31 January 2011

closing thoughts

The last day of the first month of the year. Only 11 more months of bloggage. Only 11 more months of this whole entire existence in 2011. Pretty crazy.
This will be a reflection post, where I go back and look at some of my best posts and remind you of my philosophical wisdom. Or lack thereof.
Well, here we go.

everyone matters, 1 January
This was a perfect way to start off my blog. It seems a little cliche, saying that everyone is special, but sometimes lovey-dovey cheesy cliches are true. That one woman in Staples who did my whole calender for free made my day. And she was just an employee at Staples. She wasn't a Peace Corps volunteer, a religious missionary, or some other world savior. But she made my day, and that's all that matters. Be the person who makes other people's days.

indulgence, 2 January
I personally liked this one because I feel that in our modern world we don't allow for much indulgence, and I think that personal needs should be met as well as the needs of others. I think I should indulge in a few minutes - into my bed.

Beethoven's 5th, 3 January
No, I am not going to go through every blog. I guess I was just on a roll for the beginning ones. Anyways, I think it's important to jump start your life with something new. Even if you just walk to your classes a different way, or if you do your homework on the trampoline, you are still spicing up your routine.

bonne année et bonne santé! 4 January
This was a good one because my streak of great luck and wonderful joys was gone. I started to get sick, which is something I don't do, but I turned it around with that really sad article on CNN. It's sort of twisted to feel better about your own life when you read about the hardships of another, but it puts everything into perspective.

plant some passion in your mental garden, 7 January
What I loved about this one was my really fabulous metaphor. And also I liked the message I was going for. I mean, what's life with no passion? Drab. Yes, I answered my own rhetorical question. Now you'd call it a hypophora. Bam.

emotion math, 8 January
This was interesting because it was my climactic moment of the month. It was when I realized that even though this is a happy blog, I don't have to ignore my sadness, grief, angst, and any other range of emotions that we angsty teenagers have. And it's important for everyone not to ignore their emotions and let them out. Let me reiterate that sometimes it's important to hold them back, like if you wearing really awful heels and they kill. You don't have to scream and shout like a madman. Yet. And if you get your math test back and fail it, you should probably hold back the tears. I know, that's hard to do and you have to be pretty skillful to do it.

don't deny it, 10 January
Aahh, the first of my snow week blogs! This was by far the best day of powder as well, and I soaked up the fun. With a bunch of middle schoolers. And fourth graders. And they were all boys. But who cares? I don't. Live your life. Come out of your social self and be your own soul. Live the way you want to live. That's the message. Even if you have to do it in snow pant-overalls, a puffy jacket, and a hat that makes you look like a boy.

my vacation scrapbook called "life", 12 January
Life really is just a vacation on earth. A long vacation. And if you have ever gone away for a while you end up having to do none-fun things too, like laundry. Don't take even one moment for granted, and enjoy every moment of it. Because you don't know when your outgoing flight is. I know that sounds morbid, but it's true. This is my second cliche of the night: live life to the fullest. Typing the unoriginal conventional phrase makes me sick. Bleh.

it's all the same grass, 13 January
My second post about perspective. It was actually interesting, not just useless fluff I put in just to put it in. I actually realized that it was getting boring after 4 days snowed in, and that I wanted to get to school. So don't think that the life you don't have is better than your current one. It's all the same grass.

plan b, 14 January
Plan B is interesting as well because it is almost never used by us Type-A personalities. We have a master plan, actually multiple master plans, and we don't ever deviate from them. But it's important to realize that things often go wrong and plan B is the next best option.

dance like a freak, 17 January
I loved this title because it's pretty much my life. I dance like a freak all the time. I have these ridiculous shoulder dancing moves that just look really ridiculous. But that's OK because this whole post is about dancing like a freak. I refereed to an art journal I once did about things that make me happy, among them eating donuts and kayaking on the beach. So even though some things might seem trivial, enjoy them. Eat your donuts and dance like a freak.

gross national happiness, 21 January
This was my Oxfordian-style attempt at a "What is happiness?" lecture. I liked how it wasn't focused on my life. While my life is unique and overly exciting all the time, I thought I'd do something different. It's a lot more philosophical than intuitive but it's as interesting to read as it was to write.

pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, 22 January
If you want happiness, go find it. Because you can't just sit there and say "I'm sad!" and expect the whole world to rush to your side and hug you. I mean, maybe they will. But my guess is they won't. So pick yourself up by your bootstraps and find your little corner of happiness.

to conform or not to conform, that is the question, 24 January
I am a non-conformist. After my name on a business card, it should say "N.C." for nonconformist. Basically, don't let a number, a score, a grade, whatever you want to call it, mess with your head. Because your worth is immeasurable. What you do can only be judged by you. I know, I made you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

a tribute to Walden, 30 January
My final blog of January 2011, besides this one, was dedicated to my fish, Walden. He taught me so much. His philosophical ix between Taoism and Buddhism has shaped my thinking for today. Think about fish in a different way.
By the way, I still have Walden in a Ziploc bag. I will bury him in the backyard tomorrow. :(

These are not all of them, just a sampling. If you haven't read them, try to. Not just because I was to brag about my writing, but to enlighten yourself. To enrich yourself in your pursuit of happiness. Make a wish for February!

30 January 2011

a tribute to walden

My dear friend Walden,
I know that now you are taking your last few breaths, your last few minutes of blood circulation, and that by the time this post is finished you will have passed into the supernatural. I want you to know that you shall always be in my heart. There is a special pond in my heart named after you. I loved coming to see you each morning, having you rely on my each day to give you the nourishment for your long life. You were my speechless friend who never complained, but just listened. You were always a jolly and chipper soul, and I loved your carefree gaiety and joy for life.
May God treat you well, my dear friend.

This was an excerpt for a eulogy I just wrote. It was for my fish, Walden. I named him after my also deceased Transcendentalist friend, Henry David Thoreau (he, you know, went to Walden Pond). I am closely tied to Walden Pond, since it was near where I grew up, and I have been there a few times. He was an allegorical fish. And my friend.
Fish are some of the bets friends you can have. Because they teach yo to live a more simple life. When I feed Walden every morning, I always imagine what it would be like if I was a fish too. Eat. Secrete. Repeat. What a life.
But the thing is, Walden wakes up each morning overjoyed to have food (well maybe he isn't overjoyed; some scientists argue on whether or not fish can feel emotions; I affirm their suspicions). I wake up, eat my breakfast in half-slumber, put on some clothes, and rush out the door. Yes, I brush my hair and teeth too..
Walden is content with his food. I am not even content with my morning, and I can do a lot more than him. I can walk around. I can feed myself. I can go to school and produce thoughts. I can go outside in the beautiful air and enjoy the wonderful weather. Walden can't. He sits in his tank. Walden can't do any of these things. Yet he is happy with his life the way it is.
Walden has taught me, and I just now realize it, that life is about the simplicities. Even though the only excitement in his day was his daily ration of 4 flakes of 35% crude protein, he went about his life in the tank as if it were wonderful.
We can all learn from Walden and his simplicity. He taught me that when it all comes down to it, life is about the simplicities, and we shouldn't have to worry about some of the trivial things we stress over, like personal appearance. And in this sense, we really are all equal. We may look different on the outside but our cells are all the same on the inside. If we were educated or not, we still had thoughts. Rich or poor, money cannot control when we die.
Walden taught me an invaluable lesson. A wonderfully philosophical lesson. Perhaps his name is much more allegorical than I thought.

29 January 2011

enjoy your sick day

What a wonderful day to enjoy outside. Unlike other parts of the country, at the end of January it is 65 degrees here and there literally are not any clods in the entire vastness of the sky. Perfection. But what I loved about today was its lazy and relaxing nature that just made life seem so wonderful. If it wasn't already.
My favorite kind of weather is when you are wearing a tank top and shorts and you walk outside feeling completely comfortable. You don't need a jacket, but you aren't getting ready to start shedding 90% of your body weight in sweat. That was what today was like. It was a little cold, but not if you were moving around.
I worked on my drawing for the Google contest a little, then when I felt like it I went outside and walked around, went on the trampoline, gazed at the sky, felt the warm breeze gently graze over my skin. What a completely blissful day.
I liked it because there was no schedule, no things that had to be done. Actually, there were many things that had to be done, like reading for anatomy (gotta learn the endocrine system), reading 14 chapters in Huckleberry Finn, and doing some obscure assignment for French. But I wasn't thinking about those things at all. All of my stresses were taken away by the sweet rhythms of the breeze. I was already coming down with spring fever.
It was now that I realized how sick I was of winter. And it had really only been going on for 3 months, while in Massachusetts where the rest of my family is (and Chicago and Minnesota, and other northern places) winter started when the calender hit October 1. Even earlier. Like mid-September. And it goes on well through March. I can remember Easters in April where we are freezing waiting to get into church because it's 20 degrees outside. Fun times.
I guess the south has spoiled me with this nice weather. So after a couple days (or a week) worth of snow I am done with winter. Until our northern winter - summer - begins. Probably in Mach and ending in October.
Anyways, today was a sick day, if you will. A spring fever sick day. I enjoyed the day as it lazily chugged on and as the sun passively floated above my head. All I need was a hammock, a ukulele, and some Jack Johnson and the ambiance would be perfect. It was either way.
When spring starts to emerge where you live, enjoy it. Take a sick day. And enjoy it. Because after winter comes spring, which is the rebirth of everything. I almost think New Years should be in the spring. It makes a lot more sense that way. But I'm not on that committee.
Days like these only come a few times. Those quintessential perfect days when everything goes right must be celebrated. We have to withdraw and enjoy the world in its natural beauty every once in a while, especially on days like this.
Grab that ukulele, kick back in your hammock, call in sick - and enjoy your day.

28 January 2011

la festa italiana

Sometimes the best things in life are the basics. Water, shelter - and food.
I could blog for days about food and how wonderful it is, but I only have this short time. Anyways, today after school I had this pasta party for swim team. And even though my friend was going to a concert tonight and was going to miss it, leaving me alone at the party with only mere acquaintances to mingle with, I went.
Because (a) I love pasta and (b) I love free pasta. If you knew me, even the basics, you'd know that me and pasta are best friends. If I ever decide to marry, which I doubt, it will be to an Italian chef. My uncle calls my cousin, who also loves pasta, a pastatarian. This is my scientific food preference name as well.
So I went to the party carrying my mom's stuffed shells - moist pasta shells enveloping rich ricotta cheese and covered with a sweet tomato sauce. Classic Italian beauty.
there were other dishes too - Chinese noodles with shrimp (I don't eat fish or Asian food), some baked zitis, a lasagna, and one of my favorites, a baked ziti with meat sauce.
Euphonious sounds of violins and cellos playing a passionate love song went through my head as I ate, especially the stuffed shells. I had so much food I almost fell on the floor. And what I loved is that my friends joined me. One girl said that the word "diet" did not apply to tonight. And I loved it. We all just feasted on the absolutely wonderful Italian delicacies fed to us, forcing morsels of pasta and cheese down our throats even though our stomachs had reached their maximum capacities. It was an Italian [food] love affair.
The message is not to go out and gorge yourself and gain 50 pounds. It's important to be healthy. But sometimes, one must indulge - remember my indulgence blog earlier in the month - to appreciate the beauties in life.
It's "in" now to diet and be thin, but that doesn't mean snatching a warm chocolate chip cookie - or 2, or 3, or maybe 4 . . - is bad for you (unless of course you are fatally allergic to peanut oil or other cookie ingredients. Perhaps you can try a soy cookie, if those even exist). Give yourself an amazing meal and savor it - without going on your Calorie Counter app on your iPhone to check how many calories you're consuming.
Grazie a Dio per il cibo italiano!
ps - I'll have to learn Italian so I can express my love for Italy's food when I go there.

27 January 2011

open up a big box of happiness

When I was logging into Blogger today, I noticed I had surpassed the amount of posts from my first blog in Oxford. I had 23 posts on my Adventures of a Curious Traveler blog and 28, excluding today's, on this blog. It seems like time was passing so slowly at Oxford, but in a good way, because it seemed like each day was filled with so much more than these current ones. This month has gone by in a humdrum, fast yet droning way.
I guess time passed by less quickly in Oxford because I was always filling ever hour of the day with something fun. So my time was never wasted. I feel like I waste a lot of time nowadays. So I guess you should just live in the moment. One time I was working out with my dad and he said how when you work out you are really living in the moment. Each second goes by so much slower and you are getting everything out of each second. That's true. Even though you may think time flies when you are having fun, it also flies when you waste time.
But anyways, since I have to watch the State of the Union speech for extra credit in AP Lang, I better hurry along.
If you asked my mom one thing I like to do a lot, she would say enter contests. I mean, that probably wouldn't be her first response, but if you mentioned contests, she would say that I enter them a lot. And I do. Anytime there is a contest I enter it. Usually, actally never, winning. Except once. But I love the hope and anxious-ness that contests have.
I always enter the skill-based ones since I think those are somewhat easier. Sort of. I've entered photography contests (I'm in the middle of one now), story contests, creativity contests (I won an orange iPod when I was one of 9 finalists in the Goldfish Crackers Create Finn's New Friend contest), and art contests. I'm even contemplating an online science fair.
I am in the middle of working on my submission for Doodle 4 Google. Keep it on the down-low, around kids, because I need to have as little competition as possible. So anyways, I have been working on it for a week. And whenever I am overflowing with homework and other pressures, I go into my little world and work on my drawing. And it helps me to be happy. Even if I don't win, it's good to do something like this. Something larger-than-life, bigger than me, something that I have to work really hard at. And when it's all done, it will be great. Picture(s) to come.
Working on a big project can be a lot of work, but finishing it will be so gratifying that you will just be overwhelmingly proud. You don't have to enter the contest - actually, only kids can do it - sorry. But you can pick something you love and work for it. Happiness does come in envelopes, but it also comes in big packages, too. So don't just shuffle through the flat envelopes - open up a big box.

26 January 2011

all you need is faith

Yes, I am alluding to a Beatles song.
Sometimes all we can do in times of troubles is to wait. Sometimes changing your perspective does not help, and sometimes being positive does not help your troubles dissapear.
A couple months ago when the miners were trapped underground in Chile, we just waited and prayed. We prayed that they would be able to be rescued some day. We prayed that no one would get hurt. And things got better. Every miner was safely resuced. Every single one.
And they waited too. They didn't sit there saying, well, it could be worse, or I'm lucky that I'm still alive. Because for most of them it probably couldn't get worse and they were not very lucky because they were trapped for months underground with no sunlight or natural earth. I mean, perhaps they were saying these things, but they probably did not make anyhting better.
One thing they did receive from the rescue teams through small holes were religious statuettes of saints and a crucfix. When they were not sleeping, eating, or passing the time with card games, they prayed. One miner led them in prayer. No one knows what they prayed about, but it was probably about hoping for their rescue.
And their prayers were answered. They were rescued.
Sometimes all you need is faith and hope that things will get better. The youngest miner who was trapped (age 19) said that "after the bad comes the good." And he is right. He never lost hope that he would be rescued, even though he was the age of a college freshman and was trapped more than 2,000 feet below the surface.
You don't have to face hardships like the miners did to gain faith. You choose to have faith or to cower in fear.

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. And lo, no one was there.
Author Unknown

25 January 2011

let go of your kites

Sometimes the only thing to do when you are frazzled, confused, and stressed is stop. A lot of times people think that when you are stressed you will be better off finishing everything you have to do and not stop. But what is the point in that? You will just be backlogged on sleep and still have things to do the next day. So there really is no point in overworking yourself when you are already stressed. It's like if you just broke your arm and still insisted on swimming in the meet. You'll get it all done, but you won't be able to swim in the next meet because you will be in worse shape than before.
When the world caves in and the elements tell us all sorts of things, sometimes we need to look inside ourselves for the answer. Perhaps to the oversoul. The oversoul is a Transcendentalist idea, which is why I include it in here. The oversoul is a spirit that is inside of you and it tells you to do all the good things you do in your life. The oversoul guides you through your life. This is almost identical to the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) and God.
So whether you believe in a God, a pagan god, the Holy Spirit, or the oversoul (or something else, or no spirit/god at all), it's important to look inside yourself and find peace. This often conjures up the idea of meditation.
I'm not really talking about going to India and sitting completely still in an ashram, saying something like "hummm" over and over. I mean, you can do that too. But meditating is really just clearing your mind of everything you are worrying about. You may think it's hard to do, but once you get into a routine, it's easy.
It's almost like holding on to a bunch of different kites that you can't control. Each thought is a kite. And when you let one go, you feel more in control of your other kites, or other thoughts.
"I'm going to make a pop culture reference", as my AP Lang teacher says, about Spongebob. You can really apply him to a lot of things. So in one episode, Squidward wanted to impress his arch nemesis, Squilliam, by pretending that he owns a 5-star restaurant. So he asks Spongebob to become a really amazing waiter, and gives him a large manual and tells him to learn every word. So he does, and he starts going insane. Squidward starts freaking out because Squilliam will be arriving any minute and Spongebob is running around like a madman. So Squidward tells Spongebob to "empty his mind" of everything that doesn't have to do with "fine dining and eating". It goes into Spongebob's brain and it shows a bunch of mini-'bobs throwing away all extraneous thoughts. It worked, and Spongebob was as suave as ever. Until he realized he forgot his name and everything went crazy and Squidward was humiliated. Again.
But that's not how it works on land. Meditation always works if you do it right. And meditation does not have to be completely still. You don't have to sit on the floor and do nothing with your eyes closed for an hour. I meditate through swimming. I can't really hear anything when I swim, and the strokes' even rhythm are meditative. Maybe you find running or walking as meditative. But whatever makes your mind feel less overflowing will help you.
It's almost like cleaning out your folders for school. They literally break when they aren't emptied every once in a while. So empty your mind and let go of your kites.

24 January 2011

to conform or not to conform; that is the question

Hello there friends. I hope you all had a good day.
I almost forgot what day of the week it was - Monday. Mondays are always the best because you are fresh and ready to start the week. I know they can be a bit of a drag, but they are better than Fridays, I think, because then you aren't ready to die from all the foolishness you've endured all week.
So today I want to share with you a small corner in the world of my philosophy. Everyone has their own philosophy, even if you don't realize it, because everyone bases their decisions on ideas that they already have ingrained in your mind. So anyways, today was one of those days when you get a bunch of assignments back because your teachers who don't really have much else to do grade all your work on the weekend. Let's start with AP Lang.
Mixed feelings about this class. Most of the time I feel trapped, because I know that what I think is not allowed to be expressed in the right way. This partly has to do with my rigid teacher who does not enjoy nonconformity very much and likes things to be orderly. So we wrote this essay the other day because it was going to be one of the essays on the AP exam. I got mine back and I got an 8, which is out of 9. I don't know where these score systems come from, but they are the way they are. I wasn't mad about the 8, I just thought I nailed it. It wasn't the most gorgeous piece of writing in the world, but it followed all the criteria and it was as all-inclusive as you could get. What's worse is that he read aloud one of the other essays that got a 9. It was poetic, perfect, and also written by a kid who is almost 2 years older than me. That really irritates me when people hold their kids back and wait until their 7 before they can go to kindergarten. I went when I was 5! I actually just turned 5. And I turned out alright, right? For the most part?
Anyways, I thought my essay, while it wasn't as eloquent as the examples, was well-written. And I almost thought it deserved a 9.

Next I went to anatomy, and it was the bets day ever, but not really. I hoped to get a 100 on the test, but I ended up getting an 85, which isn't bad for his tests. I was still disappointed because I knew everything - at least I thought I did. I could explain how taste buds receive impulses and how the gustatory cells could transmit the impulse to the brain. I knew all the conditions and diseases surrounding the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose (that was not a reference to the second verse of "head, shoulders, knees and toes"). I could make a moving diagram of how the ear conducts sound waves. But I didn't get a perfect score.
It's puzzling to me that when I work so hard I don't get the results I want. But what irks me more is when people say, "well, you should have studied more" or "try harder next time". It's disappointing to put in a large amount of effort and not be gain anything in return. I know that now I have a better understanding of the special senses, but who's going to care? I can't write on my transcript that I knew all the material, but I still got a 85 because the tests were not easy. It just doesn't work that way. I wish it did.
But I had to compartmentalize all these thoughts and store them for later. I wasn't going to let some mediocre grades ruin my day. And they didn't. I worried about them later. This summer I went to a swimming camp at Auburn University and Rowdy Gaines, who not only swam there but went on to the Olympics, was answering questions about swimming. He said that a lot of people ask him what he does when he loses a race or doesn't do well. He said that he leaves it all at the pool. He swam and it's over, so if he didn't do well he wasn't going to dwell on it. When he left the pool, so did his bad memories from the race. He came, he saw, he swam.
That was a great piece of advice. you can't let things get you down, even when a lot of things get you down. I knew I studied as hard as I could for that anatomy test. And I knew I tried my best. I knew I wrote the best essay I could and that I tried my best. But I didn't fail them or even get less than perfect. Perfect is a standard applied to something that depicts exactly what should be done or how something should appear. So in the instance of the AP test, "perfect" is writing an essay that conforms to standards. So if conforming is the only way to reach perfection in this sense, than is nonconformity failure? This is interesting because we always say "dare to be different" and "be who you want to be" and my favorite, "imitation is suicide", but we don't actually believe it. If you want to go far you have to play the game. By the rules.
I might not have met perfection in those standards, but I did where it most matters: my heart. And I would never trade my unconventional mind and creative thinking for anything, even a 5 on a AP exam or a 9 on an essay. Don't be afraid to be yourself and don't always listen to what others say about your work. You should be your most important critic.

23 January 2011

[wo]man's best friend

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we feel angry and mad at everyone. Sometimes we need a friend or someone to talk to. But sometimes, we don't want really have someone to talk to or someone to look at for support.
Today was sort of a drag, and I was angry today about a lot of things. But after lunch I was watching the cat (he has to be watched because he is still sick) and following him around the house so he wouldn't get into trouble. He started to climb up the stairs and play on them. He likes to bite them and scratch them and such. So I went to the top of the stairs.
I was sitting behind a wall, in a way where I could see him but he couldn't see me. And as soon as I did that, he scampered up the stairs and came up under my arm. He was purring really loudly too. He ran down the stairs really fast when I flinched, and then slowly cam back up. Then I started to play a game with him. He would hide behind the stair and look up to see if I was there, and then I would stick my hand out of the wall and he would come up a few steps.
Finally, he would come all the way up the stairs and "find me", and then we would do it again. It was not only the cutest thing in the world, but it was pretty fun too. Pets know when you are feeling lousy. And they know how to make it better.
Living with animals is actually good. Aside from their occasional incidents, they are pretty great. Pets make you feel less lonely. Because even if someone isn't around, at least you will have your little friend. And they give people a purpose, something to care for. Sometimes when you feel like you aren't loved or needed, you realize that your pet needs you to feed him, clean him, and love him. And cats, more specifically, lower your blood pressure. Pets in general make people feel more relaxed (unless of course you have an insane animal that is not trained and hurts people, in which case your blood pressure would probably be rather high). And there is something about petting an animal that makes us feel so happy. I know I love petting Shea. I guess people just like to touch things that are soft. It's scientific I'm sure.
Pets are actually used in medical fields too. Dogs, cats, rabbits, and even mini horses visit the mentally ill, the terminally ill, people with special needs, and nursing homes. Some animals even visit wounded troops in military hospitals. Horses are often used as physical therapy for people with muscular problems so they can learn balance and coordination. Dogs can be trained to help the blind as well; most everyone has heard of The Seeing Eye, an organization that trains dogs to work for blind people. Animals have proven to work wonders with sick people, so this is why thousands of animals "go to work" everyday.
Go give your pet a hug today (unless it is a fish, in which case you can hug the tank) to show him or her how much yo love them. They appreciate it too. And if you don't have a pet, this should have convinced you to get one. But stuffed animals work too.

22 January 2011

pick yourself up by your own bootstraps

Today I have another important lesson. I actually wanted to dedicate a post to this a week ago, but I am getting to it now.
One of the people I follow on Twitter either tweeted or retweeted a picture of a poster she found. This is what it looked like:

I was inspired when I read the poster. Nice artistic propaganda to get the good vibes flowing. I liked that a lot.
If you want to be happy, and you're not, change what you're doing. there is a famous quote from Maya Angelou that goes like this: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude". Which is true. You are the future. You are a person. And how have all the things in the world been changed or made better? Because of people, just like you. You don't have to be a politician to write a bill about animal rights. You don't have to be a doctor to save someone's life. You don't have to be a lawyer to be the guardian of justice.
It's a simple idea. If you don't like something, only you have the power to change it. Once, I felt a deadline came too early in literature last year. It was a giant reading project and we only had three weeks to do it - to read and annotate the book and come up with 10 journal entries and a scrapbook. Everyone in my class complained about it and they said how they would never get it done. But I was the only one who emailed our teacher, explained the problem, and got a week extension to our project. Problem solved. Everyone finished the project and everyone was happy.
Eighty-two years ago, a man was born (ironically the same year as the stock market crash) into a country that offered him no equality. He didn't like being treated unfairly because of his identity. He had never been given a chance to prove his worth. So he rose up and changed it. He found courage the injustice and his strength empowered the whole population for which he was fighting. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for a whole race because he was not happy and wanted to be happy. He changed the country's fate forever. He changed views and perceptions. He changed lives.
I used MLKJ as my example because it was, a few days ago, his day of remembrance. I, as well as billions of others, admire his courage, tenacity, humility, and of course, rhetoric.
Mohandas K. Gandhi did something similar in his country. So did Nelson Mandela. So have many others for other causes. They changed the world, even if it was only a slice of the world.
You don't have to fight for equal rights for an entire people, but the ideas behind their acts should inspire you to act for something you are passionate about.
Earlier I was on the World Wildlife Fund website. My sister showed me the symbolic adoptions page that they have. They have a list of over 100 animals that are all over the endangered spectrum. When you click on each image, they show you each species' story and how they are struggling. Some of these stories are heartbreaking. Blue whales are at risk because boaters will run into them and not see them. If only their ships were equipped with a device that would warn them of the whale's presence at least 200 feet from the whale so the ship can navigate away from it. And the orangutans' homes are burned down for to build palm oil plantations in Borneo. Rhinos are hunted for their ivory. And one of the worst cases of all are the Amur Leopards. Never heard of them? That's because there are 40 left. In the whole world. There are 40 people in my math class. That small room. I bet 40 Amurs could fit in that room. And that is how many are in the whole world. Never heard of Mekong Dolphins either? Dams destroy their habitats and they are often caught in nets. If only fishermen could be more careful when they cast their nets over.
The point is, the world is full of problems. Endangered animals are only a tiny sliver of the giant global problem spectrum. The good thing is we can help. If you go online to their website, you can "adopt" an animal, sometimes a family, by donating money. They will give you a gift as well - a plush of the animal to represent the animal or family you are helping and a letter from the WWF.
Either way, if you donate $25 or $250, you are helping an animal. Even if your money goes to just helping rehabilitate endangered animals, you are saving their whole species.
So, pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and change something. If you are not happy about something - change it!

21 January 2011

gross national happiness

Trying to define happiness is like trying to explain colors to a blind person. This is because happiness is an idea, and it is defined by other ideas. Therefore, it is not concrete and is subject to many interpretations. Even dictionaries cannot quite define happiness.
I've been thinking about what happiness is lately. After all, I am on a quest for it, so I should have an idea of what kind of happiness I am looking for.
I was reading an article, as I often do, called "The World's Happiest Countries" by Christopher Helman for Forbes. It was one of the best written articles on the subject. He made an attempt to define what happiness was, or at least try and come up with a list of things that we often associate with happiness. I quote: "For most, being happy starts with having enough money to do what you want and buy what you want. A nice home, food, clothes, car, leisure...It's being healthy, free from pain, being able to take care of yourself. It's having good times with friends and family...being able to speak what's on your mind without fear, to worship the God of your choosing, and to feel safe and secure in your own home...having opportunity--to get an education, to be an entrepreneur."
By now you are probably wondering what the top 5 happiest nations are. And you are probably going to guess a Scandinavian country made the top spot. And you would be correct. Norway wins. After all they have a lot of amenities: $53,000 GDP, a beautiful environment, nice people, natural nonrenewable resources like oil, and good health care. Seems like a great place. Following Norway is Denmark, which happens to boast the highest quality of living in the world (why, then, it is not number one, I don't know). They also enjoy good education and they like their government. Following is Finland, another Scandinavian country, which is very similar to both Denmark and Norway. To find the last 2 happiest nations we travel all the way to the southern Indian Ocean - Australia takes 4th and New Zealand, 5th.
What all these countries have in common is basically a high gross domestic product, governments that the people like, universal health care, beautiful landscape, and good economies. This can very easily bring people a lot of happiness.
I also read an article in one of my issues of National Geographic Traveler about an unexpected happy nation. the article "Happily Ever After" explains how people in Bhutan perceive happiness. Bhutan is a small Asian country in between the 2 big Asian super powers, China and India. The king of Bhutan launched the GNH campaign - Gross National Happiness - and proclaimed that it was more important than GDP, a means through which we measure wealth, and in turn, happiness. Perhaps Bhutan's isolation aids in the protection of it's unique ideals, but perhaps it is the unique philosophy of the Bhutanese people. The author writes about how he met a man there who said, "In our most beautiful places, we build temples and monasteries, and everybody goes there. In your most beautiful places, you build five-star resorts, and only the very rich go there."
The Bhutanese see opportunities as something that anyone can attain - not just the wealthy. And maybe that is why they are happy - because they don't worry about wealth and they are happy because the poor man can enjoy something the same as the rich man.
And then there are other extremes, like the incredibly rich who cannot see how lucky they are, who can always have access to everything they want. And if they don't have it, they can get it. Yet they cannot find happiness. And there are some who live on the streets who are happy each day to be alive. Or those who live in sickness, in abusive situations, in impoverished countries, or who just never got the long end of the wishbone - and they seem to find optimism and hope.
All of these happiness philosophies are valid; the Danes and Australians are not bad people because they equate happiness with wealth. And the Bhutanese are not necessarily better because of their humble ways of life. They are different perceptions of one central idea that we all hope to attain: happiness.
What is your happiness? For me, I feel a mix between the Bhutanese GNH and the traditional ways that we think of. I would be happy with money, good health care, and a good government, but I hope to look past those material things and at the immaterial joys like family, friends, and love.
Here is an interesting question to ask people; I ask people all the time. I will say, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" or "what do you hope to be 10 years from now?" The responses are typical: pharmacist, doctor, musician, astronaut, professional baseball player, vet nurse, teacher, photographer. But not one person says, "When I grow up, I want to be happy."

20 January 2011

naked emotion

This was just not a good day at all. It makes the top five on the bad day list. It was a bad day because of a lot of things, and the bad just kept getting worse. And the worst part is that once something goes wrong, you feel so bad that everything else goes wrong, and more things just keep going wrong. It's the roller coaster of bad days.
Actually, my bad day started last night - well, technically it was past midnight so it was today last night. Sort of. Anyways, I had to an entire group orject with minimal help from one of the group members and no help from the other people in the group. None. It was all me. And they waited for me to do it too, I suspect. So I had to come up with the ideas, type them, and check them in the book. Which gave me no time to study for my AP Lang quiz on 2 short stories I hadn't read. So I never got to read them. And I failed the quiz. And we went over the quiz that I failed with all the black slashes through the questions I got wrong. Like big daggers piercing my cornea. Tears of sadness and anger and hatred started to spill out of my eyelids. How could my group do this to me? Didn't they know I had to study for this quiz and that it was really important? And now I failed it? But no, I spent the night doing something for people who weren't even grateful. I don't think they acknowleded my work and my effort, nor did they care I failed a quiz for the group. It was expected that I did the questions, and if I didn't have them, who knows what would happen to the fate of the world? Next time, perhaps if I do nothing, my existence would be more appreciated. I've always been the one in groups who comes up with the idea, makes the project look good, does all the research and ties up all the loose ends. French video project? I was the film editor, filmer, script writer, and an actor myself. History project? I made the maps (hand-painted) and the labels and typed the information for the posters. And, since I missed the presentation date, I also made a movie of my presentation. What else have I done? Well, there are really too many instances in which I have been screwed over from group projects.
I trudged on to yearbook, glum and vapid, carrying the questions that I made with me. All I could do was sit on the rolly chair and drop my head on the table. I barely did anything in class for 2 whole hours. Depressed and hopeless, I thought to myself, I'm a real failure. I failed the quiz, I'm probably failing the class, and I didn't gain anything from the project I did. I thought about where my quest for happiness was going - nowhere - and how I was terrible at finding the good in each day.
But then I realized (actually it was a few hours later that I realized it) that this whole time I have been looking for happiness and trying so hard to make every day perfectly happy and wonderful. I'm becoming obsessive about finding happiness that I wouldn't let myself feel anything but that. I would get more down on myself than normal because I was not happy. So imagine that you have not been doing well in your work and you think your boss might lay you off. And you feel really sad, worried, and upset. But you have this new boyfriend and you don't want him to think that you are depressed all the time, so you hide it and act upbeat and happy. Hiding your feelings to save face and pretending to be happy isn't happiness. I'm not saying lashing out and crying hysterically will make you feel better and all of a sudden it will bring you joy. But not being true to yourself won't help you.
I think sometimes we expect too much out of a day. We might wake up and think to ourselves, this will be a good day. And with this notion implanted in our heads, we will do anything to make our day good. Sometimes if I have a bad day, I will say to myself, well, this isn't good at all. This was supposed to be a good day, and now I am angry about school. Now I will have nothing to blog about. My readers will think I am a failure. They'll stop reading this and think that she is a hypocrite. I have to turn this around or else I will be doomed to a life of sadness. But I was becoming so obsessed about being happy that I was denying my feelings. My head was taking over my emotions. By denying my emotions, I wasn't feeling true happiness. I was wearing a happiness mask.
I'm not saying you should cry your eyeballs out or hide in a closet and cry everytime someone looks at you the wrong way, but just don't try to hide what you are feeling. Sometimes you actually have to hide your feelings temporarily. For instance, if you are an aerial silk performer in the circus and the silks are pinching you as you twist in them (and believe me, it KILLS your thighs and stomach), it might be a good idea to hide your pain while you are performing. Just saying.
Sometimes we feel like the world is against us everyone is out to get us. Sometimes we feel like dying under a rock because we feel like things can't get any worse. Sometimes people hurt you or take advantage of you, and they don't say sorry. Sometimes nothing goes as planned and everything is ruined.
But things will get better. Life has positive times and life has negative times. It's unnatural to feel one emotion all the time, including happiness. We are all humans, and that means we all have emotions. Not just one, but a whole filing cabinet full of them. Sometimes it's best if you express what you are feeling and not conceal it. And then, when you feel better, you can feel true happiness, instead of trying to mask sadness with happiness. Let your emotions flow out of you - raw, unrefined, naked emotion.

19 January 2011

turn back the clock

This day started out on a low note because something relatively terrible happened. My iPod is broken. At least I thought it was. So I was really mad and depressed because I use my iPod everyday. But this morning I went to a party for National French Honors Society and that turned things around. The cool thing was that there was a big drink station with a chocolate fountain and a coffee guy who made cool drinks. He was actually the dad of some girl who graduated from our school a few years ago and right now she is on a plane going to study abroad for a year in France!
The nice man made me an amazing hot chocoloate with 2 giant squirts of chocolate from the fountain and it was amazing! And then we had a gift exchange (because this was supposed to be before Christmas), whre I was hoping I wouldn't get something dumb. My mom bought a $15 iTunes card for it, and I was hoping to get something good. And luckily I got an iTnes gift card - but not my own! I'm so glad someone else did something really nice. My friend, on the other hand, got a piggy bank. Some other kid got a box of jelly beans. Whoop-dee-doo. I was lucky. So after that, I volunteered to work at the elective fair tonight since they needed volnteers. It's for "rising freshmen", as they say, so that they can learn about the cool non-required classes to take in high school. We had to go anyway, since my sister will soon enter the fishbowl of high school. So I decided to volunteer so I could get credit since I failed to complete all the points for the last semester.
So after a day of madness at school, I went to visit my favorite teacher ever, from last year. I went with my friend, and we ended up talking for so long that I missed the bus and had to sit outside in the cold to wait for my mommy to come.
SO that night I had to volunteer for the fair. When I got to school, I found the French booth and I saw my friends there so they could get points too. It actually turned out to be pretty fun. We talked to parents and students about French, we talked about high school (a topic I know all too well), and we got to exert our powers as upperclassmen. That does a number to your self esteem.
And the whole time, while I was still somewhat resentful about taking French again this year, I realized how great my French "career" in high school has been. We recounted stories of times in French 2 and 3 honors, and all the fun and not so fun things we did. We became like a community.
And we got to help other people out as they figure out the ropes of high school. It was fun to be a leader, a mentor, for these little soon-to-be-middle-school-grads and to see how happy the parent were to find out information about the program. I talked to one mom for almost twenty minutes about classes and schedules. And I knew she really appreicated it. One mom even commenetd that our booth was so informative and eloqent (well, I added the eloquent part). I was helping real people who were at a somewhat difficult stage in life - the first year of high school. I mean, I wasn't building wells in Africa, but I was helping people who needed advice. That feels good.
And I wasn't really doing it to get points, or a checkmark on the list of thigns to do. Because that isn't what community service is about, and I don't like that this is what it has become.
It doesn't have to be that way. If you live life in a carefree and compassionate way, you won't need a service log to remind you that you have done good. Remember when people would help other people looking for nothing in return? Let's turn back the clock and bring back that same attitude.

*I apologize for misspellings, the spell check is not working and I can't catch all my typos. Sorry!*

18 January 2011

hey there, friend

Today was one of the biggest reliefs in my life. Today I went to school for the first time in a month (I don't realy count those three days). I wouldn't say I was eager to go to school, as I fumbled to remember my locker combination from the long time I had been away from school, and my eyelids weren't quite open all the way when I got to school. I was also living in fear the whole day, that I had forgotten to do something or that tests would not be postponed to a later date. It was a little bit of a "woah there" day (and for those of you who do not understand my incredibly vogue colloquial phrase, I mean "woah there" as in "woah, there, easy tiger", or "woah, there, hold your cheese nuggets").
But mostly I was ready to go back and see all of my friends. I had missed them so much when I was gone and I never realized how much I would reallyget bored without their company. Today was like a healthy dose of medicine to aid my social being. Humans are social creatures, and we need people. But we need to have all sorts of different people, because, as you can see, being with the same people for weeks on end without seeing anyone else can gte a little drab. Actually a lot drab.
I forgot how great it was to talk to a friend. To laugh at stupid jokes with them, to tell stories to them, to talk about absolutely nothing. The act of talking to new people (or people I hadn't seen in weeks) was exhilerating.
You know the old saying that you can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends. That's the cool part. You are bound to your family because, well, they are your family, but your friends are bound to you because you made a decision to reach out to them one day. Or maybe they reached out to you and you accepted their friendship. But you actually get to choose your friends, which makes them so special. In this way, friends are kind of like abstract version of yourself. There is a part of you that you also share with your friends.
Enjoy the gift of friendship. Try to reach out to one new person every month, whether you talk to them at school, at work, in public, in the dentist's office, or even in Home Depot. Just a simple, "hey there, friend" can make someone feel happy. Connect with old friends again, or go out with friends and enjoy their company.
Even in tough national financial circumstances (you may prefer the more hackneyed term "these economic times", which can be found on many banned phrases lists for it's overused-ness) or rough times in your family, job, or school work, if you have friends, they can pull you through.

17 January 2011

dance like a freak

Today, I am going to do something a little different. I was feeling particularly uninspired about this post, so I am going to touch on something I once did in an art journal.
Get ready for a tangent: I'm a particularly artsy person. I don't just like art, I absolutely love it. If I could spend all day painting I would. But I also like the artistic mindset and way of life. I like visual arts, auditory arts, and physical arts, like sports and dancing and stuff. I have this artistic little mind and I don't like any rules or guidelines. Unconventional thinking, you could say. So I take a lot of art classes at school. And we have to do these things called visual verbal journals. It's like a big messy book filled with artsy creativity and thoughtful words. Sometimes it's a burden and I can't think of any ideas, but sometimes I really hit a spark and I bang out this killer page. I have three journals in all, and they are among my prized possessions. My second one, and probably the best, collectively (and this is because my first one was lame because I didn't know what I was doing and the third one I ran out of ideas for; the second one has the perfect balance of art and expression), has a special page in it. The theme is happiness.
Visually, it is pretty simple. It has a big flower I made with sharpies of all colors in the middle, and two smaller flowers. And all around, flowing in all directions, are things that make me happy. My little catch phrase here is "happiness is in the little things". Which is true. When you think of it, your life is made up of little things. Links that make up a big chain. Feathers that make up one peacock. So if those things aren't happy, what is? Taken from the list are the following: Kayaking in the ocean; donuts; postcards from relatives; Christmas caroling; splatter painting; whale watching; funny movies; walks on the beach; cousins; small towns; old libraries; mini-golfing; ice cream sundaes; singing in the rain; dancing like a freak (this one I just added); swimming; egg hunts on Easter; Spongebob macaroni and cheese; lying in the snow at night; cookouts with friends; bike riding; fuzzy socks; laughing until it hurts; home videos; slip and slides on hot days; boats; art; family; friends; the gift of life.
Can I really explain why lying in the snow is so fun? Why doesn't lying in my bed watching the snow fall bring me as much joy? Why is whipping paint at a surface so much fun? Why are sugar-filled donuts just so amazing?
It's because of the memories that come from these unique moments. What do I think of when I think of donuts? I think of Dunkin Donuts and all of my memories at home in Boston in the summer. These things make me think of the times when I would go outside with my dad on the first night of snowfall in Peabody. These things make me think of the times me and my best friend made stupid videos together and laughed about them for hours.
These very things, those things that sometimes you don't notice, are the things that truly make your life. When you go back and think through your life, you won't be worrying about what house you owned, what your credit score was when you were 40, or how many AP classes you took in high school. You will remember these things. And in these things we find true happiness.
So go ahead. Eat your donuts. Sing in the rain. Dance like a freak.

16 January 2011

foreign staycations

I think I am way past cabin fever. Let's call my condition something more like cabin flu, or the cabin pox, or maybe even the cabin blues. In short, I am bored out of my mind. Tuesday cannot come soon enough.
When I get into moods like this, where even exciting things don't sound fun, I get into this "I need to leave the country" mindset. It's sort of like an I-need-a-break-from-this-drab-and-humdrum-life idea. Anyway, I go online and look at pictures of places I want to go, and I read about these places, and I imagine myself there and enjoying life. It's like a vacation, but I am staying here.
I would never trade a real trip to, say, the islands of the Mediterranean, but my fantasy trips are pretty fun. If you just sit there and imagine you are somewhere else, it takes you away from your life and plops you somewhere new.
You might be laughing at me or thinking, how lame can one person be, but it really works. Especially if you have the right ambiance. This can come from authentic music.
So here is where I go off on a tangent, and then come back for the final lesson of the day. Try to follow.
Yesterday, I think it was yesterday, I went to Target with my brother and my dad. My dad was looking for I don't know what, and I think my brother wanted some new Lego set. That kid oughta work for Lego. Anyway, I had gone to Target the day before, and I bought that game Risk (the vintage version - not the over-commercialized and trite looking modern knockoffs) - which we played for the majority of today. I went over to the Lifescapes CD setup, because they have a nice little music player that plays selections from each of the CDs so you can see if you like it before you buy it. They aren't like rock and roll CDs though, they are almost like classical CDs that play different types of instrumental music. For example, they have relaxation music, ones like thunder, rain, ocean waves, etc. and they have world music, like "voices of Africa", "rhythm of Mexico", and "relaxing Greek islands". I decided to buy a $15 gift card so I could buy things online.
Today, after we wrapped up our rather long game of Risk, I decided to redeem the card online and choose 2 CDs. It's a pretty good deal, actually. I couldn't decide between all of the ones on my list, so I went to another computer and asked my sister to help me decide. We spent about an hour on the website listening to the samples and rating them. We went through all of the world music and listened to the amazing, the decent, and the pretty funny. They brought back memories of vacations at Marriott resorts, of pictures and movies we've seen, and of places we hoped to go. Each of the songs made me feel happy in a different way, whether the music was passionate, relaxing, carefree, or whimsical. It's interesting to see how music can differ from place to place, and how each can make you feel.
And after listening, you feel like you actually went to all these places. It's very cool. And I felt refreshed and new after listening to each of the unique melodies. It goes to show you hoe influential music is in cultures. Because when we go to visit other places, we go there for not just the food and the monuments, but for the atmosphere itself. The color, the people, the flavors, the smells - and the music!
If you feel like I did, tap into your creativity. If you can't get up and go travel somewhere right now, try a new foreign recipe to spice up your taste buds, or listen to foreign music to get a feel for a new place.
Sometimes we need a break from our lives. Sometimes they become a little monotonous and drab-ish. But that doesn't mean we have to leave the country right now (after all, foreign adventures do need a little bit of forethought). You can have a foreign staycation. And the benefits are endless - no jet lag, no airport security (that means no pat-downs!), no language barrier problems, no lost suitcases, and no exchange rates. Book your foreign staycation today. Profiter des aménagements de la maison!

15 January 2011

stop to smell the roses (or the dead grass)

The great thing about families is that they are always there all the time. The bad thing about families is that they are always there all the time. Sometimes, when you are confined to a space with the same people for a week in the snow and ice, you get a teensy bit bothered by their existence come the sixth day. Luckily only 2 more days until we resume our lives again.
I think today was just a very "you are getting on my nerves" day (this is an understatement). I guess that this will blow over once school starts again. Phew.
Anyways, this morning was a great start to the day because I finally went to swim practice - the first time in two weeks. It was great, as I once alluded to in one of my previous posts (ha! There's more of this alliteration you've been craving all day!). After that, we went to the bead store and we saw some neighbors making necklaces. That's what's nice about bead stores - everyone knows each other and if it's your first time in a bead store they welcome you into the family. It's called crafter's hospitality.
Interspersed throughout the day were some tiffs, to say the least. But what happens is families get a little anxious when they are stuck with each other for long periods of time, like this week, and their patience wires just short circuit. Everyone just has times when they fight. Come on, we're human.
But one thing that really takes the edge off is getting out of the house. I mean, running away and never coming back is a little extreme, but I mean getting outside in the fresh air. Going outside has a lot of benefits, like the fact that you are cleaning your body and your lung with fresh air instead of the stuffy air in your house. Also, the air is filled with fresh oxygen (not that your house isn't and you live in a vacuum, but, just saying) that helps re-oxygenate your brain, especially if you are walking or running. This can make your mind feel refreshed too. The atmosphere itself is a plus too. I mean who doesn't like to look at trees, flowers, shrubs, and all sorts of natural flora (including dead grass)?
And, if you are moving around outside, as in taking a walk, you get your heart and limbs moving, which makes joints feel more flexible and your heart pump blood to more parts of your body, which can help people with circulation problems.
After I played basketball outside for a while and after I walked around, I felt a lot better. I even found a special spot outside that I like to go to when I want to relax. Whether you are sitting or running, in the rain or when it's sunny, being outside is great - even when all you have to look at is dead grass.
So every once in a while, when life's got you down and things aren't working out, stop to smell the roses - or the dead grass.

14 January 2011

plan b

Sometimes it's hard to be happy when lots of things go wrong. Today was one of those sorts of days.
I woke up this morning and a little later my brother came in to let me know that our kitten left a couple presents for us in a place that was not the litter box. It was nothing short of a complete disaster. And the worst part was that you can't blame the poor little kitty.
The morning was spent cleaning, and you know, other interesting things, and let' just say I wouldn't want to have to relive this day (even though I really was not the head of the cleaning department today).
So after a couple hours, we went to Petco to find some hamster food since the poor little rodents are living on scraps (you know because of the storm - when you can't even get to the grocery store, there's no way you can get to the pet store). I'm starting to think that hamsters are really great pets. Who leave presents in their cages.
After yet another, incident, my mom and my sister took Shea to the vet. Apparently he had an infection of some sort, I believe, and it was also a combination of stress and too many changes. Cats don't like changes very much.
So I started thinking how this really isn't great at all. I was so excited to get a cat, and I had always heard that cats were so neat and tidy, and I didn't foresee any problems. I thought everything would go perfectly, as planned.
But sometimes there are roadblocks. Actually there are always roadblocks. Fate will always mess with your plans and things go wrong. Our kitty is sick, and instead of helping him, I was just getting upset that everything wasn't working out.
Perfection does not exist in the world, even if we think it might. We often describe things as perfect, but they often are not. So I guess it's easy to expect perfection, but it's hard to achieve. Plan A, while it may seem handy-dandy, often doesn't work out. Sometimes Plan B will have to suffice.
But it all depends on how you look at it. If I keep thinking things will be great all the time and never preparing myself for setbacks, I will never get very far. This year in swim team I really wanted to make a state cut. but instead I spent the season healing from shoulder problems. No state cut. But my Plan B was to heal and get better for next season, so i can make a state cut then.
Ten years ago, my parents probably never thought they would end up here in Georgia. But their Plan B worked out really well. Probably better than Plan A would have.
Workers, families, athletes, students, leaders, and average-joes face setbacks everyday. But by thinking of those setbacks as modifications to your plan, or challenges, they become less taunting and more surmountable.
Sometimes, settling for Plan B isn't the worst thing in the world. Plan Bs are what make us stronger.

13 January 2011

it's all the same grass

Today was day four in la la land, and tomorrow will make the 7th day of our second winter vacation. We had a short burst of mental stimulation from Wednesday to Friday, but then we were just too tired so now we have a whole week off! How nice.
But really it's just a set up for mental insanity. I can't take this lack of stimulation. I thrived on being overwhelmed; it was my norm. Being completely in over my head was what I did. Actually I have a perfect phrase for this: débordé de travail. It's French for overworked, but I think when you say it in French and fully understand it, it sounds a lot better.
Anyway, my brain, as have the brains of many other humans, has adapted to the fast-paced, visual, modernized, overly-technological world that always has someone preoccupied with a new activity. It has, in short, set us up for boredom.
And right now I am battling my own boredom.
At exactly 1:36pm today, I was on 11alive.com checking for school cancellations. I was sort of praying we didn't have school. I checked and all the counties around us had canceled. I kept refreshing the page until I saw Fulton County: Schools canceled tomorrow. I no longer felt the joy I felt on Monday when I heard Tuesday was canceled. My heart sank a little. I sighed and told my sister and my mom. They shared the same reaction. Actually, my sister just yelled "no school" down the stairs as if she had just one a tissue at a raffle.
Bottom line: get the plows down here, and get me to school!
I never thought I'd say it, but I want to go to school. I need to for my mental sanity. Thinking that I still have to go tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before Tuesday can roll around is really frustrating. I can't go anywhere, the roads are too dangerous. I can't sled anymore because the snow is now ice. I can't go outside to ride my bike, or even go to the grocery store. And I don't even know when my dad can fly in to the airport. It's closed too.
No food in the stores, no restaurants are opened, and the fun of snow days has vanished.
Everyone has heard the phrase "the grass is always greener on the other side". Sometimes the last clause is somewhat implied by just saying "the grass is always greener". But really, it's not. We all have the same grass. Sure, we might all like to have the fancy and exclusive zoysia, but sometimes bermuda grass isn't all that worse (I'm literally talking about grass now).
I thought that having a week of no school would be absolutely amazing. I could do anything I wanted! I wouldn't have to worry about school and I could stay up all night. But now, after a couple days of it, it's not as great as I hoped. I pretty much play on my fiddle, blog, use my iPad some more, email, watch reruns, and go online. And that gets old after a while.
So while I thought it would be great, and I complained about school and fantasized about how great everything would be if I stopped going, I was wrong. We always think the grass will be greener, but we never know what's over "the other side".
We all think that we would love to be celebrities, with their perfectly coiffed hair, their designer outfits, and their glamorous looks and lifestyle. But you don't know the other side of it. The press on your face every minute, your life in a bubble for scrutination (a neologism that I created), and who knows what else. We think we would love to go from drab to fab by stepping into the spotlight, but we really just have to accept ourselves, our lives, and our status.
And who can forget one of the best literary works of all time: Lord of the Flies. Boy (ha - it's funny because it's a book about boys), did they think it was great when none of the adult survived the plane crash. Paradise flooded their minds. Alone on an island with no rules. What could go wrong? Evidently, everything (ooh, nice assonance. I can commend myself on good annotations). They miss their parents, and they wish they had some sort of rule system. Just like before when they complained about that lifestyle.
It's easy to think that another life is better than yours because you only see the perks of that life. We only see the glam of Hollywood (well, we're only supposed to see the glam). When you think of snow days, you think of the snow and the fun. But what about the ice - the roads, the danger, the closing of not only school but businesses? It stops all of our lives.
It's important to appreciate your life for what it is. Even if you aren't happy with it. If you are not in war, poverty, danger, poor health, or starvation, you are probably in the top 5% in the world, at least. So when I'm in school, I shouldn't be thinking about how great it would be if we had a snow day. And ironically, when we have a week of snow days, I shouldn't be thinking about how awful it is. I should find the happiness in each. When I am in school, I can think of how good it is that I can get an education when many people can't. Plus, I get to see all my friends and my teachers. I get to learn cool things. When I have snow days, I can do what I want to, but I can also connect with people I don't see all the time, like my cousins and my best friend, who both live far away.
Make the most of your time even if you don't love every moment. And don't be envious of the lives of others, when you might not know how hard they have it, or how much they may envy you. The grass isn't always greener; often it's not. It's all the same grass.

12 January 2011

my vacation scrapbook called "life"

Here is a question, and it's not a trick. Guess where I won't be going tomorrow?If you said school, you would be correct! Your prize is getting to read my blog!
Today when I woke up, my mom suggested that we do something with our lives instead of sledding and walking around doing nothing very productive. I mean one snow day is nice, and so is another, but after three and now four (I doubt we're going Friday, and we have Monday off for MLK day; when do we go to school?) days off, it gets a little old.
It was a somewhat poignant sentence. Thinking that I've lived the past few days not really doing anything. Looking back and not remembering doing anything very significant.
Today we went and risked our lives driving across town in what should have taken 15 minutes. It took double that. But we made it, even with a few ice scares, beeping cars and flashing headlights. Imagine if we actually hydroplaned. Yikes.
We went across town not only to search for food in the almost empty grocery stores (it's on CNN; it's that bad) but to paint. We go to this art studio every so often and paint. It's quite a place. We know the owner and we are frequent customers, so we popped in while she was having a snow day painting class. It was a change from the same-old sit in the house, put on the snow pants and sled, then come home and play the fiddle. It was fun and memorable. I'll always remember this day - the painting I did, how peaceful it was, the ice on the road and how it almost killed us.
Think about it like this. If you go on vacation and you are only there for a couple days, you try and fit as many activities in as you can. You make the most of your time. You use every moment and make it count. But in our own lives, not many people will care to make sure that every minute counts.
Perhaps it's because we know that we won't be returning to our vacation oasis - for a while, at least. Maybe it's because we know our time there is short. But look around people - this place isn't forever. So pretend your life is a vacation and make every moment in your paradise count.
You can also look at life as a scrapbook. When you go on vacation and make a scrapbook about it, you have oodles of things to write about and you have dozens of pictures to fill it with. When is the last time you sat down and wrote about your day? For me it was today, the day before that, and the day before that, but that's because I blog (whether you read it or not..). And when was the last time you took a picture of your family? Probably last Christmas or on Halloween when you were dressed like the bride of Frankenstein.
People often feel the same way about life as they do about high school. A means to an end. Every event leads to another, which leads to another and another. Then you reach a goal. Then it starts all over. On vacation, it's about enjoying each minute. No goals, no pressures (well, it really all depends).
Maybe we should all just sit back and enjoy the view from the kitchen sink, the office desk, or the driver's seat. With enough positive energy, you can make these places your own beach chair.

11 January 2011

snowballs for change

This week has been insane. No school for Monday and Tuesday, and now no school on Wednesday? It's almost as if the Board of Education feels we shouldn't even go to school for the rest of the week. And there are rumors..
Another great and productive day out on the slopes. This morning I woke up and looked out the window to see if any new powder lay there, but our snow tracks from yesterday were still there. I hoped the slope would be fine too. I ran downstairs and had my entire breakfast, including making it, eating it, and putting all the stuff away, in 8 minutes. Maybe 9.
Then I put all my sow garb on and ran back outside. How awesome it smells outside when it snows! the ground was all icy, and I grinned this gigantic grin, knowing it was a surefire sign of school cancellation.
Then me and my kid siblings returned to the infamous big hill, armed with more makeshift sleds. The hill looked all slick and flat, almost like a downhill ice rink. All the kids were slipping all over the place. It was sort of dangerous. I was slightly disappointed, and we only stayed for an hour or two until it wasn't fun anymore. No one else seemed to be having much fun either.
We trudged down the street with our "sleds" and sat in the front lawn. I looked over at the giant pile of snowballs that my sister made the day before. There were like 200 of these little snowballs here. It was like an open arsenal right on the porch. She suggested that we take them to fix up the big hill. We'd take all the snow balls, smash them on the thin parts, and presto - the big hill would be fixed. I thought it was a great idea, but I didn't think anyone would actually want us to fix it. Sometimes kids get agitated when you try and change things. Kids. They're funny people.
Instead, we went out to lunch, which proved to be quite fun when you are one of 3 groups of people in the restaurant (everything is closed because of the storm. fun stuff.); sometimes it's fun to be in the only ones in a restaurant. It makes you feel like you are in an abandoned town after the gold rush. I had the best meal ever - spaghetti bolognese, sauce on the side. It's just so good.
Then we came home to figure out how to lug 200+ snowballs up a hill to get to another hill. After mapping out our plan, we took all the snowballs up the hill in large buckets.
When we got there, there were probably already ten kids up there, aimlessly sledding down the hill, now brown from the dirt, into the creek. One of the kids noticed my brother coming and asked earnestly what we were carrying. My brother replied, "Snowballs - we're going to fix the big hill!"
We walked right through the hill, towards the middle where the most damage was done, and started patching up the spots with snowballs. The other kids just looked at each other. They didn't try to stop us, but they didn't seem to interested in helping either.
Much to my dismay, we ran out of snowballs. It only covered a square foot of space, and we needed at least a thousand snowballs for the amount of snow that wasn't on the hill anymore. That's when I asked for a shovel. One of the neighborhood girls who was my brother's age went and got one, and said "Can I help you shovel?"
My brother and sister had moved to different parts of the hill to repair, and I started shoveling and passing snow to other parts. As I looked over and took off my hat, I saw another kid next to my brother smoothing out the snow. And towards the top, at least four of the kids formed an assembly line to make more snowball to be transported down the hill. Soon all the kids, even the little ones, were helping by either making snowballs, shovelling, packing snow, or smoothing out the surface.
Everyone was working together to get the snow down and make the hill safer and more fun to ride on. It wasn't just me and my brother and sister - it was everyone. I didn't even know who some of those kids were; this was my first time seeing some of them. But they appreciated that we initiated change, and so they were eager to help. It was so cool to see that this group of kids could come together and help each other to make the hill better for everyone. And everyone got more excited about the hill after we finished reconstructing it. We gave a new hope to the hill.
This collaborative effort was not premeditated or forced, nor did I give people assignments and jobs, as other kids had tried to do yesterday when the hill's surface began to worsen. The best kind of teamwork is when the group is passionate about what they are doing, and I learned that you can't force people to do something and expect it to turn out well. We did a great job and everyone was happy. And seeing everyone's faces when they went down the improved hill gave me a lot of pride and happiness.
So if you don't like something, change it. And don't worry if other people don't support your cause - set the precedence for change and others will follow. Be the leader you want to follow.

10 January 2011

don't deny it

Today was the perfect quintessential winter day. It snowed and we didn't have school. I mean what more could a kid want? And it gets even better -- we don't have school tomorrow either!
Last night when I went to bed, after having written my music post, the wind was blowing, but nothing was falling from the sky. I wasn't going to complain about school being canceled, but I didn't see why. I didn't think that when I woke up, I would see happy tapestries of white snow draped around the whole neighborhood!
I had the usual for breakfast - 4 pieces of toast, lightly buttered, cinnamon sugar, microwaved for 6 or 7 seconds (I've got it down to a science.) - then our neighbor happily let us borrow their family's old snow pants, and we tried on a bunch of them to see which would fit. Which can be rather comical, especially when you spend ten minutes trying to shove your stomach into pants that my kid brother couldn't get into.
Then we brought some inner tubes outside and started sledding! You're probably thinking, inner tubes? What's wrong with these freaks? Don't they know that those are for pools? Yes, we know. But it doesn't now here much, and we left all our sleds in the homeland (Massachusetts). So we'll use anything we can find. And evidently, so will every kid in our neighborhood - inner tubes, deflated inner tubes, deflated inner tubes in trash bags, boogie boards, half-broken boogie boards, boogie boards (broken or not) in trash bags (the trash bag thing makes it more slick), lids from dress up boxes, and even the side of a wagon. Some people who thought they were really exclusive had actual WSG (winter sport gear; sometimes it's cool to make up acronyms) like snowboards and those saucer things. Others of us were stuck with skateboards with no wheels.
But we didn't care. It was snowing! Actual snow was on the ground! Real fresh powder! Not just an inch or a little sprinkling - it was like, Woah! I can't even see the grass! Even if I dig down a little! We played with the inner tubes for a while until they popped or snapped or just surrendered to our rough-housing. We frolicked around in the fresh powder and wet down the huge hill in the street which took us about 70 feet.
Then we went to...the big hill. It was not just a little hump or a small pimple upon the earth. This was a mountain. Well not really. But it was SICK when you rode it. You'd just keep going and going and hope you wouldn't spin out of control into the creek. We were out there for like 7 hours in this powder. It was nuts.
I didn't just go around and prance through the snowbanks alone. As you can see I said "we" a lot. This we is me, my brother, my brother's friends, their friends, some other people, and their friends. Pretty much a bunch of fourth and eighth grade boys. I was the only girl there who actually sled down the hill as hard as everyone else. There were some other girls there, younger than me, who just sat and watched and frowned upon our youthful glee. They sat and drank their hot drinks and talked about teenage drama and whatnot. They didn't even have snow pants on. They just wore their jeggings and their fashion-forward jackets and their cutesy little hats. I, on the other hand, probably at least 3 to 5 years their senior, was sporting a different, rather vogue look. It's called the Snow Day Collection. It's an ensemble starting with some hike-em-up black snow pants (overalls, of course, with the stretch strap and the zipper in front!), greyish/black boots (my mother's), a nice, puffy, bright-blue jacket that doesn't really fit (or does it - maybe I'm just bringing back the cropped jacket style), some big REI gloves, and to top it all off, the Peruvian hat with the tassels coming down that makes me look like I'm (1) Ralphie from A Christmas Story and (2) bald. And underneath the ensemble is the most attractive of looks: it's the baggy pajama shirt with leggings and two pairs of socks, varying in height and pattern. Good thing the attractive part is on the outside.
So while fashionista me is flying down the hill and yelling and laughing with all the other neighborhood boys, I noticed that the girls who were not sledding did not seem that happy. They just seemed a little sad. Why be sad on a snow day?
Perhaps they were just a little embarrassed by my getup and baffled by my carefree, "I don't care if I'm a junior in high school, I'm going to sled down this hill!" attitude. Perhaps they were almost envious of me, of the fact that I didn't let my reputation get in front of my fun. The difference was that I woke up saying that I was going to have fun. I didn't care if everyone was whispering, "Woah, did you see that freak? Isn't she like, in high school? Why is she like, playing, in the snow?" Today was a day to be yourself and have fun. And a lot of times it's hard to just ignore what other people think of you, because in our society, first impressions and your "image" are everything. I mean, I wouldn't act like this all the time. A lot of times I have people fooled that I'm this way mature, ultra-slick and cool person when most of the time I dance and sing and tell stupid jokes and have fun.
But who wants to live their lives stuck in a mold, looking perfect, and never expressing who you are? I bet all of those girls would have loved to have even one ride down the hill. The point is, don't be afraid of being a kid and being you. I had the best day ever because I didn't let what people think get in front of me. Even if I did spend it with my 10-year-old brother, his friends, and a bunch of middle school boys.
Don't deny your inner child. That is the most important voice in your head.