Proctoring

Jun. 15th, 2013 12:39 pm
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Here I am, at the university again, proctoring the incoming freshmen as they inadvertently decide their academic fate in terms of placing into a college-level math course. This will make or break some students; some will place into the pre-college level math course and a little piece of their self-esteem will die and they will question whether or not they want to remain a management major based on the fact that their math ability sucks on the Saturday afternoon of June 15th, when summer is still fresh in the air like a newly sprayed fragrance just glistening on the nape of your neck. Yet here I am, and here they are- part worried and part bored and only half listening. It's nothing that can be avoided. New experiences and "testing" always works the nerves. I can't blame them. My nerves were shot too when I was in their shoes. It's just something they'll never understand until they're at least twenty-five and working in a similar environment. Or maybe I'm wrong. It's quite probable.

Really the shocking news of the day is hearing that one of my colleagues is getting married to a former colleague because her green card is causing her some issues. I am shocked and yet, not really. All of these people are getting married. They are taking the plunge. Makes me question my relationship in terms of its seriousness, though Dan always avoids those kinds of conversations. It's not that I want to rush into something like marriage, but I question whether or not I'd ever want to marry, or particularly marry him. Sometimes I think I over-think things, and people tell me I am crazy for questioning our relationship, but I can't ignore my feelings, which rise and fall like the ebb and flow of a troubled shoreline. Sometimes I think too much about it, and I am thinking too much about it at the moment because there is nothing else to do while I sit and watch students test. Their faces are wrought with thought and I am pleased that most, if not all, of them are following the end of the test directions: Print results, turn off computer, return unused paper and pencils, recycle used scrap paper, grab results and math brochure and we will see you at Orientation!

On some levels I think I would be a great instructor. I like to have things planned out to the tee and I am, quite frankly, very direct with how I want things done. I also like when things go smoothly. These traits are both good and bad, but I'll take the good for now and deal with the bad part later.

All in all, I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely Saturday. After testing, I have some chicken issues to attend to. Perhaps a later update will be appropriate.

Best,

-MUR
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WARNING: This post discusses my experience with violent, troubled youth and may be disturbing to some viewers. 
VIOLENCE, DRUGS, SOCIETY

Today marks the last day of my EPAY position. Good-bye troubled youths pretending to want to earn your GED! Well, I suppose that's not entirely true. Some students came in and rocked this program with their determination. Others were too distracted or afraid. Drugs. Alcohol. Abusive relationships. These are the few things these youth were dealing with on top of the constant pang of a society that they believed were looking down on them for dropping out of high school among other things. But why care what society thinks? These kids were raised by delinquents; by people that purposely eschew social norms and expectations, whatever they may be. I'm not a sociologist or psychologist by any means, just a person working with students whom seem to bear burdens no child should. This is the population of students I have worked with the past two years: students who cut themselves, drink until they black out, take any sort of drug they can get their hands on, get arrested, go to court, and become violent and angry with others. Sometimes they are angry with us. Sometimes we were threatened, yelled at, sworn at; and we've had students throw things, kick things, punch things, and walk out. This is why we have a counselor on hand, even though some students wouldn't even talk to her. They are angry with their situations, and figure that they don't matter. Most of them are angry and depressed, and most people don't understand that anger and depression go hand-and-hand. Most of these students think they are dumb, either because their parents have told them so or society has told them so. Sometimes their friends even tell them so. Sometimes their friends tell them to skip class and go get high with them. I'm thinking of one particular student now. He is bipolar and dyslexic, so learning has always been difficult for him. His mother is fed up with him, thinking he is making excuses, when really he is into drugs and hurting himself because he thinks he is inadequate. His friends tell him he is retarded. It is so sad to hear this from such a wonderful young man, who can learn, he just needed the right support. He says he wants to go to college so he can skip the fact that he dropped out of high school and just say he is taking college courses. The fact that he feels the need to veil the fact that he dropped out of high school is disturbing to me. Is society really that shallow?

Teaching these students has been challenging but the rewards were worth it. I've been a tutor, a friend, a peer, a teacher, a role model, an authority figure, a cheerleader, a comrade, a mentor, and a companion. While working with them I've had to be sensitive, tough, caring, giving, persistent, forgiving, understanding, reliable, and flexible. This experience has changed me, and I am most grateful.

At the end of this day I will say good-bye to my co-workers, who have helped to shape my teaching and mentoring style and have helped me to grow professionally as well as personally.

It is my last day because this is a grant-funded program and the  grant was significantly cut and my position was eliminated. I am not bitter about this. I am just glad the program is able to continue for another year, even if it is without me. These students need this program to remind them that they are worth it, and that they can be successful, even if they think the world doesn't think so.

With that, be happy today. It is a beautiful day!

-MUR
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I was talking to Dan last night about my day when an escaped sigh from him made me stop.

"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Nothing, dear."
"No, really it's okay. I just want to know what's wrong"
"Well, it's just that...oh, never mind."

His lack of wanting to tell me I know is because I could bite his head off about it, but being in the good mood I was in, I needed to reassure him I could take the criticism.

"Oh, c'mon, I won't get mad"
"Okay, well... it's just that you talk a lot." I could tell he felt bad for saying so, even ashamed. I could have used this to my advantage of making him feel bad about saying so, but that would make me an unfair person. I truly wasn't mad about it, but instead felt bad about it myself.

It dawned on me that the many daily things that happen to me during the day are processed through me verbally at the end of it, and poor Dan gets the brunt of my over-stimulation. There's nothing wrong with my needing to verbally recap the day, it's just that in his listening to me unload the day, he soaks up all of my daily stress.

It's difficult to exist peacefully during a typical work day where there are numerous responsibilities and people depending on you on top of personal needs. It makes it even worse when someone unloads their own tough day onto you. That's what this journal or other personal journals should be for.

It occurred to me that yes, I do have a lot of things going on: my summer course started, I had a presentation already due, freshman orientation for my Academic Counseling position is starting, I have extra hours from my Teaching Assistant position to fit into my schedule, I was offered another part-time position last Wednesday, and I have an interview for a summer teaching position on Monday. All of these things on top of having a dying dog, a new foster cat, while trying to eat healthy, get in shape, maintain friendships, a relationship with my family, and a relationship with Dan. Yikes. This is a lot. And poor Dan has a lot going on too. His work is picking up big time, on top of him having to maintain a house, his dog, eight chickens, an ailing grandmother, and maintain a relationship with my family and me. Yikes. We spend little time together as is. It was just last night that we were able to sit and play some music together, where he played the guitar and I hummed or sung along. The point is, though I need to unleash my stress verbally, I need to either spread it out or really determine whether it's worth mentioning. It does bring to mind as well the need to stay positive. I pat myself on the back because things haven't been going as planned, and this is both a good and a bad thing depending on when you ask me about them, but overall I figure that things will work out. I am lucky enough to be in a position where options are available to me, and lucky enough to be able to take the time to figure things out if need be.

The best advice I could give (if I should even be soliciting advice) is to remember to slow down and smell the roses. Do nothing for ten minutes at least twice a day. This means to sit with no stimulation- find a nice quiet place to sit. Observe quietly the things around you. The buzzing hum of the bees. The whiff of lilac in the breeze. The sultry touch of the sun on your bare skin. Just close your eyes and use your other sense to just be. After a ten minute session of this, you should feel rejuvenated, relaxed, and be thinking more clearly. One of Dan's favorite excuses is "I don't have the time" but my theory is that you have to make the time and it is well worth the effort.

Thanks for reading.

-MUR

Birthdays

May. 29th, 2013 10:33 pm
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Almost six years ago, my sister draped herself in black and hid in her home during her birthday. She told everyone she was in mourning because she had turned 30 that day. My sister's attachment to the idea of her age was ridiculous to me, though now I try to view such reactions with sympathy. But what is age besides a social construct? Time in itself is a construct used to determine mutual arrangements according to a universal understanding of time. So what is age? It is also a construct of time, used to calculate human life cycles and document data. So what if she turned 30? I turned 26 yesterday. It seems that as you grow older time seems to go faster, but really it's that our lives get crazier. We are so distracted by our loved ones, our hobbies, and our work that we don't take the time to slow down. This morning I locked my keys in my car. I was in such a rush to get into work because both of my co-workers were going to be late and I had to be on time. Thank God for my boyfriend who came to rescue me! He was able to get my keys out of my car. Thank God then, despite our many disputes about it, he makes his own work schedule. Does he make a lot of money? No, but you know what, him not making a lot of money is okay when I know I can rely on him for other means of survival, like getting my keys out of my car. What I mean is simply this: we need to remember to take the time to slow down during the day, and appreciate the things we have, not worry ourselves about the things we don't have. I am so grateful to have such supportive parents. I am so grateful to have such a loving boyfriend. I am so grateful to have my health, God, friends, my vision, my hearing, my abilities, my voice, my youth, my car, my books, my blankets, my jobs, etc. It is so important to remember to take the time to understand nature. Listening to a storm now, I hear the thunder and I see the lightening, and I recognize that both are out of my control, and that's okay. I notice the flame from the tea light I lit earlier dancing in the breeze from the crack in the window, and I appreciate the slight coolness from the oscillating fan I turned on before I sat down. It is so important to appreciate these things, and to take a moment to recognize that we do not have power and control over everything. I locked my keys in my car. I was without a vehicle. It's like being without a cell phone nowadays, people feel completely lost and out of touch; but perhaps being without a cell phone is one of the better things we can do. The upcoming generation is bombarded with advertisements and flashy, quick animations that create brains that react well to overstimulates but then cannot function without them. Their lives will be shorter in comparison, even if they live to be 100. The point is, it doesn't matter how old you are. If you are happy and healthy and enjoying life, your life will be the longest and the most fulfilling.
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Sorry it's almost been a year. I purposely left dreamwidth in pursuit of other projects, but alas, here I am, again. I can't help but revisit my old DeadJournal to write more of my personal stories considering my DeadJournal has been with me for almost a decade. It's interesting; some things I kind of want to forget, yet, I can't seem to leave or delete my DeadJournal. I suppose I'm waiting for the day when DeadJournal goes bankrupt and just vanishes from cyberspace. Only then will I say, 'Ah, well, it was about that time anyway." I suppose in that way I could be defined as a victim of circumstance, which just means I am indecisive. Fine, I can live with that.

But here I am, ruining this attempt at a professional blog with a personal entry. I just can't help it, I'd rather theorize about life than give instructions. I did start blogging on blogger, but between blogger, here, DeadJournal, and my written journals, my entries get scattered.

The most recent event is that we adopted a kitty. He is all black, less than a year old, and his name is Teddy. Unfortunately it is horrible timing because my eleven-year-old scottish terrier is dying. She has a tumor in her bladder and has recently starting discharging blood from her bladder. She is lethargic as well. I think my mom is going to bring her to the vets tomorrow. It may be her last day with us, which is sad, but it is better than having her suffer. She is such a great pet. Anyway, her situation is putting extreme amounts of stress on the household. We don't want to overexcite or worry McKenzie (the terrier) while she is sick, and we need to introduce Teddy to my already existent cat, Meeko. Meeko is ten years old, and has never been around another cat. So far the interactions between Meeko and Teddy have been surprisingly successful. I don't think Meeko knows what to do with him, and Teddy is so young and naive he walks right up to Meeko and smells him. I anxiously await the day when Meeko bats Teddy in the face.

It all doesn't matter anyway, my mother is hell bent on adopting Teddy out to a friend of mine. I cried today, when my mother told me "it was just not a good time to bring in another cat," and yet, Teddy is the perfect cat. He is the cat I always wanted. He meows, he loves attention, he keeps himself busy, and he lets you rub his belly. He is the perfect cat for me. Dan keeps reminding me not to forget about Meeko, and of course I love Meeko, but Meeko is old and stubborn. He turns away when you go to pet him and he never comes when he is called. But Meeko is grandfathered in here because he has put up with my abuse for the past decade.

I really hope things work out for the best. I should get to bed. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow and the following weeks.

Until then, take care!

-MUR
 


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For me, nothing is as rewarding as lying down on my comfy bed and drifting off into la-la land. I realized that without proper sleep, I was literally crud the next day. A good night's sleep results in me being more energetic, patient, and positive. A lack of sleep causes me to be irritable, impatient, and grouchy; which leads me to eat crappier, not exercise, and can cause tension in my relationships.


There's a couple of important things you may need to know in order to understand whether or not you are having some sleep difficulties:

1) REM (rapid eye movement) sleep (stage 5) is the most important stage of your rest. It is also the stage in which you have your dreams

...and...

2) You cycle throughout the stages (1-5) multiple times throughout the night, and sometimes stages can be skipped (for instance, you can be in REM sleep and skip to stage 2 after 10 minutes).

Having that knowledge under your belt, let's move on to some major points:

-It's generally understood that you can't make up sleep, which means, if you sleep for three hours one night you cannot make it up the next night. Once you lose your sleep you lose it forever.
-Adults need 6-8 hours of sleep every night in order to feel refreshed the next day.
-Alcohol (any alcohol) can lessen your metabolism by 70%, and also disrupts your REM sleep. Even if you drink until you are obliterated and pass out, that sleep will never cycle naturally into your REM sleep. You only sleep through the shallow stages of rest and your body never really has the opportunity to rejuvenate.
-Caffeine or exercise too close to bedtime can also keep you up later than you'd like. Don't forget caffeine is a stimulant and gets your heart pumping, so your body needs extra time to calm down. Exercise has the same effect as caffeine and can keep you awake longer than you'd like.
-Drinking water or liquid before bed can disrupt your sleep by making you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.


Here are some tips to making your sleeping even better:

-Keep the temperature cool.
-If you are a light sleeper, have a fan on or a noise maker that plays thunder, ocean waves, or other tranquil sounds.
-Do not fall asleep in front of the television! The light disrupts your sleep.
-Use your bed for sleep only. Make it a ritual that your bed is not for reading, watching television, or doing homework. Let your body know it's time to relax once you get into bed.
-Try keeping to a bedtime and go to bed at the same time every night.

If you have a hard time getting to sleep because your mind is racing, try using the breathing techniques I discuss in my second entry. To briefly recap, it's a mental exercise that helps to clear your mind and allows for sleep to come swiftly and sweetly. You can also try relaxation CD's or other therapeutic exercises. Sleep aids are also available, though I personally stay away from anything unnatural to my body. Too many people want a quick fix with minimal effort on their part, and I truly believe this can lead to other dependencies. Regardless, some people really do need the extra help.

In the end, please remember to take your sleep seriously. I don't know about you, but my favorite part of the day is catching those Z's.

Picture 172
My cat, Meeko, snoozing it up!


Thanks for reading, and take care!

-MUR
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REJOICE! You are alive. You are reading this; therefore, you must be breathing. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his book You Are Here, "Every twenty-four-hour day is a tremendous gift to us" (1). What better way to acknowledge the happiness of existence than with our breath. In fact, this is the most effective way to appreciate the present moment. It's also an effective way to calm ourselves down when we are aggravated, angry, or upset. It helps us to refocus the mind and rationalize through a particularly stinging emotion. By being able to control our emotions, we are better able to maintain an overall sense of peace and happiness (because remember- control is an illusion. The only thing we ever have any control over is ourselves, and even that is somewhat limited to our emotions and our reactions).

I will delve more deeply into these other things at a later time, but for now I'd like to focus on the breathing technique. It doesn't take much time to feel the benefits and you don't need to be in any specific position or place.

CONSCIOUS BREATHING
1. Relax your body the best you can. You can be sitting or lying down.
2. Close your eyes. Try keeping your mind clear- you can do this by mentally visualizing an object like a letter, or a symbol and focusing on that visual without attaching thoughts to it. When I catch myself worrying or thinking about something else, I calmly acknowledge that the thought is there and visually push the thought out of my head. This takes practice, but once you are comfortable clearing your mind the next step becomes a piece of pie.
3. Take a deep breath. No need to force it. Make it comfortable.
4. Now imagine as your breathe in the cool air enters your nose and travels to your lungs, your heart, your limbs, your mind, and your body. Do not force the breath, just acknowledge its existence by breathing in.
5. Now breathe out. Feel the warmth of the air leaving your body making you feel relaxed and calmed. You should recognize your body relaxing and your breath becoming stronger and more controlled without you trying to control it.
6. Continue this for a couple of minutes, or as long as you'd like.

Another method is while breathing in say to yourself, "Breathing in, I know I am breathing in," and while breathing out say, "Breathing out, I know I am breathing out." This is Thich Nhat Hanh's method.

Deep breathing is so very important to the human body. It helps the blood flow which keeps your organs and body vitalized by helping to remove toxins and tension. It can also help to alleviate pain and stress. Did you know stress is a killer? Yup. It also assists in increasing your cortisol levels, which is linked to abdominal fat. Bottom line- stop being so worried and stressed and just BREATHE!

It's a no-brainer that high stress levels can lead to a lack of sleep, irritability, and even depression. It also makes time fly while you're stressing out. And you only have one chance with this life, so why not try to make the best of it? Well, breathing is a great way to start. Just take a few moments a day to practice conscious breathing.

A Scenario:

1. You're at work serving customers/clients when a really rude one just reamed you a new one for the price of your products/services. What do you do?

A) Call that customer/client a troll, which would result in your dismissal from your job.
B) Take the abuse, but go home after work and cry while eating an entire jar of Nutella.
C) Take a moment to breathe before responding politely, yet authoritatively. Then breathing some more once this particular customer/client leaves. Then moving on from the situation entirely.

Correct answer: C. I know the scenario is somewhat flawed, and the answers may not apply to you entirely, but the point is allowing some time to breathe can help level your own emotions and clear your mind. Clearing your mind allows you to react accordingly. Too many people react dramatically to situations because this is what mainstream media is shoving down our throats. We have all of these "reality TV shows" that show people acting, in my opinion, completely crazy. This is not real life, and in fact watching these types of shows really only drains the life from us. As brain-numbing as television in fact is, it is not a healthy way to reconnect with your body and your mind. Television is a different entry all together.

Regardless, my own personal experience with conscious breathing has been a rewarding one. I'm no expert, and sometimes I forget to practice daily, but I can tell you it works wonders when it comes to dealing with life and the stress of living.

So please, rejoice in your life! Your heart and lungs are working hard for you, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your existence. It only takes a few moments to appreciate the art of breathing and allow your mind to refocus on the present moment. This is truly the secret to happiness.

Next entry I will focus on the importance of sleep.

Thank you for reading, and as always, take care!

-MUR
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Good afternoon readers! Thank you for allowing me to entertain you with sentences strung together with oddly shaped lines forming meaningful thoughts in your brain. I intend to use this journal for book/movie reviews, current-event commentary, questionable humor, and the sharing of things I find amusing (which, you may not find amusing). Intertwined in these things will be personal things that encourage such thought.

A bit about me: I've always been into human behavior. I'm always questioning why people behave a certain way. I've even made it into a sport to be able to predict how someone is going to behave based on previous observations and his or her personal background (mostly based in his or her childhood). I have an undergrad degree in English and a minor in Psychology. Psychology has always been a serious interest of mine, but through my undergrad transitions from community college to a four-year college, I found English to encompass the many, various things my Gemini personality (yes, I am also into astrology) can indulge in while earning a degree. What I mean by this is in literature I found psychology, economics, sociology, cultural diversity, religion, politics, and other factors that influence and encompass human behavior and understanding. For instance, some of my undergrad courses include Latina Literature, East Asian Literature in Translation, Ethnic American Literature; and my Psychology minor allowed me to explore courses such as Drugs and Human Behavior, Cross-Cultural Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology.

With that being said, I am very dense when it comes to common sense and cooking, but I am a fountain filled with many pennies of thoughts when it comes to people!

Many things have influenced my own train of thought throughout my time here on earth; Buddhism, Taoism, and Francis Ford Coppola are among that very long, extensive list. My personality is one of questions, and I will shamelessly ask the 5 W's all day long: who, what, when, where, and why? In fact, this part of my personality drives people around me crazy. They tend to answer with a sharp and deafening BECAUSE!

With all this being said, and it's all very much a lot of information to take in on a first entry, I would like to spend a few moments explaining my Journal title. I know, it seems like a Debby Downer kind of a title, but really, it means a lot. I wanted my title to insinuate a new beginning. I've had a web presence since 2004, but my past entries are riddled with the thoughts of a confused, slightly disturbed, angsty young adult. No one wants to read that. I'm going to attempt to minimize the angst here by 100%. And so here is my new beginning! Myself reincarnated. Not everyone knows how to start anew, and not everyone wants to- which brings me to my subtitle- Death is Inevitable. Death in American culture is taboo. We like to sweep it under the rug and pretend it's not really there. We want to be young forever. It seems like in most science-fiction/fantasy stories the evil guy/gal is on a quest to discover immortality. Yikes! Talk about a rude awakening. They're so busy trying to find the Fountain of Youth or the Deathly Hallows that they can't even enjoy the time they are here, on earth (or wherever), alive. Death is a part of life, and as the Native Mexican people's Day of the Dead, we should consider death to be as joyful as birth. It is the passing into the great beyond, or not (depending on your own ideas/faith), but either way it's unavoidable. Thus, if reincarnation and starting a new was an option for us after we pass, should we do it? Or should we be satisfied with the life we just lived?

In Greek/Roman mythology, after people die, their souls go down into Hades. In Hades, a comparable Hell and Heaven reside (probably on separate sides of the hallway). Souls can, on occasion, decide to be recycled back onto Earth, but must first drink from a lake that erases all memory of their previous life. Ah, decisions, decisions.

At the end of the day, life and death are both very real and very scary- but they don't have to be. Life is hard, and dealing with death while alive is even harder, but I'll get to attachment and its hindrances in a later entry. For now, think of this journal as a doorway that no one will push you through, but you may go through at your own will and at your own pace. You don't have to believe what I believe, or preach my thoughts, but allow them to strengthen your own. I'd like this journal to help you to open your mind and embrace the world, your world, for all its glory.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment. My next entry will focus on breathing and breathing techniques that help to calm and keep you grounded.

Take care!

-MUR

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June 2013

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