Pics or it didn’t happen

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one Instagrams it, did it really happen?

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I’m definitely preaching to the choir here, but I think it’s high time to set the phone down and start living. I’ve always been a supporter of social media, I think there are so many amazing ways that it allows us to keep in contact with far away relatives, connect fans and celebrities, and promote amazing causes in ways that weren’t available a decade ago. The possibilities are limitless.

But this limitlessness is a double-edged sword. Social media slowly crept its way into every aspect of our lives, from where we eat, where we shop, where we go, to whom we spend our time with and even where we poop (Places I’ve Pooped), we have the ability of sharing just about anything we desire to social media outlets. And personally, I have nothing wrong with people being able to share anything they want on social media: it’s the beauty of freedom of speech. And if anyone’s proclamations of love or hate, political outbursts, or the sharing of very personal life events is at all bothersome to you, everyone has the ability to block, delete, or hide notifications from those they want to distance themselves from on the internet.

However, the control of social media on our offline lives has become a bit ridiculous. Smart phones have changed the way we experience everything: meal times include instagrams of food at restaurants or home. People are more worried about making their food look better than everyone else’s than they are about eating it before it get’s Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 8.54.21 PMcold. A recent Samsung commercial featured a young couple snapping photos at their child’s soccer game, but what I couldn’t get past was the fact that they were so worried about getting the perfect photo of their kid, that they weren’t even watching the game or cheering on their child. Social events, parties, and hanging out with friends now has more emphasis on taking photos to prove you were together on social media than actually forming connections.

"pics or it didn't happen": the motto of our social lives

“pics or it didn’t happen”: the motto of our social lives

Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect and always put spending time with people above taking photos or that it’s wrong to take photos: I think it’s incredibly important to preserve the memories we’re forming with our friends and families, and social media is a great way to share this. I even am working on a 365 Photo Challenge where I take a photo every day for a year. This means I am on Facebook and snapping photos of myself, my friends and my surroundings at least once a day.

The issue that I do want to tackle is the emphasis on the “fake” lives we project onto social media. For many, it’s about making their lives look better, more fun and more glamorous than the next person’s page. How often do you check out your newsfeed and jealously swipe through someone else’s photos and wish you had been there or snapped a few more photos last weekend to prove that you were more social and fun? f9a5be830deed7db9fe61534ce10d080 (1)How often are you too busy trying to instagram a photo or upload one to Facebook that you miss the game winning shot or miss out on a friend’s story? I know that I am guilty of looking at people’s photos and wishing that I had been there or done that, or obliviously posting photos and not actually interacting with those around me.

The fact is, no one’s life is as perfect and glamorous as social media makes it out to be. Once you get past this and stop judging your life against someone else’s Facebook page, you’ll realize that yours can be just as fun and exciting if you just let it happen. So often we use our phones as a social buffer in situations where we don’t feel comfortable interacting or talking with people we don’t know, or are just plain bored. But if you just put yourself out there and start a conversation, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to connect with people and have a good time. So set down your phone, close your laptop, and leave them both at home for the weekend: make memories, not megabytes!

-Jen

Preparing for Christmas

lights Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, many of us turn our attention to “the most wonderful time of the year.” The Christmas season is filled with many beautiful traditions that we’ve been doing since we were children–picking out a Christmas tree, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, and decorating the tree. Although these rituals remain the same year after year, it is good for us to take time to reflect and silence our hearts in this season of preparation.  If are intentional with our time leading up to Christmas, I think our joy on Christmas morning will be that much sweeter.  Here are a couple areas that we might think being more intentional about.

Christmas-Gifts3Gifts. I imagine that most of us are thinking about purchasing gifts for our family and friends.  Last year during my AmeriCorps service, I barely had any money so I decided that I was going to make all of my gifts.  Now I’m not the craftiest person out there, so I’m sure you can do it, too.  I realized that making my gifts made me really think about what I was giving and why.  I made homemade body scrubs, chocolate spoons, popcorn seasoning, and mustard just to name a few. Pinterest has something for everyone in your life, I promise.

advent1Faith. Many of us probably go to church with our families on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but we need not wait until then to prepare our hearts for the Lord. The Advent season is celebrated in most Christian churches in the month leading up to Christmas; many churches have concerts, penance services, and volunteer opportunities.  These are great ways to slow down in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle and take time for peace and quiet. If you’re looking for something more concrete, here’s a link to receive daily reflections for the season in your inbox or guided meditation from Ireland! (check out the relaxing music, too!)

So as we each prepare for Christmas in our own ways, I hope you’ll look at it like a journey over the next 25 days and savor every sip of hot cocoa, frosted cookie, and lit up houses as you pass by. And when Christmas morning comes, soak in the time with your family and friends and think about what Christmas really means to you. I think this video says it all :)

How do you prepare for Christmas? Let us know in the comments!

It’s a Winter Wonderland!

Winter is almost upon us and that means more time spent in doors…what a drag right?  Well it doesn’t have to be!  There are plenty of activities to do inside and events to go to keep you occupied when it’s way too cold to spend any time outside.  Don’t care if it’s too cold outside?  I have activities for the outdoors too!

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Every winter my number one thing to do is to go ice-skating.  The past couple years I haven’t, but I’m determined to make it one of the first things I do this winter.  Hit your local indoor or outdoor rink this year.  Don’t forget to check if you can rent skates.  I’ve gone to rinks where I had to have my own and didn’t know until I was there.  Afterwords, grab some hot chocolate!

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Go to hockey games!  Seriously.  The games don’t take nearly as long as football games and I think they’re way more exciting to watch.  It is a little chilly, so don’t forget your scarf and mittens.

pa0711_cin_rolls1.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscapeBake something gooey and delicious.  I suggest cinnamon rolls.  I don’t know about any of you, but anytime I eat one I end up getting frosting or yummy cinnamon gooey sauce on my face, so now I only eat this treat at home.  Oh and don’t forget the apple cider!  This treat can get sweet.

Not much of a baker?  Slice up some apples and have a caramel apple bar.  Melt some caramel and grab some of your favorite candy pieces and dip away! IMG_3411

Build a fort.  Some of you might be thinking that we’re all too old to do this, but I think not!  Build your very own couch cushion igloo with out freezing your butt off.

Go to concerts.  They can sometimes be expensive, so check out some local bands.  There can be some really great talent right in your home town.  They’re much less expensive and sometimes even free!Justice_in_concert

Check out a wine tasting or go to a brewery.  The Leinenkugls Brewery isn’t far from me and is definitely something that I’ve always wanted to go to.  Getting free samples is always awesome!

Host a movie night.  I don’t suggest watching anything scary.  You and your guests will be freaked out for a week!  You could even have every lay in your couch cushion igloo that you built earlier:)

Make decorations for the upcoming holidays.  Here are some really cute and easy ideas!

Check out what is going on in the surrounding towns.  They’re could be an awesome mustard museum you’re missing out on.   A mini road trip will be a nice break if you’re getting cabin fever.

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By now cabin fever has set in and you’re probably scratching at the windows to get outside.

Before you set out on your adventure outside layer up!  Because the first thing you’re going to do is build  a snowman and make a snow angel.  Having a friend with you makes it more fun and easier to do  these activities.  Building a snowman takes some muscle and you don’t want a hand print in your snow angel.  Remember to bring accessories for your snowman.  You want yours to be unique and stand out!a-christmas-story

After you finished building and accessorizing you’re snowman get all your friends together because you’re going to have a snowball fight.  If you need any tips watch Elf.  Buddy can make the perfect snow balls and has the perfect throwing technique.download

The next day go sledding!  I always used a saucer when I went sledding and hitting the jumps was always fun.  If you don’t like to go sledding anymore grab your snowboard or skis because you’re hitting the slopes!  And when you’re done go in the lodge and warm up in front of the fire.

Try snowshoeing.  I’ve only ever done it once when I was in grade school at a school field trip, but from what I can remember it was fun!  We played duck, duck, goose while wearing them and I remember trying to run and I fell.  I don’t suggest running in them unless you want a face full of snow.

See if there is any parks near you that the town decorates. In the town next to me they decorate a park full of lights, there are trees that are adorned with ornaments, little ginger bread houses, it’s so beautiful and magical.  My friends and I loved it when we went!

Decorate your house with twinkle lights, wreaths and any other fun Christmas decorations. (When it’s a little closer to Christmas).  It will get you in the holiday spirit.  Don’t forget to crank the Christmas music and have chocolate chip cookies and tea ready when you’re finished.ChristmasLights

Go to the Christmas parade.  Everyone puts so much work into the floats and every year I’m always surprised by people’s creativity.

I hope you have fun days in and keep warm on your days out!

What activities do you like to do in the winter?  Comment below!  We’re always looking for new things to try!

-Gabby

The (No-)Dog Days

Nick and I have been seriously thinking about getting a dog for the past two months, and, with our landlord’s blessing, starting looking about a month ago. The second, and subsequently most painful,  trip to the Humane Society started out innocently – a Friday evening, and we had both gotten home from work around 5pm so we made a quick run to the Humane Society before going out to dinner.

IMG_3029We walked in to Bark Alley and I immediately spotted a beautiful grey and white dog who was begging us to take her out. I looked at her nametag, Petunia, and noticed she did not have any pending applications. She didn’t bark, and as I knelt beside her, she struggled against the kennel wall to try and reach me. I needed to pet and play with this dog badly, but walked anxiously through the rest of the hallway to see the other dogs. Before Nick could give me any sort of an opinion, I was out the door talking to a volunteer to bring this beautiful dog to us so we could play with her.

We spent about an hour with her outside, the three of us looking at one another with questioning eyes wondering if we could live together. We were connecting to this dog and saw her in our future. I saw her walking with us, chewing on all of our stuff, cuddling with us, growing old… I wanted her, and when Nick asked her, “Do you want to come and be a part of our little family?”, I knew that he saw and wanted the same thing.

We excitedly filled out an adoption application and headed out for dinner. Our conversation was excited and light as we contemplated where she would stay when we would go home to Wisconsin, or who would take her out for morning and evening walks. I sent a picture of her to my family with exclamations of our excitement and love for this dog that we just met, and received worried messages in return, prompting me to look into whether or not we could realistically have this dog. Unfortunately for the three of us, Petunia was a pit bull; a breed highly discriminated against by landlords, insurance, and jeopardizing our future living prospects.

The more we researched, the more we found that we could not have her. The next morning, after we found out that we were approved for adoption, I retracted our application and we donated money on her behalf to the Humane Society. We were heartbroken.

IMG_2985I was so deliriously desperate for a dog, and I scoured the Humane Society website and Craigslist like I was searching for valuable treasure. I refreshed my page every 10 minutes, and then found a Yorkie Shih Tzu mix on Craigslist. I immediately reached out to the owner and, about nine hours later, we became owners of a 7 pound lady we named Aela.

I was uneasy about her immediately after meeting her, but thought I could get over myself and fall in love with her over time. “She’s the perfect dog for our lifestyle and apartment now! It’ll be fine!,” I told myself. This did not happen. Aela barked incessantly when left alone, and, with paper-thin walls in our apartment building, this was not an option. The second day we had her, I broke down in the morning, bawling and feeling incredibly overwhelmed by my ambiguity toward her and the amount of training and attention she needed. It was apparent that she had separation anxiety issues, and she would bark the entire time we were at work. I couldn’t do it, and Nick didn’t want to make me do it, so I reached out to her previous owner, and they bought her back.

We lost a little money and an apron (intricately damaged by the 7 pound Yorkie), learned the valuable lesson that we were not ready for just any dog. The desire for a dog has not gone away entirely, but it has been muffled after our brief canine experience. In my free time, I visit Petunia at the Humane Society, praying fervently that she has adoption applications in, and coming in to be disappointed. I don’t mind hanging out with her until she finds her forever home, but I do hope she finds it soon.

After we brought Aela back to her real family, Nick said to me, “This is the only time that it is just the two of us, you know. We are in the pre-pet, pre-anything stage, and I am really enjoying things the way they are.” It was the perfect way to center myself and realize how right he was. We will find our dog eventually and we will really be ready, but we don’t have to rush. I know there are many other couples and families in the same situation that we found ourselves in, but I can confidently reassure others, as I do with Nick and myself, that there are so many dogs out there looking for their forever homes, and you will find yours soon! Good luck!

Thank you for reading!
Elizabeth

Why Everyone Should Vote as a Woman Tomorrow.

In 2010 over 22 Million women did not vote in the midterm elections… they chose to sit out. – Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health

10407552_10152369788020685_55277326331614185_nTomorrow, November 4th marks the day to cast your votes in the midterm election. This piece will focus on Wisconsin; however, the topics of concern here are issues that are being addressed nationally and ones that you should be aware of no matter where you call home. My hope is that whether or not you agree with this piece, it will encourage you to vote.

SIDENOTE: Some quick notes on voting :

1. You do not need an ID to vote. While you may have heard something about a Voter ID Law requiring an ID to participate in voting, do not let that confuse you or deter you from voting; that law has been blocked by the Supreme Court.

2. In Wisconsin you can register to vote at your polling location ON election day. (if you have changed your address recently you may need to prove your address. This site shows you what you can bring for proof: http://www.cityofmadison.com/election/voter/voterRegister.cfm)

3. If you do not know where your polling place is check out this website: https://2014.votinginfoproject.org/

Now, the people who have only known me for a few years would be surprised to learn that politics was not always a topic that I found even remotely interesting. In fact, throughout my high school years the only time I batted an eyelash at anything political was when every four years two white men began to duke it out on my television screen.

A lot has changed since then. I am older, there are concerns I have about my past, present, and future that I found frustratingly tangled in politics in a way that I had never imagined possible, and… oh yeah the two white men have evolved to include men of more various shades, and *gasp* a woman! Ye,t despite this growing equality in the political playing field, I was ever more beginning to feel like my body was no more then a pawn in a game of chess to which two parties were vying for the crown.

It is quite a thing when you realize that because of the body you have been born into (or chose) you will be treated differently in society, but it is even more of slap in the face when you realize that because you are a woman politicians will be able to decide your access to health, if and how you receive sexual education, your future children’s education, and how much you will be payed compared to your male peers.

Health Care

ede9cfe9aa96d97cdabbc695b8ddb57cWomen’s ability to bare children have made their bodies a never ending hot topic of debate, but it may surprise you to see that while abortion is as always a hot topic of debate the effects of politics on women’s health care has a reach that goes well and beyond Roe v. Wade.

While I will not discuss my own views on abortion here,  I do think it is important to be aware of what government decisions have been made and how they effect your ability to health care.

1. Contraceptives

It is quite clear that male access to condoms is as simple as walking into must major stores, gas stations, or even grocery stores, but women’s access to female based contraception is not even close to comparable as many women can attest. Still thanks to the Affordable Care Act women have access to birth control and reproductive health care without co-pay or deductible . *There are some exceptions to this act* (Read the full law here.)

If you support the Affordable Health Care Act this could and should be a major voting issue for you, especially as a woman.

2. Closing Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has gone through a lot of changes this year due to government policy. In 2013 perhaps, the most famous of these changes occurred; a law requiring women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds was passed, but there were other actions taken that ultimately has reduced women’s ability to access any of the services Planned Parenthood offers. Clinics which provide abortions were required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinics location and the budget of Planned Parenthood clinics has been cut by over $1 million dollars in funding . This has lead to 5 clinics in Wisconsin shutting down under the current administrations term.

Some people do not know that Planned Parenthood offers many other benefits to women’s health including, general health care, birth control, relationship support, body image support, gender and sexuality support, and STD testing to name a few. For some women this is their only access to health. For some women this is the only place they feel comfortable turning to when it comes to sexual education.

Once again, I will not weigh in on how I personally feel about the act of abortion; however, I still remember driving a friend to planned parent hood in high school in order to get the birth control pill and condoms. In lieu of sexual education and still at the age where talking to parents about sex was too weird, they were our aid to safe sex and healthy relationships.

For more information about Planned Parenthood click here.

Education

1. Sex Education

Raise your hand if you learned about sex and contraception in high school. I am guessing there are not that many hands. I know I for one would not be raising my hand high.

Yet, for those of you who have been out of the high school scene for a while, you may not be up to speed on current curriculum. In 2012 the Healthy Youth Act was repealed with a bill that promote abstinence only sexual education curriculum. Basically this means that any education about the “health benefits, side effects, and proper use of contraceptives” will no longer be taught in schools.

Now raise your hand if you plan on having sex someday.

It is hard to think about the staggering amount of youth that will be entering this very important stage in their lives where they begin to have serious relationships that will undoubtedly involve sexual acts at some point and realize that they are not knowledgeable about how to keep themselves both safe from STDS and free of unwanted pregnancies.

This is where I will say that I do believe that if we teach people about how to have safe sex, use contraceptives correctly, and have the contraceptives affordable and accessible, we would see a natural reduction in unwanted pregnancies.

Equal Pay

eeec14d727e3463a5029b5247099d9baIs there anyone who still truly believes that women should be payed less then men doing the same work?

Apparently, even in 2014 there are still a few.

In 2012 the Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act which protected women from salary discrimination in their workplace and gave them strength to bring such cases to court was repealed. In doing this Wisconsin descended the ranks nationally and became one of just five states without an equal pay law.

In Wisconsin, women earn 75 cents to every dollar their male counterpart earns. – Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health.

I don’t think I need to continue to belabor the point that generations of women haven been making. Women are people to and deserve to be treated and paid equally for performing a job to the same level as their male peers.

These are just three main issues that I as a woman, daughter, and future Wisconsin mother will be thinking about as I vote tomorrow. There are countless other issues that do effect you and I encourage you to learn about those. I also hope that you continue to educate yourselves about issues that directly effect women. You can start with the links provided below.

Finally, if you are a man, a son with a mother, a father with a daughter, a husband with a wife, or have a woman in life who you value perhaps you should take a moment and consider how you could use politics to make the world a place that appreciated her, and who she is physically as a woman, as a member of a society trying to grow in equality, and as a true individual as well.

“Be in the kitchen rather than on the menu” – WAWH

– Samantha Hersil

Educate Yourself

Current Wisconsin State Legislature: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/

Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH): http://wiawh.org/

More Issues and Legislation to be concerning your health care about according to Planned Parenthood: http://www.ppawi.org/issues/current-issues-legislation/current-issues-legislation.cmsx

A Chat About Bodily Agency

A few nights ago I was heading home from post-work drinks with coworkers. My walk back is roughly fifteen minutes and in a very safe area. I never think twice about walking alone. And, you know what? I absolutely shouldn’t have to.

Halfway through my walk, I came across a pub where a group of people was sitting outside. When I passed them, one young man decided it was acceptable to slap my ass. The rest of his friends simply laughed along at the entertainment this guy was providing to the group. I was amazed at how strongly they exemplified what is wrong in our patriarchal society.

I spent the rest of my walk home absolutely fuming. I felt violated and weak. Sure, it might appear to be a small incident in the large scheme of things but it meant I was not valued as a person. This man decided that my body was a free for all. The people around him agreed with his behavior and found it acceptable. I wasn’t a human being but instead a source of entertainment and simply an object.

I unashamedly ascribe to the label of feminist. I admire strong women and enjoy being a part of a group of females who support each other. I strive to constantly respect and value myself in a society that often does not do the same. So, “little” things like this incident are truly appalling to me. It made me feel I had no power. Regardless of all the steps I make in my own life, as a woman, my value is meaningless to society.

But it wasn’t only the men who didn’t see my value as a woman. The females in the group who sat there and laughed were completely inexcusable to me. Whether or not they realized it, these women were laughing along with the objectification of their own gender. There is absolutely no reason for a woman to excuse incidents like this as “just a joke”.  Honestly, I find it repulsive that a female would want to be friends with men who took part in the objectification of women.

I’m sick of females who defend this type of behavior in their male friends. I’m tired of men who stress not ALL men would do the same thing. These excuses mean absolutely nothing to me. Until people accept that there is a devaluing of a woman’s body in society and strive to change this, they ARE a part of the problem.

It’s time for everyone to understand a woman’s body is her own. I should be able to walk alone without worrying about feeling violated and powerless. Next time you see something similar happen, I urge you to think about what it truly means. Why is a woman’s body a source of entertainment? What is wrong with our society that a woman can’t walk home alone without experiencing harassment? People need to stop brushing off situations like this. We need to demand a societal change. There has to be strong steps toward complete bodily agency for all people. Maybe then women won’t have to feel powerless.

-Kelsey

Connecting with Ourselves

As humans, we are brought up to need people, to connect with others. Compatibility and acceptance – it’s in our DNA. It’s not like I don’t like talking to people – I’m not this sad, anti social pretentious hermit. That’s not the case. Actually, I’m the opposite and that’s the ship I want to jump on. We need to make independence a rite of passage, an okay thing. We need to end the constant reassurance and reliance for the wrong reasons.

I see so many social butterflies from one end of the spectrum to the other now that I am in college. And of course parties, parties, parties. If you’re not out on a Friday night, you adopt the “loser” status and you are considered to have dropped off the edge of the world. People might start wondering what you do with your life and whether or not your closest form of communication is your fish. Pretty soon, you believe that theory, brand HOMEBODY on yourself and adopt a cat and spend Friday nights in. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, there is nothing wrong with that. What is important is doing what we love. Should we cling on to sociability just to be accepted even when don’t fully enjoy it?

Reasons why it’s OK to be alone:

1. Peace of mind.

9b4dfa5bc66b0436b764581e3c152dd7When was the last time you got a moment to yourself? If you’re not already an introvert, this might be nice. When you take time to separate yourself from the social aspects of life, you don’t have to worry about drama, time limits . . . people, in general. This is nice because it decreases the anxiety of having to deal with others. Right now, focus on yourself. I’m not saying do this all of the time, but this is a reason why it’s okay to be alone. So spare yourself some moments of tranquility – go to the library and read a book, give yourself a comfortable setting where you feel nothing but at ease. It’s time to relax. That’s why this tip is entitled “peace of mind.”

2. “Strength” status:

It takes a lot to go “out” in public without a comrade at your side. When you go to the movie theater by yourself, people may look at you and think “Damn, she’s pretty kick ass. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks.” Live life in confidence, it will surely pay off in the long run making you a happier person. Even the coolest people on this planet do things without their crew – whatever your definition of “cool” may be.

3. Learning about yourself:

When we get caught up in trying to be apart of a friend group, or are already in a friend group, we sometimes forget who we are or what our interests are. It’s not a horrible thing, but it’s good to bounce back once in awhile. For an example, I’m learning a lot about myself in college. I’m learning that I’m not a huge fan of the party scene and I don’t enjoy getting smashed because not being in control scares me. Like, look at this real scenario:

Friend: “You going to that huge party tonight? I heard it was going to be insane.”
Me: “No. I’m spending it curled up in bed writing. I am so pumped. I can’t wait to get to my computer.”
Friend: “ . . . Oh.”

Basically, I’m a nerd and would rather stay in watching movies and typing up my future novel. I don’t drink to get some sort of adrenaline rush and to let go. I write to get an adrenaline rush and to let go – and I’m totally okay with that. During this learning about myself thing, I also realized that I have grander morals than I thought – thought I feel like I am not following the official “college handbook”, I’m proud of myself in the end. Learning about yourself is such an empowering feeling, and it’ll help you not feel so unattached from your soul.

4. Your true friends will slowly (or quickly) trickle in your life when they’re meant to: 

When you focus on doing your own thing and not always going out with the crowd or with the current, you are allowing things to fall into place gracefully. An example is when I spent the day by myself in a Starbucks reading a book. A guy came up to me and asked me what I was reading because the cover looked interesting – from there, we delved into a really awesome conversation. Okay, I know this sounds so unlikely and kind of unrealistic, but if you think about it, it does happen. You just have to let nature take it’s course. I know as humans we don’t exactly notice is, but when we are always stuck in a large crowd, our voice gets smaller and we don’t say the things we mean. Again, it’s okay to step back, spend some time alone and remember what we are and who we want. The right people will come into your life when it’s meant to be.

5. It’ll help you be comfortable in your own skin:

d95d9060734605d2426e15448462dc88Do not fear, you can finally walk out the door, headphones in, jamming down the street in your own imagery music video like Tom Hansen from (500) Days of Summer.  (If you have seen the movie, you’ll be strutting your stuff not for that specific reason . . . well, maybe. I don’t know) You’ll feel bad ass, you’ll feel complete, you’ll feel whole and happy and all around euphoric. You got this. Basically, this tip is straight forward: you’ll feel good in your own skin, and you won’t have to worry about constantly leaning on someone for support. Once again, we do need friends and we love our friends, but in the end, who is always there for you? Yourself. The media has branded such a social atmosphere for us that it’s draining and we forget to be okay with just us sometimes. I mean, our own company rules. Learn to love yourself one hundred percent.

Here is another example: Those who go out to dinner with friends – hell yeah! We all should from time to time. Those who go out to dinner by themselves – that’s both daring and bold and I applaud you. There a difference between having and wanting. Learn to want to go out and do things alone. More power to you, girlfriend. And, these are moments that when solo, we might find ourselves running into a life long friend, a new passion, the road to discovery . . . or someone special. :)

So, word of advice: Live it. Love it. Embrace it.

-Jules

Traveling Alone As A Woman

Last semester, one of my professors posed an interesting question that still sticks with me now. She asked us to write what we could do if we were the opposite gender that we couldn’t do as our own gender. The answers ranged from funny to profound. But one answer stands out to me since I uprooted my life back home and moved to Dublin for an internship. A female student in the class said if she were a guy she could travel alone without feeling unsafe.

While any solo traveler should be aware of his or her surroundings regardless of gender, it unfortunately seems traveling alone is more dangerous for females. I suppose I can see where my dad is coming from when he worries about me booking trips to various countries alone. I’ve chosen relatively safe destinations yet I still can’t help but feel a little nervous each time I get on a plane alone.

I would love to see the day where all women can travel alone without feeling scared. However, that day seems pretty far in the future, and we still live in a world where women are often not treated like human beings. It’s going to take a big societal change to make traveling solo completely safe for women. So, until then I think it’s important to equip women with the proper tools to avoid danger as much as possible. Sure it might be a measly Band-Aid on a large wound but at least it’s helpful for the time being.see the world

Stick To Populated Areas

I’ll admit I’m not always thrilled about this guideline that I set out for myself but I still think it’s extremely important. While it’s really fun to happen across a restaurant or bar that’s off the beaten track, it also means you’re venturing into less populated areas. Unless you know the city you’re visiting extremely well, it’s very easy to wander into an unsafe neighborhood. Sure, the busy areas might be obnoxious tourist traps some of the time, but most of those sights are so heavily visited for good reasons! If you can’t resist and have to find your charming hidden spot make sure to do your research ahead of time. Ask the front desk at your hostel the safest way to get to your destination.

Have A Phone With You

Usually, it’s pretty easy to pick up a cheap phone and purchase a bundle of text messages and minutes. Make sure to ask at the store what the country’s emergency number is and add it to your contacts. Hopefully you won’t have to use it but it’s always better to have it in case something happens. The last thing you want is to be in a tough situation with no means to get help. It’s one of the easiest rules to forget about but probably one of the most important to remember.

Skip The Heavy Drinking_MG_1278

I know, I know. Now I’m just raining on everyone’s parade. Even with the rule you can definitely go out and have a good time. Try going out for one pint at the local pub earlier in the evening so you don’t have to worry about heading home alone in the dark. If you can’t fight the allure of the nightlife try to make friends with some of your hostel roommates. Then you can all head out for a drink together and walk back to the hostel as a group.

Get A Cross-Body Purse

Most of the cities you’ll travel to will be pretty safe with the biggest problem being pick pocketing. It’s usually obvious which people are tourists. After all, you are often holding a map or at least looking a bit out of place. Unfortunately, you’re the easiest target. The best thing you can do is carry a purse that crosses you body plus has a zipper. Bonus points if it has a flap that buttons over the zipper! This makes it much more difficult for a person to get your possessions. Nobody wants to have their vacation ruined by missing credit cards. Believe me. I’ve had the experience, and it’s nothing short of a nightmare.

More Tips

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it’s always a good idea to research your destination before you leave. Safe and fun travels!!

A Quarter Life Crisis

Lindsey,

Hey, hey, hey!

So, I am writing this letter, because we are writing letters now… (yes I read your last post)

Now, what to actually write about ;)

My birthday is in a little less than one week from today. Can you believe it? 24 years old and I have to tell you for a while I was feeling a petite quarter life crises coming on. With the annual review of my life and reflection of where I am at I was slowly starting to get that deer in headlights feeling. You know the one where you are like “Oh, shit! What am I even doing and where the heck am I going? Is that the white light straight ahead?”.

The thing is this feeling is really not new. Every year before my birthday I have this same moment of panic which has me starting to believe I now know how Julius Caesar must have felt when he came across the statue of Alexander the Great when he was only a junior governor.

You don’t know the story?

Well, there are two versions of the story. In one it is said that Caesar was gazing up at the statue of Alexander the Great when a fellow companion remarked how interesting it was that Julius was at that time and place the exact same age that Alexander was when he died, 32. In the other version Caesar had been reading about Alexander’s life, but in both stories Caesar is said to have wept, because at 32 Alexander the Great had already conquered everything from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River, and Caesar at the same age was just barley toe deep in his political career.Caesar-Crying-Before-Alexander-Statue

The truth is more often than not I feel like Caesar; constantly comparing myself to peers who are doing great things and feeling like I am falling behind in my own life ambitions.

But…  here is the thing. Caesar didn’t become consul (aka head honcho)  until he was about 43 and dictator some years later. That means he didn’t even start achieving his life goals until ten years after Alexander’s age of death! Yet, would anyone ever say the Caesar was less accomplished in his life than Alexander?

Leanda-Cave_photo-by-Larry-Rosa-EnduraPix.com_-e1351267596302My other spot of enlightenment came this past weekend after watching the Madison Ironman Triathlon. I had that Caesar moment watching the athletes and feeling so very unaccomplished compared to those men and women seemingly made of “tougher stuff”. I watched the race all afternoon, marveling at their strength, endurance, and perseverance before heading to the finish like to catch the winners.

The first man crossed over, the second, the third, fourth, fifth, and I realized there was a pattern.

The top finishers were almost all over 30! It blew my mind!

Then the lead woman came in, age 36… do you get where I am heading?

Perhaps not… I tend to ramble.

My thought is this, Lindsey. Perhaps I should not be concentrating on what I have not achieved yet in my 24 years of life; perhaps instead I should be focused on both what I have been able to learn and accomplish while also looking forward to all the amazing things that I will someday be accomplishing in the years to come! I may be 24 years old, but I am also 24 years young and there is so much more ahead!

For some reason knowing this has helped me to begin to recognize, and feel proud about the great things I have done thus far in my life and has stripped away some of the fear I had of believing that I had not having done enough by 24. (I do know that this is going to continue to be something I will have to work on).

PicMonkey Collage

What I would tell my 18 year old self now that I am 24:

  1. 33a42e45d08ed7edafe80966f955a53fBe good to your family they are the one thing that really doesn’t change. As time goes by and friends leave, you realize just how important these people really are. (Also… your parents are people too so cut them a little bit of slack now and then).
  2. The same goes for those few “real” friends who are basically family too! Know them, love them, and be a great friend to them in return.
  3. Don’t be so hard on your body. Relax! Don’t worry so much about how you look. Your body is beautiful because of all the things it is able to do! Think about it for a minute… your body is fricken amazing!
  4. 3dde2fc158762e73fae04000f435ae85Don’t worry so much about what people think… I mean does their opinion really matter? See 1 and 2 for insight on whose opinion should matter.
  5. Embrace your quirks and never ever hide them away under a false you. Being normal is boring! All my favorite people are a bit weird, so go ahead and be as ridiculous as you want! Wear patterns on patterns on patterns and sing Rise Against in the work bathroom… that’s who you are.
  6. Be the first to make the effort to say hi, smile, or just be nice to people. This is huge and hard to explain, but if you think about all the people who are lonely, or feel unacknowledged then couple that with all the people who can be complete assholes for no reason you can imagine why your little act of kindness can be a big deal.
  7. Be patient. Success is often not accomplished overnight, but if you do your best and keep moving forward you really can achieve what you set out to do.
  8. 84af70d44ca6fea7d8fc8e05f3224ea6Never stop trying new things. Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop expanding your horizons. Never ever stop!
  9. It is ok to let people in, to love them, and let them love you. Moulin Rouge said it to me when I was young, but loving and even more so, accepting love is terribly difficult. This goes for all types of love; but I dare you to try. Open up and let go; it might be worth it.
  10. Go out and see and do new things! Don’t let silly things like money hold you back ;)

Sorry this letter turned in to a blog post… I will do better and write you a real letter this weekend ;)

Always,

Samantha Courtney.

The Other Side of a Breakup

f4e8d470098ed95900d354f9ef51f340Most say that breakups are one sided. Those people are clearly uneducated and/or never experienced a long winded relationship. The small ones that aren’t lengthy and have lasted only a few weeks to a few months are the easy kind that aren’t as difficult to overcome – so that is understandable in some cases. But, the ones that have been quite some time, the ones where you can list memory after memory – always seemingly picturing them in black in white or sepia because you can’t help but feel the nostalgia and sentimentality – those ones, those ones are precious. The ones that leave an imprint on your heart, mind and soul are the kind of break ups that are a completely unfamiliar story. Ugly or beautiful, special or not and whether they were full of hideous fights that lasted until 2 in the morning or full of love notes and thoughts of a possible marriage, there was still something there. Whatever that might be, only they will know.

What is the point that I am trying to make here? “He got hurt. She smashed his heart. After everything that he did for her. She didn’t have to go through anything. That evil fire breathing, spawn of satan, soulless bitch.”

It’s obvious. The girl broke up with the guy, and of course, after being in a relationship for, let’s say, two years, he is crushed. Why wouldn’t he be? I’ve had my heart broken multiple times and I can safely say that it feels way worse than how people actually describe it. It’s like taking an actual chainsaw and slicing it through your beating, bleeding heart. Once you experience it for yourself, it’s a completely different story. I’m not going to get into all of the gory details. (Like I haven’t already, right?) Either you know what I am talking about, and if not, well – you’ll find out someday and you can relate. But that’s not the point that I am trying to make.

What I want this to lead up to is to erase the assumption that only the “dumpee” gets their heart obliterated, because that is definitely not the case. I recently broke up with my ex boyfriend not too long ago because we were simply going down two different paths.

04-couple-with-distance-between-them-w724Sounds simple, huh?

No, it wasn’t. We weren’t connecting, or seeing eye to eye. We fought constantly and everything he did irritated me. I was beginning to realize that I didn’t get excited when I went to visit him. When he saw me away at college, we spent the day together and all I wanted was for him to leave.

Now that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? But it was so true. He wasn’t growing up – and, I’m no saint either in the growing up department, but at least I was making attempts. It was as though he only cared about his band and said that band practice was him “going to work.” He was infuriating and pretty soon when he realized I was pushing away, he clutched tighter and that’s when I felt suffocated. It needed to end.

“Sounds pretty simple for you. Piece of cake, break up and move on. You got what you wanted, right? You malevolent, cruel and vicious woman, you”, is maybe something some of you readers are thinking. No, no. It’s okay, I understand. You would assume that it was a walk in the park for me, because from description above, he was someone I began to not stand and wanted to get away from. So, ending it all would solve everything and I could move on as if nothing happened, right? Well, you are wrong on that one if you think such. We had problems in the end, and it gave me clearity that our relationship was not meant to be, however, that didn’t mean that we didn’t have good times. I mean, that is why I took interest in him in the first place. Those were the euphoric days, the honey moon stage as some call it . . . the golden era. It was quite nice.

10bf872aed5f65b08ed2c157ad78f751He was my best friend, I mean that is how it started out. We hung out all the time, watched movies together, talked about music we were both passionate about, ate food together, made out, dressed up and went out to dinner, wandered to nowhere, talked about our future. He was – what I thought at the time – the best boyfriend I had ever had. Then things got serious. Things got rough. I broke up with him, and it was not, I repeat . . . was not easy. At all. I had felt so trapped and in deep for a month but I kept going on in the relationship in hopes that it would get better, and even when I knew it would, I kept it up. I didn’t want to hurt him or lose what we had. I didn’t want to lose my best friend and I was walking on eggshells everyday. Then I did it. It hurt like hell.

The dumpers – sounds so lovely, doesn’t? – can experience the same amount of pain. If not, more. Breaking up is not something we want to do, but know in our mind and gut that we have to do. It’s one of those mind over heart type of situations and yes, they suck. I certainly did not want to break up with my boyfriend at the time. I wanted to be in love with him and everytime I thought of us cuddling in his bed together, or jamming out to a song in his car, I cringed. It made the thought of breaking up with him harder, mainly because I was focusing in on the good times. I weighed the pros and cons and came to the conclusion that I was not in love with him anymore and that the relationship had deteriorated into something toxic and unhealthy. So of course, why would I want to stay in something like that? Of course it hurt me too. People assume that us dumpers call it off, go home, party, live it up – with the neon lights and smoke and all those lively effects symbolizing a “better life” – not even worrying about anything, as if we have a “feelings switch” implanted into our heads. Nope. When I broke up with my then-boyfriend, I walked in the house feeling as if there was a brick weighing on my heart along with the rest of the world. I had ended it; lost my best friend. In my heart I knew I had done the right thing, but it was still hard. My mom asked me how I was and in a strong response I said “I’m fine.” Two minutes later, I found myself weeping on my couch in the living room, curled up in a ball. 45af8a59c15fddb423e00618e4b768b3

The love is always there, but not in the same way. It dwindles and morphs into something else that makes us feel warm and sometimes humble inside. We can look back at the memories and reminisce.

What I’m trying to say is that . . . those songs dedicated to the people who got dumped, is also for the dumpees. Hey, I started singing along to sappy break up songs after I initiated the break up – no guilt. I think we deserve those songs, too. It hurts just the same, especially if you are caring and compassionate and did all you could to make he relationship grow and flourish. It hasn’t been the easiest for me. It stings here and there, but there have been worse break ups. My important point is that nobody should belittle ones feelings. 3cc28e5f2443b9bae49bb7dac465bc83Whether you were the one to break up with your partner, or you were the one who got dumped, it hurts both sides. We can all turn out to be emotional messes one way or another. We all have a story. We all have feelings and weird stuff going on that only we will be able to understand. And you know what? Sometimes, that is enough. :)

- Jules