You Know You Are From Conway, Arkansas When...

You Know You Are From Conway, Arkansas When...

How to know you've lived in Conway, AR a little too long.
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Originally, I came from Camden, AR, but, mom moved us to Conway because she believed Conway had the best schooling system in Arkansas. (She was just looking out for her kids. Thanks, Mom!) I've been in Conway since I was four years old! I was there to attend classes at the twin schools, Simon and Ruth Doyle Intermediate School. I even got to experience the best of both worlds when the old bomb shelter high school was still up, or what we called the "pods," to the new and glamorous three story high school! So fancy! Anyway, enough about all that! Let's start talking about how you know you are from Conway, AR when....

1. You have had to explain what a Wampus Cat is at least a hundred times...

That mythical blue creature that's a cat with six legs? Yeah, that one. Four legs to run at the speed of light and two legs to fight with all its might. Surrounding towns/cities have heard of it, but no one knows what it is.

Well, the actual story of the Wampus Cat is from American folklore and is about a native woman who disguised herself as a cougar to spy on the village's men as they went hunting. Upon being caught, the medicine man cursed the woman by having the cougar's skin bind to her so she was now part woman and part cat, creating the Wampus Cat.

How we got a blue 6 legged cat out of that story is beyond me, but it's nice having a unique mascot! It's better than being one of many panthers, bulldogs, or eagles. (Sorry if you are from a school that is the panthers, bulldogs, or eagles... haha.)

2. You know what a delicious Pineapple Whip is...

By now they probably are not only in Conway anymore and are most likely all over the place, but you know of that tiny yellow trailer in the 10 Box store parking lot. A delicious dairy-free, ice cream-like treat that you just can't get enough of (at least I can't). I attend school in Magnolia, AR and when I wear my Arkansas Pineapple Whip shirt, I cannot begin to tell you how many people ask me what a pineapple whip is. Haha!

3. You get excited for the first weekend of May...

Not very much happens in Conway, but everyone knows what the first weekend of May is....TOAD SUCK DAZE! The time we celebrate the festivities of sucking toads! Just kidding! We do not suck toads!

During this time, we shut down the center of Conway, our town square, indulge ourselves in over-priced goodies, and enjoy rides and free concerts! To put the icing on the cake, we gather around in a large inflatable toad dome with the "Toad Master" to watch children blow on the bums of toads to make them hop to a finish line! In case you just wanted to know, we take toad racing very seriously. In the above picture you can see the 1st through 3rd place winners of the toad races with the "Toad Master" holding their GIANT trophies! Toad racing is so serious that "toad boxes" are passed out in schools so kids have a home for the toad they caught!

4. You give directions based on a painting of a toad in the road...

Maybe not all of us do this but, if you are like me and fail at giving directions based on street names, using land marks is the way to go! And no landmark is better than a giant toad painted in the smack-dab middle of town (a.k.a. Toad Suck Square). For those of you not from Conway reading this, if you can't tell, this is where Toad Suck Daze is held and we take Toad Sucking (I think that's right?) very seriously.

By the way, fun fact: They repaint the Toad in the road nearly every year!

5. You are around the age of a college student and are assumed to go to UCA...

If you are anywhere around the age of a college kid, you are probably starting to get asked a lot by people if you are in college. Some of you are probably still in high school and are thinking about college, some are probably fresh out of college, and if you are lucky you will answer 'yes,' because you are actually in college.

Thing is, if you answer 'yes' saying you are in college, you have probably been asked the following question: "Oh! Do you attend UCA?" Sometimes they will hit the nail on the head because you are going to UCA. Other times, you have to crush their thought about you attending UCA because you don't. I don't know why people just assume that college kids in Conway must attend UCA; they just do.

I am a hard core Mulerider (my school's mascot) and students from other campuses who live in Conway might understand this, but I hold my mascot close to my heart and sometimes I feel a sting when people ask if I'm anything other than a Mulerider. I know they don't know any better, which is fine, because that opens up a chance for a good conversion!

6. You tell people you are from Conway and the first thing they think of is the college town...

Usually, when someone from Conway talks to someone not from around Conway, the first thing the person will think of is the College Town. Example of conversation:

"Oh I'm from Conway!"

"Conway? Isn't that the place with all the colleges?"

See what I mean? And yes! We have a nice little assortment of colleges here in Conway and do not just have one, like most cities. We have UCA, Hendrix, Central Baptist... there's even a beauty school! We have options!

For those of you who left Conway to attend school, I bet good money that you were asked why you didn't attend a school in Conway. Why would you leave with all our options? Or the better question is why you wouldn't you leave? For me, my two biggest reasons for leaving were because

1. Conway doesn't have an agriculture program at the college level.

2. It was time for a change in scenery.

So I moved all the way down south to Magnolia! Those that left all have their reasons and again, it's a good way to start a conversation with others when you explain why you don't attend a college in the college city.

7. You were proud when Kris Allen won American Idol...

OK, maybe you weren't proud of Kris Allen, but you were proud that Conway, AR was getting some air time. It's not very often that Arkansas (let alone Conway) is on national TV, so when Kris Allen was on American Ideal and won, I feel like Conway residents lost their minds.

Now, some of us actually personally knew Kris Allen by going to church or were family/friends, so it became a big deal when he (and Conway) where on TV. Also, you know you are from Conway when you know that the Kris Allen stage in Downtown Conway is not the stage's original name.

8. You are annoyed with the never-ending construction on the roundabouts...

Arial view of Hendrix and of their roundabout.

For real now, will the construction ever stop?! We are basically turning into a mini-Europe because we are getting round-abouts at literally every cross roads. They are very beneficial to controlling traffic, but I am pretty sure I can't drive anywhere around Conway without running into construction on the roads. Though they do look nice when they turn them into floral gardens or plant trees.

9. You love, yet hate, that giant Christmas tree...

We can all tell that Conway is trying to freshen up by looking modern and historic at the same time. There always seems to be something new being built, but the one thing that caught everyone's attention is that giant, massive, way-too-big Christmas tree in Downtown Conway.

It easily towers over buildings, standing at a whopping 54 feet! The tree showed up in Conway two or three years ago and has had made a point to stay. We all love it, but at the same time we hate it.

We hate it because it cost $130,000 (source: Log Cabin Democrat) but at the same time we all love it because it has become a special icon in Christmas photos, a place for people to sing carols and for horse-drawn Christmas carriages to wait to carry you around downtown. Either way, it's a beautiful, monster-sized tree!


If you are from Conway and think I left something out, please let me know in the comments below!!

Cover Image Credit: The Cabin

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It's Hard To Stay Friends With A Kavanaugh-Lover, But It's Possible

Or hater.

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If you don't have your head buried in the sand these days, it's impossible not to realize how viscerally raw most people's political emotions are. And unless you live in a bubble, you likely have friends or family who have very different political beliefs with you. If you want to cut off those relationships, read no further. But if you view your relationships more T. D. Jakes style—"I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is, me building bridges between people […], between politics, trying to find common ground"—then play on.

Before beginning a conversation with a politically-differing friend, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: what aspects of their life might have influenced them in this way? Accept that you just don't know what their experiences have been like. Maybe your gun-supporting friend had her house traumatically burglarized when she was quite young; maybe your friend who believes the government should solve all our problems was only able to get hot lunches at school because of government aid. View it as a thought experiment if you will: imagine a sympathetic reason (rather than a judgment-worthy reason) that your friend has this differing viewpoint.

We have two ears and one mouth. Ask them questions and then genuinely listen. As humans, we often listen to respond, not to understand. Try to understand without demonizing or judging your friend. David Livingstone Smith, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, said that when we dehumanize or demonize others, it acts as: "a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable." Try to accept that your friend's point of view—no matter how much you disagree with it—is (in their eyes) just as valid as your own. Your goal is to listen first, persuade later, argue rarely (or never).

It's not about you. Your friend's support of Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court means just that: they think he should have been confirmed. Or if they are angry that he got confirmed, it means just that: they think he should have not been confirmed at the time. Use our earlier thought experiment: perhaps the supporter found fault in the accusations against Kavanaugh or genuinely viewed it as a false accusation, and (whether that happened here or not), we can agree a false accusation is concerning. It doesn't necessarily mean that they think the assault he was accused of is okay—perhaps they think any form of sexual assault is utterly appalling and should never be tolerated, but just didn't happen here. Your friend's view is not personal to you, no matter how personal it may feel.

There's a difference between supporting a politician and supporting an action. If your family member voted for Trump, that doesn't mean they support his personal behavior. (If they DO—that's a different story.) It's like watching Lady Bird (great movie) and someone saying that means you think all children should treat their mother like Lady Bird treats hers. The two could be equated but aren't necessarily. Have you ever gone to the theaters and seen a movie that had elements you didn't agree with or like? The same can be said for politics.

If it seems appropriate, when they are done sharing and seem receptive to conversation, share why you may disagree with them. Times to NOT share: if they are angry or closed off. (Observe both their words and their body language. If their voice was raised or their arms are crossed, not the time.) If they just shared something vulnerable with you (eg. they are vehemently pro-choice because they've been assaulted and got an abortion), now is not the time.

Remember, your goal is not to argue, but to listen and then to persuade. If they're not in a place where they can listen to you being persuasive—then let it go and try again some other time.

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. However—sometimes you shouldn't always maintain these relationships. Politicians your friends support don't necessarily fully reflect who your friends are, but political views are an aspect of who they are. To use the above analogy: when you see a movie at the theater, you are supporting it. Even if you disagree with it and warn your friends away, you still paid for the ticket.

And sometimes you don't. Understand when you need to disengage. It's okay to have some things you can talk about civilly and rationally and some things that you just can't. If my friend thinks communism is the way to go, for example, I am able to speak respectfully and rationally about it. But if a person tries to support child abuse, I absolutely cannot have a conversation with them where I try to understand where they're coming from and listen to them without telling them how wrong they are. It's okay to have some topics that mean so much to you that you can't engage with all of them or respect every differing point of view.

When you win, be gracious. And lastly, if you supported Kavanaugh, your friends who opposed his quick confirmation are crushed right now. It's okay if you think that's silly or not a big deal. But go back to the first point: put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if some political issue you felt really strongly about was dealt a crushing blow? You'd want the people on the winning side to be gracious, or try to understand, or at least not rub it in. Maybe you didn't like how the situation unfolded, but your guy's in now. Think of the golden rule and be kind to your friends who are struggling with this.

Just remember:

"Be sure when you step—step with care and great tact. And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft—and never mix up your right foot with your left."
Dr. Seuss.

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