Overcoming the Loss of a Parent

By Ariana Brasman

I can still remember waking up to his wet mustache kisses on my cheek each morning. I can still hear him whispering to my mom those four precious words: “That’s my little girl.” I still relive our memorable father-daughter vacations from experiencing Halloween Horror Nights for the first time to our stay at the Atlantis hotel in the Bahamas. I can still feel myself wrapping my arms around his big teddy bear belly feeling so safe and protected. My dad was a memorable man.

On February 4, 2009, my life changed forever. My father jumped off the balcony of his five-story high condo. Three months after my 16th birthday, he chose to take his own life. In my father’s case, he was suffering from severe depression, being addicted to prescribed pain medications and going into bankruptcy. Death by suicide—it’s sudden, unexpected and shocking. It happens fast without any warning.

My father was a powerful lawyer who had worked for the Ritz Carlton hotel. But, as the years went on and he worked long hours, he started to develop health problems. One medication led to another and another. Growing up he faced many struggles, but he always had this drive and work ethic that helped him succeed through college and then in law school. I really respected how hard he worked and the obstacles he had to overcome. With college graduation right around the corner, I owe it to him to make it to the finish line. My dad always told me to go after my dreams, to go for a career choice I’ll be happy with and not what necessarily makes the big bucks.

So, how did I learn to move forward after his death? I spent months having dreams about him not actually being dead. In my dreams, we would talk and I always asked why he left, but he would say, “I’m right here.” It took me almost six months to make the connection that he is always there to watch over me, but not physically present.

In a crazy way, these dreams were actually my coping mechanism. By talking to him in my dreams, I was able to get out all the emotions I felt that I couldn’t express verbally. I suffered with denial for months before coming to the realization that I was never going to be able to wrap my arms around him again.

No more wet morning kisses. No more father-daughter vacations. No more hearing him call me his little girl. All those moments that I took for granted turned into the fondest memories I have of him now. A part of me will always be missing. A void will forever be present in my heart, but the more that time passes the easier the process is to move forward. Time really does help heal wounds.

Now that time has passed, it’s the big moments in life that his absence is felt the most. He was not at my high school graduation and the pain felt as if a wasp were stinging my entire body. He will not be present at my college graduation; he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle and give me away at my wedding. But, most of all, he won’t ever get to know my future children. Those are the moments where the closed wound gets reopened, and the pain feels as strong as it did the day he died.

What It Was Like Attending an All-Girls High School

By Li Stalder

I didn’t have your typical high school experience. I spent my four years at a Catholic all-girls high school in Tampa. Catholic schools aren’t out of the ordinary, but you don’t see too many single-sex schools very often. Some people stare at me with wide eyes when I mention it, and almost always ask, “Did you like it?” Well, I loved it.

Some reasons are more superficial, like not having to wear make up everyday and being able to wake up 10 minutes before you have to be out the door in the mornings. But the long-lasting traditions and people I got to know made going to Academy of the Holy Names such a special and meaningful experience. 

The traditions at Academy keep you connected to classes from the past and the future. Junior Ring Ceremony is one of the many events that holds special significance. Each young woman receives her class ring at a ceremony in the spring of her junior year. The ring—simple, yet elegant—has the school’s crest engraved in a black onyx stone with the graduating year on the sides. Even five years after my class’ ring ceremony, I still keep mine placed on my right-hand ring finger.

Small class sizes meant specialized attention from faculty, who were already dedicated to their jobs. Some teachers and staff were even Academy alumnae themselves. It was the type of school where you’d build connections with your teachers after having several classes with them. For me personally, I took Latin as a foreign language, and I had the same teacher for all four years. The class was also very small (about 4-6 other students). Although the subject itself was difficult at times, I always looked forward to that class. Additionally, my English teacher, who was also the newspaper adviser, helped guide my way into journalism.

Lastly, the bond within our class was unique. During Spirit Week of our sophomore year, we were deemed “the murderers of school spirit.” Our class still hadn’t become that close. But I think things changed during our junior year, after we had our ring ceremony. 

We kicked off our final year with the traditional senior sleepover—all 70 of us spent the night at one girl’s house. That was the first and only time (so far) that I’ve ever pulled an all-nighter.

As the year dwindled down, our school traditions came to a close. We checked off our last Christmas Formal, our last Jagball competition and our last Mini-Course Week. Finally it came down to our spring senior retreat, where we shared memories and felt the closest together. On our last day of high school, we went out with a bang for Senior Prank Day. We chose the theme, Grey’s Academy. We all dressed up in purple scrubs and turned the school into a hospital. Our class was murderers of school spirit, no more.

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The Hottest Tech Trend: Virtual Reality

By Alexandra Booth

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This past Christmas, the most popular gifts shown off on Snapchat stories and in Instagram photos were two things: instant Polaroid cameras and virtual reality headsets. Two technologies very different from each other – one pulled from the past, and one created in the future – but the inspiration for VR has been worked on since panoramic paintings and stereoscopic views in the late 1830s.

Once a rare and expensive technology, VR seems to be the hottest trend in the tech field right now. The experience can easily be achieved through one’s smartphone. But where did it start?

Before the term virtual reality was coined in 1987, artificial reality was developed in 1969, according to the Virtual Reality Society. Computer-generated environments were created, which allowed users to communicate with people from all over. Sixteen years later, Jaron Lanier, the founder of the virtual programming lab, crafted “virtual reality,” along with a range of gear.

Since then, companies like SEGA and Nintendo have produced and worked on different virtual reality products. While movies like “The Lawnmower Man” and “Tron” had parts representing an alternative reality space, “The Matrix” brought the idea of simulated reality into mainstream society due to its popularity.

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Virtual reality gained more momentum after Palmer Luckey sold his company, Oculus VR, to Facebook, according to Time. It allowed for more employees to be hired and more people to work on advancing the technology into what we’re seeing today.

There are many uses for virtual reality. Arcades have opened specifically dedicated to virtual reality, in addition to other arcades that offer at least a few VR games and at home video games as well. Google is working on ways for VR to be more accessible in Chrome, according to Mashable.

Google Earth allows users to transport to different places in the world and have created Tilt Brush, where people can paint in a simulated reality and “walk” around their painting. Buzzfeed’s the Try Guys posted a video in February testing out this technology. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon also used virtual reality for a game of Pictionary with the guests on his show in December 2016 and March.

However, something that is often overlooked when it comes to VR is the affects it has on the human body. Researchers at UCLA tested rats in a fully immersive virtual reality environment, and this is the only lab in the United States to have done so thus far, according to Mashable.

“Sixty percent of neurons in the hippocampus shut down in virtual reality,” said Mayank Mehta, PhD, who works at the Center for Biological Physics at UCLA.

Tom Richmond, who works at the Institute for Creative Technologies at UCLA, mentioned the risk of hearing things that don’t correlate to what a person is seeing in the virtual world can cause pain to your inner ear and brain.

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As it grows in popularity, virtual reality has many uses and will continue to have more. From detailing crime scenes, accessing parts of the world or playing a game, virtual reality is only in its prime and will continue to change the tech world.

Janine, Is That You? Rediscovering Myself Through Headspace

By Janine Wolf

Over the past month—forget that—ever since I started college, stress has become a natural part of my life.

As many ambitious college students can attest to, striving for more comes with a costly price.

So, over the course of five days, I decided to try out the mindfulness app that everyone had been raving about: Headspace. (Or as the New Yorker phrased it, a way of achieving “the higher life.”)

Before I began my so-called journey of self-discovery, I thought about how odd it was that the act of meditating seemed to become ‘in.’ It was another way that digital technology has integrated itself into our once seemingly plain lives.

I also thought that simply doing nothing would be easy. Very quickly, I realized my body has so evolved that the simple was difficult.

Day 1.

I downloaded Headspace from the App Store and immediately got to work. “Meditation made simple,” was the first few lines that greeted me upon launching the app. “Focus on what matters” to me and do it in just 10 minutes a day? I was already sold.

I pressed ‘start’ allowed myself to relax.

Listening to the soothing voice that came from my phone, I immediately noted a few changes: my breathing became increasingly slow, and I could hear myself. I don’t think I’ve heard myself all week.

Day 2.

I usually wake up between 5 and 6 a.m., and I wanted to start integrating the app into my morning routine. It would be a way to prime my day, of sorts.

Since I finished the first lesson the day prior, I continued my meditation journey. Greeted yet again by the soothing voice of Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace and tech-mindfulness guru, I let myself focus again.

As I watched the sun rise, I could once again feel myself relaxing. Heck, I felt more relaxed than when I first woke up.

Day 3.

By this time, I was really looking forward to my next rendezvous with the app. Again, around 7 a.m., I pressed play and allowed myself to meditate.

During my first lecture class, I noticed how much more there I was; my mind did not wander to other thoughts because I had already primed myself for the rest of the day when I was meditating. I was focused, and thus, more efficient.

Day 4.

Since I was busy in the morning, I tried the app when I got back home after my day’s work around 7 p.m. I was tense and stressed throughout the course of the day because of all of the work I had to do. I didn’t even have time to process all of the work ahead.

But, when I allowed Puddicomb—did I mention he is a former Buddhist monk?—guide my meditation, I was able to let my mind think again. It’s as if all throughout the day, my mind was longing to process the information that had piled up.

Day 5.

I resumed to doing the guided meditations in the morning. As I was sitting there on my bed again and letting myself think, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, this may actually be working.”

So, my overall thoughts on meditating, mindfulness and Headspace? Keep.

We live in an increasingly stressful time, mainly because we as a growingly complex society have conditioned ourselves to exponentially work harder and more. In order to prosper and grow as humans, this is necessary, but it shouldn’t come with a neglect of health—physical and mental.

Our brains are overly stimulated, paradoxically by the very device that houses the meditation app; therefore, giving our brain time to process it other than subconsciously during sleep, is vital.

Thumbs up for Headspace.

How You Can Connect to Dance Marathon Year-Round

By Nina Cusmano

If you live in Gainesville, you’ve likely heard of Dance Marathon (DM). If you haven’t, dance marathons are events put on all over the country to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) hospitals. DM at UF benefits Shands Children’s Hospital, its local CMN hospital. The event is 26.2 hours long, which equals the distance of a marathon. Dancers stand and stay awake the entire event. This year, DM at UF raised $$2,724,324.19, setting a new record. There are lots of reasons people start fundraising and participating in DM, but here are three of the reasons they fall in love with the annual event.

1. Line Dance

The line dance puts the dance in DM, and it is something that binds everyone at the event together. It occurs once every hour throughout the 26.2-hour event and is taught to dancers right after opening ceremonies. When the music plays, everyone knows what to do. They run to the middle of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and face the stage that morale captains are filling, ready to begin the choreographed dance. It’s lengthy (the 2017 line dance was almost seven minutes long), it’s elaborate and it’s a lot of fun. Dancing in sync with hundreds of people around you isn’t something you get to do every day. The line dance is also performed at most DM events throughout the year, so it’s like a reunion getting to dance the line dance for old time’s sake.

2. Character

DM takes a lot of work. The work for the next year begins just weeks after the event is over. It takes a dedicated group of hundreds of students and organizations who fundraise, organize and put on such a time-consuming and successful event. The commitment displayed by students at UF who are overalls, captains and delegates for DM is something that builds character. These students are proven leaders who care about the cause they are involved in.

3. The Kids

The slogan of DM is ‘For The Kids,’ or FTK. The kids are what draws so many people to DM and makes it so hard to leave. The families of miracle children, kids who have been saved at a CMN hospital, attend DM and tell their stories that stick with you long after the event. It is no surprise they tell stories that are difficult to hear and heartbreaking to imagine happening to someone’s child. The kids at DM are inspiration to all the dancers and fundraisers and are always so thankful for what DM has done for them. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for them, too!

Feel Good Movies to Lift Your Mood

By Aileen Mack

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Movies have a way to change your mood and captivate you, but also they can connect you with your friends, family and even yourself. That’s what I have always loved about movies. When you sit in a movie theater, you’re essentially connecting with a bunch of strangers over this commonality you all share. Sure, you don’t speak with one another, but you’re sharing this piece of art together. I find that quite lovely.

I compiled a list of movies that I have shared with friends or discussed with them in the past year or two. There’s nothing like a good movie to share with people you care about and one that puts a smile on your face when those credits start rolling up.

Little Miss Sunshine

This movie was on my to watch list for a while until my roommate finally showed it to me. The Hoover family goes on a road trip to get their daughter, Olive, into the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. They experience a couple bumps along the way, including the car breaking down, but make it there on time. However, it doesn’t go as expected. This comedy-drama while sad at times will bring your mood back up again.

Sisters

When Tina Fey and Amy Poehler come together, you know it’s going to be good. Two sisters find out their parents are selling their childhood home and decide to have one last party, inviting all their previous high school classmates. Let me tell you, things go down at this party. Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena also have featured roles in the movie. It’s incredibly funny, and a must watch for fans of Fey and/or Poehler.

Camp Takota

This is one of my personal favorites that I watch every year on the anniversary of its release. A woman who gets fired and unengaged in the same day decides to become a counselor at her old summer camp. She reunites with her two friends she met there, and when the camp’s future is in jeopardy, they come together to save it and change their own lives. It stars Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart (no relation), and Grace Helbig, who are all YouTubers and comedians. It never fails to put a smile on my face, and just a warning, there are puns and bad jokes in this movie.

Love Actually

It may seem as a Christmas movie, but it really doesn’t matter what time of year it is. With multiple stories going on throughout this movie, you’re bound to like and/or relate to some of them. It stars many wonderful actors, including Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Kiera Knightly, just to name a few. This movie is a great reminder that love is all around us, and if you’re an Anglophile like me, you’ll love it, assuming you’ve never seen it.

Matilda

I personally don’t have any childhood memories attached with this movie, but I am quite fond of the movie. The first time I experienced this story was while seeing the musical in London when I was studying abroad. It’s the story of Matilda, an incredibly smart little girl, dealing with her mean parents who don’t understand her and the worst school principal. But, she does make loyal friends and has a wonderful teacher at this school, who help her to outsmart them. It makes the child in me so happy, and I always finish this movie with a smile on my face.

Finding Dory

If you ask me, watching a Disney movie is never a bad idea. In the sequel to Finding Nemo, Marlin and Nemo help Dory, who has short-term memory loss, find her family. As suspected, they meet all sorts of new characters and face challenges along the way that Dory solves in unique ways only she can think of. I will admit I cried both times I watched this movie, but I promise it’s got a good ending. Plus baby Dory is just so cute.

ATTENTION: Social Media Contest Starts Tomorrow!

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ATTENTION: Our social media contest will begin tomorrow!

Enter for your chance to win a special treat.

What you have to do is simple:
1) Must like the photo on Facebook
2) Must follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

That’s it! This contest starts tomorrow and will last until this Friday, the 31st.

We will pick the winner on Friday and post a video of the results. The lucky winner will be receiving a $10 Starbucks gift card + stickers.

So, what are you waiting for? Go enter for your chance to win!

Best of luck to all!

With love,

The Orange and Blue Staff