Learning, Disconnecting, and Adventuring

Some people are scared of change; some people thrive on it. I fall more into the latter category. I get bored if things never change. I need movement in life, fluidity, and unexpected opportunities. So, I always welcome the new year and see it as a time to plan some changes. Here are 3 simple ideas for changes and improvements for the upcoming year.

1. Learn something new.
This might mean paying a $50 audit fee to take that college abnormal psychology class you’ve always been interested in. It might mean watching a series of YouTube videos to teach yourself how to cook French food. It may simply mean reading a book about a topic you’re interested in. Learn something this year. In fact, don’t stop at one-learn several somethings!

2. Spend less time with your electronics.
How much more could we all accomplish in life if we disconnected more? Think about how many of our activities revolve around our electronics-playing on social media, watching Netflix, playing a game system, messing around on our phones, and I could go on and on. When I was a kid, in the summers, my mom made us have 1 day a week that was “no tv day”. I remember I’d always be upset about it at first, but those always ended up being the days I had the most adventures. If we disconnect, we would have time to get outdoors and take that walk to become healthier; we’d be able to paint the spare bedroom like we’ve been wanting to do for the past 2 years. We would connect more face-to-face with our friends and family. Give yourself a no tv day this year!

3. Go on an adventure.
We all tend to think of adventures as huge ordeals. Yes, taking a trip to Japan is indeed an adventure. However, going hiking an hour away from your house at that state park you’ve been wanting to go to is also an adventure. I try to do things very often that are adventurous in order to spice up my life. When you’re taking a road trip somewhere, pull off at the town you’ve always seen the sign for and been curious about. Yes, I’ve traveled to quite a few places and had quite a few adventures, but I’m going to tell you about the most mundane adventure I’ve had. There’s a convenience store on the way to the park that I’ve passed by 100s of times. For some strange reason, it has always intrigued me. I was telling my friend that as we drove by once, and he said, “Well, let’s go in then.” And we did, and it was not that exciting of a place. But, the point is, I did something I had been wanting to do, to see, or to explore. I still think about that day. How weird is that? So, no matter how mundane, go on an adventure!

These are my 3 tips to enjoy 2014. Do you have any you would add? Please share if you know anyone who would benefit from these tips. Happy New Year!

I Love You, My Little Elephant

Do you like when your significant other calls you “sweetheart”? What about when you mom calls you “baby”? Do you mind when a waitress calls you “sugar”?

A term of endearment is more commonly known as a pet name. They are used to refer to those for whom you have a great affection for- your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, your children, and even your friends. For example, my mom will still call me baby when I’m using a walker and placing my teeth beside my bed each night. And my boyfriends always end up with some funny, but cute, pet name, such as monkey or Pancho.

Calling those people pet names makes sense to me, but what about using terms of endearment for complete strangers? Waitresses are notorious for calling us sweetie-honey-baby-pumpkin-sugar, aren’t they? Just today, the lady who was checking me out at the store called me baby doll. Do older people tend to use terms of endearment more than younger people? Do people in the South use them more than people in the North? Are pet names different around the world?

Every time I visit the South, I hear pet names used more frequently and also more frequently by strangers. I also feel that older people use these names more often than us younger folk.

Have you ever been offended by being called a pet name? The owner of the garage I take my car to get fixed always calls me honey. Never fails. From the first time I met him, to every time I take my car there, he calls me honey. At first I thought he was being a smart-aleck, telling me I don’t know anything about cars (I don’t. But, I know my car is gray. Boom! I’m doing good!).  After taking my car there several times, I discovered that that’s just how he talks to everyone. I am no longer offended.

Sometimes I feel like I have to be a little defensive about my age. I feel that some people don’t take me seriously, because I’m a young professor. So when a stranger calls me sweetie or baby, I automatically want to start defending myself- “Hey! I am not a baby! I’m a big girl. I make my own money. I have a career. I pay my own bills. I’m I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.” Then it trails off into that  song featuring some rapper named Little Boosie. But….I digress.

Sweet foods are often used as pet names in the US- sugar, honey,   And food in general is used quite a bit, such as pumpkin, cupcake, sweetie pie. What about in other countries? What are common pet names there?

Would you appreciate being called an egg with eyes or tamago gata no kao. That’s what women are sometimes called in Japan since having an egg or oval shaped face is considered beautiful.

France has a few strange ones- you might get called a little cabbage (petit chou)  or a flea (ma puce).

Since elephants are considered lucky in Thailand, the term chang noi, or little elephant, might be whispered in your ear by your significant other.

I love that in the romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, etc.,  speakers used diminutives to show affection. A diminutive is when a word is made smaller, to show endearment. For example, in Spanish, mi abuelita, means my dear grandmother. Amorito literally means little love but is something like honey. It is usually done by adding the “ita” or “ito” to the end of a word.  I wish it was more common to do this in English, because I think it’s charming!

Let me know your thoughts on pet names.  It seems to be pretty divisive!  As always, please share on your social media if you thought this was interesting. Until next time, my little flea!

The Queen of, like, Everywhere

I was sitting around chatting with some friends when somehow we started talking about Australia and its government. I said something about the Queen and everyone was like, “Huh?!” I mentioned that the Queen of England is also the Queen of Australia technically. She’s also the Queen of Canada, New Zealand, and on and on. No one believed me. Why do I know these random facts anyway? Haha. So here is some info on how the Queen is the queen of everywhere!

Queen of England meme

Image from memegenerator.co

The Queen is currently sovereign over 15 commonwealths. The Commonwealth has existed for more than 60 years and is made up of 54 independent countries, which used to be under British rule. In 1949, India became the first country to become independent, yet want to stay tied to the Commonwealth group. The London Declaration declared King George the VI as the King of these countries, and then Queen Elizabeth the II after King George’s death. Some other countries that are a part of the Commonwealth are South Africa, Belize, Pakistan, Singapore, Ghana, Bangladesh, and so many more.

So while there are 54 independent countries, there are still 15 that are controlled by royalty. What does that mean exactly? Just like England, Canada has a prime minister instead of a president. Have you ever wondered why? Well, now you know. Countries with royalty usually have a King or Queen who is just a figure-head, while the prime minister is the one with the political power.

The same is true for the 15 Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK-Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas.

Many of these are islands, some of which we may not have even heard of, but I think many people will be shocked to hear that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica have a queen.
Check out this website for more info on any of this. Did you already know this? Do you know any more crazy facts like this that none of your friends knew or even believed you? And, as always, please share on your social media sites if you want your friends to read this too!

English Proficiency in the US

“Everyone that lives in the US should learn English or get kicked out!”

Have you ever heard someone say that, or have you maybe even said it yourself? There are many people that are residing in the US that self-report not speaking English well.

9% of the population in fact. 

The Migration Policy Institute just released a new study that determined that 9% of the population of the US is not proficient in English. It was at 6% in 1990.

9% of the US population is about 25.3 million people, which puts it into perspective a bit more.

63% of these LEP (limited English proficient) are Latino, and 20% are Asian. 13% are non-Latino white, and 3% are black.

About half of these LEPs live in California, Texas, and New York, which have always had large numbers of immigrants. In fact, 1 in 5 people in California have limited proficiency in English, which puts California at having 27% of the LEP population. And, of course, larger cities have larger populations of non-proficient speakers. Cities such as DC, Miami, and Chicago have large populations of LEPs.

Limited English Proficient Population

limited English proficiency states

While many LEPs are foreign born, about 19% were actually born in the US.  That leaves 81% that are foreign born.

Separately, there are an additional 2.8 million LEPs in Puerto Rico, which is part of the US.  (When I visited Puerto Rico, I was surprised that hardly anyone spoke English fluently since I had read that both English and Spanish are the official languages there.)

Does not being able to speak English while living in America hurt LEPs? This study does show that they are more likely to be living in poverty or be doing menial jobs. Many LEPs work in construction, transportation, or the service industry. They are less likely to hold college degrees. Is it difficult to live their day-to-day lives? I am sure it is. Many LEPs have children that are proficient in English from going to school, and their children must help them do simple tasks, like pay bills. It is taxing on the parents and the children.

However, not everyone has the time or the opportunity to learn English. If you’re working 60 hours a week, it’s very difficult to squeeze in time to learn English. Additionally, many people don’t know how to go about learning. Some don’t realize there are many free classes to help them learn English. And another major reason is that learning English can be intimidating. It’s hard to admit that you don’t know the language, and then go to a class and feel like a toddler while learning the basics. (I can relate to that while living in China and trying to learn Chinese!)

This study goes to show that there is a definite need for qualified ESL teachers. There is also a need for volunteers to teach English. There are so many organizations with which one can volunteer to do this. They will give you basic training, but the teaching will be simple, and any native English speaker would be able to do this easily. One example is Pro-Literacy America.

So instead of getting angry when people can’t speak English,  think about what you can do to help. Also, be considerate of their circumstances. It may very well be their first day in the US, or they may be taking classes but their ability level is still not very good yet.  Put yourself in their shoes, and be considerate of their feelings and situation.

I hate when people say that everyone in the US should know English, “because English is the official language goshdarnit!”  If you’d do your research you’d know that the US does not actually have an official language. So, chew on that little tidbit for a while.

I hope this post was informative. I got my information (and the images) from this website. So check it out if you’d like to read more if you’re a language/English/teaching nerd like me.   :]  And please help me out and  share on your social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.) if you enjoyed this post.

Goodbyes Are, In Fact, Not “Good”

Saying goodbye is hard. It doesn’t matter how many times in our lives we do it; we simply don’t get good at it. Saying goodbye is especially difficult when you’re not sure if you’ll ever see the person again. It seems like those are always the types of goodbyes I’m saying.

I started thinking about this because, as a faculty member, I have to participate in graduation each May. I have to sit on the stage in my cap and gown and watch each graduate cross the stage and receive their diploma. I’m such a sap, that when a student that I’ve grown close to over the years makes their way across the stage, I have to hold back a few stray tears. That’s just how I am. I’m always thinking annoying thoughts like, “What if this is the last time I see her…ever!?”

My hardest part about leaving China to move back to the US was the thought that I was leaving SO many people that I just knew I’d never see again. And here I am again in a situation like that. Students graduate and are out of my life forever. Some students transfer, and I don’t even realize they aren’t coming back, so I don’t even get to say goodbye.

And sometimes we need to voluntarily tell people goodbye permanently. Sometimes we find ourself in a toxic friendship or relationship, and we must make the decision to tell that person goodbye for good. I find this to be the most difficult goodbye. A graduation or a move situationally forces us to say goodbye, but this is all up to us. It’s hard and usually painful. But, we usually end up being better for it, happier for it, in the end. Time makes us forget people, or just remember them a bit less. And sometimes that’s a helpful thing. A good thing. Goodbye.

Why I Despise the Commuters’ Lounge

I can’t decide if hate, loathe, despise, or vehemently dislike best describes how I feel about the new commuters’ lounge that has so graciously been placed across from my office at work. What I do know, is that every single day something about it drives me a little more insane than I already am. Here is the ever-growing list of reasons why I hate it.

1) It has a clear glass door.

-I always feel like the students in there are spying on me. Even if they aren’t spying on me, they are at least staring at me and some of them very creepily so. One time, a student even pressed his face against the glass and made a face at me. Stop. It. Now.

2) My office always smells like ravioli.

– They heat up their lunches in the microwave, and the smell always wafts into my office. The mix of about 10 meals creates quite the stench. Every other person that walks into my office asks me why it smells like pasta. Doh.

3) The room is not soundproof.

– When there are a lot of people in there, they are so loud that I can’t concentrate to work. The strangest thing though was last week when I sneezed, someone in the commuter lounge blessed me through the closed door. That’s just not right.

4) I can hear you in the hallway too.

– People step out of the lounge to take phone calls so that their peers don’t hear their phone conversations. Well, the problem with that is that they are right outside my office talking on the phone. I don’t want to hear you fight with your boyfriend. I don’t want to listen to you describe your ailments to your doctor. Stay in that room and yak.

5) The sign’s not even spelled right.

– The sign on the door says commuter’s lounge. Is it just for one commuter? Oh how I wish! You could have asked me. I’m an English teacher! Plural possessive=s’. COMMUTERS’. My boss stopped by the other day, and we chatted about that mistake for about 10 minutes. Only English teachers would do that. So, now I have to stare at that erroneous word every dang day. Who should I report that too?

I better stop at 5, because I’m starting to get angry on a Sunday night. I’ll wait until tomorrow morning when I’m across the hall from “that which shall not be named” to get annoyed. If you walk by my office and see me banging my head repeatedly on my desk, you now know why.

Update: A sign of rules was just posted today. The rules are so strange, so you can understand how strangely they act in this lounge! The parenthetical after the PDA rule and the shoe rule are my favorites.


I Don’t Need to Reunite With You!

My 10 year high school reunion came and went during the month of September. I didn’t go. I didn’t even feel the need to go.   In fact, I would say that no one really needs to go to a high school reunion anymore.  “How dare she?!” you say? Yes, how dare I.

It’s not that I hate everyone from high school. It’s just that I think Facebook has cancelled the need for anyone to attend their reunion.

I think, in the past, that the only reason people attended their reunions is because they are nosy. They want to know what people look like 10 years later, what they have accomplished, where they’re living, who they’re married to, and if they have kids. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being nosy; I’m the queen of being nosy!)

Facebook has taken care of knowing all that. I probably know way more about my high school classmates now than I did when we were in high school together and saw them every day. I could tell you all about them, even what they had for dinner on some days. In fact, I wish I could unknow some of the things I’ve seen about them on Facebook. Cold shiver.

One of my co-workers just went to her 10 year reunion a few weeks ago. She said hardly anyone talked to each other. In fact, she went up to talk to a table of people and they said, “Where do you work? Are you married? Do you have any kids?” She answered, and they said, ” Ok, great. See you in 10 more years!” Wow!

So yea, it’s people like me who caused there to only be 30 people at our reunion. Maybe I shouldn’t be so jaded, and I should want to spend actual time with my high school classmates. I’m sorry. But I’ll just look at the pictures of it that you posted on Facebook.

Here’s a nice, blurry high school photo of me for your enjoyment

Is Cursive Dying?

As I was helping my new ESL students go through the registration process a few weeks ago, I was reminded about cursive writing. You’re probably wondering how a person can be “reminded” of cursive. Well, I’m reminded that many non-native English speakers can’t read cursive. My students were handed a form that had cursive writing filled into some of the blanks, and they told me they couldn’t read it and wanted help. I had learned during my time in China that my students there couldn’t read cursive either, but I hadn’t thought of it for quite a while.

I hardly ever write in cursive. It takes much more time for me, and, actually, I don’t remember how to form some of the letters. I’ve also noticed that, at least at my workplace, that hardly anyone my age writes in cursive, but the older folks do. (You can decide for yourself if you fit into the older folks category!)

Recently, while in the waiting room to see the doctor, I read an article in National Geographic magazine that supports some of these ideas. The article explained that cursive began because when quills were used to write with, they often splattered. Cursive solved this problem and was used until the 1900’s when it stopped being as important. Children used to learn cursive in 1st grade, then it slid up to 3rd grade. 88% of elementary school teachers today don’t feel like they even know cursive well enough to teach it! Also, a study showed that 85% of college students print instead of using cursive. I took a little informal poll of my college students to see which they preferred, and it seemed about 50-50. The ones that said print do so because it’s neater. The ones that said they like cursive made sure to tell me that a main reason is because they are afraid cursive is dying.

Is cursive really dying? Maybe so. In Indiana, they no longer require students to learn cursive, instead focusing on being able to use a keyboard. In one article I read, a 40 year teaching veteran lamented the loss of skill at cursive writing, saying that prospective employers are impressed with “attractive writing”. I’m sure that my boss has never seen my handwriting in the 4 years I’ve been at my current job, let alone use it as a deciding factor on whether or not to hire me.

Some would even argue that writing by hand is dying. I don’t know about you, but I like to see a note written, not typed, from someone I care about. And it’s great to look at a recipe written out on an index card by my grandma. Even if I do have a little trouble reading her cursive writing… :]

Do you feel strongly one way or the other about cursive writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Scaredy Cat

Everybody’s scared of something. But we’re all scared of different things.

The top 5 fears of Americans are:

  1. Speaking in public
  2. Snakes
  3. Confined spaces
  4. Heights
  5. Spiders
(However, every online source I found had different fears in different orders! Grr!)

Fear of the unknown is a common fear. I think that one gets me a lot. Before I do something for the first time, I feel like I could pass out. But isn’t it funny how after you go ahead and do it, it really wasn’t all that bad, all that difficult, or all that scary? It’s doing it for the first time that really gets us.

I remember when I was probably 10, my mom had me go in the city building to pay her water bill. I told her I was a kid and that I couldn’t do that! Only adults do stuff like go pay bills. She told me exactly how to do it-where to go, what to say. After I did it, I remember thinking that it wasn’t so bad. I could do that again.In fact, I could probably run that water company!

So, go ahead and try what you’ve been scared to do. You can try it once, and if you fail miserably, oh well! At least you tried! Or you can sit around and wonder. It’s really not as scary as it seems.


Beware the Barrenness of a Busy Life

I hate when someone tells me they’re too busy to do something! You choose not to do something. You make time for what you think is important and what you want to do. The other stuff gets pushed into the “too busy” category. Today I was too busy to do laundry, but I had time to go out to eat with my friends. I just chose what I had time for. It’s just in how we prioritize.

It seems like our society tells us that we MUST be busy every second of the day. Sometimes I even feel bad when I do something relaxing, because I feel like there is something else more pressing that I should be do. I should be accomplishing something. Do we always have to be busy being productive? It’s sad that I feel conflicted about taking a nap or reading a few chapters from a book. Shouldn’t I be cleaning? I could be getting ahead at work, right? I should at least be exercising! No, no, no.  Don’t be too busy to actually slow down and enjoy life. You miss a lot when you’re too busy! And some of the best things happen when nothing is planned and nothing has to be done.

Some people take on too much. You’ve got to learn to say no. Do just a couple of things well, not a ton of things half way. Do less, but be amazing at what you do.

I am obsessed with quotes, so here are some quotes about busyness:

There is more to life than increasing its speed. -Mahatma Gandhi

Ever notice that even the busiest people are never too busy to tell you just how busy they are? -Anonymous

The really idle man gets nowhere. The perpetually busy man does not get much further. -Sir Heneage Ogilvie

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.- Socrates