Monday, May 14, 2012

Farewell Readers: My Blogging Experience

Well, I never thought I would see this day come! This is my last blog, my ninetieth blog!!!! At the beginning of the year we were told that we had to have thirty blogs each term, and three terms later, here is my ninetieth blog! Over this year, I have grown to like blogging for the most part, but also despise it in some ways.

It is an outlet for my thoughts. I like blogging because I feel like I can write about anything and everything that interests me. My blog is about my feelings towards people and events. If people don’t care to read my opinion, then they can move on and read the next blog they come across. I have written about a multitude of subjects ranging from topics about death, to winning the National Show Choir championship! I like seeing my blog because it shows me that I can be creative! People always said I could talk about anything and everything, and as I see my blog, that is definitely true!

It can be fun. Sometimes if there is something new that comes into the news, I can write about my thoughts and experiences relating to it. Also, sometimes if I am riding in the car, and a really good blog idea pops into my head, I get excited to write about it! Some topics are very fun to write about and when I have a strong opinion about something it can be fun to express that through writing!

Sometimes it is too much. After ninety blogs, I have absolutely no idea how I came up with ninety topics to write about. Thirty a term is a very high number for each term, and it definitely takes some digging in order to find topics to write about. For me, there shouldn’t be a set number because I know that my blogs are best when I feel inspired to write about something. However, when I don’t have any inspiration, my blogs can be complete crap. The number shouldn’t matter; the quality is what really counts.

For the most part, I am grateful for this blogging experience. I know that next year I will look back on my blog posts, and I will feel very proud. However, the real question is: will I ever blog again if I don’t have to? The answer: probably not. While it was fun while it lasted, I don’t see me plopping down in front of my computer ever again to write another blog. Having a blog pushed me to become more creative and it helped me become a better writer.

I will never forget the year I wrote ninety blogs!
¡Adios for now readers!

How to: Have a GREAT Audition

Every year, multiple times a year, I go through an audition process. When I was younger, I used to get very nervous about how I might do and how I might come across. However, now that I audition so often, it has almost come to be second nature. However, even though I have gotten use to them, I still get nervous. I have found some things though that helps calm my nerves, so I have the best audition possible!

Prepare yourself: The best way to do well in an audition is to feel prepared. I know that when I do not feel prepared, that is when my nerves get to me the most, and then I psych myself out. When I psych myself out, that is when I mess up. For example, when going into a vocal audition, warm up before hand and have your song that you plan on singing as best it can be! You want to feel comfortable with what you are doing because when you feel comfortable, you can also feel confident. I understand that sometimes things pop up spur of the moment, but even then, find time to prepare yourself with as much time as you can. You always do better when you are prepared!

Smile: My favorite thing to do is to smile. When you have a smile on your face, you can do anything, or even master anything! By having a smile on your face, you show the people you are auditioning for that you are confident in what you are doing. Even when you mess up, if you keep a smile on your face it shows that you will pick up and go on. Messing up is okay, you just have to keep yourself composed. If you physically show your distress about messing up or make a crude comment, it shows bad sportsmanship and it shows people that you are afraid to make a mistake. No one is ever going to have a perfect audition. What makes an audition perfect is how they feel about it afterwards, not how they perform while doing it.

Breathe: The most important thing my mom has always told me to do before I go into an audition is to BREATHE. Yes, this might sound like common sense. However, I don’t mean the little breaths that we take constantly throughout our day. I mean the kind of breaths that soothe your nerves and your body. These breaths are deep breaths that calm you inside and out. Yes, you might sound funny while taking three deep breaths in and out, but trust me it actually works! Breathing is the key to doing well. Next time you go to dance in front of someone or sing in front of someone, just remember to take three deep breaths, and you’ll feel a thousand times better!

Some people say they don’t get nervous before they audition. However, I believe that nerves are good. They get your adrenaline going and they really help you do your best. But, before you audition remember to prepare yourself, breathe, and smile! It will always make you feel better and it will allow you to have the best audition possible!

"Take AP"

At Kennedy High School we are pressured all year long to “Take AP.” It is basically our principal’s motto that she lives by. AP stands for Advanced Placement; it is basically a college level course given in high school. At the end of the year you take a final exam that determines whether or not you will get college credit hours. You have to pass the test with a grade of 3, 4, or 5 (out of 5) if you want the credit.  There are some people that take one AP class, and there are some that take up to six. AP classes at our school venture from really easy, to very hard; it is all in the teacher. I have been taking AP classes since freshman year. None of my AP classes have been so hard that I drown in class work, but they have been very stressful.

At our school, we have a variety of AP classes that are offered. We have AP foreign language classes, math classes, science classes, social studies classes, as well as language arts AP classes. This makes it quite easy to take multiple AP classes all at once. I have taken an AP social studies class every year, and one AP language arts class. They are hard, but they are also tedious.

How well you do in AP is basically all on the quality of your teacher. You would think that the teacher must be good if they are going to be teaching AP. This is not always the case though. I have had some AP teachers that really do not teach you at all, and you are left to learn the information all on your own. This is extremely frustrating to me because I believe that if you expect me to know the information, I expect the teacher to teach it to me. I will do a lot of work on my own to better understand the information; essentially, it needs to be at least semi-taught to me first.

The whole year, each student is working to learn the information for the final exam in May. The final exam contains multiple choice questions, a document-based essay question, as well as two free response questions. The exams tests your knowledge of the information covered all year. For me, it is very hard to remember specific details we learned in the fall, and test over them in the spring. A lot of reviewing is involved before the final exam takes place. This review is started many weeks in advance; most of the time it is personal review with some in-class review.

I enjoy taking AP for two reasons: The first reason: it raises my GPA to a five point scale, rather than a four point scale; the second reason: it challenges me and gives me an opportunity to experience college material before I actually get to college. AP classes are nice in high school, and I am very lucky to get to have the chance to take them because not all high schools offer AP. I know that when I get to college I will do better and be more prepared based on the preparation I had in high school. However, the score I get on the exam is all about what was taught to me and how it was taught to me through my personal studies and the teacher.

Money: Saving vs. Spending

Money is a key part to our lives. However, it is all in what we decide to do with it when we get it. As I mentioned in my last blog, I have just gotten my first job. With my first job, also comes a pay check. I always look forward to my paycheck, but it is all in what I do with it.


Saving money is always important. My mom has raised me to save my money, because sometimes when you least expect it, it might come in handy! I have always been very good about putting some of the money I get/make into savings because when I go to college, it will come in handy. Ever year around my birthday and Christmas, I always make sure to put at least half, if not more, of the money I receive into savings. I like knowing that this money I have put in savings is money I have made and saved all on my own. It will make using it more someday in the future more important, but it will also make it harder to spend!


Every girl knows that shopping is more fun when you have the money to spend! I love spending money on new clothing or new accessories. However, I HATE spending money when I go out to lunch with friends, or when I have to get something I need. A lot of these necessities are simple and are usually not very much fun. When I look in my wallet and see that I have $50, and then later look and see that I only have $30, it does not make me very happy. Recently, I went to buy Mother’s Day cards. Mother’s Day is a great holiday, and I enjoy saying thank you for all the women in my life have done for me. However, this was the first year that I had to buy my own cards. My mom use to take me to the card store, and she would pay for the one’s I picked out. However, this year it was not the case. All I can say is, CARDS ARE EXPENSIVE. It is definitely a news flash to me when I realize how much the little things cost in life.

Whenever I receive my pay check(s), I always take some of it to spend, and I put some in my savings account. Saving money right now is probably the most important thing I can do because soon enough, I will be on my own, required to pay for my own things without the support of my family. Spending can be fun, if you are spending it on something new that you’ve been looking forward to getting, however it can also be tedious and bring you down!

Pros and Cons to an Online Class

This term I am taking an online government class through my school. I am required to take government before I graduate and next year I have a full schedule so I will not have the opportunity to take it as an actual class that I attend every day. I have never really been the one to procrastinate, but an online class is completely different and the work schedule is something that is new to me. Part of me is glad I have this experience of taking a class where I have to manage my time efficiently, but also part of me regrets taking it as well.


I am taught time management:  By taking this class, I am forced to monitor my time in an efficient manner. There are no deadlines to when I have to complete each assignment, except for when I have to finish the class which is June 22nd. There are eight units, with multiple sections within each unit, and I am expected to have everything done by the time that date rolls around. This is different for me because I am used to having teachers set due dates for certain assignments; that is why I didn’t have a procrastination problem. Now though, since there are no due dates, it is surreal for me to have to monitor my progress and set personal due dates for myself.

I can do it when I have time: I lead a VERY busy life, so I can do my online class when I have time to myself. This is nice because I can do the class whenever I want, without feeling like I am going to get penalized for turning in an assignment late. If I have immediate homework in my actual classes at school one night, I don’t HAVE to do government that night!


Procrastination will bite me in the butt: Taking this government class is all about monitoring your time. There are some nights where I feel too tired from all of my other class work and I don’t want to work on government. Being a typical teenager, I would rather sleep than fill out worksheets and read. In my other classes, there is always SOMETHING more I could be doing, like reading, blogging, or doing more worksheets in order to get ahead in my classes. However, when I get ahead in other classes, I am really getting behind in my government class. There are eight units, and I am only half way through unit three; I started this government class in March; it is now almost the middle of way. I really need to pick up the pace if I want to get it all done in time!

It is tedious:  This government class is full of readings and worksheets; that is honestly all it is. I personally get very bored doing the same thing over and over. The worksheets contain vocabulary words as well as key points in our government that we are required to learn. On every vocabulary sheet, the “U.S. Constitution” is supposed to be defined. After unit one, I knew what the U.S. Constitution was and what it did, it doesn’t need to be reiterated to me EVERY unit. Motivation is harder to find when it is just tedious work that does nothing for me.
Every day I regret taking the government class because I feel like I am putting too much on my plate at once. I have seven other classes, and this one was just an extra topping that wasn’t really

Having More than One Option

Many people go on multiple college visits before they finally make the decision on which school they would like to attend. However, there are some people that go on one visit and immediately make the decision to attend there. My philosophy is why would you only visit one school when there are so many more out there that you have yet to experience? If you only visit one, how are you going to decide which school is really best for you? In order to find out which school is the best one that fits you and feels like home, you need to visit more than one.

I have gone on five college visits so far. I like going on all of these visits, because it allows me to compare and contrast what I like about one school in comparison to another. However, my mom doesn’t want me to go on too many more because she is afraid that they will all get jumbled up in my mind and I won’t remember as clearly which school was which. In a way, she is right. All of the schools I have gone to visit are four-year private, liberal arts, in the Midwest. Because of this, they all look pretty similar: older buildings and a lot of trees. So far I have found two schools that I really like and that I am interested in applying to. Even though I have these two schools in mind, I would still like to visit more schools so that I have more options if something doesn’t go my way. This is where my mom and I disagree, she wants me to stop, and I want to keep going.

My point of view: I did average on my ACT and I am in the top ten of my class; most people would say that I probably won’t have trouble getting into the school I want to get into. However, I am very superstitious and I am worried that if I only apply to two, I will only get into one, and that will be my only option. When I keep looking, I am expanding my number of schools that I may be interested in, and the schools that are interested in me.  I don’t want to be rejected and then only have one school as my option. I want to have the opportunity to choose, not just be forced to go somewhere. By having more options, I feel like I will be better off.

My mom’s point of view: My mom doesn’t think that I will have any trouble getting into either of the schools. She also thinks that both of my top schools are equally great schools that I would succeed at. She wants me to stop looking because she doesn’t think that I will find anything I like better, and she personally likes both of these schools as well. Like I mentioned before, she believes that if I visit too many more, I will not be able to decide in the end which one I want to go to, and it will lead to a stressful experience. However, my mom was one of those high-schoolers that visited two schools (ever) and only liked one, and relied on that one. Luckily, she got into that school! But, I think she thinks that if it worked for her, it will work for me. And I personally want more than one option.

I know this summer I will continue visiting schools in the Midwest in the hope of finding another/more that I am interested in applying to in the fall. I know that will personally be more comfortable with the college application process if I am not just relying on getting into two schools, ultimately possibly having to rely on one. My philosophy is that it is always better to have more than one option.

Having a Job

I have always thought about the day when I would have an actual job. For many years now I have been a babysitter for about ten different families. I loved babysitting because it wasn’t something I had to do EVERY day or on a certain day each week; I could build my own hours and work when I wanted to work. I live a very busy life, so it just worked out perfectly. However, the thing I did not like about just babysitting was that the money flow was not constant. There would be some months where I would have multiple jobs and the money I was making was GREAT! But there were also some dry months where I did not get called, and I was not making anything. Recently I realized that this was going to be a serious issue. I need to start saving my money for college, and I also needed more money to spend. This is when I knew I wanted a real job!

There is a little ice cream parlor in Cedar Rapids called Parlor City. I have been eating there ever since I was a little girl, and I always thought it would be so much fun to work there! I had/have multiple friends that work there, and they only had good things to say about the place, so I decided to apply. I applied right when they opened at the beginning of the season, so I could be one of the first applications reviewed. Soon after I turned in my application, I went in for an interview, and I was hired right on the spot! It was great knowing that as I left, I was officially employed. That same day, Bailey, one of my best friends’, was also hired!

I was incredibly nervous the first time I worked. There was so much to learn, and I was worried that I was going to embarrass myself in front of many people. However, I held my head up high and I was willing to learn everything I needed to because I knew that that was the only way I would improve. And improve, I did! I can make almost anything on the menu, and I have been able to answer costumer questions myself, rather than having to go to someone else for the answer.

Having a job is surprisingly fun! I have met many new people, and I have made many new friends. It is nice going somewhere where you know you will be making money, pleasing people, and having fun with your friends! I always look forward to the days I get to work. My favorite thing about working is the constant money flow. It is nice knowing that I will have a pay check coming in every other week. I have been able to be more independent now with a job. I no longer have to go to my mom to ask for money for lunch or dinner, because I pay for it myself. I know that my being able to pay for things is also nice for my family, and not just me.

Work can be tiring, but I always get a good night sleep afterwards. This is my first official job, and I couldn’t ask for a better starter experience. I love being a part of a team and helping people. It is nice to know that something you made is going to a good cause, whether it is cheering up a little kid, or making a senior citizen’s day with a good ol’ yogurt cone! Parlor City is definitely the ideal place to work, and the free ice cream is also a plus!

Motivation Motivation Motivation

Motivation: noun; the act or instance of motivating, or providing with reason to act in a certain way.

Motivation is the key to everyone’s success. It is what you do in your free time, and it all determines how much you get done, and when you get it done.  As a teenager, I need to have motivation in order to succeed. Without motivation, I fail. Throughout this year I have been nothing but motivated to be involved in everything I can be, and grades/classes wise. However, recently, I have had a lack of motivation. It may just be that summer is so close, but personally, I find it hard to get out of this rut I have been in.

When it comes to school, motivation is the key that unlocks all success. Usually, I don’t procrastinate, and I WANT to get my work done early, so I have time to relax later. In the past month, this has switched to where I want to relax first, and then I save my work for the last minute. For instance, I have not had any motivation to blog recently, but knowing that they are due in a week, made me have to get them done!

Being a teenager, my favorite thing to do is to sleep. I do not get enough of it on a daily basis, and therefore whenever I have free time, all I want to do is sleep. Ultimately this ends up messing me up further because when I sleep during the day, I have trouble going to sleep at a reasonable hour at night. Because I don’t go to sleep early enough at night, I feel the need to take a nap later that day! It is an unending cycle that I don’t see changing before the school year is out. I lack motivation because it just seems so much easier to lie down and sleep than it does to do actual homework.

I know that this is just a rut I am in because summer is so close. However, I am worried that a little bit of the lack of motivation has been coming from early onset Senior-itus. All I hope is that my motivation kicks back into gear in time for the next school year to start. The lack of motivation isn’t fun for anyone because all it does is add to my stress level with other things. Next year, I am going to have to make a commitment to stay motivated because when I do, everything runs smoother! I always have to remember that if I want to succeed, I have to stay motivated!

Hoarding and Giving Items Away

I have always had a problem letting go of my personal items whether they be notebooks, clothes, or books. I don’t know why I have always been the type of person to want to keep everything and everything I get. My mom likes to keep stuff too, but she doesn’t keep as much as I do. I have trouble giving things up because I feel like when I do, I will someday need that thing again, even if it is just a meaningless coffee mug that I have never used.

The hardest things for me to give up are my old clothes. I have been losing weight for the past two years now and lately a lot of my clothes have not been fitting properly. Many of my t-shirts are mediums, and they are like dresses now. I especially hate giving up t-shirts because I have gotten them in certain places, and I won’t be able to get the same one ever again. However, these t-shirts are basically useless to me now because whenever I wear them I have to tie them in the back; when I do this, I look like a five year old! No one does that any more.

However, even though I never wear these t-shirts anymore, I still have them in my drawers. I also have accumulated new pieces of clothing that actually fit me. This leads to me not having any room in my drawers! This is a serious problem, because then my clothes start to expand onto the floor. I hate having a messy room, and clothes on the floor just make matters worse. I know I need more room in my drawers, but I feel like I will sometime need those other clothes. I always think, what if I to college and gain a bunch of weight and need those clothes again?  The reality of that happening is not really possible; even if I do gain weight, I am not going to want to wear clothes I wore when I was a freshman in high school.

Giving things up is always going to be hard to do and I need to do some serious spring cleaning. I need to realize that even though I may need these things in my life at one point or the other, I am not using them now, and therefore they are not needed. This summer I am making a vow to clean out my room, and get rid of things. When I have a clean and clutter-free room, I will feel much better mentally and physically!

Friday, May 11, 2012


I remember when I was about ten and the newest and coolest things to hit the market were Heelys. I thought they were so cool! You could wear regular tennis shoes while rolling around! I could be able to speed past anyone and blow them away with my speed…what a dream that was! I have never been able to balance, so obviously Heelys weren’t my thing. However, this was when I was ten. I am now seventeen; you would think that Heelys would have gone out of style or people would just stop wearing them. To my surprise, they have not. There are people who skate past you in the hallways or on the sidewalk because of their Heelys. If skateboards and roller blades are banned on school property, why aren’t Heelys? Heelys are a hazard and can cause many people harm in the hallways, and therefore should be banned within the school.

For the past three years, I have been roaming the halls of high school. Being so, I have seen many different things as well as many different types of people. Although, something I see more than I anticipated are wheels. These wheels come in a variety of forms. Some are on backpacks (which I was under the impression that we got rid of those when we graduated elementary school) and some are on the bottom of people’s shoes. For example, there is this girl who wears Heelys to school every day. She spends her time skidding through the halls, blowing past everyone and everything. She comes up right behind you, and then cuts you off as she skates around the corner! I swear my head spins around every time she passes me. Sometimes, the breath is taken out of me; before I realize what just went flying past me, I remember: Heelys.
This girl is such a sweet girl, but she can also be considered kind of dangerous. I have been in the hallway, and she has almost taken me out. She is very good at Heelying, and I trust her while she is maneuvering around the school in her shoes, but sometimes I feel like she won’t stop in time and she will wipe me out! However, she has been Heelying for many years, so she has become very good at doing special tricks in them. Last year for the talent show, she did a dance with sticks to music WHILE Heelying around the auditorium! It was so cool and I have to admit, I was a little jealous.
Heelys can be fun, if they are worn at the appropriate time. When there are multiple around and you are in a tight space, wouldn’t it just be easier to walk from one place to the other? Heelys are just like skateboards and roller skates, except for the fact that they look like actual shoes. They are dangerous and are not really supposed to be used as a means of transportation. However, when these shoes are in the right hands, they can actually be kind of cool; I just don’t like seeing them in the hallway and I shouldn’t have to fear for my life in between classes. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This I Believe: Beauty Within

Everyday people spend hours on end trying to look “beautiful.” They pick out fancy clothes, cake on the makeup, and curl their hair, all in an attempt to be perceived as “beautiful.” However, this is a common misconception that many people have. I believe that you don’t always have to look nice and pretty, to truly be beautiful.

Beauty is not about trying to look your best every day; beauty is about the person who takes it as their own, and owns it. A person cannot truly be beautiful without having confidence in who they are and it what they do. How you look is not what makes you beautiful. Treating people with respect and being a good and considerate person is what makes you beautiful. Many people come across someone that may appear sloppy or dress in an odd manner, but is it really fair to judge them based on what they are wearing and what they look like? No. You can’t judge a person based on what they look like and how you perceive them without getting to know them first. When you judge right away, you aren’t allowing yourself to experience the beauty that person has to offer. Beauty is on the inside, not on the outside.

In today’s world, there are Beauty Contests. Their sole purpose is to crown the girl (or sometimes boy) who is the most “beautiful.” When a person in a sparkly dress, smiling so hard it hurts, is “performing” in order to win the biggest crown on stage, they are defeating the purpose of true beauty. You can’t proclaim someone “beautiful” because of how they look with five pounds of makeup on their face, and a poof dress on that manages to take up the whole stage. A judge cannot accurately judge the beauty of this human being without getting to know them first. Instead of worrying about how they look on stage, they should be looking backstage at how they interact with the other contestants and how they treat people. That is what truly makes them beautiful, not how they look with the bright lights shining down on them.

We grow up with the mindset that everyone wants to be beautiful, and that in order to look beautiful you have to look nice. This is not true. You can measure the true beauty of someone by having a conversation with them. It doesn’t matter if they have sweat pants, a sweatshirt, and no makeup on, they can still be beautiful. If everyone would look pass the pretty clothes and makeup, the world would be a more beautiful place.  

Pre-Mature Senior-itus

It has been my experience, that every year I experience some form of school-itus. However, this year, I have been afflicted with pre-mature senior-itus.

Senior-itus: The feeling of wanting to graduate from high school before it actually is time to graduate.

For the past couple of months now, I have been dealing with this disease. There are a multitude of reasons I may be suffering from this:

1)      Many of my friends are graduating this year

2)     I am mentally and physically exhausted from the stress school places upon me

3)     Like I mentioned in my last blog, SUMMER IS SO CLOSE

I have told my parents that I feel like I am ready to graduate. But this may be my tired brain talking. In reality, I am not really ready to graduate, I am just ready for a break. I realize that by wishing to graduate, I am essentially wishing my life away. I am only a junior, and your senior year is supposed to be the best year of high school. It is the year I have been waiting for for many years!

What I think is my deal, is that graduation just seems so much closer than it ever has before, and part of me is just ready to get out. By no means am I ready to live by myself, away from my family (out of lack of maturity and closeness to my family), but part of me is ready to experience something new. I am ready to be around different people every day. I have been with the same people for over three years now; yes, I love them, but sometimes a change of scenery is good and helpful. However, I have been making friends for three years now. These are people I consider my very best friends, and I will hate to say goodbye to them. When you have become so close to someone, it is always going to be hard saying goodbye when you know you won’t see them all of the time.

I remember feeling this way when I was in eighth grade as well: I was ready to move on to new people and more opportunities. I am feeling the exact same way. I know that my future holds a lot for me, and I can’t wait to get it to it. But why wishing to be done now, I am ultimately wishing away the best years of my life. I know I need to slow down and take a breath, because my senior year is definitely going to be one to remember!

Summer Fever

This past year has been an awfully weird one when it has come to weather:
Last summer: it was scolding hot outside; it was so bad, I felt like I was suffocating every time I tried to breathe outside!

In the fall: it stayed warm until about Thanksgiving and even then, it wasn’t chilly like it normally was.

The winter: The first snow fall happened on January 12th! It was weird not having a “White Christmas!” However, it didn’t even snow that much; most of the snow was gone in February.

The spring: Spring started early, and I was wearing shorts before Spring Break! However, for the past couple of months it went downhill and became increasingly cold every day! (I was worried we were going to get snow in late April!)

Now: Summer is on its way, and it has been sunny and warm every day; I am definitely ready for summer.

The hardest part of the year for me is May. May is the time where school starts to become somewhat of a joke! The teachers are trying to wrap the year up, but what they don’t realize is that their students’ minds are not on the school material, it is on the need to go outside. I have trouble sitting in my classroom without getting restless when I see the bright sun shining through the windows.

Summer is an exciting time. It gives students the much needed break we deserve after a long, hard, and grueling year. It allows us to sleep in every day; travel whenever we want to; and it actually gives us free time to do what WE choose. Summertime is the best time because it is the only break I get all year. However, my summers always fly by, and I have yet discovered a way to slow them down.

This will be my last summer being a high school student. It is hard to believe that a year from now, I will be packing boxes and will be preparing to go off to college.  My summers have always been the best, because I always find ways to stay busy, without feeling overwhelmed. These next three weeks of school will not be able to go by any faster! Summer here I come!


The ACT has been around for many years. My mom, my dad and many more of my family members have taken it. However, even though the material being taught in school has changed, the ACT has not.

The ACT is an assessment that is basically required within the Midwest in order to get into college. My grandpa (an ex-Dean of Admissions) has told me that in the past, your ACT score was what got you into college; your ACT score was the main thing they looked at. Yes, they considered your grades and GPA, but your score on the ACT was what ultimately got you into a school. Now however, colleges have transformed in a multitude of ways. They look at your GPA and grades/classes you took in high school to decide if they want you, rather than just looking at your ACT scores. This is important because although many may be like me: smart, but an awful standardized test taker.

When I first started college searching, I became very nervous when I saw the ACT information. I have never been one to do well on standardized tests (such as ITBS or ITEDS in Iowa), but I have always been an outstanding student. I feel as though the ACT does not accurately test your knowledge. There is information on the test that is not always taught, or will be taught, but you haven’t taken it yet. What frustrates me the most is when they put information on there that you are “supposed to know” even though it won’t be taught until the end of your senior year. Typically, you should be taking the ACT as a junior, so you can start applying to schools in early fall. When you don’t learn this information until the end of your high school career, why are they testing it before you’ve gotten there? It just doesn’t seem fair to me.

I am glad colleges have begun to realize that the ACT is not an accurate calculation of one’s intelligence. The type of person they are in high school, their classes, as well as their GPA are much more important and say much more about how a person is as a student, which is ultimately what the school should want. I am in the top ten out of four hundred kids in my class, but I am only average on the ACT. Now that I realize schools are starting to look past the scores of that one test, I am much more comfortable with the whole college application process.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Forgotten Garden

Morton, Kate. The Forgotten Garden. Washington Square Press. New York, New York 10020. 2008. Pages: 552
I was a little skeptical about The Forgotten Garden because it seemed so large (in pages) and the title didn’t really grab me. Both my mom and Ms. A had read this book which positively influenced my decision to read it a little more. They both had said that they really enjoyed it, so I figured I would give it a try. However, I was not anticipating how much I would love the book in the end. I would say though that The Forgotten Garden was the most challenging book I have read all year. There were a multitude of things that made this book challenging: the narration change(s), the time frame(s), and the location(s).
Most of the books I have read this year had narrator changes that occurred every other chapter. However, this book changed more often than every other chapter. What made this book so hard to get into at first was that I had to constantly readjust to the character who was speaking. At one point it would be Eliza, then half way through the chapter it would switch to Rose. This made it challenging because without any notice, it would suddenly switch and the author left it up to the reader to figure that out. Later, in other chapters, it would be Nell and later it would be Cassandra. It became very confusing and took me a while to finally figure out how the author chose to do things. Her style was unlike one I had ever read before. Because she left it up to the reader to figure out, I was constantly thinking while reading. It kept me on my toes, and didn’t allow me to “daze-off” while reading, which was great! Sometimes though, I wished that she had clearly stated who the narrator was!
This book took place in a series of years. In some chapters, the time frame would be from 1907-1913, then switch to 1975-1976, and later switch to 2005. While reading, every time the chapter would change, it was always important that I check the right tab to see what era the chapter was taking place in. With the time change, also came language change. In 1907-1913, the language as more formal than it was in 2005. This was challenging because I wasn’t always clear on what the characters were saying. Reading the earlier eras took more concentration and thought processes, so I made sure that I understood as much as I could.
The setting of the book also switched frequently, so along with the date, I also had to be sure to check the location. Some of the book took place in Australia, but most was located in England. However, the location changed every time the era changed. It was also more challenging because I am unfamiliar with England and Australia and the towns/villages the stories were taking place in, so I was forced to form my own mental image of it. It is easier reading a book that has a specific location that you are familiar with because it allows you to picture it easier. However, by switching up the location and time, it made the book more interesting and exposed me to places I may never get a chance to visit.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; although the changes were sometimes frustrating and confusing, it made the book interesting. With the constant changes and switches, it kept me on my toes and didn’t allow me to get bored. I had never read a book with constant changes, and I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. By the end of the book, I realized that by providing the reader with information from different locations, years and characters we were ultimately able to solve the mystery of The Forgotten Garden.  

Flying (Part Three of Three)

There are a variety of emotions that I go through when I am going to my destination and when I am coming home from my destination. There are also many factors that affect my level of excitement and how I felt on my destinations.
To a Destination vs. From a Destination
To a Destination:
My favorite thing is waking up at 4:00am to go to the airport to get on a plane to somewhere new and exciting. Although I love my state of Iowa, it is always nice to escape and go somewhere different!
Energy: My energy is always high and I am always excited when I am getting on the plane to my destination. It lets me know that I am going to be somewhere new soon, and that all that is standing in my way is 2+ hours of sitting in a seat overlooking the sky. It is always exciting when the flight attendant announces that you are “beginning to ascend,” because it means you will soon be touching ground!
Packing: Packing when you are getting ready to go on a trip is always fun because you are deciding what you are going to wear and what you want to bring! When I start packing for my trip, it reassures me that my trip is near and that is all I begin to look forward too! When I pack FOR a trip, it is always nicely packed in there because I want to be able to unpack easily. The easier and nicer you pack, the easier it is to unpack! It is almost like a win-win situation!
The Countdown: My favorite thing to do before I leave for a big vacation is to start a countdown. I usually start this countdown three weeks before my scheduled departure. By having a countdown, it is constantly reassuring me that I will soon be leaving and will get to experience new things with new people. This is very exciting to me; however, it also makes me want to leave even more. The more I think about what I WILL be doing once I get to my destination, the more I want to be there.
From a Destination:
Getting on the plane home from somewhere fun or exciting is always hard. Most of the time, you want to stay and enjoy your time more than you already have. It is a reminder that you will have to return to reality once that plane lands in your airport back home.
Energy: My energy is always lower when I am returning from a destination. Going through security seems like more work than it was when you were going to your destination; the flight seems to take longer, etc. Everything just seems to drag. The plane rides are not nearly as much fun because there is not anything to look forward to anymore besides the feeling of being in your own bed again.
Packing: When I pack my suitcase back up after being somewhere fun, I tend to get a little lazy. To me, it doesn’t matter as much what my suitcase looks like on the inside because soon enough it will all end up in the laundry basket. However, my biggest fear in doing this is that the FSA people will have to check out my suitcase and see the mess I left inside. Usually, instead of just throwing everything in, I roll it up or fold it in a sloppy manner. Again, my energy is lacking when I have to pack-it just isn’t as exciting! It is almost as if I am packing away my trip.
The Countdown: The countdown is always fun when you are going somewhere, but it is the complete opposite when you are coming home from your destination. The last thing you want to do is “countdown” because it is almost like wishing away your trip. The thing I tend to do most is purposely try to keep how many days I have left of my trip out of my mind. I don’t like to think about having to get back on the plane to head back home. Reality isn’t as much fun because it means you will have to be productive again.

Flying (Part Two of Three)

There are many perks to flying alone, and also to flying with people you know. However, there are also some issues.
Alone vs. Parents
Flying alone can be fun and exciting, but it can also be scary. I was sixteen the first time I flew alone; I was a bit nervous, but I was confident in my skills and I knew that I would be okay.
Baggage: Flying alone means less baggage that will have to make it to your destination. This is important because sometimes planes become too heavy and they are forced to remove the heaviest bags. The less number of bags you check or your family checks, the less amount of chance you have of this happening to you. Also, when you check in with more people, your bags normally stay together; this means that if one of their bags gets left behind, the likelihood of yours getting left behind is very high. Baggage is always an issue when flying, and when traveling alone, it is just less to worry about.
Change in Plans: Airlines are so unpredictable; there could be bad weather or technical difficulties where your flight could get cancelled. By traveling alone, it is easier to get a seat on another flight. When there is only one person to reschedule, it makes finding a seat a lot easier. The more the people, the harder it is to rebook a seat on another flight.
Mood: Personally, I find it easier to fly alone because I am the only person I need to worry about. When there are more than the one parties involved, things can get a little stressful. My mood is usually calmer because I just need to focus on myself and takes away a lot of the stress. However, there are some sketchy people in airports, so when I am alone, my mood is sometimes on the edge. It is necessary to always remain aware of yourself, your baggage and your surroundings.
With Parents:
I have been flying with my parents ever since I can remember. Since I am only seventeen, it is sometimes helpful for them to be there in case of an emergency.
Baggage: When traveling with more than one person, there is always going to be more baggage. Baggage fees have gone up in price and will keep going up as gas prices keep going up. When traveling with more than one person, the likelihood of your baggage getting lost can be higher. However, baggage usually stays together if you check-in together. That means, if you are standing at Baggage Claim and you see one of your family member’s suitcases, your suitcase is likely on its way!
Change in Plans: It is much harder to rebook three or four more tickets on a different flight than it is to rebook one person. This makes it harder if a flight is cancelled or delayed and limits your chances of a back-up flight. However, if your plane does get cancelled in a foreign city, you will not be alone. Sometime it can be nerve-wracking to be stuck somewhere you are unfamiliar with by yourself. By having your parents, or travel companions with you, you will not be alone.
Mood: The more people there are, the more stressful things can get. Flying can be a very stressful experience, and the more people there are to worry about, the greater the tension will be.  However, the more people there are, the more potential opportunities for fun there is! When you travel with more than just yourself, it gives you someone to talk to so you aren’t just awkwardly waiting at your gate all alone.
Flying can be fun with or without your parents or more than just yourself!

Flying (Part One of Three)

I have been flying ever since I was just a few months old. Because I have been flying on airplanes my whole life, I do not have a fear of them. I have flown in a variety of ways and I am able to compare and contrast which ways I prefer.

International vs. Domestic


International traveling is much different than traveling domestically. However, they are also the same in a variety of ways.

Sleeping:  When traveling internationally, you better prepare yourself for a long voyage. Most of the time, time goes by fast but that all depends on what is going on on the plane. I traveled to Spain last summer, and my plane ride was eight hours there and nine hours back. The quickest way to make a plane ride go faster is to sleep; this is helpful when traveling domestically as well as internationally. However, when traveling internationally, your ability to sleep all depends on who is around you. Most of the time, people tend to put their seats back. My philosophy is that it is quite rude unless everyone behind you has put their seat back. When putting your seat back, you are just allowing yourself to be comfortable and not worrying about others around you.

Food: Finding a way to sleep can be difficult especially if you are on the isle. You risk the chance of getting hit by the food cart if you make any movement toward the isle. This is another thing that is different on international flights; they are required to feed you. They cannot let you go six plus hours without giving you either breakfast, lunch or dinner (or maybe 2 out of 3) depending on the time of your flight. The food however, it not always appetizing; they are pre-packaged meals that appear to be kind of sketchy. On my international flights, I would pick and choose what I wanted to eat out of the meal; I tended to stay away from the meat because I was never really sure where it was coming from.

Size: International planes are going to be much larger than domestic planes. This is because people normally have more luggage/heavier luggage. Also, international planes generally carry more people. This is because it takes so long to get to and from a destination that they can’t be making regular flights back and forth everyday like they can when you travel within our country. A bigger plane can be better because there is more space to move about within the cabin, but it can also mean more people. The more people there are, the more crowded it will be.


Sleep: Sleeping on a domestic flight is a lot easier even though there is not as much room. Usually there won’t be as much of a time change that you will have to adjust to, therefore getting sleep doesn’t matter as much because you won’t be focused on not having jet-leg. Personally, I prefer sleeping on planes that go through turbulence because it helps me sleep. It is easier for me to sleep on domestic flights because there is more turbulence because you are lower to the ground, where more clouds are located.

Food: Domestic flights are not required to serve you food. Usually, they do not hand out more than little packages of peanuts and crackers because of economic cut backs. (This was different in past years.) Now, flight attendants usually just come by and offer you a beverage. Depending on the length of the flight, beverages are not always offered. If the flight is under an hour, a beverage will not be offered. Usually domestic flights are not as long, so a beverage is likely to tide you over until you land.

Size: Domestic planes vary in size. Some can be large, but most are smaller. You usually don’t see a huge plane take passengers from Chicago to Atlanta. The sizes are usually smaller because distance is not as far, and planes can travel back and forth more than once or twice each day. By doing this, flights are easier to catch if one gets cancelled or delayed. Domestic flights offer more leeway because of the shorter distance needed to travel.

International and Domestic planes have a lot in common, but they are also different; flight experiences also vary. I prefer domestic plane rides because they aren’t as long and therefore I don’t get as bored as easily, which is always nice!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to: Stay Calm in a Stressful Situation

We all find ourselves in stressful situations at one point or the other. However, here are a few tips to help soothe these building tensions:
Breathe: They teach you this in yoga; the thing that calms your brain the most is breathing deep breaths. You should exhale and breathe in as many times as you need to in order to calm your nerves and emotions. This may be challenging, but it changes focus from the stressful situation, to something your brain knows how to handle! The deep breaths soothe you inside and out. You may look silly sitting there breathing deeply multiple times, but it will help you out in the long run.
Laugh it Off:  We all know that when things get stressful the tension builds. However, we cannot just sit there and stew over what is about to boil over. Sometimes the best thing to do to relieve the tension inside you is to laugh. People can be stupid and make stupid decisions. However, when someone messes up or something goes wrong, instead of sitting there wondering what “could have been” laugh about it. By hearing yourself laugh your spirits will lighten up a little. Laughing makes the heart grow fonder and laughing at these times is sometimes what is ultimately best for you and for everyone else. By laughing, you are able to let out the sound you want to, without saying the thing you really want to. It’s a win-win situation.
Bite Your Tongue: There is always something we want to say. Although, even though we want to say it, saying it may make the situation worse than it already is. By biting your tongue, you are not only protecting others from hurt, you are also protecting yourself. By the end of the whole situation, you may have multiple holes in your tongue; however, this is most likely what is ultimately best. By speaking our mind when it is not really needed, it could add to the stress and cause others to go off as well. When you bite your tongue, you are helping heal the stress rather than adding to it.
Focus Your Attention Elsewhere: Instead of focusing on the situation and how awful it is, focus on something else that will take your mind off it. By doing this, you are putting your energy in other places. Try to focus on something that will lighten up the tension or make people laugh or happy. Don’t just focus on another stressful situation that could add more worry to the current situation. By distracting your mind, you are ultimately helping yourself.
Stressful situations are never fun; however, with these helpful tips, they can make them better. The biggest thing to remember is to not say something you will later regret. Keep to yourself and soon enough the tension will pass and things will get better again. You control how much energy you put into a stressful situation; don’t let them eat you up. 

How to: Be a Good Boyfriend/Girlfriend

There are many philosophies on how to be a good boy/girlfriend. Although I am not an expert, I somewhat know what makes a relationship work and what doesn’t. Though not everyone may agree with me, here are some of the basics on how to be a good partner.

Be Honest: Everyone knows that “honesty is the best policy,” and that is exactly true. You cannot expect someone to read your mind if you have a problem. By being honest with your partner, you are able to communicate what is really bothering you. When you do this, you are able to get your issue out there where it can be fixed. If you keep something bottled up inside, it will eventually build up so much that it could eventually lead you to say things you don’t mean. I like to refer to people as a Coke bottle: You can only shake it so much before it is going to explode; humans are the same way. By being honest, you are able to relieve this issue and resolve your problem.

Complement Each Other: Everyone knows that a relationship should be built on what is on the inside and not what is on the outside. Even if the person isn’t the “hottest thing you’ve ever seen” on the outside, they should be on the inside. A relationship should be about making the other person happy and treating them like you would want to be treated. Your partner should complement you and make positive comments towards you. When your partner doesn’t do this, it causes the other person to go somewhere else for the compliments; this then causes issues. Just the simple, “You look nice today!” or “You are so beautiful” can really make a difference in how one perceives themselves.

Do Nice Things for One Another: Kind gestures can really make a difference in how we feel about our partner. Someone who is always willing to help the other and make an effort to go out of their way for the other really shows how you feel about the other person. A simple opening of the car door or helping to carry something shows that you are willing to help them and be there for them. It shows that you are a team and that you are willing to be a part of a team, rather than having the other person “ride solo.”

Respect and Trust: You cannot build a relationship without trusting the other person and respecting them. These two words work together to serve the same purpose. You need to respect your partner and realize that they may need time to themselves and with their friends; you are not the only person in the world that matters to them. If you spend every waking minute together you would get incredibly sick of each other and it would make the time you spend together less special. When you respect them, you also should trust them. When you don’t trust that they are doing the right thing, you are disrespecting them. Without trust in a relationship, you have nothing. However, you have to be honest if you want your partner to trust and respect you. All of these helpful tips intertwine together and all help make your relationship the best it can be!

Although I am not expert, I have seen relationships fail and I have seen relationships succeed. These were only a couple of tips on how to make a relationship work. However, the biggest tip is that in order to be in a relationship, you have to be willing to be a part of a team. It takes two to make a relationship work; the effort cannot just be given, it also needs to be returned.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Africa...Again (Part Two)

One thing my dad made sure to let me know was that it was not as bad over there as they were prepared it would be. CARE and other organizations have worked there long term with women in particular in gardens and irrigation programs and microfinance programs and cash for work programs; now, they are self sufficient and they don’t need as much help. There were some really cool success stories he told me about. Although there were great success stories, they were not always easy to come by. Women and villages worked very hard to be where they are now. They don’t take their success for granted.
The thing that upsets me the most is that in America, we take our resources for granted. We can just go to the grocery store or to our back yard with green grass and extra plants to get food and help keep us starving. We take multiple showers a day; use washing machines; run dishwashers. We over use water more than we realize (I am guilty of this as well) but it is doing no one good. It makes us look bad as a country. People are dying across the world because they are not getting the nutrients they need and the fluids they need to survive, while we have it is excess. Recently in Nashville I watched a “Water Show.” This was a fifteen minute show of water shooting up into the sky with music playing in the background; while it was very cool and fun to watch, it was also heartbreaking. My friend made the comment, “I love how we play with water while people in third world countries are dying because they don’t have it.” He is completely true. We are very wasteful in America. We throw away full plates of food just because we don’t like it; if we eat some but not all, we have no problem throwing the rest away. There are people that would kill to have this “leftover food” that supposedly no one wants. People want it; it just isn’t always to give it to them.
My dad’s company, CARE, makes it clear in their mission statement that they aren’t there to hand the people what they need. They are there to help them make sure they can do it on their own and make a life for themselves. This is exactly what they have done in Niger. Although tribesmen are becoming violent in bordering countries, Niger is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen to them. After all of their hard work to get back on their feet, it would be a shame to see it all go down the drain. Niger is a model country; it shows that when you really try, you can prevent a humanitarian catastrophe that is always a bordering threat.

Africa...Again (Part One)

In a past blog, I have expressed my dream to travel to Africa. This dream still exists and it is now more prominent than ever because recently my dad took another trip to Africa. On a previous trip, he traveled to Mali and on this trip, he went to Niger. Niger is located right next to Mali, and is semi-near the countries that are having a multitude of government issues. I was even more worried about my dad on this trip because I knew that Niger was in the top ten of poorest countries in the world.

Niger is a landlocked country in the center of Africa; it is eighty percent covered by the Sahara Desert. Because most of the country is desert, water and crops are scarce, making it very hard to survive. Niger has had many political issues in past years and were finally starting to get back on their feet again when riots and anti government rallies started taking place in bordering countries. Because Niger was one of the only countries in East and West Africa without issues, many people immigrated to Niger. When this occurred, many people were left without food and water, leading many people to die and get struck by diseases. If they don’t get help soon there are about ten million people who are at risk of starving to death. There are not enough resources to help everyone survive; they had trouble before the immigration issues, and now they are having even more problems.

I was aware of these situations when my dad left, but I was not aware of how bad it truly was. I probably did too much research on it and I completely freaked myself out. My dad freaked me out the most by saying that it probably wasn’t going to be safe to leave his hotel and that Americans were not always welcomed with opened arms. I was worried about not talking to him or having him keep me updated on what he was doing and how he was doing. Fortunately, he was able to send me text messages in order to keep me updated on his safety. He made it home safely and had unbelievable stories to tell. (I still have yet to hear all of the stories!)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Good Things Happen to Good People" Part Two

The last competition we went to was Show Choir Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee. I was unsure of what to expect at this competition; I knew that by no means was it going to be a cake-walk. However, like we were all year, we were determined to do our best show. There were ten show choirs competing at the Grand Ole Opry and we were one of them. If you made it past day rounds, you would get another chance to perform in finals (only six of the groups made finals). The competition was stiff, but we knew that if we stuck to what we had been doing all year, we would be great; and great we were.  After day rounds, we were in second place by a couple of points. The group ahead of us was SPECTACULAR so we knew we had to bring our A-game. When competing, it is hard to stay focused on having fun, because we are so concentrated on winning.
However, the next day when we performed, we were determined more than ever. We were so close to first place in day rounds, we knew we had to pull out our best show all year. This was our last competition as a group; our last show in front of many people; our last time to be together as a family. We had to make sure we went out with a bang. After we finished our last show, we all burst into tears and these were tears of joy and sadness. We would never compete all together again, and we knew that we did our best show we could have possibly done. Then it was time for awards; sixth place, fifth place, fourth place, and third place quickly passed by and then next thing we knew-it was down to us and the group that was leading during day rounds. The tension in the group was so stiff; we are all so nervous and we had no idea what was ahead of us. Next thing we knew, they called second and it wasn’t us. WE HAD WON. WE WON NATIONALS. WE WERE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.
As I walked out of the Grand Ole Opry wearing my bright yellow “Banana Jacket,” the greatest feeling came over me. I had people congratulating me and I was still crying from all of the excitement. The pride I had felt was like no other. People came all the way to Nashville to watch us; they wanted to see us; they realized all of the hard work we had put into our season. When people come up to us saying that they came all the way from Michigan to see US, it is a feeling like no other. I was so grateful to be a part of this great group of people. Our director had told us that “good things happen to good people.” We worked hard and we formed a family; we all had fun and wanted to do the best we could, and we did. When you work so hard and dream of something so big and it finally becomes reality, it is a feeling that is indescribable.
The group this year was amazing. I formed friendships that I know will last forever and I made memories that will forever stick with me. Every time I look at my “Banana Jacket” I am reminded of all of those great times. It reminds me that when you truly work for something, it can happen. It helps me to remember that you should never give up. My “Banana Jacket” gives me a sense of pride and gratefulness that I am a part of the amazing group, Happiness Incorporated. 

"Good Things Happen to Good People" Part One

I am a part of the award winning Happiness Incorporated show choir in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Happiness has been around since 1967, and has been an amazing group ever since. I have written about my experience performing as a “Fab Fiver” for the first time in a previous blog. However, this blog is a little different: it is about pride and being grateful.

Ever since July, we have been working to perfect our show for this year. The talent that lies within the group is unbelievable, and my director has been telling us that for three years he has dreamed about this group and the success that we would hopefully have. Like any newcomer, I was a bit nervous to be a part of this group; they have been grand champions many, MANY times and have had countless amounts of recognition. Coming into this group was a shock, but I was ready because I had rightfully earned my spot. I have dreamed about being in this group, and this year it finally happened.

Like many groups, we have travel jackets. However, our travel jackets are unlike those of any other group. They are bright yellow and we call them “Banana Jackets” because when we walk around in them, we look like a stampede of bananas coming to attack. I have always wanted a “Banana Jacket” of my own, and the day I finally got my jacket was amazing. It said my name on it; it had my pins; it was all mine. I finally had people asking to wear MY jacket instead of the other way around. When I put on this jacket, I feel a great sense of pride. I know that people recognize me as a member of Happiness Inc., and when they see me wearing it, I somehow get their respect. It is known that someone who wears a “Banana Jacket” has worked extremely hard for it.

Throughout our three-month-long show choir season, we went to six competitions. Out of those six events, we won FIVE. We made history by setting that record. In the history of Happiness Inc., they have never won more than three competitions, and we won five. This was an amazing accomplishment; we will forever be the year to beat. These five grand champions were not just given to us however, we earned them. We have been working our tails off for a good six months; we spend at least twelve hours a week rehearsing and perfecting our show. We all put in our best effort because we strive to be the best. Because we all have the same goal, we all work together. When we work together, it makes us a family.