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5 Lessons I Learned from Playing Cards with My Grandma

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As I was growing up, my family spent every summer at my grandparents’ house. The grandkids would spend all day outside on the lake, swimming and playing yard games. But as soon as the sun faded away behind the horizon, you could find us all sitting around the card table playing a game of Joker with our ‘Mimi.’ For those of you who are not familiar with the game, this is a brief run-down of the rules:

Each player has five marbles that start in the home space. The objective of the game is to get all of your marbles around the board and into the last ‘finish’ space, similar to games, ‘Sorry’ or ‘Trouble.’ The player who sits across from you is on your team. Both you and your teammate must get all of the marbles around the board and into the ‘finish’ space in order to win. 

You need a face card or an Ace to get out of home, an eight goes backward, a seven can be split between two marbles, and all the other cards are worth their number value. A joker is a special card that allows you to either switch places with your teammate or take someone on the other team off the board. Each player has five cards in their hand, and you draw a card each time before your turn. 

In all our years of playing Joker, I am not sure there was ever a time Mimi’s team lost. This is because Mimi had a list of tricks she would follow and repeat to us over and over throughout the years. As a child I thought she was just teaching me how to be a better Joker player, what I did not realize at the time was she was actually teaching me lessons that would carry meaning throughout the rest of my life, shaping me into the person I am today. These are the lessons I learned from playing cards with my grandma: 

1. Always keep an Ace in your hand.

This first lesson is pretty straight forward. Always keep an Ace in your hand. In Joker, an Ace is a card that can get you out of almost any predicament. It can get your marble out and on the board, but it is also worth the number value of one, which can help sort out your marbles if you are in a jam right before you reach the ‘finish’ space. Keeping an Ace in your hand is strategic, it is thinking ahead and preparing for future trouble you might get yourself into. Not only did Mimi make sure we had an Ace in our hand to get us out of trouble in a game of Joker, but she also made sure we were set up with the right tools to be successful in life; a strong support group, a good education, and a whole lot of love. 

2. Don’t forget you have a teammate.

In Joker, even if you get all of your marbles around the board and to the finish, you still cannot win until your teammate has done the same. There are different ways you can help your teammate throughout the game, usually with a seven or a joker. Mimi would always advise us to help our teammate every chance we had. This is a smart move in the game of Joker because once your teammate has all of their marbles in the finish, they can start playing for you. So, helping your teammate get all of their marbles to the ‘finish’ space is just as beneficial for you as it is for them. 

I have found this to be very true in all areas of life. Anytime I help someone out, whether it be a small act of kindness like holding a door open for someone with their hands full or doing volunteer work, I have discovered I always end up taking away just as much as I had given, whether it be a new skill I learned in the process, a new friend I had made, or a new perspective. The other element to this lesson I learned from playing cards with my grandma is knowing that you always have a teammate to help you out as well. You are never completely on your own during a game of Joker. Mimi has always emphasized that this is true in our everyday lives as well. No matter how much trouble we get ourselves into, we will always have our family doing all they can to help us out.  

3. No ‘table talk.’

Conversation was not only welcomed but encouraged at the card table. This conversation, however, did not include ‘table talk.’ Table talk is when you either directly tell your teammate what you are planning on doing, what card you have, or what you would like them to do. It also includes any suggesting action portraying this information to your teammate. Table talk in the game of Joker is a form of cheating, but people tend to do it anyway.

This is because it is natural for us as human beings to want reassurance and a second opinion before we make a move that might impact the final outcome of the game. I always thought Mimi was so against table talk because it is cheating, and cheating is wrong. What I did not realize at the time was she was actually training us to make decisions for ourselves and believe in our own abilities without the reassurance of others. It can be really scary to make a decision all by yourself without any guarantee that it is the right decision. But you are not always going to know what the correct next move is, and you will have to take a chance and have trust in yourself. It takes a lot of practice to have this self-confidence and I am very grateful for the years of practicing these skills at the card table with my grandmother. 

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4. A card laid, is a card played.

When I was young and still learning the game of Joker, I would sometimes put down a card and then realize it left me in a bad spot or there was a better move I wanted to make. I would ask to pick the card back up and redo it. My grandma would always say, “a card laid is a card played” and point to the next person to go. I always thought this was just because my grandma wanted to win. What I didn’t realize is she was teaching me to think before I act. Often in life, there are no take-backs with the decisions we make, and it is important we analyze our cards and the board in front of us well. To consider all of our options before we make a move. 

5. “The games not over until the old lady sings, and I’m not singin’ yet.”

What frustrated Mimi most in a game of Joker was not being taken off the board by an opponent or having no face cards to get on the board. It was when one of her grandkids would get discouraged and want to give up. Joker is a game that can take a turn at any moment. You can spend turn after turn not able to get out, but once you get that face card, your hand is stacked, and you are quickly back in the game. No matter how far behind or how badly one of us wanted to quit, Mimi would never allow it. Every game we started, we finished no matter the circumstances. This, I believe, is the most important lesson I learned from playing cards with my grandma. No matter the circumstances you face in life, you cannot just walk away when things aren’t going your way. You have to stick it out and see how the rest of the cards fall. 

Over the past few weeks, as I have been living at my grandparents’ house and helping take care of my grandma, I have grown to have a new appreciation for these card games. I have had time to reflect on these games and the lessons they hold. Now, each time I sit down at the card table, I listen closely to what Mimi says while taking every bit of advice she gives into consideration.

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College Life

Learning Styles: How To Recognize Yours & Maximize Your College Studies

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We’ve all heard the phrase “I’m a visual learner” or “I’m an auditory learner” before, but what does that actually mean? These statements refer to the theory of “learning styles.” This is essentially stating that we all have a predisposition towards taking in information a certain way. This theory goes as far back as Aristotle in 300 BCE, but has gone through a few evolutions since then. One of the prevailing models of learning styles currently is the VARK model, created by Neil Fleming in 1987, which stands for visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning. 

This is a breakdown of the types of learning styles, how you can recognize if you belong to them, what that actually means, and ways to improve your learning utilizing that knowledge.

VISUAL LEARNER

How to Recognize It: 

Visual learners are, shockingly, focused heavily on images and visualizations. Do you feel as though you only really remember something if you see it? Do you think as much in images as you do in words or feelings? Do you rely heavily on visual cues when interacting with other people? If these are true, you may have a visual learning style.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Visual learners thrive off of graphical information. Being presented with a chart or diagram makes sense and you’re great at decoding images. When asked to explain something, you’re pulled to visualize it in some way, maybe with gestures or a drawing, and you are great at making that leap between what’s in your head and what exists in the real world. However, when that visual element isn’t at play, you may find it harder to remember information or conceptualize something new to you.

“Visual learners learn best by seeing. Graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos are all helpful learning tools for visual learners.”

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Since visual learning is your wheelhouse, play to that strength. Use study tools like flashcards, concept and thought maps. Try to find videos or images describing concepts you’re trying to understand.

“Since sight is key, visual learners need materials in front of them to help get the information fully committed to memory.”

Simple things as well, like color-coding notes or highlighters may help you retain and file information more efficiently. Try out a few of these ideas and see how it works!

AUDITORY LEARNER

How to Recognize It: 

Do you feel at your best during lectures? Do you prefer podcasts over just about anything else? Do you have a habit of talking aloud to yourself to keep on task? You might be an auditory learner. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Auditory learners thrive off of sound. When they’re left solely with reading or still images they may find it difficult or impossible to focus, whereas they feel perfectly at home listening to a teacher talk about the very same topic. To many people, lectures and podcasts might be understimulating, but to you, they’re perfect. Auditory information sticks in your memory and you remember whatever you’ve heard really well. Additionally, verbalizing your ideas is something you’re good at, and you are great at getting your point across with words. Conversely, if you have to learn something another way you might have some difficulty. Schools focus heavily on visual assignments like reading and graphics, so you might find it difficult a lot of the time to thrive in modern classroom environments.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Listening and speaking help you learn, therefore do them as much as possible! Ask to record lectures so you can replay them for yourself later. Raise your hand and talk in class, as verbalizing your ideas will help you remember them later.

“Talking about your ideas and voicing your questions will increase your understanding of the material.”

Additionally, as simple as it is, reading assignments aloud can also help you retain the information. Just hearing the information out laud might be all it takes for it to click.

READ/WRITE LEARNERS

How to Recognize It: 

Are reading assignments your favorite? Do you feel completely comfortable with essays and writing assignments? Maybe you like to write on your own time, or never leave home without a book? You might learn best through reading and writing. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Reading/Writing learners work best with the written word. Text is easy to recall for you and putting your thoughts down as words is a simple task. Essays and other papers are not the source of stress you might’ve seen many other people experience and a long reading assignment is something you can really sink your teeth into. However, graphical depictions, lectures, and other methods of instruction might slip past your hearing altogether. You really need to have the words in front of you before they make sense or are retainable.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Words work best for you, so use them! Write out study lists, take extensive notes and reread them to review. Take any term or information that’s important, and rewrite it. The act of putting it down in your own words will help you retain it, and so will simply rereading it. Phrase whatever you can into words and you’ll really be able to master the information.

KINESTHETIC LEARNER

How to Recognize It: 

Have you been told since you were a kid that you have too much energy? Do lectures and long assignments leave you fidgety and desperate to move? Did you buy a fidget spinner during the craze a few years back? You might have a kinesthetic learning style.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Kinesthetic learners learn best when their bodies are being engaged during the learning process. That means muscle memory is something that forms incredibly quickly for you, maybe after only one or two tries. You might also have a fast reaction time and feel constantly energetic. However, all those traits may detract from traditional classroom learning. Staying still for long periods of time may stagnate your brain and cause information to go in one ear and out the other.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

The most important thing to remember with a kinesthetic learning style is that your body needs to be involved in some way. Walk around your room while looking at notes, use a fidget-toy during class to help you focus on lectures, make notations and marks on whatever you’re studying. The act of tying the information to movement will help it stick.

“Often, those with a kinesthetic learning style have a hard time learning through traditional lecture-based schooling, because the body does not make the connection that they are doing something when they’re listening without movement.”

Learning styles are a great tool for your educational journey, even into college. Hopefully, these tips will help you maximize your learning by playing to your strengths with your learning style.

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College Life

5 Ways to Tell if You are a Workaholic

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been working from home as students and employees. Many have fallen into the cycle of overworking without taking time for themselves. Here are a few ways to tell if you are becoming a workaholic, as well as ways to have a healthier work routine. 

1. Working countless hours a day 

One of the easiest ways to identify workaholism is when you lose track of how long you have been working. Getting up from your desk and not knowing the time, missing meals, or realizing that you have worked into the early morning hours are all signs of this phenomenon. The solution to this is simple: create a daily work schedule that allows your brain and body to relax, allocating time for meals, sleep, and other leisurely interests you may have. This will not only be beneficial to your mental health, but also to the content of your work, as many studies have shown a correlation between being well-rested and creating quality work.

2. Losing contact with friends and family due to overworking

The isolation caused by the pandemic makes it extremely hard to feel connected to the people in our life, especially if we do not regularly see them. For people who are naturally introverted and work-driven, quarantining makes it easy to use work as a coping mechanism for loneliness and other negative emotions that may be exacerbated due to the pandemic. Luckily, in our age of social media, we can stay in contact without physical presence. 

A black and white photo of a women sitting at a table, stressed.
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If you feel like you have been losing touch with family and friends, make a goal to reach out to them on a weekly basis. Even something small like checking on a loved one will keep you “in the loop” with those that you cannot regularly see in-person. It is important to remember that we will eventually go back to regular contact with these people, and that in the meantime, it means a lot to just reach out and let them know we are thinking of them. 

3. Deprioritizing your mental health due to overwork 

We have witnessed an astounding drop in the general public’s mental health due to COVID-19, and burying oneself in work is a common coping mechanism that people justify as “quarantine productivity”. Without regularly seeing the people who make sure we are doing okay, the pandemic has forced us to be much more accountable for our own mental health, which is extremely challenging if all our time is consumed by work. 

A women sitting at a table doing work on a laptop.
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Like the other solutions on this list, keeping track of your mental health comes down to maintaining healthy routines and checking in on yourself, since contact with others may be difficult. Making sure you do enjoyable activities everyday is integral to keeping your mind healthy. While working may be an easy distraction from dark thoughts or feelings, it is not a solution. Maintaining habits that make you feel relaxed or happy will be much better for your overall mental health. 

4. Dropping hobbies due to an obsessive focus on work

This sign of being a workaholic is as easy to identify as it is to fix. Ask yourself, “are the things I do for fun still a part of my daily or weekly routine?” If the answer is “no”, then most likely you are replacing your hobbies with additional work, which produces anxiety and sadness, as you are more stressed and spending less time doing things you truly enjoy. Simply prioritizing your interests and hobbies, one or two days a week, is a great way of counterbalancing a heavy workload.

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5. Missing out on sunlight or fresh air on a daily basis

One of the easiest ways to make sure you don’t overwork is to get outside, at least once a day, and take a walk or run around your neighborhood. While this may seem easy enough, it can be extremely difficult to motivate yourself to leave the house once you have already started working for the day. Therefore, it’s great to go on a morning walk or jog before you start working. It will leave you feeling more content and energized, so you can start your day on the right foot.

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College Life

How People are Connecting Online During COVID-19

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Connectivity has become more important than ever in our ever-changing society. Amid the many horrors of this year, many people are finding social interaction to be crucial to their daily life, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has complicated that. As a result, friends and strangers alike have gotten creative with how they connect with each other online.

Friends and family have certainly had no problem staying in touch. Between texting and apps like Snapchat, it’s no trouble for individuals to keep in touch with their loved ones. Even a traditional phone call and the popular Zoom have allowed for friends and family to see each other when catching up, creating an experience as close to in-person as it can be right now.

The real trick this year has been meeting new people. While this might only be a problem for some, many people, especially college students, have struggled to make new friends amid social distancing guidelines. It has given many the chance to try out independence, but the loss of social interaction can be upsetting for some, and even unhealthy for others.

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Humans are very social beings, and to lose that aspect of our day-to-day lives can be detrimental to our mental health. However, there are still several opportunities every day to meet new people as a part of various communities, and those relationships have all the potential of any real-life friendship.

This summer, with the increase in stories being shared by members of marginalized communities in accordance with the Black Lives Matter movement, thousands of people discovered these shared experiences through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The interconnectivity this created granted many their first opportunity to see the world from another perspective.

Minority communities from every corner of the world came together this summer in response to police brutality and other social injustices. Twitter in particular offered many an outlet to give live updates on protests, activism, and individual stories. This helped to create awareness everywhere, and even celebrities joined the mix to connect with protestors and minority communities demanding justice

One of the most astounding examples of the power of these connections has come through the enduring relationships founded on social media websites. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, online connections between individuals were not uncommon, especially among young people who were adept at developing relationships through the Internet. However, with recent events limiting our access and opportunities, others have had to get creative with how they interact, spiraling into a mass connection of individuals all over the world..

Once, these friendships might have been concerning, even unhealthy. Social interaction is meant to be a personal, and emotional dependency on another person and does not always thrive via text, email, tweets, or any other form of online communication. However, many people have no choice now but to cultivate these relationships online. Whether it be for their own health or the health of others, an online connection is one of the few safe ways we have to maintain social interaction.

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This, of course, raises many concerns regarding universal access to the Internet. Within the last decade alone, the Internet has become such a vital part of our everyday lives, and many people, especially students, might find it difficult to navigate their daily lives without it. In a world that now relies almost entirely on the Internet, there are obvious feelings of distress when it comes to how some people will stay connected.

As we continue to adapt to a post-COVID world, this is only one of many issues that will need to be addressed. Beyond safety, public health, access to resources, and more, we are seeing a build-up of social issues that will need correcting, in addition to the ongoing threats of police brutality and institutionalized racism. Already, there have been responses to this as protestors demand change in major cities globally. Their fight is ongoing, and they have made note to recognize the plight of people battling the COVID-19 pandemic and these other social injustices.

There has always been a feeling of distrust toward the Internet. It comes with so many unknowns, especially as data revealed in recent years has proven that our information is not as secure as we once thought it was. However, it has given us access to a surplus of information, educating countless people on topics that they do not experience themselves.

The social connections formed online has allowed individuals to share their stories, serving only to deepen others’ understanding of the world. In the coming years, it is likely we will continue to see this reliance on social media and the Internet rise, and, if the day ever comes where we can safely interact in person again, we will have been bettered by the connections that began behind a screen.

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