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Why I Gave Up My Dream of Becoming a Vampire

8 Jan

I blame Buffy the Vampire Slayer for making me give up my dream of becoming a vampire. Or better yet, I blame Jana Riess for writing a spiritual guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s no surprise in this day and age to hear of girls obsessing over the latest vampire fan fic novel or movie, but not me. I remain loyal to only one vampire world and that is of Buffy and the scoobies who live in Sunnydale, which just so happens to be The Hellmouth. (Not even the sexy Smolderholder on Vampire Diaries can change this!) Not only am I infatuated with the shows creator Joss Whedon, but I also think this show is brilliance personified and no matter how many years pass, the legacy of Buffy will always remain. (OK. Stop laughing at me. I’m being serious.)

Anyways, not too long ago I was sitting at my computer googling how to become a vampire. Yes, I know. I need to get a life. Whatever. After coming up short and stumbling upon some rather disturbing and clearly bogus websites, I began to think about WHY people were so captivated by the idea of vampires. The obvious answer is immortality, super speed, possible mind reading powers, and lets not forget the hot sex. But what is the deeper reason? The real meaning behind wanting to live forever? Change- or rather the fear of it. Humans are crippled by the fear of things changing, but vampires get to stay the same forever. I used to think being eternal was the most appealing idea ever and I was determined to find someone to turn me into a vampire or find the fountain of youth or drink from some magical spring like in Tuck Everlasting. No such luck, and THANK GOD.

The one thing that remains constant in life, the one thing that truly makes us all human is change. The idea of not being able to change, to learn, to grow… well, that is even more terrifying than getting grey hair, wrinkles and yes, even dying. Sometimes the changes we are facing in our lives seem unbearable so we conjure up these fantasies- these ideas of some crazy alternative. Like becoming a vampire. Buffy, and Jana, made me realize that the illusion of vampirism is rather bleak and sad and that no matter how painful, change is essential and right and good.

We shouldn’t be worrying about growing up or getting old because that is the essence of what makes us human. Rather, we should be worried about the humans who do not change, but stay stagnant forever.

So, I gave up my dream of becoming a vampire because well, I am afraid – not of change, but of not changing at all. Stagnation is the true enemy, not the transitory lives we as humans, must live.

So here’s to Buffy. My hero – and yes, at times, my friend.

(I am way too invested in the lives of my favorite fictional characters. I know this. Let me be, dammit!)

Here’s to Joss – for creating such a magically profound world.

To Jana Riess- for making me realize what it means to be human.

And here’s to us and our impermanence!

As Buffy says in the first episode of the series…. “Life is short… seize the moment. Cause tomorrow you might be dead!”

[[Book: What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide by Jana Riess.
TV show is available on instant play on Netflix.]]

xo

TJ

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The Realm of Possibility

21 Dec

The Realm of Possibility written by David Levithan is about the lives of different kids in high school who are all struggling with various aspects of adolescence. Two boys are in love with one another, the boy who wants to be strong for his anorexic girlfriend, the girl who doesn’t think she deserves love, the boy who is in love with the girl that’s in love with someone else, and the girl who everybody hates. The entire book is written in beautiful and poignant prose in the viewpoint of each character.

All teenagers will find themselves inside these characters and their stories, because we all struggle through adolescence having to face similar demons. If you like poetry that tells a long and personal story of many intertwining lives then this book is for you.

I will be posting an excerpt of one of the poems in my next blog.

xo
TJ

A Letter to America

18 Dec

A Letter to America by President Boren is a fascinating, inspiring and eye opening book. I read it my freshman year of college as required for one of my classes, but I didn’t realize it would have such an impact on me. President Boren (former US Senator and current President of The university of Oklahoma) discusses the issues in politics today and how politics is lost on the younger generation of Americans. Honestly, whether you are interested in politics or not, this book is still an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.

Freshman year my class was required to write a letter to President Boren and the best one would be selected and sent to Boren himself to read. My letter was chosen a long with one other girl in my class.

Since my freshman year of college, much has changed. I have taken an interest in politics and I voted in my very first election. I keep up with world events and I involve myself in several volunteer organizations that I have passions for. This book explains the spiraling downfall of American politics and explains what we must do as citizens of this country to get redemption.

This is my letter.

Dear President Boren,

Your book was both enlightening and interesting, and fascinating yet disturbing. Much of what was discussed in A Letter To America was unknown knowledge to me. Before reading this book I had no interest in our country’s well being or maintaining our world superpower status. In reading this book, my eyes were opened to many issues our country has that aren’t being addressed properly. I realized how little pride in my own country I have and how little pride and unity the rest of America has as well. People in general tend to care less about America as a whole and this is a huge issue because if we are not united, and if we can’t get over the partisanship between the democrats and republicans, this country will never maintain its’ status as a world power nor will it ever regain its status as a respected, prosperous, stable country.

After reading this book, I actually care about America’s well being. I want our economy to get better, our education system and our sense of pride to be restored because I want my children to know what it feels like to belong to this country, and I want them to be proud to be Americans. This book instilled a sense of hope in me. Hope for the future of this country, hope of overcoming our recent setbacks, hope of restoring a sense of unity, hope of turning this economy back around and hope of regaining the respect we once had.

An issue the citizens of our country deal with is trust in the government and political leaders. Many of my friends feel that the government officials care more about getting their way in what they think is right rather than working together and putting America before their own dislike for each other. I agree with this, however I also know that, “we are judged by our action and by our inaction.” My friends and I can complain about the leaders in office all we want, but the fact of the matter is we are doing nothing to change anything and we aren’t making an effort to make a difference.

In my time here at OU I have become a vegetarian for several reasons. One of which, is that it is good for the environment because eating one pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gas as driving an SUV forty miles. In becoming a vegetarian I am doing my own small part in trying to help improve the environment. I am also standing up for animal rights and fighting against what I believe is animal cruelty. I have learned the importance of civic literacy and I hope I can do a better job at demonstrating it. In order for me to demonstrate civic literacy I am going to get more involved in different organizations with causes that are important to me and that I believe in. For instance, women’s rights and helping to make the injustice in third world countries a better-known issue. I am also going to try and stand up for what I believe in and for what is right. Your book has truly changed the way I think and feel about our country and I am determined to try and make a difference, no matter how small it might be.
Sincerely,
Taylor Devost

The Bond: Our Kinship With Animals & Our Call to Defend Them

15 Dec

Book No. 51- “The Bond, Our Kinship with Animals and Our Call to Defend Them” is an eye opening book that was written by Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of The Humane Society of The United States. This book was recommended to me by my friend who is taking an Environmental Ethics class at Tulane University. The Bond explores human nature and our relationship to not only domesticated animals, but also animals in the wild. Wayne Pacelle sheds light on all the atrocious ways animals have been and still are being treated, what he has done to help and we can do to make a difference in our every day lives.

One thing that has always irritated me about people is their constant denial of animal intelligence and their emotional capacity. Many people deny all animals capability to feel in the same way humans do, therefore justifying their cruel acts towards them. As humans, we have a moral responsibility to defend those who can not defend themselves, whether that means coming to the aid of other human beings or animals.

Charles Darwin stated that animals actually have very complex emotional lives and can experience: anxiety, grief, dejection, despair, joy, love, tender feelings, devotion, ill-temper, sulkiness, determination, hatred, anger, disdain, contempt, disgust, guilt, pride, helplessness, patience, surprise, astonishment, fear, horror, shame, shyness, and modesty. He also stated that humans and animals share similar facial expressions and body language. For example, he observed how monkeys laugh and dance when they are happy and how dogs stand taller when they are angry just like people do. He also claimed that without fear, a gazelle wouldn’t know when to run and without aggression a dog wouldn’t feel an urgency to defend his territory or defend someone he has loyalty to. Now, anybody who has ever worked with animals or lived with animals would already know all of this, because we have first hand experiences of all these things. Yet, there are still so many people out in the world who continue to deny the simple fact that animals have FEELINGS just as we do. By denying this simple truth, people are able to continue justifying their cruel and inhumane actions.

In this book Wayne Pacelle sheds light on the atrocities of many animals I had no idea even had a plight. For instance, parrots. Parrots aren’t an animal that many of us concern ourselves with, perhaps because a parrot is a bird and not many of us care for birds like we do for other animals. Parrots, however, are very mistreated in this day and age. They are often kept in tiny cages and are sold into families who have no idea how to take care of them. Parrots are very intelligent animals and need stimulation and need space to fly. The sad truth is that many parrots live in homes where they feel so isolated and neglected that they begin to inflict self harm by pulling out their own feathers.

Seals are another animal that not many people tend to concern themselves with and yet in Canada there is a massive seal slaughter every single year. These poachers wait on the shores of Prince Edward Island for these baby seals to come a shore and begin to club them to death for their fur. Unfortunately, in the seals struggle to avoid being clubbed, many aren’t killed instantly, which means they suffer a great deal before they die and some are even skinned alive. Below is a short video on the Canadian seal slaughter. Warning: pictures are graphic.

 

Among other issues discussed in this book are the issues of animal testing, dog fighting, puppy mills, and factory farms. Dog fighting didn’t really become a nation wide recognized issue until the Michael Vick scandal erupted back in 2007. Michael Vick, a well known and very famous football player was charged and pleaded guilty to dog fighting, receiving a two year sentence in prison along with two months house arrest and three years of probation to follow his release. Michael Vick a long with his friends, were responsible for torturing, killing, and training dogs to fight on his very own property. Why? Not because he needed the money, but because it was simply his idea of fun. Investigators exhumed many of the dead dogs bodies from Vick’s property and found that many of them died by hanging, drowning and at least one died by slamming it’s body to the ground. How do people take part in these cruel and heinous acts on innocent animals? I do not know. Regardless, the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal brought an awareness to an issue that wasn’t previously taken as seriously or listed as a priority.

Unfortunately, because of dog fighting the pit bull breed has acquired an unfair and inaccurate stereotype that they are an “aggressive breed.” People who stand by this generalization of pit bulls are obviously uneducated on the matter and ignorant of this breeds plight. Many people do not realize that the amount of annual dog attacks occur not JUST with put bulls, but often with german shepherds, ciao ciao’s, St. Bernards (which is probably why Steven King wrote Cujo as a St. Bernard dog and not a pit bull) and Great Dane’s. Yet, even with all of these dogs annually attacking humans, we only concern ourselves with the attacks caused by pit bulls. This is largely due to the amount of media publicity the pit bull breed gets. It is very rare that we hear about a labrador retriever attacking someone even though just a little less than a year ago a 3 year old boy was attacked by a labrador retriever and was left with horrific facial injuries. The fact of the matter is that their is NO AGGRESSIVE BREED. Animals are not born aggressive, they are made that way by their owners and their experiences. An animal that is chained up 24/7, rarely given any attention, and not socialized at a young age is going to be aggressive regardless of the breed type. The problem doesn’t lie in the dogs or their breed, but rather in the people who own them.

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Puppy mills are another heartbreaking issue that is becoming more and more common in The United States. A puppy mill’s sole purpose is to make money. The people who run puppy mills have no regard for the care of the animals they are selling, often forcing them to live in tiny crates, in the dark, in their own feces. The mother, is forced to birth litter after litter until she is so used up that she literally can not do her duty any longer. At that point, the owners discard her or sell her for the highest price. Many animals that come from puppy mills develop diseases and die at a very young age and sadly many of them don’t even see sunlight until they are sold to a new owner. The solution to this problem is easy. Adopt from a shelter or adopt from a pet store that works with a shelter, such as PetCo and Pet Smart. If we stop funding these puppy mills by buying from them, eventually they will cease to exist.

This is a video by The Humane Society on an under cover investigation about puppy mills.

Factory farming is a pretty well known issue in todays society. The animals held in factory farms are living in horrendous conditions and treated despicably. Chickens often get the worst of it. They are kept in tiny cramped cages, living in their own feces, never seeing sunlight, and they are fed growth hormones so that they will grow at unnaturally fast paces. These growth hormones cause the chickens to grow so fast that their body can no longer support their weight and many of them die because of this. Pigs, cows and turkeys also get harsh and cruel treatment as well. Turkeys are treated much like chickens and live sedentary lives in ammonia laden- excrement. Their growth rate is extremely exaggerated, even more so than chickens. Wild turkeys now weigh three times more in factory farms than they would in the wild at just four months of age. According to researchers at the University of Arkansas, “if you grew as fast as a chicken, you would weigh 349 pounds at age 2.” That should give you an example of how ill treated these turkeys and chickens are and just how inhumane and unhealthy the agribusiness runs their factory farms.

Every type of animal in the world has their own plight and it is our job, as humans, to continue to stand up for them. It is not only domesticated animals that need our help. Animals in the wild need our protection as well. Some of these animals are: whales, dolphins, seals, wolves, turtles, polar bears, black bears and foxes. The first step in cultivating change is spreading awareness and educating those who are ignorant of these important issues. Changes must be made for the sake of these animals and for the sake of humanity itself. People often say they want to live in a better world and yet do absolutely nothing to change it. You want to live in a better world then BE BETTER. Change starts with you.

 

6 ways to help animals:

1) the 3R’s of eating: reduce your consumption of meat and other animal based foods, refine your diet by avoiding animal products that are derived from factory farming, and replace meat with vegetarian foods.

2) purchase cruelty free cosmetics and household products.

3) avoid wearing and purchasing fur.

4) adopt a friend for life at your local animal shelter, foster an animal or work as a volunteer.

5) micro chip your pet and place I.D. tags on your animals as well as getting your animals nurtured and spayed.

6) Help spread the word about animal protection efforts on social media and other online networks.

Book No. 50 – Solitude

29 Oct

Solitude is a book of different poems from various poets who are brilliantly profound. The theme of this poetry book is solitude, absence, longing, loneliness and despair. These are emotions that we, as humans, feel from time to time and in different stages of life. Things change, friends become strangers that we pass on the street, our parents grow old, our grandparents die, hearts break and dreams are shattered, and horrible things happen every second of every day. (Obviously good things happen too, but that is not the theme of this poetry book.)

When I very first started writing this blog, I had just started taking anti-depressants and was feeling really low, and for lack of a better word; lost. It all happened during my freshman year of college and I guess the stress of being away from home for the first time in a different state, not knowing a single soul, is what initiated it all. There were other factors of course, that had an impact as well. I went through two break ups, had a falling out with my best friend of 14 years (we are in a much better place now), and I was a freshman in college standing on the precipice of the rest of my life. Talk about pressure! Anyways, it is about two years later now and I am still on medication, but I will be going off of it soon. I am finally starting to feel at peace with my life and I am finally starting to feel happy again. Naturally, there are still days when I don’t want to get out of bed and face the world, but slowly and surely that feeling has begun to lessen. I have learned that solitude and sorrow are too very powerful and terrifying emotions and if you let them, they can take control of your life. I have also learned that sometimes in life, you really do need help to feel better and that it is okay to ask for help. In fact, you should ALWAYS ask for help when you need it. After all, as John Lennon said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Nothing truer has ever been said! Well, except that Jake Gyllenhaal is a beautiful God of a man! Seriously though, asking for help is probably one of the things I am the worst at. I just never want people to think I am weak or can’t handle things on my own, but in reality, vulnerability is a strength and something all of us should be proud of.

My sister shared this quote with me and I think it is really beautiful.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

When you think about it, nobody who ever made a difference in this world, did it without first overcoming obstacles and hardship. These only make a person stronger and more well rounded and empathetic of others and the world. I know my experience with depression, insomnia and anxiety has done just that.

Humans are always trying to make sense of things. We have this idea that the world is ruled by some cosmic irony or a higher power because we need something to believe in, and we need something to be bigger than ourselves. We search for answers in all the wrong places; in coffee shops, in old tattered library books, and in sad, sad songs. We make mole hills out of ants and interpret insignificant coincidences and occurrences as being the hands of fate or the makings of God’s plan for us. Some people spend their whole lives trying to figure out the why’s of the world. They search and search for the answers to all their questions, never realizing that some things simply are. Perhaps, if more of us accepted things as they are, we would be able to live much more  satisfying lives.

Easier said than done. Obviously. But worth a try, nonetheless.

Two years after my depression began I am living out of state again and am on my own. I decided I needed to come back and face my fears and I am really happy and proud that I did. I am doing really well and I am starting to get excited about school again and working towards my major. I am making new friends and spending a lot of time outside hiking with my dog. We also cuddle a lot, duh. I have been dating this really good guy for about five months now and we’re managing the long distance situation pretty well, but you know how that goes! The point is, I survived and I am okay and there was a time when I didn’t think I ever would be again.

And even though that time in my life felt like I was blind and deaf falling into a dark deep hole of nothingness, I overcame. I learned and I grew and I am better for it now. And if the devil asked me if all the pain was worth it. I would say yes, yes it was.

I wrote my own little poem having to do with this theme about a person who is no longer needed by anybody and that, to me, is heartbreaking. When people no longer visit you, call you or need you; that is solitude. It’s also something I am very much afraid of. So, basically this poem is about what I fear my life could end up being.

The phone doesn’t ring

and nobody writes me letters

the coffee in the kitchen has grown cold

the candles have burned to a pile of wax

and there are tire tracks are in the driveway

from you driving away.

the garden is dry

for lack of nourishment kills.

the dog lies dead

buried beneath the old oak tree

even he no longer needs me

and your side of the bed lies

untouched

unmarked

unmoved

as if

you never even existed,

and I’ll sit on the porch that

used to be ours

and wait for someone who is

never coming back.

 

THINGS ALWAYS GET BETTER.

ALWAYS.

HOLD ON TO THAT.

 

xo

TJ

Book No. 49 – If Beale Street Could Talk

22 Oct

So, I have had Taylor Swifts new album on repeat for like the last three hours… I decided I should probably do something productive and instead of working on homework, I decided to blog! If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin is an honest, sad, and tragically beautiful story told from the point of view of a nineteen year old girl named Tish. She is in love with her childhood friend Fonny and he is in love with her, but when an unforeseen circumstance tears them apart they have to learn to live without each other.  Fonny is falsely accused of raping a woman, but since he is an african american male he is used as the scape goat and even though he has an alibi, it is irrelevant. He is sent to jail and not too long after, he finds out he will soon be a father to Tish’s unborn baby. Tish and her family are on a rampage to get Fonny released from jail and prove his innocence, but that turns out to be much more difficult than anticipated, and they soon begin to realize that sometimes the system will screw an innocent human being.

This is the story of a nineteen year old girl who never gives up on fighting for whats right and for the one she loves. The pain depicted in this novel will tug at your heartstrings and make you think about all the injustices and prejudices you have encountered in your life. It will make you challenge this system and wonder how many innocent men and women are sitting in a jail cell somewhere wondering what they ever did to deserve their fate. Injustices and wrong doings happen every single day and some have irreversible repercussions.A life can change in an instant. People will judge others based on their skin color, where they live, the car they drive and the clothes they wear. Law enforcement will base many of their decisions on racial stereotypes and good and innocent families will suffer because of it. This is the world we live in. No matter how heartbreaking and tragic this story is, it’s important to acknowledge that these things happen every day. We must also strive to prevail under the most difficult of circumstances just like the family in this book.

“…it’s like the blues. sweet, sad, and full of truth.” A classic good read about the struggle of being human.

Alright well, I guess I will go back to jamming out to the new Taylor Swift album, dancing alone in my apartment with my dog. Thanks a lot Taylor Swift for making me feel nostalgic for broken relationships I never had!!!

xo

TJ

Boys, This One Is For You : “A Girl You Should Date.”

12 Oct

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

– Rosemarie Urquico –

(VIA:)

A Girl You Should Date.

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