Making an Impact

This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and in honor of it, I am posting something I wrote about my current English teacher, Mr. Theriault.  He is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for forcing me to do so.

“Young lady, do you need to change seats?” It was the first day of school my sophomore year, and I had completely forgotten to bring lined paper.  I had quietly turned around to my friend sitting behind me to ask for a spare sheet so I could write our essay on the assigned reading we had over the summer.  I was in shock and intimidated that I was scolded for asking for a piece of paper, especially on the first day of school.  I was so scared of my new English teacher that I left class that day thinking, “Okay, breathe and relax, if it doesn’t get better, you can always switch to another class.”

Switching to another class would have been one of the biggest mistakes in my academic career, if not my life.  I know it seems cliché, but it is true. I would have missed out on having an extraordinary teacher who does not just teach English, but teaches life.   Shortly into the school year, amidst his ridiculously hard bi-weekly quizzes, he told us, “I am going to grade you on your effort in this class.  The standard measures of competence and effort [by tests and quizzes] will have less value in my class; not so you can slack off, but so you can stretch yourselves to new levels without fear of damaging your grade because of it.”  Though his class is one of the most challenging classes I have had, it is addicting; there are too many days in which I walk out of his classroom, wishing I could stay in English all day, thinking “This is way more worthwhile and meaningful than any of my other classes.”

It was in his class that I first learned how to properly read and annotate a book and was able to enjoy analyzing the syntax of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  It was in his class, that student presentations became something to look forward to, instead of a waste of a class period, as more often than not, they came with goodies and plenty of audience interaction which kept it interesting.  It is in his class, and really only in his class, that I feel completely at home.

The wheels are always turning in Mr. Theriault’s head, thinking of how to make himself a better teacher, his lessons more fruitful, keep students more engaged, and how to make education less daunting.  He is never afraid to share what he is working on with his students as well as the rest of the world through his blog and Twitter.  Mr. Theriault has taught his students to share their work and thoughts, by assigning weekly blogging and a twenty percent project every year.  Through blogging, I have written more this past year than ever before in the entirety of my high school career altogether.  He has given us the freedom to develop our own voice, something that is so hard to teach, yet so critical for higher level writing.

Mr. Theriault is one of the only teachers I have encountered that will take time out of his class period, his precious fifty-four minutes of teaching time, to ask how students are doing.  He will ask about the sports events that he couldn’t make it to and other school related topics, but he will also ask students how they are doing personally.  If he sees that someone seems down, sick, or just exhausted, the first thing he says is, “Is there anything I can do to make your day better?”.  From chocolate and hot tea to sharing half of his lunch, he is always there for his students.  He realizes that sometimes his class isn’t the most important thing in our lives, and that our overall well-being is much more important than anything he could teach in an hour. He genuinely cares for his students.

I have been blessed to have Mr. Theriault as my English teacher both sophomore and senior year.  As the number of days left until graduation dwindles down, it is a bittersweet feeling; the excitement of graduation and college combined with the sad realization that my time in Mr. Theriault’s class is coming to an end.  I can see why he always has college students coming back to visit him; days in his class are treasured memories and visiting him brings them all back.  Mr. Theriault makes a huge impact on student’s lives every year, and I can only dream of a world in which all teachers were as committed, caring, and compassionate as he is.

"Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?" "Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?" "Okay" He laughs. "I never take selfies" Personally, I think this one turned out great.
“Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?”
“Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?”
“Okay”
He laughs. “I never take selfies”
Personally, I think this one turned out great.

 

36.4 Pounds of Mail, One Important Decision

In the past one and a half years, I have received right around 36.4 pounds of college mail.  36.4 pounds!!!! Makes me wonder how many trees were murdered in the hopeful, but probably highly unsuccessful, quest to find applicants.

November came and the first round of applications were due.  I had been writing essays all summer, but the date still crept up on me a little.  Never the less, I got them all in on time, and began waiting.  I have never been so excited to receive mail in my life.  Eagerly, after about two weeks, every day, after practice,  before setting foot inside, I would peer nervously into the mailbox, hoping that there was a big fat letter in there for me.  Then one day, two big, fat, official looking acceptance letters came.  It was like Christmas had come a couple of weeks early. I was beyond excited! I knew for sure that I had somewhere to go next year. What a relief.

December and January were filled with round two of applications, the holidays, and family.  A couple more acceptance letters came in, and I was excited to see how my hard work was paying off. In late January, my family took a trip to visit Baylor and Vanderbilt.  We all fell in love with Vanderbilt.  My sister said,” Might as well buy my sweatshirt now, cause this is where you are going.”  She made a bet with me before the trip, that for some reason I don’t recall making, but the bet said that if she called the school I ended up attending, I would have to buy her a sweatshirt. The school and the trip were perfect.  Well, except for the fact that it was 17 degrees the entire time we were there. (Side note: I have never been so thankful for the humidity and 60 degree weather that we had when we got back home). I was so excited to have found my number one school.

February brought more waiting, scholarship essays, more thinking, and a trip to University of Denver with my dad.  Denver was amazing.  My dad and I had a great time touring the campus and exploring the area around Denver.  It was such a nice opportunity to be able to go on a daddy daughter trip.  We were both impressed with the program that DU had, and especially a selective leadership program in which, if admitted, you live and take classes on leadership with a group of 65 other students, and in the end graduate with a minor in Leadership Studies.

 

April has been an interesting month.  I didn’t get into Vanderbilt and Brown, both of which I  was surprisingly okay with.  All throughout my college search and application process, both my parents and my prayer has been that God would guide me to where He wanted me.  Though it stung a little to get those first rejection letters, I decided to not look at them as rejection letters, but as God closing doors, so He can lead me to the right ones.  In the end of April, my mom, sister and I took a girls trip to tour my final two schools: Lewis and Clark College and University of Puget Sound.  We saw the schools, explored some state parks, and took in the sights of Washington and Oregon.

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I got to meet up with the track coach at Puget Sound to talk about the possibilities of running on his track team.  I went into the meeting expecting to be rejected politely because I am a JV level athlete.  Not exactly the kind of caliber that I assumed all college coaches would be looking for.  I was taken aback when he said that he doesn’t look at times for incoming freshman, all he requires is a good attitude and a willingness to put the effort into getting better.  He never asked for my marks and PRs.  And the team was so welcoming and just plain awesome.

By the end of the trip, I had narrowed my choices down to Denver and Puget Sound.  When I got home, I found out that I was wait listed for the leadership program at Denver and there was a technical difficulty with my application for the Honors program at Denver as well, so I wouldn’t know until after Commitment Day (May 1st) if I would be able to participate in those programs.

After some more research, prayer, deliberation, and lengthy conversations I decided last night on University of Puget Sound.  The funny thing about it is that, I applied to UPS last-minute because I thought the campus was pretty, had heard great things about it at a college fair for it and its sister schools, and they offered me a free application.  When I applied, I had no intention of actually attending.  I guess the pounds of mail, billions of emails, and the numerous phone calls each year are successful; they helped put Puget Sound on the radar for me, and I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

 

Secret Garden Salad

There has always been a garden in our backyard.  My mom was raised in the same house we live in now, so even decades before I was born, when the house was brand new, there has been a garden.  My grandpa grew potatoes, corn, tomatoes, avocados, oranges, apricots, and beans.  Today we grow apricots, spinach, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, garlic, beets, onions, kale, broccoli, snap peas, green beans, tomatoes, olallaberries, lemons, oranges, tangerines, basil, cilantro, potatoes, carrots, and avocados.  Needless to say, we grow a lot of our own produce in the right seasons.  Right now, the lettuce, chard, kale, and broccoli are booming.

The weeds in the garden used to annoy me so much; there were so many of them and I HATED pulling weeds.  I didn’t like it because I wanted perfection and didn’t want to see a single weed in the entire garden.  The task was daunting, so I usually pulled weeds in maybe a two foot square area and gave up.  Then one day something clicked.  I realized that I don’t need to pull out all the weeds at one time.  Like everything that needs fixing and adjustment, it becomes more manageable if you do it a little at a time.  Now, every time I go out to pick fruits and veggies, I pull fifteen weeds or so, and toss them in the compost bin.  Maintenance is always easier than overhaul.

Anywho, because our veggies are booming, we have been eating salad right out of our garden and it has been wonderful.  We got a recipe for an awesome salad that we fell head over heels for probably four years ago.  Since then, I can count on one hand the number of times we haven’t eaten some variation of this salad with dinner.  And we have salad with dinner almost every day, for sure an average of 6 out of 7 days of the week.  The dressing is homemade and simply amazing, and we have altered the recipe to our liking and to make it easier to prepare every night.

This isn't a picture of one of our salads, but its very similar and you get the idea.  It's a delicious salad.
This isn’t a picture of one of our salads, but its very similar and you get the idea. It’s a delicious salad.

My mom was hesitant to even give me the secret recipe to post, because it is so wonderful.  Caroline on Sweetly Lemon specifically asked for it, so here it is!

 

Roberts Family Famous Salad

Salad:

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped

spinach, kale, chard(whatever greens you have available), chopped

broccoli(cut into small bite sized pieces)

¼ to ½ cup red onion

a good sized handful of dried cranberries

6-10 strips of cooked bacon, diced

2 handfuls of Pita Chips, crushed

Put it all in a bowl together and wha-lah! We only have bacon in it for special occasions, and never measure any of it specifically, the measurements are just guidelines; feel free to alter them based off of how many people you are serving.  Don’t put the pita chips on until the last-minute, as they will get soggy quickly and just roughly crush them in your hands and sprinkle it on top.

Dressing:

1 cup canola oil

½ cup sugar

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

a couple cloves of garlic, smashed(just leave them floating in the dressing container, remove it before pouring it on the salad)

We always have the dressing on hand in a protein shake type container because we use it so often.  I would recommend making it in advance-it tastes way better that way.

 

This salad has been particularly amazing as all the produce is home-grown, straight out of the garden.  I highly recommend this salad, as well as planting a garden, but the garden requires much more time and space than the salad.  Happy salad making!

Thirteen Memories and Fourteen Hopes

It’s 2014. Where has the time gone?  I don’t really know, if anyone could tell me where my time, especially my free time, has gone please, do tell. Amidst the busyness of the Christmas Season, before the New Year, I have started to sit down and reflect on the past year and hope for the new one.

I say hope for the new year for two reasons.  First, I don’t make resolutions because they are silly and end up getting broken by February (if you are lucky to make it that long).  Why would we want to put extra stress and pressure on ourselves by making these lofty “resolutions” only to be disappointed and lose self-confidence when we break them?  This might seem like a pessimistic view of resolutions, but it is not that I am against people deciding to make change in their lives.  Change is good and crucial to life, but it seems a little absurd for people to try to change ten things about themselves at once.  Why not focus on one thing at a time and not just starting at the beginning of a new year?  Yes, we can “turn a new leaf” with the new year, but let’s not be a new leaf for a month, then go stale, then next year turn another new leaf, and start the process over again.
This year I made a list of thirteen memories of 2013 and fourteen hopes and prayers for 2014.  It seemed like a doable thing this year, but if I make it a tradition, I’m going to have to get creative in 2045.  I had trouble remembering thirteen individual things that happened this past year, Lord help me if I have to come up with forty-five in 2045.
Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Memories and 14 Hopes and Prayers.
Thirteen Memories of 2013
~Seeing my sister get baptized
~Camping in Zion National Park and hiking Angel’s Landing
~ Spending thanksgiving with friends and family
~ Getting accepted to all 5 if the schools I applied to via early action
~ Passing down my legacy after finishing 4 years of cross-country
~ Going on my first missions trip ever, to build a house for a family in Mexico
~ Going to the beach Christmas morning with my family and doing hand stands on the shore
~ Attending my last high school summer camp with my church
~ Cheering on my best friends as they raced in both track and cross country
~ Riding quads with my dad
~ Learning to make pillowcases with my sister
~ Riding bicycles to the beach with my mom
~ Finishing a year-long daily bible study of the entire New Testament
14 Hopes and Prayers for 2014
~ To be quiet more often, listen to both the silence and people
~ A relatively easy transition for my family when I leave for school
~ Take more pictures
~ Less scheduling, more spontaneity
~ God’s direction in schools, majors, life in general
~ Calculus gets easier and makes more sense
~ More time for outdoor adventures
~ Wear sunscreen everyday (every fair-skinned person’s mental goal)
~ Remember my priorities by not stressing out about the little things in life that don’t matter
~ Finish reading the Old Testament
~ Read more classics
~ Discover a new hobby/passion
~ Go on another missions trip
~ Treasure every moment

Breakfast with Champions

In a previous post, I wrote about the twenty percent projects that my teacher has implemented in his classroom for the past couple of years.  This past Friday, my project began.

Let me tell you a little about it and what I have learned so far.

old car+mr h
Photo from OC Register Article by Mackenzie Reiss

This is Demetrius Harakas.  He owns the Fantastic Cafe in Santa Ana and is opening a new restaurant in Seal Beach in a couple of weeks.  He loves the 50’s and his diner is decorated in just that fashion.  He had searched for a car like the one above, for almost all his life.

His relatives in Massachusetts found one for him, he bought it, and then had it shipped to California.  He had it restored and now, for the past eight months he has picked up WWII veterans from their homes and taking them to the restaurant for a free breakfast and an eager ear to talk to.  As of now, he estimates that he has taken 70 WWII vets and their spouses to breakfast.

charlie
Photo from OC Register Article by Mackenzie Reiss.

When he first brought his car home, and told my family and I his idea; I was amazed.  I thought, “What a cool experience for both him and the veteran”, but never thought anything more of it.  It wasn’t until we were given the assignment to “Find a need in the community, and feed it” that I came up with the idea of producing videos of Demetrius’ time with the veterans.  I knew that he wasn’t documenting them, except by personal journal, and I thought, “Man, that would be so cool to film.”  Especially, because in school we learn the factual history.  Though teachers try to use videos of firsthand accounts, we mainly have to learn facts: dates, names, and places.  How awesome would it be to have first hand filmed conversations with the veterans, available to everyone around the world?

So, I found a friend, brainstormed, pitched our idea to the film production class at our school and found someone to teach us to film.  Friday was our first day of filming, and it was such a great experience.  My two partners and I were able to sit down with a navy corpsman named Jim, who served in WWII, Vietnam, and Korea.  He was in the service for 24 years and had at least 30 medals on his lapel.  He was at the rank of master chief, with his official title being, master chief petty officer.

We learned so many interesting things from him, and his stories made history come alive for us.  That is exactly what we hope to accomplish in our project; to make history come alive for generations to come, when there are no more WWII vets to tell about it.  Did you know that WWII veterans are dying currently at a rate of 600 a day?  We want to preserve their accounts and stories before they are all gone, and become mere reenactment and guesswork.

If you are interested in seeing our progress, check out our blog:

www.breakfastwithchampions.wordpress.com

And take a look at our introductory video!

There you can nominate a veteran for a breakfast, providing the veteran lives in Orange County, California!  Thanks!

Failure is…Fun?

For the past three and a half years, I have been a cross-country and long distance track runner.  Running is basically all I know how to do well, sport wise.  I can throw a baseball, play soccer, and fumble my way through other sports, but I for sure do not excel at them.  Running, for me, is and was an escape, and it was something I was good at.

Unfortunately, I was too strong-willed and stubborn and made decisions that got me injured both at the end of my sophomore and junior year.  Sophomore year, I ran through a stress fracture and at the end of season had to take two months off.  Junior year, I injured my back before season even started.  I was out for five and a half months.  I learned a ton from these injuries, but that is a long story for another post.

Last Tuesday, I stopped running on cross-country and long distance track.  It was a huge step for me, because my team had become my family and my whole friend base.  Going into high school, I knew three people in the entire 3,650 student body.  Basically, I knew no one.  But once I joined cross-country, I knew and was friends over 200 people.

This post isn’t going to be what you think: a memory filled, sob story.  It’s about what I learned in the week after stopping.  Now, I didn’t stop entirely, I just moved events.  It feels like I am on a whole new team, playing a whole new sport, because I don’t practice with my old teammates anymore, but I’m still on the track team and so are they.  The only difference is now I’m a jumper and not a distance runner.  I choose to change events because my body couldn’t handle the high mileage of distance running any longer and it needed a break, but I wasn’t ready to give up all together.

This past week, I re-learned that one must fail in order for greatness to appear.  I failed on so many levels this week, but its okay because it is part of the curve of learning something new.  I had fun failing! Now, think about it, how many people can say that?

My favorite failure by far has to be weight room.  Distance runners at my school DO NOT lift any weights.  Picture the most scrawny arms you can imagine, got the image?  This week I failed at chin ups, dips, power cleans, and basically anything that we did that involved upper body strength.

We were doing chin ups from a dead hang (straight arms while hanging on to the bar).  We had a bungee to put one leg in and my friend had just flown through her sets, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard right?  Boy, was I wrong.  It took every ounce of concentration I had to pull my body up an inch from where it started.  And I still had at least a foot to go to even be near the bar.  Talk about weak and embarrassing.

Failing was fun this week, because I am challenging myself to do new things and break out of my comfort zone.  I look forward to the days when I have learned enough so I no longer fail everyday, but for now I’m okay and enjoying my failures. What about you?  How are you challenging yourself and enjoying the “failing” that comes with it?

success 2

Width of Influence is Nothing Without Depth

How would you spend your last days?  Though this can be perceived as a fairly morbid thought, like “I have 3 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes, and 54 seconds to live, how am I going to spend it?”  Or it can be an inspirational thought, a change inducing thought, one of great value, and one that can improve your life.

Busy is a DRUG

As human beings, we are always rushing to do something.  Rushing to pick the kids up from sports, cramming to study for that super important final, dashing off to the grocery store to pick up milk and cereal, always going, going, going.  I do this all the time.  I am always squishing everything I can into my schedule so that between school, cross-country/track, church, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes; I have no time.  I relish the days where I am so physically worn down that it is impossible for me to do anything except stay at home and spend time with my family.  I don’t like these days because I like to be sick, I like them because they are a break from the grind I put myself through every day, day after day.  I know you are thinking, “Why don’t you just stop?  Why don’t you just do less?”  Let me ask you to examine your life and your schedule.  Does it look that much different from mine?  I’m betting that it doesn’t.

I really like this video.  It brings up so many thoughts and questions to ponder.  Most of all, this video propels me to answer the question.  How would I spend my last days?  Since I don’t know how many days I have left, just like every other person on Earth, I think about this question in terms of how I will be remembered.  In my lifetime, I want to have meaningful experiences, influence people for the better, and show people that they are loved.  I want to make a difference.  Now I know, that is so cliché.  But bear with me.

If my goal is to influence and make a difference in people’s lives, what am I doing to pursue my goal?  Most of the time, the answer is nothing, really.  I don’t have profound conversations with every person I meet, I don’t appreciate the people around me enough, I don’t listen.  I am a selfish person and 99.9% of the time the world seems to revolve around me.  Is that what I want to be remembered for? Not at all.

I need to STOP going.  I need to embrace interactions, relationships, and people.  I need to realize that making a difference is going to be about the small things, not the big ones.  I need to re-examine my life, look at all the things I do, and think, “Is this helping me influence the people involved?  Am I making a difference here?  Or am I spreading myself too thin, so that I am unable to build meaningful relationships with the people I am around because I am to busy to stop and chat as I am running to the next event?”

The width of one’s influence is nothing without depth.  If I can’t be more that mere “Facebook” level friends with the people I am around, I will be doing less.  My schedule, from this point on, is going to be filled with more free time.  I’m not going to stop doing, I’m simply going to stop going and going. I am going to leave more time for family, friends, and building relationships with people.  I’m going to live as if I was dying because that is the first step to achieving my mission of influencing and making a difference in other people’s lives.

What about you?  How would you spend your last days? What do you want to be remembered by? It would be totally awesome if I had people join me on my mission to have an impact on the world by going from selfishness to selflessness.  Leave a comment or send me an email, let’s influence the world together.

busy-quote

Let it Shine

Remember when you were little, and you would spend hours imagining how your life would be once your “hidden natural talent” was found?  For me, I used to skate with a purpose on the ice rink thinking, “Maybe someone will see how amazing I am at skating and then ask to train me for the Olympics”  Or it was narrating imaginary cooking shows in the shower and thinking, “I can be like Rachel Ray!”

Then you grow up, no one has miraculously found you and your “hidden natural talent” and you end up hearing conversations that go on and on about people wishing they had a natural talent.  They wish that they could sing, be athletic, be smart, dress cute, play music, create gorgeous artwork, or one of the many other well-known and coveted talents.

It makes me sad that people don’t see their talents as those awesome “hidden talents” that every kid dreams about; that they don’t see themselves as good at anything, when it is a fact that everyone has a “hidden” talent if they just knew where to look.  I used to think this way too.  It has been a long road to reach a place where I can accept that my talent isn’t one that would rank in “The Top Ten Best Talents”  or even the top twenty.  My talent of listening and cheering people up with my smile, isn’t one that expecting parents would talk about saying, “I hope my kid smiles all the time, so he can cheer people up.”  I’m not artistic, gifted with hand eye coordination, or a musical genius, but I have seen the effects my smile has on people and have learned that it is my “hidden natural talent” and to use it as often as I can.

I wish people would see the talent they have and embrace it.  Remember the Sunday school song, “This Little Light of Mine”?  If not, maybe this will refresh your memory.

All around me I see people with great talents that they just need to let shine.  If your aren’t using and embracing the talents God gave you, then you are wasting them.  You have a talent for a reason, that reason being to let is shine.  I encourage you this week to FULLY EMBRACE YOUR TALENTS and LET THEM SHINE.  In fact, embrace other people’s talents while you are at it, too.  I’ll even wager a bet to say that if you do, your week will be way better than it would have been if you hadn’t embraced your talents.  So go out and start embracing talents.