Hobbies: a year of doing things that make me feel more like myself

The first few years after graduating college I was so focused on having a career, moving to the city, starting graduate school, and trying not to fail at life. In the process it felt like l stopped having time to do many the things that made me happy and made me feel more like myself. I felt like a less authentic version of myself somehow.

In February of 2014 I left my job doing community management/marketing at a technology company and in March I started working as a technology associate at an independent school downtown. The transition from working in an office to working at a school came really easily to me, I immediately felt happier. Over the past year I have had a lot more time to do the things that make me feel more like myself. All of these hobbies were things I had tried before in the past, in high school or college, and it felt great to finally have my life sorted out enough that I could get back to doing them. Here’s what I was up to in 2014.

Pottery

From May-August I took several ceramics classes at Mugi Studio. I took a ceramics class in college but we only had three weeks to work on the wheel, which is what I am most intrigued by, so I was happy to have three months to work on my skills. By the end I was able to reliably center the clay on the wheel each time. (For those of you who have never done this… it is NOT an easy task.) I wish I had more time to practice at the studio, but once work started back up I just couldn’t commit the time to it any more. Maybe I’ll take another class this May.

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Photography

I bough myself a fancy camera with my 2013 tax return. (I got my tax return on the same day I received a job offer- score!) I have not taken the time to learn how to use it properly because it has a really nice guide setting that does most of the work for me. In the future maybe I’ll try to improve my skills, but for right now I’m really satisfied with the massive quality upgrade from my last digital camera (and my iphone.) Here are some of my favorite photos from the year. (I didn’t take any picture that I’m in, so photo credits to Sam, my Dad and my friend Ben.)

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My Nana with her youngest grandchild.

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Sam and CC walking on the beach in Michigan.

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St. Joseph, MI.

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With my college friends at a summer BBQ


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Cookie swapping

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Our Christmas card photo.

 

Music

Every Friday morning at school there is a jam session made up of about four or five teachers that play jazz songs and solos. I decided to break out my trumpet, which I hadn’t played in over seven years, and join the jam group. It’s been fun to have a reason to pick the trumpet back up because I thought I was probably done with it for good. But it has also been pretty challenging because I have never played jazz solos before.

I also finally brought my acoustic guitar into the city. My apartment is so small that the guitar is sitting in a wall mounted stand, not taking up any extra floor space. I just play my guitar here and there when I feel like it, but it’s still nice to have it with me.

Reading

Goodreads tells me that I read 18 books in 2014. I only read 5 books in 2013. I participated in a book club with some of my friends, and I also participated in the faculty/staff book club at my school. I also was able to read a bunch of YA books for fun. It’s been so relaxing and nice to get to read for fun again. The two best books I read this year were probably Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roots by Alex Haley. I have a feeling both of those books will stick with me for quite a long time. I set a Goodreads goal for myself of reading 30 books in 2015, which is a lot for me. We’ll see how I do!

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Crafting

In addition to ceramics I also had time to do a little bit of crafting this year. One highlight was gold-dipped leather earrings that I learned about from the blog Merrick’s Art. I made them for most of my family and friends and everyone really liked them. I shared them on my Kollabora page and they were even featured the next day in the Kollabora blog post curating good postings on the site!

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Designing/thinking about curriculum 

I had to take a curriculum and instruction course this spring. The class was a lot of work but also the most rewarding and useful class I’ve taken at Teachers College. It was so useful that I almost thought of the class as a hobby, because I was able to learn more about some of my personal interests.

The class was great because it made us think about how curriculum is written and consider the power that comes along with designing a curriculum. One example that stuck with me is Apple’s 1971 article, The hidden curriculum and the nature of conflict. I’ll simplify it here, Apple talks about how often times curriculum is designed to generally avoid talking about conflict. He specifically highlights science and history. Both historians and scientists have a lot of conflict in their fields, debating the results of studies or debating personal narratives about historical events. But this conflict is overlooked in schools, leading students to think that history and science content is just a list of facts, dates and formulas that can’t ever be debated. That is a problem that needs to be changed with a curriculum that addresses conflict. This is just one example, we talked about lots of different things that you need to consider when writing a curriculum. (A bit overwhelming, really.)

Instead of working on a technology curriculum, I decided to work with the social studies group to design a high school African American Civil Rights Movement curriculum. Here’s an abbreviated version of the curriculum we developed.

I was really happy to get to work with some students who were in the social studies education program, that was the other program I was considering at Teachers College. My classmates introduced me great curriculums like Stanford University’s Reading Like a Historian. I also spent more time this year learning about more about curriculums that focus on anti-oppressive, inclusive humanities education, like Facing History and Ourselves and Teaching Tolerance. I’m not currently teaching social studies, but these resources are still great professional development for me in the meantime.

Teaching

In my role as a technology associate I am not required to do any teaching at the school. So I typically wouldn’t consider teaching a hobby, but I have been trying to fit it in where I can. This makes my job more enjoyable and helps me feel more connected to the students and teachers at the school. I was lucky enough to be able to do my Master’s student teaching with the lower school technology teacher, so I’ve been teaching technology classes to 4th graders. I also helped plan the Hour of Code the school hosted in December. We had about 50 students in grades 2-7 that spent an hour learning introductory-basic programming skills.

When I started in March I also started advising Gear Girls, an after school club for middle school girls interested in technology. The club has about 15 girls this school year. They take apart computers, make paper circuits, learn basic programming languages (Scratch, Codecademy HTML/CSS class, etc)  and soon we’re going to start making Rube Goldberg machines and learn about simple machines. We also have the girls learn about female role models in STEM fields. It’s been a real joy to plan out what activities we’ll do in Gear Girls and it’s been great getting to know these students- it’s certainly a highlight of the week.

As you can see, I had a lot of interests that began to fall to the wayside over the past few years. Upon reflection I can see that 2014 was a really great year, and it was a year where I learned more about who I wanted to become and I began to feel more comfortable being who I am. I hope I continue on this positive track in 2015.

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I hate plastic bags

I like coupons. Recently I went to Rite Aid to use my $2-off coupon for two Pantene products, which just so happens to be my shampoo and conditioner of choice. I reminded the man at the counter to not give me a bag- I’d put the bottles in my reusable bag I always carried with me or even just chuck them in my purse.

I also had to remind the man to use my coupon, and somehow in the process of handing over my coupon and paying for my shampoo the man snuck the bottles into a plastic bag.

Several weeks ago I went to Duane Reade to pick up a candy bar. Of course they had a buy one get one half-off sale so I indulged in a second candy bar. (I then proceeded to go back to work and eat two full-sized candy bars which I don’t recommend.) Once again, in the act of paying for my candy, the woman at the register snuck my two candy bars into a plastic bag. It honestly would have been easier for me to hold the bars in my hand.

I’m often annoyed by my constant and failing battle with avoiding plastic bags.

Did I want a bag for my small candy bars? No. And most of society probably didn’t.

Did I want a bag for my jumbo-sized shampoo and conditioner? Probably. But wait! I had a huge purse with me and I would just chuck them in there.

Is a reusable bag more awesome than a plastic bag? YES. A plastic bag has to be carried in your arms, while a reusable bag can be lugged over your shoulder for easy transport- especially valuable in the city or when you are trying to unload every grocery bag in one haul. 

I have no idea why but associates always rush to put my stuff in a sucky plastic bag. I always go to the counter making a conscious effort to ask them for no bag, and sometimes it still winds up in a bag!

There has been debate over whether or not NYC should even allow plastic bags anymore, or charge a 10 cent fee per bag. Personally I’m fine with banning bags or charging fees for them, but there is another, much easier thing we could be doing that I’m amazed isn’t promoted more often. Force retail associates to ask us if we want a bag.

We should have posters next to that ’employees must wash hands’ sign that say ’employees must ask customer if they want a bag.’ (Perhaps not in the actual bathroom, but you catch my drift.)

I think many people will start to realize that they actually don’t want a bag, because they are sick of looking that that pile of 40 bags they already have in their closet that they will eventually just throw away next spring cleaning. Or because a reusable bag holds more at once. Or because all you got was a pack of gum and why would anyone need a bag for that?

Just think of how many bags we could save if we just were given a choice in whether or not we wanted one before we got one.

How it Feels to Job Hunt as a Recent Grad

Congratulations recent college graduates! Two years ago had just come home from Greece (not bad) and started life guarding for the fifth summer in a row as I hunted and applied for teaching jobs to no avail. I sympathize with anyone who is going through that right now.

I’m a big fan of reading BuzzFeed articles before bed (don’t judge me) and I decided to take a crack at my own gif inspired blog post. With the help of giphy and gifhorse I was able to write one rather easily. One or two people have even said it was funny! I am more proud of it than I probably should be.

You can read ‘How it Feels to Job Hunt as a Recent Grad’ on the NY Creative Interns blog here.

Focusing on my “Passion Project”

I started volunteering for NY Creative Interns in June. I discovered the organization in January while rather franticly trying to get a job and make something of myself. Soon after that I started at ShowMe and stopped attending events but continued to followed them online. In April I saw all the photographs and recaps from their large Find and Follow Your Passion conference, and I decided it was time again to get involved. For purely financial reasons it seemed to more practical to volunteer my time than my money to attend the events. I volunteered to write recap blog posts from their events and now I also get my name attributed to their weekly opportunities post. (Which is skillful copy and pasting at the most- but it’s something!) But I’ve also had the chance to attend many different events and get to know a handful of really nice, motivated people that volunteer as well. It was a great decision.

A large chunk of the volunteers. Photo by Yael Malka 

Last Saturday, November 10th, NY Creative Interns held their second Find and Follow Your Passion conference at Pratt Institute. There were talks about all sorts of things like navigating a new job, finding your self-worth, social Media tools to help you network ‘IRL’ (in real life) and more. I lucked out and was given the task of managing a session room- so I got to sit my butt down and hear four great talks. I loved all four discussions I sat in on but the one that stuck with me most was called ‘Creative Alchemy: Convert Opportunities into Career Gold‘ and was lead by  Monica Lo, Senior Art Director at kbs+ and Megan Nuttall, Senior Writer at kbs+. I’ll be honest I was skeptical of this talk before it started due to the name, but the talk was perfect for me. Unlike a lot of the conference attendees I’m fortunate to currently hold a job I really enjoy, and I’m working towards a degree that should hopefully lead to a “dream” job in the future. I feel like I’m already headed in the right direct to successfully find and follow my passion. So the one thing that these ladies said that really stuck with me was that you need to find your Passion Project.

Monica maintains a food blog and Meagan loves to craft. These aren’t just their interests- these were the first things they shared with us when they introduced themselves at the beginning of their talk, they were passionate about these things. These were two girls who seem to really enjoy their job and have an awesome opportunity to work together as a team at their agency. And while they both enjoy their positions, they still spent a large portion of their discussion talking about the importance of finding your passions and doing what you love outside of the workplace.

So my #1 take-away from the conference was a motivation to begin working on more things I love, like crafting and beauty.  And I’m even contemplating starting a beauty, fashion and crafting blog next year. It sounds a little silly but this blog Merrick’s Art is one of my favorite things on the internet. I wake up every morning and hope she wrote something on her blog  about refashioning a dress, or copying a craft from pinterest, that I can read with coffee. I have a few other blogs I love but hers is my favorite. Is it deep? Not really. Will it drastically change the word for the better? Most likely not. Does it make me happy? YES. And if I work on things that make me happy that I’m passionate about I’ll perform better at work, do well in school, and I’ll better off all around. So while many attendees  were looking for career advice at this conference, I was able to take away something non-career related, but equally as valuable towards helping my find my passion.

City Living

I moved into my first NYC apartment on August 4th. A year and one week ago I started my internship at foursquare, so it’s been almost an entire year (minus a break in the late fall) that I’ve been commuting to the city 5 days per week.

This morning I woke up at 5:45am. At 6:00 I looked at the clock and realized I wasn’t going to fall back to sleep. The day was nice so I decided I would go for a run in Central Park. I live two avenues away from the park but I hadn’t visited yet since I moved in. The run was lovely as I ran past a large pond (I’m sure it has an official name), weeping willows, dog owners, and other runners of all ages and sizes.  Running is actually easier in the city than at home where everything is so hilly!

It’s been nice to easily stay after at work to do something with coworkers or go to an event. I never have to drive or worry about train times.

So although I’ve sort of been in the city for over a year, I’m excited to finally be here full time. I’ll build stronger relationships, meet more people, do more things and really making the most of those 3 hours I’m not spending on a train everyday. And my back appreciates it!

The Hunger Games

I caught the bug. I started reading The Hunger Games last Monday. My friends and I were out on St. Patrick’s day and one of them told me she was obsessed with the books. I had little interest in them, I thought they would be like Twilight, which I tried to read a few years back and gave up half way through the first book because I absolutely hated it. But I figured if my friend was obsessed I’d give them a shot.

I started reading the first book on a Monday. I read the second book from Friday-Sunday morning and I read the third book in a single seven hour sitting on Sunday. They really were addicting, really similar to how I felt while reading Harry Potter. I think only Young Adult literature can suck you in like that.

The series is so clever and Suzanne Collins was able to include commentaries on several different aspects of our society in a single story. People have compared it to the Japanese film Battle Royal but from what I’ve heard they only sound slightly similar. (I should watch the film before I say anything.)  There is so much evil and dark in the book but the main characters are very likable and the story is highly engaging. I can’t write book reviews, I don’t know enough about literature, but I know these books are well thought out with amazing characters and a highly engaging plot.

Last night I saw the movie. The beginning of the movie was impressively spot-on in my opinion. But by the end they sped things along and left out a lot of the character development and dialogue that are some of my favorite moments from the book. Books turned into movies rarely work out well for me. From a readers point of view, it is slightly annoying to see them change the dialogue between characters, or leave out key details. But what annoys me even more is my friends and family that only watch the movie and then think they have a valid idea of what the book is about. They don’t fully understand what is happening because the movie had to skim. They root for the wrong characters because they don’t know the important dialogue and actions that happened between characters in the book.

So I haven’t left you with much valuable information, but I would recommend reading the novels if you have the time. (They are quick, highly addicting reads. Great for a vacation or commute.) And if you don’t have the time, check out the movie. But I warn you, you won’t have any idea what is actually going on!

“Slacktivism”

Recently I posted the KONY2012 video… that was before the insanity of it  going viral. Yesterday the African Union announced it will lead a mission of 5,000 to assist in process of capturing Joseph Kony. I’ve been paying attention to this issue for the past four years so I know that it could have been a coincidence that this happened so soon after the video came out. Obama for example, sent 100 American troops into Uganda to help strategize with the Ugandan military last December, before this film came out. (Although I think the actions of other Invisible Children videos helped in that process as well, but whatever.) But I have a large hunch the video and its crazy viral spread did have an influence on this decision.

So this leads me to one big criticism (I’m not addressing the other dozen criticisms here) Invisible Children has faced, but lots of other issues have faced as well. (For example, right now a lot of attention is being brought to the murder of Trayvon Martin.) This idea of “slacktivism”, sharing and discussing an unjust issue and admitting that we need to do something about it, but taking hardly any physical or tangible action towards solving that unjust issue. Social Media has made it so easy to be a “slacktivist”. In fact I’m sure this this term didn’t even existed before Social Media. (Not to say it didn’t happen.) People post the KONY2012 video and we all know that we don’t like child soldiers and we don’t like terrorist groups. But what is a 30 minute video that I watch and share on facebook going to change about it? We all feel terrible about the death of Trayvon Martin, but if I post an article about his death and write “RIP Trayvon” in the description, how is that going to justify what happened to him?

Some people are so disgusted by this trend, and blame the youth of our country for being naive, believing they are making a difference when in reality they are just sharing on facebook. But I don’t see it that way. This is the way I see it.

There are two types of people: observers/slacktivists and doers/activists. And both of these groups of people use facebook and twitter. Observers/slacktivists will always read an article, be upset by it and post it on facebook.  They themselves are doing nothing to push the cause forward and get stuff done. But the beauty of social media is that the doers/activists see the posts that the observers/slactivists left. The doer reads this upsetting article and flips out, immediately tries to rally a group of people together and get something done! These are the people that will make change in our world, the doers/activists are the change makers. But the great thing about these observers/slacktivists is they are the fuel for the change maker fire. They bring the issues to the attention of doer/activist and they in turn do something about it. Observers/slacktivists are never going to do anything, regardless of whether or not they post that article on facebook. But because they do share it, if enough doers/activists see it the opportunity does arise for change to be made. Like these troops the African Union is deploying to South Sudan. I also believe that because of this attention George Zimmerman will, in time, be arrested and imprisoned for the death of Trayvon Martin. The are just two cases, there are hundreds of others.

These doers/activists are all ages. Some are older and many are young as well. People who criticism observers/slacktivists for being unproductive are much less productive themselves. Stop being cynical. If someone posts something on facebook but you know they aren’t going do do anything about it, don’t waste you time complaining that they didn’t take action, just take action yourself. Theres no harm in a slacktivist as long as we still have some activists around to make some change.

One other quick point: I also really dislike people blaming the youth for not being motivated to make change. 1. A lot of youth is motiviated to make change, which is really surprising because 2. adults and schools have done a fantastic job of making youth feel like unimportant members of society that have no control over their lives. Social Studies classes in US public schools consist of memorizing the Bill of Rights or stuff Andrew Jackson did. Civics is about memorizing the balance of powers and the elastic clause. Why would these kids think that this stuff applies to them when nobody ever tells them that they can make change unless they have awesome parents or they themselves are awesome enough to think outside the box?


The Debate of Unpaid Interns

I read this article earlier in the week. I find it interesting that right at the time that I was interning these unpaid intern debates began.

Internships are weird to me, but I’ve spent the past year accepting them as a fact and sometimes even a privilege. I paid full tuition to be a student teacher for a semester. That means I paid money to New Paltz so I could wake up at 5:30am get to school, teacher 120 students, plan units and lessons and grade work. I would typically get home around 4:00 and prepare work for the next day.

I interned at foursquare… that was a sweet deal. I got paid to be there and it was a great learning experience. I had a short stint at Hot Bread Kitchen. That internship was unpaid, but they were always thankful and appreciative of any work I did. World Wide Workshop paid for my transportation and it was a good learning experience as well.

I would never want to sue any of the companies or school I interned with. I thank these people for the privilege of getting to learn from them and build my skills.

But with that said, I’m not crazy about unpaid internships. Legally you can only offer an upaid internship if you promise to give compensation in the form of an education or mentorship. (See this really good video here for a clear run-down and what is ok and not ok in internships.) If someone does work for you they should be compensated. If you can’t pay them then you don’t need the help enough. I like the idea of internships being required as a part of graduation for school, similar to what I did for student teaching. But I shouldn’t have had to pay full tutition that semester. You should be required to have an internship in college, but you should see a smaller tuition bill the semester that you have your internship. After you graduate college you should not be allowed to have an unpaid internship. Sure, you might be learning, but you still should be compensated because you are a skilled worker. If you can’t pay someone minimum wage then they shouldn’t give you their time.

I don’t know if lawsuits are the best way to address this issue. I wonder why these two interns put up with these internships if they now want to sue the company. Why not just quit the internship? But I do think that a lot of companies are using  “unpaid” interns to get free workers to do their mundane tasks, and that’s not ok.

Kony 2012

I have lots of things I’d love to write about on here and I hope to soon. Today I want to show this video by Invisible Children. From sophomore year of college (2008) until this past spring (2011) I was part of the New Paltz Invisible Children Club. I was a founding member of the club, but that was only because my close friends were interested and I tagged along, halfway interested. Somtime during junior year I started taking things more seriously and took a more active role in the club. I managed the club blog, but I also did a ton of other stuff. (When a small group of college girls are running something you typically don’t have a formal job title for your responsibilities!) It was a lot of fun and some of my fondest memories from college are part of that club with my friends.

What is Invisible Children? Its a not for profit organization that was created in 2003 and aims to bring attention to a war that has reeked havoc over Central Africa (specifically Uganda and more recently CAR, DRC and South Sudan) for the past 26 years due to Joseph Kony and his rebel army (LRA) which is predominately made of child soldiers. IC also raises money for some really ingenious funding projects to help rehabilitate war victims and improve safety and communication for the more remote villages affected by the conflict.

Two reasons I like Invisible Children: 1. They are really great at getting young people to care about a social issue. Most IC supporters are high school and college students. 2. In regards to the donation part of IC,  This is not a run of the mill charity organization that tries to provide food for the “poor people of Africa.” The money that IC raises is used in ways the people in Uganda and the DRC, not Americans, have decided it is best fit. This includes school rebuilding, free tuition scholarships for students, employment opportunities and economic courses for women who escaped the rebels,  and radio towers to improve communication lines between villages. The people affected by this conflict are well educated and extremely capable, they have just been put in a very difficult and dangerous situation. IC simply helps provide resources and word of mouth via technology and videos that these people would not be able to do on their own.

Each year Invisible Children has a concept that they promote. Every semester they have teams of “Roadies” visit schools throughout the country to show a new film and discuss the current situation of the war. This year their initiative is “Kony 2012.” Joseph Kony is the leader behind this senseless rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA),  that has killed and abducted thousands of adults and children. He is ranked the most wanted criminal by the International Justice Court. So why has the majority of the population never heard of him? Why isn’t he as famous as George Clooney, Jay-Z or Taylor Swift? 2012 is the year to make him infamous to the world.

I could talk about Invisible Children for hours. If you have any questions for me feel free to leave a comment, but I leave you today with the newest Invisible Children film. Take a few minutes out of your busy day to watch this film!

**Update** I am blown away by how viral this video has gone in the past two days and I find it interesting how controversy  has also been surrounding it. Here’s my opinion: Invisible Children has been creating movies very similar to this one and initiatives like Kony2012 for the past 8 years, this is not new. If you just heard about them yesterday then you have 8 years of this organization to catch up on.

Also, if you want to criticize the organization after doing thorough research, then you have every right to do that. If you are interested in doing some research on Invisible Children here are some facts straight from the source: http://www.invisiblechildren.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/critiques.html

How to give your opinion value.

Does someone ever say something to you that immediately angers you, personally offends you, and you just want to SNAP at them with some clever retort? For about 20 seconds (plenty of time to embarrass yourself) you shove it to them. You know you’re right, you know they’re wrong, so you make your point so strongly and so aggressively that you know they heard you and they sure are an idiot now for even trying to cross you!

Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s use Mitt Romeny as an example:

Romney knew he was right. He knew that guy was wrong… you could tell Romney was just WAITING for someone to ask him about that 99% of this country. But yes, at the end of the argument he did say, “America is right, you’re wrong.”

This is the first, and perhaps only time in my life Mitt Romney reminded me of myself (a version of myself I don’t like). I remember with my students they would do something and I would get so angered by it… i would talk to them sternly and very defensively, just like Romney does here. But in the end you wind up looking crazy, heated and frazzled. Any points you were trying to make with your stern talking disintegrate in your anger and frustration.

Here’s something  I saw while student teaching. We (my mentor teacher and I) reassigned the students seats but one student refused to sit in his new seat. Finally after some coaxing we got him to sit in the seat… nobody was stern, nobody was angered. If i was there without my mentor teacher I might have given him a long winded speech about disrespect, he was acting immature, it was a simple action to sit in his seat, everyone else was doing it. But my mentor teacher didn’t make a big deal about it so I took her lead… I thought that was that.

But at the end of class, when everyone else was getting up for lunch, my mentor teacher went up to him and privately told him “you can actually stay seated for the next 20 minutes, to make sure you remember where that seat is.”

He was caught in a trap. My teacher never was angered but she made her opinion known, this student would sit in his assigned seat. She never acted frazzled, angered, personally offended. If you want to make a strong point… if Mitt Romney had really wanted us to believe that we should unite as a nation and forget the notion of the 99%, then he should have said so in a cool, collected fashion. That is something I could have listened to. I might have disagreed, but I would consider his point a valuable opinion.

The next time someone says something to you that immediately angers you, personally offends you, and you just want to SNAP at them with some clever retort… don’t do it. Take a breath, remember its not a personal attack on you, you don’t need to become defensive. Share your opinion, you want to be heard, but do it calmly, and if at the end they still don’t agree that is ok. Because they might disagree, but they will consider your point a valuable opinion. I think Obama does that and it will be one of his attributes that takes him farthest in this upcoming election.

Note 1: This isn’t meant to be a political post.
Note 2: Yes, I did just give you all advice that I don’t always follow myself… we’ll work on it together 😉