Another Day at the Gym

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This is phone man.

Whenever you are a member of a gym, you generally expect to see weird things.  There are always the guys spending more time ogling themselves in the mirrors than actually lifting; the girls trying to be cute while with a guy or trainer; the girls who are tougher than the guys and care about their workout more than the mirror; and of course the guys who bring their moms.

You heard that right.  There is a high school aged guy (at least he looks that young) who brings his mother to the gym with him.  She stands behind him while he presses (not that she could hold the weights if he needed her to) and encourages him while he yells at her to back off.  Sounds like a strange mother/son or coach/athlete relationship?  Yeah, I can’t help but stare at them.

It’s one thing to go to the gym together to help motivate each other, but the mother has never exercised in any way, any time that I’ve seen her at the gym.  She has this protective look, like “Don’t look at my beautiful son!” while he looks around at girls like “Hey baby, wanna see how much I can lift?”  He also yells and spits air while he lifts.

Another strange behavior I’ve seen at the gym is the not-quite middle-aged man who is always on his cell phone.  He’ll sit on workout equipment or in the stretching area, but I’ve never seen him workout.   I like using one of the group class studios for stretching when it’s not in use because it’s quiet and relaxing.  Of course when this guy comes in though, he sits directly in front of the mirror (seriously, like if he sneezed he’d bash his head against the mirror) and starts making calls.

The most notable call was to his cable company, a conversation he started by saying “Yes I’m so-and-so and pull up my file so you can see what I last called you about so I don’t have to repeat myself.  Refresh your memory”.  I kid you not.  Then he talked about how many times he’s called to complain and blah blah blah.  I was like dude, shut up.  I’m trying to finish my workout over here.  He didn’t pay attention to my telepathic messages though and dirty looks because he was too busy playing with his long mane of hair and sitting cross legged on an exercise ball.

I understand the importance of multitasking in this busy world, but why is the gym the only place you can make those calls?  And why does that other guy have to bring his mom with him to make himself feel good?  To each his own I guess.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/daily-prompt-age/ 

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

This week has been one of perspective shifts and overcoming obstacles. Last week I talked about potential new jobs, and I decided to accept a retail job that starts next month. I’m happy that I will have some money coming in again for bills and to make moving on towards bigger and better things possible. However, I have had some trouble staying positive about the fact that this is another retail job, and one that I am overqualified for.

As a recent college graduate with two degrees, I can’t help but feel that I should be doing something more fulfilling and challenging in terms of a job (and hopefully a career). Unfortunately the opportunity for such a job hasn’t been an option for me yet, not for a lack of trying though. I’m lucky enough to have had one incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling internship already at WGN Radio, and now to have another great experience at Reach Out and Read Illinois. This most recent internship will potentially turn into a paid position in the near future, but the exact date is undetermined.

I have a tendency to not look at the positive side of situations, and have struggled with this bad habit this week as the start date for my new retail job approaches. I am glad I have a job, but can’t help but worry that my co-workers will be like the coworkers at my last job: nice enough but not people that I can look forward to having intellectually stimulating conversations with. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I’m sure my new coworkers will be nice, I just find myself wishing for a work environment that is a bit more challenging.

Thanks to my boyfriend, who reminds me to not worry so much and to look at situations like this in a positive way, I am reminded that there is room for creativity in this position even if it’s not exactly what I want to do. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and nerves and of course experience some of each when I think about starting this new job; but then I’m reminded that because this is a brand new store, all the employees are in the same position: starting fresh.

With these reminders and help shifting my perspective, I’m able to focus on the positive aspects of my currently unemployed situation. I can do what I want with my own time, like read Sherlock Holmes (my favorite), work out (a great way to feel good about myself and relieve some of those nerves), blog and sleep in. When I start my new job, I know I will be tired and will bitter-sweetly think back to this time where I have little to no obligations.

 

Does it Matter?

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Even chipmunks contemplate.

I spent some time catching up with a good friend this week, who is starting a new adventure in her life.  She told me that she was considering starting a blog to document this new chapter, but wasn’t sure if she should.  This conversation got me thinking about how people seem to gravitate towards starting blogs primarily when they are doing some new, exciting, different or temporary thing with their lives.

When friends in college studied abroad, they documented their time in blogs.  When Facebook friends moved to another part of the country—or another country entirely—they blogged about their “new life”.  Even in considering writing this blog post, I wondered if anything I might have to say might be “novel” or “new”.  What it is about people that make us think that documenting our lives is only an option if we are doing something out of the norm?

In thinking further about my conversation with my friend, I thought about how it has been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog.  There seems to be a constant battle that I fight with myself about whether or not what I have to say is worth posting online.  Not because I don’t feel confident in my thoughts, but I question if others want to read what I have to say.

I lost my job back in December, and have been searching rather unsuccessfully for a full-time, fulfilling job since I graduated college back in May.  I was offered another retail job that I wasn’t very excited about around Christmas time, and didn’t start training until last week.  Then, this week I was offered another retail job with better pay and a nicer work environment.  THEN I was told that the internship site I’ve been working at since October is going to seek additional funding to pay me for the work I do!

Here I am, a TERRIBLE decision maker, faced with the choice between two jobs that I don’t love the idea of (but prefer one over the other), and the possibility of part-time employment at the nonprofit I intern with and love.  Plus I had a first round phone interview with another nonprofit earlier this week.  How is that for almost a year I have had no employment options, and now I have multiple options?  For some, this may not be something that is of any interest.  But to me this is a huge deal.

I debated using my blog as a place to talk about these decisions I have to make now; like I said, to me these choices are a big deal, even if I’m not going to another country or starting some grand new adventure.  If something matters to you though, don’t discount its relevance or worth based on what you think others want to hear.  So, like I encouraged my friend to do, blog about what’s going on in your life, even if you don’t think everyone will find it interesting.  While it’s true that not everyone might not find what you have to say relatable; at the end of the day or end of each “chapter” of your life, believe enough in yourself to talk about what matters to you.

‘Tis the Season of Giving

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Tuesday of this week was #GivingTuesday, a day set aside during the holiday season to promote giving in the days after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It seems that days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday take away from the idea of giving during the holidays; sure, not everyone buys items for themselves, but it seems that many people use the discount days to buy things that they want.

These past few months, I’ve been working with Reach Out and Read Illinois, a nonprofit affiliated with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics that promotes early literacy by distributing books to children during their well-child visits with their pediatricians.  The goal of the program sites is to provide literacy materials to young children who live in poorer areas, and who would not have access to these materials otherwise.

I wrote an article for the Illinois Pediatrician, a quarterly newsletter, this week which will be out this month.  I want to share it on here as well to reach readers who might not normally see this publication.  Obviously it is geared towards medical providers, so the language may not be as accessible, but I hope that you take the time to read it and check out Reach Out and Read Illinois in general.  It truly is a great program that I hope to continue working with after my internship ends.

For further information, visit the social media sites that I manage:

https://www.facebook.com/reachoutandreadillinois

https://twitter.com/ReachOutReadIL

http://www.pinterest.com/reachoutreadil/boards/

http://illinoisaap.org/reachoutandreadillinois/

We also have a holiday fundraiser coming up, for information or tickets you can go to:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/jingle-and-mingle-for-reach-out-and-read-illinois-tickets-9280242455

Remember that the spirit of the season is about giving, so why not give back?

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“A Child’s Future in Your Hands”

By: Ali Bukowski

Growing research shows that the most formative developmental years for a child’s brain are before the age of three. Studies point to early childhood literacy as an important tool to enhancing early childhood development, and early childhood literacy has become a popular topic of conversation.  Whether the message comes from university researchers, newspapers and journalists, or the president himself, everyone seems to agree that early education and literacy is important and should be accessible to all.  In fact, on November 13th, President Obama’s initiative for Pre-K (for three and four-year-olds) available to all low and middle-income families took legislative form, proving to be an important step towards more literate youth.  The Illinois Chapter of the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) endorses early childhood literacy through the Reach Out and Read program.

Highlighting the positive impact of Reach Out And Read, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, wrote an article which appeared in the Huffington Post on October 23rd of this year, titled “Read Every Day: A Healthy Prescription for Your Child”.  As a doctor and advocate for Reach Out and Read, Dr. Navsaria compares reading routinely with a child to a prescription, pointing out that prescribing reading every day may be “the single, most important prescription I hand you in your child’s early years”.  If a parent was told by a doctor that their child needed medication to be well, surely many would not think twice if the well-being of their child depended on this medicine.  This strong analogy really puts the importance of early literacy in a new perspective.

Dr. Navsaria contends that reading is so important that the outcome of a child’s life can be changed by reading every day.  “The first three to five years of life represent a critical window for learning, with rapid brain development that does not occur at any other time”, says Dr. Navsaria.  “By age 3, a child’s brain grows billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, or synapses…everything a child soaks up during these years helps to set the stage for future learning; these years are truly the foundation on which the rest of life sits.”  Certainly this advice should not be taken lightly.   “New Research from Stanford Finds an Achievement Gap at 18 Months”, written by Alyssa Haywoode and published in Eye On Early Education, focuses on new research from Stanford University, which found that “toddlers from disadvantaged families are already several months behind more advantaged children in language proficiency” by 18 months of age.  The study’s author maintains that parents of children in any income level can close this gap by exposing children to language at an early age.  Anne Fernald, professor of psychology at Stanford and conductor of the study Haywoode focuses on, states that “toddlers learn new vocabulary from context, and the faster a child can get at the words she knows, the more able she is to attend to the next word in the sentence and to learn any new words that follow.”

By speaking to young children regularly, even if they can’t engage in conversation, you expose children to a broader vocabulary, and they become familiar with language more quickly.  The children that the Stanford study focused on were English and Spanish-learning toddlers evaluated for several years.  The study found that “children who are faster at recognizing familiar words at 18 months have larger vocabularies at age two years and score higher on standardized tests of language and cognition in kindergarten and elementary school.”  Clearly this study continues to show what a difference early literacy makes and how lasting the results are when children are literate early.

In September 2013, Katherine Sellgren, BBC News Education Reporter, published “Maths Advantage for Pupils Who Read for Pleasure”, which discussed a study conducted by London University’s Institute of Education.  The study examined the reading habits of 6,000 children and indicated that “reading for pleasure was more important to a child’s development than how educated their parents were.”  The study’s ultimate conclusion was that children who read more have a broader vocabulary, therefore making them more likely to understand more and excel in more educational disciplines.

In addition to the importance of early literacy for scholarly success, parents who practice reading regularly and create a literacy friendly home convey the message that reading is important at any age, and can be a family activity.  Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, and author of the article “Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons” promotes early literacy and hopes that literacy legislation moves forward in the near future.  “One problem is straightforward. Poorer kids are more likely to have a single teenage mom who is stressed out, who was herself raised in an authoritarian style that she mimics, and who, as a result, doesn’t chatter much with the child” states Kristof.  “Yet help these parents, and they do much better. Some of the most astonishing research in poverty-fighting methods comes from the success of programs to coach at-risk parents — and these, too, are part of Obama’s early education program.”  If it means changing the outcome of even a single child’s life, why not make early literacy a focus in pediatric offices?

Reach Out and Read is a program that primarily focuses literacy efforts in low-income areas by providing developmentally appropriate books for children at well-child visits with their pediatrician.   Reach Out and Read sponsors understand that circumstances such as income and low parental literacy rates can be factors in homes that are not literacy friendly.  By providing tutoring resources to parents wanting to improve their own literacy while introducing their children to reading, pediatricians can connect parents and children in an additional way.  Reading together creates conversations, which in turn creates more expansive vocabularies, which ultimately creates lasting positive results in children’s lives.

As pediatricians, you hold a very important key to early literacy: the ability to prescribe a book to a child.  The book you give a child can change the child’s life.  By partnering with Reach Out and Read, you can provide a family with resources that they may never have access to otherwise.  With one book, you can change the outcome of multiple lives.

For more information about Reach Out and Read Illinois, or if you are interested in partnering with Reach Out and Read Illinois, please contact:

Elise Groenewegen at egroenewegen@illinoisaap.com or by phone at 312-733-1026 ext. 204

Resources:

Dr. Navsaria, Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-dipesh-navsaria-mph-mslis-md-/read-every-day-a-healthy-prescription-for-your-child_b_4143735.html

Eye On Early Education http://eyeonearlyeducation.com/2013/11/11/new-research-from-stanford-finds-an-achievement-gap-at-18-months/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog

Katherine Sellgren, BBChttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24046971
Nicholas Kristof, NY Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-invest-in-preschools-or-prisons.html?_r=4&adxnnl=1&smid=tw-share&adxnnlx=1382989022-njPOXPOVv+jJNHmFJyIwWA&

Ed Central http://www.edcentral.org/landmark-federal-state-pre-k-partnership-bills-emphasize-access-quality/

The Tennessean http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013311140028&gcheck=1

Viewer Obsession Advised

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As is common with Netflix making so many movies and TV shows so readily available these days, I’ve been watching a lot of the show “Bones”.  If you don’t know, the show is about a forensic anthropologist (someone who learns information by studying human remains, i.e. bones) who partners with the FBI to help solve murders.  Obviously that’s a general summary, but you get the idea.

When I say I’ve been watching a lot of “Bones”, I mean I’ve been watching a lot of episodes.  Some days I won’t watch any, but on the days that I do get a chance, I watch multiple episodes.  “Binge watching”, if you will.  I’ve even had a few dreams about the show, mostly just with the characters speaking in the scientific and matter-of-factual way that they do, nothing like I’m one of the characters or anything like that.  It’s kind of like watching an episode.

I think that the creators of Netflix had a really great idea.  If I wanted to watch a TV show before Netflix, I’d have to buy a season in order to watch a show when I wanted to, or hope that I would find all the episodes in the randomly selected TV lineup.  Now I can watch whatever I want (if it’s on Netflix) whenever I want.  I can even watch Netflix on my phone if I’m in a bind.

Now that it’s so easy to watch so much TV, I wonder if more people are spending their time in front of the TV than they were before services like Netflix.  I know that I personally spend more time watching TV episodes than I used to.  My work environment seems to enforce that mindset of mindless TV watching too.  I don’t mean that we just watch TV mindlessly at work all day; but in this “blue collar” job, a lot of people go home tired and just want to relax in front of a TV that distracts them from their day/life.

When I worked in a “white collar” environment though, more of my coworkers tended to discuss books they were reading and TV they watched.  They were more selective in what they watched.  Sometimes they would watch something just as an escape, but most of the time it seemed like my coworkers were choosing what they watched purposefully, whether it was because they wanted to educate themselves or because they wanted to be able to join in on the discussion of something at work (usually on an analytical level).

It’s interesting for me to see these two sets of work environments now that I feel like I’m more educated than most of the people I work with at my “blue collar” job.  I don’t mean to come off as mean or condescending, but when the people around me do nothing but talk about their personal drama, or read each other the text messages their ex sent them yesterday, or my boss thinks it’s confusing when I use words like “indecisive”, it dulls the brain.  My coworkers are not intellectually stimulating.

I’m sure someone out there has done a study connecting work environments to intellectual capacity or interests; I’m just basing my comments on pure observation.  Obviously the things I’m saying are not exclusive to all types of work environments, but I find it very difficult to think creatively in my “blue collar” work environment these days.  Sometimes I’ll have a creative burst now and again, as you can probably notice based on the frequency of my blog posts these days, but most days I feel brain dead when I get off of work.  It would be nice if there was a perfect work environment that ideally balanced challenging the body and mind…

We Are What We Let Ourselves Be

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Last week I neglected to post anything on my blog.  I could defend myself and say that I didn’t have any creative energy, forgot, or had too much going on.  Most of these reasons are true, but really I think it just comes down to the fact that I was too lazy.

I’ve been good about posting for a while now, but have noticed that since I started working at my current job, I’ve started to become lazier in the creative sense.  I am on my feet for my entire shift, aside from one 15 minute break and any trip to the bathroom.  So yes, it can be tiring.  But I’ve noticed as well that a lot of my coworkers are…well, lazy.

I know we’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, meaning if you eat poorly, your body and energy levels will reflect your food decisions.  I’m not sure if there’s a phrase for “you are who you hang out with” though, at least when you don’t have a say in the people you have to work with.

As hard as I’ve tried to not fall into patterns and behaviors that I see in my coworkers (I try to work when I’m at work and not waste time—you know, take some pride in my work even though it’s not what I want to do as a career) it can be difficult to resist mentalities that you are around almost every day.

Of course everyone’s entitled to be lazy or spend their free time as they wish.  I think that when we’re at work we should work though.  The interesting thing is that I haven’t adopted the lazy attitude of many of my coworkers while I’m at work.  I’ve noticed however, that instead of thinking about creative or original things while I’m working, I kind of zone out.

The work I do as a cake decorator is repetitive.  I can’t experiment with new ideas or designs; I have to make the cakes that the store wants me to make.  Now that I don’t have to think quite so hard about how to follow the exact guidelines I am given, my mind is able to wander while I’m working—unless of course a customer has a question or needs help.

I enjoy my work.  I don’t dislike it.  It’s not a place that gives me free reign of course, but not many jobs are like that that I know of.  I’m curious how other people approach their work days.  Do we all space out until it’s quitting time?  What do we do when we’re done for the day?  Do we all just go home and continue to be mindless zombies?

Now that I’ve caught myself falling into these patterns, I’m going to make more of an effort to stop myself from zoning out.  I should stop focusing on the fact that my feet hurt, or that my coworker is annoying me and instead focus on challenging my brain instead of letting it be lazy.

I hope that all of us are able to find hobbies that we enjoy, and also challenge us when we aren’t at our mindless jobs.  If we’re just going through the motions every day and really have nothing original to be proud of, what’s the point of doing what we’re doing?

When the Shit Hits the Fan

It’s Thursday.  I completely forgot until about an hour ago.  Sure, every time I look at my phone it tells me the date but I never made the connection that it was Thursday and that Thursday is when I usually post on my blog.  Oh boy.  Zombie alert!

Well, let’s see.  I started a second job this week.  Unpaid.  Also part time.  It is very exciting and interesting, but like I said, unpaid.  I guess one could call it an internship, but my official title is “Communications Consultant” which I find much more interesting than lowly intern.  (Lowly wasn’t part of the job description).

I’m working for a non-profit organization called Reach Out and Read which is a youth literacy promotion program part of the Illinois Chapter of the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (shameless plug? Yes. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!)  I get to be innovative and creative which is great.  I have always been a huge book lover so this is a great fit for me personally.

The paid job I currently work is going well, but I have to start at 7 am in order to get downtown for the afternoon for my other job.  This must be what adulthood feels like; getting up ungodly early, pushing through work, commuting, getting home and wanting to do absolutely nothing but knowing you have to get ready for the next day and also go to bed at a decent time.  Also, having no idea what day it is.  Ok, so adult life without kids at least.

The company that owns the chain of stores I work for announced last week that they are looking to pull out of the industry by the end of the year.  They’re going to sell their stores individually so we don’t know if our store is going to be picked up by a buyer or if it will close and we’ll all be out of jobs.  On top of all of us wondering, the company (Safeway) selling is making front page news regularly because this decision is so abrupt and potentially devastating.  Yay!

I got in my first car accident this week.  Thankfully no one was hurt and my car is repairable, but not as cheaply as I could hope for.  At least I’m alive, well, etc. etc. but I’m also poor.

Also, I’m developing a large zit on my nose that is red and makes me look like Rudolph.  I think it might be stress-induced.

Usually I try to tie together my post with a theme or advice or just a thought for the week, but honestly I’m having a hard time pulling this all together.  I guess my conclusion is yes, sometimes life can suck.  Sometimes the shit can all hit the fan at once, but your attitude can make a difference.  I personally am not nearly as freaked out about all of this week’s events as I would expect myself to be.  I think I can attribute that to being forced to be positive and polite to customers on a daily basis no matter how rude they might be or if they’re interrupting me.  You learn to just roll with it and a little perspective can help you realize what’s worth spending your energy on.  If you’re having a shitty week, I hope it gets better.  If you’re not, I’m glad!  Try to stay positive people.