Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Last week I suggested listening to music as one of several ways to quickly improve a bad mood, so it seemed like a good time to share a few more selections from my personal happy mix. These songs in particular acknowledge that sometimes things aren’t going great, and encourage a more optimistic attitude.

If You’re Going Through Hell by Rodney Atkins

The theme here is simple and straightforward: sometimes things get really tough, but if you keep going you’ll make it through. The message is delivered through an upbeat tempo that helps kickstart your body’s positive chemicals, and a few extended metaphors that drive the point home. I enjoy videos that tell a story, and this one’s fun to watch.

Favorite Lines: “But the good news is there’s angels everywhere out on the street, holding out a hand to pull you back upon your feet”.

All Star by Smash Mouth

This one starts with another plain truth: sometimes people are going to try and tear you down. Then it reminds us that we’re all awesome, and encourages us to embrace it. That’s a message I can definitely get behind. Again, the tune is upbeat and catchy.

And yes, the video’s kind of weird…but I like it. 🙂

Favorite Lines: “The ice we skate is getting pretty thin, The water’s getting warm so you might as well swim”.

Feels Like Today by Rascal Flatts

This song has been one of my favorites for a LONG time, from the first time I heard it. It isn’t peppy like the others; instead, it starts somewhat small and builds to a soaring melody that really sticks with you. The entire song is a reminder that good things are coming our way, no matter what’s going on at the moment. I also really love the video.

Favorite Lines: “While there’s light at the end of the tunnel, keep running towards it”.

The Champion by Carrie Underwood

This is one of the most recent additions to my list. It’s a direct, unapologetic anthem that says, “I worked for it, I deserve it, and I’m going to get it”. Listening to this song gives me an immediate burst of energy, and I think it can apply to any situation where you’re pushing yourself to achieve or overcome something. The video underscores that with images of athletes, social movements, scientific achievements, classroom teachers, rescue workers, and more.

Favorite Lines: “I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, unshakeable, they knock me down, I get up again”.

For more feel good song recommendations (including my personal theme song), see this post.

turntable

I’m always looking to add to my list, so please recommend your favorite songs and videos!

The other day, I had a seriously rotten morning. I massively overslept, which threw a major wrench in my routine. I left my house so late that I had to deal with rush hour traffic (which, if you read last week’s post, you know I despise), and while I wasn’t officially late for work, I arrived a lot later than I normally do, and didn’t get my cherished hour of quiet to get started on my day. I had a lot to do, including some meetings I was dreading, and people stopped me in the hall to tell me about new problems before I even made it to my door.

By the time I got to my desk, I was already feeling angry and defeated. However, hiding from the world wasn’t an option, and I knew that facing the rest of the day with a bad attitude was only going to make things worse.

I’m willing to bet that a lot of you have been there. A bad mood wants to hang around, and it can be hard to shake off, especially if you have a limited time to put your game face on (in this case, I had about fifteen minutes). Luckily, there are several things you can do very quickly that give you a badly needed emotional boost. I can say that I walked out of my office in a much better frame of mind, but I’m not just speaking from experience here: there’s a scientific basis for all three of my favorite fixes.

Research has shown that these simple actions can immediately make you feel better, and if you make a habit of them, they have long term, cumulative benefits. You can even improve your physical health, for a total win-win! So the next time you want to turn your frown upside down (sorry, couldn’t resist), try:

1. Music

smartphone-vintage-technology-musicMusic is one of my favorite ways to keep myself in a positive headspace. Listening to a favorite song, especially if it’s upbeat, is one of the fastest ways to give yourself a boost. I have a happy mix (more on that in this post) that I play every morning, and as much as possible throughout the day, to minimize stress and increase my energy.

Find more on the science, and the benefits, of music here.

2. Laughter

The benefits of laughter are huge. If you’re feeling out of sorts, think of a funny memory, or watch a quick humorous video, like The Muppets performing Bohemian Rhapsody. 

LaughThat one always works for me, anyway. 

If all else fails, fake laugh. That might sound a little strange, but scientists have discovered that fake laughter causes your body to produce the same beneficial chemicals as real laughter, so it’s still going to make you feel better. 

Here’s the proof, and additional interesting info.

3. Communication

Speech BubblesStudies have proven time and again that interacting with others is very important for emotional health. While face to face conversation has the highest benefit, according to current research, phone calls and electronic communication also fill our need for socialization. A quick chat, email, online dialogue, etc. creates an instant mood boost, so when you want to get out of a funk, take a few minutes for some human connection. I talk to my mom and my best friend every morning (even if it’s only a brief exchange) to start the day off right, and go straight to one of them if I’m feeling unhappy. 

To make sure I’m not making this up, and learn more, click here.

happy mood

How do you haul yourself out of the dumps? Share your favorite tricks in the comments!

I can’t believe it’s already August! Last month was a mix of fun and irritants (but a good month overall). Here’s the recap:

Episode One: Independence Week

fireworks

We fade in on me, sitting on my couch, reading a book, with “July 1” written at the bottom of the screen. Suddenly, we hear the sound of fireworks as my neighbors, as usual, start the Independence Day festivities a few days early. Cut to a later scene of me lying in bed with a pillow over my head as the crackles and booms continue. Fade into “July 2”, with me working at the kitchen table, twitching a little every time there’s a small explosion outside. Repeat the shot with the pillow. “July 3” appears on the screen over a different scene. I’m looking a little wrung out while explaining to a colleague that yes, fireworks are illegal where I live, but that the police ignore it for about a week leading up to the 4th, so it’s jut something I have to deal with. Cut to the evening, with more twitching and hiding under my pillow. “July 4” opens at the movies, where I’m catching an early showing of Far From Home (my spoiler-free review is here), and then fades to me celebrating Independence Day at a local park, and thoroughly enjoying a totally legal fireworks display on the appropriate evening.

Unfortunately, the episode ends with a quick montage showing that it was three more days before my neighbors finished setting off their personal hoard. *sigh*

Episode Two: The Go-To Girl

Fade in on a traffic jam. Zoom in on yours truly, scanning radio stations and breathing very deliberately. Cue voice-over:

trafficI don’t do rush hour. I will do just about anything to avoid traffic jams, including leaving early, staying late, and taking circuitous routes that cover a lot more distance than the crowded highways. When I’m in the car, I want to be moving. However, for the next few days I’m in off site meetings at a location about 40 miles away, on a timetable that means I’ll be in morning and evening rush hour traffic. I am trying to see it as a test of my patience and positive attitude.

Then there’s a whole lot of me talking to myself:

  • “Turn signals are our friends, people.”
  • “Slow and steady wins the race.”
  • “I’ve been sitting on the highway, all the livelong day…”
  • “I’m the ‘go-to’ girl, so I’ll go to these meetings. No worries.”
  • “Seriously, my lane isn’t moving any faster than yours!”
  • “I need a donut.”
  • “It’s only three days, it’s only three days…”

Since the meetings themselves weren’t particularly interesting, we repeat the highway experience a few times, then skip ahead to my boss thanking me for taking care of business, and then asking me to join an interview panel.

Me: That really is not the way I’d like to end my week.

Him: I know, but I’d really appreciate it. You know you’re my-

Me: -don’t say it-

Him: -go-to girl.

Me: Ug.

Him: I’ll bring donuts.

Me: …that’s fair.

For more thoughts on being the “go-to girl”, see my Dangerous Compliments post. (Incidentally, my boss is a great guy who always shows appreciation, so that post is really more about others who shall not be identified.)

Episode Three: Celebrate!

party time

Fade in on a park pavilion, full of people and decorated with balloons and banners proclaiming “Happy First Birthday”. In the center of the festivities: my best friend Katie and her adorable little boy. This segment of the episode features food, presents, a smash cake, and (of course) THE QUESTIONS (see June in Review for more on that).

Next up: The entire family converges on Dad’s favorite restaurant for a belated Father’s Day celebration. Featuring a fair amount of table hopping (we were split between two booths), a discussion of whether vegetable ice cream is a good idea (we’re leaning towards “no”, but none of us have been brave enough to try it), and Dad’s good-natured grumbling about us buying him presents even though he told us not to.

Finally, a celebration of Aunt’s and Uncle’s Day combined with Mother’s Day part two. So here we have a lunch and presents for my beloved Aunt Mary, and then we went to see a musical (we’d bought the tickets as a Mother’s Day present back in May).

All the socializing and conversation prompted my post on things to learn about people.

Episode Four: Preempted

This week there would be a re-run or a filler of some kind, because I was fighting a cold and doing nothing interesting. It did, however, give me a unique chance to feel grateful. Luckily, the cold is now history.

Sunbeam

I’m feeling good and ready to conquer August. How about you?

medicine-thermometer-tablets-pills

My brain feels like oatmeal and my immune system is in revolt, but let’s not dwell on that, because I am living in a modern world that offers so many things to make my life easier. Today I am thankful for:

  • Puffs with lotion
  • Vicks VapoPads
  • Soft pillows and fuzzy blankets
  • Delivery services, including drug stores and restaurants
  • Heating pads
  • Hot tea
  • Netflix
  • NyQuil and DayQuil
  • Audiobooks
  • Naps
  • Air conditioning
  • Soup
  • My sense of humor

I am cocooned, medicated, fed, and entertained, and haven’t had to go anywhere or call in any favors. Things could be a whole lot worse.

I'm Sick

What’s going on in the world outside of my house?

First of all, on a semi-related note, this Friday is Aunts and Uncles Day. It’s a great chance to show some love to your extended family.

Speaking of showing love, this week I’d like to share a few things you really should know about the people who are important to you, and how that information can help you strengthen your relationships. Think about your friends and family, and ask yourself:

What do they like to talk about?

restaurant-people-lamps-vintageA while back, during lunch with some coworkers, we got to discussing family gatherings. It was an interesting conversation, because it turned out that almost everyone was frustrated by the things their family did, and didn’t, discuss, but for very different reasons. Here’s a summary:

Coworker A: My siblings are all single and childless, so all we talk about is work and relationship drama.

Coworker B: You should hang out with my family. All we talk about is everyone else’s kids, and I don’t have any.

Coworker C: We talk about the kids all the time, too, and sometimes I wish I could talk about anything else-work, friends, whatever. I love my kids, but there are other things in my life.

Coworker D: My entire family is obsessed with sports, and I’m not, so I spend a lot of time just nodding and smiling.

Coworker B: I adore my nieces and nephews, and I do love hearing about them, but I wish people were half as interested in hearing about my vacation.

Coworker A: Last week I tried three times to tell my brother about my son’s soccer game, and finally gave up.

Coworker D: I pay attention to the sports talk, because it’s important to my family, but I wish they’d return the favor sometimes.

I think Coworker D really hit the nail on the head: we want people to care about things that are important to us. All four of my colleagues were frustrated because they felt marginalized in conversations. This doesn’t happen because others are trying to be hurtful, but simply because we don’t usually stop and analyze the flow of a conversation.

People want to be listened to, and to feel that what matters to them matters to others (or at least that they matter to others). Make a mental list of the things that are important or interesting to your friends and loved ones (consider family, social life, professional life, hobbies, etc.), and think about what they tend to bring up in conversation and what gets them animated. If you aren’t sure, ask them questions and discover their interests. Then be aware in conversations, and be sure to inquire, focus, and engage.

What do they like to do?

Just like conversations, activities should be balanced. Do you know how your nearest and dearest would prefer to spend a Friday night? If not, find out. If so, ask yourself how often you do those things with them. In general, it’s best to find activities that are fun for everyone, but sometimes it’s important to step outside of your comfort and interest zone for the sake of someone else, especially if they often do the same for you.

shoppingI don’t like shopping, but when my sister Audrey occasionally asks me to tag along and give my opinion, I do so with a smile. Why? Because I love my sister, and she wants me to share in an activity she enjoys. It’s the same reason that Audrey has accompanied me to a couple of fantasy and science fiction conventions. And, because we both approach each other’s activities with a positive attitude, we’ve both had more fun than we might have expected.

A word of caution, though: Since that positive attitude is key, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be miserable, because that’s more likely to strain a relationship than improve it. Also, be careful not to accidentally pressure someone else into that kind of scenario. For example, your camping trip will be a lot more fun without me. Trust me on this.

What don’t they like to do?

grocery storeKnowing what your friends and family prefer to avoid in their day to day lives can give you lots of opportunities to be helpful and caring. My dislike of shopping is universal, and I used to absolutely dread going to the grocery store. When my sister Amy and I shared an apartment, she always took care of it, because she knew I couldn’t stand it. When Amy moved out, a friend of mine, remembering my aversion to this task, volunteered to do my shopping for me, since we lived relatively close. For him, it was a small thing. For me, it was huge.

When I moved into my house, my friend Carrie, who is an artist, picked out paint colors, curtains, rugs, and so on, because while I wanted the house to look right, I had neither the talent nor the inclination to really take on the project. When Audrey got engaged, I spent weeks researching, calling, and visiting wedding venues to narrow down literally dozens of options. She would have found the process torturous. I thought it was fun. My friend Jamie and I used to help each other clean our kitchens (same amount of work in the end, but better because we did it together).

Whether it’s a big or a little thing, helping someone with something they don’t want to do is a great way to show you care.

rainbow heart

What else do you think it’s important to know? What do you wish people understood about you? Let’s chat!

 

 

We all love compliments, especially sincere compliments. They give us a lift, brighten our days, and make us feel appreciated. However, sometimes they’re also warning signs. At times, a compliment can be something of a bait and switch, especially if it seems to come out of nowhere. I’m not suggesting paranoia, because all of these compliments can be completely sincere, but they can also hide ulterior motives. Sometimes you need to be careful that you don’t let the warm fuzzy glow of appreciation lead you into the wrong situation. Here are a few words of praise that should encourage you to be a little on guard:

You’re my go-to girl/guy

Why this feels great: We all want to feel like we are trusted, competent, and valued. When someone, whether it is a friend, family member, co-worker, or boss identifies us as the person they can count on to get the job done, it gives us confidence. It makes us feel appreciated. It’s awesome. 

Why you should stay alert: There’s a decent chance that this compliment is going to be followed by “which is why I’m coming to you with _____.” Sometimes, this specific praise is meant to put us in a helpful frame of mind, before we are asked or told to take on a new task. In some situations, you may not have a choice about that new task, but if you do, you need to stop, take a breath, and think logically rather than emotionally.

You Got It BossOne of my former supervisors always called me the “go-to girl”, and it wasn’t always a bad thing. He was great about showing appreciation both privately and publicly, especially in front of the higher ups. However, anytime he opened a conversation with this compliment, I knew he was about to hit me with something work intensive, last minute, or both. My personal favorite was calling me ten minutes before the end of the day and asking if I could give a presentation the next morning. (I said “yes” immediately, and ended up working all night to prepare.) It took a long time for me to learn to stop and think before I let the glow of pride overcome my ability to think through what I was actually being asked to do.

You’re so good at ____.

Why this feels great: For starters, see above. Again, it’s affirmation, and it makes us feel good. Compliments based on our abilities and achievements are some of the most fulfilling, because we’re more likely to feel like we’ve earned them.

Why you should stay alert: Frequently, whatever the thing you’re good at is the thing you’re about to be asked to do. This is even more common with the popular variant “You’re so much better at ____ than I am.” This is another compliment that could also be a set up. 

ErrorMy friend Mike works in IT, and he’s always on alert when someone opens a conversation, or abruptly changes the subject, with “You know so much about computers”. He told me that as soon as he hears this sentence, he immediately starts trying to decide if he has the time and/or inclination to help the speaker with a problem, because 99% of the time they’re about to ask. I’m not suggesting that you should never say “yes” in a situation like this (I’m actually a big fan of being helpful), but again, you need to stop and make sure you’re making the right decision.

I know I can trust you

Why this feels great: Being trusted is really high praise. This compliment shows that people recognize and respect your integrity. No one wants to be seen as a gossip or breaker of confidences.

Why you should stay alert: This could be a sign you’re headed into an awkward position. The secret you’re going to hear might put you between two friends or loved ones, threaten your professional ethics, or give you a desire to intervene in a situation. I’m not saying that you should shut people down when they say this, but you need to be on alert and ready to cut the conversation off quickly if it starts to veer into uncomfortable territory. If you’ve ever thought, “I wish you hadn’t told me that”, you know exactly what I mean here.

secretI will never forget one of my friends following “I know I can trust you” with a confession that he was having an affair with a married woman. She was also a friend, and so was her husband. He wasn’t looking for my opinion (although he received it, and then some), but just wanted to tell me about the relationship. Asking me to keep that information to myself was completely unfair, and since then I’ve been much more careful about becoming a secret keeper.

You’re so easy-going.

Why this feels great: If you’re at all familiar with popular entertainment, you have seen the uptight, type-A stereotype. It’s presented as negative, frustrating, and zero fun. So, being identified as the opposite has an instant positive connotation. Being flexible and easy-going inherently makes other people’s lives easier, which is often a good thing. 

Why you should stay alert: However, I’m going to be blunt about this one. Sometimes people say this when what they mean is “I’m about to try and walk all over you.” I don’t mean that they’re doing it consciously, deliberately, or maliciously. However, it is alarmingly easy for someone’s subconscious view of you to shift from flexible to forgiving to doormat. 

Steam EarsA former friend was constantly late, frequently changed plans, and often wanted me to go places and do things she knew I wasn’t comfortable with. In her mind, flexibility is the highest virtue…in other people. I try to be easy-going, but believe me, I have my limits. After growing increasingly frustrated with her constant expectation that I would be fine in all circumstances, I tried talking to her several times, but the situation never improved. Ultimately, we drifted apart.

Let's Discuss

Have you been there?  Are there other compliments that belong on this list? Share your thoughts!

Screenshot 2019-07-06 at 10.01.09 AM

As always, this review is spoiler free, and just like with my Endgame review a while back, that means there’s going to be a bit of vagueness, especially because there’s a pretty big reveal fairly early in the movie. If you’ve seen Far From Home, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, there’s no reason not to read on.

Let’s get some context

Spider-Man’s second cinematic reboot began with 2017’s Homecoming. It was a great movie that, in my opinion, really got it right. Previous films had their pluses and minuses, but Homecoming had everything going for it. It presented Peter Parker as an actual teenager with actual teenage problems, on top of the pressure of trying to be a hero. His struggles, uncertainties, mistakes, and triumphs felt very real, and Tom Holland’s portrayal was note perfect. Additionally, Homecoming‘s antagonist was one of the best in the entire MCU, because of the careful attention given to developing the character and showing his motivation. The movie’s decision to devote serious time and consideration paid off by giving audiences a three-dimensional villain that we could disagree with (of course), but still offer sympathy. Homecoming had great pacing, a solid script, and great characters. It’s one of my favorite MCU films, and I was really excited about the sequel.

So does Far From Home live up to Homecoming?

Well…no. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a really good movie, a lot of fun to watch, and I do recommend it highly. However, there are some things about the film that I just don’t think hold up, especially in a post-watching analysis. Let’s break it down.

Here’s what worked

Far From Home continues to present Peter Parker as high school student with high school concerns. He still wants to use his powers and his role as Spider-Man to do good, but also wants to have some normalcy in his life. One of the things that has always made Spider-Man a great character is his struggle with how much responsibility he can, and should, take on himself. Far From Home also addresses the post-Endgame world, with Peter coping with the loss of his mentor and his possible role as inheritor. Tony Stark left Peter access to some pretty serious technology, and made it clear that he intended Peter to take over much of his unfinished work as Iron Man. That’s a lot of responsibility for a sixteen year old kid.

Screenshot 2019-07-07 at 7.48.35 AMPeter’s internal conflict is intensified by pressure from several sources, including Nick Fury (and let’s be honest…I don’t think many of us would be able to argue with Nick Fury). However, he gets some other things to think about when he meets a new hero: a competent, determined, adult hero who embodies everything Peter admires, and urges him to make his own choices and decide what he wants, which is a marked contrast to the messages he’s receiving from everyone else. One of the most effective things the Spider-Man reboot has done is to embrace the coming of age element of the young Spider-Man stories.

The scenes with Peter and his high school classmates also work really well. Peter’s best friend Ned, who was one of the best parts of Homecoming, has a smaller role, but is still lots of fun. Most of the other teenage characters were mostly background, but still effective in giving the movie the right feel. There are also small but significant moments of character development for the supporting cast that made me wonder what sort of role they’re going to play in the future.

Screenshot 2019-07-06 at 10.03.05 AMOne thing I really loved was MJ. While the nickname is, of course, an homage to the character of Mary Jane Watson, Michelle Jones is very, very different, and the character change was a great idea. The first Spider-Man trilogy introduced Mary Jane Watson as an unattainable girl that Peter patiently loves from afar until she finally has a reason to notice him and accept his worth. That’s a trope that has, frankly, overstayed its welcome. Far From Home‘s MJ is intelligent, competent, and assertive, and pays attention to everyone around her, including Peter. He isn’t in a position of having to prove himself to her; she already recognizes his admirable qualities. It’s a very different dynamic from the “nerd loves the prom queen” scenario, and it makes for a much better story.

One other thing I really liked is that Nick Fury is presented in a more human, less omnipotent role. His power base has been steadily eroding since The Winter Soldier, and Captain Marvel showed us how much fun it is to have Fury take a more active role in events, rather than coordinating from his pedestal. In Far From Home, Fury actually acknowledges the way that his circumstances have changed, and that allows the possibility of an expanded and more interesting role in future films.

Here’s what didn’t work as well

Screenshot 2019-07-06 at 10.07.55 AMThere was a lot going on in this movie, and I honestly think it tried to do a little too much. Some important things were simply not developed enough, which turned a few potentially interesting elements into little more than plot devices. Some of the events feel thrown in for no reason other than to justify something the filmmakers really wanted to include, or force a delay in something that otherwise would otherwise happen earlier. It clutters the movie, and makes some plot points just seem annoying and contrived.

My biggest issue with Far From Home is the unclear and confusing villain motivation. After the incredibly strong antagonist in Homecoming, it was really disappointing to see so little attention paid to the villain in this film. We’re told what his plan is, and why, in a monologue (which, seriously, is just the worst way to handle things), that is short, contrived, and frustrating, especially because after it’s over, it still isn’t entirely clear what the heck is going on. My friend Mike and I spent about half an hour after the movie trying to trace the chain of logic, and finally decided to just accept it and move on.

Screenshot 2019-07-06 at 10.08.47 AMThat idea of just accepting it and moving on is really at the center of everything else I didn’t love about the movie. There is technology that is explained just enough to make you question if it really could function as portrayed in a pivotal scene. Peter’s crisis of confidence leads to a poor decision that just seems a little too quick and a little too forced. One of Peter’s abilities doesn’t work, and then works again, for no clear reason. Personally, I think most of the problems can be traced back to that first idea: that the movie was overstuffed, and therefore couldn’t effectively accomplish all of its goals.

Oh, and I was also annoyed that the mid and post credit scenes completely undercut several of the things that I considered real strengths of the film.

Final Thoughts

Despite some issues with development and internal consistency, Far From Home is a quality film that was a lot of fun and definitely worth watching. Just try to avoid thinking too hard about some things until after the credits roll.

Popcorn

Thoughts?