Fun & Free Ways to Pass the Time

Trying to stay away from the internet and be more active? Me too. Here are free/cheap items/activities to have/do to pass the time in a productive manner:

1) Do word searches.

You can print pre-made ones, make your own, or buy a book (these are like $3 at Target, Walmart, etc.). Not only do these exercise your brain, but they are simple and fun while also taking up a lot of time. Personally, I recommend buying a spiral of word searches so that you can take them along with you on airplanes or anywhere you think you may have to wait. They also last longer. I bought my spiral word search book probably 10 years ago. It contains 94 word searches–some straight, some curved, some are even number-searches–and answer keys for each. I still have about 30 to go before I have to go buy a new book. I wish I had found the value in word searches earlier! (Remember, you need highlighters or pens or pencils to mark the words you find.)

Hapiness Word Search

2) Complete a puzzle.

These take time and brain power, but if you are bored and pick a fun picture, your motivation will push you through. REMEMBER: The more the pieces, the harder the puzzle and the longer it will take. Definitely start with something attainable so you do not get discouraged. This probably means you should start with a 100-piece puzzle (generally; you decide for you). Puzzles are usually something most houses have (in my experience); if not, they usually sell for around $15 at places such as Walmart. If you are looking for something fun and cheap/free to do with family or friends, puzzles are perfect! Look at this 1,000-piece puzzle I did with my four-person family in two days:

Puzzle

CHALLENGE: There are actually 999 pieces in the puzzle (one is lost). Can you find where the missing piece should be?

3) Journal

Journal-ing is both healthy for the brain and helps you practice your writing skills. Plus, it is super easy (you write whatever you want). You probably have paper (lined or printer) or a notebook lying around that you can journal in; you can buy a journal if you plan on doing it often or just want to keep your thoughts all in one place. Some people hate journal-ing because they have no idea what to write, so here are some guiding questions I use:

  • What happened today that I find significant and why is it significant to me?
  • Has anything upset me today (or in the past that still upsets you now)? What is it, why does it upset me, and how can I fix it?
  • What are some of my goals? How can I achieve them (write step by step)?
  • What made me laugh today?
  • Are there any topics you want to express your opinion on? Or any frustration you want to let out?

There are tons more, but those should help get you thinking. Note that if you only journal for five minutes, your brain is not really thinking. It takes time to get “in the zone.” Just keep writing whatever comes to mind and you will be surprised and how much time has passed. I usually journal for an hour before I have to stop because my hand hurts. I also use different writing utensils and colors to brighten up my journal’s pages.

Journal

I love my journal because it is made from recycled materials, is covered with good-quality leather-like material, and is held together with a spiral (which I ADORE because I the opposing side’s pages never get in my way and my journal is always flat). It is from Target.

There are also various sites that have specific journal prompts. This was my favorite website I found: https://daringtolivefully.com/journal-prompts. Besides its journal prompts, it explained a great way to store the prompts, too (it takes time to do but is easy and resourceful). Instead of a jar, I used a ziploc bag. This idea is helpful for me on the days I feel like writing but am stumped on what to write about. The ziploc bag also makes the prompts more portable, so I can take them to college with me.

Blog--Journal.jpg

Blog--Journal 2

Blog--Journal3

I think it would be fun to write a blog post responding to a journal prompt. If you have any requests (they do not have to be self-reflection; I am willing to write on controversial topics, too),  let me know by commenting or using the contact form.

4) Organize/Craft

Organizing may not be your idea of fun, but it might just pass the time. And if you can decorate what you make to organize, all the better, right? Try making boxes out of paper! They can be used as dividers in a drawer or as a tray on your nightstand to hold everyday items such as cords, keys, and credit cards. Plus, they are made out of things you already own and are simple to make! Read how to make them here: http://wp.me/p84uv9-w2 .

BloBo16

So far this is all I have come up with, but I hope to add any ideas I come up with in the future to this post. Do you have any suggestions?

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Deep Freeze by Lisa Jackson Book Review

Success!

I picked up this book from the mystery section of Half Price Books because the story line (as communicated to me through the summary) and possible horror aspect of it intrigued me. I was not disappointed.

The story was well thought-out and the characters well-developed. I could not guess the killer until Jackson revealed him to me!

The beginning was slow, but eventually started to pick up. I actually appreciated the slow start, thought, because it gave me a chance to get to know the characters, relationships, and setting. Plus, it made the escalation at the end all that more terrifying.

The killer’s POV was fantastic because it was both believable and disturbing. I kept wondering, “how can a person actually think like this?”

Jackson executed third person point of view in a way where it almost felt like first person. I enjoyed reading different character’s thoughts and digging through their mind so that I could better understand the characters. I did not feel shut out.

I appreciated Shane facing his fears at the end.

The only part of the book I did not like was the sex scene. It felt unnecessary. Jenna and Shane could have made out and that would have been enough.

I do not have much more to say. I just really liked it. And I ordered the sequel, Fatal Burn, the day I finished the book (yesterday).

Racism vs. Stereotyping

Has anyone ever made a joke about rice to represent Asian culture or worn a feather on their head to symbolize Native American culture? Racist, right? Wrong.

If you do not think this way, I apologize for putting you on the spot. However, the truth is that–at least where I live–people think everything is racist. Obviously, though, if they think me wearing a feather on my head is racist, they do not understand what racism is.

According to Merriam-Webster, racism is “a belief that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” In other words, racism is the mindset that one race is better than another. Knowing that now, please explain to me how wearing a feather on my head means I am saying that I, as a white person, am superior to a Native American person.

Exactly.

It is called something, though: stereotyping. According to Merriam-Webster, a stereotype is “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.” You could point out that the definition holds the words “prejudiced attitude,” which is linked to racism. However, more context is needed to determine whether or not the person who is stereotyping also has a prejudiced attitude. Stereotyping can be racist, but usually it is not. (There are other types as well–such as gender stereotyping.) Someone’s intention might be to make you laugh, but you take it the wrong way; does that make it racist?

I understand the fear. Our society wants to avoid another holocaust and pro-slavery movement; however, if we censor everything we say, how do we live, grow, learn? For example, if I had not observed people stereotyping along with other people’s reactions, then went home and looked up definitions, I would not know the difference between racism and stereotyping. The best thing you can do for yourself, I think, is to allow yourself to live. Then go home and think about it.

 

Other Articles Explaining the Difference:

(history of the terms) http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-racism-and-stereotyping/

(read differing views) http://www.debate.org/opinions/is-stereotyping-racist

 

Works Cited:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype

Why Gift-Giving is Superficial

I like gift-giving. In fact, gift-giving is one of the ways people can tell I really care about them because I must like the person enough to think about them outside of our usual meeting place, spot something he/she might like, and buy it for him/her. Also, the look on his/her face after I present the gift is priceless. Surprise gifts rock!

Here is what I do not like: gift-giving on holidays. Why? Because even if I do not like you at all, if we normally hang out and it is your birthday, I feel obligated to buy you something. Now, of course, I could just not buy you something, but ‘houston, we have a problem’ ’cause you are going to notice and get offended and then try to guilt trip me into buying you something. On the other hand, if I do not like you and I still buy you a gift, yes, you may be satisfied, but I did not willingly think about you outside of our usual meeting place and feel the desire to buy you something. In other words, the gift means nothing to me.

Does anyone else have the same problem?

I am tired of buying gifts because I have to, because people expect them. It defeats the whole purpose of gift-giving. And it makes me like you even less.

 

Smart vs. Knowledgeable People

At my school, there is an award ceremony that happens once a year that is valued by the administrators in my district. Each teacher chooses two students out of all their students in all their periods and nominate them after the first semester of the school year. The award ceremony happens towards the end of the school year (end of second semester), where all the finalists are recognized and the teacher-voted winner is announced.

I was a finalist for the science award my freshman year (I did not win). At the time, I had no idea what the award ceremony was; I just showed up and went home, feeling proud of my nomination. I have not been nominated since.

At first, I looked up to the award-winners, as did everyone else. Not anymore.

What I realized soon after the award ceremony–after my proudness disintegrated into normality–was that the only reason my science teacher nominated me was because I had the highest grade not only in my period, but in all my teacher’s periods–and that bothered me. Honestly, I barely tried in that class. I did not have to. The information came easy to me because I loved the subject. I wondered how many other people were in the same situation.

Then I realized that almost everyone–if not everyone–that won an award was a senior. How unfair is it to grant an award to a senior just because they are a senior? What if someone younger than them deserved it more? Of course, I cannot say for certain that those seniors did not deserve their awards–but is it coincidence that all the winners were seniors? I think not.

People in my school greatly respect those awards, but I do not understand it. Who knows how many of the finalists/winners cheated to receive their As? (Yes, sparknotes is cheating!) I have the privilege of attending one of the best high schools in the nation, and even in my honors and AP classes, there are PLENTY of cheaters! And to think they get awarded for cheating! Sure, they may have the numbers, but do they have the brains? They may be smart, but are they knowledgeable?

“Smart” is thrown around to refer to people who receive high academic scores. But what does the word even mean? When I think of the word “smart,” I think of “book smart” and “street smart” and combine them to make a person whom has both abilities. I see “knowledgeable” more as what people define as “smart” (just knowing the knowledge but not being able to apply it). All my friends see my definitions oppositely; either way, one is superficial and one is comprehensive. After all, your intelligence means nothing unless you can use it.

And so, those awards mean literally nothing to me. I do not feel bad for not being nominated after freshman year. I also do not feel proud of or happy for my nominated friends and peers. People need to learn that “smart” and “knowledgeable” are two different terms, and I only want to be labeled one of them.

 

 

 

How to Make PowerPoint Presentations Interesting

Not only is public speaking nerve-racking, which makes appearing confident difficult, but on top of that, we have to somehow make a PowerPoint presentation interesting. Impossible? Luckily not.
1) Put minimal to no text on the slides. Pictures are your friends!

You are using flash cards as a resource so that you avoid reading off of your PowerPoint. What better way to reinforce that goal than to completely remove the text? In addition, if you have a lot of text on your slides, your audience will be overwhelmed and automatically bored, and if you have minimal text on your slides, your audience will focus on reading it instead of listening to you. The best way to keep your audience engaged and to appear knowledgeable is to include a one to three pictures on each slide that represent what you will talk about; that way, your audience will understand the direction of your slide while also being able to fully listen to what you have to say.

2) Say more than what is on your slides.

Hopefully, you have no text on your slides; however, even if you have a few short bullet points, this point still applies: ALWAYS say more than the words (if any) included on your slides. By doing this, you convey a sense of preparedness. Also, often having ample room (as compared to a digital square) to explain a topic naturally pushes you to write more (include more facts and ideas than would have fit on the slide)–making for a more informative presentation.

3) No white backgrounds.

If you are like me, white backgrounds are your friends because the color white helps you focus on the words and pictures decorating the slide. However, most people are not like this. White backgrounds are boring and often cause people to doze off–so either choose a solid color, a theme, or choose a picture background!

4) Incorporate transitions.

I actually hate this point because I view transitions as “so middle school.” However, transitions animate the presentation and are much more exciting to watch than the split-second switching of slides.

5) Everything is purposeful.

What the heck does this mean? Everything that comes out of your mouth should relate to the topic. Your titles should be short yet meaningful (a theme, person’s name, etc.). The included pictures should directly relate to the main points of that specific slide that you will talk about. There should NOT be an excess of text, pictures, or even what you say. My recommendation is to not talk longer than two minutes on each slide–or you may start to lose your audience!

Here is an example of one of my own PowerPoint slides:

(I used a website called Powtoons.com–as the logo in the bottom right-hand corner shows–and luckily I was able to record my voice instead of present live, but I still wrote a script and followed all the tips!)

2017-05-21

Good luck on your PowerPoint presentation!

Sexism Does Not Exist

Before you freak out, I acknowledge the fact that not everything is equal for both genders. However, I do not think that any inequalities present (all I know of are slight) justifies a women’s movement.

Only 19.4% of Congress seats are held by women. Statistics like this outrages many, but not me. I think of what America stands for and what Americans fight for, and it just does not make sense that we would purposefully make the genders unequal. So here is my perspective:

There are some things that men do better, naturally, biologically, scientifically. Some of these are sports/exercise/athleticism, math, science, etc. This does not mean women cannot perform these tasks as well or better than men, but generally men do them better. That is something uncontrollable. On the other hand, there are many tasks women naturally perform better than men: art, english, etc. In the same way that women can do the same tasks as men, men can do the same tasks as women–just usually not as well. In order to better enjoy life, this is something people need to accept.

Just because men hold 80.6% of Congress seats does not make the government, citizens, country, or system sexist. If more men happened to go out for the job, obviously they are going to hold the majority! Also, if they were more qualified for the job, they should be hired over a woman whom is less qualified. It is ridiculous to expect every job to be 50/50 because then where would talent come in? Statistics cannot be used to prove or disprove sexism just like quotas cannot be used to prove or disprove racism.

I am sure sexism exists somewhere in America, but not until we understand sexism can we identify it and put a stop to it.

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.govloop.com/26-stats-women-goverment/

My Opinion on Veganism

Let me start off by disclaiming that I am a non-vegan.

Carnivore, meat-eater, animal-killer–whatever floats your boat.

I like meat and I do not plan to stop eating it; however, I have thought about the issues surrounding eating meat many times before.

I may not like animals, but I am against killing them off. When I confronted my mom about the morality of eating meat, she gave me a religious response: God created animals for humans to eat. This held me off for a while, but at 14 when I became non-religious, I got to wondering again…

Here are the reasons I have collected for why eating meat is justified:

  • Animals eat animals–it is part of the food chain–so eating meat is a natural part of life (and it is scientifically proven that natural foods are healthier for you than processed; after all, humans are meant to eat natural foods)
  • People that do not eat meat look unhealthy (a lot of times you can identify how healthy someone is just by looking at them)
  • It provides the human body with necessary nutrients by natural foods rather than processed supplements

foodchain

I understand that eating meat harms the environment, kills off animals, etc. Regardless, I choose to eat meat. There are much worse environmental harms to worry about than meat! The only reason people bring it up is the moral aspect of it, and now they try to use science to contradict itself. Well, nice try, but I am not falling for it! (Also, please keep in mind that just because I do not support veganism for my individual self does not mean that I support harming the environment–I may be a tiny contributor, but I, honestly, do not believe that eating meat is a major harm.)

Some people believe the wealthy have an obligation to become vegan in order to use their money for good (because going vegan is costly!). I can understand the word ‘responsibility’ because I see it as more of a ‘should but can choose not to’ word, but ‘OBLIGATION?’ ARE YOU KIDDING?! What happened to the ‘leave them alone; they can do whatever they want; it’s their lives; it doesn’t affect you’ attitude that is so popular nowadays? I understand that vegans become vegans for a cause they passionately support, but this is like politics, and in politics you cannot force someone to join your political party. The wealthy have the right to spend their money, service, and time however they want to–just like everyone else. With some exceptions, people earn their money. As a result, they get to decide where their money goes.

Veganism is supposed to be a team effort, necessary to achieve change. With people so passionate about the cause and the cause needing the world’s support, it makes sense that vegans think everyone should become vegan and are trying to convert them. Unfortunately, what they fail to realize is that humans are not two-dimensional. We are not robots. We are not copies with one-track minds. We are people, three-dimensional with defined personalities that hold a variety of beliefs, values, opinions. And there are a lot of people. A lot. So, hopefully it is evident that convincing every single person on planet Earth–that is 7.3 BILLION people, by the way–to believe in one cause is not practical and not possible. So stop it. Stop trying to convert people by shaming them and ambushing them, and stop with the YouTube videos titled ‘Why Everyone Will Be Vegan.’ The world is not horrible, but that is not going to happen.

Earth

I am not against veganism in general, just for myself. I personally do not believe in it. However, I love to see people banding together for something they believe in. What I do not love is the pressure by vegans to become vegan. Please respectfully share your opinion, but leave out the pressure on others.

 

The Best Advice I Have Ever Been Given

“Choose none of them.”

I stood there, awestruck. Never in my life had I thought that choosing not to choose was an option. Maybe it was bad advice. After all, it was from a stranger whom does not have the acumen necessary to properly analyze my sticky situation. On the other hand, maybe I should listen anyway. After all, choosing them has not worked so far.

The little voice in my head stayed silent in this moment. Thank Satan it did.

I spent my childhood angry and in acrimony yet confused and sensitive. I longed for attention, specifically from my family. Instead, I received attention from the friends I never wanted. We–my clique–had so many problems that my sixth grade teacher arranged for us all to attend a counseling session every single day at lunch, together, and we were banned from playing Truth or Dare.  Apocryphal and restless, I felt trapped.  

Fast forward to middle school. On a sunny day with a blue sky, everything was peaches and cream until only one girl from my friend group showed up to our lunch spot. My intuition drove me solo around the campus, where I found it to be spot on. My friends split into groups of two and integrated themselves into new cliques–and all because of the one girl in our group that sat with me! I felt relieved I was not the one they decided they hated today; however, all relief went out the window as each pair told me I was to choose between all of them.

I was terrified. I wanted to please everyone, but this time it was impossible. In the end, it was the hated girl’s friend who I had never met before, who enlightened me.

Who should I choose?

“Choose none of them,” she suggested.

So I did. Not long before, I met a girl named Claudia Book through a mutual friend. I did not know her well, but had confided in her with my friend troubles in which she responded by offering her friend group to me as an alternative. Albeit I appreciated her offer, I never thought I would take her up on it.

Joining Claudia’s circle was weird…I only knew her out of the ten girls there and I did not know what to do with myself without the usual animalistic chaos. Regardless, every single person welcomed me. I gazed at their backs, a mighty fortress, lined up one-by-one, against the blue lockers as I faced them every day. It took months, but, eventually, I sat there with them.

Though I liked all of them, Claudia was my favorite. Of course I appreciated her humanity, but the real reason was because I envied her. She was happy, confident, beautiful, funny. There was something intriguing and charismatic about her. She would make stupid noises like a child one second, then provide me with adult advice the next.

Regardless of my drooling and her perfection, I never wanted to be her. I wanted to embody her, in my own way. As terrible as this sounds, Claudia pushed me to be the person I am today–I would complain about something that was worrying me and she would ask, “how does it have anything to do with you?”; I would ask her if I should buy that pink blouse with Cherry Blossoms on it and the cool cutout in the back, and she would demand I do it so as to explore and mature my style–and I could not be more grateful.

As much as I love to gush about all the useful advice Claudia has given me, it was not really her advice that transformed me. In fact, it was her beautiful aura. Watching her laugh, inform, obsess, opinionate, walk, talk, write, work, anger, question, live, I learned how to be myself. I found the things I liked in her and made them my own. Talk about visual learning–jeez!

Today, I annoy all my close friends with the story of how Claudia changed me for the better. She once embodied everything I wanted to be, and all it took was her presence to abrogate my anger. Whenever I start to lose myself, I think of the stability she projected out into space, and know I can regain mine. By choosing Claudia Book that day in middle school, I opened myself up to a world of possibilities. So, when life hands you a ‘book,’ open it.

I titled this post before writing anything down on this page. Some days later, in my english class, my teacher had us model a paper after https://www.magzter.com/article/Fashion/ELLE/This-Dress-Will-Change-Everything and fill in the title as ‘This ______ Will Change Everything.’ I filled in the blank with the word ‘girl.’ Originally, I was going to write this post in my straight-forward, pedestrian way and focus more on the advice than on my best friend; but, the significance of this story is me meeting my best friend and improving myself–even though I always refer to this story for the best advice I have ever been given–and I think this paper embodies that. What is the best advice you have ever been given and how has it affected you? Thank you for your time!

What 5 Seconds of Summer Means to Me

It is May 2014. I am in my kitchen making myself a sandwich for school the next day when my mom and brother enter the house from the garage, laughing.

“Monique, you have to hear this song!”

“Yes, oh my gosh, it’s so funny! You have to hear it!”

I responded, “What are you guys talking about?”

“There’s this song on the radio with underwear in it! It’s hilarious!”

“What? That’s so weird,” I laughed.

“Next time it’s on the radio, we’ll point it out to you.”

(It was three years ago so who said what is blurry.)

Sometime soon after, when I was in the car with my mom and brother, the song came on. Of course, I did not know what “the song” was at the time and had never heard it. And I was tired of cookie-cutter pop songs. So I was not really paying attention to the radio. But some seconds later, my mom and brother freaked out, exclaiming, “This is the song! This is the song! Monique, this is the underwear song!”

Immediately, I started listening. I sat there, expecting to laugh really hard; instead, I was intrigued.  I had not heard anything like it before and I partly liked and partly disliked it. So, I was confused–in a good way, of course. I just sat there listening, soaking it in.

As soon as the chorus came on, my mom and brother exclaimed, “Here it is! Here’s the underwear part! Here’s the underwear part! Monique, here it comes.”

But the “underwear part” came and went, and unlike my family, I was not laughing. On the contrary, I was shushing them.

I did not recognize this sound nor the instruments that created it, but I was mesmerized. In fact, I remember smiling on the inside. When the song was over, my family questioned my actions, but I downplayed my feelings by telling them I just wanted to listen.

It took a couple more listens before I remembered to look 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS) up on YouTube, where I watched the music video to the underwear song, She Looks So Perfect, mortified. I was 14, so watching people strip in a music video was pretty scary. (Haha;P) However, watching that video was the start of the extension of my journey to find myself. Starting two years earlier I had really come together and gained self-confidence. I explored myself and I felt good. But when I started to not like pop music–the genre I had liked my entire life–I knew it was time to find myself, a new self, again.

That was just the beginning. I became obsessed with 5SOS for about a year. I never was one of those fans that wanted 5SOS to “have my babies,” but I could not stop watching their songs, videos, and interviews on YouTube as well as stalking them on social media and following fan accounts. When ticket sales when online for their first headlining tour–Rock Out With Your Socks Out (ROWYSO)–I spent months convincing my parents to let me go. When they finally did, I was filled with the greatest feeling of happiness and excitement I have ever felt. After all, it was my first concert. And I had a fabulous time one year later when I attended.

Over time, I became “unobsessed” with 5SOS, though never lost my love and admiration for them and their music. I continued to buy their music, merch, books, and their documentary. Also, finding myself to love their pop punk/pop rock sound, I transformed my music taste to edgy music. I became a little black star (Avril Lavigne fan) and continued to explore my music and fashion taste through Avril’s and 5SOS’s beings. My attitude also changed as I learned more about myself.

Not long after the first concert, 5SOS released their second album along with tickets to their new Sounds Live Feels Live (SLFL) tour. Of course, I bought both, but since I was in the very back row of the second section and could barely see the ants that were 5SOS performing on stage at the ROWYSO tour show, I splurged and bought tickets in the eighth row. (My experience: https://freeelementblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/sounds-live-feels-live-concert-experience/) I was surprised to find myself dancing my heart out when at school dances I stand there awkwardly, but it just goes to show you the affect 5SOS made on me.

Lucky for me, the post-concert depression I felt after SLFL ended was matched by 5SOS’s release of their single She’s Kinda Hot (It was released before that, but I listened to the song a lot after the concert). I was nervous to listen to it because the title sounds superficial. However, 5SOS did not disappoint. (Meaning of the Song: https://freeelementblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/deep-songs-with-misleading-titles/)

My favorite line of the song goes “They say we’re losers and we’re alright with that.” Just like everyone else, even with my high self-esteem, I feel different and alone at times. She’s Kinda Hot struck a chord within me because it acknowledges that different/alone feeling, blows it out of the water, then brings everyone together to write it off. Plus, I love the music of that song, as it transitioned them to more of a rock genre. DID 5SOS NAIL IT OR WHAT?

Because of 5SOS, I deeply appreciate crossover artists. For people like me who only listen(ed) to pop music, it is the perfect way to expose them to different genres of music without scaring them off. It eases them into it, if that makes any sense. I am now into hard rock, country, and alternative–which I never could have guessed three years ago. Not only that, but 5SOS has instilled in me a new level of confidence I never knew existed. No matter if I like 5SOS and their music in the future, I will always be grateful for their contribution to my life as an early to mid teen.

As of now, I look forward to their third album and third headlining tour. I hope they continue on their streak of greatness. They just keep getting better.

So what does 5 Seconds of Summer mean to me? To me, 5 Seconds of Summer personifies confidence and authenticity, and I could not be more grateful.