August 11, 2017 by
Rejection is one of the only fears that form as a result of an actual encounter. Many people who fear heights have never been on a plane. Others fear snakes based on seeing a picture. Still others fear death and definitely haven’t experienced it. But many of us have experienced the pain of being rejected. When future situations for possible rejection rear their discouraging head, we are paralyzed. I have never really fit in for one reason or another. I was the nerdy, chubby kid. I had braces and joined the band. To add to my uncoolness, I was outspoken about remaining a virgin until marriage. There was plenty of material for bullies to have a field day with, and they did. My deepest longing through middle and high school was to enjoy the pleasures of having a boyfriend who adored me and I adored him. It never happened. Regretfully, I took whoever liked me whether I liked them or not. My self-image was warped and my confidence was null. I was fearful of verbally communicating with people I liked, so I tried to reach out using the unthreatening tactic of the innocuous “Do you like me?” note in elementary and middle school. Enough checks in the “maybe” and “no” boxes chipped away at my self-esteem. The nail in the coffin occurred when I was completely embarrassed in front of my entire 6 th grade class. One harmless Wednesday, our teacher got called away and we were left to work quietly. Lo and behold, the boy whose name was plastered across all of my notebooks and book covers, whose signature I ripped out of the computer room log sheet, and who EVERYONE knew I swooned over poked his head into my classroom. The butterflies fluttered, my heart palpitated, my breathing became frantic, and I tucked my head down hoping to become one with the desk. A girl blurted out, “Hey, Amanda, there’s Francis Gary.* You know she likes you!” All eyes looked up and whipped over to him. I rolled my eyes from her and looked over to him, waiting with hope that he’d say something nice. Everyone seemed to inhale in preparation to burst out in hilarity, but now I just think they gasped in astonishment. It seemed like forever for him to respond. Mesmerizing thoughts of us dancing at the winter dance together to Shower Me With Your Love swept me to a happy place. He spoke. “She’s too fat for me.” Mortified, the song in my head faded like my hopes. I felt cold as ice. I looked back down at my worksheet, but glanced at the instigator who was embarrassed for me. Some were appalled, while others laughed. Taking the last ounce of any confidence I had with him, he left. Twenty-two years later, I still have a crush on him. I even saw him the night before my wedding and I melted, and unfortunately, I got married and eventually got a divorce a few years later, but I digress. That experience in 6 th grade made it difficult for me to approach future crushes, so I just settled. That was the norm until in 11 th grade. I actually attracted a boyfriend who was attractive. It was great! He was fun and loved to hang with me, or so I thought. Eventually, the relationship fizzled and the truth came out that he was using me for my car. That was high school; college has to be different, right? I arrived on campus and on the first day I met my first college crush. Being enamored didn’t last long because I was rejected because all he wanted was sex. I realized that in college having crushes from afar was safest. Then, Mr. Perfect appeared. He was different. He was acutely attractive and eccentric. He was the only one to ride a bike or Rollerblade to class. He dressed uniquely and on top of that, he was smart. Therefore, I had to do something. I scoped him out for weeks. One night I attended a meeting for an honors program at the library. As a member, I sat with my friends up front. Amazingly, I looked back at the door at the same moment he entered the room. Time seemed to stop and I was flooded with joy. There wasn’t anyone there malicious enough to shout out, “Hey, Amanda likes you!” I didn’t have to deal with the sinking feeling that he would say something mean to me because this was college not middle school. Hence, I talked myself into introducing myself. It’s a college campus, and I didn’t have to see him for days at a time. I rationalized it out and came down to the conclusion that I didn’t have anything to lose. After the meeting, I was determined to overcome my fear of rejection. I have butterflies now, just thinking about that night. All of the physical manifestations of my anxiety rushed back, just like when I was in 6 th grade as I stood in the atrium. I waited there like a lioness about to pounce on her prey. I attempted to look like I was heavily engrossed in conversation with my friends, and then he popped out of the room. Finally, my opportunity presented itself. I jumped in front of him like one of those crazy people in the mall trying to fill out surveys. Running on pure adrenaline, I enthusiastically said, “Hi!” He was startled, yet smiled. I introduced myself and he confirmed all I had gathered about him in our brief conversation. I told him about the program, offering my help if he had any questions and then we parted. My heart was racing and I wanted to scream. I felt empowered and foolish. However, I had a major sense of accomplishment because I overcame a major hindrance in my life. The next time we met, he called me Allison. I corrected him, kindly, which he ignored, and to this day he calls me Allison as a joke. He knew I liked him, but he obviously didn’t like me. Now that I’m wiser, that is perfectly fine with me. God made me special and there is someone out there who is my perfect match. If I had not overcome my fear of rejection and if Mr. Right has not overcome his, we’ll never meet. The fact that I may miss out on someone wonderful is my motivation to swallow the lump and flirt. If a guy doesn’t speak, keeps walking, or even rolls his eyes, I know for sure that he wasn’t the one. Guest blog by Amanda Gia Johnson *Name has been changed.

August 11, 2017 by
Grocery shopping is a fact of life. We all have to have food to put in our refrigerators and on our tables at meal time, but sometimes grocery shopping can be an exercise in frustration. Why? Because of the aggravating things people do while grocery shopping, those glaring examples of life’s little annoyances. Here are some of the most annoying things people do while grocery shopping: People talk on their cell phones. Yes, cell phones can be a good thing. If you’re stranded on the side of a deserted highway with a car that won’t start, it’s good to know you can reach into your glove department and pull out your cell phone to get help. But is it really important to talk to your friend Nancy about what she had for dinner last night while you’re grocery shopping? Often these conversations get so intense that the grocery shopper forgets to steer the grocery cart accurately and a near collision almost occurs. Plus, imagine all of the high frequency waves those cell phones must be sending out. Let’s hope that cell phone waves don’t cause cancer. People block the aisles with their carts. Have you ever been cruising down a grocery store aisle eager to find the jar of peanut butter you made a special trip for? You reach the peanut butter aisle and are forced to an abrupt stop by a grocery cart blocking the section you need to access. For some reason the driver of the grocery cart seems completely oblivious to your situation and continues reading labels or, even worse, talking on her cell phone. Your stress level rises as your contort your tired body into a variety of challenging positions to reach around that cart and get your jar of peanut butter. So much for a relaxing trip to the grocery store. People give their children free reign of the store. Kids can be a delight but not when they’re given free reign of the grocery store. Children can become quite loud and overbearing when confronted with aisles of cookies, candies, and sweet cereals they’d like to take home.When their demands are unmet by their distracted moms, their cries can reach a fevered pitch. This can easily make your forget the grocery items you can for unless you have a list in hand. Plus there’s always the danger of a frantic kid running in front of a rapidly moving grocery cart. Sigh! It’s just another one of life’s little grocery shopping annoyances. Some people lack grocery checkout etiquette. Many grocery stores have a checkout line designated as the express line. These lines usually clearly display a sign stating the maximum number of items a shopper can have to use that line. Obviously, some people can’t read or want to pretend they can’t. It’s not uncommon to see a shopper pull up to the express line talking on a cell phone, pushing a cart weighed down with thirty or more items. So much for that sign that limits you to ten items or less. You can practically see steam coming out of the ears of the person behind her who’s holding a carton of milk and needs to get back to work. Yes, the grocery store shopping experience can be a challenge when you’re confronted with the reality of life’s little grocery shopping annoyances. It’s enough to make you want to order your groceries online.

August 11, 2017 by
This event happened many years ago in Michigan. I was 21, with a young partner, a low income, and a cheap car. I am a legal immigrant and had to make a long 10-hour car trip to Detroit to get my Visa finalized. Everything went okay on the way there, but on the way back the radiator on the car let go. This was in the month of February, and Michigan weather is not exactly kind during most of the year, much less in the middle of winter. At that time we had no money, no credit cards, no resources. We pushed the car off the road into the nearest business parking lot, which happened to be a Denny’s Restaurant. We stopped in there trying to get some information about public transportation, as my partner had some relatives living in the general area. We only had money to spare for coffee, so we ordered that. As our waitress arrived, we briefly explained our situation. Not only did she pleasantly direct us to the nearest bus station, and give us endless refills on our coffees to keep warm, she also arranged with the manager of the restaurant to keep our car in their lot without the fear of being towed. After a while, we went to the bus station to find out how much a ticket would cost to our destination. To our chagrin we found out we did not have enough. With great embarrassment I told the lady at the ticket counter of our situation, and asked her if she knew of any options. She offered to give us the $ 20.00, as well as referred us to a church that would probably supply the cost of the radiator. I accepted her money, and asked her for her mailing address so I could send a check to her on our next payday. She declined with the following statement: “The best way to pay me back is when you see someone in need the next time, help them out if you are in a position to do so, and pass the kindness on.” I tearfully thanked her and we went on our way. We stayed with my partner’s relatives for 2 days. The church came through and after my partner put in the radiator, we went back home without any further incidents. The strangest part of this story is, that my partner’s relatives treated us horribly while we were there, constantly complaining of the inconvenience of us being there, and the financial burden we added. I gave them the last of our money (which was not much) and really only ate one meal while there. After we had gotten home I received phone calls from my partner’s mother and close relatives in our hometown. See, the relatives that we had stayed with, had called upstate complaining about me how cheap and inconsiderate I had been with them and they never wanted to speak to me again. They did not and I am no longer with that family anyway. This was seventeen years ago. I keep the giving cycle going when I can, and I never fail to mention the story of the kind lady at the bus station who treated a stranger better than my own family did.

August 11, 2017 by
Since the Maori had no written language, the exact date of the original colonisation of New Zealand is unknown. Currently historians and archaeologists believe that East Polynesians settled sometime in the thirteenth century, though it is possible that the islands were visited beforehand. The original settlers found a country rich in seals, fish and the soon-to-be-extinct moa (a giant flightless-bird). Though small scale farming was practised, the Maori mainly lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. At first the land was plentiful, and there is little evidence of in-fighting. Yet as the population rose, competition for food began to create real tensions between groups of Maori, often resulted in small wars. A more complex tribal system developed, and the people became increasingly settled and more class-defined. Over the centuries, the Maori had become completely isolated from the rest of Polynesian Society. It is estimated that New Zealand supported a population of perhaps 100,000 Maori in the seventeenth century. The first contact with Europeans was in 1642, during an expedition led by Dutchman Abel Tasman. Following a fatal skirmish with Maori canoeists, Tasman decided against a landing party. He departed naming the place Zelandia Nova (meaning new sea-land, and nothing to do with the Danish province of Zeeland as is often wrongly stated). It was another 147 years before Captain Cook set foot on land. He was accompanied by Tupaia an English-speaking Tahitian, whose native language was related to Maori. As well as mapping the coastline, Cook took the opportunity to visit several tribes, and conducted some barter with them. He acted in a prudent and liberal manner. When some Britons were killed and eaten, he took no retaliatory action. Interaction continued between the coastal Maori and overseas visitors. These foreigners were a mixture of soldiers, sailors, traders, whalers, sealers, missionaries and escaped convicts from Australia. Intermarriage was not uncommon. New ports like Kororareka, on the North Island, though lawless, were commercially lucrative. The Maori exchanged timber and flax for metal tools, new foods, and guns, which the Maori used to massacre rival tribes, in a series of conflicts called the Musket Wars. There was also the introduction of disease and alcohol. Nevertheless, until 1840 the Maori had traded with the Europeans very much on their own terms. The Treaty of Waitangi (1840) was signed by some tribal chiefs. It was an almost feudal arrangement. The Maori acknowledged Queen Victoria as their sovereign, in return for British protection against any other foreign power. The sale of Maori land to outsiders could only be allowed with the consent of the tribal leaders. However there were two main problems; the various Maori tribes argued over the original land-rites, and they were unable to comprehend the sheer number of Europeans that would arrive. Disease and gunpowder had reduced the indigenous population whilst the immigrant, or ‘Pakeha’, presence leapt from around 2,000 to 50,000 in fifteen years. By the end of the century there were over 500,000 people and 15,000,000 sheep. It was not long before some Maori felt cheated. First there was the short Northern War, in which Maori warriors acquitted themselves well, and can claim to have achieved a strategic victory. Their hillforts had been well adapted to modern warfare, and their sophisticated system of trenches was a fore-runner to First World War tactics. The British were effectively forced to give up. Nevertheless, matters came to a head when the ageing chief of the Waikato tribe was chosen as the first Maori King in 1856, and adopted the name Potatau. The aim of the coronation was to protect Maori interests, customs, and land rights, and Potatau proclaimed he would rule in accord with the British Government. This was a deeply unpopular move with European settlers, and a second, more serious outbreak of fighting occurred. Imperial Forces (including some Maori) were defeated at Puketakauere in 1860, but the British Empire was the greatest power on Earth, and over 20,000 troops were assembled, greatly outnumbering the spirited natives. The Imperialists won a decisive victory at Orakau in 1864, and Waikato Maori were punished with the forced confiscation of large tracts of their land. Ordinary Maori suffered much deprivation. Land confiscation was unrelenting, and peaceful resistance movements were also ignored. Fighting broke out sporadically over the next few years, with the last Maori guerrilla actions finishing in 1872. With the end of the Maori Wars, the agricultural sector flourished, with wool, lamb, and butter becoming primary exports. Immigration carried on apace, during the latter half of the nineteenth century the vast majority of newcomers hailed from England or Scotland, and it has often been observed that New Zealand was more British than Britain itself. Despite achieving virtual independence by the twentieth century, there was keen participation in both World Wars. In the Allied defeat at Gallipoli in 1915, New Zealanders suffered an appalling 88% casualty rate. During the First World War, a New Zealand force captured the German colony of Samoa. New Zealand would be left in charge until Samoan independence in the 1960’s. The country still plays a prominent role in the South Pacific, and though Wellington is the national capital, Auckland is regarded as the unofficial capital of Polynesia. As the twentieth century progressed, technology made New Zealand less isolated, and more progressive. The country had long been a place of relative religious tolerance, and New Zealand was the first nation to give women the vote in general elections in 1893. Notwithstanding the many injustices committed against the Maori people, their culture has survived, and racial harmony between the native peoples and the European (and Chinese) immigrants is as well as can be expected. At the turn of the millennium the country was passionately anti-nuclear, and had even disbanded its air force. The generally peaceful society plays out most of its aggression on the Rugby pitch. The national team, nicknamed the All Blacks, is the most famous in the world, and when New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2011, the home team was crowned champions.

August 11, 2017 by
London is without a doubt, one of the most fascinating and historic cities in the world. Over the years many famous – and infamous - London residents have left their mark on the city. Since London was founded in Roman times, people have been buried literally all over the city, often where space allowed – from ornate Victorian cemeteries to tiny graveyards hidden away between modern buildings. If you have already ‘done’ the usual London tourist attractions, on your next visit, why not take in some of London’s fascinating cemeteries, churchyards and burial places – and discover London’s permanent residents.   The population of London exploded during the 19 th century when London was the capital of the huge British Empire, and the world’s largest city. London’s rapidly growing population meant that all those residents needed not only a place to live - but a place to be buried too. It was during this time that several large cemeteries were built on what were then the outskirts of London – notably Brompton, Kensal Green, and Highgate cemeteries. These ‘Victorian Valhallas’ as they have been described are permanent reminders of the splendor of Victorian England – famous and wealthy ‘residents’ and elaborate graves and tombs in a park-like atmosphere.   The most famous and photogenic of these sprawling Victorian cemeteries is Highgate, hidden away in the leafy and affluent suburbs of north London. Here are laid to rest many of London’s most prominent citizens including the scientist Michael Faraday, the novelist George Eliot and the postal pioneer, Rowland Hill. But Highgate’s most famous resident is the founder of modern socialism – Karl Marx – whose imposing tomb forever invites ‘workers of all lands to unite’. Part of the appeal of Highgate is not just its famous inhabitants, but the atmosphere – much of the cemetery is overgrown and unkempt, which somehow only adds to its rather eerie quality. If Highgate Cemetery looks strangely familiar, it is not your imagination – many horror movies and ghost stories have been filmed here over the years. Highgate cemetery is also the site of a purported vampire sighting in 1967 – an incident recounted in the book ‘The Highgate Vampire’.   The cemetery abounds with ornate and spectacular Victorian tombs – not to be missed are sections of tombs set dramatically into the side of a hill, known as the ‘Egyptian Avenue’ and the ‘Circle of Lebanon’. Away from these grand monuments, look for the intricate detail and rather poignant elements on some of the tombs – one popular grave features a sleeping stone lion on top of the memorial of a Victorian animal tamer. Highgate is divided into two sections; the western part which can be visited by free guided tours only, and the eastern part (where Marx is buried) which is accessible to all.   One of the biggest concentrations of famous graves is at one of London’s biggest attractions – Westminster Abbey. This is one of the greatest examples of religious architecture anywhere in Europe – but Westminster Abbey is more than just a cathedral – it’s a symbol of Britain and its history. Amongst the 3000 or so graves and memorials in here are buried many of the rulers who have shaped Britain’s destiny over the last 1000 years or so. Apart from the many kings and queens buried here, the aptly named Poets’ Corner is one of the most popular spots in the abbey. Here you will find the tombs of such well known English poets and writers as Chaucer, Shelley and Dylan Thomas. In the nave at the west side of the cathedral is one of the more touching memorials – Britain’s tomb of the Unknown Soldier.   One of London’s most famous and photogenic churches, St. Martin’s in the Fields sits at the corner of Trafalgar Square, in the heart of the West End. Inside are buried Nell Gwynne who was the infamous mistress of Charles II and the notorious highwayman Jack Sheppard. Many other graves here date back to the 1500s, and you can dine among them in the ‘crypt’ cafe. You can also engage in a particularly English pastime here – ‘brass rubbing’ in which you copy the carvings from tombs and graves onto huge sheets of paper, by rubbing crayon over them.   Many smaller churches are tucked away down the narrow streets and alleyways of the City, as London’s financial district is simply known. The church of St. Giles Cripplegate (named after the patron saint of cripples) dates back to the 11 th century and survived the great Fire of London. John Milton, the author of ‘Paradise Lost’ was buried here in 1674; a hundred years after he was buried, someone broke into his grave and stole his teeth and what was left of his hair. St. Botolph’s church, also in the City, has a tiny churchyard that is still known as ‘postman’s park’ as it once was a popular lunch spot for workers from the nearby postal headquarters.   Not far from the City is the burial ground of Bunhill Fields, the last surviving small burial ground in London. The bodies are tightly packed together here – there are an estimated 120,000 bodies here – and it gives an idea of how burial was before the large cemeteries opened. In Bunhill Fields are the graves of many of England’s ‘non-conformists’ including William Blake and John Bunyan. The graveyard is surprisingly well stocked with oak and ash trees and it makes a peaceful place for a picnic lunch.   Some of London’s permanent residents are rather oddly immortalized, to say the least. In the lobby of University College, displayed in a wooden cabinet sits the mummified remains of the writer and philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham stipulated in his will that his body was to be preserved and displayed after his death, and his wishes were duly carried out. Today anybody can walk in the lobby (of the Gower Street entrance) and see the rather odd figure in a wooden display case complete with cane and reading glasses. Bentham still votes at the annual board of directors meeting and he ceremoniously attends the university’s annual dinner. Some people are convinced Bentham borrows books from the university library at night – and returns them to the wrong place.   Another unique and odd skeleton belongs to that of Joseph Merrick; better known as ‘the Elephant Man’. Merrick suffered from a horribly debilitating disease that resulted in large folds of skin on his face and body. Merrick lived a short and sad life and committed suicide at the age of 28 while in the Royal London hospital where he was confined towards the end of his life. Today, Merrick’s skeleton is still on display in the hospital but can be viewed by appointment only. The singer Michael Jackson reputedly made an offer to buy Merrick’s skeleton in 1985 – but the hospital turned down the offer.   Finally, if you are catching a train from London’s busy King’s Cross station, spare a thought for what – or who – may lie under your feet. According to legend, the Celtic queen Boadicea who led an uprising against the Romans, is buried under platform 10 at King’s Cross. An interesting theory – but what would be a major archaeological discovery has so far never been proven.