Tuesday, April 10, 2018

March For Our Lives - Round 2

Many years ago, the summer before I started junior high, I had the same concerns as any other 12-year old girl. Would I be able to find all my classes? Would I get to eat lunch with my friends? Would it be weird changing clothes in the locker room? etc, etc. There was one other thing that weighed heavily in my mind. Rumor on the blacktop was that junior high girls got into a lot of FIST FIGHTS. This revelation kept me up at night. Sure, by the time I was that age I had been in plenty of sibling fights, but those mainly consisted of noogie's to the head, Indian burns to the arm and an occasional fart in the face and almost always ended in me yelling, "Maaaoooommm!" the bell would ring and my mom would send us to our corners to lick our wounds. This was junior high though. And apparently, girls used their fists, to punch, harm and maim. I wasn't ready for that and so I lived with the fear that any day, if I were to look at the wrong girl sideways, I was in for a beating that my mom would not be refereeing at.

Needless to say, I survived two years of junior high without getting into a fight. There were a few close calls but I walked away unscathed from 360 days of junior high purgatory. You could not pay enough money to go back. Those thoughts and feelings could fill a whole other blog post.

In 1999, the unthinkable happened. On April 20, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 students and one teacher. They injured 21 additional people and three more were injured trying to escape. Then, they turned their guns on themselves and committed suicide. They were 18 and 17 years old, respectively. I remember watching the horror of it all as it played on my t.v. It was awful. I had already graduated high school and was posing as an adult at a big kid job when the Columbine shooting occurred. I remember, after the shooting, waking up early to go to work and feeling fear. Fear of Eric and Dylan, which is weird, cause they were both dead. But, it wasn't fear of the individuals, rather, fear that they had existed and there might be more people like them.

A few years later, I was away at college living in Salt Lake City. My very first roommate and I were talking about our stints in high school when she told me that her school would have drills, not earthquake drills like my California school, but school shooting drills! This blew my mind. Children would practice hiding in case a gunman were to threaten their time dissecting a frog in Anatomy class. I could not conceive that necessity. I had plenty to fear at school from the age of 12-18, but not once did I think that one of my classmates had the ability to get a gun, let alone bring it on campus.

Unlike junior high, I LOVED high school. I was always having fun. I had a lot of friends, I went to all the parties, I was a cheerleader, and most of my teachers liked me. It was one big social event and I was a butterfly. Thinking back on it, I remember how everything seemed so important. EVERYTHING. It's silly now. I realize how unimportant everything was, but at the time, I felt like every decision I made was so critical. Fortunately, I had a plethora of friends. Family was more of how I thought of them. Some of my chums knew me better than my family members. They weren't just my buddies that I palled around with. They were my therapists, my confidants, my partners in crime. I would lie to their parents for them if they asked me to, whisper the answer to number three during a quiz, passed HAND WRITTEN NOTES during passing period that I spent the better part of Language Arts class creating, put them in the trunk of our friends car to get them off campus at lunch and other dumb things. I wouldn't do those things to be a rebel or to prove that I could break the rules. I did them, because I cared.

Times sure have changed since I was in school. More and more children are easily gaining access to fire arms and they're not playing Cops and Robbers, they're shooting up schools, movie theaters and local churches. In general, we as Americans have got to stop killing each other. Every time an American turns their gun on another American, terrorist around the world win. Instead of terrorists coming into our country under a guise, living for several years all the while plotting an astronomical attack, they get to sit back and watch as we kill each other. We are doing their job for them. What have we become?

I don't discuss politics, just as a rule of thumb. There is always someone out there who wants to tell me I'm wrong or go through a laundry list of why I should believe the way they believe and to me, it's just not worth it. I consider myself educated. When there is.a political stand to be made, I gather all the facts that I can find and try to side one way or the other. More often than not, I'm standing in a gray area. An area where I see how both sides are right OR how both sides are wrong.  I know it sounds wishy-washy, but politics are a difficult thing for me to get a grasp on.

I felt the need to attend the Walk For Our Lives March. My main goal was to interview people and write a journalistic article, which I did. But also, I felt the need to be a part of something that is bigger than myself. I don't have an answer. Do I think we should reform gun laws? Yes. How do we do it without infringing on the rights of the American citizen? I don't know. I do know that children need to stop being shot at. It sickens me that a tragedy such as Sandy Hook, did not convince the government that we need stricter gun laws. 20 children between the ages of SIX and SEVEN years old were gunned down. They were babies. And, what of a person that commits such an offense? Let's talk about that elephant in the room. It is high time we started addressing mental health. No sane person sees a first or second grader as the enemy. It is 2018 and mental health should not be taboo.

I certainly wasn't troubling myself with politics in high school. The most political worry I had back then was, did Bill Clinton have sexual relations with that woman? And, yeah right he "didn't inhale". Other than that my biggest worries were, when are those pinstriped pants at Esprit going on sale? Which boy should I kiss at the party? And, are we going to beat Norco at the football game? *spoiler alert* we did not beat Norco the 4 years that I attended.

Something that I learned at the Walk For Our Lives March is kids today have a lot political views and they don't care who the President is sleeping with or what he's smoking. They want their voices heard and they are not stopping at that. They are registering to vote and are prepared to vote out those in government who are not willing to protect them. Not only are they going to vote them out, they are going to run against them. Pre-teens, teens and young adults are tired of being scared to go to school. They don't want to live in fear of their classmates or the unstable kid who graduated two years ago.

On the morning of the march, I drove to Downtown Riverside and parked a couple of blocks away from the Historical Courthouse. I could hear the crowd immediately and within seconds I could smell the sunblock that parents had slathered on their kids and themselves that morning. War paint. They were in it for the long haul. One thing I noticed quickly was the diversity of the group. Every demographic was represented on the courthouse steps that morning.

The weather was perfect. The sun would peek through moving clouds as local students began the opening ceremony with instructions on how to peacefully participate, where to find the table to register to vote and a run down of the mornings activities. One by one, students spoke to the crowd with the confidence of lions, each of them roaring for change. The message I took away, these kids want to feel safe and protected at school and they are pleading for the government to do something. If something isn't done, they will not walk away with their tails between their legs. They are prepared to vote out offending individuals and take over political positions to get their way.

"You may be afraid to save our lives, but we are not afraid to vote you out." said one student.

Through tears of conviction, one student said, "We feel scared when a fire alarm goes off in our school because we don't know if it's real or a trap to get us out of our classrooms."

It was hard not to get choked up as students plead, not just for change, but for their safety. Another student commented, "Any movement is better than none."

After the opening ceremony, the march began. Something that surprised me, we marched through traffic. There was a ton of security and volunteers directing us, however, the streets were not blocked off that we walked down. I can see how irritating that might be for a soccer mom trying to get her van full of kids to their game, but this was my first rodeo so I just went with the flow.

There is always one guy.
When you and your friends plan to crash a peaceful protest, but they're at home cleaning their guns.

Just because this was a peaceful protest, doesn't mean we tip toed through the streets of Riverside quietly. There were a handful of chants being shouted for all to hear. This is where my internal struggle began. First, I didn't chant, which is difficult, because the cheerleader in me loves to synchronize rhyming shouts with a crowd, but I'm still in that gray area. I want gun reform, however, I don't want to take away gun rights. Although, I don't know a good reason for anyone to own an assault rifle. Second, as a faux journalist, I couldn't justify chanting and remain biased so that I could write an informative article instead of one that tipped the scale. So, I marched, I took photos, notes and video. My heart was definitely in it. I thought about my three nieces and nephew and how I just want them to get an education on not witness their friends or teachers being blown away during third period or worse, being in the direct path of a bullet.

We marched a giant square and ended back on the steps of the courthouse. I worked up (a lot) of courage and approached six different protesters and asked them all the same two questions:

Do you think the Parkland kids are appropriate leaders, and why?

"Yes, the Parkland students truly understand what's happening and what needs to change in the future, plus they have a powerful voice." - Mauve, 17

"Yes, they are the most recent victims, they're young and young people are the future." - Bobby, 45

"Yes, they've been baptized by their experience and possess an empathy that is needed." - Michael, 24

"Perfect leaders. They transcended any sort of partisan politics of this and embody commonality of Americans. They are the perfect voices to get us passed this." - Daniel, 29

"Yes, through showing us that we can make a change, we are able to stand up for ourselves." - America, 14

"Yes, they had first hand experience and they can tell us how it feels to be threatened." - Eliana, 14

What are you hoping will be a result from this protest?

"I think there should be stricter gun laws. There is no need for people to own semi-automatic guns. I hope more people register to vote." - Mauve, 17

"Get rid of assault rifles and other guns. Make it harder to get guns. I hope this is a movement and not a moment." - Bobby, 45

"I hope that more protest get organized, the problem needs to be taken more seriously." - Michael, 24

"I hope to sustain civic conscience and energy passed this stage to the ballots. Vote craven politics who are part of the NRA out of office." - Daniel, 29

"That guns won't be allowed in public places, and for kids to feel safe. Kids won't feel like they might die." - America, 14

"More kids will be involved, leaders will come forth and better change." - Eliana, 14

The closing ceremony began with a moment of silence for the 17 victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School where in a crowd of hundreds of kids the only sound heard was an airplane overhead. Then each of their names were read out loud.  Five butterflies were brought out, each representing Change, Hope, Perseverance, Courage and Action. They were SUPPOSE to flutter up into the sky, lifting with them the spirits of all in attendance, but it just wasn't sunny enough for them to take flight. So, the butterflies protested. The students had to walk them down the steps, out of the shade and encourage them to enter into a world where 16-year-olds own guns.

Susan "Don't @ Me, Bro!" B.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

March For Our Lives - Round I

Thousands of people, from all walks of life, gathered at the steps of the Riverside Historical Courthouse on Saturday, March 24, while hundreds of thousands gathered nation-wide to demand a solution to end gun violence.

The peaceful protest was one of many "March For Our Lives" demonstrations held throughout the United States by citizens in pursuit of stricter gun laws in the wake of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people lost their lives, in Parkland, Florida.

Riverside's rally was organized by high school students from Corona, Moreno Valley and Riverside and supported by the Riverside County Brady Campaign To End Gun Violence.

Student speakers address the crowed before the march. "Today we demand change. Today we demand action," proclaimed Ian McPherson, a 16-year-old junior from Valley View High School. One after another each student had a similar plea.

"Thoughts and prayers have done nothing for students like myself," a sentiment spoken by one student speaker and echoed throughout the march.

Addressing the government, one student said, "You may be afraid to save our lives, but we're not afraid to vote you out!" On the courthouse grounds, voter registration tables were set up for the convenience of anyone needing to register.

Another student revealed, "I must hug my family everyday because we don't know when tragedy will strike."

To the 2nd Amendment protectors, another student said, "No one is trying to take any one's guns away. We are trying to protect our students from death."

After the opening ceremony, the march began. Over 4000 people headed up Main Street, making their voices heard and chanting.

After the march, the rally concluded back on the steps of the courthouse where the names of the 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims were read and student organizers released butterflies in their honor.

Susan "Wearing A Journalist Hat" B.

Friday, February 9, 2018

I Tried Aerial Yoga So You Don't Have To

One of my resolutions this year is to try (more) new things. So I decided to give aerial yoga a try. It was...hard and not at all what I thought it was going to be. First, I've been doing yoga for a couple of years now. It's not my most favorite workout, but I L-O-V-E a good stretch. If yoga consisted of only stretching without all the poses and twisting, it would definitely be my number one. Second, aerial yoga is not offered at my regular gym so I went to an actual local yoga studio where I knew no one including the instructor. So right out of the gate I'm feeling uncomfortable and nothing is familiar.

Luckily, there were only two other yogis in class that night and of course the instructor. For most of the class I felt a little spastic. While the other two girls seemed to have control of their hammock and body, I often struggled to stay facing the front of the room and was flailing about for a solid portion of the hour. I wasn't a complete failure. I kept up with class and did as I was told, but maybe just not as gracefully. It was my first time after all.

There was one pose that reminded me of Spider Man. The one with Toby Maguire. When he lowers himself down, upside-down and kisses Mary-Jane played by Kirsten Dunst.

This is the pose we did. I was swaying a little and felt the need to drop my hands to the floor often. This however is not a photo from our class. Click the photo for the source.

One complaint that I have about this type of practice is I didn't walk away from the class having felt stretched or relaxed for that matter. Since I was a child, I have been involved in activities where stretching is part of the sport (i.e. gymnastics, dance, cheer etc.). So I've been abnormally flexible my whole life. In the aerial class, we never got into any deep stretches, so I missed that.

At the end of class you lay in your hammock for Savasana, all cocooned and squished up. Here are the two problems I had with that. One, a tight enclosed space is not my friend. Two, my hammock smelled like stale perspiration from yogis past. Not relaxing at all. Although, at the beginning of Savasana, the instructor crawled under each of us and gave us a short back massage and I DID like that. By the time it was time to say 'Namaste' and bow to the instructor, I was facing the back of the room again.

So as I was laying there I was internally struggling with myself. I really wanted someone to take a picture of me so that I would have physical proof that I tried it and that I was there. So I kept telling myself, "Just ask the instructor, it's not like you're going to come back here anyway. Explain to her that you want it for your blog, she will understand." But at the end of class we all started to clean up and I just didn't have the nerve to ask her to snap me in one of the poses. I'll have to get one at the next class I try.

The next day, I was sore. My right oblique was super sore and the surface of my hip bones still feel bruised from some of the poses we did where we had the hammock across our pelvis and we were putting our weight on it. It still feels a little tender.

I know I haven't said too many positive things about the class, but I didn't hate it. I would try it again just to see if it is something that you have to do more than once to like or if it really isn't my type of practice. If you are thinking about trying, you should! 

Susan "Namaste In Regular Yoga" B.

Monday, January 22, 2018

New York City Birthday Day 3

Day three of my New York City birthday was a little more low-key. I enjoyed each day for different reasons. Day one was all about learning and seeing as much as possible. Day two was all about my birthday and the parade and the Rockettes and day three was about stepping outside of the concrete jungle and into Central Park. We escaped  just outside The Big City and I felt like I could breathe.
This sign was across the street from our hotel.
 I needed to get the obligatory Time Square selfie.
 One of my besties, Diana, bought me the first season of Game of Thrones for Christmas in 2015. Sadly, it sat and collected dust on my dresser for a year and a half. Out of boredom one night, I decided to watch the first episode. I wasn't exactly "hooked', but I was curious. So, I hesitantly continued to watch. The more I watched, the more enthralled I became! Now, I can't believe I waited so long to devour and digest the story.
 So when we walked past the HBO building on our way to the New York City Library and I saw this window display, I had to take a few photos.
This is just outside the New York City Library. Inside, the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals that inspired A.A. Milne's stories about the silly 'ole bear and friends, live inside a class cage in the children's section. Many a movie were filmed in one of the study rooms. The library itself is huge and old and really, really beautiful.
 The Chrysler Building
 My mom and I took a long walk through Central Park. It was such a contrast after spending two days amid the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. Since it was fall, we were enveloped in gold, orange and red colors. Very impressive.

This is the Alice in Wonderland statue. It was my goal to see it. The story is near and dear to me and has been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. I first saw the statue in the movie, Remember Me (2010). Luckily, we entered the park not too far from the statue.

I don't know what this area is called, but I swear, I've seen it in movies. Speaking of which. Not pictured, my mom and I walked down that iconic walkway that is in every movie ever made. The one lined with park benches and trees canopy over them. Stunning.
 Standing in front of the mothership. Just before this photo was snapped, I peed on the Trump Tower building which is next door. Well, technically, I peed in the bathroom, but in spirit, I peed on the building. I couldn't do it outside the front door, because there was a security man with a giant gun. Lame. I really wanted to eat at Serendipity, however, the wait was over an hour and half long and we didn't have that kind of time. We ended up going to Bloomingdales and eating at a crazy delicious burger restaurant called, Flip.

All in all, the weekend was one of the funnest times I've had. We can't wait to go back and see more because it just can't be done in three days.

Susan "Curiouser And Curiouser" B.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

New York City Birthday

While everyone in North America was celebrating Thanksgiving Day, my mom and I were celebrating my day of birth. We had a lovely breakfast at a local restaurant and then walked up the New York block to watch the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I had a panic attack that you can read about here. Once we escaped the crowd back to the top to the street that we started on, we found a place to stand among some very nice people who took pity on me, the crying, on the verge of hyper ventilating birthday girl. Seriously, there were some very sympathetic individuals in attendance of the parade that day. A wonderful British woman who had a camera set up, talked to me and even called me "brave" for going to the parade. She offered to let me stand next to her and let me find all my escape routes. Another older gentleman let my mom stand next me even though his wife kept complaining that she couldn't see.

The parade was not my favorite. To be honest, I think parades are kind of boring. No offense to New York City or Macy's. I was really hoping there would be a Bart Simpson balloon, sadly there wasn't. 

 I kept an eye on that police officer in the lower right hand corner. Just in case my panic attack revisited, I wanted a man of the law to help me.
 Our view wasn't too bad.
 This is the photo I snapped after my panic attack, however, I want to point out the decorative button that I sported that day. It reads, "Happy Birthday To Me". I bought it myself from Party City for $4 and it was the best money I spent. All day everyone I came in contact with said 'happy birthday' to me. I loved it! I even got sang to by the employees where my mom and I bought my cupcake. I liked it so much, I wore it the next day too!
 All the balloons that make an appearance are blown up the day before and some of the roads have to be closed off to store them.
 The kids we were standing next to went nuts for this balloon.
 The star of the parade, the Macy's Star.

 No Bart Simpson, but there was an Angry Bird.
 I do love Charlie Brown.
My mom and I left before the parade officially ended. Her phone died, I needed to re-apply make-up and catch my breath so we headed back to our hotel so that we could get ready for a day of sight-seeing  but not before stopping at Starbucks so that I could get my FREE birthday drink.
 Our first stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was stunning! We went inside and it was just as beautiful as the outside. There was a mass going on so we didn't venture too far.
 Across from the cathedral is the bronze Atlas statue which depicts the Ancient Greek Titan, Atlas, holding the heavens.
 Saks Fifth Avenue window displays had a fairytale theme. Mostly of Snow White but a few other princesses were represented as well. Truly creative.
 The Waldorf Astoria
 Grand Central Terminal
 Flag inside Grand Central Terminal
 New York City is so magical at Christmas time. Everywhere you look, there is holiday decorations.

How beautiful (and giant) are these succulents! They were all over the city.

Not pictured: My mom and I enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the New York City deli across from our hotel. Really delicious! Also, we stopped by Juniors (restaurant) and although they are said to have the BEST cheesecake, we picked up a birthday cupcake to eat at the end of the day.

 My favorite part of the day was going to Radio City Music Hall, taking a tour and then watching the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.

 This is the 35-foot Christmas tree made of Swarovski Crystals centered in the lobby. It is breathtaking!
 During the tour we went to a viewing area where we watch a few minutes of the show already in production. Santa walked right past us!
 These are past costumes used in the show.

 Willam Zorach's sculpture "Spirit of the Dance".
 A different view of the Swarovski Tree.
During the tour, we met one of the Rockettes and our group had a little Q&A session, then we all had the opportunity to take a picture with her. Her name is Shelby, she is from South Carolina, she is 22-years old. 2017 was her second season as a Rockette. Each dancer MUST audition each year regardless of if they have done the show before. There are two full casts. There are six shows a day and each cast does three. She likened it to a marathon and said that backstage transitions and costume changes are choreographed to keep everything running smoothly.

I also learned that you have to be AT LEAST five foot. six inches to be eligible to audition. So close! I pled with the girl, "Um, I think once you see my kicks, you'll change your mind."

The show really was spectacular. I watched it multiple times on Netflix after our trip. Did you know it is more than just a kick-line? There is a whole story and everything. Live animals make an appearance not to mention multiple Santas.
 After the show we walked around and watched the light show on the Saks Fifth Avenue facade.
 The light show included Christmas music. Hopefully, the video I attached will work.

 We walked through Rockefeller Center where there was beautiful holiday angels and people ice skating.

 The famous tree in Rockefeller Center didn't get lit until a week after our trip so we saw a pre-lit tree.
It was a great birthday! My mom and I split the cupcake after we got back to our hotel and I haven't stopped talking about the whole day with her since.

Susan "I looked everywhere for Jimmy Fallon" B.