Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why You Should Eat Lunch While You Read This

You will die someday.

This is a very well-known fact. It is a fact that is not, perhaps, easily accepted by all of the "you"s that are out there. Nevertheless, it is a fact that has been proven for generations, and based on this track record, you can be certain it will be proven again.

The question then remains...well, there are many questions that remain. One of them is, what to do with the time you now know you have in limited quantities? (Hopefully you knew that before now, when you're eating lunch and reading this. If you didn't, you might be about to prove the aforementioned fact a lot sooner than you otherwise would have, due to a condition known as heart failure. But I digress.) Well, that question has many answers and I will not try to cover them all here. However, I will say that, in light of the limited quantities of time you have, you ought to pack as much into that time as you can so it's worth something. Then, I will further say that one facet of packing as much as possible into that limited time has a name: multitasking!

Why should you multitask? That, at least, has a simple answer: because all of us have to spend a lot of time doing things that we really don't want to do, but that are necessary for living. For example: driving, brushing your teeth, eating lunch, standing in line, waiting for your ride, and so on. (Doing homework does not count. Sorry.) It's easy to excuse these activities because they are, after all, necessary. But hasn't the question, "Couldn't I be doing something more worthwhile right now?" ever crossed your mind during such activities?

You could dispense with these activities altogether, but this would have far-reaching, unforeseen, and potentially harmful consequences, including but not limited to: no education, no social life, rotting teeth, lack of social skills, bad breath, hunger, premature death.

Thus, multitasking presents itself as a viable solution. How to multitask? Simple: combine essential, worthwhile activities and get double the sizzle for your seconds. (Or, double the madness for your minutes. Or, double the handiness for your hours. In short, more.) Practically, here are some examples.
  • You are standing in line in the grocery store. DO: Strike up a conversation with a fellow shopper; review your checkbook register; call or text a friend or family member. DO NOT: thumb through "People" magazine (this does not qualify as an essential or particularly worthwhile activity.)
  • You are brushing your teeth. DO: something that involves your free hand. Personally, I like reading. It sounds weird and looks funny, but not only are you productively multitasking, you brush your teeth longer without realizing it. DO NOT: try to pick your outfit for tomorrow (this is virtually impossible with only one hand and ends up being "interrupted-tasking".)
  • You are driving. DO: listen to quality music; listen to a book on tape; pray for someone who needs it; intentionally admire God's creation; think deeply about a certain issue; talk to a passenger. DO NOT: be on your cell phone (this is a bad idea and illegal some places. Getting a ticket is certainly not an essential activity.)
  • You are a passenger. DO: read; talk to the driver; write; catch up on sleep; get inspired by the vistas you are passing. DO NOT: stare out the window, vaguely thinking, "I should do something..."
  • You are waiting for your ride. DO: review your notes for history class; talk to your mom; pray that your ride learns time management skills. DO NOT: tap your foot and stare at the clock. This accomplishes absolutely nothing. I speak from experience.
  • You are watching a movie you like, but have seen many times. DO: knit; cross-stitch; crochet; stretch; cook; scrapbook. DO NOT: chew your fingernails.
  • You are eating lunch. DO: have a quality conversation with a friend or family member; read if you are alone; study for an upcoming test; read blog posts. DO NOT: chew and talk at the same time.
  • You are exercising. DO: exercise with a friend or family member; listen to quality music; listen to a book on tape; admire God's creation if you're outside; pray. DO NOT: think of how much you hate this.
  • You have a free afternoon with "nothing to do". DO: make a to-do list, because you most certainly have something to do. If you really can't think of something, ask a friend or family member if they need help with a project. (Yeah, now you come up with something.) DO NOT: do nothing.
After all this, you may assume that I am a hater of free time. On the contrary - free time is something I cherish, on the rare occasion that it pops up. But, I can say from experience that free time is a lot more enjoyable when it actually is free - without those annoying little tasks that could be combined with something else to save time. So, multi-task! Make the most of the time you have, and spend the most time investing in things that will last past that time. That's the most important thing to keep in mind.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a sandwich to polish off.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Being Positive

"You know what the difference between you and me is? You see the whale as half-empty; I see the whale as half-full!" (Jonah: A Veggetales Movie)

I think we all know a positive person - someone who seems to be perpetually cheerful, who rarely talks down about people, who has an uncanny ability to cheer you up whenever you're around them; someone who avoids arguments and keeps the peace. Unfortunately, chances are likely that we know a negative person too. You know the type - someone who always has something to complain about or something negative to point out about the food or the movie or the people who are passing by; someone who assumes the worst in people and has a generally pessimistic outlook about life.

Which of these two people would you prefer to be around? Almost all of us would, without hesitation, pick the first person. After all, positive people tend to be easy to get along with and fun to be around. One thing that we might not perhaps realize, however, is that we will tend to attract people who are similar to us. Therefore, if I prefer hanging out with positive people, I first need to work on becoming a positive person myself.

How do you become a positive person? As I've been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks, here are a few things that came to mind.

Think positively. The first order of business is to develop some self-esteem. I'm not going to go into detail because there are already a lot of good articles on the subject of self-confidence, but let me just say that, in general, negative thinking makes for negative words and positive thinking makes for positive words. And, as the famous and very wise quote goes on from there, "Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny." If you want to be a positive person, start by viewing yourself and your world in a positive (though not narcissistic) light.

Find something nice to say. Your best friend just walked in the room wearing the ugliest dress you've ever seen? Your great-aunt made a casserole that you could barely get down? A classmate asks you to read and comment on a mistake-ridden paper he or she wrote? Find something nice to say. Tell your friend how much you like her earrings or the way she's wearing her hair today. Compliment your great-aunt on the accompanying vegetables or dessert. Tell your classmate that her topic was very original. A few tips: first of all, and very importantly, don't let your true reaction show on your face. If you do, anything nice you say afterwards will sound forced. And secondly, don't lie. Find something nice to say about something you actually think is nice. If you can't find anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Just smile.
Note: The time might come when your friend, great-aunt, or classmate actually desires your real opinion about something. If so, say something nice - and then share your true opinion gently.

Not all thoughts need to be shared. A sure sign of a negative person is someone who has to say everything they're thinking. Don't spoil someone else's enjoyment of a movie, sport, meal, song, etc. by sharing every opinion you have on the subject. If you have something positive to say, go ahead, but if it's negative, stop and check yourself. Is this comment helpful? Is this comment going to make someone else feel stupid for liking what I don't like? Does this comment add anything to what's going on?

Accommodate other people's quirks. Your brother hates bacon in his scrambled eggs, but you love it. When you make scrambled eggs for both of you, you have two options. Do you put bacon in the eggs and tell your brother to live with it, possibly starting a foolish argument? Or do you leave the bacon out and save it for when you're only making eggs for yourself? To avoid being negative about someone else's likes/dislikes and choices, the positive person would accommodate this quirk and choose option 2. This applies to a broad range of quirks, such as furniture arrangement, restaurant preference, movie or TV preferences, organizational preferences, and the list goes on and on. Accommodate other people's quirks and, every once in a while, let them accommodate yours. The more self-sacrificing you're willing to be when it comes to these little things, the more positive and pleasant a person you will be.

Turn your lemons into lemonade. I am writing this at a time when we have a very unusual 3+ feet of snow outside. Because of this, pretty much everything that was supposed to take place around here has been cancelled since last Friday. The negative person could look at this situation and begin to go on about how much they hate snow, how inconvenient it is, how much their back aches from shoveling, and why the heck can't we all move to Bermuda? The positive person could take several angles: being thankful for a week off school, appreciating the exercise that results from shoveling, pointing out how beautiful freshly fallen snow is. The positive person could also take positive action by helping a neighbor shovel their driveway, using the extra time to catch up on tasks, and spending more time with his or her family.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. If you want to be a positive person, you will not always assume the worst in people. This is a huge trademark of a negative person: "oh, so-and-so will probably be late. They always are." "I'm sure so-and-so forgot. What a waste of time for me to come here." This immediately casts "so-and-so" into a negative light and puts a damper on positive thoughts that anyone had about "so-and-so". As "Communication: Making Connections" by William Seiler and Melissa Beall puts it, "We are always trying to explain why people behave the way they do, and to do this, we must make assumptions...attribution error occurs when we perceive other as acting as they do because they 'are that kind of person' rather than because of any external factors that may have influenced their behavior."
There are almost always situations (that you will often know nothing about) that factor into a person's behavior - whether it be tardiness, forgetfulness, disorganization, and so on. A negative person is quick to jump to a conclusion and judge someone else based on past experience; a positive person will give everyone the benefit of the doubt, at least until proven wrong.

Take on a new perspective. Say you're about to say something about Nancy to your friend. If Nancy was in the room, would you still say it?
That's a challenging question. If I evaluated everything I said using that perspective, there's probably a lot of things I wouldn't say. But this is another factor in being a positive person. If you will take on this high standard and strive to be positive about people who aren't present, you will go a long way towards being trustworthy. You won't have anyone worrying about what you say about them when they're not in the room.
If a conversation comes up in which other people are saying negative things about Nancy, say something really positive. Knock their socks off and end the conversation. At the very least, it'll give them something to think about.

Don't take yourself too seriously. This is a pretty obvious one, but it still bears repeating. If you cannot try new things, and if you cannot laugh at yourself, your blunders, and unpleasant situations that you find yourself in, you need to lighten up. This is a huge aspect of a positive person. The negative person cannot see the humor in the fuel light being on in the car, tripping up the stairs in front of several people, getting temporarily stuck in a ditch, looking like a total idiot whilst trying a new game or dance, or accidentally dropping something in a quiet place - and boy, do they miss out on the fun.

Find ways to sparkle. 1 John 4:12 says, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love on another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." The truly positive person takes positive thoughts and positive words and turns them into positive actions. One way to sparkle in other people's lives is through habitual "random" acts of kindness. Some of these might include baking cupcakes for one of your classes at school, making dinner for your family, donating old clothes and/or money to a charity, calling an old friend, leaving a card/balloons/flowers for a friend who's having a bad day, or helping an elderly neighbor with yard work. (More ideas can be found by Googling "random acts of kindness".) Try to meet people's needs in a practical way. Show love to people in personal ways. Serving others is the ultimate sign of a positive person.

Of course, there will be horrible, no-good, very bad days when absolutely nothing goes your way and you feel like screaming and tearing your hair out. There are times when it gets extremely difficult to be positive. On those occasions, either choose to be alone or to go to another positive person for relief. If you must vent, preferably do so in a journal. If you must vent out loud, be careful you don't say things you'll regret later.

Being a positive person is a choice. A lot of life has to do with your attitude, so strive for a positive one. Love on people in big ways and small ways, in life-changing ways and thought-provoking ways. And don't settle for being negative - anyone can do that. Stand out and be positive. It really will make a difference.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Novel Excerpt

This is a later scene from the novel I started
last November. Enjoy. :)

The atrium was virtually deserted once more, save for the few apprentices who still lingered in various corners. Tyatsai slowly slid down the wall until she was sitting on the cold floor and staring at the corridor that led to the dining hall. It wasn’t fair, she thought fiercely. It wasn’t fair to have to accept that only some people had the option to make something of themselves, while everyone else could only watch and wait for their chance at their most basic rights. Who made those rules? Who said it had to be that way?
Now came the sound of chairs scraping back from tables, footsteps and voices growing louder. A steady stream of officers began to exit the dining hall, heading to their quarters or going out into the courtyard for a smoke. Still Tyatsai sat there, unwilling to move, waiting for she didn’t know what, staring at the floor.
Lone footsteps echoed off the stones, walking in her direction and sounding unsettlingly familiar. Now was not the time for any kind of encounter. She felt that if anyone spoke so much as a word to her, she might very well explode.
“You look alone,” said Enthon.
“You’re perceptive,” Tyatsai said, only half-sarcastically. Somehow, it was all the derision she could manage to summon. The fire inside was no longer burning quite as powerfully as it had been only a minute ago.
She could almost feel Enthon studying her, trying to determine what kind of mood she was in. She considered telling him it was pointless; she herself was suddenly feeling confused.
“Something’s wrong again,” he said finally.
“What kind of thing?” Tyatsai said, playing absently with one of the laces one her shoe in order to appear occupied and avoid having to meet his gaze.
“You’re angry with me, aren’t you?”
Well, yes. She was. But somehow she couldn’t exactly remember why.
Three or four slaves came in from the courtyard, whispering amongst themselves, and came to an abrupt stop when they saw Enthon. Tyatsai looked up and saw that they were some of the new ones. Immediately she remembered what had caused her to start burning again. The slaves’ expressions were part uncertainty, part inexperienced fear, and for a moment they stood frozen, not sure what to do.
“Have you been showed where to go?” Enthon asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence, his voice mild. “Where you’ll be sleeping?”
“No,” one of them replied timidly, and hastily added, “sir.”
“It’s just down this hallway – there are plenty of empty rooms. Take whichever ones you want.”
“Any of them?”
“Yes,” Enthon said, “one to a room, unless you’re married.”
The slaves exchanged surprised looks. “Thank you,” the only man in the little group said, and they made their way in the direction he had pointed out, chancing curious glances back at him as they went.
“Is that what you were celebrating?” Tyatsai said quietly, watching them go. “Is that why you had that nice little banquet?”
Enthon said nothing until the new slaves had disappeared into the corridor. “You are angry with me.”
“I don’t know why I should be,” Tyatsai said, standing up. “I ought to be used to it by now.” She turned to leave, but was stopped by his voice.
“Where are you going?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Tyatsai said, turning back around to face him. “Hadn’t you dismissed me yet?”
“Tyatsai,” he said firmly. She looked down, her cheeks suddenly flushed. “Is it at all possible for you to look at me as a human too? Or are you always going to treat me as if I think I’m so much better than you?” He sounded almost as angry as she had felt earlier. “You act as if you know me, but you don’t,” he continued. “We’re not all the same.”
“But you all do the same things, don’t you?” she said in a low voice.
“You think this was my idea?” he asked. “I really have very little power over most of what goes on here. All of these plans were in place far before I ever showed up.”
“Why are you telling me that?”
“Because, for some reason, I feel like I owe you and everyone else an explanation.”
She looked up at him. “You never thought you owed us anything before,” she said sullenly.
“Look,” he said, exasperation in his tone, “I have to follow orders too, you know.”
“But some things are worth resisting if they’re wrong,” she said. “Aren’t they?”
He was silent for a few seconds. “Like me?” he said quietly.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pictures of Ohio and Random Things

I spent July 9th-13th visiting my pen pal, Amy, whom I had never met before, at her house in Ohio. We had a fantastic time playing games, drinking tea, eating amazing homemade pumpkin pie (and cookies. lots of cookies), watching movies, and talking about various interesting subjects. It was a very fun and new experience, made even more so by the fact that this was my first time flying alone. I ran into no snags at all until I went through security in the Cleveland airport on my way home. They hand-searched my carry-on and found a pocketknife that I had totally forgotten was in there, and gave me several options as to what to do with it; in the end, I told them to just toss it. But what I found amazing at best and scary at worst was that they did not catch a pocketknife in a carry-on in the Baltimore airport...?

I took over 100 pictures and thought I would post a few of them for your enjoyment. :) All of these were taken at the Kingwood Center, a mansion with extensive outdoor gardens, greenhouses, and wandering peacocks.

The mansion

A fire hydrant that amused me...

One of two peacocks we saw

I wonder what the occasion for naming this one was...?

A wreath made out of cacti -cool or what?

I love these titles...

Inside the mansion

A late-evening snack on the my last night. Amy got kiwis especially for me, since she knows they're my favorite fruit. It made me very happy. :)

Amy's Venus Flytrap, otherwise known as Maggie.

A sunset outside the Fabers' house.

My favorite chair at the Fabers' house. :)

A picture Lindsey took while we were hiking at a forest park in Virginia:

A picture I took of one of my fellow Ravelians, at our dress rehearsal for "Beatlemania":

My collection of unusual erasers. There are over thirty of them and they include flowers, stars, rainbows, golden retrievers, parrots, penguins, carrots, purple pointe shoes, elephants, turtles, bears, tigers, butterflies...etc. Six of them are from Japan. (No, I am not normal.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photo Survey

This is a fun survey that I first did several years ago. For each category, answer with a picture found on Google Images. Enjoy!

1. Where You Live

2. Favorite color

3. Where are you going on vacation next?

4. What shoes do you wear the most?

5. Favorite TV show?

6. Where do you go to school?

7. Favorite Movie (this is only one of them - I have many)

8. Where do you shop the most? (I don't think I shop one place any more than another, so here's one of them)

9. What kind of cell phone do you have?

10. Favorite food? (I have too many.)

11. Favorite drink? (among others)

12. What type of pets do you have?

parakeet.jpg Parakeet image by hypnotic_angel2007

13. Favorite restaurant

14. Favorite band/group/singer (I have too many. Here's one of them.)

15. Something that can always be found in your purse/bag?

16. Favorite actors (ok, so I have a lot...)

17. Favorite actress