Letter Writing

Compose a short letter to a person who would be surprised to receive that letter from you. This could be a family member or friend from whom you’ve grown estranged, or someone you haven’t thought about in years. Ex) The mean old lady next door you were always afraid of, or your elementary school bus driver. Where do you think these people are now? What questions would you ask them?

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spring is (sort of) in the air

It’s March 1st, the sun has actually been out the last couple of days, you can almost see the sidewalks underneath the large patches of ice, and maybe — just maybe — spring is (sort of) on its way to Canton, NY.

I know you’re all shocked. Me, too.

It is no surprise to anyone who has had more than a five minute conversation with me that I am a huge music fan. I’m the kind of music listener who finds something, falls in love with it, and listens to it on repeat for a relatively extended period of time. The way I listen to music means that certain songs or albums will always have an underlying connotation to them, depending on when I first listened or what was going on in my life when I first heard it.

For that reason, there is one song that will always make me thing of spring and sunshine, no matter when I listen to it, just because I listened to it and the album it’s on endlessly during tennis season of my senior year of high school when I was injured and off the court.

The Civil Wars’ “Tip of My Tongue” is just one song that always reminds me of spring, so I’ve been listening to it while I do my homework today, in honor of March 1st and the sun finally deciding to exist.

What’s your feel-good springtime song? Any particular reason why?

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Mad Libs are mad fun

Everyone loves a little phrasal template word game, am I right?  I know I do.  In high school, my friends and I would often sit in my living room for hours, making up ridiculous stories and choosing the most obscure nouns, adverbs, and adjectives we could think of.  For those of you who have suffered the misfortune of never doing a Mad Lib before, please follow this link and reclaim your childhoods–http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Libs

Now that everyone is acquainted with one of the most entertaining word games to ever grace the planet, allow me to propose the writing prompt.  I will provide a very short Mad Lib, and you will, in turn, use the result as the first few sentences of your piece.  It might not make sense.  It will probably get weird.  But that’s the fun part! Get wild and crazy with it and make up a story to follow whatever your brains cook up.  Here are the parts of speech that you need to choose, to later be placed in the Mad Lib.  (Success of this exercise depends on your ability to not peek ahead at the Mad Lib.  I REPEAT, NO PEEKING.)





Place (yes, I know that’s not a part of speech, work with me here, people):


Now, to make sure you can’t cheat and see the story while choosing your words, please enjoy these photos of adorable baby animals enjoying the snow.






All right, that should have been enough cuteness to distract you from peeking.  Now, for the moment of truth.  Kindly enter the words you chose in the blank spaces of the following story.

“Curious,” said the [noun].  “It seems that I’ve [verb] my [noun].  I guess I’ll just have to get my [noun] and head down to [place] for some [adjective] help.”  

Like I said, it might get weird.  I hope it has.  Enjoy crafting a story out of this Mad Lib and please share your most ridiculous and creative results in the comments section!


-Sam “I had way too much fun writing this post” Weber

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Do I Love Enough?

On the Adirondack Semester, 2013, I was asked to think about the question- do I love enough? On the heels of yet another Valentines day, for those who love it, hate it, or wish they had somebody to share it with, you’re all included here. I hope we can all spend some time looking inwards this Valentines day and ask ourselves if we love enough and if we are loving ourselves enough. Especially as women, and as a woman writing this, I know we like to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders and be wonder women. I am all for that. What I am not for is being a frazzled, overworked, and quick to react.

On a day devoted to showing our love for others, we also must allocate some time and energy to being with ourselves.  To selfishly and proudly take that walk in the woods, meditate, read the last chapter of the book that keeps getting pushed aside, or just take a nap by the fire place. There is truly no one more important than you, right here, right now. If you are not tended to, how can you ever care for someone else? This is not a green light for downing a pint of Phish Food or eating an entire pizza, this is about looking after yourself in a healthy, wholesome, and sustainable manner.

My prompt, for anyone taking the time out of their busy day to read my words, (I am honored, thank you), is to listen to a song by Brian Eno and sit comfortably (or lay), with your eyes closed, for 17 whole minutes. When was the last time you took 17 minutes of your day to give you your undivided attention? That is my challenge for you this week.


Please let me know how you like Brian Eno, the difficulties of being with yourself, or how you plan on answering the question- do I love enough?

-Hannah B. Smith

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Love is in the Air

It’s that time of year, folks: Valentine’s Day. Share with us something related to this romantic (or stupid, depending on your perspective) holiday–Do you know any facts about Valentine’s Day? Have you read any interesting articles about it? Do you recall a particular memory or have a funny story to tell about the day? Feel free to also make up a story, write a sappy love poem, or post anything else you can think of!

Sarcasm is, of course, very welcome here.

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Crossing the Finish Line


If you really want something, it is not enough to just hope it will come true. You have to hop up on your two tired feet and reach for it, run for it, scream for it. Recognize that everything meaningful you have ever accomplished in this life was because you made it happen.

Share with us one thing you want to accomplish and the steps you will take to achieve it. What have you made up your mind to do and why? What is your motivation? What plan will you establish for yourself to guide your progress? Your goal could take place over any time frame you desire.

We look forward to reading your responses; go get ‘em, everyone!

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Feminism. And if that turns you off: Polygamy

I started following writer Roxane Gay’s blog a few months ago and was hooked. It successfully combines all of my favorite things; pictures and descriptions of Gay cooking a delicious recipe in each post, plus good writing, plus some serious analysis of racial and gender issues, current news, and Lena Dunham. Gay published her first novel, an Untamed State, earlier this year, along with a collection of essays titled Bad Feminist, which is now a New York Times Bestseller.

Bad Feminist is critical and current. I felt like Gay was saying so many of the thing that I’ve wanted to say myself, but cover_bad_feministcouldn’t quite find the words. For instance, she says in the Introduction, “I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human.” Gay addresses one of the many problems with feminism today; how can we identify as feminist while also believing and doing things that are not perceived as feminist things to do? What about just being yourself?

This book is as much about defining feminism as it is about race, class, popular culture, and self-hood. Gay writes about The Hunger Games and Orange is the New Black alongside Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, the dismal political dance around rape (former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s idea of “legitimate rape” comes to mind), and her experiences as an African American in overwhelmingly white academia. Gay looks at the world critically and asks her readers to do the same.

Which brings me to my next reading material about keeping a critical eye on the status-quo.

For all of you out there who (like me) watch bad TV, polygamy is not Sister Wives. I was struck by how similar practicing polygamy


Feminist legs. Just kidding, this is serious, feminism is not about hairy legs.

in this country is to being gay. Both are considered sexually deviant by many groups and people who are gay or polygamist are pressured to conform. The idea that there is a choice to be monogamous or polygamist, or that some people are polygamist and cannot conform to the monogamous status-quo, simply never occurred to me.

Over the summer, a friend (more like two or three friends) recommended a book called The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polygamy, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. Both writers have been therapists for decades, meaning their knowledge about human need and relationships is extensive, to say the least. My first reaction was, predictably, I am not interested in polygamy. But, like everyone told me, this book has something to offer (almost) everyone.

Relationships are complicated, but at the end of the day, you are responsible for communicating and fulfilling your own needs. You can’t expect your partner or your friend or that special someone you just texted to guess what’s bothering Ethical_slut

you. Amid all the gush about the twenty-something hookup culture, The Ethical Slut stands out as a serious analysis of what it means to live a polygamous lifestyle that is responsible and loving. No, this book won’t psychoanalyze you, but it will prompt some useful self-reflection.

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Hip-Hop in Ghana

Hi everyone!

This week the Arts Collaborative is presenting an Arts Across the Curriculum event each night.

Here is the link tonight’s event from SLUWire: https://stlawu-community.symplicity.com/index.php?s=em_event&mode=form&id=4ce43c13f607ca9e41895f6b057a17c2&occ=0cdea30f50e5f0ccb2eada28d7e18c8b&tab=details

Thursday night there will be a concert given by M.anifest at the Underground in Noble Center.

Please consider attending one of these events to learn more about the cultural aspect of hip hop music in Ghana and to enjoy a concert from a well known artist.

Hope to see you there!



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Juvenile Doodles into Quality Art!

Hi, everyone! This article was published about a month ago, but I just now stumbled upon it — a case of serious creativity, adorability, and awesome parenting! A mom takes her two-year-old’s sketches and turns them into masterpieces — check out the pictures!


I hope you all got a chance to enjoy the beautiful fall day, and that you have a great week!


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Paradoxes of “Danskhed”

Paradoxes of “Danskhed”

After spending a semester in Denmark, I can confidently say that I got the most cultural insight by living with a host family.  While talking with and observing my host parents, host brothers, and host relatives, I discovered things that supported and challenged my initial assumptions about Danish culture.  Richard Jenkins states precisely what was most unsettling to me during the semester: “Everyday lives and everyday worlds are, routinely, full of paradoxes… Identification, the complex process of knowing who’s who and what’s what without which everyday life wouldn’t be possible, is just as paradoxical as anything else” (292).  Jenkins means that not everyone in a culture is the same and cultures inevitably have contradictions.  I learned the paradoxes of “Danskhed” or “Danishness” not only in my classes, but also by living an hour outside of Copenhagen in the sleepy town of Gevninge with my “host guides,” so to speak.

Alexander Kjerulf, an author and speaker about occupational happiness, talked to my positive psychology class about thriving in the workplace.  He said that if one does not get feedback or acknowledgement for his efforts and achievements, he may become dissatisfied with his job.  Kjerulf mentioned that this may pose a problem for Danes since Danish co-workers don’t greet or praise each other as much as co-workers in other countries.

After the lecture, I observed that Danes praise each other less frequently than me and my American counterparts.  For example, I noticed that no one commented on the dinner that my older host brother made for us one night.  In my family, it’s rude not to openly appreciate the deliciousness of my parent’s meals.  If you don’t explicitly say, “this is delicious,” a nod, smile, or thumbs-up is sufficient.  Since I thought the silence and blankness was odd, I purposefully said “Mmm” and told him how great the flavors tasted.  He blushed shyly.  A couple nights later, when I cooked paninis, I wondered if they would give me positive affirmation.  I waited for a signal that they approved the meal, but the only hint I got as that everyone wanted seconds.  However, neither my host mom nor younger host brother complimented me.  Only my host dad told me afterwards that they were “quite good.”  Phew.

I think Danes praise less because of Janteloven, which states that one cannot think he is better or more special than anyone else.  The law downplays personal successes.  I agree with Nidedita Eskesen’s view that this is “the flip side of the strong sense of equality that pervades Denmark” (Andersen 3).  Also, the collective emphasis on modesty may prevent Danes from congratulating or acknowledging one another too much, and from expecting these congratulations.  Therefore, I’m sure my host brother didn’t even notice the lack of commentary, but I took offense since I use praise for reassurance.

Another baffling concept of “Danskhed” is the stereotype that Danes are blunt.  I agree with Eskesen when she says that Danes are open and direct (Andersen 2).  For example, Danes are widely known for their bluntness and political incorrectness.  Danes stereotype and make rude comments, just as Americans do, but they don’t experience the whiplash that happens in the States.  This frustrated me because if a Dane and an American made the same comment I think everyone would deem the American as “insensitive,” but excuse the Dane because he’s “just blunt.”  I this relates to their idea of “frisind,” translating to free mind or spirit, which encourages one to speak his mind and live a life without judgment.  It seems that Danes use “frisind” as a way to be racist or prejudiced because it encourages freedom to say and live how they want.  But, they aren’t direct about everything.  Instead of using their words and saying “undskyld” when they need to pass by someone on a bus or train many Danes shuffle their bags and stand up.  In this situation they are not blunt at all, but are in fact, highly passive aggressive.  The paradoxes continue.

When I arrived in Denmark, I expected everyone to be passionate and adamant about ecological friendliness and sustainability.  This is true in some respects, but false in others.  The numerous wind turbines that I saw on my commute through Gevninge provided evidence that the Danes are open to alternative energy sources to protect the environment.  But at the same time, my host dad made double the amount of food we could eat at dinner and threw out the rest.  Moreover, it’s uncommon for someone to take a “doggy bag” home after eating in a restaurant, which means that what is left on the plate goes in the trash.  A Dane told me it’s a social norm because saving food gives the impression that you’re frugal or cannot afford dinner.  Wait a minute, I thought Danes could live how they pleased without fear of being ridiculed, like “frisind” says?  One last contradiction is that the only people walking around Denmark I saw with reusable water bottles were my fellow American classmates.  Since reusable water bottles are scarce and water fountains don’t exist, Danes buy overpriced, unsustainable plastic water bottles.  Or they don’t drink much water at all, like my host family.

They prefer their beer and wine!  Christensen et al. Says that Danes are among the top smokers and drinkers in Europe, and excessive smoking and drinking are associated with low well-being.  How is it that Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.  Talk about contradictory!  I think one reason is because at the frequent gatherings my host parents had, they smoked and drank.  A lot.  For every holiday, birthday, anniversary, television special, or even handball game my family would entertain company or visit others.  Thus, drinking marks the maintenance of strong relationships with friends and family which correlates with positive well-being.  One of my funniest memories while studying abroad was on Easter day at my host aunt’s house.  Everyone had been drinking since noon and we decided to take a 4-mile walk in between the herring and main course.  Beforehand, my younger host brother pushed a wheelbarrow full of jackets down the driveway.  When I asked what it was for, he said nonchalantly that it was for the alcohol.  I looked under the jackets and saw cans of beer, hard cider, and vodka in a Styrofoam cooler.  We must have looked hilarious, 15 people marching down the winding country road with a wheelbarrow full of alcohol.

Grappling with the Danish culture was one of the most challenging parts of studying abroad.  “Danskhed” has bewildered, excited, frustrated, intrigued, angered, inspired, and awakened me.  I constantly compared Danish culture to that of my home culture, which means that my interpretations and feelings were largely shaped by my own cultural background.  I also realized that one Danish family does not represent a whole culture.  Living with a host family helped me understand the lives of five Danes, who supported and guided me through my process of deconstructing and constructing Danish culture.  Now that I’m home, I continue to analyze my own identify, lifestyle, and culture with the acceptance that paradoxes are inevitable.

– Courtney G.


Andersen, Marie G. “Omnibus.” Why Are Danes so Weird? N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014.

Christensen, K., A. M. Herskind, and J. W. Vaupel. “Why Danes Are Smug: Comparative Study of Life Satisfaction in the European Union.” British Medical Journal 333.7582 (2006):      1289-291. Print.

Jenkins, Richard. “Being Danish in the Twenty-First Century.” Being Danish: Paradoxes of Identity in Everyday Life. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, 2011. N. pag. Print.

Kjerulf, Alexander, “How Can a Workplace Promote Thriving? Arbejdsglæde Nu.” Positive Psychology. 4 April. 2014. Lecture.

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