A Crash Course in Common Sense

SOCIAL NETWORKING COMMON SENSE

Some time ago I heard about a woman who posted some pretty blatant complaints on her Facebook page about her job, her company, and her co-workers. It was clear that she’d had a bad day, and was just blowing off steam–which would have been fine had it been a private paper-and-pen journal or a quiet conversation with another person–but it was right out there on Facebook for the world to see. Long story short, she was fired. She was utterly gobstruck that her “private” postings on Facebook could be read by others outside her circle of friends; evidently it never occurred to her that people forward emails and postings.

I’ll freely admit I am no expert on social networking, but it should be very clear that ANYTHING you post anywhere on the Internet can be accessed. And once it’s out there–it’s out there for GOOD. You can head off a lot of trouble, embarrassment and possible job loss by asking yourself this question before you post: “Is this something I’d like to see as the major story on national news?” Then post accordingly.

NOTE: I do realize that even innocuous emails, posts, etc. can be doctored by experts. In that case, you may choose from Column A or Column B; A) don’t dignify trumped-up trash with a response, or B) send out a post declaring that this did not come from you.

POLITICAL COMMON SENSE

Lesson one in the How to Be a Successful Politician handbook should be this:

If you are a public figure, do not lead a conga line in a strip club. Do not put a funny hat on and have your picture taken. Do not flip anyone off. Do not use your political pull to dodge a parking or speeding ticket. Do not swear. Do not have an affair unless you want EVERYONE to know about it. Do not strap your pet dog in his crate on top of your car. Do not lie. If caught in a lie, admit it. Do not promise what you cannot deliver. Do not evade questions. Do not have a comb-over; if you’re balding, then just go ahead and BE bald; you’re not fooling anyone. Do not wear shorts. Do not answer foolish questions about what type of underwear you prefer. Do not wear a baseball cap backwards (this is only cute if you are a freckle-faced little boy playing T-ball). Do not, under any circumstance, try to rap. Ever.

Get the idea? If you are a public figure, act like one. Also, accept the fact that your private life is NEVER private. As a public servant, you are expected to act like a responsible person in thought, word, and deed. People are watching and they are judging, right or wrong.

CELEBRITY COMMON SENSE

For the most part, this title in itself is an oxymoron. In a country where being a celebrity has become equal with royalty in other countries; celebs get away with things that would put most of us in jail. The entitlement attitude is just amazing. Any celebs reading this should remember one of the most poignant phrases in Ray Davies’ (The Kinks) song, “Celluloid Heroes:”

“And those who are successful/Be always on your guard. /Success walks hand-in-hand with Failure/Along Hollywood Boulevard.”

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING COMMON SENSE AND BAD THINGS TO DO WHILE DRIVING

Do. Not. Ever. Do. This. Ever. Anything that distracts you from paying full attention to what you’re doing while driving a car is dangerous.

In fact, here’s my take on why this is happening so much (beyond the current and constant need for instant gratification): our motor vehicles are becoming more and more like mobile recliners. You can talk while driving, watch TV while you’re driving, read while you’re driving, and more. You can have a camera mounted right on the back of your vehicle so you don’t have to be bothered by all that pesky turning-around-to-look-out-the-back-window to see if a toddler, dog, etc. is standing there. Now there are vehicles that warn you of danger with a vibrating drivers’ seat. This means that you are literally getting your information through your BUTT.

With a push of a button or a voice command, you can conduct business, buy and sell stocks, check to see if the kids got home safely or if Fido peed on the carpet again, and so on. Please don’t drive with ear buds crammed firmly into both ears. This is every bit as dangerous as texting while driving as you cannot pay full attention to the road or the sounds around you (like, say, an ambulance with the siren on full blast, racing to the hospital to save someone’s life).

It’s a seductive path, people. We get lulled into thinking that, ‘hey, I’m home in my comfy armchair, and I don’t really have to pay attention.’ This kind of convenience comes with a deadly price—complacency. When we get complacent, we get lazy. When we get lazy, we get careless. When we get careless in a moving vehicle, the odds are that sooner or later, we are going to have an accident. When we have an accident, we may end up severely injured with life-changing results, we may cause the injury or death of someone we love or don’t even know.

Cars used to have “features” that made you actually pay attention while driving. When you have to shift gears, roll the windows up and down manually, check your side and rear view mirror and so on, you are fully engaged. I realize that those days are long gone. But even so, couldn’t we all just be a little more careful and fully engaged while driving?

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Thankful-ness

Thanksgiving is a holiday unique to America, reminding us of our humble beginnings and the gratitude those who fled England must have felt in being free for the first time. It is a day of grace, thanks, abundance, and either being with or remembering family and friends.

But what I call “thankful-ness” is a 24/7, 365 day state of mind. I am thankful for so many things and I list them in my mind each day. Doing this keeps me focused on staying grateful even in the face of major and minor disasters.  This keeps me strong when I am fearful, and comforted when I am sad. I am well aware that all I hold dear can be taken from me in a second–but that’s no reason to let fear make me ungrateful.

This Thanksgiving, wherever we may be, whether with family and friends, traveling, away from home, at school, working, wherever we fetch up on that day–let’s keep grateful. Every breath we draw is a gift, every sight, sound, touch, smell, taste–all gifts. Whether we are eating turkey, Spam, tacos, tuna on rye, vegetable curry, chicken tenders, pizza, oatmeal, whatever–let’s keep grateful.

Being in gratitude is in itself a gift we give to ourselves. Personally, I feel that the more gratitude we feel and express, the more we have for which to be grateful.

Let’s remember to really look at those around us at the table–whether they are family, friends, total strangers, or no one at all–let’s keep grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wit and Wisdom From the Crankee Yankee

The Crankee Yankee is my husband. After years of being a finish carpenter and just about everything in the world to do with construction, he is retired, yet hard at work renovating our circa 1953 house. However, he is clever with much more that carpentry and construction. He is also a pretty funny guy.

How funny, you ask? Well, just consider this gem he came out with this morning: “A *good woman is like vinyl siding. It stays in place and looks good no matter what the weather.” And not only did he SAY that, but he said it to ME.

Now look, I’m no spring chicken, but I do know how to apply makeup well enough not to scare anyone, I dress appropriately for my age, plus I wear great jewelry–much of which I made myself. I know enough not to pick my nose in public, I am a professional at work, and I do my best to restrain my big old donkey laugh in public.

So, really–vinyl siding?! Sigh…I’ll be posting more later on from the one and only Crankee Yankee.

 

*His definition of a “good woman” implies that said woman is not high-maintenance; she neither asks for nor spends the tax money on diamonds, furs, sports cars, Botox and spa treatments.

My Mom is 82 Today

My amazing mother is 82 today.All through our years together, she has been my best friend, my confidant, my constant star. I know who I am because of her. She made sure that I knew that I am part of a long line of extraordinary women; strong, tough and independent . To this day, I can face any obstacle with the strength of all those women who came before me.

Mom married at 18 and had me when she was 19, and I always felt as if we grew up together. Mom claimed that she was still reading Dr. Spock as they wheeled her into the delivery room. Perhaps she didn’t feel that she was “officially” ready to be a mother, but what I remember is that she did just fine.

Mom always hugged and kissed me and told me how much she loved me. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without love because I was given so much.

She made a scrapbook of black and white photos that I cherish to this day–she had written captions for all the pictures of me that were both funny and dear. Every little milestone was captured, and she even kept my first tooth. The baby book she kept was like a little novel about me, and from the time I could read, I read it over and over again.

Mom taught me everything that a person should know in life. She taught me how to wash a wool sweater without shrinking or stretching it, how to clean any surface until it shone, how to thread a needle, how to polish furniture, how to bake and cook (I balked at that one, but I now love cooking!), how to pickle, how to make preserves, how to iron, how to mend clothes, how to write letters and thank-you notes, how to answer the phone properly, how to sit like a lady, how to pray in church, how to dress well (she always looked like a model–and still does), how to make change, write a check and balance a checkbook, wrap a gift, how to care for my skin and apply makeup artfully, how to speak well and how to graciously accept a compliment. She also taught me how to respect others and myself.

When I was in grade school, she worked during what is now called ‘mothers’ hours’ as the local newspaper office so that she could be home for me when I came home from school. We had tea and talked about our day. I could ask her anything about anything. She always made time for me.

During the summer, Mom would often give me 50 cents and ask me to run down to our local bakery, the Yum Yum Shop, and buy four glazed doughnuts for breakfast. We would sit in bed, eating them and laughing. Also, for four magic weeks, she made it possible for me to go to camp, where I had the time of my life. I made new friends, learned crafts, camped out, told ghost stories at night, sang camp songs, went hiking and swimming, cooked over a fire, fished and paddled canoes.  It was so much fun, but as much as I loved being there, I loved coming home.

How well I remember those summer nights when she and I would go to shows at the Rochester Music Theatre! We drove home in the warm night, singing all the songs from the show, laughing again at the characters and telling each other what we liked best. My dad was a successful photographer and often attended overnight workshops, leaving the two of us to our own devices. We would stock up on deli food, and giggle together at how naughty we were, not eating a “proper” dinner.

By the time I moved out of the house to go to college, I knew how to take care of myself and my belongings. I knew how to function without her, which was the point of all that training. She was unfailingly strong, purposeful, loving, kind, firm and direct. I always knew she told me the truth. More than that, she and I both knew that the training never ends.

I was in my sophomore year of college when I fell in love. I was so focused on what I was sure was the true love of my life that I put him first instead of my courses. I began to skip classes and notices were sent to my parents. It wasn’t easy for them to pay my tuition, and getting these notices were a slap in the face to their sacrifice. I was called on the carpet and told in no uncertain terms that they could no longer afford to pay for school if I was going to fool around and not take it seriously. If I wanted to graduate, they said, it would now be up to me to pay for it.

That was hard to hear, and I know now how hard it was for them to lay down the law. I pulled myself together, got a waitressing job during the semesters and also waitressed during the summer. I managed to pay for my last two years of school, and the day I graduated I was proud to have made it. My parents did not bail me out; they challenged me to succeed. I learned later how badly they felt and were so tempted to help me, but they  knew that I would not learn what I needed to without this lesson. I have thanked them over and over again for being strong. It was a lesson I have never forgotten. Each time a new challenge comes into my life I hark back on that and know that I can pull through.

Mom became interested in genealogy and, with a distant cousin, began working on our family history. Bear in mind that this was well before the computer age–all research was done in libraries, telephoning relatives, hunting through graveyards to copy information from headstones, and traveling often to Fredericton, New Brunswick to speak with relatives and record their stories. She organized a huge reunion of relatives, some of whom had no idea that they had so many relatives. We found that we had relatives as far away as Alaska, and got to meet them.

She worked painstakingly to put together a fine book that featured not only photographs, history and stories, but a beautifully rendered genealogical chart done in her own calligraphy (another interest of hers). She self-published it, and now many copies reside in the homes of relatives near and far. She devoted herself to this labor of love until she felt she could go no farther. This book inspires me to this day, and I want to quote the epilogue she wrote with such love and care here:

“How I wish I could write a book” my grandmother would sigh wistfully as she concluded an evening of recollections about her early life in New Brunswick.

In the dusk of summer evenings and in the lamplight that softened winter nights, Nannie rocked in her chair and re-lived her life aloud. I was her frequent listener – often a willing one – sometimes bored, but like all children, encouraging the diversion to postpone bedtime.

“Nannie’s stories” imprinted my childhood with second-hand memories of people, places and events. Nannie’s life became almost as real to me as my own.

Was I with them as children when she and her brother tethered little field mice to sticks and pretended they were their cattle? Was I berrying with them when the moose chased them? Did I cry when her only sister died? Did I touch the silken fabric of her garnet wedding dress? (It was patterned with tiny rosebuds.) Did I feel the homesickness as a young bride far away from home, and the sadness of the loss of m firstborn child? Did my bones ache with fatigue after long days of cleaning,  washing and cooking for a family and a crew of hired men? Was it my laughter or hers that pealed at the antics of a neighbor or the comical expressions of a relative? Whose joy at births…whose sorrow at deaths?

Who really wrote this book?”

I am way beyond my college years now, and I still need my mom’s perspective, her good opinion, and advice. She is the first person with whom I want to share any news. Hers is the laugh I love the best, and hers is the voice I need to hear. Dad always says that the sound he loves best is the two of us laughing together.

I could spend years recounting the endless acts of pure love and kindness she has shown me, as well as generosity and love beyond measure. I can’t begin to recount the many ways she has given me the oft-said roots and wings that helped me grow and fly.

I have howled at her jokes, her sayings and her take on life in general. She had a tough growing up and was strong because of it. It is said that we chose the parents we need before we are born; they may not be the easiest but they give us exactly what we need to learn. I know that I have chosen well.

 

The Best Holiday Gift – Imagination!

Not long ago, I was playing with my granddaughter, Ava, and she found my turkey baster. For the rest of that day, it became a microphone, a bug eradicator, a musical instrument, a giggle stick, a light saber and a magic wand. I don’t think that any toy on the market today could have tickled her as much as that stupid turkey baster did. We sang, we played and we presented all the princesses in the room: “Princess MAMA!” “Princess PAPA!” “Princess GRAMPY!” “Princess LULU!” “Princess UNCLE DAVID!” And of course, “Princess AVA!”

Her “coloring book” is a plain notebook of lined paper, and Ava wouldn’t have it any other way. Each page shows her artwork: colored lines, circles, dots, arrows, cats, stars, triangles, squares and so on. I would outline a shape, and Ava would name it, then color it. (Good girl–she draws OUTSIDE the lines, too!)

Ava remains loyal to a stuffed dolly with a plastic face named “Baby.” Ave keeps her covered with her special blankie, a dish towel, and takes her everywhere. She enjoys her giant-sized blocks, a yard sale ride-on tractor, and the usual Mickey Mouse clutter. Like her mother, she is fond of snappy shoes, such as her sparkly pink sneakers. Just recently, her dad made a tent out of a blanket stretched over a chair and a table, and Ava thought that was beyond wonderful.

At Christmas, her parents have her bring gifts to everyone in the room. I think she likes that even more than her own presents. At age two and a half, Ava is already enjoying her own imagination. Her parents encourage this and play along with it. Every waking moment is teachable, and her parents waste no time in feeding that clever and active little brain.

A child with an active imagination, who is encouraged to use that imagination, is a positive power in the world. We don’t know what Ava will decide to do in life, but we do know that whatever she chooses, she will do it with intelligence, joy, love and imagination. Look out, World!

 

 

Rules for *Women at Work

Like it or not, women are viewed differently than men at work. The fact is that men traditionally have worked outside the home for a much longer time than women have, and we are still catching up.

I’ve spent several years of my life in an office environment. I’ve had both male and female bosses, and have learned over the years what works in the work place and what doesn’t. Take the following for what it’s worth–these are things I’ve learned over the years and they may work for you.

‘Nice’ works. If you have the chance to be nice or kind or polite, do so. Never confuse being nice with being weak or giving up your edge.

  • Keep it professional. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you do have to work with them. If there is a conflict you can’t work out, and the usual channels fail, you will never regret keeping the situation professional.
  • Be willing to accept your options. If things or people or work assignments aren’t working for you or taking you to where you need to be, here are the options you have:
  1. Try for positive change.
  2. Live with it.
  3. Leave.

Like it or not, it generally comes down to these three choices.

  • Don’t play the girl card. If things don’t go your way in some situation at work, don’t get all girly about it. No crying, no pouting, no foot-stamping, no flouncing out of the office, no drama—please. Do this once and you can be sure that no one (male or female) will take you seriously again.
  • The sexual harassment card. Be extremely careful when it comes to any behavior toward you that can be interpreted as sexual harassment. I’ll just say that in my experience I have seen this go very badly for the women who have played this card. Even if you follow the company policies guide to the letter, it can still backfire on you. Even if you have documentation and witnesses to the behavior, it’s going to depend on who knows who, and how valuable the “who” is, male or female. If you do win, you’re a marked woman from then on, and you may be earmarked for what the Brits politely call “being made redundant” (laid off, fired, etc.) at a later time. It goes without saying that this isn’t fair at all, but it happens and you have to weigh your options (see options 1-3 above).
  • Leave the F-bombs at home. Swearing at work, especially if you’re female, doesn’t go over well. Oh, sure, men will laugh and say they love a gal who’s earthy, but in the main trash talk at work just makes you look (and sound), well–trashy.
  • Learn to read body language. Don’t you love people who waltz by your cube, see you sitting there working your hinder off and want to yak endlessly about their weekend, the latest episode of “All My Trials,” what their darling grandson did at the table, and so on? Really look at the people around you while they work. If someone is sitting tensely at the edge of their seat, eyes fixed on their computer screen, mumbling to themselves, and so on, these are signs that they are busy. Interrupting someone with trivial chatter who is obviously busy is worse than annoying; it’s unprofessional.
  • Keep the noise down. Unless you are fortunate enough to have your own office with a door, keep your own noise level down. Cube life is hard enough without having to share space with someone who talks to themselves, chews gum loudly, has loud phone conversations (or worse, has their speakerphone on), rustles and rattles and taps endlessly and so on. I once had a co-worker right beside me who regularly clipped his fingernails right after lunch—clip, clip, clip. I thought I would lose my mind.
  • Dress professionally. Depending on your office and whether or not you have a dress code, do your best to look professional. Understand this—no matter how good your work is, how intelligent you are or how many degrees you have, if you don’t dress the part of a professional, you don’t get taken seriously. Period. Dressing professionally tells those around you that you respect yourself, your job, your office community and your company. It is not in any way superficial; it’s called being professional.
    • Perception is everything. I know it isn’t fair, but how you are perceived at work really does matter. There’s an old saying: “If you walk down the street arm-in-arm with two clowns, people aren’t going to say ‘oh, look at that smart, cute, savvy gal walking with those two clowns!’ No, they’re going to say ‘look at those three clowns.’” If people at work continually see you yakking with the office gossip, hanging around the break room texting your buddies, taking 2-hour lunches and so on, trust me—you’ll have a rep as a slacker before the end of the day. It’s really common sense; when you’re at work, BE at work in mind, body and attitude. Assume that everything you say, do and have on your computer or say on your phone can be seen and heard by your managers. Keeping this in mind can keep you in a professional frame of mind. Remember that everything you use at work, right down to the pencils, belongs to the company. They have every right to monitor the use of their equipment. Play it safe and get in the habit of being professional from the moment you walk into work until the time you buckle your seatbelt to drive home.
    • Document your work. Once you complete any assignment, no matter how small, keep a running record. Keep track of all your work in this way: the title of the assignment, a brief description, when the assignment was issued, when you completed it, to whom you turned it in, and where it is located on your computer and also where it is published on the main company drive. Send your boss a monthly status to keep him/her apprised of what you’ve been doing. This keeps you and your work fresh in his/her mind.
    • Take the ‘snark’ out of your emails. It’s so tempting to email-blast someone at work who has sent you an email that hit you the wrong way. Do whatever you have to do to get the anger out; take a quick walk around the building, go get a cup of coffee, go sit in your car and scream; whatever it takes. Like a bad picture of you on the Internet, a snarky email can live on forever to haunt you. Resist the temptation to snap back. I once completed a lengthy project, placed it on our main work drive, and was asked by my project manager to shorten the page count. I crafted it down from 21 pages to 7. A co-worker who somehow got wind of this took a copy of my original 21-pager and got it down to 6 pages and triumphantly emailed the project manager and copied me on it. I sent them both an email thanking the co-worker for honing the file down by the one page. Don’t get me wrong—I was furious. But between the lines of my thank-you email reply read ‘I know what you did, you one-upper, and I am letting the project manager know that you butted into my business but I was gracious enough to thank you for the sake of the project.’
    • Say ‘thank you.’ If someone you work with does anything for you; hand you a paperclip or recovers a lost file, thank them. Don’t take their kind actions for granted; even if handing you a paperclip or recovering your lost file is part of their work description, thank them just the same. It costs you nothing and generates a lot of good will.
    • Smile and/or say something. I used to work with a woman who looked at though she had swallowed poison each day. Saying ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ gained you at best an icy stare and no reply, or she walked on as if you weren’t there. I’m sure she was terribly busy and had terribly important thoughts on her mind, but she sure stunk up the atmosphere. As busy or as important as you are or think you are, the day will come when you will need one of the people you’ve snubbed, and believe me—they won’t go out of their way to help you.
    • Keep an attitude of gratitude. Even in the worst job in the worst economy, keep your eyes firmly on all that is good in your job and in your life. I had a dear friend who was dying of incurable cancer who, when I called her, would say ‘any day this side of the grass is a good day.’ Keep looking for the good things and you will see them. I know it sounds simplistic, but when you send good out, good come back to you. The converse is true; bad out, bad in. Keep remembering the good things. Best of all, you’ll get in the habit of having an attitude of gratitude.

*Obviously, these same rules can apply to men at work as well; except of course for the ‘playing the girl card’ one.

Rise Above!

There are lots of things that make us worry and I’m sure I don’t need to name them here. If you draw breath, the chances are that you will at some time worry. There is an old saying – “Worrying is like preparing for the worst.” Worrying can literally make us ill, and turn us into someone we don’t recognize. It can be lethal.

So–what then do we do about it? First, take a deep breath. Then consider the possibilities: first, is this something you can actually DO something about? If yes, then do it. If no, then stop torturing yourself. I know, I know–easier said than done, but it CAN be done.

Decide on a method that works for you. Some decide that Tuesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 7: 20pm is the official Time to Worry. When 7:21pm rolls around, it’s over until next Tuesday night. Others swear by prayer, meditation, positive imagery, positive affirmations, and more. Pick what works for you–just pick something. Make THAT your focus, not the worry. Picture yourself rising above the worry.

I know someone who, when virtually crippled by worry, says out loud, “Enough! I am NOT going to worry about this any longer.” Each time the worry begins to creep back into her mind, she says it again–and again until the worry gives up and grumpily moves on.

If you can develop a strategy to keep your mind and heart clear, stick to it. Like any other habit, give it a good 30 days to cement it in your mind. Make a pact with yourself to ‘stay in the NOW,’ and let go of worries over situations about which you can do nothing.

I have spent what adds up to years of worry in my lifetime, and I mourn for all that time lost. Since there is less time ahead of me and more behind, I am fighting each day to keep worry out of my life. If you too are struggling with letting go of worry, please know that I am struggling right beside you. We can win, and it can be done. Rise above!