Thursday, April 25, 2013

Choosing happiness...

Spring is here. The weather is beautiful. The semester is almost over. Summer is near. And I can't stop smiling and laughing. It's like, all of a sudden, I'm let myself be happy. Enjoy the moment.

I'm looking back on this past semester. I've learned so much. I've had so many great experiences. From volunteering at KC Fashion Week to having some of my art on display in my school's art gallery. I've met some really amazing/funny/talented/inspirational people. I've remembered what it's like to be silly with (new) people. I've learned to dance as I draw in art class. (It helps. Trust me.) I've learned to get up in front of my peers and give speeches with confidence. I've learned how to ask question after question and then ask another question just to make sure I understand. I've remembered how to let my guard down without fear of being hurt. I've learned how to see the beauty in the challenges I face. I've come to realize that I can learn a lot from people I would have dismissed before.

A lot of this learning comes from just CHOOSING to find the happiness in each day. When you stop putting up barriers, you can let so much GOOD in. When you choose to say "good morning" to people instead of hiding behind your phone, people generally say "good morning" back to you. When you let people see who you really are, they, in turn, will do the same. If you go out into the world looking for the good, you WILL find it. But you must learn to LOOK.

Maybe life isn't perfect. Maybe you are having a bad day. Life can still be good. You can still be happy overall. Maybe it's the silly things. Surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh. Learning about things that interest you. Watching Bill Murray and Tom Hanks movies on a Saturday. Cheering on your favorite sports team. Falling in love with a thousand people you'll probably never meet. Finding your perfect song to sing in the car. There is something to be said about choosing to be happy.

Sometimes, you just gotta be happy. It's amazing how great it can feel to just let yourself find happiness. In this moment. In this place. Choose to be happy, and you WILL be happy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The true price of terrorism. Can we ever just take a break?

A week ago today, two young men set off bombs at the Boston Marathon. I won't go over the details because, as of today, many details are unclear and those that ARE clear can be found easily through your favorite search engine. Aside from that, the Boston Marathon bombing ISN'T the purpose of this post. I have been examining my thoughts on the effects of terrorism for the last several weeks. I've tried to organize my thoughts and examine why I, personally, am so upset. (Parts of this post are taken directly from a conversation I had with my best friend over Facebook dealing with our confusion over these recent events. All of the comments/ thoughts are my own, not the comments or opinions of others in that post.)

It's very difficult to put into words how I, and many other Americans, feel in a post 9/11 America. Before 9/11, we had this false sense of security. I remember being so confused on 9/11. I remember asking, "who would be stupid enough to attack America?!" In my (16 year old) mind, we were the greatest, most powerful country in the world. Anyone who attacked us would have to be an idiot. Now, many years later, I understand how naive I was on 9/11. I understand that the reason that one act of terrorism was able to affect us so much was because of that simple naivety. This was so devastating to us because we truly believed we couldn't be touched.

So much has changed since then. I did a post a while back on how 9/11 changed our lives. One thing I didn't mention in that post (mainly because at the time, I hadn't realized it) was how much more angry Americans are now. I believe that is one of the biggest prices of terrorism.  Americans have become so angry since 9/11. Maybe I just never paid attention before that. But since then, I've noticed how angry we are as a country. Between religion, politics, gay marriage, abortion rights, gun laws, immigration, racism, sexism, the economy, terrorism, bullying, etc. You just can't get away from all the fighting. It's exhausting. And maybe social media and the internet and the 24 hour news coverage with the ticker at the bottom of the screen all play a part. But it just seems that the only thing that "brings up together" is tragedy. But even that only lasts a few minutes before we are at each others throats. I've noticed it in myself. I'm angry. I read the news stories about rape victims having video of their attacks shared online, and people wanting to arm every American with an arsenal of guns because they will somehow magically protect us from the "bad guys." And I'm angry. And it scares me that I'm this angry. I'm angry because I feel like everyone is falling apart. This country is falling apart, and I can see it. And I WANT to help put it back together. But I don't know how. I don't know how to take away all the hatred and the fear and the blood-lust that seems to spread like wildfire. And I guess that's the true effect of terrorism. I don't want to live in a post 9/11 America anymore, because we have forgotten why this country used to be great. It used to be a land of freedom and the American dream. And it's devolved into constant bickering. Americans seem to hate each other almost as much as the terrorists we so loathe. We are turning into the people we hate instead of realizing that their way; constant war, feuding, intolerance and hatred, is NOT the American way.

Going back to the Boston Marathon bombing, once the second bomber was caught, everyone got so excited. "It's over!" The nation sighed a breath of relief. But it never really IS over, is it? Because each time we breathe a sigh of relief that we've caught this week's villain, another one steps up to take his place. I think that part of the reason I can't get all excited. Because I know in a few weeks or months, someone else will attack and kill innocent people. And the American people will be shocked and horrified until we catch/kill that guy. But we never learn anything. As a country, we aren't making an effort to understand it all. We blame it on religion or a mental illness and move on. But we never want to look closer at the situation. We never learn anything except how to be angry and hateful and paranoid. We need to start asking more questions and digging deeper instead of just writing if off as a religious terrorist or a crazy person. There is more to this. People don't plan terrorist attacks overnight. They don't just wake up one morning and decide to bomb a marathon or shoot up a school. There is a path that has lead them to that point and we need to start looking for it.

When the second bomber was caught, I remember reading comment after comment about how we should just kill him. Don't give him a trial. Don't ask him any questions. Just kill him. It scares me to think that this is what our country has become. In no way do I condone what he and his brother did. They murdered innocent people. They injured over a hundred people. And they took away a sense of safety from the people of Boston and this entire country. But if your solution to that is to just kill them without a second thought, I can't agree with you. This kid is 19 years old. He's lived here for over ten years. He has friends and family and he (until a few days ago) was a college student. This kid is a human being. And unless we want to devolve into terrorists ourselves, we need to start remembering the value of ALL human life. Not just the lives of those we approve of. Do I think he should be punished? Of course I do. But killing him in anger isn't a punishment. It's just a way to make ourselves feel better for a few minutes. Does it solve anything? No. Do we learn anything from killing? No. But we lose so much. This country prides itself on being "better" than other countries. We have a moral compass. So, what happens when we throw that moral compass out the window and start flying blind? We become what we hate.

We need to do what we can to understand what path these young men took to become terrorists. We need to look at how mass shooters become mass shooters. What can we do to prevent anyone else from taking these paths? What can we do to protect ourselves from the people we can't "save" from this life? We need to take a look at ourselves and our own anger and learn how to control it. We need to learn the difference between justice and vengeance. We need to work toward becoming a great country again instead of throwing out our ideals to indulge in our anger and fear. Because if we don't, this country will continue to fall in on itself.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Sporting KC and The Victory Project

Late last summer, my best friend got me hooked on the local professional soccer team, Sporting KC. Now, I'm not a "sports" girl. Never have been. I generally find sports to be boring and drawn out. (Seriously, why does a football game have to last like 4 hours?!) But I kept going over to her apartment and she always had the Sporting game playing in the background. Before I knew what had happened to me, I was in love. The games last roughly 90 minutes (time can be added before half-time or at the end of the game to cover stoppage time.) and the clock doesn't stop for injuries or to "reset." The games are INTENSE. The players run run run the entire time. Whether intentionally or accidentally, players get pushed down, stepped on, or kicked by the other team. They fight to win and make this city proud. And this team has heart. You can see it in their faces when they are disappointed in themselves and you can see it when they dance, flip and slide all over the field when they score. 

But there is something else that I love about Sporting. The guys on the team as well as the managers, owners, etc, all love this city and it's people. They love the fans. Team captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has been known to play pickup games with little kids in the park. Aurelien Collin gives his game jersey to a fan at ever won home game. Whether they win or lose, the players always take to Twitter to thank the fans for our support. They thank us for being part of this team and for cheering them on to victory and supporting them even when they don't win. When they are on their way back to Kansas City, they let us know they are coming "home." 

To many people, the players calling KC "home" might not be a big thing. But to a lot of us, it means so much. We all know this isn't a big "exciting" city. And it's not a city known for great professional sports teams. (Google the Chiefs and the Royals) So, to have our players like this city and it's people, it means a lot to us. We don't want to be the place that players hate to live. We don't want our professional athletes to be miserable the entire time they're here. So, to hear them say that they love this city or that they love a certain neighborhood or restaurant, it makes us happy. We want our players to be happy here. Whether they choose to live out the rest of their careers here or only spend a few years with us, we want them to enjoy their time here and feel like they belong here.

So, my heart melted this morning while checking my Facebook account, and saw this link. Sporting KC has started a project called the Victory Project to help raise money for local kids battling cancer. 100% of all donations go straight to helping children with cancer. This is such a great way for all of us to get involved and help out some great kids. At the time of this posting, Victory Project is raising money for an 8 year old boy named, Xander. He has a brain tumor that is causing blindness in one eye and partial vision loss in the other eye. The money raised to help Xander will be used to purchase a Topaz CCTV to help him keep up with his school work at home. It magnifies the screen so Xander will be able to see his work. This is such a great cause and I encourage anyone and everyone to donate if you can.

To learn more about the Victory Project or to donate, head on over to Victory Project.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Is "buying American" un-American?

This semester, I'm taking a speech class. For my persuasive speech (final speech of the semester! HOLLA!) I'm talking about the importance of buying American made products. Quick info on why I chose this topic:

I'm an apparels and textiles major. Basically, my classes center a lot around manufacturing, buying and selling different types of garments. I'm learning to construct clothes, I'm learning about the history of the fashion industry, and I'm also learning about international trading. For one of my classes this semester, I had to learn the basics of the foreign fashion markets and their effect on the domestic market. As I was nose deep in info about the difference between bootleg and counterfeit goods, duty fees, trade agreements and import quotas, I found out I had to do a persuasive speech for my speech class. In my sheer insanity, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and do my speech on the importance of buying "American." I had just read in my Aparells book that the United States is number one in the entire world for buying imports but doesn't really compete in exports. Frankly speaking, we just don't make stuff to sell internationally. This, for those of us "in the know" is called a trade deficit and can greatly affect the economy. (Read: NEGATIVELY AFFECT)

Before I go any further, I want to clarify: I strongly believe that it's important to purchase internationally manufactured products AS WELL as American made goods. Frankly, the international markets give us a variety of fabrics, technologies and innovations that we just can't get in domestically made goods. It also helps the global economy, which in turn, can help our national economy. There is nothing wrong with purchasing goods made overseas in addition to buying domestically made products. The problem is, when everything we purchase comes from other countries, American workers are getting the shaft. (Not to mention, cheaper prices on imports can also mean cheaper or unsafe products. We've all had the clothes that tear or fall apart after just a few wears and we all know about the recalls on lead-laced toys.)

So, I have just embarked on my adventure into the world of researching American made products. After a simple Google search of "Why buy American?" I stumbled across several sites instructing me that buying American is simply "Un-American." I'm sorry...What? Apparently, America was founded on capitalism (silly me, I always thought it was founded on ideals such as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" but what do I know? I was only born and raised here.) which we all know is about getting every last dollar without spending a dime...Or is it?

Capitalism is defined as: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. (

Let me re-read that one..."in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth..." Whoa whoa whoa there! You mean capitalism isn't just about sucking every single cent out of something without spending a dime?! Well, call me confused!

Buying American IS the American way. Because buying American is about more than saving a few pennies here and there. (Companies pay duty fees for goods imported into the United States. This is to give domestically made products a fighting chance against imported goods. Basically, you are paying to import something into the country, which brings the overall "cost" of imported goods up to a rate closer to that of domestically made goods.) Buying American is about taking pride in your homeland. It's about helping out your neighbor. It's about supporting ethical treatment of employees.

There's a reason that imported goods can come cheap. Workers in foreign countries are often forced to work in inhumane conditions. (Google search "Bangladesh factory fire" to learn more about unsafe conditions in the factories that your favorite Walmart clothes come from.) Many work six to seven days a week, for more than 14 hours a day in unsafe conditions and all for very little pay. Many of those workers are children. There is a reason that Americans started creating workers' unions and child labor laws in the early 1900s.

Buying American means paying American workers competitive wages for quality goods. Yes, you might spend a few more bucks, or have to search a little harder. But with the constant fear of unemployment rates and unsafe goods, wouldn't you rather spend a couple extra dollars at the checkout for a little peace of mind? Wouldn't you rather give some money to your friends and neighbors to help jumpstart our economy?

Probably the easiest way to do this is to purchase local. Whether it's locally grown produce or shopping at a small boutique in the city, it's a great way to not only purchase American made goods, but also a way to truly become part of your community. Get to know the tomato guy at the farmer's market or the lady who sells handmade jewelry at the local craft fair. We, as Americans, owe it to ourselves and to our country to start taking pride in how we spend our money.

So, next time a major holiday, birthday or anniversary rolls around, do us all a favor and buy something made in America along with that new ipad.