Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 22!: It's Just an Earthsuit

I always feel a sense of peace and calm (along with other emotions I can't encapsulate) when I relay this story. My dad, as a kid, remembers overhearing a conversation at church among older ladies. (Names made up to add to story interest).

Mabel asks Myrtle how Mary is doing in the hospital after _____ (something serious). Myrtle shakes her head with a smile, with a look of hope in her eyes. "Well, Mary is doing just fine.Her earthsuit isn't doing so great though." Mabel responds with a knowing nod.

Earthsuit. That's all our bodies are. These women had come to recognize and understand that the person is the soul. As C.S. Lewis once said, "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." So true, and so encouraging. Our lives are transient, temporary, but a vapor, but the God-given soul has no end.

Paul talks about this too, referring to the body as a "tent":

2 Corinthians 5

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
Our Heavenly Dwelling

"5 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

God has appointed a time for us to live in the tent, or earthsuit, on this planet He created to serve Him and bring Him glory even through our feeble human bodies.

Peter also refers to the body as a tent:

2 Peter 1

"13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me."

Peter knows his earthsuit is wearing out and his stay on this planet is coming to a close, but he is confident, for he knows to set it aside is to take on something greater and more real and permanent than the natural body.

So what does this mean? Well, if we are ambassadors and aliens on earth as Christ once was, then it's as if we're astronauts sent from another planet with a divine mission. Our mission has a certain allotted time, but that is not for us to know. In the meantime, we must do good and serve and love as if each day is the end of our earthsuit and the planet we are visiting. But we have nothing to fear, for the earthsuit is only for traveling through this planet. Why would we want to stay confined in our earthsuit, when shedding our earthsuit means being with our Lover in a world more real and alive and tangible than anything imaginable. And, if your earthsuit is fading, there is hope! All disease, illness, pain, heartache, regret, sorrow, guilt, sin, any sadness, leaves with the earthsuit when one day we stay before our Maker, cast off our earthsuit, and He says "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Learning how to live in this earthsuit,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 21!: I hope I don't offend you but...MERRY CHRISTMAS anyways!

Retail is so fascinating, looking back on your day (not always while you're in it, working and thinking and being nice when you don't feel nice at all). This Christmas season, we've been instructed to say over the paging system,"Happy holidays, ________ you have a call on Line _____." Etc. And when someone calls in, "Happy holidays, thank you for calling ______. This is _____...." I don't really like the Happy Holidays. I wouldn't mind it if people were happy about the holidays and Christmas and such, but we are told to say Happy Holidays because it is politically correct. And I am not happy. Therefore, I have been saying Merry Christmas to just about every one of my customers the past week (except for one woman today buying Hanukkah candles who was a self-professed Jewish rabbi).

And, the results have been interesting. Some people just want to get in and out and haven't noticed. Some people have said Merry Christmas in return out of politeness. But others have been thoroughly pleased and quite elated. I've had a few who've said things like "You're the second person who's said that today!", assuming people at the stores who had served them were the first. And they were joyful! They, like me, notice this depressing lack of Merry Christmas and want to spread the Christ in the season, or so I am thinking. And guess what... NO ONE has said, "ma'am, I'm offended." Not my managers, not my co-workers, and not my customers. So, Merry Christmas, MERRY Christmas, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Emphasizing the reason for the season,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 20!: Christmas in 2 Acronyms

I'm sitting here in my room with all my lovely candles flickering, my colored Christmas lights on, and my cute little Christmas tree aglow, and so, I want to bring to you tonight two different approaches to Christmas, both in acronym form.

I call this the "retail- shopping craze- money spending - un fun yet sadly normal" Christmas acronym:

C- Can you give me any extra coupons? (No ma'am. We don't give out coupons in the store)
H- Hurry up! Get in the car asap before all the ______ are all bought up!
R- Really tacky Christmas sweaters, and earrings, and shirts, and...yeah
I- Is my shift over yet? (how I often feel this time of year at work)
S- Shop til you drop, or until your credit card company freezes your account from "suspicion"
T- Tarzan-yells: what I really think would help me relieve stress while I'm working retail
M- Miserable: the look on many people's faces, especially men drug into the shopping craze
A- Angsty: my customers, and consequentially me (Yes, I know, I'm better than stooping to that)
S- Starbucks: the fuel of the Christmas shoppers

What the Christmas acronym should be:

C- Caring for others. Help your neighbor next door; surprise them with a gift or kind act.
H- His birth- As in Jesus, the Savior of the world :)
R- Reflecting on the ultimate gift, resulting in gratitude and giving on your part
I- Incredibly blessed: how we should all feel this year
S- St. Nicholas, not Santa Claus. Research who this man was and what he did for others.
T- Thankfulness- Replace angst with thanks!
M- My family and loved ones- the people I want to spend the season with, and spend life with
A- Adoration- rejoicing in God's provision, singing Christmas songs, praying
S- Seek to put others first.

Reflecting on the miraculous birth,

Day 19! Being an Island: A Look at Isolationism

One perk (of many) with my new smart phone is the awesome Bible app I downloaded. It makes it super easy to read the Bible conveniently and on the go. Generally, when I don't have a set plan for my Bible reading, I'll read the Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month. So, I had my phone reading Proverbs 18 out-loud to me, and verse 1 grabbed me: "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment." Hmph, I thought. I've never heard this verse, or at least this verse put quite this way. Turns out, I was reading the ESV translation, which I rarely do. I switched to the NIV version, my default, and it had this to say: "An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment." Is it just me, or do these verses seem to emphasize different things? (This puzzled me, and may lead to a discussion on Bible translations later). The second clause agrees, that it goes against sound judgment. But the first part of the ESV states clearly isolation is not good and goes against the desires of God, for man "seeks his own desire" in being a hermit. The NIV uses the word "unfriendly." Now I'm thinking of a mean and grouchy man when that word is used, perhaps a grouchy man that is selfish, naturally. That makes total sense. But the ESV version really made me reflect. If I isolate myself, I pursue my own selfish desires, and therefore, it is not good, for any emphasis on self detracts from God's command to love Him and others.

I'll admit. I espoused George Washington's international policy of isolationism but in my social life, summed up like this: meddling in others' affairs or making yourself known or making a scene or being assertive was not for me. The books were safe and predictable. And so, I passed through high school with perfect grades, a few close friends, and no social life. And then college happened. SOCIAL LIFE!!!! WOOHOOOO!!!!! It was like a drug. Where have you been all my life? I said to myself, regarding social interaction. I do believe I went a little over the top my freshman year, always trying to be involved in all the dorm activities, always trying to get that boy's attention (does he like me? do I like him?), finally living the "wild" (in a very clean way) life I never had. It was like I was on fire. I can't say that was healthy, but, there is a balance. Man, should not isolate himself.

"No man is an island." How many times have you heard that? Did you know it's a quote from John Donne's poem? Here's the rest of it:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Donne points out that our lives are all intertwined. When one man passes, a part of someone else dies. A life touches another, ignites a soul, makes someone else come alive. It's powerful.

You know what else is also powerful? The Trinity. God loves relationship, and He Himself is involved in the most loving, giving, and sacrificial relationship of all with the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three in perfect communion. In the beginning, He said, "Let us create..." Who is us? The Trinity. He created man and said it was not good for him to be alone, and once he had a companion and creation was completed after mankind, he said it was VERY good. Not just good.

I realized in this verse, that I am depriving others by isolating myself. Many times I have told myself and others that basically I'm doing myself a favor by not getting close to them. By not opening up my heart and who I really am. But in actuality, this is usually a cover up for my own selfish fears of being hurt. But, I am hurting other people if I do not interact with them. God commands us to love others through actions and words, to grieve with others, to confess our sins, to basically be transparent and forgiving and joyful in others' successes.

What do I have to give? you may ask. YOURSELF. You're one of a kind. Why would God make people so different if He didn't take joy in that? If he didn't find you and your individual identity important? Share a smile, kinds words, a hug. These are simple gestures that can mean so much. Once I risked deeper friendships, I learned to risk being vulnerable, and in return, people were vulnerable with me, and together, we could encourage one another in Christ. And we then had a deeper friendship. Sometimes you may feel like you're the only one giving, but don't grow weary of doing what's right. God loved to the point of death. You, then, can love others past your comfort zone.

I didn't understand true friendship til college. My parents loved me and cared and cried with me. But to have friends like this is priceless. I remember when I went through a painful break-up I hid myself in my room, very distraught, and would not come out until my roommate came back. I wouldn't talk to anyone else in the quad area we shared, I only wanted my roomie. When she came to the door, I greeted her like a blubbering leaking faucet as I garbled out the bad news. I went to hug her, then realized, she was crying! I was confused, and asked why she was crying. I don't remember her exact words, but she let me sit on her lap and bawl my eyes out. I am so blessed to call her my friend. I didn't need words then, or explanations or analysis of the scenario, just empathy. Her tears and comfort were more than enough.

Now that I'm out on my own, livin' large after college, I've grown to realize the great important of anti-isolationism. I don't have family here. My friends are my family. I am there for them, so that in turn, they are there for me. I'm always so grateful when a friend is willing to do a favor for me or when a friend truly wants to spend time with me because they honestly miss me. I love when one of my girl pals texts me and says "I miss you!" or "We need to catch up!" I love girl talk :) I love honest and open heart to heart conversations. By not having them all these years, I didn't just hurt myself, but I deprived others of the joy and love God could have conveyed through me to them in their time of need.

Remember: Islands may seem lovely, but only if they're vacation spots like Hawaii. Risk being vulnerable. Risk being yourself.

Learning to love,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 18!: A Whimsical Look at Music Genres (from my perspective)

The music world explodes with an insane amount of variety. Each category has a subcategory, and some categories can't be explained. I personally enjoy pop, dance, techno/trance, some folk, some New Age, and some Rock. And rap, too, if it's tasteful and especially if it's Lecrae (if that name means nothing to you, youtube him asap; he's only the best Christian rapper to breathe on this earth). So, here are some genres I've thought of, and the kind of mood they envelope, the environment they can usually be heard, and/or the type of people I associate them with. DISCLAIMER: These are all my humorous opinions, and are not to be taken seriously, unless you find them seriously funny.

POP- "Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know..." If you listened to Britney, N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees, you liked 90's pop. How to describe it today, besides whatever is popular? The pop fan: usually listens to that "hit" station, knows all the lyrics by heart, sings his/her heart out in the car with his/her pals or alone, blares their music, ridin' cool with their windows down, and likes fiestas. Party where? Party here! he or she may exclaim. (I'm guilty of being a pop fan)

ROCK- Umm, use of guitars and such. Often wailing electric guitars. Can vary: country rock, hard rock, indie rock... so many options. The rock fan: your grandpa who remembers Woodstock with a fond yet fuzzy memory (he lost his hearing at that event), or your Dad who fondly listens to the 60's and 70's (reliving those higschool years), or your neighbor attempting to jam the next house over. HUSHHHH! No rockin' out after quiet hours! ;)

ELECTRONIC- This genre can be broken down into so many genres, but, overall, I love it, and as you can see, have devoted most of my research to it :)
Dance- Something that makes you want to move, example Cascada, you know, "Cuz everytime we touch I get this feeling..." Generally has a strong bass and awesome beat (yes, I'm biased) and a catchy and often cliche melody line. Think clubs and girls like Kesha jamming out.

-Techno- a "form of electronic dance music," usually has less vocals, more synthesizers, etc.

-House- "Early house music was generally dance-based music characterized by repetitive 4/4 beats, rhythms centered around drum machines,[2] off-beat hi-hat cymbals, and synthesized basslines. While house displayed several characteristics similar to disco music, it was more electronic and minimalistic,[2] and the structured music's focus around a repetitive rhythm was more important than the song itself."
"It proved to be a commercially successful genre and a more mainstream pop-based variation grew increasingly popular. Artists and groups such as Madonna,[2] Janet Jackson,[3] Björk, and C+C Music Factory[2] incorporated the genre into their work. Today, house music remains popular in both clubs and in the mainstream pop scene while still maintaining a strong foothold on underground scenes across the globe." Perhaps this is the REAL club music...hmmm, interesting.

-Trance- perhaps one of my favorite genres/subgenres, "Trance is a genre of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s in Germany.[5] It is characterized by a tempo of between 110 and 150 beats per minute,[5] repeating melodic phrases,[5] and a musical form that builds up and down throughout a track.[5] It is a combination of many styles of electronic music such as techno,[3] house,[1] pop,[3] chill-out,[3] classical music,[3]:16[4] and film music.[4]" <---now wasn't that fascinating? Also interestingly, much of the dance/techno/trance music comes out of Europe. Sweet stuff. And unlike club music, this is more an acquired taste I believe. Think German raves and discotheques. "Trance employs aural dynamics to a great degree: A characteristic of virtually all trance songs is the soft mid-song breakdown,[3][5] beginning with and occurring after the orchestration is broken down and the rhythm tracks fade out rapidly, leaving the melody and/or atmospherics to stand alone for anywhere from seconds to a few minutes. When vocals are present in trance, they are generally sung by a female with a soaring, operatic voice ranging from mezzo-soprano to soprano, best described as "ethereal female leads floating amongst the synths".[8]" COUNTRY- "take your cat and leave my sweater..." Well, in a nutshell, he's drunk, she's broke, the dog's gone, she left, someone died, and also God bless America. I can only really appreciate this genre in the summer time, or if its combined like country-pop (aka Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood) or country-rock.

INDIE-Indian? Individual? Indescribable? Does anyone even know what this means??? Oh says, "Independent music (often shortened to indie music or indie) is produced independently from major commercial record labels or their subsidiaries, a process that may include an autonomous, Do-It-Yourself approach to recording and publishing. The term indie is sometimes also used to describe a genre (such as indie rock or indie pop); most independent music artists do not fall into a single, defined musical style or genre and usually create music that can be categorized into other genres." That was not very helpful in putting a finger on it, but the fan usually looks like this: Hipster dude listens to obscure band called Saving Tomatoes (probably actually exists), follows his band on twitter and facebook and goes to all their events if possible with his hipster pals, is all proud when he says they're his fave band and no one knows who they are, balls his eyes out when it hits mainstream radio. Examples of "indie" artists:

FOLK- banjos, singing about real life, bands like Iron and Wine/Flogging Molly...not sure if I like them.

CLASSICAL- Mozart, Bach, Beethoven...usually anything really old that instrumental and "boring" though in actuality, quite complex and good for the brain. The fan: Usually older, a music major, or a mobster (they always play loud wailing opera in the poignant scenes)

what?!?! Is this music? I've been told this takes talent, that there's an art to screaming without hurting your vocal chords, but I can't hear a thing that you're saying and it's not that you're whispering either!!!!

METAL- I have no background in this, so here's wiki: "Heavy metal (often referred to simply as metal) is a genre of rock music[1] that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom and in the United States.[2] With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are generally associated with masculinity and machismo.[3]" Hmmm, machismo? Interesting. Bands like Black Sabbath, Metallica, etc. Not my cup of tea.

RAP- Not much singing...lots of words. Awesome beats :) Not so awesome when it's always about "makin' paper," "chasin' da life," or "hookin' up" with "shawty." Also not cool when it's degrading to women by making them purely objects and play things.

REGGAE- "Don't worry, about a ting...cuz every little ting, gonna be alright..." That's all I know about this genre. Bob Marley. That's it quintessentially.

Well, that's all I've got for now. My knowledge is limited, but my opinions not so much :)

Goodnight all!

Dreaming of attending an awesome European trance/techno/house concert one day,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 17!: Raising Kids...Abnormally

Ha, I love that title. I thought it might grab some attention. ;) This article is brought to you today mainly because of my retail-working experience and watching the interaction and behavior of certain children out with their parents.

First and foremost, let me define "abnormally." By abnormally, I mean counter-culturally, counter-societal expectations, and counter-my own parental (future) tendencies. I witnessed kids in line in tears over not getting a trinket they wanted, whining that their sibling got this and they didn't, wanting silly things and then watching their mother cave and buy it for them. There is nothing more unappealing than a bratty child, and I hope to goodness my children end up far from that.

I realize it will be a battle: I will be fighting against the culture, society, worldviews, my own tendencies and desires, and my children's own desires. But, there are certain things I don't want them to have/do, and certain things they will do, if I have any say in it (note: some of these things are a higher priority than others).

What TO DO:
-Pray with your kids over meals, at bedtime, while your're out, when you see someone in need, and throughout the day. Let them see prayer as a lifestyle, not a chore.
-Read the Bible to my kids daily.
-Encourage their imaginations
-Get them excited about reading early: Read to them when they're little, and take them on library "field trips" when they're still young. Get them to start loving books :)
-Think of others through sharing without an attitude
-Get them involved in the arts as a form of self-expression (drama, music, writing, etc)
-Make them play outside (the outdoor world is an endless playground :) )
-Get them involved with activities that THEY want to do. Don't force them to do something they dislike (generally) but expose them to a variety of hobbies and activities.
-Teach them wise money-skills early (money doesn't grow on trees and will not be given out freely)
-Teach them that newer does not equal better, and re-making, re-doing, and re-constructing can lead to a whole new perspective
-Tell them consistently that they are always loved, both by you the parent and by their Heavenly Father
-Love them, excessively

What NOT to do:
-Yell or discipline out of anger
-Stifle their individual talents or desires
-Buy them lots of stuff
-Let them play lots of video games (actually, I think my kids just don't need video games :) )
-Let them watch much TV, at all
-Cater to their whims (mom is not a goody dispenser)
-Not follow through on your word (be there for them when you say you will, discipline them when you say you will)
-Be swayed by tearful faces into getting things they don't need
-Let them be hermits
-Force your beliefs on them (some should be taught along the way so they can make their own decisions, and some of what you believe is not absolute truth for them)
-Expect them to act like adults
-Force them to grow up before they have to (aka, preserve their innocence and imagination as long as possible)
-See them as a burden, and not a blessing.

Ok, that it for now. Obviously these are not taken from personal experience, except that I was once raised as a child. Many of them I extracted from my experience and experiences I've witnessed. I know raising children is harder when you're doing it, and I'll probably want to spoil my kids, but I hope with God's help that my future children will turn out alright despite my inevitable failed attempts at "raising them correctly" ;)

Venting about bratty kids and how to prevent it,

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 16!: Paper or Digital? (How do you prefer your books?)

Yay! Day 16! I've been pretty bad lately about making this a thirty-day consecutive blogging event, but, I've been much more consistent than I have been with my blogging in the past. Kudos to me! :) So this isn't very in depth, but I wanted to take a look at e-book readers (aka Kindles or Nooks) vs. the "old-fashioned" paper/hard back. Here's some pros and cons, just for starters.


+Can carry multiple books at once
+Can read it one-handed
+Can read it without a light (if it has a back-light)
+Technologically trendy
+Could save money on textbooks (not the initial reader, then buy the downloads for less than the books cost)
+Turning the page is simply a click
+Classic books are free
+(and other things I don't know)

-Must be recharged (esp. more often if it's back-lit)
-Giving/receiving books as gifts is less of an option (bummer)
-No one knows what you're reading out in public. Is it War and Peace? No one will know to be impressed! Is it a trashy "paperback novel"? Well, you're in luck, 'cause no one knows either
-Your physical book library will naturally diminish, making you appear less nerdy and book-wormish (assuming that these are good things, which, they are)
-Highlighting and taking notes is not the same (I've been told you can do these things, but still not as cool)
-Sharing books is not as personal and interesting (They can't tell if the book being lent is warn and loved, the places your tear drops fell, the coffee spill on page 867 that happened at 2 am, the sloppy handwritten notes you took in the margin, etc...)

Alright, time for the old-fashioned, good ole' printed book:

+Cheap (Goodwill books are a dollar each if paperback)
+Personal (used books are like a living that old-lady's-house smell)
+Books as gift-giving! And you won't have to worry if they have it for free on their kindle because it's a "classic." Also, you can write a nice note in the front ;)
+EVERYONE can see what you're reading in public, for better or worse. This can also encourage enlightening book conversations among strangers who are also bibliophiles.
+Your physical library will be large and impressive, and people can gawk at your collection and beg to borrow one, two, or more
+Sharing books is once again like sharing part of the journey in your life with someone else
+Still portable (well, maybe not War and Peace)
+You exercise your hand muscles! Turn those pages! Yes!

and most importantly...

+You don't contribute to the possible future demise of bookstores around the world and preserve the beauty of the physical, tangible page.

Ok, some cons:
-You have to turn the page
-If you're going on a long trip, you probably can't bring as many books with you
-Not free classics
-They fall apart... (well, of course they do, like all living organic beings worth preserving ;) )

Yep, can't think of any others.
Obviously, my stance is pretty obvious. I don't condemn you if you own an e-book reader, but, I personally do NOT want one, and as an English major, will always treasure my physical books.

Forever a bibliophile,

PS: Please share your thoughts on this subject!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 15!: It's a Great Day for the Race!

Working in retail has its perks. If you like people, you'll never cease to be amused, and when you begin to tire of your job, you can feed off the energy of your customers and make fun small-chat with them. The following is an example of a real-life scenario between me and a customer back in the fall (Name of customer has been abbreviated for privacy purposes).

(Background: Mr. W is an older man with white hair and sparkling, energetic eyes)

Me: Hello, how are you sir? (my normal greeting, changed to ma'am or sir depending on the person)

Mr. W: Oh! Good! It's a great day for the race!!! (he says enthusiastically)

Me: The race...? (I'm quite puzzled. I glance outside the window. It IS a nice day for outdoor activities...perhaps a car race, the horse races...)

Me: Car races...?

Mr. W: Oh no! The HUMAN race! (mischievous glimmer in his eye)

Me: (still puzzled) Oh?....Oh! (connection made!) Of course! (I say)

What follows is brief small chat about indeed, it is a great day for the human race and the weather is nice and such pleasant nonsense and trivialities. I bid him a fond farewell, as I do to most customers who have made my retail experience memorable and entertaining.

Two or so weeks later...

I ring up an older man at the register, notice the distinct name on the store-copy receipt, look back up at him, and say, "Sir, it's a great day for the human race, isn't it?"

"Yes!" he smiles in acknowledgment.

I still look forward to seeing that man, but I haven't seen him since our second encounter.

Living life simply and enjoyably,

PS: Hoorahhhh for the Race!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 14!: Personal Pet Peeves (that aren't grammar related)

Everyone has pet peeves, and I am no exception. I know that this will not be a very thought-provoking or enlightening post, but my bed says "come hither" and I do as it bids. Also, mainly, my good thoughts for blogs would take more prior mental organizing and planning, so they will be postponed til later.

I call this list, These are a Few of My Least Favorite Things!!!

1) Un-tucked shirt tags- I'm not bothered enough that I would fix a stranger's tag hanging out, but I would fix a mere acquaintance's.

2) "Roaming" grocery carts- I mainly dislike this one because I find them all the time at the location I currently work. People, if you're done with the cart, put it back from where you got it. Thanks!

3) People who drive the speed limit- So, I generally run "on-time" to almost late to most events or scheduled activities and it drives the snot out of me to be behind these people. Please go five over the marked speed limit. That is universally accepted by most EVERYONE as the appropriate traveling speed.

4) Excessive marking in used books- Yes, you're a used book, and I'm getting you for a lovely price, but why did someone spoil your pages with their own markings that reflect their own "Aha!" moments? Can't I form my own fresh moments with you, oh book, uninfluenced by a previous reader?

5) Obnoxious parents- Sometimes this happens because the child has brought this on. Sometimes it happens for no apparent reason. But, excessive yelling and verbal threatening is not just a peeve of mine. It makes everyone around the offenders uncomfortable and makes me want to call Social Services, especially when your child is wailing in fear now that your voice sounds like a monster. NOT COOL. NOT MATURE.

6) Soda without ice- I don't care if your soda is chilled in a can straight out of the fridge. I would like the glass (not plastic cup, preferably) half-filled with ice.

7) Sweet tea that doesn't taste like tea- Mmmmm, yum. This tastes just like what we feed our hummingbirds, you know, that red stuff with pounds of sugar dissolved in it? Sugar water...delicious. Not really. Please give me some tea with that sugar.

8) Over-happy waiters that refill drinks- I usually get water when I go out to eat, and I enjoy some lemon in my water. My drink just reached the 3/4 mark, and you have rushed over and diluted the perfect balance of lemon and water that my taste buds enjoy. More lemons please?

9) Shopping for shoes- This is the hardest shopping thing for me generally. They have to be the right price, comfortable, fashionable, and in my size. Tricky tricky...

Ok, these are light and humorous...but to get serious and spiritual, here is one of my greatest pet peeves:

10) People who claim to be Christians and don't know their Bible- Do you even care to know what God wants to tell you in His 66 books to you? Some things don't just happen overnight, but must happen with time and practice.

Alright, goodnight world wide web. I'll think of something more creative tomorrow.

Off to dreamland,
Sleepy Jane

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 13!: Grammar Peeves and Awkward Things

Since I studied English in college, certain things about writing and manner of speech will ruffle my university-trained nerves. Here are a few pet peeves I see often, especially in the facebook and online world:

1) you're vs. your: you're = you are, ok? And your is possessive, as in YOUR grammar mistake. Example: YOU'RE making me feel uncomfortable with YOUR insistent use of improper grammar.

2) they're/their/there: they're = they are, their = possessive, there = a place. So, for instance: THEY'RE taking THEIR lunch breaks over THERE, in the side room.


3) here/hear: Here is HERE! I don't know how else to explain it, but it's not THERE. And HEAR, that's something you do with your ears. So, I hope you HEAR my words of grammar wisdom written HERE and utilize them.

And let's not forget...

4) its/it's: its = possession (even though there is not an apostrophe), it's = it is (a contraction)
Example: IT'S beneficial for a young animal to learn certain life skills on ITS own.

I also get peeved when people never capitalize, don't use commas for contractions, and excessively abbreviate, or make up words (people can't spell these days...sigh). Number abbreviations are also not cool. It creates very lousy statuses that make people cringe. Here are some examples using fake names for fun:

Janice: i so wont go w bob i just cant imagine being n nyc n like january
Bob: so janice says whatev when i asked her 2 go w me 2 nyc well i guess that iz her prob 4 her 2 deal w

Janice: I so won't go with Bob. I just can't imagine being in New York City in like January.
Bob: So Janice said "whatever" when I asked her to go with me to New York City. Well, I guess that is her problem for her to deal with.

And now for the awkward...The oxford comma! (aka, the serial comma)

Which looks better to you, 1 or 2?

1) The dog, cat, and bird played in the yard.
2) The dog, cat and bird played in the yard.

Well, the oxford comma is used in example 1, and for some reason, it feels more "correct" to me than example 2. Here is what oxford dictionary says about the oxford comma:

"The 'Oxford comma' is an optional comma before the word 'and' at the end of a list:

We sell books, videos, and magazines.

It's known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers, and editors at Oxford University Press. Not all writers and publishers use it, but it can clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words: 'These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.'"

To me, the oxford comma makes sense. If the dog, cat, and bird are playing in the yard, there are three of them mutually having fun together. But, if the dog, cat and bird are playing in the yard, perhaps the cat and bird are closer buddies than the cat to dog or dog to bird. These are just things that pop in my mind. Basically, I feel the oxford comma makes things in a list equal, easy to understand, and tidy. And also, one should use the oxford comma often and talk about its importance because it sounds studious, learned, and pompous. ;)

Alright, enough for tonight!
Comment and leave me a note about some of your biggest grammar peeves!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 12!: Coffee and Caffeine 101

Coffee is a big deal, mainly because of its caffeine content. Let's face the facts. According to Wikipedia, my "girl-friday" source:

"In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but, unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is both legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, enjoy great popularity; in North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.[5]"

Great. We're all drug addicts! I can see it now: "Hi, my name is ________, and I haven't had caffeine in ______ days." The funny thing is, I can see this being a real thing, the Caffeine-Addicts Anonymous group. Could be a necessary intervention, especially after perusing these facts:

"Caffeine is toxic at sufficiently high doses."
"With heavy use, strong tolerance develops rapidly and caffeine can produce clinically significant physical and mental dependence."

That's the tough stuff. Otherwise, you, the constant caffeine consumer may experience headaches from caffeine withdrawals, sleep deprivation, and anxiety. could cling to the facts caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness; and it may have a modest protective effect against some diseases, including certain types of cancer.

Thanks wiki! :)

Now, I like coffee quite a bit, but many of you may argue that what I drink is not coffee. My father likes his black. No sugar. No creamer. If I have coffee, it's about a third diluted with a creamer or milk, and has probably a couple spoonfuls of sugar and maybe a hot chocolate packet mixed in there to make it a cafe mocha. Voila!

I keep a small Mr. Coffee pot on the kitchen counter for what I call "medicinal purposes," aka, instances such as "good gravy, why did I stay up that late blogging?", "gracious, three hours of sleep is not going to keep me alive in class tomorrow," "blahhhhhh, I feel like I was hit by a train this morning," and "I'm going to go to the midnight showing of The Hobbit even though I work at ten the next morning; oh well!", the last one being a soon-to-be-true instance.

But, I respect coffee and its powers, so to speak. I'm deathly afraid of consuming enough to the point that I get headaches if I don't have it and must take it religiously. I also don't like my sleep disrupted, nor do I want to be one of those very-not-morning people who aren't civil homo sapiens until handed a cup of Folgers. Additionally, if I don't take it regularly, I can make it work for me to my benefit, and I will always get a jolt of energy because I'm not an addict...yet.

I like coffee mainly for the flavor though, and caffeine as a side benefit. I'm not opposed to decaf coffee. One of my dear friends jokes that "decaf coffee is a sin." Perhaps it is a gray area for me. ;) I do love coffee dates and coffee shops and coffee gift cards and the smell of coffee and the sound of coffee machines and all else though.

Well, thus concludes my rant on caffeine and coffee. I did not have caffeine this evening, so my central nervous system is shutting down and ready to sleep soundly.

A cautious coffee connoisseur,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 11!: Strange Kitchen Concoctions

Today, I bring to you exciting and breaking news from my kitchen. Jk. It's not exciting, but it is news, since I am currently eating it. For dinner tonight I concocted the oddest meal. I don't have a lot of meats in the house (and I don't like working with raw meat), so, I figured I had to eat a can of soup, but, I have this weird thing about soup. Ever since college, I don't really like soup. Too many "stay in the dorm, cram this paper, I'll eat soup" nights. Not sure. Soup = stress, no social life, holing up, being a hermit. No good. So, I cooked some rice in my lovely and wonderful rice cooker, drained most of the broth out of the soup, put the rest in with the rice, added salt and some chili/garlic spice, and then a slice of American cheese for a final splattering of flavor. Yes, that's my dinner right now. I figure it's more substantial than just a bowl of soup. :)

Cooking up a storm,

Day 10!: A Time to Risk

"Then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~Anais Nin

This is one of my favorite quotes, but I don't remember how I stumbled across. I only know that it reverberated in my mind and heart and I realized it described me. But, first to discuss Anais Nin...

Apparently, this name conjured up images of a Buddhist monk wrapped in red cloth sitting cross legged on a stone floor surrounded by candles. Apparently, I was way off. According to Wikipedia: "Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell, February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977) was a French-Cuban author, based at first in France and later in the United States, who published her journals, which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death, her erotic literature, and short stories. A great deal of her work...was published posthumously." Not the Anais I had in mind, for this was a modern-day woman of European/Hispanic lineage with an exceptional name. Also, she published her journals, which encourages me to put pen to page and express my thoughts, for you never know if you'll be read or quoted in the future.

Ms. Nin was raised Roman Catholic, spoke English/Spanish/French (all three at one period in her life), wrote, and trained as a flamenco dancer. She confessed feeling challenged "to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feeling, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless”.[6] Ms. Nin, you are my woman: an artist and thinker trapped in the expressions of the real and sometimes cold world.

Returning to the quote...
A few main words stand out to me in this quote: time, risk, bud, painful, blossom. The first concept, time, is very biblical. The Word admonishes us to number our days, and says there is a time for everything under the sun. Time is inevitable, a constant surging forward. It cannot be stopped or defeated, but one can choose to work with time not fight it, which, in my experience, leads to greater peace. Secondly, risk and pain are also inevitable. I suffer from what I call "analysis paralysis" in which I will over-analyze an issue into the ground, and over-think over-thinking. It's pretty bad. The key for me, though, is not to assume that risk leads to pain, though life is naturally full of pain. Risk can also lead to growth, love, and mile-stone experiences.

Blossoming is not inevitable; it is optional. As I once read, when faced with a sticky situation, you can 1) change your situation, 2) change your attitude about the situation, or 3)avoid/leave the situation. Remaining tight in one's cocoon, or "bud," fits into #3. Remaining a bud is only playing it safe for an indefinitely short time. At worst, a bud refuses to change or grow, and dies with no understanding of beauty such as rain, sun, and clouds. At best, a bud "blossoms," exuberant with desire to take on the world. But, there is no middle ground, just as there is no such thing as static in real life. A person's growth personally, spiritually, and relationally is either progressing forward, or falling backward. Standing still leads to stagnation, which leads to death.

But as believers walking in the will of the Lord, daily seeking His face and counsel, we have no need to fear the process of "blossoming," though it be risky. For He is the expert Gardener, and knows all His plants and their individual needs. There is a time for everything under the sun; nothing remains the same, so choices must be made.

As I've grown personally, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally, I've found this quote to be oh so true. In my college years, I finally began to learn bits and pieces of who "me" was. A tight bud for 18 years, I slowly began to blossom. I was bruised and the rains sometimes were scarce. But I persevered, and even grew to appreciate those experiences. To remain tight in a bud was to perish, but I chose to put down roots on a foundation of Truth and trust as I daily risked "blossoming." I've learned that no experience is a bad experience; every experience is worthwhile when walking with the Gardener, and that I would always choose to grow over regretting.

So when I come to life decisions, I think of my options, and realize I don't have options. Blossoming is my only hope to live life to the fullest. Blossoming for me meant risking heartache, trying new activities I may fail at, and embracing the unknown with the help of the One I knew. After going through hard times, I realized it really stunk, but, I wasn't going to run in fear of repeating them. Fear had paralyzed me for too long, and life with all its pain, was far too exciting to pass by.

I challenge you, then, my reader, to see your life not as a current point in time, but as a timeline. What do you want to look back on? Will you risk the process of bud to blossom?

Spending time with her Gardener,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 9!: Why I Write

I was feeling at a loss for blogging topics, so my wise roomie suggested I write about writing, namely, what started me writing and why I write. So here's a little insight into my writing world...

From age six I remember writing stories and illustrating them, or, perhaps it was more like drawing pictures and putting stories to them. The spelling was atrocious, and the art was primitive, but it was a start. Later, when I really got into playing with my Barbie dolls around age 7, I would write stories about their lives and things they did. Basically, they were epic-Barbie-adventure short fiction. I started journaling very trivial matters around age seven, and continued throughout elementary, middle, and high school. You know, trivial as in crushes and "cool" things I did.

I didn't meet poetry until about fifth or sixth grade, but at age 12, it was love. I loved learning the different poetry forms and varieties, and wrote a few cheesy poems since to my thinking, any good poem had to rhyme. My poetry writing began to overflow out of the classroom and into my daily life. Poetry would be an occasional "fun" hobby I would dabble in the next few years.

By high school, my writing technique and life experiences had both expanded, especially after the awesome teacher I had for 11th grade English. I credit him with awakening the spark of passion I have for literature and writing. That class was heaven, and he should have been a professor, in my honest opinion. By late high school, my interest in poetry was deepening, but it did not truly blossom until college.

Once in college, I decided to start a blog (ta-dah!) and my journaling took on a whole new perspective. With new thoughts, new people, new experiences, and more important life choices, my journal reflected a deeper and more serious side of me. Many of my journal entries were basically written prayers, as journaling became a way to vent and relieve the tension and anxiety built up in my heart and swirling thoughts. (I always like something tangible on paper. It seems more organized and much less frightening.) I continued to write poetry, and even took a creative writing poetry class, which I ADORED. My poems were a way to convey my heavy emotions (many of them never shared) or as a form of artistic escapism for me, the writer. Though I still love poetry, I am more challenged in writing it now that I know what makes a poem "good." But I still find it an excellent venting procedure, especially if it's free-verse prose.

Anyways, that's my story. I basically write because I can't not write, to bring myself and others pleasure, and because I have to visually clear my heart and mind through pen and page, or, keyboard and PC screen.

Write on, my friends,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 8!: 'Tis a little late, but read it, it's great! ;)

So, this is day 8, and yesterday was crazy and no blogging happened, so this is really blog #8 day 9.

Tonight, for your enjoyment, I have written a variety of haikus. Proceed and read at your discretion:

Candlelight shivers with heat
Trembles with radiance
Shadows dance

Fa la la la la
The tinsel looks tacky
What's in this punch...?

Dried roses placed in
Hipster glass coke bottles.
Pleasant memories.

Little creature's condemned home
left on the sand
lies with others in jars

Retail madness
customer is self-proclaimed grinch
The show goes on

Ok, enough creativity for tonight. Comment if you'd like!

In a humorous mood,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 7!: Beautiful Imagery in "Hide and Seek"

These are the beginning lyrics of one of my favorite songs by Imogen Heap. I want to share it because the imagery is just so interesting, that, if extracted from the music, it could stand alone as poetry:

"Where are we? What the [heck] is going on?
The dust has only just begun to fall,
Crop circles in the carpet, sinking, feeling.
Spin me round again and rub my eyes.
This can't be happening.
When busy streets a mess with people
would stop to hold their heads heavy.

Hide and seek.
Trains and sewing machines.
All those years they were here first.

Oily marks appear on walls
Where pleasure moments hung before.
The takeover, the sweeping insensitivity of this
still life.

Hide and seek.
Trains and sewing machines. (Oh, you won't catch me around here)
Blood and tears,
They were here first." ♪

How creative is it to describe the carpet as having crop circles? I've always loved that line "the dust has only just begun to fall." You can feel the weight and weariness of the narrator (singer) and the people swirling around her, as passer-byes stop and "hold their heads heavy," not "hold their heavy heads." It really emphasizes the ponderousness of the situation.

She describes objects and rooms in a house, a house that seems like a shell left vacant with whispers of the past. "Trains and sewing machines..." could mean perhaps toy trains and literal sewing machines, or maybe just the noise of both machines. The noise of both is a sort of loud hum, symbolizing progress and achievement or motion, even perhaps a comforting noise. And perhaps, in this "still life" picture, they have stopped, much like her life has seemed to halt.

I also really appreciate the way she describes the existence of past lovers with "oily marks" on walls "where pleasure moments hung before...the takeover..." The takeover of what? I ask. Perhaps this shift in her life that has caused things to come to an abrupt stand-still. Instead of saying "greasy hand prints" she gives it more character and substance, saying these moments "hung" there, like an old picture, a memory framed.

I love this song, but can never come to a conclusive idea of the meaning. Perhaps she is reflecting on a past experience in her life, having flash backs. Maybe she reminisces over a past lover. One interpretation I came across was that she was experiencing divorce, perhaps from the perspective of a child. Whatever the experience, the place haunts her, for she says "you won't catch me around here." Who is "you"? We may never know. I do know though, that I love her lyrics, for they are descriptive and thoughtful, leaving you wondering. And as all good writers do, she shows and not just tells the emotions felt by using concrete imagery.

A hopeless text analyzer,

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 6!: Personifying Walls

I'm determined to write a blog a day, and I count this as Friday (not Saturday morning). My roomie and I have been late-night decorating the room with the lovely nature pictures from our old calendar, since we have only but one month left. Our room, once pretty bare and sparse with blank walls, now probably suffers from MPD (multiple personality disorder).

The wall directly to your right as you walk in the room says, "I am a middle-aged or elderly content woman who likes pleasant things in my life," with its retro-colored, tapestry-like scarf pinned to its creamy side while candlelight from the dresser in front of it dances across.

The wall you see as you walk in the room, directly in front of you declares, "I am an artist, and appreciate the finer things in life and the multicultural lifestyle, while living it up." This wall boasts two prints of Van Gogh, a Mardi Gras mask and beads, and a print of the ever popular (though I never understood what it was of or for) "Tournee du Chat Noir" with the peering eyes of the black cat. Shadows of Ming, my lucky bamboo plant, play along the wall.

The wall to the left as you walk in the room, the wall against my bed, says, "I am a romantic, artistic, and dreamily idealist, though I like to dabble simple crafts, and therefore don't take myself too seriously." This wall displays six photos cut out of a bridal magazine, some in black in white, sepia-tone, or with ethereal lighting. The second clause, about not taking itself seriously, is explained by the lovely artwork of the child I (Jane) babysit and my attempts at acrylic paintings, both variations on flowers.

The last wall, the wall which graces the door, says, "I am musically inclined (or rather nostaligic about the bygone days) because of the records hanging on me, and reflective if you notice the National Novel Writing Poster bared for all to see. So, call my a pensive, music-indulging writer." So says the last wall, if I heard it correctly.

My room then, is a content middle-aged woman who enjoys multicultural and celebratory party experiences while relishing the ideals of the romantic, artistic, and musical, who simultaneously breaks free of the dream world to make crafts every now and then and puts some words on the page.

Phew. My room needs to see a specialist.

Ready to go to bed,