Happiness is a Renewable Resource!

I have always felt that giving is more rewarding than recieving–there is so much genuine joy in helping someone else and brightenign their day just a little bit. When I got to campus, I happened upon a club which gave me a wonderful, fun way to do that–Campus Cursive! The motto of the club–Happiness is a Renewable Resource–appealed to me, because it was so simple and so true. Joy spreads in ripples. As Buddha once said, “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” What, you might ask, does Campus Cursive do to spread joy here at Puget Sound? We write letters. About fifteen a week, give or take, at a big table in Langlow House, music playing and with lots of laughter. The basic concept is this: there are two main submission boxes on campus, one in Diversions Cafe and the other in Oppenheimer, and several in residence halls. There are forms attached to the boxes which ask for some basic information: the name of the letter’s intended recipient, and why they need or deserve a letter. For example, whoever filled out the form might check the box that says that theirfriend “needed a pick me up”, but they might also just “want to tell them how awesome they are”. There’s also a blank space at the bottom of the form for comments. We pick up the forms, and then, we write the letters and sign them Campus Cursive. We are hoping to bring a ray of sunshine into someone’s life, especially if it’s been feeling gray. When I read forms that say things like, “My friend is really stressed and needs help,” I am reminded once again of the importance of small acts of kindness, and I hope fervently as I seal the envelope that this piece of paper in my hand can be the catalyst that turns someone’s day around, or at least their mood. Moments of happiness turn into hours turn into days, so at Campus Cursive we try our best to bring people the moments, and in doing so we bring joy to ourselves as well–as our lively meetings can attest. Please fill out forms in Div or Opp–we really do enjoy writing the letters, and full boxes makes us feel appreciated and needed! If you want to get involved with us, come to meetings at 5 pm on Wednesdays at Langlow House! Letter writing is a wonderful and too often overlooked art form, and you might find that an hour with a pen, paper and some stickers revitalizes you for the second half of the week. Have a wonderful Halloween–and wherever you are, whether students on our campus, alumni, prospective students  or just casual readers–spread happiness today. 10506733_349085458601977_9134717382063487968_o

Fun fact: This day last year, I helped an elementary-schooler draw a picture of “how drugs affect your family.”

About little over a year ago – on August 24, 2013, to be exact – as I was getting ready to dive (get it?) out of my comfort zone and do a super science-y study abroad program, I made a goal to keep a sort-of-journal while I was there.  Part of this was because I wanted to record my experiences abroad, of course, but mostly it was to maintain my ability to write creatively and hold onto my English-major-ness – I said it’s a “sort-of-journal” because it’s predominantly for free-writing, not for recording my daily whims.

This time last year, I was wishing the UPS crew team good luck at this weekend's Head of the Lake while underwater.

This time last year, I was wishing the UPS crew team good luck at this weekend’s Head of the Lake while underwater.

I currently have that first green Five Star notebook sitting next to me.  The front plastic cover, for some reason, is permanently curved and has been ever since my study abroad program’s three-day camping trip among the ants and invasive coconut palms of North Caicos last October.  Deciding to fill this notebook was easily one of the top four decisions of my entire study abroad experience – the other three being to take the Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification course, to do a homestay during my mid-semester break, and to help my younger sister organize a book drive for the schools on the School for Field Studies’ island.  I finished the last page of this notebook on July 6, 2014, and have started a new one with the hopes of finishing it in less time than the first.

The reason I bring this up is because I think that self-improvement is an important part of the college experience, and writing – whether creative or journaling – is, for me at least, the best way for self-reflection and thinking.  I’m all about academic learning; I think it’s extremely important and inherently valuable – something I probably picked up on from my grandparents, who have never stopped looking for knowledge.  But your intellect is not the only thing that should grow in college – and that’s why I go to bed about fifteen minutes later than I could on most nights.  And taking that much time to free-write is kind of a big deal when your alarm’s set for 5:30 a.m.

It’s also interesting to look back through last year’s notebook and see what I was up to this day last year.

When it rains, it pours

If for one second I thought Tacoma was going to persist in the summer sun-loving weather we’ve had up last week, this week’s downpours would prove me wrong! Fall Break was last week and as the Pacific Northwest rain welcomed us back to classes. And at first for this sun-loving Hawaii girl it was such a bummer, no more slippers (flip flops for those mainlanders), shorts, light breezy tops and gorgeous blue skies Tacoma has! But I forgot how beautiful the rain could be here too.

At first I would only wake up to see it rained overnight, then to raining at crew practice in the morning into all day raining. So officially dug into my closet to pull out my rain jackets and they’ve been getting very good use. The torrential downpour on Wednesday made everybody break out their rain jackets and rain boots, including myself, with only a few brave souls still walking around without a waterproof jacket. Some might say the rain ruins everything, that they can’t go outside, they’re stuck inside and their car is getting dirty again or some other excuse to avoid the rain. But we Loggers love the rain! The rain looks beautiful from our room, from that trendy cafe downtown, from the many study areas in the Library, and all over campus as usual.

All the rain makes us appreciate those sunny days and blue skies afterwards even more!  The clouds clear to a beautiful rainbow and make the blue skies even blue-er. It’s because of the rain we have such amazing camps grounds, the lush green grass (its very deceiving there is buckets of mud underneath them, stay off the grass! xP ) flower beds, shrubs and trees! The rain isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, its hard to anticipate when you  emerge from class all bundled up for the rain to a break in the downpour. The rain signals the changing of the season into fall, the transition into the early sunsets, we’ve learned to get creative about what we can do outside and how much fun we can have inside as well!

Running (Away From My Problems, Mostly)

I got five and a half hours of sleep the night before. Not because of homework, or my wild social life (just kidding) (my social life is the least wild thing in the history of college students), or even relationship problems—I spent three hours I should have been sleeping talking a friend down from an anxiety attack. I was exhausted.

A more normal person would have stayed in bed until 2:00 pm. I did not.

I knocked on my friend’s door (a different friend). “Do you want to go for a run with me? Down to the water?”

Twenty minutes later, we had adjusted our iPods, double-knotted our shoes, and ran out the door.

The pace we set was higher than usual, and my lungs and quads began burning pretty quickly. We ran down Warner, towards Thirtieth; the leaves on the tree were turning color and the wind kept blowing them into our eyes. It was sunny, though; one of the last truly nice days of the year.

After skidding down the dirt path through the park (I don’t know the names of these places and frankly I’m a little too lazy to look them up), we arrived on the edge of the Sound. The water was very, very blue.

Really really blue.

Very blue.  I don’t know how else to describe it.

The wind picked up slightly, blowing my hair out of my face. We stopped running, and settled ourselves at the high tide line, where the water lapped our toes. I trailed my fingers in the water, and felt the sweat on the back of my neck evaporate. The sound of ocean hummed in my ears until it was all I could hear; that, and my heartbeat in my throat and temples and my wrists.

My friend yelped as a wave crashed over the tips of her sneakers. I laughed.

We ran along the waterfront; past a group of people taking photos of a silver fire hydrant, or possibly the warehouse across the street (it’s artsy, or something); past a man propped on the remains of one of the old cement blocks, in the water; past several fish houses and a painting of a man’s orange face.

“How do you think they did that?” my friend asked.

“With difficulty,” I said.

I'm imagining an inflatable raft.

I’m imagining an inflatable raft.

We turned to face the hill; we craned our necks up and up and up, until we were no longer looking at the quiet street but at the clouds that streaked the sky. We had to go back.

Our sneakers beat into the worn pavement. Our voices died, replaced with the ragged sound of our breathing. Up the hill. We ran.


Several days later, I tugged on an old regatta shirt with long sleeves and a pair of leggings. It was drizzling, and freezing cold outside. It was also 10:00 at night.

“I’m going for a run,” I told my roommate.

“Don’t die,” she said.

I ran down Union Avenue; it’s lit, and the orange glow from the street lamps cast everything in the shades of Halloween. I dashed past a glowing black cat clutching a pumpkin, several flickering jack-o’-lanterns, a ghost swaying from the trees. Trees, with their leaves barely clinging to the branches, obscured the night sky.

My heart hammered wildly in my chest. I kept running. My legs cramped, the muscles in my thighs seized. I kept running.

I had received a phone call at about 9:00 P.M., from home—one of my cats, at only seven years old, had taken very ill and died in the space of only two days. On top of everything else—it’s the time of year when my homework is piling up and my brain starts to fracture—I sprinted out my door, into the night.

The air cooled my burning eyes.


To be clear, I hate running. I have short legs and a rather curvy figure and basically that completely wrong body type for running. But running does something to me that most other forms of exercise cannot: it clears my mind. Rain, sun, night, day, wind, snow—it does not really matter to me. What does matter is the fresh air and the burning in my legs and lungs, and the comforting quiet of the nearby Tacoma streets.



Northwest Furniture Bank

I began my morning by waking up early and volunteering at the Northwest Furniture Bank in Tacoma. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides furniture to people who are just getting their own homes. A group of us from Phi Eta Sigma went and helped the volunteers deliver the furniture to their clients’ apartments. A process that with just their volunteers would have taken thirty-five to forty minutes per apartment, instead took ten to fifteen. Overall it was hectic but quite rewarding.

First off, we got lost. It was a straight shot, ten minutes between campus and the furniture bank, but we managed to double that. We missed the turn and then the GPS began to give us really crazy directions. I think it was just messing with us. We got on the freeway, got off the freeway, and did a few extra loops. On the plus side we listened to some cool tunes on the radio.

Then the organization itself was disorganized. They weren’t ready for us and the person who our group leader had corresponded with wasn’t there. After a few awkward moments, including one where one of their volunteers asked why we looked so guilty, we got underway. Our group leader later said that we were guilty, “Guilty of being awesome.” I choose this interpretation.

The volunteer work itself was pretty basic, carrying furniture into apartments. Luckily for us, all the apartments were on the ground floor. One of the women we moved for said that she really appreciated our help, which felt good to hear. It’s always nice to know that you have made a difference for the better in someone else’s life. Also, there were these adorable kids waving at us out of one of the windows as we passed. We waved back. They seemed to think we were really fascinating.

It was a good experience. I got to get off campus and drive around Tacoma helping people. It was worth getting up early for.

Halloween Party: Letting it Go

I spent this afternoon putting up cobwebs and arranging body parts. This was to decorate Langlow House for the annual Halloween party. We arranged the four rooms we used by theme: graveyard, hell, murder room, and pumpkin patch. I even had the pleasure of hearing one fellow decorator say to another: “Put another spider in hell.” It was a cool sentence to take out of context. The house looks great, festooned with skulls, including our house mascot, Yorick. With luck the decorations should stay up until we choose to take them down…probably right before Christmas.

The party itself was a success. There were board games, costumes, and free food. We even did the mystery touch game. In this activity you reach your hand into a box of something named “Flayed Flesh” that is really just tortillas…you hope. A couple of people actually ate stuff out of the mystery touch boxes. It seemed like a risky move to me but then again it was a Halloween Party.

People put a lot of effort into their costumes this year. They ranged from a duo costume of Elsa and Anya from Frozen to a jellyfish with a real light on top. The jellyfish costume seemed like a real pain to carry around (the light was attached to an umbrella which was held above the head) but it looked cool. It was really shiny and it glowed. Sometimes that’s all you need.

As for the board games we played some Apples to Apples and some Survivor: Worst Case Scenario. I now know that to protect my valuables in a hurricane I should put some plastic wrap over the computer and television, and put the smaller ones in the washer or dryer. This should come in real handy here in the Northwest. Though with global warming…who knows? From Apples to Apples I learned that some people have a funky sense of humor. Also, spam is not romantic.

People got to laugh and shriek a little, let off some steam after midterms. As I write this I can hear “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” coming in from the other room. It was a good party.

I’ll Be Mother

In which there is tea.

            Camelia Sinensis: (n.), the white-flowered evergreen shrub that is the origin of all teas.  Family Theaceae, Genus Camelia, from the Latinized name of the Reverend Georg Kamel (1661-1706), a Jesuit missionary to the Philippines who made substantial contributions to seventeenth century botany. Sinensis, Latin for “from China”.

To my dear reader,

I sit in Ubiquitous Journey – a sandwich and tea shop that is my favorite off-campus location in Tacoma – and after having stumbled upon Keith Souter’s The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Drink, I have begun to wonder about the drink.  I have Nickelodeon to thank for the beginning of my love of tea, due to my love of the character Iroh in the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender and his love for the beverage, but tea has since extended beyond my relationship with that TV show.  The complexities of tea fascinate me; the intricacies of its creation are baffling, the delicacy needed to blend it enormous.


There are six families of true tea – white, yellow, oolong, green, black and pu-erh – of which all are made from the Camelia Sinensis, while floral, herbal and fruit teas are delicious falsities, not containing the tea bush’s leaves and therefore not being true teas.  Each family of tea has its own creation process and therefore its own distinctive flavor, and all have great health benefit, such as the tumor and apoptosis inhibiting ability of tea’s polyphenols or the antioxidant abilities of tea’s catechins.  Tea has been used in all manner of literary adventures, from the Hatter’s tea party in Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the teashop setting of Baroness Orzy’s Old Man in the Corner, and tea’s beauty has inspired the lineage of tea literature from Lu Yu’s Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea), c.770, to Kakuzo Okakura’s 1911 volume The Book of Tea, to Keith Souter’s The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Drink itself.

But what interests me most is the use of tea in social interaction.  The Taiwanese tea tradition uses the Perennial Tea Ceremony as an opportunity for participants to celebrate the seasons, elements and philosophy together, while the Moroccan tea tradition calls polite conversation over three servings of maghrebi mint tea after dinner.  As eighteenth century dining customs changed to suit the increasingly industrial society, and the midday and evening meals grew ever farther apart, afternoon tea was invented to tide the upper classes over and allow for diversionary social interaction in the intervening time.

I, however, used tea in an enjoyable and completely accidental social interaction between me (as I sat in Ubiquitous Journey) and a fellow Puget Sound student that happened to have stumbled upon the shop.  We ordered sandwiches and soup together, and feeling inspired by reading The Tea Cyclopedia, I decided that I would offer her a cup of my Hairy Crab Oolong tea.

“What you tried this one before?” she asked.

“Oh no,” I replied, “But that’s part of the adventure.”


There is a saying in the United Kingdom, Keith Souter writes, that goes “I’ll be Mother” if one desires to be the one to pour tea for others.  There is speculation that this originates from old fertility practices, wherein a woman hoping to conceive would serve drinks unto others as part of a ritual.  Whatever the origin of the saying, however, I immediately took a liking to it and, when this friend from Puget Sound reached to pour her own cup, I waved her hand away and said “I’ll be Mother!”

Something that no one tells you about college is that not only do you must learn to speed to catch up with all the things you must learn, but also must learn to slow down to a rate of life that is healthy and reasonable.  Drinking tea, to me, is a purposeful act of slowing down, no matter how rapidly the world is shifting.  Drinking tea with another, to me, is an invitation for another to enjoy a moment with just you in just that very moment – a difficult thing to do.

As I later learned, “being mother” also entails pouring milk into the cups of those that want it, offering sugar cubes rather than a bowl of granulated sugar, and using tongs to lift the cubes.  But never mind this, and never mind my inadequate knowledge of tea practices and traditions!  For it is a learning process, and one day, I shall be mother indeed.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

P.S. I highly recommend the Hairy Crab Oolong.  It was delicious.

Fun fact: “Tacoma” means “mother of waters.”

Yeah, diving in the Sound without a drysuit is chilly, but as much as I love looking at it from above, it's really cool to see what's actually in there.  (Giant plumose anemones, anyone?)

Yeah, diving in the Sound without a drysuit is chilly, but as much as I love looking at it from above, it’s really cool to see what’s actually in there. (Giant plumose anemones, anyone?)

Anyone who knows me a little bit, or has listened to me reel off my list of major / minors / study abroad experience / career interests*, has figured out that I love water.  I was born in Southern California and lived about eight miles away from the beach until I was 11 years old, at which point my family moved away to Northern Virginia (not to be confused with Virginia).  I’ve been rowing for seven years, working on my eighth, and got SCUBA certified two years ago.  One of my requirements when I was looking for colleges was that it had to be on one coast or the other, nowhere in between.  Flying into Sea/Tac the day before freshman move-in day in 2011, I saw the dark blue of the Sound running through the dark green of the forests – I have a bit of a soft spot for evergreens – and I knew that I was in the right place.

Shameless advertisement for the crew team?  We're a nice group of people with a solid appreciation for water and the mountain.

Shameless advertisement for the crew team? We’re a nice group of people with a solid appreciation for water and the mountain.

“Mother of waters,” which was pulled from the Puyallup language, technically refers to Mt. Rainier, whose glaciers are the headwaters of several different watersheds in the area.  (Side note: if you’re outdoorsy and want to go on class camping trips, I recommend the environmental policy and decision making [EPDM] program.  I spent the first three weekends of this semester hiking on Mt. Rainier, rafting the Nisqually River, wandering around mud flats, and so on.)  Water is kind of important in this area, and I like this connection between the mountains and the Sound.  The physical landscape, as well as the regional economy, is kind of shaped and defined by water – even before the Sound existed, glaciers covered this region and carved out the Sound’s basin as well as all the hills that keep things from being flat and boring (not like I’m biased or anything).

And once I'm in the Gulf of Mexico, I'm just a hob, puddle-jump, and a boat ride away from my study abroad country.  Ah, the good old days of being able to dive in just a Puget Sound uni for the photo ops....

And once I’m in the Gulf of Mexico, I’m just a hop, puddle-jump, and a boat ride away from my study abroad country. Ah, the good old days of being able to dive in just a Puget Sound uni for the photo ops….

I’m going to graduate in May, which is weird, and means that I have to have an answer to people asking me if I’m going to stay out here or go somewhere closer to my family.  And actually, as it turns out, the answer that I happened to come across is: neither, at the moment.  Don’t worry, though, I’ll still be involved with water – I’ll be rowing the length of the Mississippi River, doing environmental education and water quality research with the UPS alum-created nonprofit group OAR Northwest.  Studying freshwater will be a bit of a change, but as Finding Nemo taught us, everything ends up in the ocean, and after a few months I’ll be in the Gulf of Mexico.  (And after that, yes, I do want to return to the Pacific Northwest.  Sorry, Mom.)


* “Hi, my name’s Leah Shamlian and I am a senior at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing and double minoring in environmental policy and religion; I did a marine field research study abroad program in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, and I want to go into science communication or environmental writing.”  Have to say it quickly, otherwise people lose interest.

A Little Bit of Light

It’s fall break at the University of Puget Sound, and that means a little bit of time to do a little bit of nothing. This year, my friends and I, having access to a car, took a trip to Auburn for an afternoon full of shopping. Tired and hungry, we exited the shopping center, piled into the car, and drove to a nearby Panda Express.

But the day wasn’t over. Despite having spent more time at the mall than we had anticipated, we didn’t want to head back to campus yet. Though our original plan (to drive to Sunset Park to watch the sunset) had to be scratched (we had already missed the sunset), we decided to go to a nearby park to eat our take-out.

Everything was dark as we pulled in to the parking lot. While there were many streetlamps around, few of them were on. We were alone, a feeling that made me feel that we weren’t. Sitting atop the bleachers, we ate.

There was no trace of light in the sky when we had finished eating, and it seemed—if such a thing is possible—that the park was quieter than before. Yet, in spite of ourselves and what reservations we may have had about staying, we opened the trunk of the car, pulled out a basketball and a Frisbee we had bought at the mall, and wandered back into the darkness.

This Frisbee was lined by tiny multicolored lights, which turned on with the flick of a switch. Naturally, we turned it on, and were amazed by the luminescent reds, greens, and yellows that greeted us. We began to fling the Frisbee around, all over the place. It gave us a little bit of light, which dissolved the darkness as though it were as insubstantial as air.

We watched as the coruscating lights traced their way through the darkness and knew that this was a good way to be spending fall break.

A Poorly Written Ode to Fall Break Among Other Things


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GeekGirlCon last weekend with the WACM(Womens’s Association for Computing Machinery) was FANTASTIC! One of my favorite panels was examining why villainesses and vixens have disappeared from comics overtime and the role they played during the golden age of comics. One … Continue reading