The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Academic Illusion

Being in school for a majority of my young life has taught me many things. I have learned that leaving a half-filled coffee mug in your locker for an entire school year turns your coffee into a gelatin-like substance. I have learned that being made fun of for having morals pales in comparison to the value in actually having them. I have learned that most people, in all actuality, really don’t need Trigonometry. I haven’t used it once.

Perhaps one of the greatest assets I have obtained is the knowledge to say a bunch of nothing and make it sound like something. Those of you in college and grad school especially know what I am talking about. You get online, type in your answer and await the responses to judge how well you got away with your nonsense. One statement of “You make a very poignant observation” is enough to send your adrenaline pumping for the next discussion question you will conquer with absolutely no knowledge in that brain of yours.

I have decided to compile a list of tips for those of you who may be perfecting your skills. May they serve you well in your future…or at least until you actually know what you are talking about.

1. Rephrase the person’s statement into a question — If the person wrote: “I believe that, based on current statistics and speculation, the company’s profits will begin to rapidly decrease,” all you have to do is pose a question to gauge how they really feel. Respond with “So if I understand you correctly, you are predicting that the company’s profits will rapidly decrease based on statistics and speculation?” This will make you look annoyingly interested and prove that you actually are hearing the person out. And you didn’t even have to think of a new idea.

2. Use phrases like “You make a very valid point” or “I beg to differ” — this sounds immensely more academic than the alternative. Saying, “Yeah, that’s right” or “I don’t think so” makes you sound like a child on the playground fighting with Bubba Jo Jenkins. You need to stroke the person’s ego or deflect their comments with intellectuality. If you get lucky, you won’t even have to tell what part of their wordy spew was valid.

3. Inform the instructor of what they were “trying to say.”—This little phrase can be your friend in academia. People have a natural tendency to want to be heard and fully express their thoughts. Professors get their doctorate in this. So when they elaborate on how the current Presidential administration is enacting policies that will lead to the downfall of our nation, they aren’t done. They may stop their rant, but their opinions haven’t concluded. That’s why you should use this gem: “So what you are trying to say is that you disagree completely with the recent legislation that was passed.” Game over. The lecture takes up the rest of the class and you don’t even get called on.

4. Elude to an article or book and make it sound like it is well-known by everyone who is somebody—By referencing a book and acting like everyone should have read it at some point in their lives, you will tackle those people who don’t want to be the kid who missed the smart bus in that particular subject. For example: “In the well-known article by Davidson on recent astronomical discoveries, he shows that a new planet has been added to the list.” People may not think that a new planet was added, but they aren’t going to refute Davidson the Great.

5. Master the art of making small personal experiences very applicable — This is probably the most important attribute for higher level courses. They want to know how you have run across such experiences outside of the classroom. If they are discussing if you have encountered discrimination, don’t sit there like a bump on a log. Remember the time that man cut in front of you in traffic? It’s because you were a woman. Use it.

6. Perfect your facial expressions — Sometimes the best comments can be made in total silence. When your teacher is talking, furrow your forehead and look inquisitively into their eyes. When they make a point, tilt your head and nod slowly. The motion should not be as if you completely agree, but as if the information is slowly trickling into your brain with each motion. If an obnoxious idiot begins to speak, act indignant—but silently.

We are all put into situations where we feel like we have no idea what is going on. It’s a constant state of being as we enter new situations. Even in your first job, you will feel like you are barely bobbing above rising waters. Though these are all in jest, they all hold a certain truth. And that truth is confidence. If you act like you know what you are doing, you will survive until you actually do.

And that’s something I actually do know for a fact.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Facebook & TMI

I just read an article on MSNBC that was discussing the violation of privacy that Facebook is breaching with its new "Places" feature. While I don't know a whole lot about it, the writer seems to be concerned that we have all become self-appointed "Big Brothers/Big Sisters" for each other. In other words, this feature allows people to say where they ran into you or where you are.

I agree with the notion that we shouldn't constantly be obsessed with the daily whereabouts of our high school friend's sister's boyfriend's friend. But I am here to respond to the writer's notion with my personal opinion: People tell the world too much information anyway. There is no need for a "big brother" lookout to happen when you have decided yourself to post that you are eating a cheeseburger with extra ketchup at the McDonald's in West Memphis and you are sitting at the table near the restroom.

I never cease to be amazed at what people will post for my eyes to see. I could have done without knowing that my elementary principal is taking a bubble bath; and knowing you woke up with a rather large zit on your forehead didn't start my morning off beautifully.

Here, in no particular order of importance, are my biggest social networking pet peeves:

1. The undecipherable cryptic status: Reminiscent of the boggled codes you have to type in to enter a secure site, these people decide to make every status a challenge. While you may love your boyfriend dearly, they-- instead-- ~~**LuV tHeIr**>bOyFrIeNd$$##

2. The I'm-going-to-be-vague-so-you'll-feel-sorry-for-me-and-ask-what's-wrong status: These people thrive on mystery. By saying, "Jumping off a cliff sounds good right about now," they are successfully reeling you in. They are either really hungry and lunch break hasn't come yet or their secret crush may have asked someone else out. You can never tell the magnitude of the issue based on their vague exaggeration. Interestingly enough, if you comment and ask what's wrong, they will probably tell you it's personal and they don't feel like sharing.

3. The uncorrelated song lyric status: I have been guilty of the occasional song lyric status, but I have only used it when it described exactly how I was feeling. Some people, however, pick obscure songs-- usually depressing ones--and share them on their status for the world to see. When people inquire about why they are so torn, confused and angry, they just respond, "Oh, it's just a song. I'm fine."

4. The daily run-down: This is the perfect status for people who always fill you in when you casually say, "How are you?" and expect "Fine." The number one warning sign that this status is approaching is the key word, "Well," which is quickly followed with a paragraph of mundaneness:"Well, today I woke up to my alarm clock, walked into the bathroom and brushed my teeth. Got the kids ready for school and then ate some breakfast. Turned on Fox News as I got dressed and then went to work."

5. The cussing sailor: These people are out to get the world. Someone has always ticked them off and they use explicits to target the status reader who knows it is directed to them: "Well somebody needs to mind their @!*@$ business or they are going to get their #$*%* in some serious *##@#U trouble." Classy, real classy.

6. The overly explaining parent: Don't get me wrong, I love baby albums. I love cute phrases that children say. I love everything about kids. I, however, for some reason, find it hard to come across a status that is so easy to share keep-it-in-the-nursery information. Like 1,500 people need to know that breast-feeding is proving to be much more difficult than you thought. Or that you didn't think little Johnny had that much poop in him. Or that you are getting stretch marks the length of the Mississippi on your torso. Save that for mom talk over coffee.

7. Nauseating lovebirds: Why people feel the need to leave a plug to their significant other at the end of EVERY status is beyond me. Is it like taking your love away if you forget to add "I heart Bobby" at the end of your "Going out for pizza with the girls." Instead, their status must read: "Going out for pizza with the girls...txt it...I love Bobby!!" The next day? "School was terrible today. I hate my teachers...I love Bobby!"

There are many more where these come from and I realize that we have all at some time probably been guilty of a few of these. Know that most of these are in jest and that if you have been caught red-handed being the nauseating lovebird or the uncorrelated song lyric person I am not going to de-friend you...

but I just might hide your posts...ha!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Friend Tribute

“Even though we've changed and we're all finding our own place in the world, we all know that when the tears fall or the smile spreads across our face, we'll come to each other because no matter where this crazy world takes us, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we're not all still friends.”

After hitting my snooze alarm this morning, I woke up at 7:35 for work at 8:00. Everyone has, at some point, had that heart-pumping, frantic wake-up call. Suddenly things like your hairstyle are at the bottom of your list as you rush from the door with curly frizz, no eyeliner and a quick brush of the teeth (if you're lucky!)

If you haven't guessed, that's what I look like today. I have tried to amp up my personality today as to detract from the brown curly mop on top of my head right now and the undefined eyelids.

I wish I could say that this was the only alarming wake-up call I had this week, but sadly, it was not. A friend's car accident served as an abrupt halt to life as I knew it. Finding out about her miraculous escape from serious injury or death stalled me in my tracks. It's like I get on automatic and assume that everyone I know and love will continue going about being the ones I know and love forever, without ceasing.

It sounds kind of spiteful to say that I take them for granted, but in a small way, I do. Living life with the attitude that they are always going to be there is, in itself, a demeaning reciprocation to the support, love and friendship they have bestowed upon me. Instead, I should look at them every day as if I am truly, unbelievably blessed to have them in my life.

I lost a friend in high school and swore I would never forget what it felt like. Isn't it amazing how quickly we do? How we store pain and memories in a place so dark and so deep that it doesn't emerge until we are reminded? Sitting on my bed and hearing that my best friend had flipped her vehicle twice sent a rush of emotion over me; emotions that have been beneath the surface for a long time. I was flooded with memories, things I didn't get to say, regrets and events that were coming up in our future.

I thank God that he spared her life and allowed me to get the chance to say those words; not only words to her, but words to everyone who has been a puzzle piece in my life. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends and young adult friends who have all stepped into my life at the right time. Some have been with me through all of the stages, some have seen me through several and some were present only for a single time. But no matter what leg of my journey they were on, they were deeply needed and appreciated, whether I fully expressed it or not.

So, my dear, dear friends and relatives, consider this the words I didn't say. Please don't read this and wonder if I'm talking about you; know without a doubt that you are included in this tribute. Whether we've spent a lifetime together or only a few moments of conversation, know that you have had an unexplainable impact on my life.

I love you all and hope that it won't take another wake-up call for me to let you know it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dear Diary

As my last semester of grad school approaches, it welcomes the usual fear and uncertainty. I felt like stalling my collegiate career a little longer with an MBA would set my future in stone and provide me with insight about my upcoming life and career. It turns out that I am now simply a confused person with another degree.

I am trying to remain calm and remember that every stage of life was terribly frightening before I began that particular chapter. To help remind myself that every little thing is not the end of the world as I know it, I call upon an old friend; a friend that collects dust at the top of my bookshelf: my diary.

Blogging may be my recent venture into sharing my innermost thoughts, but before its invention, I relied on a spiraled notebook, each year boasting a new design or picture on the front. The first entry would always serve as a welcome to the new year and the new diary. Other times, as demonstrated in my 7th grade Precious Moments diary, threats were used as a preface: "This diary is rated PG-13. It has some personal content that doesn't need to be read so. KEEP OUT. You read, you pay-- and you won't like it either!"

I have decided to pull them out tonight, as a reminder that my life has indeed moved on from the turmoil and life-altering events that were mentioned within its pages. I thought I would share a few sporadic excerpts from it-- not only for laughs, but as a reassuring reminder that daily stresses are only a few years away from being embarrassing entries in the diary of life. Enjoy!

7th grade:

"We just got back from church. Today, in our 'sex talk' class we had cookies and soda. We talked about STD's. It was so gross. I don't know about the other girls, but they sure scared me! I intend to stay pure until marriage. That's for sure! I'm not risking getting any of those dreadful diseases!" -- 2/13/2000

"This boy at school named Patrick is really getting on my nerves. First, he called me every day. Now, he's bringing me presents to school and asking me out. He is telling everyone that I love him...again, I am such a creep magnet. He is definitely a bug-a-boo!" --3/8/2000

"The Patrick problem hasn't disappeared. The rumor he spread today is that we went to the movies last night and made out. WHAT-EVER. I would never go to the movies with him. Ugh!"

"Speaking of Josh, the valley girl likes him. He's going to ask her out soon. They DO NOT make a good couple. Today, I was talking to him and she walked up and said, 'I know you want this hunk of a man to stand up for you, but...' I left before she could finish her snotty sentence. HUNK OF A MAN? Josh may be strong and stuff, but what's a hunk of a man? She's like so weird!" -- 3/9/2000

"Oh by the way, Bliss likes this boy who is like 16 or 17. She thinks he's cute, but I think he is dog ugly. She has something for blonde shorties. In a way, I do too. I like this boy named "Arnold," well that's our code name for him. She said when I talked to him today that I was beet red. I don't think so."

"*NSYNC was awesome! We had better seats too so we got a better look at them. Their show was exciting! Sisqo was there and so were his 'thong' girls. They were sicko! Most of them were fat and their cheeks didn't need to be exposed to 20,000 people."

"What am I going to do my report on? It has to start with the first letter of your last name. Reproduction? Whatever! I would never think of it. It's sick! It would get the boys going (if you know what I mean!)"

9th grade:

"I guess it's my inferiority complex. I just wish I was good enough. Boys don't know I exist. Sometimes I feel like a frizzy-haired, pimple-faced nobody. Maybe someday I'll find another nobody and together we'll be a somebody."

"Oh, diary, he is so awesome! He is so cute and funny. He's a little quirky too, like me, so we click...I just think about him 24/7. I can share this with you because I certainly can't tell anyone. Plus, my dad thinks I'm a happy, single, independent boy-hater, which obviously isn't the case. I want so bad to be loved, to drive around and talk, go out to eat, and kiss!"

The hysterical list goes on and on, but the theme runs the same throughout. Every small detail is the biggest deal in the world. Crushes that fell through were detrimental to my life; bad grades on tests would doom me to life without college; my parents were the most unreasonable, irrational people in the United States of America.

It's funny to look back, but in all actuality, I am sometimes behaving like that same little girl. My cries may have changed from "He's never going to notice me!" to "Will I ever get married?" or "I don't know if I am ever going to college!" to "Where in the world am I going to get a job?" but the lack of faith is still a recurring element.

God led me through the storm of junior high; mended my crushed hopes of puppy love and whispered to me that I really was beautiful despite my glasses and frizzy hair. If I listen closely, I will hear that same reassurance and compassion calling out to me today. And I will look at my current obstacles and remark with the usual, "WHAT-EVER."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hips Don't Lie: The Zumba Story

Belly dancing, booty shakin' Latino singer Shakira came onto the music scene a few years ago just as fast as her hips could take her. I remember watching her on television in complete awe that her body could even do such movements. It's like her hips and shoulders were completely disconnected from her body, with some director in the sky somewhere puppeteering their flawless, easy movements. I say all this to say that, until now, my fascination and deep envy for spicy Latino dancing had been pretty much kept on the down low. Then entered Zumba.

Putting exercise infomercials on television in the very late hours of the evening is a genius business move because all rationale is gone by that time of day and people sit there and think, "Wow, I really do need scissors that can cut a penny in half." Likewise, I sit there and become instantly enthralled by exercise equipment. Though I have never gone so far as to order the waist strap that magically gives you a six-pack through vibrations, I have decided to order bizarre exercise videos like Yoga Booty Ballet and Zumba.

Zumba is the upbeat, spicy dancing I have longed to learn. It comes with maracas that serve as toning sticks and features dance moves from various countries. I saw older women dancing on television, looking fairly decent, and I thought to myself, "I am young. I am hip. I have energy. I am going to be so smooth doing this."

... Insert DVD.

The worst thing you can do for yourself when you are trying to be a saucy Latino for the first time is to look in a mirror for the first month or so. I made that error on Day 1. In my head, I felt as though my hips were circling as fast as theirs; it's like sweat was pouring down my face and I just knew that it was because my booty circles were going 100 miles per hour.

I glance at myself in the living room mirror and it dawns on me that I look like someone who has just had a hip and knee replacement. My hips were slowly hitting each dial on the imaginary clock circling my body and each jutted movement made it look like I was hula-hooping on the playground instead of dancing it up with Roberto in Brazil. In other words, my hips were lying, Shakira.

Next comes the shimmy. This should be easy enough, right? I mean, how hard is it to shake your shoulders and nothing else? Once again, I did the mirror glance. Instead of the Jennifer Lopez-type figure I had in my imagination was a girl who was rocking her torso side to side, flinching her shoulders like she was in the middle of a hearty laugh. I also failed to have the face of ease and piercing eyes that the girls on the video have. It's like they could be doing this in their sleep. My face marks an expression of sheer determination and competitiveness rather than a look of effortless sexiness. Like some Latino hottie is going to come and dance with the girl who looks like she just saw the finish line during a half-marathon.

I realize that it probably took Shakira some time to get the hang of the whole dancing thing; while it may have taken a healthy breakfast of Gerber and a diaper change to get her on her way to such natural talent, it may take a little more to get me where I need to be. I just know that it will get easier, I will get better and I will love doing it in the process. Laughing at yourself is the medicine of life and every day that I slide that DVD into the player, I know I've got an hour of it coming up.

I may not ever get to visit Brazil or Mexico or countries where Reggae music is played; but I will never forget the travels and dancing clubs I visited on my living room carpet.