Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Sing a song about the heartland..."

"...the only place I feel at home."

Sunset as seen from the peak of Mt. Leconte

As I am mentally preparing for my big trip to Italy at the end of this week, I have spent some time reflecting on other places I have traveled to throughout my life. England, New York, Jamaica, Colorado, and others immediately come to mind, but there is one place that stands out among the rest: the Great Smoky Mountains  National Park in Tennessee.

On the most recent trip that my family and I took, we began trying to count the number of times that I have been there. We figured it out to be around thirteen. Thirteen times visiting the same exact place. My parents' numbers are even higher!

I can almost say that I have, in a sense, grown up in the Smokies. Vacations there have become a tradition in my family. I can't say exactly what it is that keeps calling us back; maybe it's the scenery, the tranquility, the history, or the "getting back to nature" aspect. But then again, all of those things can certainly be experienced and felt somewhere other than the Smokies. So what else can it be...? I've come down to a conclusion.


There is something truly magical about this place. I can feel it in my bones, and I know my family can, too. 

There is also something truly magical about being so familiar. It's almost as if I know the mountains' secrets. Like I've lived a million lifetimes there, and there is nowhere else on earth where I could feel so completely fulfilled.

Even from a very young age, I can remember the feeling of finally being "home" hitting me the second we entered the park. It was a sensation that would slowly creep in starting at the Georgia state line, growing steadily stronger through North Carolina, and Tennessee, but never reaching it's height until we were surrounded by the mountains. Suddenly I would be wide awake and giddy with excitement. All the windows would go down, and my mom's old James Taylor cd would begin to play. 

There has never been a time where I was disheartened to hear that my parents had, again, decided on the Smokies as our summer vacation destination. On the contrary, I was often relieved to know that I would soon be returning. Too much time away and I began to long for something to breathe life into my soul; the kind of life that can only be found in the magic of the Smokies. I have a strong suspicion that my family felt the exact same way. 

It never takes too much to bring me back. A song, a scent, a wisp of a memory, an old picture, and suddenly I am missing it so badly it makes my heart ache.

Cades Cove, TN

Whenever I try to imagine my future home, I always think that I want to live somewhere like New York City. As much as I would love that, I think I could only do it for a few years at most. After that fantasy fades, the heartland slowly comes into focus; Tennessee, to be more specific. :) 

Old dirt roads, gently rolling mountains, fireflies, good country music, towering trees, and bubbling creeks are what truly hold my heart. I can't imagine not having this special, almost sacred, place as a part of my life when I am grown. It is such a big part of who I am, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to form such a connection with it, with my family by my side.


2011 (please excuse my boyish travel attire)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ignorance is Certainly NOT Bliss

If you are reading this right now, then you have caught me in a heated mood. Also, this has very good potential to become quite lengthy. You have been warned.

Originally, I had planned on my next post going in a VERY different direction, but about five minutes ago I saw something online that caused me to immediately log in, and begin writing about what had just offended practically every fiber of my being.

I will begin with another one of my favorite quotes (I have many):

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought, without accepting it." - Aristotle

I chose to hi-lite that, because I want everyone who opens this post to see it, even if they read nothing else that I write tonight.

Now, where do I even start? I will not say what exactly it was that I saw, as I do not believe in pointing fingers, and starting unnecessary drama. Also, I don't want to make anyone feel embarrassed, as that is not my goal for this post. I'll just say this:

Understanding others, in all aspects of life, is something that is very, very important to me. I often make an attempt to speak up when I hear people being disrespectful about someone else's culture or way of life. Choosing to study anthropology has definitely put this understanding within reach, as learning how and why we should do so is it's own undergraduate course: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. I think that every single college student in the US should have to take, and pass, this class in order to graduate with a diploma. Seriously.

My heart genuinely breaks when I hear people talking about others who are different than them in a negative manner, calling them "weird," "wrong," or "gross." What is weird about them? Is it because they don't live the way you do? Is it because they marry people of the same sex? Or maybe they marry more than one person? Or they eat fried grasshoppers? Or they don't wear any clothes? Or they put their daughters into a "fattening hut" to become beautiful before they are married? No. You only think they are "weird" because you do not understand why. Or, because you are under the delusion that your way of life is "right."

Ugh. I shudder at the thought.

If you think that your way of life is the "right" way, I have news for you, my friend. You are terribly, terribly mistaken.

One of the responses that I most often hear is that people call these other cultures "wrong" because their practices and/or beliefs go against that person's religion. I know that this is a very touchy subject, but let me tell you something, I believe in God. And I am willing to bet that no matter what religion, if any, that you follow, your god/creator/supreme being did the same thing my God did. He/she/it/they created everyone. Including those people who are, as you might say, "living in sin." So in my eyes, that is not an excuse. And yes, they may be going against the teachings of your religion, but that does not mean that their way of life is wrong in the grand scheme of things; it is simply wrong in your realm of the universe. And I'm sorry to tell you that there is a BIG difference.

I could go on and on, but for length's sake, I'll move forward.

Another thing that makes my heart ache: hearing people telling their children or friends to steer clear of TV shows, or books that detail the lives of people who live in a way that they don't agree with.

Why don't we just prop open the jaws of Ignorance, and begin shoveling kids in by the bucket-full, hmm??

I think this is what infuriates me the most. Many people complain about these types of TV shows, such as the ones on TLC (Sister Wives, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, etc), calling them useless. I think they are absolutely wonderful. They are teaching us about the many cultures that exist right in our own backyards! They are showing us that we do not have to travel to the middle of the Amazon to find diversity. We can find it in our own society. The backbone of humanity is variety. Differences are what outline all of the beautiful cultures that exist on this earth. And the thought that people are viewing these programs not as a learning opportunity to enrich our minds and broaden our horizons, but as a threat, makes me sick.

 If there is one road to world peace, it is education. And not taking any, and every opportunity to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it is what is keeping us at a stand-still.

That being said, there is a serious difference between appreciation, and acceptance. I am not saying that we have to agree with the way of life of every single group of people on this earth. That is pretty much impossible. But what I am trying to say through all this rambling, is that it is crucial that we try to understand why all of these different cultures live life the way that they do. And how they came to be. Who, and what, they evolved from. How they fit into the giant puzzle of the world. That is what must be appreciated.

The only way that we can truly appreciate these things, is by trying to view the world from outside of our own perspective. Everything is objective. Our own biases are the only things standing in our way.

Ignorance will get us nowhere. And I beg you, please, do not give in to that close-minded, unenlightened, ugly-souled person that we all have the potential to become. Life is beautiful, and people are beautiful.

I will end this with another quote that I love:

"Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace." - The Dalai Lama


*P.S. - If you'd like to skim over it, I've posted a link to a very interesting anthropological article that will really put this whole "understanding" thing into perspective for you. It did for me! (hint: reverse the words "Nacirema," and Notgnihsaw," and then read it again to see if you get it ;)   )

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rockettes, Donuts, and Time Machines

Hello again out there! I know it's been quite a while since I posted on here, but I've been super busy! With finals, working, and travelling to New York City, I hadn't quite been able to find the time, or inspiration, for a new post in the past few weeks. However, my many adventures in the Concrete Jungle provided just the encouragement that I needed!

The reason why I traveled to New York City was to audition for the Radio City Rockettes! To be a part of that infamous kick-line has always been a dream of mine. While it didn't come true this year, there is still hope, and I will not give up easily! After a few days of gallivanting around "the city," it was unfortunately time for me to return back to the real world. Upon arriving at the airport, I realized that my flight was delayed! My concerns of missing my connection in Atlanta only grew as our departure time was pushed further and further back. Discouraged, I found a place upstairs to wait out the three more hours that now remained until I took off from New York. But little did I know that I was soon to meet one of the most amazing human beings that I have ever encountered.

His name is Jacob, and he is five years old.

It didn't take long for him to come over and begin a conversation once I had sat down a few seats away. Without any inhibitions, he quickly began telling me about his love of trains and machines. I found out a few moments later that this display of amicability might have been fueled by a strawberry-frosted donut that he had recently consumed ;). And speaking of donuts, Jacob LOVES Chinese donuts, and Chinese "cuisine" in general! (Yes, he used the word cuisine!). When he told me that he was five years old, I said that I wished I could be five years old again, too. After a moment's contemplation, he informed me that if I had a time machine,  I could! I then discovered that he is an excellent drawer of time machines. As he was teaching me how to draw, I thought to myself that I had never met another five year old with whom I could have a full, intelligent conversation with. He was intimidatingly bright! As the time passed, Jacob and I amassed quite the collection of drawings, including time machines, stages full of ballerinas, and kitty cats. After a while, my stomach began to growl, and when I returned with a donut of my own (this one covered in star-shaped sprinkles), he immediately informed me that he would have named it "Starry Night." Through our conversation, I found out that Jacob and his mom were also on my flight, and were headed to the same final destination!

Once we finally departed and landed in Atlanta, we had already missed our connecting flight and were forced to stay in a hotel overnight and take the next flight out in the morning. Our adventure was not yet over! When our little caravan reached the information counter to receive our vouchers, I sat on the floor and talked some more with Jacob. He told me all about his love of drawing, and reading; specifically the Magic Tree House books, featuring Jack and Annie and their time-travelling excursions. I told him that I, too, loved the Magic Tree House books, and that I was very impressed with his reading skills. He said thank you, and told me that he liked my dress (which he described as "cucumber green"); how cute!! We continued to talk over the next few minutes about magic crayons, Thomas the Tank, and Ms. Frizzle and The Magic School Bus. Jacob was quickly becoming my favorite of all five year-olds ever.

When we arrived at our final destination, I have to admit that I was very sad to say good-bye! Jacob and his ceaseless curiosity had turned what started out as an exasperating situation,  into one that was more than enjoyable. One of the most intelligent young children that I have ever met, Jacob dove whole-heartedly into every conversation that we had, and possessed such a focus and determination to solve every question that he came up with (and there were many of those!). He had more passion in his tiny little body than some people display over a lifetime. He reminded me that we cannot ever lose our sense of curiosity, and let ourselves settle into the mundane rut of everyday life. The world is ours, and it is waiting for us to explore it!

I was reminded that there is ALWAYS a silver lining to any situation that seems hopeless, and sometimes it might come in the form of a five year-old boy with a love for time machines.

Bre :))

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Where Have All the Good [Girls] Gone?"

Hello out there again! This is something that has been bothering me for quite a while and I think it's time I talk about it, so I'm going to just cut to the chase. Recently I had someone ask me,

"So where does your good-girl act end? Or are you really just a good girl?"

My reaction went something like,

"I'm sorry...but what??"

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that something like this has happened to me. For years it seems that people have been questioning my motives, insisting that I have some sort of hidden agenda or that I am simply being a brown-noser. When I was younger it didn't happen as often, for a child's honesty and naivete are not often mistaken. However, as I got older and it happened more frequently, it began to bother me more and more. Why is it so hard to believe that a girl can simply be a genuinely good girl? Why are peoples' first instincts to think that she obviously has some ulterior motive for being polite, respectful, and adhering to a classier standard? Sometimes I feel people assume that just because a girl is over a certain age, it is only matter of time until her morals simply fly out the window and her wild streak finally surfaces.

Now I'm not claiming to be perfect, because I most definitely am not. I love to get a little crazy now and then just as much as the next girl, because after all, we do just wanna have fun ;) But why do we have to stop being ladies?? Going out half-naked, drunk as a skunk, with your underwear hanging out as you stumble down the sidewalk is not going to get you the kind of attention that you want, girls. Neither is cursing like a sailor with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth, and bringing home a different guy every night. Sometimes I fear that doing our best to emulate those fools on  TV shows such as Jersey Shore (as entertaining as I find them), or Bad Girls Club is becoming the norm. Is this where peoples' skepticism comes from? Am I, as a good girl, becoming something of a rarity in this ever-rising sea of Courtney Love wannabes? No offense Court....

If so, this truly bothers me. I feel that it devalues my, and other good girls' discipline if people see it simply as our attempts to get what we want. I respect my superiors, even if they don't necessarily respect me. I (try to) listen to my parents. I feel extremely awkward if I venture out in clothes that appear to be three sizes too small. I make a true effort to watch my mouth. It is hard for me to not try my best at everything that I do. I am inclined to see the best in everyone, and to give them the benefit of the doubt. I say please and thank you. And most of the time, I feel a little old-fashioned in my ways. But I know that I am not alone.

 I often hear girls complaining that their boyfriends/crushes/"friends"/whatevers are not the knights in shining armor that they had hoped for...but once upon a time I happened upon a quote that provided an all-too-easy fix to this problem...

"If more girls were willing to be ladies, then maybe more guys would be willing to step up and be gentlemen."

SO PULL IT TOGETHER GIRLS. It's worth a shot, right?

Being a good girl does not make you a nerd, or a prude. If you too are a good girl at heart, please do not be afraid to show it! I promise you that you are not alone, I know there are more of us than you may think :)

Bre :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When Helping Stops Being Helpful

Hello again! There is something that has been brewing on the back burner of my brain for quite a few days now, and I think I've finally mulled it over enough to where I can now put it into words that will actually make sense. That's just how my brain works. Sometimes, when I am really thinking about something, it takes a few days of deep contemplation before that thought will come out of my mouth in a way that other people can comprehend what it is that I'm trying to say. This thought is one of those....

About a week ago, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an online article about the KONY 2012 campaign video by the Invisible Children charity. 

**For those of you who do not know who Joseph Kony is, or what the Invisible Children charity does, I have posted a few helpful links at the bottom of this page, along with a link to the article that I read.**

 Out of curiosity, I clicked on it. The article was about an African charity who decided to show the KONY 2012 film to an area of northern Uganda that was among one of the worst affected by the LRA. Many of the people who came to the showing had heard of the film, but live in rural villages and do not have electricity, let alone internet. Despite their high expectations, most of them were angered by what they saw. Instead of "a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict," they saw a "foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialized their suffering." The Invisible Children charity, who produced the film, sells bracelets and other merchandise to fund their efforts, and aims at making Kony "famous" for what he has done. One woman who was interviewed after the film compared Invisible Children's efforts to selling Osama Bin Laden merchandise after 9/11, with the same intentions. In my opinion, she has an excellent point, and this was what really got me thinking....

How would we react if a foreign charity, no matter how pure their intentions, now began selling t-shirts and bracelets with messages like, "Make Osama Famous," years after 9/11. Or if they produced a film narrated by someone who did not personally suffer through, or survive that atrocity, that relied on supposedly dated footage from a superficial and commercial point of view? I'm pretty sure that would cause a nation-wide riot, and would do nothing but bring fresh grief and pain to the surface which had already begun to heal. But perhaps that is a bad comparison. I also thought, what if the same thing was done after the Holocaust? Or the Bosnian Genocide? This list goes on and on. While this event is certainly not the first of its kind, and efforts to help have been met with anger and disappointment since the beginning of time, this is my point...

Sometimes I think people take too much of a selfish approach to helping others. We get too caught up in fixing things the way that we want them to be fixed, or how we think they should be fixed, and we forget who we are really supposed to be helping in the first place. I think we can also lose track of who has to live with our fixes after we are finished and have gone away. When this happens I feel that helping is no now longer helpful. The effort is then turned in the wrong direction, and becomes too much of a selfish act, no matter how good your intentions still are. I am a helper at heart, and definitely believe in helping when it is needed. But, while I support the Invisible Children charity in their efforts, I can fully appreciate and understand how the Ugandans who watched the film reacted the way that they did. After all, they are the ones who have suffered the most from this conflict, and I feel that that suffering was met with a little bit of insensitivity. 

Long story short, helping is about the person or thing that we are trying to do good for, not ourselves.


Wikipedia page on Joseph Kony:

Invisible Children charity:

Article that I read:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Standing Outside the Fire

Hello everyone! I'm new to this whole blogging thing, so please bear with me for the next few weeks! :)  I was inspired to start blogging by a handful of smart, beautiful women; some friends, and some role models. Recently, I've begun keeping a journal of sorts where I write down inspirational quotes, song lyrics, and thoughts and insights that I feel are worth recording. I started realizing that I wanted to share those things with everyone, and not just keep them to myself...and what better place to do that than a blog!

The title of my blog, "Dancing in the Flame," is a take off one of my favorite songs, "Standing Outside the Fire," by Garth Brooks. Being a dancer, I thought this applied so well to my life! Essentially, the song is about living life to the fullest. By "standing outside the fire," one is simply going through the motions, and not getting the most out of our time on Earth. That has become my own personal theme. Sure, it is easy enough to think that if you never try, then you never fail, but come on...who really wants to live like that? One of my biggest fears is looking back on my life when I'm an old, old lady and realizing that I gave up on something that was important to me. Whether it be something big and life-changing, or small and insignificant, I don't want to become the type of person who takes the easy way out because it's convenient and safe. In the words of Garth Brooks, we need to "dance within the flame!" So get out there people! Go try something new, and don't be afraid to fail! If you never take a risk, you will never realize your full potential. And sure, there will be many people waiting to put you down the second you fall, but that failure won't be the end of the road. I promise. It's simply one baby step in right direction on your journey to success! As much as I would like to continue writing, I don't want this post to become a novel. So I will end it with a quote:

"Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have." -Louis E. Boone

I wish you the best of luck!

*virtual hug*