Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Growth

Most people are trying to reverse their growth. The want to be skinner, not bigger. Truthfully, I would not mind that either, but I also know that I haven’t been putting in the effort to make it happen.

However, there are many kinds of growth: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Each of these different kinds can be broken down into subgroups, as well. Physical can be both size and fitness. Emotional growth can be both knowledge of how I feel, but it can also be about how others think, and my awareness of how my word choice affects their emotions. Mental growth can be both the continuation of academic learning as well as that of other areas - like my ability to focus or my ability to translate images into 3D in my head. Spiritual has both a personal component and a community one. Personal spiritual growth might be for meditation and clarity of mind while community spiritual growth may be regular church attendance or the reading of a religious book to understand that religion more.

While it is the wrong time of the year to make resolutions; sometimes, when I get despondent I can find happiness in expanding one of these. Taking a walk, meditating on my own emotions or reading a book with a lot of social or spiritual commentary are favorites of mine to lighten my mood.

Every year I pick a few of these to work on for the year. It is important to continue to stretch in all of these directions. That is because when we stop growing we stagnate, slip, and revert. We have to keep pushing for the next level to keep us alive and vital.

How are you choosing to grow? Or to not?

Note: Sorry for the delay. As I said, life. However, I'm hoping to prep the rest of this week's posts so that they will go up as they should.

G is for ... Delay?

Sorry. This post is handwritten, but I didn't have a chance to type it in or edit it yet. Real life is taking a whack at me. I'll be prepping and posting it as soon as possible.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Frugal

Status and appearance are given a premium in our society. If it looks expensive, it usually is, and there are always people trying to get you to buy into the latest brands or craze, whether it is their job or they just bought into it. However, there are far more benefits to being frugal with one's money.

When you buy expensive stuff, it looks pretty. However, all that stuff adds up. Then, once you have bought into the trends, you have to keep up with them or risk losing face in front of your friends. You're also paying for the names and the look rather than quality. (However, many name brands do have good quality.) Then, because you're focused on the names and the look, focused on appearance, over time you turn into what you're focused on - shallow and focused on appearances.

However, off-brands and cheap knock-offs have many positives. The first is that you can save money for a rainy day, or an emergency. Put the difference between the expensive brand name item, and the cheap off brand version into a savings account. That savings account can also be used to have better experiences - vacations and trying new things. Several studies have shown that this type of expenditure makes you happier than if you spend it accumulating "stuff" or "treasures." Finally, your home often looks less pretentious.

So what are your options? Well, you could try making it yourself if you're crafty. Buy a kit, buy a plan, or design it yourself and create what you need. If you are only crafty in a single area, but need help with something else, then buy local or handmade and barter for it. If you are good at sewing, but need a bookshelf, trade with someone who does wood craft and could use a little bit of tailoring. Finally, you could just do without it. Is it something that you have to have?

The last option is of course the off-brand or cheap knock-off version. Many of these have just as much, if not more quality than the expensive brands because they are concerned with the quality rather than the appearance of quality and expense. Off-brands are often more easily and widely available with a lot more variety. Because of that, off-brands may sometimes fit your personal style better than the name brands.

Finally, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes quality is better. Sometimes people are allergic to the store brands and must buy a quality brand. Quality brands are sometimes healthier, or tastier. In addition, if what you're buying is a present for someone else then go for quality when possible. Last, if it is a big ticket item, balance quality with cost. Some cheap items might not last as long as their more expensive counterparts.

Conversely, sometimes handmade or locally sourced items are more expensive. This is sometimes true even when taking the cost of shipping out of the equation. It is because you are paying for the time and effort of the person that went into it, not just the wear and tear on the machines that made it.

Next time you're faced with a choice about which one to buy weigh the options carefully. Expense can raise your status and might feel good. However, too much focus on it will turn you shallow. Cheaper goods can sometimes serve the same purpose better.

What do you think? Should you go for the cheapest thing you can find? Or the most expensive? Or something in between? What do you do when faced with this choice?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Exploring Experiences

Explore: to traverse or range over (a region, area, etc.) for the purpose of discovery: to explore the island. - Dictionary.com
"Exploring the unknown requires tolerating uncertainty." ~ Brian Greene
Many people think of the great explorers of the seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries when confronted with "explore." If they are a little more current, they think of "space as the final frontier," which humanity has left to conquer. However, to an individual there are always new frontiers. There are new places to go and discover.

Cantino Planisphere
For me, that is exploring. I may not be the most well-traveled individual, there are several travel bloggers out there who have seen much more of the world. In addition, there are those who travel for their non-media related jobs and see more of the world.

However, I think I am fairly well traveled for a twenty-eight year old woman. I've visited eight countries, and lived in two additional ones. The United States of America and Korea are the latter two. However, I've also visited The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and England. Finally, I visited Japan while I was living in Korea. I've written about all my experiences since Korea in my blog. I am also going back and typing up my experiences in Europe based upon my journal from my time in Europe. It's going to take me awhile.

I still want visit new places as well as return to places that I have already visited. Some of the top places on my list to visit include
  • Thailand, because friends have brought beautiful pictures from there and I have friends who live there. 
  • South America, preferably the Amazon or the Andes because I want to see the jungle and the ruins. I have a friend down there. 
  • The Library at Alexandria, It's an ancient library with a famous female librarian, why wouldn't I want to see it? 
  • The Great Barrier Reef, because it looks like another world in pictures, but I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to see it up close. 
If I can make those four stops, then I will have set foot on six continents. No offense to Antarctica, but it's just a little too cold for me there. Also, not a whole lot to see except some white and some penguins. However, before I can visit some of these places I have to wait for things to calm down there.

Ideally, if I had the time and an unlimited source of money I would love to visit every single country on the planet. That's 196 countries depending on who is keeping count, so only another 186 to go.

With my husband's job, it will be easier to see some of these places because we will be moving around every couple of years. However, there a couple of places that he has seen that I will probably never see, because of said job.

I am also enough of a geek to want to see the universe. While I do not think that travel to the moon will be affordable in my lifetime if I were handed a trip to go see it I would take it. The same with Mars, or even another star. But only if I knew I could get home. The alternative would be to take home with me. (More on that later). I know this is an even more distant dream than seeing all 186 countries that I haven't seen yet.

Where do you want to go for a visit? Where would you go to live?
1. a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something: My encounter with the bear in the woods was a frightening experience.

2. the process or fact of personally observing, encountering, or undergoing something: business experience. ~ Dictionary.com
"Experience is one thing you can get for nothing." ~ Oscar Wilde
Then I Got to Thinking by Tracy Z Lesh
To get experiences one has to go out and do things. I enjoy going out and trying new things. Sometimes I think I shouldn't have done it afterwards, but that is all a part of learning.

Many of my experiences I blog about. Blogging about them lets me share them with my friends and family, but it also helps me put them in order and sort them out so that I can find my reactions to them.

However, there are limits and lines that I won't cross. For example, while I tried many new foods in Korea I never did try Ke Gogi (개고기), or dog meat. I'm too used to thinking of dogs as little pets. Another example is sky diving. My sister loves to go sky diving, and I think she's just a little crazy for wanting to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

I was not always in favor of new experiences, and there are often times that I rail against new experiences when they are thrust upon me. However, after the fact, I find that I usually enjoyed them and look forward to doing whatever it was again.

Some experiences are learning to embroider, eating Korean foods, living alone, being a step mother, and experimenting with cooking.

Some experiences that I am looking forward to:
  • being a mother (no, don't worry, I'm not pregnant yet.) 
  • teaching in America (which I suspect, is vastly different from teaching in Korea) 
  • getting published (much harder to achieve unless I take the self-publishing route, but I'm not ready to try yet, check out my monthly updates) 
  • going on a cruise (I've heard good things and bad things about cruises. I want to give one a try). 
This is by no means the limits of what I want to do or accomplish, but I know that these are possible.

What new experiences do you want to have this year? Or which ones have you already had?

"Explore" and "Experience" can easily be combined, because when one goes exploring new experiences, which are not available at home, are easily available. Some of these experiences might be cheap enough to be free - cultural experiences. Others might cost only a small amount - local cuisine. Some might be very expensive - around the world cruises that combine both travel and experience.

Combining them is enjoyable. I love going exploring for new experiences.

However, just as there are limits on what I'm experiencing, I feel uncomfortable traveling constantly. I get exhausted with that level of activity and new people every day with nary a rest between new places and experiences. I know that I love moving every few years. Then I get to know the new area and explore it before moving on to another place. Having a home base to go back and relax in is enjoyable. It also means that I can both immerse myself in local culture as well as retreating to my own personal culture when I need to.

Where have you been visiting? What new experiences have you been having?

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Dependable

Dependable:"capable of being depended on; worthy of trust; reliable: a dependable employee."
This one I have problems with. At least from my perspective.

It's not the big things. I don't have a problem making sure that the boat stays upright and points in the right direction. What I have a problem with is making sure that I use the right knots to tie the ropes down, or that I get it done exactly when I say I will get it done.

Little things can easily put me off doing it, especially when I don't have an outside source pushing me to do things. Things like "Cleaning out the fridge can wait until tomorrow because I really don't want to take the yucky food out to the dumpster in the snowstorm." The little things are what I need to work on improving my dependability.

I am trying to improve my own skills. So, I have to make a plan to improve my dependability. Since it is the little things that I have a problem with, it is hard to see a starting point. However, I must make a start.

When I say I will do something I have to include it in the plan. If the plan gets too full, then it is the things for me that must fall by the wayside. However, if this is my only strategy, then I will overload myself, and eventually burn out and mentally run away for at least a day while I take care of me.

So, I must have an addition to this. I think the best addition to this would be, "If I've said I would do a chore at a set time, but find I cannot do it, then I must renegotiate with the person I set the schedule with." Renegotiation will probably cost me some sort of penalty - "You do it today, and I'll make sure to do it the next two times," is a logical one.

My "working on my dependability for the little things" plan:
1. Forgo personal pleasure if I have too many things in the schedule.
2. Renegotiate if I have to, but take a penalty.

However, there is a significant one that I am missing. It's one that I have down for the big things, but have never considered using in relation to the little things. That is "Never make a promise I can't keep." That includes things like - not promising to do the dishes, when I know that I have to cook, and I've already promised to do a couple of other chores. I can't fit all of them in with my studies and substituting schedule. So, I have to admit to the person that no I can't do it.

So, the revised plan reads:
0. Don't make a promise I can't keep based on previously scheduled time.
1. Forgo personal pleasure if I do over schedule my time.
2. Renegotiate if I have to, and take a penalty. (Which should discourage me from doing it again.)

Now I want to hear from you! Any other ways you can think of to improve my dependability?
Do you consider yourself dependable? Do you think others consider you dependable?
Are you dependable for the big things, the little things, or something in between?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Creatively Crafty

Image by Wesley Fryer
Yes, two words in a phrase, but both start with "C" and both are very important to me. So, I will take them one at a time, and then I will put them both together.

"Creative" according to Dictionary.com:
2. resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.; imaginative: creative writing.
3. originative; productive (usually followed by of).
Creative, to me, means that you manage to combine two or more known things into something new enough that no one recognizes it, or that they had thought about it before. Alternatively, you might look at something from a different angle and see a solution that no one had thought of before.

When you're being creative, you are not worried about practicality or pragmatics. If you're in the planning stages, you don't care about the money involved to actually building the solution.

If it's an artwork you're pouring yourself into it; not worrying about how the public is going to receive your piece.

Creativity is focused on what is being created to the sake of all else.

Obviously, this is not the best way to get things done. Money exists. Solutions that look beautiful and elegant on paper fall apart in real life for no apparent reason. Artworks that the artist perceived a particular way are inscrutable or even offensive to the public at large and must be hidden away until they are better understood.

However, those spurts of such deep involvement in something new are to be treasured. Those bursts of innovative insight are what provided paradigm shifting discoveries in all realms of science and technology as well as philosophy and religion.

Everyone holds up the apple falling on Newton's head as an example of what a genius he was at math and science he was. Well, apparently, a falling apple actually did give Newton the idea that led him to investigate it. Though it probably didn't fall on his head. It wouldn't have mattered if he had spent years and years doing mathematics and equations, and some of his problems did take years if he had been laboring under old theories he would never have gotten to the next step. Taking a creative leap, that no one else in his time period had pushed humanity to further understanding of the world around us.

Novelists and painters are both types of artists whose work is often undervalued during their life, and only later is the true creativity in it recognized. The first one is Van Gogh. Although impressionism was a contemporary phenomenon and the tortured painter is now recognized as a famous one, he sold only one painting during his lifetime. He died broke and obscure.

Novelists are much the same way. Stieg Larsson is just the most recent example of an author who died before he could be publicly lauded, I somehow doubt he thought his works would get as big as they have. Vicki Santillano wrote about eight more over here.

Whether you are creating your piece to make it the best it can be, even if you don't make money off of it; or if you are exploring some aspect of science that the "real" scientists mock as "pseudoscience" at most, it doesn't matter because you are being creative, and you're putting your all in.

Crafty was the second word of the phrase I started this post with.

1. skillful in underhand or evil schemes; cunning; deceitful; sly.
2. Obsolete. skillful; ingenious; dexterous.
While I appreciate the first definition in movies and books, and all forms of entertainment (I like playing rogues), I am more interested in the second definition: skillful.

The website may list that definition as obsolete, but there are several craft blogs out there that prove that craftiness is still a big part of some people's lives. Recently, I posted about using an empty candle jar to display Will's military coins. I also wrote a post about re-purposing toilet paper tubes. I also have several embroidery posts on my blog, all of them show what kind of crafts that I am into.

However, there are all sorts of crafts that one can enjoy. An aunt and uncle of mine have filled their basement with wood crafting tools and go out to craft fairs to sell their wares. An aunt on the other side of the family was a jeweler. My husband and my stepson both do a little metal crafting and wood crafting.

Whatever you want to make with your two hands, whether it's for decoration or for some useful purpose, either is being crafty.

"Creatively Crafty" then can be defined as those who are taking two unique objects and combining them into something new with your own two hands, or re-purposing something with new decorations and painting. I may not be the most "creatively crafty" person, but I am always searching out ways to reuse objects, create others, and do so in a beautiful way. Even if I am not the first person to do what I do, I thought of it on my own.

I often go delving onto Google, and craft blogs for my ideas before deciding on my own way to do it. Often craft blogs presume objects that I don't have to put to use, or talents that I don't have. In that case, I have to improvise and create my own way to do it, rather than giving up.

What have you done lately that is creative, crafty, or creatively crafty?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Bravery

"Bravery never goes out of fashion." ~ William Makepeace Thackery

According to Dictionary.com bravery means "brave spirit or conduct; courage; valor." This is not helpful for a working definition of bravery. So I click on courage, and see what the definition of that is. It states:
"the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; "
That's a much better working definition.

When most people think of "bravery," they equate it to something that soldiers, police officers, or firefighters feel than a mousy librarian-teacher.

A person who gets on an airplane to go halfway around the world, into a country they don't know where they don't speak the language, where they have no idea what situation they are letting themselves in for, is brave. That was me going to Korea, and my family all thought that either I would back out at the last minute or that they would have to come rescue me.

A person who gives up everything and walks into a new life, never having met some of the other family members, for the person she loves is brave. That was me less than a year ago when I agreed to marry Will, leave teaching in Korea behind and move in with him in a new state (at least I was in America this time) without having met his son who was going to live with us.

I have bravery down, where it counts. Where I don't have bravery down, is when there's something small with more than four legs running or flying around. Then I freak out like a little girl.

Image by BK
Bravery is more than getting on a plane, or saying "yes" to a proposal though. It's being willing and able to do what you have to in spite of your fear. I know the definition says "without fear," however I think that those who show "bravery without fear" are slightly crazy. They are often putting themselves into dangerous situations without understanding their own mortality. Bad things happen then.

I think the definition should read "in spite of fear." This is partially because of my own experience. I was afraid to get on that plane to Korea. I was so scared that I didn't move out of my seat once for the whole 14 hour flight, and I didn't even realize that I should have. I was scared to move to Texas to, eager and excited, but also scared. I still did it, because I was more willing to face my fear than to go without Will.

I may be too afraid to do the little things - kill the bugs on my own without screaming, go on upside down roller coasters - but, I think I'm brave enough.

When looking for bravery in friends, I look for the "inspite of" type of bravery. I like people who volunteer to protect others. I like people who walked away from a bad situation without a safety net. These are people that I value in my life. Their bravery helps me to be brave.

However, not being brave is not a reason for me not to like a person. Not everyone is brave on their own (in fact very few people are). Those that are not brave need a helping hand to get to a point where they can be brave and do whatever it is they need to do. I need a helping hand to be brave once in a while, that's what I have my family and friends for.

The only time that not being brave would become a detriment to being my friend is when that "not being brave" becomes cowardice and starts to affect those around you. When it effects others and starts dragging them down rather than helping to pull you up, it's no longer a lack of bravery, but a presence of cowardice. I'm not brave enough to pull people up from there to a place where they can be brave. All I can do is point them in the right direction; then keep my distance, but stay in touch. I'd still like to be friends, but I have to take care of myself too.

For more about bravery try reading the Harry Potter series or the Hunger Games trilogy. Both are about physical bravery, even while being afraid. If you want more about mental bravery try Mindblind or any of the Young Wizards series (though they have their fair share of physical bravery as well). If you want to go with a non-fiction book, then I'll have to rely on Goodreads "bravery" recommendations for I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.

Bravery takes many different forms. How have you shown bravery? When do you wish that you had shown more bravery?