A Little Bit about My Capstone Project

So I’m way late on posting this, but senior year is definitely winning the battle we’re currently having. My project for the capstone course is essentially a short magazine, similar to the length of The Gargoyle on campus, with 20 pages of content. I initially began with the idea of featuring a lot about the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the animal shelter in Ann Arbor, but after talking it over with T and Shelley, I decided to go with something that is a little more universal and that the Humane Society could still use.

The stories I’m featuring include coverage on busting myths of shelter animals: are black cats really bad luck, why do pit bulls have their bad reputation, and what does declawing really do to an animal. I’m also going to give a few staff profiles to make this exclusive to HSHV, along with an adoption story of a cat and a dog from the shelter. There are a few other things, but I don’t want to completely give away my project! 🙂

Look at all that cuteness.
Look at all that cuteness.

I’m hoping with this project to raise awareness in the community for HSHV, as well as to educate the community on issues that I know a lot of people talk about and believe misleading rumors. I’m extremely passionate about animal welfare and the quality of life of animals in the shelter, so I’m excited to be able to put my passion into my work (I’m the one with the Wags to Riches blog, in case you still haven’t checked it out 🙂 )

As for progress, I’ve gotten my volunteer interviews done, and I’ll be doing the staff profiles in the next few weeks. Design is still in progress, but it’s getting there. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by senior year in general but it’s really nice to be able to work on a project that I actually care about; it motivates me to get the rest of my work done so I know I have enough time to spend with this project.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for my project! I can’t wait to see the final outcomes of everyone’s hard work in the capstone course.

Wags to Riches: Stories of Shelter Animals

So, it’s taken me four years, but I’ve finally started a blog that I’m passionate about: Wags to Riches.

I’ve tried to start a blog pretty much every year since I started college, but I never got anywhere. I never knew what to blog about: books? current issues? travel? All of them didn’t seem to fit me well enough. But after volunteering at two animal shelters for the past year and a half, I’ve found something that I love just as much as writing: shelter animals (and all other animals, too, of course).

Here's the opening page!
Here’s the opening page!

My blog is still taking its baby steps, but it’s growing. I’d love to reach more people and have more feedback, so I’ve posted the link here. Where better to get opinions than from a minor filled with writers?!

Actually, though, I’d love more eyes on my writing and the ability to educate more people about animal rescue, animal shelters, and animal rights. Sure, maybe only one or two of you will click and follow my blog. But maybe you’ll pass it on to people who are also in love with animals, and I’ll be able to change the way people see a lot of myths and rumors about animal shelters. It might take awhile to get my message out there, but even so, I’ll always enjoy writing about my passion.

Making Decisions, Making Progress

I am an unfortunately indecisive person, when it comes to myself. I dread having to come up with plans, or pick a restaurant, or even decide which shirt I want to wear on any given day. But making decisions for another person is usually much easier. So, I loved working with Jamie to come up with possible ideas for each other’s projects.

From the questions she asked me, I felt that Jamie got a good idea of what means a lot to me, and I felt I understood a little more about what was important to her and important to understanding who she was. Because of that, I trusted that what she suggested were legitimate things that she thought could be successful and interesting to devote my entire semester to.

I came into class knowing that I would really like some aspect of my project to focus on my passion of animal rescue, but I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to take that. After talking, Jamie gave me some great suggestions. One of her best was using my favorite book, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, as a model for my writing style.

My favorite book of all time
My favorite book of all time

Keyes creates a character that undergoes a life-changing operation that changes the way this character thinks and subsequently writes. However, I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge of mirroring that, and I’m not sure how I would encompass my animal rescue passions into that.

I did really like the idea we came up with together of creating a series of magazine articles or yearbook stories (as I’m the editor-in-chief of the university yearbook — shameless plug, we’re still hiring one more writer!) that cover human interest pieces intersecting with animals and animal rescue. I think Jamie really managed to understand that animals and yearbook were both important to me, and that I’m pursuing a career in journalism, and she managed to help me tie all of those together into a project.

I mentioned that I love writing children’s fiction as well, but I don’t think I want to pursue a story featuring human and animal interaction, only because I’ve done it once before and I would love to explore something different that might challenge me to think outside the box a bit. That’s why I’m leaning towards creating a “mini-magazine” focused on animal rescue, and particularly the Humane Society of Huron Valley (where I volunteer in Ann Arbor).

Humane Society of Huron Valley - Click for more information!
Humane Society of Huron Valley – Click for more information!

Reflecting on the actual process of getting to know someone and help them make their decisions, I think I definitely want to bounce ideas off of people more often. A lot of times I go into a project with a pretty clear idea of what I want to do, which I think is good, but I also don’t get any of the insights someone else could offer me. I would have never thought of connecting Flowers for Algernon with experimenting with writing style, and even though I most likely won’t take that route, the suggestion got my gears turning in a different direction and helping us spit out ideas a little more easily.

I’m actually super intimidated by this project, but I think that’s the point. I wanted to make sure I got out of my comfort zone, even though I know it’ll be a lot more work than experimenting with a medium I’ve already done before. I’m so excited to get started, and to see where everyone else takes their ideas.

(PS sorry for posting this half an hour late, Shelley. Festifall and the sun got the best of me today.)

Is Halloween a Trick or Treat?

 

Spooky….bats, pumpkins, haunted houses. Always associated with this eerie holiday.

Halloween is a notoriously controversial holiday. You’ve got the girls who wear as little clothes as possible, the people who stay in to watch scary movies, the religious fanatics who look down on the holiday for its “pagan” qualities, and many other viewpoints and reactions to Halloween. Some people are offended by the scant costumes, others by the recognition of the possibility of a spirit world. It seems that no matter who you talk to, someone has a bone to pick about Halloween.

Now, I’ve always celebrated Halloween and I’d never really thought about the religious aspect of it until high school. Sure, I knew that I had to go to church the next day because it was a holy day of obligation, but I was much more excited about dressing up and getting free candy that would last me for at least a month, sometimes more. I didn’t think about what I felt about the deceased or where I thought they went after death.

However, this year I have a roommate who is very Christian and does not celebrate Halloween, has never celebrated it. I didn’t have a problem with this at all (what does it matter to me if she doesn’t want to dress up or watch scary movies?), but it did make me think more about the implications our modern version of Halloween has on the religious beliefs of some people, particularly Christians.

According to a website completely dedicated to Halloween history, Halloween’s origins date back to an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain. The Gaels thought that on October 31st, the end of their harvest season, the boundaries between the worlds of living and dead would overlap, allowing the deceased to come back and wreak havoc on the living and their crops and livelihood.

Christians, however, are not supposed to believe in the ability of the dead to enter the world of the living. Yes, we believe that sometimes our deceased loved ones communicate with us through symbols (my best friend, for example, thinks his grandmother is looking out for him whenever he sees a cardinal bird). However, according to Christian theology, souls can only inhabit two places: heaven or hell. They do not reenter the world of the living after they have passed on. This, I believe, is at the heart of why many Christians denounce and even fear Halloween.

This seems to address a bigger theme of separating religion from cultural “norms.” Is it even possible to separate yourself from your religion to enjoy a holiday like Halloween, one that goes against what you were always taught about your religion ? Does it make me less of a Christian to believe in ghosts and celebrate Halloween, because I am acknowledging that maybe souls can exist elsewhere besides heaven and hell?

All I wanted to do was trick or treat or find a costume party to go to last night, but after thinking about all of this, I was exhausted and chose instead to stay home and watch “Halloweentown” and “Practical Magic” with my other two roommates. My third roommate, though, went to bed early, not wishing any of us a “Happy Halloween.” This seemed to be one of those situations where I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too, but somewhere inside me, I was still unsure that was possible.

 

Feathered Ruffians

After being back in Ann Arbor for about two weeks, I decided I was settled in enough to check in with a Writing Minor adviser. I obviously chose T (not that all the other advisers aren’t awesome!) because she was my gateway course professor and I had a lot to catch her up with about my life.

We got to talking and I eventually mentioned that I had purchased a kayak over the summer (yet unnamed, but I have figured out that my kayak is a girl).

See all her curves? Definitely a female
See all her curves? Definitely a female

Anyways, we got to talking about birds — ospreys, eagles, etc. — that are typically near bodies of water. T asked me if I liked birds, and I told her I was pretty neutral towards them. I’m not someone with a deathly fear of them (“The Birds,” anyone?) but I also don’t have a particular penchant for them. She told me to let her know if I changed my opinion as I kayaked more, and when I took my kayak out this weekend, I had quite the encounter with birds.

Gallup Pond was fairly empty, save for the multitudes of lily pads and yellow algae gracing the top of the water. I staggered with my kayak to the dock and managed to get it into the water without help (the kayak is 10ft long; I am a little taller than 5ft — it’s a bit of an effort to move it by myself). This was one of my first times out on Gallup, so I took it pretty slowly and wanted to explore the area. I decided to head towards the bridge on my right, and as I approached, loud honking ensued. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where it was coming from. It became more threatening as I got closer to the bridge, and that’s when I noticed the family of about six geese settled on the rocks near the support structures of the bridge. The goose that I assumed was the daddy goose, as he seemed to be keeping watch for the other geese, started bobbing his neck. I’ve seen that before in geese, and it never means anything good.

I weighed my options. I could try my best to ignore the geese and hope they took that as my submission to them and leave me alone, or I could stop and back away, and hope they didn’t attack me as I was trying to leave them alone. I chose the second option; passing near an angry flock of geese while in a fairly unstable boat did not sound too appealing to me. I managed to get out of there with no incident, but I was a bit miffed. I could understand how my bright blue boat and bright yellow paddle could intimidate the geese, but I didn’t even know if they could for sure see colors. I was just trying to pass them, and meant them no harm. But they had to be bullies and scare me off.

As I moved to the other side of the pond, the same incident happened with swans, which was much more intimidating because of the size of swans compared to the geese.

Way more intimidating....
Way more intimidating….

After a day of bullying by the birds of Gallup, I had more of an opinion on these avian creatures. They seemed to be the bullies of the water I was on; I’d never had a problem with the loons or eagles in Northern Wisconsin where I typically kayak, so maybe it’s a type-by-type characteristic. But, while I’m in Ann Arbor at least, I will be keeping my distance from these winged tyrants. Sorry, T; maybe the love of birds is a family thing!

My Completed Remediation Project!

Hey there everyone. If you’re like me, you typically don’t finish most big projects or papers until the very last minute. However, this project was different for me. It was something that I felt extremely passionate about; it has always bothered me that people misuse psychological terms all the time, and I’m the girl that gets offended when a person describes something as “retarded.”

We’re all good with words here…choose them more carefully.

Schizophrenia is so often used lightly, especially in the media, and I got sick of hearing about it. I think my short story with the schizophrenic character stemmed from my dislike of the social stigma and misunderstanding of the disorder. So I took this frustration and created a short story and an iMovie PSA.

Here is “The Truth about Schizophrenia” for your viewing pleasure. I’d love if you guys could comment on it on YouTube (or on here, whichever) and share it with your friends and family. Any critiques or compliments are welcome! The more people that are aware of the issues, the sooner we can redefine society’s idea of what schizophrenia — and mental illness in general — truly is.

 

 

Existing versus Living

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -Oscar Wilde

Such a thoughtful pose, Oscar.

 

I feel like the line between living and existing is extremely fine and malleable. Sometimes we have no choice but to simply exist and pull ourselves through each day. Life gets hard. There are bills to pay, jobs to do, family to care for, errands to run. Sometimes it overwhelms us, so it is all we can do to drag ourselves out of bed and into the whirlwind of another day. But, I think it is still possible to truly live, even in this hectic world we live in. It’s the small, almost insignificant parts of life that allow us to live. The warmth of sunshine on skin after a long winter, the kisses of a dog you haven’t seen since Christmas, your favorite cereal for breakfast: it all matters, as long as it makes you feel alive. We can’t all go out there and scale mountains or travel the globe, but if we learn to appreciate the small bits of happiness scattered among our daily activities, we all have the chance to live. You don’t have to do something rare and important: just wake up each day and appreciate what you have.

 

 

Am I the Only One Who Loves Winter?

I know a week or two ago, T sent out a CTools announcement asking if maybe it was time for a winter rant. I think this was in the middle of that bizarre, blizzard-like weather we were getting (I shouldn’t actually be saying bizarre; this is Michigan, after all). Rather than inspire me, it angered me somewhat.

Now, I know a lot of people do not like winter at all. I can somewhat understand where all of you are coming from, especially after living through the “snowpacalypse” of 2011 in Chicago. It takes a certain hardiness, if you will, to take a liking to this brutal season, especially in the Midwest.

I, however, have loved winter for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite memories of it is from high school. Sophomore year we were released early because of an impending snow storm (back when winter still behaved like winter and there were no 50 degree days in sight in February). My neighbor dropped me off at home while my parents were out, and so I decided to amuse myself. Our entire backyard had been frozen over because of a huge temperature drop after snowfall the night before. I layered on my snow gear and lumbered outside looking like the Michelin Man.

I also have tires as biceps.

So I get outside, and I’m not sure what to do with a frozen-over yard. I figured out that it had frozen so well that I could slide around on it and not break the glassy surface. I then discovered we had left a few cans of pop out here at some point (I think we were using the backyard as an extra refrigerator at this point in winter) and decided it would be fun to roll them across the ice all the way across my backyard. It was so cool the first time that I decided to take a video of the next one, which I unfortunately deleted off of my Facebook. Here is a picture of the can I chucked, though.

It looks like the liquid inside had frozen, too.

Anyways, the point is, while I’m having a ton of fun throwing things across the yard, my parents come home and realize that I’m “not there”, as in not in the actual house, when I should be, and they freak out and think immediately that I’ve been kidnapped. Obviously, checking the backyard would make too much sense. Now, I give them credit that it was freezing outside and most people would not be out in that. BUT I lived in their house for 17 years at that point; they should know my love of all things cold.

After calling my neighbor, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend’s mom (while she was at work), my dad finally decided to open the curtains to the back patio. Lo and behold, there I was, just throwing cans of pop all over the yard in the middle of freezing Chicago winter. Once they figured it out, they were a little miffed, but not at all surprised.

I love the cold of winter. I love that chill I get when I walk outside and that initial burst of fresh air. It’s a beautiful, clean feeling — not at all what you get when you walk outside on a hot summer day.

I love when it snows and campus seems to quiet down some, like everyone is in awe of the beauty the snow leaves. I even love trudging through the slush in my snow boots. I love winter outerwear and wearing layers on layers on layers of clothing. I love all the goofy hats and warm gloves and the fact that inside is much more cozy when it’s so cold outside.

Sure, sometimes I wish class would be cancelled when it’s so snowy out, but not because I don’t want to see the snow. More because I’d much rather curl up inside with my hot chocolate and read, while the snow falls and falls on the other side of the window.

There’s just something about winter that makes me fall in love with everything all over again. I do want to hear what people think about this though – am I the ONLY one who loves this season?

Why is Blue for Boys?

Growing up, I played with Barbies and wore dresses and played with makeup, like most girls do. But I also loved wearing overalls, playing in the mud, and playing my Hotwheels computer game. And my favorite color was — and still is — blue. No one ever said anything to me about liking “boy activities” or things. Most people commented on how cute it was that I was a little tomboy.

On the flip side, I subscribe to a blog called “Raising My Rainbow”, another WordPress blog. It is written by a mother with two sons — the oldest is what we would think of as a “typical” boy, the youngest is what his mother refers to as “gender creative.” She does not give the real names of any of her family members on the site, but refers to her youngest son as CJ. CJ absolutely loves pink. And glitter. And tutus. He watched the Oscars with his mother and grandmother and commented on everyone’s dresses, and was amazed when the director of the animated film Brave, Mark Andrews, accepted his Oscar in a kilt.

Some say he wore a kilt because of his movie, but maybe he just likes the feeling of it!

Although CJ is a wonderful and enthusiastic gender-creative child at home, and his family does not make him conform to any type of label for his gender (he is six years old), his classmates and parents of the children do not always feel the same. CJ has faced times when he wants to dress in “boy clothes” so he doesn’t stand out from the other boys in his class, and he has seemed miserable about it. The parent of one of his closest friends wouldn’t let her daughter attend his birthday party once CJ’s mother informed the other mom about his love of skirts and all things pink.

I would like to know who ever decided that blue was for boys and pink was for girls. That girls played with Barbies and liked skirts and boys couldn’t cry and had to wear pants. And I would really like to know why it is okay for girls to dress and act like boys but not the other way around. My last post was about strength that women needed to break the stereotypes set for them by the media. But sometimes I feel like men have it just as hard and that their stereotypes go way back.

 

I want to see what all of you think about this issue. Or if anyone knows why blue is the standard color set for boys. I think children like CJ should be supported and fully allowed to express themselves, just like every other “normal” child out there.

I think the writer Domenick Scudera said it best in his article “Kilt It.” He wrote, “Hey, if it makes me happy, why not? I do not have to look like everyone else. I choose to be different, and I do not have to justify my attire to anyone.” Exactly, Domenick. You are exactly right.

“Miss Representation”: A True Eye-Opener to Gender Discrimination

Earlier this afternoon, I had nothing planned but to drag myself through my remaining classes, shovel down dinner, and crawl into bed for an early night. However, while I was browsing Facebook before my biology lecture (instead of working on my paper about coral reef extinction for said class), I noticed I had an event invitation to a screening of “Miss Representation.” The name rung a bell, but I wasn’t completely sure why, so I opened the invitation. It was described as a documentary about the way media portrays women and the effects it has on our society. They also provided a link to the surprisingly engaging trailer.

Now, normally I am not a documentary person. But something about this caught my attention, and I decided this was a better idea than calling it an early night like my lazy self wanted to.

I won’t give you every detail of my viewing experience, but I can say that this movie actually changed my view. I have never been so moved by a film: it was the perfect combination of seriousness, humor, and emotion, and got it’s point across well. What matters, though, is my reaction after the film.

The way women are portrayed by the media is not something I ever questioned. And I should have a long time ago. I think I didn’t because I grew up with a supportive family and really did not have any constant body issues until after high school. I was confident and athletic in middle school, and did not pay much attention to what I, or anyone else, was wearing. I wore what I felt comfortable in and I figured that’s what everyone else was doing, too. Then I went to a Catholic high school, where everyone wore uniforms. Yes, some people perked up their uniforms with accessories, but again, it was never something I paid attention to and I assumed no one else did. If someone wanted to express their individuality, that was great, and if they didn’t, that was just fine by me as well.

However, college opened my eyes to the amount of pressure women put on their appearance. I felt the pressure to eat well and go to the gym not because I wanted to be healthy, but because all the other girls in my hallway did and talked about losing weight. I began to feel more self-conscious, but it never got to a dangerous level because of my supportive family, friends, and boyfriend. But I understood how it could turn downhill quickly.

What so many girls see when they look in the mirror — it shouldn’t be this way

The way the media objectifies women is not okay. I realize this, but almost everything I watch on TV, listen to on the radio, or read in magazines supports the degradation of women and the diminishment to nothing more than a body. That is not fair to us, especially at the highly-esteemed university we attend. We are here for a reason, and we’re all much more than how we look. I don’t mean to get all feminist, but I don’t think enough girls realize that their body is not what defines them.

I’m not saying it isn’t okay to want to look put together and nice. But you need to do it for the right reasons, not because a male-driven society says you should. And guys, I’m not trying to blame all of you for this diminishment of women’s talents, because I know a lot of you do not do this. But as a society, many of the men do believe that a women’s body is her most important asset and you can help change that, too, not just the women. And girls, we need to stop seeing each other as enemies, and try to understand one another better. We can’t get anywhere if we help with the diminishment of others of our gender.

I just had all these thoughts, and they may just sound like ramblings, but my main point is that we should all be trying to change the way our society treats the female gender. We all have the intelligence and power to do so; it’s just a matter of taking the first steps.

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I encourage all of you to check out the film. It’s a great use of 90 minutes of your time.