This Thanksgiving, remember today’s refugees

When the holidays come around it’s often easy to focus on the festivities and the food. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. Not only from the holiday perspective, but also from an international perspective. Interesting article.

Global Public Square

By Alice Farmer, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Alice Farmer is a children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive research on unaccompanied migrant children around the world. The views expressed are her own.

This week kicks off one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Millions will set out for Thanksgiving, a holiday that celebrates how refugees from religious persecution found freedom in a new land. I’ll be one of those traveling. And while I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends, I’m not looking forward to the hassle: long flights, cramped seats, and the difficulty of finding a taxi at 3 a.m.

Of course, I’ll be travelling legally, with the right paperwork. Most of us can’t imagine how much harder it is to cross international borders if you can’t get your papers in order. Yet millions of people fleeing war and instability, or fearing…

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Count to Ten

Whoa there, ok!  Let’s just take a step back and count to ten.

There will be changes in life that sometimes are difficult to address.  Perhaps the natural human reaction is to hunker down and wait until the storm passes.  Why do we do this?  Is it the fear of failure, or the fear of finding a part of ourselves that we never expected to have?

I’ve just started college and as horrifying as the thought of paying back student loans and keeping scholarships is, there are other goals that I have in mind.  The first and foremost of these is standing up for myself.

Carla Harris, a Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, once gave an alum speech at my university.  One metaphor that stuck with me was this:

“When the storm comes, most people are going to tell you to hunker down, hold onto what you have, and just wait until it passes.  But!  This is the time for you to stand tall!  Because when everyone else in crouching low, you can stand up straight and tall with a clear, plane of vision.” 

In light of the new college environment and awkward independence I have found it difficult to take some time to slow things down and just breathe.

One of the oldest tricks in the book to calm stress or overwhelming situations is the “Count to Ten” rule.  I remember when I was younger how frustrated I used to get whenever my mom told me to count to ten.  What was ten seconds going to do for my problem?  Thinking back on it now, maybe I had it all wrong.

So, this is what I’m going to do today: Count to Ten

ONE:  The rest of my life is ready to be made and for perhaps the very first time I have a say in which direction it’s going to go.

TWO: In life there will be losses and gains.  One must know loss in order to be thankful for what is given and achieved.  I have lost a best friend whom I thought would be there for life.  I guess I was wrong.  Am I always the problem?  NO.  You have a right to speak your perspectives while being open to others.  A friendship must have compromise, respect, understanding, and most importantly forgiveness.  

THREE: The past may make the present but the present will determine the future.  Staying in touch with reality and what is happening in the present will help alleviate some of the overwhelming decisions that may be too far in the future to even accomplish yet.  Take it slow.

FOUR: Focus on improving yourself so that when the time comes you can help others.  Comparing your assets to another’s is illogical due to the fact that we are all different and thus have different talents, dreams, and methods of achieving happiness.

FIVE: Speaking of happiness, you are the one who defines happiness for yourself.  It’s a complicated and complex feeling and often involves great sacrifice and hardship to achieve.  Respect for those who have found their niche is important.

SIXDo what you love.  Although you may not be the best, you will have stayed true to your integrity and given back to the area of interest that first gave you that magical urge to express yourself.

SEVEN: Acknowledge that your opinions come from your experiences.  Something that is quite natural may not be natural for someone else.  Respect differences.  It’s okay to sit back and listen once in a while.  Give others a chance to speak, who knows what doors will open for you.

EIGHT: Be open to change and ready to face new challenges.  Development of character isn’t just something that is done in a book or a movie.  Change is real and applies to each and every one of us.  It’s ok to be the hero of your story, because…well, it’s your life!

NINE: Disclaimer, the ordinary is often the most extraordinary.  Be the hero in your life, not the ruler of someone else’s.

TEN:  Go ahead and make plans, but leave some room for life to happen.  There’s no telling where it’s going to go so hold on tight and don’t close your eyes.  Today is the day to dream.  Today is the day to do.  Today is the day that is completely, wholly, and eternally you.

And exhale.  I hope this is useful for you guys!  Have a great day!  🙂

1920s Murder Mystery: Conclusion

Johnny Torrio

Here it is at last: the conclusion to the 1920s Murder Mystery Game! Sorry if anyone doesn’t like the ending, it’s my first one 🙂

Setting and Story
Characters
Round 1 of Clues
Round 2 of Clues
Round 3 of Clues
Round 4 of Clues

Conclusion

 Hélas!  It was John Torrio who ruthlessly murdered Robert Kingsley.

When Robert went downstairs to sign for the food catering he caught Torrio carrying away some of the food boxes.  A gentleman at heart, Robert didn’t call out to Torrio, feeling that it was none of his business and returned to the party.

When Elizabeth sent him down again to actually go get the food, Robert sulked for a bit, all the servants and even the doorman was on vacation.  Out of curiosity, he watched Torrio.  Instead of picking up a box, Torrio left the group into his garage.  Robert followed Torrio into his office garage where he suspected man was going to work on the car that Elizabeth had totaled, perhaps a high-end party like this one was too much for poor old Torrio.

There was no one in the garage.  Robert found this odd and stepped inside to take a look.  Walking around to the other side of the car, he saw instead of Torrio, the boxes containing not food, but bricks of dehydrated grapes.  The instructions attached to the outside of the box read:

“WARNING do not dissolve the brick in a gallon of water, add sugar, shake daily and decant after three weeks. Unless the buyer eschews these processes, 13%, wine will be produced.”

 This was very strange, not to mention illegal.  As a war veteran for the United States, Robert took it as his duty to confront Torrio to make him see the light about the evil nature of alcohol and the well-meaning, although inconveniently placed prohibition act.

What Robert didn’t know at the time when he made that poor life decision was that John Torrio was in fact THE John Torrio of the Chicago outfit!  One of the top gangsters and very dangerous.

“Torrio!” Robert shouted, “Come out here and explain yourself!” A dark outline emerges from the doorway, apparently Torrio had known he was being followed.

“Torrio, this is illegal and you know it!” Torrio grimaced at this, perhaps a false attempt at a smile and advances.

“It’s a shame you couldn’t have left things alone, I was going to bring some of it to your dinner party.”  Torrio took an empty wine bottle and pressed it up against Robert’s back.  Thinking it to be a gun, Robert stiffened and walked forward when Torrio pushed. 

They walked into the now empty lobby area where Robert turned around.  As he did, Torrio raised the wine bottle and bludgeoned Robert’s head, again and again until the bottle shattered and Robert fell lifeless to the floor.

In a slight panic, Torrio rushes up the elevator carrying the last of the boxes to the penthouse where all the guests were gathered.  No one suspected a thing.  The only aspect Torrio didn’t account for was the large snowstorm.  Of course he will be put on trial, but several months from his imprisonment, a mysterious power outage will occur and Prisoner 209 will have escaped with no one around to see him. 

John Torrio recruited the infamous Al Capone

Slight Explanation

Farmers could profit from alcohol made out of grapes and fruit (Blocker). The government didn’t want the grape industry to fail so fruit juices were still legal (Slavicek 56). Farmers sold their harvest in fruit blocks, often called bricks: dehydrated fruit that could easily be turned into alcohol (Slavicek 56). In fact, warning labels that came with the fruit explained how to do so (“Prohibition: Wine…”)

Section 29 of the Volstead Act was the farmer’s price for supporting Prohibition. Under that clause he was permitted to continue making his own applejack or blackberry wine on the legal fiction that it was a non-intoxicating fruit-juice for home consumption.

Soon shrewd vine-yardists seized upon Section 29 to supply the wine wants of city folk. Virginia Dare Vineyards, Inc. promised to ship a grape juice that would ferment into champagne in the home and thus be quite legal (TIME, Aug. 6, 1928).

Waiting for Peace No. 3

Happy National Adoption Month!

WORDS are often hard to come by in this life. 

There’s always an opportunity to opt out of saying just exactly what you want to say. 
But there NEVER is a time when it will be the same.  Words are hard to come by; they don’t actually mean anything. 
The actual breakdown of language requires a breakdown of all we say, know, hear, and understand.  
But then again, words are a MANIFESTATION, an EXAMINATION, of what we don’t understand.   
I’ve never been able to express myself in a way that both moved the reader, the listener, and myself.   

HERE WE GO:

  

I am ADOPTED. I come from China.  My mom got me and now we are TOGETHER.

NO, I don’t know who my birth parents are.  NO, I’ve never met them and I don’t know anything about them.

No, no it’s okay I’m not sad.  Are YOU sad?  It’ll be alright, DON’T worry.  It didn’t happen yesterday.

I’m very HAPPY and GRATEFUL that I am here.  If I hadn’t been adopted then I wouldn’t know you!  STOP looking at me like that.  Everything is fine.

FINE.

Is everything actually fine?  No, no it’s not.  Sometimes when I’m tired, tired of running from the ever present starting line, I am forced to face the fact that I am the UNKNOWN.

I am the feared and the mysterious.  I am a mystery to myself.

UNKNOWN.

Abandoned? No, I am FOUND.  How many times I’ll have to find myself I do not know, but however many is the number of times when I will no longer be unknown.

I shall be FOUND.  I shall be UNCOVERED.  I shall be LOVED.

Loved by my family, loved by another, and loved by MYSELF.  One day that starting line will become my FINISH LINE.

My finish line will become MY HOME.  It has always belonged to me.

I’m making this up as I go.  So, wait for me.  I am coming.

I AM BLAZING A TRAIL full of promises, wishes, desires, disappointment, heartbreak, love, laughter, sadness, defeat, and success.

I’ll meet you there with HOPE to lead the way and my FAITH to guide me.

I’ll see you there.

 

HAPPY NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH!!!

 

Waiting for Peace No. 2

“Inherent Beauty” by Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, 2010

I’m too ugly for you!
She cries out desperately in the dark
Hoping that if she keeps striking the cold stone walls of her own prison heart a spark will form
Lighting the dead grass at her feet
To create a flame so hot she can conquer the eternal cold
To feel some type of joyful pain just so she knows her heart can still feel the difference.

~Keys2Change

There is such a culture around today that accepts the notion of beauty…or in this case, the lack of beauty.  Whenever I see a girl, or a boy, concede to the fears that they’ll never be loved or wanted, it makes my heart break.

It’s like taking a look in the mirror with hopeful eyes and holding up a checklist of qualities that people have told us makes us worthwhile.  We are taught to say, “whatever, I don’t care.”  This will make us strong.  This will take care of the uncertainty.  This will make us better…

This is a lie.

I’d like to take a quick look at the importance of distinguishing what is peace, and what is indifference.  What good can indifference do for us?

Why do we harbor so much doubt in ourselves?  Why not take a definitive stand to not be afraid to call ourselves beautiful.  Express the qualities that give you a feeling of peace and accord with yourself.  Show the world and the people in your life the light inside of you.

Stand up to the fear of being hurt and tell it to take a hike.

Does this sound sappy and preachy and unrealistically positive? Good.  Every once in a while, it’s necessary to drop the act and lower the defenses.  This doesn’t mean one should leave the gates wide open, but to be honest and prepared.  Hope is a great proponent of courage, and it should never be taken for granted.

It is often quoted that:

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”

~Meg Cabot

Perhaps this something involves a combination factors, and, one of these factors I believe includes hope.  Just like love, hope needs to be cared for and encouraged.  One of the best ways to achieve such hope is to share it with others.  No one likes to sing and dance in front of the crowd alone, so give others a sign that it’s okay to see who you are through your own eyes and not the standards of others.

Everyone is in a different circumstance but we all possess the possibility of humanity’s nature to change.  Some days are going to be worse than others, but then again, there will be days that are going to be brighter.

With that, I sincerely wish for all of you to take a look in the mirror again to see that inherent beauty resides in all of us.  Have a great day!

1920s Murder Mystery Round 4 of Clues!!!

Round 4 is finally here! John doesn’t have a clue in this round. Sorry :p

I’ll be putting the conclusion up pretty soon! Thanks for your patience!!

Setting and Story
Characters
Round 1 of Clues
Round 2 of Clues
Round 3 of Clues
Conclusion

Round 4

 

Alberto:  “Wait!” cries Al, “there’s something in Robert‘s hand.”  When no one volunteers to touch Robert’s body, Al steps up to pry the piece of paper from Robert’s already stiffening grip.  The note is written in Robert’s handwriting and reads as follows: “Warning: Do not dissolve the brick in a gallon of water.  Do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days.  If one does so it will turn into wine.” There is something on the back too, a name?  However, it is smeared and beyond legibility.

Elizabeth: Elizabeth takes a closer look at the note and sees faintly the light resemblance of the letter ‘t’ She looks about the room and wonders who Robert was referring to.

Mendobale: Mrs. Mendobale finally reveals her secret and slowly tells Elizabeth that Robert had taken up gambling.  His finances were in ruin and he had come to her for help and a loan.  When she refused, Robert pleaded with her not to tell his wife.  Naturally, Mrs. Mendobale had to tell Elizabeth and threatened to do so unless he did favors for her such as the grocery shopping, and even a few dollars to gamble and bring back to her.  Ever since his return from the war Robert had been growing steadily more impatient with their arrangement and threatened her with violence.  Mrs. Mendobale then took to carrying a heavy paperweight just in case.

Joe: Al has been looking at John strangely ever since the evening started.  “Hey, don’t I know you?” he says.  John looks about uncomfortably and tries to evade Al’s gaze.  “I’m pretty sure we’ve never met,” he mumbles and adjusts his collar.  While doing so a part of flesh can be seen and Al spots the unmistakable sign of the gangs.  Perhaps he had just gotten out of jail?

Lacy: Lacy breaks down crying into Elizabeth’s shoulder.  She admits to having been the one who was drinking before the party.  She had forgotten to leave the bottle in Al’s Rolls Royce and had stashed it behind the trash bin for later.  When she went to look for it later she had found it missing and suddenly realized that her wine bottle and murder weapon were one in the same.  Crushed and panicked, she engaged Al in her secret and the two worked it out that keeping this a secret would be the best for everyone.  Let’s just say that Al is no longer a part of Elizabeth’s Prohibition Support Group.

A Walk to Remember: Vincent Van Gogh, Part One

Two Cut Sunflowers August-September 1887 Arles, France

It was as if a grand chasm had opened beneath us and the name was trapped reverberating over and over again Vincent, Vincent.  

“Hey, ” my hand wavered in the air, this guy looked familiar, “your last name isn’t Van Gogh is it?”  Social grace eludes me in the most opportune moments.

He looked surprised, “yes it is, do I know you?  I should think that I know most everyone around here, even if not on the best terms.”  His eyes implored acceptance and I noticed that his shirt billowed freely against his thin frame.

“What year is it?” I inquired  Of course it was impossible that this could be THE Vincent, but what else could I assume?

“1888,” he looked at me curiously as if to make sure I wasn’t mocking his sensibilities, “and what is your name?”

No, this isn’t happening.  Words wouldn’t come.  I’m just dreaming and soon this Van Gogh will morph into something else.  A shiver knocked my gaze to the ground and Vincent stepped forward offering a steady hand.  “You must be freezing.  Where are you staying?”

The night was chilly and I could see our breaths puffing rhythmically in the air.  “I-I’m not sure,” I answered.  Standing there in my night pajamas I felt ridiculously small.

“Please, don’t be afraid.  My cottage isn’t too far away from here.  You can stay for the night.  Come.”

Deep inside my head, my voice pounded against its catatonic walls ripping itself to shreds with the stabbing pains of exhaustion and helplessness.   I’ve always had a difficult time managing situations, but this, this I should be able to handle.  It was just a dream after all, wasn’t it?

“Good then, it’s settled.”  He didn’t wait for my answer and I proceeded to help collect his fallen belongings.

If this was a dream, shouldn’t I have the control? Shouldn’t I have the power?  The wind blew again and for the first time I felt the cold bite through my thin pajamas and settle into my bones.  If this really was THE Van Gogh, then maybe everything would be fine.  Only morning would tell.

Bedroom in Arles, October 1888
Bedroom in Arles, October 1888

He walked fast.  I was trailing behind carrying some of his jars and boxes.  They jostled and clinked together as I more stumbled than walked through the dark woods.  After a period which seemed like eternity, I imagined that I could see the glimpse of an outline of a house.  But judging by moonlight isn’t particularly easy.

“We’re here,”  he had stopped and I peered around trying to make out the ethereal form of a door.  I heard a creak, and for a moment I was alone outside.

Then, all of a sudden the scene was illuminated before me and in that moment I thought my eyes were literally going to fall out of my head.

They didn’t.

But my jaw had dropped and the cold dissipated for a split second.

Have you ever seen the Bedroom in Arles? He painted it in 1888 and it’s diagonal walls with bright colors all undulating in an upturned perspective has always captured me, and others, in fascination.  This is what I saw when he lit the lanterns in his small cottage.

“Well, uh, this is it.  You can have my bed, I’ll sleep in the living room. We can sort out this situation in the morning.”  He leaned on the door frame in an awkward stance.  

“Thanks for the room,” I said, and with that, he then turned and shuffled into the next room leaving the lantern to flicker around the walls, chairs, and bed.

Here’s the introduction! Click here