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Monday, December 31, 2012

Times long past: New Year’s Eve and the value of reflection

“Auld Lang Syne” is the song everyone recognizes, but doesn’t quite understand. The words aren’t really as important as the title, which translates from Scottish as “Old days long ago”, or “times long past”- depending on your source.  
And the words of the song we sing here in the U.S.:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

There is also a song by Dan Fogelberg called “Same Old Lang Syne” which is quite stirring. Dan’s song talks about lost love and reflection on things that might have been, and never will be. That is very apropos because more than any other night of the year, New Year’s Eve is a great time to reflect on the past, and then to put it aside at the stroke of midnight.
New Year’s Eve brings up powerful emotions and memories for me, some very sad and some very happy.

Consider New Year’s Eve 1979, when I was pregnant with my first son, and was about to give birth. He was born a few days later on 3 January 1980.
Or New Year’s Eve 1985, my beloved grandmother passed away from cancer.

And coming full circle, I got engaged to my husband, David, on New Year’s Eve 2010.

For the most part, my New Year’s Eves have been pretty uneventful. I am not a night owl and I can’t even remember how many times I was in bed and asleep before midnight.
As a child, my parents (two die-hard night owls) would have great festivities for my sister and me, and any other guests they might have invited. My mother always prepared a beautiful meal, usually a standing rib roast with all the trimmings, and we would stay up until midnight. At the stroke of midnight, we had some interesting rituals.

As I have mentioned before, my father is from Cuba, and it seems that in Cuba, at the stroke of midnight, one throws a bucket of water out the front door to bring in the new year. Also, we all had to eat twelve grapes, one for each month of the New Year. That sounds great except they almost always had seeds in them.

I have always loved New Year’s Eve because it signals endings, quickly followed by beginnings. It is an opportunity to reflect on things that happened and to gather the lessons learned to begin anew.

Reflection is critical to growth. The past year may have been filled with mistakes, disappointments, upsets, and hurts. There may also have been triumphs, joy, good fortune, and improvements. Probably there was a combination of both. The value of reflection is in gathering the knowledge and insights that were gained from the experiences of the past 12 months and to apply them to the next 12.
Tonight, I will be savoring the lessons, experiences, adventures, and memories of 2012. I will reflect upon what happened and extract the goodness. I will also reflect on all that I am grateful for and the many, many, blessings in my life.

 I will think of all my loved ones who are no longer here, and I will then think of and say a prayer for my beloved family and friends. But I am ever mindful of tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day and a brand new year. Let’s hope, for all of our sakes, it is a VERY GOOD new year.

I wish each and every one of you all the best in 2013. May your year be filled with wonder, good health, joy, and wisdom.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Outraged and Offended? Life is too short to be offended every day

I recently read a review and some comments on Twitter about the new film, “Django Unchained” and how the commenter felt OFFENDED that some white people in the audience laughed a little too loudly at certain violent and brutal scenes in the film. – (LONG PAUSE, followed by me sighing.)

Okay, let me get this straight- PEOPLE were offended because there was brutality in a Quentin Tarrantino film? WOW! What did they expect? Had they never seen a Q.T. film before? I read, then re-read the piece-(see here) and all I could get from it was how insane we have become about BEING OFFENDED!  I left a comment which said, “Honestly, I am perplexed. That kind of violence should be disturbing ALWAYS, regardless of who the victim is. Don't you think it is universally "inappropriate" to laugh at the pain and suffering of ANYONE, regardless of race???”  I mean, should anyone be offended that a person laughs when someone outside their race gets hurt or is it okay to laugh when someone of your same race gets hurt? What difference does it make? Does that make it racist? I don’t think so.

I’ve come to the conclusion that just about everything in existence has the potential to offend someone. Honestly, I shake my head daily, often multiple times a day, at the incessant whines across television, radio, internet, and print. This one is offended by this, that one is offended by that, and most of the time I can’t understand what the fuss is about.
In order to wrap my little brain around some of the hypocrisy and actual glaring double-standards of the offenses, I often try very hard to put myself in the offended party’s shoes. Once I have done that, it almost always points to the same conclusion- some people enjoy being outraged and offended so they go looking for it. It’s called, “I love being a victim and feeling


There is enough REAL oppression and victimization in the world, so when it is concocted and imaginary, it can really set me off. I have grown weary of listening to the unceasing whines and lamentations of how ___________(fill in the blank) society is.

Below are the TOP TEN over-used and often exaggerated “offenses” heard in the crowd:

1. Mean, as in “People are so mean! I can’t stand being around mean people!” 

2. Unfair, as in “THAT is really unfair that I didn’t get what I deserve!”

3. Sexist, as in “I am tired of Hollywood being so sexist!”

4. Racist, as in “Everything bad that happens to me is because someone is racist.”

5. Stupid, as in “I can’t stand being around all these stupid people!” (Usually referring to someone who disagrees with them.)

6. Rich, as in “I am disgusted by those rich people. They don’t know what struggles regular people have!”

7. Poor, as in “I am offended that there are people who aren’t able to take care of themselves and need assistance. They need to get a job!”

8. Religion, as in “People who believe in God, or that version of religion, ruin it for the rest of us! They should believe what I do!”

9. Appearance, as in “No one should make fun of anyone because of how they look!”

10. Catch all, as in “I am offended and upset that people don’t agree with me or my lifestyle, and make me feel like I am wrong about everything!”

So, let’s talk about a few of these and let me clarify that I am NOT saying that there aren’t extremely offensive and mean, unfair, sexist, racist, stupid, rich, poor, religious, or unattractive, or WHATEVER, in the world.  My issue is when people go looking for slights and offenses where they don’t actually exist OR they don’t agree with their version of it. Perhaps one should adjust their “offense meter” before voicing their outrage at offenses which aren’t really offensive. And if you don't like it, IGNORE THEM! Get that chip off your shoulder.

When you come right down to it, just about anything can be considered offensive to someone. That is a personal choice and prerogative. I have friends who are very offended by eating meat or killing animals for food. Are they are entitled to their opinion and lifestyle choice? ABSOLUTELY!  Just as much as I have a right to be offended by people who drink too much at parties and make asshats out of themselves.  But to be outraged and offended because different people choose to eat food I don’t or drink alcohol is ridiculous and a bit overblown. If I allow myself to be outraged by everything I disagree with, or don’t do myself, I begin to think and act like a victim.

Life 101: I don’t know how some people missed the epiphany most people have around the age of 30. It’s the one that tells you very clearly that LIFE ISN’T FAIR. It’s never going to be. Some really bad people have lives with really good things, and some really good people get bad things. It is called GROWING UP and GETTING REAL. If you never learn to deal with the fact that life isn’t fair, you will likely become a perpetual whiner and complainer. All I can say is, accept it and get over it. None of us like it, but it is just the way it is.

Life 102: Yes, there are a lot of people in the world who aren’t nice, and for those of us who try to be as nice as we can, we also fail. Niceness is often lost in a sea of fatigue, confusion, self-absorption, chaos, uncertainty, or ignorance. It isn’t personal, it just is.  That isn’t an excuse, it is an explanation.  Again, we don’t have to like it, but if you plan on being successful in life, you’re going to have to toughen up.

Life 103: IT ISN’T ALWAYS PERSONAL or about you! There are situations where people are unkind because they are wrapped up in their own unhappy lives and they have no kindness to spare. And yes, there are people who are cruel, brutal, unjust, nasty, rude, sexist, racist, and every other unpleasant word you can think of. They are often offensive and downright bad. Having to deal with them is toxic and can make a person feel like a victim. BUT when a person chooses to feel victimized by every slight, every mundane act of unkindness or careless comment, they are doing it to themselves and they are not deserving of pity.

My advice is simple. Don’t take offense at everything. Don’t take everything personally. Consider the other person’s motives and perspective. And save offense and outrage for important things.

If a person goes looking for things to be offended by and embraces every opportunity to be the victim of SOMEONE or SOMETHING, they need to get psychological help or a wake-up call. To indulge that sort of masochism is not helpful to the person or anyone else they have to deal with.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Veteran Transition Programs

Recent studies and employment statistics are compelling the federal government to continue to implement solutions and aggressively focus on the ongoing issue of veteran unemployment.

The message is that hiring veterans is the right thing to do, and it makes good business sense. The government invests significant resources in the training and development of military service personnel. Acting aggressively to retain transitioning military service personnel within the Federal Government helps maximize the return on this investment.

Since January 29, 2010, when the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released The Government wide Veterans' Recruitment and Employment Strategic Plan for FY 2010 - FY 2012, many in the government and private sector have been working to break down barriers and find solutions to decrease veteran unemployment .

Read more here:
Top Veteran Transition Programs

Monday, December 24, 2012

A great way to end 2012- Reaching 50,000 views on my blog

This morning I woke up to a wonderful gift- I hit the number of 50,000 page views for my blog.

When I started writing in June of 2011, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine 50,000 views!

So after a year and a half and 89 posts later, with viewers from all over the globe, I have achieved something I could never have foreseen in the beginning.

Many people ask me, “How did you get started?”  The answer is pretty much what you would expect- you just take that leap and go for it. You write them one at a time (at least I do) and hope you can find inspiration for the next one!
 I have had so many sources of inspiration in the last year and a half. To be honest, I have had more inspiration than I have had time or energy. In spite of moments of frustration, doubt, and exhaustion, I have managed to follow through with my goal to continue writing. Some days I want to write, and I simply can’t find the time or the energy to do so, which makes me feel very bad about myself.

If I had my way, I would write more often, but I have to accept the limitations I currently face. I work full-time and since I write most of the day in my job, it is very difficult to muster up the energy to do more writing in the evening. I am working on solutions and means to address this issue, and always love to hear advice from other writers!
Where do you find the time and energy to write when you don’t seem to have enough of the two? Balancing family life, relaxation time, and all life’s mundane chores is something we all have to do. When you are a writer, you have an added facet to the equation.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone for reading and following AND SHARING my blog. I fully intend to increase my writing stamina and FIND time, by more effective time management and prioritization, to write more often AND IMPROVE my posts. I appreciate comments, ideas, and encourage a conversation. Seriously, please contact me if there is a topic or area you would like me to write about and I will do my best to address it.

And for those of you who have been truly instrumental in making this happen, well...
 I am sincerely looking forward to reaching 100,000 by the end of 2013!!! Let’s make it happen.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Companies Willing to Pay Relocation Costs to Win Workers

More companies are paying big costs to get good help, according to the 45th Annual Corporate Relocation Survey, conducted by moving company Atlas Van Lines. 

According to the survey, 2012 saw a steep increase in companies willing to absorb relocation costs as an incentive to win employees. More than 400 employers participated in the survey, which offers encouraging news to qualified job seekers willing to relocate but hesitant to incur the costs.

According to the survey, 57 percent of the 400 employers surveyed offered full reimbursement of expenses to new hires. That was the highest level in more than five years.

Some are looking to incentives such as relocation costs as a sign that despite a challenging economy, more companies have to offer incentives to secure great talent.

A recent article in the
Virginia Pilot noted that as many as half of big firms, such as defense contractor Raytheon, were offering payment of moving costs as part of their offer of employment to job candidates.

Continue Reading:
More Companies Willing to Pay Relocation Costs to Win Workers

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How I survived the Mayan Apocalypse and all I got was this lousy calendar

According to lots and lots of content on the internet and television, some long-dead Mayans supposedly said that the world would end tomorrow, 21 December, 2012. If that’s the case, this may be the last blog post I ever write. I guess I better make it memorable.
But wait, not so fast. I have some news, doomsday devotees. The Mayans may have been very good at many things, but predicting the end of time- not so much.
Is it the end of the world as we know it? Really, who actually believes that the world will end because some ancient Mayans said so thousands of years ago? Apparently a lot more than you would ever have imagined. Seriously. There are people all over the world who have been in a panic for the last few weeks. Some people just can’t resist a juicy conspiracy theory, a cryptic apocalyptic prediction, or the rants of some religious zealot. I suppose those people are either really weak-minded or perhaps they are extremely bored and want some excitement to spice up their dreary lives. I just don’t understand the allure of it all.

Here is what I want to ask those people- Since when did Mayans become experts in prediction? What else do they have to show for their expertise? Excuse me, but isn’t their civilization, uh, extinct? And to be very blunt, if they knew so much, where are they now?
Incredibly, it seems that people all over the world are losing sleep, and their minds, over the “impending doom” and prediction of our collective demise. But the details are a little shady and sketchy.
Before we throw the Mayans under the bus and accuse them of predicting our universal demise, let’s get the story straight. According to a segment on NPR, the Mayan prediction has been played up by the media and is completely wrong and erroneously reported.
Maya expert, Professor David Stuart, of University of Texas at Austin, told NPR, "The Maya never, ever, said anything about the world ending at any time — much less this year. So, it's sort of bizarre to be living through this time right now, when so many people seem to be worked up."
And worked up they have been- for a few years!! So now, Dr. Stuart tells us that there is ANOTHER date predicted. Come on! And why should I believe the Mayans anyway? Look what happened to them. Perhaps if they had been smarter about predicting their own demise, I might have more faith in their predictions.
To be fair, the Mayans aren’t the only ones who have predictions about the end of time. Remember that lunatic Christian guy who said the Rapture was coming; and then it didn’t so he had to recalibrate the date; and then it didn’t happen- AGAIN. Well, he blew his credibility, but it was too late for the hundreds of people who believed him and gave away all of their earthly possessions. ***crickets***   I know. It’s pitiful. For some more apocalyptic stories, check these out-
I guess the long and short of it is that NO ONE truly knows when the world will end. It is baffling to me that people are so intrigued and obsessed with something that is almost entirely out of their control. For goodness sake, worry about the things you CAN control in life and do something about them. Getting wrapped up and actually feeling anxious about something so completely unknowable and without real evidence is, well, a little bit - looking for a nicer word – unstable and childish.
 So chill out, enjoy the final days of 2012, but stop fretting about zombie apocalypses, predictions from ancient civilizations, or doomsday prophets who tell you to sell all your stuff.  The end is NOT nigh. Enjoy being alive for another day and for as many days as you have left!!  If all else fails, STAY CALM and avoid Mayans.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Less really is more: The holidays should be much more than buying, giving, and receiving things

And now the holiday season is upon us and the hustle and bustle of activity is in full swing. There is tons of shopping for gifts, food, and planning the preparations for family, friends, and company events. Amid all the errands, cleaning, planning, and preparation, take a moment and try to remember from a child’s eye what the holidays are all about.
  It’s that time of year again where we buy all kinds of things that no one really needs and spend way too much money trying to show people how much we like/love them with material possessions. Okay, now everyone thinks I am a Grinch or a Scrooge, but it is quite the opposite. I am all about giving gifts; I just think the focus needs to shift. Remember the wonder and magic of the holidays from the eyes of your inner child.
If you are over the age of 40, you probably have very different memories than those of you who are under 40. Technology and our insane focus on consumerism have truly changed the whole holiday experience, for better or worse.  When I was a child, we had to actually GO to a movie theater. There weren’t VCRs or DVD players. We listened to records and later- cassettes or 8 track tapes. (And now is when I am starting to feel about a thousand years old.)

The advent of internet shopping and the pressure to buy more and more and more has put an often overwhelming focus on materialism that can drown the message of the season; and it can make a person nostalgic for a simpler time  before the advent of video games, cell phones, and very expensive electronic toys for kids of all ages came on the scene.
One of my greatest childhood memories of Christmas was the anticipation and wonder of waiting to open gifts on Christmas morning, and then when we got older we would open them on Christmas Eve. As a child, and even a teenager, there were no gizmos and gadgets. Gifts were pretty simple and straight-forward- a bike, a doll house, puzzles, board games, jewelry, clothes. And my parents had to actually go to a store and buy those things! They didn’t have the convenience of shopping online and having things sent to our doorstep.
Some Christmas gifts I can remember receiving were:
§  Beautiful dolls and stuffed animals, which were often sent from my grandparents in Germany
§  Christmas ornaments for the tree- we got our own special ones each year
§  A new coat
§  Board games, which we would all play together after Christmas
§  Art supplies
§  A Kodak camera (with film!)
§  Posters and other decorations for my bedroom

Even when my own children were growing up, mercifully the digital and electronic universe had not quite yet exploded. They didn’t get cell phones until they were in their late teens, so for most of their childhood they were getting regular toys.
Every year I feel more and more discouraged by the expense and “trap” of the commercial and consumer-driven focus on the holidays. It isn’t just Christmas; it is Hanukkah and even agnostics, non-affiliated, or atheists who engage in a secular gift-giving celebration of the season. We may not all believe in the same God, but we certainly all worship the same materialism.
It seems that we have started to equate our feelings for someone with what we give them for the holidays. Whatever happened to showing people you care for them with simple gestures, kindnesses, thoughtful and meaningful tokens of appreciation? Why does it matter if it is the latest, greatest, most expensive gizmo or gadget? Is that REALLY what the season of giving is all about?
Instead of spending money on objects, how about giving of one’s time and actually spending time together? The holidays should be less about THINGS, and more about showing feelings and creating happy memories apart from material objects. I think the idea of spending time and making gifts that have special meaning is one of the greatest things someone can do. And if you aren’t very creative or able to think of something, what about performing a kindness or a service for someone you love. Who wouldn’t love to have help painting or doing yard work, especially if you enjoy spending time with that person.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy giving and receiving gifts. I just wish it wasn’t so overdone and that there wasn’t so much pressure. I love handmade gifts that are unique and from the heart so much more than the store-bought things. Most of us are fortunate enough to have our basic needs covered already. Gifts are usually things we don’t NEED and some are even things we don’t really want.
How often do you go to a charitable drop off place and see all the unloved or unwanted gifts that people turn around and donate. That is a good thing for the needy, but wouldn’t it have been better if the person giving the gift in the first place would have given something more from the heart. I think we already have so much “stuff” in our lives that true appreciation is almost impossible.
I think it would benefit most families to get back to basics and try to find ways to spend less money and focus more on spending time together DOING things and finding ways to be creative and unique with their gift-giving.