Gray’s Lake

So, it’s springtime! Well, I guess it technically has been for a while, but now it finally feels like it. The Drake campus is happy, warm, and bright. And people are out and about. Which is great. Love those people. In my earlier days at Drake, I would lounge on the grass outside of my residence halls in warm weather or hang out with friends outside of the library. We’d talk, study, read, and well, mostly talk, to be honest.

As wonderful as all that was, these days, in my oh-so-mature years, I often find myself needing a little peace and quiet to think and get stuff done. That’s not to say that I still don’t spend time with others enjoying the spring, going to ball games, eating ice cream, and everything, but there is something very appealing in the idea of a solitary escape to nature every now and then.

I guess my version of nature is still not exactly “natural,” but it is outdoors, and it works for me. This past week, I took some time and went to Gray’s Lake. It’s kind of an urban-feeling park just a few minutes from campus, and connected by bike trails to downtown Des Moines. There’s people parasailing, sail boating, running, walking dogs, playing with kids. There’s even a beach with sand where people can lay out and go swimming in the lake. I know it sounds like I’m describing a George Seurat painting or something, and actually, I guess I kind of am.

Gray’s Lake is an idyllic spot in a lot of ways. It seemed like the whole Des Moines community was there the other day, and yet, I still found a spot under a willow tree, in the grass, near the bank of the lake to relax and read and just be. It was the kind of spot that made me want to recite Keats and read Wordsworth. The kind of spot that made me want to drink some lemonade and just take a nap. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was refreshing to be outside on a beautiful day. Not exactly a revolutionary statement, I know. But a powerful one nonetheless.

Pros and Cons of Drake Relays

So, it’s done. I’ve celebrated my last Drake Relays as a student. I’d like to think I’ll be back in future years to once again join in the festivities, but for now, I think it’s important to reflect upon what has passed and the glorious—and not so glorious— moments of the Drake relays season. So, here’s my list of the Pros and Cons of the Drake Relays.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Pro—Everybody’s here!                                                            Alumni, parents, family, friends, future Bulldogs, plus all those world-class athletes…campus pretty much triples come Drake Relays season. And it’s wonderful. It’s the best time of the year to catch up with classmates and see friends who have graduated. There’s events going on every day of the week, and no matter where you are, you’re bound to see people you know.

Con—Everybody’s here.                                                                    I mean, people are great and all, but this campus can only hold so many. To be honest, by the time Relays are over, I’m definitely ready for the crowds to disperse… and for people to give me back my parking spots.

Pro—I actually care about track events                                     This is the one week of the year when you can talk to me about the triple jump or ask my opinion on a pole vaulting champion and I will give you an enthusiastic response. I mean, I really get into it. Seeing world records getting broken at Drake Stadium and people pole-vaulting over the street’s of downtown’s Court Avenue makes a crazy track fan out of me. And though I’m still not super sure what a steeplechase is or how people defy the laws of physics to high jump, I’m a huge fan nonetheless.

Con—I forget to care about school                                                                                                                                       The thing is, for some reason, they don’t cancel classes for Relays. School moves on…but I don’t always move on with it. When there are concerts, gatherings, and track events going on constantly, it’s really hard to focus on homework, projects, and papers. So I didn’t. Now, this week, reality is hitting home and I’m left to pick up the pieces from past Abbey’s negligence.

Pro—WE LOVE DRAKE!!!                                                                                                                                                     Relays is undoubtedly the most spirited time to be on Drake’s campus. We’re all filled with so much joy, noise, and Bulldog pride that it’s honestly kind of crazy. But we’re in it together. Seeing everyone around Des Moines in their Drake gear all week, you know you share a bond with these people.

Con— I’m so tired.                                                                                                                                                                   All that spirit and joy is great, but it’s also a lot. This week, I’m honestly left a little emotionally drained. I mean, it’s a lot of work screaming and supporting and being enthused all the time. I guess it’s just my burden to bear, though.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore

It’s almost hard to believe that when I first came to Drake I could barely use a hammer. Okay, to tell the truth, I still miss my nail about 50% of the time, but that’s improvement. The point is that before I arrived on campus, I had no idea I would become involved with Habitat for Humanity, much less become co-president of the Drake campus chapter. But these days, my work with Habitat is one of the most important, rewarding parts of my life.

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This past weekend, I got the opportunity to delve into one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite organizations with a trip to the Greater Des Moines ReStore. Habitat’s ReStore is what I like to call a mixture between Lowe’s and Goodwill. It consists of tons of donated home improvement and décor items, sold at discount prices. And all the funds from the store go right back to Habitat to help fund their work in the local community.

So, on Saturday, I went with a Drake Habitat group to volunteer at the Restore. We hung up giant area rugs for display, assisted customers, painted carts, took apart sink hardware, and even moved refrigerators and other large appliances. Pretty impressive, right? More so, it was a lot of fun to lend a hand and talk with members of the Des Moines community and Habitat staff. Plus, as it turns outs, I’m a pretty fantastic area rug salesperson. It’s always nice to have a fallback plan.

Joe Biden Visits Drake

So this week, Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, came to Drake University. The occasion was filled with majesty, grandeur, and a thriving political and economic discourse. Okay, so full disclosure: I was not there. But I heard it was great.

Sorry to disappoint everyone as I know you were counting on my firsthand political take and detailed economic analysis of the Vice President’s message. But I do have an excuse as I was in class and at work during VP’s appearance. Ah, yet another example of how the American political system keeps the working class down. Just kidding!…Well, kind of.

The point is that I saw the Vice President’s secret service SUVs, network news crews, and a whole bunch of important people in suits roaming around campus this week, and honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I know that sounds disrespectful, but what I mean is that over my four years at Drake, I’ve gotten to see some pretty important people here on campus and in Des Moines. I’m talking about individuals like Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, and, Diane Sawyer hanging out on campus. I met Rashida Jones and Adam Scott and heard Tim Gunn speak. And the night before President Obama got elected for his second term, I went downtown to hear him speak and listen to the Boss play. (That’s Bruce Springsteen, for you youths out there.)

What I’m saying is, we’re kind of a big deal. And though I’m used to the rotating cast of politicians, celebrities, and world leaders rolling through campus, I’m never gonna stop appreciating just how cool it is.

Best Films of 2014

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Before we launch into 2015, it’s necessary to deeply reflect upon the past year through the only format that matters: the Top 10 List. You see, in a few days, I’ll be launching into my j-term class about the Cold … Continue reading

Internships @ Drake

Internship. It can be a scary word for college students. One that conjures up images of coffee-fetching, menial drudgery, or the strategically worded resume. We’re often told that you can’t go anywhere post-grad without some successful internships under your belt. And though I think that philosophy is perhaps a little dramatic, it’s not entirely untrue. In fact, probably the main reason I came to Drake is because I knew there was a plethora of internship opportunities to give me real world experience before I even left college. Being situated right in the heart of Des Moines, means Drake is connected to massive industries just minutes from campus. And to be honest, most college towns just simply can’t compete with those resources.

I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of Drake’s location and connections for some incredible internships in my college career. I spent a year at the Meredith Corporation working for and alongside some of the biggest names in magazine publishing. Then I spent the summer pursuing my dream of non-profit communications. This year, I’m working as a marketing and communications intern with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Iowa. In this position, I get to travel to the different Boys & Girls Club sites in the Des Moines area, write stories and take photography to illustrate the stories of club kids, and work on social media promotion. Essentially, I get to do what I love while hanging out with some really awesome kids. Sorry if this sounds braggy, but what I’m saying is that my job is kind of the best.

Some of the Boys & Girls Club kids. Who wouldn't wanna hang out with those cuties?

Some of the Boys & Girls Club kids. Who wouldn’t wanna hang out with those cuties?

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Drake has been entrenched in my internship experience from the very beginning. Not only did I get the job because my future boss came to speak in one of my classes, but I often work in a club site right across from campus, and collaborate with Drake students and alumni in the Boys & Girls Club organization every day. And maybe the best part? There’s nary a coffee run in sight.

Obviously I talk about myself quite a bit, but my experience is definitely not unique. Every Drake student I know has had at least one internship experience, and perhaps more importantly, at least one truly meaningful internship experience with real responsibilities and learning opportunities. So I’ll revise the previously stated internship maxim. It’s not that you can’t go anywhere post-grad without some successful internships under your belt. It’s that you’ll go so much further and be much so better prepared if you have completed meaningful internships. Although I’m just now figuring this out, I guess Drake has known it all along.

Homemade Drake Hot Chocolate Recipe

Growing up, some of my favorite memories took place in the cheery warmth of my grandma’s kitchen. Okay, I know this is not exactly a groundbreaking narrative, but bear with me. As a kid off school for winter break, I would trek to southern Missouri for sleepovers at Nana’s house to relax, play games, watch movies, and of course, eat. And through we had a ton of fun baking and cooking, the best was undoubtedly breakfast and the homemade hot chocolate that came with it. I would cuddle up in Nana’s green recliner, most likely sporting some seriously cool snowman pajamas, and watch the snow pile up on the giant black walnut tree outside while I enjoyed the greatest hot chocolate of all time.

These days, years later, I have grown up a little. I am a college student, after all. But my fledgling adult status doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy some good, old-fashioned hot chocolate (and some snowman pajamas too, for that matter.) In fact, I’ve kind of reclaimed the homemade hot chocolate tradition to become a staple of my Drake life. As cold weather encroaches, I begin to crave the calm and winter cheer of a cup of cocoa. So, in celebration of the impending Drake basketball season and all things winter, I present my own Drake hot chocolate recipe (as best as I’ve been able to replicate and quantify my grandma’s brilliant process.)

The finished product!

The finished product!

1. Retrieve your favorite saucepan (or if you’re me, your only saucepan.)

2. Add a dash of water to the pot, probably just a little less than a cup.

3. Then, dump in ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and ¾ cup of sugar. I also like to add a couple pinches of salt.

4. Heat up the mixture and keep stirring it until it starts boiling, then turn down the heat

5. Now, it’s time for the milk. 2% probably tastes best, but gradually add 5 cups of your choice of milk to the mixture, making sure to keep it warm and keep stirring.

6. At this point, add in an optional teaspoon of vanilla extract, and give your hot chocolate one final stir!

7. Get out your favorite Drake/Bulldog-themed mug, and fill her up with the warm hot chocolate straight from the saucepan. Top with whipped cream and an assortment of blue and white sprinkles.

8. Drink up, enjoy, and Go Bulldogs!

Drake Halloween Checklist

It’s that time of year again, folks. The air chills, the leaves begin to fall, costume stores spring up out of nowhere, and children spend days at time hopped up on sugar. In my world, the Halloween season means Hocus Pocus is playing on repeat while I consume dangerous levels of candy corn. But Halloween is also a great time on Drake’s campus. With events going on constantly, there are just some things that you have to do to ring in All Hallow’s Eve at Drake. I’ll do us all a favor and steer clear of the Halloween puns, but with the blanket statement that all of the following are indeed spooktacular.

Attend a Residence Hall Event, or a Couple

The annual Stalnaker Hall Halloween Party presents an awesome opportunity to show off your costume, meet students from other halls and, of course, just get in the Halloween spirit. There’s food, awesome music, scary lighting, and even prizes for best costumes. Meanwhile, a little ways across campus Morehouse Hall puts on their very own Morguehouse for students to come and visit. With incredible spooky haunted house decorations orchestrated by students, the event is sure to impress…and maybe scare just a little.

The winners from Drake Student Activities Board's pumpkin carving contest.

The winners from Drake Student Activities Board’s pumpkin carving contest.

Enter a Halloween Contest

Whether it’s a costume contest at Stalnacker, or a door decorating contest between the inhabitants of your residence hall floor, Halloween at Drake is a good time to get your competitive streak going. Carve the best pumpkin, bake the greatest Halloween treats, or maybe just eat the most candy. It’s completely up to you.

Watch a (Really Cute) Parade

While there’s obviously a ton to do on campus during the Halloween season, make some time to explore Des Moines and the city’s Halloween happenings as well. One notable example: The Spooky Paws Pet Parade in East Village. The parade features Des Moines’ finest canines dressed to impress in some of the cutest and cleverest costumes around. Oh, and humans can dress up too.

Visit Drake’s Haunted Spots

I have irrefutable scientific evidence from a professional ghost hunter who came to campus that Drake University is indeed haunted. Sorry to scare everyone, but it is the truth. So as October winds down, check out some of the best spots on campus on connect with the spirit world: the basement of Herriot Hall and the ever-eerie Oreon E. Scott Chapel. I just hope you come out alive…

The Struggle Toward the Heights

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” -Albert Camus

It’s easy to be cynical. Our world is populated by West African deaths gone ignored, political regimes exerting force and oppression over their people, and the horror that is the word ISIS. Corruption, stagnation, decline. It’s a familiar pattern for anyone who’s paying attention. And those who aren’t paying attention? Well, that might be even worse. Ours is a generation too busy snapping Instagrams of their Pumpkin Spice Lattes to even notice that there’s a whole world out there with bigger problems than Taylor Swift’s genre classification.

Yes, it’s easy to be cynical. What’s not easy is to keep living with persistence, passion, and hope for better things to come. And though I’ve learned a lot during my time at Drake, the most essential thing I’ve learned is the importance of hope. I’m sorry if this sounds like the kind of lesson gleaned at the end of a Hallmark movie, but that doesn’t make the point any less valid. The thing is, I’ve spent so much of my life stuck in the middle ground between my learned cynicism and my natural idealism that I failed to realize neither philosophy is really the answer. Undoubtedly, the world is absurd and unfair and sometimes downright terrible. But that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. And it definitely doesn’t mean we should give up on it.

You might think a wise professor sat me down and explained this truth to me or perhaps I heard a rousing speech from a Drake speaker about taking action and creating change. You’d be wrong. It’s not that I haven’t had great professors or heard some fascinating speeches, but the most inspirational and enlightening force in my Drake education has honestly been the actions of my fellow Drake students. I’ve met future educators dedicated to bridging the achievement gap and becoming an advocate for all students. I’ve learned from social justice crusaders working in Des Moines, and sometimes even around the world, who fight for fairness. I’ve worked with writers who are driven to bring about gender equality and social change. My hope is that by dedicating my current and future life to work in non-profit communications, I can do a little of the same.

I say this as a huge fan of French existentialism, but the world is not without meaning and our lives are not without purpose. At Drake, it’s become clear to me that we’re all a bit of an absurd hero, battling against the forces of the world, trying to make a difference. Unquestionably it’s a tough battle, but if anyone’s prepared to take it on, it’s my Drake peers and classmates. I’m not saying that all of us at Drake will change the world in big, dramatic ways. I’m not even saying that we all believe that we can actually change the world. But we’re sure gonna try. And who knows? Maybe in the struggle for the heights, we’ll find some meaning after all.