“Valentine’s Day” – #MSDStrong

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have the normal connotations anymore. It doesn’t mean red hearts and love. It doesn’t mean going out with friends or significant others and celebrating relationships. It all changed last year. No one had a say in giving up this day of love every year for the rest of our lives. It just happened that way.

Today is Valentine’s Day. I don’t celebrate with a significant other. I celebrate with my girls. We get wine, ice cream and watch movies all night. It’s a day to be thankful for those you have. Not to mourn those lost.

February 14th 2018, that all changed. I can’t gather with my girls and laugh carelessly about boys of the past. I can’t eat ice cream and lose myself in wine-induced thoughts.

I have to mourn. I have to think about the 17 neighbors of mine who were taken from us in America’s largest mass shooting. I have to think about my community and how our home was hit. Especially this year, on the one year anniversary, I feel worse than ever.

I’m away. I’m across the world with no one here who understands. I want to be with my community, my family. I want to join hands with my neighbors and feel the empowerment of numbers. I want to light candles for those lost and share stories about the good times they had.

This day is forever changed.

Although I sound cynical I do believe we need to find a way to make this day a positive one. A celebration of life rather than another funeral. If we treat it like a funeral, if we don’t turn this into something positive, he wins. And he can’t win.

Gather with your loved ones. Buy chocolate and flowers. Dedicate this day of love to our 17 angels. Celebrate their lives and yours as well. The world is a scary place sometimes but if we search for the beauty in it we can make a difference. Our community is so strong and I’m forever positive, passionate, and proud to be an Eagle. Happy “Valentine’s Day.”

A Hobbit in England – Mental Health Abroad

Mental health. The forbidden fruit of conversations. It might sound like taboo to some but to others, mental health issues control their whole lives. For me, it’s like the elephant in all rooms I enter. I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve learned to always prioritize my mentality. While traveling and being constantly distracted, it gets pushed to the back. Until it weasels it’s way back to the front.

And it always does.

Continue reading A Hobbit in England – Mental Health Abroad

From Sweats to Shivers – A Florida Girl Takes England

Hello Friends!

I’m officially one week into my six-month study abroad experience. Here’s a little background about my situation: I’m a third-year at the University of South Florida partaking in an exchange program at the University of Exeter, about three hour southwest of London, England. Business marketing is my major and I’m taking some very interesting classes here in the UK.

Global Environmental Issues, International Business, Behavior, Decisions and Markets, and Economics of Management Strategy. Stay tuned for a post addressing the differences between classes in the UK versus the US. From curriculum to the professor and classroom experience, it’s been a pretty cool ride so far.

Now let’s get into the more interesting stuff: life in Exeter. Being here only eight days, I must say I’m on a British high. The culture, the accents, the food, the people, the weather, everything. My only complaint is the HILLS! This Florida-born-and-raised chick is adjusting slowly but surely to these 75-degree angels.

Continue reading From Sweats to Shivers – A Florida Girl Takes England

Florida’s environment: The most important issue for voters and candidates to consider

From toxic red tide to turning the Sunshine State solar, the environment is one of the most important issues driving people’s decisions this election season.

The two candidates running for governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D), agree that the environment needs to be addressed. But they disagree on how to make these improvements and where to focus their energy and budgets.

These disagreements were clear during last week’s debate. Continue reading Florida’s environment: The most important issue for voters and candidates to consider

Smile Through the Fear – A Trip to the South of Israel

On my trip to the south, we visited a kibbutz called Ein Hashlosha which is about a mile and a half from the Gaza border. This community experiences rockets weekly, but this is an improvement. At one point, I learned, they were being attacked up to six times a day. Like the playground discussed in my last post, safe houses are within a 15-second sprint from any point where one might be standing on this kibbutz.

In May, before the school day began, the sirens went off and everyone sought shelter. The rocket happened to hit directly next to the elementary school in the community. Everyone was safe, but that might’ve not been the case had it been shot 10 minutes later when school was supposed to start.

Our tour guide told us he has four young kids. When asked what he tells his kids who have to grow up in this reality, he said he’s realistic yet hopeful with them. He tells them there is no reason to live in complete fear or stop living your life, or else Hamas – explained in my Gymboree post – wins. He also tells them that he hopes there will come a time when their days and nights won’t be interrupted by sirens and screams. Continue reading Smile Through the Fear – A Trip to the South of Israel

The Gymboree – Israel’s Only Protected Playground

Being educated on the topic of the conflict in the south of Israel, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into when going for the day. Little did I know I was in for a huge, heart-wrenching surprise. The reality of the people who live in communities bordering Gaza hit me in a way I never thought it would. Continue reading The Gymboree – Israel’s Only Protected Playground