Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Pitfalls of Perfectionism

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I just got my "unofficial" grades back for the term, and I am not a happy camper. Of course, when I tell you my grades, you will think that I'm crazy. I've heard this feedback before, all too often throughout most of my academic life; I'm told I'm too hard on myself, I'm too much of a perfectionist, and I should be happy with what I got. In fact, most people would probably be thrilled to tears to get the numbers I'm pulling.

Most people. But not me.

You see, I *am* a perfectionist. Where others celebrate areas of achievement, I agonize over the areas of improvement that need to be made. I fret because I am not happy with myself when I fail to achieve the highest standard of excellence, because it means that whatever I did was not good enough. If my best is not good enough, then something is wrong with either *me* or the "system," and since the "system" goes unchallenged and is accepted as infallible, then obviously something is wrong with me.

I tried my best this term. I really did. I poured every ounce of my enthusiasm and passion into my courses, in an attempt to best my last term as well as prove to myself that I can obtain that elusive 4.0 "perfect mark." Well, I *really* fell short this term, thanks to one particular class where I thought I had done very well, only to be told otherwise.

My grades? Well, I went into the term with a GPA of 3.92. This term, I got a B+, A-, A, and A+, which meant my term GPA was a mere 3.75. That makes the year GPA average 3.82.

See? I told you you would say that I'm crazy. Cognitively, I *know* those are impressive numbers. Try telling my discouraged heart, though.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Retail Therapy

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Exams are *almost* over and when they finally are, guess who's going shopping?!



ME ME ME!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Best Place(s) in the World

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The best place in the whole wide world is in my hubby's arms, but you don't want to hear about that! ;)

The second best place in the whole wide world is arguably my bed. My bed is soft (there is a mattress pad on top of the firm-but-soft, super-thick mattress), it's warm (I have a down comforter on mine), and when I feel tired, it always makes me feel better. It envelopes me and gives me a retreat from everything, and when I am ready to leave it, I'm usually refreshed and rested. Here's what the bed looks like (this is the IKEA image, not our actual bed):
The Bible says that God is like our sanctuary. "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (Ps. 32:7). He also makes me feel better when I am weary, and envelopes me with love and comfort on dark and dreary days. He lets me rest in Him until I am refreshed and renewed, and gives me the strength that I need to make it through the long day.

I think I'm going to go lie down for a while, and savour the moments of sweet rest, both for my physical body, and for my spirit.

PS - What are your favourite places in the whole wide world? What or who refreshes you?



Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Grrrrr!

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All week, I have not been my usual happy peppy self; instead, I've been uber-grouchy. Not even a little grouchy, but the "don't-poke-the-bear," "your-jokes-aren't-funny," "leave-me-alone-but-give-me-coffee" grouchy.

I don't know why I've been in such a miserable state. Maybe it's 4 final exams in one week. Maybe it's my lack of consistent sleep and lack of time to exercise and lack of 2L of water per day and lack of amazing 4-pack abs.

Maybe I just need a shopping fix; that usually cures most ills.

Well, whatever the reason, I have got to snap out of it and make a choice to be more kind and happy. My poor hubby is starting to feel a little wounded by my long porcupine prickles (oft aimed in his direction).

So send some happy thoughts my way, people. These dark dismal skies and mountains of snow have not helped my mood, so I need all the sunshine and roses I can get!


Monday, March 20, 2006

My Thoughts on Working Out, This Week

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Friday, March 17, 2006

V for Vendetta

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Normally, I am not a big fan of comics, period. As a result, when I watch a movie that is based on a graphic novel (think Sin City), I have to judge the movie at face value, and try to imagine it as an illustrated story.

I think this movie may actually have surpassed the original graphic story, in terms of its effectiveness. Natalie Portman does a great job as Evey, but it is Hugo Weaving as V (the same guy who was Mr. Smith in the Matrix movies and Elrond in LOTR) that really blew me away. Since his face was hidden behind the mask the *entire* movie, he had to use body language and inflection of speech to convey emotion, and he did it so skillfully that you never had to guess how he was feeling.

The story itself is also incredibly powerful, and really caused me to think about government and social justice and complacency.

Bottom line: Go see it! My hubby thinks it's one of his Top 10 movies of all time, and I'm almost inclined to agree. It left me with the same empowered "rah rah" feeling that Shawshenk Redemption did, and *that* was also an amazing movie.

Differences in Communication Between Men & Women

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What a perfect way to summarize what the ladies in our couples' group (all studying "The Marriage Book") unanimously agreed to be a problem in their marriages, too!

Audiophile in Agony

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My wonderful hubby, who is hands-down one of the biggest audiophiles I know, is in agony tonight (it's now 1:17 a.m.). The reason? His mp3 player, a Creative Nomad MuVo, has died, and he has spent the past 9 hours in a valiant attempt to resuscitate life into it.

He has not been successful.

As a result, we may be in the market to get a new mp3 for him. Given the way in which his MuVo died, he is reluctant to go that route a second time. Instead, he is considering an iPod nano.

Has anyone had any first-hand experience with this thing? How good is its usability, and what is its storage capacity in .wma files?! We would love to get some feedback, thank you!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Whole New Garfield

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Actually, I shouldn't complain. Classes are over, and exams will be over by the time Friday night comes around next week. I just need to really tightly manage my time until then.

Anyway, some brilliant soul decided to remove all of Garfield's thought bubbles out of the comic strips, and now the comics are *brilliant.* Check out Gray's Matter for his post (and some samples) of these new and improved Garfield strips!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Slump Day!

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I've never understood why they call Wednesdays, "Hump Day." I think the better term is "Slump Day," because on Wednesdays, the day seems so long and yet there's still another half a week to go, in spite of the fact that we already need a weekend to "recuperate."

I realize that in using "hump," one is trying to say that the rest of the week will be an easy downhill slide into the blessed weekend. However, I disagree, and suggest that on Wednesdays, it feels like we're in a hole (or "slump") and need to muster up enough energy to crawl out in time to enjoy the weekend.


Also, in my mind, "Hump Day" makes it sound like people are supposed to have sex on Wednesdays. Another reason why I will forever call this day "SLUMP DAY."

Anyway, I hope you have a happy slump day!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Miserable Mondays

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You know, no matter how much relaxation and rest I try to fit in over the weekend, I always wake up tired on Monday mornings. Am I trying to cram too much "fun" into my weekend? Am I really that busy on Saturdays & Sundays?!

I really hate Mondays. Oh, and Wednesdays too. They suck.




Friday, March 10, 2006

My Sacrifice for Lent

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While others have taken to giving up some sort of food or drink for Lent, I have made an even more difficult sacrifice: I've given up celebrity gossip.

Alas, it is true. While others are pining away for chocolate or coffee or chips or some other edible goodie, I've been resisting the urge to check out all the websites, magazines, and TV shows that feature updates on the lives of celebrities. Right now, I have no idea what the state of Nick & Jessica's divorce is; I don't know who was best or worst dressed at the Oscars, and I have no idea if Brad & Angelina *really* did tie the knot in a secret ceremony last week.

This was not supposed to be a difficult task; I mean, I *do* have other more pressing things to do than sit around and surf the Net. However, this exercise in sacrifice has helped me see that my intrigue with Hollywood isn't as much about the celebrity world as it is about my needing a way to escape and do something brainless for a while; these celebrity blogs and mags and shows are my retreat from the reality of assignments and projects and readings and chores. They're like my Kit-Kat break.

I miss my celebrity gossip. I miss having that escape. Perhaps this is why I've taken to online "gambling" (see below), which began, incidentally, a short time after Lent began. I can't wait until Easter! Until then, I guess I'll just drown my sorrows in chocolate, and chips, and all that other stuff that everyone else gave up. *sigh*

A Match Made in Heaven =)

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Apparently my hubby & I are perfectly suited for one another. At least, that's what OKCupid says. Read my husband's blog to check out our results!


A Moment of Pride (and a Little Bit of Bragging)

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Remember that class management paper I had to write? The one that took me 20 hours? The one that I complained about and lost sleep over?!!?

Well, good news. My prof marked mine on the day of its submission (apparently she was excited to read this novella?) and when I saw her in class this morning, she rushed over to me and pulled me aside to ask me for another copy of it, and to tell me that I got an:

Apparently, she was very impressed with the comprehensiveness of my paper (it *was*, after all, 25 pages long!) and with my ability to infuse into it anecdotes and thoughts that reflect who I am. I was very flattered by her remarks, and more importantly, very thankful (thank you Jesus!!) that my hard work was not for naught.

So, hooray for me! I will do a little celebratory dance to commemorate this little bit of happy news, and allow my success to be positive reinforcement for me to get my butt off the computer and hit the books!

My New Hobby

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Lately I've been playing the slots. No, not for money. Online. For free. I've been frequenting Free Slots.
Apparently there are other similar free sites out there, as well as ones where you can play for money. I just like the sound of pretend-winning so I play the no-risk version, where I can also earn enough credits to enter into draws for money. This newfound time-killer is literally sucking up hours of my day (ones that should be spent studying) without offering anything of substance or value to my betterment. I think I may need to quit before things get out of hand, and find a better hobby.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

My Personal Management Plan

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After 20 long hours and 26 even longer pages, I have completed my classroom management paper. In summary, this is what I said:
I am so tired. The extent of my complete and utter fatigue can be summarized as follows:
I will be going to bed as soon as I return from my class. Good night!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

My Classroom Management Paper

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Sometimes I just have a hard time understanding what program directors are thinking when they put a university course together. Take, for instance, my project that is coming due. It requires me to write down my philosophy of classroom management, in 6-8 pages. I am supposed to support my strategies and management techniques with some of the theory we've been reading about in class. The task seems innocuous enough.

However, consider for a moment the audience of said task. First-time students and after-degree students, most of whom have never set foot in a classroom as a teacher (save for their brief one-week of observation recently). Fortunately, I have an advantage in that I did experience four years in the lion's den; most people have not. So, armed with next to no experience as a classroom teacher, a mere week's worth of observational experience, possibly a handful of baby-sitting jobs, and for some, years of child-rearing their own off-spring, these students are being asked to put down on paper and in ink, their classroom management plan. How does one even begin to tackle such a task when one has no idea?!?

I mean, before I entered the HK classroom, I thought I was a pretty "cool" and easy-going teacher. My Sunday School kids never complained about the goodies (read: donuts and cookies) I brought in, and they seemed alert enough during my 1.5 hour lessons. I thought I was doing pretty well.

Then, I began teaching.All of my strategies went out the window (and I was tempted to go that route, too!). I had nasty students who wrote mean notes about other people and formed a little "hate group" against me, I had violent students with behavioural problems who could literally pick up the desks and mimic throwing them (scaring most of the pint-sized people in the room), I had kids who didn't listen, kids who didn't care, and students whose first instinct whenever there was silence, was to talk in a loud loud voice.

So, what worked with these young people? Hrm. Probably very little of what is lauded in my textbooks. Also, very little of what I thought would work (or have observed to have been effective when I was a student). What worked with that particular group of kids (sarcastic humour, excessive positive reinforcement, genuine personal concern, relationship-building, cheerleader-esque levels of enthusiasm, strict rules, and good bribes) also did not work with my next year's group of kids. My classroom management "plan" or strategy had to keep changing to meet the needs of each group of students that I taught, so how can I (and how can someone with even less experience than I) actually put in ink, our plans and strategies? They're dynamic and ever-changing, shaped by our experiences and knowledge and a thousand other factors.

So, I will complete my paper, but I will do so grudgingly, because I know that even with 4 years under my belt, there's a ton to learn about what it means to be an effective classroom manager, and I think this assignment is unfair (or at the very least, premature!). I feel very badly for those people who have to commit in ink to something that they've never had the chance to experience yet, and thus have no frame of reference to base their thoughts on. Heck, I feel badly for myself. I don't want to write this!!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bullies!

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In class the other day, we were discussing the problem of bullies in the school system, and how there is a bystander effect where people who see the bullying take place don't do anything to prevent it. By doing nothing, however, these bystanders are in effect contributing to the bullying. Since they are choosing not to be part of the solution, they have chosen to become part of the problem.

Then my prof asked if we (as students) had ever encountered bullies as adults (e.g. workplace bullying). It made me think about all those times *I* was mistreated at work, or saw someone else being mistreated. At what point do we become part of the problem and at what point do we need to take a stand and become part of the solution?

As an adult, have you ever been bullied or seen it take place? How did you handle it? What do you think we should do about it?



Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Four Posts in One Day! Oh, and a Question

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This is what happens when one has a headache and takes two Advil, then drinks two cups of coffee to attempt to counter-act the drowsiness of said Advil.


CAFFEINE BUZZ!

Question: Are my blog entries too long and wordy? Would you prefer short and sweet (like this one) or the length of my previous posts?

I want some feedback, people. Let's hear you speak up.

Book Review - The Curious Incident

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Last semester, I had the opportunity to re-read this short novel and complete a paper based on its representation of an individual with autism. The book is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Based on my learning about autism spectrum disorders, I thought this book was an accurate and empathetic portrayal of what life must be like for someone with autism. Told from the point of view of a teenage boy, Christopher, the story revolves around the wrongful accusation that is directed at him, blaming him for the death of the neighbour's dog. Christopher decides to embark on an investigation to find out who really killed the dog, and as he uncovers the mystery, he also makes a discovery of even greater significance to his life and the world as he knows it. Through his adventures, Christopher gains confidence and mastery over many of his fears, as well as new insight into how love makes people do strange and curious things.

The book is a super-easy read and very engaging; both times that I read it, I could barely put it down. The story is interesting and the character of Christopher is fascinating. The writing style of the book captures readers' attention and holds it throughout the story. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Book Review - The Lovely Bones

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Returning to school full-time, I haven't had much of a chance to do recreational reading, a favourite past-time of mine. One very precious opportunity came after dinner one night, during our Vancouver trip. My book of choice was Alice Sebold's novel, the Lovely Bones.


I wanted to recommend this book because it was riveting, disturbing, and intensely interesting to read (not to mention easy to read - I finished it in just a few hours). It is (without spoiling anything) essentially a haunting story narrated by a girl who was murdered in her teens. She is looking down from her version of "heaven" at what is happening to her family, her friends, and her murderer, and reflecting on how her death has impacted everyone; through her observations of life on Earth after her passing, she discovers her own journey towards making peace with death.

We bought this book, so if anyone would like to borrow it, just let me know! It is definitely thought-provoking, and a worthy read.

RATING: 4 / 5


My Theory on Friends

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Over the course of my life thus far, I have been blessed with many many friends. Some have lasted since high school, others have been forged in the fires of first-year-teaching hell in HK. Some have been short friendships that last as long as the job (or class, or academic year), while others have transcended the dimensions of time and space.

All of these friendships fall into essentially one of two categories: circumstantial, or substantial.

Circumstantial friends are those individuals who are there for a fun time, not a long time. They're the ones you often make at school, at work, at the supermarket, or at church, and they become your friends because they share something in common with you (circumstances) and you enjoy each other's company. You tend to do a lot of social activities with these friends, but conversations don't often reach deep levels, and the few that do are rare at best. Circumstantial friends stop coming around or calling or emailing once you move away, or you lose that commonality that brought you together in the first place, or time becomes so valuable that neither of you chooses to invest it in each other any more. The value in a circumstantial friend is companionship and social belonging; you offer each other a familiar face to smile at and a person to hang out with, and you prevent the other from being too lonely. Everybody needs circumstantial friends, but these friendships tend to end. It's nobody's fault, and it is not a tragic affair. Once the purpose of these friends has been filled, they are simply no longer needed in your life, nor you in theirs.


Some substantial friends of mine from the Motherland

Substantial friends, however, are there for the long haul. They are the people that start out as circumstantial friends, but evolve into more significant figures in your life. You may initially do lots of social activities with these friends, but over the course of time (and distance), your frequency of "hanging out" tends to dwindle. Your conversations with these friends start out topically, but become very deep and intensely-personal as the friendship grows. When it is no longer possible for you to regularly see substantial friends, they are the people who continue to invest in your friendship by emailing, calling, or visiting you. They will still remember your birthday ten years down the road and send you a card; they are the ones who will ask how you are really doing and recall details like your siblings' names or your favourite colour. The glue that usually binds these friendships together is love; there is a mutual caring and respect that is shared by both, and there is a sincerity of concern and interest in each other's lives that is not found in circumstantial friendships.

Most people don't have many significant friends in their lives, nor can they. The investment of time, energy, and sometimes money make these friendships very costly, and few people have the resources available to maintain more than a few of them. However, the rare friendships that are nurtured are worth their weight in gold, and the value of these friendships rest in their value to our souls. These people are usually God's hands and feet and voice, the ones who bring laughter when things are tough, reason and calm when things get chaotic, and encouragement when the spirit gets weary. The value in a substantial friend is their love for you, and your love for them. Everybody needs substantial friends, but not everyone is blessed with them. These friendships rarely end, although they do go through periods of lesser or greater contact depending on your life situation and theirs. When a substantial friendship does end, it is a tragedy; both you and they lose out on being a blessing to and being blessed by the other. Thus, it is vitally important that those who have substantial friends make a concerted effort to invest their time and energy and love in their friends. Such a commitment by both parties will usually mean that the substantial friendship will last throughout your life, and the life to come.

To all of my substantial friends, thank you for being a blessing to me both on my birthday, and always!