An Unconventional Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has always intrigued me. It’s one of the only holidays that anyone can buy into. Its not for any religion, ethnicity, or other specific group. It is simply American, which, I think, is what makes it so special. On Thanksgiving, we celebrate our collective coming to America. Everyone, whether they have ties to the mayflower or just immigrated to America last week, shows their gratitude and indebtedness to those first brave explorers who ventured across the sea in search of a land free from persecution or oppression. We think about all the opportunities we’ve been granted in America and remind ourselves of the sacrifices that were made in order for those opportunities to exist. On the more personal level, its one of the few times of year where we all pause to appreciate what we have – our family, our health, our personal successes and achievements, and, of course, the food we eat. Almost everyone goes home at Thanksgiving, no matter where they may be and how far away their family is, because its one of the few opportunities each year when everyone has the time and the inclination to be together.

In my family, we don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving, at least not in the traditional sense. My parents never really understood the holiday, plus not one person in my family will touch a turkey with a ten foot pole, let alone put one in our oven and then eat it afterwards. And cranberry sauce? No way. What are you supposed to do with that weird tangy goop? When I picture Thanksgiving, I see happy families, spending time together, watching football, wearing thick winter sweaters. I see long tables, overflowing with corn, sweet potatoes, newly carved turkey. But in my family nobody watches football. Nobody wears thick winter sweaters, especially not ones with snowflakes or moose on them. Nobody craves the heavy comfort foods of the holiday. Not one of us has watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since my sister was a baby and we put it on so she could giggle at the floats and balloons. Instead, we often find ourselves on a beach somewhere, or simply at home doing nothing. So usually when people ask what my Thanksgiving plans are, I tell them I have none. They are always shocked. Sometimes people even tell me they feel bad that its not something my family does, since its “THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER”.

But this Thanksgiving I finally had plans to tell people about. Instead of going on a trip or passing the time at home, my family decided to have a real Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone will be in town, and everyone has to eat, we figured, so it just made sense. We invited my mom’s parents, my dad’s father and his girlfriend, my aunt and uncle, and our best family friends with their three kids. We set up a long folding table at the end of our dining room table to create one long table where everyone could sit together. We cracked out the Passover linens and the fancy napkin rings. We made place cards. When Thursday came, my mom took to the kitchen, preparing nearly a dozen overflowing dishes for the guests.

Around five o’clock, everyone arrived. By six we had sat down to eat. We didn’t have Turkey or cranberry sauce, nor did we have sweet potatoes or corn. There was not even one pie. Instead, we worked together to build an elaborate paper Turkey to put in the middle of the table. We ate chicken, quinoa pilaf, kale salad, roasted asparagus, and other regular dishes. We did it buffet style, with everyone lining up at the kitchen counter with their plates. We drank a slightly excessive amount of wine followed by a slightly excessive amount of scotch. Our first Thanksgiving was unconventional, but lovely.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that Thanksgiving is not really about any of those traditions. While the food and the football and the parade play their role, they aren’t the important parts. What’s important is that we were all together for a whole day, just being happy and keeping each other company. We may not have gone around each saying what we’re thankful for this year, but our mere presence implied that we are thankful for one another. While I loved our unconventional Thanksgiving, I know that if we never have one again it won’t matter; because no matter where in the world we are or what we are doing, if my family is together on Thanksgiving, it’s more than enough.

 

Our Thanksgiving Turkey
Our Thanksgiving Turkey

Future MIW Students

Dear Future MIW Students,

There is a semester ahead of you that will take you by storm. You will be challenged to write new things, to be honest, to find your voice, to revise thoroughly, to stretch your creative mind and begin to mold it into a constiently changing entity. The gateway course (Writing 220)  is all that I can speak on at this point and as I am coming to the end of the course I must say that it has been quite a journey for me.  I came in thinking that all I would be doing is writing but I have indeed done way more than that.

From the very first assignment we were given I was asked to tell the truth. The prompt was “why I write.” I had to write a paper about why I write. I thought, very shallowly I must add, that I wrote to release and to get my points across and then I thought to myself that I wrote because I was good at it. This was the truth. I liked it because I was good at it. For our second project I created a magazine spread where I had to learn how to work Adobe Illustrator and format 8 pages of a magazine. From creative design to content I had to do it all. And for the third project I had to create a movie via imovie, format, edit and shoot the entire film.

In a nutshell, being a student in the Writing Minor is not for the weak hearted. We write a lot, we teach ourselves how to create new mediums for our work and we have to be innovative. It is hard work and very rewarding in the end. We have works that do not just look like a college paper but they are published and revised works that we can proudly show to anyone. It is an honor to be a writing minor student. So go forth, prosper and prove things to yourself that you never thought you could do. I know I have so why cant you?

ImaWriter

Who Runs The World?

Writers are truly the heartbeat of the world. People say knowledge is power. Some of the worlds most educated and highly respected persons read the newspaper and scholarly journals and writers write those. Some even say that the Bible is law and that it governs whole religions of people. The apostles were writers too. Writers truly are the heartbeat of the world. We keep people thinking and questioning and knowing what is happening in our minds. We can truly lead the world by showing them our perspective. The perspective of the world is simply the perspective of the writer or the thoughts provoked by statements made by the writer.

Who run the world?
Writers have the power to run the world. Even Beyonce knows it!

Who runs the world? WRITERS!

Would you rather?

With finals right around the corner, do you prefer taking a big final in say a science or math class, or is the longer, but more spaced out, process of our final remediation/eportfolio projects preferable?

Neither, and that’s the end of this blog. In all seriousness, here’s my take on the pros/cons of each.

Quantitive final

Pros:

  • Higher degree of closure and feeling “done” with it. When you’ve read all the textbook chapters, done all the readings, and finished all the practice problems, its very easy to feel closure with the study process.
  • The black/white nature of practice problems for most quantitive classes (like finance) can make studying pretty rewarding and you’re able to get immediate feedback. If you take a multiple choice practice exam, you either get things right or wrong. I think in this sense it’s easier to monitor your progress in comparison to a project that is more rubric-based.

Cons:

  • The closure of reviewing all possible study materials is pretty difficult when your professor provides you with 50,000 practice problems for each chapter.
  • Because you can only get practice problems right or wrong, if you’re not getting them right, well, you’re getting them wrong (duh). And this can be really demoralizing when you do 9 out of 10 things right and then get a problem wrong. So the black/white nature of problems being wrong or right can sometimes make you feel like you know less than you do.

Qualitative project

Pros:

  • The higher degree of creative freedom often makes it easier to be more involved in the project. In this sense you can manipulate the content to a certain degree unless the project gives you a narrow scope.
  • You can take more risks, and usually this leads to a greater reward in terms of your satisfaction with the finished product. For the remediation project I felt completely uncomfortable using a green screen, but now I’m pretty proud of myself that I got it to work.

Cons:

  • It’s often to hard to feel any degree of closure because there will always be things we want to fix about big projects. About 12 hours after submitting my remediation project I realized that there were things I would go back and change (re-recording the footage with more enthusiasm and bleeping out swear words).
  • It’s really hard to plan for these projects because the time they take is pretty unpredictable. I had no idea how long it would take me to edit 17 minutes of footage in iMovie for my remediation project. It actually took me about 4 hours longer than I anticipated, whereas the script writing actually took much less time than I anticipated. In contrast, when I’m studying for a big final, I can usually estimate pretty well how long it’s going to take to read X number of pages.

I think that for me, I personally prefer exams, except in cases when I’m passionate about the project I’m putting together. For example, I have much preferred studying for my finance exam than I have working on my marketing project. That’s just because my marketing project involves analyzing Walgreen’s marketing strategy, and frankly I don’t care about Walgreen’s marketing strategy. At all. Whereas, with a project like the Remediation project that I designed myself, it’s much easier for me to enjoy the work because I’m (presumably) passionate about the topic or medium that I chose. So in a sentence, I usually prefer exams, except when projects are discussing things I care about (not related to drug store advertisements).

Audience is Everything

Who? What? Where? When? and Why? – These are the essential questions. All of them, or at least some combination of them, will always govern our writing. But one sticks out from the rest. Which is that? Well from the title of this post, I think you have an idea.

It is The Who. And no, not the band, though they are fantastic. The Who is a writer’s audience and they will have their say in any piece of writing, no matter if it’s a dinky sports program or a 900-page biography of Abraham Lincoln (which I am currently reading).

We may not want to think about them. We may just want to write and say to hell with them. Well, there is one situation where that will certainly be quite alright: when the audience is yourself. I keep a journal, and I only use that space to talk to myself, so I can write whatever suits me. Oddly, I always make it very conversational, even though I’m the only one who reads it. It’s a strange melding of writer me and physical me.

But forgive me, I digress.

If the audience is anyone but yourself – and most times it will be – you have to pay them some mind. Writing aimlessly is writing unproductively. Who will read this? Who will want to read this? That is what you need to ask yourself and keep in mind throughout the process. It holds true for academic writing and all other forms, except when you write for yourself, which I have already mentioned.

Just imagine your audience standing over your shoulder while you’re writing. Would that sentence make sense to them? Would this be confusing? Do I need to explain this better? How appealing will all of this be? You will find you have produced something of quality if you remember who’s going to read it.

Don’t forget The Who. Audience is everything.

Identify_Your_Audience

THIS IS NOT A CLASS (my advice to the future MIW cohorts about the gateway)


My advice about the gateway course: THIS IS NOT A CLASS.

In the gateway to the minor, we learn what it means to be writers. We explore our feelings about writing and what writing means to us personally. We develop and reflect on our process. We create. We critique. We are inspire and are inspired by one another. We build a community.

Take note: we do all of these things, but we do not seek a grade. It’s not about “doing well,” “scoring,” or “competing.” It is simply about doing, no matter what that means. Beware of approaching the gateway as a class in the typical sense, because if you do you’ll miss the point.

Have fun. Don’t worry about getting an A. If you do your best and put all that you can into your work, the A will appear. If you distract yourself with “A” thoughts, your writing will suffer.

THIS IS NOT A CLASS. Be sure to read the warning label.

 

Warning Label

Nobody Really Knows How To Write: A Bold Proclamation

My bold proclamation about writing is that nobody really knows how to write.

You may be thinking to yourself, “that’s a lie! I write every day, so clearly I know how. You wrote these words I’m reading, so clearly you know how too. Millions of people write every day in essays, books, blogs, and even notebooks, so it seems that everyone knows how.”

While its true that almost everyone writes and thus has the ability to put words down in succession, I don’t believe that anyone knows “how”. And by “how”, I mean the method one uses in order to get those words on the page.

We take writing classes and complete assignments in pursuit of learning “how” to write. Nevertheless, there is no consensus on what this “how” is. And nobody has been able to explain what I should do when I’m stuck or what the rules are when I’m not.

I recently attended a live interview with a fairly accomplished author and teacher of writing who herself said that she has no method for writing, no steps to take. She couldn’t describe exactly how she writes in any real or concrete way.

If someone like that doesn’t know the “how,” how could mere students know? Let alone those who’ve never taken a writing class.

Nobody really knows how to write. We’re all stabbing blindly in the dark.

Additional ePortfolio Works

When I first approached the idea of which pieces of writing to include, I had to first decide what theme or purpose I wanted to convey through the writings I picked. I thought of all of the classes I have taken up until this point, and realized that I have had to write, in one form or another, in each class. Whether it’s an academic essay (like the ones written for Philosophy and Classical Architecture), or a laboratory report (Biology, Chemistry), I’ve had the opportunity to continue to develop my skills as a writer, even without taking English or Writing courses in each semester. The opportunity to display additional works outside of our class is a wonderful platform for me to showcase my talents with these other areas of writing. I plan on including the aforementioned Philosophy, Architecture, and Biology writings, as well as research essay from my previous Writing class, with the hopes that the wide range of topics and styles will best showcase my abilities as a writer.

When it comes to writing a paper vs. taking an exam, I think I lean more towards Team Paper. Writing is an entire process, with many steps involved that include receiving feedback at certain points throughout the project. I think this suits me better than a one shot attempt, like what you get with an exam, because it gives me a chance to work with a few different ideas, workshopping them until I am comfortable that I will be able to include everything that is expected on the rubric. For an exam, there is a level of uncertainty regarding exactly what is going to end up on the exam, which is more stressful than knowing exactly what is expected, something that a rubric offers. Because of all this, I have been enjoying our remediation and eportfolio work more than studying for my Orgo and Bio finals.

All Thanksgivings Ever

I have had the same thanksgiving, give or take a few details, since I was born. My family isn’t very big on tradition, but Thanksgiving weekend is one that hasn’t and will never change. The festivities start on Wednesday, which is Grandparens Day/Special persons at Breck School, the school that all of my siblings and cousins and I have attended. I have always played the role of the coordinator. I am always the one making sure that all of the grandparents get to each kids class, on time, and that all of the grandkids are happy with the class that each grandparent attended, a job that is much easier now when I don’t actually have classes to go to. I speedwalk through the hallways like a crazy person, smiling at old teachers, and the adorable preschoolers walking in a line to snack. Finally, at noon, the day is over, and we all go out to lunch. Wednesday night we watch a movie and go to bed early to get enough rest for the rest of the week.

Then the actual day of Thanksgiving arrives. We lounge around the house for a while until we are beckoned to my grandma’s house to help her set up. Around noon, when all of the tables are set, my grandma and I sit down to write the questions. The questions, a tradition that the adults dread, began about 10 years ago. My grandma and I write questions that each member of the family in attendance is to answer honestly, and anonymously. The questions have ranged from “If your life was a movie, what would it be titled?” to, “What is the hardest decision you’ve ever made?” When the hors de’vours are put out, each adult is handed a pen, a clipboard with the questions and told to spill. Then during dessert, I proceed to read each person’s set of answers, and the family is to guess who answered each question. Spoiler: this is never difficult, and the person’s name is almost always blurted out after the answer to the first question. We laugh at the younger ones answers, and sit and discuss the elder’s answers curiously, eating what seems to be an endless supply of my mother’s chocolate chip pecan pie.

But the traditions don’t end on Thursday, oh no, our Thanksgiving is essentially three days long. Friday morning my dad drags us all out of bed, as we groggily slip on our wool socks, long johns, hats and mittens… because it is time for the most intense family game ever played. It is broomball time. My uncle, who initiated the game around 15 years ago, brings the brooms, the ball, and the red pennies. And for an hour and a half it is war, as cousins check each other against the boards, and deck each other ruthlessly, while my girl cousins and I stand in the middle of the ice, with the goal of touching the ball once before the game ends.

After the buzzer goes off and the Breck high school hockey team kicks us off the ice, we all pile into everyones car, and head over to my aunt and uncles for the Channukah party. Yes, we have our Channukah party over thanksgiving, an idea that came about when kids started leaving for college and this was the only guaranteed time the entire family would be together to exchange gifts. We sit around the fire eating potato latkes and spinning the dreidel, as my grandpa delivers gifts in the goofiest manner possible. With most of the kids in college now, we hug and say, see you soon, which could mean see you in December, or for some, see you next thanksgiving.

This three day Thanksgiving tradition is a lot of family time, and when I was younger, I often wished that I could spend my Friday like the rest of my friends, shopping. Now, being away from home for most of the year, I wish that we could all stay at the Channukah party, spinning dreidels and laughing at my grandpa, forever.

Why I’m Thankful for the Writing Minor

Before college, I wrote the same way I walked or played soccer or spoke- it was natural and habitual. Yet when I entered college writing became something of necessity, something that classes demanded of me in order to finish a paper or an exam. My freshman year I found myself trying to redirect my creative passion for writing but it became harder and harder. Eventually, writing for pleasure and expression took a backseat and I wrote when demanded of me. I am thankful for the writing minor because it enables me to write to explore again. I explore myself, the world around me and other people. Some of my favorite pieces have emerged from this class and I have learned an immense amount about how and why my peers write as well. I have learned and explicated the very reason I write and the value in it. I have created a vessel not only to express myself but to enlighten myself. I have created new media in order to convey my writing in this ever growing multimedia age. None of that would have been possible without this writing minor.

One of my favorite quotes is by Anais Nin and it goes: “I write to taste life twice.” I always thought that was particularly poignant because it rings so true for me. I write in order to experience the world in my own personal way, to see the world again- not just by immediate experience but through my own crafted lens. Being in the writing minor enables me to taste life twice again and that is something I am immensely appreciative for. I look forward to continuing to discover more about the heart of writing- my own and others.