Advice from Teens: Recognizing Our Privilege

By: Kaitlyn 

When I first started teaching, I wanted to tell of my experiences and what I've learned from my kids in a series called "Advice from Teens." In the past, I've generally written a reflection of when I was closing a certain chapter, but I've been blessed to have been working at the same high school for more than three years now. It's been wonderful to be in one place to get to know the same students year after year. 

I wanted to write this series (and wanted to become a teacher) because I think that there's a huge lack of respect toward the ideas and opinions of the young people in our world. Society tends to push away or ignore teenagers' opinions, dismissing them simply because they are "young" and "don't know what they're talking about." 

That is far from the case. Most of the time, my students see things and understand things in a way that most adults fail to. 

This was especially apparent in the election this past season. My students were able to have honest and open conversations regarding issues that adults were avoiding to mention (ie. race, sexism, sex, etc.).

This morning, I was chatting with one of my seniors that I've now known through his whole high school career. He's a young, black man that has struggled to gain respect, despite his efforts to always show it, and has faced the reality of the racism that still exists every day. 

He was telling me about his frustration with talking to his peers about politics (especially when it comes to economic issues). 

"The people that think they know it all, have it all," he said. 

I stopped him in his thoughts and wrote it down on a post-it and told him to autograph it. Because that's one of the most straight-forward truths I have ever heard. 

Privilege has been a buzz-word these past few years, but I fear that people still fail to recognize it. 

Sadly, in these past few months, empathy, listening and understanding have been lacking in our political and social lives. Most people think that they are correct and disregard people that disagree with them. But we fail to remember that when we disregard other people's opinions, we are also disregarding their experiences. After all, what shapes us more than that? 

It's so important to recognize the privilege in our own lives. I am a white woman raised in a middle-class family. Growing up, I never worried about where my next meal was coming from, I was never afraid of walking around my suburban neighborhood at night. That's the privilege I was born into. 

Not everyone is born into that privilege. There are many people born into this world where the color of their skin still dictates their path in life, where their economic status is destined to never change based on the lack of opportunity, where their lives are constantly in danger based on where they live and can't escape from. We need to recognize our own privilege and more importantly, recognize other's lack of privilege. We need to listen to each other and revalidate each other's experiences. We need to acknowledge that maybe we don't know it all and that our own privilege has made it unnecessary in the past for us to. 

But it is necessary to know it all. To validate and recognize all experiences. 

Until we validate experiences and learn to understand people who have had different experiences than we have had, we will never be truly equal.

I have hope that this will happen. I see it in our kids; I see it in our teens. They are shaping the world around us as we speak and they're shaping it with empathy and truth.  

January Book Club

Hello, lovely friends! Four years ago on this blog (oh my goodness, four years?!?) we had a book club called Forest Friends Book Club.  We had so much fun reading books with you all during that time and we missed it so much that we simply had to bring it back this year.

This year, we are teaming up with our dearest new neighbor and friend, Zhenya (from Being Zhenya) to bring you a Monthly Book Club!

Each month, we will be reading a different novel. We will introduce the novel at the beginning of the month, so you may grab your own copy and read along. At the end of the month, we will host a link-up where we can discuss what we thought!

This month, we will be reading The Mothers by Britt Bennet.  This debut novel is the story of love and secrets in a small town. We mostly chose this novel because the cover is stunning, the reviews have been phenomenal, and Britt Bennet is coming to Milwaukee for a book signing next month!

We would love to read and discuss this book with you. Let us know if you're going to read along!

In 2017, I will...

By: Kaitlyn 

Just like any other year, 2016 had its ups and downs.  Gorgeous things were created and beautiful lives were taken away from us far too soon. Normally this time of year, I would make a list of tangible things to complete and do in this next year. I would say that I will work out three days a week, teach my tastebuds to like kale and write a best-selling novel.

But I don't want to do that. I want to focus on more livable goals. Goals that will reshape my perspectives and inspire my passion. This is what I want to do. This is what I will do:

1. Breathe. 

2. Listen to people I don't agree with. 

3. Have productive discussions regarding issues that need to be genuinely talked about.

4. Erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and heal myself and others through helping to tell our stories. 

5. Be a warrior for good on the front lines. 

6. Stand up in the face of hatred. 

7. Tell people how I feel. Tell them I love them without fear. 

8. Lift others up. 

9. Eat a crap-ton of doughnuts. Always. 

10. Live honestly, Live fiercely

11. Oh...and smash the patriarchy single-handedly. 

How will you live this year? 

There is magic in you

By: Sarah (yes, you read that correctly)

This post is scatterbrained and it's not everything I wanted to say and not necessarily how I wanted to say it, but here goes:

One of my goals for the year was to say yes to more things. Cliché, I know, but it was important to me. The year started off great. I was spending my nights and weekends going on adventures and putting myself into situations I normally would have stayed in bed for.

The biggest problem with this goal? I started saying yes to everything. I felt like if I wasn’t doing something after work, if I wasn’t spending time with a friend or family member, I was wasting that time. And while this yielded some remarkable opportunities and crazy escapades, at some point, I was too busy saying yes that I forgot to take care of myself.

The result: I am worn out. I am changed, but I am worn out.

I consider myself now to be quite the extrovert. I would rather spend time with people, doing fun things, than alone. But something I forgot about myself throughout the year is that I need that time alone.

I need time to read. And to write. And to think. And to breathe. And be.

By myself.

However, I’m so thankful for everything I’ve been able to do this year because I said yes. Here are some things that happened this year:

-Wrote lots of letters, co-hosted a letter writing event
-Saw so much live music/shows: San Fermin, Lizzo, Jose Gonzalez, Nick Offerman, Caroline Smith, Trevor Noah, The Staves (x2), Brandi Carlile, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Motion City Soundtrack, The Beach Boys, Daughter
-Traveled around the Midwest: Chicago, Sturgeon Bay, Bayfield, Elkhart Lake, Stone Lake (x2), Door County, Madison, Holy Hill
-Went to a murder mystery party
-Ran a half marathon
-Saw Hillary Clinton speak twice
-Designed a t-shirt
-Met Nick Offerman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Took a beekeeping class
-Went to my first Brewers game
-Participated in a latte art throwdown
-Went to a few weddings (and stood up in one!)
-Went four-wheeling
-Participated in an underwear bike ride
-Discovered my love of stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking
-Explored an abandoned building full of graffiti
-Went to an adult summer camp
-Rode a motorcycle
-Went tubing down a river for the first time
-Explored a gigantic sunflower field and lavender field
-Read a new Harry Potter book (play) and saw a new Harry Potter movie and made Butterbeer
-Tried a lot of new recipes and found my love for cooking
-Went to Luke’s Diner (sort of) J
-Got new glasses for the first time in years
-Celebrated Galoween and Galentine’s Day
-Conquered my fear of and fed chickens
-Saw The Book of Mormon live and fell in love with it (new favorite musical)
-Broke my arm playing roller derby

And there’s still a little more than a month left of 2016. So while I will be spending time alone, I’ll still be saying yes to things when I want to. It’s all about balance.

1. Take a deep breath.
2. Drink water.
3. Read or watch something you love.
4. Remember there is magic in you.

Productive Things You Can Do In Response to This Election

It would be dishonest to say this past week hasn't been hard for us. Like many people across this country and the world, we have been in a weird state of disbelief, grief, worry and anger.

And perhaps this may have some people thinking, "You're just over-reacting. Typical millennial making everything personal."

But the things is, it is personal. This past week has shown us that hate speech and generalizations are valued over experience and female leadership.

We've had conversations with Trump-voters who have said that they are feeling attacked and feel like they can't say who they voted for without being labeled as racists because they voted for "policies." Policies, that we think are inherently racist and infringing on people's basic human rights. That's a problem.

And it's not okay for people to feel unsafe, Trump supporters included, but take that feeling of being attacked and multiply that by a significant amount. That is how people of color feel on a daily basis. Women. Latinos. Immigrants. LGBTQ+ community. And this is not acceptable.

After feeling this grief and anger continuously for the past week, we have discovered that the only way to cure this feeling and this country is to do something. We may feel powerless and hopeless, but this is all the more reason to utilize the power that we do have and to create our own hope.

Below is a list of things that YOU can do to help this country heal: 

1. Many small businesses are donating profits to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, ACLU, The Trevor Project: 

2. Send donations yourself to organizations that directly support causes in which you are passionate about: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Council on American-Islamic Relations, The Trevor Project

3. Participate in protests that are taking place around the country. 

4. Encourage your girlfriends to run for office. Or run for office yourself! 

5. Post Joe Biden memes, because they're the only thing that are making people smile right now. 

6. Be a support system to friends (or strangers) who are hopeless and perhaps are contemplating suicide. Give them the support and the resources that they need. 

7. Don't be afraid to have conversations. It's SO important to have open dialogue right now. The last person you may want to talk to right now is a Trump supporter. But we need  to have respectful and open conversations with those that voted for Trump. This is probably the most important step we can take. To have conversations across the aisle or figurative wall will EDUCATE and hopefully create empathy towards minorities who are being discriminated against. 

8. Practice Self-Care. It is so important to take care of yourself. You can't give anything if you are empty. Treat yo self, if you need to.

9. Remember that there is still good in the world. 2016 has been a crazy year, but some good did come of out it. Check out this video:

Black Cat Alley

When we first moved to Milwaukee a few years ago,  we were constantly on the hunt for beautiful murals to capture. While, Milwaukee had its fair share of nice ones, they were scarce and spread out. So when we heard about the Black Cat Alley project that had started close to our apartment, we were beyond excited. The Black Cat Alley is a collaboration of artists that created a large-scale, two-block alley that showcases murals of all styles and stories.

Artists from all around the world came together for seven days to collectively paint and create this new space: transforming this old alley into an art destination. This space truly represents the thriving and collaborative art community in this city: a community we celebrate every day.

We couldn't be more excited about the works presented here. Each mural is truly breathtaking and unique. Do yourself a favor and take the time to come visit.

You can find the Black Cat Alley at Kenliworth Blvd and Ivanhoe in Milwaukee, WI.

My Reloved Life: Part 1

By: Candice Caldwell 
(images by: Julia Brenner)

I started blogging about upcycling and repurposing in 2009. However, I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. I’m intrigued by the potential in things with no apparent value. Things other people throw away. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in apartheid South Africa, surrounded by ingenious repurposing, driven by need or poverty. And then there's the influence of my very creative, very frugal parents who still scoff at the idea of buying things that can easily be “made.”

Take this background, add a dose of woodworking experience, then imagine me as a poor graduate student for seven years. If I wanted something, I had to get it cheap or free and fix it myself. This meant that almost everything I owned was one-of-kind and had my sweat and a story attached to it. I was really proud of these things. I also had to leave many of them behind. Between the ages of 23 and 30 I lived on four continents - over time, I learned not to get too attached to stuff or feel too intimidated by having to start again without it. And now I’ve come to trust that the world often provides what you need if you keep your eyes open for the potential in things.

What I know for sure is that I love having stuff that was more discovered than purchased. Today I’m going to share with you how my relationship with things plays out in my home. In part two, I’ll try to give you my answer to the question “why do we hang on to the things that we do?”

My feeling that the world will provide is especially true in Chicago, my home since 2003. In this city, people donate things by placing them in the alleys. Often, right when I need them! For example, the unusual, bamboo-legged desk I sit at every day. My neighbor was taking it out to the alley when I intercepted him. He was delighted to hand it off to someone who was gushing over it! I used beautiful, handmade paper and modpodge to cover the original linoleum top. Otherwise, it's in the condition I received it.

The neighbor who handed off the bamboo desk offered me the vintage suitcases too. I didn’t know I wanted old suitcases but I gleefully accepted them. The alley provided the console table in my entryway and a black metal plant stand that’s now a green and gold bookshelf in my living room.

Walking home one night, I almost fell over a couple of dresser drawers abandoned on the sidewalk. The drawer fronts were 1.5 inches of solid wood. I had no idea what I would use them for, but I took them for the wood. Ultimately, I paired one drawer front with a mirror I found at a local salvage warehouse and that's the upcycled shelf/mirror setup you see here.

Sometimes, need drives you to make something out of nothing. Most recently, what I needed was a kitchen organizer of some sort. So I made one out of a branch, a leather-belt and plastic bottles. It was easy and cost next to nothing.

I arrived in the US in 2002 with two suitcases - the rest of my stuff was in another country. I moved to Chicago in 2003 with a car, a guitar, the same two suitcases and a few sentimental things that survived the end of a relationship. I never got the rest of my stuff and I now understand what a gift that really was. And as I look around my home today, I see it as a representation of second chances. I’m grateful I’ve been given them, and grateful to have stood still long enough to do the same favor for things.

You can find Candice on her blog: The ReFab Diaries.

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Oh, hello!
We're Sarah and Kaitlyn, roommates from Milwaukee who started this blog to promote creativity and life.
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