Monthly Archives: March 2015

Book Review: Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede

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****Warning: Spoilers ahead!***

Summary: This is a collection of young adult fantasy stories. Each offers a uniquely Wrede perspective. The last story features Cimorene, the heroine of the Dragons series. Additionally, the last work in the book is a recipe for chocolate cake, written using the directions of a battle-weary soldier.

Review: This is a fun collection for children and teens, or anyone feeling young at heart. I highly recommend.

Why Everyone Should Own A Pet

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For those of you whose homes are free from the shedding of a four-legged friend, the next time your child brings home a stray and begs, “Can we keep him?!”, I highly suggest you acquiesce. (This, of course, assumes you don’t have a deadly allergy to pet dander and aren’t living in a pet-free rental.) There are many reasons owning a pet is a good idea. Allow me to elaborate.

First and foremost, pets calm you down. In fact, petting a cat or dog has been shown to lower blood pressure and resting heart rates. Even more interesting, stroking a four-legged friend for a while releases a hormone in both people and their pet to help them relax. My cat, Archimedes, sometimes even pets me back. 575881_10200791047474324_2035806325_n

Along with helping their people relax, pets often have a calmness that aids in sleep. Speaking as someone who suffers from insomnia, there are times when the only way I can sleep is if my cats are purring beside (or, often, on top of) me. It’s almost better than taking a sleeping pill. If there is one thing cats know, it is sleep.

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Pets can also energize us. Taking the dog for a walk, playing fetch, grooming — all of those things help create a healthy, active lifestyle for people and their pet. My cats, Magellan in particular, often help me in my workouts, and by “help,” I actually mean “hinder.” I usually have to exercise around them, in spite of them, over top of them, or while using them as weights. But, they keep me on my toes and help my coordination and balance.

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Furthermore, Archimedes does play fetch.

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Another reason to own a pet is they can distract people from boring, tedious jobs and make life more fun. Mine, in fact, help me correct my students’ papers, aid in my reading and planning for the week, and promptly let me know when I have done enough for the day.

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Pets provide unconditional love. They are always happy to see their people, no matter how long it has been or how much they have destroyed in the house in all those long, empty hours they were home alone. And, if for no other reason, you should own a pet for the company. Life is never dull when a fur-baby owns you. Peace and love.

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Why I Love and Loathe Social Media

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Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Youtube, Instagram, WordPress — odds are good that most people have an account set up on at least one of these websites. I, in fact, have an account on all of them. So, why are we, as a society, so into social media? When did it become so popular as to include people all over the world, of all ages and cultures and interests?

The benefits of using social media are numerous. These sites enable people with common interests or purposes or beliefs to interact. I have had the pleasure of meeting several people online that I would never have been able to meet any other way. I can learn new skills, discuss my ideas, promote myself, and broaden my circle of acquaintances. I can support and encourage my friends, and console or commiserate when it is necessary. I can feel like I am a part of something big.

This is a detriment. Social media is, at least in my life, beginning to replace other interests or hobbies — there is not enough time in my life for everything I love to do. I check my sites several times a day, scrolling and commenting and liking and reading other peoples’ posts. I watch a video online, and it links to another video, and another. Time gets away from me. Playing my instrument, practicing my calligraphy, sketching a picture, reading a book, playing a video game, crocheting an afghan — all my other hobbies take a backseat to updating my status online.

It gets worse. Studies are suggesting that the longer one spends on social media websites, the more unhappy he or she becomes with his or her own life. It seems that people become envious of the lives they see presented to them (not to confuse this with the lives their friends are actually living, which, daily, are likely just as boring and uneventful as their own). In fact, many people are now, whether intentionally or unintentionally, dishonest about what they show on their sites, showing just the positives: they post pictures of their vacations or slim themselves down with photo-altering programs or write about their job promotions or update about how their husbands are the sweetest men in the world because they got roses for their birthdays.

By themselves, none of these things are a terrible misrepresentation of someone’s life, and I delight in the joy of my friends. The problem comes when one only posts about the exceptional things that happen to them, in an effort to make others think their entire lives are exceptional. “Look how skinny I am in my bikini in Aruba! I could afford this because I got a promotion at work, the day after my husband sent 32 long-stemmed roses to the office to celebrate my amazing and enviable existence!” See the problem? Sadly, social media becomes a contest, rather than a celebration.

The concept of social media site is sound: interact with old friends; make new friends; easily, inexpensively, and quickly keep in contact with people you love, even if they live across the globe. Unfortunately, in practice we see that websites dedicated to human interaction, unfortunately, are at the mercy of the humans who interact. They have become a safe haven for bullies and trolls, who enjoy spewing hate with few (if any) consequences. They have fueled a rampant case of widespread narcissism, where one’s self-esteem is now determined by how many followers/friends/likes/comments one has.  They have granted fanatics a sounding board from which to promote their controversial arguments, with little regard for the political, religious, or philosophical beliefs of others. They have enabled people to post pictures of others which are unflattering or embarrassing, without their consent, sometimes even anonymously. They have, ironically, ended friendships.

In effect, social media is a double-edged sword. It is a fine balance between responsibly utilizing it and abusing it. It is an expectation that everyone uses social media, but it sometimes becomes a chore. Even when I am interacting respectfully, I am still constantly assailed by arguments, updates, and images that are snarky or untruthful or outrageous.

I can’t block out the negativity completely, but I can contribute positively by creating or resharing inspiring and encouraging messages. I hope that will be enough. Peace and love.

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