Friday, January 21, 2011

Anxiety makes me anxious

An assistant professor is challenging a grade handed out by the University of Manitoba, claiming the recipient did not deserve the passing grade because he in fact failed the test.
The prof is arguing by giving the undeserved grade, the university is lessening all of its awards and those who actually passed all their tests are being cheated, their accomplishments carry less weight if a passing grade is handed out even when the student failed.
The university fired back saying the student was exceptional in everything except for the test and suffered from exam anxiety.
Well who the hell doesn't?
Is there anyone out there in college, university or high school who wakes up in the morning, singing at the top of their lungs "Hooray I get to write an exam today?"
I guess there maybe a few (and those people need some serious psychological help,) but the vast majority of people are likely stressed at having to take an exam.
I know I always was. Writing exams was right up there with going to the dentist or having a colonoscopy.
Neither of which was reason to sing, dance or rejoice in anyway.
Had I known about the exam anxiety defence when I was in high school, things could have been a lot different.
"Mr. Handschuh, you failed your algebra exam."
"Well, I would have passed, but I was very stressed out."
"Mr. Handschuh, instead of writing the answers, your wrote 'I'm a little tea pot' 237 times."
"Well, that's how I deal with exam anxiety. Tell you what, just give me a B and we'll call it square."
This anxiety defence could open up a whole world of excuses.
"Why are you not at work?"
"Sorry boss, but I have work anxiety."
"For two weeks?"
"I have very bad work anxiety. Tell you what, give me another week or so off and we will call it square."
This anxiety thing could be the most universal defence ever thought up by the human race. We may be on to something here.
"I clocked you doing 110 in a 90 zone."
"Sorry officer, but I have going-the-speed-limit anxiety. If I drive too slow, I get all stressed out and stuff. Tell you what, I am willing to let it slide this time, but don't let it happen again. Thanks."
Visiting with the inlaws anxiety, going to a sappy movie anxiety, doing the dishes anxiety - this thing could change the world as we know it.
I know anxiety can be a real issue for some people, but perhaps we are putting too many labels on too many things. Maybe this student simply did not know what he was doing, did not study or just failed the test like so many before him.
The funny thing about my exam anxiety was once I got to college, it greatly diminished.
Was it because I was older and more mature? Possibly, but the most likely reason for my decrease in stress was, unlike high school, in college I actually studied.
It is amazing how less stressful and exam can be when you actually know what the subject is all about.
Of course, I was still stressed at exam time - like I said, who isn't - but putting in a few hours in study hall turned out to be a great stress reducer.
Mind you, so is beer.
The problem with beer is, you should not use it to relieve your stress until after the exam.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It aint easy being a teen

What fun would life be without teenagers?
If it wasn't for a house full of teens there would be food in the cupboard, and we can't have that now can we?
I would not have the thrill of coming home after work and discovering the only thing left to eat in the house is the cat?
And all that extra money I could save on food would just be sitting in my bank account, waiting for early retirement and a life of leisure.
I ask you, where is the fun in that?
And why does Junior have to crank his stereo to the point where people in neighbouring cities are calling to complain about the noise?
Just because your stereo goes to 10, doesn't mean you have to crank it up to 10 - all the time.
Then of course there is the teenage attitude, the teen angst, teen drama and the teen attitude. I know I mentioned that last one twice, but it is such a significant part of teen life I figured it should be repeated.
It has been a long time, and I do mean a loooong time, since I was a teen, but if memory serves I spent most of my time reading my bible and spreading good cheer among my fellow humans.
Questions were answered with "Yes father, I would love to mow the lawn for you" and "Of course mother, I am sorry for leaving my dirty laundry on the floor, it will never happen again."
Of course, I never stayed out a little later than I was supposed to, I never drove over the speed limit and the only interest I had in girls was for intellectual interaction where we would enter into an energetic and mentally stimulating discussion about our school work and current events.
It's funny how time changes the way people remember things.
My dad recalls a young lad with a foot of lead who collected more speeding tickets than Santa does letters.
OK, I did smash up my little car twice in the first year of ownership, and it's not good when certain cops know you on a first-name basis so he may have me on that one.
He also remembers a youngster who used to listen to music so loud it would set off house alarms. This I admit is true, but unlike teens of today, the music I listened to was good.
My dad did not like my tunes. Dad didn't get it, but he was old and could not possibly understand what it was like to be young and, um, never mind.
Moving on, when I was a teen I did not have an attitude problem, it was my dad who never seemed to be able to get along with me. The man just never understood what I was saying or how I was saying it.
He just didn't get it. He was stuck in some previous era and had no idea what it was like to be 16. All he would do is get annoyed and claim I was copping an attitude, and, um, never mind.
Now as for the food issue, I um, er, oh heck, never mind.
I was also home at exactly the time I was supposed to be, I never tried to sneak in (or out for that matter) and I am pretty sure you don't believe a word of this so never mind.
Hmmm, looking back it is amazing my dad did not sell me to missionaries just for a little peace and quiet (and food) around the house.
I am going to call my dad and apologize.
I think I will also tell Junior how much I appreciate him, if I can get him to turn down his music and get his head out of the fridge long enough that is.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Time away is a good thing

It seemed like a dream at first - just me and my wife driving down the highway, listening to music, laughing with not a care in the world.
But it wasn’t a dream, it was sweet reality.
The event was many years ago after our first child was born and it was the first time in 18 months we had gone on a road trip with out a kid in tow.
Normally there would be a squeaky little human in the backseat we had to tend to, but this time Junior was with grandma and we were free.
Our destination was a hot spring resort in the Lower Mainland. Our mission was to kick back and relax. We had two whole days and two whole nights to enjoy life as it used to be – kid free and carefree.
We pulled into town and headed straight for our hotel. After being frantic first time parents for more than a year, there was something we both desperately wanted to do without fear of interruption.
We checked into our hotel and all, but sprinted to our room.
I shut the door behind us, dropped our bags and looked my wife lovingly in the eyes. I pulled her close before saying those words I knew she wanted to hear, “Let’s take a nap.”
And we did. And it was good.
We lounged for a while as we decided what to do next, having already accomplished the most needed part of our excursion.
We took a leisurely stroll around the park, stopped in little stores and went places only fools would dare tread if they were being followed by a shorty.
We went into stores stuffed with glass trinkets with no fear of having to buy half the stuff in the building because Junior grabbed something shiny. If we did hear a crashing sound, we could rest assured it was not our kid who caused such havoc.
The stress was being shed faster than money from our bank account.
The following day we decided to hit the beach. We each carried a towel and I had a small pack – that was it.
As we rested on the warm sand, I noticed a couple heading our way with a small child in a stroller.
I nudged my wife to look and we both shared a laugh.
The dad was juggling about 36 bags while mom carried several more. They had a playpen, umbrella, food bag, diaper bag, survival bag and just about everything else needed to build a temporary outdoor nursery.
Once they picked a spot, they began to set everything up. It was like watching the Red Cross set up in a disaster zone with blankets, water and food being strategically placed for easy access.
I was getting tired just watching them, so I stopped watching and went back to resting and relaxing.
I have never appreciated grandma more than I did at that exact moment. If I could, I would have put her in for saint hood.
For the remainder of the trip we went where we wanted, when we wanted. We ate when we wanted and, you guessed it, we napped when we wanted.
All too soon it was time to head back. With reality staring us in the face I briefly thought about taking the long way home - like through Mexico.
I’m sure granny wouldn’t mind and we would only be gone 10-15 years. I floated the idea past my wife and for a brief moment I could tell she was intrigued, but we both knew what we really wanted was go to home and see Junior.
On the drive back the stress of being new parents didn’t seem that bad, it appears a couple days away does the heart and mind good.

Traditional traditions not so traditional

The hamster in my brain began running at top speed recently when the idea of timeless traditions entered my cranium.
I know traditions get mutated over the years as new ideas are added to age-old activities. The evolution of traditions is inevitable.
Christmas and Easter are prime examples.
Christmas is based on the birth of Christ and the Three Wise Men travelling for who knows how long to reach Bethlehem and present baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Apparently that was a good score back then, but aside from the gold, I have never seen any of those items on a current gift list.
I guess kids were easier to please back then. Besides, Apple Corp. would not flood the world with its electronic wonders for another 20 centuries or so.
Still, people took the idea of giving gifts on Dec. 25 and ran with it. At the original Christmas the gifts were financial and medicinal to benefit the future of the child and the parents.
Over the centuries, the gifts have morphed into the ridiculous and the greedy. I could not picture a Magi, who scholars believe the wise men to be, hoisting a 50-inch flat screen onto the back of a camel to give to the little one.
That original act of giving has become a massive marketing and sales tool to get people to part with their money in the name of holiday tradition.
"In honour of the birth of the saviour, everything in the store will be 30 per cent off. Hurry, don't get caught before the second coming or you just may wind up in shoppers purgatory."
But that well-recorded act of giving is the basis for the modern-day Christmas that so many of us enjoy, even if corporate greed has turned it into a commercial tool to suck money from the masses.
Christmas commercials start pretty much as soon as the Halloween masks are put away and increase in intensity through the Yule tide season until every child in North America is brainwashed into 'needing' an electric gizmo or gadget.
Shameless corporations use every trick in the book to get the consumer - that would be us - to break out the credit card and charge the happiness into Christmas.
But on a personal level, the basic idea is the same as it has always been: to give out of love.
That's a good thing and is one of the few Christmas traditions that have survived this modern world. Another tradition I cannot figure out is Easter.
I know the biblical version said Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday and rose from the dead three days later.
What I don't understand is how that story wound up involving rabbits that lay chocolate eggs. Who was smoking what when they came up with that doozy of a tradition?
Even the laying of the eggs part is ridiculous because the only thing rabbits produce is those little brown marbles and more rabbits. Maybe someone mistook the little brown marbles for tiny eggs and tradition was set.
We are also supposed to hide the eggs. Where the heck did that come from?
I know the Bible is open to interpretation, but I must have missed the part that said the disciples ran around hiding chocolate eggs all over the place.
Perhaps that particular command was lost from the original translations or something.
"And on the third day thou art to hideth all sorts of chocolate-laden treats so thateth the little ones may squealeth with joy when they find the converted cocoa beaneths."
Or, maybe those corporate money mongers got their hooks onto an idea to make even more money and ran with it.
I think perhaps the latter is the most logical explanation.