Personal

When I put my headphones on…

I am free.

I am thinking.

I am reflecting.

I am relaxing and allowing the rhythm to flow through my veins.

I am exited from the world outside and rolled back into my own personal being.

It’s not that I’m shutting you out, it’s that I am shutting myself out for a period of time.

I am not thinking about work, class or the task ahead.

I am allowing my body to fall into the fluid motion.

I am thinking about traveling.

I am daydreaming.

I am energizing.

I am now ready for the day.

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Personal

It’s Complicated

“SeaWorld and other aquariums have made millions charging very high rates for people to watch imprisoned animals do tricks. The real majesty of orcas can only be seen in the wild or by learning about their lives from videos, movies and websites.”

I’m guilty. I have been to SeaWorld, twice. Once when I was 6 years old and again when I was 18. When I was 6 and I stepped into that stadium to watch the whale show, I fell in love with the orca. I loved the way they majestically swam and I was mesmerized by their beauty. After that trip, I watched Free Willy non-stop and became a huge fan of whales of all kind. Senior year of high school came around and I went back to Florida for spring break. I was bound and determined to go to SeaWorld again to see the whales. After seeing the show and falling more in love with these beautiful creatures, I happened to ask a worker why their dorsal fin was flopped. I knew it was because of captivity, but I was hoping to get more information than what I found through Google and books. The answer that I received was astounding which made me question my support for this institution. I was told that “… only 2 percent of orcas have fully extended dorsal fins. Many wild orcas have collapsed fins so it is normal and natural for our orcas to have collapsed dorsal fins.”- Dumb SeaWorld Employee.

Really?

To this day, I cringe thinking about the day that I went to SeaWorld and watched beautiful whales do flips and tricks for dead pieces of fish. That was 2010. Five years later, finally, information about the captivity is coming out and the Blackfish era has engaged. I still tear up when watching that documentary because I was one of the tourists that paid to watch a whale and dolphins perform for my enjoyment, when it is a painful experience for them. The guilt that I have for attending those shows is immense.

I have been told that my passion for whales will not save them all. I know that. But I hope that my influence on others will be contagious enough to spread through conversation. It has also come to my attention that we can’t just set every whale free and expect them to live a happy life. There are so many factors that are hurt because of their life in captivity. Did you know that SeaWorld files down every whale’s teeth so they do not bite each other? They are filed down so far that they cannot bite through fish but just gnaw on them like infants with new teeth coming in. If we free a whale into the wild with shaved teeth they will not survive because they cannot fend for themselves or feed themselves. We cannot put a whale back in the ocean near Florida and hope that they make it. This whale must find a pod and connect with that pod to be allowed acceptance. Whales do not leave their pod unless forced upon by humans. Whales are not accepting creatures that will let anyone in their family. The whale that was just released will die alone because it cannot eat food because of its filed teeth and it cannot hunt or find the affection that it needs. When we take a whale from the wild, we take them from their family. We strip them from that connection. Many mothers refuse to leave the spot where their calf was taken. I’ll let that sink in. Mothers who have their calves taken away from them refuse to leave that spot. They starve. They get depressed and they die.

Whales that are taken from the wild and put into captivity go into a mental psychosis that is harmful to their mental stability. Just like humans. If we were taken away from our family and were not allowed to see them again we would go into a mental psychosis too. There have been countless whales that have committed suicide at these large aquariums. After the biopsy is complete, more often than not, the same diagnosis comes back. Whales have an extra lobe in their brain that is for feelings and expression. Whales that commit suicide show brain deterioration in that lobe or lack of activity in the lobe. Interesting. Whales that have committed suicide and killed themselves from the gates or by brutality have all had similar brain characteristics.

So what can we do? We can’t just put a whale back in the ocean and hope for the best. What could work, and the only positive outcome that I could foresee, is to allow the orcas to live together in a sanctuary that is set up in an ocean bay area where the whales get fed and cared for. This way they have the room needed to swim and they can still get the assistance that is needed to help them survive.

My passion for whales of all kinds is more than most can handle. On a recent trip to Mexico, we went out watching whale watching because humpbacks were in the bay area. The rush that I felt while watching the massive creatures breach from the ocean was the same felling I had at SeaWorld. I was speechless and just watched in awe. This is where we should enjoy these creatures, and many other wild animals, in their wild habitat where they are free and natural.

I asked a SeaWorld worker how long the whales lived. She told me 25-30 years is the average life span of all orcas, wild and captive. False. The average orca lives to 89 years in the wild. Stop lying SeaWorld.

Personal

Optimism Becoming Obsolete

“It makes a big difference in your life when you stay positive.”- Ellen Degeneres

Where has the optimism in peoples lives gone? Have we forgotten as a society to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty and draining fast? Rarely do I walk through a public place and see bright smiles on peoples faces. Everyone is so negative and they strive for that one negative comment that will engage in a ranting conversation. When did our country become so manifested in anger, rage, and negativity? Our country is so focused on the negative events that happen daily in the world when in all actuality, we should showcase the individuals that are making a difference. I will never see the local grocer who volunteers his nights at the local community center on the news because it doesn’t instill fear or pain in society. Why do we live in a world that fears so much and loves so little? Fear is not a pleasant feeling and it makes me sick to my stomach. I went to CNN.com and checked out the top 5 stories, here are the titles: LAPD kills man on ground, teen killed after Facebook fight, woman’s execution back on, 1 and 3 children at risk of hunger, and her texts urged friend to commit suicide. Would you read any of these to lift up your day? I know I wouldn’t.

It seems like everyone has something to complain about. Traffic’s bad! This weather sucks! I hate my roommate! I can’t pass a single class! I have noticed this recently in my academic classes as everyone has something to say about each professor and how they ‘hate coming to their class’ or find the class ‘pointless and time-wasting.’ Has it never occurred that these professional people have been in the field for numerous years and that they are here to spread their knowledge and to prepare us for the next chapter of our lives. Instead of complaining about the six page assessment, think about ways that you can integrate this into your interview or put it in a professional file for later reference. Our professors are full of knowledge and resources for us later in life. Not everything that we do in college or any workshop is worthless and not valuable. I agree that some professors give extensive homework or busy work, but it is all done with a purpose. There are many ways to look at a negative situation in a positive light. Remember that when you’re sitting in traffic, turn on the tunes and jam to some music. Listen to an audiobook to pass the time or call a family member that you haven’t talked to in a while. If you think the weather sucks, instead of moping around about it and making everyone else’s day negative, think about ways to enjoy the weather that is given to you. Raining? Sit inside and watch movies, start a hobby, or go jump in the puddles. Snowing? Go outside and build a snowman, drink cocoa, or just enjoy watching the snow fall. Storming? Think about how the lightening and rain is going to make the grass so green and the smell that comes after will be breathtaking. Everything has a positive twist, you just have to take the time to realize that everything has some good. Death is something that hits home for me as I have dealt with death more recent than not. Instead of crying in the corner about the fact that they are gone, I reflect on the person that they were and the way that they influenced me. I reflect on the fact that I was very privileged to know them, love them, and learn from them. There isn’t a fishing trip where grandpa isn’t brought up. We don’t mourn in the boat of his death but laugh because of his canny one liners that resonate with us to this day. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, it was terrifying. Instead of feeling bad about the situation my family and I were in, I stuck to the positive and decided that we needed to decorate the room to make it more like home. Being positive is what kept our family strong during this hard time. Something to think about is that we need optimism on the inside to keep us running, but we also need to show it on the outside, too.

But what is optimism? Why should we be optimistic if nothing great is happening in our lives? Just because you didn’t win the lottery or you didn’t get that big role that you tried out for doesn’t mean you can’t be optimistic. Sometimes being optimistic is feeling optimism for other people and being happy for someone. Our society is centered around personal growth and personal achievement that we forget about the people that stand next to us. We forget that there are 7 billion people in this world that are doing great things every day and they are continually going unnoticed. In my opinion, optimism is a contagious chemical that oozes off people. Look at someone and smile. Just do it. To a stranger or someone you know, just smile. No words need to be exchanged but the fact that you initiated the smile and the optimistic vibe, that person will most likely smile which will in turn get someone else to smile too. Smiles are a chain reaction, similar to yawning.

What being positive has done to me is beyond explanation. It takes a while to train your brain to think optimistic after flooding it with negative thoughts, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. It took me a solid month to get out of my old ways of complaining and move to admiring the world around me. I started to look at the ways the world has impacted me in a positive light and how lucky I am to be where I am today. We are all lucky to be where we are today. We are all lucky to be living in this world and living among the variety of people that are here. If the world was all the same, it would be so boring. What really changed me was reading Ellen Degeneres’ book Seriously… I’m Kidding. She laid everything out perfectly about her positive lifestyle. She also throws a bunch of puns throughout the book, which makes it a comical read. Since reading that book, I have made strives to live a more positive life full of optimism. This optimism has helped me get through the hardest semester of my life, next to student teaching. If I was as negative as my classmates about the assignments and professors, I would detest going to class and slack on assignments because they would not seem worthy of my effort. It is my optimism that is keeping me afloat this semester. I allowed myself to be happy and positive. I have allowed my body to feel at ease with the world around me and know that everything will be okay. Allow your body to be okay with happiness that is not paired with a high-strung stimulus like an amusement park, a night out with the girls, or receiving gifts. Allow the smallest thing to turn your day around.

Love life and love yourself. Allow yourself to be happy! Help keep optimism alive in this world of terror, fear, and insecurity.

Personal

Winter Wasting-Wonderland

Winter is cold. A two year old could tell you this. Winter is windy, especially where I live in Fargo, ND. Winter is chilling to the bone. Winter is also majestic and peaceful. There is nothing more peaceful than sitting on your apartment deck and watching the fresh snow fall to the ground while hearing it softly pile atop the wood paneling. One of my favorite things to do is sit on my porch wrapped in a blanket with a cup of cocoa and just watch the snow fall. Winter is one of the most hated seasons by most, but it is one of my absolute favorites. When people tell me that they hate Winter and cannot wait until Summer, it makes me wonder if they are seeing the season for all of its worth. We are all too busy holding our heads down shuffling to the nearest door to get into shelter. Hold your head high and embrace the world around you. Look for beauty in the day given to you.

As a child, we love winter. We love going outside and coming inside to warm cocoa with marshmallows and our favorite Disney movie. What changed? What has made our society so negative on this beautiful season? Winter holds the peace and calmness of a world that is at rest. A world that has slowed down for a while to re-charge and get ready for the time to come. When we think about a tree during the Winter, they are storing energy in the winter to help grow leaves in the spring. Every season has a theme and a story to tell. Winter is not the evil step sister that is to be shunned from the seasonal family. Winter allows me time to reflect, relax, and regenerate for the incoming seasons. We know Summer is always busy with graduation, vacations, and trips to the cabin. Spring calls for cleaning and Fall calls for building relationships and being outside with the beautiful leaves. Winter, on the other hand, is more relaxed and mellow. Winter is a beautiful thing.

I remember a time in Biwabik, MN on the iron range with my Nordic ski team. We were told to go ski, go get lost on the trails and enjoy the time that we had in this great area. My group and I went out to the middle of the trails and got lost. At that time, while my other two friends were freaking out because we were lost, I found myself in a state of peace and a calm awareness of the world around me. Listening to the wind hollowing through the trees and seeing a world of white was just what I needed to feel free. I felt invincible. I wanted to stay in that moment forever because it was so peaceful. After continuing onward, the only sound we could hear was the “swish, swish, swish” of our skis and the “pft, pft, pft” of our poles going through the snow. This feeling of serenity and full relaxation is why I love Winter.

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I live in the Midwest and we are accustomed to getting huge amounts of snow dumped on us at one time. (This year, not so much) It really makes me sad when residents of the East Coast complain that they are getting snow and whine when they are living in a world of opportunity and possibility. Go out with your children and build a snow fort, a snow man, or have a snowball fight. Forget about the driveway, you can clean it later. Allow time for fun. Besides, when it snows, the temperatures have to be just right which means it is not too cold outside. Take the snow day head on and enjoy the day for its name. Sometimes we get so negative about the beautiful precipitation falling from the sky that I don’t think we even realize that we are doing it. Why live in such a negative state of mind that you can’t even enjoy the smallest amount of clean, white, snow. I can’t wait till Summer when I can hear everyone start to complain about it being too hot or too humid because it seems that everyone will always have a problem and a complaint about something somewhere that will influence their negative attitudes.

Have you ever walked in a blizzard? Have you ever walked through snow drifts that are up to your waist en-route to McDonald’s, just to find out that it is closed? I have. That was one of the most memorable nights of my college career. Being outside when no one else would dare step out their front door and walk a mile just to be outside, that is what I wanted. I was sick of watching it snow from the inside and I wanted to experience the cornflakes sized snow flakes myself. Atop my head, on my shoulders and even in my mouth. Besides, when is the next time I will be able to live in an area where it blizzards once per year? Embrace the season upon us for all of it’s beauty and personality. Every day is a gift. Don’t live your life indoors being a hermit because you are afraid to be cold and have a runny nose.

Personal

The hipster lifestyle chose me.

Hipster (N) a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.

As I sit here on a Monday afternoon drinking a cup of organic coffee sporting a flannel with a handmade scarf, I wonder if I have caved into the hipster lifestyle that is sweeping the nation. I quickly realize that this has been my lifestyle for the past five years when I decided to start making choices that influenced my interpersonal self and was not influenced by the media telling me what I should be doing. I know, so hipster and mainstreamed. But really it wasn’t the most popular thing to do back in 2009. Choosing organic, supporting non-profit organizations and deciding to embrace my love for flannel outside of the cabin up north was a decision that I chose on my own, before the influence of the hipster lifestyle came into play. The stereotypical hipster is only what the media wants us to believe is popular and cool; when in all reality, we have been living among these ‘hipsters’ all of our lives with different identities. It’s not like someone concocted a mixture of beards, flannel, tight pants, converse shoes, and some indie music to create the stereotypical hipster. I can promise you that I will not tell you what is cool and what is mainstreamed; you know because all hipsters dictate what is mainstream and what isn’t. The hipsters that fit into the above stereotype are the ones that are trying to be a hipster and trying to fit into the desired social group. True hipsters do not want to be publicized and showcased for being themselves. This is why I say the hipster life chose me, because I did not influence myself to become popular or fall into the current trend. I told myself to be true to my own identity and embrace the lifestyle that I enjoy most.

When we think about how the hipster lifestyle has evolved over the years, it really gets brought back to the early 2000’s when Ashton Kutcher wore the Von Dutch hat and suddenly everyone was Ashton with the hat, sunglasses, and occasional bandanna. The hipster lifestyle then evolved to being focused around music and keeping up with the local bands, not the top 40 hits. Guilty. That was me all through high school. I did not appreciate the electronic sound of top 40 and if a band could throw out an acoustic album that is full of soul, I would be right there in the front row of their next concert. The hipster moved on into 2008 when the flannel loving Paul Bunyan with a slouchy hat came into your class. Tight pants came next with those mainstreamed v-neck t-shirts. If a female was spotted with a camera in a dress, they were immediately pegged as the hipster. This was the modern day hippie that is mirrored from the 70’s. Every era has their hipster from the wing-tipped shoes and bow-ties of the 60’s to the chunky sweater and bright colored lovers of the 80’s. Moving into the past few years, the hipster lifestyle has become less of a physical appearance and more about their lifestyles and their ideals. That’s where I fit in. We appreciate nature, the simple things in life, and doing good things for the earth and we are not afraid to stand up for what we believe in. My lifestyle and passions should not categorize me into the wanna-be hipsters since I my life has been so hipster for the past five years. It makes me squeamish to even think about calling myself a hipster, but in all reality it is a lifestyle that has been formed around me. I chose to go organic and all-natural before the hype of GMOs and HMOs and oh no here is another three letter acronym for something that they are artificially putting into our food. I chose to knit and do hand made crafts before it was mainstreamed to sell on ETSY. I chose my music taste before today’s hipsters decided to turn it into a social stereotyped scene. Name brands, not for me. Make up, not for me. Ingesting pesticide filled food that has been pumped with hormones, not for me. I chose my lifestyle and slowly watched the society form around the same beliefs and parameters I live my life around.

On that note, who decided that the male hipster should have chiseled cheek bones with beautiful hair and a freshly waxed mustache but the female hipster has to look like a college drop out with gauges and frumpy clothing? I would like to think I carry myself well and keep hygiene up to a pretty high standard over some people in our community. The idea of being hipster is an attractive look on males but looks almost homeless on the female population.

In a recent outing with a few classmates, a mutual friend told me to stop being so hipster. Stop being so hipster? Should I just stop being who I am and showcasing my passions on my Nalgene water bottle and cave to the latest trend because that is what society is telling me to do? I’m sorry, but I have too much confidence and pride in who I am to fall into the ‘popular’ lifestyle and try to be something that I am not. I guess I am hipster because I would rather have a home-brewed craft beer over the mainstreamed domestic draft. So I will go back to drinking my organic coffee at a coffee shop that has a great art vibe and enjoy the simple life because before we know it, the term hipster will change and I will no longer fit that stereotype.