Author Archives: Aurora
I hope it will not overly traumatize you to learn that the time has come for me to say farewell, bid you adieu, “peace out,” etc. etc. It has been a pleasure to write this blog, but now I must move on. To what, you say? How could I betray you so cruelly, you say? Is that a tear I see in your eye? Please, goodbyes are always difficult but let’s try to be mature about this and not get carried away! I know you’ll go on perfectly well without me. And I, too, will sojourn on through life without you. We’ll make it.
Ack, I’m getting all choked up…
I hardly know what to say…
When words elude me, I have a certain proclivity to turn to music to express my emotions. In this instance, I’d like to leave you with this touching and truly heartwarming song about the pain of saying goodbye to a dear friend. One warning: you may want to grab a Kleenex before you watch.
Did I say one Kleenex? I meant a whole box.
I wish you all the very best in 2013 and beyond! Happy Holidays!
Aurora C., editor & weepy Pokemon fan
Scholarships are an awesome way to earn extra money to apply towards your college education. But what if you’re not a straight-A student who can play flawless violin solos while simultaneously scoring goals on the soccer field and spoon-feeding homeless puppies? Aren’t straight-A-music-prodigy-soccer-star-puppy-feeders the only people who win scholarships?
I’m relieved to report that the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.” Although these talented individuals are most assuredly deserving of some kind of reward for their efforts, such feats are not necessary to win a nice bit of scholarship cash. In fact, all you have to do is be able to chat with ducks, or be pretty tall. Or like milk a whole lot.
Stay with me here. I promise I haven’t snapped. I’ve got proof! For the scoop on five of the strangest, most out-there scholarships you could win just for being your perfect little weirdo self, read on….
#5. Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year
If you’re a good student who plays a sport and really likes milk, this could be the scholarship for you! Apply online for your chance to be one of 25 high school seniors from all over the U.S. to win a $7,500 scholarship and the opportunity to star in a nationally circulated “Milk Mustache” ad.
#4. Tall Club International Scholarship
Tall Club International is an organization of Tall Clubs in the United States and Canada with the stated purpose of promoting “tall awareness among tall men and women, and in the community.” Each year, at the TCI convention, the organization awards scholarships of up to $1000 each to students who meet the height requirement and write an essay about being tall. How tall is tall enough? For men, the magic number is 6’2”, while a woman must be 5’10” to qualify for Tall Club membership.
#3. Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest
Although it takes place in Stuttgart, AR., this contest is open to any high school senior in the United States with a passion and talent for calling ducks—and I don’t mean on the phone! If you’ve got what it takes, you could win the first prize scholarship of $2000. The second prize is $1,000, the third $750. Even if you’re only the fourth best duck caller in the contest, you still win $500!
#2. Society of Vacuum Coaters Foundation Scholarship
Do I know what a vacuum coater is? No, I do not. But if you do, and you’re planning to enroll in “a course of study related to vacuum coating technology,” then you could win $2500 to pursue your dreams of one day becoming a vacuum coater. I have a feeling this is one of the less competitive scholarships out there…
#1. American Fire Sprinkler Association Scholarship
Each year, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) awards scholarships worth $2000 each to 10 high school seniors from across the United States. To enter the scholarship contest, all you have to do is read an essay about automatic fire sprinklers, take an open book multiple choice quiz, and fill out an application. Then, not only will you have the chance to win $2000, but you’ll also be an expert on fire sprinklers! How cool is that?
For more weird…I mean “unique” scholarships, check out this list compiled by Zencollegelife.com:
I am seriously, possibly dangerously obsessed with Halloween—so obsessed, in fact, that I have renamed October “Halloween Month”: today is not October 11th; it is the 11th day of Halloween. This way, I get to celebrate 31 days of Halloween instead of just one night! Brilliant! If you share my passion for this most glorious of holidays, here’s a to-do list of spooky fall fun across the state:
Haunted Houses & Hayrides
Destination Haunt – Lebanon, ME
Voted the “Scariest” haunted attraction in Maine (although by whom it’s difficult to say), Destination Haunt is the product of a clandestine government experiment gone wrong, wherein a portal to the netherworld was accidentally opened, thereby unleashing untold evils from the chasms at the core of the earth. At least that’s what it says on the Destination Haunt website.
The Gauntlet Haunted Night Ride – Mechanics Falls, ME
A hay wagon ride through a pitch-black forest lousy with demons and ghosts? Local legends brought to life? A haunted corn maze? Someone named the “Spookmeister”? How frighteningly irresistible! Read a review of The Gauntlet by a terrified journalist or squirm your way over to the Harvest Hill Farms website for more information…if you dare…
Haunted Hayrides – Scarborough, ME
Haunted Hayrides are awesome, and this haunted hayride includes free (“spider”) soda and (“poisonous”) popcorn, which makes it extra awesome. Am I wrong? I am not wrong. Their website has precious little info – I guess to keep things spooky and cloaked in mystery – but you can check it out for pricing and directions, and to gaze upon a really deformed grim reaper guy.
Fright at the Fort – Prospect, ME (last 2 weekends of October)
Take a leisurely stroll through the shadowy, twisting corridors of the Fort Knox Historic Site, but watch out: zombies and other bloodthirsty creeps prowl these unhallowed halls! Apparently this year’s Fright at the Fort is supposed to be better than ever, so if you’ve been before, expect more chills and thrills this time around. For pricing and timing, etc. etc., mosey over to the Fright at the Fort website.
Halloweenfest at Maine Wildlife Park – Gray, ME (10/19 – 10/20)
The Maine Wildlife Park’s Halloweenfest combines two of my greatest loves: cute critters and haunted hayrides. And Halloween costumes. And “spooky snacks.” This is a can’t-miss! For (not much) more information, consult the Maine Wildlife Park’s calendar of events.
Bucksport Ghostport – Bucksport, ME (10/20)
At Ghostport, you can carve pumpkins and catapult them into the Penobscot bay, watch a coffin parade, listen to scary stories, and then dance the night away at a Zombie Apocalypse party. This is the stuff nightmares are made of! Bonus points for the clever event title, too. For a full schedule of the festivities, visit the Ghostport website.
OgunquitFest – Ogunquit, ME (10/29-10/20)
OgunquitFest is a weekend-long celebration of all things fall: pumpkins, scarecrows, ghosts, Halloween costumes, and polka. Nothing cuts through to the core of terror like polka music, so prepare to be scared like never before by the haunting stylings of Opa’s Oompa Band. For a full schedule and listing of OgunquitFest events, visit the town’s website, www.visitogunquit.org.
Bangor Zombie Walk – Bangor, ME (10/27)
So, a zombie walk isn’t technically a festival, but who’s being technical here? Expecting technicality from me is one way to guarantee a life of bitter disappointment. Anyway, the Bangor Zombie Walk may not be a “festival” but it is an event, and it is sure to be an awesome one! Gussy up in your undead best, shower in (…fake…) blood, and head out for a lovely doomsday stroll around downtown Bangor. Better start practicing your lurching stagger now! More info on the BZW facebook page.
Pumpkins in the Park – Bangor, ME (10/20)
Though clearly geared toward the younger kiddos, this event nonetheless sounds like lots of fun to me, with trick-or-treating, a bounce house, and glowing jack-o-lanterns everywhere the eye can see. Plus, it’s for charity—all proceeds go to benefit United Cerebral Palsy of Maine! The one aspect of “Pumpkins in the Park” I’m skeptical about? Clowns. Clowns are just too scary, even for Halloween! Head over to the United Cerebral Palsy of Maine’s website for more details.
Southworth Planetarium Halloween Party & Ghost Hour – Portland, ME (10/26)
Lurk through Portland’s darkest, most star-studded nightspot for an hour or two and eat tasty pumpkin-shaped cookies while learning all about the moon and the sky’s most monstrous constellations. Stay after for an hour of creepy ghost stories read under the cover of darkness by USM staff! Visit the Southworth Planetarium website for details.
Forget Tobacco Halloween Party – Portland, ME (10/31)
Costume contests, dance-offs, and candy, candy, candy! Youth friendly anti-tobacco initiative Forget Tobacco’s Halloween party exclusively for high school students should be spooky good time your parents will be happy to send you off to. Visit forgettobacco.com/halloween/ for more info.
Old Orchard Beach Fire Department Halloween Party – Old Orchard Beach, ME (10/31)
Every year the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department hosts a community Halloween party at the Fire Station. The event is free – although you’re encouraged to bring an item of canned food or a used coat to donate to local charities – and promises a magician, pizza and, of course, candy. Check out the flyer for specifics!
With so many options, you now have absolutely no excuse not to do something wicked awesome and frighteningly fun for Halloween this year. Don’t let Halloween Month pass you by!
Aurora C., editor & Halloween nut
P.S. If you’re not in the Halloween mood yet – in which case you’re insane, but whatever – watch this video of my favorite Halloween ambassador performing his timeless Halloween carol. Oh, the beauty of the season….
One of the most horrific aspects of returning to school after a long, carefree summer is re-adjusting to early mornings. Most high schools begin classes by 7:15 or 7:30 am, which means that, even if your school is a hop, skip and a jump down the block, you’ve got to be up by 7 at the latest. In Maine, it’s more likely that your high school isn’t right next door, and you’ll either have to drive or take the bus to school. Ugh, now you’ve got to to be crawling out from beneath the sheets by 6, or even earlier!
Despite evidence that the teenage brain is wired for a sleep schedule with later bedtimes and thus later wake up calls, high schools show little interest in shifting starting times to accommodate students’ sleep needs. Because it’s difficult for teens to go to bed early enough to wake up at 6 and still get the 8-9 hours of sleep they need, most high schoolers are slogging through their days sleep deprived. Not only does sleep deprivation cause grouchiness and an unattractive zombie-like pallor, it can have a serious impact on academic performance as well. Put simply, sleepy students are not successful students.
How can you avoid going to school dog-tired? Here’s an idea I bet you’ve never thought of: go to bed earlier! Even though it’s a challenge to get to bed before eleven, make sleep a priority. After all, the body needs sleep just as much as it needs food, water, or oxygen. You literally cannot survive without sleep! Not getting enough sleep can have all sorts of negative consequences: skin break-outs, mood swings, weight gain, a weakened immune system, and a limited ability to absorb and recall information.
That said, if you absolutely can’t get yourself to bed earlier, or if you’ve fit in your 8-9 hours of sleep but you still feel like a slug, try these ideas to help make waking up a little easier:
- Keep your bedroom dark when you’re sleeping by turning out all the lights, closing the blinds, and even wearing one of those silly-looking sleep masks if you’ve got one hanging around. I bet your mom has one somewhere you could use. When it’s time to wake up, open your blinds and let the light shine in, turn on your lamps, and, obviously, remove the sleep mask. The light will let your body know it’s time to get up.
- Set your alarm to play a song or sound that doesn’t make you seethe with rage. Most alarm clocks scream or bleat or howl at you to get you up, the idea being that, the more abrasive the sound is, the more you’ll want to jump out of bed to shut it off. When I was in high school, I had a Scooby Doo Mystery Machine alarm clock that would make the most evil honking sound when it went off, and every morning I fantasized about throwing it against the wall. These kind of violent fantasies do not exactly put one in a good mood first thing in the morning. Having a favorite tune wake you up would be a much better start to the day, don’t you think?
- Jump out of bed. When that alarm rings, don’t turn it off and then linger under the covers, mourning the end of your sleep time. Get up, get out of the bedroom and get going with your morning routine! You’ll feel much less groggy if you make the transition between asleep and awake a quick one.
- Take a quick shower in the morning. You know how in cartoons they’re always pouring buckets of water over the heads of unsuspecting snoozing characters to wake them up? Well, it really works! There’s nothing like a nice hot shower to wash the sleep out of your eyes. If you need an extra kick, try using soaps or body washes with invigorating scents, such as lemon, peppermint, orange, or ginger.
- As you go about your morning routine, put on some energizing tunes in the background. I’ve always found playing fun music in the morning to be a great way to perk me up and get me feeling ready for my day. It’s certainly a pleasant alternative to glum early morning silence!
- No matter what, never, ever, ever skip breakfast. Regardless of how rushed you feel, you should always make the time to eat breakfast. A healthy, well-rounded breakfast will wake you up and provide the fuel you need to feel good throughout your morning. Haven’t had breakfast in so long you can hardly think of what you might eat? Avoid the sugary cereals and Pop Tarts – I know, they’re delicious, but save them for dessert – and go for energy boosting foods like whole grain cereals or breads, proteins like yogurt, eggs, or nuts, and fibre-packed fruits like bananas or blueberries. Oatmeal is always a good quick and easy option, as is whole grain toast with peanut butter. Give yourself the time in the morning to sit down and eat your breakfast and really enjoy it, so that it becomes a treat to wake up to each day. Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, so give it the respect it deserves. Relish it.
- Take that cup of coffee out of your morning routine. Many people rely on coffee, other energy drinks, or caffeine pills to get them going in the morning and keep them energized throughout the day. However, this does not mean it’s an awesome thing to do. In fact, it’s not very good for you at all. Caffeine consumption can disrupt the sleep cycle, cause insomnia, and produce such unpleasant side effects as headaches, nervousness, and stomachaches. In addition, when you use caffeine to wake up, you’re weakening your body’s natural capacity to rev itself up. Ideally, you should to be able to get out of bed feeling refreshed without depending on a cup of coffee to do the trick for you.
I’m fairly confident you’ll find these suggestions helpful in improving your morning mood and boosting your energy, because they’ve all gone through rigorous scientific testing in the official NtRW laboratories, located in a secret base underneath the city of Portland. By that I mean I’ve gone ahead and played both researcher and guinea pig, Dr. Jekyl-style, and tried all these “wake up bright-eyed & bushy tailed” tips on myself. The results? These simple solutions to bad morning syndrome really work! Success! Now, when do I get my Nobel Prize?
NtRW wants to know: what’s your morning routine? What do you do to get your day started right? Shoot me an email @: firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe I’ll post a follow-up full of your ”good morning” ideas!
Aurora C., editor & early riser
Officially, Labor Day is a holiday to honor, celebrate, and pay tribute to the achievements of American workers, a.k.a. “laborers.” Unofficially, it’s a day of mourning for the death of summer, a very tragic, dispiriting day indeed. And when summer dies, do you know what rises from its ashes, like a little baby phoenix squawking and squalling for its first meal?
Yes, that dreaded time of year has clawed its way into your life once again, folks. Fire up the ol’ noggin, because you’re headed back into the hot zone! Although a certain degree of strife is unavoidable, one thing you absolutely must do in order to prepare for the year ahead is to assemble the necessary supplies. Like any good little soldier returning to the fray, you’ll need the latest in protective camouflage gear, transport equipment, record-keeping materials for reconnaissance work, and, of course, armaments. But instead of canons or highly trained attack cobras, your weapons will be pens and pencils, and instead of weird leaf-covered suits that make you look like a swampman, your camo will be lovely cardigans and t-shirts from the Gap. Please note, however, that if you find those swampman suits stylish and choose to wear them to school this year as an expression of your personal fashion taste, I am 100% supportive of you. Also, I want a photo.
Because your savings account is not quite as sizable as the average nation’s military budget, you’ll probably have to practice a bit of caution when it comes to your back-to-school spending. Don’t fret: this doesn’t mean you have to go without! There are lots of easy ways to save on getting “fully equipped” for the new year.
1. Search out leftovers. In all likelihood, you probably still have a few binders hanging around from last year that you could empty out and use again, or at least a stack or two of notebook paper. The more you re-use, the less you have to buy, and buying stuff is a pain in the neck–it costs money to buy stuff! Gross!
2. Lounge in the shade of your local Dollar Tree. At dollar stores, everything costs a dollar. One dollar! That’s practically unheard of. And guess what they sell at dollar stores? You got it: school supplies. Pens, highlighters, notebooks, folders, sticky notes, Lisa Frank novelty pencils with erasers shaped like polar bears, whatever. You can get almost everything you need for school at the dollar store, and save loads of money while doing it.
3. Cross the border. Just to the south of our comfy-cozy state of Maine lies an exotic paradise, where none of your purchases are taxed and the state bird is the Purple Finch. I’m talking about New Hampshire, people. Convince your parents to take you on a trip across the border so you can smuggle a few tax-free school supplies across the border. The savings could be criminal!! Get it?
I crack myself up.
4. Thrift it! Because shopping at the mall is a bore, anyway, and boring new clothes can be so absurdly expensive. $15 for a v-neck t-shirt? Yeah right! At your local Goodwill or Salvo, $15 could get you a whole new outfit. Plus, you’re pretty unlikely to pull a Clueless and find yourself wearing the same exact ensemble as your teacher if you shop at thrift stores. Finally, to make a little extra cash and clean out your closet to fit in new purchases, consider selling older clothes you don’t wear anymore to a consignment store. Definitely a “two birds, one stone”-style savings situation right there.
If you’re clever, there are lots of ways to do your back-to-school shopping without breaking the bank! What’s your favorite way to save money? Email me your penny-wise tips, tricks, and secrets at email@example.com. Maybe we can plan a coupon swap!
I think I’m getting myself overexcited here….
Have a happy (depressing, summer-grieving) Labor Day!
Aurora C., editor & coupon freak
Ice cream is very important to me. I am being totally honest when I say that if there were a viable way of surviving on ice cream alone, I would gladly give up all other foods. My personal motto is, “GIVE ME ICE CREAM OR GIVE ME DEATH!”, and if you prick me, I bleed ice cream. In fact, such is the reason the Red Cross has prohibited me from donating blood: not enough platelets, too much dairy.
So, obviously, I’ve been aquiver with excitement all month, since July is – can you even handle this? – NATIONAL ICE CREAM MONTH.
In celebration of this momentous month of dairy dessert worship, I’ve been attempting to eat ice cream every single day in July. I haven’t been wholly successful so far, but there’s still some of July left to make up for the days I missed. Ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Yes, I can do that. And because I’m a true ice cream zealot, I’m also testing out a few new ice cream recipes, a few of which I will now share with you.
BUT FIRST! Here’s some National Ice Cream Month trivia with which to dazzle your friends and relations…
~National Ice Cream Month was inaugurated in 1984 by then-president Ronald Reagan.
~Approximately 9% of the milk produced by dairy farmers in the United States is used to produce ice cream. (source: International Dairy Foods Association).
~The United States consumes more ice cream than any other country in the word. (source: National Ice Cream Retailers Association)
~Vanilla is the #1 most popular ice cream flavor in the U.S.A. (Yawwwwwwn…)
AND NOW! On to the recipes…
#1. Thai Coconut Ice Cream
To make great ice cream at home, you don’t need some kind of fancy-schmancy ice cream maker. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself with this super simple, super delicious homemade coconut ice cream, adapted from a recipe posted on about.com.
~1 cup sugar
~2 cups heavy whipping cream
~2 cups coconut milk — not the “light” variety! this is no time for skimping!
~1 tsp vanilla extract
~ A small handful of flaked coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened will do
1. Mix your eggs and sugar in a food processor, blender, or mixer for about 2 minutes.
2. Pour this mixture into a double boiler and cook over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sugar-eggs mixture becomes creamy and thick. Then take it off the heat and place in the fridge to cool.
3. Whip cream in food processor/blender/mixer until the cream becomes thick. Scoop whipped cream into large mixing bowl.
4. Fold the coconut milk and flaked coconut into the whipped cream.
5. Add the eggs+sugar mixture, now cool, to the coconut-creamy concoction, as well as the vanilla extract. Stir until you’ve got a thick, beautiful, batter-like consistency, then pour into containers for freezing.
5. Freeze for at least 8 hours (i.e. overnight).
NOTE: This ice cream is unbelievably, agonizingly delicious on its own, or you can dress it up with chocolate sauce and crushed almonds for a fun “Almond Joy” sundae.
(Is it bad that I’m drooling on my computer right? Do you think that’s covered under the warranty?)
#2. S’more Ice Cream Sandwiches
With the hot weather we’ve been having, sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows – and yourself – is not such a tempting prospect. When you’re dying for a s’more but want to stay out of the heat, these s’more ice cream sandwiches are just the thing.
~10 graham crackers, halved into squares (20 squares)
~ 2 cups mini-marshmallows
~2 cups vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
For chocolate ganache:
~9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (semisweet chocolate chips work, too, in a pinch)
~1 cup heavy cream
1. Line a 9″ square pan with tinfoil, and then place 10 graham squares in a single layer on the foil.
2. Make your ganache: place chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream until just boiling (watch carefully–scalding is bad, bad, bad), then take off the heat and pour over chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool for a minute or two.
3. Pour a thin (or not so thin, if you’re a hardcore chocolate person) layer of the ganache over the graham crackers. Reserve half of ganache.
4. Sprinkle mini-marshmallows over the chocolate, then spoon ice cream over the marshmallows.
5. Top the ice cream with remaining ganache, then place remaining 10 graham cracker squares on top to finish off your s’mores. Cover with tinfoil and freeze overnight.
#3. Blueberry Ice Cream Pie
Here’s a recipe that combines two of the best things about summer in Maine: blueberries and ice cream. This is wicked easy to make but has major “Ooo! Ahh!” factor, making it the perfect dessert to whip up for BBQs and outdoor potlucks. (Adapted from fromaway.com).
~1 graham cracker pie crust (store-bought or homemade, whatever)
~ 3 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
~2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
~1/4 cup sugar
~1/4 cup water
~1 tsp lemon juice
~whipped cream for topping
1. While your ice cream softens, bring blueberries, water, and sugar to boil in a small pot. Turn down to a simmer and allow fruit to thicken for approx. 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice and allow blueberry mixture to cool.
2. Spread ice cream into pie crust and freeze.
3. When the blueberries have cooled, spoon the fruit over the ice cream and place back into the freezer for around 3 hours.
4. Top with whipped cream!
There may only be a week left in July, but that’s more than enough time to test out these Nat’l-Ice-Cream-Month-approved desserts. Got any other cool ice cream recipe ideas to share? Please do send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I’m always on the prowl for new ways to get my daily dairy….
Aurora C., editor & ice cream fiend
Congratulations, you’ve survived yet another school year! After months of seemingly endless math homework and cafeteria lunches, you now have two months of freedom to squander absolutely any way your heart desires. So, what’s your plan? There’s the obvious option: spend those lazy days motionless before the TV watching re-runs of Scooby Doo until your eyes begin to bleed, soaking up the air conditioning and occasionally walking in a daze to the kitchen to make yourself a sandwich. Ah, the bliss of total mental atrophy! This summer strategy is best if you want to return to school in the fall as a sort of slug creature with a mushy puddle of goo splashing around your skull in the place of a brain. Certainly I can understand the appeal. My brain is at least 65% goo at this point in my life, and I’m okay with that.
But maybe you’re not into having a goo-brain. Maybe you want to do something “productive” and “worthwhile” this summer.
But different strokes for different folks, I suppose! I’m a tolerant kind of girl. So, in the case that you’re not super committed to two months of brain rot, I’ve got a few ideas for how you can make it an amazing summer nonetheless, my overachieving friend!
1. Get to work!
It can be hard to find summer jobs these days, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Working over the summer is a super idea for so many reasons. You can start saving up some money for college, while gaining real world experience that will look great on those college applications and will help you get other jobs in the future. With a summer job, you’ll have the opportunity to begin familiarizing yourself with all those irritating “adult” things like “responsibility,” “accountability,” and “professionalism”–yuck. On the bright side, you might make a few new friends, too. To find a summer job, the best thing to do is to journey to every place you can think of that employs teenagers – stores in the mall, Dunkin Donuts, Dairy Queen, landscaping companies – and ask for an application, even if they don’t say they’re hiring. If you spread a wide net, you’re more likely to snag something, so I can’t stress this enough: APPLY EVERYWHERE. DO NOT GIVE UP! Filling out applications is annoying, but all that rewriting of your social security number will be worth it when you’re raking in the cash scooping ice cream or selling sneakers.
2. Service your community.
Volunteering is kind of like having a job, but you don’t make any money, and, instead of selling unhealthy food or unattractive clothing, you’re making a positive difference in the world around you. There are service opportunities everywhere. Soup kitchens, nursing homes, tutoring centers, community gardens, libraries, and hospitals are always looking for volunteers, or you could come up with your own project and take the initiative to better your community. In addition to the warm and cozy feeling that comes from being an upstanding citizen, community service has the extra benefit of looking really awesome on college applications.
3. Test the career waters aboard an internships.
Please excuse the lame joke; sometimes I can’t help myself. Anyway…
Another non-paying alternative to a summer job is a summer internship. Finding an internship is likely to be easier than finding a paying job in this economy, and internships provide an invaluable opportunity to explore career fields you’re thinking about pursuing. Interested in journalism? Try for an internship at a local newspaper, TV or radio station. Interested in law? Maybe there’s a law office in your town that could use some free labor! It’s true that you may spend a good deal of your time fetching coffee and shredding old paperwork, but at the very least you’ll be able to observe “from the inside” the work that goes into being a lawyer/newspaper reporter/veterinarian/etc. and get a feel for whether or not you’d like to do that type of work one day.
4. Summer school.
These days, going to summer school isn’t something you get punished with because you failed gym. No, now kids just like you are going to summer school because they want to, to improve themselves! I’m sure you’re thinking, “Doesn’t going to school in the summer kind of defeat the purpose? What sort of backwards universe are we living in??” I understand your concern, believe me, but packing in a little “educational overtime” during the summer is actually a perfect way to explore your interests while keeping some modicum of blood flowing to your brain. Many community colleges allow high school students to enroll in summer courses, so why not take advantage of this opportunity to learn something new that isn’t offered at your high school, like philosophy, microbiology, or archaeology? Not only will you get ahead academically by earning a few early college credits, you may just discover a new passion.
Meanwhile, while you’re off “improving yourselves,” “making a difference,” and “exploring your interests” this summer, I will be attending to the more serious matters of working on my base tan and catching up on Toddlers & Tiaras.
ENJOY YOUR VACATION!!!!
Aurora C., editor & summer slug
Let’s face it: taking the SAT is an activity seriously low on the “fun” scale. Unfortunately, like so many other un-fun undertakings – doing dishes, washing your dog after he has rolled in something dead, filing taxes, etc. – it’s just one of those things you have to do, unless you want to apply exclusively to colleges that do not require SAT scores for admission, thereby significantly reducing your options. While the SAT isn’t an easy breezy beautiful experience, it’s not going to kill you, either. DO NOT STRESS YOURSELF INTO A FRENZY WORRYING ABOUT THE SAT. Panic is never, ever useful in a testing situation, so please, relax a little bit. Take a deep breath. You’ve studied and you know your stuff; you’re going to do fine.
Feeling better yet? Or are you still sitting there reading this, shivering and hyperventilating, hoping to memorize everything from your ninth grade geometry text book by holding it against your forehead? Been there, done that, and trust me, darling: it’s not going to happen. Instead of working yourself into a tizzy, why not try these simple tips & tricks to reduce SAT day anxiety and boost your test-taking game:
The night before the test, assemble everything you need in one place. You don’t want to arrive at the test site and realize you left your photo ID or your #2 pencils at home, so gather up all those necessities – ID, pencils, a calculator, spare batteries for aforementioned calculator – and put them somewhere you’ll remember them when you leave in the morning.
Get a good night’s sleep! Staying up until 3 am trying to cram for the SAT is not going to get you anywhere. Hopefully you’ve been studying consistently in preparation for the test, and at this point, you’re either ready or you’re not. What you need now is not more study time, you need to get some sleep! Being well rested will help you to do your best more than any amount of last-minute cramming.
Eat a wholesome breakfast. SAT day is not the day to pig out at breakfast and eat those bacon-wrapped french toast sticks you’ve been dying to try. A sugary, fat-loaded, mondo-breakfast will leave you feeling sluggish and icky rather than ready to conquer those pesky multiple choice questions. The ideal test day breakfast is something filling without being heavy, something that will keep you going for the long haul rather than give you a temporary jolt of energy and then send you crashing into sugar coma. My own personal favorite “power breakfast” is two scrambled eggs (for protein), whole grain toast (whole grain breads keep you fuller longer), a banana (vitamin boost!), and green tea.
Pack water and a snack. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. Staying hydrated is critical to maintaining a high level of activity, in this case mental activity, and when your break rolls around and you’re starting to lag a little, that healthy snack (i.e. a granola bar, an apple, peanut butter crackers, etc.) stowed away in your bag will seem like a gift from the heavens.
Arrive early. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so instead of cutting it close, plan to get to the testing site 15 minutes early. That way you won’t be in the car on the way there freaking out over whether or not you’ll make it on time, plus you’ll have 15 extra minutes to “get in the zone” with a bit of pre-test meditation.
Once the test begins, pace yourself. Pacing is the most important and most challenging part of the SAT. The total time allotted for the test is 3 hours and 45 minutes, which sounds like absolutely forever, but remember that that time is divided into 10 sections ranging from ten to 25 minutes in length. 25 minutes is not such a long time at all! You’re not going to finish the section in time if you don’t pace yourself. Here’s a tip: answer all the questions you absolutely know the answers to first, then double back and do the harder ones. If you really can’t figure out a question, don’t spend forever staring at it hoping the answer will come to you; just skip it and go back at the end if there’s time left over.
Read questions carefully. Don’t race through the test so fast that you’re not paying close attention to the questions. Sometimes the wording can be confusing and, if you’re not reading carefully, you might misinterpret a question you otherwise would have been able to answer correctly.
Make sure you’re filling out the answer sheet correctly. Imagine this nightmare scenario: you’ve finished a section, and you’re looking over your answer sheet, double-checking your work. Something seems a bit wonky, like your answers aren’t lining up with the questions…OH NO! You realize you accidentally skipped #10 on the answer sheet and marked the answer to question #10 on row #11. Now you have five minutes left before you’re supposed to put your pencil down, and you don’t think you’ll be able to fix the whole thing in that time. Worst. Thing. Ever. Pay attention to where you’re marking your answers!
Most of all, try not to psych yourself out. If you don’t do well on the SAT this time around, you can take it again. Yeah, that’s sort of a bummer, but at least you’re not doomed to a low score! Also, please know that a low score on the SAT does not mean you’re dumb or worthless or anything like that; it probably just means you’re not so awesome at taking this particular sort of test. Do not allow a low score to kill your self-confidence, because, ultimately, it’s just an arbitrary number that will have exceedingly little impact on the course of your life, and which has nothing whatsoever to do with your value as a human being.
That said, I wish you all the best and I’m sure you’ll do great–especially now that you’ve read all of my 100% solid gold helpful hints.
At some point during the course of human history, a cruel trickster decided to spread the rumor that the annual spring dance known as “prom” was something fun, something to look forward to. This dangerous myth has been perpetuated ever since, filling the minds of teenagers with dreams doomed to be crushed by this harsh but undeniable reality: prom is terrible. Is this just my opinion? Did I have a traumatic experience that turned me against prom forever? Do I hate prom because I’m some sort of naysaying grumpy hermit who can’t stand fun, or one of those creepy parents from Footloose for whom dancing is an unforgivable sin? The answer to all of the above is no. It is not just my opinion; in fact, science has proven that prom is one of the top ten worst things a human being can experience. I swear no Carrie-style disasters befell my prom – although that surely would have made it more interesting – and I’m neither a grumpy hermit nor a defamer of dancing. I have no reason to dislike prom other than the inherent dislikability of the event; my opinion is based on pure, objective fact. Well, fact and a little bit of anecdotal evidence – what skeptics might call “hearsay” – but let’s not split hairs.
FACT 1: Prom food is bad food.
At my prom, they served chicken wings. Sticky, messy, BBQ-sauce-dripping chicken wings, of the sort one eats with one’s fingers at sports bars or bowling alleys. There were also celery sticks and crackers, if I remember correctly, which the girls nibbled at while resentfully watching their dates eat chicken wings. To this day the logic of serving chicken wings at prom eludes me entirely, since the theme of my prom was neither “Down Home Barbecue” nor “Superbowl Sunday.” My suspicion is that it may have been a mean-spirited prank at the expense of all female prom attendees, because what girl is going to gnaw away at a bit of gooey meat while wearing a pricy, often pastel dress in which she hopes to look sophisticated and glamorous? Not one, which is why there were so many frowning girls and so many BBQ-sauce stained tuxedos in the Clarion Hotel event hall that evening.
FACT 2: Prom dresses are expensive, and ugly.
See my previous blog entry for examples of just how ugly prom dresses can get. And all of those dresses were priced at well over the -$1.50 a sane human would pay for them! Want to know something scary? The average cost of a prom dress is around $250, and the average amount spent on prom in total is a whopping $1,078 (according to USA Today). A) My entire wardrobe (not including shoes) probably cost me about $250, and B) just imagine what you could do with $1,078! You could go to Disney World, or put a down payment on a car, or fill your cupboards with all the Fancy Feast your cat could eat…the stuff of fantasy.
FACT 3: Sometimes proms take place on boats.
If there was one way to make the already dreadful hazing ritual we call prom worse, it would be to hold it on a boat. And because prom organizers are wicked beyond measure, boat proms are not an uncommon phenomena these days. Seasickness + the only route of escape being a chilly swim back to shore = absolutely zero fun. My close friend suffered a boat prom and he still hasn’t fully recovered. Sometimes he gets a bit quaky and pale, and that’s how I know he’s having a prom flashback. It’s truly a sad sight to see.
FACT 4: Good music has never been played at a prom.
However, “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “The Macarena,” “The Electric Slide,” and “The Chicken Dance Song” are sure to make an appearance.
FACT 5: Sometimes your mom is a chaperone at prom.
My mom was a chaperone at my prom, despite my begging her for weeks to spare me that particular embarrassment. It was clear to me then that my mother was in on the whole “Prom as Punishment” conspiracy, and to this day I still find it difficult to view her as a wholly benevolent personage. Sometimes I worry she’s going to whip out a corsage and yell across the room, “RORY! WANT ME TO GET YOU A CHICKEN WING?”, in order to relive that fateful night we spent together as chaperone and chaperonee at the Ithaca High School Senior Prom ’07.
Hopefully I have dissuaded you from attending your prom, thereby saving you from a night of unpleasantness and the cost of the years of therapy you will likely need in order to recover from it. Perhaps not. For those of you still determined to go to prom, I hope you have a great time–but I know you won’t.
Just kidding. I have my fingers crossed for you, darlings!
Aurora C., editor & leader of the Anti-Prom Coalition
Prom dresses do not have a positive reputation in the fashion world, perhaps because they are depraved lunatics bent on spreading their tulle tentacles across the world and smothering every last teenager with rhinestone-encrusted stretch satin. Since the dawn of time – a.k.a. the first prom – prom dresses have committed grievous sins against humanity (not to mention eyeballs) and induced violent bouts of nausea in high school gyms and Sheraton hotel event halls across the globe. It saddens me to report that a review of this season’s prom offerings only confirms the continuation of these villainous garments’ reign of terror and torment. So that you may protect yourself from becoming the victim of one of these fiends, I will now present to you ten of the most unforgivable offenders, dresses to avoid if you at all value your mortal soul. Shield your eyes, kids, because things are about to get ugly!
1. A Pouf of Dangerous Proportions
I have nothing against a full skirt, and pink is one of my favorite colors, so my issue with this dress is not its obvious overblown bubblegum princess Disney World vibes. Disney I can deal with. No, my issue is that when I look at this what I see is an enormous bath loofah devouring that poor girl’s body. Ever seen The Blob? It’s about an amorphous glob of goo that goes around eating everyone in order to become larger and larger and larger…
Well, this is the dress version of that. It will eat you, it will eat your friends; it will eat your date. Do you really want to end up a snack for an overgrown loofah?
2. Rodeo Clown
Whereas the last dress had an overabundance of skirt, this specimen has an alarming lack of one. Of course, “skirt deficit” is only a minor problem in comparison to the hokey leather bosom harness and the indecipherable snakeskin-cum-desert-foliage print of the fabric. Oi, and that ruched bodice! Back to the skirt issue, though: what skirt this dress does have is half-hidden beneath a flaccid sack. For what esoteric reason did they include this sack? It could not have been for purposes of attractive design, because there is no figure that would be flattered by such extraneous pouching. Maybe the silhouette is supposed to evoke that famous cowgirl accessory, the saddle bag. How many cans of baked beans do you think you can store in there?
3. Black and White and Bad All Over
Black and white is a classic, timeless, and usually unimpeachable color combination. Leave it to a prom dress to mutate it into something absolutely abominable! This dress is like one of mythological monsters made up of three different creatures, with none of the elements making any sense at all together. In the case of this dress, it seems to be made up of, from top to bottom: A) one of Vanna White’s Jeopardy gowns, B) my mom’s tablecloth, and C) a can-can dancer’s costume. The overall effect causes some serious, head-spinning, Hitchcock-style vertigo.
4. “This Dress May Cause Hallucinations”
Honestly I think you’d have to be hallucinating to begin with in order to purchase this psychedelic nightmare, but maybe I’m biased because I don’t like ugly things. In any case, if you weren’t already out of your mind, all you’d have to do would be to stare into the warped zebra-spiral print lining of the skirt for ten seconds and, POOF, you’d be down the formalwear rabbit hole. With your newly altered mindset, perhaps you could explain to me the appeal of having a bulbous “flower” pinned to your hip and shards of mirror pasted to your chest.
5. Cruelty to Animals
Year after year fashion magazines advocate for the revival of animal prints – leopard, zebra, cheetah, tiger – but I very much doubt this is what they wanted. In fact, I’ll bet that if they saw this feline-defaming disgrace, they’d commit seppuku for having been involved in its conception. Leopards everywhere are likely deeply ashamed of themselves, too. Someone call PETA, because this dress is an incontrovertible example of animal abuse.
6. Blue Jean Brutality
Lots of people enjoy wearing blue jeans. While I am not one of them, I can understand why people like jeans: they’re (ostensibly) comfortable, they go with everything, and you don’t have to wash them very much. However, I cannot comprehend why someone could love jeans so much that she’d want her prom dress to be made out them. Such a passion for denim indicates, to me, a pathological obsession that merits at least a few appointments with a mental health professional. Besides being made of denim, though, this dress isn’t so bad. LOL I’m lying; it’s hideous. Look at the pockets on the scalloping at the bottom of the skirt! AHH! Look at that dumb “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”-style bolero jacket! EGH! And the patchwork corset! YIKES!
8. “You cannot go out in that, young lady!”
It’s great when girls are proud of their bodies, but this might be taking that confidence a bit far. The exposed midriff on its own would be one thing, but in combination with the cleavage-spilling top and “up-to-there” slit in the skirt, the ensemble is flirting hard with exotic dancer territory. My mom would never let me leave the house in this, not even now that I’m an adult, and probably not even if I actually were an exotic dancer.
9. The World’s Ugliest Dress of All Time, Ever
Is there anything more to say about this dress? Certainly I cannot be the one to say it, because I can feel myself going into brown-stretch-polyester-ugliness-induced convulsions as I type. This dress is literally killing me!!!! SOMEONE, ANYONE, HELP! AGH – ACK – BLUH – UGHHHHHHHH…
[I am writing this now from beyond the grave. There will not be a tenth ugly dress entry, because there cannot be a dress uglier than the one pictured above. It is simply not possible.]
Aurora C., editor and one of many innocent victims of deadly prom dress assault
She’s done it again: our resident video genius, Allie O’ Brien, has crafted another gem to go along with our upcoming NtRW Graduation Edition. In the video, you’ll see recent college grads sharing their stories about dorm life, academics, student loans, and choosing a major. Plus Maine economists offer advice on how you can make smart choices in college to best prepare yourself for a successful adult life and career.
Check it out now!
In my mind, Easter – with its baby bunnies, painted eggs ready to hatch fluffy chicks, and pastel-foiled chocolates – symbolizes the true beginning of the spring season. When I eat a jellybean, I can actually feel flowers blooming in my mouth. By the way, if you’re looking to get me a gift this Easter, Starburst’s tropical-flavored jellybeans are my favorite. Just in case you were thinking about it. No pressure! What was I talking about? Oh yes, spring! Spring is the season for new beginnings, so it only makes sense that it is traditionally the time when high school juniors soon to be seniors embark on an integral early of the college journey: the “campus visit” tour. Juniors, you’ve got a fun couple of months coming up. Get ready to hop into the backseat for endless hours in the car with your parents, driving from one school to the next, reading an infinite number of informational pamphlets, and watching a series of highly coordinated tour guides perform the incredible feat of walking backwards for longer than 5 minutes without falling down. How do they do it?!?
The thing about college visits is that, if you go on enough, one college begins to blend into another and you end up having no idea where you’ve been, what you saw, and what you liked. Well, that’s what can happen if you don’t go about things properly. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to make the most of your visits and avoid falling victim to ”Campus Tour Fatigue Syndrome”…
Before you go on a visit, take a few hours to do a bit of sleuthing into the school you’ll be visiting. Read as much as you can about the school online, in those nifty college guidebooks (the U.S. News’ Best Colleges Guide is a good place to start!), and in any brochures or pamphlets the school may have sent you in the mail. By doing your own research, you’ll have an idea of the questions you want to ask your tour guide during the visit. Don’t forget to write down any questions you think of!
Bring along a notebook and camera on every visit. That way you can take notes on the things you like and don’t like about the school, and take pictures of the campuses. Later, if you’re feeling crafty, you can even make a “scrapbook” of the schools you visited to flip through when you’re deciding where to apply and where to go.
Ask as many questions as you can think of. Campus tour guides have a script they’re supposed to stick to, so it’s almost guaranteed they won’t address every issue that’s important or of interest to you. That’s why you’ve got to ask questions! If you just follow along silently like a little goat, you’re letting a critical opportunity to learn about the college slip through your fingers.
Example questions to ask include:
-When do I have to declare my major?
-What’s the average class size?
-What is the course registration process like? Is it difficult to get into the classes you want to take?
-What resources are available to students seeking academic help?
-Are there internship programs offered through the school?
-What is the transfer rate?
Obviously, there are a million more questions you might ask, depending on what’s important to you and your family.
Take some time after the tour to explore the campus on your own. The tour guide is going to show you the school’s selling points, but those pretty buildings and that nice new dining hall might not tell you the whole story about the school. Poking around on your own is the best way to see the full picture and form your own impression of the campus. Make sure to visit student hot spots like the campus center or coffee shop to get an idea of what students are like and if you’ll be able to feel comfortable in that atmosphere. If you’re not shy, try talking to a real, live student not employed by admissions to see what dirt s/he has to dish up. If possible, check out a dorm room or eat at the dining hall, as those are important aspects of college life that are not always addressed in the official tour. Maybe even schedule to sit in on a class if the school allows it!
After the tour, write down your impressions of the campus while they’re still fresh in your brain. If you don’t write them down, chances are you’ll forget them, and then it’s like the tour never happened and all your suffering was for nothing. Maybe you want to make a list of the pros and cons of each campus, or maybe you just want to jot down some notes. Either way, you’ll be creating a record of your college visits that you can consult when it comes time to choose where you want to go.
Remember: college visits are the best way to get a “feel” for a school. They offer an invaluable chance to get a glimpse into what your future might be like if you went to that particular school, so don’t let that opportunity go to waste! Try to soak in all you can during your college visits so you’ll be able to choose the school that is the best match for your personality and your interests. Plus, college visits can be fun! You get to travel around, see new places, stay in hotels, and eat fast food in the car with your parents: a dream come true. Stay positive, kids!
Aurora C., editor & jellybean freak
Check out this incredibly slick and informative video our work-study assistant, Allie O’Brien, created for us using clips from the massive NtRW archive. Great job, Allie! The video covers four big money-related mistakes young people make in college: 1) getting into trouble with credit cards, 2) racking up a ton of student debt, 3) partying too hard, and 4) not thinking about the future when choosing a major. Watch and learn, people!
This winter hasn’t exactly been stellar for snowfall – I haven’t even had a chance to go sledding yet! Ack! – but now that spring is right around the corner, we’ve finally got ourselves a proper storm. The roads are nasty, every school around is cancelled, and the snow shows no sign of letting up–totally awesome, right? For those of you who, like me, are enjoying a snowed-in day at home, here are a few things to do to make the most of the mini-vacation gifted to you by the blizzard overlords.
1. Catch up on your reading. Isn’t there some book you’ve been dying to read but have been too busy with schoolwork to dig in to? Well, now’s your chance! Plus, there is absolutely nothing better than lounging on the sofa with a novel and a big mug of hot chocolate (with extra marshmallows, duh) while the snow billows and blows about outside. It’s a perfect experience.
2. Build the most amazing & incredible snow fort anyone has ever seen. Time to break out those architecture books because I expect big things from you. I’d like to see a snow fort replica of the Chrysler building or maybe the temple at Angkor Wat, please. Better get started….
3. Take a nap. Staying up late finishing homework or watching TV night after night have you feeling rundown? Why not use your free day away from school or work to catch up on your beauty sleep? Maybe you can even convince someone to sing you a lullaby (your little sister? your cat?).
4. Bake something delicious. Cold day + warm oven = magic. Also magic: eating way too many cookies and then feeling a little sick but 100% content with life.
5. Shovel the driveway. I know it sounds like a chore, but shoveling is actually a great way to get some exercise and time outside if you feel too old for romping around making snow angels and so forth. Personally I believe you are never too old to make snow angels, but that’s just one girl’s opinion. Anyway, shoveling the driveway will also come in handy as a way to burn off a few of those cookie & hot chocolate calories you’ve been packing in all day!
Enjoy the snow, darlings!
Aurora C., editor & snow angel extraordinaire
P.S. Click here for pictures of snow forts from all over the world! Some of them are pretty spectacular.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sifting through our video archive – boy, is it huge! almost 3,000 interview clips; can you believe it? – and in the process I’ve noticed one piece of advice keeps coming up again and again when people are asked to share their wisdom with younger generations: “be yourself.” If you’re true to yourself and do what makes you happy and feels right for you, everything will work out in the end just like magic. That sounds great, right? Unfortunately, “being yourself” is one of those things that falls squarely into the “easier said than done” category. It’s a message we hear all the time and we understand that, yes, of course it would be awesome to be ourselves, but what if you’re not even sure who “yourself” really is? Uh-oh!
When I was in middle school, I was desperate for everyone to like me. I believe I spent most of eighth grade on the carpet in the fetal position pleading for acceptance from my peers, only abandoning my groveling to eat the occasional pudding cup at lunchtime. Needless to say, I was not that cool. Despite my efforts to buy the “right” sneakers (Skechers, at the time–does that make me seem extremely old?), watch the “right” movies, have the “right” friends and always, always say the “right” thing, I was still solidly a weirdo. No matter what I did, I never quite fit in with any of the popular groups. I didn’t want to believe it, but my own weirdness was inescapable. At the time, I was unable to see that I possessed my own unique “self”, and that to be that “self” was actually valid and valuable. When people told me I was “unique,” I equated it with being told I had leprosy. I saw my weirdness as a flaw and a hindrance, something keeping me down. I wanted so badly to be something different from what I was that I couldn’t even fathom that the person I was “naturally” could be worth anything. I see a lot of young struggling with this today, and all I can say is: “I SURE AM GLAD I’M OVER THAT!” Except of course I’m not entirely, because learning to accept yourself and be true to yourself is a lifelong process. Maybe you can tell that I’ve been reflecting on this quite a bit lately, but my soul-searching turns out to be in your benefit, because I’ve thought up a few suggestions for how to ease into “being yourself.” For my beloved readers just beginning to unfurl your freak flags in preparation to let them fly, this is for you….
1. Realize that you have something special to offer the world. You are the only “you” out there, with your own unique stories, opinions, and talents. Whether you like it or not, you’re an individual! Rather than fight it, why not embrace it? It’s incredible when you think about it: You’re absolutely the only person on this earth right now who can be you and give the world that special something you have to offer. Whether it’s a piece of art you’ve made, an original idea for building a Mountain Dew-powered motor-scooter, or a new formula for squirrel shampoo, it’s up to you to get it out there and into the world, because no one else can do it like you can. Once you understand that you’re amazing and capable of extraordinarily “you” things, you can move on to step #2….
2. Don’t worry so much about pleasing other people! It may surprise you to learn that although your friends and parents and people on TV may have a lot of opinions about what you should do with your life, you’re the only one living that life and therefore the only one who has any right to decide how it should be lived. It’s nice to make other people happy, but it’s impossible to do so all the time and you absolutely can’t let other people’s happiness take precedence over your own. Be confident in yourself and your ability to steer your own ship, so to speak. That said, don’t hesitate to ask others for advice when you need it! To bring in another nautical idiom, “no man is an island.”
3. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. Even if you’re not totally sure who you are, if you sat down for a few hours you could probably come up with a list of things you want out of life, right? An example: “I would like a pony.” Clearly this is not the most profound or lofty of life goals, but it will do for a start. So, what do you need to do to accomplish your goal of having a pony? Start thinking about it and then, once you’ve got your pony-procurement plan, don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. Repeat to yourself, “I WILL HAVE THAT PONY; IT IS MY DESTINY. I AM UNSTOPPABLE.” Having clear goals, ambitions and dreams and pursuing them with passion and determination is a critical part of “being true to yourself.” Don’t be afraid to go after what you want!
Obviously the process of “becoming yourself” is different for everyone, but it seems to me that these three guidelines should apply more or less across the board. Just remember: I think you’re special. I really do! You deserve to be yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. If they do, give me a call and I’ll track ‘em down and give them a good talking-to….
Aurora C., editor & her own weird//wacky self, thank-you-very-much!
P.S. Check out this kid on Toddlers & Tiaras! I adore her. She is 100% her own baby, and absolutely perfect. In other news, Toddlers & Tiaras has always been and will always be my #1 favorite show on TV.
Everyone has his or her own unique perspective, experiences, and stories to tell. We want to hear yours! What have you learned that other teens should know? What piece of advice do you have that the world needs to hear? Now you have the chance to share your story with teens like you by using our new “Share Your Story!” feature at ntrw.org/share-your-story.
We want you to fill us in on:
…a mistake you made in middle or high school
…the challenges you’ve faced
…the good and bad choices you’ve made
…what you wish you’d been told
…the bad advice you’ve received
…what you would do differently
…the lessons you’ve learned about school, friends, relationships, whatever!
Your stories can be serious or funny—anything you’ve got, we want it. You don’t have to be a novelist to tell a good story, so don’t be nervous! You can post in video or in text at ntrw.org/share-your-story. Who knows, you might really help someone by sharing your experiences!
Not convinced yet? Well, what if I said there was the possibility of FREE PIZZA if you submit a story? Do I have your attention now? Everyone loves pizza: you love pizza, I love pizza; my cat loves pizza. I only know one person in the world who doesn’t go absolutely nuts over pizza, and she’s kind of weird anyway. If you’re a normal, pizza-loving person and would like the chance to win a pizza party for ten people, go to ntrw.org/share-your-story right this instant (or whenever, actually). If we think your story is the best, you’ll be swimming in so much free pizza you won’t even know what to do with yourself! You’ll be just like this really happy pizza cat:
So, what are you waiting for? Share your story now!
In our upcoming edition (#8! it’s coming for you—get excited!), NtRW interview victims Ashlee and Luke talk about their experiences dealing with difficult roommates. I wasn’t exactly BFFs with my roommate when I was in college either, so I know how tough it can be to live with someone whose every action seems designed to aggravate you. My roommate was the worst: she brought strangers into the room at bizarre hours (i.e. 3 am), took my clothes without asking, left peanut butter jars to roll around on the floor beside her bed, and played loud music when I was up late working on papers. I’m not saying I was a perfect roommate by any means, but I tried to respect her space and be as considerate as possible, two things she made no effort to do. The tension built and built and by the end of our two years living together, we weren’t speaking. I came to think of her as somewhat of an archnemesis—she was my Lex Luthor, my Green Goblin, my Catwoman (without the snazzy bodysuit). To help you avoid similar misery, I’ve come up with a few guidelines for maintaining good relations with your roommate…
- Set boundaries. Lay down ground rules from the very beginning to avoid future conflict. If you don’t want your roommate rifling through your desk to find a pen or borrowing your toothbrush, let him know from the start. Limits are good, so don’t be afraid to set them. That said, building a fence down the center of the room is probably a bit extreme.
- Be flexible. Chances are your roommate won’t have exactly the same habits or schedule as you do, so be prepared to make compromises. Being bullheaded about bed time, study time, noise issues, etc. will only serve to push you and your roommate further and further apart. To bridge the gap rather than broaden it, it’s best to accept that there will be differences and go about finding solutions with a spirit of cooperation and goodwill.
- Communicate. Instead of stewing in resentment, talk to your roommate about what’s bothering you. Don’t assume s/he can read your mind (unless you’re at a college for psychics, in which case I’m totally jealous). A lot of blow-out, knockdown & drag-out fights stem from simple misunderstandings, so it’s best to address any problems outright while they’re still small and manageable.
- Be friendly. There’s no rule that says you have to be friends with your roommate, but being friendly is a good way to keep things pleasant. At the very least, don’t glare at her when she comes into the room. Ignoring your roommate is a mistake, too, so say hi, chat about classes, be nice. It’s really not that hard to be moderately sociable.
You may not love the total stranger chosen by the mysterious roommate-matching overlords to share your inevitably teeny-tiny dorm room with you, but I hope these tips will help you survive your time together with only minimal physical//emotional trauma. And remember: if it gets really unbearable and you just can’t take the person any more, you can always seek outside intervention. Track down your dorm’s resident advisor so that s/he can help you figure out the situation and even find an alternative housing arrangement, if necessary.
Aurora C., editor & only mildly obnoxious roommate
P.S. If you want to read some truly terrifying stories from people about their worst roommate experiences, check out myveryworstroommate.com. Don’t let it scare you too much, though—some roommates are perfectly nice and normal people!
Pajama Panic! Pajama-palooza! Pajama pandemonium! Pajama…predicament? I’m all out of alliterative exclamations, it seems, so let’s get to the point here: teenagers have taken to wearing their PJs to school, and this trend will inevitably bring about the utter ruination of America. Or so says one Michael Williams, a commissioner in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, who is trying to pass a ban on wearing pajamas in public. ”The moral fibre in America is dwindling away. It’s pajamas today; what is it going to be tomorrow? Walking around in your underwear?” asks Williams in an article about the “pajama problem” published in today’s Wall Street Journal. Now, I think Mr. Williams may be overreacting just a teensy bit here, but I admit that I’m off-put by the concept of pajamas as a fashion trend.
When I was in high school, we celebrated “Pajama Day” during spirit week by heading to school in our flannel pants and oversized sweatshirts, but that was once, maybe twice a year. And sure, sometimes my peers would show up for class in sweatpants, but for the most part people wore proper clothes. Not cool or even mildly attractive clothes, mind you – Ugg boots and crocs were big in my day, and both are embarrassingly hideous – but I don’t have such high standards; jeans and a t-shirt will do just fine. Now it seems that all basic rules for what distinguishes school attire from at-home-snoozing-on-the-sofa attire have broken down in favor of 24-7 comfort, as the Wall Street Journal reports that the hottest trend for today’s teens is wearing pajamas, $70 Abercrombie & Fitch sweatpants, and flip flops to school. First off, $70 sweatpants? Ack! Why would you spend $70 to look like you’ve given up dressing yourself? Sorry, but “I’m lazy” is not a fashion statement I can get behind.
Secondly, I don’t think clothes chosen to maximize your ability to fall asleep at the drop of the hat are the most appropriate for school, where you’re supposed to be alert and active and ready to absorb new information. This may be because I’m painfully elderly & out of touch, since I share my opinion with David Beriau, a full-fledged adult and the dean of students at Bennington, Vermont’s Mount Anthony Union High School, who says:
“If you come to school like you’re going to go to bed, it says a lot about your lack of motivation. It creates an atmosphere where people feel like, ‘The next thing I’m going to do is slouch. And why not nod off?’ “
To try to curb student somnolence, Beriau has banned pajama bottoms and slippers in his school. Other schools, such as those in Florida’s Broward County, have taken similar action against the pajama plague threatening to stupefy the student body. Dress codes annoy me on principle because I don’t like to see one’s right to express oneself limited, and fashion is a terrific way to express one’s aesthetic vision and personal perspective. But what if what you want to express about yourself is, “Too sleepy to care” or merely a wordless, emphatic yawn? I’m torn on this issue. Truth be told, I would probably support such a pajama-ban at my high school, simply because it would mean not having to look at sweatpants and PJs all day long.
Then again, I would very much like to witness an era when everyone wears Snuggies everywhere they go, and perhaps this pajama-craze is the first step towards that wonderful, terrible dystopic future. Can’t you just picture it? Shoppers wandering the grocery store in fleecy blue robes like weird siesta monks. Surgeons performing appendectomies in Snuggie scrubs. Snuggie wedding dresses made of snow white glitter fleece, Snuggie tuxedos, Snuggie basketball uniforms…
It’s a beautiful thing. And a terrifying one.
Aurora C., editor & pajama protestor
P.S. Despite my stand against PJs in public, I’m a big supporter of pajamas for dogs (in private, in public, pretty much anywhere):
At some point in his or her life, almost everyone is required to work a totally un-fun, demeaning, or heart-wrenchingly miserable job. It’s a rite of passage, and, as clichéd dads everywhere like to say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” While this a flawed statement – um, ever hear of paraplegia or traumatic brain injury, clichéd dad? – there’s some truth to it when it refers to bad jobs and not horrific physical harm. You can work a terrible job at any age, but teenagers seem to really luck out when it comes to landing low on the employment totem pole. This is most likely because they A) have little to no prior work experience and B) minimal education. Isn’t it awesome to be young?? Typical bottom-rung jobs for teens include positions in food service, retail, and movie theaters. In these jobs, you have to wear an embarrassing uniform, talk to people who think you’re an idiot as a result of aforementioned uniform, and more often than not you get the privilege of cleaning up icky things, like vomit or spilled milkshakes.
I shudder thinking back to my own personal “worst job ever.” I was 16 and super-stoked to devote the little free time I had remaining after school and extracurricular activities to working for minimum wage, so when I was offered a job as a sandwich-maker and barista-in-training at a popular local bagel shop, I leaped at the opportunity. This is my chance, I thought, and fantasized about the day I’d fulfill my lifelong dream of promotion from barista-in-training to plain ol’ barista. Actually, I had no such dream and good thing I didn’t, because that day never came. In fact, after a series of near nervous breakdowns and gory accidents involving bagel knives, I quit within two months of being hired. I wasn’t cut out for food service. In my most self-disparaging moments, it seemed to me that the only thing I was cut out for was cutting myself (which I did a lot). I worked on weekends, from 6 am to 2 pm, the time of day when the fuming hordes of angry morning people trudge in to angrily order their first coffee of the day. This was a problem for me, as I am frightened by angry people. I often wanted to run away from my customers, but alas, I was trapped behind the sandwich counter. Instead of running away, I would try to think calming thoughts while making sandwiches as quickly as possible. And then cut myself. While you might think that seeing an anxious teenage girl in an embarrassing uniform injure herself while rushing to prepare a perfect bagel with lox for your breakfast enjoyment would inspire some pity in your cold, angry morning heart, my pain did not seem to have this effect on my customers. Usually, they just got angrier. “DARN THIS INCOMPETENT MORON IN AN APRON HEMORRHAGING ALL OVER MY SMOKED SALMON,” they’d scream, pounding their fists against the counter. Not really, but they were grumpy. They gave me mean looks.
I should also mention that cream cheese makes me ill, and working at a bagel shop involves a lot of cream cheese. For some reason, I thought I could get over my intense aversion to the foul substance with time and concentrated effort. I did overcome my disgust to a certain extent, but if people ordered extra cream cheese – which they did, not infrequently – I’d have to restrain the urge to gag. Oh my gosh, cream cheese is so vile. I cannot get over it.
In addition to bleeding a lot and smearing nauseating white stuff on the bagels of total grumps, my job also required me to clean the bathroom at the end of my shift. Scrubbing out a public toilet is always such a treat at the end of the day, don’t you think? Erm, no.
It was a terrible job, I hated it, and I quit. Within a few weeks I found a much more palatable position as a mail girl and office assistant for a law firm, and all was right with the world. Today I sometimes wonder if I was just being wimpy about the job at the bagel shop; if it would have been better to tough it out and try to make it to official barista status. Honestly, I don’t think so. I especially don’t think so when a whiff of cream cheese launches me into the terrifying world of sandwich-making flashbacks. Food service wasn’t for me, but I’m sure it’s not the worst job out there. I once saw an episode of the Tyra Show about a woman whose job it was to taste-test dog food–that might be the worst job. Another possible candidate for the elite “World’s Worst Job” award would be the person at pizza places or furniture stores whose job it is to dress up in a giant hot dog suit and stand out along a busy street with a sandwich board sign advertising a 20% discount on sodas. I always feel sad for those people when I drive by them, and I never buy their slightly cheaper than usual soft drinks. I’m sure the discounted Sprite would taste like heartache, and the bargain Coke like crushed dreams.
What was your worst job ever? I long to hear your horror stories. You know the drill: email me at email@example.com and you’ll receive a lovingly handcrafted, sympathetic response from a fellow working stiff.
Aurora C., editor & cream cheese depreciator
P.S. Click here for a clip of Adam Fayhe, one of our early interviewees, talking about his worst job(s). Telemarketing–yikes!
I assume that, because you’re so on top of things and totally “with it,” you’ve already finished up your holiday shopping and are now sitting back, basking in the bliss of the season. Wait, you haven’t? Oh. I guess you’re in deep trouble, then! Don’t you know that if you fail to give someone a gift, he or she will immediately stop loving you and never speak to you ever again? Are you panicked yet? First, I recommend calming yourself with a few deep breathing exercises. Picture a tranquil ocean and so on. Imagine yourself floating away, freed from your holiday gift anxiety. Then, if I were you, I’d read through the incredibly thoughtful list of super quick, easy & inexpensive gifts I’ve come up with for you (because I care), found below…
1. An artistic rendering of the recipient. People love personalized stuff: monogrammed towels, monogrammed iPhones, sleep number beds, whatever! Anything that seems specially crafted for one’s very own uniquely unique self is always a big hit. What could possibly be more personal than a portrait, I ask you? Nothing. Neither your artistic medium – pencil, pen, crayon, watercolor, papier-mache – nor your talent level really matters in this case, since the recipient will be too bowled over with delight that you took the time to honor their likeness through art to even consider the technical merits of the work itself. It’s true, I swear! It’s remarkable how tickled people can be over even the most stick-figureish representations of themselves.
2. Homemade goodies and treats. Homemade delectables are an obvious but easy and always pleasing holiday gift idea. Everyone likes cookies! If a person doesn’t like cookies, he or she probably doesn’t like holidays (or puppies, or fun) either and therefore shouldn’t even be on your gift-list. You don’t have to get all fancy with holiday treats, so if you’re intimidated by complicated recipes, have no fear! There are a million simple, delicious sweets you can make that will satisfy even the crankiest, most critical connoisseurs. Every year for the past 30,000 years, I’ve made fudge to give to friends and family at Christmas time. It’s wicked easy, everyone always loves it, and, best of all, I get to lick the spoon. Here’s my recipe: in a double boiler, melt together three cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips and one 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, plus a dash of salt. When the mixture is all smooth and melty, take it off the heat and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, then quickly glop the magical chocolate ooze into a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Stick that in the fridge to chill for two hours and voila, you’re done! It’s totally foolproof & really, really tasty. Other ideas: cutely decorated gingerbread or sugar cookies, peppermint bark, chocolate truffles, scotch toffee bars.
3. Your own ‘Holiday Hits’ CD. To celebrate the special joys of the season, why not make your loved ones a CD of handpicked holiday hits? This is what I’m doing this year, as I recently discovered that our crazy world is simply chock-full of beyond mysterious Christmas-themed musical oddities. Now that I know this, I feel the need to share these unconventional carols with absolutely everyone. Here, I’ll even give you a taste:
I think everyone should have their own holiday album. Get started on yours NOW and send a copy to me, pretty please; it’s all I want for Christmas.
4. Salvo Strangeness. If your friends are mildly imbalanced like mine are, a great thing to get them for the holidays is the weirdest thing you can find for $5 (or less!) in your local Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift store. I bet it will be something really weird. For example, my local Salvo in South Portland is loaded with these bizarre dog bowls that have phrases printed on them like, “I just need to lie down for 5 minutes” and “Egg Clomp-Clomp.” None of my friends have dogs but boy am I tempted to buy one of those bowls for each and every person in my social circle. I even want one myself! Strange framed art from thrift stores makes for another lovely gift. School portraits of other people’s children, velvet paintings of raccoons, clumsily done needlepoint samplers: wonderful gifts one and all for the weirdo in your life.
I personally would love to receive any of the above gifts, and I would never even guess that you were hastily preparing it the night before. I would just be like, “Oh, a portrait of me drawn in magic marker on the back of a Hannaford receipt? YOU’RE THE BEST EVER!” I’m sure your friends and relations will feel the same.
Now I’d like to move on to some last-minute gifts that really ought be avoided if you like the would-be gift recipient even a little bit.
Truly Terrible but Oddly Oft-Recommended Gifts:
Seasonally scented candles. Hate ‘em. There’s just no way anyone with a nose wants their house smelling like “Snowman’s Toes” or “Mistletoe Mist.” I guess these candles might be okay for your noseless friends, though.
“Sand Art” cookie-in-a-jar kits. “Oh thanks, a mason jar of flour.”
Coasters. Every single “last-minute gift” list I consulted recommended coasters. If I received coasters for Christmas, I think I’d just give up living right there on the spot because someone in the world thought I was a boring enough human being to get all stoked about new coasters. Please don’t get anyone coasters this holiday season unless you want to say, “I don’t know you very well but I’m fairly certain you don’t want your table getting moist.” Coasters make you as the gift-giver look bad, they make the person receiving the gift look bad, and ultimately they just make the world a less pleasant place to live. NO COASTERS.
Lottery tickets. Ah, the gift of disappointment.
“Love.” In hard economic times, the writers of gift lists stretch to try to come up with cheap/free gifts to recommend to the cash-strapped masses, and I understand that. Fine. Nonetheless, this is what I have to say about giving “love”: EW. Majorly creepy. I mean, go ahead and love the people in your life but, whatever you do, don’t tell them that you’re giving them the gift of “love” for the holidays. If you do, they’ll probably throw up on you and cleaning vomit off of your PJs can really put a damper on Christmas morning.
With Love (but not “love”),
Aurora C., editor & not-so-secret Santa