Currently viewing the tag: "New Year"

    New We

by Helen Xia,

  CHS Student Writer

When a new year rolls around, it’s a perfect time to set new goals. I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so. We have an entire tradition dedicated to that practice: New Year’s resolutions. Not only do these resolutions give you something to work on for the rest of the year, but they also offer a valuable period for self-reflection. What’s really important to you as an individual?

Although people may choose to keep their yearly aspirations private, it is interesting if you get the chance to read some from those around you. In my case, I distributed quick questionnaires to people attending Catoctin High School’s annual Christmas event, Santa’s Workshop. Santa’s Workshop offers festive activities, such as crafts, free of charge for children to complete. This allowed me to garner a wide range of respondents, from toddlers to guardians and teachers. From these participants, a general trend can be observed: We are all seeking to improve ourselves in some way. Yet, the ways in which different people approach that task are rather diverse. Moreover, I’ve found that New Year’s resolutions often reflect what stage of life we are living. For instance, of the teenagers who submitted their 2023 goals, about half of them wished to either graduate high school, attend college, or take steps toward driving.

I’ve always treated New Year’s resolutions like birthday wishes: Maybe, if I think hard enough, I will wake up with a million dollars at my bedside. Similarly, Jamie, age 42, penned that she would like to “Hit the lotto!!” Eight-year-old George also reported that he would like to “get rich” in 2023, too. I’m glad that brings us all together. May we all obtain our riches this year!

Another trend is evident throughout the resolutions I’ve accumulated: The desire to learn something new. Eleven-year-old Shyloh wrote, “In 2023, I would like to be able to do an aerial.” Comparably, 14-year-old Jared would like to play two songs on the guitar; 15-year-old Doug would like to learn how to play the drums; and 33-year-old Felipe wants to start learning a new language. (Supposedly, six-month-old Cecilia would like to learn how to walk!)

Truly, learning is one of the greatest beauties of living. It’s one of the few constants in life. Amid ever-changing conditions, the opportunity to learn and grow never dissipates.

As one may expect, several goals were career focused. For example, Mr. Felmet of Catoctin High School aims to “put on the best musical CHS has ever seen.” Likewise, 15-year-old Lillian strives to “be the best tennis player.” Sixteen-year-old Colette aspires to “be the best Color Guard member ever.” A handful of younger students want to earn good grades.

Various resolutions, coming from all age groups, are relatable for many. Namely, 14-year-old Griffin would like to “procrastinate less,” and 17-year-old Seth wants to “work out and be happy.” Fifty-six-year-old Trish wishes to “reduce the stress in [her] life!” These goals sound like valid pieces of advice anybody can benefit from. Let’s all procrastinate less, exercise, manage our stress levels, and, above all, be happy this year.

Other responses were more quirky, albeit still relatable for some. Four-year-old Thomas craves more cake in 2023, five-year-old Lucy would like to go on more camping trips, and six-year-old Chandler is seeking to go to Legoland. Additionally, 16-year-old Darrin is aiming to “not be mean.”

My favorite answer that I received came from eight-year-old Avetie, who noted their resolution to be a singular word: “play.”

Why did I include the ages of everybody who submitted a resolution? At the start of this article, I expected to be able to distinguish between age groups by their aspirations alone. During this process, I found that goals from all ages resonated with me, and even resolutions as simple as “play” can be applied to more people than one may think. Sometimes, taking a break from working is as valuable as working itself. We all need time for ourselves to recharge.

While our experiences in life vary immensely, we can all learn from each other. Many times, we learn the same lessons about life, even if said lessons are taught through unlike means. We are more united than we think!

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

New Year? Meet New Zen

Happy January, readers! While January may seem like a rather bleak time for us gardeners, there still come advantages and ways to keep up our green thumbs (houseplants, a gardener’s current best friend). This is also a rare opportunity for peace and relaxation. Think about it, no relatives to please, no gifts to give, and no repetitive songs to listen to. It’s time to focus on the present moment. Time for you. What better way to ground yourself and connect with nature than with a Zen garden?

Cultivating and maintaining Zen gardens can offer a visual meditation or provide a means to do an activity mindfully, even if for a short time in your day. Zen gardens were inspired by the Song dynasty gardens in China. However, the approach was perfected in Japan by Zen Buddhists working to represent the simplicity and calm of nature through practice. The training is still quite popular today across the globe, and today you can take this long-cultivated ritual into your home!



Use any container you wish! Whether utilizing a small bowl, square block, or sandbox, any size will do, just as long as the container can withstand the water if you decide to use live plants.

Fill your container with:

Fine white gravel or sand. If you are using fake plants, use enough to fill your container. With real plants, get enough to top baseline soil about an inch.

Rocks (try for neutral colors. No two rocks should be the same, in size or shape). Rocks should meet the scale of your container and not create a singular focal point, which may distract from the rest of your garden.)

Steel or wooden garden rake (for larger scale projects. You can also use a fork, order a mini rake, or use a paintbrush).

If you don’t feel like freestyling it, no worries! Zen Garden kits are available anywhere, from Amazon to Five and Below.

Mindfully Creating Your Zen Garden

Take a couple of deep breaths to center your mind.

Fill the bowl with sand for fake plants, being sure to have patience with yourself if a few errant sand granules make their escape to the floor.

If you are using real plants, fill containers two-thirds full with dirt and the rest with sand after plants are inserted.

When planting real plants in your garden, dig holes for whatever plants you choose. You can include succulents and air plants for a model with less maintenance, moss, grasses, etc.

Be sure to cover any areas left unoccupied by plants with rocks, gravel, and/or sand.

When adding plants, try to keep it minimalist! You do not want to crowd your Zen garden. Leave plenty of room, so you can draw patterns in the sand.

You Can Create Your Garden in Two Ways

Island model: Groups of stones are clustered together (in “Islands”), with plants in the middle of the grouping. The surrounding gravel or sand then mirrors the fluid, graceful nature of the ocean, especially if you choose to trace trails into the pliable materials.

Perimeter model: Plant/place plants on the perimeter of your garden, then border them with stones to separate plants and water from the sand. In addition, you will have more “sand canvas” to “draw” upon. Another idea is to have some plant outcroppings on the perimeter of your garden, with larger stones bordering these plants to prevent water and all of the sand from coming through.

Setting Your Zen Garden Into Action

Make sure your space is as quiet as you can make it.

After setting your plants and dirt in place, take in the scents of the space. Notice the smell of earth or the fresh scent of plants to center your mind into the present moment.

Place or rearrange stones within your garden. Formations should not be symmetrical, but organic and bare, in order to reflect the raw beauty of nature. Take time to notice the texture, temperature, or other details of the rocks and sand that you touch. Feel free to cluster rocks in groups of three (as is common), but do what feels right to you and your vision for the aesthetic flow of your garden.

Different shaped rocks have various meanings, which can also help you in creating a garden with a mood that suits your own:

Sanson-ishigami: One large rock, representing a deity (or Buddha in some traditions) with two supporting stones.

Vertical rocks: Wood/trees.

Flat, horizontal: Water.

Arching stones: Fire.

Low/Reclining: Earth or metal.

Try out different combinations but remember not to crowd your garden. Larger rocks are especially helpful for mirroring the impressive nature of mountains or replicating other landmarks.

Once satisfied with stone placement, get out a tool (such as a mini-rake, fork, or other means to manipulate sand) and slowly, mindfully, trace patterns into the sand. Generally, you want to recreate a water-like effect, such as how water ripples and spreads after a stone is thrown. It does not have to be circular, as long as lines create flow in harmony with each other, and look fluid and wave-like. Notice the sounds your tools make creating this design, and the weight of your tool. Also, notice your breathing as you move this part of the earth and become one with it.

When completed, take time to appreciate your work and its natural beauty. Notice emotions such as gratitude, connection, and mindfulness. If you don’t notice these, take time to check in with what you may be feeling. Mindfulness might bring more attention to a difficult emotion, rather than tranquility. If you notice frustration, that’s completely normal! Your Zen garden acts to center you (and works in meditation, too) in a busy world of disconnection with our bodies and emotions.

Once this step is complete, rake away any patterns. While it sounds self-defeating, the practice reminds us of natural impermanence and prevents attachment, allowing for flexibility and flow. Put tools away and appreciate yourself for completing the practice.

This is a simplified example of a Zen garden creation and perfect for those beginning the practice. Just the simple acts of becoming mindful of your surroundings, breathing, and actions are enough to help refresh and rejuvenate a person for the rest of their day. This is also helpful for those who have trouble sitting still during meditation, as gardening supplies a means of movement, flow, and mindfulness. May this practice provide you peace and tranquility in the new year. O genki de (take care), readers!

A miniature Zen garden, featuring tan gravel and moss.

Credit to: Credit to Faena Aleph, David Beaulieu of The Spruce, LanguageDrops, Kira from Your Body the Temple, Craft Schmaft, Tilen Space.

by Buck Reed

New Year, New Cooking

So, here we are again; we made it to a new year. And, if we can put politics behind us, we can go about the business of forgetting the past and looking forward to a new year. All we really have to do is make a proper New Year’s resolution.

Most people make the mistake of making their resolution too strenuous. We won’t talk about people who make it too easy. The important thing is to make your New Year’s resolution attainable. Instead of saying you are “going to cook every day,” which is a noble goal, try something like “becoming a better cook.” Assess your current skill-set and find a skill or some skills that will add to your culinary prowess.

Here are a few ideas of some skills I think every good cook should have.

Knife skills. Every good cook has a special relationship with their knives. Learning how to keep them sharp and storing them is a good start. After that, you should get comfortable holding your knives correctly and using them to make uniform cuts.

Make soup. Don’t learn how to make just one soup, but learn the techniques it takes to make any kind of soup. Making soups will help you experiment and use new ingredients, as well as help you to learn how to bring out the flavor in your finished dish.

Learn a new way to cook eggs. A chef’s hat, called a toque, has a hundred folds in it to represent the number of ways a cook can prepare an egg. Start with making a perfect omelet and work your way around the toque.

Cooking with a cast iron skillet. Although cast iron skillets seem to be challenging to deal with, once you get them set up, they can be a joy to work with. They are great for pan-frying, roasting, and even putting a new spin on your baking. The good news is that once you get your skillet seasoned, it is easily maintained with a minimum of work.

Bake a cake from scratch.  Taking the time to measure each ingredient for a cake carefully, and then mixing it all together correctly, can seem a tedious task, but it can teach you valuable skills. After that, learn how to decorate the cake without a pastry bag. Think of all the occasions you could use a made-from-scratch cake.

Prepare a hot breakfast. Preparing a morning meal in a timely manner can be an impressive skill for all sorts of situations (enough said).

Becoming a good cook isn’t about finding the perfect recipe, but rather mastering the techniques and expanding on those techniques to create good food.

If you put a little time and effort into enhancing your culinary prowess, it could be a tasty year.

by Anita DiGregory

“New Year, New Beginnings”

January 2019. New year. New beginnings. A blank canvas. A clean slate. A do-over. Perhaps country singer Brad Paisley said it best in referring to New Year’s Day:  “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

If you have made a New Year’s resolution, you aren’t alone. A poll conducted December 8-11, 2017, by found that out of 1,159 U.S. adults, only 32 percent said they would not be making a resolution for 2018. The top resolutions for the year included eating healthier, getting more exercise, and saving more money.  These were followed by focusing on self-care, reading more, making new friends, and learning a skill.

However, studies consistently show that up to 80 percent of resolutions fail. In fact, Strava, the social network for athletes, conducted research and found that motivation generally fails the second Friday in January, renaming the day as “Quitters’ Day.”  According to a six-month study recorded in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, more than one in three resolution makers will give up by January 31.

There are many scientific theories out there as to why so many resolutions are abandoned.  These include, but aren’t limited to, making too many resolutions, setting unrealistic goals, making commitments based on other’s expectations, or not having the proper mindset or motivation. 

Although many resolutions go unmet, the positive effects of making a resolution are undeniable.  According to many mental health professionals, resolution makers are often successful in evaluating areas of their lives in which they see the need for change. Additionally, resolutions often center on healthier lifestyle choices.

So how can we make more successful resolutions? Here is some advice from the experts. Reflect on what is important to you, where you are in life, and where you would like to grow. Choose one specific, attainable goal. Realize that it is not so much about keeping a New Year’s resolution, as it is about meeting small, important goals throughout the year. Accept that you will stumble, but don’t allow that to cause you to lose your motivation.  Assess the reasons for the stumble and make necessary changes to keep them from reoccurring. Stay accountable; use a journal. Utilize the “buddy system” by enlisting a friend to keep you on track while you help them. Celebrate small victories.

Here are some family-friendly ideas for mom resolutions; pick one to work on or devise another that suits you and the needs of your family. Smile more. Pray more.  Practice patience. Stop comparing.  Use your phone less. Work on organization. Practice gratitude.  Regularly take the kids and perform a service for someone in need. Slow down. Get stronger. Make healthier choices. Spend more quality time together.

Here are nineteen quotes to inspire you to become the best version of yourself in 2019.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

                —Edith Lovejoy Pierce

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.

            —John Burroughs

Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

                —Theodore Roosevelt

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.

                —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.

                —Tony Robbins

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.

                —G.K. Chesterton

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years.” 

                —Henry Moore

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

                —Louisa May Alcott

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

                —Benjamin Franklin

Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” 

                —Cavett Robert

Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

                —Helen Keller

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.

                —Muhammad Ali

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

                —C.S. Lewis

What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.

                —Vern McLellan

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”    

                —Alfred Lord Tennyson

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.

                —T.S. Eliot

I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.” 

                —Serena Williams

The beginning is the most important part of the work.


To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

                —Winston Churchill