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Archives for September 2017

Lake Superior: Wisconsin’s backyard adventure

Nothing spells summer quite like a weekend road trip with a good friend to the southern shores of Lake Superior. The treasured Northwoods of Wisconsin hold a dear spot in my heart. So much that I need to make an annual visit to experience the waves that crash in, the vast view over the water, and the cute and quaint towns that lie on its banks.

The Bayfield Peninsula

We left on a Friday night, heading towards Washburn, stopping at a Wisconsin institution, Culvers. Trekking north and not too far out from the peninsula, we didn’t see a deer sprinting across the road, but a black bear quickly scampering right in front of us. What a treat to see him!  I had never seen one in the wild, even though they make an appearance in my central Wisconsin neighborhood from time to time. Once arriving in Washburn we hit the hay to gear up for a fun-filled weekend.

Saturday morning we headed to Bayfield for a tasty breakfast at the Manypenny Bistro. I had been here as a child when it was known as The Egg Toss, with fond memories of sitting on the (at the time) screened in porch with my family, enjoying the morning air coming off the lake. Now the porch is finished off, but still a delightful café with great service and even better food. Even stone oven pizza!

Next on our weekend agenda: the Apostle Islands.

Touring the islands and caves

The Apostle Islands, in Lake Superior, are truly one of Wisconsin’s wonders. They hold so much variety and beauty. One of the popular islands is Madeline Island, which can be reached by ferry or your own boat. However, you want to be well versed in traveling over big water before taking your own vessel, travel can become dangerous quickly. If taking the ferry, bring a bike along and ride the afternoon around the whole island, there are art shops filled with pottery, plein air paintings, and multi-media pieces, be sure to also stop at Big Bay State Park along the way. Our late morning trek led us to Stockton Island, just a few islands in from shore.

Swinging around the peninsula on the south side in my friend’s dad’s motorboat, we got an amazing view of smooth sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, where grassy sand dunes lined the back part of the beach. 
The dunes muted the loud sound of the waves coming in on the beach and small, tide pool like, puddles scattered the ground with a variety of flowers growing in each one. Working our way down the beach and towards the intriguing rocks, we found a plethora of wild blueberries.

We filled our mouths and carried some in our hands and made our merry way to the previously noted rocks. Much to our surprise there was a good, yet narrow path leading through more cedar trees just behind the rocks. I’m convinced all settings for fairytale books were based off of this small magical feeling forest; I half expected a gnome or a fairy to lead the way.  The trail eventually came out to this larger rock where Mother Nature had made a convenient pseudo staircase down to an even larger rock platform. Now, this wasn’t just any platform, see the water was up and the rock was unusually flat and 35ft in circumference, completely covered with a foot of water. Both of us sat down and just let the water crash into us like a waterslide in Wisconsin Dells.

The time came for us to head out from the island and back to shore, leaving the sailboats in Bayfield’s harbor and the sandy beaches of the islands behind. We grabbed a couple kayaks and wetsuits to traverse Washburn’s small sea caves along its banks that we had to check out ourselves. After all, it was only 2:30pm.

The first few caves we came across were small in size and barely allowed our kayaks into the openings. The further down the shore we went, the larger the formations got. One spot in particular had a few passages that our boats JUST squeezed through and opened up to a bright green mossy and fern display that blanketed the rocks. On our way back we came across a few other kayakers, exchanging information on what we had found along the shoreline.

Our final destination was Cornucopia and Herbster Beach where we set up camp for the night. When dusk settled, you could see not only the Milky Way, but the north shore of Minnesota, the bright glow of Duluth, the faint light of Two Harbors, and the signal from Historic Split Rock lighthouse; The perfect cap to an adventurous weekend on Lake Superior.

You often don’t have to go far to experience a grand adventure in the great outdoors. There is A TON to see between Washington State to Florida’s beaches, but for the Wisconsin weekend traveler, the statement is true “Don’t look any further than your own backyard.”

Enjoy the views along with a blueberry or two!

Cyberbullying and teen suicide. When online harassment kills.

Cyberbullying and Teen Suicide Infographic

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“I still don’t believe it. I still think that it’s a bigger dream. Some bad dream, and I will wake up, and she will text me.”

“We didn’t think that our son would ever do something like this.”

Two heartbreaking statements from parents who lost children to suicide, both from a once hidden and overlooked danger: online harassment and cyberbullying. The risk is immense, but parents face an uphill battle keeping their children safe from online bullies. The average teen spends 7 hours per day on electronic devices, and 52% of teens admit to being harassed online.

In short, roughly one-half of a teen’s waking hours are spent exposed to online harassment.

Bullying delivered to your phone

Cyberbullying is the use of internet or technology to cause harm (most often emotional and psychological) to another person.

You may have heard of online trolling, stalking, and impersonation. They all involve intentionally aggravating and annoying someone repetitively. Impersonation can also take the form of catfishing, making a fake profile to start a relationship. Online gaming comes with its own forms of cyberbullying. The game Minecraft popularized the acts of griefing and ganging up. Players will harass and bend game rules to frustrate other players in the hopes of making them angry or stop playing. What makes these acts unique to other types of bullying is the unlimited audience. Many of these episodes are recorded and posted on YouTube or other gaming-centered sites. Instead of just a few witnessing your embarrassment, your friends, coworkers, family, and the entire online world can see. The bullies remain anonymous and do not face the consequences a playground bully does. The victim cannot go home or run away; the harassment will always follow.

A typical bully is fueled by at least one of the following: revenge, power, lack of empathy. The first two are relatively common emotional responses for developing teens, but a bully never learned to control their actions. The latter can have far more dangerous outcomes for both victims and the bully. A lack of empathy opens the door to violence, depression, poor social skills, and the inability to develop successful relationships.

The cyberbullying victim is everyone

It’s easy, but flawed and dangerous to identify an archetype of a bullying victim.  Victims aren’t only quiet, quirky students; not merely the shy and reserved. Cyberbullying shatters any preconceptions you may have. 20% of teens report being bullied online, but that figure falls short of cyberbullying’s reach. Over 52% of teens admit to enduring harassment online and nearly half of all victims never tell their parents. With so many stats showing how passive we all are about bullying, the number of unreported victims is immense. One study hypothesized that only 17% of parents know their child is cyberbullied.

The bullies themselves face “long-term negative consequences.” They grow accustomed to having the upper hand in all their relationship and lack the empathy that cultivates meaningful relationships. But the bullied children face an uphill battle overcoming the trauma inflicted upon them by bullies. They are at an increased risk of depression, low self-esteem, and poor school performance. Bullies and victims are both 10 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts at some point in their life.

Growth in teen suicide

Suicide rates in the U.S. have been climbing at a steady clip since 2000. The teen population, and in particular female teens, are one of the hardest hit demographics. Since 1999, the suicide rate for teen girls has tripled. Estimates suggest that over 7% of teens attempt suicide.

Of course, this increase is tied to a number of risk factors. There is a correlation with illegal drug use, mental health disorders, a family history of suicide, etc. But cyberbullying has risen to the top of the list of precursors to suicide. As the rate of teen female suicide climbs, we find that 66% of cyberbullying victims are female. And roughly 20% of middle school students contemplate suicide at least once, 17% of middle school students report being cyberbullied. Horrible tales of cyberbullying resulting in suicide made national headlines over the past few years.

Earlier this year, Michelle Carter got handed a 15-month prison sentence for urging her depressed boyfriend to commit suicide. She was under 18 at the time. After months of suggesting that everything would be better if he just ended his life, Michelle Carter’s final text to her boyfriend read, “Okay. You can do this.” She was on the phone with him as he died.

Tysen Benz from Marquette, MI hanged himself in his closet after he was sent text messages, on a phone his parents didn’t know he had, detailing his girlfriend’s suicide. Turns out, it was a prank. His girlfriend and her friends just wanted a good laugh. Some accounts are especially horrific, detailing the offenders complete lack of remorse.

Two girls, aged 12 and 14, taunted and harassed a 12-year-old classmate until she committed suicide. One text message instructed the victim to “drink bleach and die.” After the victim’s suicide, one of the girls posted, “Yes I know I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but IDAF (I don’t give a (expletive).”

Online bullies made fake dating profiles of Brandy, saying to call her for free sex, made fake Facebook profiles, and sent her malicious text messages. She shot herself as her parents tried to calm her down. Days after her funeral another fake profile popped up. Some of the comments read, “You finally did it” and “You should have done this a long time ago.”

Suicide glorified

Teens are driven to suicide by cyberbullying and other risk factors, but what makes suicide the most viable alternative? Why don’t these kids tell their parents, talk to a counselor, or just tune out the noise? For one, depression doesn’t play by the rules. Someone in pain will do whatever it takes to get rid of said pain, and for many the way out is to end their life. However, recent cultural trends seem to aggravate the matter. “Depression memes” are increasingly popular, displaying jokes about dying and being depressed. Tumblr and Reddit also have sections and blogs where depression spreads through sharing misery, not confronting it.

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has come under fire for creating “triggers” and failing to give “alternatives for cyberbullying.” In the show, a young woman leaves a series of recordings detailing all the people that drove her to commit suicide. There are several graphic scenes of self-harm that some feel are not treated with enough severity.

Another concern for parents and schools is the emergence of “The Blue Whale Challenge.” The depraved game asks prays on depressed and mentally unstable teens. Moderators command participants to complete a series of increasingly self-harmful tasks over the course of 50 days. The final task? Take your own life. If a participant refuses, the moderator will threaten to harm their family members. 16 teenage girls committed suicide as part of a macabre game.

It’s creator, Philipp Budeikin, calls his victims “biological waste.”  He justifies his actions by claiming he is merely “cleansing society.”

An uphill battle for our youth

It’s overwhelming. Children face incredible obstacles navigating life even without bullies and criminals trying to tear them down. We might think that someone will help them out if they see the bullying take place, but studies show that 90% of cyberbullying witnesses do nothing, but watch. You can start to create a healthy online environment for your teen with an open conversation.

Explain. Encourage teens to distance themselves from negativity. Try to understand why a person would bully someone. Bullying is not just part of life.

Get help. Open communication is key to avoiding potential fatal outcomes. Talk with someone if you or your child are experiencing harassment online.

Ignore, block, unfollow. Do not give the bully the satisfaction of knocking you down or frustrating you. This is the reaction they want.

Screenshots and documentation. Collect evidence of the harassment.

Flag and report. Alert social media platforms or local law enforcement about harassment. They should be able to block and penalize bullies.

Take what little comfort you can knowing that you are educated and aware of cyberbullying. And please remember, no one is immune, not the four-sport, honor roll student, not the band kid, not even you. Cyberbullying doesn’t discriminate.

Rawhide at Lambeau: rawhideMVP

Bart Starr took home the first two NFL Super Bowl MVP awards and the Corvettes that accompanied them. Bart donated the second to Rawhide, raising $40,000 in 3 days. To celebrate Bart’s generosity and lifelong commitment to Rawhide, we partnered with the Packers and Mike Anderson and brought Bart’s Super Bowl I Corvette to Lambeau.


With the title of Super Bowl II MVP, Bart won a red 1968 Corvette. Bart and his wife Cherry donated the car to Rawhide and led a public raffle, giving fans the chance to win his Corvette for $1 per ticket. In 3 days, Bart and Cherry raised $40,000. It was a remarkable feat considering the population of Green Bay was just over 47,000.

Cherry fondly recalls the incredible joy partnering with Rawhide brought the Starrs, “The Gillespies actually gave us the best gift of our marriage. We’re so thankful they asked us to help.”

The future

Rawhide is once again partnering with the Green Bay Packers. This past Thursday, August 31, Rawhide had  Bart Starr’s 1967 Corvette under our tent near the Oneida Gate at Lambeau. View pictures here.

In honor of his commitment and compassion towards Wisconsin youth we are giving away a football autographed by Bart Starr.*

Text rawhidemvp to 51555 to enter.

*Contest entry terms and conditions are posted at rawhide.org/rawhidemvp

A mind of its own: How your brain is working against you

You know your kids’ names. You did come up with them after all. Michael is Michael, Julia is Julia, etc. It’s simple, just call them by their name. So why is it that when you want Julia you instead ask the dog to pass the salad dressing?

Answer: our brains are a bit overworked and easily confused.

A massive catalog

Your memory is (nearly) completely unreliable. Take for example, cases of confabulation. It occurs when your brain mistakes imagined events with actual memories. A weird thought in 6th grade science becomes a treasured memory. A drawing you saw Alexis create when you were 15 becomes that long lost drawing you made. Another strange phenomenon called “the positivity effect” distorts how we remember past events. Those “good ol’ days” everyone talks about? Yeah, not always so great. Your brain is just better at storing positive memories than negative ones. It’s all a lie!

Another ruse thought up by your brain infiltrates how we view facts from fiction. As a human you understand the difference between real and fake, but your brain doesn’t. Brains judge factualness partly based on how many times the information passes through. See a fake news story over and over, and soon it’s not fake at all.

Our brains even tell us how things taste. Except our brain has an awful palate. A brain will routinely get confused by different colors and textures, interpreting flavors wildly inaccurately.

If that wasn’t enough tomfoolery, your brain actively picks and chooses what it wants to see and remember. Think your daughter or son has selective hearing? If focused on something deemed more important (that blueberry muffin in the case), the barista, in the middle of making your grande Americano, could put on a hat and a fake moustache without you so much as batting an eye.

The great name mix-up

Unless you have identical twins, a parent usually doesn’t have too hard a time deciphering their children apart. Names on the other hand, yikes. Don’t worry. You don’t have early-onset Alzheimer’s and you’re not losing your mind. Your brain is just plucking the wrong name at the wrong time.

Our brains categorize information in groups. Think of it like a giant library. The mystery novels over here, the kids section over there, and the free movie rentals (the only reason anyone still goes) up front. Your brain groups math theorems, literary terms, baseball stats, and the names of your family members in little, separate groups. It’s a remarkable system that allows you to draw on information quickly. But within in these groups, a few mix-ups are inevitable.

Interestingly, family dogs are welcomed into the family name group, but cats and other pets are often excluded. I guess our brains aren’t cat people.

Our brains and technology

“Don’t watch so much TV; you’ll fry your brain.” The imagery of your mind resembling bacon popping on the stove was effective for parents trying to get their kids away from screens. But is there actually any danger in staring at a screen? And even if there is, what can we do about it? At this point in time, limiting screen-time is in a lot of ways detrimental to our learning and professional development.

Technology is addicting. It’s why we watch an entire television series in a weekend, and it’s why we read the same Facebook posts three or four times, even though they weren’t that interesting the first time around. Studies show that most teenagers reported feeling uncomfortable when they went over one hour without checking their phone. We are a world addicted to sharing, commenting, and liking. When we get those affirmations delivered directly to our phones, our brains fill with a pleasure-related chemical called dopamine. Once we get a dose, we want more, and more, forever more.

This addiction to our online lives leads to late nights checking memes, sending snaps, and checking up on what our friends are up to (and more importantly, making sure their not doing anything that we weren’t invited to join). So, we sacrifice sleep. Not the worst thing right? Very, very wrong.

Loss of sleep negatively impacts a whole host of social factors. We become irritable, unproductive at work, and unmotivated to exercise or learn. More frightening though are the health risks. Teens who fail to get the recommended 9.5 hours of sleep per night have an increased risk of depression, obesity, and cognitive decline. In short, our brains lose power.

Keep your mind fresh

So with an unreliable brain and modern technology conspiring against us, how can we get the most our of our ever-powerful gelatinous head muscle floating off with a mind of its own? Harvard Medical School lays out a few tips:

  1. Read, study, explore, and challenge yourself daily.
  2. Eat new foods, see new things, listen to new music.
  3. Surround yourself with positivity.
  4. Focus on the important things. Let planners and calendars do the heavy lifting.
  5. Reuse information you want to remember. Use people’s names, dates often to reinforce them.
  6. Do not cram information. Slow, methodical learning is best.


No matter how intelligent, hardworking, or socially aware we are, our brains will never operate perfectly. And there’s something beautiful and comforting about that. We strive to be perfect, but by design, cannot.

So, someday when you think back to 2017 and think, “Man, I wish I could go back. Those were the best years of my life,” rest assured, the best is yet to come, your brain doesn’t know what it’s talking about.