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I'm Reclaiming My Year. #2020ReFocus

I'm Reclaiming My Year. #2020ReFocus

Hello Pilgrims, Some of you make know that every year around my birthday I celebrate my own personal New Year. I use it as an opportunity to reflect on the past year as well as make resolutions for the upcoming year. I ask myself the hard questions. Because 2020 has been a doozy, I have really had to ask myself what I want. The plans I made last year were out the window. I have felt behind the eight-ball all year. At times, I felt very overwhelmed. I want to reclaim my year. And because who doesn't love irony, I've decided that 20/20 would be a great theme. I've employed these techniques over my twenties. They have each been a hero to me at one time or another during my 'learning to adult' years. Just like the Avengers against Thanos, It's time to Assemble all of these tactics to combat all that 2020 is. If you are like me and you want to take back 2020, I'm inviting you to do this with me. It doesn't even have to be your birthday, though, I'm sure that Virgos will find this especially timely. I you want to follow my journey, I will be posting video updates on YouTube every Sunday beginning August 30th,2020. If you want to join the journey and use the techniques with me, sign-up for the Pellathepilgrim.com mailing list for access to exclusive content and tools that you can personalize for yourself. The challenge begins August 30, 2020 Usually, I only take a week or two to decide what my goals and objectives are for the upcoming year. I'm delving deeper this year for several reasons. 1) It's a landmark birthday (oh my god, does 30 really follow 29?!) 2) 2020 has really shaken my everything I thought I knew. 3) I'm at a crossroads and am planning farther in the future than just the next twelve months. Due to all of these things, I am pacing myself to run this challenge in 12 weeks. The challenge begins August 30, 2020 and should run through November 22nd. Perfect timing. Hopefully by that time, you and I will be firing on all pistons for the real New Year. (No pressure, but pressure). If you want to make a change and you don't want to do it alone... this is perfect for you If you have a friend that wants to make a change and doesn't know where to begin... this is for them (go ahead and send them the link). Buckle up Pilgrims, Pella

Book Review: Becoming

Book Review: Becoming

Title: Becoming Author: Michelle Obama Genre: Autobiography/Non-Fiction First of all, Michelle Obama is one of my she-roes. She is on my vision wall. A goal of mine is to be invited to a dinner with her and 'Barry' (my keyboard to God's ears). In the interim, this book is a nice substitute. My take away: As stated before,Mrs. Obama is a hero of mine and every hero has an origin story. Becoming is an insightful look back that the dots of her life. Things that, in the moment, she didn't know would shape and prepare her for her future. Things like being childhood friends with Santita Jackson, daughter of Jesse Jackson. How she met Valerie Jared and Barack Obama. The book is not a salacious tell-all, but rather a thoughtful recollection of moments she deemed significant in her life. Some of the recollections are personal to Mrs. Obama like her childhood in Chicago growing up with a large extended family. Others are more cosmopolitan like the adorable moment her daughter thought no one was going to attend the inauguration because there weren't any other cars on the road on their way to the ceremony. You know those deep conversations you have with people on the plane or in the waiting room where you learn about some really deep and or personal details of this strangers life? You feel really connected in that moment, but you know that the moment is fleeting? That's how I felt reading this memoir. What I wanted was the kind of contemplating conversations you have with your close friends after midnight while drinking cocktails. Maybe I'm greedy, but I feel like there was so much more left unsaid. The early portion of the book detailing her childhood was so much more personable than her recollection of her professional life and time in the White House. Mrs. Obama shared her thoughts on particular events in her life, but not her feelings. As someone who wants to be invited to dinner with the Obamas, I was hoping for the tone to be a bit...more. "At fifty-four, I am still in progress, and I hope that I always will be." - Michelle Obama I appreciate this sentiment so much. What I appreciate the most is how sparsely Barack is mentioned in the book. Michelle Obama doesn't tell her story as it relates to being First Lady or the wife of Barack Obama. It tells the story of a high achieving woman and how her past has led her to where she is now. From being a precocious child in newly integrated schools, to being accepted to not one,but two Ivy League Universities. As a first generation college student, to being a career professional as an attorney. Of course the former president and their time in the White House is mentioned, but that is the former First Lady's only achievement. My recommendation: I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to be invited to dinner with the Obamas. Additionally, It's a good read. It is nicely paced and insightful. I wished that she would have gone in to more detail on certain aspects of her journey. It left me inspired 'to reach'.

Habits Are The Building Block to Achieving Your Goals

Habits Are The Building Block to Achieving Your Goals

Welcome back, pilgrims As we continue the #2020Refocus Challenge we are going to work focus on hitting our targets. Seven steps ago, we created SMART goals. We've made them Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Now, we're going to execute those SMART goals. I've mentioned repeatedly that action is an important part of attaining our goals. You can think and plan until the cows come home, but until you start to do the work you are ultimately playing pretend. Everybody, even the most carefree person, has a routine somewhere in their lives. Patterns of behavior are just a part of human nature. Whether it's taking a family holiday every winter, getting ready for work in the morning, or how you do the dishes. Whether cognitively or coincidentally, you have routines in place for yourself. Next we are going to create the tempo of our lives. Yes, every once in a while, we can do something extraordinary, but we want to make our goals sustainable, not an outlier. Our lives are shaped by what we do every single day. There's a famous quote by Aristotle: “Excellence is not an act, but a habit”. If your goals are to change way you live, then you must change the things that you do day in and day out. There are three tasks for this week. Before we go any further I want you to do the first task now: Write down your daily/weekly/monthly routines. There's this saying that everyone has the same number of hours in the day. While that is true, not everybody has the same resources, nor do they have the same style of life. We are going to establish a routine that allows you to be as productive as your circumstances allow. Maybe you look at your routine, and you think, “wow, there's a lot more that I do that I didn't realize”, or maybe you think “I’m not as productive as I thought I was...where does all my time go?” Ultimately, the goal is to find out how you are spending your days and where we can incorporate your goal getting tasks into your routine. Now that we know what your routines are, answer these questions as honestly as you can: To what I ask what takes most of your time during the week? What do you wish you had more time for? What puts you under the most pressure time-wise? What do you seem to never have time for? The answer to these questions should provide clarity on how to rearrange your routine. Let’s start with the largest immutable in your life. For most people, this will be work or school. Most days of the week you need to be somewhere by a certain time. This is something that you have to do but, you don’t have control over the terms. Whatever issues that you feel like you're having, whether it be punctuality or follow through or whatever else, we're going to take the pressure off of you from active choices. When faced with decision anxiety can cause you to think about all of these things that go into accomplishing your goals. Fear and self-doubt can creep in. Anxiety and procrastination set in and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. Choices, Choices, Choices... Every time you make a decision, you are actually making two. I learned the concept of opportunity cost in an economics lecture, but I have found it resounds in many different aspects of my life. Opportunity cost is the lost benefit of making a decision. If you say yes to something, you are saying ‘no’ to everything else. Example: the decision to stay up late. It’s not only saying yes to finishing this movie, but you are saying ‘no’ to sleep you would have if you had gone to bed on time. If that wasn’t overwhelming enough, there is a thing called ‘decision fatigue’. Here in the 20th century, you have plenty of options. From types of cars to drive, to the television to watch, to music. We have so many more options than the generations that came before us. Of these choices, there’s not a ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ answer. If you choose one streaming service or the other, it’s simply a matter of preference. You must find the thing that works best for you. The fact that there's not a wrong answer can sometimes be overwhelming. You can become preoccupied with choosing the best decision. That weariness you feel when it comes to making a choice and you simply pick something just for the sake of picking it, that’s decision fatigue. Let’s say you go to the grocery store to pick up some cereal and milk. There are a plethora of combinations. Milk: you have skimmed, 1%,2%, whole milk, organic, long-life milk. Then you have nondairy alternatives. When you multiply these selections by the 17-foot-long cereals in the aisle, the combinations abound. However, if you go to the grocery store, you don't typically spend too much time deciding what cereal and milk you're going to get. Why? Because you know before you get there what you want. Even if there are sales to consider, it won’t take you too long to compare your options. This is the type of discernment that you need to apply to yourself and your goals. Remember wayyy back in step 1 when we created our vision and our mission statement? Those are the core of our desires. If the options before you don’t fulfill your vision and your mission, you don’t even have to consider them as an option (much like Kix, I don’t know what kids tested it or why their moms approved, but I have always had a beef with them and their poor taste). If you haven’t yet created a mission and a vision statement, I’m really disappointed. You had an additional two whole weeks to do it, after being assigned the task from the beginning. I mean, no pressure...but pressure. The same way that you are able to run in and out of the store quickly because you have already made up your mind, is how we are going to establish your routine. We're going to apply that logic to the decisions that you have to make with your routine where you've already made up your mind as to what you're going to do and now you just have to do. Establishing A Routine Task number one is to write your routine out your daily routine. But you’ve already done that from earlier in the blog right? Remember when I asked you to write it out? You did it right? I mean I don’t mean to call you out for not following instructions... but then again, I do. Accountability! Do it now. Before you read any further, write down your daily weekly and monthly routines. This isn’t the cute rhetorical request. I mean it. Stop what you are doing and write out your routines. Don't read any further until you write your routine out. I’ll wait... Okay thank you for writing out your routines. Next, we are going to identify any time-wasting activities or gaps. Identify any time wastes or gaps that could be used to be more productive or some multitasking. And then Task three is to when you're incorporating your new habit to establish a trigger, assign an action and reward for your behavior. When we set the SMART goals, the reason that I went needed you to set the tasks because that is the lowest common denominator. I know that goal setting and making a change can seem dauting, but consistency is key. What simple thing can you do regularly to make a big change in your life? Well I’m impatient, and I want it now. You may wonder why you can’t just uber-focus and get it done right now. I’m not saying that you can’t, but just as with sprinting, a short burst of full out running may get you there quickly, but how far is the finished line? You can’t sustain that momentum for extended periods of time. If your goal is short, and not something that requires longevity and you have the determination, I'm sure you don’t have to create a routine. If your goal is something that you want to last, then creating a routine will not only help you get it, but it will help you sustain it indefinitely. In SCOPE, you read how your goals don't exist in a microcosm or on an island. You need to adapt yourself to environment that sustains your goals. Benefits of Routine and Practice Practice is important because it takes the scariness out of it. Performance anxiety is real, but once you've actually done something, a lot of the stigma is removed. Another reason that practice is important is it allows repetition. I remember when I took a computer class in school. One test was for us to remember the entire layout of the QWERTY keyboard, and roles and functions. Now I’m a bit rusty between ROM and RAM, but that QWERTY keyboard?... I know that like the back of my hand. Because in the years that have followed, I went from having to look at the computer to see where the next key was that I needed, to only having to glance once or twice. To now being able to touch type 50wpm with very few errors. Why? Practice. I spend a lot of time typing 😉. Where once I was very aware of which keys I was typing, I’m amazed even now, while writing this that the letters are on the screen faster than I can think to type them. This is because of muscle memory. It’s another amazing little thing that our brains can do. Once we create a routine, the brain actually adapts to do the action more quickly and efficiently with less cognitive energy. This is the same principle applied to “riding a bike”. (If you are someone that ever learned how to ride a bike and relearned, I will say that though you never forget, your skill level may diminish in long periods of inactivity. But that’s a LOL story for another time.) Practice allow you to do things in a simulated or safe environment that you may not have the ability to do in real life. In a game, you only have one chance to take the shot, to make the catch, to block the goal. While in practice, you are in an environment where you can repeatedly run the drills until you have it perfect. You can go back and redo without any penalty. You don't have the time constraints of the game clock to work against. You can stay as long and you can go as hard you need. Practice conditions us and strengthens us for be able to carry the weight of our goals. You may have a coach (or mentor); practice is great because you're receiving active feedback. Or, if you are an individual contributor, you can create some type of metric where you self-assess your performance. Practice allows you to develop skills. If you have people that are going to be taking this journey with you, this is great because it's a place for you to provide feedback for each other. It's a place for you to learn skills and to develop weaknesses. Luck is when opportunity meets preparation, so if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready. A few weeks ago, I suggested the Power of Habit by Gary Duhigg. I don't know how far you have gotten with this book, but I definitely want you to give the book a read. It was very integral in the way that I changed behaviors of my own. I will be honest the changes have been gradual, but that’s the point isn’t it? Small consistent change over time? I want you to succeed, so I’m not going to suggest a book that won’t get you to where you’re trying to go. The book gave great insights on creating physical and mental space for the things that you want to add to your life. It also has great information about removing or minimizing things that do not serve you (aka bad habits). Creating a habit Habits tend to get a bad rep. That’s because people often only talk about bad habits. Good habits don’t get enough props. A habit is rooted in a craving. A craving is psychological or physiological urge that is the motivator for your actions. A craving can be triggered by a situation or a stimulus. Once triggered there is an act that is done in an effort to fulfill the desire created. The reward is the alleviation of the craving. This is called the habit cycle. Good or bad we all have them. What is considered a trigger varies from person to person. You may or may not be able to remove the triggers, but one of the easier ways to end a bad habit is by replacing the behavior with something more beneficial. The triggers and the reward remain the same, but the actions taken are adapted. The behavior you are replacing should be something that you can do with relative ease. For instance, let’s say you are an emotional eater and you want to replace the negative behavior of comfort eating. You may think to replace the behavior of binge eating with some push-ups or HIIT cardio. This may work, but it really does depend on your level of motivation. A simpler substitution could be a low-calorie alternative to the snack that you currently turn to. Whatever the replacement behavior is, it should be one that isn’t difficult for you to execute. The reward should also be at the same level as the reward for the bad habit. If you aren’t replacing a bad habit, and wish to create a good habit for yourself, the same rules apply. Find a cue to trigger your habit, create a behavior, and reap the reward. Achieving your goals requires discipline, but positive reinforcement is a great motivator as well. Our brains are wired to crave what makes us feel good. The reward shouldn’t be abstract in a way that it puts into a bigger goal. Each habit should have a direct and immediate reward. That is how the habit will stick. Okay pilgrims, go forth and practice. Until Next Time, Pella ***The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute clincal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. The content of this article are general assessments and should not be followed instead of seeing a professional regarding your mental and physical health.

Three things you need to know about illusions and goal setting.

Three things you need to know about illusions and goal setting.

Welcome back pilgrims, I hope your journeys are coming along well! This week's topic is going to be about illusions. I feel like it is appropriate as you didn’t see it coming, and it’s also a good exercise. Remember, I told you guys that I am doing this in real-time with you. Usually, when I do my yearly reflection, it only takes about two weeks. Those two weeks include a variety of these steps and a lot of self-reflection. For the purpose of this challenge, I have spread out many of my techniques and practices over 12 weeks. Reasons for doing this include: 1) Jedi-mind tricking you into creating a habit 😉. 2) I understand that everyone is in different spots on their journey so I slowed the pace down so that others don’t get left behind. I have tried to stick with the original itinerary as closely as possible, but sometimes I have needed to improvise. Usually, I can sneak the amendments in there, this week wasn’t one of those times. Illusion was originally a subtopic under the perspective umbrella. As I started to write about it, it took on a life of its own. What should have been a few paragraphs became a few pages. Suffice to say it was significant enough for its own week. What is an Illusion? Definitions include A thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses. A false idea or belief. When I think of illusions, the first things that come to my mind are the childhood cartoons where the character was in a desert and would see a desert oasis only to find it was a mirage. You have the want/need to have something so badly, you see it in places they aren’t. I would like to acknowledge that the converse is also true. Sometimes we allow fear, uncertainty, or self-doubt to create barriers that are not there. I don’t mean to call you out, but I do. If you are standing in your own way, I kindly (but firmly) ask you to move. Wait! Before you get all up in arms and defensive, I want to point out that I don’t think you are doing it consciously. If you are aware of your actions that directly undermine your goals and you don’t have any plans to change them, then that is a deeper-seated issue and something for you to sort out (preferably with a trained professional). I’m talking about that subconscious level denial and/or self-sabotage that may not be obviously linked to your goals. Examples of destructive Illusions 1) Outdated Coping Mechanisms Once upon a time, you developed a coping mechanism to deal with adversity. Congratulations, you got through it! When we have success, we may try to replicate the results by repeating the actions. Unfortunately, there is no panacea when it comes to adversity. What fixed one situation may exacerbate another. Example: You have defense mechanism, because it's what you needed at that time to get you through what you were going through. But once you've made it past that situation. Sometimes your defense mechanisms and your protections and these boundaries that you put to keep everyone and everything away, are actually keeping you limited to your own situation as he's tying your hands, and they're also more of a limitation for yourself. And I, again, am tasking you to see what's real versus what is a perception or an illusion. 2) Subconscious Need Fulfillment I read last summer The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and I enjoyed the read as it gave me new things to consider. One of which was how sometimes we stand in our own way because the thing that ‘is holding us back’ is actually fulfilling a greater desire of our own. For instance, if you suffer from procrastination. You know putting off what needs to be done, doesn’t help anyone. Procrastination often creates additional pressure as the awareness of procrastination brings its own guilt and anxiety. Why then do you do it? It’s not difficult to manage your time so that you aren’t rushed. Kishimi surmises that maybe your procrastination fulfills some other need of yours. Maybe you have a fear of failure and procrastination gives you the ‘out’ that this wasn’t your best work because you were rushed. Maybe you like the adrenaline that comes with racing to meet a deadline. Either way, if there wasn’t a benefit to your negative behavior, then you would try in earnest to remove it...especially if you are cognizant of the setbacks. If you continue a behavior that affects you negatively, you might want to ask yourself what benefits do you get? 3) Fears, Doubts, and Inhibitions...oh my! Remember the ending of The Wizard of Oz? (Spoiler alert warning***, but shame on you if you haven’t watched it by now). After all the perils they went to get there, the Wizard sends them on a fool’s errand to get the witches broomstick. After Dorothy et al complete the task, the Wizard tells them to come back on the ‘proverbial’ tomorrow. Then Toto pulled the curtain back to reveal the Wizard was actually a regular guy who’d gotten stranded in Oz via a hot air balloon. Dorothy and her friends called him out to fulfill his promises to them. In a heartwarming scene, Tinman’s compassion was what gave him his heart. The Cowardly Lion re-framed the way he saw his actions from ‘cowardly’ to wise acts of self-preservation. Scarecrow realized (after receiving an honorary degree) realized that he was always as intelligent as he’d wanted to be (#message American Educational system). Glinda the Good Witch of the North famously tells Dorothy that she has always had the power to go home herself. Scarecrow asks, ‘Why didn’t you tell her before?’ (Good looking out, Scarecrow. We all need a friend like Scarecrow). Glinda says that Dorothy wouldn’t have believed her. Dorothy needed to figure it out for herself. This is a great metaphor for how illusions can sometimes work against us. How does the way you look at yourself impact how you operate? Are you waiting for someone ‘great and powerful’ to grant you the things that you desire? Are the problems in your way really wicked or can they be melted away with a bucket of water (see what I did there)? As we continue on our journey and focus on our vision, we will see many things. The goal is to distinguish what is real from what is perceived. My initial approach to 'illusion' was the style of art that revealed more and more the longer you looked at it. How appropriate, because the longer I thought about how illusions factor into our goal getting journey, the more its relevance revealed itself. Next week, we discuss hindsight. Because... you know hindsight is 2020... Until Next Time, Pella PS. The

Australian Open

Australian Open

Hello Pilgrims, So if you follow my Instagram stories, I'm sure you know that I recently had the awesome opportunity to attend my first professional tennis tournament, the Australian Open. Shortly after I arrived to Melbourne, I began to look up things to do in the city. Unlike New Zealand, I decided to stay in one city for the duration of my visa. Australia is a much bigger country and to try and see it all in a year would be... a lot. The Australian Open, hadn't factored in to my decision to live in Melbourne, but it seems kismet. When I was younger, my grandmother and I would watch tennis together. She loved and played the game herself. Although, I never pursued it, I still appreciate the game. My grandmother lived abroad early in her life as well and my appreciation for travel (as well as other things) is not doubt due to her influence. The office in which I worked when I first arrived to Melbourne was literally across the street from Melbourne Park where the tournament takes place. I made up my mind early on that I was going to go. The tickets became available in October. As it went, I didn't know who I would be seeing play until the day before the match. Coco Gauff happens to be from my hometown of Delray Beach, Fl. Naomi and Serena were in the tournament, so of course I was hoping to see them. I crossed my fingers and wished on a star. Alas... the stars didn't align. All three played on different days. Now, to be honest. I've had a lot going on lately, and I hadn't really gone over the specifics of attending the tournament. I took into consideration the advice of some of my local friends and did it. To my elation, the stadium ticket did include a women's match and a men's match. I went with Jo, member of the TFF network. It was both her and my's first time at a professional tennis match. We both were able to geek out at the surrealness of it all. Sometimes I think: What is life? The match was Warwinka (15) v Seppi. I've been to several professional sports games. I will say, the Tennis fans were the most polite thus far. Granted, I haven't gone to (and don't have immediate plans to attend) a golf game, but still. The match started at 7pm with the women's match of Svitlonka(5) v Davis. I was hoping to see Coco because we are from the same city (you know, to root for the home team), but Davis is American and she actually lives now in my area (Palm Beach County is a hotbed of professional athletes). Seppi is from South Tyrol which is a stone's throw away from where I studied abroad in Innsbruck. When there is so much more of the world I want to see, it feels like I've only scratched the surface with my travels. In these moments, the world really doesn't seem as big. The men's match was great! It was not an easy win for Wawrinka. The match went 5 games and the the sets were long as neither player was admitting defeat. I was very impressed with their acumen. Some of the serves exceeded 200 Kph (124 mph). They battled for over three hours. Seppi, who was ranked 85, should be proud that he went toe to toe with former AO champion Wawrinka (currently ranked 15). The epic match between Seppi and Wawrinka pushed the women's match back to start at 11pm. A few things worked out in my favor... The city had been blanketed the week prior in smoke from the Australian Brush fires, but the rain from the day before had cleared out some of the smoke and the weather was perfect. Moments like this I have to express gratitude because the week prior, I was wearing a mask to filter through the smoke. The city was a lot busier with all of the tourists being brought in for the tourney. The AO actually had several stages and exhibits set up inside the grounds and at Federation Square. If you don't have stadium tickets, available is a grounds pass that allows you access to Melbourne Park and all of the aforementioned performances. In the early days of the tourney, you can ever watch the stars practice and possibly get seats in the smaller courts to see some qualifying games. Those seats are first-come/first-served; my advice is to be strategic about it. My initial plan was to go with some friends with the Grounds pass one of the first days of the tourney and enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately the stars didn't align and I had made my peace with 'only' going the one day that I had the stadium seats, but God... In true TFF fashion, the network came through! Jo, whom I had invited to the stadium seats with me, was offered some comp grounds passes during the semi-finals. Guess who got to tailgate anyway... It happened to be 104°F (38°C) that day, but was I going to complain? No, because this year I am actively practicing gratitude. Granted I nearly died of dehydration but, that just motivated me to increase my water intake. The commentary from my Melbourne friends is that it gets bigger and bigger every year with live performances and the tailgating experience that they set up. I hope it does. It was amazing to attend, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I would come back in a heartbeat. Until Next Time, Pella

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula

***Disclaimer: this blog is very punny, proceed with caution. Hello Pilgrims, Funny seeing you here... Just kidding welcome back. My time is winding down in Melbourne. I have been creating a to do list of things to do before I leave. There is no way to take advantage of everything that Australia has to offer, in just a year but I can do the highlights. About an hour outside of Melbourne is Mornington Peninsula. Mornington is a region with a lot of beaches and it is a favorite holiday destination for Melbournians. My friends and I took a day trip to Mornington Peninsula. In Australia, to be eligible for a second visa in Australia, I could do similar farm work for about three months. Due in part to timing, but mostly my own personal qualms, I decided not to. The weekend adventure was lovely because I was with friends, the weather was nice, and I literally got to enjoy the fruits of my labor. This experience coupled with my dairy farm adventure, I'm confident that farm life isn't my first choice of lifestyle. We went at the close of the cherry picking season so the admission to the farm and price of the cherries as well as coat of admission were discounted. On the outset, we were advised that we would really have to go looking for the cherries. We grabbed buckets and set out on the orchard. At first, the pickings were slim. Most branches had been picked clean. The remaining cherries were either overripe, eaten by wildlife, or just plain out of reach. As we walked toward the center of the orchard we started finding more and more bountiful trees. Moment of honesty: I had no idea of what I was doing. Fruit picking seemed easy enough but when faced with the reality of doing it, I suddenly had more questions: Do cherries ripen off the vine? How long do cherries last once picked? What does a ripe cherry look like? Should I keep the stem while picking? Who knew? In the middle of the orchard I consulted the experts. After watching a three minute YouTube video, I was ready. The weather was cool, but sunny and the company was great, and the cherry on top (see what I did there) was we were also able to pick plums in another part of the orchard. The plums were nearing their peak so they were easy picking. After our orchard adventure, we headed to lunch and a vineyard. I've been to a winery or two in my day, and I think this is probably the best executed. The PT Leo estate had an elaborate gift-shop, a full restaurant for sit down dining, a bar area where they had scheduled wine tastings and a sculpture park (admission not included) on the vast grounds that borders the sea.The wine tasting was already booked up (it was Australia Day weekend), but we weren't sour grapes about it. I couldn't have asked for better weather that day especially since the weeks prior were plagued by the Australian Fires. The Saturday we went had live music. It was a surreal moment when at this beautiful vineyard, on this wonderful day... the acoustic guitar player sang Nate Dogg (and later Curtis Mayfield). The sculptures in the park were very unique and featured prominent artists from Australia and abroad. Although,we weren't allowed to touch the sculptures, my friends and I were able to interact with many of the sculptures. We even became a human sculpture of our very own. After the sculpture park at the winery, there was still enough time to squeeze one more activity out of Mornington Peninsula. We hoped in our caravan and drove down to the beach at Rosebud. At this moment, I wished I had watched Citizen Kane so that I would make some smart comment. I haven't yet, but one day I will and that comment will by sooo witty. The day was beautiful, the sky was blue the sun was warm, but none of us were prepared for the impromptu visit to the beach. We hung out on the beach for a while just joking and enjoying the day. One of my friends and I rolled up our pants to walk out on the sandbar at the beach. It was my first time on a sandbar and we were able to walk out about 1,200 ft (400 m) from the shore. Unfortunately we had to wade thru a bit of water before reading the sandbar, so I left my phone on the shore with friends. I've already lost one phone to the ocean while here in Australia. You guys will just have to take my word for it. But I promise I will make a bigger effort to bring my action camera with me on more excursions. All in all, it was one of my best days in Australia and will surely be a day that I will remember fondly when I think of my time in Melbourne. Until Next time, Pella

Cook Island Dancing... It’s Not As Easy As You Might Think

Cook Island Dancing... It’s Not As Easy As You Might Think

Welcome Pilgrims, Since 2020 has put a halt to my travels for the foreseeable future, I thought that it would be a good time to revisit (see what I did there) some of my previous pilgrimages. During my time in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to take a Cook Island dance classes. When I travel I like to experience things that are unique to the culture that I'm visiting. That includes learning about the indigenous people and the history of the destination. While in New Zealand most of my experience with indigenous culture was that of the Maori, who are the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Cook Islands is a Polynesian nation located in the South Pacific. It has a free association with New Zealand. New Zealand handles its defense and diplomatic affairs and provides currency, and Cook Islanders are considered New Zealand citizens. New Zealand handles its defense and diplomatic affairs and provides currency, and Cook Islanders are considered New Zealand citizens. How did I find the class? One day, while commuting home, I made conversation with a colleague headed in the same direction. She mentioned that she was going to a class for Cook Island dancing. She suggested that I go. The hall where the dance class was held was in my neighborhood, so in the spirit of adventure, I ran home to grab work out gear. It’s so easy to say no to new experiences or things. I’m so glad that I took the chance as the class was one of my favorite experiences from New Zealand. I'm so glad that I took that chance one random afternoon, the Cook Islands are a Pacific nation in the Polynesia region. It is an independent nation however it does have free association with New Zealand. New Zealand and provides the defense for the nation. New Zealand also advocates on Cook Islands’ behalf regarding foreign affairs. Cook Islands does have it’s own currency but the New Zealand dollar is also accepted. Cook islanders do have New Zealand citizenship, but not all Zealanders are Cook Islanders. The dance classes were from Inano Dance. And it was taught by to home. The style of dances, were called Ura Kuki Airani. There were drummers there. They were Pacific Islander men who were trained in the tradition of drumming. We danced in the pāreu, which is a sarong type covering to be worn low in the hips. The instructor, Te Hau told us the lower the better but where she wanted the placement, I was in jeopardy of having ‘Plumber back’. So I placed it just a smidge higher than instructed. Watching this video back I regret that choice because you can definitely see the difference from wearing it low on the hip versus wearing it high, where it felt comfortable. Now there was an instance where they brought more elaborate skirts and the tradition of dressing up. The hula skirt is called the Kiri'au skirt. The hip belt is called a titi. The position is to keep it as so low is to accentuate the movements of the dances. The class that I was taking it was just learning the dance moves. For those who are more advanced, there was a class with actual choreography. In that class you can learn the dances from Cook Islands and Tahiti. I'm not averse to dancing. Despite what my family has to say— I have rhythm (I swear I do), but you know, when people jump for joy and do a little jig because they're happy? My first inclination isn't to dance. Being from South Florida, I’m used to hip focus movements and dances so I thought I knew what to expect. You know what they say about assuming… The methods of Polynesian dancing was different. I had to let go of what I knew about dancing and really listen to the instructor about how to do this style of dancing. Prior to taking this dance class, my idea of Polynesian dancing was almost exclusively the hula from Hawaii, which is very slow, rhythmic and almost calm and I knew that it had meaning even though I didn't know what that meaning was. So we made that to this class. I was not ready. There was nothing slow about it. It was very high paced, fast-paced, high-intensity dance classes, and this was just learning the moves. How do I explain… Disclaimer: I say ’South Florida Dancing’ as all-encompassing because South Florida is so multicultural I’ve been exposed to so many styles of dance—there’s bachata, bopping and so much more. more. The style of dancing I’m used to puts a lot of emphasis on the balls of your feet that’s how you will move. In listening to the instructor, in order to do the move properly, my feet needed to be planted and the emphasis was put on the heel of the foot. Another difference is when moving your hips, the direction in which you are swinging them is different as well. All hip-swinging is not made equal. I can best explain this by saying if you wanted to dance South Florida/hip-hop style, you would circle your hips as if to create an invisible circle on the wall behind you. With the Polynesian style dancing, it was better to have a planted foot, the focus was putting the pressure on the heels of the foot. And the circle you were drawing with your hips was on the floor instead of the wall behind you. Though the premise is the same, it’s a very different movement. All hip-swinging is not made equal. I was learning the Ura Kuki Airani style of Polynesian dancing. I have done dance exercise classes before. It's very good cardio and actually toning as well, because it takes a lot of strength in your muscles to do some of the movements, especially this one move called 'crawling', which the Te Hau loved. But, um, the way my knees are set up… give me a few months then come back to me. I really admired the camaraderie in the class. Everyone was so supportive of each other and it felt like such a safe space. Whether you were the strongest dancer or not, you were still welcome because at the end of the day, like we're all here to share a common interest. We were all able to participate at different levels. The youngest in the class was about 14, and I’m not sure who the oldest was (it’s never polite to ask) but I will say that even the instructor's mom was even an active participant. I will say it is a full-body workout. It activates your leg muscles and even your core muscles are necessary. Posture is a big part of the dancing. As you get into some of the more advanced movements your arms, and our and your shoulders are definitely worked out as well. So if you're looking for a full-body workout that is entertaining, I highly encourage you to check out this Cook Island/ Tahitian dancing. It’s a very interactive way to learn about the cultural component as well. In Cook Island Culture the dances are done by men and women. There are even several styles of dancing. In our class, however, it was only women so I would be interested in learning more about how men participate. I know that some men are trained on the drums. Our class actually had live drummers so that was also especially cool. In addition to the drummers, the instructor also had dance mixes which had quite a few Latin songs. Which was very reminiscent of Florida. Being familiar with the music, was helpful for me to keep to the beat, but I definitely had to focus to make sure that I wasn't slipping into the Floridian style of dancing. With the progression of Western culture and globalization, there is literally a whole world to discover. I am eager to continue to explore different indigenous cultures as I continue to travel and learn different histories from those who are so deeply connected to it. One of the reasons I love to travel is I have the opportunity to learn firsthand how different cultures look, live and believe. I highly encourage you to research on your own, and to explore these concepts and these different cultures. Even within the women's dances there are different types of dancers that you do those two dances of action. There's the dances to tell stories. There's even dances to seduce. The dancing that we did in my class never seemed sexualized despite all the hip movement. It was just dancing. I only took the class for about a month before my visa expired and I had to leave for Australia, so I'm definitely not an expert on anything Pacific Islander. There is so much more that I have to learn. There are dances that the men do, I haven’t yet had any Cook Islander cuisine… It’s a lot. I just hope that my description has piqued your interest in Polynesian cultures. Until Next Time, Pella

Book Review: I Am Pilgrim

Book Review: I Am Pilgrim

Title: I Am Pilgrim Author: Terry Hayes Genre: Thriller/ Spy Blurb: A breakneck race against time...and an implacable enemy. An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity. One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey. Pilgrim.' I often read for entertainment, the way I used to watch TV. I choose a book with and interesting enough premise, read, and rarely (if ever) think about again. This is not one of those books. I found this book in an effort to broaden my horizons. I typically don't chose thrillers and I can't say that I'm especially drawn to spy novels. I was on the fence about reading it at all. If I'm honest, the title is what ultimately made my decision (hehe). I read for entertainment so this book more than delivered in that aspect. A compelling story, several red herrings, cliched by not predictable. As a novel however, I wasn't moved. There were a few cringe-inducing tropes. I understand that this takes place in the years immediately following 9/11, but some of the themes associated with that made me squirm a little in my chair. Without giving too much away, there were some far-fetched coincidences that were explained away in a kismet 'everything led to this moment' kind of way. Reading the book felt like a watching an action movie. Later explained when I found out that though this is Terry Hayes' debut novel, he is an accomplished screenwriter, having been screenwriter for Mad Max, Dead Calm and Payback. If you enjoyed those films, I'm sure that you will enjoy the book. I am patiently waiting for this to become a movie. Recommendation: Anyone going on vacation and wants an engaging plane read or anyone that is a fan of the Jason Bourne/Mission Impossible franchises.

Book review Giovanni's Room.

Book review Giovanni's Room.

What I knew of James Baldwin was what the general public knew about him: acclaimed writer, civil rights activist, revolutionary. You know, surface-level stuff. I have a friend who is obsessed with James Baldwin. I wanted to be able to discuss Baldwin (and actually know what I'm talking about) I picked up a copy of Giovanni's room. Other than the brief description on the back cover, I had no idea what I was getting in to. Man, can I say: I get it. I get why Baldwin is a literary giant. Okay- I get why, maybe this book, in particular, isn't included in high school curriculum, but man this man should be required reading. This book should be as well. We aren't doing any favors to our youth by not exploring the concepts of this masterpiece. I say this as someone who had to read the great Gatsby twice for school (once in middle school and again in high school). I am slowly but surely making my way through Baldwin's catalog. Giovanni's Room is set in 1950's Paris. We follow David, a young American man whose girlfriend has left for Spain to contemplate marriage. Alone in Paris, David begins an affair with an Italian man, Giovanni. In Flash forwards, we find out that Giovanni will be executed the next morning. As a reader who didn't know what was going to happen next, I was a little annoyed when we were taken away from the present action, but the jumps in the timeline did create an urgency within me to know how we get from where we are at the beginning of the novel to the first flashback. There are a dozen genres that this book can fit into. My favorite is the sub-genre of the book as realist fiction. The book is a short read, though it isn't light. The themes and concepts of this book will have you thinking long after you have finished reading.Even if you haven't been in the same particular situations as David, the protagonist, you are able to empathize with the plight. The struggle to reconcile meeting society's expectation and fulfilling one's own desire. Had I intended to go through so many emotions in 159 short pages? No, but I did. Am I one prone to cry over fictional characters? No, but Mr. Baldwin got a few tears from me. Not only is the nature of the book realistic, but the writing is poetic and thought-provoking. As far as literature goes, it's hard to critique. I admit, the book is a bit slow at times, including the beginning. Some of the events may be triggering for some people. I'm not sure if this is a con; but if you are an emotional gangsta like myself, the fact that this book will probably draw tears from your reluctant eyes is a con. I'd recommend Giovanni's Room for book clubs. It was a good book while I was reading it, it was a great book when I was finished. There is so much to unpack once you have finished reading. It's a book you would want to discuss not only the content but the context in which it was written. Baldwin left America for Paris to avoid racism of the early 20th Century America. Baldwin's choices in writing a novel the discussed homosexuality and masculinity were bold. The contemplation of how Giovanni's room would fare in this day and age would be enough to get the discussion going. Many subjects in the book have only recently become less taboo. So maybe it would be allowed in high school lectures. The fact that Baldwin had the wherewithal to create such nuanced characters is beyond amazing. Baldwin was sincerely ahead of his time with this one. My friend likes to gloat "I told you so". I have to concede; he was right. I look forward to working my way through Baldwin's other works.

Why the Children Aren’t Our Future.

Why the Children Aren’t Our Future.

No offense to Whitney Houston, but I don’t agree with the line from her classic song. We've all heard the Greatest Love of all at almost every childhood rite of passage. It's a great message. I definitely think we should show them their inner beauty and yada yada yada, but I think the line " the children are our future' is a little problematic. Here’s why: Besides the fact that with climate change there may not be much of a future for the younger generation, I think that we do the youth a disservice by telling them their power lies in the future. My twenties are coming to a close and I never had that Eureka moment, where I felt like an adult. I went through the motions. Celebrated the big birthdays (18, 21, 25). I hit the major milestones (graduated college, got my own car, started a career, and lived on my own). I felt like a poser. I found myself in adult situations wondering who the heck let me ‘adult’. I’ve also found myself at play and wondering if I was too old to be doing certain things (dance-offs in my living room). I have heard a lot of crap flung at my generation from older generations. This is a slander on the ‘new guy’ nothing new… The “Greatest Generation” gave birth to the Baby Boomers who were considered hippies for their opposition to war and fight against civil injustice. Then came Gen-X. The hairspray and Jheri curls of the 80s and the high tops of the 90s were ill-received from the 'mall rats'. Now, Millennials are being condemned for our love of avocado toast. Instead of buying homes and building families, we just want our hipster coffee shops and house plants for our studio apartments (please read the sarcasm). I think that we do the youth a disservice by telling them their power lies in the future. Generally, it is accepted that Millennials are those born between the years 1981-1991 (sometimes it’s even inclusive of those born through to 1996). It always perplexed me any time Millennials would be used as a scapegoat or generalized for being lazy or entitled. Millennials include Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Andy Roddick, Mark Zuckerberg, Lebron James ( and almost Jacinda Ardern). Millennials have reshaped the landscape of society. I don’t think we have earned the negative reputation that has been pushed upon us. But now, society has a new can to kick: Gen Z. Generation Z is already being critiqued and condemned for how they choose to live their lives. Which brings me to my next point: Letting the children lead the way. I say we let the best person for the job do it. No matter age, creed, or race. But Letting them lead the way after we have led them astray is bit toxic, don't you think? There is no onus on the adults in the room to do the right thing. They just get to check out. The sentiment a lot of Millennials and Zoomers feel is now we have to fix problems that we didn’t create. I mean, we gotta live on this planet too, so of course, we will- but change shouldn’t just come from ‘the children’. We all need to be invested in the solution. I think it’s time to break the cycle of judging young people. It’s important to remember that they are just a reflection of the environment in which they grow. An environment in which we provided for them. Much like children's behavior are a reflection of their home environment. If your toddler has a nasty habit of cursing like a full grown sailor, you might want to reflect on how they learned the words. I find it ironic that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are often lauded for changing the world. Both are considered geniuses in their own right, yet we condemn the youth that have benefited from their efforts. I have heard a fair share of criticism for my generation’s ‘over-sensitivity'. We've often been slandered as ‘snowflakes’. You know where snowflakes aren’t a problem? The poles, because they're melting. Millennials and Zoomers are vilified for having concern for the environment. It’s always perplexed me… Polar bears are drowning! How can you not care about polar bears drowning? The Amazon was on fire for a month before I’d heard anything about it. The coral reefs are dying out because water temperatures are rising. How can you not care? It’s like the older generation was never educated on Environmental Science or something. Nature is so delicate that the absence of a single species can disrupt entire ecosystems. Excuse me one moment while I go hyperventilate in the closet. Okay, I’m back. It’s just talking about the state of the world causes me mild anxiety. The state of the world is far from where it needs to be. There are so many states of emergency, it’s hard to know which ones to prioritize. Gen Z is the most informed generation ever. While I have had access to the internet since I was old enough to access it responsibly, Gen Z literally will have access to it before they have gained all of their motor skills. I encourage everyone (especially Zoomers) to Question everything! Then seek your own answers. Your perspective matters. I implore you to be discerning between fact, fiction, and opinion. I can tell from the way so many young Millennials and Zoomers are breaking from societal norms and redefining who they are. Revolutions have always been powered by the youth. And now in the age of technology, the youth can rally and organize at an unprecedented rate. One of my favorite lines comes from the 1861 poem by Walt Whitman Pioneers! O Pioneers! : The premise of the youth being the bringers of change is a tale as old as time. So to all of the GenZers reading this, I want to say commend your activity and involvement. We love to ask children, “what do you want to be when you grow up”, yet how often do we question what they want to be in that moment? Generation Z is so stellar. Standouts include Malala Yousafzai, Yara Shahidi, Vanessa Nakate, Greta Thunberg, and so forth. We shouldn’t consider these standouts to be outliers. They and so many others are putting in the work now because unfortunately, we haven’t secured them a future. Gen Z is showing up en masse marching for their lives, Black lives, women, Dreamers, LGBT+, and Mother Nature. The world that I inherited as an adult is less than ideal. I was in middle school when 9/11 happened. America has been at war for more than half of my life and it’s barely a point of discussion anymore. I started university the year Obama was elected. I graduated from university during the middle of the Great Recession. Then I was told to catch up. I don’t want to do that to the next generation. I don’t want them to have to go through the things that I went through. Some progress should have been made between them and us right? I will be thirty this year (God, help me). Columbine happened when I was 8 years old. Why haven’t we had gun reform to make sure these children are safe in a place that we legally require them to be? Why isn’t our economy set up to give them a fair chance to establish themselves in adulthood? Why do they have to fight for freedoms that are innately theirs? As a millennial, I do not want to be a gatekeeper to change. I want to usher these young people in. They are bringing a fresh perspective. Just like we Millennials do now. Just like Gen Xers did before us. We don’t have time for them to wait, we are a point break. We need all hands on deck. As a millennial, I do not want to be a gatekeeper to change. Wisdom comes from experience, not from age. Typically the older you are the more experience you’ve had, but don’t let them discount your youth. Don't let them deny what you bring to the table. You won’t always be right. You won’t always have all the answers, but (spoiler alert) no one will. I look forward to seeing the growing engagement of the Zoomers as they all come into their own. The future is bright because the light is coming from not only from behind us, but beside us. Until Next Time, Pella PS. (Sidenote: The poem Pioneers! O Pioneers! is slightly problematic as the main purpose was to encourage the Westward expansion of the United States of America under the premise of Manifest Destiny, but if you can get past that and the casual mention of slavery, the sentiment is universal.)

Pella is summoned for Jury Duty

Pella is summoned for Jury Duty

Hello Pilgrims, Welcome back. 2020 did not come to play with us. Americans have been really flexing on the right to assembly and I commend everyone for fulfilling their patriotic duty to fight for justice. I have always been a proponent of voting which is huge. I’m an advocate of protests. Now I come to you to talk about an often-overlooked area of influence: Jury duty. I think jury duty is portrayed in one of two ways. An inconvenient burden that people try to get out of and 2. A plot device for movies and television to move the narrative along. I grew up on crime dramas everything from Law & Order to Psyche. There isn’t nearly as much emphasis put on the jury as is the police officers, attorneys, and judges. Which looking back, I find crazy because ultimately the verdict is given by the jurors. Now, based on the premise of the TV shows, I can understand why. The jurors wouldn’t be recurring characters so let’s just get these nameless faceless people to use as devices to move the story along. The only other portrayals I saw of jury duty was the beloved character I watched weekly complaining that he had jury duty and subsequently had a misadventure or tried to get out of it. Or when the guilty defendant uses threats and bribery to sway the jurors. Needless to say, I didn’t have an enthusiastic reaction to jury duty when I was a teenager being summoned. I had an awesome Comprehensive Law teacher in high school, so in theory, I knew the importance of jury duty. However, as a new adult, I wasn’t quite ready to participate in the system, just yet. I feel like from the moment I turned 18 I started to receive jury summons every few months from my hometown. At the time I was away at college more than 50 miles from home, so I didn’t answer the summons. Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. You should definitely research the rules of your local courts. Avoiding Jury duty is most definitely punishable by law. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t showing up that they put me back to the top of the list or if my hometown just had so many criminal court cases that they ran through the list just that quickly. I am from Florida, so it’s a 50/50 chance on either of those things. First time I showed up for Jury Duty One time when I was 20 years old, I was called for jury duty. This time I was home for the summer. I wish I could say that I showed up ready to be a juror. Nope, I was a 20-year-old college student who was hoping that I didn’t get chosen because the per diem that they give you for being selected on a jury was less than I made at my summer job as a camp counselor and I was working to pay for college and couldn’t afford to be stuck indefinitely on a court case. I knew how big of a responsibility it was, so I showed not knowing how this would go. The courthouse was packed with potential jurors. I ended up seeing someone I knew from high school. He and I never hung out but we had mutual friends. He and I were jury wait room companions until he was called. A while later I was called to line up for my potential case. We lined up with our identification numbers and sat in the court chairs. As someone who grew up watching court dramas, walking into the courtroom carried a sense of déjà vu. It was surreal and the tone was somber. The judge was at the front of the room facing us in his black robs. The bailiffs and court reporter were in their anticipated spots too. The attorneys sat at opposing tables. Beside one of the attorneys was a young black man in a button-up shirt and handcuffs. The gravity of it all weighed heavily. The judge then listed the charges. I don’t remember explicitly which charges they were, but I know that the defendant was accused of murdering another young man the year before. The story sounded familiar to me at the time, something that may have been covered briefly in the news then forgotten by the next news cycle. I remember being surprised that the court case had taken so long to be tried. It’s not how it’s portrayed on TV where it seems like the police find the guy immediately and the ‘quick and speedy trial’ is followed almost immediately after. I know that my law professors had mentioned that court cases take much longer than is depicted on television. The reality of how long a court case takes hit me in that moment. Looking back at it now, I’m saddened. I understand that the defendant can waive that right in order to give his attorneys more time to prepare, but in this young man’s case he had been in a county jail for a year already and his guilt had yet to be determined. The family of the victim who was waiting for justice had been left in limbo for a year awaiting court. I can’t imagine. I would never wish either of those plights on anyone. At this point, the weight of the situation really set in. I started to second guess whether or not I could handle the severity of the situation. I was scared to be chosen for the jury. The judge started down the line asking if there were any reasons that, we, the potential jurors would be biased. I was hoping my youth would be a good reason to excuse me. A few people ahead of me was a woman who answered the judge that she was ‘only 18’ (two years younger than me). The judge responded that she is an adult now, “welcome to adulthood”. When it was my turn my answer was along the lines of “Maybe. I’ve known people on both sides of gun violence.” I don’t know if they didn’t like my answer, or if they saw the panic in my eyes— but ultimately, I wasn’t chosen for jury duty. I felt conflicted as I left. I was relieved that I didn’t have to make the tough decision, but I always felt guilty for not being brave enough to want to be a juror. I think it is a very important part of every American's civil duties to do jury duty. I can’t imagine. I would never wish either of those plights on anyone. Okay, let's try this again: My next summons A few years later I moved to Arizona. I swear within the first year of me being there, I was selected for jury duty. At this point, I was 25. I graduated college; I had my own apartment… I had little life experience under me, I felt like an adult. There had also been some high-profile cases that didn’t have the desired outcomes. I remember being so disappointed in the verdict, thinking I wouldn’t have made that decision. Even vilifying the jurors, but they showed up. How can I be mad at a process that I was hoping to avoid? We don’t get to choose which cases to care about. Each case is important to the parties involved. Because I was so indignant about the problem of perceived injustice, I tasked myself to be a part of the solution. This time, when I was summoned, I went in with every intention to fulfill my civic duty of being on a jury. I arrived at the courthouse and was sent to a waiting room. The seats were comfortable, the room was well lit, they had movies playing while we waited. It was a completely different experience from my first time. Eventually, they called my name to go with some other jurors. We went into this hallway and were further split into different groups to head to different courtrooms. We were put into single file lines and given numbers to identify ourselves. We were told not to speak when we got in the courtroom, and how to file the pews in the court. I entered this courtroom and it was similar to the Florida experience. The judge, attorneys, and defendant were in their usual spots. The defendant was on trial for driving under the influence and destruction of property. The brief facts of the case were while allegedly on drugs he crashed a car into a building. No fatalities or injuries. ‘Okay, cool’ I thought. This was a nice and easy case to ease into. You know, not a murder case. The judge gave a speech about the importance of why we were all called here. She told us how jury duty a major responsibility and an important part of the judicial system is. I was right there with her; she was preaching to the choir. I was ‘SpongeBob ready’ to perform my patriotic duty. The judge began performing so perfunctory checks. There were a few dozen potential jurors. We had filed in and every ‘seventh’ or so juror would start a new pew. We were asked to give the closest major intersection near our homes and also list our occupation. ‘Closest’ and ‘Major’ are relative terms so I didn’t say the first intersection, but I did tell them the next closest intersection which was one of the biggest in my area. I mean, it was still in my zip code. Now, at this point, I was living alone in Arizona and my closest family and friends were in Florida. Some 2,300 miles (3,700 km) away. I don’t make it a habit of telling a room full of strangers where I live, no need to start then. We were being identified by our numbers to protect our anonymity. After going through everyone’s location and occupation, the judge said that she was going to check with the first person and the last person on each row. This was done to ensure that everyone was sitting in the same order as reflected in her records. Don’t you know, I was the first person on the second row? Okay. Not as anonymous as I had hoped but we are just verifying our order number and last name. Phoenix is a large metro area… no worries. She gets to me and says “Oh, that's such a beautiful first name, how do you say that?” then she proceeds to say my full name. First and last with perfect pronunciation. Now, my name is not easy to read or say. I have had to instruct everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life on the correct way to say it. But don’t you know that this judge pronounces it perfectly on the first try? What are the odds? I felt so exposed. The entire courtroom knew my first and last name, occupation, employer, and relative home location. I think the judge realized her gaff right away. The rest of the jury process was uneventful. Ultimately, I wasn’t chosen as a juror. This time, I didn’t have that residual guilt of not being a juror. I went in earnest, and I was ready to serve had I been chosen. That was the last summons I received. Shortly after I left Phoenix, I started living abroad. Why jury duty matters The recent events and protests in America brought my jury summons experiences to the forefront of my memory. I wanted to share my experience so that those who are hesitant or reluctant to perform jury duty. I know that it isn’t talked about as much as voting in regard to shaping society, but I think it is just as important. Juries provide community standards and expectations in accordance with the law. The outcome of court cases shouldn’t solely rely on judges and lawyers. Officers of the court are not representative of the everyday people of the United States. They exist is a microcosm of legality that may skew their views on the court cases. A jury consisting of community members provides the perspective of the average citizen in regard to interaction with the law. A juror should be a reflection of the community in which they serve. They answer the question: What would anyone else do in that circumstance? Everyone on the jury will not share identical backgrounds, beliefs, or experiences but between them, they will create a consensus as to how the law applies to this situation. Jury duty also makes the community aware of the judicial process around them. Every innocent or guilty verdict reinforces societal norms. Once a court decision is made, the case can now be used as precedent in future court cases. A famous landmark case includes Miranda v Arizona. You know in legal dramas when an officer makes an arrest and they say “You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…” The police didn’t start saying that from the kindness of their hearts. There was a Supreme Court decision that ruled that police must inform suspects of their right to remain silent (as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment). It was decided that the average person when in the custody of the police may not know the allowances and confines of the law. Though Miranda v. Arizona (1966) was ultimately a Supreme Court decision, it has been used as precedent in deciding subsequent court cases. This court decision ultimately changed the way that the entire country’s police departments operate. Every case isn’t going to end in the Supreme Court, but before it can go through the appeals process. And before it can go to the appeals process it has to first be tried in the lower courts. Even if the court case doesn’t escalate to the Supreme Court, it matters. Someone’s liberty and life are on the line with every court decision. Jury duty is yet another opportunity for voices to be heard and justice to be served. So, while I tried to find the levity in my experiences with Jury summons, I don’t want to downplay how crucial it is. We are on the precipice of change; I hope that we can all reach the summit together. Until Next Time, Pella

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

What is a Working Holiday Visa? Updated: Jan 2, 2019 In many countries, the term ‘holiday’ is what Americans call a vacation. With that in mind, the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) is pretty self-explanatory. A WHV allows for the traveler of one country to legally work while they are traveling the foreign country that issues the visa for a set period of time.





Working Holiday Visas are structured with young adults in mind. To give them international experience that will ultimately enrich their lives while also stimulating the economy.


As of November 2018, there are more than 50 countries that have Working Holiday Visa programs. These countries include Canada, Thailand, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, Spain and Russia. To check which countries you qualify for, the best source will be the immigration departments of the country you are a citizen of.


Visa requirements vary from country to country, however most WHVs stay along these guidelines:
Age Restrictions: Most Visas require the applicants to be between the ages of 18 and 30. (In some cases, the traveler can be up to the age 35).
Employment Restrictions: Some restrict how long you can work for one employer and what type of work you chose.
Financial Requirements: Before receiving a visa, the traveler must prove that they have a reserve of money upon arrival to the country.
Medical Insurance: As a traveler in the country, you aren’t entitled to certain social services provided by the country, so you must have traveler’s medical insurance for the duration of your stay.
Background Check: Some countries require you to pass a criminal background check prior to receiving a visa.


Working Holiday Visas are structured with young adults in mind. t gives them international experience that will ultimately enrich their lives while also stimulating the economy. One of the benefits of the working holiday visa is the traveler doesn’t have to save as much capital prior to the trip. Once the visa holders arrive, they are able to begin working to supplement their funds. Another bonus is that when you spend the money you earn, less money lost in currency exchange. The traveler’s budget really gets dinged with transfer fees and a variable market.


A Working holiday is a great way to spend a gap year, for those that work remotely, or for those that want to test the waters of living abroad.