Pet Peeves and The first world

Well, my family has moved into our new place.

I have now realized we are officially poor, by Western standards. By most standards, we’re still well off.

We are living with one of our relatives, a thing not looked highly upon in this day and age. But we had no choice.

And as you all know, being around the extended family (or the immediate family) has its pros and cons.

(This is not a complaining post. I just want to ask a few questions.)

The first one is: What are your pet peeves?

What does it even mean to have a pet peeve? I’ve never like that term. A pet is something you fondle, cuddle, take care of, etc.  A peeve is something that makes you irritated; or, possibly, angry or nervous. Why would someone put those two things together?

Second: What are first world problems?

The new phrase we’ve invented for our minor difficulties is first world problems. I’ve heard it said that we invented it to hide how spoiled we privileged people are. I see this phrase as more of a joke than anything else. Seriously? When your internet is slow, or your phone is hard to handle, or some other such nonsense; you mock your problem by using a term that basically says: “I live in a country that’s one of the better off ones, all my physical needs are met, but I’m so bored with my life that I’m going to call this small difficulty the problem of living my privileged existence.”

It’s been a thing in books and movies to shine a different light on the lives of the rich and famous, or just rich and spoiled. Because of that trend I’m sure we’re all at least familiar with the idea that money doesn’t make you happy, and luxury can wear on you. But apparently we’re all the rich and famous to people in third world countries, having been to one, the impression I got from what we were told is that they see us all as very rich and important people, who are suckers for buying stuff in the market place.

I spent several days there not having access to the internet, or to drinking water from a cup, or calling my family, using restrooms without soap or toilets that flush at the turn of a lever. I went everywhere in a group. I worked. And I felt the least inclination to complain of any time I’ve been on a new experience. Part of that was a choice, I didn’t want to be a wet blanket. Part of it was realizing what ridiculous luxury I was in, even  in Cambodia. A lot of money was spent on our small group, and a lot of effort put into giving us a good time. I expected pretty meager accommodations, but I got as good as any I’ve gotten here in America the few times I’ve stayed at hotels.

Now, I’m going to list a few of my pet peeves, just to make a point.

  1. Any unusual sounds at night, any talking or loud music while I’m trying to sleep, that has driven me crazy many a night.
  2. Being bossed around constantly.
  3. Being teased about my personality.

There, those are three things I had to deal with on my trip. And I managed to put up with all of them, and adapt. The first one doesn’t bother me half as much since I came back, which is good because moving means different noises.

The truth is, it’s not helpful to label anything your pet peeve. Whether it’s a first world problem, or a problem with clashing personalities, because when you do that, you give yourself permission to notice it and be annoyed every time. I don’t think any of us need encouragement to look for annoyances in our lives.

This is what I’ve found helps me best: When something irritating happens and it tries your patience, first; hold your tongue–complaining usually just makes it worse or annoys that people around you.  Second; shake it off–forget it as soon as you can, the less you dwell on it the better. Third; don’t start thinking that this always happens, or always will. I know, I still slip into this one myself, but it’s not a good way to think. Fourth; laugh about it, just about every annoyance has a humorous side to it, if you are willing to not take your own minor problems too seriously. Fifth; look for a good thing about every situation. every cloud really does have silver lining.

I hope everyone understands that I am still talking about minor things that go wrong, not catastrophes. And with that , here’s a final bit of advice. Do not make everything a big deal. One of Disney Channels’ most liked characters, Kim Possible, has a catch phrase that she uses whenever she does something that she sees as not all that stressful, “So not the drama.” Often this is funny because Kim does things no one else can do. But it’s a good principle, when you know you can handle it well, then don’t turn on the drama.

I need this post as much as anyone, I need reminders to try to keep up a positive attitude when the pressure is on. So to all of us: until next time–Natasha.


Choosing to stay

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you know I like to draw inspiration from songs a good deal. One of my favorites is “I Lived.” It’s one of those songs that doesn’t even have to be sung to sound good, you could just say it like a poem.

Hope when you take that jump you won’t feel the fall,

Hope when the water rises you built a wall,

Hope when the crowd screams out they’re screaming your name,

Hope if everybody runs you’ll choose to stay.

This song is about what really matters in life. It was written by one guy for his son.

So, personal tidbit: My family is moving.

That’s hardly unusual, but it has been a wild ride for us.

To begin with, we had no idea where we were moving to; then we found a place, but we kept getting put off about signing for it, and then we were told it wouldn’t be ready by the deadline by which we had to be out of our house. On top of this, a friend of ours offered to pay for our rent so we could stay in our home if we housed some friends of his, but then we couldn’t contact the landlord for two days, and our friend changed the deal. The landlord is also raising the rent by two hundred dollars. After this, our friend never got back to us, even though we gave him an ultimatum. Now we have no place to go except our grandmother’s house, unless by some miracle we find somewhere else before Monday.

I’m sure you’ve had situations like this in your life. You can imagine the stress of not knowing anything for certain for over a month and a half and for going two weeks planning to move without having anywhere to move to. Then we get our hopes up and it’s dashed to pieces. I think we all can agree this sucks.

And of course I’m still getting used to the idea. But I keep thinking of that song and the line about staying. I thought staying meant staying in our house and sticking it out. But Then I realized that staying can mean a lot of things. “Staying power” can mean a steadying hand to help others be calm or resolved, it can mean a firmness that enables you to stick it out through the tough times. Or it can mean simply being there for someone when most people would be too wrapped up in their own troubles to spare any time. As the oldest of three, and three homeschooled kids, I’ve always been close to my sisters, but as we get older we get even closer; I think it’s because we don’t have anyone else to rely on outside the family.

If we didn’t all have our faith I cannot imagine the state we’d been in; at least it gives us something we can all agree to turn to. Although faith does come before family, it is much better to have your family believe with you.

I think God is the one who gives you staying power. He promises to never leave. And we’d hoped he’d let us keep our house, but he never promised that, so no one can say we’ve been misled. It really comes down to whether we’ll accept the change or not.

And I think whether you believe in God or not, or whether or not you’re a Christian, you can agree with me that change is inevitable, and a lot depends on how you choose to handle it.

A lot of people decide to hide from it, to withdraw, or to run from it. Still others make it more difficult by fighting with the people around them, or fighting the change itself. Some people never relinquish the old things and spend their time looking back to what they had and wishing they’d never lost it. I have been tempted to do all those things. But that’s just not the way to handle change. As painful as it is to embrace it, what else can we do? Facing the change and choosing to let it happen, and to look for the best in it; that’s not the easy thing to do, but I think it’s the only way if we want to grow.

Those are my thoughts for the day. Until next post–Natasha

Standing on the shoulders of Giants: part 2

Well my last post already has a couple likes, which is exciting for me.

Now here’s an interesting thought: When do you know if you’re great?

Is it when people like your posts? Follow you on social media? Recognize you in public places?

If you have any conception of what’s real, I’m sure you know none of those mean anything when it comes to greatness.

My mom mentioned going to a conference (or was it a retreat?) where they talked about finding the greatness in yourself. At first glance that seems pointless and stuck up.

Shakespeare said that some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have it thrust upon them. (Twelfth Night.) The question is, is that true?

It is true that some poeple are born with very strong qualities that inspire others, that prod them (the person) on to greatness. Someone might be born with a strong sense of justice, compassion, loyalty, or the desire for personal excellance. Someone might be born with curiosity, instinct, the ability to learn quickly in a variety of ways, or great talent in an art like music.

And some people become inspired to seek greatness, and work for it so hard they acheive it, most likely never knowing they have.

And some people never aspire to be anything spectacular, but find themselves positioned in life to play a role in writing history.

And we’ve probably all heard that every life counts, all of us are a part of history, and that is true.

Greatness is more than just not wanting to be mediocre. Greatness is more than hard work. You have to choose to pursue greatness, or it will not last.

Here’s a question: Will my choice to pursue greatness gurantee I acheive it? and will it change the world around me?

Nobody can actually change the whole world at once. Unless you could personally touch the lives of every person in it. But you can change it in a small way. Small doesn’t sound like enough. But big change is really the accumulation of many little changes and choices. Like a visable chemical reaction is billions of little micro reactions coming together.

So what makes a choice Great?

I think the truth of the matter is the reason you choose something. Greatness is a matter of the heart just like everything worth posessing is. Because you can pursue goals that seem noble; like peace, or helping the less fortunate, or making an impact in society; and do it for the wrong reasons.

You know you’re great when you’ve stopped caring about being great, and instead care more about what’s important. Maybe the great secret to life is finding out what’s really important, and then fighting to keep it. I don’t know if it’s okay to think you’re great, I don’t have that wisdom. But I know Great things are worth pursueing.

Until next post–Natasha.



On the shoulders of Giants: Part 1

So, let’s talk about greatness.

I read about greatness frequently in my nonfiction books.

However, what concerns me is the lack of a concept of greatness in the fiction and media world.

As an experienced reader, I think that fiction shapes the culture more then nonfiction. I prefer the term “fantasy”, actually.

Somehow when I read or write fantasy my imagination races, and I feel like life means something.

I think the truth of the matter is that we all want more in life than we see, and fantasy represents those dreams, putting them in a tangible movie, show, or book; that’s why we come back to those things. Even video games might count for that.

When it comes to greatness, the funny thing is that the real world stories can inspire us just as much as the fantasy ones. But I find the more story-like the telling, the better I connect.

Per example, I just finished a book called The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (which I enjoyed a lot), and the story surprised me and challenged some of  my preconceptions going into it. It’s about a family surviving war and poverty under the Taliban’s control.

What makes the people in these stories great? What is Greatness?

Greatness is not glory. It is not wealth. It is not popularity.

When you hear someone described as great, my guess is your mind goes to nice, fun, cool, talented and other words like that. The fact is, only the last one even touches Greatness. But talent is just material Greatness works with.

The words we use, and how we use them, reflects on our cultural perception. Take the word awesome. It means to inspire awe, and we use it typically to mean something we enjoyed a lot and was really good, but rarely are we actually full of awe about it. We might use awesome and great together and not really know what either means.

You are probably wondering why I am making such a point of this. The fact is I recently took part in a Shakespeare intensive, and we talked a lot about the importance of wording. Turns out word patterns can tell you a lot about the tone of a scene, the nature of the person speaking, and what kind of role they fulfill in the story.

Our words don’t necessarily limit us in real life. But in “The Student Whisperer” Tiffany Earl notes that the more words she knows, the better she understands things.

The word greatness should get our attention. It should be closely related to heroism, impact, change, goodness, character, and a host of other such ideals.

Have you ever known the disappointment of finding out someone who you thought was a good guy, a hero, was actually not up to your standards of what makes someone truly heroic? Then you found out they did not achieve greatness in your mind. Or what about vice versa? Have you ever been blown away by someone’s amount of sacrifice, forgiveness, persistence, or love? Whatever virtue most impresses you, if they surpassed all you expected, then they impressed you with greatness.

When I was in Junior High, we were asked who our heroes were. I didn’t have too many. Later on in my life when I was reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot, I found her commenting on how few heroes teens have now and how little they want to be better than they are. It seems they don’t want to aspire to be like anyone they think of as better than themselves. At the time I didn’t get why she was down on this; shouldn’t we like who we are? But now I understand what she meant. It’s fine to like your personality, but when it comes to excellence, we always need to remember there are people ahead of us. It may simply be because they are older and have been pursuing their goal longer. Or maybe they possess character we have not developed yet. Recognizing that is important. Greatness cannot be achieved without humility.

As I’ve learned to appreciate high ideals, I’ve found personal heroes. Both real and fictional. And I think of them when I face tough situations. I’ve written about some of them on this blog. Isaac Newton said:

“If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

C. S. Lewis said the next best thing to being wise one’s self is to be surrounded by people who are.

So, to understand greatness, look to the Great. In my next post I’ll dive in more into what Greatness consists of, but I hope I’ve provided some interesting ideas here. Until next time–Natasha.

Mission to Cambodia

I really do have a reason for not posting in so long, I was out of the country for several days without internet access ( at least not to my blog.) Plus my family is moving so I’ve been sorting and packing. No one’s been visiting the blog anyway, so I guess there’s nothing lost.

I went to Cambodia. Woo-hoo! That was awesome. I was on a missions trip. My first one.

I rode an elephant, tried crocodile meat, ate more rice than ever before in my life, and traveled everywhere in a bus. I thankfully did not get eaten by bugs or food poisoned or dehydrated.

I went to see the temples near Siam Reap, and got a short tour of the capital Phnom Penh’s sights.

I also flew for the first time I can remember and I enjoyed that too.

This is all just the non-important stuff that sounds cool. Since the people who made my trip possible were a mix of Christians and non-Christians I’ve learned that certain things don’t matter as much to everyone.  if I told you that the main thing I did was work and play with the kids at an orphanage, would that mean more to you?

I don’t know my audience. But I do know that my favorite part was the kids. That’s not unusual for me. But around kids in America I can often feel out of the loop. They usually want to watch TV, or play on their phones, sometimes I want to scream when I see an eight year old lost in the digital/virtual realities. Or worse, a four-year old. Even when you talk to them, it’s not always much better. I’m not about bashing Americans by any means, but I noticed a marked difference in Cambodia. The kids enjoy electronics as a novelty, but they are just as willing to engage in simpler activities. They seem to really enjoy being around you, and they enjoy every experience they can. Whether it’s painting, or climbing on a roof, or going to the marketplace. Or maybe it’s just playing rock, paper, scissors; or kicking a ball around in a circle.

The life of orphans is not very secure in Cambodia, money wise. The Government there does not always support orphanages; in fact, recently it made it harder for them to keep going. The group running the one we went to, FCOP (Foursquare Children of Promise,) had to let a lot of kids go because of some new regulation.

But the Cambodians never came across as anxious about life. Even though there are a lot of poor people there, poverty did not seem the same as it is here. Not that it was better exactly, but it was less visible. No obviously homeless people on street corners with signs, for example.

To the christian who may read this, the spiritual climate it there is much different from it is in western civilisation. They accept spirituality as a part of life, like the rain. They have spirit houses set up everywhere that offerings are left in. Buddhism abounds, incense altars can be found in plenty of locations, even that the tourist goes to. Despite these facts there isn’t a lot of actually practice of the religion in the younger generation. Which I think I heard was the majority of the population. For reasons I forget, the bulk of the Cambodian are 20-30 or under. (Google it.)

It just felt right to be doing the trip, I can’t explain it beyond that, I was at peace with the things that were happening. I’m sure I’ll tell more of this anon.