Thursday, August 10, 2017

Twenty Nine: A Year Unfiltered


Hello friends, family, and readers...


As some of you know, after turning 29 I decided to take a one-year hiatus from all social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc). This was a decision that I had pondered and prayed over for many months. Living a life where I was constantly glued to my phone and spending hours a day scrolling through images of other people's lives (and an embarrassing amount of cat videos) was just no longer was serving my personal growth or goals for the future.

Being someone who absolutely loves staying connected with friends and who equally loves taking photos are sharing my experiences, this was a hard decision to make. However, I know that the benefits will highly outweigh the costs when I can instead enjoy this next year of my life connecting deeply with my own soul and having even deeper connections with loved ones by having more face-to-face interactions.


While I will be absent for the coming year on social media, I will still be making monthly entries here on my blog to chronicle my adventures, thoughts, and plans for the future. I will also be focusing more on my offline writing but will still be writing new blog entries on topics that bring upon inspiration in the coming year. These posts will be shared on The Girl in Motion's Facebook page here. Please keep in touch with me at amandahalle9@gmail.com and check in here each month to see what kind of trouble I have been up to!

Cheers, 
Mandi





Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dear Dad: 5 Things Disney Taught Me About Being Your Daughter



Last month I sat in a nearly empty movie theater, popcorn in hand, filled with excitement to see the live-action remake of a tale as old as time. Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

As the all-to-familiar score of one of my favorite films began and that classic, singular star flew over the Disney castle, I looked over at my movie companion lovingly. I grasped and squeezing their hand and laid my head on their shoulder, letting out a content sigh of happiness. For this was the perfect person to see this movie with.

I wasn't with a best friend. I wasn't with a best-Disney-friend (those exist). I wasn't with a boyfriend. I was with my dad

The Disney animated version of Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991. I was three years old. While I don't remember much about my early childhood years, I distinctly remember the sound of the movie's overture as it began and feeling the tops of my feet go nearly numb being pressed firmly into the carpet as I sat on my knees, most likely far too close to the TV. I'm told that I begged to watch the film over, and over, and over again.

I've grown to love many more Disney stories over the years. My poor, forgiving family has had to sit through far too many "my choice" movie-nights where I always pick the newest Disney/Pixar film to watch (even though I've most likely already seen it twice already).

Yet through the years and the countless Disney films that I've exposed my family to, my father has always had an especially soft spot in his heart for Beauty and the Beast. Why? Well it could be because my two sisters and brother cared far more for competing in sports than singing and dancing around the living room like I did. But I'd like to believe that our bond over Beauty and the Beast stems from the plot's special relationship of a daddy and his first daughter, which has played itself true in our own lives and continues to today.

It is a curious thing to look back at some of the most well-know Disney classics and notice the absence of a mother - or worse yet, a malicious mother-figure. But somehow most of our beloved princesses had the presence of a father, even if at some point they were the antagonist of the story. For me, these films were so much more than plastic, rectangular boxes that filled our VCR and my imagination with wondrous ideas and dreams. In a way, they helped me understand how the love of a daddy can be deep and complex, but something worth holding dear and fighting for. It is an ever unique and special relationship that changes as we age and one that my favorite childhood stories have certainly helped me understand.


Walt Disney reading to his daughters Diane and Sharon Mae


Dear Dad: 5 Things Disney Taught Me About Being Your Daughter



1. You secretly want me to be just like you. 


Queen Elinor: "A princess should not HAVE weapons, in my opinion." King Fergus: "Leave her be! Princess or not, learning to fight is essential."


My father grew up with two older brothers and two sisters, yet if you met him at his finest moments today, you might guess that sisters were never even in the mix. He has a humor that is boyish, charming, and cunning. While my dad didn't get a son until his fourth child, his first three princesses were already raised perfectly well-versed on how to carry out the perfect prank and to have the upmost appreciation for dry, British comedy.

I think I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the first time when I was around eight years old. Twenty years and thousands of episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus later, it is still completely second nature for me to crack up at any internet video of people falling, farting or being just plain silly. This all, of course, to the despise of my poor mother.

While our fathers may not directly intend to steer us down a path of likeness to him, as our daddy, he doesn't need to be anything but himself around us. And in doing so, his loves became our loves. It is as simple as that.

2. No One Knows Me Like You Do.


Maurice: "My dear Belle, you are so ahead of your time. This is a small village, and it's small minded, as well."


Like Belle, many of us went through a stage of life when we felt "odd." Whether we couldn't fit in with friends at school or just felt utterly misunderstood by everyone around us, sharing those feelings with our daddies probably caught them by surprise. Their daughter? Odd? For me, while others saw my personality differences as out-of-place, my dad admired them. To this day my father still knows my deepest loves and greatest skills and will call on me for assistance in time of need. These days is usually has something to do with his iPhone or computer. Good daddies love our brains, our books, and know that no matter how handsome a face, his daughter deserves a man with a heart like hers.   


3. We Won't Always See Eye To Eye. 


Chief Powhatan: "My daughter speaks with the wisdom beyond her years. We've all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding. From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me." 



Yeah. This one is a heartbreaker.

For as much as we love our fathers and all they have done for us, there comes the time that we have to make our own path and find faith to take our own leaps. As any daddy's girl might relate, disappointing our fathers is an unforgettable pain. He is the first man that ever loved us and all men in the future have big shoes to fill. As we get older and find wisdom beyond the safe haven of our father's guidance, we also get the amazing opportunity to show him that just because it is the way it was done before, doesn't make it right. His greatest hope for us is that we follow our arrow down the right path. When our arrows point in the direction of a path he does not yet know or understand, we get the pleasure of guiding him along the way.


4. Losing me is your absolute worst fear. 


Fa Zhou: "The greatest gift and honor... is having you for a daughter." 



I grew up with what I would consider pretty strict rules and expectations. I had to get good grades, be home before curfew, no boys allowed in my room, and I always was expected to perform to the best of my ability. I knew my father loved me, but I couldn't stand the thought of not living up to his expectations. Through the years, I climbed many walls and many posts just to prove to him I was worthy. In those times, I realize that I may have put my safety and my core values in danger, all in the reach to please him and make him proud of me.

The miracle of a father's love is that to the core it is unconditional. Whether we are decorated by royalty or stumble in the wake of our own mistakes, he will still love us. The place we hold as your daughter is held higher than any rank, status, or accomplishment.

5. The thing you wants most in the whole, wide world is to see me happy.


Sebastian: "Like I always say, Your Majesty, 'children have got to be free to lead their own lives.'" Triton: "You always say that, Sebastian?" Sebastian: [nervous] "Tee-hee." Triton: "Well I guess there's one problem left." Sebastian: "And what's that, Your Majesty?" 

Triton: "How much I'm going to miss her." 


Any daughter with a good daddy like mine knows that the stronger the relationship you have, the harder it is for them to let go, which can often lead to many emotions that can take time, acceptance, and forgiveness to heal; on both sides.

Life will lead you down great adventures that can put you miles and worlds away from your daddy's arms. Sometimes it even means being apart for a very long time. But the longer you remain persistent and passionate about where your life is taking you, the easier it will be for him to see your life through your eyes, and eventually soften his grip and let you swim away.

While most of us little girls grow out of our dress-up clothes, our baby dolls, or even our bows and arrows, canoes, and suits of armor, in his eyes we will always be our daddy's little princess. Because as I've truly come to learn, a real princess is one who follows her path with a fierce passion to make her impact on the world.

And whether he is fathoms below or miles away, we are always going to need our daddy right beside us. 

This post read and approved by my good friend Drizella and the greatest dad in the whole world. 


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dear Mom: 10 Things We Want You to Know

1. You look amazing

Whether you are currently on top of the newest fitness trend, drowning yourself with some kind of kale-spinach-dirt juice, or you are perhaps going through a period of life when your main food groups are sugar, carbs and wine, have you stopped to look in the mirror lately?

After birthing children and living through years of their constant bickering and whining, you still manage to wear your killer looks and ageless charm like you never descended from your peak. Because you didn't. Keep marching up that mountain in your knee-high boots mama because daaayuuum you still got it!



2. Stop trying to be perfect

Not only do you have to manage your own work/life schedule, you are also in charge of rides to dance class, snacks for soccer practice, book fair orders, grocery shopping, and laundry. And that is just for one kid! Let's not even get started on you trying to keep your partner's schedule straight as well. Like Santa Claus, you can magically be in a million places at one time while getting a million things accomplished. And you somehow do it without looking like a total crazy person.

Just know that we see this. Let us help you and to make the day-to-day a little less stressful for you. The cookies for the bake sale CAN be store bought and heck, if you forget to pick up one kid from practice every once and a while, they will survive. So will you. Just order them an Uber and cut yourself some slack.


3. Let your hair down

As our mother, you are someone we go to on the regular for advice and support. We can come to you at our most vulnerable state and you gracefully comfort us with your strong on collected presence. But we can't expect you to never have a rough day. It is important that you have your bath time, your girls nights, and even a vacation without your family every once and a while.

In order for you to maintain your sanity that we so heavily rely on in our times of need, please make sure that you keep a regular schedule of taking care of yourself and embracing your wild side as needed.



4. Don't compare yourself to other moms

Mom, you are always telling us not to compare ourselves to others and that you "love us just the way we are" and all that stuff, so please don't go and not listen to your own advice! Some other moms might seem like they have it all together. That their hair is always on point, their car always looks clean and you bet that their kids never have to be told twice to do anything.

Before you start getting down on the fact their their Instagram photos have way more hearts than yours, just know that we love your messy hair and your dirty car.  Deep down we even love the fact that you have to whip us into shape every once and a while. Don't worry if you aren't the "cool mom." You are our mom and that is good enough for us.



5. Take credit for what you've done as a mother

Although you'll never get close to the public recognition that you deserve, never forget that each accomplishment that your children make, was in some way thanks to you. In fact, just the fact that we exist is thanks to you! (and dad I guess...gross) Just don't forget to stop every once and a while and just look at all of the beautiful things that you have created. Your home, your yard, your career, your children, your memories... The winner of this life is you, mom. Take your crown!



6. Use your Mom-Card at your leisure

There will be times when us as your children will question your reasoning or instructions to the point that nothing else can be done but to pull your Mom-Card. That's right. The card you were given on the day you first became a mother. It never expires and it's strength is ten times greater than any Man-Card. Feel free to use this God-given right to help us understand that doing something simply because you asked us to is all we need to know.

Your Mom-Card is your weapon and your shield to help make sure your house is kept, your children are behaving, and that every argument ends exactly the way you want it to. You have had to endure the pain of childbirth and child raising. Your Mom-Card is your well-deserved prize.


7. Hug and kiss us no matter how old we get

At some point it will become unnatural for us to hug, squeeze and kiss you like we did when we were little. We won't climb into bed with you in the morning. We won't snuggle you while we watch a movie. We won't run to you to be held after we fall down and scratch our knee. But that doesn't mean we don't need physical affection even in our grown years.

Our hearts will be broken and our dreams will be crushed and we will need the arms of our mommy to hold that pain in and keep it from getting any bigger. Give us long hugs when we get ready to part ways and kisses on the head to show us how much you will miss us. It is those little things that will remind us that you have been holding us our whole lives and will be there still whenever life gets sad or scary.



8. We're sorry

There are a lot of things I feel bad for doing in my life. Amongst the top of my list are things that I said and did to my mother while I was growing up. Puberty came in like a hurricane and my angsty teenage hormones were more cruel to you than they were to my own body. But let's be real.

I can put the blame on a number of different things but you deserve an apology from me and me only. I can't say that I regret the fights and the snippy comments because in the end, they did bring us closer together and your ability to handle my immaturity for so many years has been something I have come to admire and be thankful for. Still, I am sorry - we are all sorry for every time we lied, hurt your feelings, or disappointed you.



9. Thank you

These two words can't begin to hold the mile-long list of things we have you to thank for. To start, thank you for giving us life, for feeding us healthy food, for buying us cool toys. Thank you for our dashingly good looks, for cheering us on when we won - and when we lost. Thank you for being there in life's hard moments and for wiping away our tears. Thank you for being a role model and a safe haven that no matter how bad we mess up, never goes away or forgets about us.



10. We love you

We might not always be the best at showing it, but mom, we love you to pieces. You are a superhuman force of nature that we are so damn lucky to have in our lives.

Whether you gave birth to us, adopted us, fostered us, took us under your wing, or just plain filled the shoes of a motherly figure in our life - You are our mother and we love you for that forever and always.

Happy Mother's Day. 



Friday, April 7, 2017

Act II: Where Dreams Collide


I have loved live theater for as long as I can remember.

Everything about it has always filled my whole body with excitement. Finding my seat in the flip-down, red velvet chairs. The sound of the orchestra warming up. The moment the lights first dim. The decorated, glittery costumes. The ever rising emotions of the music. The devotion and passion of the actors. 

It is an art that speaks to me like no other. 

I was in my first real musical production when I was 16 years old and have been lucky to take my place on that hollow, black floor many times since. Yet, whether I have been on that stage myself or seated comfortably in the audience, the intricacy of all these elements has always filled my heart with a million wild butterflies.

Showboat, Leavenworth Summer Theater 2006

While all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, the part of live theater that most deeply tugs at my heart strings is the undetermined, uncertain, cliffhanger and peak of the plot; the middle. Those final, perfect moments before the production's intermission and the close of the curtain.

For most of the audience, this is the time when everyone gets up for their bathroom or snack break, just hoping that the 15 minutes they are allotted are enough to get what they need done. Me? I watch the clock move like molasses until those lights finally dim once again so that I can find out how the story will continue. Will Maria return to the von Trapp family? Will Belle save her father from Gaston's malicious plot and return to the Beast? Will Elphaba really be able to defy gravity and use her powers for good?

This turning point in a story is one that I have identified with very much recently. Unfortunately, for me in my real-life story the time between Act I and Act II has been much longer than 15 minutes. 

Around mid-2015, I (finally) decided that the corporate world just wasn't the place for me. My experiences and self-reflection directed me toward an idea I hope will fit. While this certain profession was never a thought in my mind before, I knew I needed an ever-changing environment that would allow me to help others using the gifts that God has given me. Patience, kindness, creativity. I realized I needed to teach.

Being the first child of two amazing educators, I didn't want to simply follow in their footsteps. I was too much of a rebel for that. I have always desired to make my own path. But what I realized somewhere around the end 2015 was that I had already made my own path. It was full of travel, following my own crazy dreams and letting my heart go where it lead me. But it had eventually lead me back to what I truly desire: to make a real difference, and maybe the classroom was the place. 

I landed my fist teaching job in August of 2016. Kindergarten (not my first choice ). Yet, it was impossible to not fall in love with the innocence, the loyalty, and the curiosity of those sweet children. Everything about my job was wonderful. From dressing up silly, to singing songs, pulling loose teeth and wiping snotty noses. It was the greatest job I have had since working for Disney, but I was paid just as little.

I loved this new dream. Teaching. Guiding. Loving on kids.

But I was broke as s**t. 

I recently just passed my four year anniversary of living in heaven (aka San Diego). Unfortunately, teaching part-time and nannying in the evenings just wasn't enough to keep my head above the sea of debt and bills. While I was thankful for paying my way to earn my undergraduate degree almost entirely by working three jobs (and also by the mercy of a few scholarships), my dream and decision to move to San Diego had drained my bank account, maxed my credit cards, and stole every penny from every paycheck I worked my butt off for.

I loved San Diego. The beaches, the culture, the people... the infinite sunshine. But I also loved following my passions, my purpose, and being there for others (even my kinders after they got sand in their eyes). Yet somehow, I felt my dreams colliding in a devastating, unmanageable way. How could I live out my passions and also live in my dream destination?

If my life, so far, was a musical, the first act would certainly entertain you with journeys and adventures of life lived in The Happiest Place on Earth, in the bush of Tanzania, and to the place "the princess" of this story longed to live forever: San Diego. But before the curtain closes, you'd find that this princess is in a tough place. Choosing between dreams, coping with unhealthy habits, and crying for help. To friends, to family, and even the government.

That's where she leaves you.

The curtain has closed. She is safe. She is getting help. And she is watching the clock move as slow as molasses until Act II begins and she can find out how her story moves on.

Go pee. Grab your popcorn. Because this story will have a happy ending. As the main character in this story, I'm not sure how it will happen, and neither will you. But sit tight.

The entr'acte is ready to begin.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Black and White

It's about 45 degrees outside.

The light breeze coming off the choppy water of the Puget Sound wisps through my hair. The boat turns off it's engine and like a movie theater dimming it's lights, everyone becomes silent. I have fifteen pounds of camera equipment hanging from my neck, but as I grip the side of the whale watch vessel's bow, I don't dare touch my lens until my eyes see them first.

Slicing through the water like a knife, a huge, black dorsal fin breaks the surface. Soon after there are several others in it's wake. Before I grab my camera to begin taking pictures for a magazine piece I was writing, I look around me. People are gasping, screaming in delight, and nearly crying at the sight of a magnificent creature. A killer whale. As I look at the passengers, I remember where I was when I first had that very same feeling. The wonder, the curiosity, the respect. For me it was a feeling that turned into a deep love for a species, which had lead me to the very spot I was standing at that day.

My moment was when I was five years old and I was sitting in a stadium at SeaWorld. 

Just a few days ago, a "historic" announcement was made by SeaWorld's CEO, Joel Manby, that they have ended all killer whale breeding programs. While "historic" was their chosen word, to many SeaWorld team members and SeaWorld supporters, a word like "horrific" or "unthinkable" may have been more accurate. Needless to say, many of us are heartbroken.



Since the release of Blackfish in 2013, a film I can't ethically call a documentary, SeaWorld has made many changes. While many of these changes may have come about by Blackfish's terrible misrepresentation of SeaWorld and their core purpose, the changes to their shows, exhibits and animal experiences are something I believe most have enjoyed. They have added all new shows, such as Killer Whales: Up Close, which is narrated by members of the top-class Education and Conservation Department and SeaWorld trainers. Education has always been important to SeaWorld and since the media has gotten so much of what they do wrong lately, the reach for more educational programs has increased.

I truly believe that once we learn about something, we can care about it. But once we have a real connection with that certain thing, be it a whale, a shark, or a sea star...we not only care about it, but want to conserve it. There is a big difference.

That is what SeaWorld is all about. Creating opportunities for every guest to not only learn something about what they are seeing but also create a memory with it. SeaWorld is one of the only zoological parks in the world that staffs trained educators at every major exhibit. They narrate, answer questions and most importantly talk about what guests can do to help protect the species in the wild. Even the most prestigious zoos and aquariums in the world do not have that. Because SeaWorld is a theme park, it has the means to employ a strong department of educators who not only narrate in the park exhibits during the day, but also lead educational programs for school-aged children in the park after-hours, give behind-the-scenes educational tours, and provide outreach trips to underprivileged communities. Isn't it funny Blackfish never mentions any of this, or the fact that over 27,000 animals have been rescued and rehabilitated by SeaWorld over the last 50 years?

So if it is just the breeding of the killer whales that is being stopped, why are we all so upset? Because it means that future generations won't get to have the connection and the up-close interactions with the incredible animal that has made millions of us care about all animals, our oceans and our planet over these past 50 years. SeaWorld's killer whales are their icon. And while we are completely heartbroken to think of a future where people cannot connect with them at SeaWorld or the ability to continue researching them to protect their species in the wild, I think we are all scared of something even more.

Blackfish and PETA supporters aim to free all animals from captivity. They mean to see the end of zoos and aquariums around the world. The announcement to no longer breed killer whales means much more to those in the education and conservation community and I am sure to many individuals beyond. What it means to us is that media and "trends" can not only cause people to lose their jobs and rid animals of a chance for a better future. It also can steal from us the future and the very reason we all fell in love with animals in the first place. Our real-life connections with them.

Just last week I took some of the kids I watch to the San Diego Zoo. My kiddos, who would prefer to spend much of their free time on iPads and in front of the TV, were more alive along the paths of the zoo than I had ever seen them. They were asking questions, running to their favorite exhibits and loved all the "quiz" questions I was giving them for the animals we saw. They were having connections. They were making memories. And while sure, if it didn't have the consequences so-called "animal activists" ignore, I'd love to see every animal in the zoo and SeaWorld have a life outside of an encounter. But that is something that would most likely kill an animal ambassador, since most have been born in captivity. We have to remember that having these animals allows us to study them and educate about them in a zoological environment. It gives us better means to protect their species in the wild, and more importantly, the opportunity to create new, real animal activists who will fight for the animal's welfare and health both in zoological care and in the wild.

SeaWorld CEO, Joel Manby, put it best in a recent article in the LA Times,

"Wild animals and wild places will continue to disappear — biologists call this “the sixth extinction,” comparable to previous cataclysms such as the ice age — unless humans awaken and take action. In this impending crisis, the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills — not zoos and aquariums."

Someone standing outside on the freeway with a paper sign (which they probably won't recycle) while their friend sits next to them dressed as a whale, sitting in a bathtub, doesn't make them an activist. It makes them uneducated and close-minded. If you really cared about the animals, you wouldn't spend that unnecessary $100 on crap and instead donate it to a conservation project. Or even better, get off the highway and pick up trash on the beach instead.

Despite my disappointment in SeaWorld's choice to end any future breeding, I still stand with them. I honestly do not know who I would be without having gone to SeaWorld and falling in love with killer whales at a young age. It is something that makes up so much of who I am today. Good friends from kindergarden through college could tell you all about my plethora of whale folders, t-shirts, posters, stuffed animals, and even a whale bedspread (I was 9. Don't judge) I even had a whale dress when I was 20 (still no judging!). Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was so fortunate to be able to see killer whales in the wild several times. I was incredibly lucky to get to write a story about the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population while I was in college.

Writing that article, and being on the boat in the middle of the Puget Sound, I knew I had to do something to protect and care for these animals for the rest of my life. Three years later I began working for SeaWorld. It was a first step in a path of learning to reduce, reuse, recycle, eat sustainably, buy ocean-safe cleaning products, and most of all, support programs and research that help killer whales everywhere live long and healthy lives.

Someday I hope to take my children and grandchildren out to see the Southern Resident killer whale pods. At this point, I am less worried about them not seeing them at SeaWorld and more worried about them not seeing them at all in the wild. Our toxic runoff and overfishing are killing these animals we love. SeaWorld educates about it. Blackfish ignored it.

I don't know what the future will hold for SeaWorld and all the animals that are cared for there, but my hope is that all people supporting the end of animal captivity take a step back and think about the future. Without zoos and aquariums, education and research is lost. Soon after, species will die out. It's not a black and white issue. I understand it is complicated. But may we all keep an open mind and think first about the animals we love, and not what is thrown at us by the media.

Kalia and her daughter Amaya. She was four days old this day. 


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Midnight

It's just past midnight.

I've only just stepped back from the closet-sized kitchen inside my studio apartment where I watched, ironically unplanned, as all three clock hands met at 12:00 am.

"I'm 27," I thought to myself. "I just turned 27." 

Birthdays have never shuffled by for me without my notice or care. For me, I believe they are a great time to self reflect, not to mention are the perfect excuse to make people hang out with you and not flake out. They are a legitimate reason to splurge on a vacation, a ticket to a theme park, a huge, fancy dinner or even a day to just do whatever in the world it is that you want to do.

I usually splurge on theme park tickets. 

I sometimes wonder if 20 years ago the 7-year-old Mandi would have thought I'd be over the whole "Disney Thing" by now, or if she knew that I would always find connection to my childhood stories and even find peace in them through hard times.

Buuut... I'm sure that with buckteeth and grass-stained knees, Mandi was already three songs deep into her Pocahontas cassette tape while playing with Barbies in the backyard to be too busy to think of such things.

Reflecting on my last 12 months of life and the journey it took me on, I'd like to say I could compare my story to the bravery of Mulan, the boldness of Belle, or the joyfulness of Anna. But in recent weeks I have discovered the exact thing that I have most incredibly identified with in my 26th year of life.

I've been the pumpkin. 



Yes, I am talking about the vegetable. Growing un-noticeably in the Tremaine estate garden and curiously chosen by the Fairy Godmother to be transformed into Cinderella's shining carriage for the ball. Before we get too far down the mouse hole, let's step back into the "real" world for a moment.

One year ago I was several months into working for a fantastic start-up company focused on helping people around the world. Coming out of years of penniless non-profit work, the bells and whistles of my new position, and most importantly testimonials of happy and inspired customers, helped keep me motivated even through the tough days of long desk hours.

I was blessed. My own Fairy Godmother had turned my pumpkin vines into diamond wheels that were taking me down a path that seemed right for me. Only, as life would have it, speed bumps slowed my carriage down and details and responsibilities of my career path began to weigh heavily on my heart. I wasn't doing what I loved and I wasn't using my gifts. I wasn't singing, dancing, writing, or even loving as strongly as the core of my soul needed. Something in me was lost. Thinking a new environment would be a better fit, I made a switch to a new employer. One month into the new job... I hit my midnight.

In a painful and embarrassing moment, I lost my job. Without any warning I was transformed from the sparking, perfect carriage, back into a pumpkin. I was left feeling torn and shattered, nothing less than the midnight aftermath that I had read about in Cinderella as a child. You see, people on social media, and also in person, love to congratulate you on accomplishments, especially around areas that society has chosen as making the "most sense." Career/Marriage/Children/Income. If Cinderella had Instagram, her sierra-filtered Royal Ball transformation would have a whole lot more hearts than pics of her scrubbing the floor. #maidproblems

Even as children, our hearts sunk as we saw her glamorous carriage turn to a smashed pumpkin and watched as her rags replaced her sparking gown. But what I failed to understand then and only recently have understood now is that those things did not make her Cinderella. The carriage, the dress and the society status did not make her the princess that millions across the world still love today. Most of all, they certainly were not the things that won her her happily ever after.

Cinderella's rags were a part of who she was, no matter how undesirable it seemed to others or even sometimes herself. She wasn't really a princess, the mice weren't horses and the pumpkin was not a carriage. Cinderella reached her dream of marrying the prince despite not having the picture-perfect life or the fairytale upgrades. If one the most iconic stories of all time didn't involve finding a happy ending by being something you really aren't, then I am ready for my spell to be broken too.

What I have learned in this nothing short of transformative year for me, is that too many of us are trying to be a Cinderella grand carriage when we are really just pumpkins. Also, being a pumpkin is different for everyone. Whether you are a lawyer, an actor, a contractor or a circus performer. We are really just perfect the way we are at heart without having to look storybook perfect or look like our life is on track so others can approve of us.

Today I'm back to being a pumpkin. I'm a waitress and I'm really good at it. I love meeting new people, being on my feet, and I'm working for a company I love again. I'm writing more, reading more, and reaching for new dreams. Dreams that come from the core of who I am. I'm not depressed, I'm healing, I'm feeling like myself more and more everyday that I get farther away from trying to be something I am not.

When midnight strikes, it is dark. Pain can happen. Confusion, loss, and frustration will want to envelope you. But we get the chance to remember that it is a new day, a new year, a new opportunity to choose your own dream, your own glass slipper, by being who you truly are.

My name is Amanda. I am 27 years old and I am no longer a carriage. I am a pumpkin.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What Happened to the Women of Jurassic Park?

When I was in grade school I was enamored with science. While I did have my share of Barbies, I also had a super-special rock and fossil collection carefully stashed in the garage inside a cardboard box (hidden from the world since the gems were surely worth millions). I was glued to every Bill Nye the Science Guy episode and anytime we visited Seattle I begged for a visit to the famous Pacific Science Center.

I don't remember the first time I learned about dinosaurs as they had quite a name for themselves in my childhood. Movies like The Land Before Time and We're Back were all the rage. But it wasn't until I saw Jurassic Park that I think I really believed they could be real. The blockbuster film released when I was only five years old and I'm sure it took me another three years to actually see it (and probably still without my parent's permission). I don't remember feeling afraid while I watched it or suffering from weeks of bad dreams afterward. What I do remember is the following days and weeks, spending hours in my backyard, hands and knees in the dirt, sweeping it with a household paintbrush.

I was searching for dinosaur bones.

Whether I believed what I was doing was real or if dinosaurs really existed at all, I don't know. But that didn't stop me from daydreaming all day about being a scientist, checking out every dinosaur book in the library, and discovering the histories of earth's past.

Last weekend, after several months of great anticipation, I settled into my seat to finally enjoy Jurassic World. In a crowded theater I cheered, screamed and laughed along with everyone else (Jimmy Buffet grabbing his margarita before running from dino-death FTW), but for me something seemed to be missing. Where was all of the great educational information built into the plot? And what in the world was up with the female characters?

Besides Chris Pratt's character being a little bit too 1980s Harrison Ford for me (give me my Andy Dwyer!) I thought his character of Owen was the only thing keeping us connected to the great nature of these prehistoric beasts. Also, if you are going to be sliding through nearly closed doors, Chris, you might as well have a hat like Indy.

As for the ladies, I wonder why 22 years later Hollywood felt the need to suddenly put these Jurassic heroines in healsBryce Dallas Howard's character of Claire just crumbled in comparison to strong characters like Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) in the previous films. Female characters who weren't the least bit afraid to be armpit deep in Triceratops dung or to carry a screaming baby T-Rex into a trailer for surgery. I was also disappointed with the details of Claire being childless, career focused and uninterested in romance being so focused on, especially so negatively. These were completely unimportant plot pieces to play on for previous Jurassic women, so why now?

Laura Dern, Jurassic Park 1993
Julianne Moore, The Lost World: Jurassic Park 1997
Again, while I really enjoyed the film, maybe you noticed these differences too. If there are to be sequels in the future, which I hope there are, I put my vote in for a larger focus on the dinos, the science we know about them, and how about at least one bomb-ass female lead with a cinematic focus on the sharpness of her mind, not her heals.