2013, 2014, clouds, copenhagen, copenhagenclouds, cphclouds, creative, denison, english, senior, writing

First chapter of Copenhagen Clouds

(This is the first chapter from Copenhagen Clouds which was my year-long senior writing project in college. It’s a YA novel about a college student who studies abroad in Denmark, falls for her host sister’s boyfriend and struggles to find her independence.)

Chapter 1

Today was finally here. In less than sixteen hours, I would be in Denmark. Instead of travelling to Indiana University for the second semester of my sophomore year, I would be spending it studying abroad. I had stuffed my suitcase with so many clothes that it did not stand a fighting chance of ever being less than 50 pounds. My parents repeatedly assured me that they would help check it in at the airport and that I wouldn’t have to re-check it in Chicago. The bag would follow me there through airport magic. My dad tried to help me pack some things into my carryon backpack. Taking his time, he folded a couple of long sleeve shirts into flat squares. He put two pairs of tennis shoes on top. He was not an expert Tetris packer like I was. As soon as he walked away, I threw out what he had packed. I tightly rolled my shirts and shoved them inside my shoes. There would be no wasted space in this bag, so help me God.

        My dad returned from the bathroom and dragged my obese suitcase downstairs. I did a final check to make sure I had everything. On my desk, I consulted a post-it of my last-minute checklist. “Cell phone, charger, passport, backpack, wallet, camera, suitcase, gift for host family and important document folder.” Check! I looked around my room, trying to engrave the scene into my memory.

My queen-sized bed was neatly made with my bird stuffed animals resting on the pillows. In the corner, my wooden desk was scattered with old textbooks and various Copenhagen guidebooks that I had decided not to take with me. Even my white carpet was littered with boots that did not make the final packing cut. The canary yellow wallpaper that I’d thought was a good idea in middle school now gave the room a slightly eerie vibe. In high school, my dad had let me add a border so now the walls were topped with scenes of assorted songbirds sitting in trees. I looked in the mirror that hung over my door and threw my dirty blonde hair into a high ponytail. I unbuttoned my grey cardigan (which had little yellow finches on it) because it clung too tightly to my arms and chest. My grandmother gave the cardigan to me for Christmas but bought me a small instead of a medium. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and not wear it ever. Maybe I’d lose weight in Denmark from all of the adventures I’d go on and then the cardigan would fit better. Hurling my heavy backpack onto my shoulders, I flicked off the lights and shut the door. I let out a small sigh and whispered, “See you in four months” to my room.

        I trotted down the carpeted steep stairs. Our Christmas tree was still set up in the den. My dad was downstairs in the kitchen with my bag. His face was flushed and beads of sweat trailed down the side of his face. My mom was there too with the bathroom scale, helping him check the bag’s weight.

        “Sweetie, why are you taking bricks with you to Denmark?” my dad joked as he placed the bag onto the scale. The block red lights of the scale blinked 49.5 lbs.

        “I have to stay warm somehow. Bricks are good insulation,” I told him. My dad raised an eyebrow. “Seriously. I need all my sweaters.”

        “Are you sure there is nothing in here that you can live without?” My mom asked.
        “Yes, I am sure, mom.” I rolled my eyes, “I need all of it. It’s not that much.” My mom crouched down on the floor, zipped open the mammoth suitcase and pulled out two blue sweaters.
She may have thought they were identical, but one was from Gap and cobalt blue, while the other was from Banana Republic and cerulean blue. Completely different, right?

        “Come on, Amber. You only need one,” she held both of them up to me, “Pick one.”
        “No, I need them. They’re different enough that it’s fine. Put them back, please”
        “Come on, Sue. Let her keep them. It’s not like her bag is over the weight limit,” my dad chimed in. “It’s fine.”
        “No, there is no reason for her to bring two of the same sweater. She needs to pack less.”
        “Honey, we need to go,” my dad pointed to the clock on the oven.
        “You always do that. You make excuses for her. She needs to learn.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. Come on.” I said. My dad reached for both sweaters but my mom threw the cerulean sweater. She stuffed the other one back in the suitcase. The sweater landed on top of Sunny, our family’s old yellow and white beagle, who was sleeping on the couch. His tags jingled as he woke up. He looked around confused, with a blue sleeve covering his eyes. My mom zipped up the suitcase and pulled out the handle.

        “Say goodbye to Sunny, Amber,” she said, not looking at me. I went over to the couch, taking the sweater off of poor Sunny. I looked over my shoulder and as my mom’s back was turned, stuffed the sweater into my backpack. Sunny looked at me with his big brown eyes. It looked as if one eyebrow was raised in confusion. I sat down next to him and embraced him around his chubby neck. Since I was an only child, Sunny often played the role of my little brother. He had a magic ability to know when I was about to cry and would without fail trot up to my room to console me. He was always there, in my bed, if I needed to talk without someone else talking back.

Like me, he was getting older. We had adopted him from the humane society and estimated that he was now close to twelve years old. His muzzle was beginning to turn grey. He struggled to climb stairs. He wasn’t the same crazy playful puppy he used to be. But then again, I was no longer the hyper child who constantly wanted to play with him either. We had both matured.

I hugged him hard, breathing in his salty soft fur. I kissed his forehead and gave him a final pet and scratch behind the ears. Several of his white dog hairs clung to my cardigan. I didn’t bother wiping them off. Again, Sunny looked at me, confused. I hated not being able to tell him that I wouldn’t be back for a while, but I would definitely eventually be back.

“Okay, your monster suitcase is in the car,” my dad called. “Amber, we need to go.” I turned away from Sunny, fighting back the tears I felt forming in my eyes. I looked around at the kitchen I had grown up in one last time, sucked in all the air I could until there was none left and departed. With my backpack, I headed out the door.

My dad accelerated onto the highway despite the frosty January roads. To him, the highway was the same thing as the Indy 500 racetrack. I tried to relax during the car ride but I felt nauseous and my mind kept racing. What had I forgotten? How could I forget that? Did I have my passport? What if my host family hated me? What if I can’t find my flight? Why didn’t I learn Danish?

The leather in the backseat of the car felt cold underneath my jeans. My dad had the radio turned up obnoxiously loud. The local oldies radio station was still playing stupid Christmas music. I tugged on my seatbelt, trying to loosen its tight grip over my chest. We were on I-270, driving past the familiar fast food restaurants, factories and outlets. I rummaged through my backpack to triple check I had my passport. It was sealed in a plastic baggie on which my mom had Sharpied: “Amber’s Passport.” I pulled out one of my paperback Denmark guidebooks, both Christmas presents from my aunt.
Curled up on the couch, hiding under a blanket, I devoured both books last week. My favorite section had been the “Culture” one. Now, I flipped to that chapter where it started off: “Danes are often seen as being very direct and at times even rude, because they say what they think instead of disguising their views in polite euphemisms.” I was intrigued. So, would my host family tell me if I had a huge pimple on my forehead? If they didn’t like me, would they say it to my face? Oh, man. I wasn’t ready for that. I’m not a confrontational person at all. I can’t even watch confrontations. When my parents fought, I just hid upstairs in my room with Sunny. Plus, I hated hearing criticism, even it was masked under the term “constructive criticism.” I skimmed down the “Culture” page to find a more comforting sentence. “The Danes are very open to dating. Danish women can sometimes play ‘hard to get’ whereas the men are ‘eager to please.’ They are very informal and liberal with their dating ways.” I pictured myself bar-hopping every weekend, making out with guys and returning to America with a gorgeous Danish boyfriend to Skype with and write love letters back and forth. Now that I could handle.

I flipped a few pages ahead within the chapter. “Hey mom?” She nodded and looked up from her Stephen King novel.

“My Denmark book says, ‘Denmark is a small, quiet country, located far away from the international centers of tension.’ Does that make you feel any better?”
“A little bit. I’m still going to worry about you every day.”
“Even if it’s a safe country, don’t join any protests in the streets if you see them. That’s how kids get shot,” my dad chimed in. My mom opened up her book again and looked down. He continued, “Just last month, the news said an American college boy was shot in Egypt during a protest. Damn shame.”
“Dad, I’m not going to Egypt.”

“Doesn’t matter. Always be safe, Amber. Use your head,” he grunted. I thanked him for the heads up and told him I’d be sure to buy him a little pyramid figurine from Denmark. He didn’t get the joke.
I alternated reading my Denmark book and texting my friends from Indiana University a final goodbye for the two and a half hour drive. We reached the airport a full three hours before my plane departed, thanks to my dad’s lead foot.

“Do you want to have a farewell lunch?” My dad turned around and asked. I nodded. “Okay, how about Chi Chi’s?” He pointed to a brown building with a neon green sign and a picture of an oversize margarita. It had an enclosed patio area where colorful mini flags were strewn across the ceiling. Only five other cars occupied the parking lot. My dad pulled into a spot upfront and the three of us went inside.

“How many today?” A curvy Latino girl wearing a black T-shirt said. My dad held up three fingers to her. She waited for us to say something. He just kept his hand up. It took the girl a minute but then we followed her back to a booth. My mom rolled her eyes. She sat on the opposite side of my dad.    
“It wouldn’t have been that hard just to tell her ‘three.’”
“It was fine. She understood it, right?” My mom ignored him and picked up the menu.
“What are you going to get, Amber?” my dad said.
“Something small probably, I’m not that hungry.”
“Do you want to share something?” my mom said.
“No, you can each get your own things. We’re not poor,” my dad said.
“I realize that, but maybe Amber and I would be happier just sharing nachos.”
“Nonsense, just each get your own nachos.” My mom didn’t respond. She turned the menu over to look at the drinks.

The waiter appeared at our table. He was a tan adolescent with high cheekbones and jet black hair. His eyes were a faint greenish glitter, like a forest.
“Hola, amigos. Welcome to Chi Chi’s.  I’m Juan and I’ll be taking care of you guys. What can I start you guys off with?”

“I’d like a margarita and we’d like to share an order of nachos, please,” my mom said. My dad rattled off his order to Juan then shook his head in disgust at my mom. Juan scribbled into his pad, took our menus and left.

“Are you ready for this, sweetheart?” my dad turned his attention to me. When he faced me, all I could notice was his unusually sharp pointy nose. My grandmother had the same nose. It was the type of nose that could probably cut through glass. Thankfully I mostly had my mom’s small nose.
“Yeah, I think I’m ready. But I’m still really nervous. What if my host family doesn’t like me?” I played with the paper Corona coaster, spinning it on the table. I needed to have something in my hands.

“It’s natural to feel nervous. And of course they will like you. Why wouldn’t they? You’re a very nice girl.” Even though I had reminded her of my age countless times, my mom still talked to me like I was a little kid. Sometimes it was comforting, but other times it was annoying. In this moment of my anxiety, it was comforting.

“Thanks, Mom, I’m going to miss you a lot.” I fought the tears that were forming.
“If things get bad, remember you can always come home,” my dad said.
“Dad! No, if things get bad, I’m going to tough it out.” I slammed the coaster back down on the table and opted to just sit on my hands.
“Okay, that’s fine you can do that too if you want.”
The waiter brought us our drinks. Even though it was only 1 pm, my mom gulped down her margarita. I took a sip of my sweet tea. Ewwww! It tasted like regular unsweetened tea. I added three Sweet n Low packets, stirring them with my knife. It wasn’t worth complaining to the waiter about. He seemed nice and everybody makes mistakes.

  My mom changed the subject of the conversation. She flipped her short light brown hair to the side and fiddled with her wedding ring. Her silver Mickey Mouse earrings reminded me of the annual trips to Walt Disney World we took together. When I was 12, we power-walked through Epcot, holding hands, and she joked that we were superheroes called “Super Mom” and “Super Daughter.” My dad never came with us on those trips so that meant it was a whole week of no fighting.
“Did you like last night’s episode of ‘The Office’?” my mom said.

“Yeah, it was another good one. Jim cracks me up every time,” I said. My mom gazed up at the ceiling for a moment and I imagined her picturing Jim shirtless. She had confided in me a while ago that she thought he was good looking.
“I’m telling you, they based that show off my work,” my dad said, “I bet Jim was inspired by me.”
“I don’t think so. You guys look nothing alike,” my mom told him in a monotone.
“We both have brown hair.”
“And that’s where the similarities stop.”

Juan brought our nachos and my dad’s sizzling fajitas. Our orange nachos came in a big red bowl and were loaded with jalapeños, cheese, chicken, onions, beans, and tomatoes. It appeared impossible to pick up a chip without my hand being covered in something. I usually liked nachos but these ones tasted dry and stale. Even adding more salt to the nachos didn’t help. The irony that my last meal in America for four months was at a crappy Mexican restaurant sank in. I crunched the chips in my mouth worried about what my first meal in Denmark would be like.

2014, article, baskets, magazine, porch, signatures, writing

Front Porch Memories

(I wrote this article for Longaberger’s Fall/ Winter Signatures magazine. Lynn and Gary were nice enough to invite me to their home and I interviewed them on their front porch. I’m proud of the descriptive details I included in the opening and how I used quotes that make the voice of Lynn and Gary come alive.)

Front Porch Swinging with Gary and Lynn Longaberger
Things in the village of Dresden, Ohio move at a slower pace. The hustle and bustle of big city life is replaced by the casual swoosh of a comfy porch swing. Cars pass by slowly and the sounds of friends chatting fill the cozy porch.

Surrounded by brightly colored flowers potted in warm brown Longaberger baskets, Gary and Lynn Longaberger take time to enjoy each other’s company (and some wine, of course) after a busy day. They gather with friends, laugh together and wave to the people passing by. 

Taking in a breath of autumn air, Lynn turned to Gary and said, “Feels like you’re back home again, doesn’t it honey?” Gary nodded.
It’s a simple porch with a white and grey rug that fills almost the whole space, a sturdy gray swing, a few small tables and Grandma Bonnie’s dark green and white patio furniture that she passed down to her 10th child.

 “We eat dinner out here sometimes,” Gary said. “On the weekends, we drink coffee in the mornings and almost every evening we dink our wine out here.”  

Gary and Lynn chat about their grandkids and what’s going on that week.  Gary is more or less retired. He joked that he is “on-call for Longaberger events.” Lynn is Senior Project Coordinator at the Home Office and celebrated her 22nd year with the company in November. 

Lynn grew up just outside of Zanesville and Gary grew up, of course, in Dresden. Their two granddaughters currently go to Tri-Valley High School, while the other is in college. They also have a younger grandson and granddaughter in nearby Reynoldsburg.  

 “The grandkids can spend the night whenever and even a few members of the Sales Field have stayed over,” Lynn said.

About a year ago, Gary and Lynn had been looking for a new house in Dresden. A friend mentioned that a home on Main Street recently went up for sale.

“We called the owners that evening. Gary went through the house at noon. The next day, I went through it at four. We called them at six to say it was perfect. We will take it!” Lynn fondly remembered.    

The house has a separate garage that Gary has turned into a workshop or “mancave” as Lynn lovingly calls it.

Gary and Lynn agreed that it was fun sitting out on the front porch, especially during special events like Halloween.

“Remember, they told us we would have 500-600 kids come by? But, it was raining and cold that night. So Gary ended up eating half of the candy himself,” Lynn said. “One piece for the kids. Two for him.”

A favorite porch memory took place before the Bee, this year. A couple of Home Consultants from California came to Ohio a few days early and came to Gary and Lynn’s house. The Home Consultants took turns riding Grandma Bonnie’s bicycle through Dresden as Gary and Lynn showed them around. They rode down to Wendy Longaberger Little’s house and chatted on her front porch for a bit. Then, they went to Grandma Bonnie’s old house and took a few pictures there. 

“They were thrilled to death. One woman said that riding Grandma Bonnie’s bike was her favorite Bee experience,” Lynn said.

During the Bee, about 30-40 people stopped by Gary and Lynn’s house.

“We talked about how excited we were to have them and how they couldn’t wait to stop back by again,” Lynn said. “So many people were here, that we had to get extra chairs and we had people sitting in the front yard.”

Lynn gave tours around the house and showed them the baskets that J.W. and Larry had made for Gary. 
“Some people you only get to see once a year, but they feel like your best friend,” said Lynn. “Thank goodness for Facebook so you can keep up with people and see what’s going on in their family.” 
In Dresden, Main Street comes alive in the evenings. Best friends go on power walks together. 

Parents ride bicycles while their children ride tricycles a few feet ahead of them. Young couples walk their dogs. Trucks give friendly honks. Gary and Lynn wave to everyone who passes by.

“Even if we don’t know them, we’ll wave. But, usually we know them and say hi,” Lynn said.
So many different people stop by the porch and such wonderful memories are made that Lynn and a few friends joked that they were going to start a blog to chronicle their porch adventures.

Most nights, Lynn reads her Kindle outside and Gary solves Sudoku puzzles.

“I do one easy puzzle and then one hard one. Sometimes I’ll do a ‘very hard’ puzzle,” said Gary, “And, I always do the Sunday Sudoku in the paper.”

Gary and Lynn like being so close to local sports events. They attend nearly every Tri-Valley High School sporting event. Whether it’s supporting their daughter, who coaches the varsity volleyball team, or cheering on the Scotties at a Friday night football game, Gary and Lynn are there.

Best of all, their house is located very close to the high school. Lynn said, “It’s great being able to just walk to the football games and not worry about parking.”

The location of their home also comes in handy during parades. There is the Dresden Homecoming parade at the end of June, the Tri-Valley Homecoming parade in early October, and the Christmas parade on the first Saturday of December.

“Tina Smythe and her family, Anita Rector, and Gary’s sister, Wendy Little with her husband Bob will bring lawn chairs and sit in our front yard and all of us will watch the parade go by,” Lynn said. 
As the evening went on and the sun started to set, Lynn said “Only thing that could’ve topped this would be if Grandma Bonnie was still here to sit on the porch with us. She was a good mother-in-law”

Gary chimed in that Grandma Bonnie was a mother and grandmother “to a lot of people.”

They remembered her sense of humor and how much fun she was. Gary noted that his sister, Wendy, is a lot like his mom. Wendy and Bob are frequent visitors to the porch. 

 In the future, Gary and Lynn hope to add a ceiling fan and improve the back porch so it can be used “for times when the front porch overflows with people.” They are always looking up Main Street to see who will walk down the sidewalk and who they can invite on their porch. 

2014, coffman, dublin, dublinvillager, faculty musical, newspaper, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, writing

Coffman Faculty Production

Show will explore the art of being a child

By DEBBIE GILLUMTuesday November 25, 2014 9:03 AM
Written for ThisWeekNews Dublin Villager newspaper
Kristina Zakrzewski acts out a scene from How To Eat Like A Child   
This year’s Dublin Coffman Faculty Production is a musical review titled “How to Eat Like a Child.”


Faculty will perform in this biennial show for the community with the help of students behind the scenes.


Ticket sales will benefit the Coffman High School PTO’s Shamrock Grant which funds projects in classrooms.


How to Eat Like a Child is a musical guide to the art of being a child as told by from a child’s  point of view.  It features humorous sketches about “How to Beg for a Dog,” “How to Watch More Television,” and “How to Laugh Hysterically.”


Even though the “lessons” are told from a child’s perspective, the production is not just children’s theater.


“It’s entertainment for all ages so it’s endearing and captivating for the young and young at heart,” Melanie Hitsman, the show’s publicist and producer said. Hitsman is also the International Baccalaureate Creativity Action & Service Coordinator at Coffman.


The show allows for students and faculty to work side by side after school hours.


Students participated in all the technical areas, from set building and painting, to light and sound design, and backstage crew during the performances. Rehearsals and set design began back in September.


Mark Mann, the show’s director, said in an e-mail that he enjoys directing shows, and that it is fun to get to know the staff in a different context other than co-workers.


Teachers rehearse a scene from 
the upcoming faculty musical review

“The shows always have casts of varying levels of experience, and it’s always gratifying to help them pull together as a unit, and create something fun for all involved–actors, crew, and audiences,” Mann said. This is Mann’s sixth staff show at Coffman.


Some of the teachers have little acting experience and so Mann said that it can be fun to watch them work discover how to do something they didn’t think they could do.


What I enjoy most is seeing different facets of the staff, watching a shy person burst out on stage, an inexperienced actor suddenly taking center stage and belting a song,” said Mann.   


The Dublin Coffman Faculty Production began eight years ago. They have performed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, HONK, Snoopy – The Musical and Charlotte’s Web.


Since the shows ask faculty to take on a great deal of increased responsibility, it occurs only every two years.


Hitsman said that the shows typically sell out and that community members always look forward to the performance.


Live accompaniment was  arranged by musical director, Andrew Garner.


The show is based on the 1978 book by Delia Ephron, How to Eat Like a Child. A musical comedy television special by the same name aired in 1981.


You can see “How to Eat Like a Child” on Wednesday, December 3 and Thursday December 4 at 7 PM and Saturday December 6 at 1 PM at Dublin Coffman High School Performing Arts center, 6780 Coffman Road, Dublin Ohio. Tickets are $4 for students and $7 for adults and are now available at Dublin Coffman High School or by calling 718-8140. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.


Hitsman said that there will also be a book drive benefitting the African Library Project, which helps build primary school libraries in Swaziland, South Africa. She encourages community members to  bring a gently used or new Pre-K through 4th grade book to the performance.
For more information, contact Melanie Hitsman at hitsman_melanie@dublinschools.net

charity, dance, dublin, dublinvillager, newspaper, reporting, ThisWeekNews, writing

High schools join efforts to fight cancer with Dublinthon

By: Debbie Gillum
Wednesday November 19, 2014 9:28 a.m.

Written for ThisWeekNews Dublin Villager newspaper

The DublinThon is putting the fun back into fundraiser with a student-led all night danceathon to raise money to fight cancer.


The Friday Nov. 21 danceathon will be neon-themed with a DJ, face painting and ping-pong.


At DublinThon, community members will have the opportunity to interact with children with pediatric cancer, dance for children who cannot, learn about different cancers and their effects, as well as write letters to patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.


It is an opportunity to financially and emotionally support the children and families being treated for cancer and serious blood diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital .


This is the first time that the Dublinthon has taken place with all three high schools. For the past two years, Scioto hosted a very successful SciotoThon only for Scioto students and staff. That event was inspired and aided by BuckeyeThon at OSU.


Now, Scioto, Coffman and Jerome will come together to raise money. The  dance marathon fundraiser still will take place at Dublin Scioto High School and will be from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.


It has become a competition, during lunch periods and on DublinThon’s Twitter account, to see which school can donate the most money.


Jahnavi Murali, president of Scioto’s student senate, said they are expecting at least 300 people from all three schools.  


We went off the slogan “Unite to FIght!”, and thought that this would be a great way to bring all three high schools together in support of a really worthy cause,” said Murali.


The goal of the event is to raise $12,000. At the time of printing, $645 had been raised and Dublin Scioto was the top team.


T-shirts that are black with the Dublinthon 2014 logo will be available for purchase at the high schools. All proceeds go towards pediatric cancer research.


High school students who are interested in patricipating in the DublinThon can purchase tickets for $10 online at www.helpmakemiracles.org/event/dublinthon


The Coffman Rocks Step Team will be at Dublinthon.

For more information you can e-mail dublinthon14@gmail.com

—-
Deb’s Details:
Again, I liked covering such a positive event. I enjoyed interviewing the president of the student senate because I was in student senate in high school and I thought she was very mature to be balancing this huge event on top of her schoolwork. I thought the concept of hosting a danceathon to raise money for a local hospital was so genius. And it amazes me how the three high schools work together so well.
If I could write this article over again, I would try and interview another one of the organizers, someone who was planning on attending and someone who the money would be benefiting. I would’ve liked to make the article longer and go deeper.
dublin, news, newspaper, schools, ThisWeekNews, writing

Karrer’s Turkey Bowl tradition to continue Nov. 25

Karrer’s Turkey Bowl tradition to continue Nov. 25

By: Debbie Gillum
Former OSU basketball star
Scoonie Penn talks strategy
 to students of Dublin Karrer Middle School
 during the annual Turkey Bowl fundraiser Nov. 25

Wednesday November 19, 2014 9:29 a.m.


Written for ThisWeekNews Dublin Villager newspaper

Local sports stars will play flag football with Karrer Middle School students to raise money for charity in the  annual Turkey Bowl Fundraiser on Tues. Nov. 25.

The Turkey Bowl is a flag-football game which celebrates the seventh grader’s service project and fundraising efforts.

Scoonie Penn, a former OSU basketball player, and Mike Durant, a former OSU baseball player, will be returning as quarterbacks in this year’s Turkey Bowl.

Last year, the seventh grade students raised over $8,000 to feed 90 families in the Dublin City School District.

“Every year this fundraiser gets bigger and better,” said Turkey Bowl organizer and Karrer teacher Katy O’Neal. “We now have raised over $50,000 in five years!”

However, the Turkey Bowl is not just about collecting money.

Justin Turner (left) and Matthew Kish,
battle for a pass during the school’s
annual Turkey Bowl fundraiser

“We spend a day doing team building activities with the seventh graders with a focus on working together as a team while embracing our differences,” said O’Neal.  

Beginning this year, every seventh grader will have the opportunity to spend a morning at Chapman Elementary helping fill the backpacks with food and reading to younger elementary students.  A small group of students will also be going to Riverside Elementary to speak at their Town Hall Meeting themed “Responsibility and Giving Back”.  

Past participants in the Turkey Bowl have included former Ohio State players including Scoonie Penn, Craig Krenzel, Bobby Hoying,Tommy Hoying, Justin Zwick, Dee Miller, Mike Wiley, and Rodney Bailey. Former Major League pitcher and Dublin native Kent Mercker, and Superintendent Dr. David Axner have also participated in the event.

The donations this year will benefit Blessings in a Backpack. This program provides needy families at Chapman and Riverside elementary with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year.

We are so blessed to have the opportunity to not only teach curriculum but to teach these kids the importance of community, teamwork, and paying it forward!,” O’Neal said.

In previous years, the Turkey Bowl has raised money for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research and the Second and Seven Foundation for Literacy.

This year, there will be 11 flag-football fields with 22 teams playing.  All of the Karrer seventh graders participate in this event.  

The Tukey Bowl takes place the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at Karrer Middle School from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.


Deb’s Details: 
This was one of my first articles for ThisWeek News. I was really excited to write it because it sounded like a neat event and I sincerely wanted to raise awareness about it. I was trying to imagine how cool it must be for those elementary school students to play flag football with pro-athletes. And, I think the charity Blessings in Backpacks sounds like such a great cause.   

 I was impressed that a teacher started the charity on her own and that it’s still so successful. I wish I could have made the article longer by getting more quotes. I would’ve liked to interview an elementary student or one of the athletes

blog, cookies, creativewriting, fiction, flashback, high school, old, writing

Home Made Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is another flashback post. I wrote this in high school for my Research and Exposition class with Mr. Rickert. I think the topic was to describe our favorite food or explain a recipe. I was going through a phase where I would microwave cookie dough and eat it so I wrote about that. For a high school paper, it’s not too poorly written. 
Home Made Chocolate Chip Cookies
“cookie face”
Cookies are my biggest weakness. I can never refuse one and I always eat too many. There have been times when I’ve eaten a couple of cookies every single day for a week or two. I enjoy cookies as an after breakfast snack, a post dinner snack, a snack while I watch television, and as simple comfort food. Whenever I eat or bake them myself, I always feel warm and fuzzy inside. They have a magical ability to always put a smile on my face.
I’m not a very good cook. I am, however, good at following the instructions on packages and using the microwave, so I am thankfully able to make chocolate chip cookies. Whenever I bake cookies, I typically use the Betty Crocker dried cookie mix powder package. My parents always make sure to keep at least one or two packages of cookie mix in the pantry, just for me. Occasionally, my family does buy raw cookie dough but this is an unwise decision because we end up eating just the raw cookie dough and never actually baking the cookies.
The cookie mix makes cookies very simple to make. All you have to do is mix a stick of melted butter, an egg, and the cookie mix powder, then stir. Next, you roll the dough into small balls and place them onto an ungreased baking pan. Last, you bake the cookies at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten to twelve minutes in the oven. I normally cook them for ten minutes because I prefer slightly undercooked cookies and because I’m a very impatient person.
I strongly dislike burnt or hard cookies. The best type of cookie to me is a warm, soft, fresh one. The cookie must fall apart in your hands, gooey chocolate must cover your fingers, and the steam should be visible because it’s fresh out of the oven. The store-bought cookies, such as Chips Ahoy, are no match for a home baked cookie. Store-bought cookies are always too hard and crunchy, like rocks, and you can practically taste the factory when you eat one. Gross!
There is only one cookie that can even compare to my home baked chocolate chip cookies. I discovered this cookie at Walt Disney World when I ventured into a candy store by myself. The moment the giant massive chocolate chip cookie caught my eye I knew that I had to have it. This was no ordinary cookie. It weighed almost two pounds and looked like a giant mound of slightly baked cookie dough. It looked like it was somewhat undercooked, making me even more excited. So I went and found my parents and asked them to buy it for me,and since I’m an only child they naturally bought it for me. When we returned to the hotel, I plopped myself down on a comfy couch with my cookie in hand and started to munch on it while watching TV. My mom saw me, and warned me not to eat the entire cookie in one setting. I acknowledged her suggestion but continued to eat it. Before I knew it, my delicious cookie was gone and my stomach made an unfriendly gurgling noise. It was the best cookie I ever had but it was also the worst stomach ache I ever had.  
.            I like to eat chocolate chip cookies with fat free white milk, if it is available. Like many other people, I dip my cookie in the milk, let it soak up the milk for a few seconds and then eat it. I also like to bake cookies especially in the late evening, on random occasions and surprise my family with them. I tend to bake cookies only if I’m still hungry after dinner and if I’m bored. The cookies that I make myself always taste the best.
Whenever I bake chocolate chip cookies I always eat at least one uncooked cookie and then two or three baked ones. I also have to make sure that every last ounce of cookie dough is licked off of the bowl and the spoon used to mix it, because it is a sin to waste cookie dough.
When I sink my teeth into a warm chocolate chip cookie, it feels like heaven. I hear an angelic choir in my head and I feel like nothing in the world could ever be better than this. They always make me grin and think of all the other good things in life. The chocolate melts on my tongue and the soft cookie just glides down my throat. The smell of a chocolate chip is almost as good as the real thing. When they’re in the oven, my nose goes crazy because of their irresistible smell.

When I die and go to heaven, I can only hope that there is an oven and chocolate chip cookie mix waiting for me. I would want nothing more than to be able to eat as many warm, undercooked chocolate chip cookies as I wanted all day long for eternity.
2013, assignment, creative, creativewriting, denmark, fiction, writing

Creative Travel Writing Assignment

I wrote this for my Creative Travel Writing class. At the time, I was feeling like I wasn’t allowed to admit that study-abroad wasn’t always perfect. I wanted to explore how similar events can be portrayed so differently, depending on who the audience is. 
           
Assignment 1
Debbie in Denmark Blog
Monday January 28, 2013
Hello friends and family! I can’t believe I’ve been in the wonderful land of Denmark for two weeks now. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting at home in Ohio dreaming of what Copenhagen would be like. Today was a pretty remarkable day and I’m excited to share it with you.
When I stepped outside to walk to the train station, the air felt crisp and refreshing with the breeze. I looked up at the clouds. They caught my attention because they were moving quite fast, as if they were on a mission. They looked like the color of the nearby Baltic ocean. Through the small holes in the clouds, I saw the sky barely peeking out. I thought to myself how I’d never seen a sky look that gorgeous until I came to Denmark. I swear, the clouds in Ohio never appeared that marvelous.
I leisurely walked through my host family’s neighborhood to the train station. The Danish birds were chirping loudly all around me. They seemed to be singing just for me. Since I catch the 10:30 train every morning during my walk there aren’t very many people out and about in the neighborhood. At Denison, I usually put in my headphones when I walk to and from my dorm because the music keeps me entertained. Here, I feel I’d be missing out if I did that. The noise of the wind and the birds are my new music. After walking ten minutes, I reach the train station five minutes early.
1/28/13
Dear diary,
            I’ve been away from my friends and family for two weeks now. I’m starting to adjust a little, but it’s just hard. Everything is so different from what I’m used to. I keep wondering if I made a mistake by coming here. I ask myself why I chose to come to Denmark and I always come up with some sort of half-ass answer like, “I thought it’d be cool.” I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be this hard. I’m keeping a daily blog online and I feel like I need to always be cheerful there and only tell my family the good parts of my day. I don’t want them to feel bad for me or think I’m ungrateful for this opportunity.
            Skyping with my parents is also hard because I feel like I’m acting.
            “How are you doing? Are you adjusting okay?” my mom asks me.
            “Yeah I’m fine. Everything is so great here. Don’t worry about me,” I lie. I feel guilty not telling them the truth, but I know they couldn’t do much to help if they knew how I really felt. 
            Today was a pretty boring day. My morning was very rushed because I thought my host father’s dad would give me a ride to the train station like he has done in the past. He comes over and walks the dog around the time I leave for the station. But he didn’t come in time so I had to speed walk to the train. My face went numb from the cold wind whipping my face and my back started to sweat from hiking up the steep hills in the stupid neighborhood. The birds were squawking from the trees, giving me a small headache. I mixed up the times that the train comes so I got there actually five minutes early. I sat in the covered area where I saw a big brown rat last week and spaced out.
Debbie in Denmark Blog
Monday January 28, 2013
            During my train commute, I sat down by the window in a seating area that had two seats on each side that faced each other. At the next stop, an older woman sat down in the seat across from me. I nonchalantly tried to glance up from my iPad and was struck by how much she looked like my mom. The same short brown hair and permanent slightly frazzled appearance. She pulled out a juice box from her purse and started drinking from it. It was very…unexpected. I viewed it as some sort of sign from above that I was being watched over. It couldn’t have been just a coincidence that a woman resembling my mom, happened to sit by me.
            When I was walking to class today, there were two little chubby pigeons that followed me for a block. I don’t get to see pigeons in rural Ohio so it was a delight to watch them waddle on the sidewalk next to me. They wouldn’t win a pigeon beauty contest but they were nice company.
 
1/28/13
Dear diary,
            On the train, this weird guy was talking very loudly in front of me and it was distracting. My train rarely gets wi fi so I can’t do much besides play a game on my iPad. I tried to read my homework and stare out the window but this woman came and sat directly across from me. How rude! Give me some personal space, please. There were plenty of other seats she could’ve sat down in. To make things worse, she pulled out a fucking juice box. How old is this lady? 40? And she spent her commute slurping on an eight-ounce box of liquid. Unbelievable. 
To be honest, the language barrier is becoming a serious problem for me. Everything at the train station and on the train is in Danish. I can’t understand any of the important announcements. They sound like someone is playing a scratched recording backward. I was told that everything would be in English here so it was a terrible shock to find out I was lied to.
            When I walked to class, I looked down and was horrified to see a bald pigeon travelling next to me. He was completely normal except for the top of his head had a round patch of grey missing. An obese pigeon was trailing behind the one that resembled Curly from the Three Stooges. I’m pretty sure the bald one was being henpecked (or should I say pigeon pecked) by the fat one. I guess my train ride wasn’t that strange for Copenhagen because even the animals in this city are weird and rude to each other.
Debbie in Denmark Blog
Monday January 28, 2013
            I thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes today. They are very different from my classes I’ve taken at Denison so far, but they are still interesting and challenging.
In my Strategic Communication class, we talked about the 2006 Mohammed Cartoon Crisis in Denmark. We also discussed whether a U.S. newspaper should reprint the cartoons when covering the news about it. It was neat to discuss a realistic communication related question in class.
In my Human Trafficking class, we talked about the Palermo protocol which sounds like the most important document in defining human trafficking. We got into small groups and looked at three situations and decided if they were prostitution, trafficking, or smuggling. It was harder to do than one might think.
After my classes, I went to train station and while I waited on the platform I ran into a guy I recognized.  That morning, I actually recognized him on the train because of his jacket but didn’t say anything to him. Feeling confident after my good day, I approached him. We sat together on the train and talked about all the traveling he’s done in Europe.
It was a nice end to another perfect day in Copenhagen.
1/28/13
Dear diary,
            My least favorite part of the day was going to class. My classes are always boring and the DIS buildings are so gross. I went to use a bathroom and it had a huge puddle of piss by the seat. The whole bathroom smelled like shit. It was so disgusting that I couldn’t breathe with my nose.
My embarrassing moment of the day was when I found my Strategic Communication classroom, I immediately opened the classroom door. 20 wide-eyed students and one startled professor stared back at me. I asked what class it was and they said Danish. Really embarrassed, I quickly shut the door. Note to self: closed door equals class in session.
When I was finally done for the day, I headed back underground to catch the train. On the platform, I recognized a cute boy from orientation. I’d been meaning to talk to him because he looked pretty laid back but not a douche bag. I can’t tell you why I suddenly felt the urge to go up and say hey, but I did. It was probably a little creepy because I said, “You’re in DIS right? You’re Jacob right?” We made awkward small talk at first, which was made even more awkward by my nervous sarcastic jokes. I used to just giggle around boys but now I’ve matured into making weird sarcastic jokes.  We talked for like twenty minutes until his train stop. I was just proud of myself for talking to a boy. That was my okay ending to an okay day.

2014, copy, longaberger, product, writing

Product Copy

Here are some examples of product copy that I have written for The Longaberger Company:

2014 Christmas Collection™ Stocking Basket Set 

This once in a lifetime gift is one that you and your family will treasure and pass down. Use it to store heirloom ornaments, keep holiday recipes handy, store your actual family stockings or dress up your bathroom counter for the holidays by filling it with toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair accessories. Make it even more memorable by having all the grandkids sign the board bottom. Made in the U.S.A. 



Wrought Iron Beverage Carousel

Now you can keep all of your single-serve beverage cups smartly organized and accessible. This carousel has the capacity to display 24 standard-sized single-serve assorted coffees and teas for your family or guests. It features a lazy-Susan base that rotates for quick access to every cup. The sleek and modern appearance is sure to accentuate any kitchen décor. 


11″ Silicone Cover 

Turn any bowl up to 11” into an air-tight storage container. This lid makes it easy to seal and store leftovers. It reduces  the need for foils, plastic wraps and freezer bags that just wind up in the trash. The lid can be used to keep prepared meals warm at the dinner table or to quickly stow leftovers for later enjoyment. Simply place the cover over a bowl, gently press down and an airtight seal is created. Fits Fits 8-in-1 Entertainer Large Bowl, Grandma Bonnie’s™ Pie Plate, Large Mixing Bowl, Flameware® 4 Quart Dutch Oven, 10 ½” Braiser. Oven and dishwasher safe. 11”d. 

Go To Basket Khaki CheckWhat basket do you “go to” when you need to a helping hand? Designed to compliment our Khaki Check fabric, the new Khaki Check Go To Basket is just the thing for Saturday errands, homework, projects and school papers to sign. Perfect to carry all the items you pick up along the way to put back in their proper places! Protector available separately. 21 1/2″l x 13 1/2″w x 6″h; Rec. Wt. Use: 30 lbs.


Hope Inside Button Basket

Horizon of Hope® can no longer be contained to just one month a year. The Hope Inside Button Basket has a classic Warm Brown exterior with Dark Pink interior weaving. The American Cancer Society will receive $2 from each basket purchase. What a great way to show your support of such a worthy cause. It integrates with the Woven Traditions® Soup & Salad Bowl and Small Mixing Bowl. 7″d x 3″h, Rec. Wt. Use: 4 lbs.


Set of 2 WoodCrafts Reindeer

It’s about time that Santa’s hard-working reindeer find a home in your holiday décor. Each Reindeer includes 2 legs, a body, and antlers that lay flat for easy storage, when the real reindeer are back in the North Pole.  Made in the U.S.A. Available in Warm Brown, Bold Red or Whitewashed; Set includes one Small (7¾”l x 5½”w x 10½”h) and one Medium Reindeer (12″l x 9″w x 17″h). Must be same color choice. Made in the U.S.A.



The images and text is property of The Longaberger Company. I helped write product copy and am using this to show an example of my writing skills.

2014, blog, concert, informative, writing

More "Roaring" and less "Abductions"

I love listening to pop music. I have ever since I was little. Now, whenever I turn on the radio, I hear a Katy Perry song. She dominates Top 40 radio stations. Doesn’t matter if you like her or hate her, you can’t escape her. 

I went to her Prismatic concert last night and had a great time. It was incredibly entertaining! The costumes were out of this world and it felt like I was at a Cirque du Soleil show instead of a concert. There were lots of young girls in the audience and that mad me think about whether Katy Perry’s songs were appropriate for children and if they were sending a positive message. 

Something I found fascinating is that the same artist can perform songs inappropriate for children like “E.T.”  but then also inspirational female-empowering anthems like “Roar.”  How can she have such polar opposite songs? 

The lyrics of “E.T.” are quite straightforward and troubling: 


Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction


                     Then, Kanye West chimes into the song: 

Tell me whats next? Alien sex.
Imma disrobe you
Then Imma probe you
See I abducted you
            So I tell you what to do


I like this song but it always pains me to sing along because I know what that the lyrics are basically condoning rape. I don’t know why Katy Perry or Kanye West didn’t get more criticism for these appalling lyrics. I disagree with the claim that the song is about “falling in love with a foreigner.” It’s not about falling in love, it’s about sexual assault.  

So there you have “E.T.” from 2011 Fast forward three years to 2014 when “Roar” debuted. Check out these lyrics:


‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar


You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground

I could include the whole song’s lyrics because all of it demonstrates a strong female standing up for herself. Great! Where were these lyrics in 2011? The majority of the songs from her “Teenage Dream” album don’t have a troublesome message (except Peacock, which I think is too much of a silly double entendre). I find it troubling that “E.T.” blew up on the Top 40 charts when it has such problematic lyrics. 

I’m glad that “Roar” had such success and that young girls are now singing along to that song. 
2014, debbie, debbiegillum, features, writing

Students taking food from dining halls

March 11, 2014 Denisonian in Features

Put down the cookie: Students taking food from dining halls


Have you ever taken something from the dining hall? A cookie? A bagel? Backpack full of bananas? Well, that’s actually a violation of Denison’s policy.
The policy that was set by Denison and is enforced by both Sodexo and Bon Appetit is that “nothing can leave the dining hall,” said Jennifer McGann, general manager for dining services.
If every student took food then Bon Appetit could lose a significant amount of money. McGann did not think that the current state of things was an “epidemic” but she did warn that if things get too out of control, meal plan prices could increase.
Students are not allowed to bring in their own containers such as ziploc bags or tupperware containers.
McGann said they try to be respectful of students by letting them bring their bags and backpacks into the dining hall and hope they reciprocate that respect by not filling their backpacks with apples.
The Bon Appetit staff does not rudely confront people who make a sandwich and stash it in their backpack for later.
“We want to be gracious enough to avoid putting anyone in an awkward situation. We want people to enjoy themselves while they are dining here so we don’t like to step in and mar that experience, but if someone is removing items they shouldn’t, we will have to ask them not to do so,” said Julie Mulisano, the dining hall manager at Curtis.
Mulisano said that students feel at home in Denison’s dining halls and she thinks that contributes to the number of students taking food outside. “The familiarity of the dining halls breaks down some of the typical barriers students have about taking things,” she said.
Another problem in the dining halls is that some students sneak in during busy periods such as lunch and dinner.
“If we see this happen, we will politely ask to see their student ID and then make a photocopy of it. If they are uncooperative, then we will call security, especially if they are repeat offenders,” said McGann. They ask security to help them deal with such matters.
Bon Appetit works closely with Denison security. They have recently asked security to better monitor the cameras in the Slayter snackbar.
“We’ve noticed a lot of items missing when we do inventory. We’re watching it a lot more closely,” said McGann.
She said that Bon Appetit loses more money when students take pre-packaged items from Slayter rather than fruit or vegetables from the dining halls, because those items “have a very small profit margin,” said McGann.
To try and make Slayter less troublesome, Bon Appetit managers have talked about putting up mirrors, having security guards or rearranging the food in Slayter because the problem “seems to have gotten worse in the winter,” said McGann.  
 In dining halls, both McGann and Mulisano have noticed that salt and pepper shakers, hot sauce bottles, silverware, cups, bowls, and plates often go missing.
“When I walk from Curtis to Huffman, every day I see a cup with melted mint chocolate chip ice cream on that bridge. And every day I pick it up and take it to Huffman,” said McGann, “I wish they would have just finished it inside the dining hall or just drop it off at the other dining hall.”
Mulisano said that the housekeeping staff returns boxes full of silverware and other diningware that is left behind in student’s rooms at the end of the year.
What about filling your tumblr with coffee or soda? McGann said, “That’s fine. It’s not ideal. But it happens.”
Students have gotten quite creative with taking items from the dining hall.
“I’ve noticed two or three times that somebody brings a blender in and fills it with 8 scoops of ice cream and milk and they take it back to their room,” recalled Mulisano. She said she was waiting until the student was alone and then would carefully confront them.
Another student took a whole loaf of bread and made multiple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“Students often take the decor, such as a red pepper or cucumber. But I’ll see people with five vegetables. We wish students would not grocery shop in the dining hall,” said Mulisano. The produce that is used for decor around the dining hall is used for later cooking and is not wasted.
Kiira Harkins, a junior from Chillicothe, Ohio, said that she has absolutely taken things from the dining halls. “It’s mostly little things, like apples or muffins when I’m in a hurry,” she said. She said that she only takes small food items.
“I’ve never taken anything larger,” Harkins said, “But, the rumor on the streets is that it is quite the mark of accomplishment to successfully filch one of the cups.”
Cora McHugh, a senior from Dexter, Mich., said she has seen students put food in their bags or in containers they have brought. She admits that she also occasionally takes out food, but only small things.
“It’s mostly fruit or a cookie. I sometimes used to make a little baggie out of a napkin and take some cereal,” said McHugh.  
Overall, McGann thinks that Denison students are very polite, respectful and behave like adults. She said that makes it a great place to work.