1 Apr

The Importance of a Personal Story – Part 2

The best way for people to learn history and appreciate its importance is to start learning it at an early age in school. It’s common to hear people complaining about their history classes. They say that history is not important to learn “because it’s already happened”, a mindset that is negatively affecting my community. The improper teaching of history has brought about this mindset. Many history classrooms only teach facts and “the teaching of only facts reduces [the student’s] intellectual abilities and denies students the expressive potential inherent in their humanity” (Ohio Department of Education). While there have been schools and teachers that are working to change this mindset, the idea that history isn’t important to learn in schools has already been engrained in the mind of the student and reinforced by the population of the internet through memes. Students have already stopped caring, so one of the greatest challenges is to convince them to start caring again.

One of the best ways to convince students to care about history again, and begin to enforce the importance of history, is to encourage the tradition of oral history. StoryCorps is an organization that is dedicated to recording the stories of people and they emphasize its importance by reminding people what is so important about history. On their about page, StoryCorps says they collect oral histories “to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters” (StoryCorps). It sums up why it is important for people to listen to each other’s stories. Without these stories people may begin to lose their empathy towards others and lose their place in the world. Oral histories work to enhance learning, nurture empathy and help students to become conscientious students of the world.

There are multiple ways that oral history enhances learning, one of which is connecting a name and face to history to make people more interested in it. One would argue that the “stories of past lives, communities, and events might seem intrinsically interesting” but when people only focus on groups while teaching social history it flattens the narrative and “students find the subject dry, boring, and surprisingly unconnected to their lives” (Crocco). When students are taught through oral histories though, the individual stories do not lose anything on their way to the student and retain their intrinsically interesting appeal. This encourages students to learn history by peaking their interest and enforcing the connection of history to the student.

History also enhances learning by forcing the student to think critically. This is especially true when the students collect the oral histories for themselves. In discovering multiple oral histories, students develop the skills to “frame questions about why accounts differ, fosters their abilities as critical thinkers” (Miller). Every person has a different story, and every person has an account of what they experienced during various events throughout history. When provided with these multiple stories, students are forced to think about the past complexly. It stops becoming a feeding of facts and becomes an interactive activity that stimulates the brain and a person’s passion for history.

Oral histories work to enhance learning, but also can be used to create empathy in a student. When listening to oral histories, students are encouraged  “to see the world through the eyes of another,” therefore creating an emotional link between the student and interviewee (Crocco). This emotional link was displayed in a study lead by Lee Penyak and Pamela Duray in Mexico City. The students in this study were asked to interview people in their community. By the end of the interviews, all the students reported having empathy for the people they interviewed and became increasingly active in the issue that they discovered the issue of with these interviews (Penyak). With this emotional link, the student will view past events with a fresh perspective that allows them to better understand the events and create a personal connection to them. This empathy can carry over into the emotions a student feels when learning the histories of other people. A student must learn empathy, but once learned personally through oral history, the empathy may grow and flourish rapidly.

Crocco, Margaret Smith. “Putting The Actors Back On Stage: Oral History In The..” Social Studies 89.1 (1998): 19. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Miller, Joan. “Migrant Memories: Creating An Oral History.” OAH Magazine Of History 23.4 (2009): 43. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Penyak, Lee M., and Pamela B. Duray. “Oral History And Problematic Questions Promote Issues-Centered Education.” Social Studies 90.2 (1999): 68. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

“StoryCorps.” StoryCorps. StoryCorps. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

“The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Social Studies in Elementary Education.” The Evidence Base for Social Studies: Social Studies in Elementary Education. Ohio Department of Education. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

31 Mar

The Importance of a Personal Story – Part 1

This section of the paper outlines what the issue is and why it’s important to learn about personal histories.


I grew up listening to my grandmother tell stories. They were mostly stories from books, but from time to time she would tell a short story of my father growing up, or one from her own childhood. These stories pulled from her memory sparked my imagination and brought to life my grandma’s past. It was always so strange to think of my grandmother as young girl in a world so different from my own. Looking back, I realize how important her individual history is in shaping my life. Individual histories are important in helping people better understand the past and making the storytellers understand that their personal story is important. Creating this understanding is like forming a tapestry. One must first acquire the pieces and tools before creating a tapestry. The more detailed the pieces, the more detailed and beautiful the tapestry.  Without these pieces, it is difficult to bring the past to life, which is exactly the problem occurring in America today. A decreasing interest in history is causing people to lose their sense of importance of the past as well as the benefits that come with knowing about the past.

This lost feeling about the importance of the past is causing people to become disconnected with history and their own pasts. Ancestry.com has seen this trend in America, with only “half of Americans [knowing] the name of only one or none of their great-grandparents” and with only “fifty percent of American families [having] ever researched their roots” (PRNewswire). These statistics apply to the community of Lincoln. Many people are not taking the time to discover their own family histories, and the story that made them who they are today.

This ignorance of the past causes people to forget how history impacts people today, which in turn causes people to lose the benefits this knowledge of the past provides. In a world that seems to be constantly advancing and looking to the future, it’s easy for people to believe that history is simply something that happened but now has no purpose in modern society. The president and CEO of The Generations Network, Tim Sullivan, reminds us that “our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents each possess a lifetime of incredible, unique experiences that have shaped their lives and impacted our own. It’s important we take time to better get to know our family members and to share our stories” (PRNewswire). The history that people choose to teach to “children is playing a role in shaping their values and beliefs” (Crabtree). Whether their past sounds good or bad, understanding how ancestors impact people today leads to a reassessment of how a person is currently living their life.

There is also a more practical reason for people to know where they came from. Many adopted children seek to find out who their birth parents are, but it’s not always for the heartwarming reasons movies might suggest. Often times, they do this so they can find out their medical histories and discover why they might act the way that they do (Betchen). The past not only shows people where they found their values and predispositions, but their personal pasts can show them why some of them sneeze because of pollen or why some of them end up with Alzheimer’s. The physical makeup of one’s ancestor’s bodies is what makes up their own body.

Going beyond just personal histories, it is important to look at the significance of history objectively. History in general is extremely important to know and understand the past because “our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems” (Crabtree). History has shaped the present that has made humans inescapably intertwined with the past. It has dictated current beliefs and shaped the issues that we face in this world today. If people do not acknowledge history and what it has already taught them “we will find ourselves fabricating a past that reinforces our understanding of current problems” (Crabtree). As people become increasingly disconnected with the past, issues may become more difficult to solve because no one has a proper understanding of its past and will therefore not truly understand how to resolve it. People will only ever look for solutions that they desire to solve the issue, not solutions that will actually solve the issue.

Betchen, Stephen J. “Why Adoptees Need To Find Their Biological Parents.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 3 Apr.      2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Crabtree, David. “The Importance of History.” Gutenberg College Great Books. Gutenberg College. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

PRNewswire. “Ancestry | Press Releases.” Ancestry | Press Releases. Ancestry.com, 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

30 Mar

The Importance of a Personal Story – A Series of Posts

This week I’ll be starting a series of posts on the importance of history for people and in schools.

In school we had to choose an issue in our community and try and do something to help ‘fix’ it. Another part of the project though was to write a research paper on the issue. My first idea was to help in nursing homes and with the elderly in general, but then I realized a bigger issue. While it’s important to give these people proper care for their sakes, it’s also important to record their stories for both their sake and the sake of everyone else. I realized the importance of having multiple stories on a subject, and the best way to get multiple stories is to ask multiple people. It’s about more than just getting the story though, but sharing the story so that the story teller realizes their story matters and the people that hear the story also recognize it’s significance. I especially wanted to focus on more historical stories and stories of the elderly as their stories won’t be with us soon and all the knowledge they hold will be lost and simply added to a text book as “people in this era tended to do…”. All personal relation we have to stories will disappear and the will become dry and devoid of emotion. This paper addresses this issue and some suggestions on how to fix it.

29 Feb

Dear Clueless American

Things you should know for a Lunar New Year party in America.

Dear Clueless American,

I assume since you are reading this letter that you are going to be attending a Lunar New Year celebration, and that you are currently clueless and have no idea what to expect. Don’t worry, I also was once in the same position except I attended clueless and had to learn as I went. You, on the other hand, should not need to worry. I have made all the mistakes and taken all the unsure steps so you don’t have to. I experienced a Vietnamese New Year party, so there might be a few things that are different, but these basic tips should help you make the most you possibly can of your experience.

First off, don’t show up late. This sounds obvious, but seriously don’t. It doesn’t matter what you were doing that day, if you show up late you will probably miss out on some very cool shows like the Lion Dance, something I had never seen before, and still have never seen. They tend to start the night off with a bang, so it’s best to not miss it. If you have to be late, just hope that some people there are willing to record it for you while drive 5 miles over the speed limit to make up for your tardiness. Even if you are late, you shouldn’t worry too much because there is likely still a long night ahead. Just fix your outfit and walk in confidently. Speaking of your outfit…

Dress up nice. I don’t mean a v-neck with jeans, I mean you should probably wear a dress or skirt as a female and a button up with slacks for guys. It’s generally a much nicer event than we make our New Year parties. The one I attended was Vietnamese, so many of the people in attendance were wearing traditional clothing. I was not warned of this, so I was very underdressed in my jeans and t-shirt. I don’t think anyone judged me, but I think I would have been able to relax a little more if I had dressed classier.

Expect to clap and cheer a lot. With large Lunar New Year parties there will be a number of performances and there may even be a few by the people you know. They might not be top quality, super stellar performances, but they will very enjoyable. After each one you are going to want to cheer and clap loudly. Unless they ask you not to, give into temptation and cheer your heart out. This is even encouraged for shy people because it will raise your adrenaline and make the night more fun. But you will be filled up with more than just entertainment…

Prepare to eat a lot of food. There will be tables upon tables of cultural food with many ingredients that you may have never tried before. It is all delicious so gluttony will soon take over and you will become full quickly. To postpone the inevitable, just be as hungry as possible going in so you don’t pass up the chance to try all this amazing food. Which brings me to my next point…

Try all the food. Don’t be scared just because the cake looks green or the rice is bright orange. Those might actually end up being your favorite foods for the night (the green cake is sticky rice cake, and it is delicious). Some of the foods might even have names or ingredients that you can’t pronounce. How’s that for something new. They might have chicken strips and fries as part of the food option, but you are there to have new experiences, which includes food! Most importantly, try the spring rolls and the brown sauce that should be next to them. It’s called peanut sauce and it’s the most heavenly thing you will ever try (unless you are allergic to peanuts, in which case it might send you to heaven).

You will not know some of the songs. Unless you listen to their music all the time, chances are they will play a song where everyone seems to be singing along except you. Don’t worry when this happens. No one is judging you for now knowing the song, and it might be more offensive if you try to sing along badly. Unless someone tells you you should sing along, it is perfectly fine to simply smile while everyone else is singing. Don’t let this potentially uncomfortable moment ruin your night. It’s just another chance for you to have a cultural experience. And maybe you will find some really interesting, new music.

Hopefully all these tips are helpful to you as you approach your Lunar New Year celebration. It’s also possible that these won’t help at all. I am afterall still an American. In the end just remember to have fun and enjoy the night with your friends!


Fellow Clueless American

23 Feb

The Corruption of Peace: Mean Spirit Book Reflection

When learning about other people and cultures, it is easy to generalize and make assumptions about who these different people are, what they do, and what they believe. Many of these stereotypes are founded in Colonization and Imperialism, begun in America in the 1600s. In the book Mean Spirit the author, Linda Hogan, addresses this issue, using the Osage Indians in Oklahoma during the 1920s to illustrate the opinion the white man held of the Indians and how this opinion led to disaster. Indian traditions slowly fall apart as what they value becomes corrupted while the white man continues to assert their power and laws over the Osage people. This combination only spelt disaster for the Oklahoma Indians.

Manifest destiny is a major root of many of the disputes and deception in Mean Spirit. The Dawes act of 1887 allowed for Indians to have individual ownership of land, but only after white people had the chance to claim the land best for farming and cultivation. Once oil was discovered in Oklahoma though, the dried up pieces of land given to the Indians suddenly became the most valuable allotments. To the Indians, it “seemed generous at first glance so only a very few people realized how much they were being tricked” (p. 8). Though maybe the past would have hinted toward this tendency of the white man, the Indians did not quickly expect the white man to become so deceptive to repossess land that was given to them. They shouldn’t have to have this mentality, but the white man has grown so accustomed to taking what they deem valuable that it seemed obvious for them to claim what they felt they deserved far more than the Indians. They didn’t only feel that it was their right to own the land though. They also felt that they should assert authority over the Indians that lived on that land.

The feeling of white superiority was born out of Imperialism. The white government felt this superiority when “nearly all the full-blood Indians were deemed incompetent by the court’s competency commission.” (p. 241). With the threat of incompetence, the white man effectively made it clear to the Indians that they held dominance over them. The only thing that deemed these Indians incompetent though was that they appeared less sophisticated and educated than the white man. The white man attempted to take advantage of this perceived gap, and they were doing quite well with cheating the Indians out of their money and land. When they felt they couldn’t display their dominance over the Indians though, they took on a mind of fear. The white men “had ideas about Indians, that they were unschooled, ignorant people who knew nothing about life or money. But whenever an Indian didn’t fit their vision” they became afraid of what they were actually capable of (p. 60). Because of their conditioned idea that they are better than the Indians, they actually become afraid when it seems the Indians might actually be the same or (God forbid) even better than the white man. To deal with this fear, the white man used their own laws to keep themselves from this unknown person and forced assimilation onto Indians so they would no longer have to try to understand them or treat the Indians as they were as equals.

Assimilation was forced upon the Indians through laws and social order. The Curtis Act of 1898 was designed to dissolve all forms of Indian government so that the Indians were forced to follow the laws that the Indian Commission set for them. Many of the Indians fought this and “some of them had even gone to Washington, D.C., to talk with the president who refused a hearing with them” (p. 61). Despite all of their efforts, the Indians were never given a say in what laws were placed over them, but they were punished for breaking these laws all the same. To keep the white man appeased they listened to their laws, but all they really wanted was “to be left alone and in peace. They wanted it so much that they turned their minds away from the truth and looked in the other direction” (p. 40). They were a very peaceful people that were yanked into a world full of corruption and violence and weren’t allowed to leave. The white man corrupted what they held sacred like the animals and land with hunting and oil drilling. In order to survive in this world, they either had to allow this corruption or risk their own life trying to protect it.

The combination of Colonization and Imperialism plowed a path for the white man to assert their dominance and gain power and in it’s wake left the way of life for the Indian people destroyed. Mean Spirit exposed the corruption and violence that fed this destruction through the lives of the Osage Indians in Oklahoma. Fear and the feeling of superiority led the white man to believe that this destruction was justified and would eventually help the Indians by forcing assimilation to what they believed was the superior way to live, but in reality it did nothing but oppress Indians.

27 Jan

Hamlet Final Project: Façade



I am a student, a Lincolnite, a daughter, and a user of social media. While I am happy to be apart of all these communities of people, I would be lying if I said that they were all perfect. When there are imperfections in these communities though, people may refuse to face them and attempt to cover up their imperfections. There are even times when they intentionally use others for their own selfish gain, but again put up a front. For these reasons I chose the theme façade to encompass how the communities in which I live tend to cover up their imperfections. In an age where social pressures are high, money holds power, and technology makes it easy to create a false image, it’s no wonder these communities do their best to hide their blemishes. This is also the case for the characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While technology wasn’t as advanced, news still traveled fast, power fueled ambition, and, especially as a royal member, social pressures were great. This forced the characters to cloak their own imperfections from the world, especially when it came to the character Gertrude.


Move On

“Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know’st ‘tis common: all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”
-Gertrude Act I, Scene II

In my community, fads come and go. I have seen many of these fads with my peers at school and even participated in them myself. The above picture represents this idea quite well. In a community with so much technology I often find myself surrounded by it and even using more than one device at a time (in fact, I’m doing it right now). I move from one device to the next doing different things on each of them while completely disregarding the other. It’s much like how we treat fads. We give them attention then throw them away. Gertrude treats people the same way we treat these fads. This is most seen in the play with her moving on from her old husband. In the quote above she very quickly passes him off as dead as an excuse to get married. She used the previous king then moved on to further her own gain. In the case of my community, it would be to further their enjoyment, but for Gertrude, it’s to find perfection.


Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you. And sure I am two men there are not living To whom he more adheres.
“Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you.
And sure I am two men there are not living
To whom he more adheres.”
-Gertrude Act II, Scene II

Paycheck advance is a thinly veiled scam store that I see in various locations around Lincoln. I flipped the picture around to show how backwards their intentions are from their claims. They claim that they are there to help people until they reach their next paycheck, but really they are only there for personal gain. The put interest on it so the people have to end up paying more money than they otherwise would have had to pay. The customer becomes trapped though and has to continue paying this extra fee making the customer more desperate and allowing the company to make money. Gertrude also uses deceit for her own gain. For example, in the quote above she convinces Guildenstern and Rosencrantz that Hamlet admires them both greatly and that they will repay them for helping him. The real reason she brings them in though is because she is running out of options on how to calm Hamlet down and figure out what is wrong. She is using them so she doesn’t have to do it herself.

Seek Attention

“Sweets to the sweet. Farewell! (scatters flowers) I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife. I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid, And not have strewed thy grave.”
“Sweets to the sweet. Farewell! (scatters flowers)
I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife.
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave.”
-Gertrude Act V, Scene I

The above photo contains a display of Valentines Day chocolates in Barnes and Noble. The chocolates are set up nicely and on a table pushed out further than the others and with a pink top to complete the theme of the display. Many different stores have this sort of set up, and it’s quite obvious what the store keepers want to do. They are drawing attention to that display to sway the community of Lincoln to buy that product from their store. How this store accomplishes it is by pushing the display further into the aisle, contrasted by the far less colorful displays next to it and, in the top right corner you can see, is set up where the shopper has to see it on their way to their café. Gertrude also would seem as a box of chocolates throughout the tragedy (and not in the Forest Gump sense). She constantly tries to bring the focus back to herself as it benefits her. In the quote example she is at Ophelia’s funeral, but even there when she is supposed to be honoring the life of the deceased, she brings it back to herself. How many times she referred to herself in that short line was far too much, not to mention that she hardly honors her life. Gertrude essentially goes on about how it was a shame that she was not able to use Ophelia for what she wanted to use her for but in a way that made it seem as if she cared. In the end, she is simply drawing attention to herself.

Keep Up Appearances

“As soon as the sun sets we’ll ship him off to England…
So dreaded slander—
Whose whisper o’er the world’s diameter,
As level as the cannon to his blank,
Transports the poisoned shot—may miss our name
And hit the woundless air.”
– Claudius Act IV, Scene I

In this picture, we see a picture of a family. It seems like an average family taking a photo, but there is no story behind it, as with the case of many family photos. I have gone to a number of houses where family photos hang on the wall and received a number of cards depicting a perfect family with no issues. It’s a snap shot taken of a staged moment, meant to represent the family it depicts, but it often doesn’t. For that reason I took the picture so that it was a little out of focus with poor lighting becauseIt’s the same situation in Hamlet for the royal Denmark family. I imagine Gertrude would stage a very similar family photo to send out on the royal family news letter. She spends so much time keeping up her own and her family’s appearance. In the quote above though there is finally an incident where Hamlet kills Polonius and she no longer can keep up this appearance. In response, she and Claudius decide to send Hamlet off to England to keep this incident as far away from their family image as possible. They also make sure that people understand that it was Hamlet’s doing and not their own, completely washing their own hands clean of the situation. In the end, the photo Gertrude cares about most is the portrait of herself.


“I will not speak with her.”
-Gertrude Act IV, Scene V

In the picture above there is a girl taking a selfie. Before she takes the picture though she has to fix her hair, angle the camera, make a face, adjust the filter, and basically work to make herself look perfect. She may take multiple shots before she finds one that she is happy with. I see this all the time in my community on social media and in my school. The reason I left her eyes out of the photo is because often when people do this they are not reflecting who they really are but instead they portray a more perfect version of themselves which is taking away their identity. Gertrude would revel in this selfie era and being able to take pictures until they look perfect. She pushes the imperfect parts of her life as far away as possible and focuses on the perfect parts. To keep her perfection she keeps people away from herself and will send others to do the dirty work for her so she can continue in her perfect bubble. She does often does this with Hamlet, where she sent other people to help him with his issues, but in the quote above she is doing the same thing with Ophelia. She refuses to talk with her, because she knows that Ophelia will expose her imperfections. Gertrude just wants her selfie of perfection.

7 Dec

Saved by Ideas: a Concept of Heroism

Heroes, and the concept of heroes, have become an integral part of society. With so many heroes in history, not to mention the hundreds of superhero books and movies, it’s no wonder that society holds such a fascination for heroes. But this fascination is held mostly for the concept of heroes and what they represent. People care less about the person and more about what that person represents. People find an idea that they love, then rally behind the person or persons who represent that idea.

Examples of people only caring about what a hero represents is seen all throughout history. Howard Zinn points this out in his essay Unsung Heroes where he mentions a number of heroes in history that people often look to and points out people that would better fit the role of the hero. The essay has many great points about who people should actually be looking to as heroes, but many people will never take this essay to heart. People often times don’t care about their heroes as people, but as ideas. Abraham Lincoln for example, he had to be pushed by others to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and pass the amendments that were do help with racism. The fact that Lincoln was actually kind of racist is often over looked because he is the person that represents that start of civil rights. In the case of Lincoln, as well as many other heroes, the only part about them that matters is the part that people decide to remember and look to. While this essay points out the terrible traits of heroes, it doesn’t matter, because these heroes have ceased being people and have instead become an idea for people to look to.

An idea lives on much longer than a person ever could, so it’s important for heroes to represent ideas rather than a person. Sometimes they are represented as a changing person though. There are many superhero movies out there and in many films the superheroes are played by different actors. For example, many different people have played Spiderman, but, despite arguments over who is the best Spiderman, people will easily agree that they are all still Spiderman. It’s much harder for viewers to accept new actors in new roles, but it’s commonplace for superheroes. The characters in V for Vendetta also show how it’s the idea of a person that’s important. At the end of the graphic novel, V tells Finch “there is no flesh or blood in this cloak to kill. There’s only an idea” (236, Moore, Lloyd). Even after Finch kills the person who was behind the mask, he did not truly kill V because V was an idea. Different, mortal people could wear the mask, but V serves as an immortal symbol for people to look at for years. People then devote themselves to this idea.

When people rally behind their heroes though, and devote themselves to their ideas, they often find themselves giving something up. People find themselves dependent on heroes, devoid of their own thoughts and opinions. It’s a mindset that Fyodor Dostoevsky discussed in his book The Brothers Karamazov. Two brothers were having a conversation, when he eldest brother, Ivan, tells a story to his younger brother, Alyosha, of Jesus coming to earth and the Grand Inquisitor detains him so he can tell him all about how humans really act. With the Grand Inquisitor playing the role as the hero for his people, it’s accurate when he says that the people “have brought us their freedom and have laid it humbly at our feet”(289). The people gave up their freedom and yearned for someone else to lead and make decisions for them. People keep heroes so that they can look to them for guidance and eventual happiness. These heroes, again, then turn into an idea.

People do not look to heroes to see another person, but to see themselves. They wish to see their own goals and happiness achieved through this idea that is represented by a person. Heroes take an unassuming identity so that people can maintain a concept of a hero who may or may not deserve the position that they have received.

3 Dec

Draft for A Time to Rest

Dear Reader,

I wrote this story to focus on a local band called the Prairie Creek Ramblers. I say that the gig is at a local coffee shop, but purposely don’t say the name so that you, the reader, doesn’t focus on the fact that it’s in a coffee shop. Instead you should focus on the averageness and closeness of the venue and how this enhances the music experience. It hopefully encourages you and others to slow down and go listen to a local band. It shows you the positive aspects of supporting local bands.


A Time to Rest

The brisk wind whistles through my thin, black jacket as I rush into the local coffee house. The warm air washes over me as the small bell rings above the door, announcing my entrance. I’m not there for the warmth though, or even the coffee. It’s currently a Friday night, and on most Fridays, this small, corner cafe invites a band to come and play for the customers.

Tonight a local bluegrass band called the Prairie Creek Ramblers is playing in the back corner. With the twang of a banjo, the deep strum of the upright bass, and the soothing melody of guitar, they fill the coffee shop with a smooth and relaxing tune. I’ve walked in on a slow song, one where the instruments play softly and the lyrics are sad and sweet. It sets the tone of the shop as I walk up to the counter to give my order. In line I cast my gaze to the other customers in the shop. Some faces I recognize from previous visits, others bear the face of a stranger, but both kinds of faces hold a serene look, reflecting the mood of the song. Conversations are held in low whispers and chairs pulled and pushed silently. The song then came to a beautiful resolution as I ordered my drink and the customers end the song with spattering applause.

After ordering, I walk to a seat near some familiar faces. One is Anita, the mother of the lead singer, a good friend of mine. She greets me loudly as I approach, and the banjo strums the beginning of the next song, this time a more upbeat and rolling tune. I return her greeting as I drape my jacket over the wobbly chair.

I return to the counter to retrieve my drink carefully walking back to my seat to relax and enjoy the music. I tap my foot and absent mindedly stare into my drink while I allow my mind to wander and forget for a while.

Often in this busy world I can’t find time to slow down and relax like this. I’ve lived most of my life constantly going from one activity to the next while also trying to balance school and family. Music provides a means of escape from this, if just for a mere moment. But a blaring iPod, booming radio, or even a live concert in a large arena can’t quite match the serenity I find when I immerse myself in the live music in such a casual place, like a coffee shop. I can actually feel the hum of the instruments without having to worry about the hectic and stressful crowds of a large concert. I can sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy pleasant conversations with those around me.

I stay seated for another few songs before the band announces that they will be taking a short break before performing another set of songs. This is another thing that I love about a local bands because I’m able to directly talk and hang out with the performers instead of being separated by a screen or security detail.

We converse and laugh for a while before they make their way back to their corner and settle in to continue playing as I settle back into my chair. I clear my mind again as the banjo starts the next flood of songs. I hum to myself some of the more familiar tunes and occasionally glance up to observe the mood around me.

Inevitably, the last song begins during which the singer invites the audience to sing along. I sing the final chorus with the band before the cafe breaks into applause. I remember the feeling of the music, but reality comes back to me as I review all the things I need to accomplish for the weekend. I attempt to catch myself, but it’s too late. The music is done and I must again return to my responsibilities, but at least for that little while I was able to clear my mind. While responsibilities are important fundamental, it’s also important to stop and relax for a while by enjoying simple pleasures like a local band.

3 Nov

A Time to Grow: Excerpts from a Bibliophile

In June 2014, I was onboard a plane transporting me to London, England to begin a WWII European Tour. I had been told multiple times previously that this would be, “the trip of a lifetime”, but I didn’t realize this truth until I reflected on what I learned on this trip and how it propelled me into adulthood.

When the trip was first suggested I strived to go on it. I am reminded of the character May Bird from the book series May Bird by Jodi Lynn Anderson. May had to cross a patch of briars to start her adventure. Though difficult, she was able to work through them. The briars I needed to cross included raising funds, writing essays, acquiring letters of recommendation, and reading books to review. I thought these obstacles were keeping me from my adventure, but they were part of the adventure itself.

This trip also gave me a lesson in time management. Without adults I learned to be punctual when there wasn’t anyone to keep you in check. While it’s still important to be on time, it’s sometimes more important to worry and take advantage of the time you’re given.  

My second day in Paris, we decided to visit Montmarte, located on top of a tall hill with only steps to reach it. It reminded me of my time spent in detasseling. Even though it was a difficult, I persevered because I knew it would allow me to raise money for the trip. The top of Montmarte also made the trek up worth it. In both, I learned you have to work to receive what you want.

I experienced events in Belgium and Germany that reminded the ones that occurred in the book The Odyssey by Homer, translated by W.H.D. Rouse. In this book, Odysseus wants to go home, but obstacles stood in the way of this goal. Our own obstacles were a bus driver that was 3 hours late and friction with a friend in Cologne. We were able to smooth things over but this disagreement, with the late bus driver, made for some frustrating days. I was feeling like Odysseus, wanting everything to go as planned, yet knowing they can be achieved with determination and adaptability.

On the return home, I had time to reflect on the trip. I felt like Bilbo from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Both Bilbo and I weren’t sure where our adventures were going to lead. Unlike Bilbo, I had an itinerary, but nothing could have prepared me for how this trip turned out. With each place we visited, knowledge about culture and history were added. I also could have never anticipated the moments and memories that would come from them. Along with the knowledge and memories, I learned about myself. Like how Bilbo was able to awaken his sense of adventure and take a journey that changed how he perceived the world, I awoke my own sense of adventure and grew. The combination of the preparation for this trip and the trip itself forced me to make decisions and actions that made me think for myself and, in the process, make me more mature.

Tales of adventure have always captivated me, but when I was younger, I only liked the story. Now that I’ve grown older I realize that I am in charge of my own story, choices, and experiences that define it.  After this trip, I am confident that I can work with whatever opportunities may come.


Author’s note: I’d just like you, the reader, to know that this is an extremely condensed version of an essay that was previously over 4,000 words. I think it’s pretty impressive that I could do that, but I ended up cutting out many important points, so if you want to read the whole paper, just let me know in the comments bellow.

19 Oct

Como Se Taco Creates New Taco Combinations


The new taco joint in Lincoln, Como Se Taco, has given a unique twist on what a taco can be.

Opened on August 19th of this year, Como Se Taco is already a flourishing taco restaurant, with it’s small floorplan barely being able to contain the plethora of customers who dine there. When I went there myself, there wasn’t even a table to sit at and I had to bring my food to the neighboring Honest Abe’s to eat instead.

After stepping inside, it becomes clear quite quickly that this is no typical mexican cuisine restaurant. It has a trendy vibe along with modern tables and chairs. It might make people question whether or not the restaurant serves authentic Mexican food.

But their questioning would be warranted. With menu options including “Seoul Food” and the “Jamaican Sensation” it’s obvious their goal was not authenticity. But instead of being a drawback, this enhances the appeal of the restaurant. They are able to present a very unique menu, in the most delicious way possible.

Their unique menu includes 7 different tacos to choose from, combined with 4 different meat options. They also offer rice bowls and salads that you can use as a bed for your taco.

I ordered the “Seoul Food” taco with pork and “The Peanut Gallery” taco with chicken, which use Korean and Thai cuisine to inspire their ingredients. For those who are less adventurous, there is still the option of the “Plain Jane” which contains classic taco ingredients.

While their menu might seem limited, it helps that they offer more than just unique tacos. They also offer chips and salsa, with housemade corn chips and 4 different salsa options.

Their menu also contains 4 different drinks, with one of them being the classic Mexican rice drink, Horchata, but another one being Thai Iced Tea. It continues with the theme of having Mexican drinks, but they also have other unique drinks.

And for children who maybe are afraid to try any of the tacos, there is also a kid’s menu available for children 12 and under.

At Como Se Taco, you are able to enjoy a new and unique type of food, while still being able to eat local.


Como Se Taco

840 N 70th St, Lincoln, NE 68505


Hours: Mon-Sat 11AM – 9PM

“Curiously delicious tacos for all humanity.”