Valentine’s Day & Homemade Cards

Valentine’s Day: a day some adore and others abhor. Oh, and a holiday that sends Hallmark cheering for joy. Some couples use Valentine’s Day to express their love, whether it be through gifts or a romantic dinner. For them, celebrating Valentine’s Day may include exchanging chocolates and a night out on the town. For others, Valentine’s Day may evoke mixed feelings due to increasing commercialization and the need to show off; however, the night is not exclusive to couples or expensive gifts.

Valentine’s Day can be a great way for people of all ages to show appreciation for loved ones, like friends and family members. In recent times, the day before Valentine’s Day has even been termed “Galentine’s Day” in celebration of girl friends. For children, the holiday often means school parties and heart-shaped cookies. Some of my fondest memories from elementary school include those of making card boxes out of shoe or cereal boxes and exchanging cards with my peers. Cards may have included candy, stickers, or temporary tattoos. Yet, my favorite cards were those made out of construction paper, adorned in Elmer’s glue, glitter, and stickers. To this day, I find handmade cards a great to show your appreciation for someone without breaking the bank.

While the thought of making a card may seem juvenile or daunting, it can be a fun, easy way to show someone you care. If you don’t want to spend the money or can’t find a store bought card to your liking, handmade cards are perfect for sending the ideal message to your friend, family member, or significant other. Taking a little time can result in a heartfelt gesture that demonstrates your love and care. Do you want something funny? Add a meme or a pun. Would you rather have a card a little more meaningful? Write a poem or a message. Adding in a cheesy note or other form of personalization can make the card extra special, and if you can’t come up with anything, Pinterest and Google have plenty of examples for some inspiration. With handmade cards, you are free to do whatever pleases you. This year, I added some puns on the back of my cards relating to my friends’ favorite candies (with some attached, of course). Below are the fronts of some of my cards.  However you celebrated Valentine’s Day – or perhaps you didn’t – I hope you had a great one (and that you enjoy the upcoming discounted candy)!

The Struggle to Continue an Instrument in College

I vividly remember the day my piano was delivered. My family had been saving up for a year or two, and after scouring Craigslist and testing out a variety of used pianos, we settled on a beautiful chestnut-colored Yamaha. The moment it was delivered, the upright piano became my most prized possession. I was ecstatic to have my own piano and no longer need to pretend to pedal when using the keyboard. As such, I remember playing the piano for hours on end in the following weeks; however, these days tell a different story.

I live in East Quad, which has practice rooms accessible to students. In fact, this was one of the most exciting parts about touring my new home before the start of school. Yet, using my ten fingers, I could probably count the number of times I’ve actually sat down and played for over an hour. But why?

Before I continue this reflection, I’d like to make note I wasn’t always the best piano student. I started lessons when I was nine yet often feel as though I have nothing to show for it, especially in comparison to the hundreds of extremely dedicated or musically gifted students here at U of M. I’ll admit, when I was younger, there were times I didn’t like the assigned pieces or going to lessons. I frequently faced frustration with myself when I would make mistakes. There were times throughout middle and high school where I practiced only once or twice a week. Yet, somehow I always carved out time for it. Playing the piano was often a stress relief. It was something I enjoyed. Finding a daunting piece and eventually conquering it was one of the greatest feelings in the world. So what changed?

Time management is a huge factor. It can be difficult to juggle work, clubs, and hobbies while maintaining academic success. Additionally, while there are hundreds of organizations that make it easy to find groups of like-minded people or activities you enjoy, it’s just not feasible to do absolutely everything like many of us did in high school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely possible to still tackle plenty of extracurriculars. Several of my friends have been able to continue playing their instruments by being in marching band, orchestra, or chamber music. For me, the gist of time management in relation to playing the piano is the lack of setting aside time to specifically play. Amidst homework, tests, and other commitments, I’ve failed to put practicing as a priority.

While time management is an obvious and monumental reason for not playing the piano, I’ve come to realize that self-consciousness has also been an inhibitor in my musical ventures. For some background information, it’s easy to hear sound coming from the practice rooms in East Quad’s basement, whether you’re outside of them or in another practice room. Whenever I hear people around, I can’t help but feel pressure to perform under some sort of expectations I can’t live up to. When I hear another piano player in the practice room next door, sometimes I can’t help but feel inferior and fearful that he/she is judging me for my mistakes or lack of fluidity. It’s difficult to refrain from comparing myself to other talented students that I hear playing. This probably sounds silly, but it’s strangely something that has had an impact on my confidence and willingness to play. It also goes along with the fact that while I’m comfortable speaking, singing, or acting on stage/or other people, playing the piano is another story.

While self-consciousness is something that affects my playing habits, I hope to move past these insecurities and focus on my own progress. After all, if I stop playing because I feel that other people are much better than me, how am I ever going improve? And as far as time management goes, I’d like to go back to viewing practicing as something done for enjoyment or as a stress relief rather than a simple check off an imaginary to-do list. I hope to remember to actively think about setting aside some time to play, even if just once in awhile. Ultimately, I’m extremely grateful to my parents and piano teacher for the opportunity to learn such a skill as how to play the piano, and I don’t intend to let it go to waste.

Experiencing Cold Weather and Cancelled Classes

“Stay inside,” my mother said. A few hours after the phone call, I would be doing the exact opposite.

On Tuesday, the call for school to be closed was deafening. There had already been an order made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that declared Michigan in a state of emergency due to predicted sub-zero temperatures. Throughout the day, universities across the Midwest cancelled Wednesday’s classes in anticipation for the dangerously cold weather. Even MSU suspended classes for only the 7th time in history. For U of M students, pages such as “Overheard at Umich” and “UMich Memes for Wolverteens” were teeming with memes and comments made by students across campus asking for no school. In addition, students created a petition to cancel classes that reached over 13,000 signatures in a matter of days.

Fortunately, classes were indeed cancelled and the campus “issued an emergency reduction in operations” until 7 a.m. Friday. For middle and high school students across Michigan, snow days are a fairly common occurrence across Michigan. For college students, on the other hand, a snow day is a rarity. So what does one do when it’s so cold classes are cancelled?

For many students, the two days of cancelled classes provided time to study or relax. There was still work to be done for courses, and a day or two stuck inside provided optimal time to catch up or get ahead on schoolwork. The Wednesday and Thursday off also gave students some time to sleep in and recuperate. When not filled with people studying, the dormitory lounges were frequently filled with students watching movies, playing games, or simply hanging out. For me, the two days with no classes provided an opportunity to do all of these things. There was time to do some work without feeling stressed, and I enjoyed sleeping in. Yet, in addition to these things, I ventured outside the safety of my dormitory and into the bitter cold.

Now, this wasn’t a “I’m going to disregard any warnings because I can” decision. On Wednesday, the Michigan Theater played Your Name as part of the “Icons of Anime Film Series” sponsored by the UM Center for Japanese Studies. The screening was originally sold out and going to take place at the State Theater, but due to popular demand was moved to the Michigan Theater. This discovery, in addition to prior commitments being cancelled due to the weather, resulted in a quick decision to have a night out.

Despite the wind chill warning, my boyfriend and I left East Quad shortly around 6:45 p.m. Bundled in layers, the brisk walk to Michigan Theater wasn’t that bad. We took pictures of an empty diag with snapchat filters reading -11°F, and made it to the theater to find plenty of other students who had braved the arctic temps. So many, in fact, that the lower section of the theater’s main auditorium was pretty packed. After seeing the movie, which was captivating and breathtakingly beautiful, I could see why.

Since the dining hall would be closed by the time we got back (closing early due to the weather), we also stopped by a restaurant for dinner. The ten-minute walk back to East Quad, while just a few degrees colder at -15°F, was harsher. Thick wool socks were no match for the freezing winds. Literal frost coated my glasses, and ice droplets twinkled on my boyfriend’s eyelashes. We passed by a few people with no hats or scarves and wondered how they were surviving.

Back at the dormitory, hand warmers and blankets were quick to the rescue. It was so cold, however, that there was ice and frost on the inside of the windows. This only magnified the severity of what was happening across the Midwest, and the relief for students that classes were cancelled. Overall, while the night out was enjoyable, you can bet we stayed in on Thursday.

 

Links to further details on information noted in this post:

More information on U of M’s reduced operations.

News on the cold weather and its impact on the Midwest.

The petition calling administration to cancel classes.

Six the Musical

It’s no secret that the type of music I listen to consists of “showtunes,” otherwise known as songs from musicals. The other day, a friend of mine introduced me to a new set of showtunes from the musical Six. She had been listening to its music for a few weeks, raving about its catchiness and creative spin on history. Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six features a creative retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII. In case you need a refresher, there are quite a few rhymes and mnemonics to remember Henry VIII’s wives. Here are two I like:

King Henry VIII,
To six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
Two divorced, two beheaded.

 

Boleyn and Howard lost their heads,
Anne of Cleves he would not bed,
Jane Seymour gave him a son – but died before the week was done,
Aragon he did divorce,
Which just left Catherine Parr, of course!

While “divorced” actually refers to annulment, these rhymes are catchy and fairly easy to remember. In Six, the wives (Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr) all have songs recounting their tales. After listening to Six for a day or two, I found the music interesting enough to add to my Spotify playlist. The musical varies from others in its pop-concert style, and has a modern take on the history behind the wives of Henry VIII. On the negative side, some of the music is repetitive, and there are moments that seem too similar to Hamilton. Despite this, being a mash-up between Hamilton and a saucy girl band makes the musical pretty ingenious. Sassy lyrics and high energy scream for attention as the wives recount their lives from their perspectives, being seen as more than just reproductive vessels or victims of Henry VIII.

After giving it a chance, I’d say the musical is worth listening to at least once or twice. Six is a relatively new musical, having premiered in 2017 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before making its professional debut on off-West End. While it’s currently only being performed in London, Six is available to listen to on iTunes, Amazon Music, and other music services. It has also won and been nominated for various awards, such as Best UK Cast Recording and Best Ensemble in a Play or Musical.

“From Tudor Queens to Pop Princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic to tell their tales, remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st century girl power. These Queens may have green sleeves but their lipstick is rebellious red.”

– https://www.sixthemusical.com/

 

Reflecting on First Semester

As exams wind down, it’s finally occurred to me that my first semester of college is over. While I rejoice at the opportunities to see family, sleep in, and relax over winter break, knowing I am halfway done with freshman year is bittersweet. Retracing to the beginning of the school year, I’ll admit the first few weeks or so were intimidating. I remember calling my mom and confessing how much I missed her, my family, and my friends back home. I was worried about acing classes, making friends, and feeling “at home” in a new environment. How would I find my place at such a huge university?

Gradually, I found myself feeling more comfortable calling U of M my home. In fact, thanks to wonderful friends, great professors, and some spontaneous decision making, it didn’t take long for me to love life at Michigan (I also want to give a shout out to the Residential College for giving me a community to belong to). I tried different activities, both familiar and new, to further build connections and find interests. By stepping out of my comfort zone, I ended up forming some great friendships that made everyday life both manageable and enjoyable. Additionally, football games and arts events (which were/are sometimes free for students) were opportune moments to take a break from schoolwork and make memories.

Until now, I didn’t think anything would go by as fast as senior year of high school. This semester went by insanely quickly, and it’s almost frightening. While I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, this semester has been incredible, and I hope to take advantage of the rest of my time here at U of M. Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. College goes by really fast
  2. Call your family members, they miss you and are there for you
  3. Late nights are a given
  4. Naps are essential
  5. It’s okay to get out of your comfort zone
  6. ^^ You can do this by talking to people, taking a class you normally wouldn’t, or even going to events by yourself once in awhile
  7. Even though I truly enjoyed high school, college is so much better (albeit harder)
  8. There are a ton of great study spots around the libraries
  9. One way to hang out with friends during the week is by studying together in the dorm lounges (though be aware you might get distracted)
  10. Convincing yourself to go to the gym, even if it’s just ten minutes away, is difficult
  11. Eating healthily is fairly attainable with a dining meal plan… then again, it’s also easy to eat ice cream every day
  12. Ann Arbor has plenty of great restaurants for when you get tired of said dining meal plan
  13. Ann Arbor is a pretty cool place to explore in general

Take a Break for Art During Finals

Final exams. The dreadful words are enough to send college students everywhere into a state of distress. While in high school, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas often meant holiday decorations, festive food, and snow days. In college, however, this period of time is typically chaotic, with the end of classes yielding a pile of final essays, tests, and projects. With sleep deprivation and increasing stress, you may be left feeling overwhelmed. During a time that can be physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. One way to do so? Take a break for art. Here are a few ideas for managing college life pressures:

  1. Listen to some of your favorite music.

Music can have a huge impact on your mood and emotions. Upbeat music can set an energetic and positive tone, while music with a slower tempo can be calming and used for relaxation. Plan periodic breaks when studying and take a few moments to listen to your favorite tunes to destress.

  1. Write a thank you note.

Focusing on thoughts of gratitude can help put you in a positive mindset, and writing a card or letter is an excellent way to express appreciation for someone’s help. Thank a friend or parent for their support throughout the semester. Maybe even thank a professor who has had an impact on you (though consider the best time to give it to them).

  1. Draw or paint a picture.

Regardless of how “good” or “bad” you may be, drawing and painting can be good ways to reduce stress. Drawing and painting hold some of the benefits of meditation, and when you’re finished being engrossed in your art, you might have a more focused mindset to tackle your schoolwork or other problems.

  1. Jot down your thoughts, stresses, or ideas.

Consider taking a pen to paper in documenting goals, daily events, or feelings. If you feel guilty about taking time away from studying, make a list of what needs to be accomplished and use it as a to-do list.

  1. Color.

While the adult coloring book trend seems to have dwindled in the past few years, coloring is still a great relaxation activity. Coloring involves both logic and creativity. It can provide a distraction from stress and be a form of meditation for some people.

  1. Rearrange or clean your room.

Tired of your usual environment? Consider rearranging some furniture, getting rid of old things, or adding new decorations (with permission from your roommate, of course). Put up positive affirmations, photos, or artwork to contribute to a comfortable atmosphere. Cleaning can be a way take your mind off of schoolwork while still being productive, while rearranging can appeal to your more creative side.

  1. Play around with playdough.

Grab some clay from the store or make your own playdough for an emotional outlet. The squishy, malleable dough is a highly sensory medium that can be used for unleashing tension. For additional stress relief, you can add essential oils for some aromatherapy.

These are just some of many simple endeavors that could provide relaxation during a very stressful time. Whether it’s artistic or not, consider taking a break from studying once in awhile to recoup and destress.