Day 11: Good News #GIG2017

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Admittedly, it would feel off to see a headline that’s positive these days. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing happening in the background to celebrate, nothing uplifting.

Why does it seem so hard to come across anything uplifting these days?

Realize that I chose this topic for today’s gratitude long before so many actors have been accused as sexual abusers. Before a gunman fired his weapon in a small Texas church. Insert any recent story and it’s probably something that will make you think the world is ready to implode on itself and everything is becoming increasingly corrupt.

I get it. It’s hard to not be cynical when all you see is the same kind of message on repeat. By this point, it’s been drilled into our minds so often on a regular basis, we aren’t even shocked anymore. Like the Texas shooting. I mean, I was certainly outraged and heartbroken, but I sure wasn’t surprised. The actual event and its circumstances didn’t reach that emotional core that past events have. Even the heavy focus on the shooter’s mental health hasn’t fired me up like it usually does as we continue to misrepresent and overgeneralize the intentions of violent people.

Really, this is how it has always been. We just hear more of it because we have the technological capacity to. We can download news apps on our phones, even have notifications pop up when there’s breaking news, and when does something positive and heartfelt actually make that “breaking news” cycle? Rarely. You save those for the end of a TV broadcast to convince viewers, even just for a few minutes, that everything is just fine, that the endless tragedy and disaster mentioned in the past half hour doesn’t actually reflect what society is coming to.

And from my tone today, it’s hard to find that slither of gratitude that I usually pull into the mix. For situations like this, it really is hard to be grateful. I choose to not read much news anymore because it throws off any attempt to find hope and optimism. Despite knowing that each story is prioritized on my news feed strategically, that the headlines magnify what has happened to exploit whatever emotions it can muster, I don’t think it’s healthy to expose myself to those sources.

I truly am grateful for the opportunity to stay informed about my community, country and world. I am grateful to be able to engage in discussion and learn about what is happening around me and avoid ignorance of important current events. It’s my duty as a citizen of this country and world to do what I can. Except immersing myself completely in every update isn’t healthy.

In lies where I’m grateful for when there are gaps in the overwhelming noise to remind ourselves of our true nature, and that is to be and do good. I’m grateful to hear how others are making a positive difference in the world, big or small. For example, remember back to what feels like years ago when we all came together to support hurricane victims, the support and disaster relief efforts? How we stepped aside from our everyday lives to help those in need.

But I’m especially grateful for when we are supportive without having an extremely negative reason to begin doing so. Like supporting sexual assault victims long before the accusations of big-name celebrities began emerging. Or advocating for climate change before we damage the environment even more.

As silly as they may seem, I do really appreciate those random little videos on social media people share that talk about seemingly insignificant things, like some random new scientific discovery or a minute-long story about a baby animal, but seriously, what a refreshing relief from logging onto other news outlets. They might seem trivial if you’re looking for hard news, but there’s a balance we need to establish to stay both informed and emotionally sound.

I’m grateful for good news to provide that extra push we sometimes need to make a change. Too drastic of news can be debilitating, too large of a problem for one person to single-handedly address. But what about some inspiration from others doing good in the world? A single reason that not everything is going downhill? Little things add up to bigger things. And seeing how others, people just like us, are still trudging forward, even if it’s through thorny obstacles and muddy waters, can be that one reason a day becomes a good day.

I have always enjoyed the saying, “Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day.” We might continue to focus on every reason why we should be worried, terrified, heartbroken, angry, and pessimistic about the direction the world seems to be taking, but we’ll never be able to silence that sliver of hope and beauty that leads us back to the innumerable blessings in our lives. For every time something goes wrong, chances are there are many more things, now or to come, that ensure the sun still shines. That we will continue to rise each morning with something beautiful to live for.

Perhaps dramatic, but seriously. I’m so grateful for hearing good news. Something turning out well for those I care about and those I might never meet. A new reason to smile today. A recent discovery that might change our lives as we know them. Let us not diminish the value of these faint rays of light.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Day 10: Podcasts #GIG2017

Today I don’t have just some gratitude to share, but some content, too! How exciting is that?

Obviously by the title you can probably tell that each contribution still centers on a theme, and that is podcasts. Besides reading lately, I have gotten increasingly enthralled with this emerging medium. In my spare moments, especially right in the morning and before going to bed, I’m pulling out my podcast app and browsing for the latest episode of my favorites or trying to Google search for my next favorite.

I didn’t essentially see the fad this was and sure didn’t appreciate it. I remember finding the first episode of Serial and not even being able to finish it. I’m much more of a visual person, so anything that requires me to listen and keep tabs of an idea without a chance to pause and reflect is difficult for me.

I still can’t get into strictly conversational podcasts, and more informative ones need to be about an interesting topic I can follow along several episodes to keep me hooked. I’m especially fond of the audio dramas, an expanded version of an audio book or a TV show without the screen to stare at. I love feeling involved in a plotline with characters and emotions and the whole shebang.

Hence why I have my own contribution to make to the growing podcast-sphere. As part of an assignment for my Digital Media class, we all had to make a podcast with plenty of freedom to let us go wild. So the bare minimum was just five minutes with at least two voices heard and some-sort of theme.

And in my essence, I decided to take the hardest way possible to approach the assignment. Knowing my love for audio dramas, recently binging Darkest Night as inspiration, and began brainstorming on my own story to tell. With the help of my brother, we wrote a script, recorded our voices, and produced a podcast of our own.

The Witching Hour is envisioned as an hour-long program that takes some inspiration from horror and thriller genres, including Black Mirror. It uncovers the darkness in all of us and is intended to throw in some twists and turns in there, leaving listeners at the edge of their seats or just thinking far after the audio stops playing.

You don’t necessarily assume you’ll feel emotions when just listening to something. That you’ll be laughing out loud, or your jaw will drop by a completely shocking statement. But hearing a human voice is surprisingly intimate and has great potential. I want to tell some stories that I myself would want to hear, that I would be telling everyone and their mother the next day because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

If you’re into podcasts or not, I’d suggest you give it a try, plus this is my website and I have the right to some shameless self-promotion. Many people still don’t exactly know what these new shows entail, but I see podcasts continuing to buzz from here. It’s a new means of self-expression, to allow creativity and ideas to flow, even learn something new and shocking.

But in comes the time for gratitude because wow, you don’t actually realize the extent of work that goes into a few minutes of audio. All of the considerations to make, the time commitment involved to make sure you publish the best product possible. Sure, the actual equipment involved to start a podcast are minor compared to other media, but there’s still an immense amount of strategy and patience required to make the idea in your head translate as you imagine it to.

I’m grateful for the hard-working people behind one of my favorite pastimes. I’m grateful for a new way to tell stories, learn and grow. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to try it out, and simply put, I’d love to keep making more. The idea of reaching more people in a new way is so exciting.

What am I listening to right now, you might ask? Well, I listened to two seasons’ worth of Alice Isn’t Dead in less than a week. Homecoming came out with a second season without me realizing it, so that was a fantastic few days of quality content. I’m also looking forward to new episodes of Heaven’s Gate and Cults each week because the weird, dark subjects are admittedly my favorites.

Do you have any recommendations for me? New shows, or even your thoughts on my own podcast? Pray tell. I’d love to make more content for you all and just see where it takes me.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Think Before You Pink

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Wearing pink for breast cancer has become automatic and expected, but how much support are we providing to find a cure?

Although the month is coming to a close, every year you’re bound to see an endless array of color, not just from the changing leaves.

Pink merchandise and pink-related everything has become commonplace in October, all going toward the good cause of breast cancer. But have we ever really slowed down to really consider where this breast cancer awareness campaign originated? Or how it has spread to every inch of the public domain?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our immediate reaction then is to put our time and resources toward research, prevention, and treatment.

First off, when we think of all the pink surrounding us, we need to realize that for a majority of these “supporting” companies and products, pink designates awareness rather than research and treatment. Since the disease is so common, that means any contributions to public awareness are essentially pointless. When it comes to cancer, we don’t need to spend more time recognizing it’s there: we need proactive efforts to decrease the number and severity of cancer cases.

At the heart of it all, breast cancer awareness is marketing, and extremely successful marketing at that. Wearing or using pink products is an indicator for altruism, support for philanthropic causes, maybe personal ties to hardship. However, your pink doesn’t necessarily take into consideration if you’re actively contributing to breast cancer programs and what portion of proceeds you are. Any company can put a pink ribbon on its products since it’s not regulated by any agency. Some products sport pink ribbons to try to communicate that they are “healthy” and don’t contribute to breast cancer. Other products have a pink ribbon saying the company supports breast cancer programs even if the company’s contributions aren’t tied to the purchases of the specific product bearing the ribbon. Still other companies give a portion of an item’s cost to a breast cancer organization, but consumers might have to jump through some hoops for a donation to be realized.

Even if a product and company do tell people that a certain percentage of profit will fund breast cancer support, do they say which charities money is going to? As much as donating to charity sounds great, it can too often be manipulated to fund the charity and its employees only. Before making a purchase, ask questions. If money goes to “services,” are they reaching the people who need them most? How do screening programs ensure that women can get treatment? And how do breast cancer awareness programs address the fact that we already know that breast cancer is a problem and that action is needed in order to end the epidemic? Does the money go to truly addressing the root causes of the epidemic, like social inequities that lead to women of color and poor women dying more often of breast cancer, or environmental toxins that are contributing to high rates of breast cancer? I guess depending on how much you trust big business, you can take your chances, but I’d rather not. My personal values take priority, and if I’m voting with my dollar, it better be going to true support.

Some of the top-rated charities for breast cancer include the Breast Cancer Research FoundationNational Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. A big name for breast cancer donations is Susan G. Komen, but there have been mixed reviews over recent years for what some deemed excessive executive compensation and for “pinkwashing,” cause marketing with pink ribbons that allow companies to exploit the disease for profit. Despite the fact that it defines its mission as finding a cure for breast cancer, the organization spent $75 million on research in 2011, which is just 17 percent of its revenue, on finding a cure. Again, weigh things out for yourself so you can make the best decision possible.

My best advice, knowing all of this information, is to devote less energy toward pink products, allowing a middle-man to use your money without your complete awareness, and donate directly to top-rated organizations. Do your research. You’d think that if National Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985, we’d have a cure by now. This may be due in part by corrupt spending and false marketing. Our individual intentions are good, but we also need knowledge in our back pockets before pulling out our wallets, whether the cause is breast cancer or anything else. If companies and organizations won’t be completely honest and up-front about their practices, that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the truth, regardless of what color it sports.

Are you a pink supporter in October? Are these questions ones you have considered when buying things and participating in events?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie