Posted in Education

Between Desired and Retired

an animated clock
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How to manage the productive years.  No matter where you’ve started from, there’s a way to achieve satisfaction!

It starts out when we’re young impressionable teenagers.  You know the story.  Suzie is determined to graduate at the top of her class so she does the extra credit, Joe joins the debate team, and Pat is elected to be school paper editor.  Then on the flip side, there’s the group that just wants to “make it through” to graduation day and be done with school.

While some have their eye on a ball (even if they’re not sure what game they are playing), others are going through the motions because that’s what they believe they’re supposed to do.  Either way, my point  is that your present and your future is a choice!  Your choice.

So you just walked across the stage dressed in cap and gown.  The late nights cramming your brain full of mind-numbing details, reciting, preparing, eating junk food and drinking lots of coffee to prove that you can produce a cogent theory for your professors and in front of your peers is over!  Right?  Wrong…you just got out of training camp!  The real work begins now.  With at least four years of practice under your belt you should be a pro at selling your ideas…now you just have to sell yourself.

Don’t treat the interview process like a newby trying out for a school musical–butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, fear of losing your thoughts.  Remember, you’ve crafted yourself into a talented and capable contributor to a field or specialty of some sort.  Before you go in for an interview, remember what made you desire that particular specialty.  What was it that kept your interest or drove you to keep trying to better understand during your academic career?  Is there some aspect that you feel you are especially good at, that peers and professors alike commented on about your thinking, work, ethic, persistence?  These are points you want to make apparent during the question/answer session of your interview.

If you already have had several jobs, what is it about the combination of experience that makes you an especially good candidate for employment?  Is it people, is it processes?  Maybe you’ve developed a knack for articulation or presentation?  Think about all of these things days before your interview so you can piece together the story that  makes you a must hire.  Sell a story that show’s you are relevant, valuable and a perfect fit for the organization you desire to be employed by.  Do your homework and figure out what you think their organization’s greatest assets are, and what their least valuable aspects may be.  (The latter must be tactfully/tastefully backed up with facts and articulated in such a way that the interviewers are left with no choice but to agree–most importantly, how adding you to their team will improve their weaknesses, create efficiencies and enhance their assets.)

Once you become part of a team that best fits with your principles and ideals–a job that you enjoy waking up every day and going to, make sure that you remind yourself of why you asked for and accepted the position.  Ask yourself, have I delivered on my sales pitch?  If not, have you taken all the necessary steps to achieve your objectives?  Perhaps you need to be a little higher on the ladder to make the changes it would take to make your company more competitive–to possess a larger market share.

Perhaps becoming your own boss is a more attractive option to you.  Another article I’ll be writing soon is related to the number of women I see starting new businesses.  Entrepreneurship can be a rewarding  endeavor if you have done your homework and have a plan for a healthy work-life balance.

If you find yourself at the end of a career, is there a way you can use your talents and experiences to strengthen the younger generation?  Social and Community Service organizations, Chamber of Commerce, Libraries, Schools and Universities are great places to share your insights.  Meetups are great places to find others with similar interests.

Our society has some changes to evolve through before we get comfortable with the fact that people are simply living longer.  The legal retirement age in the United States is 67 years of age if you were born in 1960 or later, (read here for more details about retirement) 65 if you were born in 1937 or earlier.  If you’re like me…I don’t think I ever want to “retire.”  Retirement to me is living life only for myself because I can no longer use my strength, energy, and imagination to be a contributing member of society.  There will be periods of time where I take a sabbatical from the daily grind of a 9 to 5, but generally speaking, I must put my capabilities to good use.

You do not have to be stuck in a “go nowhere” job.  If you come from an environment that was not encouraging of obtaining higher education, its never too late to go back to school.  Don’t believe me?  Just read about Kansas’ own  Nola Ochs who graduated college at age 95.  If you graduated college in a particular field but can’t find a job…MOVE!  I am a firm believer in the fact that all roads lead to another, and, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Do not give up!  Best of luck to all who are searching for jobs.

Posted in Education, Relationships

Don’t Wait For A Crisis

Nissan Paramedic.
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There are simply some things in life you MUST plan for in advance in order to emotionally transition through the changes with as little stress as possible!  Putting off the inevitable only makes endurance more difficult and draws unprepared bystanders and loved ones into your crisis.

If you have teenagers or elderly parents and have been dealing with some of the medical, logistical, and financial consequences of existing you know what I’m talking about.  For the sake of those who are not yet in a state of crisis, lets review some decisions that we should all think about and prepare for LONG BEFORE the moment of need arises:

  • Financing for children’s college
    • Are you banking on scholarships, work-study, financing?
  • Family vacations (this is a necessity for sanity’s sake)
    • You must budget for get-aways so you don’t fall into credit card debt
  • Retirement lifestyle and location
    • Will you live a sedentary or active lifestyle when you retire? Where do you want to retire?
  • How to cope with loss
    • Loss doesn’t have to wait until you’re old…it happens at all ages–plan for all possible scenarios
  • Organ donation
    • Whatever your decision, discuss it with your family and document it in a living will
  • Medical decisions in emergency/life response situations
    • Who will be your advocate?  Do you want to be on life support or let nature take its course?
  • Long Term medical care arrangements
    • Especially important discussion if you have Alzheimer, Dementia, Heart or organ failure in your genes
  • Senior living/assisted living transition plans
    • If both husband/wife still alive and needing different levels of care will you be in the same facility?
  • Last Will and Testament
    • Make sure this document is prepared, notarized and the family is informed the document exists
  • End of life arrangements (burial place/cremation)
    • This decision is one you should make, discuss your desires with your spouse and document

Dealing with family communication complexities in a moment of medical or financial crisis can be just as tricky as negotiating a dispute between waring nations.   Don’t wait until your father or father in-law falls and breaks a bone to decide “how” and “who” will deal with the logistics of the situation and how to communicate what’s happening and what needs must be met to the remainder of the family.

If you use my list above and then ask questions about each major bullet.  For instance:  As you  watch the news and a story falls into the category “Medical decisions in emergency/life response situations”  ask yourself:  “How would I or my family deal with this exact scenario.  What consequences would I be forced to deal with?  Here are some factors that you must consider:

  • Will dealing with this crisis require time away from my job?
  • Will another person become completely dependent upon me for basic life skills (eating, hygiene, transportation, medicines, legal)
  • If I have my plans made out but am unable to execute them due to impairment (coma, paralysis, etc) who will administer my documented plan of action that I trust to follow it to the letter?
  • How will this impact your family financially ~ are you prepared to deal with it–what are your options?
  • Who will be the communicator in a crisis (spouse, co-worker, child, sibling, friend?)
  • Who will help you in your recovery?

One person cannot shoulder the burden alone for trying to understand how best to deal with such delicate situations.  You have even less creativity, imagination, and time to cope when a crisis hits.  Make sure you take some time to consider these thoughts and then ask yourself–“Am I prepared?”

Posted in Education, SocialMedia

Japan ~ Questions about Handling of the Disaster

Flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency...
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For the sake of propriety, shouldn’t there be a provision in the IAEA Charter that shifts responsibility to a deputy or non-involved board member  for investigation, response and recovery task management if an incident occurs in the current Director General‘s country?

Screen Capture from Wikipedia IAEA Page
Screen Capture from Wikipedia IAEA Page

The current Director General, Yukiya Amano is a graduate of the  Tokyo University Faculty of Law.  He has a very impressive history!  After a 30 year academic career, he joined the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  His nuclear resume began in 1993 as the Director, Nuclear Energy Division, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  While he does have extensive nuclear expertise, this is a problem in his home country.

News agencies have all questioned the propriety of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPKO) being “in charge” of trying to resolve this crisis at Fukushima I.  What are the rules?  Who has the authority to make these decisions?  You can read more in the FAQ and publications page on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) site.  According to the Wikipedia data page, Fukushima Dai-ichi is one of the 15 largest nuclear power stations in the world using six light water reactors which produced an impressive 4.7 GW until the tragic 8.9 earthquake and catastrophic Tsunami on 11 March 2011.  You can read more details about the plant, its genesis and construction at Wikipedia’s Fukushima I’s Nuclear Power Plant page.

Even if a country is “unprepared” for an earthquake / tsunami combo of this magnitude as Japan has finally admitted, are there not standard processes/procedures/checklists that should be executed without delay upon the first warning/notification of a potential threat to nuclear power stations?  Experts should be on site monitoring and sharing weather, seismic, communications, health and radiation data as soon as an incident is reported.  This information should be rapidly shared across all public communications platforms with appropriate measures/precautions to be taken by health and human services organizations, hospitals, emergency services, individuals and authorities in government.

Luckily we have a population of empowered people that break through the silence in many situations…using social media.  Like in past tragedies, you will find the fastest, easiest to use communications tools are the first to be used.

Communications Enablers

  • Google quickly established a “Google People Finder” to assist family and friends find loved ones.
  • Users rapidly swarmed around the micro-blogging power of Twitter to bring data updates across the globe.
  • Experts and individuals alike aggregated information to capture the events of the disaster on Wikipedia.

Social media will continue to rise to the top as THE solution for rapid communications with the growing popularity of wireless/mobile devices.

In a crisis such as this one and others like Haiti, and Katrina, time is the most precious resource in aiding successful rescue and recovery operations.  If all involved with each incident had a place (perhaps a Wiki on the IAEA web page) to report “What went wrong!”  and  “What went right!” with these events, we could better facilitate preventative measures and more rapid responses in future disasters.  Where is that repository of data?  Who has it?  Who is sharing it?

The after actions  aspects of disaster management must have our global focus to help shape and improve policies and procedures.  Focusing a bit on the second and third order effects of a disaster would also help us better understand the cost consequences (global economies/stock markets/currency values, food supplies, trade impacts) locally and globally.

My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to all the peoples of Japan who have lost loved ones, possessions, property, and jobs as a result of this disaster.  My hope is that solutions are swift for Fukushima Dai-ichi challenges, and that fundraising levels will increase to help meet the needs of those without power, food, shelter, and transportation.  May you be comforted in your grief, and your losses restored.

Posted in Education, Relationships

Got Man Points?

A man and a woman
Image via Wikipedia

This message brought to you as a result of my daughter asking, “Is there such a thing as “Woman Points?”

     One really can’t answer that question without first asking “What is the thing about “Man Points?” As much pitting against the genders as there is coming from both sides, I wouldn’t be surprised whatever the answer was of who started this ridiculousness in the first place.

But it does beg the following questions:

Who came up with the rules?
What are man points (or woman points?)
How do you gain or lose points?
Are there differences based on culture/geography?
Are there certain times where the rules and conditions are suspended/ignored?
Who’s keeping count anyway–is there an invisible point balance following men around?
How do you assess who has how many?

      Anyway, I took a stab at what I could intuit would be cause for gain or loss of man points.  This intuition/recollection of course being the result of a couple of decades mixing with other adult males and listening/observing comments and criticisms made by men about other men:

Gain Points                                                    Lose Points

Hunt or own a gun                              Cook better than a woman
Follow or play sports                           Like or do any crafts 
Fix your own automobile                     Still live with your mother
Go to bars & check out women           Comment on a woman’s clothes
Drive a truck                                        Focus on clothes color matching
Scratch yourself or spit publicly           Clip coupons/go “sale” shopping
Open doors for women                        Clean up after yourself
If you don’t fuss over your looks        Spend >5 minutes on appearance
Responsible but socially clueless        Squeamish or too picky

     I did some Google searching and found out there’s even an iPhone “app for that!” The sad thing is it that it is a “tracking application” for keeping count of how many good deeds you’ve done for your significant other–pretty pathetic if you ask me.  It even will produce a report for you on your “ManPoints Statement” so your good deeds don’t go unrecognized.  What!!!!  Not only are you not man enough to do “WHATEVER” is your responsibility to share around the house or parenting, it sounds like you need to schedule yourself for a chest implant to pin your points on!!??!!

Here’s another stab someone took at defining what a real man is: in an article titled, “Top 10:  Traits of a Real Man.”

     My thought is that we lose opportunities to learn and grow as individuals when we prejudge others based upon differences in how our gender is expressed through appearance, verbal patterns, culture or gestures.  Sometimes it is difficult to become accustomed to extremes or unique expressions, but underneath it all…we all share the same basic human needs/desires!  If you make the personal/physical investment in time to commit your life to another human being (especially if kids come into play) then you owe it to each other to share all responsibilities equally to the greatest extent possible. 

     Twenty years ago, there was a difference between women’s work and men’s work due to societal ignorance and stereotypes but with the advent of the industrial revolution, and companies like Craftsman and Black & Decker (and others), there’s nothing stopping either gender from accomplishing great things indepently of each other or as a team.  Also, any male with a mind and a heart in the right place can learn to nurture and care for children and hearth with as much devotion and commitment as any woman.

Ladies please, give us some honest feedback concerning this topic!

Posted in Education, Relationships, Writing

Public Libraries ~ A Trove of Bargains

Steacie Science and Engineering Library at Yor...
Image via Wikipedia

If you’re a parent, student, or looking to increase your own collection of books, you may find your next treasure at your local public library.

In addition to adding new publications upon request, many public libraries operate their own book store.  Sump Memorial Library in Papillion, Nebraska have a small book store with donated and older editions of books that have been taken off the shelf to make room for new titles.

Great Bargains at your local public library!
Great Deals at Sump Memorial Library in Papillion Nebraska

My wife takes our children to a weekly writing and reading group hosted at Sump.  While the children are attending their classes, she takes time to browse the latest additions in the book store.  Today, she brought home two complete sets of encyclopedias.  1) Encyclopedia of World Geography (24 Vol set), published by Marshall Cavendish Corporation in 1994, the 2008 edition sells for $714;  2)  Encyclopedia of the Nations (5 Vol set) published by Thomson Gale in 2007 sells at Amazon new for $663; as well as The History of Art for Young People (5th Edition), which sold new for $104.

She bought all 30 hardbound publications for an awesome $7.50…that’s right–I said seven dollars and fifty cents~with no shipping, and no waiting!  The best thing is, the History of Art is still “History” no matter how long after publishing the book–the information is still relevant–there’s only been more history added after the ink dried.  You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to supplement what the public school system uses to teach your children.  These books make great family activity distractions when there’s nothing to watch on television.  The articles and pictures are great fodder for creative writing projects and the best part–you’re not breaking the bank!

Your public libraries are a great resource if you are looking for ways to bring activity options to your family.  For some families, the library is their only access to computers, after-school activities for children, and a place to take practice ACT or SAT exams.  I challenge everyone to reach out and support their local libraries.

Posted in Relationships, Writing

Humanity, Our Common Threads-Shame Upon Us

Shirley Roper-Phelps, a prominent member of th...
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What we share is stronger than that which divides ~ We Are One!

My whole life I have felt a great passion for the underdog…those who are easily misunderstood, taken advantage of, or dismissed because of their appearance, color, status, faith, or circumstance.  I have heard firsthand the reports of a holocaust survivor when she addressed a group of patient listeners.  At the age of 76 she is touring the globe to share her story so that others may help join the attitude and practice of tolerance.  Greg Mortenson is another example of someone who spreads the message of encouragement in his book Three Cups of Tea.

I am enthused and my spirit joins in celebration for those in the Middle East who fight for freedoms and basic human rights.  Just like in the animated movie Bugs Life, there’s a growing awareness among people all over that if they unite, no monstrous dictator can keep them oppressed.  There’s great power in numbers of a people united.

In this great country, on this forgiving planet, we have too much to lose, and everything to gain in finding unity between and freedom for all peoples.  Let us not allow differences of ideas, feelings, interests, location, stature, wealth, circumstance or the color of our skin, to turn us into creatures of destruction!  We all, if given opportunity and encouragement, are creators.  My wish for all who read this is courage to take risks, and determination to overcome obstacles.

Just yesterday I heard  an upsetting story on NPR about hate speech laws and how they differ between countries.  I believe it is possible to protect our rights of freedom of expression without verbally abusing another human being to degrade another human life.  It saddens me deeply to see images of protestors carrying signs “expressing their views” at the expense of others. Some of you may have seen the cover story on CNN’s website yesterday with pictures of the Westboro Baptist Church protestors.

Criticize ideas, ask questions about the motivation of others…but carrying a sign on national television asking for people to “pray for more dead soldiers” is a cowardly insidious evil that we currently allow.   The person carrying that sign would feel quite differently if they were a citizen of another country under the rule of a dictator.  If your freedom of expression causes deep shame within others to be part of your race–perhaps, just maybe…the world would be a better place if you had patience for yourself and chose to shelve your expression.  When you meet the people you scorn and criticize, take the time to get to know them from the single hat we all wear (humanity), you’ll find that there’s little difference between us.