Monday, December 16, 2013

Ultra-healthy Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

This will be short! Another Pinterest recipe that I tried out yesterday was a simple recipe for peanut butter banana ice cream, and when I say simple, I mean simple.  There are two ingredients: Peanut butter and bananas.  Seriously.  The trick is that the bananas have to be frozen.  I just threw a bunch of bananas in the freezer for this, but it's better if you slice some, put it into a ziplock bag, and THEN freeze it for 2-3 hours.  After they're frozen, pulse the bananas in a blender until they form a soft-serve type consistency.  Add in a dollop (very exact measurement) or two of peanut butter and finish mixing!  It's not quite ice cream consistency, but it's refreshing and yummy! If you want a more ice cream feel, freeze the mixture after you've mixed it and eat it then!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pinterest Pasta

Before my crazy finals week, I decided to have fun with some recipes that I found on Pinterest. Part of why I wanted to blog post this is because the link on the pin didn't lead anywhere useful. I've never done a recipe post, but I think this will be fun! This recipe has only a few ingredients, and you'll probably already have most of them at home anyways! The recipe calls for:
ziti noodles (the recipe didn't specify, but I found that 1 box of Barilla pasta works well!) 
1 lb of ground beef
1 package taco seasoning (I had a container of seasoning, so I just seasoned to taste)
1 cup water (this is for the meat. I didn't use it, but I'll discus that later!)
1/2 package of cream cheese (I used 4 oz.)
1 1/2 shredded cheese (I used a lot more!)

So, the first thing that I did was get my ingredients together!
I then set up my equipment. I set my oven for 350, got out a casserole pan, and started some boiling water (with a dash of salt and olive oil to prevent sticking).  I then got out a large pan, put some oil in it, and got to browning the ground beef!
There is no reason to have a tea kettle on the stove, by the way, mine was just there. Now, depending on how quickly you get your water to boil and what pasta you're using, you might do things in a slightly different order.  I browned the beef until there was no more pink anywhere. The recipe tells you to drain the meat, then add water before putting in the taco seasoning.  I used lean ground beef, so I decided not I drain and just used the oil that I had been cooking with while adding the taco seasoning. I just added some, mixed it up, then tasted a bit when I thought it was ready.  Then, I added the half a package of cream cheese and just mixed it together while still on low heat until it was creamy.  While/before/after this is going on, you want your pasta to be cooking. As soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and follow the directions on the box for aldente pasta.  When the time is up, strain it! 
Now that everything is individually cooked, the time has come to put it into a casserole! Start by spreading out the pasta in the casserole dish.
Then mix in about a cup of cheese, feel free to add more if you want it extra cheesy on the inside, but we'll be adding more on top!  Next you'll want to mix in your beef mixture and gently mix it all together.  Then add a liberal coat of cheese on the top, and the dish is ready to bake!
Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes and it should be ready to eat! My family ended up really enjoying it.  We pared it with some yummy rolls and a Caesar salad. Have fun!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Writing from the Heart

I haven't blogged for months now, and I am disappointed in myself for doing so.  I could use the excuse of how busy I have been, but I would just be making excuses.  I didn't start writing a blog to get famous, or share my Pinterest recipe stories, but to give myself a way to keep writing.  So much of my writing lately has either been rushed, or heavily stilted toward what I think people want to hear, rather than me just writing from my heart.  Last weekend, at the urging of my parents, I cranked out the last essay that I had to do for a college scholarship.  It sounded a lot like others that I had done, even though the prompt was pretty different.  I was writing what I thought that everyone would want to hear.
Nothing that I wrote was untrue, but it didn't feel like me.  That's what my dad told me when he read my essay.  He said that he "couldn't hear my voice" in it at all.  My initial reaction was anger - "What?! I just did what you told me to do and wrote the paper! Now I have to write a different one?!".  Then, about 2 seconds later, I became worried - "But that means I'll have to be writing it during the week! When will I possibly find time for that? How am I going to find a whole new angle to write from? I'm never going to go to college!!!!!....." and so forth.  It wasn't until I took a nice deep breath and considered the prompt again that it finally hit me: I did have another idea.
The essay prompt was a poem entitled The Summer's Day by Mary Oliver.  Not trying to look for how I could put in my accomplishments or what an admissions counselor would be looking for, I realized that the poem put a very vivid image in my head.  I waited until this morning to just sit down and write about it.  I just took that image from my head and put it on paper.  Of course I had to tie it into what I actually wanted to do with my life, but even though I made much the same points, this paper was completely different from it's predecessor.  What I wrote had come from my heart.  Of course it took my head to form the sentences and find the proper words, but I was conveying my emotions and my dreams, rather than just my ideas.
Writing should be about the heart.  Oh, I know that there will be plenty of projects and formal papers to write in the course of my education, but that shouldn't be all writing is.  Writing is art, as fluid and creative as paint or imagination.  I never want to lose that dreamy quality of being able to write my dreams and wishes straight from my heart.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Non Biblical Proof of Jesus

Yet again, I would like to share with the world that which I think. I don't always have the most interesting of thoughts, but I think that if it's worth discussing in World Religions, it's worth talking about on a blog. For this class I had to watch these videos entitled Biblical Evidence as Proof for Jesus Christ (I tried to include a link to the first one, I hope it works! If it doesn't, just search for it on Youtube!)  I thought that the premise would be interesting, trying to tie historical works into what the Bible already says.  Though it was interesting, I only watched the first video.  I found that they employed very sound topics of citing well known classical authors to prove their points.

I always find it interesting when new studies come out about historical evidence that may or may not conflict with or confirm what is already written in the Bible.  Though I find it as fascinating as the next person when some archeological artifact reflects what is told in the Bible, giving secular people something to consider when writing off the Bible.  Even accounting for this fascination, I do not believe that faith is based on gathering enough evidence to prove your point, any more than it is about finding the strain of perfect logic that brings your ideals above reproach.
I think that the premise under which the man in this video is basing his investigation is a very good one.  People ought to question random statistics and claims that are made without evidence presented to support them.  I find it terribly interesting that we gather much of our knowledge about ancient Greece and Rome from classical historians such as Tacitus, but try to ignore them when they disagree with something that we want to say.  I find it also interesting that Tacitus was clearly not a Christian, even calling Christianity “mischief”, yet he still confirmed the existence and execution of Christ.
I also find it encouraging that not only one trusted classical source, but also multiple writers of the time, agree on the basic facts of the recorded life of Jesus Christ.  Even the skeptics of the time did not doubt the fact that Jesus did exist.  I think that it is a relatively new and really very shallow argument that Jesus did not exist at all.  The heresies of the time included claiming that Jesus had never risen from the dead and that he was either all God OR all man, but never that he had never existed at all.
Even though I think that this argument is one that is ridiculously flawed, I think that it is still something that needs to be discussed in our society because of it’s prevalence.  I also think that it is important to use properly cited reliable sources, because many time people think of Christians only as a band of enthusiasts, rather than the theologians that we really are.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rick Warren TED talk Analysis

Many of you will have heard the name 'Rick Warren'. I was required to watch a video by him for my World Religions class. This is my analysis, and here's the link:

One of the first point that Rick Warren makes in this video is about spiritual emptiness.  He states that “everyone’s betting their life on something”, which can be very true.  Warren talks about this in terms of a ‘world view’, which he defines as how you look at the world, what you believe to be true, and what you put your faith in.  Though later in his career, Rick Warren became famous for the statement ‘deeds not creeds’, this idea of a ‘worldview’ sounds suspiciously like a confession or creed.  Because he does not specifically mention his ‘deeds not creeds’ movement, I will not even begin to explain how very wrong that is.
Another point that Warren makes is about tithing.  Tithing is giving ten percent of one’s earnings to God, and was instructed in the Old Testament to God’s people.  In the New Testament, the idea is not of tithing, giving a certain amount to satisfy God, but of understanding that everything is God’s and that one should use it accordingly.  The practicality of his message to serve others is great, we should always be looking to attend to our neighbors, but he does not mention grace anywhere in this video.  The only time he mentions Christ is in a passing comment in his introduction.
I agree that God gives us all gifts, including those of wealth, wisdom, or influence, so that we may serve others.  Unfortunately, I found that Warren’s TED talk was incredibly ‘you’ centered.  Though he says specifically ‘this is not about you’, every point that he makes points to what you should do, even going as far as to say ‘God smiles when you be you’.  Humans in their natural state are sinful, and we cannot save ourselves through our own works.  We know through the doctrine of justification that grace comes only through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and not through our own works, so that no one can boast.

Thought the message of helping your neighbor and doing the best you can to glorify God with the gifts that he has given you, I found Warren’s points to be disordered.  You must put your faith not in the fact that you have been good enough to other people that God will be happy with you, but in that even as we were still sinners, God first loved us and sent Christ to die for our sins upon a cross.  We cannot cling to anything save Christ and still follow him into salvation.

'Letting Go of God' Analysis

For World Religions, I was required to watch a TED video by a woman named Julia Sweeney called "Letting Go of God". I encourage you to watch the video for yourself first, then to read my analysis. The link is here

I was not enamored with this video.  I not only felt like it had no real discernable point, but I also had a problem with a lot of the things that Julia Sweeney said.  First of all, the age of reason for Catholics is different than the age of accountability that Baptists have.  The baptists have an age of accountability because they do not believe in original sin or infant baptism, so they must have an age at which one becomes “accountable” for their actions. Catholics practice infant baptism because they, like Lutherans, believe in original sin. 
Rather than the Church deciding that kids can start sinning at the age of seven, “the Church does not define the age of reason as seven years old. Rather, the Church does not obligate Catholics under the age of seven to observe laws which are merely ecclesiastical.” (Blackburn, Jim)  In this way, the age of reason is the age that young Catholics will go through first communion, be accountable to canon law, and be “eligible to act as witness to a marriage, as sponsor at baptism or confirmation, and as a party to the formal contract of betrothal”.  ( Delany, Joseph. "Age of Reason.")
She states that she was a Catholic as a child, but she never specifies whether she is as an adult, though much of her terminology and lack of answers to basic questions of faith lead me to believe that she is not.  One thing that she said that really bothered me was what she said about women and motherhood.  When Ms. Sweeney was told by the two Mormon boys that the greatest gift that God had given women was the ability to bear children, she laughed at them.  I believe that much of our society today has lost an appreciation for motherhood, partly as a result from the extreme end of the feminism movement.  I believe it is downplaying a crucial part of being a woman to degrade motherhood.

When Julia Sweeney finished off her story about the Mormon evangelists by saying that Catholicism is just as crazy, she made an extreme statement without providing and supporting evidence for her theory.  In addition to making an arbitrary statement, she also never truly explained the point of her lecture.  She finished by asking herself rhetorically whether she “knew” that God loved her or “felt” that God loved her.  As a speaker trying to convey some point and as someone involving theological and philosophical point in their argument, I think that she did an extremely poor job of conveying whatever idea she hoped to bring to us.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Where I'm From

We read the original Where I'm From poem in English. Here is my imitation.

I am from the rose-thorn gate to a fantasy land,
From Harry Potter and Green Eggs and Ham.
I am from that secret meadow at the end of the trail
And bunk beds towering high above the floor.
I am from the stone that served as a royal throne
Whose severe features coldly surveyed its subjects.
My baby sister and I at the beach.
I am from Dolly and Minnie Mouse,
From Chase and Claire.
I am from beach kids and athletes,
And from reading a book a day,
From "As you wish" and "inconceivable!"
I am from  "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil."
I am from Vikings and carpenters,
From mac 'n' cheese and 'tuna nooda',
From traveling West in search of new horizons,
And from building your house with your own two hands,
From hiding from flashing lightning, the harbinger of tornadoes.

I am from those moments when the whole world consists of only those beside you.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Yesterday, I went on the last of my college tours, this one to Chapman University in Orange County.  My initial motive for seeing this school was so that I could see my boyfriend again, but Chapman actually turned out to be very interesting.  I bought a shirt, so that means that I am going to apply!  Located in Orange county, the campus was beautiful and sunny.  The architecture reminded me of Pomona's, but without the starkness that I felt when I was there.  Chapman's 'inter-term' and different travel study options give a lot of good opportunities, and they have the type of medical program that I am looking at.  This is also the first time that one of the academic counselors has talked to me in depth about the pros and cons of living off campus, which interested me because Chapman is the only school that I am looking at where most of the students live off campus in the surrounding area.
Wrapping up this trip made me evaluate all of the colleges that I have visited so far. I came to the conclusion that I have a fairly solid five colleges that I want to apply to.  They have three tiers: my 1/2 tier is Pepperdine and Point Loma, which are interchangeable as my top choice; my 3/4 tier is USD and Chapman, which I would both be very happy to go to, but are slightly below the other two; then there is my "safety school", which doesn't mean that it's a school that I don't want to go, but that it is "safe" in almost every way. Saint Martin's is an hour from my house, familiar, small and Christian, and I have two friends that go there already. 
I would be happy to go to any of these schools, and I think that is important for my college list. I may still try to apply to an ivy or  two just to see what happens, but all of these 5 schools are places that I can see myself having a great college experience in. Now all that is left is to apply and choose! Haha, 'all'...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The second campus that I visited on Monday was Seaver College at Pepperdine University.  I have wanted to go see the campus of Pepperdine for quite a while now, what with it being on a cliff overlooking the Pacific in Malibu.  I remember the first card that I ever got from Pepperdine sophomore year.  The post card said "You could be here right now" with a picture of the campus.  Living in rainy Washington, I really wished that I could be there.  I found that the pictures could not capture how beautiful the campus really is.
Aside from the picturesque location of the campus, I found that I very much liked the school itself.  The man who gave my information session was funny and engaging, full of personal stories from his time at Pepperdine that made me say "I want to have moments like those".  He shared how Pepperdine's study abroad program is almost unique in the fact that students can choose to spend a full year abroad at a Pepperdine mini campus in locations such as London, Florence, Germany, and other countries.  Aside from the stories, I found that Pepperdine gives a lot of opportunities that really interest me.  Going through their science building, I found the labs fascinating.  There were many labs, each of them equipped with nice, modern equipment, but they were also relatively small.  Science students get the chance to work one on one with their professor to actually do their own research in these cozy labs.
Their medical program was very much like the one offered at Point Loma, which means that it is exactly the type of program that I want to be in.  Pepperdine allows students to enroll in the program and participate in all of the pre-medicine opportunities that a pre-med major would receive, but also to major in whatever subject that they wanted.  I also loved that they were very unabashed about their Christianity.  The suit-style living all four years wasn't too bad either.  All in all, I found that Pepperdine ties for first with Point Loma, followed by USD and Saint Martin's.  My last college trip to Chapman University might make my list an even five!


So, I had a very busy college day on Monday.  So busy, in fact, that I am giving it two blog posts!  That's right, you might have to read more! Muwahahahaha.  Well, I think that I am stalling because it was pretty hard to formulate my opinion of Pomona.  In contrast to the last school that I visited, I went into my information session and tour of Pomona with an extremely high expectation of falling in love with Pomona. When I asked my best friend which college she had loved most just by the visit, she responded with a "Pomona!!!!!!!!!!!". I'm actually fairly certain that I used the exact number of exclamation marks that she did.  Needless to say, I took her response to heart and went in wanting to be amazed.  I'm not sure if my reaction was a result of having too high of an idealistic standard, or just that I don't like the same type of schools that she does.
One thing that I really loved about Pomona was the surrounding area.  Before heading into our 9am tour, my family went to grab a bite at the Starbucks a few blocks away from campus.  In addition to being nice and green, the street was lined with cute shops and galleries for local artists.  The unfortunate part of the nice and green campus was that I was allergic to something green and not-so-nice.  I was sneezing and eye-watering the entire tour, but I tried to put that out of my reaction to the college.  I hope it worked.
The biggest thing that I didn't like about Pomona was something that I didn't realize how much I valued - a Christian environment.  When beginning my college search, going to a Christian college was not a very big deal to me, or so I thought.  Now I realize that having a Christian community completely changes how I view a college.  I started wondering how comfortable I would really feel at a very secular, liberal college.  I want to major in science and become a pediatrician, so that is going to mean lots and lots of things like biology and chemistry.  Being a Christian student at a secular college majoring in biology will mean either hiding a lot of the conflicts that my beliefs will have with what they want me to say, or constantly butting heads with both other students and professors.
I thought that Pomona was a great school, but maybe not the one for me.  Taking the tour and information session taught me a lot about what I am looking for, but I don't think that it's Pomona.  I hope that my best friend doesn't hate me for this, but I thank her a lot for pushing me to tour at Pomona.  It has taught me a lot about myself and the place I want to be for the next four years of my life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Point Loma Nazarene

Today I embarked on my second college tour of my summer vacation, this time to Point Loma Nazarene. When I was first listing out which colleges that I wanted to visit, Point Loma wasn't even really on my list.  It was in the back of my mind mainly because they had accidentally sent me about twelve postcards asking me to visit them.  My mom urged me to put them on my list, so I agreed, knowing that I would at least be spending my time in a beautiful place. When I set up the visit with my dad, there was a checklist of what I wanted to attend.  I dutifully checked off the "tour" and "information session" boxes before asking my dad if he wanted me to meet with my admissions councilor.  When he said yes I rather dubiously checked that box as well, wondering if it would be weird to meet with the councilor if I wasn't even seriously considering the school.
When we arrived at the campus, I immediately remembered how beautiful it really was (I had driven through the campus once without being set up for an official tour).  When I started learning more about different aspects of their academics and feeling the atmosphere, I realized that I was beginning to become very interested in this school.  Spoiler alert, I am probably going to apply now that I have gone through the tour and the information sessions!  Since I am trying to get myself back into writing regular blogs, I thought that I would share what type of information and atmosphere could so turn my head when considering a college.
First, the academic options and opportunities. From the time that I was in the first grade, I have wanted to be a pediatrician.  That choice came from knowing, even as a child myself, that I wanted to work with children and I wanted to do something that I felt would be challenging and would change lives around me.  I know now that there are many careers and ways that one can accomplish these things, but healing people is the one that has held a special interest for me for over ten years now.  Though I know that I want to go into medicine, I don't want to actually major in pre-med.  I want to have a degree in a hard science so that if anything were to happen and delay my ability to go to medical school, I would be able to have a degree with which to get a job.  Pre-med is mostly good for getting into medical school, while I could get a better job with a chem or bio-chem degree.
This being said, I was extremely interested to hear about Point Loma's medical and nursing programs.  Very well known in the area, these provide great internships, networking, and opportunities for their students. Even more interesting was finding out that you did not have to be pre-med or pre-nursing to be in these programs; in fact, there was no such option at Point Loma.  Once one qualifies for the pre-med program, they can major in whatever they want, even if it isn't a science.  Point Loma also has a number of great scholarships even at the freshman level for students wanting to major in bio-chem.  
Though this was one of the academic interests that piqued my interest, a big part of changing my mind about Point Loma was the school's atmosphere.  Unlike many schools, they were unabashedly Christian.  Many Christian schools will say something along the lines of "So, we're a Christian school but... Don't worry about that! Look over here!", whereas Christianity seemed to permeate every aspect of Point Loma.  Even though they are of a Wesleyan tradition that differs theologically from mine, I like their honesty about their faith. Even aside from the Christian atmosphere, I just felt a 'vibe' of a close-knit, lade back sort of school that reminded me of a much larger Mount Rainier.  It also helps that Point Loma is literally on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  So, as I go forward in my college search, I now have Point Loma as a top contender!

University of San Diego

Ah, vacation, the most relaxing time of the year where you don't have to get anything done, right? Wrong. This being the summer before my senior year, I have a lot of things that I need/want to get done, though I have picked what I believe to be the best place in the world to do them - San Diego.  A midst the sun bathing, shopping, body surfing, and just plain chilling out, I have decided that I am going to get my college applications done this summer.  This means that I need to really get a feel for the colleges that have already made it to my short list.  Luckily for me, almost all of these colleges are striking distance from where I am staying with my grandparents, so I am going to visit the California ones this summer!
Today I decided to start out with the very first college that I ever toured - The University of San Diego.  I remember being awed and intimidated by my first taste of a college campus, but I was also sure that I had idealized the experience in my mind.  I was right.  Though I still adored the beautiful architecture and vibe that I got from the campus, I didn't feel like this was the only college in the world that would do for me.  I think that my reaction was a good one for what I need to get done this summer.  Now, rather than comparing every college I go to up against the larger than life version of USD, I'll be comparing everything evenly.
This is not to say that I no longer like USD or plan not to apply anymore; on the contrary, it is still one of my top choices! I am just not letting it take the unfair advantage of being the only one of my California schools that I have been able to tour the campus of so far.
So, what I like and don't like about USD at first glance.  I love the location and campus.  Down below will be a collage of pictures that I snapped while on my tour, but nothing compares to actually being there.  It is on a hill in sunny San Diego, able to see the fireworks from Sea World at night, and always the perfect weather.  It is also a good school both academically and in it's atmosphere.  The University of San Diego is an independent Catholic college that is still grounded to it's Christian roots, which is a major plus for me.  Though a religious school is not a must have for me, it's still something that makes me feel more comfortable and at home when I visit those colleges.  It's the feeling that I know that I will have some people around me and part of the larger church who will love me as a sister in Christ.  USD also does many service projects, mission trips, and studies abroad that can make almost any high school student dizzy in contemplating.
All together, I realize that I was right to have loved this school right off the bat, but I was also right to come back to it with some more mature eyes.  I think that this summer will be a blast, and I hope that finding the right colleges will be a part of that!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Why I want to go to college

Nelson Mandela, a remarkable world figure, once said that “education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world”.  Though Nelson Mandela can seem like a man far removed from me, his words strike true for me because my parents have taught me the same idea in both words and action.  Both of my parents were the first in their families to go to college, and they have impressed upon me the importance of doing so.  They have taught me that the most important skill one can possess is to think.
The are many reasons that young people want to go to college.  Some are simply forced into it by expectation, others go only to find themselves a well paying career for financial security.  Thinking introspectively, I find that there are three main reasons that I would like to go to college.  First of all, I do want to prepare myself for the career path that I have chosen.  Getting a good college education would prepare me to apply to and study in medical school.  I have known from the first grade that I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I have also known that the medical career poses long years of education.  Without college, I would never be able to realize my dream of becoming a doctor and working with children.
Though not generally put into the category of ‘career’, I know that one day I am going to be a parent.  When I am, I would like to have the ability to teach my children the way that my parents have been able to teach me.  I want to be able to answer their questions and encourage them to learn for their entire lives.  College will prepare me not only for the more tangible career of medicine that I have chosen, but also for the possible calling of being a future parent.
I know that I would specifically like to go to a liberal arts college because I agree with the idea that college is not meant to merely teach one job specific skills, but to teach one to think.  I want to be an active and educated citizen of my community, church, and country.  When analyzing political or social issues, I want to be able to truly evaluate the arguments rather than being led by sensationalist media.  Even as a Christian, I know that I want to understand, as much as I can, what I believe.  I want to be able to give an apology of my faith to others, and through that, be a better witness and Christian.

Aside from learning how to think and preparing one for later in life, college is great place for a young adult to grow as a person.  When I go to college, I will be the tender age of seventeen, eager and terrified to go out on my own.  I will learn my strengths, but also my weaknesses.  College will be the first time that I will truly be out on my own, away from my parents, for an extended period of time.  College gives a safe ground for young people to test their wings and, inevitably, fall.  It is a place where all will grow in ways that they may not have completely forseen.
This is the Immaculata Church at the University of San Diego

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Good Advice From a Best Friend

Sports are really big parts of my life.  That might be partially because they take up so much of my life, but also because they mean a lot to me.  Volleyball starts in the summer, goes through the fall, and ends about a week before I start practice for basketball.  This means that, all said an done, over half my year is spent doing a nearly ridiculous amount of sports training and playing.  That being said, it should be obvious that I would not have persevered at something that takes so much time and effort if I did not love it.  From the time I was very small, my parents have pushed me to try things.  Over time, they came to see how much they should push me to continue with something, and also when they should just let it drop.  For instance, when my mom was teaching me how to read when I was four, I adored learning so they kept pushing me forward.  Reading has been one of my absolute favorite things to this day.  On the other hand, when I tried to take karate lessons in second grade, after two classes, my dad was certain that I just didn't want to do it.  He was right, I wasn't having any fun, and I just didn't really want to be there.
As a tall child growing up, especially for a girl, there were always people talking to (or over) me and asking whether or not I played sports.  I had to play sports because I was so tall! Why was I not playing sports?! I don't know about anyone else, but for me, this just made me want to play sports even less.  Sure, I was tall, but I was that awkward gangly tall that comes when a child just never stops growing.  That kid who walking into doors and hit the wall when trying to turn the corner? Yeah, that was definitely me.  Even worse, I was painfully shy and all I ever wanted was to have some quiet time to read.  None of these things made me particularly eager to play sports.  Fortunately for me, my parents saw this as one of those times to push me forward, whether I liked it or not.
In fifth grade, they made me join the basketball team.  I disliked it for the first two years, but kept trying because my parents obviously wanted me to.  Luckily for me, the height that made people push me into sports really did help me.  I would trip on my feet running down the court, but, being a head taller than all the other girls on the court, all I had to do to rebound was stand underneath the basket and hold my hands above my head.  When I was in the seventh grade, they decided that I was going to do another sport - volleyball.
I made it through the awkwardness of middle school, and then through the first three years of high school, gaining not only control over my body, but also confidence and a love of the sport.  Now, going into my senior year, I'm feeling the pressure.  I made up an acronym for the way I feel before sports things - SHEN, which is "scared, happy, excited, nervous".  The old seniors are gone and I am going to have to take up responsibility along with the three other seniors.  I was prepared for all of this, even anticipating it, when I received some bad news about what might happen for the upcoming season.
Way back in middle school I received an injury to my right shoulder that never really went away.  For the longest time, I just categorized it with the rest of my body that is falling apart (both ankles, both hips, both wrists, lower back, upper back, neck), but 'powered through' it.  Last year, I realized that I really couldn't get away with it anymore, because it had gotten progressively worse, and it made hitting and serving in volleyball extremely painful.  I went to a sports medicine doctor who let me push off an MRI until after my season and gave me some physical therapy in the meantime.  Well, just yesterday I had to go back to my doctor (who is actually really cute, so I like seeing him!).
Talking more about how the symptoms and severity were, he told me that he was pretty sure that my problem was one of two things.  The first was a theory that we had been thinking about for a while, which is a labral tear in the cartilage of my shoulder.  This would mean surgery that could put me out for part of or all of my senior season.  The second was something that he had mentioned, but that I hadn't really given much thought to.  Apparently, some volleyball players bodies pinch a nerve when they serve or hit the ball, causing pain and muscle weakness.  My symptoms support both theories, so the only way to know for sure is to get an MR Arthrogram, an MRI with contrast that can look into the cartilage of my shoulder.  If they can't find a structural deficiency, then I have a nerve problem that could mean not playing volleyball anymore.
Needless to say, these are not the best options to have going into my highly anticipated senior year.  I was talking to my best friend about it, and concluded with saying that I don't even know what to pray for because I don't know which option is worse.  She responded by saying "Don't pray for one option then - just pray for God to do what's best".  I thought that was some of the best advice that I could hear at that moment.  I don't need to know which one to pray for, because God already does.  I have absolutely no control over which one of these problems I'll be diagnosed with, but God does have a plan for me.  Maybe that means not playing volleyball my senior year, or maybe not at all again, but he has his reasons.  Permaybehaps it's something that would seem completely crazy, like the tallest girl on the team becoming a setter or libaro, but wherever he leads, I'll follow.  Thanks, best friend. <3

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Animals in Science

Whether used for observation, testing, or dissections, animals are used to help in many fields of science.  In the science of toxicology, the scientists who help determine the limits for safe use of materials experiment on animals so that they can provide better preliminary guidelines in humans.  “In the absence of human data, research with experimental animals is the most reliable means of detecting important toxic properties of chemical substances and for estimating risks to human and environmental health.” (SOT Animals in Research Public Policy Statement).
Many times, finding out how chemicals will affect an organism cannot be done without experimenting on a living thing because there are so many different systems in a body that can be affected.  Testing on animals first ensures that products and drugs are safe for humans when we use or consume them.  When scientists want to see how different doses of drugs affect an organism, they will test them on animals to see thier tolerance to them.  Instead of first testing something on humans, which could potentially cause bad reactions and unforeseen complications, they test them on animals.
Though animals are not humans, they are still a part of God’s creation and should be taken care of respected.  Because of this, laws are in place to regulate how scientists can use animals in testing and observation.  Unfortunately, sometimes animals are properly taken care of.  It is estimated that “About 20 million animals are experimented on and killed annually, three-fourths for medical purposes and the rest to test various products. An estimated eight million are used in painful experiments. Reports show that at least 10 percent of these animals do not receive painkillers.” (a study by Santa Clara university)
Part of our role as caretakers for animals is not to cause them pain.  Though views may differ on whether animals have souls or the same value as humans, we do know that animals are capable of suffering just as humans are.  We should not cause animals pain.  In fact, we should be protect them whenever possible.  Some people argue that because animals do not have the ability to reason, they are less.  This is untrue, unless those same people would also argue that mentally insane people are not worthy of love and respect because they are unable to reason the same way that we do.
In Europe, great apes have not been used in practice for scientific testing for years, though they are quite regularly in the United States.  One reason they are used in America is to develop a vaccine for Hepatitis C, which, in addition to humans, only chimpanzees are affected by.  In Europe, procedures are also classified mild, medium, or severe based on the amount of pain and distress they cause an animal, and only mild procedures can be allowed without the okay from the government.
The Animal Welfare Act is the only law in the United States that covers using animals in science.  It only covers certain animals and the base of minimal standards for housing, feeding, handling, veterinary care, and for some species like chimpanzees, their psychological well-being.  The USDA is charged with enforcing these regulation.
Schools and other institutions should follow all of the guidelines given to them through the government, but they should also make sure that they implement their own guidelines to make sure that they are not hurting the animals.  They should make sure that they anesthetize animals and use the proper procedures when testing.  Even when using just the bodies of animals, such as for dissections, people ought to do all that they can to make sure that they are respecting the animal.
I agree with many of the regulations that are in place to control how animals can be tested, but I also believe that there should be more in place to protect animals.  Animals are a great way to test things before people try them, but they should not be needlessly subjected to pain.  There should be clear goals in mind when experimenting with animals, goals that will benefit people directly, instead of just experimenting to see what will happen, especially if the experiment involves pain.
Not allowing any animals to be used in scientific experimentation would be detrimental to humans and advancements in general, but it should be controlled.  The hard questions come into play when one tries to think about what value animals have when compared to humans.  Humans and animals are both a part of God’s creation, but humans are specifically made in the image of God.  Humans make choices for good and evil and have eternal souls.  I think that humans first have an obligation to care for humans above animals, but not to neglect or harm animals.
For example, if scientists came up with a new treatment to eradicate cancer cells in an organism, but were unsure of the side effects that could happen when introduced into humans, they would first experiment on animals that had cancer.  Though the animals may have to deal with unforeseen complications, it is better for that to happen to the animals than to start experimenting on children with cancer.  In this we see that we inherently place higher value on humans than on animals.  Though, I think that all due research and precautions should be taken to avoid causing harm to any animals.
I agree with using animals in highschool and college education because I think that it does provide an amazing opportunity for kids to gain hands on knowledge of anatomy and biology.  When euthanized and treated humanely, dissecting a cat, frog, or fetal pig does not cause much pain or suffering to the animal being studied.  I think that dissecting animals in biology and anatomy has given me a more complete set of information when it comes to both the anatomy of the animal I was studying, and of the human anatomy.
The hardest thing for me to overcome when dealing with the cats was the fact that it was a cat.  I have a cat myself that I love, and it’s hard to think of an animal that is capable of having a distinct ‘personality’ as the body you are dissecting on the table.  After I got over my initial uneasiness, I forced myself to do so, I found that dissecting was terribly interesting.  One of the things that intrigued me the most was the muscle structure.  When dissecting fetal pigs my freshman year, the muscles were thin and not very defined at all, so it was very hard to identify the different muscles.
In the cat, the muscles were very defined, and it was very interesting to be able to separate and identify each of the different muscles.  Obviously, cats being quadrupeds, the muscles of the cat were differently placed than the muscles in humans.  Earlier in the year, I focused a lot on the human shoulder, making a model and writing a few papers on it.  When we were identifying the shoulder muscles in the cat, I found that I could easily locate things like the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and deltoid, even though they were in slightly different places than on the human body.
I think that dissecting the cat definitely gave me insight on what the human body is actually made of.  It’s easy to look at textbooks and think that the muscles, organs, and tissues of organisms are clean and clearly defined, but they are much more nitty gritty when you really get down to it.  For example, when I cut apart the kidney, I was so surprised that every nephron I had diagramed was invisible to the human eye.  Something that was so small and seemingly uninteresting was also incredibly important to the function of the cat’s body.  I definitely marvelled at the glory of God when I was studying his creation.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Margaret of Anjou

Reading historical novels really has renewed my passion for English history.  I love to read about all of the intrigue that happened, especially when it comes to the women.  The way that women had to act in a time when the world was ruled by men is fascinating to me.  The fact that so many of them were viewed as inferior and still lived to make a lasting mark on the world in incredible.  Margaret of Anjou was a strong woman in a time where a woman had to count on men to be strong.  Unfortunately, her husband was insane, so she had to stand up for herself.  Here is a short paper that I wrote on the life of Margaret of Anjou.  I hope that you enjoy it!

Margaret of Anjou, born on the 23rd of March 1430, was the daughter of Rene of Anjou, Count of Anjou and later the Count of Provence and King of Naples and Sicily.  At age 14, she was betrothed to Henry VI of England and married to him the next year on April 23, 1445.  Shortly after the marriage, she was crowned queen of England at Westminster.  William de la Pole of the Lancastrian line had succeeded in beating the York line in finding a wife for Henry, aligning himself with the monarchy through Margaret.  
The king of France had negotiated that the marriage be part of a peace negotiation that would give control of Anjou back the the French.   While Margaret had grown up in the turmoil of a family feud, King Henry was known for being a very gentle, devout soul and the exact opposite of his wife.  Well educated for a woman of her time, Margaret was an imperious, strong-willed French princess, which made her unpopular with the people of Britain from the start.
Being very assertive, Margaret was responsible for much of the aristocratic matchmaking and the raising of taxes that went on during her husband’s reign.  Though she tried to assert her power strongly with the nobles, she had less power because she did not bear a child until 1453.  She supported her advisor and close friend Edmund Beaufort over the Yorkists, firmly aligning herself further with the Lancastrians.  When she finally did give birth to her son Edward, Henry was struck with a bout of insanity.  Because of this, the Yorkists later accused Margaret of giving birth to an illegitimate child, possibly fathered by Edmund.
Becoming a mother strongly influenced Margaret’s political involvement.  From that point on, she vigorously fought for her husband and son’s rights.  The Yorks were far more popular in London and northern England, but Margaret fought to maintain control.  When Margaret pushed too far, the Lancastrians lost a battle the the Yorkists and she had to acquiesce to their control for a year. “The queen is a great and strong-laboured woman, for she spareth no pain to sue her things to an intent and conclusion to her power" (Paston Letters, i. 378)
She fought for her power in the war of roses until the Duke of York was killed in 1460.  In 1461, Margaret and the Lancastrians were defeated at Towton and she and her son fled to Scotland.  She invaded from her refuge and won the second battle of St. Albans, brutally executing prisoners of war shortly thereafter.  She went to her native France to request help and mustered a force to invade England again, though, in doing so, she fed the fact that Edward of York was immensely popular among the English people.
She bided her time, educating her son around the closest thing she could muster to a court.  "We be all in great poverty, but yet the queen sustaineth us in meat and drink. Her highness may do no more than she doth" (Works, ii. 72, ed. Clermont) wrote one of the people present with her at this time.  While Edward IV of York was on the throne, her husband Henry was kept in the tower but eventually murdered in his sleep.  Her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed in battle trying to reclaim the throne.
She was a great woman on the losing side of a particularly ugly war.  The war of roses, or the cousins’ war, was particularly gruesome in that it truly was a battle between kinsmen.  Margaret came in from France having been raised by a strong-willed mother in the midst of her own family turmoil, but was swept aside by that of her new family.  She was politically active, which was unusual for English noblewomen at her time, but she was not particularly cunning when it came to governing.
She stacked the parliament in her favour and married of the aristocracy according to how she wanted the families to be aligned, but she never truly won the favour of the English people.  Not only was she French, but she was the wife of a man who could not competently rule his kingdom.  She had the backbone to be a ruler, but she could not because of the customs and laws of her time.  Margaret had to rely upon finding other strong men to lead her forces, such as Edmund Beaufort and the Earl of Warwick, but she could not rely on her husband the king.

Though she fought bitterly, bringing viscious Celts and arrogant French mercenaries in to fight her own people, she stood firm for what she believed to be right.  She fought for her family, even though every family that she had ever known had fractured beyond repair.  She fought a world that would not hear the voice of a woman, even as wife of a kind and mother of the Prince of Wales.  Margaret of Anjou stood tall against whatever life brought against her.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Stages of Dissapointment

I love music.  There is no other way to say it; I just do.  So, when there came an opportunity to sing in the choir at school in 7th grade, I took the leap and tried out.  Now, I went to a very sweet, Lutheran elementary school where, as long as you weren't tone deaf, you could get into the choir.  However, I haven't left choir from then till now.  Even when I had to make the dreadful scheduling choice between band and choir, I chose to sing.  Now, as a junior, I am finally becoming more confident in my voice, along with other things, and am trying to step out more.  For our Spring Fine Arts Night, the men and women of our choir split up to sing two gender specific songs, in which there were a few opportunities for solos.  Empowered by being an upperclassmen, I tried out, tightly holding my music with trembling hands.  I went a week without knowing whether I made it or not, but I found out today.
I didn't make the cut.
The two seniors in my class split the first solo and a freshman took all of the second.  When I heard, I was devastated, but only on the inside, of course.  On the outside I laughed it off, saying that it was probably better that I didn't get a solo, because who knew how many days it would take for me to regain my voice? Inside I was switching through emotions in the rapid way only a distraught woman can.  I can't remember the exact order of all of the feelings in the beginning, but I'll try my best.  First off, I was hurt.  Obviously this means that I wasn't good enough to make the cut.  Then, I was angry.  "Mr. Nuemiller totally doesn't like me! Of course the seniors all got solos, but how in the world did a freshman get chosen over me?" Then there was apathy. "I don't care, I didn't really want a solo all that much anyway."  Then my selfish brain finally added in the fact that one of the seniors who got a solo is one of my best friends.
That was when I started thinking more clearly.
I had been going on about how we weren't takin choir seriously enough, and now we were.  I didn't make the cut, but that doesn't mean that I can't make it next time.  I love my friend and she will do an amazing job with the solo, all of the other girls will, but that won't stop the new competitive spark inside of me.  If there's one thing I like, it's winning. ;)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Death of a Salesman


I recently caught up on yet another honors paper that I neglected to do while I was swamped with homework after my concussion.  I decided to read (and sparknote) the play "Death of a Salesman".  Reading this play, I had much the same reaction that I did to the Great Gatsby.  For the record, I did like the Great Gatsby, I just was not as enamored with the book as I was led to believe that I would be. In the Great Gatsby, I find myself trying to root on a good over an evil, in the form of Daisy and Gatsby.  When this good ultimately fails, I find myself wanting some sense of emotional closure.  It's not a happy book, but I suppose that it was never meant to be.  The Great Gatsby reflects the 20's in more ways than the style of the times.  The book itself is glamorous on the outside, full of colorful language and exciting details that enthrall the reader.  However, when one gets to the end of the book, they see that the glitter on the exterior was a hollow shell, and the real message of the book is one of the hopelessness of ideals.  Death of a Salesman is essentially the same message, but with a darker passage.  Willy the salesman has tried to fulfill his ideal and hope of being a successful business man and provider for his family, but his mind fractures under the pressure and he goes insane before committing suicide.  All said and done, junior English class has had a remarkably dark feel over the past year.  That, or I have just had a more cynical approach to most of the topics presented.
As a Lutheran, one of the principle things that one is taught to separate is law and gospel, that which condemns and that which saves.  Looking back, I realize that this year has been almost all law, condemning the American Dream, vice, and other naive fantasies, but almost nothing that has a theme of hope.  The early works of T. S. Eliot are much the same, attacking the shallow, vain exterior of life and trying to expose an emptiness within.  Many people say that Eliot lost his edge after converting to Christianity, and that his later works reflect that.  I think that quite the opposite is true.  Eliot, already cynical concerning the shallowness of materialism, found that, instead of a vacuum beneath the shell, there was something deeper.  That breaking through to something deeper, not just a void of nothingness, is what keeps one from despairing in the face of what would seem to be a cruel, vain world of shallow interests.  Keeping that in mind, I tend to be less depressed by books like these.
Though that was a long rabbit trail away from what I was meaning to post, I hope that it was at least a bit sensible.  Here is my paper on Death of a Salesman, as I posit that a warped expectation of himself and others, formed by the American dream, led Willy to commit suicide. (I apologize for the formatting, I have not quite worked everything out)

Death of a Salesman shows how the American dream fractured the mind of one man to the point of despair.  Using this man as an example of what ideals can do to one’s psyche, Americans should learn not to put all of their faith into reaching an ideal such as the American dream, for it is impossible.  A warped expectation of himself and other, formed by the idea of the American dream, destroyed Willy’s life.

Over the course of Willy’s life, he strove to succeed in business the only way that he knew possible - by being well liked.  “Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”  Willy wanted to be that epitome of a provider for his family, the wealthy, well-liked, well-groomed salesman who makes something of himself.  Unfortunately, this idea of being “well-liked” is comparatively shallow when compared to actual love.
Willy’s wife, Linda, continually sees through Willy’s lies and self-delusion, but still stands by him steadfastly.  She cares for him and for her family even Willy isn’t a good father.  Unfortunately, Willy is forever striving for being “well-liked” and being helped ahead into his business.  This is why Willy has his affair with the woman, who doesn’t love him, but likes him and pushes him forward in business.  He is enamored with the fact that “she picked him”.  The family component of the American dream is overridden by Willy’s dreams of success and wealth.
Throughout the play, various instances hint that Willy’s true passions lie not in being a salesman, but in working with his own hands.  You can see this in his lament at the loss of space in his neighborhood when he says “The street is lined with cars. There’s not a breath of fresh air in the neighborhood. The grass don’t grow anymore, you can’t raise a carrot in the backyard. They should’ve had a law against apartment houses. Remember those two beautiful elm trees out there? When I and Biff hung the swing between them?”.  Even then he wishes he was not a part of the urban life that he had chosen.
Willy also wishes that he had gone to Alaska with his brother Ben, saying to his wife, “God! Why didn’t I go to Alaska with my brother Ben that time! Ben! That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate! What a mistake! He begged me to go.”  Ben found fortune working with his hands when he found a diamond mine, although Willy fails to see that this is a stroke of luck and not a product of Ben’s work.
Even when Willy is talking to his delusion of his dead brother, he tries to convince Ben that he goes hunting saying, “Oh, sure, there’s snakes and rabbits and—that’s why I moved out here. Why, Biff can fell any one of these trees in no time! Boys! Go right over to where they’re building the apartment house and get some sand. We’re gonna rebuild the entire front stoop right now! Watch this, Ben!”  At one time in America, Ben would have been considered the ideal of a pioneer, just what a man should be, but now the paradigm had shifted to a new ideal, the salesman.  Willy even stops his son Biff, who is much like Willy, from going out west and working on a farm.
Happy takes after Willy too, but in the way that he lies to others about his status.  Willy is constantly inflating his commission to his wife, even though she knows it is a lie, and even turns down Charlie’s offer of a steady job because of his own pride.  Willy even lies to his boss in a desperate attempt to retain his job saying, “In 1928 I had a big year. I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commissions”.
The ideal that Willy was so desperately trying to live up to forced him to lie to others and to himself until he eventually could not tell the difference between his lies and reality.  He fantasizes about his dead brother, who had abandoned him like his father, and tries to live in a past that he imagines as so much better.  Willy cannot cope with the fact that he has failed at every turn to live up to the standard that he has set himself.  Though the American dream professes truth, Willy is so obsessed with his image that he lives in a world of lies and deceit.  At the end of the play, Biff realizes this and says “I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been. We’ve been talking in a dream for fifteen years.”
All of these factors led to Willy not being able to handle the state of reality and ultimately despairing and committing suicide.  If a society places all of it’s hope in being able to achieve success based on how hard they work and material good, it will always end up coming to despair.  Humans cannot achieve true happiness from gaining possessions and being “well-liked”, as Willy so desperately wanted to be.  In Death of a Salesman, the American dream proves to be a shallow, unreachable ideal that the ordinary “dime a dozen” man can never fulfil.  This perverted sense of an unreachable standard is what ultimately kills Willy.