All posts by aprilllllp

Stop Waiting For The Next Best Thing

We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.
– Joshua Glenn Clark

I feel satisfied and content Friday evenings after a full week of work, the weekend is finally here. Saturday flies by and, before you know it, Sunday evening is already here. I’ve watched my favorite shows, read a good book, saw friends and family – but now, I’ve entered a state of depression with the anticipated Monday, aka Monday blues. Can you relate? I believe many of you can. 

How many of us are living for the weekend? How many of us are living for summer? How many of us are living for the next vacation? “If I could just get through this work week – it will be better.”  It’s unhealthy to keep waiting for things to come. And not just Saturday and Sunday – waiting for the next trip, waiting for the next night out, waiting for something to break you out of the daily routine of life.

I used to do this a lot – still do – from time to time and I have to catch myself and change my mindset. Is this going to be the story of the rest of my life? What I realized is that it’s vital to live in the present moment. Without waiting for the weekends to be happy, be present and enjoy today.

That “next thing” will be here before you know it

Life shouldn’t be about moving forward to something, dragging dully along. Of course, we make goals and those are important. It’s also necessary to have things to look forward to, vacations, achievements to celebrate, milestones to await. But as we wait, and as we rise, it’s important also to not get so caught up in getting somewhere that we completely miss the journey, that we pass our lives.

How often do we sit there impatiently waiting for the next thing to come, for the next event to happen?

How many moments have we already lost just waiting and hoping for the next thing, the next week, next year?

There are ordinary and extraordinary times in our lives, but the ordinary ones still shouldn’t fall so dimly that we only see them as openings to something greater. Every moment in our lives should be something we look forward to and feel blessed to have. Every day should count for something – it should bring us closer together, closer to our goals – it should be as full of life as it can be. Even the days where work feels so endless, and our free time is cut short, we should cherish all of it so much so that seven days from now, you’ll wonder where the time had gone and find that the time came much sooner than you expected.

Stop waiting for the next best thing.

Live your moments here and now.

-April

Scream Therapy

When I was 11, I sat down with my older neighbors and watched “The Haunting” – you know, that horror film with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones? Not the greatest horror film – low budget, the storyline itself is questionable – but my little 11-year-old self hadn’t been exposed to anything remotely scary…ever. I was a child who grew up on Disney and PG rated movies.  I hadn’t realized there were any other genre of films outside of my little Disney princess bubble, let alone any other content that was as atmospheric and intense as this film. To say I was changed, is an understatement. My heart rate increased, my palms got clammy, my eyes dilated in anticipation – but I was transformed. I relished in the fact that I had watched this horror film and survived to tell the tale. I wanted more.

I was 15 when a best friend of mine passed away from cancer. For months I wandered through life confused, upset, anxious, and afraid. I couldn’t sleep at night. I even started to feel afraid of the dark. The truth was, I was afraid of death. My stress was through the roof and there was no release.

Age 16 and I went over to a neighbor’s house to play video games and eat pizza. We ended up watching one of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. I hadn’t watched many horror films since “The Haunting” and I certainly didn’t think to try after last year and losing my best friend, but here I was, sitting and eating pizza watching a chainsaw-wielding psycho chase young teenagers to their death. You’re thinking, “This is probably a terrible idea, April… You are stressed out; you’re clearly still grieving. Not smart.”  And yet, there I was enjoying myself more than I had in the last year. There was a certain degree of comfort nestled in with those chills and horror. The surprising thing, and this is not for everyone obviously, the continual building and release of tension that is a core part of the horror-movie viewing experience, actually helped relieve my stress.

In a 2018 study researchers found that horror fans may enjoy being scared because it helps them gain a sense of mastery or control over their fears from the safety of living room couches or darkened movie theatres. “We often have a pleasurable feeling after a horror film based on the subsequent sense of relief,” says Zlatin Ivanov, a double-board certified psychiatrist. After watching a scary movie, the brain’s ability to calm itself down can be pleasurable neuro-chemically speaking, Ivanov says, “because the dopamine release related to the ‘rest and digest’ brain response causes an increased sense of well-being.”

Fast forward to 2020, a global pandemic hits. When the pandemic came to national attention, many people felt a sense of impending doom. But at the same time, the horror movies quickly became some of the most-watched movies in the U.S.  Horror films, researchers say, provide a simulated experience of threatening and dangerous situations. As a result, this provides “people a chance to experience a sense of mastery over negative experiences.” This then leads to being prepared for danger and the unexpected. Preparation for such events helps alleviate psychological distress should a negative, unexpected real-life situation arise.

In addition to helping me manage my stress levels, and indulging my curiosity, horror films also provide me with a certain sense of control over my emotions; they allow me to provide some distance and perspective that could otherwise be hard to access when I’m immersed in the everyday stress of life.

-April

The Ocean’s Most Barbaric Practice Continues to Thrive

Humans kill 80 – 100 million sharks annually. Many have their fins sliced off and are discarded back into the ocean still alive. The fins are used for shark fin soup, an East Asian dish associated with wealth. As apex predators in many ecosystems, the disappearance of sharks is causing dangerous imbalances in marine communities worldwide.

What is shark finning?

Shark finning is the gruesome practice of cutting off a live shark’s fins and discarding the body back into the sea. Because of the high commercial value of shark fins and the relatively low value of shark meat, fishermen take only the fins and leave the rest of the body behind—an extremely cruel and wasteful practice. Appallingly, the sharks are usually conscious through much of the ordeal.

Why is it a problem?

Shark populations around the globe have faced extremely steep declines due to years of exploitation for their fins, cartilage, meat, and liver oil. There is a robust global market for shark fins in particular to meet the demand for shark fin soup.  

Around 50% of the dried fin market is brokered through Hong Kong and China is the primary market for shark fin. However, shark fin is still a major trade and is consumed widely in the USA, putting shark populations at risk.

Continued demand for shark fin soup, dumplings, and other shark fin dishes served in restaurants around the world perpetuates the practice of finning, resulting in an estimated 100 million sharks being killed each year for their fins alone. Large shark populations are declining globally, and many species are imminently threatened with extinction.

Shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy once prepared exclusively for the Chinese emperors and nobility.

Business is good…

In the past 20 years or so, the demand for shark-fin soup has skyrocketed. It is still associated with privilege and social rank – a bowl of soup can cost up to US$100 – but the explosive growth in the Chinese economy means that hundreds of millions of people can now afford this “luxury.”

Viewed as a delicacy and status symbol, the shark fin is typically eaten shredded in a jelly-like soup at weddings and family banquets. “The shark fins themselves don’t taste of anything,” says Andrea Richey, Executive Director of Hong Kong Shark Foundation . “The taste comes only from the soup broth. It’s the texture of the shark fin that people like and the fact that it is a luxury item. It’s conspicuous consumption. It’s about showing wealth and status by ordering the best or most expensive item.”

The cartilage from a shark fin is carefully dried and prepared, and used as an ingredient in a soup flavored with seafood or chicken broth and herbs.

Is shark fin soup healthy?

Shark fin soup has been associated with a variety of benefits from increased virility to longer life.  However, the fin is purely cartilage, the same compound in human, cow, and other vertebrates.  Cartilage has no nutritional value.  Any benefit would come from the broth and other ingredients added.

Why this issue is important

This practice is barbaric in nature, unsustainable and unethical. As apex predators, large sharks like great white sharks, play an important role at the top of the marine food chain. Removing these top predators creates an imbalance called a trophic cascade leading to less abundance and declining ecosystem health. Without them, the entire food chain can be affected, negatively impacting the entire ecosystem, including fish humans love to eat.

Progress

The U.S. Congress banned shark finning in 2000, but the legislation has loopholes. For starters, fishermen are still allowed to have a limited number of separated fins onboard, if the rest of the animal isn’t dumped back overboard to die. But the measure can be hard to enforce and leaves plenty of room for cheating.

But the Shark Conservation Act closed such loopholes. The bill forces fishermen to bring sharks to port with their fins still attached—a requirement that advocates hope would, by virtue of freezer space alone, finally provide some real limits to their haul.

“It’s very sad to know that we are contributing to the demise of one of the greatest animals in history,” says HSI campaign manager Iris Ho, herself a Taiwanese American. “It’s shocking, it’s embarrassing, and I just know we have to stop it. And I just honestly think that if Chinese people, if we are contributing to the problem, then the solution is also with us. We have to stop it.”

What can you do?

Sign this petition to end the cruel practice of shark finning: https://chng.it/M8bxfCTMXD

Sign the petition asking Fed Ex to join 35 airlines including UPS, DHL and Air China and stop facilitating this unsustainable trade of endangered and threatened sharks. https://chng.it/qrt9Vtnp7t

Now that you are aware of this cruel and unethical practice, share this message on social media, inform your friends and family, sign a petition, donate to the cause, boycott restaurants that use shark fin in their foods, keep the conversation going.  

Sharks still lack sufficient protection from the cruelty of shark finning and because of the fragility of shark populations, this blog is a leading effort to compel you to care.

– April

Links:

https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/sharks-rays/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey

https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/shark-finning-cruelest-cuts

The Influencer Report

We’ve officially entered the age where bloggers have really crossed over from simply running their own personal sites to starring in campaigns, commercials and even on magazine covers. Now all forms of social and digital media are allowing bloggers to really succeed in running their own business.  – Harper’s Bazaar

The blog I’ve found and will be analyzing is called: Fashion Mumblr

An influencer refers to “a person who is able to generate interest in something (a product) by posting about it on social media”. This blogger and fashion influencer is a London-based woman running a lifestyle blog designed to emphasize “attainable and inspirational details with a special focus on the subjects of fashion, beauty, and travel.”  Just like any paying job there are many different tasks, deadlines, campaign directions, pivots, and research. Being a fashion blogger or influencer also means there is a ton of competition.  

Fashion influencers/bloggers have become trusted sources of new and emerging trends and products for fashion audiences to rely upon for inspiration and consumption. No longer are designers and brands solely reliant on their marketing team, websites, single social media networks, etc., but sometimes decide to turn to the influencers and brand ambassadors that the fashion consumers have deemed as trusted trend-setters.

Modern purchasing behaviors in the industry start with visual inspiration and mass conversation — unique forms of communication that fashion blogs promote.

Now that companies see digital influencers and bloggers starting to drive more sales than celebrities, brands are building more campaigns for influencers into their marketing budget. Ultimately, this means that bloggers have much more room to earn a profit through various different mediums.

We know that fashion is a constant changing industry with new products and trends being created and new designers itching to be publicized around the world at any given moment, making identification with loyal consumers and their preferences vital to any amount of success. It is this fact that makes marketing and branding fashion more complex than in other sectors because of the velocity and vastness of this industry.  A low-cost form of distributing online media, specifically important to new designers whose budgets remain at lower capabilities, bloggers spend their time searching for high-quality products and trends, to supplement a blog post to attract the largest audience possible.

Marketing and Social Impact Theory

Social Impact theory states that professionals must position themselves to benefit from fundamental changes that are occurring in the ways people decide on which products and services to consume, and how they actually consume them. With the fashion industry’s quick pace, reliance on a unique brand image and established relationships in all aspects of a business venture, fashion blogs have emerged as leading foundations for strategic marketing. Fashion marketing uses common techniques of advertising and market research with the addition of tools specialized for the fashion industry such as product development, branding, pricing, and forecasting.

Blogging enhances these tools as the sites are exposed to large, trusted followings, determined by a combination of fans, email subscribers, page views, comments, etc. When combined with their relationships with fashion designers, their influence extends in the form of vital components to brand exposure. Oftentimes, bloggers post new content at least once a day, making their sites ideal sources for public relations outreach in such an industry whose products and branding moves at a consistently fast pace. Our digital age of marketing makes blogging just as, if not more, valid as any other form of publicity in reaching a brand’s desired audience(s).

A Day in the Life of a Fashion BloggerFashion Mumblr is seen here, collaborating with Michael Kors to showcase their product, Access Watch, for this video.

My thoughts

Okay, overall I am impressed – with the scale of work it takes to be a fashion influencer, with the amount of content in a fashion blog + social media platforms. While reviewing Fashion Mumblr’s blog and social media platforms, I have acknowledged that fashion blogging could be a positive and beneficial tool to supplement and improve public relations and marketing strategies in the fashion industry – if done ethically and sustainably.

On the flip side

To influence is to affect, to sway, to transform. To influence someone is to move their opinions away from authenticity. Anyone with social media today is constantly being bombarded with the opinions of influencers. I feel we unconsciously let go of our own opinions to replace them with those of the people we follow. (For some, not all)

Magazines have been influencing our fashion choices for years, but they have never reached as many people as influencers do. Their reach extends so wide that the culture of inauthenticity that they promote is becoming almost universal. It’s even possible that influencers themselves are inauthentic. The very presence of financial motivation subconsciously modifies what they believe to be an authentic choice. 

The danger in this is that we all eventually become a mass of indistinguishable beings lacking any individuality. There is value in individuality. And I think fashion influencers are endangering it. 

-April

I’m choosing to not have kids & society can’t cope

With every passing year comes the age-old question from friends, family, or nosy strangers: “Are you going to have kids? No? Why not?!” Saying “no” is the kind of answer that sends people into utter disbelief and concern. Often, they’ll reply back with: “Well, if you don’t have kids you are going to regret it.” Or my personal favorite: “You don’t know what true love is until you have children.”

Photo

What’s worse, is they make it their personal mission to convince me to change my answer, as if I had made the wrong one, and will eventually choose the right one.  These situations are usually uncomfortable and intrusive. There is a cultural ideal and societal standard that [as a woman] you’re supposed to want children. You’re supposed to have a strong nurturing/maternal drive and feel like your life is incomplete without a child.

So when I say, “I don’t want to have kids,” to society, it’s like I’m saying I’m not a real woman.

The stigmas associated with choosing not to have children are numerous, and take place in face-to-face interactions, online, and in mainstream media. However, when looking at how men deal with this issue, there is a significant lack of research. People tend to praise unmarried, childfree men as “perpetual bachelors” who are “living the dream.”  This disproportionate impact on women further perpetuates the very idea – women are defined by their children. Girls are taught at a young age that motherhood is a desired natural state; a state which is a normal progression in our lives as females. Even today, the emphasis is on motherhood first, career second. Motherhood does not define womanhood.

Whatever the reasoning behind the choice, research shows that most women who choose to live a childfree life are confident in their decision to do so. It’s everybody else who struggles with it. There’s also this assumption that you’re selfish because you’ve chosen not to have children. The individual choices to remain childfree vary, with answers ranging from monetary reasons, freedom, and ability to travel. I personally believe that motherhood is not only amazing and beautiful, but also incredibly admirable – it’s just not the path for me – and my personal decision does not affect you.

I chose two interesting articles focusing on why women today are choosing to not have kids. According to an article from CNN, since 2007, the nation’s birth rate had been declining about 2% each year on average. Despite early speculation about a pandemic baby boom, the coronavirus crisis accelerated the decline even further, with births falling by 4% last year. It was the largest annual decline in the number of births since 1973, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Along with some interesting statistics, the 1st and 2nd articles are also centered around women who are happy in their lives without children. Both of these articles connect in the idea that women are happy with their choice in not having children, but society tends to think otherwise. In the 2nd article by TIME, voluntary childless women have come forward and stated, it’s a common misconception about people who choose not have kids: that because we don’t have them, we must not like them.  

Women are happy with their decision, even if no-one else is.

It is okay for women to do things, or not do things, because they just don’t want to. Women shouldn’t have to list reasons to validate their decision not to. Simply not wanting to is reason enough. So, when a woman says that she doesn’t want children, the response should never be “Oh, you’ll change your mind.” The response should be, “Okay, that’s valid.”

I applaud and respect the women who are mothers and would never judge their choice. I also applaud and admire women who have made a bold and non-conventional choice to not be mothers.

Be true to yourself, always.

-April

Links:

  1. https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/14/us/childfree-women-birth-rate-decline-trnd/index.html
  2. https://time.com/5631856/childfree-by-choice/

My Physical & Mental Health Have Improved. The Credit Goes to…

My dog.

Daisy.

She’s an Australian Shepherd mix. She’s a rescue that I adopted in June 2021 and my life took a turn for the better.

Some background…

I have been working from home since the pandemic. My office informed me that I could continue working from home, permanently. There is no issue for me with being productive in this new work setting, but sometimes I forget to take breaks.

I forget to stand up and stretch. I forget to rest my eyes for 15 minutes.

At the beginning of 2021 I could feel my body and my mind start to fall into unhealthy patterns. I knew I had to schedule “break time” into my workdays. One of the greatest things about working from home, is being able to take a break with no distractions.

Daisy is the best mental break.

She reduces my stress levels, lowers my blood pressure, increases my physical activity, boosts my heart health, and eases my anxiety.  

It’s true. The fact is human-dog relationships have positive effects on humans. According to this Ted Talk by Anna Fetter, dogs can serve as everyday therapy for humans.

The lifestyle adjustments and factors like committing to more physical activity and exercise helped me, not only in physical ways, but psychological ways as well. Research has shown that simply petting a dog reduces blood pressure and stress.

Over the course of a week, this additional time spent walking may in itself be sufficient to meet [World Health Organization] recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.” – Philippa Dall, Glasgow Caledonian University

When we interact with dogs, our oxytocin levels shoot up. Since this is the hormone largely responsible for social bonding, this hormonal “love injection” boosts our psychological well-being. – Medical News Today

Owning a dog, especially a mixed breed of Australian Shepherd, has given me no choice but to be physically active every day. She has provided me with an excuse-proof daily dose of exercise. The workdays go more quickly. I even feel like I handle my work problems with a little more grace because I’m giving my mind a break.

Having Daisy around makes me feel like I’ve added years to my life. I rescued her, and she rescued me. What’s more fulfilling than that?

-April