A Family Story

By: Ragan Love

I am the oldest in my family. I have a brother who is two years younger than me and my four cousins are all around six to eleven years old. It has been hard for us to really have a connection because we are scattered across the country from New Hampshire, to Colorado, to Oregon. But our Grandmother has created an activity that helps us all connect and also helps my younger cousin with their writing skills. 

It all started because my youngest cousin was having a hard time writing so he never wanted to. My grandma started to write him a letter so he could write back but after a while my grandma came up with a new way to get him to write. She gave an introduction to a story and sent it to him and asked for him to write the next part of the story. He did and sent it back to my grandma and she was excited to see how much he was into it. He was descriptive and had so many creative things to say. My grandmother decided to send this story to the next youngest cousin who was just as excited.

She went through my four cousins and then asked my brother and I if we wanted to contribute, and we jumped for the opportunity! I am so excited to be a part of this little family activity. I know how much it will help my cousins with their own writing skills and it will give me time to relax and be creative.

This is a wonderful opportunity for my younger cousins to be creative and to practice their writing skills and it’s an opportunity for me to relax and write. I have been swamped with school and work and this little activity is therapeutic for me.

Once I am done I will send my part of the story to my grandmother. We might get another round with this story or we might start a new one, but I am excited to see how our little project turns out. This is a wonderful project to do with the younger kids in your family and will help them with their basic writing skills and allow you to relax and write a story.

Trading a White Christmas for a Rainy One

By: Ragan Love

My favorite holiday is Christmas; I love baking, the snow, and the wonderful memories with my family. But this year my family and I decided that me staying here in Portland would be the safest choice for all of us. My family is very close and it’s been hard not being together during normal days, especially with the year we have had. 

In Colorado, I always had a white Christmas, it is something that I think is essential for Christmas to feel real. But, since I was staying in Portland, I had to prepare myself to wake up that morning and see wet pavement instead of a blanket of snow. And because I am considered a Christmas baby, I am also used to having snow on my birthday. It was weird for me to spend this entire week of Christmas, my birthday, and New Years without snow falling down. There are many traditions that looked different this year because I wasn’t with my family. 

Usually for Christmas my family goes out to find a new ornament for our tree and when we all find one, we have our decoration night. We drink eggnog, play Christmas music, and enjoy the tree and all of the decorations around the house. This year my family set up the tree without me and I had to send them my 2020 ornament. Luckily I had a mini tree so I still had the Christmas vibes in my home. My roommates also agreed to get matching stockings which helped make it feel like the Christmas season.

My family and I usually bake a bunch of sweets every year including different kinds of cookies, peanut butter balls, pie, and a cake for my birthday. But this year, we did the baking separately. I made pumpkin muffins and peanut butter balls and my dad made Christmas sugar cookies. On Christmas day we have a big Christmas dinner with potatoes, steak, and a bunch of vegetables. I enjoy Christmas dinner more than Thanksgiving because of how small we have usually kept it, usually just the three of us. 

This year, my dad made a nice dinner for him and my brother and I had the opportunity to have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner with my roommate. We had pork one day and street tacos the next. I spent the remainder of the day talking with my family on Facetime. We had breakfast together and opened the gifts we got for each other. My family got me some supplies to make pie at home. My dad and I cooked it together on the phone as if we were next to each other baking. It wasn’t like any other Christmas but we were able to make it special when we are 1,000 miles apart.

Fall Quarter Slump

By: Ragan Love

With two quarters down in quarantine and I was not prepared with how different this fall was going to be. I have always been motivated to do well in school, even my “senioritis” was being late to class everyday because I wanted coffee. I still did my work on time and worked hard. During spring quarter I still felt pretty motivated despite the circumstances. I got all of my work done on time, practiced flute multiple times a week, and I didn’t skip out on class.

But, this fall quarter it went down the drain. I skipped out on classes and started to fall behind on work, even writing this blog has been hard to do because of motivation. I didn’t have the energy to do all of these things I love to do. Luckily, I have come across a few things that have helped me through this quarter. 

  1. Communicate with your professors! They know how hard this time is for everybody and letting them know about your situation will help your professors know how to help you. I had a problem that I either would go to my piano Zoom class and not practice or I would skip the lecture and work on the skills and assignments. When I talked to my professor, he allowed me to turn in supplemental videos to show the skills he was giving in the classes I missed. This was the most helpful thing a professor did for me, he allowed me to learn when I was struggling to go to class.
  2. Plan when assignments are due: I have never been the person to do assignments 10 minutes before they were due but that has been my reality this term. The only thing that has helped me is to go through my assignments and write when they are due instead of the day I would like to finish them. Before, I would keep pushing off my homework to the point it was late but, this forced me to make sure that the assignment gets done
  3. Know your resources! Many people are dealing with this quarantine depression and it’s important to know that you are not alone. There are people to talk to and PSU has resources for students!

https://www.pdx.edu/health-counseling/wellness

Learning New Technology

By: Ragan Love

One word my friends use to describe me is “Grandma.” I don’t know Gen Z terms, I bake cookies, and I am not good with technology. I know how to work the Microsoft programs and can get by, but when the Pandemic started I had a huge learning curve to conquer. 

One thing that I and other music majors started using is Soundtrap. This is a recording platform that allows multiple people to record on the same piece. Because of this platform, PSU’s large ensembles are able to perform with our peers in the safety of our home. 

This term I am in a woodwind quintet and we have been working on three pieces of music. When I first went to complete a recording, I hit start and played with the metronome and our clarinetist and when I finished and listened back, I was out of time. I didn’t know why, I was playing it just like my quintet members but this is when I learned about latency. When we record anything, there is a slight delay, and it is different on every device. I recorded using my Macbook microphone which has a slower latency. Luckily my roommate has a studio microphone and let me record off of that, helping me to solve the latency problem.I will have to eventually get my own microphone because I will be doing recordings for the rest of my schooling, but I am grateful my roommate is helping me with this.

I also decided that it was time to start going paperless and I bought an iPad. As a music major I have a lot of sheet music that I end up printing out and now I can save some of those to the iPad. I can write and it’s been very useful for reading music. It is also really nice for homework in general. I use Microsoft Onenote and they actually have pages that have music staff, not just lined paper! I can also do a split screen between my Macbook and iPad so its like I have two monitors. I have used this feature while writing my papers because I can have my draft on one screen and my notes on the other.

Having an ESA

By: Ragan Love

One decision I have made in college that has been the best choice for me was getting an emotional support animal. I am currently seeking help from my doctors and trying to make sure that I am doing what I need to do. My emotional support animal — or ESA — has been an important piece of the puzzle. 

My freshman year of college, my roommate would go home quite often and I would be by myself. I would feel alone and my mental health would start depleting. I spent some weekends not leaving my bed because I didn’t see a point to. This is when I started looking into getting an ESA.

When looking at the information I found online, I knew that getting an ESA would be a good choice for my mental health. I talked to my freshman roommate about it, but unfortunately she did not want to have an animal in our room. I understood their decision and was going to wait until the next school year to continue the search. But, the pandemic hit and the school year was cut short.

I went back to Colorado with my family and I spent every day with my family cat. My brother spent all of his time drawing in his room and my dad was at work so I really was alone with my cat. I could tell how much having him around helped my mental health.

This led to a conversation with my dad, who is a bit sceptical about ESA’s. It took awhile to get him behind the idea but he saw how much it would help me. 

So, I went to my local shelter and searched for my new cat. This is where I found my ESA, Pinball. He is a four-year-old tabby cat who is the sweetest cat I have ever seen. He loves to cuddle and nap next to you while you do work. My current roommates love him too and play with him all the time. I have noticed that my mental health is better with him around, he has made me feel whole again. Even on my bad days, he helps me get out of bed and start the day. 

If you want more information on ESA’s or what you need to do to have one on campus look at the links below

https://www.pdx.edu/disability-resource-center/assistance-animal-housing

Moving Out and Moving On

By: Ragan Love

2020 has been the year of change; every time I blink something new happens. So why not say bye to my family and move to Portland.

I went home to Colorado because of COVID-19 in March and got to spend some quality time with my dad and brother. But, I learned that I am ready to live on my own. It was hard going home for so long after having my first taste of independence.

I was originally planning on staying in the dorms this year with my friend Stacey, but when we found out that we would be in individual rooms for the fall term, we decided to find an off-campus apartment. I am someone who needs human interaction and knew I would not do well living by myself.

We found a place in Southwest with another friend of ours and that prompted a plan to drive 1,200 miles. There were a couple of pieces of furniture that I had from my family home that would work well in our apartment so my dad and I drove up from Colorado to Portland together. 

So we packed up our cars! My dad decided to take his car too and enjoy the trip back with our family dog. We had the cars packed with my bedroom furniture, clothes, shoes (which there were a lot). There was a snowstorm the night we were planning to leave so we were delayed a few hours. But once we got on the road it was smooth sailing — for us and the pets!

The most stressful thing about the drive was my cat, Pinball. The couple times that I had him in the car he was not happy. I had to get some medication from the vet so he could be calm during our journey. I gave him some at 5 a.m., two hours before our trip and that helped him be sleepy for a few hours. He did not want to eat or drink on the road. But, once we got to Portland he ate and drank like normal! He really loves his life here and all of the attention he is getting. I can tell he misses my family cat and dog.

Now that I have spent over a month in my new place, it is safe to say that I made a good choice. I am happy with where I am at and happy that I got to create this little family with my roommates.

Social Distance Summer

By: Ragan Love

With summer just around the corner, I have been wondering how to enjoy the next few months. I don’t want to just sit inside, but I want to keep myself and loved ones safe. I love being around people, and this is a time where that really won’t happen.

When I envisioned summer 2020, I knew that I would be back home in Colorado. I was going to get a summer job and work full time for a few months. I wanted to do some fun adventuring with my friends and maybe travel somewhere with my family. My brother is going to college in the fall so this will be the last time where we are all hanging out together, and I was hoping that we could make it memorable. 

Luckily, I can still enjoy some of my favorite summer activities. I can still go hiking. It will be easy to distance myself. I also like to drive in the mountains and see nature, which I can do by myself right now and hopefully at some point with one friend. My town also has one of the last drive-in movie theaters in the country, so I can go there for a movie and stay safe in my car. 

There are things that I know won’t happen this summer because of the pandemic. In recent years my family has been spending a day at a local adventure park, but we all know it won’t be safe to go. Water World, a local water park, has announced that they will be closed all summer, and we are waiting for the other parks to follow suit. The county fair I go to happens at the beginning of August and marks the last summer adventure for the kids, but I am expecting those events to also announce that they are closing.

It has been awhile since I have seen my family in New Hampshire, and it looked like this might have been a summer where we could go visit. We did get some unexpected news, and we had to postpone a celebration of life until the end of the summer. My high school friends and I were also planning on hanging out in a little reunion this summer, but we know now that it will not happen for us this year.

I will be sad to not have an adventurous summer like I had planned, but it will be one of most memorable summers for all of us. I know that if I do what I need to this summer, even if that means missing out on fun events, life will soon come back to normal.

Facetime Friendships

By: Ragan Love

We are two months into quarantine which means it has been two months since I have seen any of my friends. I am an extroverted person, and isolation has taken a toll on me. I am missing the friendships that I just started in Portland, and I am watching my brother try to create memories with his friends before high school ends.

The friends I met at Portland State are now scattered across the country, but we still talk regularly. The friends that I always talked to before and after band class are now the friends I  Facetime with before and after the class Zoom call. Even though I miss the hugs and boba tea runs, it’s fun to see my friends’ houses, pets and family. I have also sent letters to my friends because I can’t surprise them in real life. 

Some friendships have dwindled because we don’t see each other. I felt like I did what I could to start conversations with those friends and say that I was there for them, but they faded away. I am sad to see those friendships go but I can’t spend my love and time on people who don’t want it. I am hoping that this might just be a little break that will make our friendship stronger when we can see each other again.

I am still friends with a few people from my hometown, and it is sad that I can’t see them even though we are only five minutes away from each other. We still talk, and we give each other hope that we will hang out once it’s safer. In the meantime, we are talking about our different college experiences with each other.

My best friend attends Colorado State University, and in October, she bought a plane ticket for spring break to see me and Portland. When March rolled around, the pandemic was in full swing, and we both thought it was best to postpone the trip. I ended up coming home for the quarter, so I will be able to see her soon and she will come to Portland once it’s safe. In the meantime, we are sending each other pictures of our animals and Facetiming. 

Even my brother, who is a senior in high school, has changed his friendships. Because he is a senior he has missed out on a lot of the senior activities; ditch day, prom, and graduation. He and his friends have been doing their regular hangouts in Animal Crossing. They all decided to “ditch” class together on the Senior Ditch Day as if they would have all hung out on the regular ditch day. My brother’s friends and their families have all agreed to help them have a mini prom night. With his group of six friends they are all going to dress up and just spend one nice night together. It’s sad to see him miss out on these experiences, but I am glad that we are able to help make different experiences. His friends have also shifted their regular Dungeon and Dragon meetings online, and it has seemed to work well for them. 

All of our friendships look different now, but this experience will really show who is a true friend and will help strengthen those relationships in our life.

Separating School and Home Life

By: Ragan Love

Remote Learning has been a learning curve for all of us, but now that half of the quarter is over, we all feel like experts. I am always looking for new ways to make remote learning easier, and I know other people are, too. Here are seven tips that have helped me be successful this Spring quarter. 

  1. Have a specific space to do your work. If you were on campus you would have your favorite study space: a coffee shop, the library, or your desk. When learning at home, it is important to separate your learning and chill spaces. I don’t have a personal desk at home, but my dining room table is working great for me. It gives me lots of space, and it’s located in an open area where I can look outside.
  2. Look at your word choice. I discovered the past few weeks that I call everything homework, and it makes my workload seem overwhelming. I have tried to separate what would be my classwork and my homework. The simple word change has helped me feel less overwhelmed with school work.
  3. Have your set “school day.” This will seem kind of high school but you should have a set school day. If you have a class from 10 a.m.to 11:30 a.m., work on that class during that time. I generally work at school from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. I will only work on loose ends and homework. It makes me feel like there is an end to the day if I have a clock out card for school.
  4. Once you are done,  stay done. It seems simple but we are all guilty of breaking this! Even though I say I am done, I will still respond to emails and check notifications on D2L. I have been trying to change that by putting down my phone and computer and spending some time with my family and animals.
  5. Remember to take a break. This is the most important tip I can give –  to others and myself. Burnout is a real thing for college students, and we are facing it more while at home. I feel like I have to be working on school all day so I write “take a break” in my calendar, forcing myself to have a little fun just for me. Some of my break activities have included napping, watching a show, taking a walk, or playing a game with my brother.
  6. Set daily goals. I am a very organized person but my organizational style has changed a lot during remote learning. I have found a system that works well for me, but I am still trying new things to see what I like. At the beginning of the school week I write a list of what needs to get done for every class. Every morning I look at my weekly list and put what I will specifically work on in my bullet journal.
  7. Set more specific goals. It is helpful to turn my goals into smaller, specific goals. Instead of working until I burn out, I set a goal of working on the online part of the unit or the chapter reading. This takes more planning to make sure you don’t fall behind, but it’s actually helped me get ahead in some of my classes!

Remote Learning For Music Majors

By: Ragan Love

Remote learning is a big transition for a music major. Most of my learning is hands-on. My classes consist of performing with and for my peers and learning how to play the piano and sing. These classes have always been in-person and this is the first time students and teachers have moved learning online. Some of my classes had little change while others are drastically different. 

Performance courses look very different online. All undergraduate music majors are required to enroll in nine terms of Performance Attendance. This is a weekly class where we listen to different musicians and answer questions about what we heard. The School of Music has canceled the class altogether. It is unknown if they will waive the requirement this term or if we will all have to take an extra term when we are back on campus. 

Another weekly class that I take is Studio Class. This is where I get to hear what the other flute performance majors (undergraduate and graduate) are working on. The flute professors have put together an unofficial Facebook group where we can post videos of performances for our peers to hear. We had our first session of performances, and it was very nice to hear my friends play and hear their comments about my performance.

The last weekly class that I take is my private lesson with my flute professor. During finals week Dr. Sydney Carlson sent an email to the flute studio members asking questions about our living situations – whether we were practicing with a full house or not – and the technology available to us. Dr. Carlson suggested we record every lesson so we can listen back throughout the week. Currently, I use FaceTime on my computer and record it on my phone. I think this process will work for me but I have only had two remote lessons so far. 

Even my non-music major friends have wondered how the music school will offer band class. It is interesting what the director of bands has put together. We will only have two “performances.” They will be more like fun recordings and the band will get to learn more about those when the midterm and finals week approaches. 

In the meantime, we are listening to band literature. Every week, the students get a few different pieces to listen to and answer questions about. Then, we have a Zoom meeting to discuss our thoughts about the music. Because we are not performing like usual, most non-music majors have decided not to participate in band this term. 

I am also in first-year piano, which is for music majors who came to the university with no prior piano experience. This Spring term we have to complete the Piano Proficiency Exam, which allows music majors to move to the advanced piano classes. Each week, my teacher gives us a class assignment to turn in and then an assignment for the exam. When he sends the assignments he also posts videos of tutorials and videos that show common mistakes. It’s difficult to learn an instrument without having the instructor there with you, but the professor is doing a wonderful job giving us resources and answering questions. 

My classes that don’t involve instruments include music theory, sight-singing/aural skills, and first-year honors. Music Theory has had a rocky start as it transitioned to another online platform. The professor is currently trying to use Canvas, which would allow music students to turn in assignments on an online music sheet software. This means that we all need to learn how to operate this software, including the instructor. The past few assignments we have been just to figure out how to write music online. It has been very helpful, but this means we haven’t learned any new content these past two weeks. Luckily, as we enter week three, we will start our spring quarter of music theory content.

Sight-singing is a course that coincides with theory. Students learn how to aurally understand music through dictation and singing assignments. The content for this class has been pretty easy because it drills our current skills. Assignments for this class included turning in recordings of us singing and pictures of our dictation practice. 

First-year honors has stayed very similar to what it would have been on campus. I am working on a group and individual project and we are only meeting as a class a few times for check-ins. 

With the refund from housing, I decided to take five extra credits, and I picked classes that were already online courses. I am taking American Traditions in Blues and Listening I. American traditions has us reading, listening and appreciating blues music and Listening I is the same concept but for classical music. Since these courses are originally meant for online work, this is the only part of the quarter that seems normal. 

I don’t feel like I am getting the education I paid for; however, I am still benefiting from remote learning. Sometimes the School of Music is a little old fashioned when it comes to learning, so this is allowing all of us to learn music technology like music writing software. This experience is reminding me to not take my education for granted because it can drastically change overnight. I am grateful for the professors who are trying to make the best out of this situation, but I hope that I can be back performing with my classmates in the fall.