Sunday, February 1, 2015

On memory, memorialization and the memorial process.

In a recent class assignment I was asked to consider what is 'memory', what is 'memorialization', and what is the most important part of the memorial process. My answers are as follows: 

For me, memory is the record of mental connections we make using our emotions and senses. It follows then, that memorialization is the public or private recognition of, and engagement with those recorded connections. Take, for example, a war memorial in a small town. For the people of that town the memorial represents the active acknowledgment of their emotions and respect for those involved in the war, both as military personnel and as civilians. The establishment of such reminders is an oftentimes difficult and complex process of balancing collective and individual memories. Memorialization does not necessarily have to culminate in a physical representation, it can also be an action, like raising a toast to a loved one departed, or tending to a garden while actively remembering the person who taught you about plants and gardening. Therefore, I believe that the most important part of the memorial process is the active engagement with the memories through recognizing and honoring the events that created them. 

So, I encourage those of you who read this to consider the questions put before me in this assignment. I would love to hear your answers!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

For the Ladies (and the men who care): IMAGE

I recently read an article on Yahoo that posed this question: what do women who wear sizes 14+* prefer to be called. In the article, the author references notable 'plus sized' celebrities as role models but claim 'curvy' is a less offensive word choice. Interestingly, they also include a link (Curvy Quotient Quiz) to an interesting poll presented by an advertising agency that works with companies such as Lane Bryant (a store noted for catering to 'plus sized' or 'curvy' women). This poll asks questions about how women deal with their curves.

Upon taking the quiz and using their limited options to answer their questions as truthfully as possible I received the score of 'confidently curvy'. For the most part I do embrace my curves, but as several of my friends, and most definitely my mom, can attest, there are times when I truly loathe them; particularly when bra shopping, it can be such a pain to find the beautiful style/design I want in the style I want. In all honesty though, I am overweight.

There, I said it.

I fully admit that I need to loose some weight and definately need to be more active. That being said, I work every day to make sure that I am confident in myself for one reason or another. Most of the time that reason has NOTHING to do with how I look, and on days when it does I feel GOOOD! You know what I mean, that moment when you look in the mirror before heading out for the day and think, "WOW, I didn't think I could look this professional/nice/beautiful/well-dressed!"

Getting back to the previously mentioned article. I know women who are at a healthy weight, active and have true CURVES and those who DON'T and they're beautiful. I also know women who are somewhat healthy/not healthy, and have curves (Yup, thats ME) and are gorgeous. I also know countless women who are absolutely STUNNING, but are hurting because they allow themselves to fall into a vicious cycle of self-loathing and depression and a number of other issues related to self-confidence. What many, particularly the fashion and entertainment industries, don't understand is that these issues affect ALL types of women, regardless of size!

Self-confidence is a huge factor in a person's life (yes, men have issues too). One thing I have learned is that helps is to find some way to recognize and accept your talents, gifts, or virtues. A few months ago I challenged a friend to look herself straight in the eye in the mirror each morning, honestly, and without blinking say out loud just ONE thing she likes about herself. If she couldn't do it in the morning then she had the day to find something good to say. To my knowledge she didn't accept my challenge but I hope you all will.

So I will leave you with this challenge,

Look yourself in the eyes each morning and WITHOUT BLINKING, say one thing that you truly love about yourself. Be brutally honest, and as you keep striving to find new things, eventually you'll wake up and realize that you are beautiful, confident, and above all.... you love yourself for who you are. Wobbly bits and all!

*This number is not meant to be discriminatory, rather it is the common size definition of 'plus sized'

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Castles, bagpipes and pints

I would like to begin by apologizing for such a long break between my posts. It's been a crazy beautiful last few weeks. So without further ado....

My journey with Erika and Jenny continued in the enchanting city of Edinburgh where we arrived in a bit of a disoriented state, as the helpful tourist info kiosks were closed for the night. Fortunately we were able to find the appropriate bus to get into the city. Our first real introduction to Edinburgh was the climb up to 'Old Town' and our aptly named hostel, Castel Rock (you MUST stay here if you're visiting). It was situated down some stairs and directly across the street from the imposing Edinburgh Castle. 

Day 1
We hit the ground running on our first day, starting with a walking tour of Edinburgh. While meandering around the city we learned some of its history and local tales. Afterwards we were invited by our guide to try some local cuisine at a charming pub off of the Royal Mile. Jenny was the adventurous one and ordered Haggis while Erika and I both got bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes). As good friends and travelers do we agreed to share a bite of our meals and I discovered that inspite of its atypical ingredients, haggis is actually quite delicious. 
 After lunch we had some time to pass before our back to back ghost tour and pub crawl so we wandered in and out of the shops in search of souvenirs. 

The ghost tour was fascinating, it began with a hike up Carlton Hill which was believed to be an entrance to the Faerie relm in the mideval age. From there we descended Jacobs Ladder to learn more about body snatchers, murders, canibals and vampires. When that tour was done we rejoined the living in a pub crawl around some of Edinburgs many pubs and clubs. During the crawl we also reunited with some friends from the earlier walking tour and proceeded to dance and drink the night away. 

Day 2
The next morning dawned with the three of us needing a hearty breakfast and lots of water. Unfortunately our enticing meal was bittersweet as Erika had to leave us and meet up with her parents. After saying our farewells, Jenny and I opted to find some shelter from the snow flurries and do some retail therapy at the local boutiques. She was also kind enough to try on all of the roughly 50 dresses I picked out.

Once the snow stopped we found our way to Hollyrod House, the local Royal residence in Edinburgh. It was a beautiful building and the grounds exemplified the mystique that surrounds everything Scottish. After touring the mannor, Jenny and I discovered an adorable Victorian style tea house where we got some drinks to warm up before climbing Carlton Hill for a photoshoot.

After returing to the city from the climb, we meandered back towards our hostel in search of some good food. We settled on a local pub and dinner of Haggis, a burger, and beer.  It was an early night as we had a train to catch in the morning.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Luck o' the Irish

Last month I undertook yet another travel adventure, this time in the British Isles. Accompanying me were my friends Jenny and Erika. In the next few posts I will attempt to capture the beauty and excitement that is traveling with friends in a few enchanting places, namely Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Bristol.

Herein lies the tale of my exploits in DUBLIN

Day 1

My first exposure to Ireland I feel I can only describe as a sort of baptism. Almost immediately after stepping off the bus from the Airport I was greeted by a gust of wind and pelting rain. Fortunately my umbrella survived just long enough for me to walk to my hostel (the Four Courts, which I highly suggest) and check in. I was not so lucky on my expedition to get some lunch as I was soaking wet and had to wait for about an hour while a tour group left the Brazenhead Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland.
A traditional Irish Beef & Guinness stew!

The wait was well worth it though for a cozy and charming place to warm up and get some traditional Irish food. After lunch I hurried back to hostel, deciding that staying inside and dry was better than tromping around Dublin trying to do touristy things alone. Luckily, while chilling and reading I started a conversation with a semi-local Irishman named Tyrone, who just happens to be a cast member in HBO's Game of Thrones and History's Vikings. He was kind enough to keep me company with movies and conversation for the rest of the afternoon and evening until Erika and Jenny arrived.

Day 2
The rain had stopped during the night so the girls and I decided that a walking tour of Dublin was in order. I've found that doing such a tour is a great introduction to any city as it usually gives you a decent overview of the city's history and some historical trivia gems. For example, the denial of
George Lucas's request to film the Jedi Library scenes in the Long Room at Trinity College led to his using an almost exact digital recreation in Episode II.

 Our guide borrowed my friends camera and took this pic

We then made our way to the Guinness Storehouse to learn about how the famous brew is made. Its an interesting place with cool interactive displays on the brewing process. Despite the crowd you should definitely go up to the Gravity Bar to enjoy your free Guinness and the amazing view of the city. 

Day 3
We started out the day pretty late by having brunch in a charming cafe while waiting for our tour. At our scheduled time we made our way to Kilmainham Gaol, one the most famous prisons in Dublin. During our tour we learned that it was open from the late 1700s till 1924 and housed leaders in the Easter uprising and other revolutionary Irishmen. What I found intriguing was the fact that years after it closed some of the former inmates returned to clean the place up and turn it into a museum.
 We then meandered a bit around central Dublin and met up with Erika's friend who was studying there.
After dinner we had to hurry and catch our group for a pub crawl. We went to 5 different places. The 2nd and 3rd were my favorite as they had live music and the sort of fun atmosphere you'd expect from a traditional Irish pub. We also made some friends over good drinks and singing along to the music.

The Old Storehouse was our 2nd stop of the night, I HIGHLY suggest you go there if you're ever in Dublin

Day 4
We started the day of with a visit to the Jameson brewery. After an informative tour we were given a free taste of the famous whiskey which was delicious, mine was mixed with ginger soda and lime. Erika and Jenny became certified whiskey tasters by trying scotch, Jameson whiskey and Jack Daniels bourbon. We then wandered to a museum on Dublin's history, starting from the time of the Vikings.
It was a fantastic little interactive place with exhibits about almost every aspect of life in Dublin as it developed into the beautiful city it is today. It also included a section on current excavations and how Dubliners are preserving their history.

For now I wish you happy days and will have the next stage of the journey up soon! Cheers


I am a horrible person, I promised ya'll more frequent blogging and I've thusfar failed you. Please accept my sincerest apologies and a promise that the next post will be up later tonight. Thanks!!! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Brussels, land of Beer and Politics!!

During the first week of March I was fortunate enough to travel with my European Politics class. We went to the beautiful city of Brussels where many of the institutions of the European Union are located.

Day 1: Sunday
We flew out of Copenhagen early Sunday morning. The flight was extreamly short and when we landed there was a distinct air of excitement amongst the group. After taking a bus to our airport and dropping off our bags we had lunch and split into tour groups. Our first belgain waffel was dessert at lunch.
 I chose the bike tour which lasted 3 hours, seeing some of the most beautiful views of Brussels and learning that Copenhagen might be the only city without hills. Dinner that night was on our own so some friends and I meandered in the blocks around the mideval city center. Later we found a bar that our professor suggested to us, and I highly suggest to you; Delirium. There I had my first Belgain beer, called Barbar Blonde, which was delicious!

Day 2: Monday
The day started with a visit to NATO and continued with fantastic food related activities. For lunch we had a traditional meal of mussles at a restaurant just a few blocks from the charming mideval city center.  For dessert we were treated to a lesson in chocolate making, and its history. We learned that there are 3 main ingrediants in chocolate and 4 major providers of the basic formulas. Once they determine their recipie, chocolatiers send their specific recipies to one of those companies with their order. The rest of the evening was spent meandering around Brussels with my fellow students.

Day 3: Tuesday
We visited the European Commission on Tuesday and were treated to a discussion on European Policy and the relationship between US policy makers and their counterparts in the European Union. In their lobby they had a mobile (pictured above) depicting all the different institutions of the EU. Afterwards we split into groups to our interviews of lobbyists. Interestingly, in the EU lobbyiests are more respectful than lobbyists in the US are generally considered. My group interviewd a lobbyist for the agriculture sector in the Netherlands. Their office works to make sure that everyone in the production chain has a voice in EU policy decisions regarding agriculture. Our next tour was of the European Parliament, similar to the US House of Representatives. 

Day 4: Wednesday
The day started with a visit from representatives of the US mission to the EU, which was inspiring since that's where I hope to work someday. Later we split into smaller groups to go intervew permanent representatives from EU member states to the European Council. Interestingly we actually interviewed the public relations/spokesperson for the Netherlands rather than the minister. That being said, the interview gave me some insight into how diplomats must make a clear distinction between their opininons and the official decisions in discussions. After the interviews we went to the charming Magritte Museam. Though they didn't have the most famous paintings by the surealist painter their collection was beautiful and intreguing. That night found me once again hanging out with friends at Delirium for after-dinner drinks, this time I had a grapefruit beer called Pink Killer. It tasted like a Blue Moon, pink lemonade shandy and was posatively fantastic. 

Day 5: Thursday
Sadly this was our last day in Brussels as we were moving on to visiting The Hague. We had a group visit to the European Union External Action Service, essentialy the foreign service of the EU. It was intresting to learn about how and why the EEAS was created and the various complications that arise in working with the individual foreign services of EU member states. Fortunately we were allowed a few hours of free time before we had to load up on a bus and leave. During that time I meandered around and found this lovely sculpture of a Smurf. Prior to this trip I didnt know that the Smurfs originated in Belgum, along with several other well known cartoon characters. 
After leaving Brussels we bussed to a Trappist monistary in The Netherlands. At this monistary they brewed beer in order to help their community and particluarly those with troubled  backgrounds. That night we stayed in a lovely hotel in The Hague. 

Day 6: Friday
We started our last day of traveling with a visit to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. We were breifed on what the lawyers and such have done regarding the apprehending and trying of war criminals. Surprisingly they are currently involved in the final trial of war criminals and will be shutting down as soon as appeals are finished, which they expect will be in 2015. From there we traveled to the beautiful city of Amsterdam! After a delightful lunch at a small cafe we were given a few hours free time before meeting up for our flight. I chose to join a group for a quick tour of the Red Light district and some background information. It was interesting to learn about how the system works with police protection for the workers and how they get their spots or 'windows'. After meandering around near the central station for an hour or two it was time to head to the airport and return to lovely Copenhagen. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I must appologize to you, my readers, for not updating this blog in over a month. I just got back from a trip to Brussels and will be updating with that story as soon as possible. Please be patient with me folks.