Gift of Perfection

Gift of Perfection

Sometimes surrounded by shiny new things, we defer to the familiar.

The best gift I got for the holidays was being home with my family. At least with my family, there usually isn’t an awkward readjustment period to me being home (they might disagree with that, but I think I fit back in seamlessly). Every year on Christmas Eve my mom’s side of the family comes over for our Christmas celebrations. We have a gift exchange where all of the kids trade names and buy each other presents (actually the moms buy everyone presents, but we pretend that’s not how it goes).

My sister got a game for Christmas called Game of Phones. A lot of people groaned about her spending even more time on her phone, but she grinned despite the fact. After a few rounds of our usual games (Bananagrams, Scattegories, pool and some Mario Bros) Libby started recruiting people to play her new game with her. My brother, cousin and I all sat on the floor of our basement, all pretty doubtful about how much fun this game would be. The game was much more of a physical game than we thought it would be. The way you played was there are cards which you flipped over and then had to perform the task on each card with your phone.

One of the tasks required us to get someone not playing the game to send us a picture of what they were doing. I immediately dashed towards the stairs when the card was read out, knowing that most of the adults in our family were upstairs doing something different than the rest of us. My brother sprinted after me, grabbing an ankle and tugging me down a few stairs, making me burst into laughter and grab him as he ran by me, pulling him back towards me. This fashion continued all the way up the stairs and into the living room, both of us laughing so hard that we could hardly yell out instructions to our cousin Emily before we started running back downstairs. I ended up winning the round, but we were both so overtaken with giggles that it didn’t end up mattering.

Christmas morning we headed to my Grandma’s house to celebrate with my dad’s side of the family. After presents had been opened and lunch had been eaten we all settled down in the living room. My cousin’s son walked into the room with a Perfection game that had to be fifteen years old. He tugged my siblings and me onto the ground where we all began playing by his modified rules, laughing and jumping every time the time ran out and the board exploded.

Surrounded by family and brand new toys both sides of my family deferred to the usual: competitive games, laughing and a little bit of wrestling. The new presents will be exciting later, but for now there are games to play and memories to be made. On some of my favorite days of the year I came home to find that not much changes when you’re surrounded by the people who love you. Every year, I wait for the timer to go off and the board to explode on my perfect holiday, but we keep holding hands and beating the clock somehow. Surrounded by the people you love and a bit of familiarity, you tend to notice that the Grinch was right; Christmas isn't quite what you unwrap and get from the store "maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

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13 New Ways To Inspire Yourself This Spring

Spring out of those post-spring break dumps and into springtime.

As the semester winds down and the weather warms up, our sights always seem to be set on summer break. Most of us are just barely hanging on by a thread to finish out the semester – I’m guilty of it myself. But, let’s not neglect our fleeting weeks of mid-60s, sunshine, and flowers. Here are 13 ways to get out of the post-winter/end-of-semester blues, and into spring!

1. Spring cleaning

This one might go without saying, but cleaning up isn’t limited to the clutter of your bedroom. Start cutting out toxic things out of your life. This can be food, relationships, or bad habits. Try fostering a new hobby. And, cleaning up your household won’t hurt, either.

2. Start a garden or buy a plant

Planting a few flower or vegetable seeds are a perfect way to brighten up your home for the season. Buying a pre-planted or fake plant counts, too.

3. Nature walk

Visit a local park, prairie path, or garden. Taking a long walk or jog to decompress and connect with the world around you can be an easy fix to a cluttered mind and restless heart.

4. Star gazing

On a clear night, spend some time looking up at the sky to decompressing. It’s a nice reminder of how small we really are in this universe. It can be fun to point out the constellations you remember learning about in elementary school science class, too.

5. Splatter painting

This one is my personal favorite. Visit a craft store and pick up some art supplies.Then, go outside, turn on some music, lay out your canvas, and go to town. This can be really therapeutic, too.

6. Try out some new recipes

Although you can do this pretty much any time throughout the year, look up some good BBQ recipes for your grill to help get you in the spring and summer mood.

7. Visit a playground and relish in being a child again

Take a break from the final weeks of the semester to be a kid again! Swinging on a swing set and climbing the monkey bars can be more cleansing than you think.

8. Stop using your phone before bed

Taking a digital break in general is a great idea, but especially if you have trouble sleeping, spending those 20 minutes before bed without looking at a screen can have a much better impact. Break out that book you’ve been meaning to read for months now, and start reading that before bed. It helps you fall asleep faster, too!

9. Spruce up your wardrobe with some DIYs

Go thrifting and try some of these cute DIY ideas for a brand new wardrobe on a budget. Tie-dying is a personal favorite of mine, too.

10. Yoga and meditation

If you’re guilty of having “monkey mind”, like me, spending as little as five minutes a day meditating or doing basic yoga stretches can help immensely. Blocking out the world to really focus on your breathing can do so much for your mentality and your attitude for the rest of the day.

11. Make a bucket list

This can be as personalized as you’d like. Make a list of must-dos for the end of the semester, for summer break, or for the rest of your life. They can be anything from singing in the rain to going bungee jumping. Having those little things to cross off your list gives you something to look forward to.

12. Volunteer

Whatever area you’re interested in, whether it’s working with the elderly, animal shelters, or homeless shelters, find some local places to volunteer with. Not only are you helping someone else in need, that internal gratification is a great feeling.

13. Take pictures of what makes you happy every day

Try this out for a week or so: photograph a thing or person that made you smile that day. Compile your photos at the end, and look at how beautiful your life really is.

Enjoy, and happy spring!

Cover Image Credit: Celeste Horrocks

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What It's Like To Stay In Pittsburgh Over The Summer

What's there to do when our teachers are hibernating for three months?

It’s weird for me to think that some people don’t stay in Pittsburgh over the summer, if only because I haven’t gone home for any summer since I’ve been in college and I have no inclination to do so. There are plenty of reasons to stay: classes, research opportunities, jobs and internships, and some people find that they just don’t want to go home and find a reason to stay. Of course, even with all those incentives there are still some of you who will want to go home, wherever that may be, so hopefully I can clue you in on what it’s like over those three months.

To begin, Pittsburgh is absolutely gorgeous in the summer. You get a taste of it in the fall, and a whiff in spring, but wow, with the flowers and the trees in bloom, places like Frick park, The Point, The Waterfront, and Mount Washington are completely transformed in the haze of green and other colors. The second thing I always notice, around the third week in, is how quiet Oakland becomes. Walking around campus, you’re lucky to run into 8 strangers over the course of your day, although there are always a handful of stragglers in Hillman or Cathy. It feels nice, in an odd way; the campus feels much more personal, much more accommodating to you. And then, with the lack of people and stress from school, you start to branch out from Oakland and see more of the city, which is where the real fun begins.

We all know we go to the University of Pittsburgh, but honestly it’d be more accurate to say we go to school in Oakland. Campus can feel pretty big during the school year, but Pittsburgh is a city of dozens of neighborhoods outside of the four or five that make up Pitt’s domain, and most of us stay orbiting around specific buildings that are hubs for our majors. I didn’t really start understanding the dynamic of larger Pittsburgh until summer after my freshman year when I started to see comedy shows on a regular basis downtown, and it completely opened my eyes to the opportunities we miss every day during the school year.

I’m not trying to judge anyone: you’re lucky to see me outside of Hillman, Cathy, or my apartment during the school year. But still, when I think about all the festivals, museum openings, theatre performances, comedy shows, art galleries, and independent classes that are offered around Pittsburgh, just to name a few of the options available in a city like Pittsburgh with vast public services and interesting people, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out. If you ever get a chance, I’d say stay here over a summer, even if only for a couple weeks. And even if that’s not in the cards, maybe check out some of the local stuff happening outside of Oakland; Pittsburgh can surprise you.

Cover Image Credit: Robpinion on Wikimedia Commons

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