Monthly Archives: September 2011

Overweight and Underappreciated

I often find myself speaking in front of people in classrooms and organizational meetings at Miami Dade College.  Ostensibly I’m in front of these people to tell them about the Single Stop program, but in fact I’m there to spread inspirational and uplifting words.  I speak to them about my personal experiences and challenges to open their eyes to a simple paradigm:

Problems + Goals = Solutions

Recently I was speaking to a classroom full of students, each facing their own unique challenges.  I was getting into the wrap up of my dialogue, which consists of a helpful way to remember my name.  Since Jarrid is an easy name to forget I relate it to a more well-known person by the same name, that being Jared Fogle of Subway fame.  It’s rare that you’ll find a person who hasn’t heard of Subway, or tried one of their subs. 

We’re all somewhat familiar with Jared’s story – overweight person | eats at Subway | now average weight person.  I see many of the students’ minds click at this moment, the brand recognition of Subway and Jared works really well for my purpose of increasing name memorability.  I then share that I too used to be overweight, due in large part to me playing football at FAU.  I tell the students that I used to weigh 300 pounds, whereas now I weight about 200 pounds.  It’s at this point that I’ll usually tie in the simple paradigm:

Overweight + Desire to live healthily = Motivation to lose weight

At this point the people in the audience will react with disbelief, astonishment, doubt, or surprise.  They’ve been listening to me speak for 20-30 minutes, buying into the simple paradigm with each minute, only to reject it when I share my personal and tangible story to its proof.

I was particularly stirred today when a student, with conviction, said “I don’t believe you, that can’t be true”.  To that student today I said “I told you earlier that I recently graduated from college, but I didn’t show you the degree.  Why didn’t you say then that you didn’t believe that?”  Her response was “Having your degree is easier to believe, losing the weight isn’t”.

This interaction astounded me!  How could a person easily believe, without tangible evidence, a statement like “I recently graduated” yet so quickly dismiss “I lost 100 pounds”?  Oh but there is tangible evidence, besides the stretch marks, to me weighing 300 pounds:

I share this blog posting with you to implore you to take up the simple paradigm and apply it to your life.  Problems are never easy to solve, but they become impossible when you do not have a goal in mind.  Share this simple paradigm with those around you.  It’s especially useful for people who are better at identifying the problems than at setting goals for solutions. 

There will always be a doubter much like to woman in this story.  Don’t allow them to stand in your way.  Set your mind to goals and solve those problems!


Filed under FAU, reflection, self improvement

Critique of the Native American Youth Challenge

A few weeks ago the White House Office of Public Engagement launched the Native American Youth Challenge program.  Upon reading the program title I instantly became interested.  I thought “what a great program this must be” and “about time the White House challenged our Native youth”.  Nothing could be better than getting our Native youth moving toward a collective goal. 

I quickly clicked the link and after reading about this challenge my initial feelings of elation began to deflate, much like a balloon with a gaping hole.  My balloon was filled with the possibilities of what could be – a Native empowerment/leadership program, increased support to impoverished youth in Native communities.  Instead the pin that pierced my balloon was what I read – a call for success stories.  By the time I was finished reading by balloon was no more, the latest of White House Native focused initiatives to come up short.

A challenge is defined as “a call to engage in a contest, a call to fight, a demand to explain”.  I get the use of the word challenge as the White House uses it, wherein the Native American Youth Challenge is explained as:

Are you doing extraordinary things to make a difference for your tribe, village or community? Take the Native American Youth Challenge. We want to hear your stories and a group of exceptional Native youth community leaders will be invited to the White House this fall in conjunction with the activities of Native American heritage month. We will also consider your stories of leadership and service as we feature individuals on the White House website. Tell us your story – everyone has a story to tell and a part to play.

The challenge here is to for Native youth to tell their success stories, with the reward to gain recognition from the White House.  In that sense the challenge is a call to engage in a contest.  I support this use of the word and also the White House’s reward.  It’s going to be fantastic for those Native youth to see the capital city and be acknowledged for their community efforts.  I commend those Native Youth who do submit their success stories, may their stories inspire others to reach just as far. 

I issue my own challenge, the kind that is a call to fight.  The initiative should have been more appropriately titled the Native American Youth Story Telling Time.  It amounts to little more than the White House giving itself an opportunity to say “Look at us! We do care about Native communities!”  Why wasn’t the initiative backed by grants to support future Native youth initiated projects?  Why not challenge Native youth who have great ideas, but lack sufficient help? 

I also challenge, in the demand to explain sense, us Natives.  Are we going to accept our stagnant state of affairs?  Is this Native American Youth Story Telling time really the best that the White House will do?  Let us all question and critique what is done in our name! 

Lastly, I’d advise those selected to start saving up their change because the White House won’t be paying for your travel or hotel.  I hope you read that before your balloon was inflated.

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Filed under civil rights, contest, Native American, red power

Paper or Plastic – Be Careful With Your Money

Last week I received an e-mail from Bank of America informing me that there was irregular activity on my account.  The e-mail was not specific, it stated the following: “We detected irregular activity on your Bank of America debit card on 09/16/2011. For your protection, you must verify this activity before you can continue using your card”.  The e-mail instructed me to check my account online and to call BofA immediately.

Needless to say, after reading this I felt a rush of adrenaline.  It’s never a good thing when an e-mail like this arrives in the inbox.  I quickly forewent checking online and called BofA, by this time feeling alarmed and anxious.  After verifying that I was indeed me, the service rep informed me that the irregular activity alert was associated with a $380 declined purchase.  Apparently some dubious person/people had made a copy of my debit card information and attempted to use it at a Publix grocery store, but because the PIN was inaccurate the transaction was declined.

We’ve all had something stolen from us before.  Maybe it was money, possessions, time, or emotions.  Regardless of what it was that was taken, our initial reactions can range from anger, disbelief, resentment, or helplessness.  My initial reaction was a mix of anger and questioning.  I wondered when this was done, who the person/people were, and what could be done to prosecute them.

Thankfully in my case my PIN was unknown and the transaction was declined,  however, debit card fraud remains a common crime.  Copying card information can be easily and quickly done, we leave ourselves open to it whenever our card is out of our possession.  Did you buy coffee this morning?  Did you go to your favorite restaurant?  Did you go into the gas station for a quick snack?  These are all instances when your card information can be taken.

I don’t mean to leave you feeling paranoid about handing over your card.  If that was the case then we would all never let that thing go. I share this story to bring up three points, which I’ll leave you with:

1) Awareness: Check to see if your bank offers fraud protection. Regularly check your account activity.  Limit the amount of money in your checking account.  Be proactive!

2) Humor: When my initial feelings of anger and questioning dissipated, helped along by the realization that the money wasn’t stolen, my mind made light of the situation. Think about it – the person/people went into a grocery store and collected $380 worth of food.  That amount of food would take up at least 3 cartful’s worth of room.  The person/people took the time to collect all that food, selecting what he/she wanted.  The clerk rang it all through the register and then bagged it all.  All this happened, only then to have the whole thing declined! I smiled about that.

3) Reality: After the humor went away I thought reflected on the whole situation again. The person/people attempted to use the $380 on food.  Not on clothes, not on electronics, not on a want. He/she attempted to use the money on a need. My humanity will not allow me to overlook this fact. I feel compassion for any
person/people who cannot earn/work enough to feed themselves (although I doubt that was the case in this fraud situation).

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Filed under hunger, money, reflection

Never Really Knew You Could Dance Like This

I was recently listening to the song “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira via Pandora and a strange thing happened, my hips started to move to the music.  It was an unconscious movement at first, the type of sensation that all office employees have had before.  It can go like this:

Music is playing in the office and it’s a recognizable song, as a matter of fact it’s “your” song.  You begin to chair dance, the type of movement that could be easily mistaken by an onlooker as a sore buttocks.  As the song progress you begin to pick up the pace, moving faster, throwing a little shoulder and neck movement in, and of course your head is bobbing.  Then the music fades and “your” song is over, office life returns to its normal ho-hum pace. 

This scene is repeated daily, in offices around the world.  You may have caught someone in the act today, or maybe it’s you who’s the unconscious dancer.  I too am one of those chair dancers and I don’t limit it to the office setting.  If I’m riding around in the Prius and “my” song comes on you can bet I’ll be chair dancing down the highway.  It is a sight! 

To my fellow chair dancers – wear the chair dancing flag proudly!  But also know that your chair dancing skills can translate to actual dancing.  Case in point: several years ago I was a part of a ragtag dance troupe known as the Semiwokees (a spinoff of the popular Jabbawockeez dance group).  Our group was dedicated and committed, we practiced for hours to perfect our routine.  Here is video from our debut:

There you have it, the Semiwokees debut.  It was quite a spectacle to be in the audience that night!  I must mention that the group quickly disbanded afterwards, each member to pursue his/her own adventures so sadly there will be no second performance.

The moral of the story is that no matter your abilities you can succeed and have fun in the process.   If you ever happen upon me in the office or see me riding down the road with a slight bob to my head, you know “my” song is playing.  I’ll continue my chair dancing and I hope that you will too when “your” song comes on.



Filed under fun, life

Happy Birthday! Blended Family Style

This past Sunday was the birthday of my ____ son. 

Allow me to clarify that blank before filling it in.  I have no biological children.  I am engaged to a wonderful woman who has a now 4-year-old boy from a previous relationship.  We’ve been engaged for 8 months now (can’t wait till we’re married!) and been in a relationship for over a year and a half.  Like many others these days we’ve chosen to cohabitate.

All that being written, it was not an easy decision for us to move in together.  We both had experiences with cohabitation from past relationships that did not last and we were not anxious to jump right back into that boat.  We both we’re concerned with how such a move would affect our relationship as well as the development of her son. 

So what did we do?  We talked, and talked, and talked some more.  You know, the adult thing to do.  In another adult decision, I asked for her hand in marriage, which she so gracefully answered yes.  We decided to start our blended family and begin our lives into happily ever after. 

Blended families are not so uncommon in the new millennium, in fact, I was raised in a blended family household.  My mother and step-father, who also had children from a previous relationship, married when I was 14 years old.  Over night I gained two new siblings, and although these siblings did not live with us they would often visit.  Over the years I’ve become closer and closer to my step-father, our relationship is one that I value highly. 

Still, being a part of a blended family isn’t easy.  There are unique questions and difficulties faced when one isn’t biologically attached to another.  When my fiance’s son and I are out together on an adventure to the grocery store or park, I’ll get questions and comments from other adults/parents: “Awe, your son is so cute” is often how they start.  Harmless statements but they do bring to light the fact that I’m not a parent.  Normally I will respond in passing, saying “He sure is” or “he’s a handful”. 

But there remains the fact that I’m not his parent, and the questions arises – how do I deal with that?

I’ve given this question much thought and I came to the conclusion long ago that I must treat my fiance’s son as my own.  He’s a little boy, barely outside of being a toddler.  He deserves to be raised in a loving, safe, and nurturing household.  My belief is that if I don’t think of him as my own, if I don’t treat him as my own, then I would be neglecting him what he deserves.  I love this child and want only the best for him, he is what makes our family special. 

I have no doubt that the future will bring other questions/comments that begin “Awe, your son is so cute”.  Count on me to respond “Yes, he is”.  Count on me to say happy birthday to my _____ son.  That blank won’t be filled in because in my heart and mind the use of the word step is not needed.

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Filed under family, life

You’re Not Indian

I recall the first time a person told me I wasn’t an Indian… 

I was sitting in the cafeteria at Florida Atlantic University, eating my food and mulling over why I didn’t grab a bite elsewhere.  I was joined by a few friends, all of us conversing about the things college age guys talk about – sports, women, and more sports.  About midway through this deep and thoughtful conversation we were joined by two women, both of whom I didn’t know.  Introductions ensued and I told them my name, Jarrid Smith.  

A few moments later one of the ladies asked me “What are you?”.  I responded “I’m Indian (Native American), a Seminole”.  I was promptly told “No you’re not! You can’t be an Indian with the name Jarrid Smith. You should have a name like Running-Bear or Lightening-bolt”.  I responded as a unthoughtful person would by saying “Yes, Jarrid Smith is my name” and attempting to laugh the situation away.  I asked her why she thought my name shouldn’t be Jarrid Smith and she responded “Because it’s not like on TV”. 

This recollection has stayed with me the way a lovebug stays on your windshield.  I have thought about it numerous times since that day, the memory is one that I’m sure other Natives have had as well.  Being that I was young, about 18 or 19 at the time, I didn’t fully understand how the perception was created that the name my parents gave me wasn’t acceptable to others as authentic.  I didn’t grasp how an image on a screen could shape a persons view of an entire culture. 

In the years that have passed this memory inspired me to uncover the roots of that perception.    This memory has helped me to understand encounters with quizzical looks and insensitive remarks.  This memory has helped shape how I now respond when asked the question “What are you?”.

I am a human being, one that happens to be a part of an amazing sub-group of humanity’s uniqueness.  I am a son, an uncle, and a soon-to-be husband.  I am a believer and faithful follower to my ancestors teachings.  I am a living testament to my people’s perseverance and a bridge builder to a collective future.  I am a lot of things, but I am not an image on a TV screen. 

What are you?

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Filed under jarrid smith, Native American, reflection

The Great Mustache Challenge

UPDATE 9/9 3pm: A few folks have taken up the Great Mustache Challenge – check out The Owl’s Nest for the latest.

In a recent post I discussed my feelings on the 2011 college football season.  Let me flesh out those feelings a bit more to provide background to the Great Mustache Challenge (GMC) on which I’ve embarked.  My last season at FAU in 2007 was storybook, complete with overcoming long odds and personal challenges.  I couldn’t have asked for a better way to complete my playing career.  Since that year FAU has gotten progressively worse, finishing 2010 at 4-8. 

I’ve spent the last few years as a fan of FAU, a situation not made easier by the team’s shortcomings on the field.  I’m no fair-weather fan and I’ll continue to stick by the team, however, I do recognize the difficulties faced by fans of teams that underachieve.  To go year after year, looking forward to a new season, only to have repetitive results is crushing. 

This crushing feeling I’ve experienced over the last few years brings me to the GMC.  I believe, with no shred of scientific evidence nor reasonable thought, that my actions as a fan can in fact help my team on the field.  This has led me in years past to follow peculiar superstitions, like in 2009 when I refused to watch a FAU game unless it was in person (something made easier by FAUs lack of TV exposure) or in 2010 when I drank liquid only between plays.  These superstitions happened on a whim, and so has the GMC.

The Great Mustache Challenge

One the ride home from FAUs loss to UF this past weekend I mentioned in passing to my fiance that I wouldn’t shave my mustache until the team won, thus the GMC was born!  The GMC is a test of will and against popular culture (considering the ‘stache has been out of style for years).  It is a challenge that should be undertaken only by FAU fans that bleed blue and red.  To the faithful (and well-groomed) this challenge is bestowed, will you heed the call? 

Granted, this may not be the year to issue the GMC considering FAU is: coming off a 4-8 season, in search of a new head coach, installing a new defensive scheme, and breaking in new starters at QB, WR, TE, and DB.  GMC flies in the face of those considerations and serves as a testament to true fandom, which is to believe and your team will succeed.  Lets fly together Owl fans!  If you’re taking the challenge then let me know by commenting below.

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Filed under college football, FAU, fun

Need a J-O-B? You’re Not Alone

The majority of Americans recently observed Labor Day.  The national holiday has an interesting beginning.  The U.S. Dept. of Labor says:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

I myself enjoyed the extra day off of work, more time to spend with my family.  During the time off I reflected upon the release of unemployment stats – as I write that my eyes begin to gloss over, but bear with me.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the rates were unchanged from the month previous, with about 14 million people out of work. 

For these 14 million Americans that were at home, they had no choice.  I wondered to myself the feelings that these folks must go through.  Each has their own story, and certainly they are all worth hearing, but I decided to speak to a close friend who is among those 14 million. 

Mike Teran is a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University.  He graduated with a B.S. in Economics and a minor in Business Administration.  He’s currently been searching for a job for 4 months.  The following are the questions I asked him and his responses.

How is does being unemployed make you feel? 

Being unemployed makes me feel unproductive, I feel like I’m not contributing to society while unemployed.  I feel like people view the unemployed as being lazy, stereotyping, without realizing what the facts are. 

How have people treated you? What have they said to you? 

People have said to me to stop living off the govt and get out there and do something with myself.  People have called me lazy and said that I really don’t want a job. 

Do the comments make you feel? 

It upsets me because people don’t see me making the effort, trying constantly by submitting applications on the computer for 8 hours a day.  I can’t tell someone to hire me.

Regarding the process of interviewing, Mike had this to say:

I get discouraged by constantly interviewing but not getting any job offers.  I wonder if it’s something about me, if I’m not a good candidate for a job.  I’m frustrated by the whole process of interviewing, then getting shut down by not getting a call back from an employer.

For Mike Teran and 14 million other Americans, Labor Day wasn’t a holiday.  It was another day with worry and anxiety.  It was another day without a J-O-B. 

Where do we go from here?  President Obama is set to announce during a speech to Congress this Thursday his new jobs plan.  Regardless of what is said that night let us not forget Mike Teran, nor the other 14 million Americans who are out of work.

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Flowers for the Dead – RIP Milton Noel

I’ve been compelled to write about this experience for several reasons, but most significantly to remember a man that had a positive impact on me in only two hours’ time.

We live and we die, that is the fate of all humans on this earth. I’ve not yet witnessed a birth, but I look forward to the day that I can. However, I’ve been to many funerals. The experience of life and death isn’t always foremost in our heads, but it is omnipresent. Even though I’ve been to many funerals, I’ve experienced them all a little differently. Indeed, it’s hard to be blind to factors such as age, cause, and life choices when at a funeral.

Yesterday I received word that a relative of mine by the name of Milton Noel had passed on. As always when I hear of a death, a cloud of depression descended over me. Thoughts of the deceased and his family crossed my mind, as well as what little I knew of the man. I’d only met Milton, better known as Bubba, once. It was in December of 2006 at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, OK that I met him.

I’d heard from my grandmother many times that he was working at RIS, she is his aunt. I was in Anadarko visiting family and took a chance to ride to the school and meet him. I spent about two hours with him; he gave me a tour of the school and talked to me about the kids that attend RIS. I left that day with a feeling of pride, it stemmed from having a man in my family that I viewed as someone dedicated to education in the Native community.

I contacted the florist in Anadarko yesterday to order flowers to be sent to his funeral. This was a first for me; I’d never sent flowers to a funeral. The experience of it left me with an upset stomach and dissatisfied feeling. When the florist asked me what I wanted to go on the card I had to pause… I hadn’t thought about it. I felt like I wanted the note to be about a paragraph long, full of my memories and thoughts of the day he and I met. I ended up asking her to write “My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.”

I contacted RIS and spoke with Sharon Hunter – Federal Programs Coordinator, formerly Elementary Principal at RIS – to speak to a person that worked with Bubba. Ms. Hunter had this to say about his character:

“Not only was he a principal, he was a liaison with our local community. He formed strong relationships with other tribes and their people. He was solid in his faith, which was Christianity.”

Milton Noel came to RIS in 1987 to serve as a Vice Principal, a position he fulfilled until his death. Prior to RIS he worked in the Elgin (OK) County Public School system as well as at the Ft. Wingate BIE School in New Mexico. He was well known among the Kiowa tribe, of which he was an enrolled member. He spoke the Kiowa language and was involved in the culture.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer, which subsequently spread to other parts of his body. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. Services are being held tonight at the RIS gym and tomorrow at the Rainy Mt. Kiowa Indian Baptist Church.

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Filed under cancer, education, family, life, Native American, passion, reflection