Say What?

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare….If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” ~Rep. Todd Akin, R-MO.

Sometimes things happen that set me off so much, that I feel an immediate need to share.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Think before you speak.” It’s one of those proverbs that’s been around for ages, yet seems to be dying out as we progress into more digital forms of communication. On a personal level, we all have – or, in some cases, had – a friend or two on Facebook who doesn’t seem to understand that the things they post could potentially be considered offensive or contain details few people care to know. But that’s only minor compared to some of the ignorance spewed under the proverbial safety net that is the First Amendment.

When I was in undergrad public relations classes, we learned about these things called “prepared remarks.” Basically, any person in the public eye should have prepared key points for interviews to help stay on topic but still deliver main points. This was not the case for Todd Akin.

With his reckless display of ignorance, Akin had single-handedly ruined his campaign for the Senate, drawing criticism from fellow Republicans and losing support from third-party conservative campaign group Crossroads. And to make matters worse, his public “apology” was anything but. By simply stating he had “misspoke,” he only drew further criticism.

Although the majority of my political opinions tend to be more liberal, I have a deep appreciation for the moments when party politics are pushed aside over general agreement that something is flat out wrong. Todd Akin’s comments are that perfect indication that we, regardless of status, need to educate ourselves on the issues before we make assumptions and misinformed statements. The opinions of the American people influence which direction our country heads, but when our votes are placed without proper knowledge, we may end up regretting our decisions as voters.

What I’ve found to be the most useful resource for me so far is iSideWith.com. It helped me realize what my opinion is on the various important issues, their importance to me, and which candidates I agree with most. It is very comprehensive and detailed, and really helped me realize that I’m not entirely as liberal as I thought. I feel very strongly that party politics is ruining our nation’s potential, and believe this will help disseminate those affiliations. If you want to view my results, check them out here.

Now is the time to educate yourself. Discover the issues that matter to you most so you can go out and talk about them. We need more discussion on this issues in this country, and now is the best time to get started.

And most importantly, DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!!

 

Please feel free to share your results, and whether they were what you expected, in the comments below!

A Helping Hand

We all have those days that get us down. We are only human, meaning we are prone to being forgetful or clumsy or capable of making thoughtless mistakes. And being under the pressure of a culture driven by the notion that success is reached fast and efficiently with few mistakes, we often need a helping hand when we do slip up. And just last week, I had the privilege of experiencing how I can offer that help through my job.

The main proponent of my position as Campus Visit Coordinator is to schedule individualized visits for prospective students. I schedule students for campus tours, admission meetings and faculty meetings, among other tasks as requested. I also act as a back-up tour guide.

A campus tour I had scheduled was running late. It was a young woman and her mother, who were in a race against time to get all their necessary paperwork submitted so she could start classes in the fall. They admitted getting a late start , but had gotten through the admission process fairly quickly. However they had not yet accomplished one very important step: enrolling in classes. Because the usual tour guides were already out, I decided to give the two their campus tour.

The young woman was interested in the School of Communications, which allowed me to give her a more detailed tour of the building. I guess what happened next was purely coincidental, but easily a moment I won’t soon forget. We walked past the office of The Journal, our campus newspaper, and made contact with Larry, advisor to The Journal and one of my personal favorite instructors from undergrad.

Larry is not one to be shy by any means, and immediately inquired about the young woman’s interests and current standing. After realizing her need to enroll in classes, Larry offered his resources as an advisor to get her signed up. After her tour, she met with Larry while I escorted her mother to the financial aid office to complete some paperwork. Along the walk, the mother admitted she was nervous about sending her youngest off to school, but felt relieved and expressed such gratitude that we were able to accommodate her and get her daughter enrolled during her visit. Because I was a School of Communications student myself, I was able to provide her with the resource she needed to get everything completed.

I left work that day feeling elated for selflessly making another person’s day so great.

This is why I am proud to be a student again. I take pride in the fact that I am capable of providing resources to other students and getting them connected with the people they need most. I also take pride in acting as a point of contact for prospective and current students alike. Most importantly, I take pride in that I was raised with a willingness to sacrifice my time to lend a helping hand, an attitude which I intend to carry into my professional career.

“The only gift is a portion of thyself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One is Silver, the Other Gold

You know those little moments from your childhood? You know, the ones that at the time had little to no significance in your personal development, but for some reason have always stuck with you?

Well one of mine came back to me today. I was in my second grade music class, a tiny classroom with no more than 30 kids, sitting in rows looking at our thick, heavy music books. One of the songs was a musical version of the old phrase, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold,” sung in rounds. At the time the song got on my nerves (I’m still not sure why), but here I am 15 years later, with this same simple little song stuck in my head. This time, though, I realize it actually has some meaning.

When I was in my last semester of getting my bachelor’s degree, a slight feeling of tension arose among my friends and me. When we actually got the chance to hang out, it didn’t feel right. There was some odd level of stress and awkwardness.

It’s not like any of my friends did something wrong or harmful. It was just that each of us happened to be at a crossroads all about the same time, and each of us had our own personal stress distracting us from enjoying each other’s company. And being at those crossroads made us lose touch with each other for the sake of pulling our own personal lives together.

Recently, when I received an invitation to an old high school friend’s wedding, I had a distressing epiphany. I am a very sociable person, and have been blessed with a expansive circle of friends. Through high school, college and even the “real” world, I have made connections to more people than I’d ever imagined. In that brief moment of realization, I grew overwhelmed knowing how many people I consider friends but haven’t talked to in years.

Since I’ve become a full-fledged adult, and have had the opportunity to sort out my thoughts and goals since graduation, I realize now that this is normal. We all do simply what we have to do, even if that means sacrificing quality time with friends. Friends will move away, get married, have kids, do grown up things. There is no reason to be disliked for it, it is simply the nature of being grown up.

Even if I haven’t spoken to someone in years, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to their wedding. It doesn’t even mean that we aren’t friends. There’s no point in spending our waking hours concerned whether we’re still friends, without probable cause for those thoughts. It’s the little moments we often overlook; the exchanging of Pokemon cards on the school bus, the shaving cream fight, the 3am coffee runs, the timeless moments we can still laugh about today, that have solidified us as friends.

So in those rare moments when my friends and I do have the time to catch up, we are genuinely able to enjoy each other’s company. We are able to relive old memories and hopefully make some new ones as well. It’s as if we’d just seen each other. And it’s an amazing feeling, one that even being Facebook “friends” could never conjure.

So as the saying goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.” It doesn’t matter who they are, where you met or how long it’s been since you’ve talked. It doesn’t even matter if they’re silver or gold; either way, those friendships will remain precious.

Confessions of a Non-Hater

I’m going to start by listing current facts about me.

  1. I love video games. I’m particularly obsessed with Skyrim.
  2. I drink a lot of tea.
  3. I love playing kickball.
  4. I eat at Panera way too much.
  5. I have three cats and two fish.
  6. I’m going to graduate school in the fall.
  7. I’m gay.
  8. I have five siblings.
  9. Christina Aguilera is my musical idol.
  10. I am kind of fanatical about Dr. Who.
  11. I grew up on country music.
  12. I don’t believe in political or religious affiliations.
  13. I bite my nails.
  14. I listen to NPR a lot; I am particularly fond of Diane Rehm.
  15. I try to be nice to everybody as best I can.

All of these things have some sort of impact on my life. By reading all of these things, which do you think is the most significant?

Well, according to our government, #7 is the strongest definition of who I am. Apparently everything I do or say in my life is directly related to my sexuality, which means I deserve to be hated and denied the same rights as people who share some of those other 14 aspects of my life.

As #15 states, I try to be as nice to everybody as I can. I have previously written on the importance of generating good karma, and loving thy neighbor. The first fifteen years of my life consisted of growing up in an environment of hatred and emotional abuse. Yet even in those dark times I still learned to accept that everybody does things for their own personal reasons and shouldn’t be wholly hated for that.

But every day we are being fed into a completely opposite mindset. We are constantly consuming media that expresses–even encourages–a culture of hatred for individuals who are different from us. When it’s not Republican vs. Democrat, it’s Christians vs. Muslims vs. Jews. Or the “pro-abortionists” vs. the “woman-haters.” And recently, when a local municipality passed an anti-discrimination bill including LGBT individuals, it became the “social engineers” vs. property owners.

This has what has become of our “indivisible” nation. The nature of the media and politics has divided us, so much that we start to hate other people simply because they don’t agree with us.

We need to stop feeding into it.

It’s time to stop hating and discriminating. Fifty years or so ago, the de-segregation of our nation didn’t  destroy the traditional white family. And today, allowing two people of the same sex to get married isn’t going to destroy the traditional opposite-sex family. Some only feel that way because that is the message of hatred being spread. 

It’s okay to disagree with the idea; I have many conservative friends who do not favor same-sex marriage but still love me for who I am. Even my devout Catholic father and stepmother and I agreed to disagree on the issue and not let it get in the way of the fact that we are still family above all else. When those personal walls are dropped, we are able to have an adult conversation about it.

This is my message to both sides:

There is no point to the endless bickering. You may have surrounded yourself with people that agree with you, but there are plenty more who disagree. And this is not your invitation to gang up on and insult or ridicule someone who is different. We all know both sides of the issue have their views and beliefs, and the information supporting that thought. Both sides have grown tired of hearing the same info, and have often resorted to name calling. What’s the point in that? What does a playground insult have to do with your opinion?

We all need to calm down. Our country was founded on the basis of democracy, meaning one person’s opinion is no more or less valuable than the next person’s. And as long as our opinions aren’t causing harm to the other side, then what’s all the fuss about? What is so wrong with sitting down and having a discussion as I did with my parents, and finding some common ground, even if it’s agreeing to disagree? Only when we actually act like adults and try to cooperate, will we begin to realize that we aren’t actually that different, and that sexual orientation or party affiliation or any other label is the last thing we should be worried about when it comes to preserving our freedom and well-being.

It’s time to stop promoting hatred and start promoting humanity.

Finding Simplicity in Death

I received word on Tuesday that my great, great Aunt Gerry had passed away at the age of 85 years. While this announcement didn’t shock me, as she had been on a roller coaster of health issues the past several months, it instead built up my concern for my family. This was mainly for my mother, the only relative that lived within fifteen minutes to Aunt Gerry’s home.

I’m not going to say that my experience with death of family members was ever easy–I mean hey, it’s death. But at the same time, when the announcement of a death in my family comes around, I always get concerned with the issues the closest family members have to handle. The will, the funeral arrangements, writing the obituary–all things that have to be taken care of, all while mourning the loss of a loved one. While I, fortunately, have never had to deal directly with those problems, I still see the toll it takes on my mom and her sister, in each instance that they have had to do this.

Death itself has never scared me. It’s an inevitable fate for all of us, and there is literally no way to avoid it. We’ve all felt the pain of loss at one point or another. But today, as we brought Aunt Gerry’s casket to the cemetery, something struck a chord in me.

It could have been the knowledge of the car Aunt Gerry left me (much to my surprise). It might have been the poor little Chow she left behind. It could have been the fact that it was my first time as a pall bearer. It also could have been the pastor’s sermon, which to me seemed a bit too negative and fear-mongering. It even could have been all of these things in tandem, causing me my stress. Whatever factor or combination of factors it may have been, I realized, while death itself is simple,  its immediate after effects are overwhelmingly complicated.

My only relief from this great amount of stress was a poem my mom found, written by my grandmother who passed away in 2004, addressed to Aunt Gerry on Mother’s Day in 1998. It was a simple, straightforward yet heartfelt poem expressing her love and gratitude for Aunt Gerry’s influence on her life. Hearing those words and seeing my grandmother’s handwriting for the first time in ages brought me a sense of relief. Amid all the chaos, we had found a source of peace.

That little twinge of the fear of death had been relieved.

In short, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t worry about how my death is going to affect the world around me, or how the inevitable death of my family members will affect me. When that day comes, I will deal with the pain by finding solace in the memories that made them special to me in the first place.

In the end, it’s not about worldly possessions or hefty funeral bills. It’s about the memories. And that’s all that matters.

Rest in Peace, Aunt Gerry. You will be greatly missed.

My Top Albums for 2011

I am one of those people who loves a good variety of music. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t limit myself to simply one genre, or listen to whatever I’m given on the radio. I like to explore, to poke around, to find a good mix of music that I can rely on regardless of my mood. So in the spirit of my eclectic music tastes, here is my (second annual!) list of my top albums of 2011…in no particular order.

#1: Florence + The Machine, Ceremonials

Why I like it: Okay, seriously, there has to be something wholly wrong with you if you don’t at least appreciate the ethereal sound of F+TM. I loved Between Two Lungs, but Ceremonials took me to a whole new state of mind while listening to this music. Florence’s polished, husky vocals paired with haunting and inspirational instrumentals never fails to make me cry at least once while listening to it. The best part is, it doesn’t matter what genre of music you generally listen to, Florence can find a way into your playlist. That’s how unique and versatile her music is.
Favorite song: When I first heard “Shake it Out,” I bawled. It was a song after my own heart, simply saying that everyone carries their own cross at one point or another, and that all you have to do is fight your way through your troubles, then “shake it out.” Amazing.

 

#2: Kelly Clarkson, Stronger

Why I like it: I am proud to say I’ve followed Kelly Clarkson from day one, back when American Idol actually made an impact on the music industry. I’ve seen Kelly grow from a little preppy pop star to a mature, creative woman who doesn’t let anyone tell her what to say or think. Stronger couldn’t be a more appropriate album for a growing artist like Kelly. She has her classic pop-rock sound, but then she throws in a few country-inspired tracks. While this was I was hoping for from Kelly’s new album, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid her vocals are.
Favorite Song: Do I have to choose? Okay, well, as far as ballads go, “Breaking Your Own Heart,” is perfect. It’s taking a topic few have addressed in music, and turning it into something amazing. And of course, “Dark Side” should really be her next single. You’ll have to listen for yourself:

#3: Natalia Kills, Perfectionist

Why I Like It: I got to see Natalia when she was just starting to get into the music scene. She was one of two opening acts for Robyn, before Maluca. From the start, I knew she would be successful as an artist due to her mainstream sound, not to mention being signed on to will.i.am’s record label. Her biggest selling point was that she was not only a musician, but also a filmmaker. Perfectionist is very mainstream in sound, but there’s a little extra edge to it that I really enjoy.
Favorite Song: “Love is a Suicide” follows that same idea of a mainstream pop sound, but it has an edge of masochism and desperation that, to me, makes it really stand out.

 And speaking of mainstream pop….
#4: Lady Gaga, Born This Way

No, the actual album cover does not have Paula Deen riding her.

 Why I like it:  Okay, I would first like to say I am commenting on the album. Aside from her vocals, I do not think Lady Gaga is all that great. She is not a “fashion icon” or a good dancer, and her music videos for this album were horrendous. The music on this album, however, is fan-freaking-tastic. If her intention was to introduce the darker side of electronic music into the mainstream world, she did it incredibly well (“Born This Way” being the exception).
Favorite Song:  “Fashion of His Love” is pretty amazing, only because its reminiscence of a classic 80’s Cyndi Lauper hit.

#5: Zola Jesus, Conatus

Why I like it: I’ll admit, I haven’t listened to this album a whole lot. My only reason is that it is so overwhelmingly incredible, that listening to it casually would only make me stop dead in my tracks and forget that I’m on this planet. Zola reminds me a lot of Florence, in that she has a deep, other-worldly voice that could easily open portals to other dimensions. Even as I’m listening to this album now, it’s very difficult for me to write because I…wait…what was I saying?
Favorite track: ……….where am I?

*changes album*

#6: Rihanna, Talk That Talk

 Why I like it: Every time Rihanna releases a new album, she puts the previous album to shame. I seriously can’t listen to “Pon de Replay” any more because it sounds like crap compared to the music on Talk That Talk. Even Rated R (which was on my list last year) and Loud still pale in comparison. The best part about this album is that it is a fine mix of sentiment and naughtiness.
Favorite song: Definitely a tie between “Cockiness (Love It)” and “Where Have You Been.” I love dance-worthy songs, and if I had a separate list of those, these would definitely be on it.

#7: Evanescence, Evanescence

Why I like it: Rock has finally re-entered my life in a big way! While some people take issue with a rock band with a piano, this is what makes this band so amazing! Even better, the band actually got along in the creation of this album, which really shows in the impactful percussion, unique use of guitar and, of course, Amy Lee’s soaring vocals.
Favorite song: As far as new sounds go, two thumbs up for “The Change.” But I cannot tear myself away from “Lost in Paradise.”

#8: Britney Spears, Femme Fatale

Why I like it: Because I love Britney Spears. Do I need any more of a reason? Okay, well this is certainly a step up from the hastily-produced Circus. And this is certainly the album that has gotten Britney back on the charts as a driving force in pop music. And the Femme Fatale tour only made me love the album even more!
Favorite Song: “Trouble for Me” has this fun Euro-pop sound that I love. And while I didn’t like “Criminal” all that much, the music video was so epic that it certainly jumped up on my favorite list!

#9: Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby

Why I like it: I only recently began to appreciate Avril for her talent in the past year or so. When Goodbye Lullaby came out, it solidified my love for her music. This adorable little guitar-wielding Canadian threw me for a loop with this album, especially with the release of “Alice” for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie. All I can say is, can you believe those vocals? Not only in the album, but also in her live performances, she has such perfect pitch yet with so much emotion in her voice at the same time.
Favorite Song:  If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a sucker for ballads. “Wish You Were Here” has made my list for that reason.

#10: Dev, The Night the Sun Came Up

Why I like it: I didn’t like Dev when she hit the airwaves. I thought she was just another mass-produced female artist with no talent that producers hand out to “rappers” to make a new hit song, then leave behind for another. But when my friend Eli told me to give The Night the Sun Came Up a chance, I’m glad I did. I don’t think Dev has a lot of talent as a singer, but I just love this album for its chill beats that I wouldn’t mind rolling down my windows and blasting (if I did that sort of thing).
Favorite song: “Breathe” is such a SEXY song!

 Honorable Mention: Iamamiwhoami

Okay, Jonna Lee. I check your YouTube Channel EVERY DAY for a new video. Every single day. It’s been nearly six months now, and all we’ve gotten this year is “John” and “Clump.” While amazing, we need more. Better yet, just get an album out there. The music combined with the intensity of the organic/synthetic imagery has to make this the best and most innovative music in a long time. Your fans need more!!! Please give us something soon!

Lots of love and adoration,

A huge fan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please leave your thoughts below! Do you think I missed something on this list?


Respect for Our Veterans’ Legacy

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, (Photo via CNN.COM)

Just recently, I read a heartbreaking story of Calvin Gibbs, a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who lead a rogue kill squad in Afghanistan which killed multiple Afghan civilians and planted weapons on them to make them appear as if they had initiated the violence.

And to make matters worse, he removed pieces of their dead bodies as souvenirs of their deaths, and had tattoos indicating how many people he had killed.

This is not how our country should be represented. And this is certainly not the point of having a military. I am thankful that Gibbs will be spending his life in military prison for these heinous and inhumane crimes.

When I think back to the various history classes I have taken, I recall the images of our country’s veterans. From the Revolutionary War and on, I always remember seeing that our involvement in international warfare was a necessity, a method of defending our country’s freedom and citizens. But as our military continues to grow and expand, the American impression of our military’s purpose seems to have shifted from defense to offense. Too often I have heard people talk about going into the military to “shoot some [racial slur].”

This never was, and never will be, the purpose of our military. In previous wars and conflicts, plenty of the young men and women who were shipped overseas knew their purpose was for defense. Any of them would gladly share stories of the troubles they endured, but never would you hear of them torturing innocent and unarmed civilians. Because that was not their job. So when people like Gibbs come along, with the cruel intention of ruining the lives of innocents, it not only tarnishes the image of our country, but of our military personnel, both past and present.

Out of respect for our veterans, we need to stop condoning the death of others just because they are different. Celebrating death does not make us bigger men; it makes us terrorists.

I don’t agree with the concept of war, but I understand its purpose and hold a great level of respect for those who serve. From my late grandfather, who served in Korea, to my cousin currently serving the Marines in Afghanistan, in addition to all my friends and family who risked their lives to defend our freedoms, I say thank you. Thank you for protecting our country, and protecting the innocent.

Thank you for doing your jobs.