All posts by vh5495em

Ever Been to Greece?

According to Business Insider, Greece is # 5 on the top 20 countries to travel to. If you’re thinking of going on a big vacation anytime soon, I could not recommend Greece more. From its food to its history, you will never get bored with exploring the country.

I went to Greece in the Fall of 2014 for a two month Bible school. We did a lot of traveling around the country and the Aegean Sea (by sailboat of course); every few days, we were in a new place. Greece’s character and beauty left an impression on me and I still dream of being back there to this day (hopefully I will get to go back after graduation).

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Greece’s rich history is incredible to see with your own eyes. These places that you’ve read about in your history books are all real–it’s amazing to feel like you’re physically walking through your history book! I visited Ancient Philippi, Ancient Corinth (and the Corinth Canal), the Acropolis in Athens (and the Parthenon), and many other sites. I also visited the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, which were much more touristy compared to many of the smaller “fishing villages” and islands we spent time at.

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The difficult part about recommending Greece for travel is that I want to recommend everything because it’s an amazing country! If I had to narrow it down, I would tell others to be sure to visit Athens. This was my favorite big city because it mixed history with modernism so well. You can take a walk up to the Acropolis and the Parthenon during the day, then come down for some afternoon shopping at the stores and flea market (GREAT shopping in Athens), and cap it all off with a metro ride to Gazi for dinner/drinks/dancing. The locals will be puffing on their hookahs while lounging around on the couches outside each restaurant/club—feel free to follow suit.

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One last word: whatever you do when/if you visit Greece, be sure to eat a gyro. I dare you to eat just one (most days, I consumed a copious amount—no shame). The gyros are not like the ones we have here. In Greece, it’s more like fast food, but not that bad for you because it’s not America and it’s much fresher. Plus, it’s much cheaper than the gyros here (roughly 2 euro or $2.25). You get a choice of chicken or pork, and yes, the fries come right inside the pita bread with everything else. You will find them everywhere in Greece and I guarantee that you will be in love.

Next time you want to take a big vacation and can’t decide on a destination, look no further than the country that essentially started it all in the Western world.

P.S. My mouth is watering at the thought of a gyro from Greece…

Don’t Settle for Less; Settle for Less Money

I would assume that many of you have had an internship, have an internship currently, or will have an internship in the future. I fall into the “have an internship currently” category. Personally, at this point in my life, I am happier than I’ve ever been. Coming into this summer, there has been a definite shift in me and I think I’ve figured out why.

At the end of April, I quit my job that I had held for a year and was not fond of at all. I was working at a small medical device company as a Quality Coordinator. This sounds fine, right? Well, no, that’s not right—I was never really trained in because, when they hired me, I was the only employee in the quality department. Having no experience in this field (which the company fully knew in the interview), I seemed to be hired to scrounge around and figure it out. I was up to the challenge, but alarmed that there was no training or development offered to me. I was so disgruntled everyday because no one gave—pardon my French—two shits about me being there and not having any experience. I basically ended up sitting around all day trying to teach myself, which was a little complicated because regulatory/quality work is not always (or ever) a piece of cake.

That job had to come to an end, but I wanted to stick it out for at least a year so it wouldn’t look bad on my résumé. In March, I had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend I hadn’t seen in probably five years. We caught each other up on our lives and he told me about a business he started (with someone else I know!) called Shema.

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Shema is a benefit corporation and ethical clothing manufacturer that is working to alleviate poverty and empower women who have previously been enslaved and/or trafficked. Their goal is to plant 25 sewing co-ops in S.E. Asia in the next 5 years that will employ these vulnerable women so that they do not have to return to selling themselves (as many rescued survivors do). These sewing co-ops are not a means to an end, but rather a springboard into the future, whether that be education or other job opportunities.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I was offered an internship at Shema in March! After learning more about the opportunity, there was no way I couldn’t jump on it! So, here I am now: I’m their social media/communication intern this summer. I quit my decently paying job for an unpaid internship (with some criticism from family and friends). So, why did I do it?

I felt that Shema was where I was supposed to be. The job description consists of everything I’ve had recurring thoughts about wanting to do or wanting to learn in the past 8 months (i.e. social media, writing, photography, videography, etc.) There is plenty of opportunity for all of these things. However, the bigger reason I wanted to do this internship was because I wanted to do something that I found meaning in and that would impact the world around me. I was feeling extremely burnt out at my other job because I wasn’t utilizing my strengths and I wasn’t excited about their mission/company.

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With sacrificing my income, I am happier than ever because I’m doing something that is life-giving (to me); I am not settling at my other job anymore just because it paid the bills. Now, I understand that this can be a lot more complicated for other people—it definitely was complicated for me too, but I encourage you to understand your strengths and your weaknesses and focus on strengthening your strengths! Maybe this is in regard to work or major at school or whatever it may be, but I’m telling you: do something that is challenging (strengthen your strengths) but not suffocating (like my other job was because I was trying to exercise my weaknesses).

In the words of Ramon Pastrano (ImpactLives CEO and strengths-based leadership trainer), “There is no such thing as a well-rounded person, but rather strong people that make a well-rounded team.”

Electronic Cigarettes are Harmless, You Say?

Remember when the electronic cigarette (e-cig) fad began? I sure do. One of my first exposures to e-cigs was in 2013 on a riverboat cruise in Stillwater for my boyfriend’s high school graduation. One of his acquaintances had an e-cig that he kept puffing on throughout the evening. His fruity emissions filled the air around us. Of course the fad began in America several years before (in 2007), but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began really noticing e-cigs…everywhere.

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While strolling around in malls, meandering in grocery stores, and eating out at restaurants, I recall being extremely thrown off when I would see a cloud of smoke exit an individual’s mouth. Maybe my shock was due to the fact that the Freedom to Breathe (FTB) amendments (part of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act [MCIAA]) became effective in 2007, which meant that we would no longer see any smoking indoors.

What am I saying? This was fine. This was safe. E-cigs aren’t really smoking—they’re just vapor. Wrong. Apparently, some U.S. municipalities are hostile toward e-cigs. Spokane County, in particular, has just recently banned the use of e-cigs in all public places, which means e-cigs and cigarettes are viewed as the same thing (the ban will become effective on July 1, 2016). Many other states and municipalities also regulate e-cig use (ecigslaws).

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So, what’s the deal and why are people banning e-cigs? First off, do you really know what an e-cig is? I’m sure you do in theory, right? It’s a battery-operated cigarette that heats up a liquid containing nicotine, fruity flavoring, and other chemicals (link). The concern stems from the “other chemicals” part of e-cigs. Being so new to the U.S., not having FDA regulation or review, and having very little research behind them, e-cigs are an enigma.

The little research that has been done has shown that there are toxic/cancer-causing substances in many popular e-cig “juice” brands (e.g., diethylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze). There is also little information regarding the emissions or secondhand smoke effects of e-cigs. Formaldehyde and benzene, which are both carcinogens, have been found in these emissions and may pose a danger to bystanders (as well as the first-hand individual).

The fact of the matter is that due to the lack of knowledge we have about e-cigs, it would be best to avoid using them until more research is done and the public can make an informed decision about whether or not to use e-cigs.

The Kardashian Phenomenon

With a simple search on TMZ’s website, you can find just about any and every dirty detail regarding celebrities, sports, and entertainment in the form of a faintly witty tabloid-style presentation. If you’ve ever flipped through your television channels, you probably know that, from time to time, you’ve landed on a channel featuring Harvey Levin (TMZ’s host) gossiping with journalists amongst the numerous cubicles at TMZ headquarters in Los Angeles.

You may call it celebrity news, but it seems much more gossipy than that. TMZ has an obsession with exploiting the smallest issues and creating bigger issues (or magnifying normal issues more than necessary). If you think about it, though, TMZ probably wouldn’t exist if they didn’t do this. Their news is not intelligent and it seems that they’re only seeking to be boisterous and catch the attention of viewers at the expense of Hollywood stars.

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One topic they really enjoy discussing is the Kardashians. I can understand this because I’ve watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians and obviously see that the drama of the family’s life is probably just absolutely irresistible to TMZ. Although, throughout watching the Kardashians, I find myself constantly thinking that all of their problems are first-world problems. When I really think about it, I realize that they really aren’t famous for any other reason than due to the workings of Robert Kardashian (the Kardashian father) who, as an attorney, helped O.J. Simpson during his trial in 1996.

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The spotlight was illuminated and has not been unplugged ever since 1996. TMZ picks up on any inkling of drama just to get a good story and to keep viewers attentive. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know—it really is hard to tell because all of TMZ’s “news” is so in-your-face.

Anxiety is Serious

Have you ever felt as though you may have an anxiety disorder? Do you get so easily overwhelmed and scared that you can’t help but shut down?

Anxiety is a creature of sorts. For many individuals, it creeps into every area it can get its hands on. It grabs your brain; it clenches your emotions. Many people can experience anxiety and stress from time to time. Most of the time, it can be a good thing because it drives us to complete various tasks on our to-do lists. However, for some individuals, anxiety is very real and it can be completely debilitating.

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Anxiety is difficult to define because people experience various levels of it so differently and at various times in life. If I wanted to define the mental illness level of anxiety, I would say that it is simply uncontrollable and unexpected. Now, that doesn’t explain anything having to do with the feelings an individual feels when he/she experiences anxiety—that can vary so much (as I said at the beginning of this paragraph).

My point in saying this is to shed light on the fact that those who actually experience real, daily anxiety that is uncontrollable (perhaps an anxiety disorder) should not be told not to stress out or not to be nervous. Because anxiety that is debilitating is really a psychological and neurological illness, it is far beyond the control of the inflicted individual.

That being said, this does not mean that people with uncontrollable anxiety should sit in a well of self-pity their whole lives. It would be damaging on many levels (emotionally, relationally, etc.) to live this way and not deal with the overwhelming anxiety. People who think that their anxiety is a real issue should go to their doctor and/or see a therapist and take the necessary action steps to begin conquering their anxiety because there is help out there.

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In the process, individuals around the person who is experiencing uncontrollable anxiety should be gracious and supportive. It’s important to understand that, though you may not experience anxiety as intensely as so-and-so, that doesn’t mean that you should tell them, “Just be happy.” I guarantee that is the last thing he/she will want to hear amidst the daily battle between the head (the anxiety) and the heart (not wanting to feel/think the anxious thoughts that are occurring).

Parent-Child Relationship At Risk

Often a genial area in the heart of a child—though sometimes, just the opposite. I’m talking about a child’s relationship with his/her parent(s). I’ve seen both extremes around me throughout my life. There’s the extreme of the parent and child who are best friends, and there is the extreme of the parent and child who are worst enemies. Somewhere in between, I would say, is a healthy place to be.

As many of you are probably at a stage in life where you have kids or are thinking of having kids somewhere down the road, please know this key fact: “Parents play an irreplaceable role in the lives of their children.” Because the parent cannot simply be traded for another without an emotional difference in the child-parent relationship dynamics, it seems that nothing can shatter the innate bond a child has with his/her parent. Sure, there are relationships that aren’t healthy and there are relationships that are stationary or absent, but still, there is a yearning in a child to be loved and not overlooked–not just by any person, but specifically, his/her parent(s).

This yearning may present itself at many different points and crossroads in a child’s life. Perhaps, when a young child falls off of his/her bicycle and the result is a skinned knee. Perhaps, a senior in high school is overwhelmed with figuring out what college or major to pursue after high school. Perhaps, a young adult is thinking about getting married. In all of the aforementioned scenarios, the child looks to his/her parent(s) for comfort, guidance, and support.

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The child-parent relationship is important for younger children as well as young adults. A healthy relationship helps young children developmentally in various ways. For young adults, a healthy relationship can mean better grades and healthier life decisions. Amidst all of the benefits of the child-parent relationship, there is danger of that relationship being obliterated. Federal judges are refusing to notice the rights of parents and the impact these rights have on children.

The argument is that the constitution does not explicitly state the parental rights, so, in that case, the government thinks it should be able to administer the child’s education and development.