My Semester

Going through a rough semester could feel like it will never end. But, when it does, I somehow feel just as unprepared. This seems especially true for me this spring semester, seeing as how it’s my final semester of my academic career.

I have learned a lot about myself throughout this extraordinary period in my life. Some teachers put me through hell, but they all truly cared about me and my education. I was able to accomplish much more than I had ever expected.

As difficult as it is to balance work, school, and social lives during college, I decided to really challenge myself this past semester. I did this by proposing to my fiancee on November 16, 2016, to be married on May 27, this year, and moving into my new apartment on May 2, 2017, (a day before a major final exam, which was administered at 8:00 AM the next morning, and I needed to do well on.) I first began studying for this final exam sometime around midnight that night. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep; I slept a solid 3 hours before needing to wake up and drive myself to Whitewater to take the exam. I was shocked to later see that my grade on this exam was 100%! Don’t ask me my secret; I have no clue how I managed to receive this perfect score.

This time around, my semester has been, by far, the hardest semester I have ever endured, but I made it through. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing fiancee, my family and friends, and the great faculty and staff and my fellow students at UW-W. And, of course, the local coffee shops in Whitewater (The Sweet Spot), and Janesville (Mocha Moment). Thanks to everyone who was there for me through it all. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could.

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How to be a Lifelong Learner

Growing up, my grandpa always told me how he was a lifelong learner. He would tell me stories of things he had learned and of things he was currently learning. He always took an interest in my education, asking me questions about what I was learning and how I enjoyed it. I always thought he was cool (maybe I was a nerd, what are you gonna do about it?)

I remember watching the History Channel with him. I wasn’t like most young boys who were obsessed with sports and the like; I truly enjoyed watching one of the most boring TV channels in history, (see what I did there?), and I was proud of it, and I still am. There’s something really refreshing about learning.

I graduate college this May, but I plan to continue my learning. When my grandpa passed away last May, I decided that my being a lifelong learner would be dedicated to him.

There are many things I plan to do to always be learning. Here are a few of them:

I plan to…

Listen

When people are speaking to me, I will try my best to listen, with undivided attention, to their every word. I know I will fail, but that’s no reason to lower the bar. I will always strive to be better.

I saw a TED video of a man who gave up speaking for 17 years. He learned a lot from actually listening to people, rather than formulating an answer before the other had finished speaking. Which brings me to my next point.

Watch TED videos

I receive notifications when new TED videos are uploaded that are relevant to my interests. This is a very easy way to learn about a lot of different subjects.

Read (a lot)

I know, during college it is very difficult to read anything, besides textbooks, (if one can even manage that). But, reading is a very good way to increase your knowledge and expand your horizons. Good places to start would be physical books, e-books, online articles and journals, and, yes, even the dictionary.

Research

I always think of interesting topics that I’d like to know more about; things that, currently, will take away from my study time. Well, I plan on actually researching these things after graduation…When I have the time.

If I feel extra nerdy, I might even write a research paper, just for fun.

Keep a list of new words

Throughout my last semesters at UW-Whitewater, I have kept a list of new words and their definitions in my notebook. As I enter the professional world, I plan on continuing this practice. Expanding your vocabulary improves communication and reasoning, and can lead to a more successful life.

Attend workshops/take classes

There are all kinds of workshops and classes out there just waiting for you! Why not learn how to reupholster furniture? Or, make jewelry? Or, do yoga? Or, improve your creative writing skills? Your life will be enhanced, I promise.

Visit museums

I absolutely love visiting museums and learning about history. After all, history is our story.

But, maybe history isn’t your cup of tea? Well, you would benefit greatly from making it something you love. You can research ways to make it fun and interesting, I’m sure there are lots of ways!

Watch live performances

Whether you go to an opera, ballet, symphony, musical, play, local open mic, etc., you will have an experience unlike any other. Live performances are a great way to experience art, but are sadly dying out. Support local musicians, and the arts in general; attend live shows!

Take it all in, see what you learn along the way!

Please comment below if you are a lifelong learner. Let me know what you do to self-educate.

When Coffee is Not The Cure

Almost everyone loves drinking coffee, but we sometimes drink it to solve a problem it was never meant to fix: the midday slump.
Many times we feel sluggish in the early afternoon and have a proclivity to choose coffee or some other caffeinated beverage, like energy drinks to cure us. If we were to look at the root causes of this afternoon energy slump, we would likely change our ways.

Here are a few reasons we feel sluggish midday and how to combat them.

  1.  You are dehydrated: the afternoon energy slump is most often due to a lack of water. Next time you feel sluggish, drink a glass of water. You will notice that water is extremely effective at making you feel alert and ready for anything! 
  2. You need a nap: when we feel sluggish in the afternoon, it is actually not a bad idea to take a nap. (That’s right!) Just remember the different kinds of naps and how to achieve them: longer naps are best with a blanket and hold off on the coffee until you wake up; short/power naps are best with a cup of coffee beforehand and no blanket (unless there’s no way you’re falling asleep without a blanket) this will ensure that your nap will not be too long, if there ever was a thing. Also, the coffee actually helps you relax and nap easier. BONUS: naps allow the caffeine to be more effective once you do wake up. (This is probably your best choice for solving your midday slump, as coffee is a part of the solution!)
  3. You need to get active after your lunch: I’m going to get a lot of hate mail for this, but we need to be moving more, especially after a meal. It is healthy to take a 20 minute walk after every meal. I know that’s impossible for many people, especially in America, where we seem to not have enough time for anything. But, at least move around a little after eating. For example, go to the kitchen for seconds. I’m joking! 

    I hope this list of midday energy slump cures was helpful! Let me know what you think and what your strategies are to combat the afternoon slump. 

    The Dark Side of Convenience

    There have been many inventions in recent decades that are meant to make life easier, but they are damaging our relationships and communities. Here are just a few conveniences that are causing communities and relationships to crumble.

    Cell Phones

    Many people talk on the phone while checking out at their local grocery store. How is it not common knowledge that you should end the phone call and tell the person on the other end that you will call them back when you are free? It’s extremely rude to be on the phone, even texting, while a cashier is cashing you out. Show a little respect and engage in conversation with the person that is serving you. Thank them!

    There is also an issue of people turning into zombies when they use their phones as they walk places. This problem is prevalent on virtually every American university campus. Students use their phones, and headphones, to avoid interacting with people. You don’t get the nice nod with a, “Hi. How are you?” We are distanced even further from humanity, and lose our humanity. We need community to survive. We are social beings. 

    There are more extreme examples of the problems that phones cause. One only needs to look at the increasing traffic deaths due to distracted drivers who are texting, or otherwise using their cell phones, while driving.

    Frozen Dinners

    It may be convenient to make a quick, (somewhat) tasty meal, but what we’re losing to gain this convenience is family bonding over a shared meal. This is directly impacting the families of America, and most people don’t even realize it. I strongly believe in food’s unique ability to bring people together; it’s one of those things that bonds us all. A family dinner around the table is a very powerful thing.

    Self-Checkouts

    Self-checkouts at grocery and other stores are extremely convenient, especially when you’re in a rush! However, we miss out on that short, friendly conversation with our neighbors. I understand the positives of self-checkouts, but I think that meaningful human interaction is important to continue strengthening our communities. This is a wonderful opportunity to share a smile and a, “have a nice day!” with someone who may need it.

    This is only a short list of things that make life easier while reducing our ability to connect with others around us. I hope this post increases appreciation of the conveniences that we enjoy, and raises awareness of how using them in the wrong way can harm our relationships and damage our communities.

    Please comment with things you believe are damaging to relationships. How do you think we can change the way we use them to promote stronger communities?

    5 Ways to Make Goal Attainment Easier

    Life can be very difficult at times. Sometimes we feel there is nothing that can help our situation, so we give up on trying. I am not an expert on all things motivation, but I have some advice that I hope will encourage anyone who reads it. Here are 5 things you can do to make attaining your goals easier:

    1. Make a List: This one is self-explanatory, but one of the most important things you can do to start organizing your thoughts and focusing your efforts. Write down everything you need to do to accomplish a task in chronological order. This way you can follow along as you check things off your list (which is always satisfying) and look ahead to the next items to complete with your newfound motivation.
    2. Set Goals: Everyone should have a good set of short- and long-term goals for their lives. Just remember an effective goal is a SMART goal. That is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For example, instead of saying, “I will write my paper,” a more effective goal would be, “I will write my 5 page essay over the course of the weekend.” The former is too vague and not time-bound, the latter is SMART and more likely to be attained. It is also best to write down your goals.
    3. Take a Breather: Sometimes you just need to walk away and breathe for a few minutes. Once you have cleared your thoughts, you will make better, more sound decisions.
    4. Treat Yourself: Don’t be too hard on yourself if things are not going well. Sometimes you just need to #TreatYourself! This can also motivate you to accomplish your goals by “rewarding” yourself every time you complete one of your major tasks.
    5. Ask for Help: This is a hard one. I think many people shy away from asking others for help because they want to do things on their own; they want to do things their own way. However, it can be very beneficial to hear others’ opinions and receive their advice. Don’t be embarrassed when asking someone for assistance, because they are in your life for this very reason. Be humble and reach out! We are all here to live life together and help each other out when we can.

    I hope this helped you to at least get things started to attain your goals.

    What are some things you do to make goal attainment easier? What would you add to the list above? Let me know in the comments!

    Don’t Think You Can’t Travel Abroad

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    “Angie in Verona” by Ben Hanus. Verona, Italy May, 2015.

    I have had the great pleasure of helping to launch a new church in Janesville called Mercy Hill Church-Rock County. This location is one of three that collectively go on missions trips to various places around the world. One of these missions trips is an annual trip to Italy in the Spring/Summer to help prepare for, organize, and run an English school for children of our host church, International Christian Fellowship-Padova, and the surrounding area.

    Growing up, I always wanted to travel the world for work and pleasure. I didn’t know what kind of work I’d be doing or where it would take me, but I’m starting to see these questions answered. I have been to Italy twice on missions trips, and Belgium and Netherlands once for a travel study. I plan on continuing to travel to share the gospel of Jesus and His love for us. Ideally, I would find a career I love and that takes me around the world, immersing me in cultures not yet known to me.

    Like I said before, I grew up wishing to travel the world, especially to Italy. However, I didn’t believe it would ever be financially feasible. The way others spoke about visiting other countries made it seem far too expensive and dangerous. Now I know that, if you really focus on organizing fundraisers and saving money, it is financially possible to go abroad. Furthermore, travel abroad is not necessarily dangerous, (usually it is not.) But, I would like to make a point that it is nice to have someone in the destination country, or someone here who is knowledgeable about current safety concerns, who can keep you updated on travel safety.

    Traveling abroad is possible. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.

    Where have you traveled that you initially thought was impossible? Or, where would you like to travel? How has that changed your perspective on life and other’s cultures?