When November Ends

The last few months have been the quickest I have experienced in quite a long time. It seems like only yesterday I was sitting in my first class, wondering what to expect. I can confidently say that it wasn’t this. I expected to go to class, go home, do homework, rinse, and repeat. I have done all of that, but with a few added tidbits. I talk in my classes, make friends, and hold homework sessions.

I knew I wanted to be an English teacher from the day I applied for college. I have found that this was a really good idea. I truly enjoy helping people make good grades. I started helping a few of my classmates in my finite math class. I don’t even like math, but I am capable of explaining it and being understood. If I can do that in a subject I don’t like, I know I will love doing it in my favorite subject.

This was only reinforced through all of the peer reviews we have done. I used to doubt my ability to edit a paper, or give useful feedback. With the practice I have had, both in class and out, I have more confidence that I can be fair in my judgement based on the writing, and help people become better writers. I know I need a lot more experience before I will be sure of myself, but I have grown a lot since August.

Then there are the papers I have written. I was never confident in my writing. I still second guess myself frequently, but we are our own worst critics. I am less afraid of using a billion commas. Those rules are somewhat flexible. Except, of course, for the Oxford comma. That one is necessary, because I don’t want to have a party with “the strippers, Hitler and Stalin.” That would just be creepy. Making the words go from my head to my paper, or screen in most cases, is still hard. It probably always will be. However, it has gotten easier, and I suspect it will continue to get easier with every paper I write and every class I take.

I think one of the best things I have gotten out of this semester has been the confidence. I will always be glad I finally got back to school, and I can’t wait for what is yet to come.

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Standing Up

I am an ordained minister. This is not because I have a strong connection to any church. I can’t quote scripture, or name more than a couple of books of the Bible. I have never even seen a Torah or a Quran. However, I do wholeheartedly agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. Anyone who decides they want to formally commit themselves to the one they love, should be able to do just that. It should not matter what color they are, what religion the practice, or if they have matching genitalia.

When Roy Moore made the claim that the SCOTUS ruling didn’t apply to Alabama, I was stunned. I couldn’t understand how a state justice could think that they could disregard a ruling made by the federal courts. We are all part of the same country. We all have the same constitution. A Supreme Court ruling is definitive. If he wanted to try to appeal the ruling, that would be one thing. He just wanted to ignore it.

At that point I was furious. I have several friends who would have been directly affected by one person’s bigotry. I immediately went online, found a website to become ordained, and filled out the information required. It only really needed about as much information as needed to make a social media account. Ten minutes later, I was officially allowed to preside over weddings, vow renewals, and funeral rites. I could order an official certificate, business cards, and a number of guides to base services on. That was the most excited I had been about anything since my child was born.

This small thing obviously won’t fix the problem, but it lets me do a little to help reject the discrimination. I could be there for anyone who didn’t want to be faced with an ignorant county judge, that only issued a license because they were required. I could go with my friends to have a ceremony with friends and loved ones, without having to find a church official that was willing or pay for those that were. While I have yet to officiate, I look forward to the day I do.

Following the Leader

Leadership is a tricky thing. A leader that is feared can convince people to follow them through intimidation. However, if they push too hard for something severely against their followers’ will, they will be rebelled against. Fear is a strong motivator, but one person against many can only go so far. A leader that is loved can convince people to follow them through empathy. While this won’t lead to rebellion as easily, those following out of love won’t feel as strongly toward the cause, and won’t be as willing to enforce it if it is questioned.

A strong leader is someone who is respected. They will work for the best interest of the people they are supposed to govern. This doesn’t always mean that their laws are liked, or that everyone agrees with this leader. There will be times that a new law or rule will be met resistance. A strong leader will be able to back up their reasoning in a way that will bring the majority to understand the necessity of the law, or will listen to complaints against that law and find a compromise that works for a higher percentage of the group.

Realistically, there is no way to please the everyone in a group. In a large group, there are an equally large number of opinions. A strong leader will know  that they will have to find a balance within their group. They will have to give ground on one point, to gain support on a more important issue. They may have to do things that are not in their own best interest, in order to better serve their people. When a leader is seen to make sacrifices on behalf of their people, they gain the loyalty and respect of those around them. This makes people more willing to make their own sacrifices for the community.

When a group works together they can accomplish great things. This should be a leader’s true purpose. Guiding people to work together for the greater good. Incorporating a variety of opinions and ideas, to come up with the best solutions for the highest number of people possible. Sorting through so many ideas and opinions is a lot of work. When a leader proves they are making the effort to be inclusive, people feel that they matter. When people feel like they matter, they are more likely to support and respect a leader.

Love and fear come easy, but respect has to be earned.

OMG, LOL

Emoji and acronyms have become a common occurrence in our everyday lives. There is a huge variety of emoji available, and the list keeps growing. Some people can write an entire story with nothing but pictures. Others, like me, stick to the basics and use them sparingly.

There are a few cases where I am more likely to use emoji or acronyms, than an actual sentence. I try to only use those that actually relate to what I am thinking or doing, but sometimes I exaggerate a bit. If I use “LOL” I generally have actually laughed out loud, even if it was only a bit of a forced snicker specifically to justify the use of the acronym. It is the same for smiley faces, I will have a smile on my face, but may not be more than a half a smirk.

When I am sending or posting something, I tend to add an emoji or acronym if the emotion behind the message isn’t immediately clear. In this case, I generally use something simple that expresses the emotion behind the words. For example, “Jane is talking about quantum physics” could have any number of emotions behind it. Without some hint toward the writer’s feelings on Jane’s discussion, responding could cause any number of problems. The texts “Jane is talking about quantum physics. LOL” and “Jane is talking about quantum physics. >.<” show two entirely different emotions. By adding one little cue, the reader can tell that Jane talking about quantum physics is either funny or frustrating, and reply with an appropriate sentiment.

There are times I will use an emoji or acronym without the corresponding action, because that action would have an undesirable side effect. Randomly laughing in a crowded elevator or doctor’s office can cause some funny looks, and when your child has fallen asleep on your lap, it is a really good way to wake them up. These are times I might use more expressive emoji, but I may also write more a more in-depth response, and avoid them altogether.

I am, occasionally, guilty of using emoji or acronyms when I am being lazy. A three paragraph post about a dog who did a trick and was so cute has become tedious by paragraph two. If I feel I have to post something, I might stick a smiley face or “lol” in the comments. If a text shows up about a stupid ex doing stupid ex things when I am about to go to sleep, it will probably get an angry face unless it really needs a response. Laziness happens, emoji and acronyms make sympathy easy without having to do much writing.

I’m ready for my close up

Reality shows are all over the airwaves. They come in a wide variety of formats. There are the shows that follow around a group of friends or family and document their lives, such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Little People Big World, and Duck Dynasty.  Some shows pit strangers against each other in a test, or tests, of some sort to find the best of the best, such as Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, and Amazing Race. Other shows take a person, group, or structure through a change, such as Hoarders, What Not to Wear, and Fixer Upper.

In a genre this wide, there is an equally wide range in the quality of the shows available. Some showcase the talents of their participants, common and unusual. America’s Got Talent and The Voice, show some of the more obvious skills, but Skin Wars, a competition between body painters, and Ink Master, a battle of tattoo artists, feature more unique skills. These can expose audiences to new things and enrich their appreciation for different forms of art. Other shows let viewers glimpse different lifestyles. Gold Rush and Backyard Oil are a couple that show some of what goes on in extreme jobs, while Jersey Shore and Kate Plus 8 fall in with shows that exemplify unusual lifestyles. This variety usually involves more drama than other shows in the genre, and can be moving or petty, depending on the subject matter. Show such as House Hunters and Say Yes To the Dress let us follow along as the participant chooses their favorite option of a given product. These are generally low stress shows, and allow viewers to root for their favorites without getting too invested.

We call them reality shows, but they are not fully based on reality. Some get closer than others, but they are all scripted to some extent and edited to portray the picture the producers are looking for. Competition shows have planned challenges, and show contestants’ reactions. The “day in the life of” shows usually have a basic story, either by episode or season, and use creative editing of the extensive filming and possible retakes to show that story to the best effect. Shows involving people making a choice tend to be the most scripted and edited. For some of these shows the choice has already been made before filming has even begun.

As a whole, reality television is not bad, but it isn’t great either. The trouble comes when people forget that these are tv shows, and don’t reflect the whole picture. Their reality becomes skewed, and they wonder why their life isn’t working the same way it does on the reality show. This is a major downfall to reality tv. If we can just remember that these are made for our entertainment, we can enjoy other people’s drama without making it our own.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.

Madonna said it best when she sang, “I am living in a material world, and I am a material girl.” I have quoted this song over and over. This is most frequent when I have been asked to work overtime, and is usually followed by Nelly’s, “Hey, must be the money!”

I really don’t have a massive amount of stuff. I don’t have kick-knacks all over my counters, or art on all of my walls. Decoratively, I am quite utilitarian. If it doesn’t have a specific purpose, I don’t need it taking up space. I do have keepsakes from important events and faraway places, a box or two of pictures from before digital photography took over the world, and quite a lot of cooking tools, but I am not in any danger of every being on the show Hoarders.

My personal form of materialism generally manifests itself in the form of books. I have more books than I have anything else in my house. I probably have more books on my to be read list than the average person will read in their entire life. It doesn’t help that I keep acquiring more books, even though I know I have no time to actually read them. Of course, my collection isn’t limited to physical books. As long as I have a device with access to the internet, I have the option to read any of the over 500 books on my amazon account. At this rate, I will probably die with a list of books I haven’t read that is taller than I am.

I don’t have any strong opinions about materialism in a general sense. It is a thing that happens when we have easy access to things we want. There are a lot of people who go overboard. I completely understand having the one thing you just have to get. It could be a specific brand, a favorite animal, or a specific type of item. We all have something that is hard to resist, but buying things just to say you have them has always struck me as wasteful. There are better ways to spend money, than to buy the newest pair of shoes or most up to date phone.

You could be the proud owner of a new…

There are advertisements around us everyday. We have commercials taking time out of our favorite shows, “a word from our sponsors” interrupting our music, and billboards distracting us while we travel. With so much going on, it is nearly impossible to avoid all ads, and even if we think we can’t be swayed by this bombardment, our subconscious will store all those ads away for the next time we are deciding where to eat or looking for a lawyer.

Knowing I am subjected to so many less than subtle suggestions, I try to consider why I am buying something before I actually spend any money. If I see an ad and immediately want to go get whatever it is pushing, I try to avoid buying it for at least a week. If I still really want that item after some separation, I will consider it more seriously. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t always work, but it usually keeps me from buying things that I really don’t actually need.

There are other times I actually use ads to my advantage. I am usually incredibly indecisive when I am deciding where to eat. My husband is the same way. This gets really frustrating when we are trying to pick somewhere to eat, while we are going out. We can know all the places to eat that will be on the way, and pass each one by as we try to decide what we want. Usually if we see a billboard or a commercial comes on the radio, we will go with whichever place it was advertising. If not, it will at least narrow down our choices by one option.

Do I like my purchases after the fact? Not always, no. Just because an ad said, “I’m lovin’ it,” doesn’t mean I really wanted a burger. I usually avoid regretting what I have bought, because I have thought about it for a while beforehand. Even then, there are times when I look at a thing I bought six months ago, thinking I would use it all the time, and wonder why I haven’t taken it out of the box yet. I think most people regret a purchase at least once in their lives, but we generally learn from our mistakes. Every time I buy something that sits in a box for ages, I reinforce my habit of considering potential purchases with more scrutiny.