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It's been a painful and emotional couple of days in the United States. We are once again, reeling and in pain as another terroristic attack has taken place on American soil. This time, 49 people are dead and dozens more are injured in what has become the worst mass shooting in U.S history. 

People are angry. People are scared and people are lost. 

In the 48 hours since the attack, my Facebook feed has blown up with tributes, calls to action, disgust and pain. 

My friends and loved ones are trying to grapple with this in the only ways they know how. 

I've seen friends working together to coordinate donations, ordering supplies for the blood banks, passing out information on how to help and expressing their sorrow and this is what we need. Action. 

However, I'm also seeing the dark side of terror. Fear, judgement, anger and blame. 

This is normal. People process things differently. I am a person of action. To me, in times of pain and the unknown, the best action you can take is to reach out and comfort and love and help your fellow citizen. 


Unfortunately, instead of love, I'm seeing hate. 

I wasn't going to post about this. It's a hot button issue here. I have no answers. I have no fix for this. I cannot heal the pain I see that is so raw and real among my friends. 

But I have to express my pain. 

For the most part, I'm used to brushing things off. Years of moderating the dreaded comment section, seeing the terrible, wretched thoughts people share about the smallest thing has helped me develop the ability to look pass all of the hateful rhetoric on social. 

But today, a post hit me deep in my heart. It was the usual type of post you see here in the US after a mass shooting. I'm sure it's been posted hundreds of times before because it shifts blame to someone else. 

It lists other terroristic attacks against the US and says how "The problem is not guns, It's a Godless Country" 

I am and have been an atheist for many years. I do not discourage others their religious beliefs. Because I know there is more than just the 2nd amendment to the Constitution. I know that as an American, the First amendment gives them that right. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I have great respect for religion. I think it can truly help some people. I think it gives some people a feeling of belonging, a sense of community and a belief system that helps them through life. It is not what I have chosen for myself. All I ask, is they have the same respect for my choice to not believe. I draw the line when they depend on religion for hate. 

My Atheism works well for me, it will not work for others and it is not something I encourage for others. It is not something I feel is the one true way. 

However, this meme this person shared in their fear of the recent events made me realize. I am the Godless Country they are blaming this on. I am an unapologetic atheist. I choose not to believe in their God. Therefore, do they feel I am part of what contributed to this? 

I am a loving person. I am a strong person. I am a wife, a friend, a sister, a mother, a Feminist, an LGBT+ Ally and I am an American. Until today, I did not realize, some of my friends saw me as what is wrong with this country. 

I love my fellow citizens regardless of their sexual orientation, their religion, gender and political beliefs. I find wonder and amazement in the world around me and I want the world to be a better place than it is. But according to this, I am the problem.

But this is fear. This is wanting to push the blame elsewhere, to put up walls and to push people out. Because we're hurt. Because we're scared. Because we don't know how to handle such destruction and pain.

This doesn't help though. Saying it's because there is no prayer in school, or because people are not your chosen religion, is not going to help. When we start dividing people between us vs them, the religious vs the non-religious, The LDS vs the Baptists, the Catholics vs the Protestants, this accomplishes nothing but alienating everyone. This creates pain, weakens our bonds and creates strife. 

But I'm not what is wrong. I'm a law-abiding contributing member of society. I appreciate diversity, I appreciate art and beauty and science. I appreciate everyone that has touched my life.  I celebrate life and mourn death. I give more than I take, I hope I set good examples for those I meet. 


How can you allow this to divide us? How can you see something where your fellow citizens are in pain and scared and not want to unite against the bullies that are trying desperately to rip us apart?


Differences in skin color, beliefs, sexual identity and who someone loves should not divide us. In the face of fear, we should unite and celebrate the true American spirit, not of clinging to our fear. But celebrating our strength, our diversity and our ability to endure. 

So instead of focusing on hurtful things people are posting, I choose life. I choose the true American spirit, and the spirit of those around the world sending actual love to a country in tears. 

I believe people are fundamentally good. That good will always triumph over bad as long as we stay united. 


"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." "

 These helpers are the types of people we should really be turning to in these times: 


Everyone who has donated to the Equality Florida GoFundMe supporting Victims of the Pulse Shooting: https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund As of 2am Tuesday morning, they have raised nearly $3 Million. 

The Thousands that lined up to donate blood: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/06/12/orlando-blood-bank-crisis-waives-gay-donation-restrictions/85789648/

JetBlue offering Free Flights to families of the Orlando victims: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2016/06/13/jetblue-offers-free-flighs-orlando-victims-families/85836586/


Chick-Fil-a for donating food and tea to blood donors on a Sunday, when the stores are typically closed. This has touched me deeply. Because to me, this is a True Christian act and I respect them greatly for it: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/13/chick-fil-responds-orlando-massacre-free-food-bloo/

All of the tributes from news agencies, The Tony Awards, Talk shows: 

John Oliver: http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/john-oliver-on-orlando-shooting-terrorist-is-vastly-outnumbered-20160613

Anderson Cooper: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/13/cnn-s-anderson-cooper-fights-back-tears-reading-orlando-victim-names.html

Lin Manuel-Miranda: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/entertainment/lin-manuel-miranda-sonnet-hamilton-orlando/index.html

And the countries around the world paying tribute to our fallen Americans:

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-quick-cuts/watch/the-world-pays-tribute-to-orlando-victims-704905283892

Dumbledore once said "....we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." 





And remember.    Love Wins. 













I've always loved seeing what bloggers are up to. It's a lovely little view of their day to day life. So I thought I'd do this once a month or so to show you how rather boring my little life can be! Definitely share your current happenings in the comments! 



Reading

Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys

I just finished my first book in my 2016 Reading Challenge, by finishing up We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Women Trapped on Bataan by Elizabeth M. Norman. (Look for my review coming soon!!) This is the next book in my list. So far, Oranges and Sunshine it's quite the easy read and isn't as dry as I thought it would be. It definitely is more of a casual storytelling than a clinical discussion of the British child migration scheme. I'm excited to read more.



Watching

 Boardwalk Empire! Nate and I started watching it on Christmas (Festive, no?) and are just starting Season 3. Neither of us had really watched it before and it has always been on my "Must one day Watch" list. Steve Buscemi is such an amazing actor. I started out really liking Margaret's character and truly despise her now (Does something bad happen to her? I hope so. She's so annoying) Van Alden I hated and felt the character was wooden and not memorable at all. But he's definitely improving and I look forward to his scenes now. Although I'm a bit lost on how he went from hiring the nanny to Poof! Married and has a kid with her! Did I miss a season somewhere?? Is there a webisode I'm not aware of? Was that in her job description? I'm curious.

My favorite character is easily Richard Harrow. I love how calm he is and just goes about his life never bothering anyone (well, aside from the men he tends to kill...) And I hope they continue is story line and let him flesh out his character even more. (PLEASE NO SPOILERS!! If he dies soon I'll be heartbroken)


Listening

I've been on a podcast kick lately. I just love listening to them while I'm working. It breaks up the dead silence of the house during the workday and I've been playing them when Nate and I drive to Prescott or Flagstaff on weekends. I've recently been listening to "Up Yours; Downstairs" which is a Downton Abbey podcast. I like the format of this one as they don't just recap the episodes, but they also discuss historical events going on during the episode as well as fashion/cultural changes during the series. However, their Series finale/2015 Christmas episode recap has put me off a bit as one of the hosts was eating during the recording (Sour Skittles as she said on Twitter)
 Hearing people eat is one of the things that makes my skin crawl so it may be a bit before I listen to anymore from them. What podcasts are you listening to? I need some new ones. The recent season of Serial is quickly becoming a bit boring and I'm mostly caught up on my SYSK and Stuff You Missed In History Class so I'm running out of stuff to listen to :(


Drinking

 Earl Grey tea. I need to switch to a stronger tea in the morning. But that day will not be today. I have a box of English Breakfast that is much stronger than my Earl Grey (And I think I even have some Irish Breakfast in the cupboard somewhere..not sure I'm ready for that yet though!)


Wearing
 Running shorts, a tank top and a hoodie. My favorite working from home outfit.


Wanting

Someone mentioned this pattern in a vlog I was watching this weekend so I, of course, had to go find it. It's a bit on the pricy side but so worth it. It's absolutely lovely. There is an entire line and I may have to buy it all one day. It's the Denby Lucille Gold teapot. (It also comes in silver) It's $60.35 in the US and a bit cheaper in the UK at £31.33 (which if I remember my conversion math it's about $45).  So gorgeous. Maybe one day..(Seriously check out the entire line. It's amazing)




Dreading
I don't really have much that I'm dreading right now. I need to get through a rather long to-do list for work today. But I think once I get through it, it won't be terrible.

Loving

I've been binge watching weekly vlogs lately. I'm not even sure why I love them. But they're so entertaining to watch. My favorites right now are Brogan Tate xo and xAmeliax. I need to find more so that it doesn't look like I'm just completely obsessed with these people (I am) 

Also, why don't we have Primark here? Who can we petition to get this going?

I hope your Monday is going great! 







One of my goals for 2016 was to read a new book every 2 weeks. I thought I'd start out the year with subjects that I've always found intriguing but never really got a chance to delve into much.


My books for January 2016 are: 
Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys

In 1986 Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, investigated a woman's claim that, aged four, she had been put on a boat to Australia by the British government. At first incredulous, Margaret discovered that this was just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Up to 150,000 children, some as young as three years old, had been deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the Empire, right up until as recently as 1970.

Many were told that their parents were dead, and parents often believed that their children had been adopted in Britain. In fact, for many children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse far away from everything they knew. Margaret reveals how she unravelled this shocking secret and how it became her mission to reunite these innocent and unwilling exiles with their families in Britain before it was too late.


This is a non-fiction account of the formation of the United Kingdom's child migration scheme where thousands of British children were forcibly migrated to Australia, Canada, Rhodesia, and elsewhere without their parents. (Either due to being orphaned or other reasons) I've studied the program a bit and it's a truly appalling situation. Many of these children faced abuse once they arrived in their new home.

In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells and shrapnel.
 
But the worst was yet to come. After Bataan and Corregidor fell, the nurses were herded into internment camps where they would endure three years of fear, brutality, and starvation. Once liberated, they returned to an America that at first celebrated them, but later refused to honor their leaders with the medals they clearly deserved. Here, in letters, diaries, and riveting firsthand accounts, is the story of what really happened during those dark days, woven together in a deeply affecting saga of women in war.
We don't get to hear much about women that have served our country. It's important that we learn as much as we can about all of our American history and how women have sacrificed and served. I've read about Bataan before and knew we had many women captured, but this is the first book focused solely on them that I've purchased. It is definitely one of the ones I'm looking forward to the most. 
What are you reading? I'm always looking for new books to add to my ever growing "To Read" pile and would love to hear about anything you've read or want to read. 
Do you have any reading goals for 2016? How are they going? 


Have you ever noticed that people are very anti Resolution? I see a lot of eye rolling  and I see people complaining about January gym people, or people posting the "New year, New me? Yeah, sure" memes. 

It's true, resolutions don't always work, but I wonder if some of that is because so many of their friends are negative towards goals. Maybe if people were more supportive, resolutions would work out better. 
I also think people feel a need to create resolutions they're not as dedicated to as they can. Save Money, Lose weight, Drink Less, Eat Healthier, Work Out More. These seem to be the ones I see most and I see the people give up quickly. Perhaps if we started smaller and made measuarable goals it would help make it more achievable. 

I've never been a huge resolution maker. But I thought I'd give it a try. 
One thing I read on my favorite blog was this mantra for 2016:

Create good stuff.
Do good things.
The rest will take care of itself.
                                                    -The Daily Tay

How wonderful is that? And it's something that I'm going to try to continue with into 2016. I'm going to set goals as well, because that gives me something to challenge myself with and to visualize, but the overatching idea will be that.  

So on to my 2016 goals..


1.) Read A New Book every 2 weeks

While I totally hope I read more than 26. I think this is a reasonable goal and gives a timeline that I can adhere to given work, Sami and everything else going on in life. Plus, I have a habit of re-reading books constantly. I'm currently re-reading Stephen King's "It" for the fiftieth time. Challenging myself to read at least 2 new books a month is pretty reasonable. I'll be announcing my January books soon. And I'm always open for recommendations. I'm not a huge fan of romance or religious books. (I actually like non-fiction more than fiction) 
2.) Use the camera I bought. 

Last year I bought a Nikon D90 at a really great price. I've taken some photos, but nothing that makes me that proud. I definitely want to work on it. Our next cruise isn't for a while yet, so I hope to have improved enough to take some killer shots while we're in Jamaica (and of the ship itself, inside photos are difficult on the ships. Especially in the restaurants) Any tips? Send them along!! 
3.) British Baking

Have you seen Great British Bake Off (I think it's officially Great British Baking Show in the US) I love it. I am not a huge fan of reality television. Especially competition types as it feels people get really mean and smug. They don't on this show. Plus you get to see really good desserts. Are British desserts amazing? I want to know. They always seem so delicious and fun. I know the US has a lot of great desserts of their own, but the British just seem to really have desserts down. My ultimate goal is to make a perfect Victoria Sponge and do a Christmas pudding for next year. So if you're familiar with British desserts and have any suggestions, please send it along! My goal is to do at least 1 recipe a month. (I'm terrible in the kitchen, so keeping it at 1 a month might save me from burning the house down) 
4.) Blog More Often
I'm a terrible blogger. I think a lot of it is simply not putting it as a priority. I have ideas, I write them in my head constantly (I have over a hundred of partial drafts right now) I just never finish them and post. 
In 2016 I want to focus on growing this blog. Even if it's just posting 2 times a week. (Which is my goal) If I post more? Even better. that would be about 104 posts. Which seems like a lot. But I think it might be doable. So if anyone wants to hold me to it, please do! (I know several bloggers aiming for 366 posts this year...they're much more dedicated than I am and have much more confidence.) It may be 100 posts about my cat. But hey, at least I tried..and you'll get a wonderful study on the world's laziest cat. 
So for the most part, those are my 4 major goals. Which I think are achievable. Hopefully... Fingers crossed.
What are your resolutions/goals for 2016? How are you going about achieving them? I definitely want to hear them! 


Did you ever read The Baby Sitter's Club growing up? I did. (I still do...) One of my favorites was the very first Super Special. (You know the ones I'm talking about. They were twice as long as the regular books and twice as expensive) "Baby Sitters On Board!"
The premise is that the Mr Pike won an all inclusive cruise to the Bahamas and 3 days at Walt Disney World at work. (Can you imagine the heart attack someone at the company had when they realized the dude with 8 kids won? I bet they didn't do that contest again.)  So the Pikes invite MaryAnne and Stacey to go with them as mother's helpers. Watson (Kristy's step-father) hears about it and decides he wants to go, too, so he takes Kristy's family and of course decides to take Claudia and Dawn because whatevs. This means they have 22 people going on this trip. I don't even want to imagine the logistics behind that.. 
Ever since reading it, I always wanted to go on a trip just like it. (Many of my bucket list items are from books apparently) But I never really thought it would be possible and that it was an extremely silly. 
Last December, Nate and I were discussing where we wanted to go for vacation in 2015 and decided to book a cruise. I've always been a huge Disney fan so we definitely thought about a Disney Cruise first and foremost. After researching other cruise lines, we decided to go with a 7 Night Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral on the Disney Fantasy. 
A few weeks after booking, Nate and I had both had a crap day at work. It had been a stressful week and while making dinner one night, I jokingly said we should just extend the vacation by a few days and go to Disney World. I didn't mean it in any serious sense really. More of a "Hey wouldn't that be cool?" but Nate looked at me and said "Sure. Let's do it!" We quickly booked a quick 3 night stay at Disney's Wilderness Lodge and decided to keep it a secret from Samantha.



Mickey Mail makes me happy
Halloween on the High Seas?
Don't mind if I do. 

A couple months later, after another long day, we were texting each other during the day and decided to add in another night at Disney World. We ended up moving to Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort in order to try out their Pirate themed rooms. After this, I quickly bought our flights so we wouldn't be tempted to add even more days.. (It was tempting..so tempting) 


MagicBands are the best thing ever



But after weeks of planning it was finally here! Nate started leave a few days before we left, but I still had a full day of work to get ready for the 2 week I would be out. 
I finished around 1.30pm and it was time to finally leave. Said a quick good bye to my co workers, set my out of office and was ready to get the Jeep loaded. 


So much luggage...

Then it was off to surprise Sami! She knew about the cruise, and knew it was a week away, but she hadn't learned about the Walt Disney World portion yet. I had surprised her with a trip to WDW for her 7th Birthday and it was definitely fun to do. Since I was traveling alone that time, I didn't get a chance to record anything. So I made sure to get it this time. 


video
She's a character..




We were able to make it to Phoenix Sky Harbor International by a quarter to 4. Plenty of time to drop the Jeep off, get to the terminal, through check in and TSA and to our gate in time for our flight into Los Angeles. 


She's becoming a travel pro

We get to our gate and grab a snack. And we wait...and wait. . . 
I finally get a text saying our flight has been delayed by 45 minutes. Sigh
And then delayed again....




And again...

Yep, still here....




Someone, Save us. Why do you hate us, Delta?


Finally, after nearly 3 hours of delays, we finally board our flight into LAX. Did I mention we have a connection that leaves at 10pm? Delta promised we'd probably make it...



Yeah, We didn't. 

We landed in time, however, we were stuck on the runway for 25 minutes because people kept getting up to go to the bathroom, and there was a child that didn't want to sit down and was wandering around the aisle. The parent was completely oblivious and didn't seem to care when the flight attendants asked him to keep her seated. 

However, it didn't actually matter as Delta has rebooked us on a different flight before we had even left Phoenix. (But forgot to mention it to us when we called...Go. Delta.) 

After some very unhelpful assistance from the Delta gate agents, I was able to get through on the hotline where I found out that they had rebooked us on a flight arriving six hours later than we had originally planned and rerouting us from LAX to Minneapolis/St Paul and then in to Orlando. (Our original flight was PHX-LAX-MCO) Our new flights would leave about 2 hours later after midnight. 

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. We got Sami down on the floor in her blanket to nap until our flight while I tried to relax. (The customer service we received at LAX was abysmal and extremely unhelpful.) I ended up half carrying Sami on to the airplane because she was out like a light. Considering she's only a few inches shorter than me, it was quite the sight. I see you staring at us Guy Across the Aisle..

Flying over Los Angeles. Hi Jason!
Sleepy Sami...



We got to Minneapolis at sunrise, I grabbed breakfast and coffee for everyone, and waited for what would end up being yet another delay. (Although this one not nearly as bad as out of Phoenix)

Don't tempt me...It's 5 am but I could go for it...


Everyone is Happy and the sun is up..We should have been on our way to the resort at this time...

By this time, Nate and I were a bit punchy and laughing uncontrollably at everything. I'm quite sure people thought we were drunk...The Delta Safety video had us in a fit of giggles. 


The hell, Delta?


We all settled in for the flight in to Orlando. Thankfully, Delta had a great entertainment selection and we were all able to choose different movies to watch during the 3+ hour flight. 

Yeah, you know it. 

We finally land, and it's raining in Orlando. Quite the welcome change from the extreme heat we left in Phoenix. It's close to 11am Florida time by this point, I had been awake for nearly 30 hours had been what felt like all over the United States and was quite ready to crash. But, no rest for the weary. We were meeting our friends; Brandon and Erin and their kids in just a couple of hours and had FastPass reservations to get to. 

Disney's Magical Express is amazing























Stay Tuned for Day 2!