Thursday, April 20, 2017

"13 Reasons Why" Made Me Uncomfortable

Warning: This blog  contains spoilers about the show 13 Reasons Why.

By now, you've probably heard about the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, based off a novel, which tells the story behind why Hannah Baker, from a white picket fence town with an almost perfect family, committed suicide. From being raped by a popular boy, to witnessing her friend's sexual assault, to her best friends turning their backs on her. Hannah endured countless acts of bullying, which she relives on 13 audio tapes that are passed around to her ‘friends’ after her death as they are one of the 13 reasons why she took her own life. On the show, we follow the main character, Clay Jensen, helplessly wish he had known what she was facing, so he could have been there for her. We also watch as her peers sit on the sidelines and watch her demise.
I am sure I am not the only one whose guilty of binge watching a television series on Netflix, I like to think of them as really LONG movies. The morning Netflix released 13 Reasons Why several close friends and I watched every episode that day. I knew I wanted to share my opinions on this particular television series because I knew it would be a hit. Little did I know the impact it would make on my generation. 13 Reasons Why has pros and cons but has been a powerful tool for spreading teen suicide awareness.
While watching 13 Reasons Why, I became uncomfortable, for several reasons. My heart began to ache for Hannah’s loved ones. I knew their pain of losing someone who didn’t know their own worth to suicide. The moment when Mrs.Baker finds Hannah in the bathtub my heart physically hurt. I could never, nor would I want to, imagine finding my dear daughter, or loved one, covered in her own blood after self inflicted wounds. Another reason why this series made me uncomfortable was how brutally honest it was. 13 Reasons Why addresses topics that typically are glossed over in the media including rape, bullying, suicide, and victim blaming. There are scenes of sexual assaults happening and we watch as all hope has left through these young women. Although these topics make one so uncomfortable they need to be addressed and talked about. This series was a good step to starting conversations to the rid the stigma surrounding suicide.
Suicide is often no one's fault, and to blame suicide on any one person, or 13 people, would completely ignore the fact that the person who chose to hurt themselves made that decision for themselves. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) describes suicide as a decision that's made as the result of a battle with depression, another mental illness, or a severe traumatic event. Hannah shows warning signs of suicide throughout the series but Hannah isn’t depicted to have a mental illness. Although, most suicides are always a ‘shock’ or ‘unexpected’ according to Child Trends, teens are much more likely to consider suicide if they face a traumatic life event or are suffering from severe depression. Four out of five teens that have attempted suicide have given clear warning signs.
My first thoughts were, “how could someone handle being blamed for someones death,” “why would Hannah want these 13 people to suffer, is she looking for revenge?” whether or not she was looking for revenge. We watch everyone in Hannah’s life suffer. One her reasons, Alex Standall, attempts suicide in the end of the series and is left in critical condition. There are elements of Alex's character throughout the series that demonstrate why he'd be a suicide risk — a restrictive home life, a tendency toward anger and violence, a lack of impulse control. I noticed warning signs of suicide in Alex around episode five, and grew curious of the foreshadowing. I hope that season two addresses copycat suicides or suicide clusters. Copycat suicides or clusters are a chain of completed suicides, usually among teens, in a discrete period of time and area, which have a ‘contagious’ element. A risk factor or warning sign of suicide is being exposed to another suicide of someone close.
            I have often heard conversations of others talking about suicide as a selfish act. I can see where one could argue it. Someone who has suicidal thoughts may think the world would be a better place without them and fail to think about their loved ones that it would impact. 13 Reasons Why does a great job of showing the impact Hannah’s suicide made on her entire community. We watch as Clay, Hannah’s parents, and the 13 ‘reasons’ physically and mentally become worn down. They process the grief in acts of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. Mrs. and Mr. Baker are so angered with entire situation they start a law suit with the school. The character I saw the most physical change was with Clay.
            Clay started this ’journey’ not really sure how to accept Hannah’s death. In the beginning, he seems like anyone else would take the news that a fellow classmate took their life. But once Clay receives these tapes, and as the series progresses we see this stress or heavy burden just weigh down on him. He stops communicating with his parents, showering, sleeping, and overall just taking care of himself.  
            I could sit here and type all day about the pros and cons of this series, and maybe I will address more in some upcoming blogs. But here are my overall lessons learned from 13 Reasons Why.
1. Social media has a real impact.
2. You never know what someone is going through.
3. What you say or do really does matter.
4. The small things are important.
5. Listen.
6. Everyone truly has their own story.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Available 24 Hours every day)

Forever and Always,

Siam Simpfenderfer
Miss North Dakota International 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Experience with the International System

About two years ago, I received a message from my childhood swimming instructor, over social media.  She wanted to reconnect and asked me if I have ever considered doing a pageant.  She encouraged me to consider the idea because she thought I would be a good fit for the International Pageant System.  I had people make the suggestion before, but pageants were never anything that I had seriously considered before.  I admired and trusted Meg Pulkabek, who was one of North Dakota’s International Pageant Directors, after all, she never let me drowned!  Meg was about my age the summer she taught me to swim, but even then had all the qualities of an International Queen.  She went on to become Miss North Dakota International 2014.
Over the next few months, I researched the International Pageant System and tried to determine if this was something I wanted to pursue.  Meg came to hear me sing at a school event, a few weeks later. When I finished, we had the opportunity to visit more seriously about my decision to participate.  I really wanted to make sure this was something I wanted to do with my whole heart. I remember signing the paperwork and feeling both nervous and excited about this new adventure.  I honestly have never wavered in my belief that the International Pageant System is where I belong. This feeling has grown with each new experience.
Over the past two years, I have learned that The International System truly does promote and celebrate the accomplishments of women.  I have been encouraged and inspired to make a difference in my community and state.  I think one of the things that sets the International System apart from other systems is the fact that it is platform based. This gives women from across the world an opportunity to promote their passion.  I have had people ask me why I did not choose to participate in a system that has a talent category, so I would have the opportunity to sing.  My response to that is that I still have the opportunity to sing, but I get to do so much more as I promote my platform.
Meg was my first International Pageant role model, but since then I have had the opportunity to get to know so many other amazing women from this system. The thing that all these women have in common is a selfless giving heart and a sincere desire to make a difference in the world around them.  I appreciate the values of faith, family and integrity that the International System exemplifies.  The friendships that have developed from this sisterhood are something I will always treasure. I have always been encouraged to be the best version of myself.
Yours in Harmony, Payton Hausauer Miss Teen North Dakota 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

25 Fun Facts about Angelina!

On April 2nd I celebrated a birthday, so I thought it would be fun to share 25 fun facts about myself in celebration of 25 years of living!

  1. My full name is Angelina Elizabeth Yarbrough.
  2. My parents originally named me “Angelica”, but shortly after my birth, they decided to change it. 
  3. My nationality is 50% Italian (mom’s side) and 50% Mexican (dad’s side)
  4. I grew up in Las Vegas, but I never went to the strip until I was old enough to drive there myself.
  5. I grew up in a family of 4 with my mom, dad and little brother.
  6. My brother Johnny is kinda Instagram Famous - JohnnyBGoing
  7. I had cats growing up. We tried having a dog once and it only lasted 6 months.
  8. As a youngster, I competed in one pageant - the “Miss Junior Teen Las Vegas” pageant. I won third runner up! 
  9. I am only 5’ 1” tall. Don’t let the heels fool you!
  10. I went to college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Go Rebels! 
  11. I was a professional cheerleader for the United Football League. Our team was the Las Vegas Locomotives or “Las Vegas Locos” for short.
  12. I was also a dancer for UNLV’s Scarlet Dance Line. 
  13. I graduated college in 2014. I finished my last semester online while living in North Dakota!
  14. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Journalism. 
  15. I got married in December of 2013 in Las Vegas - in an actual church, not a drive-thru chapel! 
  16. My husband and I share the same birthday. It’s fate!
  17. When my husband and I were given the opportunity to move to North Dakota, neither of us had ever been there.
  18. Living in Wahpeton is my first experience at small town life.
  19. I have a Dalmatian named Koda. He’s perfect. 
  20. I used to have a cat named Shadow, but it wasn't working out so I flew him to Las Vegas to live with my mom. 
  21. My husband’s motorcycle is also named Shadow, so there is still a Shadow in the family. 
  22. I have traveled to 3 different countries on mission trips. 
  23. I hope to travel to several more countries with my family in the future.
  24. My husband and I are not quite ready for kids. We are waiting for God’s perfect timing.
  25. My dream is to teach, speak and preach to women of all ages around the country - and world.
I hope you enjoyed these fun facts! You can learn more about me every day on Facebook  and Instagram

Until Next Time,
Angelina Yarbrough
Mrs. North Dakota International 2017
Turning Moments Into Movements

Monday, April 17, 2017

Catching Up!

Hi again!

I’m sure you have all been wondering what I have been up to, and what life is like as Miss North Dakota International. Let me tell you, life is a blessing and a whirlwind! But isn’t that how it goes? I keep my self very busy as most of you can assume. I have spent my last few months as queen running around to some amazing events, with even more amazing people. Working with my sister queens and directors has been so great. We all are in almost daily communication, and if I don’t hear from them in over two days I begin to miss them all. These wonderful women are becoming such an important part of my life and are truly becoming family. The support system that this pageant brings is indescribable. Through this pageant, I have become involved in the community in so many ways. In the last several months, I have made appearances as Miss North Dakota at the state capitol, Brave the Shave event, Go Red for Women Luncheon, spoke at Center-Stanton High School, organized a wear red day with the NDSU nursing students, had a photo shoot, and visited the children at Sanford Medical Center where I delivered hand made Valentines. Busy! Life outside of the pageant has been just as a full of adventure as well. During these first few months as queen I also have since celebrated my 21st birthday with friends and family, travelled to Mexico with a great group of friends, celebrated a wedding of some close friends, started and finishing up my first semester as a nursing student. Looking ahead at what is to come in the next several months is preparation for nationals! How exciting! Time is just flying by in a blink of an eye. One of the first things Taylor, Miss North Dakota International 2016, told me was “it’ll go faster then you know it,” and she wasn’t lying. I have been learning to accept all the challenges that have been thrown my way with juggling the balance of pageants, school, social life, and my family. I’ve learned that you’ll never be dealt more than you can handle and to be grateful for every opportunity that you are given. One of my favorite mottos to say is, “if you’re not living, you’re dying.” With this update on my life, I hope that you all continue to follow me on my journey throughout the year as I prepare for Nationals.

Forever and Always,

Miss North Dakota International 2017
Siam Simpfenderfer

Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Platform - Choose Happiness

“One person can make a difference. And, everyone should try.”
-  John F. Kennedy
            This is one of my favorite quotes. I have it hanging on my refrigerator in the kitchen.  I like it because it reminds me that we can all pitch in and make a small change. But if we put everything in and really work hard, that is when we will REALLY make a difference!  We need to put our all into everything we do. Then, only then, will we make a change.
            If you have already read some of my blogs, you will know that my platform is “Choose Happiness.”  This year, as Junior Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017, I hope to take a few steps towards making a difference in the lives of others. I strive to do this by doing community service work and talking at a number of difference organizations.

During my presentations, I talk about personal happiness. This includes eating a balanced diet, taking care of your body, and exercising daily. It also includes giving yourself positive self-talk, and making positive and healthy life choices. 
The other part of choosing happiness I talk about is making the lives of other people happy. This can be done by living by the Golden Rule, volunteering your time to help others, not bullying, and loving your neighbor as yourself.
I chose my platform partly because my friend was being bullied. I noticed that she was NOT happy but there was nothing that I could do except try to cheer her up and tell trusted adults what was happening.  One day, a pageant titleholder came to visit our school and talked about her platform of anti-bullying.  After her talk, my friend was not bullied anymore and she started to choose happiness again.  I realized that my friend wasn’t the only person who felt this way. There were too many others. I knew right then that my message would become “Choose Happiness” and I had to spread it everywhere I could.
I have made it a top priority to do volunteer work whenever I can. Winning the pageant has made it a little easier to share my platform with others and I can talk about happiness whenever the opportunity comes up. 

Some of the places I volunteer include The American Heart Association, Angel Tree, the Salvation Army, the United Way, Make a Wish Foundation, Operation Christmas Child, my church and many other charities.   

While I may not be able to speak to everyone across the great state of North Dakota, one of the goals of my year is to leave something behind wherever I go. I have wonderful sticky notes that I leave in various places that remind people to Choose Happiness. I write kind and encouraging messages on the sticky notes. Then, I stick them on windows, mirrors, lockers, desks, computers, refrigerators…WHEREVER I can leave them! I’m hoping that when someone sees the note, it puts a smile on their face and they stop to think about all of the great things in their life and how they can help make the lives of others better. I encourage you to pick up a pack of sticky notes…and start writing! Help spread smiles by leaving someone an encouraging note!
Please help me spread happiness by being kind to your neighbor and to yourself – today, tomorrow, and every day after that!
Alexis Thompson
Junior Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Oh the places you'll go...

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” Dr. SeussOh, The Places You'll Go! This happens to be my favorite book from childhood! This very quote from this book sticks with me till this day even in my adulthood. One never knows just where life can take them until they use their brains, their feet to be interdependent on those who can provide guidance. With this, success is bond to come in many ways!
            I can’t seem to understand just how time can fly by so quickly. Yet I still have about nine more months left until the next ambassador is crowned. I wanted to use this blog to gather my thoughts and share with you just what it’s been like so far on my journey. My most recent event was a guest reader in my hometown at the New Hartford Public library in New Hartford, NY.  Stepping back into the library brought back many good memories.
            Reading is something I have loved since I was little and even now. I enjoyed going to the library, doing my homework and finding my next book to indulge in. To my surprise when coming back I saw some familiar faces that I didn’t expect to see. I recognized them, but they didn’t recognize me, until I told them my name. I must say it’s amazing how a crown can change your presence!
When speaking to an audience I find myself quite shy at first, but the moment I talk about why I am here and what I’m doing with my platform, everything changes. It’s like this wall of fear vanishes. While attending the events I met wonderful families and many beautiful children. Reading three books to them was very exciting, their expressions to each page brought great energy to the room and made me realize just why I enjoy working with children. I left the event feeling really happy that I could share a moment with families and their little ones. My main goal was to voluntarily share the importance of healthy eating to families and little ones. I felt like I had accomplished just that.
If you were to have asked me last year what are my plans for spring 2017, I probably would have been simpleminded.  Giving my standard response of school, work, and volunteer, but that isn’t the case at all. I am very happy that I get to meet new faces attend events that are present and pushing their cause. I would not have wanted it any other way. A saying that I tend to always say is "when I make plans, God laughs at me." I don’t find this to be a negative thing but rather a great thing! It shows just how life can be unpredictable, and with the right guidance “Oh the places you’ll go.”
Carpe diem, Wiljar Ojuro North Dakota International Ambassador 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Your greatest breakthrough is just beyond your tallest barrier

Can I be vulnerable with you right now? Things have not been so sparkly lately. The struggle of life has made itself quite real to me these past few months. And, as I sit here, eating dark chocolate chip ice cream from the container, I wonder how much of it I need to consume before I stop feeling overwhelmed. Lately, my husband and I have faced some unexpected doctor’s bills, car problems, and, just recently, something very personal and valuable was stolen from me. I don’t say this for pity, I simply want to be real with you. Because, beyond the posts of smiley pictures, beyond the crown and the sash is a life that isn’t always fabulous. Lately, I have found myself asking, “Ok, what's next? Can I handle one more thing right know?” But, something I have come to realize is that I don’t have to be strong enough to handle it. Life will throw things at me that I can’t handle sometimes. But, I believe that my strength comes from God. When I am overwhelmed, I trust that he has a purpose and plan for every situation - even the really tough ones. When I can’t always see was lies ahead, I can always trust that God knows all, sees all, and has my situation under control. 

And, you know what else?

Your greatest breakthrough is just beyond your tallest barrier. 

Sometimes, the moments we feel we can’t take anymore are the very moments we must keep going. Many times our victory is just beyond the struggle we are currently facing. It’s not easy, I have to work at it every day. 

I remember when my car broke down 15 miles from home on that cold January evening. This was the night before I was set to compete for Mrs. North Dakota International and I wasn’t even sure how I would make it to rehearsal the next day. As my husband and I sat in the negative 20 degree weather waiting for a ride, we didn’t feel so amazing. Our only good car at the time had just died on us and I was worried that the cold was going to make me sick. But, my husband looked at me, told me to zip up my jacket over my face to keep warm and assured me that everything was gonna be ok. Despite the current circumstances, I trusted that everything would work out exactly as it was meant to. That’s what faith looks like. Faith gives perspective- the ability to realize that today’s battle is tomorrow’s victory, even if we don’t have a battle plan just yet. 
The next day, Jake borrowed our church van to get me to rehearsal. Not only did I make it through the weekend without being sick or missing anything, I succeeded in the pageant too. I kept a smile on my face during the competition and remembered why I was there, why I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t let the troubles of the weekend phase me, I had bigger things to focus on. 

The key to overcoming barriers is how we choose to respond to them. 

Disappointments in life can either break us down or make us stronger. We must consciously choose to focus on the good that's happening in the midst of our difficulties. Struggles don't last forever and if we choose to keep moving forward with the best attitude we can possibly have, our breakthrough will come sooner than we think. It’s not always easy to move forward when you don’t know what you’ll face next, but keep holding on, friends. Have faith because your breakthrough is coming

Angelina Yarbrough
Mrs. North Dakota International 2017

Turning Moments Into Movements

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Amazing American Heart Association

In January when I was crowned, I gained a new partner.  This is a partner that I know now I will have through my life.  I feel so blessed that the American Heart Association is a sponsor of the International Pageant System.  Over the past few months, I have gained so much respect for the American Heart Association and the amazing work that do.
The American Heart Association is a non-profit organization, was founded in 1924, by six cardiologists.   Their goal is to improve the lives of all Americans through public health education, research, training and advocacy of healthy lifestyle choices. The American Heart Association educates lawmakers and policy makers as well as the public.  They advocate for changes that improve health in communities. 
In January, I attended a luncheon sponsored by The American Heart Association.  It was a Go Red for Women event.  Go Red for Women is another program sponsored by the American Heart Association.  The Go Red for Women campaign began in 2004, as a response to rising death rates in women, due to heart disease and stroke.  This campaign was designed to raise awareness and empower women to take charge of their heart health. On February 3rd, I proudly participated in the wear red for women day. I encouraged others to participate as well.
Later in February, I had the opportunity to see first-hand the work The American Heart Association does in Bismarck, at the legislative session.  This important legislation proposed providing life-saving training and equipment in rural areas of the state.  The American Heart Association saw an opportunity to improve the care given to rural communities.  I was so happy to see that this was also a priority for legislators. Many lives will be saved because of the work of The American Heart Association.
The American Heart Association also sponsors The Jump Rope for Heart Program in our schools.  This program provides education for the youth in our communities. Recently, I was honored to have the opportunity to visit the Osgood Kindergarten Center and talk to kids about this program.  I am so proud to say that Osgood students raised more money than any other school in the state.  $18,213 was the amount raised for Jump Rope for Heart!  I was asked back to attend the celebration of this accomplishment.
In just a few months, I have seen over and over what a truly amazing organization The American Heart Association is.  The training and experiences that I have had over the past few months have made a true supporter of this program. I have a deep appreciation for the work that do and look forward to being an advocate for many years to come.
Yours in Harmony,
Payton Hausauer Misss Teen North Dakota 2017