Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Don't just "like" it, tell them you like it!

This may sound crazy coming from a person who is perceived to be a social media professional and aficionado. But I'm tired of social media. It makes people forget to be nice.
When did people stop being nice?
I think social media killed nice feedback. Hear me out.
When we like something now (whether it be a “Facebook like” or just a like like), we share it. We “Facebook like” it, or share it on Twitter, email links, etc. But do we ever bother to stop and leave a nice comment for the author anymore? Or are the comments sections of online posts reserved for arguments and nasty responses?
There does seem to be an exception when it comes to blogs, I admit. Maybe that is because of the more personal nature of blogging, and the connection readers feel to the blogger. But when it comes to professional writing, does anyone ever feel compelled to leave a positive comment? Or do they “share” it now?
Of course, sharing a well-liked article with your friends is the ultimate compliment to a writer. But unfortunately, the writer will likely never know that it was shared with others. The writer only sees the negative feedback that was left, oftentimes ripping the writer to pieces.
Sure, yes, I am a writer, with 1-3 pieces published online every day, so I am writing this from a personal place of exhaustion and rejection. I've had my fill this week with negative feedback that professional conduct prohibits me from addressing. But oh, how very badly I wish I could respond to some of these people and correct their judgments and condemnation. But alas, I shall not.
(For an example of completely wrong judgments, check out Buy Gun Stocks When a Democrat is in Office. The comment, “this is just another Ron Paul plug by a disgruntled Republican” deserves, nay, begs for correction.)
I'm not writing this as a plea for positive feedback. I'm jaded enough to weather the storms that blow my way. I write about divisive subjects (stock market, finances, religion, and politics), I have it coming. If I don't irritate a few people, I'm probably not doing my job well.
But I do write this on behalf of other writers. The world of writing is anything but fun. You invest your heart and soul into everything you do. Every piece of work (yes, even the ones about the stock market) is personal. Next time you like something you read, don't just “like” it online. Leave a comment and support the writer- the underpaid, hard-working, oft-maligned writer. Tell the the writer you appreciate the perspective, the analysis, or even just the fact that they looked into the subject. Otherwise, the writer may never know he or she did a good job, and will be left with nothing but the negative feedback to gauge the success of his or her career.

Monday, March 26, 2012

To date, or not to date. I hate this question.

At one point in time this blog was somewhat about dating, adventures in business travel, and my ever so exciting social life.
That was a very long time ago.
Now I have almost no social life to speak of, can't remember the last time I went on a date, and business travel involves walking from my bedroom to the tv room.
And yet in 4 weeks I have a wedding to attend. Not just any wedding, my little sister's wedding. This is a very traditional, formal wedding. (Not a temple Mormon wedding.) The kind with dancing, and a seated dinner. (And please, please not a boring receiving line for 3 hours reception.) (I'm in the wedding party. I have no desire to stand in a receiving line all night. I don't even go through receiving lines when I attend wedding receptions. BORING.)
Which brings me to my point. At LDS weddings we don't care about bringing dates to wedding receptions. (Why? Because 9 times out of 10, it is just a receiving line with a few appetizers served. You stand around, shake a hand or two, eat something, and leave. Mormon weddings are painfully not exciting, let alone formal or traditional. Unless you are the couple getting married.) But, since this is hardly what I'd call an LDS wedding, I'm debating on whether or not I should bring a date? Or do I risk it and be the old maid with no date at her baby sister's wedding? Or if I bring a date am I going to have to spend the next six months to a year explaining it was just a date, and no, he's nothing serious? (Because, yes, that is what will happen.) No, I don't care what other people think. But I also don't want to have to spend the whole evening dancing with my nephews. I've seen the guest list. No single men my age.
But then, when you see just how truly awful I look in the bridesmaid's dress, you will also understand my hesitancy to ask someone to be seen with me all night. (It's a lovely dress. I actually helped pick it out. However, the color is just about the worst possible color on me possible. I look downright sickly and odd in it.)
Yes, all shallow problems. But nonetheless, things that are forced upon us in the "first world."
It makes me miss living in a developing country where I would never care about such things.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lessons to be Learned

Every Sunday I feel like I learn something new from the young teenage girls I work with at church. Today was no exception.
All of our girls are wonderful, and each of them for their own special reason. We have one girl who has a heart as big as the world, and one of the most loveable things about her is that she has no idea just how rare she is.
Today one of the other leaders, who is a grandmother of a special needs little girl, announced that she will be walking in a March of Dimes event in a few months. She invited the girls, that if they wanted to, to save their pocket change to donate to her fundraising. That is all she asked of them- pocket change. If you know our girls, it will come as no surprise that immediately they started asking if they could walk with her too. And I strongly suspect that some of them will actually do it, because that is just who they are. (However, I'm sure they don't know the fundraising aspect of it all, and once they find out, it may hold several of them back.)
The minute our church meetings ended, this one sweet girl quickly left the room. Where she went I don't know. But she reappeared just minutes later holding a handful of pocket change. Whether she got it from her own purse, her mother's purse, or the ash tray in the car (that's where all of my change is!), I don't know. But it brought tears to my eyes and I got all choked up at how excited she was to rush back in there and hand over her money.
This same sweet girl asks me regularly about my friends' son who is fighting a brain tumor at St Jude. A few months ago I taught the girls how to knit hats, with the intent of donating our finished hats to St Jude. I told the girls about this little boy, and since then his name has popped up in prayers, and in comments to me. She tells me that she tries to remember to pray for him every day, and always wants an update on his condition.
I've decided to make this sweet girl my example this week- to serve and love unconditionally. There is something to be learned from everyone we meet. And this week, I will learn from a sixth grade, twelve year old girl.

Trial By Jury

I watch a LOT of news. I read a LOT of news. We're talking hours and hours of it every day. I have to do it for my different jobs, and I really don't mind doing it because I like to be informed. I've been following the Trayvon Martin case because I can't avoid it, quite frankly. Normally, I don't like to follow big crime stories like this (for instance, Casey Anthony, OJ, etc). I'm not a fan at all of "trial by media" stories. If one could go so far as to be politically and morally against "trial by media" stories, I'd be in that camp.
Have you ever noticed how these "trial by media" stories rarely ever go the direction the media-tainted public thinks they should go? Again, Casey Anthony, OJ, Michael Jackson and the like. Somehow, every time the media hypes a story and does their own "digging," the jury in the courtroom, which hears the real police evidence, and the real witness testimonies (as compared to the "testimony" of some guy's third grade teacher who talks about what a good guy he was), the jury decides differently from the public.
Okay, maybe not every single time. But actually, I can't think of an over-hyped case that went the way the media portrayed it to. Can you? Maybe its just too late at night for my mind to recall one.
With the Casey Anthony trial I went out of my way to not read anything or listen to anything before the trial. I kept my mouth shut when the verdict came out because so many people were so angry about it. But because I never heard what the media said, and I only heard the recaps of what was said in the courtroom, I agreed with the verdict.
And that's my fear with the Trayvon case, that the nation is whipping itself up into this big racism frenzy, and in the end, that isn't going to be relevant. My biggest fear is that Al Sharpton et al are going to keep playing this race card, and racial profiling story, and that in the courtroom we are going to learn that Trayvon may have lived up to the stereotype. The local Orlando news (not the national news which has been paying obscure "witnesses") has been reporting that the only actual eyewitness, who was there when the shooting occurred, says that Trayvon jumped out of the bushes and attacked Zimmerman. Zimmerman had a cut on his head, grass stains on his back, blood on is face, and a broken nose. That takes a pretty big scuffle to get all of that.
But if everyone keeps listening to the "trial by media," and "jury by celebrity," no one will hear the actual facts of the case, and will judge on emotion only.
I am absolutely not, in any way, shape or form, on Team Zimmerman, or on Team Trayvon here. I'm on the "Let's wait and see what the police reports and actual statements say" team. I know we can't avoid all media coverage and all the stories on this event. But try and listen for the real facts, and don't get tied up in the emotional hyped parts. For instance, why did Trayvon's father say it wasn't his son in the 911 call (yelling for help in the background)? But Zimmerman's father says it is his son? And then it wasn't until she was on a paid appearance on a national talk show that suddenly Trayvon's mother says she knows it was her son? And why did the girlfriend on the phone wait a month before coming forward? There's a reason our justice system was built on "reasonable doubt." And right now, this case is full of reasonable doubt.
Honestly, it isn't so much the verdict on Zimmerman that I'm concerned about. It is the day after the trial (which is years away) that I'm more concerned over, when it comes to the health and affairs of the country. Screaming racism over and over right now, is going to make for some very heated tensions during the actual case. And do those kind of tensions ever end well?

Friday, March 23, 2012

What I'm up to all the time

Other things that happened this week- I'm down 25 lbs since August! And I fit into my "goal jeans!"
No question about it, the blog has not been my top priority for the past few months. I have to admit that after writing for my paid work all day, I'm kind of writed out. On an average day I'm writing about 20 pages a day, and that's a lot of writing. I'm not exactly thinking, "Hmm... now that I a few minutes to myself, I think I will write more."

And I admit I downloaded Draw Something to my iPhone. My free time seems to now be occupied drawing stick figures for my friends to interpret. One lucky friend even got my stick figure interpretation of the Macarena dance. Oh yeah. It was awesome.

I don't get out and have fun very often. Don't get me wrong, my life is enjoyable, and I'm having a good time. But compared to my past activities, I really don't get out much. I rarely eat out, go shopping (for things other than groceries), anything really. I'm seriously boring. Last night I did get out and go see (alone) the Hunger Games at midnight. I loved the book series, and the movie is equally great. I have never seen a better book to movie adaptation. There was one tiny little part that I was surprised they left out. It was so obvious that it was filmed (because the characters were in the background still) and edited out, that I was disappointed. But this movie will not disappoint fans of the book. It was exactly as I imagined it and more. I can't think of one part I imagined differently. Lenny Kravitz? Perfect! Donald Sutherland? Perfect. Jennifer Lawrence? I admit, I was not happy about her casting at first (I wanted that girl from True Grit), but she won me over in the first few minutes. Same as the Gale and Peeta casting. My favorite person has to be Rue. She was perfectly cast, absolutely adorable, and if you know the story, let me just say, I BAWLED!! And I was not alone, the whole theater was just sobbing!! Did you know one of the sons of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid plays Cato? He looks just like his mom, but has his father's expressions. And he nailed his character. I had actually completely forgotten the character Seneca Crane, and thought they just wrote him in seamlessly to help the story along. (I was wrong.) Again, he was played perfectly. And he's very good looking. Loved his beard. Did I mention I loved this movie?

In other news, my parents come next week! My mom will be here for almost 5 weeks. My dad for only a few days, and I won't see him. But he'll be back for my sister's wedding in a few more weeks. My other sister and 3 nephews arrive a week later and will stay almost 3 weeks. (In case it isn't obvious everyone is coming to visit for my baby sister's wedding at the end of the month.)My whole day (which I am completely procrastinating getting started right now) will be spent running errands and prepping for the big arrivals. I am looking forward to having everyone around for a month. (And a little nervous too! I'm not used to so many people being around all the time! Its a little loud and crazy when you are used to being the only one around. Any other singles every feel that way?)

Here's some of the writing I've been up to lately-
Coming Home- a review of Joanna Brooks' "Book of Mormon Girl" memoir. (co-written with BFFJules)
Meeting New Friends Isn't Always Easy
Buy Gun Stocks When a Democrat is in Office (talk about a flashback yesterday! Cowriting with Juli for Meridian again, and writing an article about firearms! I felt like I was 27 again.)
Understanding Airfares or How to Save on Your Next Flight
and one of my favorites, Santorum Math is a Beautiful Thing

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays (Don't) Always Get Me Down

Oh how I miss Cambodia today. What I wouldn't give for a real fruit drink and some fish amok. I woke up with a crazy craving for mango and pineapple and I won't be happy until I find some. Ooh and papaya sounds good too. I've just spent 20 minutes changing all of my profile pictures to Cambodia pics on different websites. I miss it!

But let's talk about yesterday. By all counts, I had a bad day. Things went from small mistakes to big dumb problems. And I felt bad about it, I really did. I've always been very good about kicking myself while I'm down. I've never needed extra punishing because I've got that covered all by myself. So trust me when I say I felt really bad about my stupid mistake that got me in trouble. Thankfully no one else felt the need to kick me while I was down. For that I am grateful. It was all handled very nicely. But still, I felt awful. Today I still haven't felt the courage to get up and try again. I'm still feeling pretty stupid about my dumb mistake.

But there's the thing. In spite of how bad I felt and the situation, I could only feel so bad. I really had woken up yesterday thinking about the fact that everything has been so good for me lately. I've really managed to accomplish a lot professionally in the past few months, and it feels GREAT to be earning money again. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, nothing feels better than the ability to finally be able to support myself again. But then the poopy thing happened. It was a professional mistake, and on top of just feeling dumb about the mistake, I felt awful that I finally get some work and get happy and then I messed things up. Not so great, right?

But there was this other part of me that had to laugh and smile about the situation. After two years of unemployment and bad days, wondering if I would ever have a good day again, and now having had a few months of great days, one bad day isn't such a big deal. I am a little grateful for my bad day. It made me feel normal again. And it reminded me to be serious and more detail oriented. (After two years of not working, it can be really hard sometimes to focus and really "think" like I know I should. You'd be amazed how that skill needs to be kept up!)

I can't be too upset about my bad day. I'm just too darn grateful and happy about it. Don't get me wrong, my guilt and inferiority complex is still kicking me good. I worry each time I get an email, or the phone rings, that someone is about to call and yell at me about the mistake. (But so far, no one has. Like I said, it was handled very professionally. And it is possible my mistake meant nothing to everyone else. It was small, it got fixed. I'm beating myself up more than anyone else.)

I know a lot of my gratitude comes from the things I witnessed in Cambodia, and before that, Haiti. I know how much I have to be grateful for. It isn't hard to be happy when you are grateful. And I know that I've been blessed greatly with my new work, and the chances to travel to developing countries. Once you've seen true poverty, it isn't hard to see when you are having a good day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

To Do List

My to do list today includes call the maid, call the gardener, get car detailed, ship gifts, take the dog to the groomer, and go to a bar.
All these things together make me sound like someone I am not.
I'm greatly amused. 
Happy Saint Patrick's Day, y'all.

Erin Go Bragh!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Making Roanoke Home

After 18 months or so of living in Roanoke, it may be time to start calling it home and making it my home. It seems like ever since I got here the plan has been to leave as soon as the right opportunity presented itself. But now that things have changed (again) and I am mostly employed, there are no plans to leave. It feels strange to say, but I just might stay here.
I never expected to like it here. I grew up visiting Roanoke frequently as a kid. We lived four hours away but came every few months or so to visit family. I always thought of Roanoke as a pain to visit, slightly redneck, and a little too small town for me. I still do think of it as redneck and a little small town. But I've actually started to like it as I have adjusted myself to living here. It also helps to finally have some semblance of stability and independence. I'm still mooching off my parents and living in their house (they aren't living here though). I'd like to be able to buy or rent my own place again before much longer. I miss "my stuff," that continues to sit in storage in another state. And I'd like to have my own real space again, but for now this is a good arrangement.
I no longer expect to find what I want at the mall. I rarely find a reason to visit the mall. I'm not sure if it is because the mall(s) are so unimpressive or if I'm just too poor to buy anything. Probably a good mix of both. I now expect that the ethnic food options will be limited, and am pleasantly surprised when I find something good. Same goes for most culture around here. I'm passing out of my expectations where I always want everything to be as diverse and useful as the DC area. I've changed my expectations to a more appropriate level, and it is no longer a negative thing, or an annoyance for me.
I have a great relationship with some of my younger cousins, and second cousins, I never would have expected to have. This has probably been the highlight of living here. I swap music with one my high school aged cousins, which is just fun. And some of the younger girl cousins just think of me as a friend, and not like some big, older, strange person they don't relate to. I love it when they ask me to help them with something, or for rides, or just to hang out. I don't know that it will ever feel normal or natural to go to a church congregation where everyone is related, but it does feel less bizarre to me now.
Last night the missionaries came to Mutual (youth group) and challenged the kids to all bring a non-Mormon friend to our activity next week. We have a boys vs girls challenge to see which group can bring more friends. Before they challenged the kids they pulled me aside and first asked if that was okay (because I'm in charge of the activity, and they needed to make sure I could handle it). And then asked if I would set the example and bring a friend as well. (Nicely played, Elders. Nicely played.) I would have loved to have accepted the challenge. But I had to say no. I honesty and truly don't have one friend in Roanoke that isn't a family member or church member. (And all family members are also church members.) This disappointed me for several reasons. Not just because of the challenge, but because it is the only drawback to my current lifestyle. I work alone from home, and my only social interactions are at church or with my cousins. I really don't know anyone else, unless you count the nice lady at the gas station.
Now that I have more or less "committed" to living here for a long time, it is time for that to change. This has everything to do with why I don't date here- I don't have a way of meeting people. But this isn't just about dating. It is also about wanting to just have friends that aren't genetically required to be polite to you, and that aren't 12 years old. So I have been thinking about how and where to make friends. Where do you go? How do you make friends?
The thought has crossed my mind to get involved in the community more, but I'm not sure how or where yet. I'm giving serious thought to joining, or at least supporting, Big Brothers Big Sisters again. (But that won't get me many friends that aren't 12 years old.) Anyone have any suggestions? Outside of church groups and work where do you go to make friends?

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I know I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it a thousand times again. But I sure do love working with the young women at church. They just make me happy. I love watching them grow up and change, and yet I want them to stay their precious cute little girl selves at the same time.
Today I was fasting for a personal reason, and for my friend's toddler who has an inoperable brain tumor and is very sick. I struggle with fasting because it puts me in such a rotten mood. Going hungry for several hours on end messes with my blood sugar and just leaves me very cranky (not to mention daylight saving time robbing me of an hour of sleep, and going to bed extra late). Plus even after I do finally eat something I still tend to stay a little off for the whole day (headache, stomachache). But I believe in the power of fasting, so when it is needed I fight through my personal issues with it.
Generally fighting through my issues means I avoid people. I know I can't handle even simple conversations without getting overly emotional, so I just try to avoid being in those situations altogether when fasting. But working with the teenagers means I don't get that luxury of avoiding conversations anymore. Today the Lord must have been looking out for me, and for them. They were just cuter and better than usual. I got hugs and sweet little comments. They just made my day with what happy kids they can be.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Cries of Pain

I feel like a pretty crappy human being today. Someone yelled at me and insulted me pretty good this morning. I didn't do a good enough job on something I had worked hard on. I haven't finished all of my 'must-do' items in several days. There's a project I've been working on for charity sitting in the corner that hasn't been touched in weeks. I feel like I'm not doing enough to serve others lately. My butt is gigantic and was shown on TV last night, making me feel really insecure about my body image. Someone ever so impolitely let me know that it isn't the dress that is making me look fat- words that hurt considering I've been dieting diligently for two months now. I talk too much. I'm opinionated. And I haven't achieved any major life goals in a while. In other words, today I feel like I suck.

But today things were also put into perspective for me. I learned about two horrible and sad things happening to friends. Both are facing horrible circumstances that are just too much to talk about here (without their permission). My heart is breaking for them in more ways than I thought it could. I may feel like my life sucks, but then what are my problems compared to theirs? And while I have heard them cry in pain, I have not heard them cry in complaint. And those are two very different things.

One of the insults I received today came from someone who misunderstood me. I had "cried in pain" to this person, who took it as a "cry in complaint." Whether I did not make that clear, or the other person was indifferent to my plight, I do not know. This morning one of the two friends said something online that I perceived to be a "cry in complaint." (Or a cry for attention.) I was annoyed and ignored it. (As compared to some people, I don't take it upon me to correct others in these situations.) But by the end of the day I had learned the rest of the situation and felt terrible for my earlier thoughts. This person was truly crying in pain, and needs love and attention.

I can't help but wonder how many people are crying in pain, but we choose to ignore it? And how many people are afraid to ask for help or cry in pain because they are dismissed as complaints? How often am I ignoring real cries of pain because I can't hear them amidst all of the complaints?

Tonight I will pray harder for my friends. I'll pick up my charity work and make it a priority to finish it. And tomorrow, I'll listen better for the cries of pain.

Monday, March 05, 2012

New Behaviors

Over the past few months I've had three different fillings fall out of my mouth. Some fell out easier than others. Apparently these things have a shelf life, and after 20-30 years, it was time for them to come out. (who knew?) They have been a part of me for so long that I didn't even know I had any fillings. But now they are gone, and my teeth don't fit together normally anymore.

It is driving me crazy. After 20-30 years of my teeth fitting together in a specific way, it is very uncomfortable and unnatural for my teeth to not fit just right. I'm being forced to learn a new behavior for something that should come naturally.

No, this isn't going to be a complaint about the expense of dental work. (Although it could be. Do you know how much it will cost to get three fillings?? Nearly $1,000!) It is about learning new behaviors.

I find stopping old behaviors and learning new ones are some of the hardest things we will ever have to do. But if we fail to do it, the consequences can be very painful. (constant headache from my jaw not setting right) And yet, in spite of how hard it can be, we have to do it. Complaining about it doesn't get you anywhere. Taking control and accountability for it, and doing something about it, does.

For me this is going to be a long process. Not only do I have to deal with the current discomfort, but I'm going to have to get new fillings, which will mean readjusting my jaw all over again. (And probably more than once as I doubt I'll be able to afford all three fillings at the same time.) But they claim what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. By conquering change and learning new behaviors, we improve, we become better people.

And so we must go on. We must learn to overcome our past, our weaknesses, our learned behaviors, and learn new ones.

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