The Sun’s Song by Astrid Braun

The blue jay grips the branch,

Adjusts his azure coat

And takes an inaudible breath

Before he questions the sun.

 

“Why do you not speak to me?”

He asks her, as she breaks through

The leaves to touch him gently;

Answering silently as ever before.

 

She does not her joys convey

In words, so different from the

Wind whose whispers reach him

In the tree where he sleeps

 

Nor is she like the stream

Whose bubbly anecdotes

Travel up from the soft mud

To amuse those around him

 

Perhaps she is like the sun

And not another —

Her song is felt inside

And she sings as she knows how

Application Anxiety by Ian Marr

If there’s one thing that almost all high school seniors can agree on, it’s that college applications suck. They suck a lot. It’s bad enough that we’re buried in schoolwork that we can’t afford to lose track of, and application deadlines only add to that stress. If you have a procrastination problem like I do, you’ll understand that this is an absolutely unforgiving combination. Waiting until the deadline date to send your ACT scores only to discover that the website is down for maintenance is possibly one of the worst feelings a student can have. However, looking back on these experiences, I can see that the anxiety that exists with the application process is nothing compared to the relief that’s felt once it’s completed. It is a burden that we are capable of lifting early, but we choose to ignore out of fear. But once it’s done, that fear will become incredibly distant.

Teeth by Claire Ockner

I used to only smile with my lips sealed shut. It started when I was little. I was a shy kid, (which is weird, because now I willingly talk to anything that breathes)  so the goal was always to get through the school day saying as few words as possible. My little brain managed to convince itself that if I didn’t open my mouth, people would assume I didn’t want to talk, causing them to leave me alone. I didn’t show them my teeth, so they didn’t show me theirs.

Picture day was the worst. Photographers would always ask me to “say cheese” or to “smile big”. Some of them even told me jokes and, while I was laughing, they would snap a picture.

Oh, I think I may have forgotten to mention something: I used to have a huge space between my two front teeth. Growing up, I didn’t mind them at all. My Nana and I had the same teeth. She had a warm smile and I thought it was beautiful, tooth gap and all. Her and my mom always told me that my tooth gap made me look like Lauren Hutton. I didn’t know who she was, but my mom told me she was a model. My mom also told me that she showed her teeth in pictures. If Lauren did, why shouldn’t I?

When I was in fifth grade, someone told me I looked like a hippo. I thought it was funny. Hippos are cute. They then told me it was because of the humongous space between my teeth. Suddenly, I didn’t want to look like a hippo. I didn’t want to look like Lauren Hutton or my Nana. I wanted a gapless smile, one that would make me proud to show people my teeth.

Soon after, I got braces. I think I was probably the only kid to ever be excited about getting metal glued into my mouth. I thought it would make me happy. Two expanders, two teeth pullings, and one chain through the roof of my mouth (don’t even ask) later, and shockingly, I still wasn’t happy. Even after my frenectomy, which was supposed to permanently close my gap, I still wasn’t satisfied.

My gap didn’t stay closed for long. It came back, smaller than it was before, but definitely still a gap. For some reason, I didn’t hate it as much as I did before. In fact, I thought it made me look unique. Maybe slightly hippo-like, but a unique hippo nonetheless.

When I got my braces off, my orthodontist asked me if I wanted a retainer that would help close my gap. I said no. I think Lauren Hutton would be proud.

As I write this, I find myself smiling. Not a sealed-lip smile, but a smile that shows off my teeth in all their hippo-like glory.

A Positive Affirmations Piece by Madison L. Wilson

 

Related image

As a tree sheds its autumn leaves,

May you let go any and all insecurities.

Set backs-

Worries-

Or thoughts that you lack in any way.

May you stand firm and tall,

Knowing that you are powerful-

Capable-

And worthy.

Realize that you are fierce fire-

You are a force to recon with, because you recognize:

The only limits you posses are the ones you chooses to accept.

 

Hopefully you read these words, knowing every single one of them is true. It is important to recognize both your strengths and weakness. It is important to try to become the best version of yourself by making mistakes. It is important to make mistakes and fall. Personal growth requires all three. However, you must always get back up and believe that your worries and insecurities do not define you. May this be a reminder to embrace your exceptional qualities and face adversity with self confidence. With that being said: You are capable and you are worthy.

The Power of Language by Tomasina DeLong

In the English language, we do not generally assign genders to words, but some words may have more feminine or masculine connotations. My mom is a high school teacher and has had students who are transgender, as well as gender non-binary. She is comfortable calling her students by the correct pronouns, and it does not impact her interactions with her student.

In other languages, such as Spanish, there is gender assigned to every object and adjective. To describe a girl who is tall and smart, I would write, “Ella es alta y inteligente.” The ‘a’ at the end of the words signifies that the word or trait is describing a girl. Even nouns such as chair and tree have assigned genders: “la silla y el arbol” (the articles in front are either feminine or masculine). In basic levels of Spanish, such as Spanish I, students learn the language and basic conversational skills by talking about themselves. I have never had a class where a peer identified as non-binary, but I wonder how those students would be taught to describe themselves, because there is not a non-binary or gender neutral pronoun in Spanish.

This is interesting when considering how gender and language impact people’s daily lives. In the English language, words have different connotations but individuals can more easily use the correct pronouns in order to make themself more comfortable. In other languages such as Spanish, individuals may feel more nervous about things regarding their identity because the language does not easily provide them with choices for their pronouns. Language is a vital part of daily life and the use of gender in language may impact the society speaking it. Language is powerful. 

It’s Not a Diary by Harlan Friedman-Romell

 

Allow me to take you back to 2008. It’s mid-summer. I’m six. My biggest concerns in the world are brussel sprouts and having to brush my teeth before bed. One July morning, I see my friend with this book. He says it just came out. He says he can’t wait to read the next one. He says it’s the best book he’s ever read.

Pssh. Yeah right. It can’t be better than Taro Gomi’s 1993 classic Everybody Poops. That book remains to be the funniest novel I’ve ever read.

He lends it to me. He says I need to read it. I begrudgingly take his copy and walk back to my house.

I devour page after page in that book. I am entranced. This book becomes my personal bible.

A few weeks ago, I tried to re-read that same book. I nestled myself on my bed under the covers with a cup of lukewarm English Breakfast (the only acceptable kind of tea aside from Irish Breakfast) on my bedside table. I was ready. I opened Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the first page.

And it was bad.

It was really bad.

Jeff Kinney’s New York Times Bestseller Diary of a Wimpy Kid has spawned a dozen sequels, each one more contrived and trite than the previous. However, for some reason, something about the book resonated so well with me. Was I a ‘wimpy kid?’ No. I hope not. Being a seventh grader just seemed so cool. Looking back, it’s hilarious to think that being a middle schooler is cool, in fact I’d probably use any word but ‘cool’ to describe middle schoolers. After actually experiencing the wonders and worries of the tweenage dream, the unbelievably cliched story quickly loses its luster.

I have no issue admitting that the book, however much I loved it as a kid, is not of a high quality.

But the movie?

I have a confession.

I love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time.

Yes, I know.

People say, “Harlan, why do you love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie? That movie sucks.”

And I admit, yes, it won’t speak to everyone. On the surface, the movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a simple, coming of age tale that highlights a basic message: be true to yourself. If you look at the characters and the scenarios as average and sub-par comedic gags, you won’t retain much. But, if you look a little deeper, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a bitingly satirical social critique of the suburban American lifestyle in the late 2000s.

“What?” they say. “That’s so stupid. How?”

And I say, stay tuned for my next blog.

Risk by Jake Lehner

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked for an apple, and instead received a half-severed thumb. It was ten o’clock at night, and I was craving a pouch of thinly-sliced apple. My dad would usually prepare it, since the Lehner fruit-cutting gene apparently passes down from father to son. But he was still at work, so my mom’s slicing skills would have to suffice. I called for her from the kitchen, asking to cut me a honey crisp apple and transfer the fruits of her labor (get it?) into a ziplock sandwich bag so that I could eat and watch my favorite cartoon, Spongebob, simultaneously. She replied that I would have to settle for a bowl of dry Go Lean Crunch cereal because she was exhausted and didn’t feel like making the journey to the kitchen.

Why didn’t I feel defeated? Why didn’t I just pout or beg or throw a tantrum? Ah, for you see, I had made up my mind the moment I recognized the strong craving I was having for fresh honey crisp apple. It wasn’t a question of if, but how, I would realize my delicious fate. I tiptoed over to the cutlery drawer and pulled from it a long butcher’s knife. I then placed the apple onto the kitchen counter and held it steady with my left hand. And, as I made my first attempt at cutting into the meat of the apple, the knife slipped off of its slippery skin and I instead made a cut into the meat of my thumb. I yelled for help as the apple was splashed with a liquid of its own complexion. My mom quickly grabbed a clean rag from under the kitchen sink and applied pressure to my wound, too worried to be upset by my act of defiance. We both hurried into the white minivan parked in the driveway and headed for the Emergency Room.

I only realized once the doctor removed the rag and cleaned the wound that I could actually see the bone of my thumb, surrounded by a mutilation of purple and yellow tissue. After the doctor repaired the damage to my thumb with stitches and a large bandage, I was cleared to return home.

Being only five years of age, my headstrong nature had already gotten me into trouble. But, I’m glad that I didn’t settle for the dry, stale bowl of Go Lean Crunch. I took a risk, and I ended up in the emergency room; but I continue to take risks because, one day, I know I will enjoy the crisp, thinly sliced honey crisp apple that I’ve always wanted.

Rose by Grace Meyer

Ruby red dress immersed in velvet

Dripping in monochrome banter

Shapeshifting in front of our eyes

Stripped of elegance and beauty, exposing her thorns

 

Pleasing to the eye

Flashing a smile to her victims

Capturing all attention from the blood red gown

Platinum blond hair cleanses all lurking sins upon her skin

 

Sauntering amongst unsuspecting eyes

Stabs obstacles in her way

Walks away untouched

Drowning in tarnished truth

 

Withering from loss of sustenance

All along she was made of plastic.

She can try to run from her actions,

But reality never lies.

The Worst Day of the Week by Monet Bouie

Hello people of the world! Welcome to another blog posted by yours truly. Today, I’ve got something on my mind and I’m going to let it out! This may be a little controversial. It may even be a topic to avoid at dinner parties. In fact, you may want to stop reading right now.

Ok, I’ve warned you.

I hate Fridays.

Boom! I said it! And you know what? I’m even proud of it. I can’t stand Fridays. Throughout the week I get a sense of foreboding as the day approaches. I can’t help but wake up in the morning and feel agitated that this irksome day has come again. A shiver runs down my spine at the mere utterance of the “day that shall not be named”. But it hasn’t always been this way. There was a time I could even crack a smile on Fridays. After 17 years, 932 Friday’s to be exact, I can easily say that Fridays are the absolute worst. So here it is:

My top 10 reasons to hate Fridays:

  1. My teachers make it a weekly ritual to have tests on this day

For starters, I always have a million tests on Fridays. It’s as though my teachers all huddle in the teachers lounge, snicker, and rub their hands together as they plan my downfall…  or whatever happens in the teacher’s lounge.

      2. The anticipation for Saturday

I don’t like anticipation. Maybe my problem of waiting stems from my lack of patience, but nonetheless, I hate it. Fridays are like the moment right before you sneeze, but it lasts a whole day! Everything is building up to an amazing Saturday. You get to sleep in, have no homework, and binge on Netflix. A Friday is like a movie theater bathroom sink when you first turn the faucet. It’s super cold and takes way too long to get warm.

      3. TGI Fridays

Yes, I’m talking about the restaurant. I can easily say I’m not a fan. With only 1 ½ stars on ConsumerAffair.com, it’s easy to say others feel the same.

     4. End of the School Week

This kind of relates to my first argument. On Fridays I have papers, projects, presentations, and even more due. After 4 days of lugging my heavy backpack around, eating tater tot and broccoli pizza in the cafeteria, and getting no sleep, Friday’s are like the icing on a crappy cake.

      5. Friday the 13th

Not Tuesday the 13th, not Monday the 13th, but Friday the 13th! There are people who have paraskevidekatriaphobia– the fear of Friday the 13th. This day is known for being unlucky. On my birthday some years back I turned 13 on December 13th, in 2013, on Friday the 13th. Let’s just say that was the worst birthday ever.

      6. Black Friday

Now I love a deal just a much as the next guy, but you’d be insane to say you love Black Friday. Sure, the sales are great, but having to push your way through a crowd, see mom’s fight over a barbie dream house for their spoiled “little angel”, and sorting through mountains worth of bath and body works “for sale” items is not worth it.

      7. The most Dangerous day

Fridays are the most dangerous day of the week.The Nationwide Insurance report showed that commuting to work by car was the most dangerous of Fridays. It’s also the most likely day for declared war and a coup d’etat. In fact, 4 of the 15 current leader who seized power in a coup did so… you guessed it, on a Friday!

      8. “Freaky Friday (2018)

Did you know Disney made another remake of Freaky Friday, because I sure didn’t. And after watching it I can tell you that it does not compare to the 2003 version featuring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, the 1995 version, or the 1976 original with Jodie Foster. This time it was a musical, I rest my case.

      9. Donald Trump

Donald Trump was born in 1946 on Friday, June 14th. Enough said.

     10. Everybody Loves it

And the worst part, the absolute worst thing about Fridays is that everyone loves them!

Rubicon by Josh Skubby

Image result for senate chamber

Over 2000 years ago, the Roman Republic keeled over under the weight of soon-to-be emperor Julius Caesar. For 7 years the First Triumvirate oversaw Rome as an alarmingly unstable division of power. The trio of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus formed attempting to subvert the power of the Roman Senate. Each man sought to expand their own power in the context of the Republic.

Clearly, however, Caesar rose above the pack. A widely popular military commander, he had the support of both the military and the Roman people. Following Crassus’s death in 53 BC, the alliance appeared shattered. The Senate quickly aligned themselves with Pompey while Caesar was in Gaul on a military campaign. The Senators feared Caesar’s political power, and ordered he resign command of his army. Caesar refused, opting for civil war. He promptly set about destroying the Roman Republic and establishing the Roman Empire.

Our founders clearly looked to Rome as a model for our own system of democracy. Citizens elect representatives, although citizenship is historically more of a boys club than a legitimate right for all subjects. Our architecture mimics Roman styles, and Latin appears on our currency. Unfortunately, America’s republic is fallible, just as Rome’s was.

I don’t expect Donald Trump to march on the Capitol anytime soon, but the cracks in American democracy are widening. Particularly, our votes grow less and less influential with each election cycle. As Americans become more concentrated in the large states, the small states benefit from maintaining the minimum electoral vote count of 3 while actively losing population. In this young century, the electoral college has failed to accurately reflect the popular vote twice. To his credit, George Bush received a lot of votes in 2000. Al Gore just happened to receive more. 3,000,000 more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, and he won the Electoral College handily. Given the Supreme Court developments under Trump’s administration, he is arguably the most influential loser of all time.

He didn’t win. Not even close.

One of our most basic principles, justice, is routinely threatened at the ballot box. I can excuse the founders for failing to foresee this unfortunate development. The Electoral College is unbalanced, but it has historically aligned with the popular vote. However, this transgression is not limited only to presidential elections.

In Rome, the Senate often acted as the singular string tying Rome to republicanism. It feared Caesar and the danger he posed to their (kinda) democracy. In the United States, however, I argue it pulls our government further from the light with each election cycle.

As the framers ordained it, the Senate chamber intrinsically and perpetually threatens the idea of equality. Giving each state 2 Senators is as unjust as it comes. Wyoming with 579,315 people receives the same representation as California with 39,536,653 people. In that legislative body, 1 Wyomingite has the same representative power as 68.25 Californians.

Wyoming is home to .17% of American citizens. 17 out of every 10,000 Americans lives in Wyoming. 2 out of every 100 Senators is from Wyoming.

Democracy is being undercut with every ballot. Unlike Rome, however, American democracy will not definitively collapse. It will only crawl along, falling prey to a system that discourages electoral reform. America has continually resisted expanding suffrage. While we have grown far more tolerant of universal suffrage, our government is still horrendous at ensuring every vote matters equally. This injustice has prevailed throughout all of American history, and it will not be defeated now.

The die has been cast.

Just as Caesar subverted democracy for his own personal gain, the American republic refuses to correct this objective wrong. Small states prioritize their own political power over this nation’s most base principles. Constitutional amendments require two-thirds of state legislatures to approve of the measure prior to enactment. This stipulation ensures small states will not vote for any proposition which strips them of their unjustly appointed power.

Democracy functions around people, not states. States do not vote (or they shouldn’t anyways). “Protecting the small states” is a euphemism that blasphemously casts aside the doctrine of the United States. We are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. State autonomy is important, but that’s why we have state legislatures. The federal government should protect all its citizens, without regard to which arbitrary lines they fall between.

Voting is a right. Fair representation is not.

It should be.