Downside of American capitalism

By Nick Tulli

Advertisements are inescapable in contemporary American capitalism.

Ever get tired of those stupid advertisements you hear over and over again on TV?

Me too.

Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Please enjoy the following:

The Flyers had to fight for their first win against the Rangers on January 24, and after a scoreless first period, Philadelphia finally got on board in the second. To be blunt, the winless Flyers and their fans needed something to brighten their spirits, and that goal did the trick. The stadium erupted, and so did my family at home.

That excitement was quickly extinguished when we heard that awful phrase: “And Wayne Simmonds has scored for a case of Tastykakes!” What a flat-out shame.

But who could be surprised? Nowadays any corporation or sports General Manager will do anything they can to earn a little money, and it’s getting on my last nerve.

Ever go to a Hershey Bears game? At every blow of the whistle you’ll hear an advertisement for some kind of laundry detergent, energy drink, gas station or ice cream. Between periods at every game there is a little blimp sponsored by Central PA Credit Union that floats overhead and drops money at fans. It used to drop $20 bills, but I guess the credit union’s too cheap for that anymore, because now it’s only $5 max; sometimes only $1.

What’s worse is that it’s not worth the time for adult spectators to get out of their seats just for a chance at winning a couple dollars, so it’s always the little kids that get excited. But whoever controls the blimp doesn’t care and only drops the money in the middle of a section onto some old guy who doesn’t understand why there is a motorized balloon above him.

Nowadays I can’t watch SportsCenter without hearing the “Bud Light Cold Hard Facts” (with that doofus Mark Schlareth), I can’t watch a Phillie’s game without hearing about an “AT&T Call to the Bullpen.” I can’t even drive to the mall and back without seeing a billboard with an old lady and a bad pun on it. Commercial breaks during shows are becoming longer than the actual program, and lets not forget about how annoying some of them are:


Now I’d like to remind you that the NFC Championship game you were watching has been brought to you by McDonalds, the Penn State radio network would like to thank Best Western, and closed captioning for the Big Bang Theory is brought to you by (catch the irony there?).

What may be worse than all of this is the National Basketball Association. The NBA currently has about 12 total fans across the country, and they still have the nerve to jeopardize that number by flirting with the idea of putting advertisements on jerseys. This is not the English Premier League, nor are the majority of Americans interested in the FIFA, FIBA, Australian Rugby League or whatever else the rest of the world are playing. The Lakers already have enough money. There is absolutely no need to stitch AIG, Toyota, and Kelloggs logos onto all of their stuff.

This is truly capitalism at it’s worst. And not to mention, capitalism was really coined by some English guy named Adam Smith, who believed that an “invisible hand” governs the economy. An invisible hand is not a some guy with a sales trophy trotting down the street to advertise for his already over-marketed company.

Thanks for the big first win, Flyers, but you can keep the Tastykakes.

photo credit: _Hadock_via photopin cc

2012: History’s Greatest Hoax

Mayan civilization at its peak.
Mayan civilization at its peak.

By Nick Tulli

Anybody who has lived in the western world in the past decade has heard the theory that the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, and the world will end with it. This assumption is so ludicrous that I have to ask myself, where do I begin?

First of all, I should begin by saying that the plural of a member of the Mayan civilization is not “Mayans.” It is actually “Maya.” Just like the plural of sheep is sheep, the plural of one Maya is Maya.

Okay, sorry, now onto the real point of this whole spiel.

The problem with this whole idea of 2012 is that the Mayan civilization, and its calendar, never predicted apocalypse. The calendar doesn’t even end. 2012 is simply the end of a period of time on their calendar. The Maya counted time in very, very long periods. They used what is known as the Long Count Calendar, which is now better known as the Mayan Calendar. The Maya called a day a k’in, twenty days were represented as a winal, 360 days made a tun, twenty tuns made a k’atun, and twenty k’atuns made a b’ak’tun, about 394.26 years. On December 21, 2012, the Mayan Calendar reaches its 13th b’ak’tun.

What does this mean? Nothing.

The date of the last time the Long Count Calendar reached a new b’ak’tun, represented as, was September 18, 1618. As it turns out, September 18, 1816 was about the most insignificant day history has ever seen.

America hadn’t been colonized by Europeans, no British king was busy invading Ireland, and, believe it or not, the French were not losing any wars.

The only interesting tidbit about December 21, 2012 is that the Long Count Calendar reads That’s it. Just a bunch of zeroes.

A few years ago NASA became so inundated with questions about this very phenomena that the scientists took time out of their busy schedules to explain that a civilization that existed thousands of years ago did not know more about the universe than modern scientists do today. If the Maya were so good at predicting the end of the world, how come they did not predict the Spanish crossing the Atlantic and wiping out the last of them?

This assumption has come into fruition in only the past couple decades, and though I don’t know this for a fact, I would bet that the Internet and multimedia should be charged as the cause of it’s success. Not to mention, the 2011 movie that certainly did not sweep the Academy Awards, 2012, was based on absolutely no scientific fact and really made a laughing stock of the whole ordeal (perhaps that’s what it deserves).

But, who knows? Perhaps science is all wrong and the world will end this week. Maybe all the volcanoes on the face of the earth will decide that it’s up to them to fulfill the prophecy of their Maya friends and erupt simultaneously. Maybe the Moon will decide that it’s too cold out in space and it wants to give the Earth a hug in order to share body heat. Or maybe there’s a far away race of extraterrestrial life that has mastered high-speed space travel and is flying through the galaxy in attempt to destroy all every blue planet (Sorry, Neptune).

I suppose that it wouldn’t hurt to get ready, just in case. So, I’ve made up two checklists for the end of the world. One for those of you who are still skeptical and not taking any risks, and one for those of you like me who can’t wait for everyone to go looney.

For the Skeptics:
• food
• water
• clothes
• fists, to fight the aliens
• shoes
• a pillow while you wait
• a metal bunker that most likely would not help anyway
• a lion or tiger to scare the aliens away
• a compass
• thermal underwear for the whole family
• lots and lots of gasoline
• shampoo, because even if you are the last ones left, you still need to shower. Nobody likes B.O.
• toilet paper, always.
• a dog to keep you company if your family thinks you’re nuts
• a Metallica playlist
• two sticks to make a fire
• a poster of Clint Eastwood, for motivation

For those in the right mind:
• a very large glass of Cherry Coke
• popcorn
• napkins
• KFC, if you so wish
• a La-Z-Boy or other leather recliner
• at least 3 working news stations (CNN, NBC, ABC are preferred)
• a nearby bathroom
• a sense of humor
• a deck of cards
• Internet access
• the ability to laugh at the world’s population
• a good night’s sleep
• fireworks, so you can scare your neighbors
• a twitter page

Friday is sure to be entertaining. I, for one, can’t wait. And if you want to have some fun in our waning days, you can test whether your friends really believe that the world will end – just ask them to sign all of their assets over to you on Thursday.

But hey, on the bright side, if the world really does end, I guess that means that my C in calculus isn’t really going to matter.

2012 College Football Bowls Expose a Tired System

By Nick Tullli

The Division 1 College football bowls have been selected, and this year’s lineup is a perfect example of why this pitiful system coming to a close. Paul Newberry, an AP national writer, said it best in an article from December 4: “This college football bowl season is like a brand of Chex Mix that comes with a bunch of nuts that you don’t really care to eat.”

This year’s postseason is sprinkled with a few games that prove to be exciting and noteworthy with a heavy dose of duds. This year’s National Championship game is sure to produce great ratings. Notre Dame, a team that is either loved or brutally hated, will take on Alabama, perhaps the best program of this millennium, in a game that every college football fan will surely tune in to watch.

But in the discussion of great contests to be played this postseason, the BCS Championship is just about the end of the argument. Georgia, an 11-2 team that was ranked third before falling to the Alabama in the SEC championship game, is playing in the Capital One Bowl. Seriously?

Unless you live in Tallahassee or are a fan of Northern Illinois (because there are so many of them), do you really care about the Orange Bowl? No.

But that is not any normal game, it’s the Orange Bowl. This is a game that’s supposed to be fought by two powerhouses, such as Michigan and Alabama in 2000, the University of Southern California and Oklahoma in 2005.

Northern Illinois?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing little Boise State take down Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl years ago. That was awesome. But the Northern Illinois Huskies are no Boise State Broncos. This year’s Mid-American Conference champions lost to Iowa, a team that failed to win more than four games. NIU barely beat both Army and Kansas, two teams that have three wins between them.

Residents of El Paso, Texas will be greeted on December 31 by Georgia Tech, a team with a losing record that was blown out by Middle Tennessee, and USC, a team that began the season ranked number one but ended the year having lost five times. ESPN didn’t even want the rights to present that game to the nation’ they let CBS have it. Just another reason not to tune in.

The Armed Forces Bowl is one of two that will be played against a pair of 6-6 teams. Air Force and Rice will battle for basically the least significant victory of 2012, and frankly, our men and women in uniform deserve much better.

Perhaps the biggest travesty of all, as pointed out by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, is that poor Louisiana Tech, the highest-scoring team in the country, got snubbed.

It’s saddening to say that a team that won nine games, has the second-leading passer, third-leading receiver, and averages the most points in Division 1-A won’t be playing in front of a population that loves offense. It seems funny that everyone loves Oregon’s offensive attack but neglects a team that apparently does even better than them in that department.

“But wait,” you might call out. The BCS has changed its style of playoff. In a couple of years, all of this arguing will be done with, and fans of the sport won’t have to worry anymore. Stop all your complaining, because this will be over soon.

Not true.

In 2014, there will be four teams playing in a playoff to determine the National Champion. This year, those games would be played as Notre Dame vs. Kansas State, and Alabama vs. Oregon.

Great! We’ve solved basically nothing. It’s all well and good that at that point in time there will be no disputes about who should play in the title game, but that doesn’t solve the issue at hand.

This year, for many reasons, the bowl games are not exciting. The Championship and Fiesta Bowls will be, of course, as well as the Rose Bowl, which is a spectacle every year regardless of its competitors. But, that leaves 33 other bowls with minimal importance and minimal entertainment — unless you’re a fan of the Central Michigan Chippewas; then it’s only 32.

Sadly, I might have to revert my attention this holiday season to spending more time with my relatives. As horrible as that sounds, it just might be better than sitting through one awful postseason of football.

Face the Facts: Lying During the Presidential Campaign

By Nick Tulli

Ask any average citizen about their stance on big issues in American politics, like tax cuts or foreign policy, and I can assure you that you would finish the discussion more confused than when you started.

Politics is rapidly evolving into a cheap game of “he-said, she-said,” and both presidential candidates this year seem to be experts.

In the rapidly expanding world of multimedia, political fact-checking websites and companies have gained popularity among those concerned with United States politics. For instance,, a non-partisan political fact-checking website and winner of a Pulitzer prize, has a Twitter page that has accumulated more than 150,000 followers.

But my question is why should political fact-checking websites be necessary in the first place?

During just an hour and a half of the presidential debate on Tuesday, October 16, spit out 43 tweets. Not counting tweets that were website advertisements, 33 tweets in approximately 90 minutes were compilations of fact checks, each containing up to about 10 fact checks per tweet posted. What’s even worse is the high number of statements that the candidates made that were found to be false. Now, PolitiFact deserves a round of applause for its hard work checking facts during the debate, but if these candidates are battling for a position as enormously important as the President of the United States of America, shouldn’t they be expected to tell the truth?

Right now, and for centuries, the United States has been comprised of believers in the Christian faith. Currently, over 50 percent of the country calls themselves Christians, including one of the Presidential candidates, Barack Obama. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, a faith that teaches morals and ideals very similar to . If both of these men believe in such morals, why is lying such a big part of their campaign?

I would argue that the candidates know when they’re lying. I’ve heard the argument that they don’t enough times already and would like to toss it aside now. Let’s face it, if Mitt Romney and Barack Obama really don’t know the facts, we have a bigger problem on our hands than whether they’re purposely lying.

This issue no longer belongs to one side of the political spectrum or the other. Conservatives and Liberals, Democrat and Republicans alike, the game of American politics has officially taken a turn for the worse. Though many in Penn Manor High School have very pronounced political stances (myself included), people of all beliefs can see that this new form of politics isn’t a very pretty one.

Starting a Band was Nothing Like I Expected

Chad Gates-

Being a musician, I can guarantee that all other amateur musicians has, at one point in their lives, fantasized about themselves performing on stage and taking the place as a member of their favorite artist Whether it’s live, on a stereo or through a pair of headphones. I call it the musicians fantasy, and I know that I have had one of these before, and along with it I can still clearly remember the first time that three others and I, collaborated and made a band in the hopes of one day being the ones on stage.

The very start of summer ’11 was when the first “jam sesh” took place. I was in my basement, which was home to my dad’s large collection of various music equipment such as turntables, mic stands, stacks of seemingly endless wire and cords, and speakers so large they can make things fall from the shelves and walls in my house if you play them just loud enough.

The band consisted of four people, two of them that were friends of mine from Hempfield, Cody and Kris. Cody did vocals and Kris played guitar. My brother Gavin was the drummer and I was the bass player. Our style of music that we aimed for was deathcore, which is a fusion genre of metalcore and death metal. Cody was the motivator within the group, and being so he came up with the band name; Arcana Curse. At the time it sounded cool, but now I have a strong dislike for the name because it’s really generic and it sounds like some 13-year old emo-kid made it up.

For some time our weekly band practices, that took place on Wednesdays and Sundays, consisted of us playing together and making up the music as we went so that we could adapt to playing with each other. That seemed to work at first, until Cody began trying to push us forward to put out a song. The troubles began from then on  because he started to feel as though he was the only one dedicated to the band. Gavin, Kris and I often found ourselves being lectured by him and we often dreaded practice because of the constant nagging.

However, we continued to practice and Arcana Curse produced its first song, which was never granted a title.

The band stayed together into the start of our junior year, (8th grade for my brother) and Kris became to be very unreliable at this point, never showing up for practice or making some excuse that he couldn’t be there. Cody became increasingly more arrogant in his lack of satisfaction with the band’s progress and my brother and I just had to put up with it.

It was November and the future of Arcana Curse was bleak, we had failed to meet three band practices in a row and talk between each of us was bitter and frustrated. One day after school the vocalist sent us all a text message telling us to meet up at the local Turkey Hill, so Gavin and I made our way there. When we got there, Cody was there to tell us that things weren’t working out and that the band should take a hiatus, (which was pretty much a permanent one, Cody just didn’t want to admit it). We all agreed that it was probably good to do so and went home after that, and I was really disappointed that the band fell apart and we couldn’t work it out, but there wasn’t anything I could do.

After the break up, I learned a great deal about being a band with my experience in Arcana Curse. If you’re going to be in a band, it takes a steady flow of dedication from all band members, and that one member cannot try to “be the band.” Don’t bother with unreliable people either, because I noticed how much you cannot do when just one of the band members isn’t there. Especially a guitar player, which resulted in absolutely no progress.

Even though my musician’s fantasy was never fully satisfied, I still loved those moments when we jammed and the music came off the top of our heads that resulted in a punishing new riff, or a unique, brutal breakdown that we always forgot to record because we were all trapped in the euphoria of the fact that we were making something original. The group and I might never become famous for playing deathcore, whether Arcana Curse got back together or not, but I’m sure we all learned that forming a band in your teenage years is way more then we could could of ever imagined.


Can I have some Change?

By Errol Hammond –

We all change when we grow up.  Some change for the better, some for the worse. It really all depends on who you grow up with and how you’re raised. I  lived in Willow Street but went to a Catholic school which was a challenge, because I wasn’t then and I’m still not Catholic. I felt like going to a really strict Catholic school was a waste of my sixth grade year. Don’t get me wrong, great schooling, but the people were somewhat stuck up. Kids went hard wearing Wallabies and Clarks, overpriced leather shoes that people wear when they have nothing else to do with their money.  Being a senior now, it seems like it was swag or the swagger you have when you know you are rockin’ the best.  But then, I would just think to myself ‘why would your dad get you the same shoes as he wears, just in your size.’ The kids in my grade who I hung out with and went to Penn Manor wore simple stuff. Nike shoe hand-me-downs, Air Walks, Moccasin, Slip on Sneakers, Sketchers, and other PayLess and K-mart brands like Route 66.

Errol Hammond

But really what 10-year-old doesn’t want to go to school where your neighborhood friends go. I mean it would be hanging with them all day, then waiting for them to come ring the door to go play outside. Pequea  Elementary was where I belonged. My older siblings went there but I was the lucky one and went straight to (Catholic School).
I made sure my parents  knew how I felt and suddenly they agreed, I could change – back to my neighborhood public school.  I changed in other ways, too. I got fat. By the end of my sixth grade summer, I was a 190 pounds.  That’s kind of fat.  But in the end I went to Pequea ,so thats all that mattered at the time. Good change?

I was the big black kid that you just wanted to have as a good friend, not a enemy. But I’d say I was rather nice for the most part. Just bigger than most of my friends… Okay all of my friends… Never a physical bully. Unless the rare occasions when my friends would get enough courage to all attack me from different angles. Never actually went well.. For them.
It was great when three of your 120 pound friends have enough chutzpah to charge me at the same time. Especially when it’s your middle school friends Marc Summy, Cheyenne Weber and Matt Ulmer. Which it always starts off with everyone chilled out then turns into a war. Extra weight can come in hand other times, like for instance, just bouncing each other higher and higher on the 8-year-old worn and rusty trampoline until someone flies really high. But somehow we go from jumping, laughing and doing tricks, too being in a pitch black basement shooting each other with shotguns, pistols, snipers, and different (air soft guns). That’s when being big was good because the hard plastic bullets shooting at 10 ft per second would just bounce of my muscle. Well according to my brother, my muscle was “frozen fat.”
So when you say that you loved me more when I was a fat body. I don’t know what to really say to that… “Thanks?” or “Haha, I know right?” So it can sometimes be weird when I see family, friends and peers I haven’t seen since eighth or ninth grade. Yeah, I was fat even after sixth too, it wasn’t gonna lose weight in my sleep.

I’ve heard all the fat jokes… Yes, even the TV show comparisons like, Cory from “That so Raven,” Little Bear from Nickelodeon, sometimes Little Bill from the Cosby Books… when I had glasses.. even Arthur.
I changed up again by going to Lancaster Catholic for the great football program in ninth grade.  I played varsity in 9th grade because I was big and strong enough to help the team win games. We were Section Champions and my 285 pound frame got to start in four varsity games. Don’t get me wrong I loved the football, but I felt the schooling wasn’t right for me and missed my Comet family. Plus, most of the people were still stuck up.
Sophomore year I did a repeat and came back to Penn Manor for the rest of my high school career, which I’m finishing my senior year. I now weigh 210 pounds and feel great. The choices I made I learned from and changed me for the better. I can say that the people that I grew up with helped me change for the better. Now moving on to another chapter of my life, I hope to change up things (again) and get out of high school.

Stardom Only One Dunk Away

By Jordan Rineer-

A video camera, three teenagers, and some free time.

You’re thinking this will end with some angry parents or an arrest.

Nope. Just a basketball and some motivation to be a YouTube sensation.

Everyday after school, to achieve our goal, we headed to a friend’s house by ourselves.

No girls.

No alcohol.

No drugs.

How much trouble could we cause trying to perform the basketball trick shots and make it big in the world of YouTube.

Trials on end. Some shots took hours. Some first try.

Some didn’t even make it within ten feet of the basket.

Anything to make to it big on the internet.

We all had a class together. Instead of doing schoolwork we would think of more shots. If we had been graded on creativity we would have definitely gotten an A.

Photo credit to Photo Booth.

We had a paper of the shots each of us we were going to do. We studied it and refined it until the paper in the notebook grew thin.

Behind the back, from the trampoline, over the house.

Anything that ran through our troubled minds, we attempted at least once.

Every time we were together, trick shots were the only things we talked about.

My dad delivers Herrs chips to businesses. Every one used to make fun of me when my dad would pick me up in the giant Herr’s truck from places. I would be lying if I told you it didn’t bother me. But finally  having a Herr’s truck in my driveway was not only good  for the occasional snack. We could travel with the hoop anywhere.  We moved it all around.

We put it in the yard, this opened up the window for bigger and better shots.

Filming was the worst part. It was soooooo boring. We supposedly “took turns” but it seemed like I was the only one with the camera in my hands.

On the flip side, making a shot was the best feeling in the world. That’s why we did it. It was kind of like our drug. It got us high. We were addicted.  We worked at it almost every day for two months.

We honestly thought we would make it big. With a little more publicity we could have. We should of. We would have.

We got two different initial reactions to the video from some people.

“Dude that video was sick!”


“That has to be fake!”

Taking months out of my life to show some hard work or “luck.”

With only 217 views to show, almost all hope is lost.

It’s just disappointing to see the hard work basically to go to waste.







An Accident Waiting to Happen

Richard Schulz –

Teenagers are always at high risk to be involved in accidents, but who knew I’d crash into a statistic.

Just another summer day hanging out with friends turned into to the worst. A car spun out of control. Three lives changed in seconds.

I was hanging out with two friends that day. Nick Young and Jordan Rineer, but we all called Jordan, Gordo.

My friend Gordo sums the accident as “life threatening” and “scary as hell.”

I agree.

We decided to play some basketball since it was such a nice day out. I had a video from before we left my house. Gordo had stepped on my skateboard and sent a Skittle from the opposite side into the air. He caught it in his mouth.

Who knew such happy guys would have the carpet pulled out from underneath them? Not me. Not Nick. Not Gordo. No one knew. But if I could I would take it back instantly.

Driving on the back roads of Conestoga, an accident was waiting to happen.


Photo credit to Photo Booth.

Roads that turn sharper than ninety degree angles and have loose rocks that laid over them like a blanket.

As most teens do, I was speeding. Not to the point where my car was about to take off, but fast enough to lose control. I was making the turn and hit rocks that made my turns slide. My rear tires went over a grate leaving my front wheels on the actual road.

My dad always said,”When you lose control of your car, cut the wheel in the direction you’re sliding.” How I remembered that in the moment? I have no idea.

According to Gordo we were heading directly toward a tree but I was able to turn the wheel and only hit it with the front passenger side of my car. Guess all my luck didn’t run out.

The car and the tree made contact while the air bag made contact with my face, but I was in shock. We all were.We looked at each other wide-eyed and scared beyond belief.

I asked my friends if they were alright but Nick just pointed out that my face had been bleeding. Great, more things to add to my wonderful day. Exiting my car I felt fine, minus the thought of what my parents would do to me, but after a couple more steps I fell to the dirt. A wall of pain and light headedness hit me almost harder than the air bag. Almost. I looked at my car and at myself. It was like my car and I were having a competition to see which looked worse. We tied.

I had multiple lacerations and burns on my arms and face. To this day I don’t know why my wrist was bleeding or how it was injured. The seat belt had tore open my chest a little also. Who knew the “safety belt” would end up hurting me in the process.

My friends injuries, on the other hand, were less serious. Nick had stubbed his toe while Rineer sat on his lower region.

Though we joke about the accident and the things that had happened, I’m grateful. Not for my safety but for theirs. The remorse I have still haunts me and my friends are aware. To this day I apologize to the both of them for endangering their lives. I’m glad that after the incident I can call them friends. Still hanging out, having good times, sharing stories and continuing on with our lives. Except me.

Ok, I don’t let it keep me from living my life, but I always think to myself, “Their lives could be gone. Their families could be devastated. All because of me.”

That’s not the case though. They’re here and we are still friends, like it should be.

The Petting Zoo That I Call Home

By Austin Hess –

We have a rodent problem in our house, partly because we don’t try to catch them, we feed them.

It’s a zoo out there, or in there, if you live with my family. Our ridiculously dizzy dog Skip, our “pysch rat” Taya, Oliver the rescue chinchilla, Mia and Tia the hamsters the size of my thumbs, Muffie the escape rabbit, Jimmy the groundhog-sized guinea pig, (and our newest editions) Patrick the goldfish, and Kiki and Khloe our baby guinea pigs, make up the spoiled animal family that we’ve learned to love. Five of which are housed in my room and the others in my siblings rooms.

Every morning I’m greeted by the sounds of clicking water bottles, the scratching of our bunny trying to get out and play, and my mom waking everyone up for their morning treat. This chaotic cacophony has taught me more lessons than many people ever could. Responsibility, the meaning of a dollar, and what it’s like to have a lot of living things depend on you for attention, a clean home, and survival.

Austin Hess

So be honest, when you think of someone having ten animals living inside their house, 8 of them in cages, you assume that the house has to be messy, “they have too many pets for anyone too handle,” or, my personal favorite, that our house HAS to have some kind of funky smell to it.

I am proud to say that you couldn’t be more wrong. There’s a system to this madness, each cage is cleaned out once a week using a strong odor-eliminating cage cleaner and clean bedding. You know those huge bags of animal bedding that most families buy because it lasts them a year? We buy two extra large bags and they last us about 4-5 weeks, add that and the cost of food, treats, and toys and you have a typical Petsmart bill for us. You go to the pet store to buy one thing, and then remember my mother’s rule; you have to buy something for everyone to be fair.

So when did the madness begin? Back in 2001, we bought our dog shortly after 9/11 because my parents thought that life is too short to not let your kids have a dog. Taya was a social psychology rat and Oliver was a chinchilla we adopted from someone who kept him in their unfinished basement the first 10 months of his life. My mother gave both the guinea pig and two dwarf hamsters to my brothers while my dad was away for the weekend. Needless to say, he doesn’t go away too much anymore. The rabbit was sort of a late surprise Christmas present my parents brought home on New Year’s Eve and the two baby guinea pigs were given to me this year after my birthday. The goldfish was brought home against my parent’s will when my youngest brother Garrett brought him home from a birthday party.

Sometimes it’s stressful on all of us, having to find time to clean cages once a week and get each of them out for a good amount of time each night so they can play and tire themselves out. If one of us is slacking on keeping them clean, my dad will be the first to say something smells funny and we need to get the cages done. On top of the play schedule, each water bottle must be checked daily to make sure all three guinea pigs have vitamin C drops, the guineas, the chinchilla, and the rabbit all need hay every day, and food bowls need filled everyday. You can’t imagine how difficult it is to take a vacation because the first thing we need to plan is finding someone willing to care for 10 animals while we are away. There are nights when it’s just constant arguments between my siblings and I about them not doing enough or who needs to clean what cage, but in more ways than one these furry, attention seeking critters have brought us together.

When’s the last time you were sitting in your kitchen and a rabbit came flying down the hall hopping off the walls? Found a sleeping rat in a tissue box? Or had to cut open your box mattress to coax a curious chinchilla out of hiding? Some would say we’re a loving family, others simply think we’re crazy, but at the end of the day, no one could leave our jungle of a home without a smile.

Motivation from Within Keeps Me Pumping

By Becca Hess –

When your heart is broken you feel limited, sometimes helpless and isolated at times. Now you may think I’m referring to being totally love struck, head over heels in love with some boy and then being dumped, thrown away like a piece of useless trash. I’m not.

Literally, I have a broken, blood-pumping organ in me that affected me since day one.  I was born with complex congenital heart disease, transposition of the great vessel, pulmonary stenosis and a single left ventricle. If you’re not in the medical field that probably sounds like a foreign language and it took me about the same time to learn how to say all that than someone taking French would need to become fluent. In simpler terms I have about eight things wrong with my heart.

I won’t go into great detail but compared to most, who likely have four chambers in their heart, I only have three. My aorta and pulmonary artery are switched. I also have a decreased level of oxygen in my body. These are just a few of the problems but it’s really no big deal. I was just like any other kid out there. It’s hardly noticeable unless I talk about it and I don’t. Then there are some minute things people start to notice. Like I get out of breath way faster then everyone else, but yet 95 percent of the time I push myself. I don’t like to be limited.

Becca Hess

My parents raised me as if I was a normal healthy kid.  I never had “the moment” when they sat me down and explained that I was different, more fragile.  They let me play sports, dance, ride four wheelers and dirt bikes.

My parents said, “be careful,” and they let me fly and I was never careful.  I was the kid that took a detour through the rough field, who flung my chest protector to the side, who tried to jump any obstacle in front of me.  My dad actually built me a ramp one time.

I’m sure they worried but they didn’t hold me back. Even though in between my riding and jumping and playing soccer I had three open-heart surgeries, numerous heart catheterizations, breathing treatments, medication, broken arms and doctor visits for whatever else was going on.

My parents worried a lot of course, especially when I was younger playing soccer. It wasn’t too long after my last surgery and with the constant running up and down the field breathing treatments were like an extra meal being served every day. My parents had differing styles, my mom was more cautious and worrisome where my dad was all for pushing me. I guess they balanced each other well. However the summer when I was 6, my dad decided I was old enough to mow the lawn on a big riding mower. I lived in Solanco at the time and we had a big hill. A 6 year old on a riding mower, plus a big hill…yeah that didn’t fly with my mom. For the most part I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to, and I did.

They used to joke about wrapping me in bubble wrap to protect me from anything I could possibly get hurt in, because I have a tendency to push myself in an attempt to keep up or even put the competition to shame. Pain is unavoidable, it comes and goes, but I feel it’s the price you pay when you’re an athlete, a normal healthy kid just living life to the fullest. And if a little pain, whether physical or mental, is the cost I have to pay then by all means I will.

They always supported me, my parents, in whatever I wanted to be a part of whether it was a sport, or a club, it didn’t matter they tried their best to be there. Playing a sport wasn’t as easy as it was for the rest of the kids my age.  It was and still is a whole different ball game for me. I have to pass a stress test in order to play. And no, I’m not talking about the kind of stress you feel during your senior year of high school, working, choosing a college, filling out the paperwork and worrying about money. The doctors put stress on my heart to see how much it can take and if my heart could withstand the physical strains of a competitive sport. They hook me up to a machine with wires and stickies all over my chest, attach this contraption to my head that looks like I’m about to have brain surgery, pinch my nose shut and shove a tube in my mouth which supplies the small amount of oxygen my body will receive. That’s not all, not even close; I then have to run on a treadmill for as long as possible while they continue to make it harder. Make it faster. Make it steeper. And as I’ve mentioned before, I push myself. About 15-18 minutes is my average time. It’s hell. Every second of it, but when you love the game, you do what you gotta do.

I love those moments in softball when the zany ball is lost in confusion for just a second and then I see it coming right at me. Plunk, in the glove.  I love those soccer break-aways on the fresh mowed sod when I get the ball, it’s just me and the ball for a few glorious seconds of freedom and promise. I love the one-on-one style of basketball and long 3-pointers which swish as they hit the net.  But most of all I love my team.  I love how we pick each other up and cheer for each other so loud the other team finds us annoying. I love our huddles, our talks and how we proudly say Comets at the end of a 1-2-3 before and after each and every game.

I’m outgoing and adventurous and no one will tell me what I can and cannot do and when they try, I get frustrated. I don’t feel handicapped so why should I or anyone else treat me like I am? The reason I am who I am today is because of my parents. They enabled not hindered me. They supported me in sports despite the medical obstacles we had to face. They allowed me to make my own decisions and taught me to deal with and respect the consequences that sometimes followed.

As tough as it can be at times to deal with this annoyance, I believe it has truly shaped me into the person I am today. Having to deal with this since birth  has greatly impacted my life, the  choices I have made and my future. It has made me stronger, more independent and more focused. My physical weakness has, and always will be, my greatest motivation.