A Look Back at Cecil Shorts’ Amazing Sophomore Season in the NFL

A Look Back at Cecil Shorts’ Amazing Sophomore Season in the NFL

It was a great 2012 season for 2nd year NFL breakout player Cecil Shorts of the University of Mount Union. Cecil ended the regular season with 55 receptions for 979 yards and a team-leading 7 touchdowns, while being picked a Visio Top Value Performer finalist along with Eric Decker, Stevan Ridley, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and … Read more




It was a great 2012 season for 2nd year NFL breakout player Cecil Shorts of the University of Mount Union. Cecil ended the regular season with 55 receptions for 979 yards and a team-leading 7 touchdowns, while being picked a Visio Top Value Performer finalist along with Eric Decker, Stevan Ridley, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Alfred Morris.

I visited ESPN’s split stats for the season and found some eye-opening numbers. Right as Cecil became a starter, he increased his total receptions and yards by 40 and nearly 500 respectively, making the most of his opportunity. He also was most productive on first and second downs, accounting for 40 recpetions and 766 yards with 6 of his total 7 touchdowns. By down and length, Cecil was most productive on first down with 10+ yards to go, where he averaged 22 yards per reception. He also excelled when the Jaguars were trailing, catching for 718 yards and 5 total touchdowns, the most memorable an 80 yarder again Indianapolis. Needless to say, Cecil has been quite the deep threat, and should stay in that starting role come 2013.

Being such a deep threat, he was tied for second in the NFL for yards per catch in 2012 with San Diego’s Danario Alexander at 17.8, behind only Tampa Bay’s VIncent Jackson at 19.2, and also ranks second in the NFL with four receptions of 50-plus yards and an 18.9-yard per catch average. That being said, he also was No. 6 on Pro Football Focus’ list of receivers with the worst drop rate. Safe to say and arguing for his side, he was behind Indianapolis receivers Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton with rates of 16.67, a team where Cecil had his highest production totaling in 7 receptions for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Cecil has created some buzz around the league at large as well. NFL analyst Trey Wingo (@wingoz) had this tweet to say about his 67 yard TD catch against the Houston Texans:

Cecil Shorts with a 67 yard TD #allhedoesiscatchridiculouslylongTDs

He has earned many other admirers during his breakout year, and a special one in Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The highly touted NFL coach had some good things to say about Cecil and his breakout year before heading into a game with the Jaguars.

“He’s done a great job; he’s really impressive,” he said on a conference call. “He’s one of the best guys we’ve played against this year. He competes hard — he doesn’t take any plays off and he works hard on every route,” Belichick said. “I think he does everything well. Excellent downfield receiver, he’s got really good quickness off the line of scrimmage against press coverage, he breaks tackles and can take it all the way.”

In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Cecil remains to be humble, despite putting up great numbers in his amazing sophomore season. After continuing to make the most of his opportunities, getting more targets and gaining quarterback trust, he believes he can still improve much, much more.

“As a total wide receiver, I think I have some work to do. I always see myself as needing to improve. Last offseason, this offseason, just improving my total game. I don’t want to focus on just one thing – my hands or – just trying to focus, as a total receiver, just getting better. I think my route-running can improve, especially on some certain routes. You can get cut if you can’t get off the press. I think I did a good job of getting off the press, but you can never be too good at it. So getting off the press is definitely an important thing I think I need to work on. But I’m excited for this upcoming year. Third-year campaign and I think I can do some good things next year.”

I think I speak on behalf of a lot of people, that Raider Nation is looking forward to seeing another tremendous season from Cecil in 2013. He’s making a name for himself, giving opportunity to other Mount Union players who are trying to make it to the league, and he’s going to be one of the league’s best values until the end of the 2013 campaign if he keeps on the same track.

You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle

You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle

I received an email the other day from my brother that was quite intriguing, about an article on Steve Jobs’ Bad Career Advice. I was so drawn into this because everyone my age idolizes Steve Jobs, lives by his quotes and have every product Apple has ever manufactured. I am a victim as well. This particularly was a recent … Read more

I received an email the other day from my brother that was quite intriguing, about an article on Steve Jobs’ Bad Career Advice. I was so drawn into this because everyone my age idolizes Steve Jobs, lives by his quotes and have every product Apple has ever manufactured. I am a victim as well.

This particularly was a recent Forbes article he wanted some opinions on, and now I want yours too. He heard about it through one of his LinkedIn Group notifications, and it analyzes something Steve Jobs said at a graduation speech years ago.

Steve Jobs said in his Stanford University graduation speech:

  • “I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.”
  • “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Robin Hanson (Overcoming Bias Blog):

  • “Now try to imagine a world where everyone actually tried to follow this advice. And notice that we have an awful lot of things that need doing which are unlikely to be anyone’s dream job. So a few folks would be really happy, but most everyone else wouldn’t stay long on any job, and most stuff would get done pretty badly. Not a pretty scenario…”

Will Wilkinson (Big Think):

  • “As an undergrad I was an art major. Frankly, few of my fellow art majors were talented enough to make a living at it, even after four (or more!) years of training. Sure they loved art, but in the immortal words of Tina Turner, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ ‘Find what you love and never settle for less’ is an excellent recipe for frustration and poverty. ‘Reconcile yourself to the limits of your talent and temperament and find the most satisfactory compromise between what you love to do and what you need to do to feed your children’ is rather less stirring, but it’s much better advice.”

Where do you stand? Here’s was my take on it.

I can relate to this in two parts, from being enrolled in a social responisbility course and to heavily searching for a post-graduate job.

In class we are reading several books, right now World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, which is full of factoids, problems, solutions and brings decades of research and analysis into play, providing the responses needed to reclaim our future. I leave class with a headache, puzzled, confused, yet motivated at the same time. The reason I bring this up is because what makes people happy or satisfied in their jobs? I believe it’s because they feel what they are doing is worthwhile, meaningful work and making a positive impact.

Going off of the passage “if you haven’t found what you want, don’t settle” simply reconnects you with your long-term goals. I stand in trying to have a long-term vision of what you love and want to do, but touching base with reality and being ‘happy’ that you know you’re on that path. I will not entirely love my future jobs at first, but as long as it’s for an organization that I stand by, is helping me grow personally and I feel is doing the most ‘good,’ I will be happy knowing my future will be better and brighter. Not settling to me is just knowing you are on the right path and not cutting yourself off short.

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

The New Mailbox App is Here

The New Mailbox App is Here

I have been reading many articles about this new email app for the iPhone that is supposed to “put my email in it’s place.” I dug a little deeper and have been anticipating the release of the Mailbox app for quite some time, and it’s finally here. It’s very true that the email can be … Read more

I have been reading many articles about this new email app for the iPhone that is supposed to “put my email in it’s place.” I dug a little deeper and have been anticipating the release of the Mailbox app for quite some time, and it’s finally here. It’s very true that the email can be a doozy, and everyone can attest to always trying to clear notifications until all messages have been marked as read.

“For the most part, apps that exist have tried to cram an existing desktop experience into a mobile phone. That’s not a very effective way of building a good tool,” said Gentry Underwood, CEO of Orchestra. ”I think most people have a poor email experience on the phone and are hungry for something better.”

The app’s unique interface allows users to turn a Gmail inbox into a type of “to-do” list, where each message can be “snoozed” for later perusal. For example, if an email isn’t urgent, but will require action the next day, a user can select the “tomorrow” snooze, which will move the message out of the active inbox and return it the next day. Snooze time settings are fully customizable.

The iPhone-only app features swipe gestures reminiscent of to-do app Clear, with users being able to swipe left or right to activate snooze timers and send message strings to the archive folder or a customizable lists folder. Emails can also be deleted with a longer swipe.

Anyone can download the app for free from the App Store, and those users who pre-registered can enter their reservation numbers for first-come, first-served account activation. Those who have yet to sign up can do so in-app, while all users can watch the reservation line in real-time. I am currently the 343,429 person in line for the waiting list, as you can see. Patiently waiting…

Special thanks to Apple Insider and Mashable for the details.

RecycleMania Has Begun!

RecycleMania Has Begun!

The past several years Mount Union has participated in a month-long, nationwide recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition started on February 4 and runs through March 30, with the involvement of 523 schools, more than 4.4 million students and nearly 1 million faculty and staff participating in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. During this … Read more

The past several years Mount Union has participated in a month-long, nationwide recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition started on February 4 and runs through March 30, with the involvement of 523 schools, more than 4.4 million students and nearly 1 million faculty and staff participating in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

During this whole month, all the competing schools will recycling and compost roughly 94.4 million pounds and have Greenhouse Gas Reduction of 148,897 (MTCO2E). Last year Mount Union finished 206 place while achieving a recycling rate of 20.18%. You can download the full 2012 Competition Final Results here. We want your help to help improve this rate and climb to the leader board! Please help remember to recycle at all possible times and spread the word.

Download a Mount Union RecycleMania flyer to help promote the competition!

National recognition is provided to the winning school in each category on the RecycleMania website and in a national press release. Winning schools receive an award made out of recyclable materials, and win the right to host that category’s special traveling trophy for the coming year. Here are some overall goals of the competition:

  1. Motivate students and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation.
  2. Generate attention and support for campus recycling programs.
  3. Encourage colleges to measure and benchmark recycling activity in their effort to improve their programs over time.
  4. Have a fair and friendly competition.

Schools compete in 11 categories to see which can recycle the most paper, cardboard, cans and bottles and food waste on a per capita basis; which can produce the least amount of waste; and which recycles the largest percentage of their overall waste stream. In one of two new categories – Game Day: Basketball – schools are challenged to increase their recycling and reduce waste generation at a single home basketball game. A second new category targeting film plastics will call attention to the recyclability of items such as dry cleaning bags, shrink wrap and shopping bags. Mount Union just competes in the general categories.

Happy recycling, and follow our Facebook page!

Zero Dark Thirty, A Must See

Zero Dark Thirty, A Must See

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Zero Dark Thirty in theaters with my roommates, the story about an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoting themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. The film is up for 5 Academy awards … Read more

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Zero Dark Thirty in theaters with my roommates, the story about an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoting themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. The film is up for 5 Academy awards and has been met with wide acclaim from film critics, currently holding a 93% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 170 reviews and an average rating of 8.8/10, as well as a score of 95 on Metacritic based on 36 reviews. It is the best reviewed film of 2012 according to Metacriti. The film was jaw-dropping, and an amazing creation, one I highly recommend to see.

Click here to watch the trailer!

Despite its praise, there has been quite some controversy as well over allegations of partisanshipimproper access to classified information and taking pro-torture stance. Several republican sources charged the Obama Administration of improperly providing Bigelow and her team access to classified information during their research for the film. These charges, along with charges of other leaks to the media, became a prevalent election season conservative talking point, and had also found their way onto the Republican National Convention party platform, which claimed Obama “has tolerated publicizing the details of the operation to kill the leader of Al Qaeda.In January 2013, it was reported that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee will review the contacts between the CIA and the filmmakers to find out whether they had inappropriate access to classified information.

The film has been both criticized and praised for its handling of subject matter involving interrogation and torture. Glenn Greenwald, in The Guardian, stated that it “presents torture as its CIA proponents and administrators see it: as a dirty, ugly business that is necessary to protect America,” while Frank Bruni similarly concluded that the film appears to suggest “No waterboarding, no Bin Laden.” In my eyes, if you are dealing with the most dangerous people in the entire world, mild torture may have to be met, given that people are received basic necessities for life. An interview with Mark Boal and Mark Bowden discusses the film’s controversial depiction of enhanced interrogation, if you care to watch.

Whether you are completely for or against the movie, I feel that if you live in the United States of America, you should definitely make an effort to watch this film. It is truly amazing to see how long, in depth, dangerous, but also seamless this effort was. It really opens your eyes, is inspiring and makes you want to create some change or do something meaningful. I also recommend reading No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, which my roommate recommended. From an Amazon book description, “for the first time anywhere, the first-person account of the planning and execution of the Bin Laden raid from a Navy Seal who confronted the terrorist mastermind and witnessed his final moments. From the streets of Iraq to the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean, and from the mountaintops of Afghanistan to the third floor of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, operator Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group–commonly known as SEAL Team Six– has been a part of some of the most memorable special operations in history, as well as countless missions that never made headlines.”

I hope you enjoy reading or watching or even researching about this mission. Even myself, who tends to not talk politics much and only think about military in the game Call of Duty, highly advise you to get to the nearest theater soon.

A Whole Year Without Plastic?!

A Whole Year Without Plastic?!

I posted a few days ago about my new haircut, which I inadvertently made as a New Year’s resolution I guess. So, bring on 2014. I already knocked out and completed my goal for 2013! Kidding. I didn’t want to come up with some standard resolutions that everyone does, even though they still exist on the bottom … Read more

I posted a few days ago about my new haircut, which I inadvertently made as a New Year’s resolution I guess. So, bring on 2014. I already knocked out and completed my goal for 2013! Kidding. I didn’t want to come up with some standard resolutions that everyone does, even though they still exist on the bottom of my list, but my top resolution is a rather lofty and impactful goal.

2013 Resolution: Rise Above Plastics. Attempt to go a whole year without using, or significantly reducing my plastic footprint.

I was very inspired by this after I attended the East Coast Chapter Summit with the Surfrider Foundation, and really hope to follow through on cutting out as much plastic as possible. The facts are pretty evident I quickly found out, and in many parts of our oceans there exists this sort of plasticy soup, a gyre as it’s called. According to the organization Rise Above Plastics, plastic is all around us. It’s in our homes, our offices, our vehicles, our yards and our playgrounds. We use it to package food, bottle products, bag produce, make dinnerware and utensils, make toys and more.

Plastics have undoubtedly helped us to manufacture, package and ship goods more easily, for less money, and in some cases, more safely than ever before. But, plastics pose a significant threat to our planet as well. Part of the problem is plastic itself. The very qualities that make it an adaptable and durable product to use, also make plastic an environmental nightmare. You see, plastics do not biodegrade. Instead they photodegrade – breaking down under exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, into smaller and smaller pieces.

The bottom line is that with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form.

The Rise Above Plastic’s mission is simple: to reduce the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics. I encourage you to follow ‘RAP’ on Facebook and Twitter, and be a leader and advocate for change. “Ban the Bag” from your city if you are so empowered to do so.

Some other easy things you can do to reduce your ‘plastic footprint’ and help keep plastics out of the marine environment are choosing to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water; refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other ‘disposable’ plastics; reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons; bring your to-go mug with you; and recycle! If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates. Wish me luck!

For more ‘green’ resolutions, check out this post.

A New Year, A New Look

A New Year, A New Look

Winter break is winding down, the new year has been rung in, and we all get to hear the general overhaul of standard resolutions…loose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking, save more money, drink less and so on. I have been thinking about several resolutions for a while and will make a post about some later, … Read more

Winter break is winding down, the new year has been rung in, and we all get to hear the general overhaul of standard resolutions…loose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking, save more money, drink less and so on. I have been thinking about several resolutions for a while and will make a post about some later, but since I have been home I have been nagged by my dad to cut my hair. I had been growing it out for just under 2 years, went abroad with it, adapted to the flow, but upon instinct decided it had to go. I figured that since this coming semester is my last and I will be in a full fledge job hunt, I would be more appealing to employers with a clean cut.

I fell a few inches short of Locks for Love and Wigs for Kids donations, but am making sure some cancer patient or local hospital will accept my hair. The reason I had held off to cutting it off is because I wanted to donate it for a good cause. I won’t let the national non-profits hold me back. I also came to peace with the decision thanks to snowboarder, skateboarder and X-Games gold winner Shaun White. When you think of Shaun White, you immediately think of his long, red locks. His hair defined him. However, he decided to cut and donate his as well, which I found on via YouTube, and made my decision a lot easier!

My brother John, who’s hair is also very long and also tried to help me ignore sales pitches on getting mine cut, had sent me an email a while back about hair and the nervous system. It is a rather interesting article and I hope you read to the end! “Hair is an extension of the nervous system, it can be correctly seen as exteriorized nerves, a type of highly evolved “feelers” or “antennae” that transmit vast amounts of important information to the brainstem, the limbic system, and the neocortex.

Not only does hair in people, including facial hair in men, provide an information highway reaching the brain, hair also emits energy, the electromagnetic energy emitted by the brain into the outer environment.

With the usual enticements, the U.S. Military, enlisted some Indian trackers. Once enlisted, an amazing thing happened. Whatever talents and skills they had possessed on the reservation seemed to mysteriously disappear, as recruit after recruit failed to perform as expected in the field.

Serious causalities and failures of performance led the government to contract expensive testing of these recruits, and this is what was found: When questioned about their failure to perform as expected, the older recruits replied consistently that when they received their required military haircuts, they could no longer ’sense’ the enemy, they could no longer access a ’sixth sense’ , their ’intuition’ no longer was reliable, they couldn’t ’read’ subtle signs as well or access subtle extrasensory information.

Time after time the man with long hair kept making high scores. Time after time, the man with the short hair failed the tests in which he had previously scored high scores.

Here is a typical test: The recruit is sleeping out in the woods. An armed ’enemy’ approaches the sleeping man. The long haired man is awakened out of his sleep by a strong sense of danger and gets away long before the enemy is close, long before any sounds from the approaching enemy are audible. So the document recommended that all Indian trackers be exempt from military haircuts. In fact, it required that trackers keep their hair long.”

Oh well.

(Read the article in full here).

Winter Back at Home

Winter Back at Home

It’s the end of November, I just finished the rough draft of a 20+ page Spanish research paper, I have a Geographical Information Systems final project to worry about and 3 exams to study for (one being Corporate Finance, which is the hardest class in my major). This can really only mean one thing, Christmas … Read more

It’s the end of November, I just finished the rough draft of a 20+ page Spanish research paper, I have a Geographical Information Systems final project to worry about and 3 exams to study for (one being Corporate Finance, which is the hardest class in my major). This can really only mean one thing, Christmas break is just around the corner, and it couldn’t be any closer. A while back I posted a simple guide to surviving finals week, and will revisit some of my own recommendations in anticipation to returning back home for a good month. Winter and the holidays mean to me a lot of different things, but all I really think about is snow, warm fireplaces, purposely excessive Christmas decorations, tons of cookies, traditional Slovak dinners, pea coats, video games, Christmas music playing around the clock (especially Kenny G, Mariah Carey, Babyface, Colbie Caillat and the Elf soundtrack), old friends, snow football games, Tim Tam Slams, hot cocoa and of course, family.

How to successfully do a Tim Tam Slam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MQZX1nLOJ4

With my two older brothers soon to be living both in New York City, Christmas back at home this year will be extra special. Also, going back to my hometown of Cedarburg, Wisconsin will be warming because of the winter wonderland it is made out to be. Historic Cedarburg is a beautiful destination any time of the year (I now realize this since I am out of high school), but especially during the winter. It has century old limestone buildings, an old woolen mill, Cedar Creek Winery, unique art galleries, coffee houses and cozy pubs and restaurants, while two historic inns greet cozy travelers. Thousands of lights brighten the main Washington Avenue, which is quite inviting to a stroll throughout the historic district. It’s no joke that Cedarburg was honored by Forbes Magazine as one of the prettiest towns in America in 2011 and as one of the Midwest’s 6 best holiday shopping towns in Midwest Living.

It is also home to countless festivals and lovely events. There’s a tree lighting, Festive Friday Eves with “Christmas in the Country,” an Artists Guild Holiday Art Fair, photos with Santa at his workshop, holiday concerts and the Polar Express among more, which are all capped off by Winter Festival held in mid February. Winter Fest is the highlight of the Cedarburg holidays because of the ice sculpture contest that lines the streets, restaurant specials and tons of activities like “bed races” on Cedar Creek (if it is frozen enough!).

When I fly home on December 15, there will be much anticipation for revisiting with family and friends. It also will be an unfortunate realization that I am soon graduating, and won’t have a whole months worth of winter break to celebrate winter at home in my history city. Once I get through finals, at last, I will have some much needed time for relaxation, especially with the people who are closest to my heart.

Reduce and Reimagine This Holiday Season

Reduce and Reimagine This Holiday Season

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and now we have the full month of December, which means gift planning, purchasing and accumulating of materialistic items. These holidays put your bank account and the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. Also, we are currently using the resources of one-and-a-half … Read more


Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and now we have the full month of December, which means gift planning, purchasing and accumulating of materialistic items. These holidays put your bank account and the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. Also, we are currently using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet, Earth. Wow.

According to Patagonia, environmental bankruptcy, as well with corporate bankruptcy, can happen very slowly, then all of a sudden. This is what we face as consumers unless we slow down and try to reverse the damage. We’re running short on fresh water and raw materials, all of our planet’s natural systems and resources that support business and life.

There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need this holiday season. Think twice before you buy anything. Remember to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle by supporting companies that are sustainable and making a positive impact. You can also fix old clothes instead of getting new things (it adds character anyways) or find a new home for things you don’t use anymore and see if any of your belongings can be recycled. The bottom line is that you should try to not buy what you don’t need, pledge to fix what’s broken, sell or pass things on and pledge to keep your stuff out of the landfill and incinerator.

More importantly, let’s reduce and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

“Christmas should be something to enjoy rather than endure,” writes author and activist Bill McKibben. “Instead of an island of bustle, it should be an island of peace amid a busy life. We want so much more out of Christmas: more music, more companionship, more contemplation, more time outdoors, more love.” In Hundred Dollar Holiday, McKibben, a church-going Christian, describes what it’s like to set a $100 limit on holiday spending – gifts, decorations, even the holiday feast. Some of us might find that level of simplicity a challenge, at least to start, but surveys bear out that those are the things people want most.

Time – especially time with friends – is one of the most valuable gifts we can give. How you choose to take back the holidays is up to you – that’s what it’s all about, creating and nurturing your own traditions. As with any gift, it’s the thought that counts. So this year, think hard about what really matters to you and your family and put that at the top of your holiday gift list.

As for me, I plan to spend time at home with my family who I haven’t been able to see for an extended period of time in so long, after being in Spain, then coming to Mount right away. I plan to simplify as well, and even though I already have some new clothes on the Christmas list and maybe a new camera, I believe my mindset and mentality is there. Most the clothes are from companies that support a good cause anyway!

How do you plan to reimagine your holidays this year?

(Thanks to Patagonia for some of the insight on this post)

What are you Thankful for?

What are you Thankful for?

This Thanksgiving my parents drove in from Wisconsin, and we had an improvised dinner at my Grandparents house, who both are very immobile at this point. My aunt and all her siblings and their little kids came over for a feast and fun. I asked some of my little cousins what they were thankful for, … Read more

This Thanksgiving my parents drove in from Wisconsin, and we had an improvised dinner at my Grandparents house, who both are very immobile at this point. My aunt and all her siblings and their little kids came over for a feast and fun. I asked some of my little cousins what they were thankful for, and their sporadic answers spread among 5 little ones were…”God and Jesus, candy!, all my clothes, eating, family, the friends I meet, everything, I’m thankful for me I’m thankful for you, the things that I love and the things that I don’t like.” I was thankful that I got to sit at the kids table, yet again…

In all reality it was very nice seeing so much family, from my new 2-week-old little cousin all the way to my 90-year-old Grandpa. Looking back, here is the Thanksgiving history according to the History Channel. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations. Did you know that lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims’ menu?!

What are you thankful for? I would say I am thankful for life, health, family, and grateful about the freedoms we enjoy and the gratitude for all the material advantages and comforts we have. Also, for challenges, because who knows where I’d be today without them.