Sunday, June 25, 2017

Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) - The Selfie

Wednesday was National Selfie Day.  Yep, I kid you not.  Why we actually have a day for this is beyond me, because, as anyone who is semi-active on social media can attest, any given day on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat looks like National Selfie Day.  

I learned this tidbit as my husband's clock radio alarm blared to life that morning, jarring me from my delicious slumber.  I seriously rolled my eyes, thought, "Selfie Day? What the hell?" and went back to sleep.

After another hour or so of sleep and breakfast, the National Selfie Day radio announcement was long forgotten, but I was reminded of it once again when I saw that one of the prompts for this week's Friday Reflections is to share one's views on the selfie.  

Oh, the selfie...  Where do I even start?  My feelings towards the spontaneous self-portrait are...  Complex.  Multi-faceted.  Varied.  Paradoxical.    

I'm like them, but I hate them. 

I enjoy taking them, but I also sometimes laugh or get annoyed when I see others doing the same thing.  

I think they're wonderful at capturing moments of our lives, but cause people to miss out on living in the moment because they're so worried about capturing the perfect picture. 

They make it easier to communicate via social media, but on the flip side, this sometimes drives people to create a certain image of themselves that they want the world to see and often that image is a farce. 

I also think selfies bring out some of the worst qualities in people such as narcissism, vanity, disrespect, rudeness, and poor decision making.  

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:


Like Them/Enjoy Taking Them/Ease of Communication Via Social Media

I bought my very first kayak Tuesday.  The way my husband and I were transporting it home was rather comical.  

Excited to share this news and to share the tale of our transportation method, I posted about it the experience on Facebook.  But, in lieu of making my status say something like, "Picture this - a man, a woman, and a kayak get into a GMC Denali...", I pulled out my phone and snapped a quick selfie.  

When I posted it to Facebook, my caption was simple - "My current situation" and this is what my FB friends saw:



There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and in that moment, I don't think words could have conveyed what I was trying to express any better than that picture.


Laugh When I See Others/Narcissism/Vanity

Last summer in Las Vegas, I watched a woman who, armed with her smart phone and selfie stick, paraded all around the pool area snapping pictures of herself as she posed suggestively in front of the palm trees and water features. She even asked some people to move out of one corner of the pool because they were "in her shot."  Yes, she sure did!  I heard her and I was so hoping one of the people would say no, but they complied. This went on for 35 minutes (I timed it).  


Vanity/Disrespect/Poor Decision Making

Two years ago, I observed a very dangerous selfie photo shoot while in Niagara Falls.  A young couple, also armed with a smart phone and selfie stick, climbed over the protective barrier near the edge of the falls in order to take a selfie. Two feet away from them was a sign instructing people to not climb over the barrier. Had either of them slipped, they no doubt would've been swept away in the rushing current and plummeted over the falls to their deaths.  Fortunately, they didn't kill themselves while  in pursuit of the ultimate photographic evidence of "been there, done that" and I'm sure the picture they captured of themselves was fantastic, but, man, it sure was a gamble.  I, personally, don't feel any picture is worth risking your life for, but that's just me. 


Rudeness

2015 must have been the year of the selfie stick, because this example also took place while I was in Niagara Falls.  I have never seen as many people with selfie sticks as I did there.  But, the thing I remember most is how rude the majority of those people were.  They literally walked around with they selfie sticks extended everywhere they went - walking in crowds bonking people with them, walking through gifts shops knocking over merchandise.  It was absolutely absurd and some of the rudest public behavior I've ever witnessed.


Vanity

Just to show you that I'm all about keeping it real and not just picking on other people and their selfie habits, here's one about me.  

Preparing this post, I became curious as to when I took my first true selfie, and by true I mean a self portrait that was not taken using the self-timer.  After digging around in old photos for about an hour, I determined that it was taken in the summer of 1995 - almost two decades before the word selfie became the "Word of the Year" by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.  

The picture is of myself and my then roommate, P, during the summer before our senior year of college.  We had just recently moved into a different apartment and took a picture to commemorate the occasion.  P and I are grinning like possums with wide, cheesy smiles that showed all our teeth and we appear as white as ghosts because of the overpowering flash. 

This would be a good place to include that photograph, don't you think?  Well, sorry to disappoint, but there's no way on God's green Earth that I would upload a digital facsimile of that picture for all the world to see.  Why?  Because I look like a complete and utter goober in it!  Plain and simple. 

The picture was taken blindly, as we had no visual screen in 1995 to help us compose the shot or to see how we looked before or after snapping the shutter. Even a trusted friend of mine said that it was "not so flattering."  In general, I'm not a vain individual, but when it comes to pictures that the masses might see, I am a little bit.  


Capturing Moments/Vanity

Back in March, my best friend and I met up for a girls weekend.  While visiting a local bourbon distillery, she wanted to take a selfie.  She held her phone in her hand, stretched out her arm, looked at our images on the screen, composed the shot, and tapped the button.  Voila!  We both immediately looked at the captured image to make sure we were both pleased with the end product.  

We were not.

If I'm remembering correctly, I think she uttered, "Um, no..."  A do-over was done and that picture was deemed acceptable.  Again, I'm a little vain.



C and I don't get to see each other very often, but when we do, we like to capture those rare moments in pictures.  Sometimes we're doing something unique, sometimes we're just having out.  Regardless, it captures that moment in time for us to look back on later and to reminisce. 


Not Living in the Moment

One day last summer, while out in Las Vegas, my friends and I took a day trip to the Grand Canyon, which is a majestic sight to behold and almost impossible to describe.  Photos rarely do its beauty justice. 

As we ventured out to an observation point, we naturally encountered a crowd. (It was the Grand Canyon in July, after all...)  We gradually worked our way up to the rail in order to get an unobstructed view of the canyon. When my friends and I reached the rail, we stood there for a while, looking in every direction, taking it all in - the colors, the contours, the contrasts, the vastness of it all.  We were in the moment.  After a few minutes, knowing that others were waiting behind us, we took a quick selfie, and vacated the spot so others could have a turn, too.  



Something we saw a lot of as we waited for our turn at the rail, were people walking up the rail, immediately turning their backs to the canyon, snapping some selfies, and then walking away, never even really looking at the canyon with their own eyes!  My friends even noticed this behavior, too, so it wasn't just me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about a good selfie.  But, I'm all about being in the moment and experiencing things firsthand rather than through the screen of my smart phone.

Now do you understand my mixed feelings regarding the selfie?

Love them or hate them, it's quite obvious that the selfie is more than just a passing trend.  It is a cultural and social phenomenon that has changed not only the way we capture the Kodak moments of our lives, but also how communicate and interact with each other and the environment.

What are you thoughts on the selfie?

As always, thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thoughts on Letting Go


One day back in the spring, I found myself standing in my bedroom, in front of a full length mirror, trying on clothes.  Were these new clothes?  No.  In fact, most of the items were probably at least 5 years old and, truth be told, hadn't been worn in equally as many years. 

Flashback to the winter of 2014.  During an unexpected, week long, "snow-cation" from work, I conducted what I have come to call the "big purge." Following Marie Kondo's decluttering method that she painstakingly outlined in her book, I systematically went through the various categories of possessions in my house and eliminated.  Now, I must admit that I didn't follow her methods to a T, because thanking each and every item that I discarded just seemed a tad too silly.  But, I did try very hard to express gratitude for all the items in general because I know there are many people in the world who have practically nothing.

At the end of the purge, which extended weeks past my "snow-cation," I thought I had done a great job.  I had given away 6-7 bags of clothes and shoes to charity, sold several items on eBay, and threw away just as much in trash. However, as evidenced by the amount of clothes I found myself trying on back in March, I hadn't done as good as a job as I thought.  I know all of the clothes I tried on that day were too small for me three years ago, but somehow they survived the purge.  

One of the rules in Marie Kondo's decluttering method is to get rid of clothing items that don't fit. Are your jeans too small? Toss them! Does that shirt looks like a tent on you? Donate it! Are those shorts ill fitting? Adios! And that's what I did, or at least that's what I tried to do. In truth, I did get rid of a lot of things that were too small at the time. But, I obviously held on to some items that were too small at the time for some reason or another. Looking back, I guess I held on to them figuring that if I lost weight, I'd be able to wear them again. 

As many of you know, especially if you are a regular to my blog, I've been losing weight since last August. When I pulled out those items that had been sequestered to a storage box since 2014, I was excited.  I remember thinking, "Yay!  I can now wear those capris again and I won't have to buy any this spring!"  Well, as it turns out, yes, I still had to buy some new capris because the ones I had held onto and kept in storage  for 3 years still didn't fit - they were too big.

As I looked at myself in the mirror and analyzed the fit of each article of clothing, at one point I actually found myself thinking, "Yeah, these capris are too big right now, but they don't take up much room. I guess I could put them back in the box just in case I put some of this weight back on - that way I'll have something that fits."

As soon as I finished that insane thought, I immediately chastised myself. I scolded myself and said out loud, "No... You've hung on to them for three years and even after losing weight, you still can't wear them! There's no point of letting them take up valuable real estate in this tiny house!" With that, I slipped them off, folded them neatly, and put them in the charity bag. Voila!

Since then, I've given much thought to the big purge of 2014 and the ongoing clothes removal I've been doing over the past 10 months as my clothes got too big for me. One of the thoughts I have regularly pondered is why I, as well as many others out there, am so reluctant to part ways with things. Why is it sometimes so damn hard to simply let go?

I've learned that I have a tendency to hang on to clothes because of the monetary implication - I spent hard earned money on those clothes and it's hard to part with something that may not fit now, but, given my track record of losing and gaining weight, might fit again sometime in the future. If an item is too small, I often say to myself, "Well, you might lose weight and then you can wear it again." Conversely, if an item is too big, I justify keeping it "just in case," basically keeping the item as a safely net in case I gain weight, just as I was thinking about doing with those damn capris back in the spring.

But, this letting go of things extends way beyond clothes. It can be anything - from old love letters to outdated home furnishings to books to high school and college memorabilia to miscellaneous items of sentimental value that no one but the owner can understand. It can also apply to relationships that are long past their expiration date.

A close friend of mine is currently struggling with this. For reasons beyond her control, her marriage has been strained for years, the better part of a decade really. Her husband has made some not so great choices and because of them, they haven't live together in a long time. 

Despite the obvious deterioration of their relationship, despite the fact that she cannot stand the man he has become, despite the fact that she deeply resents him because of how his actions made their once very stable, happy life as a family now completely unrecognizable, she still clings on. She hopes that the man she married will show back up one day, even though she knows in her heart of hearts how highly unlikely that scenario is. The man she married no longer exists, his string of bad choices changed him many years ago. These changes affected her, too, for she is no longer the woman she was eight years ago. She is hurt, she is scarred, she is mad, and she is tired. Yet, despite all the legitimate reasons she has to divorce him, despite all the shit he has and continues to put her through, she is struggling to let go of something that she knows is already gone.

Why is it so damned hard to let go of things that we no longer need, that are no longer useful, or that are no longer beneficial? Do we hang on to things out of comfort? Habit? Or perhaps fear of change or the unknown? 

As I asked myself that question about things in general, not just clothes, I came to the conclusion that I hold on to things for various reasons. Sometimes it's monetary (like with clothes), sometimes it's sentimental (like with the college jacket that I had the hardest time parting with even though it was worn out and I never wore it anymore), and sometimes it's for reasons that are just harder to put into words.

What are your thoughts? 

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer '17 Goals & Spring '17 Goals Report Card


Ah, summer...  How I love thee.  Even though summer just officially started today, I've been in summer mode since before Memorial Day.  

For educators such as myself, summer is often not determined by the tilt of our planet as we orbit around the sun, but rather by time off between the last day of school and the first day of school.  When I go back to work on August 1, the most frequently asked question will be, "How was your summer?" to which many will reply, "Too fast..."  Thing is, at that point, summer will be a little under the halfway point!  But, anyway, I digress...

Before I lay out my summer goals, allow me to recap my spring goals and report on whether or not I met them.


SPRING GOALS
March 20 - June 20

  • ✗ Lose at least 13 more pounds (shooting for a combined total of 50 pounds lost by June 20). Nope, just didn't happen.  I managed to lose 1 pound before the dreaded weight loss plateau hit in April and before I fell off the wagon in May.  Oh, well...  I got back on the wagon on June 1 and I my focus has been renewed.  As I close in on the one year mark since starting this weight loss quest, I am resolving to stop putting time limits on losing weight.  It's driving me crazy and is sometimes a complete and utter downer. 
  • ✔ Incorporate core exercises into my exercise regime 2-3 times a week.  DONE!  I'm not great with this one yet, but I have incorporated them into my exercise routine at least twice a week. 
  • ✗ Have all my end of the year paperwork (report cards, ESY data and graphs, ongoing progress data logs, etc.) completed and filed on or before May 22.  Did not complete.  It took me until May 24 to get all my paperwork finished.
  • ✔ No clothes or shoe shopping during the month of April. SUCCESS!  It was tough, but I did it!
  • Do at least one activity in the mountains (ride ATVs, zipline, whitewater raft). COMPLETED 4.5.17! My uncle and I went riding out in the mountains in his ATV. 
  • ✗ Make eye appointment and get my vision checked. Nope. This is an example of procrastination at it's finest. Yeah, I know, I suck.

So...  I'm 3 for 6.  If you think of my completion rate in terms of a batting average, it looks pretty good.  One would say that I batted .500.  But, if you look at it from a percentage/grading standpoint, I got a 50% which is an F.

I think I'll go with the batting average.  Perspective, it's all about perspective.

Even though I didn't do so great in terms of completing the goals I set for myself in March, let me share with you some of the things I did accomplish:

I completed the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge.  I didn't miss a single day and all posts went live on the day they were supposed to.  And, here's the biggest thing - I only had 2 posts written in advance by April 1, the day that I decided (at the very last minute) to participate.

I completed a competitive personal goal that I set for myself around the middle of April.  I participated in a step challenge at work.  I secretly set a goal to finish in the top position on my school's team and to finish in the top 10 of all participants in the district.  I did both!


Even though I didn't do so well with the goals I established, looking back, I would definitely say I had a better than average spring in terms of doing things.

As I began thinking about my summer goals, I had an epiphany.  Summer is my season to lay low, chill out, and to reset.  I unplug from work and embrace the opportunity to just "be."  During summer, I don't like timeframes, deadlines, or even schedules (unless a situation just calls for it, like when traveling).  So, with all of the goals I've chosen, I've decided to keep them simple.  

  • Continue adhering to the healthier eating habits I've established during the past 10 months.
  • Continue exercising, but diversify my workouts.
  • Be lighter on September 22 that I am right now.
  • Read one classic novel.
  • Get to know my adopted state a little better by doing something outdoorsy or touristy in Kentucky.

So, there they are.  Check back in three months to see the results.

Do you have any seasonal or monthly goals? Feel free to share!  Have a good one!

Linking up with:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

One Thing About Today...


One thing about today (Monday June 12) that I want to remember one year from now is how much I enjoyed spending the afternoon with my aunt, driving throughout our home county, collecting selfies in front of designated points of interest as we participated in a photo scavenger hunt sponsored by the Wyoming County Historical Museum.  

During the 42 mile roundtrip circle, we collected selfies at four predetermined locations:

1) At the Civil War Trail marker in a little community called Turkey Dip.
2) In front of the Wyoming County Historical Museum sign in Oceana.
3) In front of the Appalachia Service Project sign in Brenton.
4) With the bell that sits in front of the Wyoming County Courthouse in Pineville.

As my aunt and I leisurely drove around the county, we talked and caught up on things that have happened since I last visited in early April.  We enjoyed the sunny June afternoon, reminisced, and shared memories of some of the places we passed such as the drive-in movie theater, which no longer stands.  I also learned some interesting, little tidbits about my family that I didn't know.  

For instance, the local Appalachia Service Project headquarters (pic #3) is housed in a building that once was a school called Guyan Valley.  When I was in school in the 1980s, the school was for severely disabled students.  (This was during a time before inclusion existed.)  As we pulled into the parking lot, I mentioned that I remembered when it was a school.  My aunt did as well, adding that her sister-in-law work there during the late 1980s and, many years ago, before I was born, my great-grandmother and my great-aunt both worked there as kitchen staff.  Until that moment, I didn't know that.

The fifth and final location was participant's choice; the location simply needed to be your favorite spot in Wyoming County. Well, hands down, my favorite spot in Wyoming County is my parents' back deck, but I decided to take the opportunity and give a shout out to my former high school, Pineville High. 


Pineville High School no longer exists, it consolidated with Mullens H.S. in the late 90s, six years after I graduated.  The building now houses Pineville Middle School.  Excluding my childhood home and my grandparent's house, Pineville High is my favorite place in the county.  Although I don't believe that the best years of a person's life are his/her high school years, for I agree with Hall and Oats - there is life after high school, I still had a great high school experience and have many fond memories of my time there.  But, unlike most of my classmates, I also have many fond memories of Pineville High that were made long before I walked through those doors as a student.

Both of my parents taught at Pineville; in addition, Mom was always a sponsor of an extracurricular group, such as cheerleaders or Student Government, and Si was the varsity football coach. As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time in and around Pineville H.S. as a kid. I remember working the concession stand with my mom and amongst the high school kids and feeling so grown up. I remember attending bingo games and spaghetti dinners hosted by the Booster Club as they raised money to build a new football field house. I remember walking out onto the stage of the tiny auditorium, whose stage door was right across the hall from my mother's classroom, and staring out at the seemingly endless sea of seats. As a kid, the performance space seemed so enormous and I recall being utterly amazed at the fact that both my parents had sat in those very same seats that I then stared at when they were high school students two decades before.

Today was a day of reconnection not only with my aunt, but also with so many places that collectively make up what I call "home."  I want to forever remember this place and all that it has meant to me through the years.  


~~~~~

What's one thing about today that you want to remember one year from now?  Do you have a special connection to a place?

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Happy Thursday!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Recently Read - Vol. 19 (May '17)


It's the second Tuesday of the month and if you're a regular reader, you know what that means - it's the Show Us Your Books link up day with Jana and Steph.

May was the same as April in terms of quantity of books that read.  (I did attempt four, but only finished three).  Here's what I read last month:


The City by Dean Koontz
Format: Audiobook | My Rating: DNF

Goodreads describes The City as a "riveting, soul-stirring coming of age story of a young man with exceptional gifts." Within the description, words such as extra-ordinary, heart racing, and unforgettable saga are also used.  I'm not sure what book they are talking about, but it's not the one I attempted and finally abandoned.

For me, The City was slow out of the gate, but I persisted and gave it a chance. It continued to be slow moving, so much so that I couldn't listen to it during my morning commute because it was literally putting me to sleep.  Four hours into the book, the plot was no more clear to me than it was when I first started the book.  I had no idea of where the book was going nor did I have any idea of what the point of the story was and, honestly, this frustrated the dickens out of me.  During the two weeks that I attempted to listen to this audiobook, I managed to finish two other audiobooks in their entirety.  At that point, I said screw it and I threw in the towel.  Life is much too short to suffer through books that you don't enjoy.

*As I did not finish this book, I can't recommend it.  A friend of mine suffered (his words, not mine) through it and he said he wouldn't recommend it, despite being a Koontz fan.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
Read May 6-10 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4/5

Think - How Stella Got Her Groove Back meets Castaway

Thirty year old Anna is hired to tutor sixteen year old TJ with his family one summer while on vacation in the Maldives.  En route, their seaplane goes down.  They survive and wash up on an abandoned island where they must adapt and learn to survive.  Not the best writing that I've ever read and it was heavy on the dialogue, but overall it was a very enjoyable reading experience for me.

*I recommend this book.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Read May 12-15 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4/5

Think - Modern Classic Worth the Time

If you've seen the classic movie staring the heartthrobs Matt Damon Dillion*, Rob Lowe, and the late Patrick Swayze in their youth, then you know the story.  The movie closely resembles the classic novel, but, as in most cases, the book provides more details.  It was a very quick "listen" and I'm sorry that I didn't read/listen to it sooner.

*I highly recommend this book.

May 16 - June 1 | Format:  Audiobook | My rating: 3.5/5

Think - Murder Mystery Meets Lifetime Movie

This book started out with a bang, I mean, like a horse out of the gate.  It captured my attention quickly.  The premise was very interesting - a man goes to a grocery story and sees a woman who looks just like his dead girlfriend of twenty years.  The next day, the woman is found murdered and she has the name of the man on a piece of paper in her pocket.  

But, as the story unfolded, it started to lose momentum.  By the time I reached the last hour to hour and a half, I increased the narrator speed from 1.0 to 1.25 just to get it over with.  I'm not sure where the book's energy started to fizzle, but it did, at least for me.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  

*As far as recommendations, I am neutral.  My advice - proceed with caution.

~~~~~

So, have you read anything lately worth recommending?  If so, please share.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!


Linking up with:

*Thanks Jana...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kathy Griffin, Harvard, and a Universal Paradox

Last week, my Facebook feed blew up with posts about the Kathy Griffith presidential beheading photo controversy, with everyone and their brother, from well known conservatives such as Sarah Palin to unknown Joe Schmos whose posts went viral to people I went to high school with, weighing in on the issue and expressing their outrage and disgust.  Since the photo's release last Tuesday, Griffin has been fired from her CNN New Year's program co-hosting gig.  She has also lost an endorsement deal with Squatty Potty (which I had to Google because I had never heard of it before) and apparently several of her stand-up comedy shows have been cancelled.

On Sunday evening, The Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper of Harvard, reported that the prestigious school had rescinded admission offers to at least 10 students who posted sexually explicit and offensive memes in a private Facebook group called "Harvard Memes for Horny Bourgeois Teens." (Catchy title, huh?) Some of the memes reportedly included jokes about child abuse, the Holocaust, sexual assault, and ones that targeted minorities. The group apparently was a splinter group of the official Harvard Class of 2021 Facebook page that is maintained by the Admissions Office. On the official page, members were reminded that “Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character."

So, what do the comedian and the newly-unaccepted students have in common?

They are now members of an ever-growing group of people who have become textbook examples of the universal paradox:


As citizens of the United States, we are entitled to certain liberties, liberties that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of speech and that is exactly what Kathy Griffin and the students who lost their spots at Harvard were exercising.  

But, that freedom, as well as all freedoms, require a certain amount of responsibility on behalf of the individual. What Griffin and those students failed to remember is that even though the Constitution guarantees them the right to say what they want, it does not guarantee that there won't be consequences after the fact.  The are now dealing with the consequences of their choice. 

I feel for these individuals, for a moment of bad judgement has completely altered the trajectory of their lives.  I have no doubt that Kathy Griffin and the students can rebound from this, but regardless, things will never be the same. Griffin's career will always be scarred by this and those young adults will not realize their dream of attending the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the land.  Is it fair that one bad decision can have such monumental and potentially devastating repercussions?  No.  But, as we all know, life is not fair.

In this day and age, anyone with internet access ultimately has a vast platform to express him/herself. But, before we ascend that platform, it's probably best if we pause and consider the wise words of previous generations - "Think before you speak."  And, just to be on the safe side, we probably should update that old adage to this:


What are your thoughts on either issue?  

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Have a great day!


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