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They are just like you

This blog started out being light-hearted and reflective of the things in this world that I love. I chose to write about the things I love but considered to be things many of you would not categorize as “gems.” As I continued to come up with topics and ideas to write about I realized my posts began to weigh heavier and heavier. I began to think of things I necessarily didn’t love but had all the sympathy in the world for. The more I think about what I consider to be forgotten gems, the more I think about the events going on in our world. These are the catastrophes our hearts break for, yet we still go on with our days blissfully unaware of the detrimental effects they have on people just like us.

Currently one of the most horrific events going on in this world is the situation that has been escalating for years in Aleppo, Syria. The reality for those suffering in Aleppo is unimaginable. There really are no words for the sadness I feel for these people. Over the last few days, I have seen reports of things I can barely comprehend. I have seen images like a child clinging to his father, who has been killed, begging him not to leave him, or a father holding his two lifeless daughters. What’s happening is very real, and these people are no different than us.

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The most crucial aspect of it all, in my opinion, is how these children and their families haven’t had a sense of normalcy in years. They don’t have the comfort of their homes or the ability to go to school everyday. They cannot walk out of their door to a safe environment.

In fact, as of 29 minutes ago today Dec. 15, footage was released showing the moment the first ambulances, trying to evacuate injured people and their families from the rebel-held Aleppo, being shot at. Terrified children cry out as they are being carried out of the attacked ambulance, ITV News reports.

However, the battle being fought around these kids isn’t anything new. The Battle of Aleppo began in 2012 and barrel bombings and missile strikes still happen today. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate, but the way I see it, some have been forced to stay. The New Daily also reported today, 50,000 people are to be evacuated as soon as possible. Although issues arose in the first evacuation attempts, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still considers the news of getting these people out of harms way within 2-3 days time a huge step forward. He tweeted this statement a few hours ago, “Congratulations to the people of Aleppo on this great victory against terrorism from Syrian Army Colonel Suheil Al Hussan.”

We can’t let this be our world. We must come together in compassion for other people. This reaches beyond just caring about friends and family. This means caring about people you have never met before, yet know they deserve to be saved. This is not about “being political,” it is about being a human being.

There are ways to help from all the way over here, in your comfortable home, at work or even after you run out of your last final screaming and shouting Christmas music. Check out these wonderful causes. If you feel any sort of responsibility or empathy please think about donating or at least get knowledgable about what is happening.

Support the White Helmets: herofund.whitehelmets.org 

Donate to doctorswithoutborders.org who provide medical aid.

Support the International Rescue Committee: www.rescue.org

Follow  @savethechildren on Instagram, who help children and families affected.

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Water

Recently, I have been very concerned and invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline issue. If you haven’t already seen the controversy in the news, or as of Sunday evening Dec. 4, heard that the Obama administration decided to not approve a key permit allowing the pipeline’s builder to compete the project, you are probably living under a rock. All right, I guess I can understand that maybe some of us are a bit more concerned with personal issues than the issues that affect others, but I’m here to say, let’s start. My investment started as most of my “save the rainforest” type concerns do. I saw a few posts here and there on social media and decided it was time to do some research of my own.

Sidebar: I follow actor, Mark Ruffalo on all forms of social media and the day I woke up and saw this video, my heart filled with joy for the thousands affected by this injustice, (in my opinion, something that should have been a non-issue from the get-go) but also because Mark Ruffalo is just the cutest.

Here’s a little excerpt from Mr. Ruffalo before the pipeline came to a stop. I think it really reflects how the protests truly went down.

“I did not witness violence when I visited there,” Ruffalo proclaimed in an interview with CNN. “The mantra of the place is, it’s not the police, it’s the pipeline that we’re protesting or protecting ourselves against. They spend basically the entire day doing prayers, chanting. I’ve never been around so peaceful a stand.”

I began thinking of how much joy the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was feeling at that moment. All of their hard-work, months of protesting and pain and suffering have come to an abrupt halt. Many reports I read depicted a disastrous fight between the police and the protestors themselves. Most of the research I did concluded with the consensus that brutal police tactics were being used without warrant. Things like overuse of crowd control strategies, rubber bullets, high-pitched sirens and large water cannons all the way to unlawful imprisonment of peaceful protestors circled around in my head. I began thinking about the amount of time it took for this issue to be considered ‘not okay.’

For five months those affected along with an outpour of celebrities have been protesting the 1,172-mile conduit, USA today reports.

The construction would have run from North Dakota to Illinois and it could have tainted the water supply of many people. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe was suing the U.S. Army Corps Engineers for trying to disturb their tribal burial sites. The tribe’s ancestral sites of great historic, religious and cultural value were on the line and the families and supporters did not back down.

To be frank, I also started to think about how this is not the first time an issue of tainted water has arisen in the last few years and it’s sickening to think about. Last year, I investigated the Flint water crisis for an assignment. This is another issue many people know nothing about, while those affected are STILL living in horror each and everyday.

In April of 2014, Flint, Michigan and their water crisis came into the media. We’ve all seen the Pure Michigan campaign and think of the state as having blue skies and clear water. All of a sudden, Michigan water did not seem so pure, in fact it was metallic and corrosive because of the connection to Flint. This began when the water source was changed from treated Detroit Water, sourced from Lake Huron as well as the Detroit River, to the Flint River, to which officials had failed to apply corrosion inhibitors; I double-checked my memory of these facts with the NY Times.

The drinking water had a series of problems that ended with lead contamination, creating a serious public health problem for residents, families and children. To this day, residents of Flint are still not able to drink their water or give their children baths safely due to the corroded lead pipes. Children are already being diagnosed with ADHD, malnourishment and memory loss due to the high lead levels their moms and dads had no idea was in their everyday drinking water.

I think these depictions show how unsettling the ways officials handled these crises are. It reminds me of how the officials of North Dakota handled the pipeline. For some reason I think there is a huge disconnect in our country between human rights and those who make the decisions but aren’t being directly affected by them. It honestly breaks my heart to think about these people and the many more around the country who deal with misfortunes, which are out of their hands day after day.

The Dakota Access Pipeline ended its long run of controversy and protesting on a good note. The Flint water crisis did not. In fact, people are struggling with finding clean water still. But when’s the last time you heard about Flint in the media? It isn’t the latest anymore, and it isn’t the worst we’ve heard. It has fallen to the way side and become old news.

If you didn’t have clean water to drink in the middle of the night or to brush your teeth with, of no fault of your own may I add, would you be upset it wasn’t front-page news? Water is something I use again and again throughout the course of a day. I shower with it, drink it, cook with it and fill bowls and bowls of it for my dogs. If I were unable to flip my faucet on, I would probably go nuts.

I’m sad to admit I am fully aware of the issues going on involving water, and it’s not something that even crosses my mind once a day.

I know I’ve lit a fire in myself to start thinking about what I can do, I hope I’ve ignited one in you.

Do not read if easily repulsed.

If I have instilled any great and powerful knowledge on any of you throughout this blog it would be to never take your life, the wonders of this world or even the peskiest little bee for granted. But what about that person you might be overlooking the most. I’m talking about your significant other, the person we share the most personal secrets and confessions to. I am 100% about to get really sappy here and I beg you to bare with me.

In high school, my friends would often describe me as heartless. I don’t know if that was due to the fact that I was going through my own angst-y teenage phase but I truly wasn’t concerned with sentimentality or emotions. A few days ago actually, I was wasting time as I waited for the motivation to study to kick in, otherwise known as procrastinating, and I found myself on my Time Hop. This app, if you are unfamiliar, shows you the posts and comments you shared year by year since you became active on social media. Four years ago I was a senior in high school, and my most popular tweet read, “Boys. Like really, why do they have to exist?” Now I don’t quite remember what triggered my brief but moody exclamation but I do recall that I in fact did hate the male gender. My brothers included. I cringed at my naiveté and for my use of the word “like” but also I chuckled at how different my life is now. And by different I mean wonderful.

Flash forward to present day, and I am coming up on my 3-year anniversary with my boyfriend, Steve. How the hell did I get here? I find myself baffled by it all the time. I honestly can only toss it up to the fact that time truly does fly. I’m a senior in college now and my life is nowhere near where I imagined it to be. I am on my third college and my crazy best friends (at the time) who were frankly horrible influences, are nowhere near close to me anymore. Growing up really does mean changing and thank God I did.

When I was on my second college, my life was feeling pretty gloom. I had come back home from moving away to Michigan to go to Grand Valley State because it was boring and cold and not the experience I was looking for. I was back home, living in my parent’s basement (my bedroom is really in the basement, although I can’t get enough of it now) and I starting going to junior college. It felt like the biggest step back for me. I knew my mom was slightly disappointed in me, even though she would never have admitted it. And, the faces I’d see in the JJC halls reminded me of that tweet I posted in 2013.

I know I’m jumping around a bit in my timeline here but I was feeling a little defeated and like I’d stepped into a time machine and reverted back to high school. I walked into the very first class I ever had at that school, and I kid you not the first face I saw was his. I’m the most cliché girly girl ever now and yes, I’m going to say it…the rest was history. That doom and gloom turned into now what I consider to be the best decision I have ever made.

I, myself, am quite guilty of taking Steve for granted no matter how hard I try not to. Never in a million years when I first met him would I have imagined we be where we are today. I get so caught up in the myriad of responsibilities I have both regarding college and in my personal life. He’s my best friend and I find myself telling him more about what frustrates me in life rather than acknowledging how lucky I am.

Today I have a 5-day vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico planned with him. I stop and think each week that goes by that we are closer to going on our little get-away together how insane it is. I’m stoked for it but I know I never would be this happy without all the little bumps and bruises we’ve gone through. I’m pretty much aware we might kill each other on our trip, probably even before the plane lands, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am so incredibly happy that I shake myself everyday to stop and take it all in.

I guess where I’m getting at is I never thought I’d be where I am today. But back then, I’d never have wished my life to change, and I’m grateful for it now. I knew exactly what I had; I just never thought I was going to lose it. I’m sort of eluding to the idea of “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till its gone.” Not everyone can make you happy, so when you find the one who does…make sure you don’t take him (or her) for granted.

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Giving thanks to my crazy family.

This time of year we often hear, “What are you thankful for?” Thanksgiving brings about the time when we see our relatives and have a little extra time to relax or indulge in that leftover pumpkin pie or cheesy potatoes. But also it’s a time to take a step back and appreciate those you love. This time of year goes along with the theme of what we take for granted.

When I was sitting around the table in awe of the Thanksgiving meal before me, my eyes were opened to the 20 other people around me. My family is a large one, sometimes it is very difficult to hear yourself think, however I wouldn’t trade them for the world. My aunts, uncles and cousins are truly the only people I often feel I can be myself around. With responsibilities and busy schedules, the non-holiday season and months that I don’t get to catch up with them fly by.

This Thanksgiving however, there was an empty seat at our table. My aunt who passed away last year was greatly missed. While we toasted our wine glasses and beers to her, I was thinking of how easily this table of 20 can lessen and lessen in number. I know it’s getting a little heavy here, but I came to the conclusion that I need to stop stressing over my worries and start taking each day one step at a time. We truly never know what tomorrow brings.

Family is extremely important to me as you can tell. We support each other, cheer each other on and unconditionally love one another no matter how crazy we end up getting during charades after a few too many.

My mom asked me why I looked so sad while I was writing this… I smiled and told her I’m not sad but cherishing my memories of Thanksgiving. The holiday season, in my home, is filled with great memories and laughs and knowing Christmas Day will be no different might just help me get through the next two weeks of projects, speeches and finals.

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Celebrating our #1 Sox fan… my Aunt Colleen.
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Lake house festivities.
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We go all out for Halloween…
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Cheers’ing to my 21st.

 

 

Be conscious. Be aware.

This week I have been thinking a lot about living in the moment. Recently I listened to a speech given by David Foster Wallace, an American novelist who was recommended to me by my ethics professor. The speech is called This is Water and I recommend it to anyone who lives each week menial task by menial task, waiting for the day to come where you are finally free of responsibility. This is Water explains to you that day is never coming. You may get your dream job next year, you may meet the love of your life the next, but the monotony does not stop.

Wallace illustrates, with a very snarky sense of humor, your morning commute to work or your evening wait in the checkout line does not need to be spent watching the clock. You need not despise the hummer that cut you off or the loud and seemingly very rude woman bellowing her voice throughout Walgreens as she yells into her phone. The people you pass each day may be having a rough go at things. I could list all of the awful examples that would be considered “worse off than you” but that’s not the point. Wallace gave me a new way to see my week ahead. There is no reason to feel like “I just have to hang in there until Friday”, because Monday-Thursday can be conscious, explorative and joy-filled days as well.

So in order to help myself refrain from feeling down and out throughout the workweek, I’ve put together a list of things that we all take for granted. I hope they shed some light on why your life isn’t so bad ALL of the time. Disclaimer: I entirely acknowledge the fact that some of you may in fact not have the luxury of one or more of the following. You include the many of whom I admire.

  1. You have the sky, trees and nature in general to admire.

(I’m very pleased I’ve managed to slip trees into almost every one of my blogs.)

  1. You have the ability to wake up, roll over and check what time it is.
  2. You have the freedom to choose what you want to do today, even if you have some limitations.
  3. You have the time to have a sense of humor and make light of a bad day.
  4. Your shower works, with hot water and maybe you even have a loofah.
  5. There isn’t a hurricane, tornado, typhoon or other natural disaster going on outside your door.
  6. You have opposable thumbs.
  7. You have the means to eat three meals a day, even if one (or more) of them is ramen noodles.
  8. Your roof does not leak water on your head; it keeps you dry and warm at night.
  9. If you step out your back door, your backyard isn’t full of safari animals.
  10. You have good health, or you have someone to bring you chicken noodle soup if you are under the weather.
  11. You have a comfortable bed to sleep in, with a pillow, which is not clay or soil or the floor.
  12. You have the ability to read and write, which allows you to further your knowledge of the world.
  13. You have books to read to strengthen the previously mentioned. ^
  14. Somewhere in this vast world of ours, you have someone who loves or misses you.

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Cassini: Mission to Saturn

When I was younger, the thought of space terrified me. I never wanted to be an astronaut like other kids, nor did I want to think about what could be ‘up’ there. This may be due to my demented brothers, who tormented me with the never-ending joke that aliens were going to take me away one day. I do however, always remember loving E.T. But after my two brothers showed me Alien vs. Predator, I was horrified.

Jump forward a few years later, and I saw my first shooting star. I think this is when I realized how amazing space is. I stopped thinking that we might not be alone, and started admiring the gift we truly have.

Nowadays, I am in awe of space exploration. The fact that humanity has been capable of doing so is mind-boggling to me. There is a lot to wonder about space. We don’t know all the answers about it quite yet. We do know it is vast and beautiful, yet we really don’t know just how vast (or how beautiful, for that matter.)

Recently I started researching NASA a lot more than just hearing about the latest blip on the radar. I came across one of NASA’s missions that overwhelmingly astonished me.

Cassini is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. It orbits Saturn, studying the ringed planet and its moons in detail. The most amazing piece of this puzzle to me, Cassini’s journey began over 20 years ago.

I know Apollo 11 landed humans on the Moon in 1969, yet I don’t think I’ve ever truly taken that in. To me, I am amazed to be on a planet where there are people that intelligent. I definitely know I’m never going to command a lunar landing. It amazes me though that we had the technology to do such things almost 50 years ago. I really think we need to appreciate that during a time where we may be feeling like were taking a few steps backward.

Any who, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn is the most ambitious effort in planetary space exploration ever. After reaching the icy planet, Cassini will study the Saturnian system. One of the questions NASA along with the European Space Agency, and the Italian space agency plan to solve is what exactly are Saturn’s rings made of? By the way, I know I’ve covered my lack of space traveling abilities, but just in case you were wondering I also have a lack there of in the space knowledge department. Feel free to fact check me on the NASA website!

Due to the fact that Cassini is a 12,345-pound craft, these geniuses had to come up with a way to launch it up there. Something called gravity assist was used. This is really freaking cool guys. So this technique maneuvers the gravitational pull between a moving planet and a spacecraft. Cassini was basically sling-shotted off of another vehicle to orbit around space ever so perfectly (in 1997!!!), in order to end up where they wanted it to go. Cassini looped around the Sun twice, flew close behind Venus where it stole some more momentum in ’98 and ‘99, and finally had enough boosts to make it to the outer Solar System. One last gravity assist maneuver from Jupiter in 2000 gave Cassini the final thrust it needed to project itself all the way to Saturn. My mouth is agape just writing this. The fact that these masterminds figured out a way to pinball this spacecraft just right in space is mind-numbing.

The mission arrived at Saturn in 2004 and is expected to end Sept. 15, 2017. By 2005 though, the Huygens probe, attached to Cassini, parachuted onto the mysterious surface of Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. This is when images and answers started being beamed back to Earth.

Throughout the past 11 years, Cassini has been sending extraordinary information back to us. We learned that there are lakes on Titan, we learned it has a very similar Earth-like surface and atmosphere, we received the closest images we have ever had of Saturn, the biggest storm ever seen close-up in space was documented and we discovered unknown rings we previously had no knowledge of.

One of the coolest parts of this mission, in my eyes, has yet to come. In early 2017, Cassini’s launch will shoot it directly towards Saturn’s innermost ring. This final close encounter will include 22 loops around the ring and I for one am very excited to find out what these rings consist of. Again, I must stress how in the world did these really really smart people figure out how this thing was going to travel perfectly around in space. This will always impress me.

At the end of Cassini’s mission, sadly, it will enter Saturn’s atmosphere and be crushed and vaporized by the pressure and temperature. If you too are feeling a little personally hurt by this after getting invested in Cassini’s life, don’t fret. Cassini will gather information up until its “last breath.” We will obtain information we have so far never dreamed of having, and I think Cassini has had a pretty good 20 years up there.

I know a lot of specifics were compiled into my own words here, so I understand if this story presents a lot more questions. That’s actually my goal. I am so awestruck with our world’s ability to explore space, I can only hope I’ve sparked some kind of urge to know more. The thing I am certain of though, space is pretty amazing. If this current career path I’ve chosen doesn’t pan out, maybe I’ll look more into this.

Elephants are my spirit animal

Today’s topic consists of my favorite thing on this green earth. If you know me, I’m sure you’re surprised I haven’t written about these gems I love so much yet. But I have been purposely waiting for one of those days where everything seems to be weighing pretty heavy… I knew unloading about these beautiful creatures would send my day back to the start.

Today is definitely that day. When I was little my great-aunt was one of my favorite humans. She would come to visit my grandmother while I was there after school and I would set out all of the little trinkets she’d brought me. My Aunt Goldie was one of the warmest funniest people I can remember. She was generous and kind yet blunt and honest when she needed to be. She also showed me my love for elephants. My grandma and her will always be who I hope to be like one day.

Elephants are, to me, one of the most amazing gifts the world has given us. I have so much love for them in my heart. It’s a little odd I know, but I’m okay with having weird loves like elephants and trees.

Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups. The oldest female leads the herd and when a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. Thanks to Defenders of Wildlife, I am also brushing up on my knowledge of how endangered elephants are today. I think I am up to three speeches now on the poaching of elephant ivory and the threats that are placing the elephant’s future at risk. These also include climate change (I’m noticing this is a common theme in my blogs…) and habitat loss.

Before I pitch my save the elephants spiel, I want to do my unloading of why these creatures are so incredibly amazing to me. Seriously, they are incredibly intelligent. The Scientific American supplied me with this list of points.

  1. They can identify us by our voices.

I can recall learning about this while researching elephants. I figured it was a good idea to not only love them but also be knowledgeable about them. Have you ever tried to express a feeling about something but not have the words to do so. I highly suggest reading up on those things! But back to the point… researchers have found that elephants can distinguish differences in human gender, age and ethnicity purely by the sound of someone’s voice. They can also follow our body language, as in pointing or gesturing instructions to them.

  1. They communicate on crazy levels.

Recently, discoveries were made that show elephants communicating over long distances by producing a sub-sonic rumble that can travel over the ground faster than sound through air. Other elephants receive the messages through the sensitive skin on their feet and trunks. It is believed that this is how potential mates are sought out. *Insert heart eyes emoji*

  1. Elephants can use tools.

Elephants have been known to use sticks to scratch themselves in areas they couldn’t otherwise reach, and fashion fly-swatters out of branches or grass. They have also been observed digging holes to reach drinking water, AND THEN plugging that hole with a ball of bark to prevent the water from evaporating, A.K.A saving their water for later use. C’MON.

  1. They mourn their loved ones.

It would obviously be a stretch to say elephants understand death in the same way humans do, however, it has been confirmed that they show symptoms of grief and mourning along with joy and anger. They will stand near the body of their friend and caress them as if comforting them. This has been observed to go on for hours. Sometimes elephants try to bury the remains of their family members, and they do not behave this way with the remains of other animals. I would go to every elephant memorial if I could.

  1. Elephants never forget.

They have extraordinary memories. I’m sure you knew this one, but let’s point out some examples. Elephants can remember routes to watering holes over incredibly long stretches of time and space. They can also remember their old friends. After long periods of separation, they still recognize their old companions.

In 1999, Shirley and Jenny who were once companions in a circus, reunited after 20 years apart. Here is their reunion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF8em4uPdCg

The most urgent threat to elephants is poaching to supply the illegal ivory trade. World Wild Life establishes new protected areas for elephants, constantly monitoring their population status across Africa and Asia and providing rangers to operate on the frontlines of the fight against wildlife crime.

You can protect threatened species…including elephants 🙂 and their habitats today with a one time or monthly donation to World Wildlife Fund.

Elephants have been a part of my love affair since my Great Aunt Goldie brought me my first elephant trinket. I can only hope you have been touched by their souls even half as much as me.rsz_namibia_will_burrard_lucas_wwf_us_1.jpg

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