Life Lesson #2: You know what happens when you assume…

When I was in the 7th and 8th grade, I was at the peak of awesomeness…or nerdiness.

I was a mathlete,  participating and competing in math counts (an after school event geared towards making math more appealing and exciting, and allowing students to broaden their math skills). During our after school events, we’d complete many math problems as quickly as possible in order to earn stickers to put on our charts. The first person who answered the question correctly received the coveted red, shiny apple sticker for their chart (gosh-if only reinforcement were so simple at this age!)!

At some point during one of these lessons, someone must have said something along the lines, “I assume you do the problem this way…” At which point, our feisty math counts instructor taught us what happens when you assume. She became quite serious and stated, “You know, when you assume things, you make an a** out of you and me.” For some reason, I found this hilarious and laughed so hard that I fell out of my chair.

I can’t quite explain why it was so funny to me at the time (probably because I was in 7th grade and couldn’t suppress my laughter when an adult would swear in front of me-so mature), but learning that lesson is something that’s stuck with me for many years.

We make assumptions all the time. It’s easy to do. Our assumptions (or stereotypes at times) are what also us to group pieces of information or people or things together. They allow us to make sense of the world. They help us organize. They help us categorize. So, they’re a good thing?

Maybe. But only when they’re right. That’s the thing about making assumptions. Yes, some may argue that they’re helpful in some circumstances, but what if you’re assumption is wrong? Beyond making yourself and another person look like a…donkey (see what I did there)…you could be doing more damage than good when you assume things.  Often times, we assume things because we don’t have enough information to make a better decision. Instead of taking the time necessary to figure things out, we may jump to conclusions and make an assumption.

Here’s an example of how we assume (from: http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/falsas11.pdf)

It is a hot August afternoon. The location is the living room in an old Victorian mansion. The 7-foot window is open and the curtains are blowing in the breeze generated by the thunderstorm that just passed. On the floor lie the bodies of Bill and Monica. They are surrounded by puddles of water and broken glass. Please close your eyes and picture the scene. Now change the picture. Neither Bill nor Monica has any clothing on. So, how did they die?

So, if you’re like me, you may have have that during a moment of passion, the storm outside had taken over and had somehow caused them to reach an untimely death. When, in fact:

Answer: They suffocated. The storm winds blew open the window, which knocked their fish bowl off the table, and it crashed onto the floor. False assumption: That Bill and Monica are human. They are actually goldfish.

Okay, so maybe it was a cheesy example, but you should get the point. We make assumptions. We look like a fool.

Two personal examples-When you see me, you see my light skin, brown hair, and blue eyes. You’d assume that I was of European descent. Though you’d be right in some sense, that wouldn’t be telling the whole story. I’m also Egyptian. You’d only have part of the story.

Another brief example. This past year has been really tough on me for a variety of reasons. I think one of things that contributed to all the craziness was related to people making assumptions. People only knew part of a story. People didn’t ask questions. People assumed they knew everything. People were treated me much differently. I would be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t tremendously difficult. However, it taught me a lot about how destructive it can be when people make assumptions.

So, here’s my advice:

I mean, let’s face it, we assumed the earth was flat how many years ago and look how that turned out!

“Beautiful Creatures”: Smart, Southern, and Supernatural Gothic

I just finished reading Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I flew through it in less than 2 days and thought it was a great read. Read below to see my thoughts on the book.

Beautiful Creatures Book Cover

2012 was a rough year for reading for me. My last semester of graduate school was tough. Finishing my classes, writing my thesis, and thinking about what to do with the rest of my life took up most of my time and most of my ability to think. Summer turned out to not be too good for reading either. I was busy for the first part of the summer, my grandfather became ill, and then I was applying for jobs. The Fall continued on with the job search and I felt guilty about reading when I could have been filling out applications.

But, then in early December, my grandfather died. While he was ill, his death was surprising because it came rapidly and with little warning. Pain gives you new perspective. It teaches you.

Books do the same thing. The stories of others help make the events in your own story make sense. They bring catharsis. So, I resolved to not feel guilty about devoting some of my time to reading. I’ve read 2 books so far this week, 4 since the 1st of the month. So, expect me to talk about books a little more on here in the future. 🙂

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But, back to Beautiful Creatures.

Published in 2009, Beautiful Creatures is technically a Young Adult novel for readers ages 12 and up. It is a Southern, Gothic Romance with a storyline deeply rooted in the supernatural. The novel draws heavily on themes of magic and fate. It is 563 pages.

Authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl wrote the novel after being dared to by some of the teenagers in their lives. Garcia and Stohl came up with the idea for Beautiful Creatures over lunch and wrote initial passages on napkins. They wrote the book in serial form at first, feeding pages at a time to these same teens who became increasingly impatient to read more of the story. Three months later, the first draft was complete and after some editing Beautiful Creatures is an international bestseller, the first book in a four-part series (The Caster Chronicles), and soon to be a major motion picture.

This is the book cover for the movie-tie-in.

This is the book cover for the movie-tie-in.

A General, Spoiler-free Summary:

Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan Lawson Wate, a 16-year old high school sophomore living in fictional Gatlin, South Carolina in the present day. At the beginning of the book, Ethan is still reeling from the death of his mother Lila several months before in a car accident and is unsure how to react from his father Mitchell’s depressed behavior. Virtually ignored by his devastated father, who sleeps all day and locks himself in his study all night, Ethan relies on the love, support, and care of housekeeper Amma who is like his grandmother.

Raised to be open minded by his liberal professor/writer parents, Ethan feels out of place in Gatlin, a small Southern town deeply rooted in its history and in its conservative values, and he cannot wait until he can leave after high school graduation. A member of the Jackson High School basketball team and a relatively popular kid in his class, Ethan spends most days with his best friend Wesley “Link” Lincoln. However, as summer ends and his sophomore year begins, something is different. Since his mother’s death, Ethan has been plagued by strange dreams, and now he begins to experience strange occurrences and hear strange music. The dreams, which feature a girl Ethan does not know but who seems to know him, seem real — virtually are real — as Ethan wakes up with dirt under his fingernails and mud in his bed.

When Ethan passes a strange car on the road on the first day of school, he feels inexplicably drawn to it, but doesn’t know why. The car’s occupant is Lena Duchannes, niece of Gatlin’s shut-in, Macon Ravenwood. Like her uncle, Lena is “different” than everyone else in Gatlin and she is ridiculed for it by her new classmates. Ethan, however, is drawn to Lena in a way he can’t explain. She is the girl in his dreams, her scent of lemon and rosemary is what he smells as he sleeps, and the music she plays on her viola is the song that mysteriously appears on his iPod.

Ethan becomes Lena’s friend as the rest of Gatlin’s students and residents shun her for her “otherness” and for odd occurrences that begin to happen at Jackson High. Ethan and Lena’s friendship continues to deepen even as her Uncle Macon and his Amma protest the acquaintance. As Ethan seeks to understand his connection to Lena and their relationship develops, Ethan learns that Lena is a Caster. Along with the rest of her family and others like them, she has magical powers. But unlike the others like her family, the Duchannes are cursed — destined to be Claimed on their 16th birthday for either good or evil, for Light or Dark. In a race against time and in a struggle against disapproval, Ethan and Lena rush to learn the meaning of their supernatural connection and to prevent Lena from Turning Dark on her birthday.

In the process, Ethan and Lena learn that all in their lives are not as they seem. That the connection they share goes back over a century to the roots of Gatlin. That Lena’s life has been dominated by secrets. That they may be powerless to do anything.

Ethan and Lena, as depicted in the upcoming Beautiful Creatures film.

Ethan and Lena, as depicted in the upcoming Beautiful Creatures film.

My Take:

I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures.  Out of 5 stars, I’d give it a 4. For me it was a fast read — I read it on my Nook over the course of about 2 days. At times, the novel was a little slow and lumbering — not because the story was bad, but because there is a lot of description. With this in mind though, I couldn’t wait to keep reading — the plot kept me thoroughly entertained and thoroughly interested. I desperately wanted to know what happened next, to discover the answers to the story’s mysteries.

I also really liked Beautiful Creatures because I found it to be smart, nuanced, and funny. While some may not agree, I found its commentary on small town life and on the narrow mindedness that sometimes infects those towns (or communities or big cities too) funny and true. You’ll have to read to understand, but for someone like myself who is a more liberal persuasion, authors Garcia and Stohl point out important and blind prejudices that many of us have towards who and what may be different in our worlds.

I also enjoyed the story because of its supernatural themes. While I don’t out rightly believe that magic exists (but, who wouldn’t want Harry Potter to be real??), I appreciate the novel’s perception of supernatural connections and fate. I also found the fact that the novel is told from Ethan’s perspective and not from Lena’s to be refreshing.

Some have placed Beautiful Creatures and the three subsequent books in The Caster Chronicles series in the same category as Harry Potter and Twilight. For someone who reveres the ground that the Harry Potter series sits on, I can honestly say that Beautiful Creatures is not as good as Harry Potter. However, I feel that it is, without question, better than the Twilight series.

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A Note About the Movie:

Beautiful Creatures has been made into a motion picture and premieres on February 13, 2013. It is being marketed as a Romeo and Juliet type story and some changes have been made to the plot and to the characters. This being said, however, authors Garcia and Stohl were heavily involved in the project and I think the film’s trailer looks great!

 

The entire Caster Chronicles — Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption — series has been published.  The fourth and final book, Beautiful Redemption, was published in October 2012.

Happy Reading! Let me know what you think of Beautiful Creatures.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: If Jane Austen Had Had the Internet…

I have a small Jane Austen obsession. I trace it back to high school…where I may have been part-organizer of several Jane Austen movie marathons amongst friends. During which we repeatedly rewinded an re-watched the scene where Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy jumped into Pemberley’s lake.
Haha 🙂

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But, I am unapologetic about my love for all things Jane Austen. I mean, really, can’t I be a feminist and love Mr. Darcy too?

I can’t be too crazy though because Jane Austen is all the rage (and has been for quite some time) in popular culture, even 200 years after Pride and Prejudice’s publication. There are countless adaptations of her works for the big and small screen, novels that imagine alternate interpretations of Austen’s characters and plots, Jane Austen jewelry, cookbooks, handbooks, clothing, crochet patterns, and the list goes on and on.

I mean, all you have to do is search Pinterest for “Jane Austen” or “Mr. Darcy.” For example, look at this little gem I found:

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And now there is something amazing and awesome called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.”

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Last Spring, while my brain was focused on finishing my Master’s thesis, Hank Green and Bernie Su had the ridiculously brilliant idea of bringing Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century. I don’t know how I missed out on the beginning of this really cool series of web-videos, but I did. Luckily, though, I came across it a few months ago by accident and was quickly all caught up on the 81 episodes that have been produced so far.

So, what is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries?

It is one of an increasingly prolific number of web-based series that are dominating the internet, and being made available on YouTube and other web video streaming sites.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries takes Jane Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet out of 19th century England and transforms her into a 24 year old communications graduate student who video blogs about her life. Just like in Jane Austen’s novel, Lizzie interacts (on and off camera) with Pride and Prejudice’s other characters and the storyline of the videos follow (with some mostly minor differences) the plot of the novel.

What makes the series even better though is the interactive nature that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has taken on as the series has progressed. Now, most characters have Twitter accounts that they regularly update and whose posts flesh out more of the story. There’s also a Facebook page and a Tumblr account. Fan interaction is also appreciated.

There are some differences (as can be expected) in characters and the set up of locations and premises. But, these changes only serve to enhance the series.

Here’s a guide to some of the changes:

Characters (What’s the Same and What’s Different):

On camera:

  • Elizabeth Bennet — Elizabeth is Lizzie Bennet. As stated above, she’s a 24 year old grad student studying communications and living at home with her parents. In this adaptation, she only has 2 sisters: Jane and Lydia.
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy — For all intents and purposes, Mr. Darcy is still Mr. Darcy. Except now, he’s just William Darcy. He’s wealthy, he’s powerful, he’s proud, he’s shy, and he’s still in love with Elizabeth.
  • Charles Bingley — Mr. Bingley is now Bing Lee. Still an adorable lovey dovey guy, Bing is still easily led by Caroline and Darcy. Just like in the novel, he loves Jane but leaves her.
  • Jane Bennet — Still Jane Bennet. Still the oldest Bennet sister, very sweet and kind, very close to Lizzie. Still in love with Bingley (Bing Lee). Loves fashion.
  • Lydia Bennet — Lydia is Lydia, what can I say? Immature and boy crazy.
  • Charlotte Lucas — Lizzie’s best friend is now Charlotte Lu who not only is Lizzie’s partner in crime, but also her partner in filming her video blog posts. She is closer in age to Lizzie than in the novel where she’s 7 years older.
  • Caroline Bingley — Miss Bingley is now Caroline Lee. Somewhat nicer than in the novel, Caroline is great comic relief. But she’s still up to no good when it comes to her brother and Jane and Lizzie and Darcy.
  • Mr. Collins — Mr. Collins is now Ricky Collins, a childhood acquaintance of Lizzie and Charlotte, who ironically refers to himself as “Mr. Collins.” Though not a minister like in the novel, he still is under the spell of Ms. de Bourgh who runs the venture capital firm he works for.
  • George Wickham — Wickham is still Wickham. I think that pretty much sums it up.
  • Colonel Fitzwilliam — No longer Darcy’s cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam is now Fitz Williams, Darcy’s nice and fun friend who gets to know Lizzie.
  • Georgiana Darcy — Mr. Darcy’s little sister Georgiana is now Gigi Darcy. Gigi is very similar to the character in the novel, very kind and very accomplished. She is a fan of Lizzie’s videos.

Off camera:

**There are several characters that are mentioned throughout the series, but not seen onscreen. Some are later seen, most notably William Darcy, but others are not. Lizzie and Charlotte (or Lizzie and others) frequently act out impressions of these characters with the help of props.

  • Mrs. Bennet — Still Mrs. Bennet, still looking for husbands for her single daughters. Lizzie portrays her in the videos, with a Southern accent and large blue hat.
  • Mr. Bennet — Still Mr. Bennet, he is the long suffering husband of Mrs. Bennet and father of the Bennet girls. Charlotte usually portrays him in the videos.
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh — Lady Catherine is now Ms. de Bourgh, the venture capitalist that Mr. Collins worships and works for. Lizzie impersonates her in some videos.

281967626640374414_PdkUvpoB_cSo, go forth and get your Jane Austen on — watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I promise you won’t regret it!

Here’s the first episode to get you started:

Important Links:

Watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.

Visit The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Website.

Visit The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Tumblr.

Discover more of the story on Twitter by following the characters’ Twitter feeds.

Making 2013 Different: Letting Go of Fear

Happy 2013, world! Yes, I know I’m a little behind the times, but at least it’s still January 🙂

Goodness, it’s been such a long time from writing, so let’s just jump right in! Although I apologize for my long absence, I can make no promises that I will update extremely frequently. Let’s face it, I’ve said it before and look how far we’ve come…or haven’t. How often do we make “promises” to ourselves or to others that we will definitely do something, but then don’t? We see someone from our past and put on a show that we’ll “call soon,”  or that “we’ll make plans” but then forget all about our encounter by the end of the day. Or we say we’re going to try something new, try to change, try to do something different,  but then something distracts us or we get discouraged and we just stop. I think we all have a tendency to do these sorts of things, don’t you?

So then the question becomes, why?

If you ask me (or Meredith Grey), I’d say a lot of it has to do with fear.

I know this is going to come as a surprise to many of you (sarcasm!), but I’m a shy person (mostly). Although I can be extremely outgoing, it takes me awhile to get to that point. Granted, I love people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in clinical psychology. But, I’m shy (or inhibited if you want to get clinically technical 😉 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m painstakingly shy. It would be way too hard to do some of the things I have to do if that were the case. But, nonetheless, this is what it is. In my past, I think there may have been times when I let my shyness get the best of me. I would pass up opportunities (concerning guys/opportunities at school/etc.) because I was afraid of…something. Now, I don’t think this is completely related to my being shy. Lots of people have fears of “something” who are extremely outgoing and far from being shy. But, what is this elusive “something” that I feared (and that I’m guessing many of you fear)? Fear of looking foolish or realizing that your expectations were much different than what actually was? Fear of the possibilities, being embarrassed, or being rejected?

I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast answer to this question…unfortunately. Maybe it differs from person to person, or from situation to situation. Maybe it’s something that we won’t ever be able to fully identify.

So, here’s the thing. At the beginning of this year, my friends from high school and I discussed what our new years resolutions were. Now, that’s a painstaking process. Because it’s easy to forget to follow New Years Resolutions, there were years when I figured, why bother? Why bother saying “This year will be different. This year, I will do x, y, and z,” when it was more often the case that my resolutions often didn’t last past January?

Well, this year I became inspired. This year, I decided things will be different. As I got the text from my friends about my resolutions, I  had to think about it for awhile. In May, I graduate with my master’s degree. In August, I hope to be starting a PhD program. A lot of things will be changing. I’ll be 24 this year and if I don’t get into a PhD program, I’ll be starting my real grown-up life (scary!) after graduation. I know 23 and 24 are young. People tell me that all the time. But, I feel like I’m at a point where I need to start thinking about my future and my career and being with someone I want to spend the rest of my life with and starting a family and all the craziness that goes along with that.

So you’re thinking, okay Jeannette get to the point. What does this have to do with your resolutions? Well, my faithful readers, I’ll tell you. It has everything to do with them.  After some thought, I responded to my friends the following: “Let go of my inhibition and don’t let it get in the way of accomplishing greatness!” Okay…so the last bit about greatness may have been a little bit dramatic, but you should get the point.

So often, we let this something, this fear, get in the way.

It doesn’t matter what it gets in the way of; it’s enough that our fears prevent us from taking action.

From speaking up about your ideas and values.

From telling someone how we feel about them and asking them out for coffee.

The point is, our fears (this “something”) can prevent us from, well…accomplishing greatness. Think about it for one second; if you let your fears rule your life, maybe you could be missing out on potentially finding your ideal job (because you’re too afraid to apply for the job), or from starting a relationship with someone who could become your potential spouse (because you’re too afraid of the rejection you may face by asking them out).

I guess the whole point of this is to not let your fears (whatever they may be) control your life. Don’t let them prevent you from taking action (whatever that may mean).

I can’t say for certain how the rest of the year will go, but for now, I’ve already started to make this year different. 

Love, happiness, marriage…AKA…Am I really that old?!

I admit it.

I’m a romantic at heart.

I love love.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of what my perfect wedding would look like.

I imagined the dress (strapless, or with cap sleeves; ball gown; veil; white), the shoes (low heels, same color as my dress or matching the bridesmaid dresses), the bridal party (a compilation of family and friends from different parts of my fiance and I’s lives). I could see my parents walking me down the aisle. I could hear a close friend or family member performing the readings on the altar (with this being one of them).

And, I could even taste the plethora of cookies that would undoubtedly be making a statement at the reception. Mmm.

But not just yet…right? I mean, I’m only 23. I’m a little too young for that. I have enough trouble keeping track of myself, how could I be expected to keep track of someone else?!

And yet, within the past few months, a lot of people I’ve known have gotten engaged. In fact, two of my close friends are in the process of planning each of their weddings!

It’s a wonderful time. A happy time. And a…

FRIGHTENING TIME!

Despite all the excitement over a friend’s engagement, it quickly brings up thoughts about my own relationship status.

Me? Single (and searching).

My initial thought on hearing of someone’s engagement is something along the lines of, “YAY!!!! I’m SO excited and happy for you!” While my internal thought process goes something like this, “Seriously, another one?!? Are we really that old? Is that what I should be doing now? I guess I’m just going to become a cat lady for the rest of my life!”

It’s amazing to think how things related to marriage have changed over the years. For example, in 1980 the median age of men at first marriage was 24.7 and the median age of women was 22.0. In 2010, the median age of men increased to 28.7 and for women it was 26.7. (Good news-I’m only 23, so I still have some time!)

The point is, when I see my friends getting engaged, it scares me. I think about how I’m only 23 and still have to finish my master’s degree. And then I remember, I’m probably going to spend another 4-6 years obtaining my PhD. Which means I’ll be pushing 30 by the time I finish school (eek!) and get a job. Then hopefully (assuming someone will put up with my shenanigans) I will get married and start having kids (immediately…before I’m 40)!

Has anyone else ever had this feeling? Maybe not about the marriage thing, but just about getting older? Where you or your peers begin to do things that you think should be done by someone older? The thought I have is, “Wow. We’ve reached the age where this is what happens and is the expectation.”

When I was younger (i.e., high school and younger), I used to think that people in their 20s were mature and would be ready to take on grownup experiences (take that as you will). Now that I am that age, I think about how wrong I was. Although many of my peers may be ready for these things, I’m not…or am I? I don’t feel old…but does doing any of these things mean I have to be old? I only feel 23 (whatever that means).

It’s like all of a sudden, it hits you.

You. Are. A. Grown-Up.

You are ready to open the doors to so many opportunities that you never had access to before. You may not have the opportunity just yet, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ready.

So, what’s the point of this ramble? Well, here’s one:

And, holy cow! I better get a move on =)

Just kidding. In reality, know that you can do your own thing. Weddings bring weddings, but they have to be for the right reason. There is no rush. There is no hurry.

…(but if you happen to know someone, feel free to send him my way 😉