Change of Scenery

It’s been nice to be back in the States. Not necessarily to fill some deep longing for America, but the people here I care about. Coming back is beginning a new chapter, starting a new internship and preparing for my final year of college.

Another change has transpired since coming back. Actually, the change occurred while I was still abroad. After living in the same town my whole life, my family has finally moved to a new city. When I left home in early January, I did so hoping that it would be the last time I would live there.

It was a surreal experience to touch down in South Dakota and not have to drive three hours to go back home. I arrived home to a brand new house, new street, new environment.

I’ve talked before about how I feel about my hometown. I don’t have the fondest memories living there. Of course it’s inevitable to endure some hardship when coming of age, but it was very difficult going back there to see my parents. Besides some friends still around the area, they were the only reason I ever went back. The second I drove into city limits, my road rage appropriately reached an all-time high.

It hasn’t been very long living here, but the first week alone, I went to so many places and went back twice to my campus (that is now only an hour away) to get some tasks completed and see others. Going from a town of 13,000 to over 100,000 is hard to fully grasp. There are so many options here that I don’t know what to do with myself.

While I could probably rave about my short time in a new city the whole post, I wanted to at least make a point worth discussing and reading. Firstly, this change has really opened my eyes to the fact that location does not determine feeling at home, but the people you’re surrounded with. It’s not a lesson I just stumbled upon, but recent events have proven it especially true. In Canada, I didn’t feel homesick, but I missed being around my friends and family. I could stay in Canada forever (or at least a long time) if had a familiar favorite face nearby.

Now for some people, coming from months in another country back to a house you have never lived in could be disorienting. I sure expected that as I hopped into a car and was driven through streets I’ve never seen before, having no idea what driveway we’d pull into. But the transition was instantaneous and simple. I didn’t once think about living elsewhere or imagining myself anywhere else. The city itself is great and the people who live here are all very nice, but coming back to my parents and spending the summer with them has been a great blessing.

My second point here is the power of changing your environment, no matter how big or small. Living back in my hometown, especially when there wasn’t any school to think about, I got stuck in ruts constantly. I found myself resorting back to a negative mindset that drug everyone down with me.

Physical location is really a minute factor. It’s the mindset you associate with it. If you’re in a place that feels draining, that’s when it’s time to leave. The process for leaving is usually a tricky, tedious one, but the end result is so worth the effort. The location is the catalyst sometimes necessary to make a fresh start for yourself, to gain a greater perspective on the world around you.

Plus, I think it’s important to travel and live in different places throughout your life, even if that means a quick road trip to somewhere new or moving to the next town over. The world is far too big to settle in a single spot with no inkling for new climates and cultures and adventures. Travel is how we learn and grow, how we truly understand each others’ differences across state and national borders. So if you want to go somewhere completely new, pack up a car and drive to a new city and start a life for yourself, I say, go for it. The personal growth of navigating somewhere new and adjusting your life accordingly is incomparable to much else.

We as humans have evolved to be adaptive to our surroundings. With enough willpower and resourcefulness, we can live in virtually any condition out there. But that inner voice that may fear the unknown, that is uncertain any other house or place could ever feel like home, holds us back from life’s greatest adventures. Moving brings about its own challenges; don’t let your insecurities also be obstacles.

Or heck, just paint a wall. Move furniture around. Plant something new. Transfer to a new school. Picking up a new hobby or routine. The simplest actions with good intentions can have a dramatic impact on our mental health. The emotions we associate with our lives are at our disposal. We might not be able to control every twist and turn life throws our way, but why not make the most of what you can control? Make the move. Take the chance.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

As Sweet as…Not Honey

I have spent much time wondering if I should discuss this topic. Ever since becoming vegan, this really hasn’t been a focus of mine to have a strong opinion for or against, although it is heavily debated in the vegan community.

Meat, dairy, and eggs are pretty obvious in that they are not ethical. There’s no valid reason why we eat the meat of certain animals over others. We have the resources to no longer rely upon meat to survive. Nor does it make sense to drink the milk of another species not remotely similar to humans, or consume infertile eggs of a bird. If we can live a healthy, satiating lifestyle without harming others, we might as well, right?

But honey is a difficult explanation as to why many do not believe in consuming it. From a standard vegan definition, honey is not vegan because it comes from an animal, a by-product that isn’t made for our own purposes. Bees produce honey as their single source of food and essential nutrients during poorer weather and the winter months. Using flower nectar, “house bees” regurgitate the nectar into honey. So yes, honey is basically sweet bee vomit. Delicious.

Depending on where honey is sourced for bear-shaped bottles or honey-sweetened products, the methods of obtaining honey can be sticky (pun intended). Farmers in larger-scale productions remove honey from a hive and replace it with a sugar substitute which is significantly worse for the bees’ health since it lacks the essential nutrients, fats and vitamins of honey. The bees then exhaust themselves by working to replace the missing honey. During the removal of honey, the bees can die after stinging the farmers. Queen bees often have their wings clipped by beekeepers to prevent them leaving the hive to produce a new colony elsewhere, which would decrease productivity and lessen profit.

There’s a reason so many are shouting from the rooftops to save the bees. They are essential to life as we know it. Without bees, the plants we rely upon for oxygen and food would not exist. Honey production isn’t always helpful in supporting bees, depending on a farmer’s intentions. Honey bees who are specifically bred to increase productivity narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large-scale die-offs. Diseases are also caused by importing different species of bees for use in hives. The honey industry, like many other commercial industries, is profit-driven where the welfare of the bees is always secondary to commercial gain.

Non-vegans and vegans alike may question this stance on honey. Bees are insects, so we cannot necessarily tell if they are harmed in honey production, if they are sentient beings that should be treated equally to the cows, pigs, and chickens we protect. For this, I have no answer. But from an ethical standpoint, especially as bees face potential extinction, consuming honey is not only detrimental to bees, it’s detrimental to the environment, and has dangerous consequences to our own food supply.

There are plenty of resources out there that explain honey production better than I can. I highly recommend this website in particular for some in-depth analysis. I’m no more knowledgeable than anybody else out there researching how to best live a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. More power to you if you take that time to figure out where your food comes from and the impact it may have on others and the environment.

With all of the information I’ve read, I would say that I now have a firmer stance against honey, most prominently honey used in mass production and found on grocery store shelves. However, I am not entirely opposed to honey that is from local beekeepers who knowingly support the bees they have. In fact, beekeeping may be our only option left for honey bees to survive at all since wild colonies are few and far between. I’m already a big proponent of buying locally, especially in this case where beekeepers take the time to do the process correctly and safely.

And for those who are still opposed to any and all things honey-related, you can still actively support local bee populations by planting bee-friendly flowers and proposing for communities to plant more of these flowers in public spaces. And, as with the proliferation of vegan-friendly products, there are plenty of honey replacements on the market that can still fill any sweet cravings.

What you decide is best for you is truly an individual decision. I’m not about to shame someone who loves a good drizzle of honey or Honey Bunches of Oats. That’s their life, their choice. But what I can do is let them know the information out there. Make it a conversation and be open-minded, as with anything. Do not let a devotion to ethics and animals deter you from the same respect for humanity. And luckily, knowledge is something that won’t sting.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Dancing Fingers

I’ve always been a fidgety person. Maybe it’s just pent-up anxiety or some form of ADD (I’m not about to self-diagnose myself), but I’m not someone known for sitting still. My foot or leg is always bobbing around. Sitting in a chair that doesn’t rock or swing feels wrong.

And, if you haven’t guessed by the title, I always have to be doing something with my hands. It’s probably why I rely on my phone often when I have nothing else nearby. Why I hate eating without some crossword or Sudoku puzzle to do. Why finger and toe nails are…rough, to say the least without grossing everybody out. Why in class, it’s my nails, my notebooks, even my skin that is a means of me having a little relief.

I know I’m not alone on this. I cannot remember how many times in class someone would complain about others clicking their pens. It’s why fidget toys have become so popular. Whether it’s a cube or spinner, they’re the new hot thing for anxious, hyperactive, and autistic students to ease some nerves and keep those kids on track. I go as far as to say that they can necessary for some people as reading glasses or hearing aids to achieve their fullest potential. Heck, I’m an adult and I still have a tub of “thinking putty” somewhere that I play with constantly.

Except now there are school districts completely banning these toys in the classroom, saying that they’re too distracting to others. Since they are now “all the rage,” everybody is buying and using them, even those who don’t necessarily need it, but have some peer pressure to not feel left out. Not a bad phenomenon for kids who need a fidget toy but might be self-conscious being the only one using something.

I completely understand why schools are taking a stance on fidget spinners similar to cell phones: they can be distracting. They lose their efficiency if everybody is just devoted to spinning plastic between their fingers. Spinners can easily become a commodity that others pass under tables or steal like packs of gum. But at the same time, it deprives students who truly benefit from that stimulation.

The immense popularity of fidget toys brings up another point of discussion for a healthy educational environment. Primary education has taken a very dire direction since my time in school. Very limited (even nonexistent) recess periods. Increased focus upon standardized test scores and standards. Less extracurricular activities at the elementary level like P.E. and arts and crafts. I never had a kid in my class who took medication for ADHD, but now it’s very common. Add in the factor of better diagnosis and treatment options for students, but the increased number of ADHD cases surely doesn’t benefit from long hours sitting at a desk, paying attention to lessons only taught for test scores.

What would happen if instead of toys, we saw these fidget-tamers as tools, reframing the conversation into one that is normal aspect of the classroom setting. Again, just like glasses or hearing aids. Touch is another sensory function, just like sight and sound. If a student is experiencing sensory difficulties that affect their lives, we provide options for alleviating them.

Scientific research further proves the benefits of fidget tools. Julie Schweitzer, a clinical psychologist at the MIND Institute at the University of California at Davis, has been studying ADHD for 25 years. Her 2015 study, published in the journal Child Neuropsychology, measured the impact of fidgeting on cognition among a group of children ages 10 to 17. Her work revealed that students with ADHD performed better on a computerized attention test the more intensely they fidgeted. Meanwhile, typical children did not improve their test score with fidgeting. So not everybody needs to run out for a little spinner, but those who have behavior issues or hyperactivity should take advantage of this opportunity when fidget-related items are readily available.

I don’t know enough to say that schools can screen for those who need fidget tools. I don’t necessarily have full-blown autism or ADHD, but I cannot even type this blog post without taking breaks to pick at a fingernail and fidget my foot the entire time. I wouldn’t be surprised if, like any other ban, people sneak around the rule and end up using fidget tools anyways. Just because we make something harder to use doesn’t mean people will stop using them. We just have to figure out how to regulate them in the classroom, having rules like any other aspect of the school day. Fidget tools may even provide a great foundation for teachers to openly discuss the purpose they serve for some students.

And hopefully we can provide more options that might be more classroom-friendly and less distracting to others. Again, I love having putty or Play-Doh. Stress balls are a classic, except they probably aren’t as stimulating necessarily. How people respond to certain fidget tools is unique. If the school system continues going in the direction it currently is, we cannot avoid to ban something helpful. For some people, yes, they are equivalent to cell phones. But you cannot discount those who rely on fidget tools for comfort and stimulation. Kids and people in general are not robots that can all operate the same way under the same conditions. We cannot expect out of ourselves or others. So if somebody needs to use a tool or technique for fidgeting that doesn’t bother or harm anybody else, for goodness sake, let them spin to their heart’s content.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Virtual Support

It is far into May already, and I have yet to observe this month as one for National Mental Health Awareness. Silly me. Luckily others have taken notice and have brought light to this important time.

Except…sometimes I don’t know how I feel about it. Of course, I appreciate any effort people take to bring attention to mental health. Earlier this week I even read an article in USA Today about mental health services on college campuses, an encouraging sign that it’s a growing issue we cannot help but discuss.

Another form of support and attention is actually just right at our fingertips. Instagram is trying to help users find more support on its platform by having certain hashtags dedicated to people and groups that help those in need. Apparently, searching for a hashtag like #HereforYou will bring up results that break through the expected facade of social media for more intimate, helpful posts.

It’s no secret that social media isn’t the healthiest pastime to depend upon. It can be depressing to look at photos of others out doing amazing, fun activities with others. Of course you’re happy for others just enjoying life, but it’s very easy to have this acknowledgement turn into comparison. Even when it’s normal to have “FOMO,” the fear of missing out, the phenomenon is extremely isolating.

And what is isolation known for leading to? Anxiety of not doing enough with your life. Feeling hopeless about it. Not to mention how mental illness is often portrayed on social media as “trendy” or “glamorous.” A sadness that isn’t crippling. A problem that is simultaneously tragic and beautiful. Sorry, but if you’re feeling especially depressed or anxious, you probably won’t feel like posting at all unless you’re mooching others for sympathy which won’t help anybody.

We’re still biased. We still use filters before sharing with others. Many other platforms besides Instagram have begun including tools that anonymously flag any content that appears emotionally troubling. By enabling users to project the highlights of their lives, while ignoring the lower moments, social media likely contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, particularly in young teens still trying to understand themselves and their emotions. Trust me, if I had this much social media at my disposal throughout my high school years, I’d be asking for trouble.

I don’t want to sound too critical. I am beyond glad that social media is using its great potential for good causes. But I don’t think that it’s enough, at least in this case. I mean, Instagram isn’t exactly the leader in actual conversation, which I think is much more productive. A lot of what we’ve tried to do thus far in breaking the stigma is more passive, despite using social media to communicate it. 140 characters doesn’t fully get the point across. Watching one video probably won’t change your outlook on depression or anxiety.

But it’s certainly an opportunity to start a conversation, to spark an idea for more. It’s wonderful to find people physically out of reach who you can connect with on a vulnerable level. We’re in a different era than even ten years ago when talking to others online was a recipe for disaster. Now we don’t even question it. We are less hesitant opening up about our struggles for anybody with a wireless connection can see. My blog would be nothing that it is without me letting down my guard and openly discussing my most painful moments.

As a writer, I’m biased toward long-form prose to express myself. Others might gravitate toward music or art or whatever else floats their boats. But I do have to question how these other mediums might affect others. Since there is more individual interpretation involved, less words overtly said, do we fully realize what might be behind a song or painting? Even when I’m rambling on about my feelings, I cannot fully explain my thoughts. So I expect nothing less with an Instagram post, no matter how artistic or “raw.” We might feel something when looking at a photograph, but how often do we act on it? Rarely. We keep scrolling. And we still see a majority of content that is usually surface-level.

Social media, as I’ve said numerous times, is a double-edged sword. Perhaps it can provide the necessary connections for learning more and spreading a positive message, but it shouldn’t be relied upon as an end-all solution. It’s a noteworthy effort that, while with good intentions, ignores the explicit association between social media and mental illness. Real life is not always “worthy” of being on an Instagram story (do people even use those? And if so, why?) or sharing with lots of friends expecting to receive a flood of “like” notifications. It probably feels worse to take the time to post something and receive less like’s than expected. Or compare like and follower numbers to others. It really is a mess when you think about it.

The quicker we can amplify the mental health movement beyond hashtags into other forums for active change and acknowledgement, the better off we’ll be. Social media posts tend to end up in a hamster wheel, creating some conversation but always fading away and remaining stagnant. We cannot afford to let mental health fade away as if it’s a trendy topic. We need conversation and action. Once we take mental health stigma to our real lives, I’d say I would be truly #blessed.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

A Little Less Jesus?

Coming back home for the summer, I was probably far too excited than most people to help my family find a new church to settle into. I’ve basically been going solo on my spirituality for quite awhile, but I do find importance in having a physical place and community to practice your faith.

That’s a little different from current trends, especially among my age group. We’re moving farther away from organized religion and relying upon “spirituality.” I use quotation marks not because I don’t believe, but because people use that term very fluidly. Sometimes it means just having some deviation from a denomination’s stricter beliefs, or it could be a greater pull to pseudoscience and new age practices like crystals and astrology. I fall in the former category. All I know about the latter is that I’m an Aquarius.

I’m not denouncing any other beliefs or religions. Quite the opposite. Learning about spirituality is fascinating to me. But I do find myself having conflicting emotions about religion, and it usually involves the sometimes hazy line between church/faith and state/everyday life.

Let’s start with the church environment itself. I grew up in one church my whole childhood. It was where I was baptized and confirmed. Once I start developing my own religious (and political) beliefs, I drew farther away from what I felt was overly political in the church. The lack of female leadership and representation. The regular mentioning of conservative political views, especially pro-life. Even the constant asking for funding. Although probably not that significant or different from other churches, these things were distracting. So much so I’ve been doing my own practice of prayers and Bible study.

Keep in mind, I’m Lutheran. A conservative sect, but still not as stringent as Catholicism. As much as I admire Pope Francis and direction he’s taking the church, I can’t help but see the Catholic Church as a business. The belief in purgatory originally created to make money. The number of manmade traditions and rituals involved. It’s just not for me.

Now here’s where I might get controversial, but it really bothers me when people mention Bible verses and very Christian-based phrases regularly, in real life, but mostly on social media. I’m proud of what I believe in, but I’ve never felt the pull to constantly mention God and Jesus in everyday conversation. There is a distinct difference between knowing when to share the Word of God and when casually preaching feels excessive. 

My faith is sacred to me. And for whatever you might believe, I hope you find comfort in that. But I never want others to feel uncomfortable or feel I am shoving ideas down their throats. I remember so often in the school setting where lines were crossed that drove me bonkers. People bringing cupcakes for pro-life organizations. A speaker on a day of alcohol awareness presentations blatantly asking who believes in Jesus. 

Religion and societal politics are water and oil. If you want them to blend together, you’ll end up shaking things up and creating chaos for temporary satisfaction. The attempted blending results in more people on the outskirts of beliefs, either pulling further away from religion or becoming so drawn to religion, it turns hostile. 

I’m not hating on those who love talking about their faith. The Bible does promote sharing its message and speaking in a godly way, and people interpret that differently. I just think we need to be aware of our actions and words, knowing when a Bible verse is appropriate or not. 

As someone who chooses my words very carefully, I find greater value in acting how I believe over always speaking in a way that can be alienating to others. “Loving thy neighbor” means respecting others’ beliefs and allowing them to feel welcome and safe with you. Following Christian teachings doesn’t require you to always weave those words into even the most informal platforms. 

It might be different if I wasn’t living in a conservative state with a predominantly Christian population, although I do have friends who don’t believe what I do, and the last thing I’d want to do is be so invested in a spiritual mindset that people I care about feel uncomfortable. I’d rather have people assume I’m spiritual from how I act and treat others than from constant references to the Bible, a book that has human flaws in some of its pages. I reserve any words of deep contemplation with God for private, appropriate moments. 

My ultimate goal would be less political churches and less religious politics. A hard bargain, I know. However, the line between the two is something we should continue to emphasize, even in places that are seemingly innocent. Of course saying “God is good!” on every Instagram post isn’t overtly confrontational, just being aware of your audience is important. Understand that the most effective message you can make doesn’t require words.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Counsel Some Coverage

I still cannot forget last week’s tearful opening from Jimmy Kimmel about his son’s heart problems and the health insurance that could leave so many people helpless.

I’ve always been a supporter of the ACA. I think healthcare is a basic human right we all deserve access to when we need it. I’m blessed enough to be able to visit my doctor when I need to and get the medication I require to feel balanced and sane, but so many others cannot.

But that’s not even the overarching topic today. I want to address a service health insurance still has yet to fully cover: counseling and therapy services. 

Now I’ve had two major experiences in a therapy setting. The first time was before college. That summer, I dropped to a severe low, so much so that I was actually considering suicide. I had been terrified of medication at that point, but my insurance covered five free sessions of counseling. 

I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for that counseling either because it was not for me. Giving me papers about mindfulness and positive affirmations isn’t that helpful. Fully knowing I was only a patient for a short frame of time, the quality of care was definitely surface-level. 

My second go-around was through my university’s student health and psychological services. This experience was better in the fact that there was actually some personal growth involved from going to the same person once a week for a solid 4 months.

However, there was a point where I felt like my own necessities for recovery, at that point for anorexia, were steering me away from counseling protocol. I felt more in control of my health knowing that I didn’t have to dread listing every food I ate and step on a scale on a regular basis. Veganism was a form of treatment my counselor didn’t quite grasp. Also, my sessions rarely delved into the reoccurring depression and anxiety I finally addressed after starting antidepressants. I’m grateful for those moments of clarity therapy provided, but right now, medication is my best route.

Except so often, when prescribing medication, doctors also suggest doing some form of counseling, too. Especially when first being diagnosed with mental illness, therapy can be very helpful in being able to pinpoint your emotions and how to handle them.

Everybody is different in how they best treat their mental health. Some do therapy, medication, or both, or neither (although not recommended). When mental health is still a tricky area of coverage with most insurance, options become even more limited. Which means people actively seeking help are being turned away from what they need. Depending on the severity of the illness, people could end up leading a very difficult life when they don’t have to if they received the respect and recognition they deserve. 

I don’t care if your mental health is great or not, I believe everybody, at least one point in their life, should do some counseling. It can be uncomfortable to think about yourself, your life and hard emotions, but the insight you can gain is indescribable. Except knowing how expensive therapy is without any means of insurance, it just doesn’t seem practical to try, especially if it takes some trial and error to find a counselor you click with. 

Mental health stigma transcends beyond just societal hesitation. Many aspects of life overlook the importance of mental health, including healthcare and health insurance. Mental illness is just as detrimental to individuals as physical illness is, and yet we continue to treat them as very different, distinct things. As if psychology is not science and proven fact. As if wellness only pertains to your visible condition, discluding your brain as an organ.

I might not be using therapy right now, but I could easily see myself going back to it in the future. And everybody should be able to rely upon counseling services if that is what works best for them. People should not have their only insurance-covered therapy be an awkward experience that steers them away from any future counseling. We need affordable means of seeing top-quality psychologists and counselors who have the potential to save lives. If we want to think about mental health differently, we cannot change much without support from professionals. That requires healthcare and insurance. That requires action.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

News or Noise?

I had a very…bumpy ride returning back to the States after studying abroad. It involved a passenger getting so ill on the flight, we landed in Pittsburgh rather than Dallas and had to wait about two hours for them to “clean things up.” I arrived home five hours later than planned. Well, I’m just glad to be back.

Except, only to a certain extent. There are some things I really did not miss. Not one bit. Reasons I was glad to leave the States for as long as possible. Not only did I miss not driving by pro-life and pro-gun billboards, but I sure didn’t miss hearing about our current situation in the White House and all the drama involved.

Admittedly, I was around lots of news stations on Trump’s 100th day in office that coincided with environmental marches in some US cities. But beyond that, whenever the news pops on, there is inevitably involving something about Trump. The ridiculous number of executive orders he’s signed or whatever random remarks he makes or the questionable interactions he has with others. Personally, I did not sign up for politics to turn into a reality show.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start writing about politics as if I feel qualified enough to discuss major issues. It’s not my thing. But regardless of what you know or not, it has become everyone’s business. We cannot avoid the incessant antics of the Trump administration and the fear it has created with nations like Russia and North Korea. Heck, it’s tense enough in our own country, thinking about facing conflict with others just sounds a recipe for disaster.

As a media consumer, I know that when I choose to turn on a television or read whatever headlines make the top of an aggregated list, I subject myself to mercy of media bias, what platforms want to focus their attention upon. Media cannot determine how we as individuals think, but it determines what topics we think about. Whether you like to think about it or not.

Which means that even when I’m not consciously searching out the latest US and world news, people are talking about it. It’s a new topic for small talk knowing that usually someone has SOMETHING to say about White House-related antics. Maybe I should care more, but most of the time, it lacks depth. The issue discussed doesn’t result in healthy political debate and awareness; it’s a lot of complaining. 

Just like my rant about violence depicted on the news, this is no different to me. That we are becoming numb to the static noise. That it’s weird to NOT have a new Trump update to critique. A newscast that doesn’t have at least one mention of Trump feels off. 

If we have so much to say about one person and his employees, why aren’t we putting this energy into action? We certainly have through marches across the country and leaders speaking out for the voiceless, but I wish the constant stream of Trump was replaced with others, a diversity in the people and stories we follow. 

This is probably a vague request to ask as someone who hasn’t been immersed in this new wave of reporting and new administration. Coming in with no expectations, it’s overwhelming. It feels imbalanced. It’s as if there’s a thick fog clouding our vision of any other lens, and I’m in dire need of fresh air.

One person’s rambling won’t change much. I know that. All I ask is that we not only point the finger at the drastic decisions Trump makes that affect everybody, but also criticize and analyze the news outlets framing a very narrow lens. Whether that lens skews left or right, there has to be a middle ground. The sooner we find that, the easier it will be to rationally respond to issues of concern and broaden our horizons to not-so glamourous issues.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie