Friday, November 30, 2012

Kind People are my Kinda People

Interacting will people on a daily basis makes it easy for some to just assume that the people are in general just selfish and rude. At times, they really are, but the fact of the matter is, is that their attitudes should not matter. If you find some one who's in a horrible mood, you should not let it become your horrible mood. Instead step back, smile and do what you can to make their day better.

Working in customer service has really tested me on that. There have been times were I have been yelled at for events beyond my control, almost run over, threatened, and even spit at. Yet, if you ask the people I work with, 89% of the time, I can bounce back from that moment and still smile at the person with in seconds. There are just a few things that any one needs to remember to help be kind to others, despite whatever their attitude to you is: 

Remember you don't know them. That's right, you don't know them. You don't what their day has been like or what they are dealing with in their life. You don't know if a family member has passed or if the kids have been screaming all day or any type of high stress. This means you can't judge the attitude you get from them. They maybe wrong to give you that attitude, but that doesn't mean they aren't going through a hard time and it doesn't mean that they don't need some kindness. Assume that they just need a smile and a few kind words. Then give them those nice moments and hope that it makes their day better.We

Treat them how you want to be treated. It's over said, but under done. While no one can guarantee that you'll be treated the same way back, there's also no guarantee that you'll be treated kindly either way. However, how can you ever expect any one to treat you well if you don't treat them well as well? Sometimes all it takes is a compliment or even a simple conversation. You'll never know how much one kind word can change some one's mood until you do it.

Smiles are contiguous. So, maybe you can't reach every one you meet, but smiles are like the germs in a sneeze. You sneeze and no matter how well you try to cover to up, germs go flying everywhere. Which means every one around you can be affected by your good actions. If you treat some one well, especially when they need it, others notice and they tend to spread it around. For example, one day, I bought a homeless person a meal on campus and the workers at the restaurant ended up comping the whole bill just because they noticed my nice action and returned. Maybe you won't see the people affected like I did, but that doesn't mean that other people aren't taking your actions to heart and passing forward the good deeds.

In the end, you just need to remember that every one is human. There will be bad moods and stressful situations. No one is always going to be perfect, but every one will always need a kind word and a smile. And you can be the one to provide that.

Karen Salmansohn is on a mission to stop the trend of bullying and make kindness trendy. You can find out more about her mission on Karen’s Happy Kid’s page on her site Plus, you can join Karen’s Kindness mission by becoming a Kindness Rockstar Ambassador – just click here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pfft, Who Cares About the Numbers (Or Why the NaNoWriMo Numbers Don't Always Matter)

With one day left in NaNoWriMo, I’ll admit that I made it barely over 15k words this year (well below my normal). Yes, it sucks and I could throw you all the excuses and let you juggle them. Between school responsibilities, craft shows, and family matters not one of you would blame me. That does not matter. I can even say that finishing doesn’t always matter. Though some women may beg to differ.

Here are five reasons why:

Habit Forming.
 If you learn nothing from NaNoWriMo, but one thing, this is the one thing you should learn: Writing must become habitual to become not only better, but hopefully even professional. The 50k in a month sets one goal for the month and then daily goals of approximately 1667 words per day. This is the perfect tool to make writing habitual since studies show that it takes 30 days to create a habit. If you’re serious about writing, obviously you need to write every day to help improve it and NaNoWriMo helps you form that habit.

Creating Contacts.
As writers, we may not be alone, but we definitely feel it some days. During November we get the chance to join weekly writing groups (which sometimes expand to year round), make friends over the message board, and find people we trust to either write with or proof read our work. Sometimes these friends even end up with jobs or their own contacts that could further our writing goals. These contacts could not only help end our writing solitude, but help expand our professional ties as well.

The Deals.
Sure, some deals are only for the 50k winners, but some deals are for every one. You can discounts on software, self publishing, and even some chances for professional publishing that only participants can get. Admittedly, 25-50% self publishing and software  is really worth the work of NaNoWriMo.

The Challenge.

Sometimes we just need a challenge, but creating our own challenges are not always easy. Especially if we are alone in this challenge. With the NaNoWriMo challenge, we work with thousands of others which gives us more drive to meet the challenge. We know that other people are suffering and working and pushing forward like we are. This camaraderie is hard to find and once a year (or twice if you do Script Frenzy), we get to have it and rejoice in it.

The Resources.
The whole month of NaNoWriMo, we find writing prompts, a twitter feed full of writing sprints and mini-challenges, and famous authors giving us pep talks. These don’t go away suddenly after November ends. They don’t just delete the twitter account or remove all bits of pep talks. No, instead the twitter remains available to go on and re-use the mini-challenges that we missed during the month (since the twitter runs 24/7). And best of all, the pep talks get put into an archive that we have access to all year round.

Let’s face it, there’s plenty of different reasons that NaNoWriMo is good for us writers. You own reason might be something silly or even something much more serious, but in the long run, any reason is a good one to help better yourself and your writing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Formatting, Formatting, Formatting (Or the Curious Case of "The Golden Compass" Style) [Week 12]

This week, we got to read another interesting book: Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (Also known as Northern Lights). I suppose most people would look at the story being told and argue about the religious implications, but personally, it might be better to look at the format. After a quick excerpt from John Milton's Paradise Lost (an adult poem, but we'll get to that in a moment), Pullman writes:

"The Golden Compass forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set in the universe we know. The third volume will move between universes."

This admittedly makes me wonder if this is a children's novel. I suppose higher age children (middle schoolers) would be able to follow this format after being warned of it ahead of time, but would they really gather the nuances? I know adults who have issues following this type of format. While I admit that I don't have any trouble, especially with this easy read, I am trained to read. Literally. It's what I've been learning the past few years and I always step back after reading something and go, "Could I read this without my years of schooling?" (Though occasionally it's, "Why can't I read this after all my years of schooling?!"). This is a critical question to ask ourselves, especially those who want to teach eventually.

Do we really think middle schoolers will understand this book? It even starts with an very adult people by Milton. Granted it is only a short excerpt, but those who have read Paradise Lost know that this poem can be challenging language wise as well as in nuance and themes. This excerpt could be a foreshadowing of the difficult read ahead (as well as for the book's actually contextual importance, of course). Can we really expect younger adults to get the experience of a book with complex formats? Or appreciate them?

I really want to say "yes", since I know I used to be able too. However, I always wonder if that is par for the course. Especially after interacting with some of the younger generations lately. It seems almost half and half.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ridiculousness of Black Friday (Commentary on the Stupidity of American Consumerism))

Black Friday is a waste of time and generally, a wast of money too.

Do any of us really need to wait in line for several hours to save $100 or even just $50 dollars off a TV or a game system? If we find ourselves that desperate for discounts, then maybe we should not be buying such extravagant, luxury items. Almost every one I know claims to not have money to pay the bills, so why are they getting so excited for a deal that doesn’t even save them that much? Besides, we can find those deals year round IF, and this is a big IF, we look for them. Most retail employees will even tell you that the deals that they have on Black Friday, generally are the deals they have the whole month and even on and off throughout the next year.

More importantly, do any of us need to risk our lives for the sake of luxury? The string of shootings, tramplings, and serious injuries that we see every year should be a warning to us that we don’t need to do ridiculous spree sales. Yet every year we line up like sheep to get some not so good deals. “Sheep” is not the proper word, though, to describe the mentality of the people at Black Friday sales. People form a mob mentality and rush the doors and fight for deals with no regard for any one, including children and the elderly. The links below detail specific incidents which include, but are not limited to deaths and miscarriages.

This all says a lot about the American mentality: We would rather potentially risk our lives for deals that are widely publicized instead of taking the to time to look for them the rest of the year. It’s idiotic consumerism at it’s finest.

13 Most Brutal Black Friday Injuries/Deaths
Black Friday Violence: Why the National Retail Federation is to Blame
Crazy Black Friday Stats, Stories, and Videos
7 Most Insane Black Friday Moments
Black Friday turns violent at 9 U.S. Walmart stores; at least 24 people injured
Lies, damned lies and Black Friday sales statistics

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So You're Mad About Christianity... (Week 11?)

In my youth, my parents read us the full Narnia series, and being the smart children we are, we liked them. Growing older I became more and more aware of the Christian symbolism through out (especially in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe), but I became even more aware of the anger at the symbolism that people seemed to have developed over time.

The general source of this anger seems to be the fact that the Christian symbolism is so blatant. I actually know people who refuse to read the series, because of the symbolism. Imagine choosing not to read something because of the Christian symbolism. Sure, the character Aslan screams "I'm an image relating to Jesus Christ", but it does not stop the story from being interesting. Nor does it stop Lewis from using pagan symbols as well, as an online article from  that Columbia University seemed to find interesting enough to re-post: 

"If it is meant as Christian propaganda, one has to wonder if it is subverting its own goals through the inclusion of witches, fauns, centaurs and other creatures drawn from the ranks of mythology. Furthermore, the return of Christmas in this tale seems closer to the pagan roots of this holiday than to celebrating Jesus' birth. After all, putting up a pine tree as a symbol of the oncoming spring would owe more to Nordic ritual than the sort of austere Anglican theology favored by Lewis."

The author, who I had issues locating the name of, has a valid point: Lewis does use pagan imagery along side of Christian imagery. This mimics most of the religious growth we see. Christianity and Paganism basically have grown up together,  essentially teaching other and each taking bits and pieces of the other. Does knowing this help calm the outrage of the over board Christian themes? 

Besides that, if we stop reading pieces just because of blatant Christian themes, think of how many authors that cuts from our reading pool: Tolkien, Chesterton, Koontz... Heck, even Rowling admits to Christian themes in the Harry Potter series. The fact of the matter is that Christianity is a large part of our culture and had been for quite some time. Even those who are not Christian know the themes and references, making them universal. While it seems like the references are slowing down in our culture, it still makes sense to use them and to try and avoid them? Well, that's just impossible. 

Links on the Symbolism

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Damn that Cat and his Stupid Hat (Week 10)

If there's ever an article on English literature that I would suggest to any audience, it's Louis Menand's Cat People and really, even if you just read the first three paragraphs and the very last, you've caught at least part of why I absolutely love this article.

We ask ourselves a few questions about Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat and Menand asks these questions as well: Where is the Mother? Why should we care about this cat? Who is this cat causing chaos and being a menace (not unlike Denis)? Admittedly, we ask ourselves these questions as adults about a variety of children's books and we do not necessarily get that answer. It makes me wonder, do the children reading this book ask themselves these questions?

This brings another line of questioning to mind: Is a child's curiosity innate or learned? Do the questions that they ask come from the adults around them or from themselves? I suppose this could be a question of nature versus nurture. Most people can agree that we are born curious: we try to touch and eat everything (our natural oral fixation stage), when we learn to crawl we want to get into every nook and cranny we can find, etc. It can be assumed that after that we learn whether it is okay to be curious and whether we should continue to be it.

We've seen in other pieces how curiosity can be treated. In Little House, Laura is just brushed off when she shows curiosity while in Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, Cassie's questions are answered in usually vivid detail. Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn quote Bruce Perry (a neuroscientist) in their article on Children Curiosity (posted below):

" 'If children are restricted too much or told not to ask so many questions, their curiosity will diminish," notes developmental neuroscientist Bruce Perry in Early Childhood Today. 'The less-curious child is harder to teach because he is harder to inspire, enthuse, and motivate. A less-curious child will make fewer friends, join fewer social groups, and read fewer books.' "

If this is the only moment in their article we pay attention too, that is enough. We know Laura will eventually because less curious and Cassie will become more curious. So when we read books like Cat in the Hat to our children and they don't ask the same questions we do, maybe we should not only be encouraging their questions, but teaching them about the questions we have as well. 

And when one isn't equipped to be curious or doesn't have enough information, well the internet has the answer for that. The Teaching Children Philosophy website  is just one of the great websites where parents can learn what to ask their children about books. This may seem just about teaching philosophy, but the questions that are given, can help a child learn to ask these questions themselves. Even if they aren't asking the philosophical questions on their own, maybe they'll at least be asking the one question that's on my mind at least:

Who's more annoy that Damn Cat in his Stupid Hat 
that Nosey Fish who's confined to his Dish?

More Links On Dr. Seuss:
The Cat in The Hat know A Lot
Dr. Seuss National Memorial
The Art of Dr. Seuss 
Teaching Children Philosophy- Cat in the Hat

More on Children's Curiosity:
Natural-Born Scientists: Children's curiosity about the world begins at birth 
Children's Need to Know
Children's Curiosity and Parental Attitudes (JSTOR)
How can we encourage creativity in today's children?

P.S. There are obviously a multitude of articles on how to teach or encourage curiosity to a child, I did not really post any, but if you're in need of some, just use Google and you'll find plenty to your liking.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spy vs. Spy (Week 9)

This week we find ourselves reading Harriet the Spy, which is quite the change from our historical readings. It, of course, tells a some sort of real life knowledge about keeping a filter on our inner selves, but I'm more interested on the take of her being a spy.

Harriet while becoming a spy is really learning something our lives now prize: being aware of everything. If she was an adult, would she have been reprimanded for her spying? In the corporate world people are constantly spying on one another like Harriet does and using people's weaknesses against them. They are rewarded and given raises and promotions. Harriet does not use any information on people (until later on for revenge purposes) and instead just keeps them as a private set of thoughts. When her private thoughts are found and read, she essentially gets in trouble. So what does this mean in a society like ours?

Harriet is just being honest and does not want to be the cutthroat like those in the  business world would be. We as a society value honestly, or at least say we do, but ask that we also keep it to ourselves if others may not like it. This book seems to being a harsh lesson in that regard. First off, we find out the world is not understanding of our true nature (in this case Harriet's blatant honesty in her notebook). Second, we find out that the world is prone to revenge (the students form a club to act against Harriet and Harriet acts against them, as well). Thirdly, we find out that if we do something not necessarily deemed socially acceptable, but apologize publicly, we can be rewarded (Harriet becomes editor of the school newspaper), which seems an unrealistic ending.

As much as I like this book, I'm not sure if it really is saying anything of value for a youth or even if I'm finding the right meanings behind the actions of the book. We're not only teaching Harriet to keep her honesty to herself, but teaching her how the world reacts badly to honestly. Would we prefer an overly honest world or a sugar coated world?