Happy Independence Day!

As the days of summer seem to get hotter and longer, I can’t help but feel excited when the 4th of July comes around. With fireworks, hot dogs, pool parties, and all the fun-in-the-sun you can imagine, it feels like the climax of summer. It’s the time when even banks are closed, families gather around the barbeque, and everyone seems to wind down with a glass of ice-cold lemonade. July 4th is a special holiday beloved by every American.

Most of us know July 4th, 1776 as the day America declared her independence from Britain. With that said, here are a few fun facts you might not know about one of America’s favorite days of the year.

  • To start, July 4th wasn’t deemed a federal holiday until 1870–about 100 years after America declared independence.
  • Americans consume about 155 million hot dogs on the 4th of July, and we spend about $167.5 million on watermelon.
  • Calvin Coolidge, America’s 30th president, was actually born on July 4th. Imagine sharing your birthday with your country!
  • America’s tradition of fireworks can be traced back to our first Independence Day in 1777 when we fired 13 cannons to represent the 13 colonies.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the Declaration of Independence was formally declared on July 2nd, which was the day John Adams believed to be “the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” Turns out, he was a couple of days off, but was nonetheless accurate in the day’s description! July 4th was the date that Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence.

All fun facts aside, it is important for us to always remember those who fought before us. Our freedom to celebrate the 4th isn’t entirely free but is constantly paid for by our faithful, hard-working military. This 4th of July (or 2nd—whichever you choose), take a moment to shake a soldier’s hand and say thank you or whisper a prayer for those in the line of duty. It is because of them we get to enjoy our beloved holiday, and thanks to them, we are able to call America home.

Written by Camille (NEW: Click on author’s name for more information about him or her!)

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Beyond Beta: Five Lessons I’ve Learned on the Wall

In the rock climbing community, the term beta refers to information about a climb, which may also be called a route. Beta can include anything from a route’s rating of difficulty, style, or length, all the way to specific hand, foot, or body positions needed to successfully complete the climb.

For those who are new to climbing, it might seem that utilizing effective beta is the quickest way to improve as a climber. I certainly thought this was true when I began climbing almost two years ago. While understanding and using correct beta is of immense value, the mental rather than physical aspects of the sport are often just as, if not more, important to successful climbing.

Over the past year and a half, I have learned five valuable lessons that take me beyond beta to a deeper level of understanding of myself. Both as a climber and as a person, these lessons have helped me consider who I am and who I want to be, and I find them applicable both on and off the wall.

  1. Comparison is the enemy.

In climbing, just as in life, the people next to us are seldom equal to us in skill. On rare occasions, they might know less than we do, but far more often, we find ourselves surrounded by those who are miles more experienced. Compare yourself to others and you are sure to board a one-way flight to failure. Yet, the lesson I have learned through climbing is not that we should isolate ourselves from those who are more accomplished in an attempt to feel confident about ourselves. Indeed, I have learned quite the opposite. Dr. Daniel Rose, my professor and academic advisor, loves to remind his class, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” In both climbing and life, this saying rings true. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, never compare yourself, and be humble enough to learn from the knowledge and wisdom of others.

  1. Give encouragement and seek out encouragers.

If you read my blog “Handling Criticism: Five Lessons from the Great British Baking Show,” you probably remember me stressing that encouragement is an important ingredient for success. This fact is true of anything that we set out to accomplish, but it is especially true on the wall. Not only must we seek encouragers, but we must readily give encouragement ourselves. As in life, you’re not likely to succeed as a climber unless you intentionally surround yourself with people who desire to see you succeed.

  1. Your mind will hold you back if you let it.

When allowed, the mind can and will shackle the body. There are so many temptations, in life and in climbing, to view tasks as impossible to accomplish. For example, take the ratings of routes, which in a typical climbing gym range anywhere from 5.6 to 5.13. These ratings, while in some ways helpful, may also hold climbers back if they allow themselves to dwell too long on them. Rather than rating the difficulty of the mountains we must climb, both literally and figuratively, what if we chose to free our minds from these shackles and truly believe that anything is possible with enough faith?

  1. Fail often and always try again.

Failure is a part of life, and it is definitely a part of climbing. If you’re not failing, you’re doing something wrong. Never be afraid to push yourself to the limit. In both climbing and life, try a harder route, take the road less traveled even when there is no map. And, when failure comes your way, dedicate yourself to getting back on your feet, dusting yourself off, and trying again. I have found that my greatest achievements on the wall, the routes I am proudest of completing, have come after a long, hard struggle for success.

  1. Talk to the person next to you.

Our days are filled with so many people whom we have the opportunity to talk to, and yet, so often, we choose to remain isolated. This is especially true when climbing. In a climbing gym, there are many people crowded together in a close vicinity, each struggling toward the same goal, yet there is still such a temptation to find your route, get in the zone, and stick to yourself. Perhaps the most treasured lesson I’ve learned on the wall is that, sometimes, the greatest joy in climbing is talking to the person next to you. In climbing, just as in life, every person has a story. So the next time you’re sizing up the wall or sitting in the break room or waiting for class to start, take a leap of faith and reach out to the person next to you. You never know the joy that this simple act might bring.

It has been far more difficult than expected to put into words all the passionate thoughts and feelings I experience while climbing. However, for both climbers and those who prefer to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground, I truly hope that these five lessons encourage you to shoot for new heights both on and off the wall.

Written by Meredith (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Letter from a Semicolon

Dear Students,

Salutations. My name is Sam Ike Olan, but my closest companions refer to me as “Sam the Semicolon.” I am writing this letter because my relevance in writing appears to be rather confusing to some of you. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Some writers may even misuse me, believing that I serve a similar purpose to that of Connie the Comma. Today, I hope to provide some clarification on my significance and show you how to properly utilize me in order to add some semicolon spice to your papers.

First and foremost, if you forget everything I say in this letter, remember this: I unite independent thoughts. This may seem vague and confusing at the moment, but just keep that sentiment in the back of your mind as we walk through this letter.

My main purpose in writing is to function as a bridge between coherent ideas (or independent clauses) that could otherwise stand alone as complete sentences. To show you what I mean, let’s look at a sentence from earlier in this letter:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

You may have noticed that Connie the Comma is shouldering quite a heavy load in the middle of this sentence. Let’s try to alleviate her workload. Looking at this sentence, you’ll see that there are two ideas being expressed here that could stand as their own sentences. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence. As a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Instead of Connie the Comma having to be used repeatedly, I could function as a bridge between these two thoughts and keep them together as one sentence.

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Notice how my presence hasn’t changed the meaning of these sentences all that much. As I stated earlier, I merely connect two coherent ideas and make them one whole sentence.

Another thing to note regarding my use is that I generally connect two independent thoughts that build off of one another or are closely related. Technically speaking, you could use me to unite two ideas that aren’t correlated, but it is recommended to make sure the two thoughts have some relation to one another. Let’s look back at our example:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Not only do both of these independent ideas discuss my usage, but the second thought builds upon the original thought. The first thought is based around the lack of knowledge regarding me, while the second thought lays out the effect such uncertainty can have. This is exactly what I meant when I stated that I unite independent thoughts. My usage has connected these two related concepts and allowed the overall idea to flow much better (not to toot my own horn here).

A common misconception people have about my usage is that Connie the Comma and I are interchangeable. Although we may look similar in certain aspects, we most definitely are not indistinguishable. Let’s take one final look at our example sentence:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Some individuals who are unfamiliar with me may think that it is appropriate to simply place Connie the Comma where I am in this example sentence. The truth is Connie the Comma is not strong enough to connect these two independent thoughts by herself. She would need a conjunction, or one of the FANBOYS[1], to help carry the two ideas. However, I can carry these thoughts with no additional help.

I shall end this letter with the sentiment I expressed near the beginning of this letter: I unite independent thoughts. If nothing else in this letter made sense to you, just remember that I am used to connect two ideas that could otherwise stand on their own.

I hope this letter gave some clarification on my usage and that you will continue to utilize me properly in your writing going forward.

Sincerely,

Sam “The Semicolon” Ike Olan

[1] This acronym describes the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Memorial Day

It is finally summer time! You no longer have to worry about assignments, tests, or deadlines. Woohoo! A few days after summertime officially begins, your family plans a barbecue and swim party for Memorial Day. You are excited to see your friends and family, but you have some unanswered questions. What is this holiday’s meaning? Is it simply about gathering together on a summer day to relax and celebrate? Is it just a day that the mail does not run? Or, is it a day that has a much greater significance? If you read to the end of this blog, you will no longer have any questions about Memorial Day and its significance.

Everybody can probably recite a few facts about the Civil War that they learned in middle school; however, it was much more than just a few statistics to the people who lived through its trauma. Thousands of young men and a few women valiantly left their families to embark on a journey full of fear, pain, misery, and death. Although some made it out of the war, many were not as fortunate. Mothers and fathers wept over the deaths of their children, who sacrificed their lives for what they believed.

In a time of despair and grieving, Americans united and honored the young individuals who selflessly gave their lives in the Civil War. Throughout the nation, people paid their respects by placing flowers and other objects on the graves of those who died in the war. Because this was occurring in different places around the United States, the exact location where Memorial Day began is unknown. Despite the anonymity, the government declared Waterloo, New York, as the first official city where Memorial Day was recognized because of the festivities held there in honor of the people who perished.

Interestingly, this holiday was originally referred to as Decoration Day because many people would place different decorations on the soldiers’ graves to honor them. Regardless of the name, Memorial Day was designed to take a day out of the year to honor the men and women who perished fighting for what they believed in. Each town might have different traditions for celebrating the holiday, but every festivity boils down to honor and respect. Although this holiday started in honor of those who perished in the Civil War, it eventually became known as a celebration of life for all the people who died fighting in a war.

In 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as a national holiday when governmental offices close to recognize those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Throughout time, this holiday lost its true meaning. Many suggest it is due to the extended weekend. Perhaps it is because we have become desensitized to the true pain death causes. Whatever the case might be, it is something we can change. Fascinatingly, Congress asked that everything stop at three o’clock for only a minute on Memorial Day in remembrance of the true meaning of this holiday. In the midst of the barbecues and summer festivities, take a moment of silence with the rest of the nation on the last Monday in May to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I will take a moment of silence this Memorial Day. Will you?

John 15:13 states, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (New Living Translation). 

Written by Trisha (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Mind Crumbs

Perhaps the most basic definition of a metaphor is a figure of speech that equates two things for the sake of comparison and symbolism. It is a unique tool that helps people describe their feelings and emotions toward a certain person or thing as accurately as possible.

I loved reading and writing poetry growing up, and metaphors were one of my absolute favorite devices. Metaphors are splashes of color that beautify and give life to the words on the page. They cover the nakedness of dull expression with the elegant texture of a silky garment. See what I did there? Metaphors open doors to endless possibilities and invite the creators to explore their imagination freely.

I not only enjoy but have delight in creative writing through metaphors because it allows me to express my thoughts and ideas so clearly and precisely. Here are some of my absolute favorite ones:

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

Picasso is an incredible artist who needs no introduction, and I love this metaphor because it tells us that art offers new and exciting experiences and helps us get through the darker moments of our lives.

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

Khalil Gibran

This metaphor reminds me of another metaphor that illustrates the depth of the mind according to Sigmund Freud, who made the distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind. This idea is illustrated by an iceberg. The top (a small surface of ice) is the conscious mind while the bottom (a vast surface of ice under water) is the unconscious mind, also known as the subconscious mind. There is so much that we do not say, yet those thoughts affect our actions and feelings every single day, it is a rather scary thought.

“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

Benjamin Franklin

I love this one because it is such a cheerful yet chastening metaphor. When I do not have a lot on my mind or have rectified all my wrongs, I am a happier and a more colorful person—just like Christmas! In other words, the metaphor is telling us, “whatever you have not made right, do so if you want to be happy.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.”

John 6:35

The Bible itself is essentially a poem. There are countless, beautiful examples of metaphors, especially in the Wisdom Books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job). However, I found this metaphor to be one of the most beautiful. Though Jesus compares himself to bread and water, it is clear to see that He is much more than that. Bread makes us full and water quenches our thirst, but we get thirsty and hungry yet again. Jesus, on the other hand, offers nourishment that lasts forever because it is for the soul.

I might not be as brilliant as Picasso or as elegant as Franklin, but I have found that using metaphors to express myself has led to the exploration and discovery of a new writer in myself. It has allowed me to learn from others and develop my own style. It has been a heavenly journey!

Written by Kenean (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

 

Handling Criticism: Five Lessons from The Great British Baking Show

Handling criticism is hard. Regardless of whether the feedback you receive is constructive or destructive, listening to someone’s honest opinion about your work is never easy. If you’re a creator of anything, from art to poetry, music to prose, photography to food, you know the courage it takes to submit your work to the inspection and judgment of others.

Last year, I personally learned how challenging it can be to receive criticism. For six months, I worked to craft a short story I believed worthy of admiration. I then entered it into a contest in which a judge would provide me with feedback and I would have the possibility of winning the grand prize: publication alongside four other contestants. Waiting for the results, I told myself repeatedly that I would not be upset by the outcome. However, no amount of positive self-talk could have prepared me for the crushing blow that was dealt: no grand prize as well as negative feedback from the judge. I even missed out on being named an honorable mention.

I brooded quietly for several months after, dejected and full of self-pity, wondering why I had even tried. Then one day, as I was watching one of my favorite TV series, The Great British Baking Show (TGBBS), I got to thinking about what it means to properly and professionally handle criticism. If you have ever seen this wonderful show, you know just how brave those twelve bakers are to submit their creations to the judgment of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Their often ruthless and unforgiving assessment of the contestants’ bakes can sometimes leave me cringing in my seat, but the way in which the bakers handle this feedback is always something worthy of praise.

After watching nearly every season of TGBBS, I have learned five valuable lessons about how to handle criticism.

  1. Remember that everybody has different taste buds.

Just because one person dislikes your creation doesn’t mean everyone will! There have been many times on TGBBS when bakers receive criticism from the judges on a bake that their family or co-workers adore and eat regularly. Other times, Mary and Paul disagree on the quality of a bake depending on how much alcohol the baker adds. Still other times, bakers graciously accept the judges’ criticism but share with the audience that they personally enjoy the bake. The fact is, no two persons are alike when it comes to appreciating food; similarly, no two persons are alike when it comes to appreciating art, literature, or anything else creative. Never let the criticism you receive from one person or one group of people dissuade you from sharing your creation with others.

  1. Accept when something you made is stodgy.

The ability to see your creation from another person’s point of view and accept his or her criticism is the sign of a truly confident and mature creator. It’s never easy for a Great-British-Baking-Show contestant to hear the dreaded word “stodgy,” but I have never once witnessed a baker who didn’t accept the evaluation with grace and dignity. In fact, many of the bakers are so self-aware that they approach the gingham altar knowing a poor critique is imminent and justified. Is this willingness to concede to the judge’s point of view a sign of weakness? Quite the opposite! Accepting criticism is the first step in growing to become a stronger, more experienced creator of any art form.

  1. Find your Mel and Sue!

Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned from TGGBS is that you can’t make it on your own as a creator. Just as the hosts of the show, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, encourage the twelve bakers through thick or thin, so you must find the people in your life who will lift you up when you hit rock bottom. Much like the delicately balanced flavors of a cake, making it in this world as a creator also requires balance between the criticism you receive from judges offset by the encouragement you receive from friends and family. Only then can you truly be successful as a creator.

  1. Don’t be afraid to cry.

There’s no shame in tears; they show that you care passionately about your creations. Oftentimes on TGBBS, bakers come away from a harsh critique with tears in their eyes, asking themselves why they’re so terribly upset. “It’s only a cake, after all,” they state rationally. “Am I really crying over a biscuit?” others ask themselves, laughing through the tears. But the fact is, it isn’t just a bake, or a poem, or a painting, or a song. It’s what each of those creations represent: the hard work, time, and care put into creating it. Never be afraid to mourn a failure so long as you do not lose the will to try again!

  1. Live to bake another day.

Winston Churchill, a remarkable Brit much like the twelve Great-British-Baking-Show contestants, once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” While the criticism that many bakers receive from Paul and Mary is often harsh, not one of them walks away from the experience lacking the will to continue growing as a baker. This lesson, although simple, is perhaps the hardest to put into action, but it is also the most important. Criticism is hard to handle, but we must, and we shall, so that we too can live to create another day.

nadia 2

Written by Meredith

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Calculating Your Way Through Life

Pre-Alegebra, Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Pre-College Math, Intermediate Algebra, Math for Liberal Arts, College Algebra, Finite Math, College Calculus, Elementary Probability and Statistics, Introduction to Linear Algebra, Analytic Geometry, Discrete Math, Math Content, Essential Geometry, Abstract Algebra, and the list goes on. Every high school and college is determined to cram as much math down our throats as possible before releasing us into the real world. As an English aficionado, I rebelled against the system as much as I could, by putting off algebra until 9th grade, squeaking out of high school without having to touch real calculus, CLEPing out of College Algebra, and selecting a major that only requires two math classes. I didn’t care how much my mother, teachers, and professors assured me that I was good at math or how many A’s were slapped on my Algebra exams. Three credit hours and a CLEP test later, I was gonna be done with math for the rest of my life… Or so I thought.

I graduated from pre-nursing here at DBU, and I had 8 months of freedom in the real world, until I would begin my two year adventure of nursing school. I decided to plan ahead and be productive, as my professors taught during their mere sixteen weeks with me each of my four semesters at DBU. I had heard from multiple sources that working during nursing school was nearly impossible, so saving up enough money with this eight months gifted to me should probably be a priority during my time of nothingness.

So, Responsible Michelle got a job; well, she got another job, technically, because she already had her marvelous job at the DBU Writing Center. She got a job as a medical scribe. But because she had two occupations, she started living like she had disposable income. She ate out with her friends several times a week, bought Starbucks whenever she wanted, frequented Sonic for her favorite Mini Reese’s Sonic Blast with M&Ms, bought Ed Sheeran tickets for her sister’s birthday, and otherwise lived like a queen, even taking her parents out to eat a couple of times. Then, one day, she decided to check on how her savings were going for nursing school, only to find they really had not grown at all. In fact, they were smaller than they had been when she graduated from DBU. Responsible Michelle learned that she was not responsible at all. Responsible Michelle then realized all of those math and finance classes she took in high school and college were not lying when they tried to teach her that if she spends more than she makes, she will not be able to save any money. Emphasis on tried.

Even as “Responsible Michelle,” she still needed a game plan. She didn’t work 40+ hours a week to enter nursing school in the same financial situation that she had when she had graduated from DBU. I needed (drum roll please)… a budget. (Insert face palm and crying emoji here.)

There were two ways I could do this. Thankfully, I had actually been paying attention in math class when budgeting was explained. I knew I could write down on paper all the needs, wants, and expenses I expected each month and assign appropriate percentages of predicted paychecks to each item on the list. However, I had a goal. I couldn’t just will-nilly buy every Starbucks, Sonic, and Ed Sheeran wanted. I had to save enough money to survive a whole semester just in these few months, no matter how much that Grande White Mocha with Peppermint was calling my name.

Seven hundred and fifty dollars per month is what I needed to save! With four of the eight months left I had to try to be responsible, the savings would total an additional $3000 dollars that could be added to the bank account. Problem: this would only leave, give or take, $250 dollars a month. (I see those raised eyebrows. I chose these jobs for the experience, not the money. If you can find a medical job that pays more than $8 an hour but does not require any certifications or medical training, let me know.) I had recently acquired a car, thanks to my parents’ moving overseas, but that now meant that I needed money for gas, oil, repairs, and insurance (none of which are cheap, when you often drive 45 minutes to get to work, believe me), in addition to all the other expenses I already had each month.

I grimaced as I opened the calculator on my phone. Why, oh why, had it come down to this? Enough complaining; I needed to get it done. So I got down to business. I added up the hours I would work in each paycheck, which differed every day because I rarely worked the same hours each week. I then remembered it was not as simple as taking that number and multiplying it by the number of dollars I made for each of those hours. Oh, no, the government had to take its chunk out of that hard-earned money first. Since I was paid hourly, I used an online website to do that part of the calculation for me. I did this for both paychecks for the month. Too much math to recount later, I had the amount of money I would earn that month.

Somewhere along this journey, I found the Dave Ramsey app EveryDollar (which I highly recommend, btw). I inputted my income information for September into this app, and I then started the process of subtracting out the things I knew would be charged to my account that month (sigh). There was a bunch of math required surrounding my car, from having to calculate the mileage of my car to calculating the number of miles I drove to and from work every day. Then I had to add in the periodic oil changes, insurance payments, and unexpected maintenance. The monthly payments for my child sponsorship and Spotify membership, and the yearly payments for Amazon Prime were also subtracted from this amount. I had so much math to do, but I did it all!

I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I had spent hours doing all of these initial calculations, but it was done. That first month, I could not go out to eat, buy another Starbucks, or really do anything that I wanted to do. But the next month, I was able to do a little more, and, the next, even more. I started catching up. Budgeting seemed horrible to me at first, like a grumpy parent that wouldn’t let me do anything. But I no longer second guessed my buying choices, and my heart didn’t sink when I had an unexpected expense. A plan was in place, and I put what I wanted and needed into that plan. My life was a little less stressful, as I knew I would now have plenty of extra money for nursing school, while still having enough for gas and groceries. I knew at the very beginning of the month how much money I needed to make when arranging babysitting jobs or extra shifts. My life had the structure it needed to make it easier now and more rewarding by achieving future goals.

Goodbye, oh beautiful Pumpkin Spice Latte with those crunchy orange sprinkles and frothy whipped cream. Goodbye, my sweet, savory PeiWei Original with Chicken and noodles, my love. My dear Ed, while I adore your perfect skill and sessions of thinking out loud together, there is a higher calling for those numbers in my savings account. I am on to better things, to higher things, things that, sadly, outweigh my love for all of you. My bank account requires more of me, a better me, and a version of me that understands what is really a priority in this life. I need to again become and further aspire to be Responsible Michelle.

Written by Michelle

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