J11: How to Have a Perfect Conversation (or at Least a Half-Way Decent One)

What is the secret to good communication or great conversation?

Giving advice often makes me nervous.  What if my bad judgment brings about the downfall of another person?  What if they really know better than me?  And what really gives me the right to give advice?  Well for today, I’m going to put all those questions aside and give the world the key to good communication!  (Though if my advice ever somehow ruins your life, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

  1. Treat the other person or people as important. One of the things that angers me the most is when someone won’t listen to me because he/she is convinced he/she knows better.  Such an attitude is extremely patronizing and only serves to make the other person feel belittled or rejected.  However, if you treat the other person as an equal, not only will you get along better but you may find they have something useful to contribute.
  2. Don’t lecture. Outside of a classroom, lectures only serve to make the other person feel angry and resentful; they don’t help or teach anyone.
  3. I know it sounds obvious, but it is important.  Just sitting down and listening to someone can make their day, or help them work through something difficult.  It’s one of the best ways to be a friend as well as an important aspect of communication.

I’m definitely not a perfect communicator, and I don’t manage to keep these rules all the time.  Even so, I believe these rules are helpful in conversation.  If you want a second opinion, the Bible summarizes my beliefs about communication in a much better way than I ever could: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)

J10: Stalked by the Queen

Disclaimer: I hereby promise the reader every word of this account is true; it contains no falsehoods or exaggerations.  Thank you for your understanding.

It so happened that last spring break, I took a trip to London.  And on this trip, being that I was so close, I also happened to stop by Windsor.  The castle was beautiful and I had a wonderful time there, even before I found out.  What did I find out, you ask?  Well, dear reader, it just so happens the queen was visiting the castle at the same time I was.  Yes, I mean her royal majesty Queen Elizabeth II was present at Windsor while I was visiting.

Windsor Castle

Now if this was all that happened, I may have simply snapped a few pictures, marveled at the thought, and moved on with my life without further ado.  Maybe even believed it was a coincidence.  But that was not all.  Oh dear reader, it was not.  Because you see, being that I was in London, I went to see Buckingham palace.  And who was there upon my arrival?  None other than the queen herself, of course.

From this I could only come to one conclusion: her royal majesty was stalking me.  Yes dear reader, I know you find it hard to believe.  I know you might think the queen of England had better things to do than stalk a tourist.  I know you might even think it was a coincidence.  Although I know better; things such as these do not simply happen.  There are no coincidences.

But how does this count as meeting a famous person, you ask?  After all, I didn’t really come into contact with the queen.  Well dear reader, although I may never have seen the queen, I am most certain she saw me.  And that, I believe, is close enough to count.  Don’t you think?

My royal stalker

J9—The Parking Lot Adventure

For this week’s journal we had to rewrite an event from our life from another person’s perspective.  I decided to write about one of my amusing escapades from the perspective of my little brother, Andrew, because this is one of his favorite stories to tell.  (And mine too.)  My writing style in this assignment was different than normal because I was trying to catch my brother’s voice.  Feel free to comment!

Before the funniest thing in the world happened, I was just really tired.  Aunt Susan, Sarah and I had been walking around all day, and then we spent forever in the parking lot looking for our car.  That happened a lot on our trip.  Aunt Susan could never remember where we put the car.

Anyway, when she finally did figure out where it was, she left us to wait for her so we didn’t have to walk anymore.  As soon as she pulled up, I got in my seat, fastened my seatbelt, and then the car started.  Everything felt normal; except it wasn’t.  Because Sarah wasn’t in the car.

When I looked up I saw the car door was still open and Sarah was running—actually running—after the car.  I couldn’t help it.  I laughed and laughed until I started to cry.  “Aunt Susan!” Sarah yelled, running as fast as she could to keep up with the car.

Aunt Susan didn’t notice anything, which made everything so much funnier.  Even Sarah started to laugh, but she was running so hard she was kind of out of breath.  I tried to tell Aunt Susan what was going on, I really did.  Just I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hardly say anything.

Then—this is the best part—a car behind us honked, probably trying to let Aunt Susan know what was going on.  But Aunt Susan still didn’t see anything, so she started to drive even faster.  Sarah couldn’t even keep up with the car anymore.  It was awesome.  Though I guess Aunt Susan finally realized what was going on, because she slowed down and let Sarah in.  So we didn’t get to leave her in the parking lot.  Oh, well.  But the whole thing was still just so hilarious that I literally laughed the whole way home.

“I can’t believe you almost left me in the parking lot,” Sarah said, laughing her head off.

“It’s strange,” Aunt Susan said.  “I checked to see if your brother was in the car but not you.  He’s usually the one I have trouble with.”

“I haven’t laughed so hard in years,” I told them.

By now Aunt Susan laughed too.  “Silly turkey!  You’re only eight.”  (Seriously, I don’t know what her deal is with calling me a turkey.)

“I can’t wait to hear what our parents say about this,” Sarah said.

“Umm… let’s not do that tonight,” Aunt Susan said.

“Why not?” I challenged.

“Because well… they’re very tired right now, and it probably wouldn’t be so funny to them.  Especially not to your mom.”

“Okay,” I said quietly.  “But I’ll tell them first thing in the morning.”

Well, this wasn’t exactly how it went, but you get the idea.

J8: Reflections—Eight Weeks So Far

It seems I have completed eight weeks (one half a semester) of my Creative Writing class at TPS.  For this week’s journal, I’ve written some reflections on the class so far.

I was amazed to find out half a semester of creative writing has gone by.  I’m not sure if I should be excited about the accomplishment or panic because one semester is already halfway gone.  It’s hard to pick favorite assignment, since I really enjoyed them all.  I’ve never had a class where I looked forward to doing homework so much.

For a Journal, I would probably choose J5 because I enjoyed recounting this quirky adventure from my past.  For Creative Writing, CW6 is probably my favorite because through doing it I learned I like writing poetry.  Honestly, I was really surprised it didn’t turn out to be horrible.  As far as my least favorite assignment… well, I’d rather not mention those.  I’ll say my Brer Rabbit story.  While it was fun, I don’t feel it suited my style very well.

And of course, I have also really enjoyed getting to know my incredibly talented classmates and reading their amazing work.  I’ve had so much fun getting to know you and reading your writing.  So here are some shout outs:

Anne: Although I haven’t been able to read too much of your writing, I’ve enjoyed what little I have.  I love the way you’re able to honestly express yourself, especially in J2.

James:  You definitely have a way with words!  I especially enjoyed J4 because of your honesty and vulnerability.

Jessica: I love reading your reflection and creativity.  One of my favorites was CW7 because it was so clever.

Julie: You show a lot of creativity in your writing.  CW5 stands out to me for your use of humor and LOTR references.

Kasey: Your poetry is amazing!  I really admire your vulnerability and the way you draw in your readers.  I loved reading your CW6.

Kayla: You’re a really good story teller.  I really enjoyed reading CW8 because you made the story feel very real.

Luke: I love your insight and sense of humor.  J6 is one of my favorites because it is so expressive and funny.

Mara:  I love how much personality your writing shows.  You did a really good job with CW7; it has a lot of spunk to it.

Rachel K: Your writing is very insightful.  I especially like CW7 because it drew me in immediately and kept me captivated until the end.

Rachel R: I love your creativity!  I really enjoyed CW6 because I love Narnia and you did an excellent job retelling the story.

Sam: Your writing is very honest and creative.  I really love CW7 because it is so unique and clever.

Tabitha: I love reading your insightfulness and creativity!  With CW7 you did a good job of taking the message from the original story and showing how it is relevant in our time.

Valari: Your writing shows a lot of personality and creativity.  I especially enjoyed reading J7 because of your use of humor.

And last, but certainly not least is Ms. Gaines: Thank you for being such a great teacher and for giving such wonderful input!  You always give encouraging praise and helpful yet not critical suggestions.

I can’t wait for the next ¾ of the year!!!

A cool picture of a reflection. Because in this post I happen to be reflecting.

J7: My Favorite Bible Story (or Stories)

“Favorite” questions always throw me off.  Whenever I’m confronted with questions such as “What’s your favorite book?”, “What’s your favorite movie?”, or even “What’s your favorite food?” I’m forced into an awkward silence because I have no idea what to say.  I simply have so many favorites I cannot choose.

Another one of these questions is, “What is your favorite Bible Story?”  Since the book is filled with more life changing stories than I can fit on this page, I’ve decided not even to try to choose one favorite.  Instead, I’ve composed a list of five that are among my many favorites, not listed in any particular order.

  1. The story of Esther.  I’ve always loved this story, perhaps because Esther is one of the few female protagonists in the Bible.  She shows remarkable courage, which I really admire.

2. Balaam and the donkey. (Numbers 22)  This is a rather bizarre story, which is exactly what I love about it.  It shows God can use anything in any way to accomplish His will.  Not only does the thought of a donkey rebuking his master make me smile, but it reassures me God has the power to work in amazing ways.

3.The story of Deborah. (Judges 4)  Between Deborah’s awesome leadership and Jael killing Sisera, this story features a lot of girl power.  Similarly to Esther, I enjoy this passage because it shows women displaying great strength and bravery.

4.Ehud. (Numbers 3:12-21)  Yes, I’m serious.  I really do love this story, and not just because I’m a deranged person who finds it amusing.  In Ehud’s time, being left-handed was regarded as strange, though God was able to use this for a greater purpose.  It reminds me God knew what He was doing when He created every person and can use the parts of us that we don’t like.

5. Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11) There are so many reasons to love this story.  It really shows what kind of a person Jesus was.  Instead of giving judgment he shows grace and forgiveness; instead of being prideful and hateful he shows love.  Moreover, He used a few simple words to send all the accusers away, scratching their heads and reevaluating their lives.

J6: My Take on Poetry

This week’s journal topic: Do you like poetry? Why or why not? Include a copy of your favorite poem and explain why you like it best.

Do I like poetry?  I don’t think I’ve given this question much thought.  I did my fair share of poetry in elementary school, both writing and reading it.  There were some poems I enjoyed, others I didn’t, and some that confused me.  As far as writing poetry, I didn’t feel I was very good at it and decided it wasn’t my preferred form of writing.

Though lately, through being exposed to good poetry, learning more about interpreting poems, and even reading my classmates’ poetry has helped me realize I like it quite a bit.  An interesting aspect of poetry is it can be interpreted differently by each reader.  I love this openness, how I can read another’s words and apply them to how I feel.  Likewise, if I write poetry, a reader might have a completely different take on it than I do.  It gives me a sense of freedom, expressing how I feel knowing my readers may not guess the topic.

Another aspect I greatly appreciate about poetry is symbolism.  Call me crazy, but I love analyzing and speculating what metaphors mean.  I enjoy wondering why a certain symbol was chosen and what it communicates.  Though perhaps what I love most about poetry is that there is something about it that makes the reader feel more connected with the emotion.  In a way I can’t explain, it communicates something prose doesn’t.

There isn’t a poem I would call my favorite, but I really like The Writer by Richard Wilbur, perhaps because I, like the girl mentioned in the poem, love to write.

In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys

Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:

I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent.

A starling bird

I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,

We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,

For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish

What I wished you before, but harder.

J5: Lost in the Zoo

Well, here’s an interesting adventure I had.  I’d like to say this sort of thing is unusual for me, though unfortunately it’s fairly typical.  However, this was probably the most extreme– and the most frightening– case where I got lost. 

 

When I was eight, my family went on vacation in Austria.  One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Salzburg zoo.  It had very impressive exhibits, with more wild animals than I had ever seen.  There was even a simulated jungle you could walk through, complete with real miniature monkeys flying over your head.  After several hours of sightseeing, we decided to head towards the zoo restaurant for lunch.  When we arrived, everyone went inside to find a table.  Everyone that is, except for me.

Somehow, when they stopped, I just kept walking.  And I had no idea.  So I went on for about fifteen minutes, never realizing anything was out of the ordinary.  I can be slightly absent-minded.  Just slightly.  Finally, I reached the entrance/ exit of the zoo and turned to ask if we were leaving.  That’s when it hit me.

I was alone.  I was in a foreign country.  I was eight.  I didn’t know the language.  There wasn’t a way I could get help; there was nothing I could do.  And I was lost.  Very lost.

My head started reeling.  Where was my family?  Somewhere in the zoo?  Did they leave without me?  What should I do?    My thoughts drifted to a time in class we told stories about getting lost.  “If you’re ever lost, don’t go wandering around,” I remembered my teacher saying.  “Just stay put and let yourself get found.”

So that’s what I did.  I stayed right there, watching groups of Austrian school children and tourists float by.  None of them were lost.  When they got close enough I could hear parts of their conversations.  The words sounded so sharp, so unfamiliar to me.  Finally, I saw my mom walking towards me.

She explained everything that happened on the way to the restaurant.  I ate lunch, left the zoo with my family, and everything was fine.  When I first realized I was lost, I didn’t know what was going to happen or what to do, but once I was able to think clearly, I did the right thing and was found.