Two days ago, I found out that I have been accepted to participate in a Volunteer Abroad trip through International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) to go to Madagascar and volunteer within the Forest Conservation for a total of eight weeks starting on June 1, 2015! However, I need your help!

There were numerous volunteer options through IVHQ! However, I still chose Madagascar for a few different reasons: One of the reasons is pretty basic – I want to travel the world and experience and learn about as many cultures as possible and the Malagasy culture is fascinating to me after doing research.  Secondly, my entire life has been enveloped in the animal world.  The opportunity to broaden those horizons in a foreign country on a forest preserve is absolutely one I cannot be passed up. Third, and most important, the educational experience is an exciting, new and a once in a lifetime opportunity!

The program I have chosen is located on the island of Nosy Komba, which is located a few miles from the larger island, Nosy Be. The tropical forest of Nosy Komba is home to a variety of unique species that Madagascar is known for. However, due to habitat destruction, many of these species are threatened with extinction.

I will be involved with studying and monitoring these diverse species in order to identify differences in forest dynamics, populations, habitat health and to identify potential threats to the ecosystem.  The data gathered by myself and other volunteers is invaluable in contributing to the protection of the Sambirano forests and to the animals living within.

Some of the projects we will be working on will be species identification, behavior monitoring and population assessments with the many different types of Lemurs.  We will catch and release small mammals, reptiles and amphibians using pitfall and Sherman traps in addition to active forest searches. We will also be identifying birds based on visuals and the birds unique vocal calls.

All volunteers receive species identification training and learn how to conduct field surveys, set up equiptment, collate data and analyze all of our findings.


The reason for this post (and my GoFundMe site) is to raise the funds necessary to volunteer with the forest conservation program through IVHQ as well as for my travel expenses.  Between the program cost, getting a passport and a visa, vaccinations, insurance and flight costs this trip adds up quickly! I will need all the help I can get to make this dream of mine come true. And with your help YOU can make that possible!  IVHQ volunteers have raised over $700,000 for their programs with GoFundMe websites!

Any additional donations will be donated to the program I will be volunteering with in addition to making a donation to animal shelters in my hometown.



So, my fellow WordPress friends, I need your help to raise the funds! Sharing my GoFundMe website, visiting my facebook page, and helping me get the word out will be invaluable to my cause.  I hope I can count on you to help me out!

Madagascar Volunteer GoFundMe site!

Volunteer in Madagascar Facebook Page

Doctors Orders

Recently, I’ve been experiencing health problems: Nausea, dizziness, loss of vision and loss of appetite. After seeing three different ER doctors, two family physicians and a cardiologist, the general consensus was stress.  That evil and constant in my life. My regular family doctor prescribed yoga and meditation.  My first thoughts were something along the lines of, “Yoga, that I can do… Meditation? What does he think I’m a hippie or something?”

So, after I sat and bad mouthed his prescription in my head for about two days.. I decided to educate myself.  I had questions.  Such as, how do you even freaking meditate?  Do I just sit there and try not to think?  That sounds impossible.  Does meditating even promote a healthier life?  And if it does, how?  What are the benefits?  Are there any disadvantages?  (Other than, of course the negative aura around meditating.)

My internet search came up with pictures of Buddha, the Dalai Lama, hippies posing with the ‘peace sign’, and thousands upon thousands of ‘serenity’ pictures.  Which described, would be water and rocks, etc.  This didn’t make me feel too warm and fuzzy about the idea of meditation.  However, I widened my search.  I mean, doctors orders right?

I then happened upon the website for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Unfortunately, my biased opinion made me groan inwardly.  ‘Alternative Medicine,’ in my experience, had a lot to do with weird uses for coconut oil and never getting any vaccinations.  Regardless, I read on.  Within the first introductory paragraph the NCCAM states that, “Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being.”  Okay, so that doesn’t sound so bad right?

As I continued reading into the next paragraph one of my questions was answered! My perception of ‘clearing the mind’ meditation wasn’t the only one out there. “Some forms of meditation instruct the practitioner to become mindful of thoughts, feelings, and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way. This practice is believed to result in a state of greater calmness and physical relaxation, and psychological balance.”  Not that this sounded easier by any means.  Being aware of every single thought running through your head?  That sounded stressful in itself.

Regardless, I read everything the NCCAM had to offer, but I still wasn’t convinced.  So, I jumped in my car and headed to Barns and Noble.  I bought myself a coffee and headed to the ‘Self Help’ section.  Not only had the doctor ordered yoga and meditation to learn to de-stress my life, but my thought process was that I wanted to be happier.  I wanted to learn how to handle things that happened in my life and around me.  “A bad day doesn’t mean it’s a bad life.”  I wanted that to be true for my thought process.  So, as I was judging books by their covers and titles… the first book that caught my eye was a book with a half empty glass on the spine.  I automatically rolled my eyes at my negativity and picked it up.  The front read, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story By Dan Harris.

The title in itself drew me in.  It sounded like a No Bull Shit, I promise you won’t be appallingly sappy happy after you finish reading, kind of book.  It felt like a breath of fresh air.  So, I cracked the binding and read the inside cover.  I hadn’t even read the preface and I was hooked.  I grabbed two or three other random books and headed to a chair to read a few chapters in each.  However, I never even made it to the other books.  I didn’t want to put 10% Happier down.  I wanted to read it from cover to cover right then and there.  This man was brilliant.  (Now, after finishing his book I feel like he wouldn’t agree with me on that sentiment.)  I of course, couldn’t finish the book that day, but I went back every day to read a chapter or two.  And I immediately went to Amazon.com and bought two copies.  I was so sure I was going to love this book that I wanted to gift it to someone who was in the same boat as I was, sans health problems.

In his book, Dan Harris, as he puts it – “Meditation has a huge PR issue. I’d always been under the impression that it was only for freaks, weirdoes, robed gurus, and people who are deeply into aromatherapy and Ultimate Frisbee. What changed my mind was learning that there’s an enormous amount of science suggesting meditation is really good for you, and can do everything from lowering your blood pressure to boosting your immune system to literally rewiring key parts of your brain. I was also reassured to learn that meditating doesn’t require lighting incense, chanting, sitting in a funny position, joining a cult, believing in anything, or wearing special outfits. The problem is, the way meditation has been traditionally presented in this country is too often syrupy and annoying—and leaves too many of us out of the conversation.” (He also states this in an interview with Joshua Millburn on his blog The Minimalists. http://www.theminimalists.com/dan).

Simply, he debunked the horrible view on meditation for me and offered me a different view point, a way to apply this age old practice to my own life.  His experience with meditation offered me hope that I could do it as well.  I, of course, wouldn’t be able to afford a 10 day ‘Meditation Camp.’  But, the tools provided (along with his story) proved to me in a way, that this was possible.

I have tried meditating a few times since I started reading his book.  It is insanely difficult and frustrating.  But, that doesn’t curtail my hope that one day I will be able to sit for thirty minutes at a time and acknowledge my thoughts and how they affect my day to day inner monologue.

I’m both excited and filled with dread on this endeavor.  However, I am prepared to do everything within my power to tackle this and hope that it helps me become even 10% Happier!


Change – it’s a constant in life, the only constant in my experience. Sometimes change is viewed as a negative experience – and in others it is viewed as the most positive in your life.

When I was four, the first big change I can remember – was when my parents sold their house and moved across town. Not a big deal right? However, this was such a big thing for me at the time. It was time to explore a new backyard with my pal of a pup, Snuggles. It was time to find new, and hopefully better, hiding places when playing hide and seek. It was the chance to FINALLY talk my Dad into getting the pool I had always wanted. This change was a good one.

Then, when I was five my Mother had my little brother. For my Mother’s entire pregnancy I had been praying and praying for a baby sister. So, when that little boy showed up I was a little upset. I hadn’t gotten the baby sister that I had wanted. I tried selling my brother to our neighbors (never fear, they were very dear friends to my parents). When selling him wasn’t an option I tried bribing my neighbors into taking him and the contents of my piggy bank. Eventually, after my countless attempts at ‘getting rid’ of my brother hadn’t worked, I decided to give into that older sister love and start protecting my little brother. (Who is now about 6’2 and does more of the protecting ha.)

At the age of seven, I experienced the heartache of losing a beloved family member. I had lost my Granddaddy. I remember crying myself to sleep every night for a week. My Dad lost his father and my Mom her father-in-law, but they comforted me every night. Held me while I fell asleep and wiped away my tears. At this age, I also was given a little Shitzu named Gizmo who had had a very hard life. He was an old grumpy man, but I forced my little girl love on him and in no time I was his person.

Then, at the ripe age of nine years old, my parents welcomed their third child into the world. My baby brother. Being a few years older I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait for my newest brother to come home so I could hold him and take as many pictures as possible of him. I was in love.

At eleven, I met one of my soul mates – my best friend. We would spend every moment our parents allowed together. We’re still best friends to this day, however as life changes and physical distance increases, staying in touch gets difficult. However, we both know that if we need the other, we would be there in a heart beat.

High School had the regular craziness in the beginning. And then the dark ages descended upon me. Most of this was of my own doing. Poor decisions were made with people who didn’t have my best interests at heart. And that showed drastically in my life and how I was choosing to live it.

Then I was “saved” as I put it. I had adults willing to help me get out from under the black cloud I was living under. They showed me that light and happiness weren’t only a possibility, but something I should strive for and expect my life to be. Just because something bad had happened to me, I wasn’t that event in my life and that ideology was amazing and foreign to me. But, I welcomed it and I tried and tried and tried to make positive changes in my life.

At the age of 18, after graduating from high school, I went on to my first college. The absolute best two years of my life, despite the loss I experienced. I made incredible friends and memories that will last a lifetime. The freedom was amazing as well, not living under your parents roof? Awesome.

Two years at a Junior College and I was ready for “Big Kid” school. I made the two thousand mile trek to Pullman, WA and started my semester as a Cougar. For the first two weeks I thought it was amazing. I had left my home state for something completely different, but I soon found out that the school wasn’t a good fit for me. So after completing a full semester at WSU I made the trek back to IL. I was bummed, but it was necessary.

I lived with my parents for eight months before I made another long trek across the country to Amarillo, TX. Where I spent two whirlwind years of my life. I was blessed for the opportunity to pick the great minds at WTAMU while kicking butt in Horse Judging. I made some of the best friends that I have today. These people became my family. I learned a lot about myself during these two years, but that pesky black cloud was still hovering, and Amarillo had so much lightning and thunder that moving back home to get back on my feet had become a necessity.

Five years ago, I figured I would be graduated with my Bachelors and on my way to my Masters Degree and then my Phd. However, life laughs at plans. Now? Now I’m home, getting back on my feet. Striving for physical and emotional health. This blog will be about my journey. And I’m excited for the challenge. Not every day will be easy and that is completely okay.

Life is full of ups and downs. That’s what makes it beautiful.