seminars, awareness programs and group chats at school that revolve about bullying and the urge to stop it, none have succeeded.  I am probably bursting dreams of many of the motivational speakers which have come to schools trying to convince various people not to bully and how to cope with bullying best, but the fact of the matter is; THEY’RE NOT WORKING.  I am sorry to break it to you but unfortunately, the hours spent promoting and having various “Say No to Bullying” days is not putting an end to bullying.

I have been severely bullied most of my schooling life (so far this year there has been none – let’s not jinx that) so I think it is fair that I have an opinion on this.  There are many different ways to attack the issue of bullying and each method will work better for a different victim and put a stop to the bullying faster.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” and sometimes that can be the largest problem with teachers, adults or anybody trying to solve bullying.  Approaches have to be different depending on the situation, type of bully and who the victim is.

Before writing this post, I questioned what I thought could end bullying and to be honest, I don’t know 100%.  I can provide advice and how I would have liked to seen the bullies be dealt with but they aren’t definite answers either.  Who knows what goes through the mind of someone that openly chooses to demean, degrade, criticise, inflict pain and damage another person?  Sometimes, nothing at all.  Below are a few things that I think need to be actioned more and unfortunately, more harshly.

1.       Accountability

Throughout the years that I have been bullied, not one person who has bullied me has ever had to apologise.  Not one.  Ever.  Quite frightening?  Not once have that had to admit to bullying me and apologise.  People not being made accountable for their actions means that haven’t had to see any fault in their behaviour.  It means that they aren’t being told that they’re behaviour they are showing is wrong.  Consequently, no effort has to be made by them to change.

Most time incidents of bullying has occurred, I have reported it to a teacher or if matters become worse, a year co-ordinator, deputy principal or headmaster.  Each time, they have either denied the bullying is occurring (Yes, because they would know sitting in their offices) or promised some sort of action which has never been followed through with.

Ensuring that bullies become accountable for their actions can firstly help to recognise their behaviour is wrong and in doing this, it tells them they have been caught and an excuse is not going to be provided for their behaviour.  Hopefully, this will lead to a cease in the bullying.

2.       Identifying all types of bullying

Bullying is not just punching someone.  It is not just calling them fat.  It is not just writing them a mean message.  Bullying can also be being a bitch.  At my last school, bitchiness, what the prime type of bullying I received, however, bitchiness is sometimes the hardest to identify and the easiest to cover.  Many people underestimate the power of people, particularly, girls being bitches to each other because bitchiness, is most of the time silent and adapted to directly hurt the individual intended.

Bullying is not okay

Bullying comes in all forms. And none of it is okay.

For instance, I was standing in line at school waiting for a class and a group of girls came up to our class and waved and said hello to everyone standing there.  Apart from me.  They did this every time we had that class for one and a half terms.  To an adult, it’s something you should just get over.  But when that happens every day, in front of everybody else, it hurts.  Or a group of girls playing “What Do I Hate” in class.  They were all sitting around me and it started with, girls with blonde hair, girls who wear their hair in plaits (I was wearing my hair in plaits), girls in White House (I was in White House), girls whose names begins with ‘A’.  It’s bitchy.  And it sucks.

Trying to tell an adult that them simply death staring you every time you go to your locker and following you to your next class but they aren’t in your next class, can just sound petty.  Most of the teachers I told said that I was just interpreting their behaviour wrong or for me to just grow up.  And that’s because they just don’t understand that bitchiness hurts and is hard to stop.  Identifying this and all types of bullying is key to stopping it.

3.       Why?

Most of the bullies that I have encountered they either suffer from issues at home or have reasons (not always directly linking to the victim) for why they bully.  Some have been bullied at home by parents or siblings, are acting by rumours they have heard or from friends and jealousy.  None are justifiable for the bullying but it helps to understand why.

Identifying and fixing the biggest question of all – why, is the greatest milestone of stopping individual cases of bullying.  Though it is the greatest achievement, it is often difficult to discover.  In some circumstances it is embarrassing, not yet understood or they are found out to be wrong.  As an example, in grade one I was bullied by another girl and it started because she was being bullied and abused by her mum.  Now, what she was doing to me wasn’t acceptable but it helped to explain why she was acting in the way that she was.  She clearly wasn’t cared for or had any control over her own life and so she needed to inflict the pain she was on me.

Questioning and attempting to understand the thought process of the bully can also be hard for them as speaking their reasons aloud can be embarrassing on their part.  Now, embarrassment isn’t always the solution but it aids in ceasing the bullying.

4.       Enforcing punishment and change

I don’t always source complete agreement on this point, however, I believe enforcing stronger punishment is crucial to stopping bullying.  Solving the root of bullying, which I addressed above, is the real solution to stopping bullying though this process is time consuming and in the meantime, we solve the more immediate issue with direct punishment – showing that for every action there is consequence.

As an example, I came out of the gym one day to the sports notice board.  For a couple of days, photos from our school touch football team were on the board and there happened to be one of me about to pass the ball.  As I walked out towards the board a group of girls from my team were standing around the photo of me.  When they saw me, they looked back, giggled and walked away.  The photo of me was now a photo of my body with my head ripped out and in the team photo, my face was scribbled out with pen.

Nothing happened to those girls.  The photo was simply taken down and replaced with a new one after I reported the incident.  These girls continued their parade with refusing to pass the ball to me on the field and different tactics to get me out of the team.  There was no punishment.  No consequences for their actions.  In this incidence, immediate punishment would have stopped their behaviour.  The school instigating that they will not play any games until their torments stopped.  I can almost guarantee I would have no longer been bullied if quick enforcement of the rules had occurred.

More action needs to be taken to bring an end to bullying instead of pitying the bully for the punishment that they might get or giving them one more chance when they have clearly abused the amount of rope you have already supplied them with. In cases like this, how much the victim suffers and will continue to suffer without punishment towards the bullying, is far worse than small punishment for poor behaviour.

5.       Becoming real.

Many teachers, parents and adults don’t like to believe that the perceived Good Girl is oh so bad.  As parents, I can imagine it would be hard to think that the son or daughter you brought up could not be the person that you thought they were.  Though, it is better to make small admissions and fix their behaviour than letting it continue and escalate.  At my last school, they refused to admit that girls were bullying each other and preferred to live in a perfect world of perfect people.  Such action caused the dux of their grade, most valuable hockey player, needed touch player for the undefeated team and competitor in swimming and athletics to switch to a different school.  Just because they didn’t become real.

Having pictures around the school with a big, red zero around it does not stop kids from bullying.

Bullying

These sorts of posters. They don’t help.

If schools think this is a good enough solution to bullying then they are very stupid and frankly, partly responsible for bullying.  I have witnessed first hand the commence of “Bullying Awareness Week” and having a discussion in class about actively trying to stop bullying, and kids walked out and impersonated and bullied a boy in our class.  Bullying awareness isn’t the answer.  It also isn’t completely invaluable.  It helps in some aspects of bullying, but it does not solve it.  When the world works this out, so will bullying.

Have you been bullied?  Was it fixed?  If so, how?  

Uh. Oh. I still have a teddy.

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BY ABBY MAC

It’s time for me to make a confession.  It may change the way you think of me.

I. Still. Sleep. With. A. Teddy. Bear.

I know, I know.  From the looks of other teen’s lives, I should have dropped this relationship when I was 10.  My teddy bear, Honey, and I have been together since I was one.  She has travelled across houses, states and watched me grow up.  She does come with me to my friend’s houses (when I stay the night) but that’s not because I can’t sleep without her.  I take her because I can.

Abby and Honey

Honey and I

Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t secretly hidden in a back-pack wherever I go, we have space.  I don’t play tea parties with her (not that that’s a problem), she isn’t dressed in different outfits every day and she is not in a relationship with another teddy.

She simply lays on bed during the day and when I go to bed, she is tucked underneath my arm and we sleep.  Is there something so wrong with that?  I don’t think so.  According to Parenting-Advice.net, teddy bears support the child and makes the child feel supported and accepted.  They can make the child feel loved and help with emotional distress.  Tick, tick and tick.  That’s what Honey is for me.  But I am no longer a child.

Honey

Honey is excited!

When I was about 10, I stopped bringing Honey away to friend’s houses with me, simply because at that age, people do judge you for it.  You are transitioning between child and tween.  And, at the time, it seemed uncool.  However, I think as a teen with friends who know me very well, I can take Honey to their house and they can bring their unicorn, bear or mouse to my house.  Having a teddy bear, or whatever animal you have, is now something that is funny and just accepted.

I don’t want to leave Honey anytime soon.  Please tell me you feel the same.

Do you have a teddy bear?  When did you stop sleeping with a teddy bear?  How does having a teddy bear make you feel?

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‘Not New Year’s Resolutions’

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BY ABBY MAC2013 has finally arrived and we can try to say goodbye to the old and start afresh. We can make 2013 the best we can; just like we promised 2012 was going to be! After a while, 2013 is no longer a novelty but just another year which means another school year, work year and of course, the dreadful feeling of not fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions.

Aren’t they a bit tired by now; New Year’s resolutions? Doesn’t everybody feel that no matter what your goal is, one usually gets caught up in something else and that resolution just gets put on the ‘next year’ list? For the first five days of 2013, I will sit outside and watch endless men and women try to conquer the hill we live on, and then for the rest of the 351 days of the year (Boxing Day – that’s another good day to sit outside) no one is running.

Happy New Year

Another chance to get it right? Bring. It. On!

I have never really thought of any New Year’s resolutions before, though, last year I did say I wouldn’t put as much tomato sauce on my meals. That didn’t work out. Seeing as though most people’s New Year’s resolutions aren’t fulfilled, I think we need to re-write the type of New Year’s resolutions. Instead of saying what we are going to do, how about we say what we aren’t going to do? For example, instead of writing – I am going to give people Christmas presents, one could write – I am not going to deprive my friends of Christmas presents. How does that sound? Here’s mine:

1. I am not going to procrastinate and encourage my dog to sit beside me when I write, meaning I have to pat him and therefore not write.
2. Since I can’t pat my dog anymore, I am not going to flip my phone up and down as procrastination.
3. I am not going to check the stats on the blog every 7 seconds.
4. I am not going to worry about other people and their thoughts on me.
5. I am not going to cater for everybody else. When somebody else in the assignment isn’t doing their work, I am not going to do it for them.
6. I am not going to give up on this.
7. I am not going to sit outside and watch the troopers battle our hill. I’ll cheer them on.

What’s your ‘Not New Year’s List’? How did you celebrate the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013?

Make-Unders.

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BY ABBY MAC

I love them. I really do adore them. And I think it’s time we brought them to Growing Pains.

I found the idea of having a make-under on the television show ‘Snog Marry Avoid’ where girls (and boys), who wear a little bit too much make-up and buy masking tape as T-shirts, are made-under to their natural and more attractive look. The public is asked at the beginning of the show whether they would snog, marry or avoid that girl (or boy) and once the make-under has been completed the public is asked again. Most times, the majority of the public prefers the made-under version of one girl (or boy).

Even though ‘Snog Marry Avoid’ may seem like a tongue-in-cheek television show, the fundamental idea never ceases to amaze me. The girls that enter the show are completely dependent upon their makeup and skimpy clothes to ‘hide’ what is on the inside; mostly insecurity and self-consciousness.

Public Analysis

Would you snog, marry or avoid her?

I have read many articles which list all the reasons why girls wear make-up and they wear it not because they are insecure about their looks, but because they enjoy wearing it. I get that. Totally. I am not a big make-up wearer (because I don’t know how to apply it) but I do use it on certain occasions; weddings, eating out etc.

For some, make-up is like a hobby or playing sport. It is something that they are thrilled and interested by, however there are people telling them to stop using it, for no reason. I wouldn’t let someone tell me to stop playing hockey or shopping for no sufficient reason because I LOVE to play hockey and go shopping. People feel the same about make-up. Make-up can be worn so the user can look more professional, more polished, coverage from the sun and coverage of blemishes and pimples. But when I see girls of all ages wearing more make-up on their face than I have in my life, I start to question the extreme of this ‘hobby’.

Transformation

Who would you prefer?

That’s why I’m calling for a make-under to all those who can’t even go to sleep without make-up on. I’m not asking for all application of make-up to be immediately stopped, that’s unrealistic and not necessary. But, we need to empower those around us with the knowledge that you don’t need to wear gallons of make-up and instead a light foundation, mascara, concealer, eye shadow and gloss. For whatever purpose you wear make-up for, it doesn’t necessarily improve you. You deserve to feel natural.

Did you know?: Make-up affect people’s skin differently. Though, this does depend on the brand, how long you wear it for and how much you apply. Typically, skin can react in two ways; irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis can be felt as a burning sensation or itch on the skin, however, the allergic contact is a ‘true’ allergic reaction resulting in sores and blisters.

Make-up can also be the cause of or worsen acne. If make-up is removed by the end of the day and after exercise, your skin won’t react or as badly, however certain oils will have negative effects on your acne.

To avoid all these symptoms, look for make-ups that are oil and fragrance free and hypoallergenic (less likely to cause allergic reactions), noncomedogenic (they won’t block pores – the cause of acne) and nonacnegenic (shouldn’t cause acne).

7 Tips on Make-up:

  1. Eye shadow can sometimes be the worst offender. The skin around this application zone is extremely sensitive and will easily react to eye shadows, kohl pencils and mascaras.
  2. Be careful when rubbing your eyes with nail polish on, this can also affect the sensitive skin around them.
  3. The best way to retain the moisture in your skin is to not use cosmetics every day. Eczema, dermatitis and inflammation around the eyes can also be caused by cosmetics.
  4. Never share your make-up. Even ask for a new sponge when applying make-up at a store. The brushes and sponges will always carry bacteria from the skin. You wouldn’t share a lollipop, would you? So don’t share your make-up brush.
  5. Don’t ever sleep with make-up on. For instance, if you were wearing mascara and the flakes from it fell in your eye; it can cause itchiness, infections or blood shot eyes the next morning.
  6. There are certain ingredients that are used in make-up that can cause harmful repercussions as serious as cancer. They include:
  • Bithionol
  • Mercury compounds
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Halogenated salicyanilides
  • Zirconium complexes in aerosol sprays
  • Chloroform
  • Methylene chloride
  • Chloroflurocarbon propellants
  • Hexachlorophene

8. The preservatives in cosmetics are the second biggest causes of skin problems. Here are some of the preservatives you should avoid:

  • Paraben
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Formaldehye

Do you wear a lot of make-up? Why? Are you going on a make under? Why do you feel people apply too much make-up?

WISE WORDS: Make your own adventure.

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BY ABBY MAC

Make your own adventure, instead of living everybody else’s. It’s funny how someone can say something to you for your whole life and you never really understand it or try to, but one day it seems to make complete sense. The world stops spinning and it seems as though everything has fallen into place.
That’s what happened when my mum said, ‘Make your own adventure, instead of living everybody else’s’, to my brother. I think most people will have heard different forms of that saying, possibly ‘live your life/don’t live someone else’s’ or ‘do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’. Though I have endlessly listened to these reoccurring statements, I had never bothered to listen properly.

My brother is the type of boy who enjoys playing computer games, video games and watching YouTube and TV. And he is the type who is often caught between the graphic world and the real one. Sometimes it seems that these two worlds are the same and he is more interested in ‘Minecraft’ or what television host is jumping off what building, than what the real world offers; what he offers. But, there is a time where someone must stop his easiness with stepping in other people’s tracks and alternately, making his own.

Make your own adventure. Seriously.

Make your own adventure. Seriously.

That is where the saying comes in. My mum sat across the bed from my brother, listening to what friend got up to level 9 on a game I can’t even remember, and she just said – ‘Make your own adventure, instead of living everybody else’s’. Bam. Her words hit me with brute force. They weren’t even directed at me but I felt them just as hard.
Instead of living and reliving other people’s adventure; make you own. Live your own. I don’t want to sit back and enjoy the adventure that someone else has made, when I have the opportunities to make my own. There are some things that limit you to what you can or can’t do; age, medical condition or education, but when you want to make an adventure happen, it can happen.
That’s why I decided to write a blog. I couldn’t feel comfortable with reading what adventure someone else had lived that day, on their blog, when I could be reciting my own. I could let other people read my adventure.
It would be wrong and unfair to ask my brother to stop engaging in the activities which he genuinely enjoys, however, you can start expecting him to experience his own activities. It’s also unfair if my adventure is starting a blog, then asking all my friends to do the same. Of course you can listen and embrace other’s adventures, as long as you have your own. It’s time for everybody, especially teens, to stop following in other people’s footsteps and set their own. There will come a time, when people will follow in yours.

Finding that Perfect Party Get-up!

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BY JESS WRAY

We all love an occassion to dress up in our favorite dress or jeans or skirt or… crocs. Whatever tickles your fancy really. However, there is always that anxiety and stress over what to wear to the specific event. If, in this case, the event is your friend’s party there are so many things to consider. Are there going to be boys there? Is it a pool party; if so, what kind of swimming togs do I take? Bikinis or the evil one piece? Are their parents going to be there? Should I go for the classy look? Hipster look? Should I wear my cap backwards or forwards?

I don’t know about you, but those endless questions make my head want to explode but luckily I am here to save all of you over-thinkers! I have a solution for picking a really fab outfit to wear to your friend’s party that will tick all the right boxes of approval and definitely turn some heads when you are partying HARD on the dance floor like Abby and I most days… or just playing monopoly with friends. When choosing what you are going to wear, try avoid just wearing clothes because they are in fashion, sure, if you love a specific outfit that just happens to be in fashion go right ahead, but if the style doesn’t suit you or your body, it’s just not going to make fetch happen! Choose your favorite clothes that you feel most comfortable in and the clothes that suit the occasion. By this I mean, don’t wear a ball gown to a party just among  friends, unless of course it was a fancy dress party or something along those lines. If you are a bit of a trendsetter, you may often feel obliged to be always be seen in a different outfit to avoid the terrible, ‘same-outfit-syndrome’ and that is no problem either, there are ways to have fresh looks without repeating outfits or breaking the bank.

I call this, mix and match. Say for example, you just bought the cutest skirt but you have no new shoes or top to go with it. Go into your wardrobe and dig, sometimes this means literally digging through all your clothes and find something you haven’t worn for ages, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you can find (well that’s what my mum says anyway). For cool accessories, check out your mum’s ‘retro’ jewelry box, this actually works! Believe me, there have been so many occasions I have found some really “indie” jewellery thanks to my mum. I also enjoy swapping clothes with friends sometimes which can actually be quite fun, you and your friends can decide whether you will keep the clothes forever or only temporarily but it can be a big help if you are having a massive fashion crisis…

So let’s get to it, the next three looks are what I would say you should and should not wear to a party, so please take into consideration that my opinion may be different to yours, but I think we can all agree on the first one.

So now that I have left you with some ideas for cute outfits, it’s all up to you and I have full confidence that you will make the right decision. However if you are still struggling to find an outift or you just need to ask me something please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me via twitter.

Finally, you must always remember ….

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” ― Coco Chanel