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The Final Frontier by Sally Holtgrieve

On April 19, 2013, spacecraft found a brand new planet. It is consistently being referred to as the most Earth-like alien planet discovered to date (“new” planet meaning “new to us” in the wise words of the Little Rascals). Siri for iPhone 5 is new.” Jurassic Park 3-D” is new. This “new” planet’s age exceeds the population’s general comprehension of the meaning of time itself.

On April 19, 2013, over here in our slice of space, Boston is on lockdown. A serious event affecting people across the nation is at its climax. As I write this, history and people’s lives are being drastically re-written.

On April 19, 2013, the students of Christopher Newport University are about to be launched into finals week. It’s always during the last stretch of the semester that my ambition begins to lag, which is rather inconvenient considering this is possibly when I need it most. This year I have five exams, each worth about 25 percent of my grade in the class. I’m also in the midst of working out summer job details, moving in to an apartment and dealing with the drama that comes with being a member of society – something I do not recommend.

This being my fourth go at finals, I’ve learned a few methods to aid the studying process. Sometimes I’ll sit down and spend a solid hour accomplishing nothing. I’ve learned to accept when I’m in such a restless state, sitting another hour is not going to be conducive, so I’ll get up, wash dishes, work out and shower, then come back to my work feeling revived and ready to start afresh. I also set incentives for myself, usually involving food. Today, when I realized I was looking out the window twice as often as I was looking at my computer screen, I decided I could afford a bike ride once half of my paper was complete. Not only did this give me an immediate goal to work toward (because, you know, good grades and success are overrated), but it would also allow me to return to the paper content and renewed.

With so much happening in the world and school I call home, the method that’s helped focus on my studies most is one I plagiarized from Nike: Just Do It.  Incentives and strategies can be great, but sometimes, you just have to put on a Mulan “Let’s Get Down to Business” face and proceed to plow forward. So what if you get a little less beauty sleep and lose pieces of sanity you’ll never quite retrieve? Why let finals drive you crazy when you can walk there yourself? It’s only for a week. This too shall pass. Soon the memories of all-nighters in the library will be drowned away in the midst of crickets chirping and other stereotypical romantic summer night sounds. Embrace the craziness; aliens from the “new” planet could arrive any day now, making your finals week your final week.

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Appreciating Athletics (as long as you don’t make me play!) by Sally Holtgrieve

When I read the assigned topic for this week’s blog post, I “lol’d” out loud. Yes, I do mean out loud out loud, it was a particularly loud laugh because thinking about athletics in relation to myself is particularly hilarious. See, I’m really great at reading books. That’s it though. I have no musical talent, an awful singing voice, zero affinity toward painting, sculpting, pottery, sewing, etc., poor cooking skills, and a flakey grasp on practical life issues such as the rules of the road and separating laundry into whites and darks. But I’m accepting and at peace with all of these disabilities, because, oh man, can I read a book. Part of being a great reader is being a lover and connoisseur of all information and knowledge, thus I enjoy reading and learning about all of the above skills.

The aspect of being a person I’m probably worst at is organized sports. The only play I understand how to make is a play on words. I was the kid that sat on the bleachers and read, peering out from behind my book only to get slammed in the head by a stray dodge ball mercilessly distorting and squashing my glasses into my face. I’ll go ahead and hint that this anecdote is entirely fabricated; just don’t go pursuing the truth, because the mark on my face and the honest person that is my mother will tell you differently.

Since the above incident, I have forsaken both my glasses and the refusal to partake in anything sports-related. I am willing to be taught and try any sport now, though I have yet to find one I’m good at, or even truly enjoy playing. What I enjoy is learning something new, and being able to leave and go read guilt-free, because I have confirmation that I really would rather be reading. It’s what my roommate calls “taking a no-thank-you bite.”

Regarding watching sports on television, I am only interested if food is involved. However, I do enjoy attending live games. It’s easy to get into any sport when you feel the energy of the crowd around you. Jumping up from a cold metal seat and hollering at large men in tights chasing each other around is a large part of our culture as college students and Americans, what’s not to like about that?

At a recent CNU football game, an elderly man was seated near me on one side, and a young boy on the other. Each Captains fan had on a CNU shirt and became equally excited whenever our team scored. Suddenly, I liked football a lot more. Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors, says: “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” This is how I feel about athletics since coming to college. Now I need to find someone who loves understanding a washing machine.

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The Infinity Bucket List — To CNU and Beyond by Sally Holtgrieve

When discussing the idea of bucket lists, I always inform people it would be easier for me to provide a list of things I do not want to try while on Earth. They’d never finish reading the list of stuff I want to do, as I would never finish writing it. I want to do everything. I thrive off of new experiences and can’t imagine turning the opportunity for a new adventure down. This is why, as the school year plummets to an end, I’ve been pondering and struggling over what I want to accomplish most on my CNU bucket list.

The CNU bucket list is a real tradition and topic of discussion on campus. The dean of students often mentions it, reminding seniors to make an effort to complete theirs and add unique experiences they may not have initially considered. Examples may include auditioning for a school play, trying out for an intramural sports team or working up to running the entire Noland Trail without stopping. Personally, I’ve never been one to enjoy residing in the comfort zone for long. I believe the more difficult and foreign your task is, the more rewarding it will be to finally cross it off.

Upon coming to CNU, I absolutely had goals set for myself that I intended to see checked off before graduation. Much to my satisfaction, I’ve achieved many already, such as obtaining a leadership position in a club/organization in order to promote positive change. I’ve also checked stuff off my bucket list I didn’t know would be there, like finding some future bridesmaids.

There are plenty of random, seemingly little plans I’d like to accomplish before graduation. However, I suppose the number one task on my CNU bucket list is to study abroad. I am certain if I graduate without having taken advantage of CNU’s unique study abroad programs, I will regret it. I intend to travel for the rest of my life, but I will never get the great price and experience that I would here. Because I make a point to be involved and do a lot, I’ve realized a semester abroad will not suit me, incredible as it would be. I’m aiming for a May term trip, which would not interfere with my classes or a summer job/internship. Despite this dream trip being a year away, I can’t help but get excited. I think I’d better go find a bucket and write up another list!

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Poor Sally Grace’s Spring Break Almanac by Sally Holtgrieve

“T-minus two hours to take off,” read the text I received from my roommate Charlotte as I waltzed out of my last class into the start of spring break. Last year I spent break in Florida on the Habitat for Humanity service trip. For 2013 I would be returning to Florida for more stereotypical reasons, including relaxing with friends, spending time on the beach and soaking in forgotten sunshine.

I was able to afford this lavish extravaganza because the majority of my income is earned through writing creative nonfiction pieces, which is quite the high-paying profession.  Perhaps if I cease to be sarcastic, I’ll make even more money.  Jokes aside, in actuality our trip was economical and fun.

Charlotte’s older brother is in the Coast Guard and is stationed in Clearwater, Fla. He graciously allowed us to stay at his house for the week, so gas and groceries were our only major costs, and buying groceries is incredibly cheaper than eating out for every meal. Gas was also manageable considering the cost was split between Charlotte, our friend Brittany and I.

You may recognize the names Charlotte and Brittany from previous posts. I would like to disclaim that they are not my only friends; I do have others … though maybe not ones I could tolerate for a week … or who could tolerate me for a week … have I mentioned I get butter on everything?

Along with being tolerated, I also appreciate the fact my friends are wise with their spending choices/poor college students as well. We helped keep each other accountable all week, so when we did spend money we were satisfied with our choices.

We spent much of our time exploring and enjoying the beach and surrounding beach towns, the only cost being fuel for the car and occasional coffee fuel for us. One day we visited the Salvador Dali museum using a student discount, then purposefully got lost in Saint Petersburg. We also went to a marine aquarium and Busch Gardens, both free using military discounts provided by several respectable young Coast Guards. I wanted to bring one home, but Charlotte said no, given I don’t even like committing to fish.

While driving back to Virginia, cold and schoolwork, I scrolled through my iPod in search of an upbeat song (“Call Me Maybe” one more time, anyone?) to keep us from nodding off, as napping while driving is typically frowned upon. Charlotte yawned. “I think I need a break to recover from my break,” she said.  “That must mean it was a successful trip,” I mused as Brittany let out a confirmation snore from the backseat.

After returning, other friends relayed their own adventures, which sounded fabulous, though always ended with, “oh man, did I spend a ton of money! But what are you going to do, you know?” I’d just smile with admittedly smug undertones, because, actually, yes, I do know.

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Taking CNU’s Service Focus Beyond CNU by Sally Holtgrieve

Approximately one year ago, I found myself on a bus at 4:30 a.m., nose pressed to the window, watching the soft colors of the morning world roll by. It was the first day of spring break 2012, and I was Florida bound. Though our group of 20 would be visiting both Daytona Beach and St. Augustine, our main destination was the smaller ocean-side town of Flagler, where we would be sleeping on the floor of a church and showering at the local gym. We had not driven 700 miles to party and bum around for a week. We were representing CNU’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, and we were ready to work.

Despite feeling nervous about my toothpick arms being entrusted with power tools, I was eager for whatever awaited and pleased I had applied for and accepted a position on the trip. CNU offers multiple alternative spring break trip opportunities; I chose to pursue one because when asked what I did over break, I wouldn’t have to give the standard reply of, “Oh, you know, nothing.”  I wanted an experience, and I got it.

I’ve rarely been so satisfied at the end of a day with the way I spent my time and energy. We drove to a construction site early each morning, where we’d lay sod, put up siding, piping, etc. I was thrilled we weren’t given busy work and petty jobs.  We were actually helping the progression of a house, and thus a life. While nailing pieces of siding after lunch one day, I noticed a woman using twice as many nails as necessary. She caught my gaze and informed me, “This is my home, and it’s going to be my home forever. It needs to be strong.” I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with her about her children, the blessing that is Habitat for Humanity and the wonders of a good crowbar. Getting to meet and work alongside all the future homeowners fueled a sense of genuine purpose behind our work. By the end of the week, we weren’t just putting shingles on some house; we were helping friends secure a home.

I bonded with my fellow group members as well as the homeowners. Those who stink together, stick together. We’d end each day reeking, sore and better friends than ever. I got to know CNU comrades I otherwise wouldn’t have – in ways I wouldn’t have – without the trip. Upon returning to school, when asked what I did over spring break, a montage of memories would flood my mind to an overwhelming extent.  I’d simply smile and shrug, saying, “Oh, you know, everything.”

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