When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 28, 2012 Squirrel of the Month

This month's Squirrel of the Month is Foamy the Squirrel. He is very much not safe for work, or children, or people who have issues with logic. Created by Jonathan Ian Mathers for illwillpress.com, Foamy rants on numerous topics from parenting and bullying to printer cartridges. While his language is extreme and coarse, his arguments are typically solid. He essentially says what many people think. As many commentators state, "It's really sad when the one making the most sense is an animated squirrel." If you have ever felt that you just had a useless argument with someone who absolutely refuses to listen to any viewpoint except their own, then do yourself a favor and see if Foamy has weighed in on that particular issue. You may feel vindicated, or you may at least get a laugh out of it.

Yes, this is a very short post for me. I think Foamy actually speaks for himself in the Neurotically Yours videos, most of which you can find on YouTube or on illwillpress.com. I find it good in small doses, no more than 4-5 videos at a time, so that I don't start thinking too negatively in general. But, in limited amounts, Foamy's rationality (a rational squirrel, go figure) is refreshing. It helps keep my faith in critical thinking skills alive.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Complaints, or Why I Started This Blog

There was a time when I was part of the "my life sucks" sub culture. I used to complain about things in life that I perceived as bad. I used to have long discussions with friends about how much better life should be but wasn't.  Before I knew it, I found myself complaining about people who were constantly complaining (this is still my major complaint in life, as I sometimes become overwhelmed by the negativism of others). There seems to have evolved a sub-language that involves a complaint code.of sorts. For some people, the only way to relate with them is by finding something in common to kvetch about and share in a collective misery. After too many occasions of this maladaptive social pattern, I came to a very important conclusion. I just got tired of playing the "my life sucks" game. The whole point of this type of social interaction is to try to one-up each other by seeing who has the most to complain about and who can kvetch the loudest about their woes. I decided I was tired of losing. Any way you play this "game" you are going to lose. Either your life is the worst, or you aren't the most special because you don't have it as bad as someone else. I found too many people who play this game to win. I decided they could continue to wallow in their own self-pity. They obviously did not need any kind of support from me to find their own twisted brand of happiness. As a Roman Catholic, I grew up learning about saints and martyrs. I was taught that self-sacrifice is a good thing. But what makes a martyr saintly is the fact that they never flaunted their suffering. They did not purposefully put their sacrifice on display so that people could admire them. They became admired and venerated AFTER the fact.

One positive has come out of my experiences with the "my life sucks" game. Now I try to go out of my way to focus on the positive. If I find myself complaining (even just privately to myself) about something or someone, then I force myself to think of something positive about the person or thing. Failing that, I try to look for something else positive to focus on. Therefore, as much as I find it exceedingly annoying when a person goes on a complaining rant, I am grateful because it gives me an opportunity (a challenge, even) to find the bright side of things. Sometimes that might mean trying to help that person out of their complaint funk. Sometimes it means I take a break from them so that I can recharge my positive energy. I have enough stress in my life without forcibly perpetuating a worse situation with a negative attitude. Sometimes I post to one of my blogs or Twitter in the hope of turning a complaint into a teaching moment. That was part of the inspiration for this blog and, in a sideways manner, my Psych Vocab blog.

So, when life throws me lemons, I try to thank it for the snack.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


As a child of the 1980s, I grew up with a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). For all you whipper-snappers, this was the great-great grandfather of the Nintendo WII. It predates the 3DS by quite a bit, as well. It came out during a time when the only "portable" games were the kind you could draw on paper or the ones made of plastic pieces and/or magnets. Okay, enough attempts at sounding old (I'm really still in young adulthood, if you want to get technical, but technology always seems to age people more quickly).

My older brother dominated the NES. He beat everyone at just about every game we played on it, except for one. The only game in which I seemed to be able to match my brother and/or excel was Tetris. There have been numerous clones and several legitimate versions of the original "Russian" puzzle game. There were even two versions released around the same time when I was a kid. One version's two-player mode had the players taking turns, the other version had the players competing head-to-head on the same screen. My parents marveled at our ability to meet the game's challenges. After about level 14 you stopped noticing the changes in speed or soundtrack tempo; you just fell into a zone of block placement, keeping everything as tightly packed as possible and eliminating as much space as you could. I found out later that this relatively simple puzzle game had long-lasting benefits, beyond the ability to rack up a higher score.

Thanks to hours of Tetris playing, I have an uncanny ability to pack items into luggage, bags, totes, closets, trunks, corners, etc. that amazes some people. When I occasionally remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, I keep myself on budget by filling the bags as I shop (e.g. limiting myself to only 2 bags this trip so I reduce impulse buying). The cashier and bagger are often amazed at how I get everything into the bags. Often they are unable to replicate my feat and I sometimes end up with an extra plastic bag as a result. Packing for vacation works the same way. I tend to repack my daughter's bag so that it is no longer overflowing. Sometimes I (or my husband, who is also a student of Tetris) repack the trunk and, lo and behold, we can fit an extra suitcase. The Tetris skills come in handy on any trip because we almost always end up bringing back more than we took with us. The skill also comes in handy for crafting and sewing, as well as cleaning and organizing.

If you've never played Tetris, give a try. The more you play it, the more you start to see the world as a series of objects that can fit almost anywhere with just the right tweaking.

Friday, September 7, 2012


I have become either spoiled or liberated, depending upon your point of view, when it comes to watching television. We have two Tivo machines, each a dual-tuner, in our house, which means we can record up to 4 shows at any given time. Our Tivos work with our cable service, and they worked with our satellite service when we were subscribed. My husband bought the machines, so they are ours no matter what service we use. He also upgraded them with much larger hard drives in order to hold more shows, especially HD programs. We have had a Tivo of some kind for at least 10 years now. I have a hard time recalling when I last watched anything live in real time. Because of the Tivo, I can watch my preferred shows when I am ready to watch them. We have a sporadic schedule, between the classes I teach, my office hours, and our daughter's extra curricular activities, so we are rarely home during "prime time" or at any time our shows air. Plus, many of our preferred programs air simultaneously, so we would always end up missing one to watch the other. This way we can record both at the same time and watch them when we have time, not when the networks dictate. It's also more enjoyable for me, with my "fits and starts" squirrelly nature, to sit and watch a marathon of 5-10 episodes of a program, rather than watch one episode and wait for the continuation the following week. I enjoy the season pass option very much. The Tivo will pick up any episode of the selected show on that channel, which helps when there are already two shows during a specific time slot and the network decides to air an encore of the show later in the day. Watching shows only on the Tivo also helps us keep an eye on what our daughter watches. We record pre-approved shows and she can watch a couple of episodes here and there, after homework and/or chores are completed. TV takes on a more rewarding function in this case, instead of a necessity or routine. If you follow me on Twitter (@eowyn35), then you know that I have a tendency to sit down for marathons of shows--usually History Channel, Law & Order: SVU, or Criminal Minds--after my daughter goes to bed while I work on my various crafting and sewing projects. The only downside of delayed watching is the missed opportunity for "water cooler" conversations about last night's show, but I am split between two different work sites, so I rarely get a chance for many workplace discussions. All-in-all, it's hard for me to imagine watching anything live at my home any more. I am very grateful for the Tivo and the freedom it gives me in selecting my entertainment when I want it.