More than Meatballs, by Kait Sennott

A familiar smell that I have known since I was little diffuses through the house, seeping into every room. This warm, familiar smell signals it’s time to eat. My grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings are rushing around in the kitchen as they put the final touches on the Swedish meatball dinner we have once a year.

I believe in food. Which may sound weird, but I believe that food brings families together, especially mine.

I first learned to cook and prepare the rigorous Swedish meal after my grandpa died when I was 10. My grandpa was the one who made the gravy to pour over the meatballs, and now it was my turn to carry on the “gravy legacy”. Let me tell you, carrying on this legacy was nothing easy, but with the help of my family, I perfected it. Over the years, my responsibilities grew in the kitchen during meatball night. Once my gravy was perfected, I became in charge of mixing the pork, beef, egg, nutmeg, onion, and allspice. Now that I am 19, I am in charge of most kitchen duties during this time of year because of my dedication to cooking this meal for my family

Swedish meatballs are a lot harder to cook than Italian meatballs because there is no bread holding the meat together thus making it a difficult process. When mixing the meat together, it is crucial that you do not use too much beef because this will make it harder to hold the pork. The egg must be a certain temperature in order to hold the meat and spices together; otherwise the egg will turn into unwanted scrambles.

The gravy, which I eventually perfected, is the hardest because this involves determining the gravy’s thickness. If the gravy is too thick it will become oily and gross, but if it is too thin the gravy will drown into the meatballs, making them slimy. The final step of the meatballs is mixing the sauce and meatballs, and putting them in a large bowl topped with a particular parsley flavor.

I feel that all families would agree that food brings families together. Of course each family member is very different, but in between the dishes, laughter, and lack of leftovers, the food acts as a distraction from all these differences that would usually set people apart. One of the reasons I love meatball night so much is because it is one of the only nights, besides Christmas, that I see my family. My family, unfortunately, has grown apart due to distance and death. Meatballs are what bring us together.

My favorite meatball night so far is the one we had before I left for school because the new baby cousins ate with us for their first meatball night ever. Watching a new generation grow up with the meatball tradition gives me hope that this valuable tradition will continue for many years after I am gone.

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Kait is a sophomore at TCU majoring in business and fashion merchandising. Both of her parents were journalists, so writing has become one of her favorite hobbies throughout the years. She hopes to continue her love for writing and bring it into a career.

I Believe in the Power of Connection, by Sam Baxter

I believe in the power of connection. Connection is defined as a relationship in which a person or idea is linked to another mutual interest. Growing up as a member of First Christian Church of McKinney and continuing to be actively engaged in the Disciples of Christ denomination I have felt a sense of connection. Starting with my childhood I began loving my church community through my once a week visits to the church nursery, which led to me becoming an active vacation bible school go-er. Growing up I became a leader of the church youth by attending mission trips and serving through youth ministry council throughout my middle school and high school years. During all of these engagements I have felt the support and love from my church family, which taught me what it means to be One Body serving Christ.

During my senior year of high school, when I was searching for a college to attend, I wanted to find a place where I could have the same sense of family and connection at my new home away from home. Being the sixth member of my family to attend TCU, I knew about the Connection Culture TCU had to offer. When I stepped foot on campus for my own tour, I began to understand what the TCU family is all about, and the pride that comes with being a Horned Frog through all the friendly faces on campus. The tight knit community of learners, scholars and friends is what makes Texas Christian University unique, and is what led me to continue my family’s tradition of being a Horned Frog.

When I arrived on campus, I took the sense of connection to heart, and began to learn more about the organizations I had the chance of joining. Not too long after attending welcome events, I easily found my schedule to be filled with an overwhelming amount of activities going on outside of the classroom, but I accomplished my personal goal of becoming as involved and connected as possible. Because of my connectedness on campus, I have been able to love my first two years at TCU. This experience has been much more than simply going to class and reaching for that 4.0 every student desires to have. I have interacted with first year students by serving as an orientation leader, am a member of a social fraternity and connect with future frogs by giving tours on campus. Through these interactions I have met multiple people that have their own story to tell. I am a firm believer that the more connected a person is on campus, the more likely they are going to be engaged in the opportunities and relationships able to be formed with people from all walks of life. The more engaged a person is, the greater the chance that they will feel a sense of purpose, which will lead to them feeling connected to the TCU community. TCU has the ability to challenge each student to become an “ethical leader and responsible citizen” if they take the time to engage in the Connection Culture.

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GA TIB BOOK Sam BaxterSam Baxter is a junior Supply Chain and Business Information Systems double major from McKinney, Texas. He is involved in a variety of things on campus including a fraternity, the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program, and facilitates a number of programs with the Office of the First Year Experience. Sam has been a member of First Christian Church, McKinney all his life.

I Believe in the Power of Connectedness, by Dr. Nadia Lahutsky

Because life is hard, I believe in the power of connectedness.  Not connection—suggesting a link between two items or things.  Connectedness, rather, implies multiple connections.  Think of many hubs each with many spokes, each spoke reaching out and making a link to one or more other hubs.

Life is hard.  Don’t let media images of the carefree college student life fool you.  Students today face enormous stresses.  Parents who demand perfection, faculty who seem to increase their work load each day, personal relationships that take more than they return.  And this doesn’t begin to include worry over their own personal stake in the mounting student debt load!

Life is hard.  Take the case of a former student of mine, a young man I’ll call Kyle.  In less than four weeks he went through a lifetime of grief.  He watched his friend and roommate attempt to take his own life; he went back to his hometown for the funeral of a close high school friend; he returned only to endure the death of another friend, this one from campus.  After the first two events, he was in my office to explain his absence from class.  I could offer him a tissue, some schedule relief on an upcoming assignment, and a sympathetic ear.  After he returned to class, I watched as his personal appearance slumped downward and his steps got more plodding.  Two weeks earlier, I would have been more hesitant on this next point than I was, but the time seemed ripe.  I then offered him my prayers and those of others.  I told him that, in fact, I had asked my congregation’s prayers for “my student who is having a hard time.”  This self-described (almost an) atheist nearly swooned in gratitude.  “Thank you.  I need them.”

Life is hard.  I was grateful in this situation for the people at the TCU Counseling Center, capable of doing so much more professionally for Kyle than I could, as well as other staff on campus, many of whom could both be another set of ears and help him maneuver through the bureaucracy in order to get the proper help.

The hubs and spokes are already all around us.  I believe that’s the kind of world God created for us.  Sometimes we’ll be the ones supported in the strong joint created by a spoke and a hub; other times we’ll join with additional hubs and spokes to become the support.

Life is hard.  Don’t let others do it alone.

Life is hard.  Don’t try to do it alone.

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GA TIB BOOK Nadia LahutskyNadia Lahutsky has taught for 34 years in the TCU Religion Department, where she is currently Chair.  A graduate of Hiram College and Vanderbilt University, she is an historian of Christianity, with a special interest in modern Roman Catholicism.  She has been married for nearly 40 years to Edward McMahon, New Testament scholar, and is the proud mother of Jean McMahon, a doctoral student in social psychology.

I Believe in Presence, by Dr. Don Mills

Independence is a good thing.  Taking care of yourself is what adults do.  Adversity is a challenge best overcome with your innate strength and talents.  Generally that has worked for me throughout my life.  Or so it seemed to me.  When I was recently diagnosed with a serious illness, my attitude was “ok, I can do this.”  I researched, prayed, planned and plunged forward with surgery, radiation and drug therapy.  I did what the science said, missed as little work as possible and decided that this was another battle that I would win using the skills and strengths I have.

The doctors told me this was difficult and that I should consider a support group.  Not me!  This was my battle and I would fight, with my family by my side, and win.  I was in for a surprise – an awakening no doubt but not a rude one!

The physical part of my fight was relatively easy.  There were symptoms and side effects, but basically not too difficult.  But I was unprepared for the emotional journey.   I tried to keep this bottled up.  After all, this was my problem and I would solve it.

I began to get calls and notes from people who had experienced a similar challenge in their lives.  I thought that was so kind and considerate.  Then I began to realize that each time, I felt a little better.  My colleagues at TCU were phenomenal.  Their genuine care buoyed me when I really needed propping up.   It really hit me when I went to radiation.  There I met many people in the same situation as me.  People who I would not normally meet.  Engineers, truck drivers, school teachers, politicians, ranchers.  And we talked.  About our families, our careers, our hopes, our fears.  We laughed.  We cared about each other in very significant ways.  I began to realize that I looked forward to radiation every day.  Not for the treatment.  But for the company of these strangers who had entered my life – and had made it richer and better.

This experience reconfirmed to me what I believe and now know with absolute certainty.  God gives us what we need, when we need it.  The key is to know what we need.  As I reflect on the many years at TCU, I remember again and again that when I needed it, it seemed the right person entered my life, whether student, colleague, mentor or parent. I rediscovered that the delivery vehicle of God’s grace and God’s goodness and God’s compassion is packaged in thousands of different ways.  And in packages I might not have picked if it were up to me.  I know the corollary to this belief as well.  I must be prepared to be the vehicle of God’s grace for someone else who needs it – even if they don’t know it.  That, I believe, is how God works in this complex, noisy and fragile world.

Author: Dr. Don Mills, Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, Spring 2015

 

Mills, DonDon Mills has spent the last 46 years at TCU.  After 42 years in administration (the last 18 as Vice Chancellor), he left administering for professing in 2011. He is now Distinguished Professor of Higher Education Leadership where he initiated the doctoral program.  He is especially interested in the concepts of community, higher education renewal, and engagement.  Don has a wonderful wife, two terrific children and three beautiful, talented grandchildren.

I Believe in a Third Culture

Author: Dana Nottingham, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in a third culture.

Finding out I was white came as quite a shock. After four and a half years of believing I was Salvadoran, my nationality was revoked. Everyone around me thought it was so funny that I had mistaken my very fair skin as brown, and my very blond hair as black. Kids. They’re so cute. They laughed and I let them, neither one of us realizing quite the impact that moment would make.

When my family moved back to The States, I went ahead and conformed. I unconsciously forgot an entire identity; I let go of my Spanish, forgot El Salvador, and attempted to proceed as usual. I faked it very well—for most of my life I even had myself convinced that I was American. Yet something just wouldn’t click. There were so many aspects of life in the US that I tried desperately to distance myself from; I began to hate the association, wondering why there was so much I didn’t understand and so much I couldn’t get other people to understand. I looked the part, but I couldn’t play it. Just hearing someone say “El Salvador” made me jump, desperately trying to become a part of the conversation. I kept meeting girls from San Salvador who didn’t understand why I considered their country to be mine as well. I didn’t even speak Spanish anymore, so in most eyes I had no credible claim to the Latin American culture.  Even I started feeling like I didn’t, and between losing a nationality and a language, I lost a big part of who I was. It is only recently that I began to come to terms with the fact that I don’t really belong to any culture. And it was in expressing this to someone that I found out there was a third culture, for people who felt just like me.

Being classified as a “third culture kid” means living outside your passport country for a significant portion of your developmental years. Essentially, TCKs are people who don’t have a country because they were never able to firmly establish their roots. When asked, most people can tell you where they are from. I can tell you where I live, but where I’m from has always been tricky. Because, true to the TCK formula, I’m not from anywhere. I belong to two countries, two cultures, two languages. I cannot define myself by either one, and I learn everyday that I don’t have to. I’m developing an entirely new perspective, coming to understand that weaving together both parts of who I am connects me with people on an entirely different level. Suddenly I understand the plight of the foreigner, I get the loneliness of the outcast, I appreciate the importance of origin—and it isn’t merely from an empathetic standpoint. I am on the same journey of self discovery, to reclaim my identity, and it has been incredible to see just how many others are on it too.

 

I Believe in the Power of One

Author: Linda Milburn, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in the power of one. The power of one can make a difference. More specifically, I believe in the power of my canine companion, Tatum. When my daughter was in college, she rescued Tatum from a shelter. Eventually, she realized Tatum was happier in the country than in an apartment, and decided it was best to leave her with my husband and me. I started taking Tatum to the park in town to walk and I realized that people were drawn to her. They would comment on how it appeared that she was smiling and that her tail was always wagging and welcoming. I began taking her to a park in Fort Worth where I was doing homeless outreach and I witnessed something magical. People migrated to her, both young and old. She allowed for walls to come down and it enabled me to start building relationships with the homeless residents that had not before been approachable. Part of Tatum’s charm is that she is ball motivated. She decides who needs to interact with her, even if they do not always welcome it in the beginning. She continues bringing the ball to them until she gets a shrug and a smile, and eventually, the toss of a ball. I watch in amazement at her gentleness with children, even with chaos surrounding her. I watch the hugs and the rubs she receives as she is giving her welcomed kisses. To some of these people, she is the only physical touch that they may have or the only unconditional love that they get to feel, even if only for a moment. I witness the smiles that she brings to the eyes of the suffering and lost. Over the last several years, Tatum has touched many lives and has created her own little ministry. While she has been able to make a difference in many people’s lives, she has had the biggest impact on mine. As a result of our homeless outreach, I decided I wanted to take it further. Tatum and I became a registered therapy team through Pet Partners, an international nonprofit organization. We also became a registered Reading Education Assistance Dog team and have participated in children’s reading programs. Additionally, Tatum and I have had the opportunity to participate in crisis response and group therapy for substance abuse. I credit her and her spirit with influencing me to go back to school. I have since received an associate’s degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling. I am now working towards a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, with plans of pursuing a master’s degree.

Tatum has a gift. She has touched so many lives, but she has given me the courage to empower myself with the knowledge to help others. This special four-legged friend exemplifies that just one can make a difference in someone’s life.

I believe in finding beauty through pain

Author: Kaitlyn Turney, TCU Student, Speech Pathology Major,Published fall 2012

I believe that grief can be crushing yet healing, bounding yet freeing. Through grief you become utterly lost but through the journey find yourself. The hardest times of life can be oddly beneficial and mold you into your future self, for better or worse.
October 12, 2010 was a day like any other: beautiful, peaceful, normal. Then I got a phone call that would change my life forever. “Your brother is no longer with us,” my dad says. My mind cannot comprehend this because he was only 17. How is it fair for his short life to be over? To make the situation worse, he took his own life. Questions upon questions will remain unanswered. “How can you do this to your family? Your friends? What right do you have?” Anger, sadness, bitterness washed over me and seeped into every pore.

No mother should have to bury her child. No father should see his son’s life cut short, especially by the son’s own hands. There’s no manual on how to process these types of conflicting emotions.  Every person close to my brother put some blame on themselves. “Did I miss a sign? Could I have prevented this? Did I push him over the edge?” But in time, one has to try to realize that there’s nothing anyone can do now. What’s done is done and playing the blame game will eat you alive.
Months of depression, sleeping days away, being haunted by constant memories and grief, struggling to function followed and still hit at times. Experiences like this push you to your limits and reveal how resilient you are and helps you realize how strong people can truly be. Did I bounce back instantly? Of course not. My ideology, faith, and essence of my very being were challenged. While everything in life was being torn apart, I slowly figured out how to put it back together and form myself into a person of greater empathy and love.

The journey through this pain and turmoil is one I am still on. Life as I know it and figuring out what I believe is still a work in progress, but there is satisfaction in being stretched to every extreme and learning the depths of my soul and mind. Am I glad this tragedy occurred? Frankly, no, but I know I would not be who I am today and have as much compassion if it did not happen. I am still not sure how I feel about that but growth still occurs.

Through this journey, I have come to realize that even through all the pain and suffering in the world, life is still inherently beautiful. This faith and outlook makes life worth living and brings joy on the most sorrowful of days.