This blog has relocated!

I’ve moved this blog to my new website. Visit http://www.theszewczyks.com/adri/blog for new posts. Thanks! :-)

Is Twilight Putting Young Readers on Dangerous Moral Ground?

There has been a dramatic increase in occult activity and symbolism in main stream media in the last few weeks. From witch and demon costumes to bloody skull candles, you can find a bit of Halloween almost anywhere you go. I think we can all agree this increase is expected behavior for the weeks before October 31st.

What struck me as odd this year is the extreme focus on vampires. Television shows and movies have taken a dramatic turn to satiate the public’s new found obsession, for which I hold one book series accountable.

Twilight.

Let me be the first to admit, I loved reading the series. Kudos to the author, Stephenie Meyer, for creating such a compelling story. After I read the third book, the anticipation of waiting for the fourth to be released nearly drove me up the wall. I went to the Twilight website regularly checking for updates, joined FB groups, and even pushed all of my friends to read them so we could talk about it.

So what is it about Twilight that makes it such a gripping tale? I like to think it is Edward’s (the vampire) love for Bella (the leading lady), but even if we overlook the fact that Edward is a vampire, he has a few less-than-innocent qualities that may be trumping even love when it comes to drawing readers in…

1) Wealth
2) Power
3) Immortality
4) Unnatural beauty
5) Mind-reading and other “powers”

I’d caution everyone that reads the series to take a step back and make sure their interests do in fact lie in the love story and not with learning about occult activity or glorifying the false idols in the list above. As adults, it is easier to focus on the parts of the book that are in line with our values, but I worry it may not be as easy for young readers (the target audience) to differentiate.

 

 

 

4 Things Angry People Can Teach You About Writing

1) It is important to speak your audience’s language.

Individuals cope with anger in different ways. Learn their coping style and you will be equipped to better communicate, calm them down, and eventually resolve the conflict.

How this applies to writing:
Learning about your audience and speaking their language will increase the chance that your message is received.

2) You don’t always have to reach an agreement.

Sometimes people are angry for reasons you don’t understand and maybe never will. In these scenarios, it is often best to agree to disagree and move on with your life.

How this applies to writing:
There are times when my opinion differs dramatically from those that need to give the final stamp of approval on the content I write. After making a case for my perspective, if they still disagree and I don’t have any moral or ethical reasons not to comply with their wishes, I move on in the direction they advise. After all, it is their project, paid for with their money. I may not add it to my portfolio or brag about it though! ;-)

3) Remove yourself from the situation to see things clearly.

An angry person in the heat of the moment can rationalize acts or behaviors that would otherwise be unthinkable. If more people would remove themselves from hostile situations and take a few minutes to cool off and review what’s really going on, we’d probably have a lower crime rate.

How this applies to writing:
When you’re deeply immersed in a document or article, you might overlook a misspelling or error. Step away from the content, take a break, and then come back with a fresh pair of eyes to review it later.

4) Listening can be more valuable than speaking.

Sometimes angry people just want to be heard. Talking about it helps work out why they are upset and examine potential outcomes.

How this applies to writing:
If you are writing, you need to be reading. Absorbing much of what others in your industry have to say will not only expand your knowledge, it will expose you to various writing techniques and best practices.

Conditional Compassion: Where do you draw the line?

The release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison has caused me to ponder the limits of human compassion.

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was released under a Scottish compassion law due to a terminal illness. Rather than being applauded for their mercy, the Scots are facing immense ridicule from the world community.

While listening to the radio news coverage, I was struck by the anger and sorrow in the voices of the family members of Pan Am Flight 103 victims as they relived that tragic day. 270 people were killed. The radio talk show hosts pointed out that the bomber didn’t show any compassion when he bombed Pan Am Flight 103, so why should we show him compassion now?

Christ teaches us to have compassion and mercy.

This led me to the questions:

  • Under what circumstances is it acceptable for our compassion and mercy to be conditional?
  • What circumstances would make it moral to require a dying man live out the last months of his life in prison?

When it serves the greater good.
Sure, he may be terminally ill, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t commit another heinous act in the short time he has left. If anything, he has even less to lose now, knowing that he is on his death bed. I’m not sure what level of activity his illness permits, but he seemed fine (jolly even) when walking off the plane into his home country.

We, as human beings, have a moral and social responsibility to act in ways that will respect and preserve life. Setting an unremorseful killer loose on the world hardly qualifies. I applaud the Scots for standing up for their values, but definitely question their motives and whether what they did was in the best interests of humanity.

I’m not sorry.

I’m quick to confess and apologize when I’ve wronged someone. I’ve always viewed this as a blessing because I know it is hard for some people to admit when they’re wrong, but lately I’ve noticed there’s also a negative side to over-apologetic behavior.

I apologize unnecessarily if it will keep the peace. I do it at work, with my family, to the woman that bumps into me at the mall because she isn’t watching where she’s going, etc. I even caught myself apologizing for the weather once. I do think I’m awesome, but we all know that is one thing I can’t control!

Saying “I’m sorry” has become such a habit, half the time I don’t even think about the words before they escape my lips. How little must those words mean to my friends and family when I utter them so often?

I’m a firm believer that we teach people how to treat us with our responses and right now I’m teaching everyone that I’m perpetually guilty of this or that. If I always assume things are my fault, others will surely follow suit. I’m going to make a big effort to quit apologizing when I don’t mean it, so if you catch me saying sorry unnecessarily, please ask me why.

3 reasons why ex-enemies make the best friends

Two of my very best friends started out as enemies.

The first I met in middle school. Ashley and I played basketball together. We played the same position, meaning we were always in competition. Also, our best friends were friends with each other. You’d think that would make us one big happy group, but instead it led to jealousy. I can’t for the life of me understand what the 12 year old me was thinking; I just know that Ashley was my mortal enemy. Somewhere down the line in high school we found ourselves in a few classes together without any of our other friends. This forced us to *gasp* actually get to know each other. Turns out we had a lot in common. I’m very thankful because she is now a lifelong friend.

The second enemy turned friend is Najla. I met her on the first day of my freshman orientation at Purdue. She was loud, bubbly, and introduced herself to me by asking if I wanted her to show me how to check my mail in the dorm mail room. I was tired and grumpy from the move, so I told her I knew how to check the mail and shut the door to my room in her face. Wow, what a jerk, right?! For the first month of the school year, I avoided her. I’m not sure what transitioned her from enemy to friend, except maybe proximity. She lived two doors down and she had a flare for drama. I’m pretty drama free, so listening to hers was very entertaining. After getting to know her, I now value her friendship and unique perspective on life a great deal.

Why did Ashley and Najla turn out to be such great friends?

They are honest.
I can always count on both of these girls to tell me exactly what they’re thinking. They don’t waste time sugar coating things to protect my feelings or prevent an argument. After all, we started our (enemy) relationship being brutally honest and critical of one another.

They know my triggers, but don’t exploit them.
They both know my weak spots because as previous enemies, they made it their job to expose them. Now they use that knowledge for good rather than evil, like to help me get through a difficult situation.

They know the real me.
When you start a friendship (or relationship) you want to present yourself in the best possible light. You might try to be someone you’re not or feign interest in things that bore you. With an enemy, you have no reason not to recklessly be yourself, so they are getting to know the real you.

I don’t make a practice of having enemies, but I’m thankful what’s become of these.

File folders, organization, & compromise

I’m extremely anal when it comes to organization. So much that if I can’t organize things to my exact specifications, I prefer not to organize them at all. It is very confusing for people around me because to an outsider it looks like contradictory behavior.

I’m either hyper organized or everything is in a state of chaos.

This type of thinking has proven to be especially difficult in the workplace. For about a year (off and on) I’ve subscribed to the Getting Things Done methodology. It has its perks, but the minute one to do item slips by uncategorized, I start losing faith in the entire system.

For example, one recommendation the author makes is to file everything in file folders in alphabetical order. Regardless of the type of content stored in the folder it falls into one alphabetized group, no subcategories. I always print labels so they will be legible in case someone else needs to access them, but this was taking way to long and I often wouldn’t get to it for weeks at a time. (Yes,waiting weeks to file works against the GTD model.) The author recommends a label maker, but this too was time consuming because I had to leave my office to create the label.

My solution:
I’m learning to make compromises with myself about how I reach the end result. I’ve started writing out labels by hand.

It goes against the neurotic part of me that wants every label to line up perfectly and have the same font size, color, etc. It isn’t how file folders are _supposed_ to look. It bugs me, but it works. I can create my files quickly, find them easily, and get on with my day.

I’m taking actions that meet 85% of my requirements instead of creating mental roadblocks for why I shouldn’t do the tasks at all if I can’t do them “right”. Are preconceived notions about what it means to be organized keeping you from cleaning up your act?