Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | October 27, 2011



Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | July 21, 2011

Reflections on summer


Summer−a season marked by warm weather and hot, sticky days (especially if you live in Indiana!)−could never be long enough for me.  In fact, the older I get the faster it runs away from me.  Summer 2011 has flown by me faster than an Amtrak train, and I fear the moment when it shrinks in my rear view mirror on the way to Ball State.  Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to move to Muncie and settle into our apartment; but that doesn’t mean I am not going to miss these sweet, carefree days.  To those college kids out there: cherish these last few weeks!  Make some memories and take time to relish in the things that summer alone can bring.

→ What this blissful time of year means to me:
Precious moments with family
Reflecting on what it really means to be free
A clear and starry night
Reminding me that everything with be alright

Swimsuit tan lines,
All numbers of SPF tried
A necessity for basking in the sun without getting fried
A day at the beach in a small Michigan town,
Driving all the way there with the windows down

Singing along with the radio
To any song we remotely know
While friends gather from all around
To bring spontaneity to the merry-go-round
Of working ’til the sun goes down

Marveling at the beauty of flowers
While smelling freshly cut grass
The succulent taste of sweet corn; watermelon; blueberries and anything that can be grilled is fine (:
Followed by eating ice cream of any kind at anytime

Time to read and write whatever I want
To take a bike ride or maybe trail walk
Time to go back to my roots once again
It’s sad to see such a sweet thing come to an end.

What will you miss most about this summer season?
Feel free to leave a comment, even if you don’t have a WordPress account!

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | May 18, 2011

Where is your hope?

I have been gone from Elkhart since August 2010… And although that was only nine months ago, I feel like so much has changed while I was away.  For Elkhart, the recession is far from over.

My heart breaks for the sadness that I see in the lives of so many in the Elkhart area.  As I listen to past friends and acquaintances give me an update on their lives, all I can do is wonder where their hope lies, and pray they have not lost it.

My father has been unemployed for a year now.  I vividly remember the day when he first told us that the company he worked for let him go.  I did not want to believe him, and to be honest; I do not think I understood what the repercussions of this tragedy would mean for our family.  Before he told us, he played the song “Strong Tower” by Kutless.  The selfish part of me denied that Christ could be our strong tower, since our tower had been struck to the ground.  What I failed to realize is that Christ would be our strong tower, and help rebuild us.

It has been a tough and strenuous year to say the least, however (prepare to gasp) I am glad for it.  I am not saying I am glad our family’s finances are staring down the barrel of a gun—no, tank is more like it—don’t get me wrong, most days are frightening; but I am thankful for what this past year has taught me: to put all of my hope in Jesus Christ.  My family has no clue what the next day will bring.  Knowing this has changed our—or at least my—perspective on life a bit.  Material things hold less importance to me now.  I find myself longing for better relationships instead of better clothes.

Life knocked us in the knees.  We could have stayed on the ground in misery and defeat, but with God’s help we got up.  It is because of God that I can say my family is still surviving this storm.

There is nothing on Earth that I would rather put my hope in.  Everything here is tainted and nothing is permanent.  But God, he’s perfect AND eternal.  His love never fails us, and his promises remain true.  God is the perfect candidate to put my trust and hope in.

So where is YOUR hope?  What do you turn do when everything fades to grey?  May I suggest that today, you try turning to the One whom will never forsake you.  His name is Jesus Christ and he came to save us.  The following song is my anthem (:

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | May 1, 2011

Senate Bill 590

The following article of mine was featured in Ball Bearings magazine’s Summer 2011 print issue.  It is a magazine feature piece about Indiana’s Senate Bill 590, which, since this piece’s publication, has passed through the House and gone back to the Senate.  The current bill no longer contains the reasonable suspicion aspect which is talked about in this piece.

Read the story below or at

Senate Bill 590: New Indiana immigration bill continues the national debate
story by: Lauren Hardy

America: the land of the free, home of the brave and an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants. Indiana houses as many as
110,000 of those undocumented people, according a 2008 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In response to the continued absence of comprehensive immigration reform and growing public concern, many states are taking matters into their own hands.  In 2006, Georgia passed one of the nation’s toughest anti-illegal immigration bills to date.

Georgia’s Senate bill 529 requires public employers, government contractors and subcontractors to verify the work eligibility of all newly- hired employees through an electronic federal work authorization program.  It also allows trained state law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration.  Oklahoma and Arizona were quick to adopt similar laws the following year.

In 2010, Arizona attracted media attention by enacting Senate Bill 1070, which many felt legalized racial profiling by targeting people that appeared to be of Latin descent.  Now, with Senate bill 590 (SB 590), it seems that Indiana is following suit.

The “Reasonable Suspicion” Debate

SB 590, which some are calling the Arizona-style anti-illegal immigration bill, contains 30 pages of changes to Indiana law concerning the enforcement of federal immigration policies, proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Delph.

“Portions of this bill are mirrored off the Arizona bill.  In particular the ‘reasonable suspicion’ aspect that is catching a lot of public attention,” Michael Brown, Delph’s legislative assistant, says.

If it passes, SB 590 would give police officers the ability to contact federal authorities and check the immigration status of any person stopped for any violation if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant.

Reasonable suspicion was something established in the 1968 Terry v. Ohio case.  The United States Supreme Court held that a person’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated if the police officer has reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime, or a reasonable belief that the person may be armed and dangerous.

“Coupled with other red flags that an officer might see pursuant to a stop, all of that put together can possibly amount to reasonable suspicion,” Brown says.

This portion of the bill troubles Tatiana Nieto, a senior social work major and Latino Student Union (LSU) member.

“Reasonable suspicion is left to the officer’s discretion. So, unless there is a list of what reasonable suspicion means, it could lead to racial profiling,” Nieto says.

In fact, many fear that SB 590 is a recipe for racial profiling.  “My mom is a U.S. citizen.  She understands English but she doesn’t speak it because it never stuck with her,” Nieto says.

If this bill passes, it is possible that innocent people like Nieto’s mom who are dark-skinned and speak Spanish will be targeted as illegal.

“This is oppressive to the Latino community, because it will lead people to label us by our color and our language,” Nieto says.

Alejandra Lagunas, a junior landscape architecture major and LSU member, believes there are other more important things police officers should be doing with their time.  “They shouldn’t be able to check the immigration status of anyone because that is not their job,” she says. “A police officer’s job is to make us feel like secure community members, and to make sure that we are safe from crime.”

According to Brown, however, the community has warranted this section of the bill.  In a 2007 survey sent by Mike Delph to his constituents, 72 percent thought Indiana law enforcement officials should be given the power to enforce federal immigration law. Brown says only 28 percent voted “no.”

If the is made law, police officers will receive proper training to enforce federal immigration and customs laws.

¡Inglés solamente! (English only!)

Another section of SB 590 requires that only English be used in public meetings, public documents and by officers and employees of the state of Indiana.  This includes all electronically transmitted messages, which means that any email or website that communicates state information will only be available in English.

“Senator Delph wanted to include this section because it is current law that English is the primary language of Indiana,” Brown says.  “It has been mentioned in other states’ bills.  If this section is kept in, you can go to a state website and will no longer have the option to choose Spanish or any other version of language for the website.”

English may be the primary language of Indiana, but it is not the only language.  According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, 362,082 Hoosiers spoke a language other than English in the home, and 185,576 of those spoke Spanish.  It is important to keep in mind that these numbers reflect only legal citizens of the United States.

Making English the only language will provide uniformity for Indiana government, but it could discourage non-English speaking citizens from filling out public documents, like the driver’s license test.  “Even [legal citizens] will think, ‘If it’s not offered, then why should I do it?’  This part of the bill will not affect illegal immigrants because they do not have the rights to those documents in the first place,” Nieto says.

Lagunas believes that passing this section into law will strip the culture from people’s lives. “For a lot of [immigrants], language is the only thing we have to remember from our old country.  Why would they want to take that away from us?” Lagunas says. “I don’t have anything against learning English, but I don’t see why we have to tell others not to speak another language.”

Why You Should Care

SB 590 could impact Indiana’s economy by prohibiting employers from hiring illegal immigrants without federal authorization.

With no employment opportunities for illegal immigrants, Tatiana Nieto predicts that many people, both legal and illegal, will leave the state.  “People will be living in fear [of racial profiling], and as a result, they will stop going places or leave Indiana to find work elsewhere,” Nieto says. “This is going to hurt business.”

If people leave the state, it could impinge on the production rate that industries rely on to make a profit.  “This is going to greatly affect the workforce.  It’s true; Americans don’t want to do the jobs that illegal immigrants will do.  [Employers] take advantage of their situation because they know they can without consequence,” Lagunas says.

Around 13.4 million foreign-born Hispanic workers make up the U.S. workforce.  The majority of these workers occupy positions in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, wholesale, service and accommodation-related fields.  “More foreign labor increases supply and tends to lower wages in [these] industries,” Dr. John Horowitz, a Ball State economics professor, says.

Foreign-born labor benefits Hoosiers in many ways.  “It makes Indiana more competitive in these industries. In agriculture, Indiana is able to produce more labor-intensive agricultural goods.  In construction, families and business can afford to have more done.  In tourism, people can afford more leisure. Overall, Hoosiers’ standard of living increases,” Horowitz says.

If SB 590 passes, jobs would become available in these industries, and there might be less competition for them.  Horowitz says that wages would be raised, but less would be produced.

Nieto fears that no one will want to fill these positions.  “Many of these jobs are ones that no one wants.  Latinos do the jobs that nobody else will do [because they have to].  If someone doesn’t do them, who will?” Nieto says.  “I have detassled [corn] before, and the people that stick around are Latinos.  A lot of other people leave because they cannot handle it.”

It is estimated that between 50 to 70 percent of our nation’s agriculture work force is undocumented immigrants.  “On average I think the economy is better off with their work,” Horowitz says.  SB 590 could force these workers out of a job, putting Indiana industries at risk.

Taking Action

The need for immigration reform is real; however, the debate over who should be administering that reform is split and unclear.

Brown believes that Indiana, along with other states considering immigration laws, is simply following the law by passing this legislation.  “A lot of people think that this bill is something that the federal government needs to enforce and take control of.  [But SB 590] is the state’s federal inaction on a bill that is extremely important,” Brown says.

Others think that immigration is an issue that should be left up to the federal government in order to avoid state-to-state confusion.  “It is going to be craziness if each state has separate immigration laws,” Lagunas says. “SB 590 is not the solution to immigration.  The solution needs to be more comprehensive; it is something that has to be tackled by the federal government, and the whole country.  There are more important issues that the state should be dealing with, like education and the drop out rates.”

Lagunas and Nieto encourage Ball State students to send letters to or call state representatives to voice their opinion on SB 590.  “People may care about the issue, but they don’t act.  Ball State needs to become more aware,” Lagunas says.

Currently, SB 590 awaits a final reading in the House scheduled for some time in late April.  If it becomes a law, it will take effect on July 1, 2011.

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | April 4, 2011

That’s Amore

I wrote this poem for a senior creative writing project in high school.  Found it in my folder while browsing today, and I wanted to share it with all of you!

That’s Amore

Lauren Hardy

I’ve come to see through movies and TV
That fairy tales are few and far between
Love isn’t always what it seems
These tales only heighten our standards, hopes and dreams

I’m not saying love is unattainable
I’m saying it is not always readily available.
Love is much more than happily ever after
It is the journey, the strife and the passion hereafter.
Love is not what society makes it out to be—
It is an intricate web that connects you and me.
And many times it gives way to tears
If the web remains untouched it will rip without repair.

Love is a matter of the heart
Love is the rhythm that sets a jumpstart
Love is the heartbreak over a lost lover
Love is a feeling that makes some run for cover
Love is the sweet melody of a pair’s duet
Love causes us to do things which we would otherwise regret
Love perplexes us to the point of frustration
But love unites each and every member of creation

We all search for love and satisfaction in whatever we do
But we must understand that you do not find love; love finds you
Just when you feel you understand its real meaning
True love arrives suddenly, without any warning

A happily ever after is quite possible
Yet it requires more work than we think to be plausible
A loving relationship is a two-way street
To outlast the twists and turns is an incredible feat

As we walked down the pier
I felt absolutely no fear
The wind swirled madly around us
But I was too caught up in your grinning smile to notice
I knew at once—this was what we were made for
To live and love and learn from each other
This, I could do for the rest of my life

This pivotal moment in time
Made romance movies look like cheap alternatives to me—
This fairy tale was not the lofty, dazed dream of a child
But the real, tangible awakening of the heart.

I searched for love and satisfaction in whatever I did
I thought that I could simply find love, but instead, love found me
Just when I thought I understood its full meaning
You came along
Please wake me if I’m dreaming

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | March 22, 2011

Tick Tock

With only six weeks left in the semester, it is hard to believe how fast freshman year flew by.

Move in day was brutal; I didn’t know what to expect.  Ball State was a whole new world, full of freedoms I had never dreamed of.  Freshman year stretched before me like an endless journey, with summer far over the horizon near the finish line. During the first month or so, I dreamed of the comforting familiarity that came with living in Elkhart for 18 years.  It was hard to leave my roots, but it was definitely time for me to breakaway; because at one point or another, everyone has to learn to fly.

Here in Muncie I have learned to spread my wings, take big risks and make new roots.  It wasn’t easy, and at times I questioned my intentions for being a college student.  But questioning of all kinds was inevitable.  For example: is my major what I really want to do?  Do I really need to go to college?  Should I get involved with student organizations even though it might make life stressful?  In my case, the answer to all three of those questions was yes.

I look back on freshman year happy to have made the most out of it.

I look back and see struggle.
I see heartache and trouble.
But then I see friends and family,
To pull me from the rubble

I see a girl trying to find her way
In a world that seems so afraid
But then I see the hand of God
that has left me so blessed and amazed.

Freshman year is nearing its end
With homework and tests yet to attend
But as the final weeks tumble one-by-one
I will thank God for the memories that have made it so much fun.

To my wonderful friends here at Ball State, I will miss you so much this summer!!
Muncie is my home now, because of you guys.  I am looking forward to three more wonderful years with all of you.

To my friends from Elkhart. We’ve got 3 1/2 months together; let’s make the most of them!

I know this post comes kind of early… I realize we still have around six weeks of school left.  But time has proven itself to fly faster as time goes on, especially towards the end of the school year.  Like the janitors at my elementary school would always tell me, “life gets faster as you get older, Lauren.”

My hope is that time will be kind to us all this summer.  I hope everyone enjoys their break, and gets plenty of relaxation in.  Soak up some rays, take a road trip!  Whatever you do, just be thankful for the much needed time off, because it’ll be back to the books soon enough.  I haven’t decided what I want to do with this blog for the summer (I might have a theme!!), but keep coming back to check my posts.  I love you all, God Bless.

Lauren Hardy

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | March 15, 2011

Swimming, Running and Biking to a Better Life

This piece was featured in Volume 2, Issue 3 of Ball Bearings, Ball State University’s campus magazine.  Visit the story at the following link, or read it below.  Let me know what you think! Enjoy!

The sun has yet to rise on Ball State’s campus, but for Ryan Morris the day is already well underway. Approaching the Student Wellness and Recreation Center (SWRC) doors, armed with sweats and a water bottle, he prepares himself for the long workout that lies ahead.

While turning on the treadmill, he fills his ears with the sounds of Boston, his favorite rock band. Everything is ready now. It is time to train, time to sweat and time to feel some pain.

Morris, a 21-year-old senior marketing major, is a regular at the SWRC. For someone who has completed more than 35 triathlons in the past three years, this is a part of life. However, a 5:30 a.m. wake up call is unheard of for most students Morris’ age.

But life has not always been this way for Morris. Growing up, he was not really into sports.

“He liked to watch [sports], but at the time he didn’t have much interest,” his father, Rick Morris, says.

Morris attended a private Catholic school until the seventh grade, when he transferred to Muncie’s Northside Middle School. The new public school environment presented Morris with some social challenges.

“I didn’t know anybody, so I didn’t catch on to the whole sport thing,” he says.

By the time he entered high school, Morris started to gain weight; and aside from playing golf, he did not get much exercise. Standing six feet tall and tipping the scales at 250 pounds, Morris’ junior year at Muncie Central High School marked the heaviest he had ever been.

Eventually, Morris says he got fed up with how much weight he had gained. Something had to change, and it did so in college. “I woke up one morning my freshman year and decided to work out, and I have nearly everyday since. I kept that promise to myself,” he states proudly, and with good reason: he lost 20 pounds during his freshman year at Purdue University. Today, he weighs in at 180 pounds, 70 pounds less than his junior year of high school.

The desire to be fit and healthy drove Morris to lose the weight.

“I knew that I had to change something. I told myself that I couldn’t keep living the way I was because it would only get worse,” he recalls. “I knew that [losing weight] would improve all aspects of my life, not just physically, but emotionally and socially.”

Morris says losing and keeping the weight off will always be one of his greatest accomplishments in life.

The Triathlon Bug

Rick introduced his son to the sport of triathlon at the age of nine, but Morris didn’t pick it up until after his freshman year of college.

“I found my dad’s old bike and started riding it. One thing lead to another, and I started running and swimming, and then I signed up for my first race,” he says. “Once I did that, I got bit by the triathlon bug. It’s addicting.”

Morris on the bike leg of a triathlon.

This newfound passion for triathlons added fuel to his weight loss goals. On June 21, 2008, two months after Morris started training, he competed in the Indianapolis Sprint Triathlon.

“Crossing the finish line was one of the best feelings I ever had,” Morris says.

Today, his preferred race is the Half Ironman, which consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.

But Morris has faced many setbacks that could have kept him from reaching his goals. Last May, he was in fifth place at an Olympic Race in Fort Wayne, Ind. when he fractured his fifth metatarsal, the long bone located on the outside of the foot, on mile two of the run.

“That set back the years to come,” Morris recalls.

In addition to battling injuries, he also combats several daily struggles in his pursuit for excellence.

“The biggest challenge is time management,” Morris says. “You have to balance your regular life and training.”

Early morning workouts can be a pain, he says; so it takes sacrifice and determination to be competitive.

“Nothing gets in [Morris’] way. When he sets his mind to something, he [finishes] strong,” Nick Vollmar, a senior political science major who has known Morris since the eighth grade, says.

Giving Back

The sport of triathlon changed Morris’ life.

“Triathlon has become a lifestyle. My life revolves around it,” he says. “It helps keep me fit, and it helps me with other aspects of my life, including school and time management.”

In order to give back to the sport that gave him so much, Morris got involved. Two years ago, he became the founder and president of the Ball State Triathlon Club to spread awareness of the sport.

“Many people don’t know that Muncie hosts the oldest running Half Ironman in the world,” he says.

In fact, Muncie is one of the biggest triathlon regions in the Midwest. In a typical triathlon year, the city hosts seven races between May and October. Morris also volunteers for Muncie Multi-Sport, a local company that hosts health and wellness events.

Despite his latest foot injury, Morris hopes to place in a sprint race this year. Eventually, he wants to complete a Half Ironman in less than 4.5 hours to qualify for the Half Ironman World Championships. His ultimate goal is to place in the top three at the full Ironman distance.

Lauren Hardy
Ball Bearings Contributor

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | January 20, 2011


Sorry guys, I have to take a break from blogging for a bit to focus on my studies.  This new semester is very demanding for me and on top of classes, I recently obtained a job.  I’ll be back in a few weeks though!

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | January 3, 2011

The One That’s Different

I have recently decided to revisit a piece of fiction I began senior year of high school.  This post is a little different because of its content.  It’s not really a blog entry; I just felt the need to share what I am working on.  The following is a rough version of the first chapter.  Let me know what you think.


He said he wants a divorce.  After 21 years of marriage and three kids he wants to end it all.  I’ll admit, I have seen this coming for a while, but I had hoped that we could work through the chaos  and come out a stronger couple.  But Todd is unwilling to try counseling or anything of the sort; our marriage is getting progressively worse.  In fact, according to Todd, our marriage is a “lifeless, dead end, one that apparently cannot be fixed.”

So today our divorce has landed me, of all the places I could be, at a stifling lawyer’s office.  I met with my divorce attorney, Ms. Westin, to discuss child custody and property division.  Because two out of our three kids are over the age of 18, we are only fighting over the six-year-old, Timothy.  My lawyer is confident that the court will grant maternal custody, and although this should be blatantly obvious to me, I cannot help but think about the horrible dreams I have been having where they take Timothy away from me.

“Mrs. Williams, I’m positive that we will win this case.  It’s airtight, and should rule in your favor,” Ms. Westin reassured me.

As she spoke, I sat anxiously in her large bucket chair, wringing the fabric fibers out of my paisley handkerchief.  Each of my children’s faces flashed in my mind.  Hope, Scott and Timothy—I loved them more than life itself.  My lawyer’s words brought relief to my frantic state; even though I knew I would win the case with the help of Todd’s drinking history, I was comforted to hear a third party had faith in my victory as well.

“Thank goodness for that.  Timothy is my little boy, and I can’t imagine losing him now, what with Hope in the hospital and everything,” I sighed.

“Yes, I am sorry about that whole situation,” my lawyer replied.

“I’m sorry about this whole situation.  You and I sitting here, discussing my divorce: that’s what I am sorry about!  How could Todd do this right now?  Hope needs to be able to rely on the two of us.  How can she rely on him when he doesn’t show any interest in our lives anymore! I just don’t understand… I,” words failed me at this point, so I just stayed still in the chair, sobbing.

All of a sudden, the walls around me began to darken.  The thickening heat of the room pressed hard against my chest and dragged me to the floor.  With the evidence of heartbreak and betrayal strewn across my face, I lay on the cold hardwood wondering where it all went wrong.  Had I not been supportive enough of Todd and his career failures?  Had I not been the loving mother and wife I always thought myself to be? These questions reeled in my mind as the ceiling spun above me.  I shut my eyes, and after a few minutes I gathered my thoughts and returned to the bucket chair.

Ms. Westin glided over to my side to envelope me in a large hug, “Everything will be fine, Tracy.  Relax for me, okay?”

“Relax?!  Do you realize what you are asking me to do?  No offense Ms. Westin,  but I don’t think you understand the severity of my family’s condition right now.  Between the physical and emotional troubles, I don’t have a moment to unwind.  I cannot remember what it feels like to authentically relax,” my words spewed like a geyser from my chest.

I looked at my watch.  Eleven a.m. on the dot.  Oh shoot, Hope! I thought.  I had to pull myself together and drive over to the Children’s Hospital.  Hope’s weekly prognosis appointment was in under an hour, and I needed to be on my way.  After I apologized to my lawyer, I ran outside to my car.  As I approached the “Mom-mobile,” as my kids like to call it, I fumbled with my purse as I tried to find my keys.  I was about to pull out when Todd, of all people, pulled in.

“Thought you’d be here,” he said.

“Actually, I was just leaving,” I replied. I did not want to be having a conversation with him right now, and more importantly I didn’t have time.

“Well, uh.  Hope’s appointment is today, right?” He asked.

“Yes, Todd.  She has one every week.  You haven’t been to one in the past month, so I am surprised that you even cared to remember,” I pointed out, grudgingly.

“I know.  I’ve just been busy.  I was wondering if I could just follow you on over to the hospital from here?  That way we arrive together,” he flashed a smile as he spoke.

“Fat chance of that happening, I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to come.  Hope finally came to terms with our divorce.  She does not need to see you right now,” I had to get him out of my sight.

“Please, Tracy.”

“No, Todd.  Not happening, now goodbye.  I’ll see you in court,” I slammed my door.

I drove off as fast as I could without making my tires squeal.  Because of Todd and my little run-in, I only had twelve minutes to get to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, otherwise known as CHOP.  I was going to be late now; Philadelphia traffic would make sure of it.

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | December 31, 2010

Raise Your Glass

2010, you brought me great cheer,
new family and friends made it a very great year
but now it’s time to start anew
2011, we raise our glasses to you
may 2011 be bright for us all
and no matter what we are doing, may we all have a ball!

Happy New Year’s Eve to everyone! As we watch 2010 come to a final close, I hope that all of us can resolve to make 2011 an even better year, and most importantly a year to remember.  Tonight, enjoy the warm company of friends with fun, food and games in anticipation of the new year.

When 11:59 rolls around and that sparkling, magic-like ball drops once more in Times Square, take time to reflect on the events of 2010.  What areas of your life need improvement?  What can you do to ensure that 2011 will be a better year for you?  We often make resolutions only to break them the following day.  This year, let us resolve to see our resolutions through.  Set a realistic goal you want pursue in 2011, and then go after it!

Now, setting goals is a wonderful thing, but let’s not forget to celebrate!!

Note: I will still be blogging in 2011. I hope to start doing feature articles; come back often to see my progress!

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | December 26, 2010

Bare And Cold, Yet Beautiful

My relationship with winter is definitely under the love hate category.  Snow is great, I love to trek in it as it crunches beneath my boots.  I even like getting bundled up for the winter months; there is something about blankets, boots, mittens, scarves and coats that brings me comfort.  I especially love the winter holidays; Christmas and New Years Eve are always bound to bring excitement, and there is nothing better than hanging out with friends and family.  But on the other hand, there are things about winter that I consider less than desirable.  For one, I am saddened when the sun decides to stay behind sheets of clouds for weeks at a time (I call this “winter gloom”).  I deeply miss sunshine in the winter months, and I loathe its absence.  In addition to the winter gloom, I could do without Jack Frost nipping at my nose.  Winter wind in Indiana is harsh and bone chilling; stay outside for longer than an hour and chances are your extremities will be longing for fire.

Ox Bow Park is silent in the winter, the bare trees give contrast to the cool sky.

Despite this love hate relationship, I know I could never live without a cold and snowy winter.

Whenever I complained about winter when I was little, my grandpa would tell me to cheer up.  Without winter, we could never appreciate the warmth of summer, he always said.  I have come to learn that each season serves a purpose, and as a result of my Midwest upbringing, life would not be the same without all four.  Winter teaches us to be thankful for things, spring brings rebirth and renewal and summer gives us a taste of paradise.  If we look for it, we can find beauty in every season.

All that said, we went to Ox Bow Park to snap some winter photos.  Here are the rest!

I take a moment to dance on the snow covered bridge that winds through the park.

The sun actually shined all day today; how beautiful it was to see it again.

Alex was being cooperative with my photo taking. Even though he is not the biggest fan of photos, he was kind enough to flash a smile my way.

As we walk around the park, I felt like I was standing in a painting. Nature's beauty is absolutely breathtaking.

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | December 21, 2010

The Learning Curve

Hello everyone! I decided to take a short hiatus during my first week of winter break to “detox” from fall semester classes, if you will.  How wonderful it was to relax without work on the mind.  I finally unpacked my bags for winter vacation this morning, and thus have chosen to return to some writing.

The downtown Elkhart Nibco Skate Park will be open until March 6, 2011.

Last night Alex and I ventured to the downtown Elkhart Nibco Ice Park (if you have not visited this place, I definitely recommend it!).  I say ventured because that’s exactly what I was embarking on, a venture.  The last time I picked up a pair of skates was nearly five years ago in the 8th grade.  By stepping on the ice last night, I was potentially putting my health, pride and skating reputation at risk.  I made sure to warn Alex that “I might be very bad at skating,” but he just chuckled lightly in reply.  Alex is a hockey player, so I was already at a huge disadvantage.

After much trouble we managed to fasten the cheap rental skates snugly to my feet.  Walking with caution, I reached the silver gate.  Ice stretched out endlessly in front of my eyes as I wondered what had convinced me to do this.  With open arms, Alex helped me onto the splintered rink entrance.  Then he let me go, and I found myself longing for anything to hold on to.  Surely enough, my worst fears were realized with my first wobbly steps: I was a terrible skater.

If I had a videotape of last night, I would imagine myself looking like some sort of clumsy penguin on the screen, sliding and falling on the ice beneath me.  At first, I laughed at myself as I re-learned the skills I had once mastered.  Thirty minutes passed, and I still was not getting it; for some reason unbeknown to me, I could not comprehend how to push the ice with my skates.  I could feel my initial humorous spirit melting into the ice as I grappled with this concept.  My feet began to tire after about an hour and a half of skating, and although part of me was determined to keep trying, I knew it was time to leave.

After last night’s experience, Alex assured me that I made good progress, however I know I still have a lot more to learn.

My skating was rough but one thing was certain: by the end of the night, I did not have to rely on Alex to propel me forward anymore.

I tell you this story only to talk to you about my experience with risk-taking and the learning process.  To be honest, I am not a fan of feeling inferior or unskilled.  I like to be confident in myself when I undergo a task; even if I don’t know how to do it properly, I will figure it out.

If I only take one thing away from my freshman year, fall semester it will be the following: sometimes you have to fall on your face, literally and figuratively speaking, when you are learning something new, whether it be inside or outside of the classroom.  Sometimes you have to look like a fool before you can achieve pro-status.

College has taught me that learning requires risk-taking.  As I retain and experience new information I take risks in applying that knowledge to areas of my life, knowing that I might apply that information incorrectly.

I still don’t understand skating entirely, but I am willing to risk failure to learn more about it, even if I make a fool of myself.  I want to get better and I want to skate fast, however I realize that my progress will come in baby steps.  Maybe someday, all that I learn about skating will come full circle, and I will be able to step fearlessly onto that rink, ready to race any challenger.

Just remember: when you fall, don’t be afraid to get back up and try it again.

There is a great chance that the person standing next to you fell when they first learned it too.

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | December 8, 2010

Coffee’s Curse

Picture retrieved from Google

I love coffee.  I love the smell, the taste and everything about it.  To satisfy my fix next semester at a cheaper cost, I made sure to put a coffee maker on my Christmas list.  There is something about those warm cups of flavored goodness that always manages to brighten my day.  Coffee lovers, you can sympathize with me.  You know where I am coming from.

Now I face a big dilemma.  I am torn between continuing or quitting my caffeinated coffee addiction.  Why, you might ask?  Well, as many of you probably do not know, I have a slight heart condition called non-sustained ventricular tachycardia (NSVT).  In other words, sometimes my heart will go into episodes of rapid beats (more than 100 beats per minute).  Episodes consist of three or more beats which originate from the ventricle.  These episodes last fewer than 30 seconds, and although they are not life-threatening, they cause discomfort.  So how does this relate to coffee?  Well, caffeine agitates the NSVT.

When the doctors first told me I may have to give up caffeine, I blocked it out of my mind.  Until recently, I was in denial that it was affecting me.  As a college student, however, I have increased my coffee intake (non of which is decaf might I add).  I can no longer deny caffeine’s adverse affects on me; this is a terrible affliction to endure!

Tonight tipped the iceberg.  I happily purchased a Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks to compliment my dinner. Two hours later, I was in the gym working out.  This was a bad decision. No. A really bad decision.  The caffeine/exercise combo sent my heart racing, and I started to get a little worried.  I continued to work out however, trying to ignore my heart and developing shortness of breath.

So now, I have a decision to make.  I could always resort to hot chocolate or decaf, but it would never be the same.   As Bob Irwin once said, “decaffeinated coffee is kind of like kissing your sister”; in other words, it’s disgusting.  Giving up my caffeinated coffee would be a huge sacrifice.  Not to mention, I could suffer from withdrawal!

For now, I think I’ll just decrease my intake.  I can downgrade from a grande to a tall.  Baby steps, right?  After all, it is never easy to give up something you really enjoy.

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | December 2, 2010

Better Than Garmin

Weather in Muncie has been completely sporadic lately. Tuesday I felt warm walking to class in my North Face, but three hours later it was snowing and I found myself longing for a hat to shield my face from the bone chilling wind.  Today, fluffy flakes fell from the sky at a frequent and majestic rate.  This bipolar weather is a mirror to how life has been for me lately.  One moment I am comfortable and feel like I have it all under control, but the next moment I find myself lost without a compass or any recollection of how I got there.  I feel like the progress I am making in life has been so marginal lately, that I am starting to wonder if it even measures up to anything.

There are two weeks left in the Fall 2010 semester here at Ball State.  If I am honest, there are days that I don’t really know what I am doing.  I constantly wonder if I am making the best professional, financial, relational and emotional choices.

All of these shifts in judgment and thought makes it hard for me to decide if I am making the right choices.  I am finding this to be a problem because life is made up of decisions; you cannot escape them.  Lately it seems the decisions I make hold heavier weight; there is a sense of urgency to everything I do.  My uncertainty makes it difficult to draw realistic conclusions.

In the midst of all of this uncertainty and fragility, the only thing I have to look to is my compass, which is Jesus Christ.  As a human, I can never fully know if I am making the right decision; I can never fight my way out of the lost and frightening forests I find myself in.  But luckily, with God as my compass, I have a shot at navigating my way through life’s storms and roadblocks.  I don’t think uncertainties ever fade from our lives, but I believe if we ask God for understanding and guidance, he is quick to bring us a new perspective.

Are the winds of change and uncertainty swirling around you like the snow that is falling outside?  Trust in the only navigation system that has the power to rescue us.  This navigation system is not offered through a Garmin or TomTom but through the loving arms of Jesus Christ.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  {Philippians 4:7}

Snow begins to form outside my dorm room early Wednesday morning.  The first day of December brought plenty of snow and delighted many as they walked to class.
Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | November 21, 2010

Letting Go

Mankind has the tendency of being pretty possessive.  Even at a young age, children learn to say “mine” with rapid frequency.  Whether it be our memories of the past, relationships, personal belongings, problems or achievements, we tend to attach ourselves to stuff like adhesive attaches to a wall.  The desire to keep things we love near and dear is wonderful and good; it is bad however, for us to habitually cling to things that are life inhibitors.

This possession problem reveals an even greater issue: our ability to let go.  A watered down definition of letting go could be summed up as meaning release, or giving up control of something. The problem is, if humans are possessive in nature, then it would be logical to assume that letting go isn’t particularly easy.  Our instinct tells us to harbor feelings, memories of the past, etc., however such things were never meant to be held on to.  Memories and feelings of hate, anger, regret, guilt, despair, shame, depression and anxiety should never be granted residence in our hearts.  Yet often times we let these things move-in and renovate the place as they see fit.  Over time, the relationship between a person and these maladies becomes parasitic.  The things we harbor slowly overtake us; often times this process goes unnoticed.  In my case, it took a whole year to see what was happening.  A concoction of past events and anxiety is what I allowed to overtake me.  Before I knew it I couldn’t let them go.  Even worse I couldn’t remember what life was like without them.

I would constantly think to myself, what does it even look like to give up control?  Better yet, what does it feel like?  They talked about it in church all the time, but I never really bought into it…

Looking back on those miserable days, I realize the reason I didn’t buy into giving up control was because of one ugly, evil thing, a thing called fear.  I believe fear of any kind is the root of our inability to let go.  If we become accustomed and familiar with what we hold on to, giving it up can be a pretty scary task.

Allowing unfortunate, tragic and awful things to take residence in our hearts should be avoided with caution.  Sometimes, in a step of faith, we have to let whatever it is go, in spite of our fear.  For some, this “it” could be a bad relationship, for others a horrific event.  If you know this “thing” is not benefiting your life, or worse, if you know it’s preventing you from living the life you were meant to live you have no other option but to give it up.

This is not an easy process; it takes a conscious effort.  You don’t just wake up one morning and voilà! you give up control.  You have to be willing enough to work towards complete release.

I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but I do believe they happen for a reason.  I don’t know why some people die and others live, but I know that God has a plan for every one of us, a plan that doesn’t involve getting wrapped up in our troubles, flaws and failures.  A great musician Jon Foreman once sang, “We were meant to live for so much more, have we lost ourselves?”  My hope is that those of you who can identify with this will take it to heart.  I guarantee that your efforts will be worth it.  Don’t live life with your eyes focused on what you cannot control.  Trust in the one who has total control, and He will bring you peace.

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | November 15, 2010

Thankful Giving: The Heart of the Holidays

This article of mine was published in the Wings of Hope Magazine 2009 Holiday Issue.  I felt it fitting for this time of year to re-publish it for those who did not have the opportunity to read it in print:

Prepare yourself for those cheesy Christmas tunes: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are fast approaching yet again. Everyone participates in the annual traditions of the winter months. Roasting turkey, mixing mashed potatoes, eating pumpkin pie, giving thanks, decorating Christmas trees, wrapping presents, drinking hot cocoa are just a few of the staple activities of the holidays. But what if we implemented a new tradition? What if something else became a staple of the holidays?

Thanksgiving is not merely a feast of delicacies; it is a historical annual event. Its origins reach back to 1621 when Plymouth Colonists and Native Americans celebrated and gave thanks for a successful bounty of crops.

Today, Thanksgiving festivities remain the same, but the meaning behind the celebration is different. We are not colonists, and we do not have to cultivate our own food. So how is a successful harvest relevant to us today? How do we relate to the Pilgrims? For starters we can still thank God for our food, but this will only scratch the surface. There is so much more to be thankful for.

One of the biggest mistakes Christians—or anyone for that matter—can make is to take things for granted. It is hard for many of us to relate to those who are desperate and struggling because, in America, the majority of us are blessed with more than enough to live. The American standard of living is beyond what any other country in the world experiences; granted, there is still poverty, but it is not as rampant. We go on living our pampered lives and often forget about the billions of other people who are less fortunate.

It would be wonderful to see this selfish-sort-of lifestyle replaced with a contagious love for others.  In 2 Corinthians 9:12 Paul writes, “The service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (NIV).  Paul tells us that when we give, we should do so with a thankful heart.  Service begins with an outpouring of gratitude; by humbly serving God and others this holiday season, we can give the most precious gift of all, love.

January 2, however, should not mark the end of gracious giving.  What would happen if others noticed our continued state of thankfulness and giving? As believers, we can influence others to act similarly.  We can make thankful giving a yearly, or perhaps, daily tradition.

The next time you see someone who is suffering or in need, I challenge you to reach out your hand. The world could be an entirely different place if all of mankind began to help one another. We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.  We have been blessed to be a blessing to others. Remember this holiday season: it is not about us, it is about God and His plan. He came to the world to offer up his life to save us. He gave ultimately with his life, He was the ultimate giver. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

Lauren Hardy
Wings of Hope Teen Scene Columnist

Posted by: Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet | November 11, 2010

A Place to Call Our Own

Currently in the hunt for an apartment, my roommate and I are exploring our options for sophomore year.  Although it would be nice to have House Hunters’ host Suzanne aid in our search, the Internet has served as an adequate substitute.  Today, as we scrolled through photo after photo of possible places to purchase, my roommate, Kasia turned to me.  With an astonished look on her face she said, “Lauren! We are actually going to have a place of our own!”

I stopped to think about what had just been said.  “A place of our own” sounds quite cozy and free, doesn’t it?  Almost liberating (a word I feel sums up the college experience).  Since the day we moved in, each day of college has been a succession of liberating experiences.  And now we are embarking on the biggest freedom of all: owning our very own apartment!  It’s almost too good to be true.

Here’s one thing I have learned the past few months: college may be the biggest lifestyle change I may ever endure.

No high school course could have prepared me for collegiate life and expectations.  It changed my eating, sleeping, exercising and studying habits, but most importantly my responsibilities and perspective on life.  College elevated my responsibilities tenfold.

Future college students, let me prepare you for freshman year.  Following move-in day, the weight of your decisions will be placed solely on you.  Sleep in late for a class?  Get caught drinking?  The consequences for these actions are definitely your fault, so you’d better own up to them.  You can’t blame mom and dad for your mistakes in college.  It’s humbling, really.  I have so much respect for my parents now.  In high school, my mother not only remembered her hectic schedule, but kept tabs on MINE as well.  I have no idea how she did it.  There are so many things to remember, so many deadlines to meet (invest in a planner).  It can be overwhelming at times, but I believe it makes you a better person.  College prepares you more for life than high school ever could.

Okay, so the whole responsibility thing may seem a little daunting for some of you, but don’t worry!! There is a flipside to every story.  College will also unleash freedoms that are beyond your imagination (I like to refer to this as The Sweet Release).  My only advice: be careful.  And please, for the sake of…. oh I don’t know, your parents?  Try to make wise decisions.  Just because you have the freedom to do whatever does not mean you should.  If you are in a situation that feels wrong, leave!  Don’t ever lie to yourself (tip: if you have to convince yourself that something is okay, it’s probably not).  By all means however, try new things!  Try a new sport, take a class that interests you, make new friends, dare to navigate bus transportation systems, get involved–college is the best opportunity to discover new interests.

All this leads me back to where I started.  My roommate and I have finally narrowed it down to three apartment complexes… decisions, decisions.  Not to mention we can’t seem to decide if we want two, three or four bedrooms.  We do not have a clue what we want, and in the end we will probably just have to go with our gut on this one.   As long as the place fits what we’re looking for, I’m sure I will be happy with whatever we choose.

As it applies to life, what’s most important is that we choose what is best for us.

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