Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Art of the Thank-You

My birthday is coming up, and I'm bound to get a few well-wishes, some cards, and maybe even a present or two. I've spent the first half of this year purchasing presents for my family members, and my birthday always wraps up the streak (until the fall).

It's easy to say "Thank you!" for a present - certainly we've all been taught to say "Thank you" since we were kids - but why is it nowadays that saying "Thank you" is so taboo?

I bought a very nice present for someone this year - someone whom I love very much and has done so much for me - and I was very surprised at the response. Instead of a "Thank you!" I got a "You didn't have to give me THAT much."

And I was really surprised. And a little hurt, too.

Why did the amount of the present make such a big effect? It's not like this present was for some random person that I didn't know very well. Instead, this was given out of appreciation for years of service to me.

Most of my family and friends now have families of their own - they're married or married with kids. This means they have to put a lot more of their time and money back to themselves. Do I have a problem with this? Not at all! It's taken me time, but I understand this better now.

I myself am looking out for one person: me. (Well, one person and a cat who is pretty independent.) I don't need to pay for my immediate family because I don't have one. This means I have a little more money to use for the people I love and care about.

Do they think I'm insulting them by "flaunting" my gifts to them around? That's certainly not my intention. This is my way of saying "Thank you." Thank you for sticking with me even when I'm a jerk. Thank you for appreciating my weirdness. Thank you for supporting my ideas, whether brilliant or stupid. Thank you for loving me. Over the years I've discovered what an introvert I am. Sometimes I don't say "Thank you." Instead I give.

But when I give, I do love the "Thank you." Sometimes it's a text or Facebook message for something just received in the mail. Sometimes it's a card a few weeks later after a party. Sometimes it's just the reaction of the face that says it. It doesn't even need to be the actual words!

The more I look around, the more I see people who think that they're being modest by saying "Oh you didn't have to do THAT" or "That's so expensive" or "I don't deserve this." But that just makes the giver feel uncomfortable. They certainly thought it was the right gift to give - a physical present, money, or an act of kindness. They weren't worried about who deserved the gift - they just knew that they wanted to give it!

I have done those reactions before. To my credit, whoever gave me those gifts didn't call me out on what I said. If they did anything, they waited and confronted me after everyone else was gone. Nowadays, I try to show a thankful face whenever I can - I've been doing a lot of maturing over the past seven years. I can still fall into those traps, but I'm more aware of it now.

So if you receive a present - whether on an expected occasion or unexpected - know that the person giving the gift appreciates you and wants to show their appreciation in a special way. It could be a gift card, or it could be a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts (like my faculty received this morning from a parent). Any way the appreciation comes, look the giver square in the face, give them the biggest smile, and say "Thank you."

Those two words are more important than you may think.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Star Wars Mini Blurbs

My love of Star Wars is always in flux. Some days I’m just a casual fan, chuckling at a quote that I randomly hear on television. Other times, I am an obsessed nerd-geek, watching random videos and absorbing any news I can get.

This weekend I’ve been on the nerd-geek side of the Force, thanks to the giant Star Wars convention that took place in Anaheim over the weekend, along with the release of the second teaser for The Force Awakens.

Because of that, I’ve decided to make Star Wars the subject of my mini-blurb segment. Mini-blurbs are when I don’t have enough words for an entire article, but I have enough little thoughts to make one big article.

Punch it, Chewie!

Teaser Reaction by Fans

I almost love the reactions of people to the new teaser than the teaser itself. (Almost.) I have eagerly been waiting for my Star Wars podcasts to release their interpretations and reactions to the teaser, and love hearing their takes on what we’re seeing. I also enjoy, to a lesser extent, the YouTube reactions to the trailer. I watched one with a Catholic priest watching it, with the fitting caption, “May the Force be with you. (And also with you.)”

My favorite was seeing the people that were in the audience at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim (SWCA) seeing it with members of the cast. They were exclaiming things like “DARTH VADER’S HELMET!” and “STAR DESTROYER!” but when Han Solo - a character many of us never thought we would see in new Star Wars movies ever again - came on the screen, the reaction was priceless. Many tears apparently were shed.

Teaser Reaction by Me!

It was incredible. I had to excuse myself and hide in a very small room and watch it on my phone, but the scope of the teaser was still evident on that small screen. That first shot of the desert was great, and then I thought, "Hey, that sand pile looks like a Star Destro-IT IS A STAR DESTROYER!" That is now the background to my computer.

Then a voice spoke, and I honestly couldn't tell who it was until the second line. It's Luke speaking! I could tell the lines were originally spoken in Return of the Jedi, but I couldn't tell if they had been re-recorded or if they were the original lines. (They were the original, but Mark Hamill re-recorded the lines and they're reverbed in the background - I can totally hear that now.)

And the helmet of Darth Vader...wow. Of course it would be a melted mess after being in the funeral pyre, but to see it in that blue light gave me chills. And the hand! Is it Luke? Of course it is! And the lightsaber getting passed to Leia, likely. 

Then we have shots of the future - of Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Daisy Ridley (Rey), and John Boyega (Finn), and that looks fantastic. Any shots of X-wings gets me excited. The shot of Rey, Finn, and BB-8 racing away from a giant explosion in the background is probably my favorite scene. Rey is running but in control, BB-8 is just rolling along, and Finn is freaking out! Finn always seems to be freaking out in these teasers - I'm looking forward to his character arc.

Chrome/silver storm troopers and cross-guard lightsabers and TIE fighters shooting at other TIE fighters and Han and Chewie at the end just made it great. I've probably watched it a good 20-30 times now. I guess it's too much to ask to get a different teaser in front of Avengers: Age of Ultron next week, right?

Excitement for the Next Generation

I was the generation that already had the Star Wars trilogy filmed and released by the time I was born. The prequels were fun to watch, but they never had any surprises. I knew what was going to happen.

But now I have a niece. And that brings up brand-new possibilities. She hasn't seen any of the movies yet! I am so excited to show Star Wars to her (likely along with my brother - and her uncle). But I want to make sure she's old enough to at least give me some good reactions. When she hears that Darth Vader is Luke's father? I want her to get giant bug-eyes and go "WHAAAAAT???" And I will inwardly squeal and plan her Star Wars birthday presents for the next five years.

Fear for the Unknown

While I am excited and giddy for December, I'm also incredibly terrified. While I wasn't as disappointed in the prequels as others were, now I'm that age (and at the peak of my fandom) where a bad Star Wars movie will ruin my Christmas. What if the "legacy" characters can't maintain the awesomeness that they had in the originals? What if the new characters are jerks and terribly unlikable? What if the dialogue is wooden? (We haven't heard any of it yet - except for "Chewie, we're home," which isn't that great a line if you think about it.) What if what if WHAT IF?

I have all the confidence in J.J. Abrams (I love 2009's Star Trek and don't mind Star Trek Into Darkness), there are so many factors in play that I have equal parts excitement and terror.

However...if this movie lives up to my expectations, then I will see it every day until Christmas, and then drag my whole family to see it again when we're together after Christmas, and then my brother and I will probably sneak off and see it again while we're hanging out!

New Stories Beyond

I am just as excited for the announced book and comic tie-ins to The Force Awakens, titled (appropriately) Journey to The Force Awakens. I have read a lot of the "Legacy" (non-canon) Star Wars novels (most of which written by Timothy Zahn), and now that there is a completely new storyline (thank goodness, since The Truce at Bakura wasn't that great for a post-ROTJ novel). The beginning of the school year (September) will be filled with a new novel (Aftermath) and a new comic series to whet my appetite before the movie comes out, and I will take any new information that I can get!

So there you have it. My fears, hopes, and aspirations updated since my last Star Wars-related post a year ago. Hopefully in the coming months my anticipation will come to a satisfying conclusion!