COJO 350 → WRITING RESOURCES → THEN AND NOW

Then and now

To work on literary and grammatical time, the students were asked to:

  1. Find an inspiring place to sit while doing this exercise. It could be the library, the chapel, the Schoenecker Arena or any place nearby on campus.
  2. For 10 minutes, write about what is going on in the present moment. Pay attention to details: Who do you see? What sounds do you hear? What interests you about this setting? This is about observational information.
  3. When the time is up, read aloud what you wrote.
  4. Think about an event in the past or something you want to do in the future that is inspired by what you wrote. Using your 10 minutes of observation as the moment of narration, write about this event. Try to transition from now to then at least twice.
  5. Now, turn your observations into a 300-400 word piece that experiments with chronological, literary and grammatical time.

Here are their stories:

Reflections

A visit to the college swimming pool brings a wave of recollection.

By Dana Ashby

The smell of chlorine is overwhelming in this state-of-the-art natatorium at the University of St. Thomas, and as a cool bead of sweat rolls down my back, I recall my high school days of swimming races.

Stepping up onto the starting block, my knees shaking, I knew I had to swim my best race. As the anchor, I was the determining factor of whether my relay team would make it to the state meet. I saw Emily’s fingertips barely skim the touchpad, my body tensed and I was off with a splash.

Here at the St. Thomas pool, I also hear a splash; practice with coach Tom Hodgson has begun. The practice schedules are posted on the glowing Daktronics screens. I’m sure if were doing the backstroke in this pool, those animated LEDs would lead to distraction and bad form — kind of like the time my old team practiced at Stillwater Junior High in a pool that had underwater speakers. “Hey coach, put on KDWB, let’s get it jamming!” I screamed.My teammates and I boogied underwater every time the coach wasn’t watching. We proved less than productive that day. I’m sure, though, that the St. Thomas swim team has more self-control than we did.

In the Anderson pool Hodgson’s workout for the day is a distance set: many continuous laps with short breaks. It looks so calming as I watch the team, almost robotic. Everyone’s form looks precise and well-thought-out. Swimmers follow one another, perfectly spaced in each lane, with strong, gliding strokes that look effortless. Growing up, I was the leader of sets like these, setting the pace. Our two-hour long distance sets allowed me to find a rhythm and feel free in the water. After a while, it was like I didn’t have to think about what I was doing.

I can’t help wanting to jump back in the pool. I miss the team camaraderie, long practices and even the cold-water goose bumps. Swimming will always be one of my biggest passions, even if I’m not feeling my nerves while up on the starting block.

One last time

We see ourselves in the actions of others.

By Samantha Dooner

The fall of 2007 was my last season of high school volleyball. I had enjoyed playing this game for six years and was sad it was all coming to a close. I recall the intense practices with vigorous drills that always ended with my shirt soaked in sweat.

The games were the best. The hard practices always seemed to pay off. I was elated to be selected team captain, a rewarding accomplishment for me. I enjoyed leading the team through the wins and losses of the season.

Now three years later, I sit in the Anderson Field House on the University of St. Thomas campus, watching the university’s intramural volleyball games. The way one of the teams works together is much like my team in high school. A girl in a blue T-shirt shouts encouraging words between each play, as I did on my team.

The responsibilities of being a captain on a high school team played deep, and I took them seriously. The captain was the one blamed for a a loss and the one who was supposed to keep the team together with encouraging words.

In the last game of the section final, with one point deciding if we would win the title, I stepped back to serve and the ball went straight into the net. I had failed my team. We all hung our heads low, with tears streaming our face. My last volleyball season was over.

As I continue to watch this intramural team, I try to pay attention to that one girl again. How much effort she puts forth to the game and how positive she is, makes me admire her.

I didn’t want their game to end. I was reliving my senior volleyball season through this one match, feeling that joy all over again.

Pursuing kindness

Seeing a homeless man leads to a good deed, but not until after the chase.

By Olivia Cronin

PHOTO BY ROB LANG

Walking in downtown Minneapolis, looking at the high rises and lights on a cold fall evening is something I always look forward to. When I get the opportunity to take time to enjoy myself, I jump on it as fast as I can. Between school, my internship and two jobs free time is a rarity. I especially enjoy the scenic skyline of the city when snow illuminates the city lights. Like the seasons, I also tend to change with the seasons. During the start of the school year, everything is about me, my grades in school, my career aspirations and my goals. But something about the first snowfall makes me consider others more than myself. While I am admiring the picturesque snow scenes of downtown, I can’t help but acknowledge the bundled and frail, looking for a place to keep warm. The sight of the homeless men and women remind me of someone who is stronger than I can imagine.

I met this man earlier this fall at a Vikings tailgate in Lot No. 4. I was working as a radio station intern, giving out free shirts, DVDs, CDs, Hot Tamales and Franks Red Hot Sauce, among other items, to promote the station and gain listeners. At this Vikings tailgate, people were laughing, grilling, drinking and just having a good time. Never did I think such a jovial place would leave such an upsetting image in my mind.

As I went to change the CDs in the car, I saw a man in a large coat covering his skinny 5-foot-4-inch frame. He was filling a trash bag with crushed cans. Unlike the people who sit on the side of the road begging with a cardboard sign, this man was trying to make a living by picking up crushed beer cans. He wasn’t approaching anyone, he wasn’t asking anyone for cans. He just minded his own business, scanning the cement.

I had to do something. My heart had sunk to my stomach and tears clouded my eyes. I reached for my purse, took out a $5 bill and ran after the man down the street. I finally caught up with him and tapped on the shoulder of his weathered coat, held out my hand and gave him the five dollars saying, “I wanted you to have this.” I have never seen a more grateful look in my life. He stared at me, then at the money in his shaky hand. He was speechless, and as I walked away, I knew that the money would do more than just buy him a few hot meals. It reassured him that even though he was wandering the streets alone, people still cared about him.

When we were kids

A little boy looks familiar, bringing to mind another who isn’t so little now.

By Holly Gullickson

I am at the Starbucks in a Barnes and Noble store close to my house. It’s early in the morning, about 8:30, and I’m at a tiny table enjoying my tall coffee. I am situated at an angle where I can see the Starbucks checkout counter as well as the door into the store. About five minutes has passed and nothing much has happened. I’m looking at the display of new books that greet customers as they enter the store, and I contemplate going over to get a closer look when a mom enters with her son and daughter. The two kids look to be about 4 or 5 years old, very young. The little girl has long, curly brown hair and the little boy is pale with fair, white-blond hair. He looks a lot like my brother at that age.

Being reminded of my brother makes me miss him. He is a freshman in college, and I have not seen or talked to him a lot because his basketball schedule keeps him busy. I remember when we used to play basketball in the driveway. He would always practice his free throws, and every once in a while we would play horse or lightening. He would always get so mad if I won and would insist on playing again.

As I sit at the tiny green table, I watch as the mom buys a coffee for herself, an orange juice for the little boy and milk for the little girl. The kids are surprisingly well-behaved and follow their mom off into the back of the store. It always seems strange to me that I was once that small. That my tall brother ever was that small is difficult for me to believe, but it is true nonetheless.

My brother might have looked like that little boy 15 years ago, but both of us have come a long way. Now my brother, off on his own, plans to major in business while I am in my junior year and two months away from spending a semester in Spain. Life goes by so fast.

They’re playing my song

Knowing the rap becomes the key to making friends.

By Dustin Hassett

Rappers Cheryl “Salt” Wray and Sandra “Pepa” Denton

I step into Blarney Pub and Grill and get the welcome I’ve come to expect. The doorman nods as he checks the IDs of girls who could pass for 17. The smell of cheap booze and fruity mixers saturates the air. The bartender, my friend, greets me with a name that isn’t exactly politically correct.

It is Wednesday, live music night at the bar. My buddy and I sips our beers and shoot the breeze with the bartender while waiting with dread for the lead singer to introduce her band, abruptly ending our quiet conversation. After about 10 minutes I hear the loud thump of a base drum giving the signal that our chat will be postponed until intermission. I turn around to hear the song, and I instantly recognize the chorus. The women singer starts rapping “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa, and it instantly putS a smile on my face. As I listen to the white women trying to do her best street accent, I think to myself, ”Man This brings me back.”

I moved to Minnesota in 1992 from Birmingham, Ala. During the packing process, all of my relatives gave me their naïve advice on how I would be treated up with “dem Yankee folk.” I was told things like, “Don’t tell ’em where you’re from, or dey’ll hate you,” and “Dey’re still mad ’bout the civil war, so no cheerin’ for southern teams.”

Needless to say I was a bit worried when I got on the plane headed to my new home. In the first few weeks, I was constantly harassed by neighbors, schoolmates and teammates about my accent and my copious use of “y’all.” I not only felt like an outsider, but the notions my relatives had put in my head made me think that these people would tar and feather me at a moment’s notice.

For the first few months I stayed to myself and hung out in my room, listening to the radio. I had memorized all the top 40 hits within a month, everything from The Proclaimer’s “500 Miles” to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” One day I was playing basketball in gym class when the radio played the Salt-N-Pepa song and I started singing along as I usually did. The other students were amazed that I knew the every word and huddled around me to see how long I could go without missing a phrase. They did this every day we had gym, and it led to me being accepted in their social groups. All my best friends I have to this day, I owe to “Shoop.”

As the band finishes the song, I lean over to the bartender, who happens to be one of those friends I met through the song, and say, “Man, remember when I would rap every word of this?” He gives a little chuckle and replies, “Yeah, you were weirdo back then.” I was a weirdo, but after that song I was a weirdo with friends.

Lofty goals

Sometimes a place just feels like home.

By Courtney Maas

I am sitting in a loft in the warehouse district in Minneapolis. It is not yet mine, but it is something I hope to own. I see the Minneapolis skyline from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the exposed brick wall to the left of me. I can’t help but imagine the view at dusk, the buildings lit up like Christmas lights, and having dinner parties with such a wonderful backdrop to look at.

Cars drive by noisily every few seconds. My friend Elinor is doing the dishes and cleaning. Two large paintings adorn the wall in front of me. The walls in this loft are perfect for hanging beautiful pieces of artwork. I can see myself painting my apartment a different color, perhaps an accent wall with a pattern, and moving in all of my furniture and accessories. This is my dream location for an apartment in Minneapolis. The classic paintings framed in gold would be replaced by my modern artwork framed in black and crystal.

I sip my coffee and place it back on the brown granite countertop next to my MacBook. The sky is gray today, and a hazy fog seems to lie over the city. At least the snow has stopped falling. Two girls with purple and red hair, wearing backpacks, walk past on the street outside. A man passes the window while texting on his phone.

If I lived in my own loft apartment, I would feel so free. I love being in the city and walking across the street to a café. The city feels alive on this afternoon. I can hear the snow melting outside of the window and the cat munching on her food in the corner of the apartment. The waterfall in the hallway brings a soothing sound to my ears and relaxes me so that I don’t dare put music on. I have been here for only 30 minutes, and I already feel at home.

The missed shot

A failure can be the best motivator.

Laura Rothstein

The loud “clink” told me that there was no chance of the ball traveling through that basket. As I stood in disbelief, wishing, praying to replay that moment, the outcome was already determined. The game was over. We had lost. As I glanced, to my left, trying not to make direct eye contract, I saw tears slowly rolling down Sam’s cheeks. To this day I still can’t describe if I felt anger or sorrow.

Back in the present, my feet pound heavily against the faded black treadmill belt. Music blares and the television flickers. I can feel my heart rate increasing as I run. I think about losing that basketball game, the section finals. I think about losing the chance to play in the state tournament. Now, my adrenaline kicks in and I need to run faster. Somehow I feel the faster I run, the longer I go, things might change. Somehow accomplishing a goal in this moment might help me change the past or shape the future. I realize this, yet each day when I step on that belt, the same motivation comes over me, and for that brief moment I feel the need to push myself to the limit.

For this reason, I love the St. Thomas athletic facility. Something is so satisfying about people pushing themselves to their limits, striving for greatness in some way or just trying to better themselves in a certain aspect of their lives. It might sound crazy, but the place I find most soothing just could be the loudest room on campus.

The other side of the room

What we put on our walls — or leave off — says a lot about us.

By Nathan Spencer

The Blue Lagoon is busy with students studying. They chatter away, working often in a group crowded at one of the many tables, absorbed in their work. The walls of the wide, open area in the Murray-Herrick Center have at least 100 posters taped on them. Students ignore these postersdescribing events and clubs for staff, faculty and other students on campus. The room tells us about those who live here. Whether these students believe it, these posters of varying colors pry open what may be at the center of a student’s mind. The posters defined the room, but sometimes bare walls can define a person.

I moved back onto the University of St. Thomas campus when August ended. I checked in and received my room key at the front desk of Flynn Hall, the apartment building located on the corner of North Campus. I had picked out the room myself, with the help of a friend. We would share the room with one other person and a mysterious foreign exchange student. After moving in at least five loads of supplies, I went to meet with this new roommate.

His room was slightly bare, with his desk neatly in one corner. His bed had no sheets, and his closet was stacked full of week-worn clothes. On his desk sat a computer and nothing else.

The life of an exchange student! Jonas (YOH-NAH-sh) told me that he had traveled light because he did not know what would be required in Minnesota. His room showed that he was a student ready to keep moving, not one ready to settle down.

I keep looking at the posters in the Blue Lagoon. They don’t describe one person, but instead a whole. But what Jonas didn’t put on his walls described him as well.

Answering that question

As time passes, the future comes into focus.

By Kelsey Stehlik

I am a student, a senior who will graduate from the University of St. Thomas in spring 2011.

With that day fast approaching, I constantly have teachers, family and friends ask what’s next or where do I want to work after school.

As a communications and journalism major, I know I want to do something in public relations. I love interacting with people and I love corresponding with others to build positive relationships.

In the past, I have used the basic response to answer these loaded questions, but once I had stated my major, I often would digress into what I didn’t want to do.

I never wanted to work in finance; statistics and accounting caused me problems. I don’t have the patience for teaching.

This answer focused on the negative and what I had learned from business classes.

Now I answer differently. I want to work in public relations. I want to work in a corporate setting. I want to be responsible for coordinating media for my company, and I want to help form the relationships between consumers and the media through events, social media and other practices.

I still have no interest in teaching, service or numbers. The main difference is the confidence with which I respond. But May 2011 is seven months away, and a lot can occur in that time.

Which is why I think my attitudes might shift. My focus will remain in public relations and marketing. But when I am closer to the job market, I might find myself switching ideas about the best route.

We can never prepare completely for the future. It can change in a second. The only way to support that change is to adjust day by day.

COJO 256 → DESIGN RESOURCES → THEN AND NOW | RETURN TO TOP

COMMUNICATION AND JOURNALISM 350 | UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS | © 2010
INSTRUCTOR: Michael O’Donnell | mjodonnell@stthomas.edu | 651-962-5281