We are Not in Kansas Anymore

After hearing my phone quietly buzz next to my ear, I jumped out of bed and sprinted into the living room. I would finally be able to check off one of the most important items on my bucket list: a venture to Canada. Because my family knew how much I wanted to go see my cousin, they surprised me with a trip to Canada for my high school graduation.

I hurriedly hopped into my car and waited for my parents to follow. When my family and I arrived at the airport, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was ecstatic and zoomed through the lines at security. After 6 hours in the airplane, I sluggishly walked through the airport waiting for our luggage to arrive. Although I was exhausted, I heard an announcement over the intercom that immediately piqued my interest. A pleasant, calming voice welcomed all travelers to the Canadian airport. At that moment, I realized that I had finally arrived. I had finally achieved a goal that I had patiently waited for so long. My energy was revived, and I quickly walked throughout the airport with a grin across my entire face.

When I walked outside, the clean, crisp, Canadian air hit my face. I slowly took a breath and swiveled my head around to take in the scenery. I was not used to the view that encompassed me. The golden and pink sunset drew attention to the jagged mountains in the distance. The aroma of baby’s breath flowers filled the air. This was it. I had made it. I was not in Kansas anymore.

My family and I hopped into the rental car and took off to the hotel. On the way, I glanced to my left and saw a beautiful lake that quenched my fatigue. My mouth dropped in amazement at the beauty that surrounded me. After a good night’s rest, my family journeyed to my cousin’s house where I got to see her two children, who had grown tremendously since I had seen them last. I went out to eat with my family and took my little cousins to a park nearby. After a few hours of running around, I went back to the hotel where I anticipated the final day.

The last day was probably the most exciting for me because I participated in the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. In the morning, my mother and I rented a paddle-boat and journeyed out onto the lake. While I was paddling, I became completely aware of a creative God who spoke all of this beauty into existence with a breath. With the help of the wind, my mother and I landed on the shore again and walked to the room to prepare for the town parade in which my cousin was participating. Afterwards, my family journeyed to her house where her husband fired up the grill and prepared a mouth-watering feast. The family sat on their balcony talking until the sun slowly faded. Then, over the still waters of the lake, I saw a glimmer of light shoot into the air, followed by a burst of beautiful colors. What a lovely night! I was filled with awe as well as sadness. The trip I had anticipated throughout my life was finished; however, the memories are ever present. When life gets stressful, I simply think back to the crisp air, jagged mountains, and calm lake. In those moments, the chaos ceases, and I feel at peace.

Written by Trisha



The Art of Narrowing Your Topic

Animals! I’d love to write about cats; I know so much about them! But wait, I just read that article about roller coaster safety. So many people have gotten hurt because parks are not following the rules; I need to spread the word! Oh, no, wait, I really wanted to write about cooking; there is nothing I like more. But I also really wanted to research Celiac Disease because it seems so interesting. But… but…. Even if I choose one of those, is that topic going scattered brainto be too broad? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO???  

In college, many professors give students the freedom to write about whatever we wish. For some of us, this newfound freedom may be a bit overwhelming. I have experienced this stress with a number of papers during my first two years in college, but I have finally found a way to calm my turbulent thoughts and rationally determine which topic would best suit each assignment. My dear apprentice, I am here to enlighten you on the way that great writers in our past have conquered this seemingly impossible quest.

First, take a deep breath and relax. Not only will this help you think more clearly, it will also help you to allow space in your brain to do more than stress about this overwhelming project.

The next step is technically part of the brainstorming process discussed in a previous blog, titled “Stormy with a Chance of Ideas.” Brainstorming is vital to get all your thoughts in one place before settling on a topic.

After brainstorming, it is time to narrow down that topic you have spent time brainstorming about! “But, Master,” you say. “Didn’t we already establish that I just can’t narrow it down? I want to write about everything!!” Ah, my apprentice, I have yet to reveal to you the secret of selecting the perfect topic, one that will awe your professor beyond words.

Take out your assignment sheet. That’s right, that lovely piece of paper that tells you everything your professor wants in this essay. Does he or she want a 10-page research paper? A one-paragraph essay? A 5-page analysis of a short story? This is because, of course, the length and style of an assignment is vitally important to our topic-selection process. Say we were leaning toward writing about cats, but our professor wants a 10-page research paper. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if we could write a 10-page paper about them, no matter how fluffy and sweet they are. However, we could most likely write that much about Celiac Disease. This is the first filter through which we should sift our paper topic ideas. Now, this advice comes with the assumption that our professor has no guidelines or constraints for our topic. If s/he does (which is often the case), we should be sure to consider them during the brainstorming stage.

A second filter that helps to narrow the topics is our interests. Do we care about Celiac Disease or want to know more about it? It will be easier for us to write if we care about our subject.

Prior knowledge is also very important in selecting a topic. It would take far too much time to research a subject that we know nothing about. Occasionally this is necessary due to the professor’s instructions, but it will make the process much easier if we can write about something we understand.

However, as we begin to research, we see there may actually be too much information, even for a 10 page paper! There is information about the cause of the disease, the diagnosis of the disease, preventing the disease, treating the disease… an on and on. Guess what? Our topic is too broad. Time to narrow it down!

My pupil, as we consider what aspect of this topic to approach, consider two things: what is most interesting to us and which subtopic has the right amount of information for the length of our paper. If there are only two sources discussing the prevention of the disease, perhaps the treatment or cause of the disease would be better directions from which to tackle this topic. For this instance, let us select causes of Celiac Disease.

Congratulations, my apprentice! Now you have mastered the art of selecting and narrowing the topic. Others will guide you in your next quest: differentiating a topic from a thesis. You have learned well; now go and write well!

Written by Michelle

For more information on narrowing your topic and other writing subjects, check out our Selecting and Narrowing a Topic for Research handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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Summer Salvation

My usual summer morning consists of the following: almost dying on my morning run due to the sweltering Texas humidity, jumping into a freezing cold shower to cool off, and then hiding in the air conditioning for the rest of the day to avoid all unnecessary bug bites, sunburns, and sweat. Although this may be a slight exaggeration (don’t worry, I always shower), I often avoid summer’s baking temperatures by baking in the air-conditioned comforts of my own kitchen! Although the oven tends to heat up the house, the extra warmth is totally worth it as I savor each delectable bite of a newly-baked creation.

One of my favorite desserts to bake fruit_pizzaduring the summer season is Pinch of Yum’s Fruit Pizza. This absolute showstopper of a dessert appears extravagant but is surprisingly simple to make, and it consists of a cream cheese frosting (think pizza sauce) spread over a soft sugar cookie crust topped with a plethora of sliced summer fruits. Impressive but simple, this desert makes the perfect addition to any summer gathering and is sure to please both the health conscious and the sugar obsessed! (Fruit is healthy, right?!)


FOR THE CRUST: (You could even purchase pre-made sugar cookie dough if you’re in a hurry!)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 7 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • assorted fresh fruit cut into slices


  1. Beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) and mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. Chill the dough.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Roll chilled dough into one big cookie and place on a round baking stone. Sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons sugar. Bake for 17-20 minutes. Let cool; chill in fridge.
  3. Mix frosting ingredients together and spread on chilled cookie. Chill again to set and thicken the frosting.
  4. Top with fresh fruit. (I suggest blueberries, strawberries, grapes, and kiwi!) Cut into slices and serve!

Written by Leah

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Stormy with a Chance of Ideas

brainstormingNervously tapping my pencil against the edge of the desk, I anxiously glanced around the library. Everyone else seemed so focused, so confident, so productive. Sighing, I mustered up all the leftover brainpower provided from my morning cup of Joe, and decisively read through the essay prompt again. Unfortunately, the third attempt also ended in failure. Even after several efforts to brainstorm ideas, my mind seemed as empty as a swimming pool in the Sahara. Accusatory thoughts of comparison began to torment me, leading to feelings of fear and incapability. Believing the lies, I wallowed in self-pity and began to give up hope that a convincing point could ever be made about the overwhelming topic.

Have you ever felt this way?

If so, you are not alone! Even for the most experienced writers, beginning a paper and creating a thesis can be tricky and occasionally daunting. But don’t despair! There are several brainstorming techniques that writers can use to help expedite the thinking process.

Mapping is the first method that I would suggest when generating thoughts about a topic. To begin mapping, write the assigned topic at the top of a sheet of paper. Next, list any words or ideas that come to mind when thinking about the topic. Lastly, circle anything in the list that seems intriguing or could possibly serve as a point in the thesis statement.

Although mapping can be very helpful, I personally prefer to free write when brainstorming. As the name suggests, the free writing strategy consists of spontaneously writing anything that comes to mind about a specific topic. Writers are encouraged to let their thoughts wander and to explore any tangents that may result, even if the tangent seems unrelated to the topic. Although this strategy can be performed with a paper and pen, I personally prefer to type out my thoughts on Microsoft Word. When I finally begin writing my paper, the free writing strategy allows me to explore different perspectives about the topic, and I often discover creative ideas as a result of the spontaneity.

Though these brainstorming methods seem basic, they are, in fact, quite valuable! Often a little listing or spontaneous writing is just what one needs to jumpstart ideas.

Written by Leah

For more information on brainstorming and other writing topics, check out our Brainstorming Techniques handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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Let Freedom Ring!

On July 4, 1776, birds chirped joyously as a light breeze made its way through the Philadelphia hill country. The townsfolk watched anxiously as prominent men in shiny black loafers made their way toward the Pennsylvania State House. Among the men walked Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Leading the pack was none other than ginger-headed Thomas Jefferson – Congress’ most eloquent writer who led the composition of the Declaration of Independence. The men made their way into the large, opulent building, and the slamming of the doors behind them resounded through the town. Little did these men know that the events that were to take place in that big state house would change the trajectory of American history forever.

The Fourth of July is a popular patriotic holiday which allows U.S. citizens to celebrate the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Beginning the year after the Declaration was adopted, Americans started celebrating Independence Day. Early Fourth of July festivities included concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets. This was usually accompanied by the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Things have changed a little; although we still celebrate by shooting fireworks, attending concerts, and throwing parades, we also organize family reunions, have barbecues and picnics, and go to baseball games.

The freedom found in the love of Christ offers the utmost liberation and freedom. Romans 6:6-7 tells us, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (NIV). Though America is bountiful in blessings and freedom, it pales in comparison to the deliverance of Jesus. Sin ensnares the lives of all people; however, under grace, liberation from sin does not come from a written declaration, but rather a living crucifixion. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer slaves to fear and sin, but rather living, liberated children of God.

Written by Lindsey

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