Thursday, December 23, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane - With Fudge

Last weekend a friend and I made 9 x 13 pans of wonderful fudge.

Today I tried to take it through security at the airport.

When you take two ends of a 9 x 13 pan of fudge and stick them right on top of each other wrapped in wax paper and put them in your carry-on - they become "notable" per the TSA.
(Might look like a block of explosives.)

When I went through security they said "There is something noteable in this bag."  
They took me by the elbow, led me and my bag to the area for further security screening.
I looked at him and said "It's just fudge." 
They took my bag apart piece by pice, inspected the wax wrapped fudge "four" different times.  Ran it thru the x-ray machine 3 times. 

And I kept saying "It's just fudge."

If they would let me take a knife through security - I would have brought a knife and "cut them off" a nice piece of fudge.

The moral of the story - it you want your cooking to get noticed - just take it through TSA.

From a kiosk outside the TSA station at the airport - I had to write -
Merry Christmas to all - and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

“I Love You” Shouldn’t Cost $688.87

“By the time the last shred of wrapping paper is recycled and the final crumb of fruitcake devoured, Americans will have spent 12.9 billion hours and $447 billion shopping, wrapping, and returning gifts this holiday season. That's about 42 hours and $688.87 per person, according to Consumer Reports and the National Retail Federation, respectively. At the end of it all, Americans will have a lot more stuff – but will it make us happier? “(Source)

Stuff – the thing that makes the holiday season.

When I was a child, we received one toy for the holidays.  Each of us had a stocking that was hung on the railing of the staircase and every year inside the stocking would be new underwear, new socks and our favorite fruit – choice – either an apple or an orange.  That’s it and that’s the truth.  Once in awhile we would receive a $25 treasury bond from our “rich aunt”.  Most of the bonds lost over the course of time, hidden away in a box that got pitched – none with social security numbers on them, lost – wasted money – donations to the US Treasury Department.

One holiday (late 70’s) at my parent’s house, all the kids and grandkids were there and I was a single parent and broke – barely making it.  I had bought $10 worth of toys for my son (4 items) – all things that he would like and enjoy playing with – gifts from Santa.  After the grandkids had gone to bed – the adults played Santa and my siblings brought out their presents from Santa for under the tree – hundreds of dollars of items for each one of their kids.  They were all embarrassed for me – their issue.  On Christmas morning, my son was perfectly happy with his ten dollars worth of stuff.

There’s been a lot of holidays celebrated in my life – some expensive, some not so much – as illustrated above.  As I age – I always come back to what my parents use to say after they retired, “We don’t need any more stuff.”  Most people don’t need any more stuff.  In my opinion our society is too enamored with “stuff”, particularly “brand name stuff”.  Our expectations of what should be under the tree on Christmas morning have become too excessive.

I’m not a scrooge – I believe in celebrating the holidays.   But, do we need to “throw away” all that time and money on presents?  Looking at the statistics quoted doesn’t that just seem a tad bit wasteful?  Couldn’t we all be a bit more “conservative” (yuck! – hate that word) in our spending and more thoughtful in our time usage.

Many might say “We have to do this to boost our economy.”  Bull Crap!  Chicken Crap!  We don’t need to do it to an excess – an excess of time and money – buying, wrapping, unwrapping – returning.

Maybe we could do something more useful and thoughtful with our time and money?  Time and money are precious quantities – if you have too much of either, share it with those that don’t.

Take a moment this holiday season and really look at the reactions during that one hour of time when the presents are initially opened and four hours after they were opened and ask yourself:
“Is the stuff really worth it?”
“Did the stuff make a difference in ‘our‘world”.
“Are we happier and closer as a family because of the stuff?”
“Will the kids really be happier tomorrow because of the stuff they received today?”
“In my family, do I have to give stuff – to be loved?”
“If I had bought less stuff – would we be less happy or less of a family?”
“What am I really teaching my kids with my holiday traditions?”
“Do we feel better about ourselves, just because we have more stuff?”
“Six months from now – will this stuff even be remembered?

It’s not about the stuff folks.
It’s about spending quality time with your loved ones.
   A hug and “I Love You” shouldn’t cost $688.87
   Quality time doesn’t cost a $688.87 for 1 hour of time.
      If it does – you need to adopt a new family.

12.9 billion hours– by Americans only – there is definitely a better way to spend most of that time.
$447 billion on presents – by Americans only – that’s just sad, just so sad.
I have faith you can find better uses for your time and money.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"As Long As It Takes” - Sorry, Not the Right Answer

I have two friends that lost their spouse this year.  They are only two people in the world – but their reaction to the loss has been worlds apart.

Joe (a fictional name) lost his wife of 25 years earlier this year.  His wife’s death was sudden and unexpected.  He has had no counseling, he is taking no drugs.  He is “putting one foot in front of the other” every day and working on the “new normal” (whatever the hell that is, in his words).  He is dealing with the pain of loss head on and he’ll talk about the fact that it hurts.  But, he also says – “I may live another 30 years. I have to take care of myself and keep my life going and keep healthy.”  When he’s lonely, he picks up the phone and calls someone and will talk for hours, but he’s not a downer – all the time - because the phone calls don’t exclusively dwell on his grief.

Jenny (a fictional name) lost her husband of 30 years a little over a year ago.  His death was not sudden, it was a prolonged illness.  Since his death she has seen a grief counselor on a regular basis, joined multiple grief groups at church, and goes to church several times a week for some type of function.  She is also on three medications to regulate her depression.  She will go weeks without opening the curtains in her house.  She eats, she sleeps, she goes to church – but that’s about it.  She’s unhappy and lonely all the time, her health is deteriorating and she struggles to make it through each and every day, sometimes she talks about wanting to die.  Her kids are backing away from her – I look at the caller ID and decide whether to take the calls, because she talks almost exclusively about her grief.  She’s still deep into her grief and it’s taking a toll on her relationships.

So what?  Well I keep coming back to the same questions when I think about the way that Jenny is handling her grief, questions  that haunt me.  Some reading this may say if I have these questions, I’m probably not a friend (oh, well).
  • Do men and women process loss differently (most, not all)?
  • Does prolonged use of drugs really help when you are dealing with a painful loss?
  • Does prolonged use of drugs become detrimental in the “processing of grief”?
  • When do grief counselors tell their patients, “What you’re doing isn’t working we need to look for a new process”.
  • Does grief therapy work for only a certain percent of people?  When do grief groups say “This process doesn’t appear to be working for you, we need to look for a new process for you.”
  • Does spending the majority of your time with others who are also grieving and talking about grief all the time – really help ----- if its long-term?
  • What responsibility does the surviving spouse have to get their life back on track after the loss of a spouse?  Or is it only the support of friends and family that brings them back from the edge of grief?  Or does society accept that they may morosely grieve forever?
  • As a friend, what is your responsibility long-term to help and be there for the grieving person?  I don’t mind taking calls from Joe – but after about 4 months I did start monitoring my calls from Jenny.  I don’t look forward to spending time with Jenny – as an old friend of mine use to say “She’s sucking the marrow from my bones” with each phone call and each visit.
All rhetorical questions – really - as each person on this planet will have their own opinion or experience and no one would be able to supply me with the wisdom I really need.  And eventually, I will take the path that I feel I need to take – ‘cause that’s who I am and I have to look out for myself in the long-term.

I’m not naïve when it comes to loss.  I’ve had a lot of loss in my life.  I know pain – I know what it feels like to have your heart break – literally.  But right now I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the “loss process” of Jenny and I keep wondering how many more times am I going to have to deal with “her type of grief” with other friends and what should I be learning from this experience with Jenny to prepare me for the future?

As part of a management class I use to teach we would discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Here’s a one hour lecture/discussion in two sentences.  With sympathy you see a drowning person in a well and you get in the well and sympathize with them and eventually, drown with them.  With empathy you see a drowning person, you empathize with their situation and your throw them a rope and help them to get out of the well.

I realize that loss is painful.  I realize it can take time to get over a major loss in your life.  But, realistically folks – what do you do when the person in the well won’t grab the rope?  How long are friends (and family) expected to sit in the well of grief and almost drown?  I guess that’s my real question of this entry – and “as long as it takes” is not an answer that I can accept – it just seems like the wrong answer for all parties involved, really wrong.

Tags:  Grieving, loss of spouse, after the funeral, grief groups, grief counseling, depression and grief

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Choosing a Happy Holiday - Disconnect from Dysfunction

Today on TV I heard someone say that the most awkward moments happen at the holidays when people are forced to be together.  I have to question the societal attitude that we need to be “forced” together during the holidays.  I am one of those people who strongly believe that every adult person makes choices and as adults – very important here - we can choose not to be “forced” into holiday situations that are awkward.

I have been thinking about his topic for three weeks – but it was the person on TV today that helped the topic to coalesce in my mind.

  • This past Thanksgiving I had a friend who consumed massive amounts of alcohol to make it through Thanksgiving with her family.
  • For about 20 years I would start drinking at about noon to make it through Christmas Eve with my siblings.
  • The past two years I have seen a friend sit at home waiting for her son to come over on Christmas Eve  or Christmas Day – passing up invites to other events – only to be left sitting alone, because her son doesn’t show up on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
  • I have had another friend who for years spent thousands of dollars taking her entire family to fancy resorts or cruise trips for the holidays. Her reward: everyone complaining about almost everything; no one having fun; and no one saying “thank you” at the end of the holiday vacation.
  • About 15 years ago my nephew told me he “hated Christmas” because of the Christmas Eve’s he was forced to celebrate with my family while he was growing up.  And his holiday angst was the motivation for this entry.  When I was with my nephew I told him that I was sorry for what happened and that he needed to let go of the past and make new holiday traditions that were happy for him and to move past what happened when he was a youth.  I told him I would be willing to pay for him to see a shrink to help him work through the trauma that had occurred because of our “family” Christmas Eve.  I told him it was important for him to be able to make new holiday traditions that brought joy and happiness.

All of these situations are heartbreaking.  They are caused due to centuries of belief that we have to be with family over the holidays – regardless of how emotionally draining or hurtful that experience can be.  We have been led to believe that the holidays “will be” a happy occasion when in fact for many of us the holidays with our family - are not, have not been and probably will not ever be – happy occasions.

Looking at posts on the web, the percent of dysfunctional families is noted at between 80 and 95%.  A dysfunctional family is defined as “is a family in which conflict, abuse, misbehavior by various family members takes place on a continuing basis”.  The AMA notes that 72% of families have a person with an addiction.

These are excellent statistics that may explain why the holidays may suck for some of us.  What makes the holidays suck?  When do we truly realize that our current holiday traditions are not working for us?  How do we make the holidays a joyful experience?

First, we all know what makes the holidays suck for us.  I don’t need to give you examples.  You know who makes you sad, who fights with you at the holidays, who makes you cry at the holidays and what makes you drink,

So – what can you do to make the holidays a more joyful experience?  Well, you may have to defy the common statements you hear in the media.  You may have to choose to make different holiday traditions that don’t include those people who make you cry, who make you sad, and who intentionally fight with you or cause you to reach for the alcohol.  It’s a tough choice – but it may be one that you need to consider carefully  – you may have to choose not to spend time with your entire family or specific members of your family.

You will see numerous articles on ways to “survive” the holidays.  Why would you want to “survive” the holidays – you deserve better than that.   If arguments, fights, excessive drinking or drug use have been on-going holiday traditions – why do you do that to yourself and your kids?  Who in their right mind would intentionally choose to put themselves and their family into a situation like that?

I am an absolute advocate that you don’t have to spend time with people who make you miserable.  I am an absolute believer that there can be people in our family who are nasty or toxic and can ruin every holiday for everyone. 

Life is too short to be spending time with people who make you miserable.  When you get close to death – and we all die – you will not be wishing you had spent more time with people who hurt you or made you unhappy. 

It’s too late this year (probably) to make other choices and other plans.  But this could be the year that you take a really good look at your holidays. 
  • Who do you enjoy spending time with? 
  • Who are the people who make your holidays happy? 
  • How can you change your holiday celebration so that you and your family are happy? 
  • What plans can you make for next year that will make a difference and lead to happy memories and a joyful holiday? 
  • How do you come up with ways to spend more time with those people who give you joy and who you enjoy being around at the holidays and less time or no time with those people who cause you pain. 
It’s your choice – you’re an adult – and I have faith that you can make good choices that will make you and your family happy at the holidays.

Being the toxic person in the family
Being the drunk in the family  
Being the drug addict in the family
  Being the person who makes other people cry in the family
  Being the person who always picks fights with other people in the family
  Being the person who always makes others feel inferior at the holidays
You can not fix these people – as hard as you try, they need to fix themselves. We should not be co-dependent to the behavior of these people just because they are family. We should not allow them to destroy our holidays and the holidays of our children. They need to know that there are consequences for their behavior.  One of those consequences may be that you choose not to include them in your holiday tradition.

It’s your choice – you’re an adult – and I have faith that you can make good choices that make you and your kids happy at the holidays.  As adults, we should not choose to let others destroy our holidays and the holidays of our children. 

So make a New Year’s Resolution to make the 2011 holidays the best they can be - choosing a Happy Holiday in 2011.  Take a really good look at this year’s holidays – think about it – put the booze down and pay attention.  Talk it over with your spouse or significant other – put it all out on the table and find compromises that will provide joy and happiness for you, your spouse or significant other, and your kids for the 2011 holidays.  It may take you an entire year to make it happen – it’s a big change and will take careful planning – start working on it now! 

PS:  When I proofed this I realized it was from a “family” perspective – but you single folks out there - this applies to you also.  Choose new plans, choose happiness.

Tags:  dysfunctional Christmas, surviving the holidays, alcoholics, adult choices, surviving Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wealthiest 2% Get Their Tax Cuts

Merry Christmas, wealthiest 2% and the Republicans who work for them.

Your incredible selfishness has put the United States of America further in debt.

May the money you receive from the extension of the tax cuts bring you nothing but unhappiness and unbearable heartache.

And that's all I have to say today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Duck, Cover, Ki$$ Your A$$ Goodbye

U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable
Published: December 15, 2010 
Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.
The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

I have never read anything so fucking stupid in my entire life.  Who did “the recent scientific analyses” – a bunch of damn monkeys?  A bunch of 5 year olds?
Let’s see - What does an atomic bomb look like going off?
Let’s see -  What kidn of destruction results from an atom bomb?
Look at this
And this
And this
Yeh, staying in a car is going to “reduce casualties by 50%” - bullshit.  Whoever did this “analyses” should be ashamed and embarrassed for releasing this. 
When I was a kid –
At school we were trained to Duck and Cover. 
At home we called it “Duck, Cover, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.”  That’s real life for people too poor to afford a “bomb shelter”.

OMG – I can’t believe I actually saw this crap – proves how ignorant our society is getting.  The sad part is people will actually believe this crap - Be saved, go sit in your car.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ban Straight Marriage

When I was working on my PhD, I did a sub-specialization in Anthropology.  As part of that sub-specialization I had to do a research project.  I chose the topic “Internalized Homophobia” and I spent 6 months interviewing gays & lesbians and observing support groups (with permission of course).  As a heterosexual I had a lot to learn about the culture and about writing about the culture and I came away from that experience a more educated person.
I was raised a strict Lutheran – didn’t miss a day of Sunday School or church from 4th – 12th grade.  My Mom could quote you just about any verse in the Bible and she did!  I went to multiple church services every Sunday – as I was a “singer” – “the” church singer.  Paid for part of my first two years of college as the first chair soprano – singing at three different churches every Sunday – Presbyterian, Episcopal and Lutheran.   Was offered a full-ride scholarship by one the premier religious colleges to sing – AND I had to be of upright moral character to get that offer.  Trust me I have been “religioned”.
I parted from “organized religion” about 20 years ago.  That happened when the pastor of the church we had just joined came to my house one afternoon to tell me how much we were expected to “tithe”.  Now – being a semi-proficient accountant – donations to churches are charitable giving – and, to me, charitable giving requires that I have charity in my heart to give – you DO NOT TELL ME what I am going to give.
Right now – I’m an agnostic.  An agnostic – I have an acquaintance in my life who touts her religion on her sleeve – can’t pronounce “agnostic” – but hates them, even though she doesn’t know what they are – OR that I am one.  God I love religious zealots!
So what? – Well I’m not a heathen, point proven. 

Now to the main point.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why in the hell people think they need to write legislation that will ban gay marriage.  Why?  Marriage is a church issue - not a state issue!  What in the hell is the purpose of legislation that bans gay marriage?  This issue is right up there with the “Keep your government off my body” slogan of women’s rights activists and I think it applies to gay and lesbian marriage.
Are you against marriage between members of the same sex? 
Then……………………don’t marry someone of the same sex! Duh!
First of all – all the Bible thumpers out there – you think your god is going to send YOU to hell for what other people do – WRONG!  Thumper - this is not about your salvation!  Mind your own damn business.  Let the gays and lesbians worry about their own god and whatever their afterlife is going to be.  Straights – just mind your own damn business.
Gotta say it again – Bible Thumpers - THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOUR SALVATION – leave people alone and work on your own business, and based on your behavior lately - you've got personal business of your own to deal with! – and mind your own business.
Back to my point.  If our society is going to be so damn righteous about how they are going to define a marriage that “God would approve of” – then I think we should ban all marriage.  There should be no marriage between a man and a woman.  No heterosexual marriages, no homosexual marriages, no marriages.
Doesn’t the Bible state marriage is between a man and a woman for one lifetime? (Genesis 2:24: "one woman for one man for one lifetime".)  Ban heterosexual marriages.  For the most part – they don’t work –the divorce rate is roughly 50%.  That’s a really bad failure rate for a religious institution – not working folks, put the Bibles down.  I think that co-habitation and civil unions (and maybe a contract of some kind “a Non-nuptial agreement”) for those that think they need it, sounds workable.
Doesn’t the Bible state marriage is between A man and A woman? (Genesis 2:24: "one woman for one man for one lifetime".)  But yet - our entire society repeatedly lets people break the biblical and governmental law in regards to polygamy (a religious based practice), maintain unlawful polygamous communities and repeatedly choose to ignore and not enforce the polygamy laws (a religious based practice) in the United States of America.  You can’t have it both ways!  You’re basically saying - Religion can break the law – we even get to advertise that religious people can break the law with one-hour TV news specials. Fooled yah, na-na-na-na-na-na America!  Hypocrites!
One more thing folks – whose interpretation of the Bible are you using?  Yours?  Who gave you the right to interpret the Bible?  Did your god talk to you directly (like he/she does to Michelle Bachman) and tell you exactly what the Bible means?  Are you depending on the interpretation of a white heterosexual male standing at the front of the room interpreting “god’s word” to you?  Where did he get the right and knowledge to do that (Does your god talk to  that white heterosexual male (like he/she does to Michelle Bachman and tell him exactly what the Bible means?)  
Have to say it one more time:  Are you against marriage between members of the same sex?  Then……………………don’t marry someone of the same sex!  Duh – it’s not rocket science folks.

Marriage is an issue of the church - not the state!  Hear that Minnesota legislators?
I’ll make a swap with you.  I’ll consider listening to your proposal for legislation on banning gay marriages ONLY if you hypocrites eliminate tax exempt status for religious organizations, FIRST.   

If religious organzations are not willing to stay out of government (legislation is government) then they should be required to GIVE UP THEIR TAX EXEMPT STATUS.  (Anybody from the government -  State or Federal -  paying attention? Pay attention!, this point is very important!)
I'm tired of your "religious based" judgments and 
"religious based" legislation. (Shame on You - God WILL get you for this!).
I am tired of the US/State government supporting your homophobic vitriol (by writing legislation).
It all comes down to the “they are hypocrites” theme. 
It just keeps coming back to that theme. 
In this case - religious hypocrites. 
Ban heterosexual marriage – encourage co-habitation among all of god’s creatures and call it a day and get on with our lives.
Live and let live – mind your own business! 
Gay marriage and gay marriage legislation is none of your tax-exempt business. 
It’s because of people that believe in shit like this that I have to believe in a vengeful god.  Grrrrrr.
Tags:  Gay marriage, Bible thumpers, Marriage between a man and a woman, civil unions

Monday, December 13, 2010

Staffing / Recruiting Agencies - Blah!

For many years I have had questions about the staffing industry.  This past week I saw a representative from a staffing agency on television and her remarks prompted me to think about this subject.  I've never seen an ad that states the placement rate of staffing offices, those who got a job vs those that filled out an app in the agency office.  I think the reason is - placement ratios is not that good.
Many of you, right now, are out there without a job and have put your hopes into a placement by an recruiter or agency.  You could be beating yourself up because you aren’t getting any interview hits and maybe telling yourself you aren’t good enough – or maybe the placement recruiter has actually done that (told you “you aren’t qualified”).  Please don’t beat yourself up – BUT make sure you have a very diversified job search that is not limited to placement agencies.
First of all I have to thank staffing agencies because during the times when I haven’t had full-time employment they have kept me busy with temporary placements.  But that is about where it ends.
Back in the 80’s one of the top accounting recruiting companies had labeled me as a “trouble shooter”.  As a “trouble-shooter” they would bring me into companies that were having difficulties for any reason with a particular department and it was my job to “fix it”. Back then, being a “trouble shooter” was an excellent thing to be – I received a nice salary, could pretty much call any benefits package I wanted.  I would come into the company work 2 – 2 ½ years to bring a department around and then I would move on to the next “problem department” in a different company.  Every move (always suggested by a phone call from the recruiting company) came with a huge increase in pay.  Little did I know that the job hopping I did back then would give me an “unstable work history”.
It was the “unstable work history”, combined with the buyout of the Fortune 100 company that I was working for that sent me to academia to pursue advanced degrees and teach.
When I decided to quit teaching it took me two years to get an office job.  At one of the employment agencies the recruiter told me they would have a hard time placing me - they had to be honest with me (of course) and told me that “my actual office experience wasn’t recent enough, I was too old, I was too educated and my weight was an issue.”  My anger that day was amazing – not only was I an expert in Microsoft Office (having taught it) – but, education is office work – it is working with Word and Excel and doing budgeting and approving bills and doing forecasting.  But the sentiment was “Those that can, do - those that can’t, teach”.
After I quit teaching it took me two years to find a full-time office position.  For two years I worked temp jobs.  (That’s one reason you have angry burnt-out professors in the classroom – they don’t see an option to another/different job and experiences such as mine do not give them hope that they could move on.)
During my adventures looking for a full-time office job I encountered the following situations
  • Placement companies that would advertise jobs they didn’t have.
  • Placement companies advertising jobs that didn’t exist.
  • Placement companies advertising jobs at a higher salary than was actually being offered.
  • Placement companies doing “discriminatory-based screening” for their clients.  Because they can – they aren’t the employer.  They are the placement agency. This is the truth!  I would not lie to you.
  • Most recently a recruiter told me that my accounting experience was too old and no longer relevant (for a job that I was absolutely qualified for). I use my accounting skills every day for a small company – so the question driving home was have debits and credits changed in the “new, larger” systems, is a chart of accounts no longer a chart of accounts in the “new, larger” systems, or have journal entries changed in the “new, larger” systems.  I was pissed – because it doesn’t matter what accounting software you are using – accounting happens the same way on all of them - regardless of how new the software is. (I think they really meant I was too old).
  • I have seen three and four syllable words on vocabulary tests that only a scientist would know (I looked them up when I got home).  The words are not used in the normal work environment, do not represent a "bonafide job qualification" and can only be interpreted as covert discriminatory testing.  (I missed one interview by 0.99999%, which was probably in the vocabulary section).
  • Now, they are recommending / advertising that you should do a video that the recruiting agencies can send to employers.  If this isn’t a blatant discriminatory practice, I don’t knowwhat would be.
  • AND, for me – THE MOST HATED  - the personality assessment.  We don’t care about your qualifications – we only care if you are a good organizational fit, preferably an ENFP.  (See my October entries on personality assessments.)
Finding a job really is our responsibility.  I know.  You’ve heard it all before but, I have faith in you and I know that you will be able to find the position that you want and need. Here’s a list of things I have done:
  • The most important one - Apply for jobs that are in your field and on the border of your field, include advertised positions where the qualifications are too high – or you think you don’t meet "the advertised qualifications".  If you know you can do the job, APPLY regardless of the qualifications listed.  "Advertised qualifications" are a screening technique used by business and industry - to weed out applications - to make people afraid to apply because of the qualifications.  You just never know what can happen if you apply.
  • When you are tested at a recruitment center – ask for a copy of your scores and include that information in your resume or cover letter, it’s a selling point. 
  • Be open with your friends that you need referrals – don’t be afraid to beg, I do it on a quarterly basis. 
  • Find a job club in your town – even if it’s across town and go to it – let people you don’t know, know that you are looking for a job. 
  • Volunteer to work at industry related conferences and local meetings that you can no longer afford to be a member of and then network!  If they say no, call again in three weeks – tell them you will do anything.  If they still say no, call two weeks before the event and then two days before the event.  You just never know what can happen.  
  • If you are willing/able to move, start looking elsewhere -  there are jobs in other states (suggestion Tell them in your cover letter that  you are willing to move on your own dime or with little financial assistance (Check with your accountant - last time I did this  - I wrote if off on my taxes.)
  • I have yet to understand why people use or recommend – it’s an annoying meta-system that repeats the same job a million times from different websites.
  • Bookmark actual company web pages (I have 90 company web pages bookmarked and check them on a regular basis).
  • Bookmark newspapers within a 60 or 90 mile radius – the pay may be less, but at least it’s a job and may have decent benefits.  You might need a change right now.
  • Bookmark local colleges and universities employment pages.   Teaching is not the only thing they do and the educational benefits are amazing (aka go to school for almost free or free).
Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t getting any hits from recruiting companies that you have signed up with and don’t tell yourself you aren’t good enough just because the recruiters aren’t calling.  Please don’t beat yourself up.   BUT make sure you have a diversified job search that is not limited to placement agencies.
Tags:  Recruiters, Robert Half, Office Team, ProStaff, AppleOne, Job search, Employment Discrimination, Finding a Job, Employment Agencies

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Poorhouse" - Not an Option for Boomers

A multitude of things that I heard this week brought me today’s topic.  Here’s an example of some of the “stuff” that’s been rattling around in my brain.
  • On the TV political news shows this morning discussions on the potential future problems that could happen due to reduced funding to Social Security (brought on by the 2011 2% OASI tax reduction in “the compromise”) were dismissed by panelists as frivolous and some panelists suggested that those who were worried about decreased funding to Social Security were stupid (that’s the only word that really fits).
  • Republicans have repeatedly said that they want to dismantle or privatize Social Security.
  • The fiscal commission is suggesting that Social Security reduce benefits and have benefits begin at an older age.
  • Reports are showing that the Boomers, on average, do not have enough money saved for retirement - with average savings being reported of “average Baby Boomer retirement savings range from $38000 to $88000” (2008); “reports that the average amount in a 401k account for a 50-year-old is just under $125,000” (unknown date); “2009 Average 401k balance - $109,723 2009 Median Balance - $59,381” (2010).  I could go further with finding you numbers – but comparison of these numbers (from different sources) shows – in my mind – the averages to be pretty representative, so it’s not worth it to add more statistics.
  • Government studies (BLS) are showing the generations behind us (probably because they are broke) aren’t saving for retirement either.  “The Generation X and Y cohort were less likely to hold retirement accounts than the Older Boomer cohort.”
  • The havoc and destructiveness of the recession has affected all demographic groups, however older Americans, those 50 and older, have had the greatest price to pay. This group has experienced unprecedented economic loss, high unemployment and the longest duration of collecting unemployment since the Great Depression. (2010a).
I could beat the commentaries and statistics to death – but I feel really old and really tired and very morose this morning, so on to the real commentary.

When I was growing up (I grew up poor) my parents were always telling us kids that if our crops didn’t come in or if our livestock couldn’t be sold and we ended up with no money we would end up in the “Poorhouse”.  The “Poorhouse” was a real entity that my parents knew about, that my parents had seen people go to and the poorhouse was evidently something “really bad” if my parents used it to threaten us kids to work harder.

Poorhouse (aka Almshouse):  Poor farms were county or town-run residences where paupers (mainly elderly and disabled people) were supported at public expense. They were common in the United States beginning in the middle of the 19th century and declined in use after the Social Security Act took effect in 1935 with most disappearing completely by about 1950. (Source)

The problem with the definition is that it does not work today - counties and towns in the United States are broke.  Poorhouses are no longer an option.  County and city government will not be able to fund “Poorhouses” in the future. Counties and cities can barely meet their budgets because of decreased State and Federal Funding.
  • What happens to people with no or severely limited Social Security, limited retirement savings that will maybe last about 5 years max; and who can’t afford healthcare?
  • What’s the future for the Boomers if Social Security is dramatically changed?
  • What is the impact on a significant change to Social Security for our kids (Gen X) and for the Y’s and Millennials?
I have a friend who absolutely believes (beyond a reasonable doubt) that her kids will step to the plate and take care of her in her old age.  Maybe her kids can afford to take care of her, maybe they would take her in and maybe they can afford to absorb the expenses associated with an aging parent. But most of us don’t have that option and we really need to ask the question, “What in the hell is going to happen to me?”

I have another friend who is terrified about what is going to happen to her in 10 years. I think a lot of Boomers think about this scenario everyday.

I strongly recommend the reading of the 1872 poem by Will Carleton, in its entirety. Though tragic, I think the premise of poem is germane to the 21st century.  I think the poem (in its entirety) could be an accurate representation of what may transpire in the future. (It’s both surprising and distressing that I would remember this poem [a poem that my Mother could quote verbatim] from my youth, while I was writing this entry).

Over the hill to the poor-house I'm trudgin' my weary way-
I am a woman of seventy, and only a trifle gray -
I, who am smart an' chipper, for all the years I've told,
As many another woman that's only half as old.

O'er the hill to the poor-house - I can't quite make it clear!
Over the hill to the poor-house - it seems so horrid queer!
Many a step I've taken a-toilin' to and fro,
But this is a sort of journey I never thought to go.
Tags:  Boomers, Social Security, Recession, Retirement, 401k, Retirement Savings, poorhouse

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Low Information Voters Support Elimination of Entitlements

Today’s message is directed SPECIFICALLY to all the Republicans and Tea-Partiers who are crying for less government.  I like the term being used for them “low-information” voters, voters who will grab onto any simple message and support it.  Well folks – it’s time to think – you do remember how to do that, don’t you – you supposedly learned that during your “publicly funded” education.

Their argument is childish and their thinking is flawed.  They and their family would be hurt by this as much as anyone else.  They don’t think – they just open their mouths and go yada, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah!

These people like to spout off about the elimination of  “entitlements’ and yet – I’m sure they or a members of their family have all used at least one “entitlement program” and/or are benefiting from the government entitlements that they have received.

Well folks – you hate them so much?  Then quit using them! And pay back the government for the “entitlements” that you have received or are currently receiving.  Get off the public dole.

If you don’t do this – you are hypocrites!  Plain and simple – hypocrites.

If you are a supporter the Republican Party or the Tea-Partiers and what I have written upsets you – then YOU SHOULDN'T BE SUPPORTING the policies of the Tea Party or the Republicans.  This is their agenda!  Stop – Think! 

Everything listed below is funded by a government program or legislation – also known by the “wing-nuts” as a government entitlement programs.

If any of the following apply or applied to you, please take the appropriate action listed.


$        If you received a Pell Grant to go to school – sit down and write a check to the government for your education.
$        If you used the GI Bill to go to school – sit down and write a check to the government for your education.
$        If your kids are going to public school– either pay the school district for their education or pull them out and home school them.  If you choose to home school them don’t you dare ask for any kind of assistance in doing so.  Do not ask for vouchers to put your kid into some private school.
$        If your kids are going to public university – pull them our right now and enroll them in a private college – but don’t you dare ask for any federal or state funds to pay for their education.
$        If your kids or participated in Head Start - sit down and write a check to the government to reimburse the government for that expense.  If your kids are in Head Start – pull them our right now!


$        If you are currently receiving unemployment benefits – STOP right now!
$        If you are drawing SSI disability payments – STOP right now and earn your own way.
$        If you, your parents or grandparents are receiving Social Security – tell them to STOP right now and go out and get a job. (Another idea is that your parents or grandparents can move into your house and you can support them.)
$        If you, your parents or grandparents are enrolled in Medicare – tell them to STOP right now and you can pay all their medical bills.
$        If you or your kids are on Medicaid – STOP using it right now and pay for medical out of your own pocket.
$        If you are on food stamps – quit using them and pay for your food yourself!
$        If you are on the WIC program – quit using it and pay for all that stuff yourself.
$        If you’re kid is eating a school lunch – STOP that right now – start packing their lunch for them.  If you are getting subsidized lunches – shame on you, pay for it yourself or let your kids go without food.
$        If you are receiving disability payments form the VA – STOP! And don’t you dare ask for another penny of money for your service to the American people – from any government agency.

AT WORK (Tell your boss you don’t need or want any protection under labor and wage laws – that would include some of the following.)

$        Tell your boss you will work as many hours as needed without overtime.
$        Tell your boss that safety is not an issue and you will do whatever needs to be done.
$        Tell your boss you will work for whatever wage they want to pay you, even if it’s 30 cents an hour.
$        Tell your boss that your kids will come in and work for them for (let’s say) 15 cents and hour and will work as many hours as your boss want them to.
$        If you are getting special accommodations for your disability tell your boss that’s not needed and you can do without the special accommodations.
$        If you are a woman tell your boss you don’t expect equal pay – you will work for whatever salary they choose.
$        If you are expecting a child – do not use the family and medical leave – we expect you to report back to work the day after you give birth.


$        If any of your have received emergency loans from FEMA for disasters – pay that money back and don’t you dare ask for anymore assistance in the future.
$        Don’t you dare ask for help from agencies like the FHA, HUD, FEMA, the VA, the SSA, or OSHA.
$        If you belong to a union – write a check and reimburse the government for all the benefits you are enjoying.  The Federal government protects your right to organize and you don’t deserve that right.  And by the way – tell your employer they can get rid of vacations, health insurance, sick pay and other benefits your union got for you.
$        Tell your bank you don’t want or need any FDIC insurance on your accounts.
$        Write to your congress person or senator and tell them we don’t need the SEC – we can trust wall street to do the right thing.
$        Write to your congress person or senator and tell them we don’t need the Army, The Navy, The Coast Guards, the Marines, fire departments, police departments, the highway patrol – all government funded programs.
$        If you don’t like women to “have a choice” than you better go out and adopt every single child in foster care  and take care of them – on your own dime..  You don’t like it – be part of the solution.
$        If you are currently taking care of foster children – pay for it yourself and don’t’ ask for any financial assistance.
$        If you have received ANY type of tax credit (and that includes you folks in the wealthiest 2%) – PAY IT BACK NOW.
$        Turn off your damn TV and radio (FCC) – you’d probably be smarter if you didn’t listen to them.

If what I have written upsets you – then YOU SHOULDN'T BE SUPPORTING the policies of the Tea Party or the Republicans.  This is their agenda, this is our future!  Stop – Think! 
Everything listed above is funded by a government program or legislation – also known by the “wing-nuts” as a government entitlement programs.

 “We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos”  John Dewey
Tags:  Tea Party, Republicans, entitlements, social programs, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, public education, college funding, low information voters

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Equity at Work? Probably Not.

Today – according to my boss is a 14 hour day to complete “my work”.  A salaried person is required to put in as many hours (more or few [hah! - always more]) that is needed to complete their work.    That’s ok, I like getting a paycheck in today’s economy.  But I can’t help but think about equity.
Yep, today is a 14 hour day for me and I can’t help but think about equity.  (We have an equity issue here – why in the hell is today a 14 hour day for ME! – no one else, just ME!)  (Not sour grapes, just processing, mulling and trying to be cathartic about my perceived inequity at work.)
In really simple terms - equity is when an employee looks at what they are “putting out” and compares it what they are getting in return.  When the employee(s) thinks they are “putting out” more than what they are getting – the whole workplace system becomes imbalanced and goes to crap.  AND this feeling of inequity may in fact not be real – and has nothing to do with “reality”.  BUT - the inequity is perceived by the employee and their perceptions are their reality – so it is real to them.
I taught management for many years and told my students that it doesn’t matter how technically adept you are in your field if your employees do not view you as a fair and equitable manager – you’re screwed.  Once you lose the trust of your employees – you don’t get it back.  When you show favoritism to any employee or group of employees at the expense of other workers – you’re screwed.  Yet over and over again managers choose to do this.  Time and again managers choose to show preferential treatment for one person or a group of people – when managers do this, they are pissing everyone else off – so you just screwed yourself.
One of the reasons I quit teaching is because graduate students started coming into the classroom with a dismissive attitude to the great thinkers and theories of our field and repeatedly I heard something like, “What I really need to know I will learn on the job.  I’m only here because I need a degree.”  I blame business for that change in attitude – and business has gotten what they deserve – poorly educated and poorly trained management – but they have college degrees.  (and it doesn’t matter where they graduate from – the worst CEO I have ever worked for graduate from Wharton.)  Because of that misguided thinking (by business and students) we have managers in our workforce who do not understand the concept of equity and do not understand the implications of perceived inequity in the workplace or the ramifications of preferential treatment in the workplace (legally or just personally).  (More about this issue some other day.) 
If you work for a large company you may have an explicit employee handbook that is hundreds of pages long; you may have regular work-law seminars for your managers; and may have an explicit procedures manual for you supervisors and managers.  But most employees in today’s world do not work for a large company – they work for medium and small companies that do not have explicit handbooks and manuals or available training and for the most part have crappy – discriminatory management.  Those employees working for medium and small companies for the most part experience equity issues and fairness issues at least once a week, if not every day. 
Oh, and by the way if you naïve enough to think management “does the right thing” from a legal perspective, think again – discrimination of all sorts, against all classes happens every day, in the workplace.
Some of you really naïve (aka stupid) managers are saying “I’m discreet - my employees do not “know” what the inequities are, where the favoritism is, when preferential treatment happens.”  My response to you – You are a fool (and probably well educated, but a fool).  You do not know your workforce.  And someday I hope they kick your ass to the curb – just because or because someone sues you, YES!
What do equity issues in the workplace look like (there's millions of examples)?
Salaried employees who are allowed to take flex or comp time hour for hour for an hour that they feel was over and above their “40 hours” per week.  (And yes there are salaried employees who think flex/comp time is calculated on the number of hours they worked that week – an “hourly” mentality.) 
Giving a person or group of people a “bonus” – just for doing their job.  They did nothing over and above, they just did the job they were hired to do – and yet….they get a bonus when no one else does.
And there’s the whole male / female thing.  I can’t believe how many times  I have seen or heard management make decision which are blatantly sexist.  My most favorite in the past couple of years was a management decision that sounded like this - a male employee who needs to earn more money than his female counterpart – because he had a family to support and she was single.  So wrong, on so many levels.
I had a receptionist that came to me at one point and tell me that they hear complaints about their work at least once a week.  I thought to myself (but didn’t say it out loud)  – “Lucky you, you are the favored child” – everyone else here gets bitched at or hears complaints about their work daily – not fast enough, not good enough, not exactly what I wanted.  Here we have an equity issue based only on feedback – but it is affecting the entire office.

Just thought of this one - management team goes out for a two hour holiday lunch at an expensive restaurant, employees have a half-hour pot-luck.
And I’ll quit with my favorite – hourly employees who get docked for anything and everything and every minute is counted.  Where in contrast you have salaried employees ( who, of course, did work at home last night”) who regularly take long lunches, who regularly show up at the office for maybe 6 hours a day, and complain that no one else is doing their part.    Talk about the conundrum - the hourly feel unfairly treated when they look at the behavior of the salaried AND the salaried (who aren’t in the office a lot) feel the hourly aren’t doing their part.  (Oh I can hear a lot of salaried people pissing and moaning right now – my graduate students use to piss and moan about this statement.)
Inequity, lack of fairness, preferential treatment
·         Sucking the life out of companies
·         Sucking the productivity out of our companies
·         Sucking the commitment out of people
alive and well in business and industry and it sucks.