Friday, April 24

What a Wonderful World

Earth Day is a holiday much different than other well known holidays.  It is a day that actually benefits the world around us and teaches us to appreciate the place we live our lives and not take it for granted.  There are so many ways to give back to the Earth and on this day we try to express our gratitude for having such a wonderful resource at our fingertips. 

Earth Day is only one day but you can "celebrate" it every day just by doing a few simple things to help the Earth stay clean and fresh.

1) Ride your bike to class (or work).
There is so much pollution emitted from buses and cars.  Even cars that are better for the environment use up gas and we all know that is a resource that may run out at any moment.  Riding your bike has so many benefits.  It gives you exercise which is beneficial because you are actually going somewhere instead of running in place on a treadmill.  It definitely saves gas money because you don't use any!  Riding your bike also allows you to discover new paths to take each time you go somewhere and it can be a refreshing way to relieve stress when you are returning home.  You can just take a leisurely peddle through a bike path.

2) Save electricity.
Energy Star really does a great job of having energy saving products available to the community.  They have compact fluorescent light bulbs which use about 40% less energy than regular bulbs. They also make washers, refrigerators, and even computers that use less energy than the regular product.  You can also always save electricity by turning off the lights when you aren't in the room!

3) Use less water.
Your parents always told you to turn off the water when you brush your teeth but how many of you actually did that?  I know I didn't.  I know now that it really helps save water but I couldn't care less when I was younger.  By turning off the water when you brush your teeth and taking shorter showers, we can save billions of gallons of water a day.

4) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Probably the most well-known but under-utilized phrase around.  We all know it but we don't always follow its simple advice.  So many bottles are thrown away in the trash just because people cannot find a recycling bin.  It really makes a difference.  Also, if you don't want that bottle to end up in a landfill, make sure you take off the cap before you recycle it.  Reuse bottles and containers as much as you can.  I know they say plastic bottles develop germs when they are reused but if you only use them a couple of times, such as filling them up the same day you opened them, the benefits outweigh any chances of getting sick.  

Take time today and every day to re-evaluate what you do to help keep our Earth clean.

Monday, April 20

Dance Like No One's Watching

I envy people who can dance. And I don't just mean bopping back and forth at a party dancing. I'm talking about full-on leaping, twirling, professional dancing. Any time I see a movie or TV show that comes out about dancing, I have to go see it because I know even if it's not that great of a movie, the dancing will be really awesome. After the movie is over, I am left sitting there wishing so badly that I could dance like the stars in the movie. Wednesday, April 22nd is National Dance Day so bust out your dancing shoes and start moving!

Dancing is an art form. It has been around since the beginning of time and has many different purposes throughout history. It's original purpose was as a method of storytelling. People would use different movements to represent different words. It allowed stories to be passed down to generations before there was any kind of written language. This tradition is still carried on through the Hawaiian form of dancing called hula dancing. Each hand movement represents a word and the dance as a whole tells a story to the audience.

There are so many different styles of dance that even if your career is in dance, it would be very hard to master each one, so usually dancers have a specialty dance style that they spend most of their time working on. Some of the major forms of dancing include: ballroom, ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern, swing, country and western, belly dance, flamenco, Latin, and folk dancing, to name a few. All of those styles originated from different parts of the world and when you see each type performed the culture comes out.

A few years ago, a man by the name of Judson Laipply performed a dance routine called the "Evolution of Dance". It spread across the internet in weeks and has millions of views on YouTube. In the dance Judson shows the more modern side of dancing, spanning over the last century or so. From disco to hip-hop and pop to interpretive, he shows it all in a hilarious compilation of dances and songs throughout the ages.

One of my favorite shows to watch during the summer is called “So You Think You Can Dance” and it is just filled with talented dancers.  It’s kind of like American Idol for dancing.  The show incorporates a bunch of dance styles from hip-hop to ballroom to interpretive dance to Broadway.  Each contestant gets a partner each week and they do a dance with them as well as a solo dance.  All of the dancers are so talented but obviously only one contestant can win in the end.  My friend and I always tape the shows and watch our favorite dances over because some of them are just extraordinary. 

If I had the chance, I would definitely take dance lessons and try to become a phenomenal dancer, but I feel like those really talented dancers start when they are about three years old – so that’s a few more years of experience that I am behind on.  I have a few friends who are dancers and it is so much fun to go to their performances and watch them dance.  When you know the performer you can really see the passion they have when they dance and how happy it makes them to share their hard work with others. 

Dancing is a way we express ourselves, so get out there and dance like no one is watching!

Monday, April 13

National High Five Day

High fives are quite possibly the most well-known and most ridiculed form of physical human contact.  Although brief, they symbolize so much more than a job well done. As defined by Wikipedia: A high five is a celebratory gesture made by two people, each raising one hand to slap the raised hand of the other — usually meant to communicate mutual satisfaction to spectators or to extend congratulations from one person to another. It is hard to imagine that someone actually invented the high five because it is such a well known gesture in our culture today. There are many stories claiming to be the origin of this brilliant gesture, but none of them are actually proven to be true. So if you hear one of these stories take it for what it's worth and decide for yourself if you believe it.

 Since its invention, the high five has developed many different forms along the years. Wired magazine did an awesome article on perfecting your high five form of choice.

Everyone knows the classic high five:

1. Always initiate. He who launches the high five owns the high five. Engageyour upper-arm muscles, keep your wrist firm, and propel your hand like the
meteor of awesome it is. (Maintain altitude and an open hand — this ain't no
fist bump.) Your high-five can only surrender.
2. Don't look at the hand.
That looming palm is a moving, unpredictable target. Instead, keep your eye on
the elbow; that'll automatically line up your mitts.
3. Cup your palm. As you reach the high point of the arc, make your hand slightly concave to create that satisfying thunderclap.

Then there is the "Todd": 

Is your hero the misunderstood, hypersexual surgeon on Scrubs? Divert attention
from pending sex-harassment suits by courting favor with coworkers. Snip the
sleeves off your shirt and give 'em some skin!

1. If your mark is reluctant, play the pity card, imploring him to "show the [your name here] some love."2. Now hit his hand as hard as you can. You should hear a whip-crack.
3. Snap your fingers.

The Top Gun:
Is your ego writing checks your body can't cash? You and your wingman require a
sick move to show up those who don't feel the need for speed.

1. Initiate the classic move (impact at 12 o'clock), but make contact with only the outside
edge of your hands.2. Move your bogies past one another's and arc downward 180 degrees to slap a low five  in the 6 o'clock position.
3. Howl, as if at the moon.

The 21 Jump Street:Sure, your crack team never lets the captain down, but how do you show you've got each other's backs? Why, a multi-man high five, of course. There's no actual slap here, but your crew does things its own way.
1. Stand in a circle and extend your right hands into the middle.
2. Wiggle your fingers while moving your hands upward in unison.
3. At the peak, form your hands into pistols and fire into the air.

And those are just a few of the crazy ones. You also have the more well-known low five, air five, very high five, and the prank style high five "too slow".

Whichever style of high-five you chose, celebrate High Five Day with an abnormal amount of high fiving throughout your day.  It will make you and everyone you come in contact with happier than you would think!

National Stress Awareness Day

Stress.  Everyone has it.  Stress definitely has a negative connotation, but in reality we all need stress to keep us alive and functioning.  National Stress Awareness Day was strategically placed on April 16th, the day after taxes are due.  It is designed to be a day to acknowledge the things that cause you stress in your life and to begin to make strides in getting those stresses under control.  

I think this is a perfect time to try to take control of the stresses in my life because it's the time in the semester when all of my exams are done, except for finals.  I can finally take a breath and start to prepare for the things ahead.  

It is really important to learn what things cause stress in your life and how to control those things before they become too overwhelming to bear.  For example, I know that tests really stress me out.  So when I know I have a test coming up, I make sure I prepare really well for it as to not tip my pre-test stress scale.  That way, when it comes time to actually take the test, I feel under control and prepared, rather than panicked.  

Stress is your body's way of rising to a challenging situation--also called your fight or flight response.  It is an involuntary reaction in our body that has been around since mankind was born.  It was used back in caveman days when a man came face-to-face with a predator he could either fight and kill it for food, or he could exercise his flight reaction and run.  When a stressor has an effect on us like this, our body produces chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increases our blood pressure and heightens our senses.  When these chemicals are released for an extended period of time, stress can become very overwhelming.

That is why it is imperative to recognize when your body is feeling stressed and take control of it before it takes control of you. Here are some tips on how to relieve stress:

  • Don't over schedule; it's ok to have a full schedule but don't pile so much on your plate that you can't give each thing a fair amount of time.
  • Be realistic; it is only going to stress you out more if you make a goal to accomplish twice as much as is humanly possible in a day.
  • SLEEP!  We all love sleep; college students and adults alike, but for some reason sleep is the first thing to be put on hold when we are going through stressful times.  Your body needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to rest and get ready for the following day, so instead of staying up late to finish a project, try to going to bed early and waking up earlier in the morning to get a head start to your day.
  • Take time to relax.  Whether it is a 20 minute power nap or just sitting down to read a magazine or watch some television, give your body a break periodically throughout your day and really try to take some deep breaths and chill out for a few minutes.
  • Take things one step at a time.  Attack big projects little-by-little with small breaks intermittently to reward yourself.  This way you will feel like you have accomplished something and when it comes time for the big project to be completed, you won't be overwhelmed with work.
  • Smile :) Having a positive attitude toward things will really improve your overall well-being along with your mood.  Smiling and laughing are also natural stress relievers, so make sure you do something to make you smile or talk to someone who makes you laugh everyday!

Friday, April 10

National D.A.R.E. Day

Thursday is National D.A.R.E. day.  If you went through the public school system you probably know what D.A.R.E. is, but if not, it stands for Drug Awareness Resistance Education.  It is a program put on by police officers to educate children in elementary school about drugs and violence.  I remember really enjoying the program as a kid and some things that went on during that time still stick with me now.

D.A.R.E. began in 1983 in Los Angeles and is now an active part of 75 percent of the school districts in the nation and over 43 countries in the world.  The program involves classroom activities taught by trained police officers.  They teach students how to act in uncomfortable situations involving violence and drugs, and they teach about the facts of drugs as well.  Some of the main goals of the program are:

·  D.A.R.E. "humanizes" the police: that is, young people can begin to relate to officers as people

·  D.A.R.E. permits students to see officers in a helping role, not just an enforcement role

·  D.A.R.E. opens lines of communication between law enforcement and youth

·  D.A.R.E. Officers can serve as conduits to provide information beyond drug-related topics

·  D.A.R.E. opens dialogue between the school, police, and parents to deal with other issues


I went through the D.A.R.E. program from kindergarten until 6th grade and I found it to be a pretty fun and rewarding experience.  The officers who came to talk to us made it fun and passed around a stuffed lion that one person got to hold onto for the whole time each week they talked.  They did activities with us such as acting out situations and doing activity pages in a workbook. 

At the end of the program we had a D.A.R.E. graduation, complete with a poster competition and a story contest.  We sang a song that I still remember to this day: “D. I won’t do drugs, A. won’t have an attitude, R. I will respect myself, E. I will educate me now”. 

I think programs like this are really important to put on for young kids because it causes them to think about situations that they may not think about otherwise.  For kids who don’t grow up in a city atmosphere, they may never be exposed to drugs until one day way later in life and they wouldn’t know how to handle it properly without some previous practice.  You don’t perform a speech without practicing first, so why would you go out into the real life without practicing how to handle potentially dangerous real-life situations? 

It is really that there are officers willing to do this important job because this can be a difficult topic for parents to approach.  The officers do it in a professional manner that informs kids about all the things they need to know, without being overpowering and drilling hardcore drug facts into their heads.  The program mixes fun and learning to make a great balance for kids that need a good base at an impressionable age.  I am really glad I was able to experience this program and I hope it is still around when I have children of my own.

National Siblings Day

My sister Emilie is such an inspiration to me. Ever since she was born she has made an impact on my life. I remember when I was about 6 and my mom told me I was going to have a little sister and I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I would have to share my toys, play with her, and share my parents’ attention, and as a 6 year old that’s a big deal. However, after the initial shock, I learned to do all of those things and more. Watching my sister grow up has been an eye opening experience for me and in honor of National Siblings day; I am going to share with you some of the reasons why.

My sister has always been a sincere and honest person. Growing up she was just a whirlwind of energy and she always let people know if she liked their outfit or if they had a nice smile. She has also always been a very happy person overall. I don’t remember very many times when she has been truly angry or unhappy for an extended period of time. Most of the time she has a smile on her face and she is either singing or laughing.

Emilie also has the ability to enjoy whatever she is doing. When she was little, she would play with her dolls or more often her stuffed animals and she would be more than content just playing with them on her own. I also joined in with her occasionally and shared the fun, but even if I was busy doing homework or something she would have fun anyway. She has a great imagination and it really allows her to be open minded in a lot of different ways.

My sister hardly ever speaks badly about another person. Even if she encounters a person who is not being very nice, she will see the positives in them and give them a chance to redeem themselves in her mind. She is really generous and caring towards everyone she meets and really kind to animals. Emilie can’t see a puppy without wanting to pet it and she loves our dog Sophie more than anything. I think she would bring her with her everywhere she went if she could.

As my sister and I grow older, I realize more and more just how much she means to me and how important it is to me to have her in my life. My sister is someone who I can talk to and someone who will be there for me for my whole life. Even though our 6 year age difference seemed like a big one when we were young kids, as both of us mature we are constantly developing a deeper understanding of each other and that is something I will cherish for my entire life.

Monday, March 30

Walk Around Things Day

Many of us spend our days avoiding situations and things in our lives that we don’t really like to deal with.  However, many of these things are impossible to ignore and end up popping into our heads even if we don’t physically encounter them.  All of us know how it goes when you try so hard to get something out of your head but it ends up being all you can think about.  Today on “Walk Around Things Day”, you can spend all the time you want avoiding those unavoidable things in your life. 

One of the most often avoided entities is work; school-work, home-work, work-work.  All of us spend our days trying to get by and do anything but work.  We go on Facebook and tell people about how much work we have to do, we complain to coworkers about how our boss piled so much work on us this week that we have no idea how it is physically possible to get it all done, we do anything to not actually sit there and do the work we’re talking so much about.  (The thing we don’t actually realize is that if we talked a lot less about the work and just did it, it would be done before we were done complaining about it.)

However, in honor of this celebratory day, here are some ways to avoid doing your ‘whatever’work:

1)      Solitaire.  There are multiple kinds of solitaire any even different ways to play it.  You can play the computer version of regular solitaire with a 1-card flip or 3-card flip at the beginning or spider solitaire (the kind where you only match up cards of the same color).  If you are so inclined you can bust out some real playing cards and play regular solitaire (with one or three-card flip, of course) or you can play “handheld” solitaire which has different rules but is very convenient for small spaces and quick cleanup.  That’s six different ways to play a solo card game.

2)      Social-networking.  With social networking on the rise, there are many options to choose from when it comes to keeping up with your friends.  The most popular among college students is definitely Facebook.  With the picture uploading capabilities and the extremely entertaining applications such as “Bumper Stickers”, there are endless distractions.  As long as they stop changing the layout every 2 months it will probably stay popular for a while.  MySpace is still around, too, but it is definitely more music-based now.  Twitter is a site that uses only short updates to keep people in-tune to their friends’ lives.  People can send in updates via text, mobile web or on the site itself so people can know what they are doing every step of the way (such as what they are doing instead of their work).

3)      Making lists.  Lists can be very productive things, but when it comes to making lists about what you have to do on a given day, there is nothing that is a bigger waste of time.  By the time you’re done writing out your list and making little boxes next to each item so you can check them off later, you could have had 5 of those things done. 

So on this day of avoidance; focus on doing some things that would normally be considered a “waste of time”.  Today it’s all about procrastination and evasion.

April Fools' Day

April Fool’s Day is one of those days that doesn’t really matter in society, but boy do people like to celebrate it.  College students especially, in their ‘prankster’ mindset, love playing tricks on their friends and having an excuse for the victim not to get mad about it.  These pranks can be anything from a simple little statement such as, “I just got kicked out of college…April fools!!” or they can be really intense pranks such as saran-wrapping someone’s car.  Either way, April Fool’s Day is a day to be celebrated in the most untraditional ways.  Here are some of the best pranks done around the country.

Alabama Changes the Value of Pi:  In 1998, the April edition of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason announced that the value of pi had been changed from 3.14159… to the “Biblical Value” of 3.0.  It didn’t take long for the article to spread to the internet and, in turn, get around the world. 

Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity:  in 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes.  He said that Pluto was passing behind Jupiter, which would cause the gravitational alignment to be off and there would be a temporary decrease in gravity.  At 9:47 AM the station received hundreds of calls from listeners saying that they had experienced the loss of gravity.

Computer Pranks:  This is a prank that is easily done if you feel like playing a trick on an unsuspecting study buddy.   All you need to do is take a screenshot of the computer background (icons and shortcuts included) and set that picture as the computer background.  Then you delete the person’s icons so when they go to click on them, they can’t.  I witnessed this prank done first hand.  The prankster got quite a reaction from the prank-ee because there were important things on the prank-ee’s computer that he didn’t think he could get to.  He restarted his computer multiple times without success before the prankster told him what he had done. 

The Taco Liberty Bell:  In 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Naturally, hundreds of outraged citizens called up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger. Things only calmed down when Taco Bell revealed a few hours later that it was just a practical joke.

Here’s a prank to keep in mind for if you ever work in an office with a coworker you can joke around with:  Foil Everything-- buy several restaurant-size rolls of aluminum foil. Wait 'til the "victim" leaves for the day on March 31 then go into their cubicle or office and wrap EVERYTHING in foil: desk, chair, computer, books, pencils, etc. If enough people chip in and help, it won't take too long. Be sure to take lots of pictures!

I hope you had a playful and fun April Fool’s Day and keep these pranks in mind for next year!

Friday, March 27

Who is in the driver's seat of your life?

"I Am in Control" Day originated on March 30th, 1981 when Ronald Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt and then Secretary of State Alexander Haig was taken a little out of context when he said "I am in control here".  People only focused on those words out of all the others he had said about trying to handle the situation at hand.  From this, the holiday has evolved to a more personal level as a day to get things in your life in order and under control.  I think it is a very important thing to feel like you are in control of your own life so I’m going to talk about a few simple things you can do to feel in control on a day to day basis.

The first step to feeling in control is knowing what you want to accomplish out of your day.  It may be as simple as wanting to get some laundry done or as difficult as reading a 700 page book for English, finishing your math and physics homework, and studying for Spanish by 5pm.  Either way, you need to clearly define some goals so you can work on accomplishing them and therefore controlling your day.  I once heard the quote, “Either you run the day or the day runs you” and that is very true.  If you don’t take control of the time you have in a day, then the day will go by quicker than you can say “I am in control”.

After you have established your goals, set small deadlines to make sure your goals don’t become insurmountable.  You are less likely to feel in control if you haven’t done any of your reading rather than if you have done half of it.  Take small steps towards getting some of everything done, that way you won’t be left with a huge amount of any one thing at the end of the day. 

The last step is obviously to finish everything that you have started.  This may take longer than expected but if that happens, but keep in mind that life needs constant revisions, so it’s ok if deadlines need to be changed as long as you meet the ultimate deadline.  If you feel like you can’t finish an assignment in time make sure you talk to your teacher and let them know why you are not able to complete the assignment and they should be willing to work with you as long as it is a sensible reason.  A big part of feeling in control is taking matters into your own hands and working with people along the way to make the situation turn out the best way possible. 

I hope this helps a little.  Good luck getting in control!

What's My Age Again?

When you are young, birthdays are the most important day out of the whole year.  You want nothing more than to be older and be like your big sister, brother or cousin.  Once you get to about 13, the main focus is those milestone birthdays – 16: driver’s license, 17: r-rated movies, 18: lottery tickets, 21: legal to drink.  However, once you pass these milestones, you don’t really hear anyone getting super excited about getting older, unless they are really itching to rent a car, which you can’t do until you’re 25.  Everyone wants to savor their 20-somethings, stretching out 29 as many years as it takes to feel comfortable with being in their 30s.  March 22nd is “As young as you feel” day, a day to celebrate the fact that age is just a number, not a deadline or defining quality of a person. 

I think it is really important to ignore age as a measure of maturity or life experience.  Just by looking at a person, you can’t tell how much they have been through or what their background is.  Where, how, and when a person was raised can really affect the way they react to the things around them.  Some people are raised in an environment where there is not a prominent parent figure, so they are forced to grow up quickly by learning things on their own that a parent may have otherwise taught them.  Others have parents who shelter them from every possible “bad” thing, the ones who can’t sit in the front seat until they are 18 and aren’t allowed to play video games or watch any television shows or movies rated above “general audience”. 

Many things can affect how old you feel, including experiences with relationships, social situations, and even traveling.  After I traveled to Greece and seeing how another culture lives from day to day, it put a whole new perspective on things in my life.  I saw how another culture goes about their day and handle the little things that people don’t hear about on the news.  For instance, most of the showers I used oversees did not have curtains, just a fun fact I discovered the hard way. 

The point is that it doesn’t matter what experience you have or haven’t had.  You should feel as young or old as you want at any time.  If you feel like acting like a five-year-old and running around Wal-Mart with a cart full of toys, that’s ok.  You can even feel like cracking open an organic chemistry book once you get home from Wal-Mart and act like you are a studious 25-year-old graduate student.  Either way, you don’t need to always act your age.  If you are 85 and feel like training for a marathon, you are allowed to do that.  Your mind is much more powerful than your body because it is the thing that tells the body what to do.  Your mind is in charge of your outlook on life and your feelings about everything you encounter.  Your body is just the thing that allows you to be able to experience all of the things your mind dreams of.  So act how you feel, not just on a designated holiday for it, every day.

“You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

-C.S. Lewis

Friday, March 13

Who? What? When? Where? Why??

Questions are an essential part of learning things about life.  If no one ever asked questions, no one would ever pursue answering them, and there is a possibility we would still live in a world with no wheels, no electricity, or even no cell phones!! All great things started with a quizzical thought that provoked a person to find out an answer.  March 14th is National Ask a Question Day, a day to find the answers to your most urgent questions.  People ask questions for many reasons, and here are the top 12:

? To gather information
? To learn and teach
? To think clearly, critically, and strategically
? To challenge assumptions
? To clarify and confirm listening
? To stimulate productive conversation
? To build and maintain relationships
? To reflect and build awareness
? To solve problems and make decisions
? To set and accomplish goals
? To negotiate and resolve conflicts
? To create and innovate new possibilities

I would say the most common reason is to gather information.  These kinds of questions are asked every day in the classroom and in the business world.  These questions lead to the questions that help us learn, teach, and develop critical thinking skills.  In almost every class that I have been in, the teacher tells his students "there is no such thing as a stupid question."  This statement lets people know that all questions are appreciated and encouraged because it is very likely that someone will have the same question as you.  Teachers want their students to ask them questions because they will never know if they are getting the material across in an effective way if no one is responding to them.

I'm sure many of us have learned the hard way that if we don't ask questions, the teacher may decide to call on a random person to answer a question of his choosing.  In these scenarios, teachers have an uncanny way of sensing the least prepared person to answer their question.  This person may be sleeping, texting in class, or just full on spacing out, but when they are called on they have no idea what to do.  There is usually a deer in the headlights look, a few moments where they are wondering "what do I do??", and then they will finally ask, can you repeat the question? It has happened to all of us.

The next most common questions asked in everyday life would have to be the ones that challenge assumptions.  I remember clearly, when I was little, asking "why?" about 50 times a day.  When I learned that word, it unlocked a world of learning new things.  Every time I asked it, I got answers to things I had no knowledge of before.  It was amazing!  The downside to asking why so much, was when you hit a road block.  Your parents got tired of answering all of those questions, so they would cut you off with the infamous "Because I said so" or even just "Because".  That was the worst.

Questions can also help stimulate productive conversations that help people build relationships with others.  Imagine meeting a person for the first time and neither of you ever asking a question.  It would be very awkward and unnatural.  Both of you would be standing there, waiting for the other to say something about themselves that may provoke a thought for you to share.  Thankfully, humans are a curious species and we ponder things constantly.  There are the essential 'getting to know you' questions one asks like, "what is your major?" or "where are you from?".  But once people get to know each other better, they can get into some deep discussions from just one thought provoking question.  

In honor of this perplexing day, take the time to find answers to all of the questions that pop into your head tomorrow.  Look up words you don't know in the dictionary, ask someone you see how they are doing and really mean it, or type some questions into Google or Cha-cha for the heck of it.  Your brain has an endless capacity for use it!

Dream as if you'll live forever...

James Dean once said, "Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today."  This is one of my favorite quotes.  I first heard it when I was in elementary school--my friend had a poster in her room with a picture of James Dean and that quote on it.  I didn't really think much of it at the time but now I realize how much meaning it has.  Wednesday March 11th was "Dream 2009" Day; a day to think about your dreams and how you can make them a reality.  It is so important for people to dream.  Dreams can be conscious wishes or subconscious desires brought to life in our sleep.  Either way, it is a way of expressing our true desires and aspirations in life.

People have been analyzing dreams for centuries, trying to figure out their true meaning and picking apart every detail of them to look for what each piece represents.  Back in ancient times they used to believe that prophecies were sent to people through their dreams.  People would come flooding to the kings and tell them of images they had in their dreams, in hope to becoming an assistant to the king because they had helped him.  The ancient Romans and Greeks believed dreams to be messages from their gods and often brought dream interpreters along to battles.  Some even believed that the dream world was even more important than the real world because we have no control over what happens when we dream.  

Although I believe dreams that happen when we are sleeping are very important insights into our inner thoughts, in my opinion conscious dreams are the more important of the two.  Whether it is a "daydream" or a dream you write out on paper and put on your mirror to be reminded of every day, these dreams are what keep us going.  Dreams are the open-ended version of goals.  A goal has a set deadline and a specific line of tasks that are to be accomplished in the process of achieving it.  A dream, however, can be as broad or as specific as you want it to be.  When we are young kids we dream of being a ballerina or a firefighter because when we are just learning things about the world, those are the most impressionistic figures in our lives.  As we get older, we dream of being things like teachers or astronauts.  And when we are older still, we realize which of those things are the most important to us.  

Dreams are the first step at becoming who you want to be and what you want to achieve in your life.  There are no limits to how much a person can dream.  So dream big.  And more importantly, don't give up on your most important dreams; make them happen.

Friday, March 6

What's in a (middle) name?

Shakespeare once said, "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2)  But did he ever think about what was in a middle name?  Did they even have middle names back then?  I'm not completely sure about that second question but that's for another blog.  There are so many people with the same name, John Smith, Katie Jones, and endless others.  In my grade alone there were over 10 Rachels and even a girl with the same last name as mine plus an O.  That can get very confusing.  So how did society decide to fix this name game issue?  They added in another name.  

Middle names can be very important to a person and their family.  Many people's middle names are the name of a special relative or a very close friend.  They may have passed away or they may have a special place in the history of the family.  Another common theme to choosing a middle name is choosing a prominent member from one's family religion.  Some of the most common middle names are Michael, John, and Mary from the Bible.  In the case of today's celebrities, they choose the most random name imaginable and decide that this name is the best idea for a middle name (or first name for that matter...)  A not so common theme for choosing a middle name is choosing a word from another language that means something to the mother or father.  One of my friend's middle names (who is African American) is Noire, which means "black" in French.

Another way to pick a middle name is the use the mother's maiden name, and this is exactly what my mom did.  My middle name is Jensen, my grandpa's last name, and my mom loved the idea of keeping that name in the family.  My sister has the same middle name for the same reason.  I think that is a tradition that is not kept around as much as it should be because in a typical marriage the female takes on the last name of the male.  By keeping your maiden name as your middle name it never goes away!

It can be really interesting to sit down with your family and learn why you were given your middle name.  If you are able to, even try to ask your grandparents where their middle names came from.  I have gotten into some really interesting and memorable conversations with my family when these things have come up.  Take some time today to learn more about your heritage and learn to love your middle name!!

I Want YOU to be Happy

Happiness is a funny thing.  It can come out of nowhere and it can go away in a flash.  However, I would have to say that making someone else happy can be the best feeling.  March 3rd is "I Want You to be Happy Day"; a day completely dedicated to thinking about other people and ways to make them happy.  I know that most people don't even think about what makes them happy on a daily basis so people may think it would be too much work to think about what makes other people happy.  When it comes down to it, though, being in tune to other's feelings is a great skill.  

Some people are outgoing and let you know exactly how they are feeling.  Those people are easy to please.  It's the people who are more introverted that you need to work at.  By observing peoples everyday reactions to their surroundings, it can become increasingly easier to make people happy.  If one of your friends really gets excited when there are gummy worms at the dining courts, buy her some gummy worms for no reason!  I'm sure it will make her happy and you will feel great about doing that for someone.  It can be as big of an action as buying someone flowers and surprising them in their lecture in CL50, or it can be as small as telling someone they look nice that day.  Both are just as effective as long as they are done with care.

If someone wants to make me happy, it doesn't take a lot.  First of all, if it is a sunny day, I am guaranteed to already be in a great mood.  If it is a warm and sunny day, I don't need anything more than to be outside to feel happy.  But if someone wanted to totally top that and go for mega happiness, a simple compliment would do the trick.  I'm sure a  lot of you have seen the people who stand outside on campus and give out "free compliments".  Although those compliments are not very well thought out, it still feels good to hear "Hey I really like your scarf" or "Your hair looks great today", even if it is from a random stranger.  Those people may get a lot of funny looks but I'm sure they walk away from there feeling like they made some people's days just a little bit better.  

It is proven that physical activity can put you in a better mood.  I know that I always feel great after an intense workout or even after just running around playing frisbee or racquetball.  If you are having a bad day, feeling stressed or just feeling down, try to get up and get moving around.  Even if you just take a walk with a friend you are getting exercise and socializing; two things that all humans benefit from.  Last weekend I was feeling really overwhelmed with school so I just picked up and went to the RSC and hopped on the treadmill.  I just chugged along for a couple of miles and felt so great afterwards.  I went on to have a great and productive weekend, which is another great feeling.  When you feel in control of your life and your own happiness, you will feel happier more often because you are in touch with your feelings and you will be able to spread your happiness to others.  

The point of this day is not to sacrifice all of the things that make you happy to make others happy.  The point is to remember to take time for happiness in your daily life by spreading a smile. 
 I'll end with a quote:

"Never give up on the things that make you smile."  --Anonymous

Saturday, February 28

Umbrella-ella Day

Umbrella Day was a few days back (February 10th to be exact) but I thought it was a holiday that need not be ignored.  Umbrella Day is the celebration of the invention of the ingenious contraption that keeps you out of the hot sun in the summer and dry in the rain.  The first umbrella was invented over four thousand years ago and evidence has been found of them being used by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Chinese.  It was the Chinese, however, who took the first step in waterproofing them.  The first modern umbrellas were sold in an umbrella shop called "James Smith and Sons" in 1830 in London.  Umbrellas at that time were made of wood or whalebone and covered with alpaca or oiled canvas.  They were very popular in that area of Europe because of the typically rainy weather.  The first steel-rimmed umbrella was made around 1850 and made its way to the United States shortly after.

Today, umbrellas are made of nylon, plastic, or a cotton-based material.  They are made in hundreds of different colors and styles to ensure everyone can find an umbrella that suits them.  There is the classic black umbrella for the businessman type, the cute pink frilly umbrella for little girls, even umbrellas that look like superheroes for little boys.  Personally, I have a brown umbrella with multi-color polka dots. My umbrella also came with a handy little case to put it in when it's folded up so it doesn't get the other things in your bag wet.  

Rainy days are always interesting on Purdue's campus.  There are many different methods that people use to cope with the rain.  There are the people who go about their day as usual, walking to class like everyday just with the addition of an umbrella in one hand.  Others, and I would have to say this is the majority from what I've seen, choose to take the bus.  The buses on rainy days are unbearably crowded and when there is the slightest amount of humidity in the air from the rain, they get very warm very quickly.  I tend to take the bus on rainy days unless the temperature outside is nice enough to still enjoy walking outside.

The umbrella seemed to make a comeback after Rihanna came out with her hit song "Umbrella" in 2007.  The song has a very catchy beat and I'm sure if you've heard it you have caught yourself singing " under my umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh" multiple times before.  After seeing what a big hit the song was, Rihanna got a deal with the umbrella line "totes" to have her own line of umbrellas at Macy's! Who knew a hit song could turn into a business deal!?

Friday, February 27

National Tooth Fairy Day

Who doesn't have fond memories of losing their first tooth?  Well, I don't remember the actual time and place, but I know I was really young.  Children grow up thinking that when they lose a tooth, a mystical fairy will come and trade that tooth for money.  We tried to rationalize why someone would want to do that by making up stories about how the tooth fairy had a giant castle made of teeth, fully equipped with tooth furniture, because when we thought about it, we realized how silly it seems.  

At my elementary school, losing a tooth was a huge deal.  If you lost your tooth during school, you got to get out of class and go down to the nurse's office and she would give you a little box for your tooth! Then when you returned to class, you would get your name on the tooth board, a special little white board shaped like a tooth, to let everyone know that you had lost a tooth that day.  It was a great honor for a seven-year-old.  

I remember when my sister found out there was no tooth fairy.  After losing her tooth the day before, she put it under her pillow and woke up to find the tooth still there.  She came to me and told me the tooth fairy had forgotten her.  I told my parents that they hadn't given her any money and they told me they didn't even know she had lost a tooth!  The next night the exchange happened, but now my sister was suspicious.  Later that week she was looking for something in my dad's dresser and found her tooth box! What a devastating feeling it is to realize that something you had believed in is not true.

Tomorrow on tooth fairy day, take some time to think about what the tooth fairy has done for you! :)

Saturday, February 21

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!!

This past week has been National Engineering Week, a week to celebrate all of the things engineers do for us in our everyday lives.  Friday in particular was introduce a girl to engineering day.  Surprisingly, there are still very few women in engineering today, despite the increase in popularity over the past few years.  Being at Purdue, it seems everywhere you turn there is an engineer behind you, male or female.  However, it is more likely that person is male.  

Research shows that girls and young women lose interest in subjects and the fields of study leading to engineering careers long before they enter college.

Ever since I was a little girl in elementary school, I was always encouraged to like math and science.  It ended up that I really did and still do enjoy solving problems in these subject areas.  I remember going to various "women in math" workshops where we would take a day off from regular school activities and spend our time doing fun math problems and working with other girls to solve them.  It was a really cool experience for me because I was able to use my love of math to work toward solving something that may have been too challenging in another setting.  Activities like these existed all through middle school and high school, although I did not take place in all of them.  

According to the National Engineers Week Foundation, only 20 percent of undergraduate engineers are women.  That's an improvement, but still not nearly as high as that number could be.  Being an aspiring engineer at Purdue, I find myself surrounded by guys in most of my classes.  Although there are plenty of girls in my classes as well, it is obvious that engineering is still a male dominated field.  It is the community's job to introduce girls to engineering, but once they have made the decision to become an engineer it is the job of their chosen university to keep them interested.

Purdue has a variety of programs for women in science and engineering to participate in and become associated with.  The biggest organization in this area is the Society of Women Engineers.  This is a national organization, with one of its biggest branches being right here at Purdue.  I am involved with this group and it is one of my favorite groups on campus because it is filled with fun, normal girls who are diverse and interesting.  We have social gatherings, such as a spring dance, and we also do community service and host a job fair in the spring semester.  It is a great organization for a female in engineering to get involved in because it sets you up with some resources and older people to talk to who have already been through the things you are going through.

Other organizations that Purdue has to offer for women in engineering, science and technology include Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for women in these fields, and WIEP, the Women in Engineering Program.  Both of these organizations have their benefits.  Phi Sigma Rho is a social sorority which is comprised of women with the understanding that they are all in challenging majors, so there is a very flexible committment schedule compared to other social greek life.  WIEP has a mentor programs which sets up a first year engineering student with an older student who meets with them regularly and checks to see how classes are going throughout the year.  All three of these organizations do a great job at making women feel like they are not alone in their pursuit of a major in a male dominated field.

Friday, February 20

International Friendship Day

College can be a terrifying place.  Being on your own on a big, scary, unfamiliar campus can be lonely and make you feel very uncomfortable.  However, I have found something really great about college, you are never really alone.  There is always someone in the dorm room, study carol, or classroom next to you going through the exact same thing you are.  The only thing you have to do is step outside of your small world and meet these people!

When I came to college I knew very few people.  There were about 12 people who came to Purdue from my graduating class and a few more from earlier classes.  So naturally, at first I called those people up to hang out in my free time because it gets tiring having to introduce yourself to fifty new people a day.  People find comfort in having people around who come from the same background as they do, and that's ok for a while.  However, in order to become a more fulfilled and open-minded person, you need to branch out and meet all types of people.

My BGR leader told our group a great quote about trying new things,
There is no growth in your comfort zone, and no comfort in your growth zone.
I found this quote to be increasingly true as my early college days went on.  Experiencing things for the first time is scary! Think about your first day of classes, your first lunch in the dining courts, or your first exam in Elliot Hall...all potentially terrifying things.  However, once you got over the initial feelings of discomfort, you open yourself up to a world of new possibilities.

The same goes for making new friends.  College is the perfect place to find the biggest variety of people you may ever see.  Each person has something different to offer and it is really amazing to see all of these unique personalities come together in one place.  It is the time to find who you really are and be that person.  By being yourself and staying true to that, you are going to meet far more people than if you just join every club you see a flyer for or if you don't go out there and try in the first place.  

In high school, people were so concerned with what group they were associated with that they really didn't give themselves a chance to open up and let people see who they really were.  College life really has a laid-back feel that allows people to be themselves and share that with other people.  I have met such a diverse group of people from California to Connecticut and even some from far away countries.  It is really cool to see how someone who lives miles away, goes through so many of the same things as you do on a daily basis.  

If you really allow yourself to just be yourself, you will be able to find a mixture of friends who share some aspect of your life.  Whether it be my love of music, my passion for delicious food, or my enjoyment of exercise, I have found at least one person who shares one of these qualities with me, and I have made some really wonderful friendships out of it.  

Friday, February 13

Friday the 13th!!

Overall, I am not a very superstitious person.  I have broken many mirrors in my lifetime, spilled many a saltshaker, and even crossed paths with a few black cats, but I wouldn't exactly say that these things have made me an unlucky person.  On the contrary, I feel that I am a very lucky person when it comes to having great friends, a wonderful family, and a great education.  However, today just seemed to be an unlucky one for me and the people around me.

 I was fooled by the bright shining sun when I woke up after a rare occurrence of 10 hours of sleep.  It seemed like today would be day three of the wonderful 50 plus degree weather we had been having, but that was not the case.  I checked to see what it was like outside and it turned out that it was only about 37 degrees at the moment--not terrible for the freezing weather we are supposed to have in February, but still colder than the days before.  It seemed like a very low-key, relaxing Friday, but around 1 o'clock things got interesting.

After getting out of CS 159, I met up with a couple people from my class and walked over to Ford to grab some lunch.  We got to the dining court and put all of our stuff down at a nice table by the window.  I got a nice salad with raspberry dressing, some guacamole dip with chips, and I was in the process of getting a hamburger when disaster struck.  Today was the first day I had gotten a hamburger from the dining courts here, and I don't know why but today I just really had a taste for one.  So I wait in line for a minute, grab a bun, grab a hamburger, and walk over the the condiments station.  It seemed like everything was going smoothly as I put on some pickles, a tomato, and some lettuce.  I walked a few steps further to the ketchup and mustard and as I was putting the top of my bun on my newly created creation my tray slipped, my salad flew toward me, and my guacamole dip jumped off of my tray and loudly onto the floor, drawing all attention in my direction. 

It is a dreaded moment when someone drops a something in the dining courts.  They must make the plates and bowls there out of some super-echoing material because no matter where you are in the dining court, you can hear if someone drops their tray as if they are standing right next to you.  Luckily I didn't have one of the breakable plates, because those not only make a noise twice as loud but they shatter everywhere!  

As I gather the rest of my food and check out the awesome new pink stains on my fleece from my salad dressing, I apologize to the worker who had run over to clean up my mess.  He told me it was ok, but NOT TO DO IT AGAIN.  I chuckled, but he didn't seem to be joking so I scurried away from the situation.  When I got back to the table, I wiped my now pink-stained hand off and shunned my salad from the rest of the food on my plate.  

As we all started to eat, my friend realized that she did not have her phone.  Everyone has a slight panic attack when they can't find their phone, because now-a-days everyone's life is on their phone.  No one really knows other people's numbers anymore because we never have to dial them, so if someone does lose their phone, it is pretty a given that they will make a facebook group asking everyone for their numbers.  The odd thing, though, is when you get an invitation for someone's "Help, I lost my phone" group, and you never remember giving them your number in the first place.  When that happens to me I usually just ignore the invitation, in the nicest way possible of course.  But back to the story.

My friend looked in her coat pockets, her backpack, and all around the places she had been in the dining court, and her phone was nowhere to be found.  She couldn't remember when the last time she had it was, which always seems to slip people's minds when they need to remember such an event.  So she decided to head back to the classroom we were in to look for it.  I haven't heard from her yet on if she found it or not, but I hope she does!!

In the middle of all of this, I checked my phone and saw that I had two missed calls and three text messages that I had missed in the midst of all of my food-spilling chaos.  Lately my phone has made it a habit of not telling me when someone is calling, or displaying the wrong time whether it is nine minutes off or an hour off, but that's for another rant.  I am going to the University of Illinois this weekend to visit my boyfriend for Valentine's Day, and as it turned out, his car wouldn't start.  He was planning on picking me up later today but when he got to his car it was completely dead.  Unlucky event #3.  However, the last of my three messages was my boyfriend telling me that he had found someone else who could drive, so that bit of bad luck, luckily, didn't last for long.

So the moral of my story is, it doesn't matter if you believe in crazy superstitions about random days, or if you are generally a lucky or unlucky person, but at any given time you may be hit with some bad luck.  The best thing to do is just roll with it and laugh about it later because you can't take life too seriously.  The best days are the ones when things don't go perfectly and you get to tell a story because of it! No comedians get their jokes from experiencing perfect days every day.  They tell you the stories about when they saw someone get hit in the face with a tire, or when they slipped all the way down the stairs of the Purdue Union.  The best thing to do is just enjoy life the way it happens, and find some time to smile :).

Friday, February 6

One stick, two stick, POP!

February 6th must be a busy day because today is also bubblegum day!! Who doesn't love bubblegum?  Some of my fondest memories of this sticky snack include images of a dusty softball field or sneaking pieces into my elementary school classrooms.  I even remember when I first learned to blow a bubble; it was such a great accomplishment! Bubblegum is just one of those things that makes you smile and feel good no matter where you are or what you're doing.  Here are some fun facts you may not have known about this delicious treat.

** The biggest bubble ever, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was 22 inches in diameter, 1 1/2 times the size of a large pizza.
**Double Bubble was included in the ration kits for soldiers serving in WWII.
**Sixty to seventy percent of bubble gum is sugar :)
**Chewing gum burns about 12 calories per hour (not quite enough to count as your heart healthy exercise)
**Chewing gum on an airplane will keep your ears from popping (I always chew Big Red on planes)
**The top ten most popular brands of bubble gum are as follows:
1) Hubba Bubba Max
2) Stride (my favorite daily gum)
3) Trident
4) Bubble Yum (my favorite gum to chew during softball games)
5) Bubblicious
6) Orbit
7) Big League Chew (gum that looks like strips of chewing tobacco and helps promote athletes to chew gum instead of tobacco)
8) Double Bubble
9) Extra
10) Winterfresh

Which one is your favorite??

Wear Red Day

This month is National Heart Disease Awareness Month, and February 6 is the day to show your awareness and wear red.   Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women so I am going to talk about some ways to help reduce your risk of a heart attack or other heart related injury. 

When it comes to a healthy heart, it’s all about eating right and exercise.  These are things that not everyone likes to do on a regular basis, especially when there are so many more fun things to do rather than run around a track and so many more delicious things to eat besides celery.  Here are some tips to make these tedious tasks fun and easy.

Instead of going to the gym to tediously lift weights or run on a stationary object, do something fun! There are so many more options out there such as just dancing around your room or taking a walk around the neighborhood.  One fun thing my friends and I have taken too is group exercise classes.  At the Purdue Co-rec. there are “Group X” classes which offer a variety of hour-long classes to attend from ‘Cardio Blast’ to Kickboxing to ‘Get on the Ball’!  The pass only costs 40 dollars for the semester and you can go to as many classes as you want.  It’s a great deal!  The classes are taught by really fun and upbeat student instructors and whether you go with one friend or 20 they are a blast!!  The cardio classes really get your heart pumping and the classes focused on body sculpting do a great job of toning. 

To get your daily amount of fruits and veggies—aim for the colors of the rainbow!  Remember ROY G. BIV!!

R: apples, red peppers, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon

O:  oranges, tangerines, clementines, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pumpkin, peaches

Y: Pineapple, yellow peppers, papayas, lemons, apricots, corn, bananas

G: green apples, artichokes, asparagus, avocados, green beans, broccoli, cucumbers, green grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi (my personal favorite), limes, green onions, peas, green peppers, spinach, zucchini

B, I, V: blueberries, June berries, purple grapes, raisins, prunes, figs, eggplant, blackberries

With all of those options, how can you not get the right amount of daily produce?  You also can’t forget your three daily ounces of whole-grain foods such as whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread and pasta, and brown rice.

By doing all of the things above, you will reduce your risk of high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.  So start your heart-healthy routine today!!

Punxsutawney Phil's Big Day

As most of us know, Monday February 2nd was Groundhog Day.  I feel like this day was made a much bigger deal when we were in elementary school.  It was an event that would take up the whole day.  We would have pages to color and fun activities to do throughout the day. Now, if we even have the time to remember that February 2nd is Groundhog Day, we may think about it for five minutes at the most and move on.  No one really takes the time to think about where this holiday came from or what it means.  So for all of you busy college students, here's a quick re-cap.

For thousands of years, Candlemas, the Catholic celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and Groundhog Day have been celebrated on the same day.  We all know that there is a phrase about what happens when Phil sees his shadow, and this is the formal one:

If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might.
 If Candlemas Day be cloudy and grey, winter soon will pass away.

So this means if the groundhog sees his shadow there are six more weeks of winter, but why six weeks?  Apparently, this tradition started with the early Christians in Europe.  It started mainly as a celebratory milestone in the winter, where the weather on that day was important, but the groundhog didn't come into play until later.  This tradition was passed on to the Germans who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day a hedgehog would show its shadow predicting six more weeks of winter, which they called "Second Winter".  

The tradition was passed on the States when the Germans came to Pennsylvania, where they decided the groundhog was a close equivalent to the European Hedgehog.  Apparently, this was an animal known for its intelligence because it was deemed to be smart enough to know that if it saw its shadow, it would scurry back into its hole for six more weeks of winter.  I bet that was more than you ever wanted to know about Groundhog Day, but I hope it answered some long thought about questions! :)

By the way, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.  Are you surprised?