November 8, 2013

Angelo Merendino

If you have never looked at the collection My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer I would highly recommend it. Here is a link to his website. Go check it out! This past Friday and Tuesday I had the privilege to listen to the photographer Angelo Merendino. He spoke about his work and how it has helped him cope with the tragic death of his wife, Jennifer. What a strong man! He relives his pain on a regular basis to help lift those around him. He speaks about her often because of the popularity of his collection of photographs documenting her fight against cancer. I can't imagine the heartache that must accompany that. Something that has surprised me is his willingness and joy to have such an opportunity. He views it as a great way for him to come to terms with her passing, as well as an aide for others who have or are currently battling breast cancer. Angelo was a huge example to me, as I am just starting out my photography career. He was able to bring life and meaning to his work by sharing something that was a part of his life. What's more than that, it was something that was tearing at him emotionally. Photographers are artists. Honesty, in the arts, is what allows us to empathize with the work and the emotions it is expressing. Without honesty in your work intentional meaning is diluted or lost. Reflecting on my life, I find this very evident in the people I choose to associate with. No one enjoys to be around others who are "fake." This is also true with art. We want something that is unedited, real expression. We can make a large difference when we put ourselves out there and are honest. I believe we get caught up in this stigma of making everything in our lives seem perfect. We all aspire to perfection. What if instead we embrace our imperfections? Love yourself the way you are and don't be afraid to let others see the true you. Vulnerability makes you strong. You are able to impact so many more people when you are honest and true to yourself. This is not only true in the arts, but in our commonplace, social interactions. I know that I'm guilty of insisting that I'm fine even when I'm on the verge of tears. How sad is it that our world has evolved to a place where we are afraid to share the most basic emotions like sadness, frustration, and grief? No wonder we have so many problems. We have a deteriorated communication in our society. Striving for happiness is very important, but in order to achieve that we need the help of others. We need those words of encouragement and the comforting hug as much, if not more, than the congratulations for success. We are social creatures. We need each other. Others need us. If you see someone struggling, help them; even if they don't ask for it. When Angelo told the story of his wife's cancer returning he said that he felt like their support group was dwindling. They felt alone and helpless. That only added to the burden of the hardship they were already facing. Please, just go and make someone's burden a little lighter today. I believe that we were all put on this earth to help each other so let's do it. post signature

Bobby McMullen: A Great Guy and Example

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby McMullen. He is a talented competitor in skiing and mountain biking. Mountain biking is his passion and he has achieved a level of skill that I can never even aspire to achieve. Though this may seem like it is not much of an accomplishment, there are many professional mountain bikers, it is because Bobby is also legally blind. He rides every trail with a guide in front of him calling out obstacles as they ride down a trail. What a huge amount of trust that must take! I was lucky enough to have brunch with Bobby and a few other students before he gave a lecture for the common hour at my university. During brunch I asked him how he was able to build such trust with another individual. He told me that he built it like any other person would. He would speak with them to get to know them then do some rides. He reiterated several times that it takes such a large amount of trust, but that if he never pushed himself past the anxiety he would never be able to do the thing that he loved. Bobby's blindness is just one out of many physical trials that he has had to overcome. He has broken bones, fought cancer, and everything in between. What is surprising is that, though he has experienced all of these trails in his life, Bobby is still very energetic and fun to be around. The whole time I spent with him he was constantly smiling, cracking jokes, and laughing along with everyone. He was also very curious to get to know the others around him. He was so humble and selfless even while he was in a position that I'm sure most would not have been. I also asked Bobby what was the one piece of advice that he would give that he believes is the most important. His firm answer was that you need to remain true to yourself. Things happen in our lives that we cannot control, but we can control how we receive them. He thought that the best compliment that he has ever gotten from anyone is that he is the same guy that he has always been. All the adversity in his life has not changed him. This experience made me reflect on my life and how I have been using the time that I have. Bobby told of how he wishes everyone would live every day like it was their last. Don't waste time on things that don't make you happy or that do not help you achieve your goals. Of course we have all heard the tired advice that we should live everyday to its fullest, but Bobby brought new meaning to it. We have no idea when hardships will come our way. I don't want to look back on my life with regret. Just be happy and do what you love! post signature

October 13, 2013

An Example for Good

This past week I began volunteering with a mentoring program through my university. It provides mentors to elementary school aged children who are considered "at risk" due to their home situation. This could be because of various scenarios, but one of the main purposes is to provide a stable environment with a responsible adult type figure. I have been with Jocelyn, the little girl I have been assigned to mentor, for a total of four hours. That isn't much time to get to know someone, but already she has taught me so much as to who I am and who I want to become. Children are so trusting and impressionable. Above all they are constantly watching our every move and mimicking what they see. While waiting for the bus one day Jocelyn and I were playing I spy. I resorted to this game because I knew that expecting a kindergarten aged child to sit still and wait for a bus for ten minutes was wishful thinking. As the game progressed, I began to realize that my selections of spied objects were too easy for Jocelyn. She would usually guess them in one or two tries because she would follow my eye as I made my selection. I decided to challenge her. I looked around pretending to be seeking an object to spy while I had secretly already chosen her pink corduroy pants. After a short time I said "I spy something pink." Just as I had observed previously Jocelyn looked off into the direction that I had been staring in search of the spied pink object. She soon became frustrated because of the lack of success in finding what was pink. I recognized this frustration and so, to give her a hint, I gently tapped her on the knee. This did the trick and she immediately exclaimed that I had spied her pants. The game progressed further and soon it was my turn to be stumped. Jocelyn turned completely around and looked over the back of the bench that we were sitting on and looked back for a long time. After a minute or so she said, "I spy something brown." Surveying the scene behind the bench, I guessed everything possible that she could have considered brown without success. Soon, when I was about to give up, I felt a little tap on my shoe. I looked down only to realize that I was wearing a brown pair of boots. What a great example to me that game of I spy was. I learned in such a small about of time a huge concept of human nature. We pay more attention to an individual's actions than to their words. It is because our actions more fully communicate what we value than our words. I learned that, while I do need to make sure that my words convey a message that I want my little Jocelyn to learn, my actions need to be conformed to that same goal. It also communicated to me how impressionable she truly is. It only took me doing an action once for her to recognize and mimic it. I know more fully what a powerful impact I have. This can easily become a force for good or bad. The great thing about it is, though, that it is my choice which it will be. Obviously, it will take effort on my part in order for me to accomplish my goal of being a good role model. I also know that I am not perfect, but I have an advantage that can help me to gain that extra boost. It is my Father in Heaven. He knows the desires of my heart and he knows what my situation needs. And what is the best part of this? All I have to do is faithfully ask for his aid. Through my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ I can achieve all I aspire to and more. I can become the role model, teacher, and friend to Jocelyn that I dream of every day. I can build the skills necessary to also be that to, my future students when I become a professional teacher. I know that I can be a force for good purely through my example. I know that I'm not perfect; far from it actually. However, through a little bit of effort and being conscious of my actions, I know that I can become an example of Christ. I know that is what I want to become. I know that striving to become that will allow me to be the example and stability the Jocelyn needs and that I want to be for her.
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June 6, 2013

Sticking With It

Recently I began a job at a daycare. I was extremely excited to begin working there because I am pursuing a vocation in elementary education. I knew that this job would be excellent work experience for me and would help me gauge where I am at in classroom management, patience, etc. Needless to say when I was finally assigned for a day in a classroom with three year old children (the oldest and largest class that I've been assigned in my substituting job) I was a little bit nervous. I was not scared of the children themselves, but more if I would be able to manage the classroom by myself in an adequate fashion.

Going in I did not want to be the teacher that intimidated and yelled to keep control. I've had school teachers like that and with my personality all it did was scare me. Granted I was, and am still somewhat, shy and soft spoken, but I also feel like it is important that I find positive ways to keep control not only to have a positive and rewarding work environment but to create a positive experience for my students. I wanted to keep control by instilling respect for me from the children. Now obviously this is not something that can be achieved with a group of very young children in one nine hour period. However, I did begin to pick up some tricks that helped me maintain control when I was left alone. Here are a few of tricks that I have found.

  • Verbally praise children who are following your directions. Do this by calling them by name and saying  what they are doing that you like. You can call them good helpers, good listens, or hard workers. After praising the children who are being obedient ask out loud if there are any other "hard workers" in the room. Soon the whole room will be working to be recognized as well. 
  • Give a misbehaving child a choice. Either they can do what you have instructed or they can have a consequence of your choice. This does not have to be a negative and intimidating experience for the child. This is best done when you are next to the child down on their level instead of standing above them or from across the room. This makes sure that they do not ignore you. 
  • Tell the child how their behavior makes you feel. This is the classic guilt trip. I know they work because my parents used them on me all the time growing up. This makes the child begin to empathize with you and stop the unwanted behavior. 
  • Make what you have instructing exciting. Especially with younger children they are much more likely to want to do something if you make it sound exciting and fun. This not only grabs their attention, but shows that you are excited for it. Who wants to do something that their teacher is dreading?
I have also found that besides simply managing a classroom it is important to be engaged in it. Firstly, this makes your job a heck or a lot more fun. When you are actively walking around and interacting with children your day is much more rewarding. This time is also when you pick up on those cute quirks of each child and you gain those hilarious stories of the funny things kids say. Secondly, this makes for a better environment for your children. It shows that you truly care for them.

I think the greatest lesson that I have taken away from this job so far is patience. Patience is a great attribute to have. I'm not saying the I never get frustrated or feel like giving up, but I do feel like I have grown tremendously. We need more patient people in the world. Staying calm and collected even when faced with something that may seem impossible is what allows us to achieve our dreams and serve others around us. I have deep respect for all the teachers out there. They go to a job everyday to a place where most of the people they work with do not want to be. However, they do it anyway because they know they are making a difference in the world and love it. I hope one day that I will be lucky enough to be numbered among them.

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April 6, 2013

My First Batch of Lemonade

The main thing that motivated me to begin this blog is that my boyfriend received his mission call last week and yesterday was the last day that I will see him until his mission farewell. This is due to my attending school away from where he is living and working right now. Before you write me off as a teenager just looking for someone to cry to, I would like to let you know that I was right there with you a couple years ago. I was the one sitting there watching girls wait for the day their boy would come back cherishing a promise ring on their finger. Give me a break. I am defiantly not one for all that sappy sort of stuff. To be honest, I deemed waiting for a missionary as naive and juvenile. Well, now it looks like I have turned into the exact same thing that a few years ago I promised myself I would never be. However, I have gained a lot more insight into the subject. Now at this point I would like to point out that I DO NOT have a promise ring on my finger right now. I also plan on dating while my missionary is gone. Dating is something that I really wanted to avoid while he was gone and still is something I’m still nervous for, but now I have much more peace in my heart about the subject. Something that Army, my boyfriend, started to tell me the past few months is that if we are meant to be then it is going to happen and if not there is someone out there better for us both. After pondering this statement for a couple months I have come to realize how true it is and I have gained a sense of peace that seemed out of reach at the beginning of this year. Another thing that has really helped me is praying… A LOT! I always ask for my Father in Heaven to bless me that I can be unselfish and to be sensitive to the spirit in order to know what it is that Army needs to prepare for a mission and have no doubt about his decision to serve. This has worked wonders on my attitude toward him leaving. Now, all I can do is continue with my education and see what the Lord has in store for me and I’ll tell you what, it is hard! I am one who needs to be in control of a situation and I feel super anxious when I’m not. However, I know things will work out for the best if I follow the spirit and if I do not remain idle. My plan now is to work hard and get my teaching degree and live life to its fullest and hope that I will be the lucky girl that will marry Army one day. I know things will work out the way that they should. Anyway, that is my first flip on my perspective. Having the boy I love leave me for two years to serve and bring people to the Lord and teach about and create eternal families is not a bad thing. It’s a blessing! I now have another great example in my life. It is a huge commitment to put everything on hold for two years, but I know many blessings come with that service. My favorite saying that I have seen about missions is “A missionary is someone who leaves their family for a while so others can be with their family for eternity.” I think that is so powerful. I feel for all of those who are having a loved one leave on a mission soon and I hope my perspective has helped you have a bit of a brighter outlook on the next two years.
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Images by Freepik