Monday, February 27, 2012

A couple of great organizational blog posts I found!! + Feb Goals

Check out these 2 great organizational guest blog posts from Money Saving Mom:

In this post, Andrea uses the word SIMPLE as an acronym for various steps to take in organizing your life. Love it! Especially I=Immediate Action which mentions how when you cross off one thing on your to-do list, half of it is crossed off before you know it!

In this post, Heidi brings together an array of ideas (photos included), from many different blogs, for outside-of-the-box organizing tools. Very cool, especially for those who love to D.I.Y...which I most certainly do!

February Goals Update - Not too much progress, but some is better than none ;-)

1. Web and Computer folders
a. Make appropriate sub-folders within bookmark folders
b. Sort all websites into their proper folders
c. Move downloaded documents, etc. to my Documents folder - CHECK (now I can easily maintain the Downloads to Documents flow :-)
d. Make sure all sub-folders in Documents make sense - VERY close to having this completed
e. Put desktop folders where they should go - I really need to do this next!

3. Dresser
a. Top drawer/tights and undershirts drawer
b. Second drawer/t-shirts drawer
c. Third drawer/t-shirts drawer
d. Fourth drawer/running drawer - VERY close (I've already put several items in my Thrift Store and Plato's Closet give-away containers)
d. Bottom drawer - CHECK (I actually dealt with this in tandem with the closet clearing goal)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

3 Book Reviews + 1 Movie Review

I'm really rackin' it up on books read so far this amazing kindlefire has certainly helped with that ;-)

The premise of this book greatly intrigued me and so I started it the minute it downloaded to my kindle. Basically, vampirism is a man-made virus that has created a group of people who must each be assigned a Guardian to make sure they cooperate with human customs and aren't carriers of the virus. Only carriers, who are actually quite few in number, can pass vampirism to others which allows the majority of vampires to feed on volunteering humans at will. The main character, Anna, is a very real person with roller coaster emotional episodes. I think a lot of people could empathize with her especially when her first love does something that is absolutely irredeemable. Be aware that this book does contain explicit love scenes and so I would only recommend it for older readers. I did find this novel quite gripping and page-turning in regards to Anna's life and the things she must deal with. Also, the way vampirism is portrayed is fairly interesting. Unfortunately, I did have two big problems. First off, the secret behind the vampire disease was not really expounded upon all that well and when it was introduced as a hit you in the face revelation, Anna had no reaction and I felt like the revelation had already been discussed previously. Secondly, the ending, forgive my bluntness, sucked! There was absolutely zero closure and it was the kind of cliff-hanger you would expect of a 2-part season finale on a TV show NOT for the first novel in a potential series (I actually found myself flipping around to see if I was just having difficulty getting to the next chapter). I couldn't even find evidence that there IS going to be a second book. Oh well, here's to hoping! 3.5/5

Thirst by Claire Farrell (Book #13 of 2012) [NOTE: This book is FREE atm for kindle]
This book was a fairly light affair which was pleasant since it was also about vampires. Ava Delaney is a human who was born with vampiric traits because her pregnant mother was bitten by one. A number of mysterious characters appear, most especially Eddie, and intrigue abounds. Real vampires come into play as well as they show their own special interest in Ava's situation. I still don't know what special role Ava plays in the vampire world or who she really is in regards to her destiny for that matter. It seems like there is a LOT more to tell and I am quite excited for the second book in this series (since this book was subtitled "Ava Delaney #1" I was comforted in the fact that I wouldn't be left hanging in the long run). This book is sweet and clean and you really do care for how Ava must deal with her accidental enslavement of Carl. Oh poor Carl :-( Honestly, I really can't wait to find out how everything fits together what with Eddie's unexplained power, Peter's strange relationship with a mysterious woman, and Carl's lingering affection for Ava...a good read. 4/5

As I did with a previous book I reviewed, I'm going to go ahead and say that if you are not an educator or a future educator, this book will be of no interest to you. I really stress that with this one because it can be quite technical at times in focusing on how our current generation of children experience true learning. Regardless, I 100% recommend this book! It's overarching theme is about how video games are the perfect learning tool with inherent scaffolding built in and so allow a learner to always be in their proximal zone of development while playing. The explanations of various types of video games and how they do so was absolutely fascinating. I was disappointed though in being left with no real ideas for how to practically implement such learning situations. Hopefully I can find some methods oriented books that expand on Gee's ideas.

The last thing I wanted to do this morning was review the movie Contagion. Not because it was so incredible that I couldn't pass up a review, but because it is SO OVERRATED!!! I cannot believe the hype this movie has gotten. [Please check out the 1995 movie OUTBREAK if you want to see a truly good movie about a terrible disease that has the potential to cause mass devastation (Click the link for the trailer!). Plus, with Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, and...Morgan Freeman you just cannot go wrong!] Back to Contagion. Matt Damon was not the great actor in this movie that all the critics said he was, instead he was stiff and unemotional for the most part. Also, there was NO ENDING! Why do so many current highly acclaimed movies leave the viewer in confusion over what actually happened. When I sit down to watch a movie, I want closure and a story with a beginning and end - this had none. They even decided to throw a little bit of "mystery" in right before the credits rolled by showing a flashback that just made me laugh. Actually, I was laughing quite a bit once this movie ended and couldn't help saying out loud, "Wow that was incredibly dumb." See, the catch here is that I LOVE disease movies and find the mystery behind how a disease develops and how it spreads absolutely fascinating, but this movie did not cater to those particular interests. Additionally, it was incredibly inconsistent in how the world started falling apart - there just wasn't any real flow from one moment to another. *Sigh* it really is too bad...

Happy reading!!! :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Helpful Posts on Decluttering!

It has been FAR too long since I last posted - courtesy of my defense last week I'm sure! Well, I PASSED - woohoo :-D I am officially a Master of Biology :-P Now all I have to worry about are the revisions to my paper and then I can relax and enjoy my road to becoming a secondary school educator *relief*.
Anyway, this morning I wanted to share with you some really great blog posts about decluttering since this is one of my favorite topics. Although you wouldn't know it from looking around my house, I guess I just haven't quite gotten to the point where I can easily maintain yet. School seems to always get in the way...

First, I'd like to share a guest post on the MoneySavingMom blog entitled "A '100 Things' Decluttering Challenge." Yes, the prospect of getting rid of 100 things all at once absolutely terrifies me, but I might be able to modify this into a "10 Things A Day Challenge" or a "30 Things a Weekend Challenge." And then once I reach 100 I can breathe a sigh of relief at my less cluttered home.

Second is another guest post on the MoneySavingMom blog that is entitled, "How I Purged 91% of Our Stuff." This post has some wonderful, seemingly obvious tips on how one can approach getting rid of clutter. For example, about a year ago I purged my tupperware accumulation, but have since then reacquired more than I will ever use - looks like I need to purge the multiples!

Third, this is a great short article from Home Made Simple entitled, "Hour-a-Day Organization" that just gives some quick organizational tips. I LOVE the 3-5 things rule and have been doing this for years as a way to break up studying or arduous tasks that take a long time. Essentially, you find 3-5 things that you can put away or throw away. This takes no time at all and really does clean up your space, especially if you do this continuously throughout the day.

I hope you find these helpful!!

Note: I'll be updating my February goals progress soon...but it's slow going right now...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Art of Overlooking and the Happiness it can bring :-)

Overlooking = Happiness = Peace
So as I mentioned a few posts previously, I'm using the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson as the guide for my middle school girls Sunday school class. The first practical method of peacemaking that we discussed was "Overlooking," which is essentially thinking about those things that cause you frustration, but that are actually NOT the end of the world. While studying and preparing for this past Sunday morning, I realized that the Art of Overlooking can actually lead to extreme increased happiness. It never hit me before how much time I spend getting super frustrated about trivial things. So, I came up with a list of 10 situations in which I can focus on overlooking, out of love and forgiveness, what another person does. While this will on the most spiritual level bring me into a closer parallel with the life of Jesus Christ, it will also on a simple earthly level, bring me more happiness as I will spend less time being angry and more time enjoying life.

Things I Can Overlook

1. "Dumb"/Obvious questions that people ask me a.k.a. questions about my life that I don't understand why the person asking me doesn't already know the answer to. I can't assume that people, even my closest friends, know all the inner workings of my mind!

2. Nike Tempos and tights as pants - I think these are fashion statements I'm just gonna have to live with.

3. Cashiers with bad attitudes - How am I to know that these people just aren't going through something really difficult in their lives?!? They are human; just because they're in the service industry, that doesn't make them courteous smiley people 100% of the time.

4. My own clumsiness - I can't count the amount of times I have gotten frustrated with myself for dropping/spilling things when I should really just laugh it off...

5. When others don't do their work - Ok, obviously this shouldn't be a perpetual habit for anyone, but there are times when things in people's lives are just way more pressing than completing the readings for a class! I know there have been times when I've been so emotionally distraught that I just can't focus well on academic material.

6. My Dad's outspokenness - Sometimes the man truly gets to me, but I love him dearly and he is an amazing father so I should give him the benefit of the doubt and let him speak his mind. The interrupting my trains of thought thing is a little taxing, but maybe I should just let him finish his interruptions occasionally before I try to finish my statements...

7. People who know less than me in my undergrad classes - So this makes me sound WAY arrogant and maybe that is in fact the problem. I just need to GET OVER myself and let the undergrads listen, learn, and process the material that I was exposed to last semester or while teaching labs for the Biology department. A lot of the stuff they are learning now is stuff that I was completely unaware of until last semester anyway. Just take a breath!

8. Parking tickets - The bane of my existence!! I hate it when the University gives me a $50 ticket when I park in an EMPTY lot, but complaining and whining about it just isn't going to change anything. It is the way it is and maybe if I made an extra effort to be more on time, or...even...early *GASP*, then maybe I wouldn't have to worry about those parking fines at all.

9. The man with the bad truck - I live in a condo complex and there is this man who lives in a townhouse across the parking lot who has a truck that NEVER starts the first time. I don't know how many times I have had to listen to him try to start his truck for 10 minutes at a time before the thing turns on. The constant revving makes me insane!! What I really need to do is just pray for him because who knows if he just simply does not have the money to fix the truck (even though he does live in a town home which is more expensive than the condos). I keep reasoning my way into being angry with this man I do not know rather than considering that his life may be way more complicated than making black and white decisions.

10. Slow drivers - As someone who perpetually runs late, I cannot stand when people drive below the speed limit. The prospect of such a thing BLOWS MY MIND!! While I cannot honestly think of ANY reason why you would drive 25 in a 30, I just really should not waste my time muttering under my breath or screaming, "GO!!!" to these vehicles. They do not hear me and it does not help and it's just plain rude. Once again, I think making the effort for a little more punctuality may make this one a moot point as well.

Well, that's all for now! Maybe this list will inspire someone else to overlook the little things as well. I really do think such a thing can lead to increased happiness :-) If there are any situations or happenings in your life that infuriate you, but that you know you should just overlook, please comment on this post. I would LOVE to hear from others!

Monday, February 13, 2012

February Goals Update...

So now that we are into the middle of February, I figured I might should go ahead and rethink my goals for this month. Turns out that they have significantly changed since my first post a couple of weeks ago. I realized that some things just happen to be more pressing at the moment (given that school has now started!).

February Goals

1. Web and Computer folders
So, I realized that it would be much easier to find things that I need for my various classes and to make my life as a grad student less complicated if I did not have multiple folders for the same items as well as a large pool of unorganized websites in my Safari bookmarks. This turned out to be a goal that is more time-pertinent than I believed.
a. Make appropriate sub-folders within bookmark folders
b. Sort all websites into their proper folders
c. Move downloaded documents, etc. to my Documents folder
d. Make sure all sub-folders in Documents make sense
e. Put desktop folders where they should go

2. Education "Stuff"
As an education grad student I have all sorts of test results and legal documents that I need to keep track of as well as newspaper clippings about education that I want to keep. All of this plus previous teaching materials NEEDS to get organized!!
a. Locate all test results and legal documents and put in one folder
b. Put all past teaching materials in one folder that is BIG enough
c. Figure out the best way to deal with all of my loose newspaper clippings
d. Separate out materials from previous courses and put each of these stacks together
e. Put all graduation requirement items in one folder

3. Dresser
I have an entire drawer in my dresser that is dedicated to running clothes and...well, I don't run anymore and unfortunately can't because of a predisposition for knee problems and stress fractures. I ran 3 years of cross-country in high school but that was, what, almost 7 years ago...yeah I need to rethink that drawer. Additionally, I just feel like my t-shirts are not organized well enough and my tights/undershirts drawer is TERRIBLY messy. This will also help me figure out how to reincorporate the t-shirts I discovered I would still like to wear that have been delegated to the depths of my closet for so long.
a. Top drawer
b. Second drawer
c. Third drawer
d. Bottom drawer

4. My BUGS!!!
Having had research interests in bugs for almost 6 years now, I have accumulated a ridiculous amount of preserved specimens. While this may seem extremely odd to some, it is what I love and has become a hobby for me. I put so much time and effort into each of my various bug collections that I can't possibly fathom getting rid of them PLUS as a future science teacher they could be super useful in my classroom.
a. Throw out not so well preserved bugs
b. Find a better way to store my spider collection
c. Figure out what to do with my ridiculous number of M.S. thesis vials
d. Reorganize collections from college

Well, that seems like a lot to work on, but it will definitely provide me with some focus and purpose for my "free time" this month. I did so well with my goals last month and they really did make me happier :-) The only thing I still haven't finished from January is going by Plato's Closet, but that will happen when I have time...

Friday, February 10, 2012

4 Book Reviews! - Christian fiction, apocalyptic fiction, educational trade, and sci-fi :-P

So obviously I find enjoyment in reading a number of genres. All 4 of these books were really good although some were better than others of course... If you want more information about these books or information on purchasing them, just click on the links to head over to Amazon :-)

This novel had a truly wonderful message that is important for any and every Christian to hear and to think about. The story involves a small church in a railroad town taking the pledge to only do things both in their personal lives and business lives once they think about what Jesus would do in their particular situations. One thing that the reader needs to be aware of from the get-go though is that this novel takes place in the late 1800s and the syntax/language as well as some of the cultural norms are extremely foreign to the modern reader. This is compounded by the fact that Charles Sheldon published this book back in the late 1800s as well!! Another caveat in the drive of this story is its hardcore attack of "the saloon" as it refers to any establishment that provides alcohol. Well, we all know what happened when Prohibition actually did occur about 2 decades later, rampant crime of all sorts to keep the continued production of alcohol under wraps. So, with hindsight, this aspect of the book just seemed a little ridiculous to me. Besides that though, the focus on getting one's hands dirty to help those who are less fortunate than you was truly powerful and it was heartbreaking to see the way so many of the upper class citizens saw the poor. I can only hope that our views on the less fortunate of today are FAR different from those held over a century ago. As long as the reader keeps in mind the downfalls of this novel, then it can be an eye-opening and enjoyable read :-)

Sleepers by Jacqueline Druga (Book #9 of 2012):

This book was absolutely amazing! Talk about a page-turner! Note: it is in the apocalyptic fiction genre for those who may not be fans, but even if you aren't, I'd still give it a try ;-) It also has a bit of a zombie-ish flair, but not in the usual manner and so is extremely fresh in that regard. I just loved this novel. I always love stories, whether they be TV-shows or books, that have a random assortment of people coming together as a tight-knit family. All of the main characters were so different, but all truly loved each other in the end. It's just really heartening to see how humans can pull together like this in terrible circumstances and how we don't have to be with blood relatives to feel like we're with family (reminds me of the 4th season of the O.C. lol). So the story begins with a sickness that hits every single child across the planet at the exact same moment and from there, things just get worse. This novel tells the story of the band of people mentioned above surviving in the worst of circumstances and coming to find that the truth is NOT AT ALL what they would have EVER imagined - talk about a plot twist!!! Just read it! - I REFUSE to give too much away ;-) I can't find evidence of a sequel, but I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for one!

To start out, I wanted to go ahead and say that this is a trade book for educators. If you have no interest in the theories of education then this might not be the most engaging book for you. Personally though, I found it absolutely fascinating!!! I agree with everything the authors were portraying as the best ways to educate students. You simply have to think about how people learn in their everyday lives to have it slap you in the face that traditional schooling methods are just flat out inconsistent with being a human! Not only does this book provide solid examples of constructivist methods, but it also provides a background that helps one understand the current trajectory of schools. I recommend this book to any future educator as well as any current educator who wants to experiment with the best ways to get students engaged and truly understanding the material being taught. Essentially, knowledge is something that we individually build in our minds as a complex framework with multiple interconnections based on our prior knowledge and how we simply view the world. Transmissionist techniques of teaching take none of this truth into account. The most striking idea that this book presented, at least for myself, was that the questions we think we are asking our students may not be the same questions that they actually hear. This is simply because they are children and we are adults and we cannot expect them to see the world through the same adult filter that we have, which is why using prior knowledge and the students' points of view is so incredibly important to getting them to truly connect with academic material.

This was simply an amazing sci-fi read with an exceptional plot line and plot twist! I loved the characters and the technology that they lived with on a daily basis. I found it fascinating to learn more and more about the intricate workings of the Venutian colony. So I guess I should explain. This story takes place on Venus where there is a space colony of the best and brightest who have been taught to solve the most difficult problems of mankind. I found this very similar to my current saturation with Constructivist teaching methods which in itself was super cool! In a sense, I did see the plot twist coming, but ultimately, it blew me away regardless. I found myself staying up until 3 o'clock this morning to find out what happened!! It's been a long time since I've stayed up that late. The only problem is that I WANT TO KNOW MORE!!! There has to be an upcoming sequel otherwise the reader is completely left at a loss as to what Arik's accomplishments and care for his friends and wife eventually led to. I am gripped and truly appreciate the imagination of this author. 5/5 stars for sure!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dollar General coffee is surprisingly...

Dollar General coffee is surprisingly...
So I have a rule now, as a frugalista (if I may claim that as a word), that I will NOT buy an 11-12 ounce container of coffee if it costs more than $3. I have found that this is quite doable when combining coupons and sales, although recently, this has been a very very rare event sadly. Well, several months ago I purchased "Clover Valley Country Sunrise Blend," which is in fact the Dollar General brand of coffee. I bought it as a last resort in case the opportunities of purchasing Folger's and Maxwell at $3 or less a pop ran out. Let me interject here with the note that I drink about 3-6 tablespoons worth of brewed coffee a other words, I need a good stockpile of the stuff!! Continuing with the story, I finally opened my container of Clover Valley a few days ago and, let me tell you, that first whiff was divine! The can has no description of the flavor of the coffee within, but I'll tell you right now that Clover Valley Country Sunrise Blend is a medium flavored coffee with a nutty flavor and strong hints of cocoa that awaken the senses! It smells soooo good and is delicious to boot. Never again will I doubt the dollar store brand of any product! Take it from me and try Clover Valley Country Sunrise Blend...whether you're on a budget (like me!!!)...or not...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What I'm Teaching in Sunday School :-)

Good evening all!
So tonight I wanted to share with you what I'm currently teaching my middle school girls in Sunday School. I think it is such an important topic for all of us to learn more about and spend time on. I'm creating my lessons as I go through the book entitled, The Peacemaker: student edition - Handling conflict without fighting back or running away by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson (click this link to head over to Amazon and read about this book in more detail!). This book is separated into what the authors call, "The four G's of peacemaking." We've already gone through the first G, which covers how peacemaking is the most appropriate way to glorify God when dealing with conflict. This section was a bit abstract for the girls and it was obvious that they were having a difficult time relating actual conflicts they may encounter with the fact that having perfect unity and promoting peace is the best way to reveal to others the reality of Christ's love for us. But the 2nd G is much more practical and gives straight forward strategies on how to approach peacemaking in daily life. I am super excited about this section and plan to make it as interactive as possible (the girls never sit still, and love to talk!). I created a worksheet for today's first method of peacemaking, which the authors call "Overlooking." In our discussion this morning, we decided that another term for overlooking, would be forgiving. My worksheet follows.
I started off with a review (above) of the more abstract concepts we had covered previously.
Then, I introduced the 2nd G (above) by getting the girls to analyze the passage from Matthew where Jesus tells us that we must take the plank out of our own eye before telling others about the speck in theirs. When I asked the girls what image came to their mind after hearing this passage, they all responded with wonderful spiritual answers. I was just looking for a literal image of a person with a giant stick coming out of his eye lol. They really are wonderful thinkers when they put their minds to it!

Finally, we began to cover the practical peacemaking method of overlooking (above).
For "homework," I asked the girls to come up with things that frustrate them about other people but that they could easily overlook/forgive if they made the effort. I told them not to consider things that were legitimately wrong, but instead, things people do, that if we did, and had excuses for, we would not want others to call us out on. In other words, God does not treat us harshly for every little mistake we make. In fact, He sent His Son to die for our sins on the cross so that all of our mistakes and sins would be forgiven!! Hopefully, next week I'll get some good lists from the girls of things that they can overlook, and we can dig deeper into how each of us (including myself) can better practically conquer the task of peacemaking!
Just a few notes on why I love this book. There are a number of great example stories in this book that are easy and fun to tell and brilliantly illustrate the concepts being presented. Additionally, all of the Bible verses referenced above are provided in the book. In other words, this is a Biblically centered book that provides practical ideas for living a Christ-like life.
I'll update next week on how it goes.
Btw, feel free to use any parts of my worksheet if you feel it would be useful :-)

Friday, February 3, 2012

An incredible blog that I TOTALLY recommend!!

So I recently discovered an amazing blog (through one of the couponing blog's I frequent no less) that is marketed for leaders, but is surprisingly relevant to any and everyone that wishes to make their life more fulfilling and impactful. This is Michael Hyatt's blog, and he writes from a Christian perspective which makes the context all the better for myself. I absolutely recommend this blog for anyone who would appreciate occasional tips or jabs in the right direction for simply improving your life and the way you live it! Because I am officially enamored with Mr. Hyatt's posts, I will frequently be linking to them on this if you'd rather just rely on me to access some of his most helpful ideas for those who are not leaders of corporations or businesses (as I most certainly am not) then feel free to do so.
The most recent post I read of his that impacted me was from the last couple of days. So CLICK HERE to read about actions you can personally take to shift your emotional EXTREMELY relevant topic for myself...and I'm sure many others...

"New literacies" and education

I want to start off today by saying, "Yay!! I'm better." I only have a touch of residual neck pain, but feel substantially more like myself :-)

A New Literacies Sampler edited by Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear (Book #7 of 2012)
I was assigned a chapter from this book for one of my graduate level education courses and ended up reading the entire book! It was an incredibly interesting look into what the editors call "new literacies." Basically, "new literacies" covers all the ways that children currently act out reading and engaging in literacy. This includes blogs, video games, internet memes, fan-faction, and websites. As a future teacher, I found the topics covered in this book and their relations to the classroom utterly fascinating and it really got me thinking about ideas that I could eventually bring into my own science classroom. I think as a future part of this blog I'll do some brainstorming on ideas I have about teaching strategies/lesson plans. Obviously this is definitely the field for me :-)

I'll probably update more later...I just wanted to go ahead and get back into the groove.