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No, We Don’t Need More Guns in Our Schools

The headlines over the past week have been awful.  Unfortunately, that isn’t just because of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, but also because of President Trump’s reactions to the shooting.

Despite the idiocy of Trump, though, I am so impressed by the many Parkland teens who are standing up and advocating for stricter gun laws.  Emma Gonzalez showed such passion in her speech:

She even confronted a spokeswoman from the NRA who was evading her question about banning bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons.  She brought up the fact that Trump was the one who helped to repeal a law that made it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to purchase guns.  She is adamant that the laws become stricter.

But while the students fight for tougher gun laws, President Trump does the opposite.  His solution is to arm teachers.

Initially, there was outcry from numerous sources upon hearing Trump’s idea, so he later followed up prior comments by explaining that he doesn’t mean that any teacher should be given a gun.  Instead, it should be teachers with military backgrounds.

He cited random, fake statistics, saying that 10% of teachers in one school might fit the situation while 40% in another school would.  Now, I don’t know what schools are like in the south, but I can promise you that here in New Jersey, we don’t have too many ex-military teachers.  I can think of two in my entire high school.  Does he really believe there are schools where 40% of the teachers used to be in the military?

He even made a comment about coaches being good candidates to be trained with weapons because they have experience in that sort of thing.  Excuse me, Mr. President, but our coaches are mainly teachers.  They aren’t ex-military.  Why is a coach more likely to be equipped to handle a gun?  We have a problem with fake news these days, which is no surprise considering our own president spreads his own fake news.

Then he suggested giving special bonus money to the teachers who are armed.  He said that “teachers love bonuses.”  Trump speaks as if we’re children.  “Teachers love bonuses.”  I mean, isn’t that true of anyone, really?  Who isn’t happy to receive a bonus at their job?  He just always has such a condescending attitude.

I would rather forego the bonus than have that sort of power in my hands, and I know that many teachers agree with me.  Police officers are highly trained with their weapons, yet they still shoot and kill innocent bystanders from time to time.  Has Trump considered how likely that is to happen in a school, especially in a chaotic moment like a mass shooting?

He said that it takes about 8 minutes for the police to arrive at a school shooting and the shootings have only lasted for 3 minutes on average.  Hypothetically speaking, let’s say 5 teachers in my school are carrying concealed weapons.  What is the chance that one of the five of them will be less than a three minute’s walk away?  And if they are, how likely is it that they will kill the criminal without accidentally taking an innocent life?

Then, who will be there to protect the teachers when lawsuits arise?  Will legislators protect them from accidentally killing an innocent student?  And even if they could be protected financially, who is going to protect the guilt that they will likely face forever?

Trump suggests that teachers take a training course and then revisit the course once every six to twelve months, but who will pay for it?  A man posed that question to him yesterday and he completely evaded the question, making it sound like that shouldn’t be a reason to turn down his idea since it’s so crucial for the safety of our children.

But that is exactly what continues to happen with education in America; laws are passed, but they lack funding.  Schools sometimes need to fire teachers in order to find the funds to comply with government mandates.  Trump keeps saying that this will be “basically free” to the schools.  I don’t think he understands what the word free means.

The courses to learn gun safety and shooting accuracy will cost money.  The purchase of guns and ammunition will cost money.  And the bonuses he says the teachers should be given will also cost money.  So even if people agree with his idea, it’s financially disastrous to education.  We would lose teachers so that a select few teachers could carry guns.  I’m not even going to get into our failing education system, but I would prefer tax dollars to be spent on improving education, not purchasing weapons.

Trump reminds me of a child who makes reactive, impulsive decisions without considering them fully.  School shooting?  Uh…let’s arm teachers.  Oh, people think that’s dangerous?  Okay…uh…we’ll only arm a select few who have a military background.  Where will money come from?   Shoot…haven’t considered that one…well, if you love your kids you’ll find the money.  Yea…that’s the answer.

How is this our president?  How do people still support him?  He sounds like a rambling fool.

Trump said this about the shooting in Florida:  “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.  These teachers love their students. And these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns. And I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students and frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired.”

So a teacher would have shot him as a result of their love for their students?  A+B does not equal C here.  Teachers loving their students has no correlation to being able to shoot a criminal before he could kill more students.  There is zero causation between the two.  I love my students; therefore, if trained, I could “shoot the hell” out of any perpetrator?  No, that’s not how it works.

Cruz had an automatic weapon.  What will a teacher have, a handgun?  Does Trump honestly believe that one teacher with a handgun could have prevented all of that?

He made that comment after learning about the armed officer who was outside of the high school and who never entered.  His response about that was that “A security guard doesn’t know the children, doesn’t love the children. This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn’t love the children, probably doesn’t know the children. The teachers love their children. They love their pupils.”

First off, I’m an English teacher, and I cannot get over Trump’s repetitive, elementary sentence structure.  He loves to repeat key words and short sentences.  But him saying that we love our students while security guards don’t has no evidence or support.  Trump’s rhetoric is that of a child.  Yet some people still side with him?  I just don’t understand.  I feel like I’m living in the twilight zone.

He is so completely off base and out of touch with reality.  He even made a comment that “now is no longer the time for political correctness.”  That insinuates that he was previously being politically correct, but I can’t remember one instance when we held back from spewing insults at someone.

Trump likes finding scapegoats.  Immigrants, Muslims, it doesn’t really matter.  He needs someone to blame.  In this case, it’s the officer.  Now I don’t know the situation surrounding that officer.  I don’t know why he didn’t enter the building, but I’m sure that he is carrying some guilt right now.

He was also pointing the finger at California today, since California won’t go along with some of Trump’s ideas.  He started talking about the gang MS-13, and how those people aren’t even human beings; they’re animals.

MS-13 has nothing to do with this school shooting.  Yes, they actually are human beings.  No, that should not even be part of the conversation, but because he can point a finger, he will.

Trump pointing fingers is not helping anything.  And neither is his plan to arm teachers.

I miss the compassion we saw from President Obama following mass shootings like the one in Sandy Hook.  He appeared visually upset, tears streaming down his face as he discussed the events.  Families felt incredibly touched by his kind words to them when they met in private.  I don’t know how Trump reacted privately, but on camera, no matter the situation, he always has that smug grin plastered on his face.  It’s revolting, really.

I’m curious what changes are going to be passed by lawmakers in the upcoming months.  All I know is that, as a high school teacher, the last thing that I want is a bunch of my coworkers armed with guns.  That is not the answer.

Anyway…I really like this editorial that was posted in the New York Times:

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How Did Modesty Get Such a Negative Connotation?

*Warning* – Indecent image is included in this blog

I’ve been teaching my AP students using advertisements this past week. They were analyzing various ads for rhetorical appeals (ethos / pathos / logos) and strategies (juxtaposition / metaphor / etc). In upcoming lessons, we will be reviewing gender stereotypes.

I subscribe to a variety of magazines (at no cost thanks to frequent flyer miles since I never accumulate enough with any one airline to actually fly anywhere for free) that I use from time to time for projects in my classroom. This week, I received the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the mail. Usually I would just throw out that magazine since it’s not quite classroom appropriate.  However, since I knew that we would be reviewing gender stereotypes in my classes in the upcoming weeks, I thought I might find some advertisements that could work for the topic of gender stereotypes in that magazine.

And boy was I right. Every single ad used a woman to sell something.  I expected this, but unfortunately, the ads are so hyper sexualized that I do not plan on using them with my students.

Once I came across this picture at the end of the issue, I felt prompted to write a little blog about it.  Sorry for the nudity, but here is the image:

Of course I agree that a woman deserves respect no matter what she is wearing.  Everyone deserves respect simply because each and every one of us is a human being who has worth. But feminists are taking things way too far.

This woman’s top is so contradictory.

Here are my naked breasts for the world to see.  But please, respect me.  

I’m dressed like I want to f***, but please, don’t come on to me too strong.  

Does she deserve to be raped?  Of course not.  Nobody ever deserves to be raped.  But does it look like she’s eager for sex?  Of course.

How is it that modesty has attained such a negative connotation?

I’ll be honest.  If I see a girl wearing that at the beach, I will automatically pass judgment on her.  I try my best to avoid judging people, but I’m human.  These would be my initial thoughts:

-Are there children around?  That woman is practically naked!

-She must be really easy

I bet she has slept with tons of men

-I’m sure all of the guys must be checking her out

-How can she wear that and not feel overexposed?

And the list goes on.  Now, I am a female.  I can’t even begin to imagine what the guys would be thinking.  It’s proven, after all, that men are much more visual than females.

It’s one thing to be proud of your body and another to simply be indecent.  I work out quite a bit.  I’m proud of my body, but I also respect myself.

Sure, her shirt says that other people should respect her, but the problem here is that she isn’t respecting herself.  She’s turning herself into an object of sexual desire.

I understand that the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is about all that, but I am so frustrated that any company even made a swimsuit top like that.

If we want men to treat us like ladies, then we must dress like ladies.  Showing our goods to the world is not showing respect to ourselves or those we come into contact with.

I’ll be the first to admit that although my faith is strong, I struggle with modesty during the summer.  I like wearing short shorts and tank tops when it’s hot out.  I like bikinis rather than one-piece bathing suits.

I’m not calling for women to dress like they did in the early 1900s.

And yes, I am aware that that girl is a model.  It is her living to flaunt her body, but I wonder if she really believes that message written across her naked chest.  Does she really believe that she will be respected by men (or women, for that matter) when dressing like that?

Let’s show ourselves some respect by covering up a bit.  Don’t you ladies want to keep part of your bodies a mystery, only exposing it to the one you love?  Do you really want every random person at the beach ogling you?

Women complain about cat calls and being stared at, but guess what?  If you wear that top, you’re basically asking for it.  You’re saying, hey, boys, check me out.  I’m sexy and I know it.  Wanna take me home?  I know I’m beautiful and I want everyone here to know it.  Look at me.  Do you like what you see?  

But you’re thinking, Do you they like what they see?  Am I hot enough?  Am I curvy enough? Am I muscular enough? Do they like me? Do they think I’m beautiful? How many men I can get to stare at me?

Because I find that women who dress like this often have the lowest self esteem.  They find their worth in the approval of men.  They think that by getting a guy to stare them down, they will find true happiness and fulfillment.

It’s sad, really.

So please, ladies, show yourself some SELF-respect and maintain some level of mystery about you, which will attract the right guys, who want you for more than just your appearance.

 

 

 

 

Uneasy Feelings about President Trump

I previously posted a blog about a few positive changes that have happened thus far as a result of Trump being elected.

The US will no longer fund abortions for overseas NGOs.  I’m happy about that.

But there are some other steps that he is taking that are pretty scary.

I’m not a fan of Trump, but I also don’t think he is the devil.  I do not like the idea of either him or Clinton being in office, but here we are, with America’s decision made.  I am definitely uneasy about our future.

First off, I know that I have a lot to learn about politics.  But I really felt that even if Trump was elected, he would need the approval from Congress to enact major changes. Apparently, I was wrong.  He just keeps signing executive actions.  He is eliciting a great deal of fear in a huge portion of the American population.

The Mexican Border Wall

He continues to speak about his his plan to build the wall on the border of the U.S. and Mexico.  One way he plans to do this is either taxing Mexico on its exports or taxing the U.S. on the imports.  Basically, that leaves us with two scenarios.

  1. Higher taxes on Mexico – a country that already has a great deal of poverty
  2. Higher taxes on American consumers on products that they purchase from Mexico

One of my friends from high school is a zookeeper and she posted this article about how Trump’s wall threatens 111 endangered species.  His tax hike will already pose problems, but depending on his plan for the actual wall itself, he could potentially wreak havoc on many species of animals that are already endangered.

Fighting ISIS

He wants a plan for fighting ISIS ready by the military in 30 days.  He wants a “comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS” with no option for “accommodation or negotiation.”

I am not involved in the military, but it seems to me that 30 days might not be an adequate amount of time to plan a way to defeat a group that has been causing such chaos across so many different locations.

Refugee Ban

He has decided to ban refugees from certain countries from entering our country.  Refugees from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia,Yemen, Sudan, and Libya are blocked for 120 days.  Syrians are blocked indefinitely.  These are all countries that are predominantly Muslim.

He denies that this ban is anti-Muslim, but that is precisely what it seems to be.

Pope Francis recently said, “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.”

Refugees are not the problem in our country.  Most refugees are people who are fleeing dangerous situations.  They are trying to save their lives and the lives of their families.

Fortunately, a judge filed a lawsuit to block part of this plan.  According to an article on Yahoo, “It argued that the order violates a 1965 law that banned discrimination in immigration based on national origin.”

The lawsuit “will stop officials  from removing individuals with approved refugee applications, holders of valid visas and people from the affected countries who have been authorized to enter — pending completion of a hearing on the matter in court.”

Dakota Pipeline

He plans to authorize work to finish the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe relies on the area in which the pipeline needs to be finished for their water.  The tribe is concerned that the pipeline is a  “high risk that culturally and historically significant sites will be damaged or destroyed” and its fear for the safety of its drinking water supply, according to this article.

Torture

Trump has made it clear that he is not against the use of torture in certain circumstances.  Thankfully, he said that he will let the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “override” him. Mattis opposes the reinstatement of torture because experts have found that it is not an effective way to get information out of our enemies.

Trump disagrees with the studies that had been performed, and finds that “it does work.” During his campaign, Trump mentioned reinstating waterboarding, among other, even worse forms of torture.


This is the exact reason why I felt so conflicted about the election in the first place.  I could not vote for Clinton because of her drastic views that would perpetuate a culture of death.  But I also could not vote for Trump with his crass, derogatory comments, and plans that in my mind do not honor the dignity of the human person.

I have confidence in the American people and hope that if enough people stand up against Trump for certain things like the pipeline or the refugee situation, maybe something will change.

Despite my faith in God, I feel hesitant about the future of our country.  I pray that He will guide Trump to make decisions that will benefit the good of not only Americans, but those in other countries as well.  I know and trust that He can do all things.  I have faith that He is with us.

A Weekend Full of Adventures

This fall, I have seen whales multiple times off the coast.  I’ve seen them while walking, running, and biking, and I hoped that one day I would be able to get out there on my kayak while the whales were there.

Saturday afternoon, I went ocean kayaking.  I didn’t see any whales or dolphins, but I got to try out my wet suit from my uncle.  The weather was nice.  It was sunny, low 50s, and the wind wasn’t too bad.

Here’s the video I made from Saturday:

 

 

On Sunday, I planned to try out my stand up paddle board in the afternoon once it got warm out, so I went to hot yoga in the morning.  I got home around 10:30.  While I was on the phone with my mom, I saw online that someone was posting about seeing whales off the coast of Belmar.

I told my mom that I would call her later that afternoon.  I rushed into my garage to take out my stand up paddle board (which I had not ever used before Sunday).

It’s an inflatable paddle board, so it took a little while to pump it up.  I was so excited to go out into the ocean.  I got it pumped up, put on my life vest, and headed down to the beach, happy that I could carry the paddle board.  It’s a little trickier and more time consuming to get my kayak down to the beach since I need to tie it onto the wheels and roll it down there.  I probably got out there by around 11:45.

I went down to the ocean, which seemed really calm, jumped on the board, and quickly paddled out deeper.

I had my GoPro stuck into my life vest facing outward.  I thought that I was videoing the whole thing.  Only later did I find out that for the first half of kayaking, it was set on photo mode, so I didn’t really capture any good footage unfortunately.

At first, I didn’t see any whales.  Then I saw one farther north, so I started paddling that way.  Then I saw a different, closer one, behind me, so I turned around and started paddling in the opposite direction.

It was really exciting, but really scary at the same time.  I wasn’t ever super close to the whales because I didn’t really know what would happen in the event that one breached right by the paddle board.  I don’t think a whale would be dangerous to me, but I didn’t really want to fall off the paddle board right next to a massive whale.  They were huge!

I think there were two whales.  They kept going back and forth, eating fish.

I saw tons of fish jumping out of the water all over the place.  At one point, I saw a big white something underneath me.  I think it was a school of fish, but it could have also been the underside of a whale, I’m not too sure.

At that point, I realized that I had drifted really far out into the ocean.  I was so excited about the whales that I just kept following them.

This was only the second or third time in my life ever using a stand up paddle board, and my first time using one in the ocean.  I forgot that it’s harder to paddle one into the wind than a kayak.

So I decided to try going closer to shore and I was really struggling.  It felt like I was paddling and not moving forward.  I was getting a little more nervous, though I knew that I could paddle more easily on my knees since there was less wind resistance.  I had to do that a few times.

I also knew that I could lay on my stomach and paddle with my hands like it was a surf board if I needed to.  However, my hands and feet were pretty cold when I went swimming in my wet suit on Saturday, so I didn’t want to do that too far from shore in case my hands went numb.

I eventually did make it back closer to shore, so it all ended up working out just fine, but there were definitely a few moments of concern.

Then I decided to do some yoga practice on the paddle board since I’ve seen videos of that online before.

Let me tell you, it is REALLY difficult to do yoga poses on there.  Even a simple lunge was really hard since the board is floating.  It was fun though.

I’m just disappointed that I didn’t capture the whales on the GoPro.  I could have had awesome video footage, but I don’t.  Next time I see whales, I think I’ll go get my kayak because I can paddle much more quickly and if it’s a little windy, I feel like I have much more control than on the paddle board.  It’s also easier to balance, so  I don’t feel nervous about falling out.

Here is my video from Sunday:

And at this link, BelmarDays.com, there are some awesome whale pictures that someone took yesterday.

It was a really awesome weekend.  I love living here so much.  I definitely utilize the opportunity that I have in living so close to the beach.

Whale Off the Coast of Belmar

This was by far one of the best Saturday mornings, and it was completely unexpected.

I was actually feeling a little sad about the colder weather this morning, and along with it, the end of race season.  I love running and training for races (but I’ll save that for another blog).

I was just sitting on my couch grading some of my students’ journals.  I took a little grading break to log onto Facebook.  I clicked on the Belmar Facebook page because I remembered that a friend told me that he saw a whale off the coast one night this week.

Once I opened the page, I saw live video drone footage of a whale.  From the video, I could tell that it was right outside of my exact street!

I was still in my pajamas, so I quickly took off my pants and put on some running leggings.  I didn’t even change my shirt, but just threw a jacket on top.  I took off my socks and ran out the door.

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The videos and photos cannot do it justice, but the whale was so close to shore and it was just amazing to watch.  I walked up the beach, following it while it slowly swam around, leaping every now and then to catch fish.  I could also see fish jumping all over the place.  Surf fishermen and fishing boats started coming out in droves.

I didn’t get any great footage of the whale leaping to eat fish, but watching it in person was simply amazing.

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It was such a beautiful morning by the beach.  It was sunny and the ocean was super calm.  I was probably out there for over an hour, just following the whale, watching it, taking pictures, and chatting with all of the other people who also came down to watch.

This is a really awesome photo.  I didn’t take it, but I did get to see the whale breaching like that with its mouth open and it was amazing!14900389_870353719732279_3700921162615339114_n.jpg

Here is my compiled video footage:

Laying Down My Life

Last night I went with four friends to Catholic Underground in New York City.  It was my first time at Catholic Underground.  There are hundreds of young adults (in addition to people of all ages who are there to worship Jesus.  It is simply amazing.

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Catholic Underground NYC

First is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  During adoration, there are a bunch of priests hearing confessions.  They sing the night prayer and then they turn down the lights while singing some praise and worship music.  After adoration, they have music downstairs in the basement of the church, with different performers each month.  While the music is playing, people share in fellowship, meeting new people, and finding old friends.  I was excited to run into a friend from college who is now a sister, which I hadn’t even realized.  It was so nice to see her again after so many years.

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My friend from college

So the main song they sang last night was Hillsong United’s “Touch the Sky.”  I had not heard this song until last night, but the lyrics really struck me.  Today when I woke up, I had the song stuck in my head, so I looked up the video on YouTube and I watched it on repeat a few times, tears streaming down my cheeks.  These weren’t tears of sadness but rather tears of awe in realizing all of the blessings I have received from God in the past few months.

Here is the video if you aren’t familiar with the song:

Last night, this part of the lyrics kept being repeated while we prayed at adoration:

My heart, beating

My soul, breathing

I found my life, when I laid it down

Upward, falling

Spirit, soaring

I touch the sky, when my knees hit the ground

The line in particular that resonates with me is this: “I found my life, when I laid it down.”  I always try to remember to ask for God’s will when I pray for the desires of my heart.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether I am following my own path or the path that God wants me to follow.  But I also believe that the things that I want the most, in the depths of my heart, must be things that God also wants for me.  Not passing wants like material items, but the things that I yearn for in the depths of my soul…I believe that God placed those yearnings there because He wants them for me as well.

It had been my desire to move to New Jersey for years, since high school or possibly even middle school.  I was so excited to finally move here last September.  I had wanted to live here for so long, and it was great in the beginning, but then when my boyfriend broke up with me in February, I was a mess.  My Lyme was acting up.  My job was stressful.  Things seemed to be falling apart.  I started wondering if my move was a big mistake.

I began doubting myself and my trust in God, wondering if maybe things weren’t working out because it had been my desire to move here and not His.  But now that months have passed, I can see how His plan was unfolding all around me while I was completely oblivious.

I didn’t move here because of my boyfriend, but he definitely made the transition a lot less frightening.  I knew him, his family, and his friends.  I knew which towns I liked, which schools I might enjoy working in.  I was relatively familiar with the area.  We were both confident that our relationship was headed toward marriage.

So February tore me apart.  I had envisioned us together forever, without a doubt in my mind.  Suddenly all of my plans for the future were discarded.  I was left alone, without a single friend in the area.

I was lonely.  I didn’t understand what God wanted from me, but I focused on Him as much as I could.  I was on my knees in adoration, crying, not understanding His plan.  It was lent, so I was at Stations of the Cross every Friday.  I was reading the Bible and devotionals.  I was coming closer to Him than I had been in a while.

Eventually, through a small Catholic young adult group, I met someone who I now consider to be one of my closest friends.  During my loneliness, I really just longed for a friend.  I dated a little bit, but I didn’t really want to jump back into another relationship after having been in 2 long-term relationships back to back, which accounted for the past five years of my life.

It required me losing everyone around me to find this new friend, and I bet that if I had still been in a relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I may have never ventured out to the young adult group.  I may have never met her because I had been spending most of my free time with him.

So my friend (her name is Gabriella) invited me to her Bible study.  Through this Bible study, I have met even more Catholic friends in the area.  Some I am closer to than others, so I was excited when Gabriella invited me to Catholic Underground last night because we would be carpooling with three other members of the Bible study who I didn’t really know too well.

The five of us drove to NYC, talking, praying, and learning about each other on the way.

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The five of us from Bible study at Catholic Underground

During adoration, I thought about myself just a year ago.  At the time, I thought that I was happy.  I was with a guy I was positive I would marry.  But that relationship wasn’t truly fulfilling the desires of my heart when I really think about it.  We went to church together, but we never prayed together or went to Catholic events together.  We didn’t really talk about God all too often.

Then I thought about my sadness back in February, without any friends in the area.  I felt like life was just ruined.  I hated the weekends.  During the work week, I was busy, but weekends would come and I had exactly zero plans.

Now I consider this weekend.  On Friday night, I went to a Tenth Avenue North concert with one of my new friends from my young adult group.  Yesterday I went to Catholic Underground with four friends from Bible study.  Myself back in February would have never believed me if I had told her to just keep waiting and praying and that everything would get better.

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My friend and I at Friday night’s Tenth Avenue North Concert

Last night I realized that although I didn’t intentionally lay down my life for Christ, as the lyrics in that song mention, it is what happened unintentionally after my breakup.  I had nothing but my faith.  I was falling to my knees in adoration (“I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”) and slowly I started to meet people.  My breakup was in February and I don’t think I met Gabriella until around June, so it took a little while for things to start falling into place.  I needed that time to myself to focus all of my energy on the Lord.

Today I am so incredibly grateful of the way everything has happened.  I now can’t imagine life without these new friends.  We meet every week on Thursday evenings for Bible study.  We have a young adult holy hour once a month.  This past Thursday there were 12 of us at Bible study.  12 young adults eating dinner together, reading the Bible together, providing advice and a listening ear to each other, laughing together, and simply sharing time with one another.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

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This past Thursday’s Bible study group

Last night all of this really hit me because it’s so easy, like mentioned in today’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19), to forget to thank God for all that He has given us.  It is easy for me to turn to Him when I am brokenhearted, sick, or dealing with the loss of loved ones.  He is my go-to when I am struggling.  But I sometimes forget to look back in thanksgiving to see everything that he has bestowed upon me.

I am now confident that my move to New Jersey was by no means a mistake.  Instead, it was a leap of faith that has now enabled me to grow so much in my friendships and in my faith.  I had to lay down my former life.  I had to move away from the people I knew in Connecticut.  I had to be left single and friendless.  I had to seek God with all of my heart, and slowly but surely, joy has reentered my life, and for that I am incredibly grateful.  God is so good and His plan for our lives, if we listen to Him and pray to follow His will, is more glorious than we could ever imagine.

“I found my life, when I laid it down.”

Nicaragua Video Part 3

-After we finished the well and dedication ceremony, we went out to dinner at a beach the overlooked the ocean.

-We walked along the shore and then we had dinner.

-Our last day in Nicaragua was a free day, so we went back to the beach area.  We then took a boat ride of the mangroves.  We saw some birds, iguanas, and crabs.

-Then we walked along the beach.

-Then we drove to Managua since our flight was early the next morning

 

Props to REI

REI has just announced that it will not offer any Black Friday deals.  In fact, all 143 stores across the country will be closed.

According to the REI website:

REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That’s why this Black Friday, we’re closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.

They’re promoting the hashtag #OptOutside.

Props to you, REI.

I already wrote a rant about Black Friday madness in a post entitled Black Thursday?.

This news from REI makes me so happy.  Thanksgiving is about family — not about getting the cheapest possible television.  Although REI doesn’t use that as it’s reason for the store closings, I commend them.  Granted, they might only be hoping to gain a bit of publicity out of the deal, but regardless, the outcome is positive.

Who knows, maybe more stores will follow suit.

The Problem with America’s Political Party System

Recently, there have been many political problems and tensions in the United States, particularly because of our party system. Many politicians are voting based solely on party lines, rather than making a decision based on the overall effect that it would have on America and American citizens. The United States is in dire need of another party (or some change to the current party system) in order to ever make any progress.

As it stands, Obama’s bills are rejected by Republicans simply because he is a Democrat. Even if he tries to pass a bill that would benefit the country, most Republicans want to strike it down because they cannot agree with anything proposed by the Democrats. It’s infantile. We must be working on improving our country.

This is why I am registered as Independent. While there are various Republican policies that I disagree with, there are many Democratic policies that I disagree with. When voting, I choose the candidate who I believe is the lesser of two evils, or the one who I ultimately feel has the best agenda for the betterment of America.

Many voters don’t do this. They choose a Democrat if that is their political party, or they choose a Republican if they’re a Republican. Many of these people don’t educate themselves about the actual opinions and positions held by the candidate.

So let’s look at some of the major differences between the two parties:

Democratic-2

DEMOCRATS:

-Overall, Democrats believe that it is the government’s responsibility to help those individuals who need assistance.

-Liberal

-Believe in higher taxes for the wealthy

-Want a decrease in military funding

-Want legal abortion

-Most oppose the death penalty

-Support gay marriage

-Want government regulations to protect consumers

-Support universal healthcare

-Educationally, Democrats focus less on the need for testing

-In terms of immigration, Democrats prefer more amnesty and routes for citizenship for immigrants

Republican-2

REPUBLICANS:

-Overall, Republicans believe that people are responsible for themselves.

-Conservative

-Believe that the wealthy should not be taxed more heavily than the rest of the citizens

-Want an increase in military funding

-Want illegal abortion

-Most support the death penalty

-Oppose gay marriage

-Believe government regulations hinder capitalism

-Oppose universal healthcare

-In terms of education, they emphasize testing in order to provide accountability

-Want stricter immigration policies

I doubt that most people could look over those lists of very basic Republican and Democratic beliefs and find that they agree with every single point for one party. I absolutely side with Democrats on issues like the death penalty and education, which are two things that are very important to me. However, I also completely side with Republicans in terms of pro-life legislation, such as the enactment of stronger anti-abortion laws. I need to vote based on the political candidate whose agenda aligns itself more closely with my moral beliefs. I won’t just vote for a Democrat because he’s a Democrat, or vice versa.

When I was in Brazil this past October, I noticed some differences with their political system. Now I’m not saying that Brazil is the pinnacle of a perfect government, but they have some differences from our system that could benefit America. Brazil has compulsory voting, which I don’t particularly agree with. But because everyone is legally required to vote, I found that election day was much more of a scene than it has ever been in the United States. People lined the sidewalk of Copacabana beach covered in stickers for either Dilma Rousseff (the current president who was up for reelection), or Aecio Neves. People yelled the names of their choice of the candidates out of their car windows while driving down the road. Here in the U.S., other than the nasty, negative commercials that are present leading up to Election Day, the day itself is the same as every other day. Some people vote. Many don’t. Many who do choose to vote just pick the person who represents their political party and because the country is split, the votes are usually quite close.

In Brazil, there are 4 major parties, but there are around 30 overall. In addition, there are multiple parties that are seeking registration. Even though a candidate from a smaller party would probably never make it in elections, the two main choices on Election Day really have to prove their political agenda so that people from the variety of political parties can choose the best fit. Once someone is elected (although there’s quite a bit of corruption in Brazil), politicians are more likely to vote based on their actual beliefs and leanings than based on the party name alone.

I’m not saying America should have 30 political parties, but having a few more could potentially help fix our current problem of Republicans blocking Democratic bills and vice versa.

Germany, Brazil, Australia, and Italy all have more than 2 political parties. Maybe it would work for America. We might as well attempt to make a change because our current system isn’t working. Everything is split. A split government results in stalemates where nothing ever improves long-term.