Tag Archives: Life

My Gratitude List

The older that I get, the more I like the fact that we have set aside a national day for Thanksgiving, for gratitude.  I only wish that we paid a bit more attention to this opportunity instead of focusing so much on the sales that now overwhelm this holiday.  In honor of Thanksgiving later this week, here is my list of a few things for which I am thankful, in no particular order.  And certainly not complete.

 

  1. Kitten is feisty and eating and getting a bit more adventurous.

 

11-19-2014

 

  1. Much of my immediate family is gathering for the holiday, it will be good to see both my brother and sister’s families. I only wish my older son and daughter-in-law could make it.
  2. Plenty of interesting things to learn.
  3. I’ve had some good opportunities at work this year.
  4. All my friends and family.
  5. Good books to read.
  6. The chance to write regularly.
  7. Chocolate
  8. Chances to share stories and experiences.
  9. Whenever I feel like humming or bursting into song
  10. Coming home to a dinner that my son has created
  11. Christmas lights sparkling in the too early dark (yes, even the ones before Thanksgiving – I am more forgiving of the home décor than the demand to shop)
  12. Coming across a forgotten favorite – photo, song, book…
  13. Sitting around and chatting with friends
  14. Offering or being the recipient of random acts of kindness

 

I hope that each and every person who comes across this post has a long list of things for which you are thankful this season.

 

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© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Please Stand By

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Hello Blog Readers,

We have a needy new resident at my house – a tiny kitten.  He didn’t even have his eyes open when he first arrived and his need for attention is all out of proportion with his size.  He hasn’t left me much time to develop any blog ideas.

I will return soon.

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I’m Voting for Participation

I will vote later today, I will walk over to my polling place after I come home from work – all the way across the street – and then walk home for dinner and the rest of my evening.  I used to vote when I dropped off my kids for school, or picked them up, once I was working full time.  Having polling places that are accessible is a wise move.  People are more likely to participate in something that fits in with their routine.

 

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Way back when I turned 18, long before these kerfuffles about voter id laws, my birthday was in October and I went in to vote with my parents a few weeks later in November – I registered right there.  I was excited to participate, and hadn’t given much thought to the specific candidates or races until the moment when I pulled the curtain to close myself into the booth – other than governor.  (It wasn’t a presidential election year.)  It was one of those old machines with levers – including one that would allow me to vote straight ticket.  One swipe and I could be done, having performed my civic duty.  I was a bit dismayed that there were so many different races.  And incumbents and opponents.  I hadn’t prepared myself.

 

At that moment I realized that my right to vote, just like a lot of other things in life, was complex and required more from me than a bit of time and effort on Election Day.  If I voted strictly based on party affiliation I could be voting for a person who wasn’t qualified.  That didn’t sit quite comfortably with me, even then when I was still new to the adult world and believed that everyone acted with good intentions.

 

The newspaper has become a great ally in my quest to be a regular voter.  I believe strongly in the importance of participation.  Without the newspaper it would be much more difficult to be an informed participant.  Who is running against whom, why, what do they stand for or against?  So many names flow in front of us in TV ads, on flyers and bill boards and yard signs.  The candidates don’t always tell us the basics – what office are they seeking, what party do they represent, what reasoning do they offer?  Our Founding Fathers expected citizenry to be informed and act accordingly.  (We won’t consider their understanding of human nature today.)

 

Regardless of each voter’s level of information on the candidates and issues, participation is a basic element.  Without it, what can we expect?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Holiday Hoopla

Which is your favorite holiday?  Today is a holiday that has seen a tremendous shift in meaning since it originated, and the coming months will bring other huge holidays that tend to be high on the list of favorites.  Holidays are a great time to lift ourselves from our routine, celebrate family and friends, and connect with the past. And usually participate in the economy.

 

I haven’t put out a single decoration this year, though I have a sizable collection of Halloween dust catchers which have accumulated over the years of raising my boys.  There are the tall, slim figurines that I bought in a kit and painted myself.  And a hollowed out gourd, made into a ghost, that I bought on an afternoon spent in a quaint town with my mom and sister.  The scarecrow made from a softball by a fellow mom who was trying to impress the other homeroom moms with her creativity.  And plenty of other things, most of which have a memory or two attached.

 

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One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving.  Because it is quieter and except for food hard to exploit with merchandise.  Even though my dad and I would regularly lament that it was difficult to find Thanksgiving decorations.  Now I have his and mine – mostly Pilgrim and turkey themed.  I love that the focus is around family and friends gathering to share a meal and think about gratitude.  (We won’t think about the fact that shopping for Christmas is encroaching upon this more serene holiday.)

 

I know plenty of people whose favorite holiday is this feast of Trick or Treat.  I know others who refuse to partake in the fun for religious reasons.  (To them I’d like to point out that Halloween is a contraction for All Hollow’s Eve, which is the precursor for All Saint’s Day November 1st – and a day for religious observance.  And was timed to counter a pagan ritual observing harvest and the coming of winter.  The Monsignor at my old church used to hold a great Halloween party for the families.)

 

We need these holidays to brighten up our days as the natural light grows scarcer this time of year.  Colorful décor, strings of lights, cheerful greetings for those known and not known – may all of our next few months be enjoyable – full of food, baubles and hoopla.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Number Stories

(Originally posted on 9/25/14 to a shared blog – http://blogtowork.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/number-stories/)

photo credit: Huffington Post

photo credit: Huffington Post

Math and numbers have never resonated for me the way that words do.  I understand that they have a practical use – at least basic math – and appreciate knowing how to use them for things like balancing my checkbook.  And I’ve always been happy to know people who really get numbers so I can ask them for help when things get beyond basic.  It has only been in recent years that I have discovered an area of numbers that really is fascinating – statistics.

 

Statistics are stories told with numbers.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?  Not story problems like why did the train go faster from station a to station b or whatever nonsense.  No, number stories – data meets the story arc.  Very intriguing.

 

Why am I bringing this up here?  Because job search is loaded with statistics, some of them quite contrary, and all of it worthy of some attention by job seekers.  We all know about the unemployment rate, at least the national one that is regularly reported on the evening news.  But there are state and regional unemployment rates.  Rates based on ethnicity and age group, level of education and industry segment (healthcare, manufacturing, service, etc.).  Oh and make sure that you know how it is calculated because that is a whole other facet of the story for this number.

 

What about the workforce participation rate?  I don’t remember ever hearing about this one until the Great Recession.  This one is the percentage of adults who are working for pay.  This number is also at an all-time (read since this has been tracked, I believe starting somewhere in the 1970s) low and seems to be dropping.  The story is in understanding better why it is dropping.  And in comparing this data to the unemployment rate – if the unemployment rate is dropping, why is the workforce participation rate also dropping?

 

Then there is the job opening ratio – the number of posted open positions juxtaposed with the number of qualified applicants who are actively looking.  This seems to be coming down a bit, there aren’t quite so many qualified applicants for each open position, but still too many for the comfort of each job seeker.  This is the number that directly affects another number – the average number of weeks or months it can take someone to land their new position.  Last year I know that this average was hovering around eight months.

 

There are plenty of other statistics, but you get the idea.  These numbers aren’t just for the media and politicians to bandy about – there are lives behind each one.  Stories of individuals affected, but also of how the information is collected and applied.  The statistic isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning.

 

It comes down to your number story, which is quite simple.  Back to basic math; one person who needs one suitable position.  At least knowing some of these number stories can give you discussion points with Aunt Betty the next time she asks you again why you don’t have a job.

Wish Lists

Wasn’t it just amazingly easy to come up with lists of wants when you were younger?  Unless made shy by being asked suddenly by a rarely met aunt or uncle, I remember being able to rattle off all sorts of things that I would love to have as my own.  I’m not sure when it got harder.

 

It isn’t like I don’t want or need anything.  And it certainly isn’t that I don’t like to get presents.  But ask me for suggestions and my brain says, ‘uhhh – can I get back to you on that?’.  So I started to keep a running list.  Then my book list branched into a list of its own.

 

Maybe I could have a library like this?

Maybe I could have a library like this?

(And still I was hard pressed to keep myself on track and focus on books already on the list when I found myself at a library book sale recently.  I did end up with some excellent choices, I think.)

 

Anyway, I know that I am not alone in this malady; whether it is one of memory or something other, is a question to discuss with friends over tea.  My friends and I have all gotten to a stage when we are not as quick to acquire – we have pretty much already feathered our nests.  But that doesn’t mean that we might not like to add to a collection or two, or perhaps have a treat or get an item to support a new or old hobby.

 

And there is a pleasure in gift giving that we might have forgotten along the way – giving and receiving.  It has nothing to do with standing in line at odd hours for the latest craze, in a crush of bargain hunters.  It has to do with thinking about that person for whom you are shopping, or remembering the person who gave you a specific treasure.

 

Well, I am gearing up to ask my family for suggestions, so I thought I should dust off my list.  Only I have lost the darn thing.  Now what was on it?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Travelling Tales

Periodically I have reason to spend time enjoying folk and fairy tales and I am reminded anew how wonderful they are.  I am working on the storytelling workbook in Toastmasters and I also just participated in a local Hispanic Heritage day, where I was the storyteller.  We adults who don’t have regular contact with small children can forget the delights, and lessons, of these tales.

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Part of what is amazing about these tales, beyond their endurance through so many eons as well as social change, is the way that they travel.  We like to think that we modern folk are better than any of our ancestors at getting around because we have a variety of fast modes to get from here to there.  But the reality is that even back in the days of horse carts and walking as the main means to get around, people were quite mobile.

 

People who study folk tales can provide endless examples of the different versions of the same basic tale that show up all over the globe.  The tale that I told at the Hispanic Heritage day had a very similar flavor to the Brer Rabbit tales in the American southeast.  Which themselves have provenances from other far off shores.

 

A good story is far more that entertaining.  It makes us more receptive to new ideas, learning and growth.  Folk tales are packed with understanding of human nature, right and wrong, and ways to explain the world.  They should since the oldest are quite well travelled.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Caution and Risk

Just the right balance between these two forces seems to be not only the key to survival, but also plays into success.  Cautious people live to tell their tales and to raise a new generation, but they might not have taken enough risk.  Risk takers might have gone a bit too far and checked out early.

 

I just spent some time with a couple of four month old kittens.  Sisters, one just a tad bolder than the other.  Kittens instinctively know that a certain hesitancy around new things is prudent, but they also have a strong need to know – what’s in here, can I fit in there, can I jump high enough, will this hold my weight…

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Natural laws and human rules provide some boundaries for their explorations.  A thing just beyond their reach is terribly tempting, conversely after a few minutes with the thing it loses its charm and they are off to the next thing.

 

How do we find that right balance for ourselves?  Thoughts of if only I’d done or not done this or that might mean that we were too cautious or too bold.  But maybe only in hindsight, too.  I bought my house right before the housing crash so I shake my head at the amount of money that – on paper – has disappeared.  But I’ve had the benefit of living in the house for the last nine years and being removed from the townhouse complex where I had previously lived.  So, do I count this in the good or bad category?  Hmmm.

 

Stay or move, keep a job or switch, invest in Microsoft (wish I had) or buy that car which provided mobility (when it wasn’t in the shop).  Get married, have a baby, buy a house, retire now – here or there?  Caution or risk?

 

I’m not sure that I will ever figure out just the right balance, but the consideration is worthy of a few more years of research (also known as living).  When have you been overly cautious or entirely too risky?  Or maybe you have gotten it just right?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Hardy

Now this is a word that we don’t use nearly often enough these days.

 

“I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others. You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

~Robert Redford

 

Life has taught me that hardy is something that I want to be, a trait that I want to cultivate.  There are all sorts of breaking points, and I have a few memories of quitting this or that, like playing the flute, early on that didn’t sit well with my competitive nature.

 

Hardiness consists of these characteristics – resilience, optimism, flexibility and creativity.  I read this in periodic research that I have done and I believe it because it has been true for me.  The beautiful thing about hardiness, is that while some people are inherently hardier to begin with, it is something that can be learned and strengthened over time.

 

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

I do not lean toward optimism, but I can turn my thoughts in that direction.  My mom was quite the optimist and I could regularly compare my Eeyore mindset to hers, and sometimes be amazed that her belief that things would be ok seemed to actually make them ok.

 

I’ve learned resilience can be born from stubbornness combined with a willingness to learn.   Realization that resilience is something that I am mastering came slowly.

 

Flexibility and creativity also make sense as parts of the hardy equation.  Creativity provides strengths and helps recharge batteries.  And flexibility releases some of the pressure from stress.

 

I am mere days away from the beginning of a new decade, so while I hope that you get something out of reading this post it is admittedly more of an exhortation to myself that I know how to be hardy.  I hope that you do too.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Just a Little Reward

I was puttering in the kitchen and thinking about what I should write.  I have bits of ideas tucked here and jotted down there, but it was too much to go and find them to see if any appealed right now.  I happen to be working my way through left overs, which often seems to fall to me because my son prefers to make new creations.  (I kind of remember enjoying creating new flavors in the kitchen myself once upon a time.)

 

Mostly I don’t mind left overs and I really hate waste.  My reusable sandwich bag was a topic at lunch today among my coworkers.  (How easily it can be washed and how I wash it.)  But it can quickly become something I have to do if my son doesn’t join in and eat some too, particularly if he has made a batch of something way too large for us to eat in a couple of sittings.

 

One of my son's most recent creations.

One of my son’s most recent creations.

These led to thoughts of how we reward ourselves, if we reward ourselves and whether or not we should reward ourselves.  I happen to be reading a book that is set in the Middle Ages and this is making me think about how we are rewarded just by living in this century and not back then.  But I should just use modern context.

 

It is in my nature to use some sort of carrot to get myself to do something I don’t want to do.  For instance I can watch an episode of a show that I like after I make a call that I don’t want to make.  I don’t think of that as a reward, per se, but more of a prompt.  Delayed gratification.

 

My favorite reward for getting through a work week is the moment that I can turn off the alarm on Friday night, followed by extra time reading, a fine night’s sleep and then the luxury of waking up slowly and having a leisurely mug of tea Saturday morning.  Heaven.

 

My rewards might seem small to some, or decadent to others.  But the beauty of rewards are that they should be personal.  How do you reward yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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