America as a nation, considering how it started, has grown and expanded dramatically. Everything in America has grown and expanded in one way or another: businesses, national parks, ideas, beliefs. Most of the time, this growth is for the better. It is for the better because it helps America and its people become well rounded. Unfortunately in recent years, people have become well rounded and started to grow and expand in an unhealthy manner. So what do some people do to fix this unhealthy lifestyle? They start to work out and eat right. Though working out and eating right will decrease a person’s overall size, there are parts of them that are still growing. These parts are muscles. Muscles are what make people move. So when people workout, their muscles grow – but how? Muscles grow through a three step process: muscle tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.

In order to get muscles to grow, a person must progressively lift heavier and heavier weights – to put tension on the muscles. Putting tension on the muscles is like setting off an alarm clock to something called “Satellite Cells.” Satellite cells act basically like when people order takeout food. The satellite cell is a person, and the body is the fast-food joint. The cell orders the specific nutrients and ingredients it needs to start building muscle mass, and lifting heavier weights is like a growing appetite in a person that makes them order more things from the fast food joint. As the weight-lifting increases appetite, the cell orders more food, and the body delivers. But it is not just muscle tension that is needed. Muscle damage contributes to the process.

Muscle damage is as simple as it sounds. When working out, the process of muscle tension is taking place; and when tension is being put on the muscles, they begin to tear. The tears are like two cliffs in the muscle – and how are two cliffs crossed between? By making strong bridges to connect the two sides. In this case, the bridges are smaller strands of muscle, and there are hundreds of these strands of muscles stretching out to connect and heal the tear. Once the gap is sealed, a reinforcement of pure muscle grows over the new bridge to cover it – like a scab on a cut. That is when muscles start to “build” because muscle is being added.

The final phase of building muscle is “metabolic stress.” Metabolic stress is when a bunch of healing cells rush in around the muscle to help heal a tear. Some people have a lot more cells, so this means the muscle is healed from the damage but not made stronger – it is just reinforced in a bulky manner. This is why someone could have a thin physique and still could be much stronger than a bulky bodybuilder. This process is known as “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.” But this only occurs when someone has too many cells rushing at once. Normally, an average number of cells will heal muscles and increase in size steadily.

People have started to grow and expand in an unhealthy manner and when they workout, they want to both lose weight and gain muscle. Muscle gain happens through muscle tension (putting tension on the muscles by lifting weights), muscle damage (when the muscle is torn by the tension), and metabolic stress (when the healing cells come in and fix the damage). This process is something that takes place in the human body every time someone works out to gain muscle. People should be informed before they workout so they will understand how to be safe and sure of what they are doing to their bodies. This what the Bible has to say about the human body: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). If the body is a temple for God, then it must be maintained. It would be a great day for American citizens to be the “biggest” in the world because of their muscles rather than the opposite.


Learning How to Live

Falling in the many pits of life, but not

Allowing it to keep us there.

Learning to get back up after the fall is what will allow us to

Learn from our mistakes and live a life moving closer to God and our purpose.



The Survivors

So many people, so many styles, so many things, and so many differences. But not just differences, similarities as well. There are many differences in this world, people are different than one another, styles are different than one another, and movies are different than one another as well. Some movies can have completely different stories and ideals but some are more alike than others. Two movies of interesting comparison are the 1982 version of First Blood, and the 2002 The Bourne Identity. In both movies, the reasons the protagonists are being hunted, how the protagonists reacted to their situation, and how they resolved the conflict are the same, yet the movies are notably different films.

The conflict in First Blood is how the protagonist, John Rambo, a retired Green Berea, is chased into the forest near a small town and fights off an army of police and rangers. He is forced to use all of his survival skills to stay alive. The conflict began because when he entered the small town to visit a friend he knew from the Vietnam War. After finding out that his friend was dead, he starts walking into town to eat. The sheriff notices how he is dressed (a tattered military coat) and says he will give Rambo a ride. Instead of dropping him off near food in town, the sheriff drops him off on the edge of town and tells him that he does not like drifters. When Rambo starts making his back into town anyway, the sheriff arrests him. Back at the station, when the sheriff and other deputies start abusing Rambo, they trigger a flashback of Vietnam and his experiences as a prisoner-of-war. So Rambo panics, fights off the deputies, and escapes into the forest – where the conflict escalates.

In The Bourne Identity, the conflict is that the protagonist, Jason Bourne, fights off a constant barrage of assassins that believe he is going to release details about the CIA to the public. The movie starts with an Italian fishing boat finding a man (later revealed to be Jason Bourne) floating in the water. They pull him onto the boat and discover three gunshot wounds in his back. While they are stitching him up, he awakens and has no idea where or who he is. He jumps off the boat, swims to land, and slowly makes his way to different locations that he has no recollection of but just feels he must go. It does not take long for the CIA to spot him. They thought he had been killed since he was missing for a few weeks (the time spent on the fishing boat). The CIA thinks Bourne faked his death to elude them, and they begin to pursue to kill him so that he will not pose a security threat with his extensive knowledge of their workings. The trauma of being shot in the beginning of the film gave him amnesia, so when he is attacked by the CIA assassins, he automatically reacts with high level fighting skills – but he does not understand how, because according to him, he is just a regular person that has forgotten their name / recent memories. Eventually, certain CIA memories start to come back to him and he embraces his skills to fight off the assassins more efficiently.

The movies are similar because both protagonists are pursued by law enforcement organizations even though they are innocent. Although Bourne does have to fight off a small army like Rambo, his conflict is not limited to just the forest. He is constantly on the run, fighting in suburban landscapes and intense car chases. The two protagonists differ in that Rambo was a retired Green Berea, while Bourne is an active member of a special CIA project known as “Tread Stone.” In both movies, Rambo and Bourne are extreme survivalists and very skilled fighters/sharpshooters. Both men single handedly take on small armies and skilled assassins. Where they differ is how they reacted. Rambo reacted with his skills but because he felt forced into fighting back. He was simply visiting a friend when the police started to harass him and he fought back after war memories were triggered. Rambo fought to survive. Later in the movie, it is revealed that Rambo was specially trained as a high-ranking military survivalist and assassin. Bourne, on the other hand, also fights back to defend himself but he does not know how he is able to do so due to the amnesia. Both Bourne and Rambo fight off their attackers with skills they have acquired through extensive training: one man does so out of his own conscious choice and reason while the other does it out of instinct without understanding how.

Like all conflict, it has to end at some point. Both men are skilled soldiers and fighters, they both fight off small armies single handedly, and they both find a way to solve the conflict. How they do so, is different. In First Blood, the conflict is resolved when Rambo makes his final assault on the sheriff station, resulting in a shootout with the sheriff that started it all. Rambo wins and is about to kill the sheriff when he hears the front door open. It is colonel Trautman, one of the men who trained him as a soldier. Trautman tells Rambo to surrender and Rambo tells him how he can no longer handle going back to normal life in the city; how he was once entrusted to take lives and now he is not even trusted to park cars. Trautman tells Rambo that he can not fight forever, Rambo agrees, they exit the building, and Rambo is arrested. On the other hand, Bourne did not leave a building quietly. He also engages in a shootout, but after regaining some memories, he finds the man that has ordered him to be assassinated and tells him that he will let him live if he stops trying to find him. Then Bourne leaves the building and the country.

Both Bourne and Rambo were skilled soldiers, both were hunted, and both fought back. How and why they did so differs, though. Rambo was hunted because the sheriff did not like his “drifter” look. Bourne was hunted because he was believed to have gone rogue and had to fight for his life while having no memories to understand the context of his situation. Both of the men resolved the conflict, but Rambo did so by surrendering and going to prison while Bourne did so by forcing his hunter to leave him alone and leaving the country. Some movies, like First Blood and The Bourne Identity can have similar plots but still be totally different stories in setting, mood, and ending. That is what makes going to the movies so interesting and addicting.

Seven Day Celebration

There are an estimated 7.5 billion people in today’s world. There are so many people of different ages, races, and backgrounds that it is hard to keep track of everything. That is why God put us all into small groups, known as “families,” and out of these groups are smaller sub-groups known as “immediate family.” Immediate family is something that can make someone happy, sad, or mad. As for me, it makes me happy. I love my family and all the support I get from them, and the memories I have made with them. Most of our memories are made by our family traditions. One of our traditions is doing a “birthday-week.” Birthday-weeks are made up of different activities, experiences, and celebration that last a whole week.

Birthdays are considered sacred in my family. It is not just another day to be lived through. We feel it deserves more than day; it deserves a whole week. The “birthday-week” begins the week before the actual birthday and usually ends with the birthday itself. At the beginning of the week, we wake the birthday person up early, have one of his or her favorite breakfast foods prepared, and then we tell that person what the plan is for that day. The plans for the first day, and any day of the week, could be anything. It all depends on whose birthday is being celebrated. For my sister, the plans could be going to a museum or old missions; for my dad, we could go to the movies or camping; for me, it could be the aquarium or the beach (I am the only family member with a birthday in summer.). The whole family definitely loves to travel. My sister and I may not have left the country yet, but we both want to (to visit). It has always been my mom’s dream for us to travel. She likes the saying “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. In the middle of the week, we spend one day doing the “Which List.” It is a list made up of single letters, and there are always as many letters as however old the birthday person is turning. So if the first thing on the list is “Which D______,” it could mean something like “Which Dead tree,” and that translates to “which book.” That means we get to go and pick out a new book from the bookstore. Every birthday week is memorable no matter whose it is. Since each one is unique, it is a new experience for the whole family.

Throughout the week, there are little gifts hidden throughout our house and different places we go. Then, on our actual birthday, we are awoken early in the morning by the rest of the family singing “Happy Birthday” and spraying silly string. Then, two members of the family head downstairs while the birthday person and one other person stay upstairs together. The birthday person gets to decide who goes and who stays. For example, if it is my sister’s birthday, my mom and dad head downstairs and decorate while she and I hang out and watch a movie of her choice or play a game or whatever she is in the mood to do. Then we head downstairs, and the main gifts will be inside Trader Joe bags. The birthday person will be handed ping pong balls, and s/he must throw the balls into the bags to earn the right to open them. Then we spend the rest of the day watching movies of the person’s picking and making favorite food for him or her.

The birthday-weeks have become more and more different from one another as they have become more personalized to each person’s likings. When my sister was younger, we would stay close to home and watch movies and play games. But as she has grown older, it has become a new tradition for her week to be a traveling one. She likes to see all the old missions scattered around California, so we will travel to them and make stops along the way at interesting places. For me, I still like staying close to home, so we will make one day trips out to the beach or the park. Every person’s week is different and unpredictable – except for my mom’s. Every year, for her birthday, we drive up to Big Bear Lake and spend the whole week hiding out in her favorite cabin, watching The Lord of The Rings saga and the Back to The Future trilogy. Even though there is a set agenda for my mom’s week, we will still find a way to make it different for her. We will take her snowboarding or walking through the forest. No matter what, we always try and keep it fresh for the person.

A year is a very long period of time, during which many traditions can be made. The birthday-week is a tradition I will always remember and will pass on to my kids someday. Birthdays are sacred to my family, and like this quote says, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” That is a quote I hope to keep in my life, and my family for years to come.

Food Art

The words “art” and “artist” are generally thought of as painters or sculptors. There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking. Painters and sculptors do make art, but the word is not only for them. Art is something that results from people pouring their passion and imagination into a particular pursuit. One activity that some people have spent their lives perfecting and making into an “art” is making bread. The people who have truly mastered this only did so because they knew the step by step process to making bread—regular bread. The process of making bread is preparing the dough, baking it, and enjoying it.

When making bread, or making anything, there are ingredients and tools needed. If a shed is being made, wood, hammers, nails, and doors, etc. would be needed. The same goes for making bread. When getting ready to make the dough that will turn into bread, the ingredients are the fallowing: unbleached white flour, baking yeast, salt, water, a bowl for mixing, a knife, foil, and an ungreased baking sheet. The first step is to combine four cups of unbleached flour, one teaspoon of baking yeast, two teaspoons of salt, and one-and-a-half cups of water in a mixing bowl. Once these ingredients are in the bowl, the fun part begins. The ingredients must be mixed by hand. Hands are the best tools to make sure the ingredients become one big ball of mush and squishiness. After everything is properly mixed, the newly formed dough must be covered in foil and left to sit. This will allow some of the moisture to escape, and the dough will dry a little to maintain a ball shape.

Once this process has taken place, the dough should be formed into smaller balls. This will be done by covering hands with flour to ensure the best results. Place balls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. The knife should be used to cut three small lines onto the top of the dough; not only does this make the bread look more appealing, it allows the steam to escape during baking. While this whole process is taking place, the oven should be preheating to a hellish temperature of four-hundred and fifty degrees. The dough will sit and bake in this ungodly temperature for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, the baker will have mercy and lower the temperature to three-hundred and fifty degrees and let the dough continue to bake for another thirty minutes. It is recommended to place a small dish of water alongside the cookie sheet in the oven during baking. This allows the outside of the bread to become a golden crust of deliciousness.

While the bread is baking, it is fun, though not necessary, to wield the knife like a sword and pretend to fight off invisible monsters that reside in the kitchen, or to write an obituary dedicated to the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Once the bread is done baking, it should be taken out and left to cool for a few minutes. It is not good to cut the bread before it is cool because the inside will still be so hot that it will be sticky. The bread is ready to eat when it sounds right – it should be tapped on the bottom and should sound hollow. Then, the feast of ages may take place as the bread is finally ready to be consumed with honey, jam, butter, or whatever tastes best.

This process may sound like a simple recipe to most, but it is more than that to others. Some people have made the baking of bread an art form. Some add new ingredients and make many different types of bread. M.F.K. Fischer wrote, “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight” (Fischer). Whether they have a family recipe or personal style to making it, those people who spend their lives making bread and turning it into a family business or tradition are artists in their own way.

Slow It Down

Since Halloween has passed, people have jumped right to Christmas.

A time when they want and expect to be given things.

Everyone seems to have forgotten about Thanksgiving and what it means.

Thanksgiving is not just the day before Black Friday,

But the day everyone should stop and appreciate what they have.

Christmas will come no matter what; it will not come faster because of commercials or sales.

So in the meantime, appreciate what you have.







Something You Acquire

Wisdom is something all people want,

but is something that cannot be taught.

It is something that is only gained from living life,

but not just living, but understanding what life really is.

Those who do not want wisdom, have it, and those who do, ask for it.

Wisdom is knowing how to survive every fall and low point in life.

Wisdom is not something you can learn, but acquire.

Those who have acquired it are considered wise.