Search This Blog


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cinderella and other Dangerous Disney Princesses

Today, my friend told me about a new study conducted by BYU concerning Disney princesses.  They have found that the more girls engage in "princess media" the  more likely they will have low confidence in science and math, be afraid to get dirty, have a poor body image, and seek role models based on beauty.

You can read the full article, "Disney Princesses: Not Brave Enough," by clicking here.  

(Credit: Mark A. Philbrick, BYU Photo)

As I read the findings, I thought, "I knew it! I knew it! I knew it along!"

 I didn't really, yet for some reason I never wanted my daughters to get caught up in the whole Disney princess craze.

You are probably thinking, "Why?  What's the big deal?  It's fun to pretend and play you are a princess."

Don't get me wrong, I did let my girls play dress up.  I just never encouraged them to dress as princesses.

For Halloween, my oldest daughter was Pocahantas.

Which  by Disney standards is a princess.  But unlike so many of the others, her character was strong and independent.

My youngest daughter, named Alice after my grandmother, loved everything Alice in Wonderland.  

So I'm not against dress up and pretend, I just don't like Disney princesses.

And I never have.

I'm not particularly passionate on this subject.  I just didn't like the idea of my kids singing "Someday my prince will come."

It wasn't until I read the BYU study that I remembered why.

When I was in high school, I competed in speech and debate.  One of my best categories was oratory.

You can read more about my life as a speech student by clicking here.

When competing in oratory, you got to know your other competitors speeches really well.  One competitor talked about something called the Cinderella Complex, which is basically a fear of independence and a desire for a man to provide for you.  She said that some women will even stand at a door and wait for a man to come by and open it for her.

Keep in mind this was in 1985.  At the time the only Disney princesses we knew about were Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, and those movies were released in 1937, 1950, and 1959 respectively.  We hadn't had a new princess movie in over 25 years.

The dolls I played with were:

Strawberry Shortcake
Holly Hobbie

Apparently I had a love of floppy hats! 

So when this student stood up and talked about the dangers of getting a Cinderella Complex, I thought who would want to be like the old-fashioned Cinderella?

Most kids were busy thinking of names for their newly adopted Cabbage Patch doll.

But fortunately, I never forgot her speech.

After I graduated from high school, I moved away to college.  I could see the beginnings of the Cinderella Complex with people I went to school with.  This is just a small representation of what I heard on campus.

"I don't know why I have to study biology.  It's not like it has anything to do with being a mother."
~Two freshman walking into Biology 100
"I'm not going to pick a major, I'm just here to get married." 
~One of my roommates 

"Why are you bothering with molecular biology?  It's not like you can do anything with it once you get married."~My fellow male students after I told them what I'm studying.  (I heard this many times.) 

My college years woke me up to the fact that the Cinderella Complex was real... and I didn't want my daughters to get it.

So when my children were born, they weren't allowed to watch Cinderella.  We didn't make a big deal out it, we just didn't own the movie or talk about it.  When my kids played at other homes, if I saw the movie out, I'd just polite ask that it not be shown in my kids' presence.

Extreme?  Crazy?  Out of Touch?  Maybe, but I just didn't want my kids to see a girl's problems get solved by sitting in a room crying while little mice and birds do all the work.

I finally introduced my kids to Cinderella when the movie Ever After was released with Drew Barrymore.  I still think this is the best version of Cinderella out there.  My favorite scene is when Cinderella frees herself from her captor.

This was a movie I could get behind.

Before you call Child Protective Services and report me for depriving my daughters of "feeling like a princess" let me assure you they are just fine.

In fact, they are more than fine.

They are two of the strongest, most independent women I know.

You can read more about my incredible daughters by clicking on the following articles:

My Brave Daughter

You've Done Difficult... Times Ten

You Need to Fail 

Mom, I Want to Go to Princeton

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You've Done Difficult... Times Ten

Our daughter Alice was invited to speak at her high school graduation because she was one of the top 6 graduates in her class of over 600.  I guess you could say she's a one percenter.

Four days later she headed to Ketchikan, Alaska for her next adventure.  She'll be working there all summer before she goes to college.

As I sat with Alice waiting to put her on two planes and a ferry so that she can live on an island she's never seen with people she's never met, I asked her, "How are you feeling?"
She calmly replied, "I'm nervous." She looked at her watch. "I think I better go through security." A certain Englishman and I watched as she confidently showed her ID, put her backpack on the conveyor belt, and went through the x-ray machine. She never once looked back.
When I got home from the airport, I found Alice's graduation speech still up on the family computer.
"Don’t shy away just because a task seems difficult. When faced with a new challenge that threatens your confidence, look back. You’ve done difficult... times ten. You have already experienced fear, anxiety, stress, and all those delightful scary feelings, but succeeded anyway. Use that to remind yourself you can do it again."
This is a woman who practices what she preaches.

This is the full text of her graduation speech.
Learn From Your Successes
Soon we will deal with something terrifying. It is unavoidable, and can be overwhelming. What is this horrific thing? Decisions. Whether it is picking a major, or simply buying window cleaner, we will be making new decisions, but more importantly, we will be learning to accept what we have chosen. If you’re as worried as I am about making the wrong decisions, then I invite you to look back at your own life.
Years ago I faced a particularly frightening transition in my life.  I was advancing from third to fourth grade. Before the year even began, I was convinced I would fail out of school. I truly believed my life would stop progressing at the ripe old age of 9. To my surprise, the beginning of 4th grade seemed to pick up right where the end of 3rd left off. Hopefully you can tell that I indeed was able to survive 4th grade.
The reason I choose to reflect on this experience is because I am now making another transition in my education. Advancing from one school to the next. I’m not going to lie, I am intimidated and overwhelmed by the change that’s coming. But it helps to think that I was also terrified to do something as simple as starting 4th grade. Or just a few years ago, high school.
We all know mistakes have valuable lessons, but so do accomplishments. It has taken a lot of work to get to the point where we are now. Let’s not underestimate the value of our successes. We did not passively graduate from high school.  We are here because we worked to get here. We saw obstacles and overcame them. We got scared, we cried, but we still went to the first day of school.  
Continue to do great things.  Don’t shy away just because a task seems difficult. When faced with a new challenge that threatens your confidence, look back. You’ve done difficult... times ten. You have already experienced fear, anxiety, stress, and all those delightful scary feelings, but succeeded anyway. Use that to remind yourself you can do it again.
So whether you are trying to decide on a career, pick a major, or are just standing confused in the cleaner aisle of the store, recognize the strength within yourself. Use that strength to propel forward.  We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Alice's sister is also very brave.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Storytellers of the Tribe

The Story Tellers:  We are the chosen ones.
My feelings are that in each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors, to put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the  family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.
To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe.  All tribes have one. We have been called as it were by our genes.
Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story!  So, we do.  In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.  How many graves have I stood before and cried?  I have lost count.  How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family?  You would be proud of us!  How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for  me?  I cannot say.
It goes beyond just documenting facts.  It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do.  It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference, and saying I can't let this happen.  The bones here are bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  It goes to doing something about it.
It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish.  How they contributed to what we are today.  It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.
It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation.  It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us.  That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them.  So we do.  With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are them and they are us.
So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.  It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.
That, is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

Della M. Cummings Wright
Re-written by her Grand Daughter, Della JoAnn McGinnis Johnson
Edited and Reworded By:
Tom Dunn

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Plea to a Basketball Fan

Dear BYU Men’s Basketball Fan,
A Certain Englishman bought me tickets to see the BYU Men's Basketball team play UAB tonight in the NIT opener. I'm excited because I love watching "my boys" play in the Marriott Center.
One of the main reasons why I love to watch BYU Basketball is because of you and the thousands of others next to you. You sit in a section known as the ROC (Roar of the Cougars). I love watching the energy and cheering from the student section. You come dressed in costumes, with signs, painted faces, and even wigs.

During halftime, many signs known as “Fat Heads” will be distributed to you. Just like every game this season, one of those signs will be of Donald Trump.
You will look at that sign and in that moment have to make a decision. Do you keep it or pass on to someone else. For whatever reason you’ll decide to keep it. Eventually UAB will go to the free throw line. In an attempt to distract him from making his basket, your friends will hold up their signs and scream and yell. My plea to you is this, please keep your sign of Donald Trump by your feet.
That sign was probably purchased before Trump became a presidential candidate, before he told people to throw a protester out in the cold without a coat, before he offered to pay the legal fees for a supporter, and before he insulted the other candidates with names that a third-grader would use. The person distributing the signs might not even know that Donald Trump is in the stack. But I know. You see I’m a season ticket holder and I’ve gone to every game but one. I sit across from the ROC and I see his face every time. At first, I barely noticed it. But as the campaign has continued, I’m now very aware of his face in the crowd. And I don’t want to have to look at it anymore. You probably don’t know much about laws against 501(c)3’s and political campaigning. You may not even know that BYU is a 501(c)3 nonprofit institution. But I am not asking you to keep that sign by your feet for political reasons, but for moral ones. He is a rabble-rouser, a troublemaker, an agitator, a fanatic, and every other synonym you find when you look up the word demagogue. He has no place in the Marriott Center. Maybe the UAB player will make the shot and get the point. Maybe this point is why UAB wins the game. Maybe you’ll feel like you didn’t do your small part to help the Cougs win. But you will be wrong. You did your small part to win a much greater fight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mom, I want to go to Princeton.

About eight years ago, my nine-year-old Alice Pack​ was home sick from school.

This is her Halloween costume, I don't make my kids dress up when they are sick. 
She walked into my office and asked, "Mom, could we look up the admission requirements for Princeton?"  (Remember, she's nine!)

I looked on the Internet and found the admission requirements.

"Now, can we find out how many of those admitted come from public schools?"

We found it was about 54%.  It's even higher now.  

She then proceeded to look at average ACT scores, average GPA, average class rankings, etc.  I however was looking at the tuition costs.

"Why are you interested in looking at Princeton?"  I asked in as calm a tone as possible.

"Because I want to go there someday," she answered.

"Alice, you can do whatever you set your mind to do, but why Princeton?"

"Because I want to go to an Ivy League school."

For years, all Alice would consider was Princeton.  We even bought her a Princeton pennant to hang in her room to inspire her.

Finally, as her career goals became more solid,(astrophysics) she now has her sights set on the University of Hawaii for her PhD program.  (Hooray!)
Eventually, the Princeton pennant came off the wall, and we haven't talked about that school for a few years now.  

A couple of weeks ago, we got an envelope in the mail.

She has already accepted a four-year full tuition scholarship to a school with a great biological engineering program, so it joined the pile of all the other unopened envelopes from colleges around the country.  I finally decided to open it.  And I read the words

"Your academic achievements suggest that you are looking at the nation's most outstanding universities.  I invite you to consider Princeton University." I was tempted to write them back and say, "Oh, she already has."

While Princeton will most likely never meet my amazing daughter Alice.  We owe so much to Princeton for her success.  They created a high bar that she has worked hard to reach.  That school opened her eyes to what is possible.

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Princeton, and not just because they have the same colors as my favorite holiday!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

8 Tips for Voting in Municipal Elections

Around this time, I start getting calls from my neighbors and friends asking,

"Who should I vote for?"

Why would people ask my opinion?

Because it's a municipal (city) election and voters usually don't know the candidates.  But they know I do, because I spent over a decade volunteering and serving in my local community.

I usually try to avoid answering the question. I believe each person should enter the poll booth ready to express their own opinion and not someone else's, but I do try to give them some tips to help them make their own decision.

Here they are in a nutshell.

Tip #1 Avoid candidates who run angry.

Local issues are emotional.  When I sat on the Planning Commission I saw many people approach the podium with shaking hands and trembling voices.  Decisions directly affect people's lives and livelihood.  I love seeing citizens become passionate, even angry, when they see something isn't right.

But that doesn't mean they should run.

Angry candidates typically do a great job of rallying support and votes, but are rarely effective in office.  Why?

Usually because of these two reasons.

1. Anger can cause us to hyperfocus on one issue, consequently we lose the big picture.   Voting as a city council member requires someone who can see an issue from all sides and parties involved.

2. Angry candidates have a lone-wolf mentality and usually end up insulting or alienating themselves from their future colleagues.  They only have one vote on the council.  Collaboration usually yields a higher success rate than competition.

Tip #2 Avoid candidates who run on a single issue.

Sometimes candidates aren't necessarily angry, but they are bothered by something they see happening in the city.  They decide to run for city council to fix it.  I love it when people strive to be a part of the solution instead of complaining about the problem.

But that doesn't mean they should run. 

Single issue candidates tend to make a fatal mistake--running on a campaign promise.  This is deadly to a candidate, because they are making promises without information.  Fortunately, a city is not run by the council alone. Almost always cities also have a city manager, city engineer, city attorney, city finance director, and others who have dedicated their lives to public service by gaining education, certifications, trainings, and experience.  They don't tell a council how to vote, but they make presentations and offer counsel so that each member can make an informed decision.  This usually causes a newly elected official to face the reality of public service.

Tip # 3 Avoid candidates who are just getting started.

Community service tends to ebb and flow in an individual's life.  Sometimes we have time to help, other times we are too busy making ends meet and caring for our family and home.  I love it when I see someone decide that now is the time to get involved.

But that doesn't mean they should run.

When I first started volunteering my time with the city, I was in no position to be on the City Council.  I didn't know what I didn't know.  I had no idea what questions to ask.  As I attended more meetings, I began to see how things work and how things didn't work.  I developed relationships with both elected officials and staff.  I earned a reputation of being a critical thinker and a hard worker.

Before I was appointed to the City Council, I had served on several committees in different capacities.   When I submitted my application, I was no stranger to the council.  I had paid my dues.

Tip #4 Avoid candidates who wants to run the city like a business.
Governments move slowly... on purpose. The sad result is that sometimes money gets wasted, time gets wasted, and resources gets wasted.  Successful business men and women see this happening and think, "My business would never survive if it ran like that.  I need to apply what I know in the business field to government administration."  I think it's great that people want to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government.

But that doesn't mean they should run. 

Citizens are not customers.  Services are not products.   Businesses run with a different set of motives and incentives than a government does.  The budgets are different, the accounting is different, the rules are different.

When I took my government accounting class, my husband (who has his master's degree in accounting, is a CMA, and works as a CFO) was able to help with my homework the first 2 weeks when we learned basic accounting principles.  After that he said, "I can't help you, I have no idea what you are doing." Governments manage money differently.  Too often we expect them to apply household budget guidelines and business principles to their budgets.

I'm not saying governments do a great job managing their money, I'm just saying they have a different set of rules they must follow.

I'm also not trying to say that business professionals can't be good elected officials, they just need to know that they are in a different arena and the same rules don't apply.

Tip #5 Support a candidate who understands citizen participation.
When I was in graduate school studying public administration, I loved studying the topic of citizen participation.  This is a complicated topic and not as simple as it sounds.  When and how should citizens be involved in the process?  When should they be able to contribute? When should they just be informed?  The easiest answer to this question is, "It depends."

Candidates who understand how to communicate effectively with citizens make great elected officials.  

For more information on citizen participation, click here and here.

Tip #6 Support a candidate who listens patiently and effectively.

Having sat through several city meetings, I've learned that rarely do people attend a city meeting when they are neutral on a topic.  (Except maybe boy scouts earning their Citizenship in the Community merit badge.)  People come because they have an opinion and are usually passionate about what they want to say.

On several occasions I've seen citizens forget their name or their address, or both.  Why?  It's because they are uncomfortable and nervous.  They need someone who can diplomatically help them feel comfortable without revealing their own personal opinion.  Everyone deserves a voice.  Too often I see those "behind the desk" try to put words in the citizen's mouth, or worse, try to get the citizen to stop talking because they think he or she is misinformed and wrong.

Candidates who can listen to citizens patiently and effectively make great elected officials. 

Tip # 7 Support a candidate who can ask the right questions.
Like I said before, when I began volunteering for the community, I didn't even know what I didn't know.  I remember the Chair of the Arts Commission asking me if I had any questions as the meeting was wrapping up.  Um... no.  I was clueless.  But a year later, I was the Chair asking the questions and running the meeting.

Council members need to be critical thinkers, able to deduce, infer, and reason.  They need to come to the meeting informed and educated on the issue, but still willing to hear both sides and be able to be persuaded.  (If not, then why bother giving the public a chance to speak?)  I have seen a single, thoughtful question change how a council votes.

Candidates who can ask the right questions and think critically make great elected officials. 

Tip #8 Do your research.

At this point you are probably thinking,

"No one running for office in my community is all of these things. I have no one to vote for!"

No candidate is perfect; however, some are more likely to earn your respect than others.  The burden is on you to find out who.

Before an election, as voters, we need to do our part to find out which candidates we feel comfortable supporting.  A wonderful aspect to municipal elections is how accessible the candidates are.  Here are some tips to get to know your candidates better:

  • Attend a debate.  
  • Attend meet and greets.
  • Attend cottage meetings. 
  • Contact the candidates by phone or email with questions. 
  • Visit the candidates' websites. 
If you don't know what to ask, here are some suggested questions to get sense of who the candidate is:

  • What made you decide to run?  
    • This might reveal if they are an angry or single-issue candidate.
  • In what ways have been involved with the city up to this point?
    • Don't count community service (church, sports, scouts, clubs), look for actual service within city government. 
  • Have you held any positions where you had to be appointed by the city council and mayor?
    • This will show that they are known and supported within the city. 
  • What strategies do you use to make a difficult decision?
    • Look for answers that show critical thinking, like defining the correct problem, weighing competing objectives, understanding consequences, risk analysis, etc.
  • What role do you think citizens should play in government?
    • Look for realistic answers.  Many citizens are happily unaware of the city government and busy with their day-to-day lives.  This isn't necessarily a bad or good thing, but just how it is. 
  • What do you hope to accomplish in the first 100 days in office?
    • Again, look for realistic answers.  Hopefully their goal is to learn, study, and get to know their colleagues.  The learning curve is huge for a newly elected official, do they recognize that?
  • What would you say to someone who doesn't agree with your position on ________.
    • Look for someone who can clearly and respectfully articulate an opposing viewpoint.  This will reveal how they will treat citizens who disagree with them.  

Maybe you are thinking, "I don't have time to do that, I'm too busy."  Think of it this way.  Would you rather spend a few hours now getting to know the candidates, or several hours later in a long, drawn-out public hearing because you don't like what your representatives are doing?

Let me end with a quick story.

Years ago, a city council candidate was running for re-election.  He asked me to send out 150 letters endorsing him as a candidate.  He and another candidate were tied after the election.  After two recounts, he won the election by 3 votes.  Three votes!

In no other election does your vote count more than in your own city.

So vote.

About the author:

Heather Ruth Pack received her master's degree in public administration at Brigham Young University in 2010 specializing in nonprofit finance.  She is the recipient of the 2007 Pleasant Grove Community Service Award.  She chaired the Pleasant Grove Arts Commission, Heritage Festival Committee, and was PTA President of her children's elementary school.  Additionally, she has served on the Friends of the Pleasant Grove Library, Planning Commission, R/UDAT Advisory Committee, Downtown Council, and as an appointed member of the City Council.  

Heather is a published author, wife to A Certain Englishman, and mother of five patient children.