My Passion for Local Celebrities (or why I’m notorious for obsessing over news anchors)

It’s really no secret that I love news anchors. I’m planted on the couch every Friday and Saturday night watching my favorite anchors rock the evening news on the same channel I watch all week long. I refer to them by their first names, talk about them in conversations, and am generally just the ultimate fangirl.

I do the same thing for the ones who handle the primetime news slots during the week. A little less passionate, but they’re still people I would probably get shaky hands over meeting. People always tease me about how much I support the local celebs, and today, it hit me as to why I do.

They’re real people. Not that celebrities on a larger scale, such as One Direction, aren’t real people. They very much are, but I don’t really see them the same. I couldn’t comprehend seeing them with my own eyes during the concert I attended recently, didn’t quite make sense of it. They’re Distantly Famous. They’re people I’ll probably never meet, but that’s okay. I’ve accepted it and will survive.

Local Celebrities? They’re people we invite into our homes on a semi-regular basis, people we get our news from and trust. Through the magic of television technology, we can see them in our living rooms. More than that, we can now have them live-streaming anywhere in the world with us, whether through network-created apps on our phone or something like Periscope. They’re no different than you or I, really, but they also have an immense sense of power.

Local Celebrities are influential. They have crossed the line from living independently, doing what they choose and suffering minimal consequences, to living deliberately. They think about who will see the messages they put out, who will read their tweets or posts and how it will change them. Sometimes, it’s fun stuff. Others, it’s incredibly serious. At the end of the day, they are no longer simply supporting their own interest, but they’re interested in ours.

So yeah, maybe I’m a little crazy for spending my Friday and Saturday nights watching my two favorite anchors on the news. At least you can kind of understand why, right?

How I Was Brainwashed by My Church (and no, I don’t mean the “MegaChurch”)

Author’s Note: I am in no way, shape or form here to criticize Christians. I’m simply expressing something that happened to me in my particular instance that helped shape me into the person I am today. If anything I say offends you, I want to sincerely apologize in advance for that. Not for saying it, but for the offense that occurs.

Also, to avoid any negativity directed at the individual churches, I’m changing their names. They’ll be “Tiny Church” and “MegaChurch” for this post.

I attended a fairly small church for a few years when I was in middle school and high school that I feel compelled to talk about. At first, I was loved and adored by everyone who attended it. I felt welcome and wanted. As time progressed, there were small changes made that slowly started to make me question whether or not I was happy there, and ultimately became the reasons I left.

We were forced to participate in things like the youth choir and the youth drama productions. If we didn’t like to sing, that didn’t matter. We had to do it anyway, because that’s what the pastor of Tiny Church wanted. If we missed a single Sunday, he’d call us up to talk to him before church (in front of everyone) and demand to know why. Not only did we go Sunday mornings, but Sunday nights and Wednesday nights as well. We were expected to be at every single service. At one point, I was playing in a soccer tournament over a weekend so I mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to come that weekend, and the pastor called my mother a few days in advance (my mother didn’t even attend the church with me) to tell her that I needed to be in church, not playing soccer.

They said a lot of things that, looking back, were a little off. We weren’t supposed to associate with non-Christians, not at all. We were supposed to invite people to church, though, and weren’t allowed to ever attend church with someone else because it meant we weren’t at Tiny Church. I was a little confused as to how I was supposed to be inviting people to church without associating with non-believers, seeing as my only Christian friends already had home churches to attend themselves. But I didn’t dare ask for clarification, not if I wanted to stay in the good graces of the pastor.

The sermons at Tiny Church were hard to hear. I can’t think of a single week where I didn’t feel like I was being scolded or reprimanded for something. Not in the sense that I was sinning openly, but in a way that I was never going to be good enough. The sermons were aimed at winning sinners over, but the congregation hardly grew over my years there. Instead of bringing someone to Tiny Church to hear a message about how God loves them right where they are, we brought them to tear them down so that they’d feel guilted into asking for forgiveness. I spent more weeks than not sobbing into my pastor’s shoulder at the altar asking for forgiveness without even really knowing what I’d done this time to need it.

I was constantly thinking that there was no way God would ever love me or forgive me if I didn’t constantly ask him to do both. I was fully convinced that I was a sinner, and that I was living wrongly, despite the fact that I was actually a pretty great kid. I didn’t drink, party or smoke. I went to church regularly and was not afraid to make my Xanga URL something super religious. I did everything I could to be the best possible Christian and was torn down three times a week and made to feel like a failure who needed to repent. I went to church camp each year and spent the entire week wondering why I felt so loved and happy only to dread going home and returning to Tiny Church at the end of the week.

I thought that’s how all churches were. One day, my brother invited my mom and I to attend church with him. We did, and despite feeling a little twinge of regret for missing my church’s service, I walked into the doors of MegaChurch, the same church my pastor at Tiny Church constantly bashed. He claimed they couldn’t possibly be preaching the “hard stuff” and accused them of giving people “watered-down messages” to keep them happy. He was so very wrong.

MegaChurch doesn’t take it easy on anyone. What they do differently than Tiny Church and a lot of other churches is pretty simple: they speak in love. The things I’ve learned and heard at MegaChurch are applicable each and every week. Their mission isn’t to condemn people, to guilt them into finding Jesus or to make anyone leave with a sense of “good feelings” that comes from soft preaching. They’re just there to help build Christians up and to bring non-Christians to Christ. It’s a pretty simple concept, when you think about it, and it works.

So after yesterday’s court decision, when I saw a handful of Christians using words like “abomination” and condemning those who were granted the right to marry the ones they love, I was disgusted. I was also reminded of my time at Tiny Church. I refused to stay silent and spent most of the day defending my stance on homosexuality and marriage against Christians, all while my gay friends were watching themselves be condemned. At the end of the day, I went to bed with a full heart, knowing that I had shown love and kindness in ways that was not easy. Numerous people told me they couldn’t have handled it like I did, and that is exactly the way that God has called me to live.

I’m not the most perfect Christian. In fact, I’ve actually told God that I’m not sure I am really ready to work on our relationship right now. (Long story short, I don’t practice religion anymore, I am in a relationship with God where I can be completely open with him. After a friend of mine passed away, I told him that I needed time to figure out what I wanted. I still attend church on occasion, sometimes every week, but it’s with the understanding that I am not committing to anything more than hearing what he has to lay on my heart. If you have questions about it, feel free to ask!) But God didn’t ask me to be perfect. He didn’t ask me to live a life so completely separate from the world that I was unapproachable and distant. He just asked me to love.

All of this is to say that, when you’re defending your religion, please keep one thing in mind: John 13:25 says, 
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Now, more than ever, I think it’s important that we love.

Because everyone’s blogging about the Supreme Court’s decision today, right?

Listen, I’m a pretty laid-back person. I won’t get into a fight with anyone on purpose, and I most certainly won’t do it over politics. You’re allowed to have your own informed opinions and still be my friend. I’m not here to change your mind, I’m just here to appreciate this democracy we live in. But if there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s prejudice against someone simply based on the political party they identify with.

There is nothing wrong with being a Republican. There is nothing wrong with being a Democrat. There is nothing wrong with being neither. What is wrong is condemning someone because they chose to become a registered voter of a certain party.

When I was a month shy of turning eighteen, I sat down and pulled up the platforms of both the Democratic and the Republican parties. I read each of them, focusing on the major points and decided what mattered to me. I chose to identify as a Republican based on a lot of core elements of the party’s platform, but there are also some I don’t agree with. There are Republican individuals that I can’t stand. To me, at the end of the day, political affiliation doesn’t matter.

George Washington warned our country of the dangers of political parties, and honestly, he hit the nail on the head. We tend to judge someone based on the identification rather than the actual person’s beliefs. The hatred for the opposing party runs so deeply in our country that we are unable to look beyond that to discover that maybe they’re not so bad after all.

Stereotypes based on race and gender are generally disgusting to most of us. Why is it that we’re so quick to cling to the ones surrounding political parties? I’d much rather someone tell me why they believe what they believe than tell me why I’m wrong. Maybe we need to do a little more soul-searching, America, and try to stop this bipartisan nightmare before it tears us apart beyond repair.

Also, a massive congratulations to everyone now able to marry the person they love. You deserve it, keep spreading love in this world.

Before We Blame the Media…

I’ll be honest with everyone from the start. I was trained, both in high school and college, by talented journalists. (One of my former professors is currently the Director for the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.) So my views of the media have always been somewhat morphed between society’s outside view and an insider’s perspective.

The thing is, the media is a very convoluted outlet for news. Throughout history, they’ve been held to a higher standard of ethics than most of the rest of society. When people disagree, they lash out. We expect them to stand by and be completely objective, but then we attack them for watching people get shot or drown. Ultimately, society expects journalists, no matter their platform, to be perfect.

We sit at home in our safe little houses, watching the journalists of the world cover everything from a gas station robbery to a riot in the heart of Baltimore. We don’t want to actually be out there experiencing those things, but we enjoy the thrill of the story and the way it makes us feel when we can turn the channel and know it’s not something that bothers us anymore. We shut off the television and shut out the world only to go back to pretending everything is perfect. But, whenever someone brings up the media, society likes to complain about how “they only show one side of the story.”

In modern times, the news stations have drastically changed the way they do things. There was a time when journalists wrote the truth, completely void of their own opinions and even their own voice. It was a talent to be able to report solid facts without any embellishment at all, something to be prided on. Then, things changed.

Right now, I can turn on my television and pick one of four news stations. Each one of those stations will tell the same stories during their newscasts, with the exception of one or two special cases that will inevitably be picked up by the others within a matter of hours or days. The only difference in their newscasts is the order of stories, something deemed “more important” by one may be shown at the end of a broadcast by another. They always start with the story they believe will gain the most attention first.

The problem here is that, not only is the media now deciding for us which story is “more important,” but they are also now competing to get our attention, our views. It’s not free to run a newspaper or news station. In an effort to keep themselves afloat, the media is now forced to take on an entirely new role. They are no longer simply reporters of news, they are entertainers as well. And once they start making that transition, we lose a lot of what has made journalism so consistently strong over the decades since it began.

I’m not saying they’re bad guys. They have good intentions at heart, and I know a few who are as passionate as ever about maintaining the standards set by their journalistic forefathers. The problem isn’t that they’ve taken on this role, the problem is that, as a society, we’ve put them in this position. Because at the end of the day, they’re simply giving us what we want so that they can continue doing what they love. Look at how many television shows these days revolve around murders, crimes, or death. If we weren’t so fascinated by it, so drawn to dabbling in the idea of it briefly, then they wouldn’t exist.

We like to be reaffirmed in our beliefs, so we watch the news station that sides with our political preferences. We like to be kept up to date, have the newest information, so we expect news before it’s even completely been confirmed. So before you condemn a news station for being subjective or focusing on negativity, think about what you’ve asked of them.

Five Things I Learned from My Brother: National Sibling Day

Happy National Siblings Day, everyone! In honor of today, I decided to credit my brother for five valuable lessons he gave me. Some of them were intentional, some were not. Either way, I’m sure glad he passed this along to me.

5. It’s okay to not have it all together all of the time.
My brother’s great. He’s got a wife, a baby, and a fabulous house. He’s got a job that pays well and he’s doing things with his life. This has not always been the case for him, though. Like most people, he’s had his struggles. The thing is, growing up, I was able to see him face challenges head-on and I was able to realize that my bank account wouldn’t always be stuffed full of money. I learned through him that sometimes, you gotta ask mom and dad to help. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. A thing that everyone deals with, and I was able to see it instead of learning it the hard way on my own.

4. Working hard pays off.
Sometimes, one job isn’t enough. Sometimes, you’ve got to juggle multiple jobs plus school just to have enough money to pay the bills. It’s not fair, but it’s life. Life is a struggle. My brother had his fair share of jobs, some that lasted years, some that didn’t. In the end, he did what he had to do to make it work out, and now he’s reaping the benefits of a strong work ethic that our parents instilled in both of us. I’m just lucky enough to have seen it before I entered that process.

3. Breaking up with someone sucks, but it’s important.
There were girls my brother dated that I loved. There were, of course, the ones I never met or didn’t exactly like. I can still remember teasing my brother that I’d rather keep his girlfriend than him if they ever split up, and the regret of those words once they actually did. I also remember how strong he tried to be, holding on to the hope that someday, it would all work out. Our parents have an adorable story about their own break up, one where my dad needed to do some growing up before my mom would marry him. But I’ve seen my brother go through break ups and I’ve seen him fall in love. I got to be there when he said his wedding vows to his wife, too, which was a pretty magical moment.

2. Death can happen at any moment, so live your life.
My brother lost a dear friend of his as a teenager, and I remember hearing the news. I was closer to his sister than I was to him, but Landon’s death was impactful in my life no matter what our degrees of separation were. My brother could’ve shut down completely, could’ve been afraid of death having seen it at such a young age. He didn’t do that, though, and it’s what helped me process my own friend’s passing when I was a college freshman. Instead, my brother has lived his life so that he doesn’t let himself miss out on an adventure in fear. If he wanted to plan a ski trip with his friends or visit Cancun on his senior trip, then he did it. It was as simple as that.

1. Love with all of your heart.
We fought a lot as kids. There were days, looking back, where all I remember was him sitting on my face with a pillow or me pounding his bedroom door so hard that it almost came off its hinges. He threw a CD down the street once and told me it was my Britney Spears album, and I cried so hard that I didn’t know if I’d ever stop. My mom would get phone calls of both of us screaming at the tops of our lungs, trying to blame it all on the other. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. But I cried when he moved away for college, and I’ve never stopped loving him. We don’t see eye to eye all the time, but whenever I need him most, he’s always there. No matter how intense our fighting gets, no matter what mean words we say, he’s got a love for me that’s untouchable. Which is pretty darn awesome, if you think about it.

Clearly, my brother has taught me a lot of things in my life. He’s taught me so much more than I can simplify into five points. But it’s a national celebration of brothers (and sisters) so this was the least I could do.

What the News Won’t Tell You About Greek Life

“I believe that the privilege of membership in Alpha Delta Pi brings the responsibility to do my best in whatever I undertake, always remembering that leadership requires confidence tempered with humility and courage blended with tolerance.” – The Creed of Alpha Delta Pi [source]

There’s been a lot of words thrown out in response to the video that surfaced last week from an University of Oklahoma fraternity. As I sat here this morning watching This Week with George Stephanopoulos, I finally reach the point I’ve been avoiding all week long: the point of being able to remain silent any longer.

I get it, we’ve all seen those stories or movies that showcase hazing, partying, and an all-around negative portrayal of Greek Life. If you’ve never been a part of a sorority or fraternity, then you compare that to what you’ve seen and heard… In most cases, it’s probably pretty similar. Words like “frat” get tossed around with a negative connotation, and if the water wasn’t already murky enough, it gets even more confusing.

There are 26 sororities that make up the National Panhellenic Conference. There are 75 fraternities that are part of the North-American Interfaternity Council. Each fraternity or sorority has chapters planted on various campuses across North America. In turn, the college campus has multiple fraternity or sorority chapters on it. There are also chapters that don’t fall into the NPC or NIC on the campus, some are religious-based and others are ethnicity-based.

What the news won’t tell you about Greek Life is that it’s impossible to lump them all into the same category. Honors societies are most often listed with the letters, and then distinguished from the rest with a tagline such as “a leadership and service organization.” Fraternities and Sororities often don’t get that luxury. Each organization has its own differences, and within that organization there are differences from chapter to chapter. I’ve met Alpha Delta Pi women from across the country who I love and I’ve had Alpha Delta Pi women in my own city that I don’t click with. We are not the same person, we are not the same personality types, and we are not all best friends.

What the news won’t tell you about Greek Life is that it’s not for everyone, but it’s absolutely for some. The four sororities on my campus for my first three years of college weren’t for me. It turns out, my oldest childhood friend found her place in one of them. I knew girls in all of the sororities, and they’re all wonderful women. They just weren’t for me. Then, Alpha Delta Pi colonized on my campus, and things changed for me. I came home to Alpha Delta Pi in the fall of 2013, and I haven’t regretted that decision once since then.

What the news won’t tell you about Greek Life is that most of the people involved in it are doing great things. I won’t throw facts at you about how many members donate, volunteer, or go on to become Presidents. You can do your own research. But what I will say is that, since I joined a sorority, I have volunteered for things I would never have otherwise. I’m more invested in my community, even post-graduation. I’ve grown as a person in so many ways and I can honestly say it’s because of my sorority.

What the news wont’ tell you about Greek Life is that we don’t pay for our friends. Dues are used to pay for the house, the chapter’s expenses, and are budgeted extremely closely. By paying our dues, we are able to have events ranging from formals to date parties, plus shirts to go along with those events. Like most clubs and businesses, a sorority or fraternity chapter has expenses, and dues pay for that. If we wanted to buy our friends, we’d probably start somewhere a lot cheaper than a sorority.

I joined a sorority because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I’m so glad I did. I have taken it upon myself to live to higher standards, and I know that my sisters have done the same. While we may not always agree on things, we are still a part of our sorority and the Panhellenic community as a whole. Before you say that Greek Life is bad, remember that there’s always a negative person or group that pulls down the reputation of the group. From politicians to educators, the negative light drawn to one person cannot be used to define the entire group. It’s no different for us, and that’s what the news won’t tell you about Greek Life.