Regarding Hope, Love, & Orlando

  • “Find the good in the world, and hold on to it with both hands.” (Quote from a post on @elephantjournal Instagram account.)

I haven’t said a lot about the Orlando shooting aside from sharing some relevant videos and “liking” some relevant posts/videos on social media. This is not because I don’t care (as anyone who really knows me will already be aware of), but rather because I just have so much I could say, and I know myself. If I get going on that tangent, it will turn into a novel before I know it. And there is this weird stigma with speaking up about “issues” on social media. So many people seem to pass judgement on those who often utilize social media as the metaphorical soapbox, getting annoyed about it and rolling their eyes, and seeing it as a very negative quality for someone to possess.

Personally, I love a good soapbox. There has never been a positive change in the world that came about because people remained quiet. As the quote says, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is thatΒ good men to do nothing.” So I will continue to try to use the gifts I’ve been given to impact positive change in the world around me. To write about what moves me and try to express a perspective that someone might not have understood previously. To sign petitions and volunteer my time when I can. To be kind to the people I come in contact with and do more good than harm in the world.

I am absolutely stubborn in my optimism and faith in humanity. But in order to truly believe in it, I have to contribute. I believe that one small act of kindness outweighs multiple negative acts, in the balance of our universe. I don’t care if that makes a cynic call me naive. I know that so much progress is needed in our society, in our world. But I also know that love wins, every time.
However, after so many situations like this in recent years, with the same conversations happening over and over again with nothing changing I simply haven’t been able to really form a concrete thought on the situation. I don’t want to say I’m weary, because deep down I know I’m not. As I said, I’m quite stubborn in my optimism. But for the moment, for this moment, I am indeed weary.

My heart breaks all over again every time I think about the Pulse shooting victim who was trapped in the bathroom before being killed, and texted his mother to tell her he loved her and that he thought he was about to die. Can you even imagine? Imagine being that mother, sitting on your couch watching television or perhaps already in bed for the night, getting that text from your child to find out later that they were killed moments later. And for what? For innocently being who they are.
I have so many emotions and thoughts and opinions on the entire situation… the hatred/bigotry, the policy change that desperately needs to happen, issues with gun regulation, mental illness, treatment of the LGBQT community. But behind all of that, all of my own personal thoughts and feelings that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, there are hundreds of friends and family members right now mourning the loss of their loved ones, knowing that they were gunned down for no reason other than someone hated them because of who they loved. There is never any sense to be made out of situations like this. All of those people just had the world fall away from them suddenly, with no explanation, and there never will be an explanation that can fill that void in their lives.
And while I wish I could give each and every one of them a giant hug and it hurts my heart that I can’t… I’m so happy to see the world collectively giving them that hug, metaphorically speaking.❀ Now let’s see if we do more than just hug them and move on… only time will tell.

Dear Vegetarians & Vegans:

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I have been vegan (for a brief time) before, and I lean more toward being vegetarian than being a heavy meat-eater. Also, I give “kudos” to anyone who IS strictly vegetarian or vegan–it takes some dedication and sometimes willpower, so good for you.πŸ™‚ And it’s really ridiculous that I need to give this disclaimer, but I am 100% NOT saying that every single vegetarian or vegan is like this.

That being said, after working for a company that sells food but does not currently have vegetarian or vegan options, I have to say that generally speaking, vegetarians/vegans seem to be quite condescending and holier-than-thou!

Nobody is trying to force you to eat meat. So if you see a company that does not have vegetarian options, what good do you think it will really do to publicly berate them or attack other people commenting positively on their page? Just because they might have a different definition of the word “healthy!”

Trying to bully people into adopting your lifestyle or diet is not going to make people want to do so! Why not approach it with understanding, kindness, and maybe a bit of polite knowledge? Listen, IΒ get that you just want to save all the animals and better the planet and that your intention is to “do good.” But yelling at someone or chastising a company isn’t a very productive way of going about it. You end up looking like a petulant child stomping their foot on the ground with their bottom lip sticking out, and very few people will care to heed your advice, as well-meaning as it may be.

Out of the hundreds of comments we get about this, literally only one or two that I can recall were calm and/or informative. “Oh, I’m vegetarian, so it’s not for me. You guys should read this article, it gives a really good picture of why vegetarianism is a good health choice.”

At the very least, they’re almost always condescending. “Oh you don’t have vegetarian options? So you’re contributing to the slaughter of animals? That’s cute. No thanks.”

The large majority areΒ aggressive, attacking, and sometimes downright vulgar. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! YOU’RE SAYING THAT EATING DEAD F—ING ANIMAL CARCASS IS HEALTHY?! GET A GRIP YOU IDIOTS!”

What’s that saying? You attract more bees with honey than vinegar? Well, I personally think it’s quite true. Passion for a cause is certainly admirable, until that passion becomes aggression, then it’s mostly just off-putting and probably is just going to hurt your cause.

That’s all she wrote. (For now!)

 

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Thoughts on New York City

When I was younger–middle school/high school aged–I was obsessed with the idea of living in New York City.Β I grew up in a painfully small town and knew from a young age that while it was an enjoyable upbringing, I wouldn’t stay there. It just wasn’t quite for me.

NYC was of course, glamorous, in my mind. This big, thriving city full of exciting people and exciting things to see and experience. It all seemed so romantic, in a writer kind of way. Living in NYC was one of my big “dreams” in life.

After moving to Phoenix (from Michigan) almost 4 years ago, I have come to realize that I absolutely love sunshine. I was never depressed in Michigan or anything like that–it has its great qualities and will always be my home state and have a place in my heart–but I didn’t know what I was missing out on! Some people enjoy gloomy weather, and while I do on occasion, for the most part I want to wake up and see the sun shining. Here in Phoenix, that happens nearly every day! I love it. So I’ve known for awhile now that I don’t have a desire to ever live in the midwest again, or anywhere that has similar weather (snow, freezing temperatures, etc.).

Last week I had the chance to finally visit New York City, and I have to say that the weather is not the only reason I wouldn’t want to live there. As I’ve come into my own and become an adult I have also realized that I value my personal space quite a bit. I don’t mind being around large groups of people from time to time, and I do love meeting new people. But to push through crowds of people on a daily basis? No thank you.

The buildings are absolutely gorgeous–I have a fondness for wonderful, intricate architecture (hence, I selected Barcelona as my study abroad location simply so I could see La Sagrada Familia). But the apartments are small, the restaurants (most of them) are small, the subways are crowded, and someone is always in your way.

Some people thrive in this kind of environment… I am not one of those people.

Sure, it’s easy enough to get around–the subway system is very thorough and relatively speaking it doesn’t take long to get from one end of Manhattan to another, or from Manhattan to Brooklyn if you just hop on the subway. But I’d rather hop in my car to get where I want to go. I enjoy driving, despite my bouts of road rage.πŸ™‚

I got the distinct feeling that after an extended period of time in New York, I would likely develop a bit of claustrophobia. And then, you have the weather and the ridiculously high cost of living. I’ll stick to Phoenix for now.πŸ™‚

I didn’t get to sight see as much as I would have liked, but I did get to see a few cool things while I was there. I visited the Museum of Natural History, which is ENORMOUS.

One thing I really wanted to see was the New York Public Library (main one)… and I’m so glad I did. It is absolutely gorgeous. I wandered around in there for about an hour and probably could have stayed longer if I wasn’t trying to fit other things in before my flight left. I was simply in awe of it, honestly.

I also was able to walk through a bit of Central Park, which was gorgeous. Luckily the sun was out that day so I got some great photos. The views are so great there.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum was probably my favorite. The memorial is beautifully done and very moving. I debated paying the money for the museum, and I’m glad I did. Though, admittedly, I was unprepared for how emotional I was going to be. I thought it was an incredible museum and there were so many separate parts of it that just kind of made me pause for a moment, feeling speechless, really. Various photos, bits of news footage, objects pulled from the wreckage, pieces of the building, sound clips of people telling their story of where they were that morning, voicemails left for a firefighter of all his loved ones wondering if he was okay… yeah I may or may not have sniffled back tears a handful of times.

All in all, New York was so cool to visit and I absolutely want to go back some day to experience more of it, but visiting is all I’ll do.πŸ™‚

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My Passion for Words

I sometimes wonder where I would be without writing. Well, no. Not where, but who. Who I would be if I wasn’t addicted to words and the art of language and the emotions that can be conveyed so beautifully through simple words.

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. -Emily Bronte

I mean… what a simple sentence. A simple thought. But it is beautiful in its clarity and simplicity. You know there is love behind those words. A true, deep, perhaps painfully deep love.

The power of words never ceases to amaze me. My soul is often quieted by it–by books and writing and poetry and the impact that they can have on us.

I just wonder what my passion would be if it wasn’t writing. Some people feel this way about painting, or photography, or basketball. What would stir my soul? Food for thought.πŸ™‚

My Thoughts On Judgments and Assumptions

How many times have you caught yourself thinking or saying, “God, what a skank” or, “He looks like a loser”, “She goes outΒ all the time, how sad” or something along those lines, especially about people you have never met or even spoken to?

Making baseless judgments of strangers is innocent enough, I suppose… I mean, it doesn’t really harm the person being judged if you just say it or think it to yourself… but does it benefit you in any way either?

I don’t know how it is in other countries/cultures, but I know that in ours here in the United States we are raised to be in competition with one another at all times. (Women in particular, but it goes for men as well.) We are, in general, a society of insecure people trying to make ourselves feel better by thinking and vocalizing what is wrong with everyone else around us.

Girls who are overweight want to call skinny people “not real” or “skinny bitches.” Then skinny girls want to turn around and call the overweight girls names right back. People have kids and a family and maybe have a friend get upset with them for not being able to go out, so they turn around and write a Facebook post about how much better they are because they’re at home with their family and not out “partying like an idiot.” The list goes on.

Also, we have stereotypes thrown in our faces pretty much all the time. We grow up to assume that the kid wearing all black with eighteen piercings in his face and ears is sketchy. Or the girl with the tight dress is sleeping with everyone. Or the kid with the dreads and gold chain is a thug.

If you never once made these kinds of assumptions, as a kid or as an adult, then you’re either lying to sound good, or you grew up with the best parents ever, in the best town ever, with virtually no media influence.

I’m not saying I was ever mean or hateful toward people based on assumptions. Definitely not. But when I was younger, yeah, they would cross my mind fairly often. I always gave people a chance and usually they would prove me wrong. Because these assumptions aren’t based on much of anything.

I’ve had these types of judgements made against me as well. I know I have. Everyone has. Especially as teenagers. Everyone is still trying to figure out who they are and they tend to be most insecure at that time in their life, and so they lash out at those around them.

As I’ve gotten older and learned for myself that self-esteem is based on what you think of yourself, and should have nothing to do with what you think of others or what they think of you… I’ve just become happier. Truthfully, I never did care all that much what other girls said about me behind my back. Because I knew it was based off of nothing factual, and was coming from a place of insecurity on their part. A girl once got so upset with me that she cried hysterically and had to “talk” with me in the bathroom because I walked back from track practice in the same group as her boyfriend. And I heard her friends consoling her saying, “Don’t worry, she’s just a slut.” I didn’t even talk to the kid the entire time, and I didn’t even like him as a person. I mean seriously, that is high school for you. I wasn’t all that worried about their words.

However, I did always have the backwards thought process in my head of, “If I’m pretty/funny, she can’t be prettier/funnier.” (Or whatever trait.) And I know a lot of girls who had the same thing going on. Obviously I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but I know it was there. And it is just a recipe for inner turmoil, and negativity.

I swear, I think every girl should have to read “Queen Bees and Wannabes” and watch “Mean Girls” at like 14 years old. Because the “aha” moment Cady has at the mathlete competition is truly what it all boils down to. Calling someone stupid won’t make you any smarter, calling someone ugly won’t make you any prettier, etc. It’s a simple concept that gets so muddled in the mess of media influence and societal pressure to be the best and not only think you are the best yourself, but have everyone else think it as well.

I really do try to always be aware of myself when I start to make a baseless judgement of someone. If I get a theory about a person in my head I remind myself, “You have no idea, really.” My twenties has been a time of self-reflection and strengthening my self-esteem without bringing anyone down. Luckily I had a good foundation from my upbringing… I feel like I got a head start, really. I was fortunate to have wonderful parents who made me feel special without feeling above anyone else. And that is what it comes down to, I think.❀ I think we would all benefit from being honest about this type of behavior and just making an effort to be aware of it, you know? But these are just my personal thoughts based on my own experiences.πŸ™‚ I would just rather be positive than negative.❀

Let Me Just Gush a Little… Or A Lot.

I am, and always have been, a contemplative type of person. I’m a writer, after all. A significant portion of my life is spent reflecting on things that have happened, conversations that I’ve had, and situations I’ve dealt with. For some reason I have recently been reflecting a lot more on this whole new chapter of my life that I started about a year and a half ago.

While I was trying to work through my marriage’s problems, I was a little bit lost and very confused. Obviously I never foresaw that relationship heading in that direction or I wouldn’t have committed to a lifetime of it. I had faith that it would last, and I had faith in my spouse’s feelings toward me. And I learned the more difficult way, how quickly things can change. And how drastically. Intense love can quickly turn into the ugliest words and actions. Before long, I came to the realization that things weren’t going to get better. We both realized that we had been a little naive and far too romantic in thinking that we were a good match for a lifetime together. We simply weren’t the right people for each other. I learned that love does not automatically equal a good match. Compatibility needs to be there, as well. Look at how many people you know who love the wrong person… it happens a lot! We find love and want to hold onto it despite the obvious signs that there is little else keeping us together… ! And it takes maturity and time to see past that and look at how well you truly fit with someone.

When I moved to Phoenix I received so much love and support from everyone… from people I didn’t even expect to ever hear from again. Others pretty much forgot about me the minute the decision was made, and that’s fine, too.

In the year and a half since then I have grown immensely as a person. I took a few hits, emotionally, and had to learn to keep being hopeful that I would find my once-in-a-lifetime love. Trust me, some of these guys out here make it difficult for a girl to keep believing… haha! I navigated through dating, which is something I really never did before. I would usually just meet a guy and end up being his girlfriend… I had never experienced first dates, and second dates, and maybe having two in one week! HaHa. It was fun, but I am a monogamist at heart. I get into too much trouble when I’m that free and single.πŸ™‚

I believe that I’ve become a better friend–just a better person in general. Not that I think I was a bad person before! But I’ve worked on being even more accepting and understanding… and to have enough confidence to just worry about what I think of myself and not get wrapped up in what other people think of me. (Which is quite a liberating feeling, let me tell you! And a constant battle, truthfully.)

I met someone who showed me what non-exclusive, long-term dating is like for our generation… and while I’m certainly not a fan, I did learn some valuable things from it.

Then, I went and met the man I didn’t really believe existed. I really thought he was a schemer when I first met him–it couldn’t be possible that someone would say and do everything that I hoped they would say and do! I went on our first date quite reluctantly, and returned home a very excited, giddy girl. I felt revived, simply from the amazing conversations we had. Now we are eight months in, and I can’t even begin to express how genuinely happy I am.

Not just superficially oh-it’s-all-puppies-and-rainbows happy… but truly happy in the center-most point of my soul. He has helped me grow even more as a person. He is mature, intelligent, and so much fun to be around. He gives me everything that I need from a partner, and I know he is strong enough to face any obstacle or challenge to our relationship head on and work through it with me. And for that, I am unbelievably grateful.

He is a man who wants a good woman in his life to be his partner. He wants a woman who will be a good mother, because he will be a good father and knows the importance of family. He wants a woman who will support him and lift him up, because he wants to do the same for her. He wants a woman who will be open-minded and of a thinking mind, because he likes to read about philosophy and gain new perspectives. He wants a woman who is a child at heart, because he knows life should be fun. He is the type of man you stand beside because of the goodness in his soul.

Whatever direction life takes the two of us… I will forever be grateful to have him in my life right now. And I’m just really glad to have met him. Because I finally know what it feels like to cry from happiness.

That Little Town

I was thinking (and that will quite often lead to a blog post, or at least some scribbles in one of my various notebooks–haha!)…

Some people are just meant for a quiet life in a quiet place.

I am not one of those kinds of people. I grew up in that kind of place. Very little crime… you can leave your purse in your car, doors unlocked, windows down while you run into the gas station or store with no fear of any of your belongings being stolen. Everyone knows pretty much everyone, or at least someone who knows them if you don’t know them personally.πŸ™‚ The nearest movie theater is a 30 minute drive. The nearest mall is about a 45 minute drive, and it isn’t even much. High school parties happen in cow fields around a giant bonfire, drinking Boone’s Farm and Miller Lite. And your parents pretty much always find out, because everyone finds out everything. And it truly is beautifully peaceful.

I grew up there, and will always have a place for it in my heart. It feels good to go back and feel that comfort from time to time. But it isn’t the only place that feels comfortable for me. I’m more comfortable, more “at home”, in a place with more options… more people… things to do and different kinds of adventures to be had. If I don’t have those things, I begin to feel stifled. I don’t want to be changing locations every few years or anything–living like a fugitive–but it makes my skin crawl if I see the same 10 blocks, or same local faces for too long. For me, the world is too big for that.

There was a time, when I was young, that I thought anybody who wanted to stay in that town must be crazy. Or terrified of living life. But neither of those things are true. Sure, some people might want to leave, but are indeed scared of the change. And some might just not know any better. But for the most part people who stay there, are simply happy there. They thrive on familiarity, and that peaceful small-town environment. It fills their souls, so who was I (or anyone else) to think they are crazy for wanting that?

The same thing goes for people who want to explore further, and venture out into the unknown. I’ve heard comments from some people from my home town, or other small home towns across the country, who believe people who want to get out think they are somehow superior. For some, that is probably the case. But the same way that small town souls get fulfillment from their quiet, the more adventurous type gets fulfillment from brand new experiences and interactions.

(I emphasize “some” people from small towns, because I think that most people who truly enjoy their peaceful, small town life really don’t think about it too much.πŸ™‚ They couldn’t care less what other people are doing, and that is why they are happy where they are. That is a truly peaceful country person, if you ask me.)

It’s just another one of those things that continues to amaze me about life… about people. It really takes all different types. My dad is a country kind of guy if ever there was one. He hates crowds of people. He hates traffic. He doesn’t care to go make new friends and meet a bunch of new people. I, on the other hand, love meeting new acquaintances and friends. Driving in the city makes me happy. Skylines are as gorgeous to me as a mountain range. It takes all kinds.

I look at my graduating class and I see a group of 80 or so people, who pretty much grew up together. The majority of our parents were raised in that town. A lot of our grandparents were raised in that town. We had similar experiences. Then life opened up, and we all went so many different ways.

Some people’s lives led them to raise their very own children in that town. Others have families in other places. Some left and came back, after figuring out that they are happier there. Some of us left and won’t ever return. Life can just lead you in so many directions. Mine could have easily led me to stay there like some of my classmates… had I made different choices… or stayed in certain relationships… the difference is that I wouldn’t have been happy. But I can appreciate that they are happy there.

At the end of the day, I am glad that so many still love that little town. And I wouldn’t mind having a little vacation cabin on a lake nearby some day.πŸ™‚

Hello & Good-Bye Mitten State.

Last week in Michigan was fantastic! As usual, I didn’t get to spend as much time with certain people, but even an hour is better than nothing! I saw my best friends, babies galore, family, extended family, and even had great weather for the duration of the trip!

LJ (my loooove, in case you weren’t aware–haha!) came in on Thursday and stayed until Sunday when we both flew back here to the desert. I knew everyone would like him, since he is a likeable kind of guy… and of course I suspected and hoped that they would think he was GREAT, but you just never know… but they all seem to love him!πŸ˜€

My dad is always tricky, because he is so quiet and keeps to himself most of the time. And if he doesn’t like someone, he’s not going to pretend that he does. A lot of guys find him very intimidating, or don’t quite know how to pull him out of his shell. LJ didn’t seem to have much issue with it–helping dad get the pig ready for the pig roast probably helped! He loved getting all up in it and learning something new.πŸ™‚

My friends all gave him their stamp of approval as well, which is always a relief. He just fits in wherever he goes! And it’s nice to be able to talk about him to my friends & have them know who I’m talking about… a face to the name, I suppose. And now they have a better idea of why I’m always gushing about him.πŸ˜‰

And speaking of the pig roast… my parents are the GREATEST! They both put in so much time and effort to put it all together… both of them took time off work… Dad did so much work around the yard & then stayed up ALL night as the pig cooked (I guess you have to watch it?)… Mom made delicious food, invited everyone, they got the tables & chairs… it was basically awesome of them is what I’m saying.πŸ˜€ I am a lucky, lucky girl to have such special parents and to have so many people who care about me & make time for me!

LJ made a comment about how pretty much everyone in Michigan just seems so nice and cool. I assured him there are rude, snotty, aggravating people as well, I just choose to keep them out of my circle.πŸ™‚ So if you feel like you’re in my immediate circle… thanks for being awesome!

It is always good to come back home though… the desert is trying to cool down, but still remaining pretty warm… but it is definitely home now. Michigan will always be in my heart, and will always be a favorite place… but I wouldn’t trade all of these sunny days for much… !

Promises.

How many empty promises have you made in your life?

From something small like, “I’ll call you next week!” to something larger like, “I’m going to pay for your plane ticket to come see me sometime soon!”

For some reason this is on my mind. I try to be conscious of this and avoid it… but we all are guilty of it from time to time. And I think that’s fine–you say something pleasant once in awhile fully meaning to follow through on it, but realize afterward that it isn’t all that important to you and the other person probably doesn’t really care that much either… so you move on.

But I really hope that I never make a habit of it to the point that people no longer believe I will come through for them.

Something to think about… be conscious of what you are promising to people. If you can’t follow through, or simply don’t care that much to do so, then don’t make the promise. We are allowed to say “no” sometimes.πŸ™‚

Taking In Some Nature

This past weekend the boyfriend and I traveled up to the Sedona area for a little getaway. It. Was. So. Relaxing!

We rented a little cottage just a bit outside of Sedona (in the tiny town of Cornville) and mostly didn’t do anything. Saturday we did go over to Sedona to check out the uptown area, then went on a Jeep tour followed by a little hike around Cathedral Rock.

I grew up in a small, quiet town and will always appreciate spending brief amounts of time in places like that, but I don’t think I could ever live in a place like that again.

It’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. I am, and always will be, in awe of how beautiful and breathtaking nature is. Whether it’s the red rocks of Sedona, the thick pine trees of Michigan, or the white beaches of the Caribbean, it’s all amazing. And I think it’s so good for the soul to get out there and experience some nature as often as you can.

But I would go stir crazy after about a week, I think. I do love my solitude, but I like to easily go venture out into a hectic, busy, crowded environment if necessary for my sanity.

Sedona truly is breathtaking, though. We walked a trail up to Cathedral Rock and it opened up to a huge, flat stone at the bottom of the enormous rock formation and you could see all the way across to Bell Rock and other mountains/valleys. A storm was coming in to the left of us and every now and then we’d see a crack of lightning hit the top of a mountain through the drizzly rain clouds, drooping down to the Earth lazily… and we just sat there on the rock looking at everything for a little bit.

If you need to relax, I highly suggest you go sit out in nature. Find a breathtaking view, and just sit there enjoying it for at least 15 minutes. Don’t take a ton of pictures. Just look around. It will do your soul some good, I promise.πŸ™‚

Unless you hate nature, I suppose. But that’s just weird of you, if you do.