Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sensitivity of Words

The past few days have been a bit difficult for my family. Tuesday evening, we found out our friends' son passed away. He was only 25-years-old. His death and family's pain got me thinking, especially after leaving the services today.

Something I've realized is that our society is insensitive to the words that we use on a daily basis. Our generation has become so lax and immune to certain verbiage taking on multiple meanings. We say we're going to "die" when we really mean we're sick, tired or worn out. Some use the word "gay" as an adjective that has no relation to the true meaning of happiness or homosexuality. Just yesterday, I had the stomach flu and dramatically said, "Mom, I'm dying..." But here I am, blogging the next day.

I should know better than to even think of using the word "dying". My boyfriend had AML Leukemia as a child and had a greater chance of losing his life, rather than living. I lost my amazing grandfather just over one year ago. Regardless, the word tumbled from my lips like it was nothing.

Here's my challenge: When I'm about to use words like these, and there is no direct correlation to the true definition, I will motivate myself to search for another. To me, people's ability to curse every other word, or use "gay" or "dying" to be dramatic, reveals a lack of vocabulary.

I'm not claiming to be vocabulary genius. In fact, I often wish I would have taken my honors english vocabulary tests more seriously in high school. And to be frank, I sometimes let a curse word slip off my tongue when I'm angry. But, from now on, I'm going to make a bigger effort to search for better words to explain situations.

The reality is that we never know what a friend or acquaintance may be going through. If I would have told my mother's friend I was "dying" yesterday, she would have broke down due to the death of her son. You see... We need to be more sensitive to others' feelings and circumstances.

I'm hoping that this challenge becomes a habit and that I no longer will find myself using unnecessary words for dramatic effect. I'm sure I'm not alone and I wish you the best of luck if you join me and attempt to find more tactful, articulate and realistic vocabulary.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!
Although this day is dedicated to thankfulness, I hope you'll always continue express your love and gratitude to those in your life.

Just a quick shout out to my wonderful & talented twin brothers! This is us one year ago today!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do What YOU Do

My entire life, I've always carefully considered others' advice. I think that in many situations it's important to learn from the experiences of others. But, when you calm your heart and take a deep breath, you have to realize that you are not living anyone else's life but your own. Here's how I'm currently trying to live out MY life, instead of making decisions based on those around me.

Since summer, I've been meeting a friend for lunch regularly. I'll admit, I even call her my mentor. :) She can attest to the fact that when we grab a bite to eat, our conversations quickly turn into my own venting sessions which then leaves me pleading for life advice. After lunch is over, I then spend the next few days trying to figure out how I can use her words of wisdom to make my own decisions, whether they be small or big.

Here's my problem. I often admire others' circumstances and life choices and hope mine will one day mirror theirs. It's almost as if I need to examine a rubric or blueprint of others' choices before acting on my own. Of course there is nothing wrong with asking someone for advice. In fact, I think it's 100 percent beneficial. It's what you do after you receive the guidance that can take a turn for the worst.

For example, my longterm boyfriend of nearly three years is currently applying to and interviewing for medical school. I too have been contemplating which graduate schools to apply to. Without stressing about the matter, the situation is relatively facile. I want to obtain master's degree in higher and postsecondary education and participate in assistantship programs that will help me gain experience in the field. To my fortune, the friend I mentioned earlier- we'll call her Kate, was in a similar position about five years ago. She fully understands what it's like to make sacrifices for loved ones and to make decisions based off of them. Kate's boyfriend at the time, and current husband, was also taking the MCAT and applying to various medical school programs. And ironically enough, she is currently working in higher education. Don't you see... our lives could be nearly identical?! There are many more crazy similarities but I won't waste the time listing them here.

The reality is this:

Although many times I've said that I want my life to be JUST LIKE THEIRS, I know it will never be. Circumstances vary and plus, I should be thankful for all of my own blessings.

For example:
I will probably never own a cat like they do because I'm allergic. I also don't have to hop on a plane to get to the destination where my childhood home is, but Kate does. I will never be a traveling consultant for my sorority because I simply am choosing not to apply... and the list could go on and on.

You catch my drift.

So this past weekend, I made a few big decisions of my OWN. It took all that was in me to realize that although I hate making mistakes, I cannot pattern my life after others' simply because I'm afraid of falling flat on my face. So here's what I decided:

1. I moved my GRE to March, instead of it being in five days. The program I'm applying to doesn't require it so instead, I'll do more studying & hope to use that score while applying to a PhD program within the next five years (crossing my fingers).

2. I will only apply to one graduate program and risk the fact of being rejected and/or not being in the same location as my boyfriend, if/when he gets into medical school.

Although these seem like very simple decisions, they were not. It took tears, hours and a few pros/cons lists to realize that as much as I'd love to make all of my decisions the same as my Kate did in her past, that would not be me trying to live my own life. That would be a foolish attempt to live up to the standards of others.

So from now on, I promise to continue to ask others for advice, knowing full well that I will use it to help me make my own decisions, which will be based completely off my heart's desires, passions and convictions. I think acting by means of improvisation, based on the knowledge of others and the passions within, will help me to make the best choices!

Simple Reminders

This weekend I finally got to go for a long (10-mile) run. I can't even remember the last time I was able find some free space in my schedule for this. While the run did require me to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and challenge myself, it was completely worth it. My favorite part of the morning actually happened pre-run. As I was in my car driving down the freeway to meet up with other runners from Tribe Multisport, I carefully took a snapshot of the amazing sunrise.

This is what makes getting up early worth it. I believe that it takes the smallest reminders to motivate us to get back to our routine or even to encourage us to try something new. May you find time to catch the beautiful colors of the sunrise sometime soon, too!

Do you have any simple reminders that motivate you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons in Domesticity

Shannon is my name, but domesticity is not my game... At least not yet!

As embarrassing as this is, last night was my first experience “truly” cookie baking. Okay, not even TRUE (from scratch), but the kind where have to use a rolling pin, flour, cookie cutters, parchment paper, wax paper, spatulas and the oven. Oh and, pre-made cookie dough. You might be thinking that this sounds like simple baking, but to a girl who didn’t grow up cooking or spending much time the kitchen, this was quite the ordeal.

I’m planning a women’s breast health event and in preparation I wanted to make bra and panty cookies for the attendees to decorate. Baking became a bit more difficult when the Facebook RSVP list was over 300. But let’s be realistic, most people don’t actually attend even when they say they will on a social media site. Regardless of the daunting number, I went to the grocery store and bought all the necessary items. Wait, no, I had to make three trips to get everything because baking is so out of the ordinary to me.

So here’s the breakdown:

A college girl without a rolling pin – typical.

The girl next door who suggests I use a wine bottle – brilliant.

It took a while for me to realize that I needed a ton of flour so the dough wouldn’t stick to the bottle and for the spatula to successfully pick up the tiny bra and panties without catastrophe.

A bottle of wine, a few friends and six hours later, the cookies were done. Unfortunately I’m not exaggerating about the time it took either. But I am accounting for the few hours I wasn’t using the makeshift rolling pin and was flattening the dough by hand.

What’s the moral of this story? I should attempt to do things that are out of my element a bit more. The only way to become a professional or call something a hobby is to practice. I’m even thinking about asking for cooking lesson for Christmas. As minuscule as that task was, I learned a lot. Improvisation is key and I’m ready to do so more often.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The One-Minute Rule

Most who know me understand that I have a knack for a few things that include organization, timeliness and kindess. The first two often result in an inner battle, especially when it comes to checking items off my to-do list and racing to my destinations. This summer, I read the book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. For those of you who are looking for an easy and yet, self-motivating book, I'd encourage you to pick it up.

One of the things Rubin encourages her readers to do is "observe the one-minute rule". Thereby, if you can accomplish any task in under a minute, you might as well take the time to do it. While I started to focus on this idea during the summer by organizing my room before bedtime, I've quickly fallen away from the habit. Instead, I'm worried about getting articles done on deadline, getting a few hours asleep and making sure my coffeepot is set for the early wake up call. Lately, I open the door to my room and see sweaters and boots that have been thrown across my bed, stacks of envelopes on my dresser and even water bottles collecting on my night stand. Please note: I am a self proclaimed "neat freak" so this is VERY out of the ordinary.

Regardless, I've decided that next week, when I return from a weekend in Phoenix, I'll focus on making sure I adhere to the one-minute rule. In all honesty, I could get so much more done if I'd commit to this. Those letters could be opened and placed in a drawer and the water bottles could be refilled or disposed. Instead of racing off to a meeting, just to arrive 10 minutes early, I could arrive two minutes later, but feeling more accomplished.

You'll notice as I write that I'm simply striving to find the balance in life. I want to find that "kalos kai agathos"- the balance between good and beautiful- that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in her book, Eat, Pray, Love.

So as I attempt to find life's harmony, will you join me in taking on the one-minute promise for next week?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Encouragement in the Mason Jar

Today has been extremely refreshing. I planned to write about using negative people in your life to produce positive motivation, but I need to do no such thing- at least this evening.

I'm currently taking my favorite class of my college career, thus far. My professor is a 77-year-old woman who says she never wants to stop learning until the day she leaves this Earth. She has impacted my life in unforgettable ways. But, I'll save a full post about her for a different occasion. The theme of our class is "choices" and she has encouraged us to attempt to get to know each other on a deeper level than typical classmates. Our final project consists of a 5-10 minute presentation about a topic of our choice, that reveals who we are as an individual. I knew from the moment she vaguely explained the assignment that I wanted to do something unique.

I presented today and here is the rundown of how it went:

As an introduction, I read an article I'd written in high school that was published in AZ Teen Magazine. Please note, if you choose to read it, it's not my best work, but was a part of big growing process. For many years I struggled with body image and an eating disorder. I'm proud to say that I'm two-years healthy now, but the article revealed the worst of times. I read it confidently, stumbling over a few words because the reality of the past seems so far away. I then explained that without the encouragement of family and friends, through notes and messages, I may have never overcame the battle.

In preparation to take a souvenir of the class with me, I'd I brought a mason jar and light purple paper. I asked each classmate to write something on the paper, may it be funny, serious or inspirational, so I could always remember them. Before they put their notes in the jar, I placed two small, silver hearts in the bottom to symbolize my promise to always hold their words in my heart.

The notes were passed in and soon my mason jar was filled to the brim. I didn't read the torn pieces of paper until I got home from a full day of classes -- but I was anxious all afternoon. As I pulled them out, one by one, I could not wipe the smile from my face. My peers had written fun, encouraging and some of the most touching things I'd ever read. I cannot express my gratitude for each of my classmates. I know that I will always remember them personally and cannot wait to run to my mason jar on a bad day to be encouraged. The quotes, Bible verses and personal compliments will always be engraved in my mind.

I think this is one of the most simple and endearing ideas I've ever put into action. I'd advise and suggest it to anyone looking to hold tight to the memories and people they never want to forget.

Just a few of my favorites!

And I have a new decoration in my room!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who is Hollywood?

As a child, my nickname was Hollywood. Not because I aspired to be an actress or see my name in lights, but simply because when I was supposed to be kicking the soccer ball around the field, I danced around and sang my own songs. One day my coach decorated water bottles for our team. She put "Hollywood" on mine- the name stuck!

I was always the cheerleader, rather than the all-star athlete. I didn't have to actually have the uniform on, but I was always encouraging others to believe in themselves and reach for the stars. But that's when I realized there was more to life than trying to always be the pretty, self confident overachiever. I came to terms with the fact that people are more than they appear to be on the outside. There's something more to them that makes their heart beat, brain tick and enables them to laugh without inhibition. As I grew older and hopefully wiser, I hope to gain wisdom, encourage optimism in others and help people of all ages realize that a life lived without passion, is a life lost. Regardless of who I meet and how they treat me, I always want to realize there's always more going on than they eye can see. There's something more to Hollywood...