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Being the Oldest

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We’ve all seen that classic chart. The diagram that points out your obvious qualities and traits based on where in the birth order you fell. For me it always looks a little something like this:


..along with loud, controlling, eager to please. As the oldest, you’re forced to set an example, whether you like it or not. Your siblings look to you to be their first best friends, their first peer mentors.

As my younger brothers grow more into their own, I’m compelled to look into these type of theories and charts to see what they may struggling simply based on how they were born into our family. Today it hit me, while I was texting them asking if they wanted to go to the mall with me later. We joked around and texted back and forth poking fun at one another. It hit me just how much I loved my brothers and how much I love being the oldest for them. It’s never been easy having to figure out things on my own. Learning to drive first, moving out first, going to college first; it’s a hard time doing it by yourself. But I wouldn’t change it for a second if it meant that I wasn’t able to be a leader to my brothers.

They are so cool. And I mean it. They can have their own personality quirks that I don’t always agree with, but I do feel like they look up to me. And I take that responsibility seriously.

The other day my brother asked me where was a good place to bring a girl for a date. What is this? A lifetime movie? Is this the Disney Channel? I had to pinch myself to make sure I was reading the words correctly. He was asking me for advice on a sensitive topic and it made me die with happiness.

Being the oldest is such a blessing to me. Being able to help shape them as young men is a big responsibility, but being given the chance to do so is such an amazing, wonderful part of my life.


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I remember the last couple days of 2013 – Kyle and I were driving in his car talking about how much happy, new adventures 2014 was going to bring. And it sure did deliver!

There’s a trending hashtag on Twitter at the moment “#2014in5Words” and I decided to give it a spin.

1. New

2014 brought so many new experiences to my life, it’s uncanny. In 2014, I graduated college, moved out of my parents house, and landed two full-time jobs. I bought a new car and bought enough to furnish an entire apartment with the two pennies I could rub together. This year had so much newness that I truly feel like another person than I did just a year ago. I feel more like an adult, obviously not very seasoned, but trying my best to survive and doing a pretty good job at it!

2. Accomplished 

This year was full of big, but also very little accomplishments that have made me extremely happy. First of all, I graduated with my BA from FAU and by the skin of my teeth I achieved a 3.5 and graduated Cum Laude – despite my almost full time work schedule, and being president of clubs and an active member in honor societies. I felt like it nearly killed me, but my persistence paid off and my achievement is printed smack tab in the middle of my degree.

3. Changes

This word is the biggie. Let alone what I’ve mentioned in the last two ‘words’, but this year I completely jumped ship from pursing a job in news and landed an exciting new job in advertising. Since I was in 5th grade, news just seemed like where I was going to end up. I was an anchor on our elementary school morning announcements and took TV production classes all 4 years of high school, so my degree in journalism just seemed obvious to use in news. After working as a camera operator at WPTV and loving it, I knew where my heart was. But after I got my full-time job in the newsroom, I realized it was not for me. As soon as I realized the popularity and being able to say “I work for the news!” didn’t pay my bills or make me feel like the positive person I was, it was time for a change. I now work for an advertising agency and I am so much happier. It’s what I envisioned myself feeling while at work. It’s obviously not my last stop in my career path, but it’s an amazing first step.

4. Love

Really, this word is a part of every year, but I included it anyway. This year has yet again proved to me who truly loves me and is here for me. I’ve always been very busy, very wrapped up in my own life to have too many friends that drag me down. This year Kyle and I moved in together and suddenly the flood gates of love came pouring out — not only from my boyfriend, but also from my family. My family spent an entire day moving boxes, putting together furniture, helping us unpack and grocery shop for us to feel comfortable in our cozy new apartment. They have given us countless encouragements and have never once openly doubted that we’re not going to make it on our own. But Kyle has also been a big love bug. He surprises me with little things all the time and it makes me so happy. I get to fall asleep next to him every night, even if he doesn’t get home from work until 2am and I have to be up at 7am. We make it work and he has just been the sweetest. He grocery shops for all my favorite foods, leaves me gifts and little notes around the house and hugs me every time I come home.

5. Grow

This year was all about growth. Growing into my own person with my own goals and dreams. I started to become stronger and more grounded with who I am and what I want. I realized so many things about myself and love the way I feel when I’m driving to work just before 9am, listening to the radio, drinking my tea and thinking that I get to go to work at such an incredible agency. Going to work and learning new things everyday has kept my attention span and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve learned to juggle rent, a car payment, insurance, water, electric and credit cards. It’s been a whirlwind of new, accomplishing, changing, loving, and growing experiences, but it has all pointed me to be sitting here on a Sunday morning, waiting for my boyfriend to wake up so we can go buy Christmas presents for our loved ones with the money we earned.

So happy.

Arthur R. Marshall Alligator Hunt 2013

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A 12-foot alligator, nicknamed George by the community, floats motionlessly in the cool and tranquil marsh water of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Little does George know, if he paddles his scaly body just south, he could wind up in the heart of the first alligator hunt at the Boynton Beach refuge.
Though the plan is still waiting final approval from the wildlife director’s office, controversy on the alligator hunt still thrives in the environmental and outdoorsman community.
“The first thing you have to know is that man is a part of nature,” said Newton Cook,executive director of United Waterfowlers of Florida and hunting activist. “If you take man out of the equation, you wouldn’t even have preserves.”
Hunting is a sport that has been passed on for generations, but some environmentalists still believe that alligator hunting is inappropriate for a refuge.
“You wouldn’t camp on a golf course because that land is made for golf,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. “So why would you hunt in a refuge?”
Schwartz explained that a 2011 study determined that the alligator population was on the decline in the refuge. He says that a sample of alligators in the everglades went from 228 in 2011 to 134 in 2012 and believes the proposed hunt will not help population.
Cook disagrees with Schwartz because the refuge and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has set strict limitations on the amount of gators each permitted hunter can capture and the way they will be hunted.
The hunt will be conducted in the lower thirds of the wetlands. The refuge encompasses 144,000 total wetlands, cypress swamp and tree islands, but only 30,000 acres, approximately 21 percent of the refuge, will be open to hunters. This leaves 79 percent to remain a wildlife sanctuary.
11 permits, with two gators per permit, will be awarded to hunters through a lottery from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who will also regulate the hunt.
The rules of the hunt get even more specific.
According to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge press release,each hunter may only harvest two gators over 18 inches on specific weekends from August 15 to November 1. Hunters may pursue the gators one hour before sunset on Friday night through one hour after sunrise Saturday morning, and one hour before sunset on Saturday night through one hour after sunrise Sunday morning.
The refuge requires that each alligator must not be captured using baited hooks, baited wooden pegs, or firearms. Alligators may be taken using hand held snares, harpoons, gigs, snatch hooks, artificial lures, manually operated spears, spear guns, and crossbows. Only water-cooled outboard motorboats, canoes and kayaks may be used to hunt.
Kapsch explains that the hunt was strategically planned so visitors will not witness any gore.
The idea of the alligator hunt started during the Comprehensive Conservation Plan process in 1998. There was an abundance of public interest to have the refuge open to recreational alligator hunting. Since the refuge already held waterfowl hunting, the refuge decided to hold the Sport Hunting Plan Public Meeting to discuss the proposed gator hunt.
Sylvia Pelizza, the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge manager, took each comment into careful consideration, but was specifically looking for comments with substantial, specific facts.
“This is not a popularity vote,” Pelizza said. “It’s to the science, to our development plan.”
The plan received 3,519 comments from 70 different countries.
Because hunting is one of the six recreational objectives a refuge is mandated to fulfill by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the high amount of public interest, the alligator hunt plan was set into motion.
Though the amount of actual gators at the refuge is unknown, a scientific computer model determined that there are enough alligators to spare for hunting. The model calculated that 44 was the magic number of alligators that could be hunted, but the refuge decided to lower the number.
“We weren’t comfortable starting that high,” Marcie Kapsch, a wildlife biologist at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge, said. “We wanted to open this responsibly and take it really slow. So we decided that 22 gators was enough.”
Though the harvesting procedures and rules are highly enforced, a percentage of the community still believes the refuge should be left alone.
“It’s not like there is a shortage of places to hunt in Florida,” said Schwartz. 
With approximately 5 alligators per .6 miles in the refuge canals, Cook believes 22 alligators will not change anything.
Despite the controversy, a final decision will be announced by the end of February.

Night Owl 2013

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By. Markella Haynes

BOCA RATON, Fla.– It all starts around dusk, when the single phone line of the NightOwl’s office starts to chatter continuously as hundreds of Florida Atlantic University students call in for a safe and quick ride to their cars and dorms.
“Night Owls.”
 “What’s your name and where do you want to go?” asked Derek Smith, associate director of NightOwls to the caller on the phone.
Smith holds the phone with his left shoulder as his fingers fly furiously around the keyboard typing the caller’s information into the spreadsheet. The information is then sent to the dispatcher and Night Owl drivers, informing them that a student needs a lift. 

Every weekday from 7 p.m. until 11:30 p.m., the six or seven golf carts are started, as the student run transportation service is open for a night of chauffeuring students safely and quickly around campus. 

Student Government started NightOwls in the early 90s when security became an issue for people walking long distances to their cars late at night. But the current employees have realized students usually use it for other reasons since Innovation Village Apartments were built farther from campus.

“If there is a lone girl that wants to go to Lot 5 when it’s, like, really, dark, we’ll take her to be safe,” said Smith, “but it’s more of a convenience service now.”  

Ryan Price, junior and just one of the service’s thirteen drivers, mentioned that although the service makes students feel safer while walking around campus at night, occasionally students still do crazy things to the golf cart that negates their safety purpose.

“One time I had a student hang on to the side of my golf cart while riding a skateboard, and decided to try to switch places with a student I was transporting,” said Price. “It didn’t end well,” he adds, while noticing a student flagging down his cart.

Students have the option to call NightOwls, stop by their office or simply wave down a golf cart down if they see one. With the golf carts whipping wind through riders’ hair at a maximum of 15 mph, Smith says from the time students call, a driver will be there in about five minutes. 

Chris Miller, sophomore and IVA resident, uses the services most nights, as the trek to and from his apartment takes about 20 minutes from the Student Union. 
“It’s a nice service,” said Miller, “and you get to know the drivers and get to have good conversations with them.”

Sophomore and theater major Carly Levy agrees that the service is extremely useful when you don’t have a car and the FAU trolley is no longer running for the day. 

“I take the service a lot when I go to the gym,” said Levy. “Even though it’s not that far of a walk, it gets creepy at night.” 

As it is possible to wave down a NightOwl driver for a ride, sometimes students are disappointed when a cart is full and is unable to transport them. Price advises to just call the office and someone will be there as soon as possible to take them where they need to go.

On a typical night, NightOwls moves around 300 students around campus and can get pretty busy when you have impatient drivers, according to Smith.
“I don’t think people realize how many people we actually move,” said Smith.

Follow Your Arrow

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And I’m on to my next adventure!

In the past three months, I’ve completely changed career paths and I am so happy I did so. Spending more time in the newsroom, I started to realize that I wanted to be happier. Not that there was anything wrong with my workplace, but I knew something wasn’t right.

The sad truth is this: News is depressing and I am not.

So I changed it. I saw an opportunity, did a cross-my-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye kind of dance and tried something new. I am now a social media coordinator at an amazing advertising agency and once again feel my goofy, light-hearted mood coming back.

I also moved in with my best friend and boyfriend of six and a half years. I’ve never been so confident that this is the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. He surprises me with cute sticky notes, stocks the pantry full of my favorite foods, does the dishes every morning and lets me hog the bed a little too much. The warmness I feel in my heart when he comes home from work and asks about my day is a feeling I want to have with me forever. No arguments yet — just a lot of laughter, talking and watching him eat his bologna sandwich with sleepy eyes because I’ve been up since 7am and he didn’t get off work until midnight. It’s so comforting coming home to my own space and not feeling overrun by everything around me.

Casey Musgraves once said, “Say what you think. Love who you love. Cause you just get so many trips around the run. You only live once. So follow your arrow wherever it points.”

I feel that I’m doing just that. The more I learn to go with the flow and trust how I feel, the more I feel at home in my own skin and in my life.

New World

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Shoe references just seem to fit my current situation so well.

Up until this morning, I felt like a little girl wearing her mom’s big grown up shoes. I was walking around the world stumbling and trying to find my place and force others to believe that I was the owner of these beautiful, black wedges and I knew what I was doing. After every trip and wrong turn, I felt compelled to prove to others I wasn’t the little girl I appeared to be, but an adult.

I heard it so many times. “You’re SO young! You’re such a baby! Were you even born then?!” 

Being the youngest at work was usually one of my little joys. I was at the same level as all these well established men and women, but they saw right through me to who I still was. A little girl.

Every morning I slipped on a pair of heels, feeling awkward and out of place, and walked out the door trying to make others see who I felt like inside. I wasn’t the 22-year-old newbie, but a smart and ambitious young woman with goals to accomplish.

It never worked. I always got the same comments: “You were born WHEN!?” That little joy of mine started to fade and I became self-conscious and bummed out.

I was the baby. 

But today, in some odd, magical way, the shoes finally fit. 

I wasn’t tripping or dragging those heels around anymore. I wasn’t stuffing socks in the toe to make others believe I was an adult and I fit my new role. Suddenly, I just was one.

Cleaning my own apartment, cooking lunch and spying that beautiful new car in the parking lot, I finally felt settled in my new world. 

I look around and feel proud that all the finishing touches to this apartment, including the walls, water, electricity, cable, Internet (excluding this awesome couch housewarming present from my parents! Love you guys!) was all because of my hard work.

My new world is finally feeling like my own. 

And let me tell you, I am rockin’ these big girl shoes. 


Leaving Home

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I’m currently standing at a crossroads between what I’ve ever known to be reality and the rest of my life.

I’m wearing one bright white sneaker with pink flowers with frilly white socks folded over, ready to run out to the caterpillar jungle gym at Manatee Elementary and one black business high heel ready to take the career world by storm.

Not going away to college gave me some of the best years — being able to understand my parents at the level of an adult and spend four more years learning and growing with my family. While many of my peers chose to jump into the deep end with their floaty wings on, I chose to stay in the shallow end and learn to tread water myself.

Now here I am. 22-years-old. Awesome job in advertising making more than many of my friends. Steady, committed relationship of nearly 7 years. Ready to start making my way from the 4-feet kiddy pond to the big people 10-feet deep end.

Tonight is my last night in my childhood home with my family. I have lived on Providence Road since I was 5-years-old. And as much as I have taught myself to hold in my sadness and look for the positives, I can’t help but well up every time I hear that my parents will miss me. It’s quickly gulped down and met with laughter and a sly joke, but the feelings are there.

With great excitement and mystery comes great fear. But I’m ready to feel the fear. I’m ready to test out my strength and get moving on what Markella’s life will be like. Unfortunately that means leaving the thing I’ve ever known to be home behind, but I think I’m ok with that. It’s just unsettling knowing I won’t be coming back here.

And to look on the bright side, I know my family and I will be closer because of this change. We won’t be at each other’s throats with annoyance. We’ll have our space. It will be better. My brothers will come over to borrow movies. My mom will come over and tell me how dusty my apartment is and drink wine and laugh with me. My dad will rescue me when I’m drowning in my own life and need someone to debate things with.

I’m sure my mom is a big ball of emotions as she’s reading this. She’s checking my grammar because she’s my personal editor on this blog, whether I asked for it or not. But I just want you to know I am just 5 minutes away. 5 minutes more to get to my house after work. 5 minutes to stop by whenever you want. Anytime.

Another major positive is that I get to move in with the love my life. Since even before we were officially together, we would sit on the phone late at night, day dreaming about living together, waking up together, cooking dinner after a long day, getting mad when the other leaves the toothpaste uncapped. When one chapter finishes, another one begins. It’s just hard to turn the page when I loved this chapter so much.

I know I’m not dipping my feet into murky water, uncharted territory. I have Kyle there to help me through. And the undeniable support from my family at home.

This will be a good thing.



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Question: What does Florida Atlantic University alumna Markella Haynes ’14 have in common with the television character Jack Bauer?

Answer: Markella and Jack have both demonstrated the ability to accomplish more than a few things in “24” hours.

On Monday, Kyle and I signed our lease for our first apartment together and the butterflies have yet to cease. I chose the responsible path in college, saving myself some pennies by staying home, living in my parent’s house as I finished up my education. And finally, finally we feel like we are in a reasonable financial place to make a place our own. Break out the champagne! I’m a renter!

Now it may not be the most gorgeous or the most updated, but every penny going into it is all ours and I couldn’t be more proud of us. We had to get renter’s insurance and put electric and cable in our names and it feels so right. We already started buying furniture and dipping into those savings we worked hard to maintain.

Along with this, it’s been a month since I started my full-time job at the station. I haven’t started training for the associate producer side of things, but I am getting used to being an assignment editor while it lasts. I know being an AP and an AE is not where I want to stop. I’m not in my dream job just yet, but I am on the road to learning necessary skills that will lead me to a succScreen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.36.35 PMessful future.

On top of all this, I was reminded just how grand my university was to me. A couple weeks ago I was offered to tell my story and how I got into my current position, and now it’s the homepage success story! My big, tired face is plastered on the homepage as soon as you press ENTER. My story goes through my day-to-day activities as a studio camera operator, while being a full-time student and navigating clubs and honor societies. I wish you could truly put how hard I worked into words, but I think this comes pretty close to it!

If you told me to wipe this smile off my face, I would say it can’t be done! Everything is falling into place so gently and I can’t believe how things have worked out. It hasn’t all been cake and I know it won’t be in the future, but so far things have been so smooth. In my new job I’m learning more about myself and my skills than I ever knew before. My new home will be such a sigh of relief to finally make things my own. And being able to this all with the support of my healthy, loving family is more than I could ever ask for.


What I Learned from the #100HappyDay Challenge

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Can you be happy for 100 days in a row?

That was the goal of the #100happyday challenge.

On February 23 2014, I wrote an article for WPTV on the #100HappyDay Challenge explaining a new social media phenomenon where users are supposed to document one thing that makes them happy everyday for 100 days. According to, the purpose of the movement is this: “We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long-term happiness of any human being.”  

By noticing what makes us happy and documenting it, it claims that finishers will:

” – Be in a better mood every day;
– Start receiving more compliments from other people;
– Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
- Become more optimistic;
– Fall in love during the challenge.”

(You can read my entire WPTV article here:

As of two days ago, I successfully documented 100 days of my happiness. On the 101st, I was a little confused about what to do with myself. I was so used to sharing the joys of my everyday life with my friends and family, I felt like the last one had to mean something. But as I mentioned in my last posting, my life is super calm and I find such serenity and bliss in everyday life. I laugh throughout the entire workday, even if I have to wake up at 2:30am to get there. I unnoticeably stare into my boyfriend’s eyes and wonder how I became so lucky. I smile and call my mom without hesitation every time I get into the car. These things I do everyday. MarkellaHaynesThe first day without the #100happydays was a strange day. I continued to take pictures of little things that made me happy, like the coziness of the blanket in my room, my boyfriend snuggling in to kiss our cat on the head, a giant salad my family made for dinner.

And it made me realize something.

The #100happyday challenge didn’t make me happy, but made me want to share my happiness with others. I don’t claim to ever be the type of person who never has a speck of disappointment or failure because believe me, I do get annoyed and irritated and down. But the #100happyday challenge helped me to realize the small daily things that make me happy. The little things that build up the castle that protect me against the deafening punches life throws at me. It’s all about seeing the good in everyday. I didn’t post the photos to be boastful, but to express my gratitude for the things in my life that keep me positive.

Being able to recognize the things that made me happy made me want others to be happy with me. I wanted them to feel my excitement of getting a new job, or be able to watch the sunrise every morning or my cat’s sleeping face. I wanted them to see that being happy in your current situation and in your daily life was possible.

Some of the more memorable #100happydays were days like #day86 when Kyle and I were able to sit at an outside bar and enjoy the sunlight together over drinks and turkey sandwiches. Or #day60 when I handed in one of my last college finals of my life. And #day35 when my two good friends and I had wine and pizza night and chatted and I got no sleep before work the next morning. Life has been fantastically magical.

If you could place check-marks next to those benefits of completing the challenge, I would definitely have most of them tallied off. I didn’t even have to “find the time” to document these things, but it became a natural occurrence to notice the beauty of the day, whatever it may be.