The Problem with Emerson Attendance Policy

We’ve all been there. You open your eyes at 9:20 am, knowing full well you have your elective at 10. But you also know that your head is pounding, your throat is drier than the Sahara, your nose is running faster than your legs ever could and you feel like ten bricks were just chucked at your body. Nope, you’re not hungover; you’re sick. But you also know you only have one unexcused absence left and…there are two months left of the semester. Groaning, aching and melting in your own skin, you reluctantly roll your limbs out of bed and begin your routine.

Emerson’s attendance policy is, needless to say, strict. It’s said that most professors assign a policy of 3 unexcused absences and unlimited excused absences. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve had professors only allow 2, 1, or even no unexcused absences for the entirety of the semester. And when the pool of reasons from which excused absences can be drawn is so small, it becomes increasingly difficult for Emerson students to maintain a good grade in class while still tending to their physical and mental needs.

I have never before experienced such a hard-working, dedicated environment of students who will go to class through so much. I myself have sat through classes even with treacherous stomach bugs and eye infections. The scary part to me is that it seems the school would prefer we come to class with our contagious illnesses than stay home and rest. It’s clear the quality of our work in class is greatly diminished during these instances, and yet, we still push through.

I find it absurd the inconsistency between professors’ policies. I’ve had professors who have excused people for public transportation issues, colds and picking up extra shifts at work, as well as professors who have refused to grant excused absences for family deaths, funerals and weddings. As adults between the ages of 18 and 22, students should be given enough responsibility and respect to come to class on their own terms. With such strict attendance policies, it feels like the college doesn’t trust us to manage our own educations. And it’s saddening that professors will often assume dishonesty or laziness, no matter the excuse a student gives.

When a professor once addressed my class on the first day with “You will be given no excused absences. You are adults, and if you want to come to class, you will,” it was unbelievable to me. Being absent from class is so much more than merely not wanting to come. We as adults understand the economic toll our education has on our lives, and we know to take it very seriously. Yes, there are days when we are tired, bored or hungry and don’t feel like going to class, but professors need to start taking our health more seriously. Nothing, no not even your hour-and-45-minute-long seminar, matters more than our health.

At the end of the day, students are in control of their education. They will take as much, or as little, from it as they desire. It is not a professor’s job to force students into their classroom; if a professor is being respectful and fair, then students will naturally want to come to class. It’s as simple as that. Health is wealth, and us Emerson students are going to be needing some major wealth if we dream of funding our expensive undergraduate educations.

The Life of a Homeschooler

  Okay, I’ll admit it, I was homeschooled.

I know what you’re thinking, but I was not homeschooled in the antisocial-god fearing-I only wear sandals-sort of way. In fact, it came as a surprise to many people when I decided to be homeschooled at the age of ten. I was raised by a single mom who worked as a school teacher. My mom, bless her heart, has always put 110 percent into everything that she does. It didn’t come as a surprise when she was a favorite among students at Kyrene del Milenio Elementary school. However, growing up as an only child, and attending the school where my mom taught was not a great experience from my young perspective. For me, it meant waking up at 5 am and getting to school before the sun came up. It meant eating cheese danishes from the vending machine in the teacher’s lounge for breakfast. It meant sharpening pencils for my mom’s classroom every morning. It meant re-watching every VHS from the school library (I might scream if someone ever makes me watch the animated Hobbit movie again). However, in most people’s eyes, I was the shy girl who read all the time and had an amazing teacher as a mom.

So, in third grade, when I started dreading school and straight up refused to go, it came as a surprise to many people. My mom hadn’t been teaching for a couple of years, a result of traumatic brain injury. I was struggling socially and academically throughout third and fourth grade. I didn’t get bad grades, but I had a hard time sitting at a desk all day. I excelled in reading but was average at math and was skimmed over in a class of 35 kids. I was not only bored but I was a weird kid. I was obsessed with horror from a young age, loved to read at lunch and had crushes on girls and boys (I didn’t connect this idea until I was 14). None of these things helped me to make friends and I remember being mortified when I realized that many people in my grade would talk about me behind my back. Secret conversations and laughter ending abruptly with eyes averted whenever I walked past. Even my “best friend” in third grade told me she had to be my secret friend at school even though we had sleepovers every weekend. All of these things resulted in tears before school and refusal to go. Eventually, my mom sat me down and had me make a list of everything I wanted in a school.

      Addy’s Dream School

  • More reading time
  • Pets at school
  • Help with math
  • More field trips
  • Wearing PJs whenever I want

After making the list, homeschooling was an obvious option. My mom and I only knew one other family that homeschooled, so it was a mostly unknown option to us. Still, we started this strange and exciting endeavor at the beginning of my 5th-grade year.  My mom used her teaching background and resources to create general lesson plans and we eventually found local homeschool groups to join. I continued with homeschooling all the way through high school. I took community college classes from age twelve, graduated with double the credit needed for high school graduation, performed Shakespeare, volunteered with multiple organizations and traveled extensively with my mother.

Despite all the weird looks when I told people I was homeschooled, the probing questions about my social life and college plans, I’m not going to be ashamed of being a homeschooler anymore. It has brought me academic challenges and travel opportunities that I would have never had otherwise, but more importantly, it introduced me to a group of friends that taught me self-confidence and accepted all of my weird quirks. I was immersed by people who wore whatever they wanted, studied everything from music theory to Latin and valued treating each other with respect. This has shaped me in numerous ways, but most obviously brought me to Emerson College where I continue to be surrounded by creative, weird and passionate people.

Cry More, it’s Good for You

Photo by: Christian Franke

Crying does not correlate to weakness. Navigating your own emotions is not an easy feat and it takes time to understand what you are feeling. There are some things you feel that you may never be able to explain. Though sometimes it can be difficult to feel like your tears are validated, crying is always worth it and necessary.

Obviously everyone cries, but I think the more crying the better. I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately because I am a very emotional person and I have learned not to think too much when my emotions get the best of me. If I am holding back tears, my stomach starts to turn and I feel my chest getting heavy.  As stated by an article on AgingCare, crying is a natural response to negative emotions and a natural way to reduce emotional stress. There is a reason you feel more relaxed after a good cry! I can understand some people not wanting to let their guard down in front of others, but sometimes it is necessary. No matter how stupid you may think your crying is, it is not stupid. Your emotions don’t lie and you should listen to what they are saying. Crying is a good way to relieve stress and stay aware of yourself and what your body needs to recover from the tears to get to a happier mindset.

Another reason to let the tears flow, it’s good for your eyesight! According to an article on MedBroadcast, the moisture caused from crying helps keep your vision clear because it lubricates your eyes. Studies have also been done that show some people are more prone to crying than others if you are empathetic and relate to other people’s suffering. I am 100% a part of this category and there are pros and cons to being this type of person. Being emotional is not a flaw and I accept that quality with open arms and if you are like me, you should learn to love it to. Crying a lot is something that I wasn’t always comfortable with, but I realized that it made me feel good so why should I fight it? It feels so good to let all of the tension in your body go and be content with being upset. Even the happiest person has to let out the tears.

Keeping your sadness bottled up inside creates more tension and can lead to a bigger blow up in the future. Whether you feel tears coming on in public or when you’re alone, don’t be scared to let it out. When I am with someone who is upset I encourage them to just cry it out because it will help them feel better. No one should feel embarrassed or scared to cry when they feel that intense emotion no matter where they are or who they are with. If you haven’t cried on the T at least once….do you even live in Boston?

It may take one cry, two cries or thirty to feel better. However many tears it takes to help you feel better. Don’t question how you feel, but learn how to recover from the sadness. Listening to music may help calm you down, going for a walk in the fresh air, talking to someone you trust, or maybe just being alone and winding down. Find what makes you feel good and run with it. Though no one likes seeing anyone cry, it is important to encourage the tears if someone is holding back so they can experience the relief that follows. Crying is therapeutic, amazing, helpful, and emotional all at once.

The next time you feel tears welling up, welcome them with open arms. Happy tears, angry tears, sad tears…whatever it might be, let it flow and you will feel a lot better afterwards.  

The Art of Tinder

Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left. Pause. Click. Scroll. Swipe right. Match. Swipe left. Swipe left.

We’ve all been there. You’re bored, and you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. Then all of a sudden, you close out and click on that orange fire icon and start swiping. It’s mindless entertainment, and we can’t deny the rush it gives us to literally rate people based on a single photo. But, why?

For me, the Tinder journey has been just that: a journey. I end up going through phases in which I cover months without touching the app. And then, suddenly, I’ll see a friend swiping, and I realize I kind of miss it. Then begins the brief phase, lasting between one week and one month, where I’m back on the app, semi-regularly. No matter what prompted my return, I must admit it always stems from some level of boredom. That, I believe, is a commonality of our generation; with a constant stream of information being thrown in our faces, we’re always looking for ways to be entertained. For most, that’s spending hours each day tagging friends in memes and flipping through people’s Snapchat Stories. But, when that gets old, the best way to uncover some new content is through Tinder, since you’re always being shown new faces.

In my opinion, Tinder doubles as a dating (or hookup) app and a self-validation app. We can’t deny the little ray of pride we feel when we match with someone we find pretty attractive. Even more so when that person messages us. In this day and age, it’s hard to get that kind of validation in person. Face-to-face human interaction has spiraled downwards as we’ve become consumed by our devices at all times of day. It seems to be getting more and more difficult to meet someone in person and have them actually ask you out on a date. Some might say that chivalry is dead; I say that direct conversation is dead. If I’m being honest, I would probably find it very strange and uncomfortable if any stranger approached me and tried to strike up a conversation. So, to get that same feeling in a much safer and more comfortable environment (a.k.a our phones), Tinder can often be that outlet. You get to talk to people you find attractive, to whom you’d never typically speak, and feel validated by their attraction to you. And, if all fails, you can just stop responding or delete them and move on with your life. It’s as simple as that.

The problem with Tinder for me, though, is the varying levels of involvement each individual on the app has. There are some people who live by Tinder as if it’s a religious text; there are others, like me, who go on it once in awhile and often forget about their matches. There are some who are on the app solely to find one-night stands and meaningless hookups; there are others who are looking for relationships or even just friendships. This is a flaw in the app for me; it’s very difficult to find someone who’s on the same page as you. While I myself am not searching for my future husband on Tinder, it does get a bit tiring when most of the men with whom I match seem to only want to hook up once and then move on. It would be a lot better for me if Tinder added a couple more settings to their Discovery Settings. Since you can edit the gender, age range, and location range you’re looking for, I believe you should also be able to edit “what” you’re looking for (ex. relationship, friendship, regular hook-up, one-night stand) and only match with people who are on the same page as you.

However, what’s most interesting to me about Tinder is the emphasis we place on photos and bios. There are settings on Tinder that can place your photos in order of how attractive people will find them. There are articles and studies done on what types of photos receive the most right swipes. To many, Tinder is truly an art form; a lot of thought goes behind the making of a Tinder profile. Just as it is with any other social media platform, we are given the power to control how others view us. And, in creating this image, a lot of thought is involved. You can give as much or as little as you want, and in return, also get as much or as little as you want. That is truly the art of Tinder.

I will end with 5 of the most ridiculous messages I have received from recent Tinder guys:

  1. That’s funny.. My second girlfriend had the name Swetha too!! But the thing is I only had one girlfriend
  2. U like bad boys?
  3. if you were a flower you’d be a dammmmmnedelion
  4. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll set you up with my bunny if you set me up with your tall blond friend in the fourth pic?
  5. hey

Why Yoga is the Key

Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean running ten miles to feel good about yourself. Why run when you can do yoga to feel just as good physically and mentally? Yoga is one of the greatest forms of exercise because it is both physically and mentally satisfying. The intense focus on mentality is why I love yoga so much. I feel rejuvenated after, not exhausted. I want to go to yoga, I don’t dread this type of exercise. Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise and yoga is a wonderful outlet to strengthen your brain.

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You may only be at downward dog right now, but pretty soon you could be bending like a pretzel.

Yoga is all about focus. Forgetting about work, relationships and any other responsibilities to focus on your body and mind. Yoga is the only time I am allowed to focus on just myself, how my body is moving and allowing my mind to focus on keeping my breathing deep and steady to relax my mind. It is also a great technique to help sleeping problems because the breathing techniques can be implied if there is trouble falling asleep. Yoga breathing has helped me many,many times with sleep when my mind is too cluttered to think about resting.

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Yoga allows you to relax your body and mind to create a better you. What I love about yoga is how breathing is a centric part of all classes. Deep breathing is an amazing tool to use in times of stress, pain, anger, fear…the list goes on. Once I began practicing yoga regularly, it became easier to apply the breathing techniques and notice a change in how I handled tense situations. You don’t realize how many benefits there are to yoga until you find yourself in public stretching out your shoulders or letting out a deep breath.

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Another great aspect of yoga is stress relief. The breathing paired with stretching will wash all the stress away and allow you to relax your body and mind. Yoga moves tend to focus on relieving tension from the shoulders and back, which is where stress builds up in your body. Stress can build up quickly in your body without you even realizing it. This can lead to pulled muscles and other health complications like chronic stress which is more serious. Yoga allows you to stretch out all of your muscles and replace any pain caused by stress with soothing relief and comfort.

 

More experienced yogis can do intense backbends and splits but don’t feel pressured to match their expertise right away. It takes time to increase flexibility, but it is possible for you to get there! Dancers tend to have impeccable posture because they are stretching and increasing their flexibility constantly. Yoga can have the same results!! Weekly stretches and poses will strengthen the muscles in your back and shoulders, which will lead to better posture. This could take a few weeks, or maybe a couple of months. The benefits of breathing techniques will be present almost immediately, but don’t give up on the physical benefits which will take some more time. Consistency is key! Whether that means five minutes of breathing everyday, or 20 minutes of new poses and stretching, it is all positive for your mind and soul. Letting out stress while increasing flexibility…double benefit!

The BEST part about yoga?? You can be your own teacher! There are dozens of YouTube tutorials and apps you can download that will guide you through stretches and breathing techniques to get you started. Once you get the hang of it, you can start doing it alone! Just 10-15 minutes every day can do a world of difference for your body and mind. I can say all I want about yoga, but you have to try it yourself to experience the benefits.

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Good luck and namaste!

Reading in Strange Places

“Addelynn Rose please come to the checkout desk. Your mother is looking for you. Thank you.”

I’ve heard my name called out over the Barnes and Noble speaker countless times. I would climb out from behind whatever shelf or display I was reading behind and go to the checkout desk, a sheepish grin on my face. My mom would take a breath of relief, then smile warmly and ask, “Was the book really good?”

As a kid, I never sat in the chairs at bookstores. I know; it’s weird. I preferred to find a small corner, a nook between bookshelves, anything that was slightly hidden. I must have gotten weird looks from the few people that walked past me, but I was too absorbed in my book to care. It wasn’t just bookstores though. I’ve always managed to find odd places to read. Staircases, boat cuddies and playground castles have all served as reading nooks. I attribute a lot of this, particularly when I was younger, to being shy. They say that cats like to sit in boxes because it gives them the illusion that they can’t be seen which dramatically lowers their stress levels. Finding hidden places for me to read did the same thing for me as a kid. I’ve never felt comfortable in a large group of people. Reading was my escape so I figured that it made sense to literally hide as well. Each corner or crevice becoming my own secret place where I could experience other worlds without distraction. If you’re doubting me you should go watch The NeverEnding Story again.

As I got older it became less about hiding and more about forming attachments to a place. I started to notice that I would associate a particular place with what I read there. I can walk through the park near my childhood home and name places after what I read at each one. A small hill slopes down parallel to my cul-de-sac, Judy Blume hill. I remember filling my afternoons, stretched out on a picnic blanket on this hill, reading Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret and Superfudge. The Eucalyptus by the park is Book Thief. The pine next to it is A Wrinkle in Time. The top of the playground tower is Stargirl tower. I’ve read multiple books in each place, but usually there’s one book that sticks out in my memory.

Every time I read somewhere it was like I was leaving a bit of myself there too. The more I read in a place the more I felt comfortable in it. For me going to a new place was like getting to know a new friend. There’s always one conversation where you share a secret, a part of yourself, and that’s when you become really close with them. Reading somewhere new was like sharing a secret with that place; it would become mine in a sense. It was comforting to know that no matter where I went I could find somewhere to read, to feel safe.

Reading in strange places wasn’t always a solo activity for me. My love of reading is definitely influenced by my mom. She not only encouraged reading by filling our house with books but by reading with me. We use to read out loud together, switching off every page or two. We would read whenever we got the chance like on the public bus or at our favorite restaurant. I have a pretty distinct memory of starting Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at The House of Egg Roll. Although I’m pretty sure we read in a tree at least once or twice. I’m extremely grateful that she not only inspired my love of reading, but my love of reading outdoors or wherever I feel comfortable. I often felt like an outsider growing up and being able to read where I felt safe was so important to me.
I’ll admit that I sometimes read in chairs or semi-normal places now, but having somewhere that I don’t associate with anything besides reading is important to me. I’m in love with the idea of spending hours alone with a book, completely transfixed by another world filled with complex characters and stories. They say the best books are the ones where you can forget you’re reading a book, and I agree with that wholeheartedly.

For me, a strange reading place, whether it be underneath a tree, inside a cuddy, or in a blanket fort, only enhances the experience of a good book. There’s something that just makes it feel right. The same way you feel when you find the perfect sleeping position or have a really good first kiss with someone. I might not hide in Barnes and Nobles anymore, but I still find my own hidden places whenever I can. My current favorite? Graveyards.

What Sophomore Year Has Taught Me

College is quite a wild ride. I never expected to learn, change, and grow as much as I did. Sometimes, I feel like a completely different person. Other times, I feel merely like a more mature version of my high school self. Regardless of the impact college has left on you thus far, it’s inevitable that its going to teach you a few important lessons: some in the classroom and some in the broader sense of life.

Friendships are hard to maintain, but so valuable.

What everyone always told me about college is true: you do meet people who completely change your life, for the better. One of the absolute best parts about Emerson for me so far is the opportunities I’ve gotten to befriend some extraordinary people. It’s so rare to meet people who make you feel loved, supported, and cherished, but that’s what Emerson has done for me. However, I’ve also learned that friendships are hard. It’s easy to call someone your friend when you cross paths with them every day during the semester and can easily meet up at the DH after class or run down two flights of stairs to their room in LB. But, as soon as it hits summer, it honestly gets so difficult to see a lot of those people you still call “friends.” When you have to really go out of your way to make plans and schedule times to meet up with someone off-campus, those friendships might face a four-month hiatus. It’s disappointing, but I think it really proves to you, deep down, who your best friends really are. They are the people who you genuinely want to see and with whom it’s never a hassle to make plans. They’re the gems that college has given you.

Never take family for granted.

Family can mean something different for everyone. It’s not just the conventional family that we all expect; families can come from friends and organizations, too. Regardless of who it is you call “family,” college has taught me that those are so rare and meaningful. Family is the people who you know will support and love you unconditionally. And, as a college student when life is turned upside down often, it’s nice to have something like that. As most other high school people at that time, I hated being at home during high school. I was constantly out of the house and rolling my eyes about my parents. Now, I often can’t wait to go home and just lay around the house with my parents and sister, reliving old memories and laughing about things only we’d understand. Having a constant in my life has been such a breath of fresh air in the swirling vortex that can be Emerson. I’ve come to appreciate my rich culture and the caring parents who raised me in it. I feel wiser, stronger, and more independent because of my family.

Putting yourself out there is everything.

My first semester of college was, to be brief, a tragic mess. I, someone who was a social butterfly my entire life, finally felt like my wings had been clipped off. Starting fresh in a completely different environment was a major stress on my life. I didn’t know how to make new best friends when I’d known my best friends from home since the sixth grade. It wasn’t like I was holed up in my room alone every night; I just only really spent time with my roommates and went home every other weekend. I owed that solitude to the fact that all I did was go to class and come back to my enclosed dorm. I wasn’t a part of any organizations and didn’t have any opportunities to make friends. That simple idea of not putting myself out there by joining any new organizations and clubs almost led me to transferring from Emerson. However, second semester rolled around, and I got accepted into Emerson Noteworthy, an a cappella group. Finally having a group of people outside of class to see regularly and be myself around changed everything for me. Because that’s all it took: having an outlet where I could do something I was passionate about and also have people with whom to share it. That slowly led me to opening myself up more. And here I am now, a member of 6 different organizations and thriving (in most ways).

Nothing is certain, and that’s something you just have to embrace.

It’s really terrifying looking into the future and having absolutely no idea what it holds. That future for most college students is in the post-grad life; for me, it also includes the next two years of my life at Emerson. Since coming here, I’ve changed my major, made and lost friends, and had so many of my perspectives on life questioned and completely flipped around. I thought that I was going to graduate with a degree in Journalism to go on and pursue a career at a news station as an anchor. Now, I’m working towards a degree in Marketing Communications, hoping to someday be on a marketing team for one of my favorite brands (maybe even a CMO someday, or at least that’s the ultimate dream). I’ve had some best friends come and go with semesters and others remain permanently rooted in my life. I came into college extremely skeptical and uninterested in Fraternity and Sorority Life, and I am now a proud member of Zeta Phi Eta. It’s truly impossible to predict your every move in college. As you shift and grow, your likes, dislikes, beliefs, and opinions will shift and grow, too. I used to be the kind of person who needed to know exactly what was happening, when it was happening, and where it was happening. While I’m still like that at times, I’m learning to recognize that there are just some things that cannot be controlled. And while it can be disappointing and heartbreaking to lose people who meant the world to you once and have your entire future plans halted and turned on their heads, it’s also exciting. It’s thrilling that life can take so many twists and turns and that every decision can lead to a million wonderful things you never expected. Life is so moldable, and that’s quite beautiful (especially for an arts student).

So, regardless of if you absolutely love college or if you’re dying to get that diploma, it’s obvious that where you go to college, the classes you take, and the people you meet can have a huge impact on your life. It has an eerie mystery to it, yet that mystery holds so many unseen opportunities. It teaches you to exemplify your strengths and improve your weaknesses, making you a stronger and wiser human being. In the end, college is a brief time in your life, but it’s a special time that can really influence your path in the future.

Some Classics To Add To Your Beach Read List

Every summer, Barnes & Nobles crowds the shelves closest to the doors with piles of “beach reads.’” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I got tired of reading a bunch of different books with the same generic plot lines and characters. A few years ago, I swore off “beach reads” and decided to turn back to the classics ‒ and I think that others should try to do the same. If you have an interest, here’s a list of some literary classics that I recommend everyone read this summer:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This was the first book I chose when I embarked on my journey to rediscover the classics. It’s one of those books that, once you read it, you fully understand why it came to be so famous. A quintessential, albeit dated, coming of age novel, Pride and Prejudice is surprisingly relevant, funny, and self-aware (even in 2017).

1984 by George Orwell

We’ve all seen the headlines about the ‘sudden’ spark in popularity of Orwell’s classic dystopian fiction, 1984. But have we all actually read the book? Not all high schools require this book in the curriculum (mine didn’t,) and some even ban it (it’s consistently one of the top 10 most banned books in America). But it is an understatement to say this book is a necessary read‒by the time you’re halfway through, everything you think you know about government has flipped on its head in a thrilling, but terrifying way. And that may just be what we need right about now.

Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Technically not an autobiography, Tender Is The Night is Fitzgerald’s unofficial account of his life with Zelda. Closely mirroring their relationship, it helps the reader understand what went with one of the greatest American romances behind closed doors. It’s packed with Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose, love, luxury, tragedy and so much more. What else could you want to read about this summer?

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Something you need to know going into this book is that, at many points, it will be difficult to make sense of what is going on. But that is the genius of Woolf’s prose. In Mrs. Dalloway, what seems frivolous suddenly becomes serious (and vice versa).  Written in a stream of consciousness style, Mrs. Dalloway lets you get into the heads of all of the characters and understand them on an emotional and intellectual level. She subverts literary traditions about narration through this technique, solidifying this book’s role in changing storytelling forever.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I would be lying to you if I didn’t mention that this book is definitely on the longer side. It actually took me the majority of a summer to read the first time, but it was totally worth it. Forget Of Mice and Men‒this book is Steinbeck’s literary masterpiece (and my favorite book of all time). Combining multiple generations of a family into one story, by the end you’re left wishing that you had more time left with the characters.

Fun and Cheap Adventures for Summer 2017

If you’re anything like me, you like trying new things and visiting new places. Even if you aren’t as inclined to branch out, summer is a great time to try new things and visit new places. New adventures don’t necessarily require lots of money and preparation, you can have a lot of fun in and around your hometown to spice up your summer and discover some hidden gems. Trust me, growing up in a small town has forced me to get very creative when I’m bored.

Whether you’re bored on a rainy day, or sick of going to the beach on your day off, these ideas can help you find something different to do this summer.

Public Parks

Acadia National Park

The best vacation I have ever been on was to a national park. Last summer my family visited Acadia National Park in Maine, and the sights were breathtaking. I have never seen such natural beauty and it made me want to go on a national park road trip. Wherever you live in the world, there are public parks, hiking trails, and lakes that many people don’t know about. A lot of them are free entry, too! If there is a daily fee, the money goes back into environmental efforts to keep the parks open and thriving.

There are numerous parks in Massachusetts alone, and thousands across the country. Many offer kayak and canoe rentals, camping grounds, and scenic walking trails. Parks are a great way to bring out your inner adventurer and spend time outside.

They are also perfect for your furry friends to enjoy.

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Aren’t into climbing mountains? Have no fear! Pack up a nice lunch and go sit by a beautiful lake or overlook, I promise you will not be disappointed. Lunch with a view is always a good idea.

Parks can be packed during the summer, but there are multiple trails so nothing ever feels too crowded. Getting out into nature is great physically, but also mentally. The warm summer air and the sound of birds chirping in the trees creates a natural zen environment. There is something so peaceful about sitting in a quiet park and taking a step back from a fast paced life. Every time I visit a park I feel happier and more relaxed when I leave.

Secret Beaches

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If you live near the ocean, I’m sure you’re familiar with the local beaches. But do you know all of small, secret beaches that aren’t crowded with a million umbrellas and coolers?

I am living on Cape Cod for the summer and I have started to discover multiple tiny beaches that are nearly empty. Most don’t even have parking lots and consist of a tiny path on the side of the road that leads to a little slice of heaven.

These beaches can be tricky to look up online because people like keeping their secret sanctuaries private, so doing field research may be your best bet. They are usually close to public beaches, unmarked and down a side road. Getting to them is an adventure in itself but once you reach the destination the serenity is well worth the journey. If there isn’t a sign that says “Private Property,” put your towel down and make yourself at home.

One of my favorite “private” beaches on Cape Cod.

When you find a place like this, shhhhh! It’s a secret beach for a reason!

Give your tastebuds something new and different

Coconut latte from Jaho Coffee

One of my favorite things to do over the summer is try to find the hidden gems of the food world. They are everywhere! So many restaurants in the U.S. are inspired by places all across the world, bringing an international food experience right to your hometown. Yelp is a great place to start and gives a reliable outline of what kinds of dishes to expect. It is particularly helpful to read reviews of dishes you aren’t used to before making the trip.

I like branching out to find different food because it is easy to get sick of the same things. I fell in love with Indian cuisine through my summer research and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to go to somewhere so new and different with so many amazing flavors I have never experienced before. My taste buds were happily surprised.

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Picky eaters can enjoy new food too, most places can create dishes that are fairly mild if that is what you’re comfortable with. No matter what kind of cuisine you are trying, try to choose something on the menu that sounds different and exciting. If you discover you really like it, try making it yourself at home! Fill this summer with new food adventures and maybe discover a new love for cooking.

Grabbing some friends and visiting a funky place for dinner is an awesome adventure and summer is the perfect time for it.

Unusual Sports

The category of sports encompasses a lot more than baseball and football. No running is involved, just fun! Whether it’s ziplining, whitewater rafting or bubble soccer, there are many wacky activities out there to try this summer.  

One place I have really been wanting to go the past year or so is a treetop adventure park near my house. Definitely find one of these places near you if you want to feel like a monkey! This park is a course of ziplines, tightropes, rope walls and more. It has been built in the woods so you really feel like you’re a tree animal! I went ziplining once before in New Hampshire and absolutely loved it and I am yearning to check this place out.

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Bubble soccer is another funny one that has become somewhat recreational in the Boston area. Once you put on the “bubble” you look like a hamster ball with legs. It is hilarious to watch but looks like it would be so much fun to try. There are locations and variations of this activity all across the U.S. and it would be perfect to rent some for a party, or just for fun with friends!

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Bubble soccer. Giphy.com

The Zoo

The zoo is so underrated. I absolutely love the zoo. You can find me there, standing next to a seven year old, just as excited as they are to see the giraffes walking around. They are fairly cheap to visit and showcase amazing, exotic creatures.

If you live near Washington D.C., the Smithsonian National Zoo is free!! It also happens to be the best zoo I have ever been to…they have giant pandas, lions, elephants, and so much more.

Giant Panda at the Smithsonian Zoo.

The zoo is a great summer day trip, and I definitely recommend going on a weekday if you can because it is a lot less crowded and easier to get up close to all of the animals. Some zoos also allow you to bring in your own food and drinks, so you can save money by packing snacks from home.

In addition to the zoo, go to the aquarium! So many beautifully colored fish, penguins, seals, and other water creatures that are amazing to see up close. The aquarium is a perfect adventure for a rainy day.

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I hope this list helps you kickstart an amazing, adventurous, memorable summer. (:

 

How to Upgrade Your Favorite Unhealthy Foods

I hate to break it to you, but we all have a curse. It’s the curse of unhealthy food. Tell me you haven’t walked past a Wendy’s and audibly gasped. Or walked into a Starbucks, planning on just getting a tall iced coffee, and accidentally gotten a grande Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream. Or sat in an UNO’s and felt your mouth actually water at the smell of pizza. So it’s true then; we are all cursed. But, you can trick your stomach. It’s possible to break this curse and “healthify” your favorite unhealthy foods.

Frappuccinos

How deliciously refreshing is an ice-cold, frothy frappuccino on a hot summer day? Well, did you know that a grande Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream is 378 calories and and has 47.1 grams of sugar? Yikes! I know it’s easy to disguise the calories in our Starbucks orders because, well, they’re just coffee right? Wrong. Unfortunately, they’re closer to a milkshake. But it’s so easy to make your own frappuccino that is way healthier! Replace that whole milk with skim milk (or half and half if you can’t let go quite so much). Whipped cream and syrup alone could be the cause of an extra 150 to 200 calories! Swap out the syrup for more natural sweeteners; a combination of vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and a little bit of sugar can go a long way! If you can’t say goodbye to the whipped cream, try a dollop of Cool Whip on top. Add some coffee and ice and blend, and there you go: a much cheaper and much less sugary version of your favorite drink!

Pizza

I know, how can one live without this beautiful creation?! Pizza has become so integrated into our lives that it’s almost second nature to order Domino’s for dinner or grab a slice of New York Pizza after a late night on the town. Sadly, the old excuses of “Well, tomatoes are a vegetable!” and “Doesn’t cheese give you calcium?” don’t really fly with a Domino’s pizza; if you ate two slices of a large Domino’s cheese pizza, you’re looking at 580 calories and 72 carbohydrates! Yup, I’m being serious. However, do not fret! You can still get your pizza fixing with a healthier mindset. Consider making a cauliflower crust, a fairly new creation that has been all the rage online. You can grate cauliflower, combine it with some cheese, spices, and eggs in a bowl, flatten it into a pizza crust shape on a baking sheet, and bake it to create a crust-like consistency. Without a thick, buttery bread crust, you’re saving a ton of carbs while still getting that delicious crust feel. You can add your favorite tomato sauce and cheese variety on top and bake again for a savory, satisfying pizza. It may not be the same as Domino’s, but if you force yourself to forget that you’re eating baked cauliflower, it does taste a heck of a lot like a real crust.

Fries

Last, but not least, the infamous fries. They’re the side on every menu, taunting you as you try and fail to order a salad. You think, “Oh, I’ll just get a medium fry and no burger, that’s not that bad, right?” Well, a medium fry at McDonald’s has 340 calories! It’s a number you probably knew in the back of your mind, but have been subtly ignoring for years. It’s a sad reality; but, you can still eat fries and not bust your belly. Why not try baking your own fries? It sounds shameful, but you can still pack in a lot of flavor. Instead of deep-frying thinly sliced potatoes, you can toss them in some olive oil, salt, and any other spices you like, lay them out on a baking sheet, and bake them in the oven. You can achieve delicious fries with crispy outsides and tender insides. They have less than a third of the fat in a McDonald’s medium fry, with even more flavor! While it doesn’t have the same effect as a steaming hot order of fries from your favorite fast-food joint, it’s a quick and easy recipe to whip up.

There you go! Three ways to upgrade your favorite unhealthy foods to something a lot healthier. I, for one, have never had any success trying to cut out my favorite foods and eat only leafy greens. Just like anyone else, I get terrible cravings for the greasiest and sugariest foods out there. But, if you, also like me, are trying to watch what you eat, this is a great way to go. It’s finally possible to lay on the couch and eat a plate full of fries and have absolutely no guilt about it!