To My Friend, My Sister, My Future Daughter, and My Future Self

Hello precious one. I wanted to pass on some things that I have recently learned (finally!) in order to possibly spare you some heartbreak, or even merely let you know that the things you are going through are not abnormal.

 

You have heard it before but I’m going to tell you again: never let a boy define your worth. Yes, it is true, you are not beautiful, cool, sexy, desirable, smart, or worthy because of the boy you are dating or pursuing. You are, however, beautiful, cool, sexy, desirable, smart, and worthy with or without a boy.

 

Perhaps that’s a little confusing…let me clarify. You are all of these things and more simply because you are you. That’s right. You are already wonderful, and you do not need a boy to make you those things.

 

But, (this is the exciting part) one day you will be even more wonderful because of the man you are with. One day, you will find a man who is perfect for you in everyway. Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying, he will not be perfect. I am sorry, but he will not be prince charming. He will not always be the nicest guy in the world. I guarantee you sometimes you will not even want to be around him. He will not be perfect, but, he will be perfect for you.

 

You see, I believe in a God who knew you before you were even thought of by your parents. I believe in a God who formed you, your life, your heart, even before you were conceived. I believe in a God who loved you before you existed.

 

This same God already knew the people who He was going to place into your life for a purpose before you could even talk. He knew who your best friend would be, and why, before you could breathe. He knew who you would marry before you could love.

 

And this man will help you to become the woman that God knew you could be before you even knew your own name.

 

So, do not waste your time on boys who do not challenge you to be better. Do not waste time on boys who do not pursue you. Do not waste time on boys who treat you like another conquest, another trophy for the shelf.

 

You are already beautiful. You are already loved. You are already smart. You are already worthy of everything this world has to offer. But one day you will meet the MAN that God has picked out for you. This man will make you forget all of the boys you knew before. This man will tell you everyday that you are beautiful, loved, and smart. And he will make you want to be better.

 

But, you have to prepare yourself for him. You have to be all of those things and more for him as well. As much as the world likes to tell you this man is for you, you have to remember, you are for him too.

 

Pray everyday for him. Pray that the Lord will strengthen him through adversity, pray that He will protect him through pain, pray that He will guide his ways. And pray that God will prepare you to be the perfect woman for him.

 

So, stop wasting your time on these boys who treat you like yesterday’s news. Stop wasting your time on boys who would rather play a game with you than win the prize that is you. Stop wasting your time on boys, and prepare yourself for your man.

Shooting at Capitol Hill “an Isolated Event”

BREAKING NEWS: Only three weeks after the shooting at the U.S. Navy Yard, there was another shooting in the United States today around 2:20pm.

In an attempt to ram the barriers down outside of the White House early this afternoon, a woman opened fire in a car chase which ended at Capitol Hill. The woman was driving a black sedan reportedly with a child in the car as well. The high-speed chase ended on Maryland Avenue and 2nd Street, where the woman opened in an exchange of gunfire with the police.

The U.S. Capitol was put on lockdown immediately after congressmen and women heard shots outside. They were meeting to pass a bill for funding the National Guard. An hour later, the Capitol flashed “all clear” messages throughout the building. Early reports say that the police shot and killed the woman while she was firing shots, but now reports are inconclusive.

At least one police officer was injured, and reports say that the child who was with the shooter is unharmed.

Capitol Police have identified this as an “isolated incident” and not terrorist attack.

Watch coverage live at Fox News

Below are tweets from representatives whilst on lockdown in the building.

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What Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College Have in Common

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Even though the government is currently shut down, it will be back up and running shortly. This is the time to think about what the government is mandating, and come up with a plan of action while they are on leave.

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The government shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Why, then, is the government offering exemptions for their new mandated morning-after pill coverage in provided health care to some institutions, but not to the Catholic Church or openly Christian institutions?

The morning-after pill, otherwise known as Plan B, is a drug that one can take after unprotected sex. According to WebMD, the morning-after pill may prevent or delay ovulation or it may interfere with fertilization of an egg.

Earlier this summer, Dr. Phillip Ryken, the president of my college, Wheaton College, went to Capitol Hill with an organization of the Catholic Church to stand up against this mandate.

Hobby Lobby, an art supply store with 500 stores in 41 states may close all of their stores because of this mandate. The openly Christian organization holds Christian standards in their service, and closes their doors every Sunday. Because of their beliefs, the CEO of Hobby Lobby addressed this issue in the article below.

http://brandontward.blogspot.com/2013/09/hobby-lobby-may-close-all-500-stores-in.html?m=1

In the article, the CEO said that the company is currently in a lawsuit in efforts to be exempt from this government mandate. Even if the lawsuit does not go through, the store will not offer the morning-after pill to their employees, thus shutting down all 500 stores because they do not follow the rules established by the government.

Although according to secular standards, the morning-after pill is not an abortion pill, most Christians believe it is. The Bible says, in one of many passages that tackles this topic: “You guided my conception and formed me in the womb.” Job 10:10.

This verse and many illustrate that we were known by God before the beginning of the World, and we were formed at conception.

Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, the Catholic Church, and many other organizations are fighting this mandate.

Whether you are a Pro-life or Pro-choice, or frankly do not care, this is not an abortion issue or even a religion issue. This is an issue that our own government is going against the very the law that was formed to make us different from other countries. If we cannot uphold the Constitution, how are we any different?

America the Free is no more. If the government can take away our rights as people, we cannot claim that we are a free nation. Our government is not doing it’s job.

Maybe the government has been shut down for longer than we think.

A Diet for the Record Books: 9,000 Calories a Day for Lolo Jones

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Months ago, United States Olympic Hurdler Lolo Jones would have grimaced at the sight of any processed or fatty food. Now, she welcomes it.

After failing to make the US National Track and Field team earlier this year, many thought that Jones was done competing. Even she thought so. Jones slowly slipped into depression, and dropped some weight. One of her coaches couldn’t even recognize the former toned girl in this skinny frame.

But Jones is going for another Olympics.

This time, though, Lolo Jones is on the United States Olympic team for the 2014 Olympics. What does this mean? Do they now have Olympic Indoor Track and Field? Nope. Jones is a part of the United States Olympic Bobsled Team. Yes, that’s right. Bobsled.

To prepare for the Winter Games in Sochi, Lolo has been bulking up. Now almost 30 pounds heavier at 158lbs, she is almost at her goal: 160lbs. What did she do to gain 30 pounds in only a few months? Jones is on a 9,000 calorie per day diet. She eats sour patch kids, m&ms, McDonalds Big Macs, and various other foods that would have revolted her months ago.

What does this huge weight gain mean for the hurdler? Jones is perhaps the most iconic athlete ever in the Olympic games – not only for her talent – but for her looks. Lolo Jones is the Helen of Troy for track and field. Everyone wants to be her, and everyone wants to look like her. So, the 30 pound weight gain could only mean bad things for her physical appearance, right?

Wrong.

After gaining 30 pounds, Lolo Jones does not have any excess fat than she did before. The weight that Jones did gain is mostly muscle weight. Although some of it is bulk, Jones needs this to power the huge sled. But, she still looks great. She is still toned, but there’s just more muscle on her. She isn’t as lean as before, but she surely is not fat.

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(photo courtesy of USA Today)

What does this mean for Jones’ track career? After talking with both her track and bobsledding coaches, Jones has agreed to maintain a weight of no more than 160 pounds. This means that she will be able to compete in both sports, and if needed, will still have time to drop weight for hurdling in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which she plans to compete in.

Good for her. Jones is attempting to be one of few athletes who double in the winter and spring Olympic games. Best of luck to her as she pursues her dream of being a two-sport athlete in the Olympics. 130 days to go. You go, Lolo!

Running Away from your Problems

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I love it when things overlap.

On my cross-country team, we have been talking about how running can be an escape (in some ways) from the struggles and stresses of real life. So imagine my excitement when I read an article on Runner’s World online (runnersworld.com), which also touched on the subject of how running can be an escape.

Read the Article here

The article highlighted an interview with Ali Tremaine, a student from Memphis who recently started running. Through a series of questions, Tremaine spoke of her parents’ divorce and the unexpected loss of one of her dear friends.  When dealing with the sorrow in her life, Tremaine decided to look towards running to get her mind off of her grief. The reason? “There was something comforting about only worrying about getting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.”

In an age where social media and culture are shaping the ways that teenagers look at themselves and live their lives, more and more stories on the news are focused on bullying, self-harm, and sadly, suicide. Because of self-doubt and insecurities, teenagers and adolescents are turning to drugs, alcohol, involvement in gangs, etc. to get their minds off of their problems. I have a proposition. It’s not a common or accepted thought, in fact, it’s discouraged. I believe that in order to solve them, we should run away from our problems.

Yes, I do quite literally mean run away from our problems. The compelling thing about the article on Ali Tremaine in Runner’s World is that she acknowledged that she had problems in her life. She had made bad decisions, her parents were going through a rough divorce, and she had just lost one of her good friends.

Tremaine took all of her pain and she ran away from her problems.

I realize that it is impossible and actually ignorant for me to think that every person who has problems can and should go run to solve them. But, I believe that in order to solve issues that one has with themselves or with other people, they should find an outlet in which they can be free from these problems. Running is my outlet, it is Tremaine’s outlet, and it is the outlet for many others, but it is not the only outlet. Art, Music, Poetry, Literature, Basketball, Soccer, Dance. All of these and more can be used to not only express oneself, but to free oneself from the issues of society.

The purpose of Runner’s World’s article on Ali Tremaine was to show people that running can be an escape from life, and a way to express yourself. In addition to running, there are so many outlets that one can engrain themselves in. I believe this article can be used as a Call to Action for people who are struggling, or who know people that are struggling, to pursue an outlet to free themselves from the pressure and pain, and to discover the purpose of their lives.

Another Shooting in Chicago: 3-year-old Boy Among the 13 Injured

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“If the main topic with the president is only going to be gun control, we are pushing ourselves backwards, It’s hard to control guns here.”

In an interview with CNN, 20-year-old Veronica Morris-Moore, resident and community-organizer in South Chicago tackled the topic of rising gun-violence in Chicago, shortly after the President held a press conference regarding gun control laws in April.

Since April, gun laws have continued to prove irrelevant for the Windy City, who has seen a rise in gun-related deaths since 2012. The city has subsequently surpassed New York city, the previous leader in gun violence. In 2012 alone, Chicago had nearly 500 deaths due to gun-related violence, 81 more than New York city, who has a population nearly three times bigger.

In a massive shooting yesterday, 13 people were shot at Cornell Square Park, less than 500 feet away from Richard J. Daley Academy, a South Side elementary school. Among these 13 people injured was the 3-year-old nephew of witness Julian Harris. The toddler was shot in the ear by a man in a passing gray sedan. The boy is currently recovering from the gunshot wound and is expected to survive.

Obviously the gun laws aren’t working.

So, if guns aren’t to blame for these deaths and injuries, what, or who, is? Most gun-related violence in Chicago has occurred after 10 p.m., including the shooting of the 3-year-old in the ear (the bullet exited out of his mouth). Of these shootings after 10, at least half of the victims are under the age of twenty.

Parents are now being blamed for at least a part in these shootings. According to the 3-year-old victim’s uncle, the shooters have been prowling the neighborhoods every night, looking for people to shoot “just for fun.” He also said that this is common knowledge. People know this is happening. If residents of south Chicago know that gang members are looking for people to shoot, why are parents letting their children play outside after dark? And where are the police? If they know what is going on, why hasn’t the security in Chicago been greatly increased?

Although the blame may fall on the shoulders of many, one fact remains true: guns do not kill people. People kill people. Chicago, now the city with the highest gun-related death rate, is perhaps one of the cities with the strictest gun-control laws. We need to stop thinking only of gun control and start thinking of other ways we can save lives.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected in yesterday’s shooting, the shootings before, and unfortunately, the shootings to come.

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Using My Emotions Against Me: Part Two

Alright, this is the second half of the Emotional Appeal post. (The website wouldn’t let me post two videos on one thread, so that’s why 🙂 )

This video, created by Chipotle, has over 3 million views in one week. Executives at Chipotle created this commercial to advertise their “no chemicals” platform.

The commercial itself only boasts the company’s name once. Although there is a little bit of false advertising (the commercial makes Chipotle seem like a vegetarian chain), the commercial itself sheds a bright light on the processed foods of today.

This is a topic that I am very passionate about, and that many people are too scared to talk about. I have to give Chipotle props for this commercial because I believe they are trying to start a new movement: to get rid of processed foods traced with chemicals.

Where is the emotional appeal, you ask? Just look in the eyes of that poor cow in the factory and tell me that your heart doesn’t break in half.

This is a superb commercial, designed by some of the nation’s best animators. It’s also pretty fun to watch, so check it out 🙂

Using My Emotions Against Me: Part One

In any advertising or business strategy class, one will learn that there are many different ways to get an audience to purchase your product. One of the most popular facets of advertising is the emotional appeal.

More and more companies nowadays are using emotional appeal to get their products media attention. This video, created by Extra Gum, for example, has nearly 1 million views on youtube in two short weeks. Although the commercial says nothing about the tastiness or long-lasting flavor of the gum, it boasts the idea that if you buy Extra gum, you will make long-lasting memories with your family.

I can just picture the executives at Extra thinking: “Long-lasting flavor or Long-lasting relationship?” Obviously, they opted for the latter. Smart move.

In fact, the Houston Chronicle explored this tactic in a recent article about emotional appeal. In the article (http://smallbusiness.chron.com/emotional-appeal-used-persuade-56346.html) the author pointed out that “Although the range of human emotions is enormous, Aristotle settled on 14 prime positive and negative emotions 2,500 years ago that are manipulated to this day in appeals to persuade. Aristotle’s 14 emotions are: anger, mildness, love, enmity, fear, confidence, shame, shamelessness, benevolence, pity, indignation, envy, emulation and contempt.”

Advertisers use these emotions to invoke a sense of resemblance between those in the commercial and the viewer.

Well, it worked. Extra’s commercial hit home for Americans because nearly 21.8 million students left home for college this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. I was among those 21.8 million; returning for my second year at college.

Props to Extra for using emotional appeal to reach their audience. What a great commercial. I’m not sure if I will buy their gum anytime soon, but the commercial definitely got their name out there.

Pedal to the Medal: Lance Armstrong Returns His Bronze Medal to the International Olympic Committee

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So, we’ve all heard of Lance Armstrong’s blood-doping scandal and the turmoil that it has caused his racing team. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a brief summary. Lance Armstrong, founder and spokesman for LiveStrong, a company dedicated to: “Fighting to improve the lives of people affected by Cancer,” and Olympic cyclist, was busted earlier this year for blood-doping while he was competing in the Olympics. Apparently Armstrong had a history of using these performance-enhancing drugs, and the Olympic Committee, as well as his fans, were not very happy.

Apology after apology ensued, but Armstrong was still not out of the hot seat. Today, in Austin, Texas (shoutout to my home state – Woohoo!), Armstrong returned his Olympic bronze medal to the IOC. Armstrong won this medal in Sydney at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

After returning the medal, Armstrong tweeted to his remaining friends (and increasing foes): “The 2000 Bronze is back in possession of @usolympics and will be in Switzerland asap.” The medal was given by Armstrong’s manager to the United States Olympic Committee CEO at Dallas Fort Worth Airport this morning. Although the medal is back in the IOC’s possession, fourth place finisher Abraham Olano of Spain will not be bumped up to the bronze medal, as it will be left vacant in Olympic records.

Famous for his foundation to help those fighting cancer, and his multiple cycling titles, Armstrong is also now famous for doping. Up until January, Armstrong denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he finally came clean after he was caught by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

In addition to being stripped of his Olympic Bronze medal, Armstrong was also stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, which he received annually from 1999-2005.

Although Armstrong’s cycling record is now significantly blemished, the foundation and cause under his name is still a worthy one. If you would like to learn more about or donate to help those battling cancer, visit http://www.livestrong.org.

His titles may have been stripped, but I am still hoping for a turnaround for the amazing cyclist. Although he made many mistakes, I am hoping that Armstrong comes out of this ready to support and give more of himself to his foundation and cause.

The Sports Bra Experiment

In Track and Cross-Country in High School, it was almost a sin for a girl to run in just her sports bra and shorts. The problem was, when you run distances in most conditions, you get overheated to say the least. Bigger problem: I attended high school is the scorching heat of Dallas, Texas.

I remember all of us girls would fuss about the fact that the boys could run shirtless, yet we could not run in our sports bras. After all, we were wearing more clothing than the boys were, right? We even went as far as to make picket signs freshman year that read: “Sports bras or Bust.”

We did try it once, to run in our sports bras during practice. Four of my friends and I decided it would be a great idea to rip off our shirts and put them with the boy’s shirts. We thought it was okay, since it was just girls. Boy, were we wrong. Somehow we got caught (apparently a faculty member passed by us in his car) and we were scolded and told that we would be kicked off of the team if we continued our ‘poor behavior.’ Needless to say, we did not make the same mistake twice.

When I advanced to cross country and track on the collegiate level, I expected to find that the girl’s practice uniforms were sports bras and buns, but alas, I was wrong. Yet again, it was too immodest for the girls to run in only a sports bra and shorts.

I began to wonder, was it just my abashedly conservative private high school and college that were so opposed to this seemingly common practice? Or did this act violate some unsaid social norm that I was not aware of? Well, folks, this runner conducted a secret social experiment to find out.
I started my 6 mile run while on a family vacation in the Tennessee Smoky Mountain National Park. I do not think that I have ever seen a place more beautiful and thriving with life. If this place is not proof that there is a God, I am not sure what is.

I departed on my run with this: my handy-dandy dinosaur-aged Garmin watch, worn out running shoes, my running apparel (brand new thanks to a recent influx in my income), and my drive to succeed. As I passed families, couples, fishermen, and explorers extraordinaire, I began to realize that everyone on the trail was one unit; a group of people with shared experiences, loyalties, and interests. While these people identified themselves as their own little units, we, as the travelers on this winding trail, were a group.

These people were all here for one purpose, whether or not it was their family vacation or their backyard, all of these people were here to enjoy the great outdoors. But, I’m rambling on too much. All that you need to know is that there were at least 60 different people that I came into contact with on my run. With this knowledge, I shall begin my experiment.

The trail was a two mile route through the woods and rivers, but it was clearly marked. So, since I was running 6 miles, I ran the trail three times: Up, back, and then up the trail once more.

Less than a mile into my run, my body encountered an awful, but all-to-common phenomenon. I began to sweat. I was not at a school related practice, in fact, I was hundreds of miles away from school. What was stopping me from taking my shirt off now?

​As I finished this thought, I passed a family of four; a mother, a father, and two kids. The son was about six years old, and the daughter, who was being pushed in her stroller, was about two. They were a typical American family, and they all gave me a warm “hello” as I passed by.

​So, a new thought arose in my head: What would this family’s reaction be to me running in only my sports bra? Surely they would have the same reaction as my schools. But what about the other travelers on the trail? Would they have the same reaction as well? I decided to find out.

As I was running, I passed people that I had seen when I was running the opposite direction, and sometimes I passed people that I had never seen before. Either way, I would most likely never see any of these people in my life again, and I could not think of a better group of people with which to conduct my experiment.

​My parents dropped me off at the trailhead, and drove to the end of the trail to walk the opposite way, hoping that we would pass once or twice and exchange a quick high-five or a passing story (I did see a bear across the river, which I informed them of).

​So, I embarked on my journey. I ran the first leg of the trail with my shirt on; I figured that I would start off conservative and slowly morph into the blasphemous runner that my high school convinced me that I was (On a side note: I loved my high school very much, so I do not hold any animosity towards them at all). As I passed other hikers, runners, dog-walkers, etc., I made sure to say “hello” or “good morning” to each. I try to do that anyways, but today it was all the more important because of my experiment. I even had brief passing conversations with some about the weather or their cute dog. Nine out of Ten people said “hello” back, asked me how I was doing, or commented on how they could not believe that I was running up hill and not walking. In fact, three out of those nine actually greeted me before I could get a word out. Overall, people in Tennessee and those who had traveled there were very nice. I could not believe the responses I had received. I do not usually encounter that many people on my runs back home, so it was nice to actually have some people to talk to to pass the time even if it was for just a second as I ran past.

​I reached the end of the trail, waved to my parents, and started running the opposite direction. Less than a tenth of a mile into the second leg, my shirt was off and tucked into the back of my shorts. Needless to say, I was eager to cool off even if it was just a little bit. I was also eager to see if people would have the same warmth towards me when I was bearing a little more to the world.

​The first couple that I passed was an elderly couple. They were the cutest couple; probably in their late seventies. The husband had his pants pulled up to his belly button and the wife had a bee-hive hairdo and was fashioning a very trendy fanny pack. They were each using a pair of retractable walking sticks and laughing and smiling with each other. When I passed by and declared my “hello, how are y’all doing?” I was dumbfounded by their response: nothing. This seemingly delightful elderly couple did not even bother to make eye contact with me. When I had finished passing by, I could hear them pickup their conversation again like they had not even noticed me. But, I knew that they did.

​The second and third couples were the same; they completely ignored me. I was shocked. I did not expected to get responses that were this cold. By the time that I was approaching my first family, I was hesitant. I am a people pleaser, so I do not like it when people think poorly of me at all; even complete strangers. As I approached the family of five, I was already kicking myself for starting this experiment. To my surprise, I was not ignored by every member of the family. But, before I did meet them on the path, I saw the mother utter something to her one teenage and two pre-teen children. I could only imagine it was about me, because when they passed, they did not acknowledge my existence. I uttered a nervous “hello,” to which the mother responded with an equally hushed “hi.” The amazing thing, is that she did so without making any eye contact with me whatsoever.

​The remainder of the people that I came in contact with on my two mile leg without my shirt on had nearly the same responses. Twelve out of fifteen people that I passed did not make eye contact with me or respond to my greeting. Two people that I passed responded to my “hello,” but managed to do so without looking at me. The final person that I passed was a middle-aged man who was all alone, and he made plenty of eye contact with me.

I conducted an experiment based on the question of past bias regarding modesty in running. Although it drove me crazy during high school that the boys could run without shirts and the girls could not, I think my conclusion was the same deep down back then as it is now. Perhaps, in locations where running is not the main focus, or where families are present, one should not pursue an image that is questionably immodest. But, if you still have a need to run shirtless, by all means, pursue that, but do so with the understanding that the people you come in contact with may not understand why it is necessity to you. I am sure I will run shirtless again multiple times in my life, but I will do so in a place where that is accepted (such as a running trail or track). So, is running in only a sports bra violating a common social norm? That is up to your own interpretation. The important thing to keep in mind is that every action you take is affecting someone else in some way. It is up to you whether you want that to be a positive affect or a negative one.

Here is a picture of the beautiful trail:

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Run fast.