New Year…Old Traditions

Happy New Year! Wow, another decade has flown by. Yes, 2020 marks the third decade of the 2000s. Wild. By this time, many people have specific traditions reserved for the changing of the year. Ironically, people celebrate something new, the year, with old celebration habits.

My family does not go all out for New Year’s Eve, by any means. We keep it simple, yet memorable. My parents order Indian food, which I am not a fan of, so I always get Thai food. After eating our traditional New Year’s feast, we begin the festivities. Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the annual Lord of The Rings marathon, before the Hobbit trilogy. Recently, my immediate family began throwing a game night. We play games until midnight and then go to bed. The next day we start off the New Year by serving together at Mission Arlington.

It dawned on me that I celebrate New Year’s Day the same way each year. Thus, I became curious as to how the people in my office (Dallas Baptist University Writing Center) celebrate this unique holiday. It is fascinating to compare festivities that are all occurring simultaneously, yet so differently.

Director Kā Riley

Sherlock, Kā’s dog, is terrified of fireworks. Unfortunately for Sherlock, her neighborhood cannot have New Year’s celebrations without them. Thus, Kā spends her New Year’s Eve lovingly taking care of Sherlock and protecting her from the big bad loud noises. While being on doggie duty, Kā and her husband enjoy a smorgasbord of summer sausage, cheese, crackers, and other condiments. There is a toast made at midnight, with sparkling grape juice. On New Year’s Day, after Sherlock survives the night, lunch is had at Black Eyed Peas, which consists of black-eyed peas and cornbread, a nod to the traditional southern good-luck practice.

Consultant Coordinator Trisha Gracy

Trisha spends her New Year’s Eve back home in rural Texas and has a mini-reunion with her high school friends. They participate in an annual sleepover.

Office Manager Ashley Green

Ashley keeps New Year’s Eve simple and partakes in an annual toast to the New Year with her family.

Consultant Kenean Bekele

Kenean spends the evening with her entire extended family. The family cooks and feasts together. They catch up while watching the New York ball drop on TV. After the ball drops, their celebration continues outside while enjoying fireworks together.

Consultant Meredith Rose

Meredith’s family spends the New Year together and with close family friends, who host the celebration. The group spends the evening eating and playing cards. There is a toast to the New Year as they watch the ball drop on TV. The party for Meredith’s family does not end at midnight. No, they queue up a movie at midnight as the conclusion to the festivities.

Consultant Amanda Soderberg

Amanda spends the New Year with her friends and family. They eat food, play games, and enjoy each other’s company. Of course, the grand New York ball drop is watched. Amanda’s family also prays together thanking God for the year they were blessed with and to ask for guidance for the year to come.

Consultant Ryan Thompson

If Ryan’s family stays up until midnight, they play board games or watch movies. At midnight, the New York ball drop is viewed while toasting with sparkling grape juice. However, it would not be unusual if the Thompsons decided to be in bed by 10:30.

Consultant-In-training Karina Baganz

Karina has a unique New Year’s Eve tradition. She does not stay awake to wait for the year to begin. No, on New Year’s Eve she is in bed, asleep, by 10 pm. Her philosophy is that she will get to wake up refreshed and ready to start the new year. She celebrates New Year’s Day with a traditional big plate of pancakes.

Consultant-In-Training Deneen Sanchez

Deneen’s family watches the ball drop while sipping eggnog. Her mom counts out twelve grapes, symbolizing the twelve months. Her family eats the grapes as a tradition of good luck for the upcoming year. Her family marks an end to the festivities by watching fireworks.

Consultant-In-Training Jordan Dockery

Jordan chooses not to drink soda 364 days out of the year, but on New Year’s Day, she indulges. Her family toasts their coke bottles high to the sky, while the song Albanza plays in the background.

Receptionist Robyn Key

Robyn hangs out with friends on New Year’s Eve. However, the catch is that she must be on the road heading home by midnight. Since she is on the road, she does not get to watch the ball drop.

Receptionist Princess Adeya

Princess anxiously awaits the ball drop, because then she is able to leave the house and go hang out with friends.

To sum up, in no particular order, here are 10 ingredients to a successful New Year:

**** God ****

  1. Friends
  2. Family
  3. Food
  4. Games
  5. Movies
  6. Dogs
  7. Fireworks
  8. Rest
  9. The Ball Drop
  10. Toast to the New Year

Written by Jordan

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Searching for Peace

As Christmas rapidly approaches, there are so many things that vie for our attention. From Christmas parties, gift exchanges, concerts, and events, there is no shortage of festivities to participate in. Around every turn, there are strings of lights, boughs of holly and greenery, and a palpable joy in the air. Yet, amidst such a busy and sometimes distracting season, it can be difficult to find time for the peace that we all crave.

Silent Night, Holy Night

I often try to find a time to sit in the quiet and think about the Christmas story so many of us know by heart. I think about the various parts of the story that make it almost unbelievable: the three wise men who sought the true King and traveled miles upon miles following only a star to find him, the shepherds who were merely watching their sheep and were suddenly met by a host of angels singing and proclaiming the birth of the Christ, and the humble girl who carried and gave birth to a baby who would change the course of the world forever.

“You’re the one I want to be with, you’re the reason that I came, And you’ll find me in the stillness as I’m whispering your name” – Author Unknown

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

The Savior entered the world in a lowly stable and slept upon a bed of hay amidst farm animals. He could have come down to earth on a white stallion with trumpets and choirs announcing his arrival, but he chose to come humbly, quietly, and peacefully in the form of a little baby. It is amazing to me how this was God’s plan from the very beginning of creation, and he intentionally made a way for us to have a relationship with him.

I think we crave peace today because there is so much noise around us. From movies, TV shows, music, activities, friends, and family, it is easy for there to be constant sound. Internally, we desire moments to be still, not to worry or be anxious, and be present. When we silence the noise around us by going in a quiet room and turning off electronics, or by sitting in a car in a serene area, it allows the Lord to speak truth into our lives. There is nothing that compares to the Lord’s peace. When we ask for it, He will grant us an otherworldly sense of calm and reassurance.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

This Christmas, I want to encourage everyone to intentionally make time to reflect on God’s sovereignty and sit in His peace. Seek Christ the way the wise men did so many years ago, and be at peace, friend, God has it – all of it.

Written by Amanda

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Finding Your Voice

If you’ve spent any time in a high school or college English class, you’ve probably heard a teacher or professor say, “Anyone can be a proficient writer! It’s all about finding your voice.” Upon hearing that, a few thoughts may enter your mind:

“What does that even mean?”

“Uhhh words don’t have vocal cords, how are they supposed to have a voice?”

“Wait maybe writing with a voice is just…talking?”

“Whatever that means, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a voice in my writing.”

I completely understand why the idea of “your voice” in writing might be confusing, and I want to clarify what it means to have a voice and the importance of channeling it into your writing.

So, what do professors mean when they refer to a voice in writing? Simply put, a voice is the unique style and manner in which an author communicates his or her ideas. This can be seen in sentence structures, vocabulary choices, tones and expressions, and so much more. More often than not, the real-life mannerisms and personality traits of authors manifest themselves in their writing because people tend to write similar to how they converse with others in their day-to-day lives.

Using myself as an example, I have a pretty dry and sarcastic personality, and my writing reflects that. Naturally, I have a straightforward delivery in my voice, so writing with an overly energetic or perky tone would result in an awkwardly formulated paper. Having that self-awareness is important for me, as a writer, because I want to come across as myself in my writing. As writers, we never want to come across as disingenuous, so it’s crucial for us to understand our voice and style of writing.

“Well that’s great and all, but I don’t think I have a voice.”

Don’t be ridiculous, you little stinker. Of course you have a voice! I know it’s cliché, but we are all individuals with a distinct set of personality traits, so our writings have different voices from one another (also I know it’s cliché to say “I know it’s cliché,” but listen we need to stay focused). If you are a living, literate person with a soul, you have a voice in your writing.

“Okay, but how do I find my voice? Also, I’m not a little stinker.”

Fair enough, I apologize for calling you a little stinker. Finding and becoming comfortable with your voice can be incredibly difficult. It can take years of writing to find your voice because it requires an understanding of who you are as an individual, an arduous process in it of itself. You don’t need to know everything about who you are as a person to find your voice, but think about some of these questions if you’re lost:

  • What activities do you enjoy?
  • What kind of writing compels you?
  • What style of writing would you want to engage in?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you love talking about with people?
  • How do you enjoy engaging in your interests (discussions with others, listening to lectures, interactive activities, etc.)?

Hopefully, these questions can help you understand what your interests are and how you can engage with them. When you take something you’re passionate about and interact with it through writing, you are able to lay out your thoughts in the most natural manner. That is your voice!

I understand the feeling of frustration that comes from not having a grasp of your voice, but don’t lose hope. It’s not an easy process, but it’s also not impossible. Keep engaging in your passions and writing consistently, and over time, your voice will come to you, ya little stinker (sorry).

Written by Ryan

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Chasing the Wind: A Book Review

When I was younger, I constantly searched for books that would suit my fancy. While sauntering through the library, a book would grab my attention. I would run my fingers across the title and flip through the soft, thick pages. Instantly, my passion for reading was ignited. Today, not much has changed. I still seek to read interesting books that contain romance, sadness, joy, and a strong message. What is one of my favorite books? Well, thank you for asking. The autobiography entitled Chasing the Wind by William Boyd Chisum is one of my favorites because it includes each of these elements in a way that grabs and retains readers’ interest. Fun fact: this was the first book that ever made me cry like a baby. Was it from happiness or sadness? I will let you decide.

At the beginning, Chisum discusses the elements surrounding his birth. While his mother struggled during delivery, the doctors made an error that would affect Chisum’s life forever: they transfused the wrong blood into his body. Because of this negligence, Chisum faced a future filled entirely of painful surgeries, or at least that is what people told him. In a time of desperation, his parents placed him in the Scottish Rite where he received excellent care and made many memories. Although it was an extraordinary place, he simply wanted to be home with his family leading a normal childhood. In the midst of infection and excruciating pain, he found a new passion in life: music. When he could not grasp or understand everything going on in his life, he grabbed a guitar and sang for the staff and residents. As a young boy, he experienced horrific things that no person should ever experience during his or her lifetime. Through it all, he persevered.

As he got older, he continued to pursue his passion for music. In fact, he toured the country and sang with Diamond Rio. Even with his music playing on various stations, he knew he was missing something, but he could not figure out what it was. Eventually, he met a beautiful red-headed woman with a passion for the music industry. While he was interviewing at a radio station in New Mexico, he became smitten, which introduces the love aspect that every great book needs. The two started dating and eventually married in a small ceremony with close family and friends. During this time, he also found a passion for Christ and a new meaning for life.

While their love continued to grow, they desired to start a family of their own. After five years of continual praying, the doctors told them the best news they could receive: she was pregnant! Nine short months later, she went through a strenuous labor. After many scares during the delivery, she gave birth to a large, but adorable, baby boy, who would be the apple of both their eyes for the rest of their lives. Despite more health issues, Chisum realized that God was calling him to become a PA for an Orthopedic Surgeon. After years of dutiful work in this intensely difficult field, he had to undergo another surgery. He pushed through the pain and continued to pursue Christ and His calling for Him, by touring the country with a Christian band to spread a tale of perseverance, bravery, love, and passion. Although retired, he still proclaims the faithfulness of God and shares his testimony with all. Where does this end? I will let you read the rest of the book to discover the answer.

Throughout the book, Chisum allows the reader to get to know him through the words he uses. He tackles hard subjects with a twinge of humor to make sure readers are paying attention. Best of all, he incorporates Scriptures and the Gospel into every aspect of his work. In each of his hardships, he persevered. When everyone expressed their doubts about him, he pushed past them. He is a survivor, and it is not of his own accord. It was, and still is, Christ working through him. If you are looking for an inspiring book to read, then I will always recommend investing your time and money reading this autobiography. I can guarantee you that it is 100% worth it.

Written by Trisha

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Lessons from the Writing Center

As I approach graduation and my two-year anniversary of working in the Dallas Baptist University Writing Center (UWC), I have begun to reflect on the lessons this wonderful office has taught me. When I submitted my application, I thought I knew everything there was to know about writing – academic or otherwise. Little did I know that, while I had many foundational writing skills, the UWC had much more to teach me. If you have ever wondered what being in a community of writers like this could do for you, the following lessons are worth perusing.

There is always more to learn

One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t visit the UWC before I applied to be a consultant. As I said, I thought I already knew it all. Well, it didn’t take long after applying for me to figure out that nothing could be further from the truth. No matter how great a writer we think we are, there is always more to learn.

Any good writing center staff knows this and is trained and eager to help students at any skill level. In the collaborative model, such as my office uses, consultants help students become stronger writers rather than editing their papers for them. Students are encouraged to continually return with their papers, read them out loud to a consultant, make edits as they go, and apply the concepts discussed throughout the rest of the paper.

Believe it or not, this model is most beneficial to students who are already strong writers or, at the very least, are dedicated to developing their writing skills. This knowledge and passion for writing enables them to better engage with consultants during sessions. I didn’t understand this before applying.

For those of you who love words, this means that visiting your campus’ writing center might take some humility. But if you ever visit, I promise, your session will be so effective. For those of you who aren’t writers, there’s still good news: the perfect writer doesn’t exist. It might feel like you have an endless amount to learn, but even the most experienced writer is right there with you.

Writing is a group effort

Before I joined the UWC, I thought that writing a stellar essay, or anything for that matter, required staying cooped up in my room and grinding out page after page until my eyes crossed and my fingers ached. Research, outline, draft, edit, rewrite, repeat. Research, outline, draft, edit, rewrite, repeat. That was my model because I selfishly thought, “Without completing this tedious process on my own, how can I consider the masterpiece created truly mine?”

Then I came to the UWC and learned that masterpieces are not often created by hermits. Unlike some might have us think, the greatest writers are not brooding geniuses who lock themselves up in the mountains or on an island, searching for inspiration and the ability to say, “Look at what I created, and all by myself!” No, the most successful writers understand what I had to learn in the UWC, that we must all swallow our pride and accept that truly good writing – whether an essay, a poem, a short story, or anything – is more often the result of wonderful collaborations.

For those of you out there who love words and wish to weave them on your own, this is potentially bad news. The way I see it, you’ve got your work cut out for you. However, for those of you who hate words and wish nothing to do with them, this might come as a breath of fresh air. You don’t have to figure writing out on your own! If your school, or your job, or your own ambition requires you to understand writing – and you can bet one of them will sooner or later – then find a community of people to surround yourself with who can help you figure out writing, one page at a time. I will forever be grateful for my friends in the UWC who helped me figure out my essays, my blogs, my emails, my cover letters, one page at a time.

These are just two of the many lessons the UWC has taught me. In short, I cannot recommend highly enough that you learn the joy of writing. If you are a college student, take a leap of faith and visit your university’s writing center. If you are in any other chapter of life, find a group of people who can encourage you as you write, just like all my friends in the UWC have done for me.

Written by Meredith