Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Christmas List

That's right, everyone. It's almost December and you know what that means; It's time to start the shopping day countdown. As it stands at this moment, you have only 27 more shopping days until Christmas. So run! Find those deals! Buy that wrapping paper! Wrestle the last copy of Taylor Swift's CD from that man's hands! Hurry!

Buying gifts for people you don't know well is frankly, really ridiculously hard. To every generic gift, there is a down side. Candle? You're implying they stink. Candy? What if they're on a diet? Bath set? You're implying that they could really use a shower. Teens especially can be hard to buy for. And, admit it, you often strike out with them even if you think you have the greatest gift ever. Sorry, Auntie, but we're just not into Hello Kitty anymore. Parents, Aunts, Uncles, relatives, listen up 'cause I'm gonna give you a few pointers.

Know Your Budget
While they might be craving that expensive pair of jeans or forty dollar perfume, sometimes it's just not a good idea. While it might be fun to spoil them, think about all the other gifts you have to buy. If you've got the money for it, and you're feeling generous, go for it! We'll love even more. But sometimes, the knock off brand for half price, is just as good.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes
This is a very hard category to win in. And I mean hard. First off, if you're gonna get a teen clothes, get the right size. If you're unsure of the size, check the closet, ask someone around the same size what they wear, but do not just take a random guess. If they're still growing, a size larger is just fine, so they'll have some time to grow into and actually wear it for more than just that one week.
Do not just buy something that you think is stylish. While, you may luck out and have your teen actually like it, chances are they'll smiles, say thank you, and then throw it into the depths of their closet until they can give it to good will. This is where knowing your teens friends will come in handy. Ask them if they know what Amber or Felicia has been eyeing for a while. Ask them what they would want. Friends are a great way to gather all sorts of gift information. However, do not use these friends to spy on your teen.
And if you're still not quite sure if she'll really like it, gift receipt. Tell them off the bat that it's ok if they don't like it. They can just take the gift receipt and get something they do like instead.

Sing Me A Song
This is also a tough category. Check to see if any of your teen's favorite artists are coming out with a new CD. Then explicitly instruct them not to download it. Also check to see what your teen has downloaded. If they have three-fourths of a CD already downloaded, don't bother.
If there's no new music your teen is looking for, opt for the accessories. A snazzy pair of headphones, new mp3 player, a new cover or case for their mp3 player. Little things can amount to much.

Eat to Live
Food. Food is good. And it makes an excellent gift. I'm not talking 'bout fruits and vegels here. I'm talking about a bag of their favorite candy. A giant chocolate bar. A box or two of their favorite fruit snacks. Stuff like that. It's Christmas, we're allowed to be a little unhealthy. We promise we won't eat it all at once. Maybe.

Whrr. Buzz. Beep-Beep. Electronics
Electronics can make a person's day. But there's a lot of things to take into consideration. You getting them a camera? Well, think about size of the device, size of the memory card, quality of the brand, ease of use, added features. Laptop? Brand, memory size, number of processors, weight, operating system, added programs. Flash drive? Size of the actual drive, size of the memory, ease of carrying. Television? Size, weight, picture quality, brand quality. Cell Phone? Plan, size, reception, added features, color, cool factor. And to all of this is the added consideration of price and where you can get the best deal.

No, No, Never-Never, Uh-Uh-Uh
There are definitely a lot of bad gifts out there. So, here are some things you just shouldn't dabble into.
Make-up. While it might've once been cute to give us make-up and let us play with it, no more. Now, we wear make up, we don't just play with it. Just, leave us be when it comes to what we put on our faces.
Socks and Underwear. No. Just... just no. I can't think of anything else to say but no.
Action figures. We're teenagers. We're not into Barbie and GI Joe. We're into high tech gadgets and fashion. Sorry. Try again.
The Unheard of Movie. Wow. You think it's great. But I'm sorry, I'm just not into crocodile wrangling, gun shooting, offices executives with explosives. Yeah. I'll say thank you and just toss it in my closet.
The Hand Knit Sweater. I love cats. And trees. And bright colors. But I really don't like itchy wool. Or unfashionable sweaters that are way to small. Just avoid this entirely.

If you're in a pinch, a gift card or just straight up cash is a great gift. We love being able to decide what we'd like to purchase. But if you want an actual gift, use your best judgment, even if that best judgment is to ask one of your teen's friends. Always be sure to get a gift receipt if you're unsure of the gift. Honestly the best thing to do is just ask your teen what they're interested in getting for Christmas and then be very sneaky-like about buying it. And don't hide the gifts in the same place every year. We've known about it since we were five. Only 27 more days! :)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

It takes one bad movie...

Well, it's been a while folks. Life for me in the past few weeks has been a little...crazy, to say the least.

I'm usually a pretty stable guy, but lately so many things have been going on, and it's all those little things that build up and can really stress a guy out. I, sadly, still suffer with a rather large problem that society has come to refer to as 'high school.' My classes aren't getting any easier, and the homework only seems to pile higher and higher. I'm rather busy, and find myself with very little free time to do physics problems or write that social problems essay on overpopulation. I always tell myself, 'I'll get to it tomorrow'...and then tomorrow rolls around and, finding myself even busier than the day before, I tell myself the same thing again.

I recently made a decision - I'm still unsure as to whether or not it was a good decision - but I'm one of those people who really likes to stay active and stay in shape. And, finding myself with nothing to do all winter, I joined the wrestling team. Thanks to that decision, we can now throw constantly achy muscles to my list of inconveniences. Also, I now have two less hours every day after school, and my saturdays will be consumed by tournaments.

Money, money, money. I have none. Yup, go ahead and throw that on the list of worries. Always nagging the back of my mind are the doubts of whether I'll be able to pay for insurance this month, will I be able to pay for the gas to get home? How pathetically small will my next paycheck be? I should have mentioned earlier that weekends are pretty much the only days I have time to work, and by joining wrestling - weekly saturday tournaments - I now have two or three months worth of paychecks that will have only one shift per week. Not a very enlightneing thought.

And, as are many seniors, I'm feeling the overload of work that comes with applying for colleges and scholarships. As soon as I finish one thing, another thing must be done. Why do schools need to ask so many questions? My goodness. And it certainly doesn't help that I have a nagging mother who wants it all done NOW! I'm only human, woman!

I tend to ponder over all my troubles when I'm at work. I work at a movie theater, so I have a lot of just standing-around time behind the counter waiting for someone to buy popcorn. The other day, though, was the release of the new hit movie - I'm sure you've heard of it - New Moon. Now, I'm not even going to hesitate to say I think it may just be the most ridiculous movie ever...and I haven't even seen it! Nor do i have any intention of seeing it. I was just standing behind my counter watching floods of screaming teen girls rush in wearing their 'Team Edward' tshirts, marvelling over how dreamy Jacob Black is. Yuck.

As I watched them, i began to count how many disgruntled looking boys weree being dragged along by excited girlfriends, and in my head I laughed at all these people. I laughed at the guys, dragged along by their girlfriends, and I laughed at the girlfriends, they young children, even the older women, who all got sooooooo excited about such a silly movie...but then a sad thought hit me. As pathetic as I think New Moon or Twilight or the whole series is, as ridiculous as i thought these people were for wasting their money on this movie, they were all happier than I was - exept maybe the unfortunate boyfriends. These people were excited, they were happy, they were looking forward to something. It's been a long, long time since I've gotten that excited or had something to look forward to.

I'm not saying I'm going to go watch New Moon with my girlfriend and everything is goping to be all better - I think she'd enjoy that as little, if not less than I would - but I am emphasising that life is about having something to look forward to. i know from first hand experience that when things pile up, they really pile up, but a very special girl to me recently showed me that life - even when everything seems bad - is so, so much better when you look at things more optimistically, try to see the good in a bad situation, even if the good is a simple movie ticket. It took one bad movie to make me see how miserable I've been. What's the point of living life if you're not enjoying it, right?

So, find something you can look forward to, be excited about something, and things wont feel so bad. Next time you're in a really bad mood, think of something going good for you. Think of something good that will happen, find something good about the bad going on...even if you have to succumb to watching Twilight. Just like the bad things can pile up, when one good thing happens, another will follow, and then another.

As a final note - stay positive, look for the good...and good luck to all you poor, poor boyfriends out there who have been dragged to see a horrible movie with your girlfriend. I feel your pain.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Part One: Rock 'em-Sock 'em Siblings

I've shot snide comments at an argumentative school mate who was less than fond of me, I've snapped my crude criticisms at a teacher who was unhappy with my behavior. I've gone toe-to-toe with ex girlfriends, and I've glared into the face of an angry, disappointed parent...yet those experiences seem almost docile when I look back at the torment and hell my sister and I have put each other through.

Siblings fight? What? When? Never! It couldn't be!...Yup, I'm sure anyone with a sibling of their own will agree that it ain't easy gettin' by. It starts young, with stealing each others toys and bonking each other on the head with your rattles, and it never gets easier. You get a little older and the fights evolve into who wants to watch what on tv and who was on the computer for longer than they were supposed to be. Even when your nearing adulthood and thinking maybe you've matured out of those silly conflicts, think again my friend. Who out there has fought over who gets to use your parents car?

I'd say siblings who are a little closer in age are walking on a little thinner ice. Personalities clash, and emotions are never matching. I'm sure many out there know what it feels like to be in a sucky mood and roll your eyes as a sibling rushes into the room smiling and singing and being all...well, happy. It's frustrating; you just want them to go away and shut up so you can sulk in peace. And I'm also sure many of you out there are guilty, like me, of the whole 'I really am just being annoying right now because I know it pisses you off,' situation. It makes a little sense if you look at it objectively - you live with someone their whole life and you get to know them quite well. You know what makes them mad, and you know their attitudes. You become familiar with certain symbols that might mean they are in a bad mood. Also, your perspective - of how they feel - becomes a little more general. If you just meet someone, your not going to act stupid or say something insulting, because you'd be worried about what they think of you or if they are going to dislike you. With siblings, your stuck with em, so what the hell, right? They've seen you at your worsts, and you've seen theirs. You have dirt that could get them grounded for life, and they have the same on you. Pissing each other off and hating each others' gut along the way is just a given.

There are just inevitable truths in life. If you eat one chip, you're going to eat another. If you're running late, you're going to get stuck behind a slow driver. If you have a sibling, you're going to fight.


Part Two: The 'Best Friend Clause'

There is one other thing to consider, though, while talking about life with a sibling. I choose to call it the 'best friend clause,' particularly for siblings close in age and living together. It's as if, when deciding to have multiple children, your parents signed some imaginary contract agreeing that they hereby accept the risks of forcing you to spend your life with this other human being, seeing as whether you like them or not, you are stuck with them. But there is a bright side, or at least I'd like to think so. Somewhere along those years of crying, antagonizing, hating, beating, stealing, yelling, throwing random objects, and performing highly dangerous, high risk wrestling moves on each other, you may come to find that even when you are mad at them or they are mad at you, your siblings can be your best friends. I'm sure most siblings experience this at a very young age - probably only because you're young and don't really have any other friends, anyone else to play with - and then you grow up, look at your siblings and think, wow, what dorks. A select few of us, though - and I consider myself lucky to be in this category - are surprised to find later on in our teen years really how much we appreciate having a sibling. For years I couldn't wait for my sister to go to college and get out of my face, yet now that she's gone and I've taken to having almost nightly conversations with her, I roll my eyes at the unfortunate realization that I actually do kinda miss her.

You never know when, at those unexpected moments, a sibling is going to outshine all expectations; lend a hug when you need one, be a friend when you feel like you have none, sit up at watch tv marathons with you into the late hours of the morning, or help you think of mean, behind-the-back insults toward someone you feel like being particularly mad at at the moment. Its like siblings are..."rent-a-friend"s. There will always be disagreements, fights, arguments, and such, yet it's surprising how often a sibling will readily be there for you when you need them. Surprising for me, at least.

So, in those dark times when you really, really feel like punching a sibling in the face, just bear in mind - deep breaths, calm thoughts, and no headlocks. Its what siblings do; you cant blame them for being what they are :)


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tolerance, We Could All Use Some

We are doing a project for my biology class; we have been given topics, broken up into teams and told to prepare presentations. We would be debating against another team on the subject. Today's debate was about Gene Therapy, though it mostly revolved around cancer and its potential cures. A girl on the pro gene therapy team had a father who died almost a year ago from cancer. We were finishing up the debate with the one minute last statements. The con team was going first. He was talking about a boy who had died because of gene therapy. He turned to pro team and rhetorically asked them "What if that had been your father?" He had meant to say loved one or brother. It was an honest slip and he clearly felt terrible. This caused the girl to burst out into tears. Right after the debate was done, the two of them went in the hall so he could apologize. The rest of the class automatically jumps to how it was so terrible and that poor girl! I don't think with my heart. I think much more objectively. So, while I readily agreed it was rather cold and cruel, it was a great point and a very effective strategy when you took a step back and looked at just the facts. I was immediately attacked as a 'heartless, soulless [expletive]". Wow. Thanks for letting me explains, guys. I never said a word against this girl. I felt bad for her. And yet here I was, being attacked until the bell rang by twelve different people who never once let me defend my viewpoint. Way to have an open mind.

I don't care if it's religion, skin color, hair color, origin, language. Where do these people get the right to judge us? Let me rephrase that. Where do they get the right to judge us, without giving us a chance or giving us the opportunity to defend our beliefs. Just because we're different than you does not mean that we are terrible people. We're all different, all unique. We all have different backgrounds, different life styles, different opportunities, different influences. To think that any one person is better or worse than you is quite judgmental and quite unfair. All we want is a chance to show you who we are. Why can't we even get that?

I've been using the terms 'us' and 'we' quite loosely. I'm sure everyone of you readers can fit into some category, some group that has been discriminated against, or attacked, or disbelieved. And you know how terrible it feels to be shut out and knocked down and  not even given a chance to explain or defend yourself. But the real issue is, have you ever done it yourself, when you know how terrible it feels?

The truth is, we all have. We have all gone and shut someone down and made them feel terrible on purpose. Just because they didn't agree with us. Perhaps it's just a characteristic of every person. Perhaps we all have some hidden longing to be better than everyone no matter what the cost to them or us. Does this make us terrible? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps this is just a defense mechanism ingrained in our instincts. Change is not always a good thing. But denying other people the right to be different quickly turns our society from a colorful, exciting place to live to a bland, grey, repetitive dictatorship.

I'm not here to preach. I'm not here to put anyone down or insult human kind. I just... I just wish people were a little more tolerant. Instead of viciously attacking the person, try to be more open and just keep the nasty comments for later when they're alone and writing in a journal. You can't change everyone who disagrees or has a different opinion than you. You just gotta take it in stride, try to not butt heads, and just keep pushing.