Historical Elegance: Modern Convenience

Written By: Maureen Weaver

At 9:30 in the morning, though modern automobiles cluttered the parking lot in a myriad of colors and brands, entering through the majestic wrought iron gate into Guenther House felt akin to discovering a fragment of history unaltered by time. Satisfied couples and families searched for their cars, almost all clutching valuable leftovers from the generous portion sizes. Exiting the car, the blacktop of the parking lot soon gave way to a smooth cement sidewalk bordered by bright green grass. Looking over the railing on my right, I saw a sharp drop to the San Antonio River. A recently constructed extension of the Riverwalk unfolded below. Soon, when it opens to the public, couples will stroll hand in hand along that walkway and peer over the fancy scrollwork of the railing to the water below. To my left, a large patch of lively grass held clusters of white leather couches. An open chuck wagon served as a congenial house for the complementary hot drinks that they provide for waiting guests. The atmosphere of Guenther House, a restaurant, museum, and bakery in downtown San Antonio, never ceases to be warm and inviting, even when the temperature outside barely exceeds 30.

In 1848, a twenty-three-year-old Carl Hilmar Guenther journeyed to America for a life of opportunity. Three years later, he had started his own grain mill in Fredericksburg, Texas. But because of an intense drought in 1858, which resulted in less grain and little water power, he was forced to relocate to the more powerful San Antonio River. Here, he chose to build a family and establish a home. The stones for his house were quarried from an area near what is now the San Antonio Zoo. His business flourished, and his son in 1902 later made additions to the one-story home, making it the three-story mansion which still stands today. The mills continue to turn out pounds of flour every year, and the original family home now serves as a museum, gift shop, restaurant, bakery and event-hosting venue. Its restaurant serves lunch and breakfast from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day of the week.

My dad checked in with the host as soon as we arrived, but waiting for a seat to come open was unlike the boring time at other restaurants when one sits around with a growling stomach. At Guenther, free time is an opportunity for exploration and discovery. First my family and I wound our way along the scenic pathway that circles the Guenther family home. Then, we made our way into the house, which is open to all visitors. The first floor, which sits below ground level, greets each guest with a gleaming glass case of pastries. Each cinnamon roll and sticky bun is about the size of a plate, deliciously moist and irresistibly sweet. These pastries, available at bargain prices, also include apple strudel, cinnamon streusel coffee cake and cherry, peach and blackberry cream cheese pastries. Looking behind the pastry counter, dishes clang and glorious aromas escape as the chefs of Guenther House bustle about. Beyond the pastries lies an indoor sitting area for diners.

The second floor contains the Guenther Museum, which has pictures, stories and objects significant to the home and its founder. There is also an elegant parlor a few short steps down, which remains furnished in its historical Victorian style. In the hallway between the museum and the gift-shop is the original front door of the Guenther home. Stalks of bountiful grain and a large scrollwork “G” are crafted together in bright colors to make this beautiful stained glass door. In the gift shop beyond, smells of gingerbread, sweet cream cake and biscuits, all of which food they sell mixes for, radiate forth. The gift shop, in addition to multiple food mixes, sells specialty bakeware and kitchen utensils. To some, undoubtedly the best part is the glass dome tucked next to register which never fails to offer daintily cut fresh samples. At the top of yet another staircase lies the Roof Garden, a room lined by windows that can be rented for large parties or gatherings.

Our buzzer finally sounded after a reasonable twenty minutes. We went back outside and entered the large, heated, see-through tent which encased the outdoor patio. Tapestry throws with woven pictures of Guenther House on them, rested against a couple chairs at every table. The sight was a striking contrast to summertime, when the patio is open, breezes flow freely through the eating area, and fans and misters cool guests. However, even in winter, flowers rimmed the seating area. Delicious strawberry lemonade sparkled in tall glasses. Make-your-own-tacos steamed in soft, homemade tortillas next to piles of seasoned potatoes. Crispy Applewood smoked bacon accompanied every dish. Their most famous dish, which seemed common among the masses, consisted of tall, fluffy biscuits heaping with meat gravy. Classic waffles, pancakes and eggs benedict also grace their menu. My waffle came hot and crispy on the outside and sweet and fluffy on the inside. Strawberries and whipped creamed dotted the top, and a generous amount of butter pecan syrup accompanied the dish. A few of their lunch dishes are taco salad, chicken salad and champagne chicken enchiladas. Daily specials, such as quiche Lorraine or beef stroganoff, are also offered.

The atmosphere radiated relaxation, the service was fast and friendly, and the hot food was scrumptious. “Delightful” perfectly sums up the entire experience.

Don’t Be Too Caffeine Carefree

According to Discovery Health, ninety percent of Americans consume caffeine every day, making caffeine America’s most popular drug. By consuming too much caffeine a day, people risk suffering from side effects such as anxiety, dizziness, headaches and jitters (kidshealth.org).

Caffeine, in its pure form, is a bitter, white addictive powder that is used to stimulate the brain. It is most commonly found in chocolate, coffee, tea, energy drinks and sodas.

On cold winter mornings when people can barely pry open their eyelids, or on late, lazy evenings when sleep is beckoning, caffeine is an easy go-to. However, caffeine has its downsides. When the caffeine wears off, and an emotional blowout occurs, people look to consume more caffeine to sustain their emotional buzz. The amount of caffeine needed to produce the same results progressively rises with regular caffeine reliance. The half-life of caffeine in the body is six hours. That means that if someone drinks a cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine at 3:00 p.m., by 9:00 p.m. there will still be 100 mg of caffeine in his or her system. Even if people don’t have trouble getting to sleep, it may keep them from falling into the deepest, best level of slumber. On top of the jumpy and irritable moods brought on by caffeine, people suffer from an extra dosage of grumpiness from their lack of quality sleep. Caffeine becomes the quick go-to solution for all negative emotions. And so, our society spirals into a vortex of deep exhaustion and what we expect to pull us out of this negative downfall.

Teenagers should intake of no more than 100 mg of caffeine a day. Adults are allowed 100-200 mg more per day, and children should consume much less. Most people drink coffee in 12, 14, or 20oz. containers, and eight ounces of coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine. Black tea contains 50 mg, and Coca-Cola has 54 mg. (That means two Cokes in a day is pushing it!) Red Bull (8.3 oz. can) contains 80 mg of caffeine per can, and Monster has 160 mg, more caffeine than a teenager should have in a single day. Milk chocolate, in contrast, only has 6 mg per ounce.

By no means should caffeine be avoided, feared or stressed about. The key to caffeine is moderation. Teens today are continuously tempted to fall into the destructive habit of relying on caffeine. This habit will carry on into adulthood and only get worse. So, oft for caffeine-free soda, caffeine-free tea or water. And at night, break the cycle of exhaustion by putting down the third soda and climbing into bed early.

The Lost Beauty of Language

By: Maureen Weaver

Simplification has invaded literature, creating a stark contrast between novels of today and those of yesteryear. Novelists have adapted to the times, and as people’s lives have become busier, literature has become more watered down so maximum amusement can be achieved with minimal effort.

No more is a complicated word praised where a simple one will do. No more are we supposed to strive for a multifaceted , comprehensive sentence when it could be commonplace. And most especially, no longer is expansion using prolific commas praised. Yet there were never difficulties years ago when authors like Shakespeare and Jane Austen contributed their words to the world. It’s obvious that both of these people deeply appreciated the power and majesty of words. Read one chapter, or even one sentence in Jane Austen’s case, and you’ll find advanced syntax accompanied by handcrafted diction. In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen exemplifies perfectly how sentences were manipulated to create perfect aesthetic flow. In one instance, Marianne, the main character in the book, is not feeling well because “Two delightful twilight walks on the third and fourth evenings of her being there, not merely on the dry gravel of the shrubbery, but all over the grounds, and especially in the most distant parts of them, where there was something more of wildness than in the rest, where the trees were the oldest, and the grass was the longest and wettest, had–assisted by the still greater imprudence of sitting in her wet shoes and stockings–given Marianne a cold so violent as, though for a day or two trifled with or denied, would force itself by increasing ailments on the concern of everybody, and the notice of herself.” In case you weren’t counting that would be ten grammatically correct commas in succession. Tragically, today this sentence would be decried as verbose. Expectation demands that thoughts be chopped up into easily swallowed pieces. But continuous, coherent syntax has its merits, just like the lost beauty of language.

The accepted and common word choice has also altered over the years. In concession, there are exemplary authors today who employ comprehensive, creative diction. But flimsy books, meant for sensation as opposed to reflection and education, are unsettlingly frequent. These types of books only seem to contain the bare minimum of words over four letters. Only a depreciating buzz of emotion–love, happiness or contentment–can be supplied by these novels. Moreover, graphic vulgarity and obscene language have in many cases overridden eloquence. Unfortunately, these types of books are easier to find and cheaper to buy. Literature, in the form of essays, books and poems, exists to inform, amuse and be a constant stream of thoughts and feelings from others. But when insight and knowledge cease to radiate from literature through the outpouring of sophisticated wording, reading ceases to have a constructive purpose.

Syntax and diction have transmuted so noticeably because the English language, and those manipulating it, constantly conforms to the needs and desires of the populous. New words are constantly being accepted as norms because the English language is resilient. If our words didn’t adapt, they would disappear. Still, why does the language seem to be going in a simpler direction as opposed to advancing with the literacy numbers and the number of scientific inventions? Even with less work to do by hand and more facts inhabiting our brains, we gullibly accept the fallacy that we have less time than ever. Fortunately, in truth time cannot be misplaced, only misused. Each person is gifted twenty-four hours a day, and it is up to them to divvy it out. Reading hardly ever gets an adequate amount of time; people have other more important things to do. Therefore, literature has been simplified so people won’t totally cut it out. Adding sensation, elementary vocabulary and short sentences increases the immediate pleasure while decreasing the time spent. It complies with the demand for instant satisfaction that is rampant in our society. We have fast food, instant Internet service, instant access to TV shows and with the automobile we even have instant access to a myriad of locations. Literature is only trying to keep pace. In the process, it’s beneficial aspects are being annihilated. Books aren’t supposed to yield instant satisfaction; they’re supposed to grant pleasure after the reader has dedicated their time. And given that time, carefully chosen books have valuable lessons, uplifting amusement and mind-blowing possibilities to offer.

With a conscious effort, out view of reading can be changed. Make time to read, and do it for the right reasons. Don’t read because books increase intellect. Don’t read because books improve SAT scores. Read because a book is a window into the heart, soul, mind and imagination of another human being.

Academic Cheating: A Social Norm?

Written by: Maureen Weaver

As an innocent eighth grader, after the last student had exited the room, I approached my American history teacher.

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know that the girl who sits next to me was cheating on today’s test,” I said politely. I wasn’t angry or specifically trying get this girl in trouble. I didn’t even know her. But my teacher never walked around the room, and I thought she would want to know that students in her class were cheating. Every test, the girl next to me would “casually” slide notes out of her binder for assistance. For a while, I was unsure of what to do. Finally, though, during the test over the fifty states and their capitals, I had had enough. Why did I have to study for hours when she could get the same grade or better with zero effort? I knew it was unfair, and it bothered me. The response I received from my teacher bothered me even more.

“Oh, I know. She cheats on every test, but it’s only hurting her,” she casually remarked with a tone that implied there was nothing she could do about it.

I walked out of my history class feeling, rather confusingly, like I had done something wrong in reporting something wrong. Yet pointing to the contrary were all the morals that the school had so openly flaunted in the beginning of the year. I was listening when the principal and various teachers said that if a student cheated, they would receive an automatic zero on the assignment, the offense would be permanently plastered on their record for colleges to look at (the proverbial scarlet letter of academics) and that all chances to get into honor societies like NJHS in middle school would be instantaneously eliminated. In short, I was given the impression that cheating was serious.

After the encounter with my history teacher, I was confused, struck to the core. Ever since, I’ve been trying to puzzle out questions regarding what should be done when a student sees another student cheating, what leads people to cheat in the first place and if teachers are willing to uphold the school policy. In my search, I’ve discovered some valuable answers.

First, the issue of cheating has been played down, laughed about and brushed off enough that now a passive attitude infects countless minds and is spreading like a highly contagious disease.

“Everyone has done it at one time or another” junior Myriah Warren said, exemplifying the point perfectly.

In my English III AP class, my teacher set up an open discussion where everyone would stand under one of four posters to represent their feelings on various issues; one of these issues was cheating. The results of this particular survey stunned me. A handful of students placed themselves under the poster that said they agreed with cheating and would openly take part in it. But the majority clustered under the banner saying that they would take no action if they saw someone cheating, even though they don’t agree with it. Their passivity digs at my heart; our society teaches people to hide uncool morals, to excuse and play down the wrong.

“It’s wrong, but I don’t really care. It doesn’t affect me,” sophomore Emma Whitworth said regarding cheating.

But cheating is serious. Responsible students have the right to be bothered.

In English class, Ethan Terry and I stood alone under the banner that not only encompassed disapproval of cheating, but also taking action to stop it.

“My parents taught me that cheating was wrong. It’s taking the easy way out,” Terry said.

A singular question haunted me after this experience in my English class: why were there only two of us? Are students afraid to report other students? Are they even supposed to? Reporting every instance of cheating and giving people’s names is certainly not what I advocate. If nothing else, I am clear on at least this one repeated and blatant message: nobody likes a tattletale. So I searched for a clear, precise solution regarding what a student is supposed to do about cheating. Principal Vaughan provided me with an answer.

“If a student is cheating off of you, yeah, you can tell the teacher. I would hope that a conscientious student would approach the teacher in a private conversation and say ‘hey, there’s some cheating going on.’ That way, there will be no conflict between any two students,” Principal Vaughan said.

My question was clearly answered, but still I know that with most, not wanting to report cheating doesn’t spring from fear, passivity or not knowing what to do. The reigning problem is that students don’t honestly believe that cheating is wrong. Students in my English class under the “disapprove of cheating, but would take no action” section openly voiced their objection to reporting cheating. I received a concise summary of their inner thoughts as every excuse from shouldn’t someone be given a break for their “one-time” cheat, to you shouldn’t lose a friendship over cheating, to its just not nice to tell on someone else, was propelled across the room.

“If someone really wants to know how to do something during a test, I’ll help them as long as they don’t just want the answer,” one senior said after shamelessly admitting that she had helped someone on a test just periods before.

Just because people like this genuinely seem to see so no fault in their actions doesn’t mean that they are not accountable for their wrong. Every single excuse for cheating is a mere attempt to cover-up underlying guilt, silence a nagging conscience and sweep all dirty feelings under the rug. And it’s wrong. Morally, lawfully, utterly wrong. Desensitization of what should be core moral values is a skyrocketing tragedy.

“I never once cheated. It’s a huge problem. It’s a shame that it’s seen as common and acceptable and that so many students don’t take pride in their own work. They don’t learn how to work hard. They take the easy way out,” Mrs. Warrington, my English teacher, said.

My eighth grade teacher definitely made a negative impact. However, there are teachers who uphold dignity, honor and no cheating. My teachers this year are the most encouraging group as a whole that I have ever had. My math teacher openly announced that he gave two people zeroes last year for cheating on a test. Also, my physics teacher showed no shame in telling us that last year, when two test copies were stolen from her desk, she followed through with tracking down the culprits. Moreover, the AP/Dual Credit United States History department discovered that during a recent quiz, students had taken and distributed pictures of each version. The day after she found this out, my history teacher was extremely upset, proving that she has a healthy intolerance of cheating. None of these teachers just let it go. They chose to fulfill their responsibilities.

“It’s always the teacher’s responsibility to catch people cheating in their classrooms. They need to talk to kids and tell them about the help options that the teacher provides, like staying before or after school to help. This way, students won’t feel the need to cheat. Teachers should also take precautions, like walking around the room and making multiple test versions. It is definitely their job to constantly be monitoring,” Principal Vaughan said.

Encouragingly, exemplary teachers, even on the national level, are seizing their responsibilities. At the University of Central Florida, Professor Richard Quinn recently discovered that over 200 out of his 600 business students had cheated on the midterm. By closely examining the unnatural bell curve, he was able to pinpoint exactly who was guilty. The cheaters who openly came forward received the least amount of punishment. Most have chosen this path of repentance and are now required to attend an ethics seminar before completing the course. Everyone, whether they cheated or not, has to take the midterm over.

“This type of behavior cannot, will not be tolerated,” Professor Quinn said.

Decreasing cheating, however, does not solely depend on teachers. Parents are charged with the responsibility of teaching their children right from wrong. And even if they were never taught themselves that cheating was wrong, or if they chose to disregard their training, parents should never accept the lie that they can’t expect their children to follow the ideal morals that they never did. Despite their own actions, parents hold the responsibility to instill solid morals in their offspring.

“I never directly had a conversation with my parents where they told me ‘cheating is wrong.’ I just assumed it. I was raised to work hard and do my own work. I was raised to do the right thing,” Principal Vaughan said.

Such ethics are a crucial part of a child’s upbringing. Children should also be taught about consequences, as nothing in life, including cheating, comes free of them. Students who cheat on any daily assignment or quiz, even if they tell themselves they will learn the material by test time, are much more prone to never learning it at all. They cut corners by cheating once, don’t get caught, and when their favorite TV show comes on or their friends invite them to a party the night before the big test, what’s to stop them from doing the same thing they did on the previous worksheet or quiz? The answer “nothing” pops up, deceptive but blaring. However, even if they suffer no immediate consequences, students will feel the impact of their wrong doing down the road.

“In college, a test is what makes or breaks you and you won’t know how to study,” junior Terry said, vocalizing one of the many detriments of cheating.

However, if there are such ruinous consequences to cheating, then why did the majority of the people in my English class discussion feel that interfering when a friend was drinking, using drugs, or being physically harmed was a totally different matter than interfering when a friend was cheating? Taking drugs leads to friend’s harm, and so does cheating.

“There is a lot of pressure put on students to do well. I can understand that. But when students cheat, they are doing themselves two disservices. One, they will not know the material when test time comes and two, the foundation of integrity that each person tries to build their life on will be ruined every time they cheat,” Principal Vaughan said.

The prevalent excuse of “well, they’re only hurting themselves,” precisely proves why it is for someone’s own good to be confronted. It may serve as a wakeup call, telling them that they need to get their priorities straight. Honestly, if someone is desperate enough to cheat, even just once, it probably means that they didn’t have time to study the night before the test and that they’ve been too tired to pay attention in class. These kind of people need sleep, rest and relaxation. Maybe getting caught cheating will finally make them simplify. In the long run, any student, even a friend, may be thankful that by being caught they were saved from a web of exhaustion, pressure and guilt. Don’t keep a suffering friend by letting them cheat, gain a true friend by not letting them cheat themself.

Report cheating when it feels appropriate, and hope that teachers will seize the responsibility of catching their students. Encourage friends not to cheat, and shun casual justification for it in conversation. And if cheating has become a habit, know that it is never too late to admit fault and make a change. Retain integrity, keep a squeaky clean conscience and be an audacious advocate against cheating. Simply because it’s right. Simply because everyone does not cheat.

“I never cheat. I see people cheating a lot and it really bothers me that they could be getting better grades than me, but not working at all,” junior Brooke Taylor said honestly.

I’m not trying to land scathing judgment in anyone’s lap. I’m trying to encourage those who choose integrity, to let them know that they are not alone. I’m also trying to eliminate all the bothersome excuses that litter the air. And especially, to those who have never been told that cheating is wrong, I’m sorry, but it’s time to make a change.

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