When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cliched Movies

So many people use movie titles or lines, or some vague rewording of a movie title or well-known line, in their every day communications. I am sure that some people learned them from others without ever having seen or heard of the movie that is referenced. Examples include "Play it again, Sam" from Casablanca or singing some version of "Singing in the Rain" during a thunderstorm. One of the ones I encounter quite often is "the good, the bad, and the ugly" from the Clint Eastwood movie of that title. Yes, I have actually seen the movie, though only once and most of my memory for it is fuzzy. My daughter and I have modified it as a conversation starter for after school.

I got tired of asking her how her day went and getting the same noncommittal response of "fine" or "okay" even when things weren't so great. So, I tweaked the "'good, bad, ugly" into each of us talking about our good, bad, and odd of the day. I figured ugly could be interpreted as just adding a second negative, so we talk about our odd to mention something funny, weird, or interesting (either positive, negative or neutral) from our day. This has allowed us to learn more about each other and to spark more conversations than the typical "how was your day" would illicit. Also, it helps us balance pessimism with optimism by requiring at least one "good" to be found throughout the day. It's not always easy, but I have found that it helps keep us looking on the bright side of our day so we don't come home with too much stress or negative emotions. Plus, I'm regularly conversing with my daughter and encouraging her to keep me in the loop.

So, thank you to Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Lenone for creating one of the most cliched, yet relevant and useful titles I have ever encountered.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding the Positive

It certainly has been quite a while since I posted here. Don't get me wrong, I still have had plenty to be grateful for in all that time, I simply did not feel motivated enough (or something else continuously came up) to post.

I thought I would try an exercise that I often ask my psychology students to try. I am going to evaluate the past week and list 20 positive things that occurred from October 12, 2011 to October 19, 2011. I always claim to them that it should be easy when you make the attempt and that the exercise itself helps to reduce stress by highlighting the positives. So, here goes.

1. Finally set up a date for my daughter's tonsillectomy.
2. Finally got the evaluation for my daughter's speech and physical therapy and will begin sessions soon.
3. My body seems to finally be adapting to my prescription.
4. My follow-up appointment went well.
5. I had quite a few classes with an early lecture so my students could have class time to work on their team projects.
6. All team projects were completed in a single day, with no overflow.
7. An unanswered question about a student was finally settled.
8. I discovered a graphic novel series (Amelia Rules!) that both my daughter and I can appreciate.
9. I successfully made dinner more than half the week.
10. I kept up with the dishes for 4 days in a row.
11. I made it almost a complete week without shouting at my daughter in the morning.
12. I made more progress in Lego Universe for both of my characters.
13. I discovered a new recipe for a breakfast food that my daughter enjoys--popovers.
14. I am only 2 quizzes behind on my grading.
15. I will most likely not have to stay up until 3am the night my grades are due because most of the assignments I have left to grade are quick reads.
16. I had fewer than 10 students with more than 6 (out of 25) missing assignments with only one week of the semester to go.
17. My schedule adjustments worked out perfectly.
18. I made it through an entire week without taking a nap.
19. My sunburn is not as sore as it was a couple days ago.
20. I made it to the bottom of this list and I can still think about more things to add!

So, I did it. I came up with 20 positive things from the past 7 days. This was actually quite easy and enjoyable to accomplish. I may try this again. My to-do list has not dissipated, but it is good to remind yourself every once in a while about what you are capable of doing through the evidence.

I shall endeavor to post once again at a shorter interval. Stay positive!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I don't particularly care for my birthday. I don't have a rational explanation as to why, I suppose I simply do not enjoy the thought of empty well-wishes from near strangers. I have removed my birthday from Facebook so that I do not get those fake sentiments from others. Let's face it, of the 103 "friends" I have on Facebook (a mere pittance by social networking standards), I only speak to a handful on a semi-regular basis and I rarely comment on other people's status posts. That's just me.

So, when my birthday rolled around recently (I'm not revealing the date), only my family contacted me with well wishes. My husband and daughter treated me to dinner and Lego Pirates. I treated myself to Pirates 4, courtesy of my parents. My older brother called and my sister-in-law (brother's wife) sent me a text. That's it. That was enough. I know where I stand with them and I know who my "friends" are (not many, by the birthday rule, but then again, I'm an extreme introvert, so I'm not really hurt). It's something like the "It's a Wonderful Life" phenomenon. Just about everyone at one point in their life wonders if they have made an impact on others and if they will be missed or remembered. One way to do that is to simply not remind anyone of your birthday and see if you're important enough for them to remember when it rolls around. You only tell them your birthday once, then leave the rest up to them.

Do I remember other people's birthdays? Yes, I keep track of the important ones. I don't wish a Facebook "friend" Happy Birthday unless I mean it. This does not mean that I wish them harm, it just means that I take the definition of a relationship bond seriously and I don't want to demean it with an empty gesture.

The other reason to be grateful for birthdays is a reminder of another year of gifts and graces from God. They represent the beginning of another year in which to make your mark on this world, to do good for others, to learn and grow in your personal journey. Another year older truly is a celebration. Perhaps that is why I am particular about with whom I celebrate it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Standardized Testing

I know many people view testing, especially standardized testing, with much trepidation, fear, dread, horror, and/or disdain. I have always seen it in a different light.

As a tester, I loved taking standardized tests. This was the one time I could be in a truly quiet and focused classroom. I enjoyed the opportunity to answer challenging questions at my own pace with very few distractions from other individuals who were not on the same motivational plane as I. Honestly, I always came out of any standardized test (SAT, NEDT, Iowa, etc.) the same way I now come out of a meditation session: refreshed, relaxed, with renewed focus. I never suffered from test anxiety on standardized tests. I was leery of course tests, though.

As an instructor, standardized testing provides me with a break from the all-too-often discouraging prospect of trying to enlighten students who are in my class forcibly (not by choice). It gets tedious and depressing to see students day after day sleeping, playing on cell phones, reading, or talking while I am trying to pass on knowledge. It's insulting and hurtful. BUT, this blog is about positives, so let's go back to that. As an instructor of a college course at a high school, I fit nicely into the loop hole so that I don't actually have to deal directly with the standardized testing environment. I don't have to pace the room in near-boredom, watch-dogging students to ensure they are on task and not cheating somehow. I get a relaxed schedule and a "free day" this year.

As a parent, I get to encourage my child and give her the stress inoculation tools that I try to instill in my students. I have found that the more confidence I have in her, the more confidence she has in herself. That is exceedingly rewarding and heart-warming. In addition, she does not have homework to bring home, so that's one less "fight" or "tooth-pulling" session to worry about.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Mother

There are times when dejection and depression set in, primarily due to stress. There are times when I question my sanity and purpose in life. There are times when I wonder if I'm doing any good on this earth. There are times when there seems to be no reason to keep working, when I have a desire to quit fighting, when I think I should stop persevering day to day, when I just want to give up.

At times like these, all I really need is a talk with someone who really cares about me. That's when I'm grateful for my mother. She's not a perfect woman and I didn't have an idyllic childhood. Neither did I have a disastrous, chaotic childhood. I do know that she loves me, though. Just hearing her voice, when all the other voices in my life seem to be ignoring me, lifts my spirits. I'll admit that I don't always listen to her advice. I don't know of any child who doesn't believe that they know what's best for them. But I do understand that the fact that she's giving me advice means that she is listening to my woes and that she cares enough to help me.

Moms are all too often taken for granted. Too often do we doubt their intelligence or their sanity. Too often do we undervalue their worth, their contributions to our health and well-being. I thank God for my mother, for just one person who can bring me back from the brink, letting me know that there is always a reason to keep plodding along.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mute Button

Quite possibly one of the greatest ideas is the mute button. There are times when the noise of electronic devices becomes too distracting. Rather than rant and rave, it's a simple push or click to silence things for a while. Silent cell phones, quiet TVs, muted computer programs. The sound of silence is a wonderful thing when you need a moment to clear your head or get some work completed. Too often do we forget that we can turn off our devices or silence them. Instead, we feel enslaved by their insistent cacophonous clamor to "look at me" or "pay attention to this" when all we need is a moment with our own thoughts. When you know your will power to ignore or resist the siren call of the beeping alert is too weak, reach over and press that mute button.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hamish Macbeth Mysteries by M.C. Beaton

(NOTE: These are my personal opinions and not a paid review or endorsement for any product or works.)

I discovered these books a little while ago and I have been "eating them up" like crazy over the past couple of weeks. There are 27 books in the series and I've read 14 so far. I'm currently reading my 15th title. I haven't really been reading them in order because I grab them from my local library every time I see a title I've not read yet. I've exhausted the titles available at my branch, so I've started reserving them through inter-library loan from other branches within the system. I think the main character of Hamish Macbeth is the primary draw for me. He's very easy-going and relate-able. While everyone in the series constantly wonder why he is so unambitious, it's refreshing to see a character that you can count on to stay put. It's almost like watching a favorite TV series with the confidence that it won't quit on you before you get tired of it. It's true (for me) that sometimes the plots can be a little formulaic, however, I see that as more of a comfort than a nuisance. A little bit of predictability mixed with a few surprises makes the reads so enjoyable. I have found myself reading 2-3 of the novels a week, which is a rare feat indeed for me. I haven't been as voracious a reader since I was in high school, before the cares of (first) full-time college classes and (then/currently) a job and family demanded the majority of my time. I find the writing and welcome pauses in the story make it easy to take "small bites" if I need to or to feast upon many chapters in a single sitting if I can steal the time.

I still have a good number of books to read in the series, but I'm seriously considering giving Beaton's Agatha Raisin series a try once I finish with Hamish. I think the best part for me is that there are so many titles available to fill my curiosity and desire for more time with the colorful, and very human, characters of this Scottish Highland backdrop.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Is it possible to find a silver lining in allergies?! In continuing my personal challenge to find positives in everything I encounter, and thus be more grateful for everything in life, I'm certainly going to try.

The most common allergic reaction to anything is sneezing. This could allow you to learn who cares for you when they say "Bless You" or some other similar response.

Let's say you break out in hives. These are quite possibly the worst allergic reaction to anything, in my personal experience. The constant itching anywhere your epidermis exists drives me batty! So, what could possibly be the upside? How about your own personal heater? Hives have this nifty quality in that they tend to generate an enormous amount of heat wherever they are found. This is especially helpful in the winter.

My current optimistic challenge, however, is figuring out how to be grateful for the swollen eye (looks very much like Pink Eye, but it's allergy-induced, NOT caused by bacteria, so it's not the contagious kind). Well, I did manage to get an excessive amount of sleep last night because of it (my body naturally wants extra sleep when something malfunctions so it can try to repair it). A red swollen eye is also an interesting conversation piece. My students were naturally curious about my eye and some of them couldn't stop staring at it. While that was a bit awkward, at least I knew that they were not falling asleep in class or playing on their cell phones. :-)