Yesterday was July 4th, which is Independence Day for the United States. In honor of that day and of my country, I present to you pictures with the theme of the colors America’s flag–red, white, and blue. Enjoy and happy late Independence Day!
Brad Paisley has a song called “If I Could Write a Letter to Me,” and in it, he sings “If I could write a letter to me; and send it back in time to myself at 17.” That line caught my imagination this week, and it ended up being the prompt for this post.
I’m curious. What would you write to your 17-year-old self? What advice would you give? Any warnings or assurances? What would you reveal to your teenage self?
Anyway, enjoy my letter in my signature list-style.
Dear 17-Year-Old Me,
This is you from the future. I know, I know. Weird. I want to tell you some things that I think you should know, or at least things that I wished I had known back then. So, here it goes.
1. I know that you think that you could never face a family tragedy or health scare on your own without a man by your side. I know that you think you wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it should you have major health problems yourself. Here’s the thing, though: you are strong enough, and you do handle it. You find strength that you didn’t know you had. You discover this survival mode that allows you to be strong for your family and for yourself. Your meekness and deference to what adults in power say will be replaced by confidence and logic. You will have faith that will give you the strong foundation that you need, you will have family be pillars of strength, and you will have friends that you never knew you could count on step up and be your rocks. It sounds mushy, but with hope, faith, and love, you will be able to handle these trials, I promise.
2. Some people you think will be your friends forever, won’t; and some friends you think you will lose will be around for many more years. Treasure the ones who stay, and be at peace when the other ones go.
3. Remember that everyone is on their own, unique journeys—including you. Quit comparing yourself to others and what they have done or where they have traveled. You’re okay doing your own thing. Which reminds me . . . .
4. Eliminate your “friends” who use their lives to put down your life. They’re not worth your time. Friends should build you up, not put you down.
5. Get some thin-rimmed glasses. Honestly, you look ridiculous with those thick-rimmed frames. I know, I know, they’re in style. I don’t care. You look like you have a unibrow in pictures, so toss the thick-rimmed glasses and go for ones that look like you’re not even wearing any eyewear (i.e., floating frames).
6. Every show you currently love will get cancelled. Smallville—cancelled. The Dead Zone—cancelled. Monk—cancelled. There’s nothing you can do about it. I simply wish to prepare you.
7. I know that your plan is to get married by 24 and have kids a year or two after that. Well, that doesn’t happen, and you’re okay with that. Honestly, you are. You have a lot of stuff to do, and you know that marriage and kids will come later. Which brings me to . . . .
8. Our dad is right about the guys that you date about 95% of the time. I’m sorry. He just is, and I still don’t know how he does it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t date these guys, because they will help mold your perspective on life and they will assist you in discovering what you do and don’t want in a partner. I’m just telling you that our dad is almost always right on this, so just let it go. Let it go! Let it goooooo! Umm . . . that joke will be funny to you in a few years.
9. Keep trying with Sabrina. It will take you 8 years (yes, 8) for her to trust you fully. It will take unconditional love, a mountain of patience (and I’m talking Mount Everest here), and a surgery in which you don’t leave her side during her recovery for her to realize that she is completely safe with you. This will drive out her memories of the puppy mill and of the abuse she endured before she met you, and her hurt, anger, and suspicion will be replaced with love and trust. Don’t get me wrong, I never said that she turned into a “good” dog. She still whines and errs for food, and she’ll still scream if she doesn’t get her way. However, when she looks up at you with those big brown eyes, knowing that you will never hurt her, your heart will melt and you’ll always insist that she is a “good” dog despite knowing the truth. She will be your Snoopy, and you her Charlie Brown.
10. Sabrina’s doggy friend will eventually die, although he’ll live more years than anyone would think a lab could. Let her play with him more. She misses him and still looks for him.
11. You will continually have to prove yourself, but that’s just life. This will make you work harder and harder, which will pay off in the end.
12. Your motto will be “I’ll figure it out,” and have faith that you will, because you always do.
13. I wish that you would enjoy the present more. You’re always looking toward the future, toward some goal off in the distance. While that’s great, and you shouldn’t ever lose that, I do wish that you would remember to enjoy the present moments as well.
14. Send Granny rainbow roses. You will send her every color of rose under the sun except for rainbow. I really wish that you had sent her rainbow roses.
15. Invest everything in Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and ride out Netflix’s downturn. You’ll thank me later.
Maybe you’re upset because I don’t really give you specific details on some things that I know that you’re wondering about. I don’t tell you if you’re going to get an “A” in biology class or if you’ll get into college. Okay . . . you get an “A” in biology (just barely, but you do) and you get into college and get most of it paid for with scholarships. But that’s all the information you’re going to get! The reason why I’m not telling you more is because 1) this is only an exercise on a blog so there’s no point, and 2) experiencing all of the heartbreaks and joys will make you into someone who you can look at in the mirror and go, “Well, I have my faults, but it’ll do.” They make you into someone who, when our grandmother is on her deathbed says, “More importantly, you’re a good person.” I want her to be able to say those words to you again. So, that’s all I’ll tell you, and I guess that I’ll be seeing you in the future.
— Me (Or is it “You?” Or is it “Us?” Because it’s you writing to you, but it’s also me writing to me, but the me is also you, which is also me , so I guess that it’s us, but not really us because you’re not writing this, I am . . . . Ahhh, brain malfunction!)
June is here, and you know what June brings, don’t you? June bugs? Well, not here. Sweltering heat? I guess, but think more positively. Plants? You’re on the right track . . . . Oh, I’ll just tell you. June brings roses! So, for your viewing pleasure, I bring to you a virtual bouquet of roses. Which one is your favorite? I think that mine is the very last one.
Before I begin, I want to say that I got published again at Thought Catalog. Woohoo! Please take a minute to head on over and read it. Here is the link: “12 Ways to Secure that 4.0 GPA in College.” They changed my original title, but whatever. I got published again!
Anyway . . . .
I learned this week that as part of my PhD work and teaching assistantship (it pretty much pays for everything plus a stipend so, woohoo!), I will be teaching two classes this semester as well as taking my own classes. Now, if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m a perfectionist when it comes to school. I have never gotten anything lower than an “A” as a final grade for my honors undergrad and for my master’s work (read more about that here), and I did it all legitimately (you know what I mean). I don’t intend to change that pattern for my PhD work. Why? Because I’m a give-it-your-best-and-have-no-regrets kind of gal. I also intend to give those students my best efforts and prepare them for their future writing endeavors the best that I possibly can.
Unfortunately, I spoke with a friend about this, and was told that something has got to give, and that I can’t do the quality of work I’m used to doing, do high quality teaching, write what I want to, read what I want to, and still spend time with my family and fish. Luckily, I thrive on people telling me that I can’t do something.
I can give on the reading what I want to, and I’m willing to give up some sleep (that’s what concealer is for) but . . . that’s about it. I’m just not willing to sacrifice quality work, quality teaching, family time, writing time, or fishing time. What about dating you ask? Bwahahahahaha! If I ever hear anything from Jeremy Lin, then I’ll worry about dating. But, for now, I’m good.
Well, if I’m not will to sacrifice the above things in my life, then what can I do? The only answer is to become more efficient with my time. Therefore, I have done some research on how to use my time more efficiently than I have been using it, and the majority of my research has pointed to the following list of tips. Perhaps you can find some tidbit of wisdom that you can use too.
1. Set realistic, not ambitious, deadlines for tasks. Eh, I’ll still make them a bit on the ambitious side, but I can work with this one.
2. Organize my workplace. Does disorganized organization count?
3. Stock up on caffeine. I’m not sure how efficient or correct this is, and, admittedly, no source suggests this except me. However, I know me, and I know that I’m going to need caffeine.
4. Cut down on multitasking. I don’t think that I can disagree with this one.
5. Cut down on the time spent on social networks. Noooooooo! I can’t argue with this one logically but . . . nooooooo!
6. Have a routines built into my schedule. Kevin Daum writes in “8 Things Really Efficient People Do” that “efficiency fanatics create standard routines in their schedule so they can achieve a disciplined approach and be read for the important events.” Um . . . this one make take some time to figure out and implement on a regular basis.
7. Time your activities. Daum also writes that timing the activities I do will help me to identify where I waste time. This is perhaps his most useful piece of advice. Here is an article that explains how to make an “activity log:” “Activity Logs: Finding More Time in Your Day.”
8. Religiously take a multi-vitamin. This may sound strange, and I didn’t see it in any articles I that I read, but hear me out. When I’m busy, I don’t eat well. I simply forget to eat. Forgetting to eat leads to a run-down body, which leads to inabilities to concentrate and an increased likelihood of getting sick. Neither of these can be options for this upcoming semester.
9. Embrace the sticky note. Abby at Sixteen & Successful states in her “Study Tips for the Stressed Student” that sticky notes are a colorful and efficient way to jot down and remember tasks that may pop up. An excuse to shop at Office Depot? Count me in.
10. Make lists. Oh, I can make lists. I love lists. In fact, you can read about my love of lists here: “Listception: A List of Why I Love Lists.”
11. Reward yourself if you stick to your plan or get your tasks done on time. James Clear even suggests in his “8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings” that you should use food “as a reward for working hard.” I better stock up on chocolate.
12. Prepare for the next day the night before. Clear also states in the aforementioned article that by writing a to-do list for the next day the night before and by also writing an outline for an article that night as well, he can save up to “3 hours the next day.” I’m not sure about that, but I do like the idea of prepping for the next day (i.e., setting out outfits, writing to-do lists, getting my stuff together and ready to go, fixing lunch, etc.) the night before.
13. Prioritize tasks. Figure out what is most important, or due the soonest, and finish that project first.
14. Take breaks. I keep seeing this piece of advice in multiple articles. Most of the articles suggest something physical as your break, such as a walk. Well, I guess I found out when I’m going to find time to exercise. Catch up on my favorite TV shows? No. Read fun fiction books? No. But exercise? Yes. Oh, goody.
15. Work on similar tasks back-to-back. Forbes’s “10 Easy Ways to be More Productive at Work” suggests that you should lump similar tasks together and accomplish them one after the other. I guess that this is based on the assumption that it takes time for your brain to switch to different modes. Logically, I can see that. I can also see giving your brain a break by switching to something else, which is what I usually do. However, this is all about trying to be more efficient and trying new things, so okay. I’ll give this lumping thing a go.
16. Get good sleep. Yeah. That’s not going to happen.
Honestly, I don’t know if I will be able to do everything that I want to do at the quality level that I want and still remain sane. My friend may be right (she usually is). However, I’m going to give it a try. I also don’t know why many of the articles that I read kept saying “easy ways” or “quick ways” to become more efficient than you currently are. This isn’t going to be an easy or quick change for me. It’s just not. Nevertheless, it looks like a semi-manageable process, and that, my friends, is a good enough starting point for me.
Here are some of the articles that I used for this post. Feel free to check them out.
“6 Steps to Becoming Hyper-Efficient”
“7 Ways to be More Efficient at Work”
“8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings”
“8 Things Really Efficient People Do”
“10 Easy Ways to be More Productive at Work”
“Activity Logs: Finding More Time in Your Day”
“Getting to the Nitty-Gritty”
“Study Tips for the Stressed Student”
Many songs have similarities. Who hasn’t gone, “Hey, that song sounds like this other song.” After all, there are only so many musical notes, scales, and sounds available to humans. However, some songs are . . . how do I put this . . . blatant and unapologetic copies of others songs. Here are some songs that, in my opinion (and, in some cases, the opinion of the courts) are ripped from other songs.
Disclaimer: These are all my opinions. Don’t sue me. I’m a writer and a student. Thus, I have no money.
1. Mayer Hawthorne “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’” (2009) and The Supremes’s “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1966)
This one is just ridiculous. The beginning, the bass line, the trumpets, the melody line, the drums, the tambourine—you didn’t even try to hide it did you, Mr. Hawthorne? Honestly, I don’t know why Hawthorne hasn’t been sued yet. Maybe “You Can’t Hurry Love” is so old that it is now considered part of the public domain. Who knows? Personally, I’ll take “You Can’t Hurry Love” over “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’” all day long.
2. Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” (1967) and Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’” (1966)
Well, I guess that it’s okay to copyright infringe on yourself . . . .
3. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (1971) and The Chiffons “He’s So Fine” (1962)
“My Sweet Lord” was George Harrison’s first solo single and, instead of getting praise, poor Harrison was slapped with a lawsuit by Bright Tunes Music Corporation for copyright infringement of “He’s So Fine.” In the end, the judge concluded that Harrison didn’t mean to copy “He’s So Fine,” but deemed that Harrison still had to pay $587,000.00 to Bright Tunes. You can read more here: “George Harrison vs Bright Tunes Music Corp.”
4. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (1971) and Spirit’s “Taurus” (1968)
One of the most iconic songs of all time stolen from another band? *gasp* Spirit actually toured with Led Zeppelin back in the day, and the last surviving member of Spirit has filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin. If you listen to the beginning instrumental of “Taurus,” it becomes very hard to deny the similarities between that song’s guitar lick and the iconic guitar arpeggio in “Stairway to Heaven.” Okay, let’s be honest. It sounds pretty much lifted straight from “Taurus.” The melodies of the two songs are different, but, man, that guitar. It will be interesting to see what the courts decide. You can read more about the lawsuit here: “Spirit v. Led Zeppelin: Analysis of the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Infringement Lawsuit.”
5. Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” (1990) and Queen & David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” (1981)
This one was so obvious that it is known as one of the most famous copyright infringements in music.
Vanilla Ice tried to deny the blatant ripping of “Under Pressure” in the clip below. Right. The bass lines are different. Sure, Mr. Vanilla Ice, sure.
6. John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” (2006) and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” (1965)
Listen to the beginning melody line of each song. Methinks Mr. Mayer was influenced by/copied Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.” Although, if you’re going to copy an artist, you might as well copy one of the best.
I should say that music constantly influences other music, no matter the genre. In a way, music is one big human and global collaboration. Heck, Paul McCartney and John Lennon once said that they were hugely influenced by the American girl groups of the 1960s. However, there is a difference between giving a musical nod to an artist and music plagiarism. What are some songs that you think might be copies of other songs?
Hi, everyone! Sorry that I missed last week, but life happens. Anyway, I wanted to relate some exciting news.
1) I got reblogged on Sixteen & Successful. Woohoo! I’ve mentioned this blog before, but just to remind you, Sixteen & Successful is a blog that addresses everything from how to be successful in school, to cute fashion, to tips for living a happy, healthy, and fun life. It’s quite a neat blog. You can check out my reblogged post here: “Summer Bucket List: Volunteering and Adventures.” Abby, the author of Sixteen & Successful, also has some additional tips for how to have a fun, productive, and meaningful summer.
2) I got mentioned in Timothy Pike’s subscription e-mail as one of three bloggers to look out for (in a good way). The e-mail is entitled “These Three Writer’s Aren’t Famous–Yet.” Along with me were bloggers Melanie Jean Juneau at mother of nine9 and joy of nine9 and Robert Jepson at his blog, Robert Jepson. In the e-mail, Timothy has a little blurb about each of the bloggers, and mine read as the following:
Breathe deep. Feel that? It’s not just the crisp mountain air of the Sierra Nevadas. It’s a fresh perspective, an attitude toward life that leaves one feeling…hopeful. After all, according to Elizabeth Preston, “Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.” What you’ll find when you look past her boundless optimism is a quintessential American writer (with a master’s degree in it!), an academic perfectionist (4.0 GPA!), and a person who has her hands in about a million different writing projects at once. And she does indeed live at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, as the name of her blog implies.
The shout out was a welcomed surprise, and I was honored by it. Please visit Timothy Pike’s blog, What Inspires Your Writing. He has numerous interviews with authors and tips on writing, staying inspired, and staying motivated. You should perhaps even consider entering his photography contest. I did, and I actually won one week. 🙂 It just goes to show you that you never know what might happen.
I’ll admit that my spirit has been a bit down lately. I’ve recently encountered some people who, I believe, are not so good, and they bruised my confidence. Hey, it happens to pretty much everyone at some point in their lives, no matter how positive they may be. However, with Abby’s and Timothy’s kindness and support, I am reminded that you can get pushed down, but you always have the power to get back up. So, to both of you, thank you. You’ve given me the push to get back up. Now, I’m up, caffeinated, and ready to go. Watch out world. Here I come.
Maybe it’s because of my Catholic schooling, or maybe it’s my Baptist upbringing/inherent guilt, or maybe it’s all of those after-school specials, but I believe (or perhaps was indoctrinated to believe) that one of our duties as humans is to help others. Perhaps you feel this way too, but, as you know, sometimes doing community service takes time and energy—two commodities that people don’t always have. So I present to you a list of ways to help others that can be easy, quick, and done with very little effort.
Disclaimer: Please note that any opinions in this post are my own, and I may donate or use some of the charities that I mention, but I’m not officially connected to them and they don’t pay me to say anything. Heck, I would doubt that they even know that I’m alive.
1. Grow out, and donate, your hair. This is one of the easiest ones. All you have to do is let your hair grow, cut it when it gets to be long, and mail the hair to your chosen charity. Really. That’s it. In my opinion, some good hair charities include: Pantene Beautiful Lengths (a program that is partnered with the American Cancer Society) and Wigs for Kids. The only work I would suggest you do is research your charities before you donate. If you’re going to chop off your hair, you want to make sure that it counts and that your hair doesn’t get thrown away (I’ve read that that happens with some “charities”).
2. Click and donate. There are websites that have corporate sponsors who donate some small amount to charity each time you click on a website. All you have to do is click. Seems too good to be true, right? Well, yes and no. Sponsoring corporations get to advertise on the site, thereby increasing their chances of finding new customers and increasing their profits. Moreover, I’m betting that they get to write off their donations come tax season. Also, there seems to be some websites that have businesses donate less (or not at all) than other websites. Therefore, you probably need to research the website before you start clicking. Two websites that I have found to be okay, are Greatergood.com and Freekibble.com. Snopes found that Greatergood.com does donate a portion of the proceeds to charities, and the ASPCA did an article on Freekibble.com. Overall, your click will help to some degree; just don’t expect everything to go to charity, and don’t expect the sponsoring businesses not to get something out of the situation. But hey, it’s something, and something is better than nothing in my opinion.
3. Donate stuff. Not going to use that physics textbook ever again, because let’s face it, whoever would? Gotten too slim for those jeans that just sit in your closet? Make room for more stuff by giving away things that you don’t want, don’t need, or can’t wear anymore. Some charities, such as the Salvation Army and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, will oftentimes even come to your house and pick up the items for you. If you have a specific cause that you feel strongly about, call that organization and see if they do pickups. If not, then you can either drive your items to that organization (which requires a little extra effort), or call other charities and ask them if they will do pickups.
4. Donate money. This may seem like a cop-out. However, what is the use of people who want to do good if they don’t have the resources to make that good happen? Do a little bit of research on some organizations that you like, make sure that they are donating a higher percentage of your money to the cause than to their CEO’s wallets, and then set up a monthly or one-time donation.
5. Donate canned foods. I’m assuming that most of us go to the grocery store at some point in our lives. When you’re going down one of the canned food aisles, throw a few more cans in the basket than you need. On your way home, stop at your local food bank and hand them those extra cans. Boom, you’ve just helped someone.
6. Recycle. This is a suggestion that has been rammed down my throat since first grade. Recycling doesn’t have to be difficult, and you don’t have to be Captain Planet to recycle (I could never pull off green hair anyway). If you don’t already have one, call your local waste management company and ask for a recycling bin. When you get that bin, throw your plastic bottles and cardboard into it, and set it out on the curb on recycling day. Bam! As cliché as it may sound, you’ve just helped to save the planet.
7. Sign petitions for causes about which you’re passionate. I’m very into animal rights, although I’m no vegetarian. Every now and then, I go to the ASPCA website and see what petitions they have going. I give the petitions a quick once over to make sure that I agree, and, if I do, then I electronically sign the petition. If you decide to do this, make sure that you’re okay with people seeing that you’ve signed this, because pretty much everything you do on the Internet can be traced. If your goal is to be completely incognito on the web, then maybe this option is not for you.
8. Pay for someone else’s coffee or lunch. You can do this by paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee (although I think that this one would, in theory, require a credit card). You can also pay for a friend’s coffee. What? Did you think that a friend wouldn’t count? Oh ho, my dear reader! Your friends are part of your community just as much as strangers are.
9. Exercise. The next time you go on a walk or run, try using an app called Charity Miles. I had no idea about this until I started researching for this post, but apparently for every mile you walk or run, you donate a few cents to a charity of your choice. Here is an article that explains the app from a user’s perspective: “Review of Charity Miles.” So, while you’re miserable on that last leg of your run and you feel like your legs are about to implode, remember that your pain is helping a charity.
10. Be aware. Community service doesn’t have to be done through an official organization. Sometimes, you can help others by just being aware of your surroundings. You may see someone who needs help even in the smallest of ways. The trick here is to offer the person help in a non-threatening and non-condescending matter. Saying, “Hey, since you’re a senior, do you want me to help you with that” is a lot more offensive than saying, “Hi, ma’am. I was wondering if you would like some help carrying that.” Big difference. My dad is terrific at approaching people and offering aid in an unoffensive manner. For example, one time we were at a grocery store and my dad noticed a fellow about my dad’s age in an electric wheelchair. The man was trying to get a carton of juice on a high shelf, but he couldn’t quite reach it. My dad went over and asked if he would like some help, and the man happily accepted. Those two ended up talking to each other like old buddies. It turns out that the wheelchair-bound man was a Vietnam vet with veins that literally ran black under his skin due to exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Helping him reach that juice didn’t take but a few seconds of my dad’s time, and he ended up making a friend in the process.
Helping others doesn’t have to be difficult, complicated, time-consuming, or labor-intensive. Some of the options I mentioned don’t even require you to get out of bed. Below are a few websites that have additional ideas for easy community service. Isn’t it nice when being good can be easy? 🙂 What are some ways that you help others in your community?