Monthly Archives: June 2016

Caitlyn Jenner: Going For the Gold

Just a little over a year ago, Caitlyn Jenner made national headlines when she came out to the world.  Caitlyn made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair on June 1st, kicking off a celebratory event on Pride month.  The news broke the internet with swarms of celebrities tweeting about her courageous act.  She became a true hero for the trans-gendered community and for all individuals who felt that they had no place in the world.

For this year’s publicity debut, Caitlyn Jenner will be on the front cover of the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.  She will be posing with the gold metal that she won at the 1976 Olympic games.  Along with the cover, a special film will chronicle her journey to the Olympic decathlon titled, “Jenner: 40 years After Gold”.

Before making her big debut, she was formerly known as Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner.  Bruce competed in the 1976 Olympic games in August, taking home the gold medal for the decathlon.  He made the cover of Sports Illustrated shortly after claiming his victory.  About four decades after his glorious victory, he joined the Kardashian clan for E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashian.

Bruce officially made his transition public to the world in April 2015 during his interview with Diane Sawyer on 20/20.  On June 2015, she officially stepped out into the world as a woman for the first time.  Thousands of supporters praised Caitlyn since the Vanity Fair cover was released on social media.  Celebrities tweeted about her Caitlyn’s debut since breaking the news in June.

Kudos to Caitlyn Jenner for showcasing her true identity to the world!  She has become an inspiring figure to the trans-gendered community.  In the land of the free, we shouldn’t cower in fear about who we really are in life.  We’re all just confused adults who are looking for their place in the world, searching for our true identity.

Marriage has been legalized for all same-sex couples in the United States last year, but we still got a long way to go if we want to make the world a better place for everyone.  Love and compassion will help us grow further as human beings while hatred and bigotry only hinders our journey.  Here at MakeSandcastlesNotWar we believe everyone has a place in the world, regardless of their sexual orientation.  Straight, gay, bisexual, genderqueers, and trans-gendered people all have the fundamental right to live their lives as a human being.

We are all born as human beings, so why is it that we continue to segregate ourselves further?  Homosexuality exists in many species of the animal kingdom, not just within human beings.  Homophobia is just another dehumanizing concept that causes the ever-growing rift between man and nature.

A Walk In The Virtual Forest

A few weeks ago I started my new job as a laborer at Harold Parker State Park.  Harold Parker State Park is a beautiful campgrounds area in North Andover with beautiful trees grown around the forest.  I mostly work at Berry Pond to clean up the park before opening day on June 25th.  One of the great benefits of the job is going on hiking trails to explore other areas of the park.

As a I ventured around the forest, I had forest-themed music from video games that were playing in my head.  Music from Donkey Kong Country or Paper Mario came to my mind when wandering around the open trails of the forest.  At one point, the Raphael the Raven theme song from Paper Mario kept playing in my head multiple times during work.  I kept thinking to myself, “What is going on?  Why are these songs repeating in my head while I am in the forest?”

Earlier I have learned how certain music can remind you of a special time in your life.  Music has a powerful way of tapping into your favorite memories, making you nostalgic for the better times.  Some of the music from old-school games took me back to happier times when I was excited to explore a new world.  Games like Donkey Kong Country or Banjo-Kazooie provided some amazing music that really captivates the type of environment you enter.

Take forest frenzy from Donkey Kong Country, for example.  You enter from a hole in a large tree to enter a huge forest area with large trees in the far distance.  Wild plants and tress shroud the background as you wander through the pathways to the exit.  The sounds of flutes, birds squawking, and bees zinging all collide together to create that peaceful experience of being in the forest.  All of the visual and audio presentation work together to give players the feeling of wandering around the open forest.

Video games aren’t just another source of entertainment; they also provide an outlet for experience a whole new world beyond your imagination.  Stepping into a level like Forest Frenzy fills your mind with awe, feeling amazed at how beautiful nature is.  The amount of details that game designers put into the levels really create an experience like no other.  When reality collides with fantasy, you create a masterpiece so beautiful that the lines become more blurred.

So maybe I’m not going crazy when I have Raphael the Raven theme song stuck in my head.  Maybe it is a longing for that simpler time when I played Paper Mario and feeling excited about discovering each new world in the game.  Thinking back to those amazing video games made me long for a new adventure, someplace that I have yet to discover.  Either way, having those forest-themed songs make my job at the state park even better.

Rob Gronkowski’s Kanjam Party Slam!

It seems as though Rob Gronkowski’s PR stunts can be heard of everywhere – a party bus, a book, his own flavor of Monster Energy, a photo shoot with cute kittens, and even singing tunes with David Ortiz about Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee.  As one of the most favorable players of the NFL, Gronkowski continues to extend the story of his personal brand.  Earlier he released his Instagram account to connect with millions of his followers on social media.  His next brand story involves a different kind of sport – Kanjam.

That’s right folks!  Rob Gronkowski released his own version of the popular partying game called Kanjam Gronk.  Gronkowski released a Kanjam Gronk game set on the website  The kanjam Gronk game set features 2 official goals, 2 custom designed Kanjam flying discs, a commemorative Gronk locker nameplate, and instructions for how to play the game.

Kanjam is one of the most popular partying games among college kids in the United States.  The object is to score points by throwing your flying disc and hitting or entering into the goal.  Your opponents will try to deflect the disc from entering the goal.  Players must get exactly 21 points in order to win the game.  Any throw that takes a team over 21 points would be subtracted from their score.

As mentioned earlier, this is just one of many ways Gronkowski’s brand continues to flourish.  He connects with his fans any way possible and now he dipped his toes into one of the most popular party games in America.  Rob Gronkowski is more than just an incredible football player; his ‘box of rocks’ personality makes him one of the most relatable athletes of the NFL.  Whatever stunts he pulls during his off-season schedule, he is sure to reel in another niche audience that will love Gronkowski even more.

Rob Gronkowski continues to be my favorite athlete of the New England Patriots.  Other than being one of the best tight ends of the NFL, his silly antics makes him more than just another great athlete.  While I don’t watch football as much as the next guy, it is always hilarious to watch what Gronkowski does off of the football field.  I am always eager to see what humorous PR stunt Rob Gronkowski will be involved with in the future.  Props to Gronk for branching out his brand into another product line!  If Kanjam was his latest product launch, who knows what’s in store for us Patriots fans?  We’ll just have to sit and wait for the next chapter of Rob Gronkowski’s life.

Waldenkindergarten: Nature’s Classroom

Kindergarten was one of the most fun school years of my life.  I was enrolled into Doyon School in Ipswich when I was six years old.  It was a typical classroom setting for me: fun toys to play with, crayons or colored pencils for coloring activities, watching kids trade lunches with each other during lunchtime, and a 15-minute recess session outside on the playground.

Recess was something I always looked forward to as a kid.  Having that pleasure of spending time outdoors and away from the small, dingy classroom was a blessing to me.  I usually played games with my friends or went swinging on the swings near the playground.  Looking back at my early years, being outdoors was something I always cherished in life.  To think that some schools don’t even allow recess time just boggles my mind!

One great thing about elementary school was taking field trips outside of the classroom during science class.  I couldn’t really understand how life worked until I stepped outside of the school and into the forests to experience nature.  Nature was something you had to see first-hand, not through pictures on a slideshow.  Some schools have even taken the concept of outdoor nature learning one step further.  That was when I stumbled onto a unique concept called forest kindergarten, which was the English term for Waldenkindergarten.

Forest Kindergarten is special program that is held for children up to the age of six years old.  It is a preschool education that takes place outdoors for more than half of the day.  The concept is about encouraging children to play, learn, and explore in a forest or some form of natural environment.  This unique educational idea can be described as a kindergarten without any ceiling or walls put in place.

Waldenkindergarten was initiated in Germany by a man named Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel.  During the 18th century, Friedrich developed a passion for plants and herbs while growing up in the forests.  He was increasingly interested in early education and was convinced that play was crucial for a child’s development.  By 1840 he coined the term kindergarten, which was known as children’s garden.  Unfortunately, the concept transformed into something similar to traditional schooling where children spend more times indoors.

It wasn’t until 1952 where a mother in Denmark named Ella Flautau decided to apply Friedrich’s core message to create an interesting classroom for the children.  This concept quickly caught on with her children and eventually spread around Denmark and Scandinavia.  Denmark now has between 200-300 forest kindergartens in the country.

The forest kindergarten classrooms eventually reached the United States, with the first school opening on Vashon Island called Cedarsong Nature School.  Cedarsong Nature School was founded by naturalists and child educators Robin Rogers and Erin Kenny.  After first opening its doors in 2006, the school received overwhelmingly positive reviews from parents.  It became so popular that parents were put on the waitlist.

I randomly stumbled on this concept a few nights ago and thought this was a fascinating idea!  A whole classroom dedicated to teaching kids outside to be with nature.  Whether it is in a beach or forests, children are really getting their taste of nature at such an early nature.  Learning about science while on various field trips was a popular concept at my school, but forest kindergartens really go the extra mile.  I have always grown up in the small town of Ipswich most of my life and I could not imagine living away from a clean environment!

This German concept needs to extend all across the United States to really provide the taste of nature to children everywhere.  We seem to take our environment for granted these days, sending our kids into dull classrooms with cement walls and mundane ceilings.  How is it that some elementary schools don’t even require any recess time?  Going on adventures and learning about the world around us is all part of growing up as a human being, so why do we continue to throw that concept in the garbage?  We toss aside these important activities just like we leave empty cigarette butts out onto the beach while we expect nature to take its course.  This is something we should continue to explore in the years to come.  Maybe the answer to rebuilding our current education system lies within nature, not standardized testing in monotonous classrooms.

Summer is the BEST Season

Happy summer!  Today marks the 1st day of summer 2016.  The days get longer, the sun shines a lot brighter, and ice cold beers taste great on a hot day!  Summer is the time to head down to your favorite beach to unwind after a long week of work.

Schools are out and restaurants are opening up their patios to provide outdoor seating for their customers.  Summer is my all-time favorite season of the year.  There are many reasons for why I look forward to the summer solstice starting.  Here are a few good reasons for why summer is the BEST season of all time:

Days Get Longer:  During the summer solstice, days get a lot longer than usual and the nights get shorter.  Longer days means more excuse to stay outside longer.  It’s always cool to watch the sun about to go down at 7:30 at night.  Nowadays the sun sets around 8:30ish or so, providing you with a reason to stay up later!

Wearing Less Clothes:  Hot days are the perfect excuse to wear less clothes outside.  After being stuffed up in your house while wearing those long-sleeve shirts, it is so relieving to finally give your body the light of day.  Soaking up your body with the sunshine feels good and is healthy for your mental/emotional health.  One of my favorite past times is to sit outside in my underwear while sipping hot tea.  Your body is a temple, not a prison!  Take the time let that beautiful sunshine touch every part of your body.

Staying Outdoors More:  Now that the weather is warmed up, you can find more reasons to get outside with your friends and family.  You will start to feel guilty about staying indoors for your job, but most companies allow their employees to leave early to get outside more.  Make the most of your summer by planning as much outdoor events as you can.

School’s Out:  Alice Cooper sang it best: school’s out for summer, school’s out forever!  Summer means millions of students are finally out of school for vacation.  After all of that hard work you completed, you finally get out of those classrooms to hang out with your friends.  No more pencils, no more books, no more dirty looks!

Camping:  Ah, camping in the great outdoors!  What better way to get back in touch with nature than pitching that tent and roasting marshmallows on an open fire?  There are thousands of campgrounds for you and your family/friends to go for a camping trip.  Camping is that quintessential vacation that you help you get closer to nature.

Beach/Oceans/Lakes/Other Bodies of Water:  If you live close to any body of water, you should definitely spend time there during the summer.  Lucky for me I live close to a few beaches near my apartments and it is always a blessing to lay out after an exhausting day.  Spending some time out on the beach with your friends is a great activity if you just want to loaf around.  Laying out on the beach is also a great time to get that tan you have been working on!

Outdoor Music Festivals:  What do Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Electric Forest all have in common?  They ALL take place outdoors!  Summer is the perfect season to attend that music festival you and your buddies have been planning for months.  Concerts are always fun, but attending a music festival outdoors is an experience like no other!

The Movies:  Some days will be too hot to even go outside, so going to the movies is a PERFECT indoor activity.  You and your friends can finally see that Captain America vs. Thor film you have been dying to see (or whatever superhero blockbuster Marvel is releasing these days!).  There’s nothing like heading into that air-conditioned theater to see that awesome blockbuster movie on a hot or rainy day.  Use up those rainy days to find the perfect movie to watch in theaters.

Traveling/Vacationing:  Most people plan their vacations around the summer time since there are very few holidays to prepare for.  Summer is the time to plan that cross-country road trip idea with your friends or that week-long trip to someplace you have never been to before.  Whatever your destination is, summer is the perfect season to do some vacationing with your family/friends.