Two friends walk in a bar…jokes on us

The problem started when my friend Sunny gave the bartender his ID first.

“Why do you have a Kentucky license?” the bartender asks, like people from Kentucky have the plague.

Um…isn’t that kind of a rude question? There could be many reasons why he has a Kentucky license and is in Pennsylvania, and he tells her the truth; he is visiting his friends and family here.

Well, the Kentucky ID threw her off because then she really examines my PA one. I just turned 24 the week before (he’s 25) and I renewed my license recently with the new PA design.

The bartender asks me, “Why does it say ‘Not for REAL ID Purposes?'”

…. Because it’s not a REAL ID, but it is a real driver’s license.

I wonder who had the bright idea for the name REAL IDs and to stick the phrase “NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES” on driver’s licenses. I can see how the phrase can be confusing and also pretty stupid. I recently got back from a vacation at the Finger Lakes, New York, and one of the servers said she didn’t serve a group from PA before us because she thought their IDs were fake.

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For clarification, REAL ID is optional for PA residents to board domestic commercial flights or enter federal facilities that require ID. When I first heard about the REAL ID, I was confused if I would need one, but if you have a valid passport, it is unnecessary.

I explain to the bartender what the Real ID is and how it is different from a driver’s license. She also notes that I just renewed my license recently…like yes, I renewed it a few weeks ago because it’s real.

She asks if we have any other forms of identification on us. Sunny pulls out his Sam’s Club card, which also features his picture, and I have credit and debit cards with my name and signature on them. She examines our IDs and our cards, and I can feel everyone in the bar staring — or trying not to stare — at the scene she created.

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My first (and last?) time filling out a Declaration of Age form. At least I look young, right?

She walks away and I assume everything is fine now. We still don’t have our drinks though and I think she forgot about them, but then she comes over and tells us to sign Declaration of Age forms for the PA Liquor Control Board. (This bar didn’t have the ID scanners that could easily prove our ID’s validity.)

We fill out the forms and she copies our driver’s licenses, and finally we get our beers.

“This must be embarrassing for you,” said an older man a couple of seats away. “The first round should be on them.”

Between examining our IDs for a long time, questioning us, having us fill out forms and photocopying our IDs, it was a little embarrassing. I felt like all eyes were on us and I wondered if people thought we were actually underage or if they just felt bad for us like the older man did. It was more frustrating than embarrassing though because I knew our IDs were real and we had every right to be served.

Cheers to finally getting our beers.

 

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Apartment tour: Welcome to my first place!

I feel like I’m on MTV’s “Cribs” minus a few million dollars.

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I moved into my apartment about a month ago now and it’s starting to really feel like home (and look presentable enough to share with you all.)

I looked at two other apartments before this one and I knew pretty quickly that this was the one. What I really like is how I feel like I’m inside of a house, not an apartment. I have tons of windows and so much space! The community is also very green and full of trees, so it’s a nice place to take walks around the neighborhood rather than being in a large apartment building surrounded by a parking lot.

Living room

I decided to put the kitchen table in the living room because there was so much space there and the actual kitchen is pretty small. I also have my yoga mat and weights set up on the right side of the room, but the community also has a great gym, pool and clubhouse that I’ve been using.

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After moving in, I still needed a lot of furniture. I started looking up TV stands online and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to carry one myself. And because I live on the second floor, I would have to get it up the stairs if delivered, which also wasn’t going to be possible due to weight. This realization was very frustrating to me, but the next day after moving in, my boyfriend Chad and I went to Target and I got this bookcase for a steal of $35.

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When I first moved in, I ate off my sister Katie’s old chair and the free coffee table from my neighbor. I ventured off to Ikea and found this table and chairs. They were all boxed separately and very light so I was able to carry it myself and also fit it in my tiny car.

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I found my sofa at Big Lots and it even came with the decorative pillows. The sofa was difficult to get up the stairs of my apartment — or at least it looked difficult. Chad and Katie’s boyfriend Cam did all the heavy lifting and it was delivered for free thanks to my dad’s trailer. (Also shout out to Cam for building the kitchen table and bookcase and possible future furniture).

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Kitchen

The kitchen is tiny but gets the job done. I really like the black appliances, counters and cabinets. I also have space against the opposite wall and am hoping to get a rolling island in the future for more counter space while cooking.

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Bathroom

Also small, but cute and functional.

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Bedroom

I love my new bedroom! It’s super spacious and my bedspread combines my favorite colors, yellow and blue. My mattress in from Raymour and Flanigan because they had next day delivery and it arrived the day I moved in. I literally told the salesman that I wanted to see the cheapest mattresses available but it is super comfortable and has been a nice upgrade from my twin bed at my parents’. The ceiling fan is also a nice bonus.

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My desk is to the right of my bed. I also finally hung up my DeSales diploma after two years in the box.

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Thoughts after one month in…

So far I’m enjoying living here a lot. It usually takes me about 8-10 minutes to get to work, which is so convenient. And I’m really liking my new job, but I’ll write about that another time. I also like the freedom to do whatever I want. I can have music playing throughout the apartment and not have to worry what anyone else would want to listen to or watch on TV. I also think it is good for me to live alone and know that I can do it.

It does get lonely though, especially eating dinner alone, which is why I usually listen to podcasts while I eat so I feel kind of involved in a conversation. I LOVE talking, so it is hard not having anyone here to talk to.

I miss being able to bug my parents whenever I want at home. Even if I didn’t hang out with them all the time, I knew they were there or coming home later. If traffic is okay, I can get to my parents’ house in an hour, so it is still relatively easy to visit them. And when I go to their house, where I lived for almost 24 years, it will always be the home in my heart.

So to me I have two homes — my childhood home where I am always welcome, and my new apartment where I am paying rent and learning how to live independently. There are still a few more things I want to do here like hang more of my artwork and pictures on the walls, but otherwise, I have everything I need.

“Home is the starting place of love, hope and dreams.”

 

 

 

 

 

Bittersweet goodbye to the Reading Eagle

I’m currently sitting at my desk at the Reading Eagle as I write this. (It’s a very slow day.) I sit at a hexagonal-partition desk, but out of the six desks, I am the only person using one. Over half the desks at the Reading Eagle are vacant. Many more of these desks will be empty soon with inevitable layoffs from MediaNews Group who bought the Reading Eagle due to the bankruptcy.

When I walk through the building, I pass empty rooms filled with old computers and stacks of papers on desks, and I wonder what it was like working here in it’s heyday, well before I was born. It makes me sad that local journalism is failing, and newspapers will shrink as they are bought by larger companies and eventually become nonexistent. And it makes me sad that what I came to love in college is not a viable future for me.

I only have three shifts left at the Reading Eagle and I am definitely ready to go. Editing obituaries for the majority of my shifts became tedious and unchallenging after almost two years. Employee moral is at the lowest I have seen it. And I am so ready for change with my new job and the variety it will bring.

The thing I always miss the most when I leave a job, school or place is always the people. I will miss all the editors who gave me the opportunity to write for their sections. I will miss Carolyn who trained me and gave me most of my obit desk knowledge, and all the sports guys who were nice, funny and rooted for me whenever I had a new job interview. I remember how excited I was to see my byline printed in the Reading Eagle for the first time and the surprise I felt when one of my articles was the cover story of the Berks Country section. I will also miss all the funeral directors who called to talk to me every day.

Most of all, I will miss the other obituary staff, Chris and Debbie. The three of us have formed a family dynamic with Momma Deb treating us to lunches and covering our shifts in snowy weather, Chris with his humor and sports updates in our group chat, and myself who became the sort-of leader of the group and go-to for obituary related questions and procedures.

I wish the Reading Eagle employees the best of luck as they wait to hear back if they are hired by MediaNews Group or not. It’s an extremely stressful time, especially for all the married couples who work there. Although I was job searching for a year, my new job came at the perfect time. The Reading Eagle will always have special meaning to me as my first job out of college and it is bittersweet to leave.

I am very excited to begin my adventure with my first full-time job as a public relations associate at Communication Solutions Group. Although it is not journalism, there are many parallels, and I continue to do what I love: writing. I am excited for the variety of writing press releases, newsletters, ads, social media, pitches, speeches or anything else my clients need.

IAAF discriminates against female athletes in Caster Semenya case

Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya lost her appeal against proposed rules that aim to limit her testosterone levels that her body naturally produces. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) implemented a new regulation that requires female athletes with male-level testosterone levels unable to compete unless they reduce their levels. The reduction must be maintained for at least six months to compete in certain track and events in international competitions.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of the IAAF regulation, which means South African runner Semenya must medically reduce her testosterone levels if she wants to compete at the world championships in September. The IAAF proposed hormonal contraceptives and said surgical changes are not required as if that makes the situation better.

CAS admits that this is discriminatory (!!!) but believes it is necessary for fair competition among female athletes. The IAAF’s regulation is for race distances between 400m and one mile only, so Semenya — who usually competes in the 800m — also has the option to compete at longer distances to continue running against women without lowering her testosterone levels. The IAAF also ruled that she can compete with men in any competition with zero restrictions (probably because she will be at a disadvantage against the men.)

Semenya should not be punished for something she was born with: high testosterone levels, and instead be celebrated. Although Semenya is a woman and identifies as one, she is told she is not woman enough to compete with them. It is a violation of human rights to force her to compete against men or suppress her hormones through unnecessary medication to compete against other women.

Despite this, Semenya stayed positive after the court’s verdict. In a statement released by her lawyers, she stated, “The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”

 

 

 

Earth Day campaign to protect species & how to help

The nonprofit Earth Day Network is seeking support for their Protect our Species campaign for Earth Day on April 22, 2019.

According to the book “Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity,” the Earth is currently in its largest period of species extinction in the last 60 million years. Naturally between one and five species will go extinct annually; however, the Earth is currently experiencing multiple extinctions daily — 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than normal.

Earth Day Network is focusing on endangered and threatened species vital to ecosystems

  • Bees are essential for human survival and important pollinators, which provide one in three bites of food Americans eat.
  • Home to 25 percent of marine life, coral reefs feature plants and animals that are being used in new medicines to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions.
  • Elephants maintain biodiversity where they live in multiple ways. By flattening grasses as they travel, they create habitat for smaller species. Some animals also use the water holes that African Elephants dig.
  • Standing 15 to 20 feet tall, giraffes spot predators in the wild before any other animal and act as a warning system to the others. When giraffes run from danger, they are protecting animals like zebras and gazelles who start running from the threat too.
  • While they can be seen as pests to humans, insects are a food source to thousands of animals and also play a role in pollination. Without them are global ecosystems will disintegrate.
  • In addition to a whale’s role in marine ecosystems, whale watching is a four-billion-dollar industry that supports 13,000 coastal jobs worldwide.

Species decline due to many reasons

There is overexploitation of some species due to human consumption, use or sport, such as trophy hunting for ivory elephant tusks. As temperatures rise due to climate change, it puts more animals in danger as well. Habit degradation like pollution also plays a role and can keep animals from thriving in their natural environment. Lastly, as humans continue to dominate land, sea and resources, the survival of species are constantly being reduced.

Easy ways to protect the Earth and animals

Being conscientious in everyday choices may not have an immediate impact that is visible to the eye; however, as more people make eco-friendly changes in their lives, it will slowly but surely protect the environment. Although they seem like small changes, these are five easy ways to start taking action and save the animals:

  • Switch out cleaners for non-toxic cleaning products. Some plant-based and biodegradable brands include Branch Basics, Simple Green and Honest Company.
  • Beat plastic pollution by using reusable bottles, cups and bags.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating food waste. Organize your fridge, freezer and pantry by expiration date. If you find yourself with a surplus of food, freeze items for a later date.
  • Limit electricity usage with LED and CFL lightbulbs. Turn lights off when you leave the room and unplug items that aren’t in use.
  • Save water by only running the dishwasher and washing machine when you have full loads. Fix leaky faucets and turn the water off when you brush your teeth or shave.

Go green for the 8.7 million species of plants and animals, the 7.7 billion people and future generations living on Mother Earth.

Lehigh Valley Flower Show finds

Allie, Tina and I in front of a decorated gazebo.

I visited the Lehigh Valley Flower and Garden Show this past weekend at the Agri-Plex at the Allentown Fairgrounds with my friends Allie and Tina. The Philadelphia Flower Show was the same weekend, but we didn’t think we would have enough time to make the drive and see the whole show. Plus, $8 sounded a lot better than $38.

The LV show was filled with pretty landscaping displays, a lot of plants for sale and garden décor, pottery, photography, beauty products, specialty food vendors, she sheds and more. We skipped over the booths selling home items like windows and fences but checked out all the fun displays from bunnies to hand-crafted birdhouses. Here are some of my favorites:

Mission Plant Co.

I love succulents; I think they are so adorable and had to stop at Mission Plant Co.’s plant bar. I picked out my succulent and planted it into a pot. Then I decorated the top layer of soil with blue and white gems.

Chocolate Moonshine

Tina and I sampled moonshine bars from Chocolate Moonshine. (Allie gave up sweets for Lent and had to resist.) The bars combine fudge and Belgian chocolate to create a truffle. I tried the cookies and cream flavor while Tina tried the dark espresso, and they were both delicious.

Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary

The three of us sat in on The Wonders of Butterflies program by Mari Gruber from the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary. Mary taught us really cool facts about the differences between butterflies and moths, and their tactics for survival.

Lavieve Boutique Quality Skincare

Unable to resist the scent of lavender, we sampled hand cream from Lavieve Boutique. Visiting all the way from Maryland, the gentleman at the booth told us how his wife makes all the products using natural ingredients. He also showed us photos of them in the lavender fields in southern France that they visit annually.

Timeless Petals

After we walked around the whole show, I decided to go back to one of the jewelry booths, Timeless Petals. I bought a mixed-metal pendant made from flowers, butterflies and other materials in nature. I couldn’t resist the bright colors and one-of-a-kind design. It is also a resin necklace, which makes it waterproof.

My friends and I had a great first experience at the Lehigh Valley Flower and Garden Show. I was hoping to see more flower displays, but overall it was a successful day of supporting local artists and becoming more educated about their passions.

Stay Up to Date with theNewsWorthy podcast

It’s hard to keep up with the news and find time to read, listen to or watch broadcasts, especially ones that aren’t leaning to the left or right. Award winning broadcast journalist and former TV news reporter, Erica Mandy, understood this problem and created theNewsWorthy podcast.

Ready by 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Mandy presents the major news stories in a “fast, fair, fun” way Monday through Friday. Most episodes are just under ten minutes and cover everything from breaking news, businesses and politics to sports, movies and celebrities. She has special episodes each Thursday called “Thing to Know Thursday” where she interviews a special guest on a specific topic after the regular news coverage. These episodes are slightly longer, about 15 minutes or less, but are still easy to fit in while getting ready in the morning, eating breakfast or driving to work.

Mandy presents the news in an unbiased way and gets straight to the point in a casual and friendly manner. For a more in-depth look at the stories she covers, visit the homepage, www.theNewsWorthy.com. View an episode’s show notes to see her sources and read longer stories on each topic. TheNewsWorthy is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and other podcast apps, or listeners can sign up by email to receive episodes straight to their inboxes.

With theNewsWorthy, there is no excuse to be uninformed about the news anymore. Plus as Mandy says, it’s fast, fair and fun.

A visit to Philly for Iliza Shlesinger’s comedy tour

My Saturday night was full of dogs and laughs. Does it get better than that?

For Christmas, I bought my sister Katie tickets to see comedian Iliza Shlesinger ‘s Elder Millennial Tour at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia. Iliza is the only female and youngest person to win NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and also has four specials available on Netflix.  

After parking in Philly (I’m glad I reserved a spot in advance), we took a short walk to the Good Dog Bar. Luck was on our side that night: there were only two open seats left at the bar. The walls were covered in black and white dog photos, the Cowboys and Rams game was on — the only time Philly will be caught cheering loudly for the Rams — and classic rock music played. It was a cool spot to grab beers before the show.

I purchased tickets to the late show at 10 p.m. instead of the 7 p.m. because I could get much better seats in the sixth row. The Merriam Theater was smaller on the inside than how it looked in the pictures online but the ceilings and walls were ornately decorated, and we had a great view.

The chatter around us quieted as the lights dimmed and Iliza’s dog ran across the stage to announce the start of the show. Hunter Hill, Iliza’s opening act, came out to perform first. The show didn’t advertise an opening act so we weren’t sure if there was going to be one, but he was pretty funny.

Next, it was time for Iliza! Her tour, Elder Millennial, is the same name as her most recent Netflix special. I watched the special in July when it was released, months before buying the tickets. I wasn’t sure if she would do the same jokes, but I wouldn’t mind hearing them again. I told Katie not to watch the Elder Millennial special just in case, but all the jokes were different. Iliza recently married in May of 2018 and a lot of her jokes were about the wedding traditions she didn’t want to partake in like wearing a garter or covering her face with a veil. Iliza is really good at impersonations and voices. She moves around the stage a lot and acts out the scenarios she makes up.

It’s harder to comprehend what comics are saying during a live show compared to on TV. However, there’s so much more energy at a live show with everyone laughing around you. It was cool to be so close to Iliza after watching her on the screen, and Katie and I were close enough to read Hunter and Iliza’s facial expressions well.

Iliza is very funny and her content is relatable especially to women. I can’t do the show justice describing it here, but visiting Philly for her show was a fun night out with my sister and something different to experience.  

My 2018 highlights (and lowlights)

The first year I wasn’t a student anymore…weird

Unless you count before prechool, which I barely remember, 2018 was the first year that I wasn’t a student. It was weird to watch DeSales go on without me and not write any academic papers. And as all the older people say, “time flies” and it did. It went really fast just working and not measuring the year by semesters.

I had ups and downs on my professional journey

After working part time at the Reading Eagle for a year, I began looking for full time positions in writing and communication. While I thought I would be further along in my career and have been going on numerous interviews with no luck, I am hopeful an opportunity will arise in the new year. I also make sure to celebrate the victories in my current position at the Reading Eagle. My latest article was featured as a cover story in the Berks Country section, which was very exciting to see.

Three weddings: lots of love

This year was full of love, celebrating three weddings, and being a bridesmaid in my best friend Skye’s wedding!

The Eagles won the Super Bowl!

I’m grateful to be able to witness a Super Bowl win in my lifetime. And with the Eagles in the playoffs, maybe there are more Super Bowl rings to come.

My dream of seeing Kesha in concert came true

For a while I thought Kesha would never be able to perform again and was so happy when she was free from court battles with Dr. Luke. Kesha and Macklemore had so much fun on stage and brought energy to the crowd despite the pouring rain.

I got a foot in the door…literally

Lesson of the year: don’t kick random people’s cars. Thanks!

The side not posted on social media:

This year was full of a lot of good times and new memories, but my year was more than all the colorful photos that I posted above or on social media. The year was full of loss, mistakes, arguments and doubts. We all have bad days.

 Hopeful for the New Year

Although 2018 was rocky on a professional level, I am thankful that all other aspects of my year — family, friendships, relationship, health — were pretty positive. I can’t help but be hopeful that 2019 has good surprises ahead of me and believe that this will be the year that I get a new job and advance my career. And with that, perhaps my first place and adventures in a new city. Cheers to the New Year!

How to change the world as you Christmas shop

Christmas movies like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” may cause you to feel guilty for indulging in the consumerism and gifts around Christmastime. However, when you shop and are able to make a difference in the world, you feel a lot better about it. Here are ways you can make an impact while shopping; and yes, I practice what I preach.

Donate to organizations (at no extra charge) using Amazon Smile

When shopping online, almost everyone is searching on Amazon for ideas. However, if you use smile.amazon.com, 0.5 percent of the price you pay will be donated to the charity of your choice. While 0.5 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, purchases add up with millions of customers using Amazon Smile.

Of course, a direct donation to charity would make a larger impact; however, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to donate to charities each year. If you’re already planning to spend the money on the purchase, why not donate a portion to charity at no extra cost to you?

Amazon will show you the personal impact you’re making, and also the amount Amazon Smile has earned as a whole and to the organization you are donating to. As of October 2018, Amazon shoppers raised over $105 million for all the charities.

You can update the charity you are donating to at any time and while Amazon gives you recommendations like the World Wildlife Fund, ASPCA, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and more, you can also search for charities by name or location.

Shop with reusable bags

I am trying to get in the habit of using reusable bags as much as I can. I have a large 99 cents plastic bag from Marshalls and a smaller cloth bag (with my name on it) that was given to me as a gift. I try to be eco-friendly when I can and reusable bags are one small way that I can make a difference.

According to Plastic Oceans, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used annually; and one billion bags are used per minute. Additionally, 50 percent of bags are used only once and then thrown away — not reused or recycled.

By doing my small part, I hope to encourage others who see me shopping with my reusable bags to put more thought into their everyday habits and possibly switch to reusable bags as well. The “disposable lifestyle” that we currently live in includes so much trash even though numerous reusable options are available from bags to water bottles to utensils, and all the other objects we use once and immediately throw away.

Support businesses with ideals you believe in

Pay attention to which companies believe in good causes and which only care about making money. You’ll feel better shopping when the company’s values align with your own.

After Dolce and Gabbana posted a racist video to their Chinese social media account, celebrities and models said that they would not attend the brand’s Shanghai fashion show, which was then cancelled. Fans also took to social media, tearing up and burning their Dolce and Gabana clothing. While burning clothes is a bit dramatic, it’s great to take a stand and decide not to support brands like Dolce and Gabana who have been at the center of many offensive incidents.

One of my favorite brands to support is Banded2gether, which sells mainly headbands but also hair ties, scarves and other accessories. For every Banded product sold, three meals are provided to a child in need in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 10.4 million meals have been provided to under nourished children; and Banded helps women too. For their empowerment candles, Banded partners with Prosperity Candles, an organization that teaches refugee women living in the U.S. new skills and employs them at living wages. Not only I am happy to wear cute, non-slip headbands, but also proud to support an organization with a great mission.