Monday, November 28, 2011

Life is Like a Scary Movie

I’ve been talking with a few different people lately noticing similarities between their lives and mine. Besides us all being cute and fun and adorable people (insert winky emoticon here), we have all dealt with or are dealing with fear.

Most of what we are afraid of is the unknown. I heard a saying many years back that said, “85% of what we fear, never comes true.” Yea, yea, there’s that 15% left, you say. But, most of us wouldn’t bank too much on odds of only 15%. Eighty-five is a much bigger number to think about.

What do we worry about? Jobs and financial stability or lack thereof is at the top of the list. Many people aren’t making ends meet. And that is among friends who have shared with me that they make 20k a year, 75k or even 100k. Everyone’s life and life style is different. I’m not judging anyone on what they make or how they spend their money. We all have different needs and wants.

Then, there’s the knowing that you’ll be moving out or going out on your own and then trying to survive on your one income. Whether you’re leaving your parents’ house for the first time or leaving a marriage, it’s all the same. That’s scary stuff. Do you get a new job? Add a part-time job to the mix? Get creative with your art or writing or jewelry making and sell that? What do you do? All those things take initiative. There’s that first step. That first step can be scary. Really scary. What if you fall? What if you fail? Are you worse off than when you started though? So much to think about.

And what about relationships? I know people who are afraid of being alone all their lives. They get their monies worth out of dating from, that’s for sure. Are we better off dating lots and lots of people every single week until we find that absolutely perfect match? Is there really such a thing as a perfect match? How do you know when something really good may be in your life but you question if there is still something better? Do you lose out on that good thing by going out and looking?

How do you know if you are settling? Are you settling if you meet someone who is pretty darned compatible though they may be so unlike anyone you’ve been with before? What if you find yourself in a comfortable relationship now but you’ve had so many relationships that haven’t worked out? How do you know this one will last? How do you know it won’t? Do you fear taking the next step with this person and going head on into something that could be really positive because of how your past has been? This person is different than what you’ve known. You are different. Life changes us. It changes all of us. That’s a scary thought right there. I always hope it changes us for the better though and doesn’t really taint us or tarnish us too badly.

What about the relationships that we get into and we are fearful of getting out of? Even the relationships that we know are just plain bad for us? The relationships with the people who take and take from us and don’t give back? The ones who actually physically or mentally or emotionally abuse us? The relationships with the ones who drink excessively or cheat over and over again? The ones who use us? We usually stay in those situations because it’s so familiar to us. Fear holds us there. Fear of leaving. Fear of change. I was in a bad relationship like that before. For way too long. Years too long. I know getting out of it was the best thing I could have ever done. There was a heaviness there that I didn’t even realize was there until I was away from it. A weight was lifted almost instantly when I was finally in my own place. I will never get into a situation like that again. I know that I broke that fear once I left. The leaving a bad situation will never be a problem for me. Actually just knowing what I learned from that will keep me from getting into the same situation (I sure as heck hope so).

So, how do we know what is good for us? How do we know when to be afraid? When is something bad going to happen? When is the creepy critter going to jump out and scare the crap out of us in life? We don’t know. Things happen all the time. Bad things happen often. Accidents happen. People get sick. People die. Relationships end. Jobs disappear. Bank accounts get sucked dry. But, you know what? Good things happen too.

Good things happen every day. I choose to find something good in my life every single day. Many things actually. Today, I woke up beside a beautiful woman. We saw one of the most amazing sunrises of our lives as we left for work. I walked the beach this evening. And there I saw an amazing evening sky. I talked with a friend on the phone who offered to give me free passes to ride the train to and from Boston if I’d like. I got a refund check from my car insurance company in the mail. I came home to my house lit up all Christmas-y. I have wonderful people in my life. I may not be rich, but I’m appreciative of what I do have and I feel very abundant.

There are no guarantees in life. Things can jump out of the bog and pull you under at any moment. Scary stuff happens all the time. You can either keep running down the center of the road knowing that the fearful thing is right behind you (don’t you always wonder why people do that in the movies? As loud as I yell at them, they keep doing it) or you can duck off to the side, grab a weapon and slam that fear in the face. You can keep your scary movie if you’d like, but I prefer my new adventure flick with a little romance and comedy mixed in there. And, a big bucket of popcorn on the side.


Monday, November 14, 2011

I Could Make Your Whatever Better

Okay, writing the blog about my job from hell the other day has had me thinking about what my ideal job would be (I like my current job okay, but it isn’t my ideal). I have two ideal jobs that I can think of. Writing is one. Creative writing to be more specific. Like doing this. How cool would it be to make a living writing blogs and novels all day?

My other idea has to do with my design side. I’m not even sure of the exact title of the position. It would have to do with making products better. Testing prototypes and giving feedback on them before they go out into manufacturing or more importantly, before they go into the real world.

I think of the old BASF commercials. “We don’t make the whatever. We make the whatever better.” I could make a lot of whatevers better. Seriously, how many products do you have in your home that kind of irk you when you use them? It could be something little about it, or it could be something big. Fact is, if it’s a pain to use, if it isn’t easy, safe or convenient, you’re apt to use it less. And you’ll probably curse it while you are using it. Which means, you are giving it a bad name (could be a REALLY bad name). And, perhaps you’ll choose not buy that brand again. And, you’ll tell all your friends about how bad it was. You may even post it on Facebook. That’s a big oops for companies.

A big thing to me in design is button placement. If you can’t figure out how to turn something on or off rather quickly, what’s the point? What if safety is an issue? What if the phone is ringing? What if my toddler is eating rocks or something? (Not that I have a toddler and not that mine ever ate rocks. Acorns maybe, but not rocks). How do I turn the darned thing off? I always wonder if someone actually tried the product or did it just get approved because it looked pretty on paper? Trust me, I’ve done those drawings in college (we called them renderings) of industrial widgets. A little shading and a few highlighting starbursts and, Shazam! Any product can look fantastic. I’m not saying things shouldn’t look pretty because they should. But good design shouldn’t compromise efficiency of use. I know, I know. Form before function for some people. I say both. (That’s also where us interior designers sometimes have problems with architects, but that’s another story).

When things are beautiful and they feel good in your hand, they are a pleasure to use. I think finding pleasure in the simple things in life could so improve our overall happiness. I have the most wonderful vegetable peeler ever (I know my Sweet-Smelling Girlfriend is getting tired of me raving about it, but I can’t help it). It’s stainless steel. Has CIA printed on it. It has a heft to it. It feels great to hold. It looks pretty. It works beautifully. It was well worth the $20 or so dollars it cost. Yes. Really. It cost that much. Most people balk at that. “A potato peeler should cost three to five dollars,” you say. Yes, but what if it slips in your hand and practically cuts your finger off? Or, if it’s so uncomfortable to hold that you get blisters after peeling enough potatoes for all your guests coming to your Thanksgiving meal that you can’t even enjoy your company? Or, if it breaks and you have to keep replacing it? You’ll be spending that amount before you know it. Should have bought mine.

Some items that could use major redesigns in my life (and this is just the tip of the iceberg; I feel I could redesign SO many things) are my alarm clocks, vacuum cleaner and iPad. Alarm clocks shouldn’t be so difficult to set. Or, to change the time with daylight savings time or whatever reason you need to change it. They should have a decent-sized snooze bar on them and the shutoff button shouldn’t be so accessible while trying to hit the snooze. The point is to have it wake you up and if you want to sleep an extra seven or nine minutes, great, but you shouldn’t be able to hit a button and zonk back out for hours if your only intention was to snooze a few more minutes.

My vacuum cleaner needs a better place to put your foot to make the handle bend backwards so it actually vacuums. Or, maybe it needs a hand-held trigger release? Something. And, there are so many attachments that they don’t all fit on it. And if they do, they pop off. Then, there’s the whole handheld part. Really? Really. Not. Good.

I believe that if more attention was paid to detail on how a product is used, it could be made so much better. There are so many situations and scenarios in which products are used. Many people who design things seem to think that everything will be used in an “ideal” setting. On some fantasy land. Or, in June Cleaver’s already perfect home. Yea. No. When is anything in your home ideal? These improvements could and would also be kept in mind for manufacturing. You can never not think about how it will be built and the costs involved. But, gosh, do you know how many more items a company could and would sell if they have a knock-out product?

Now, to the third one on my list…the iPad. The iPad is really an awesome piece of technology. Very few buttons (which I may reconsider the feel of those a bit); it has a touch screen…it’s great for the most part. My big exception with it is with the charger. The piece that has to be plugged into the unit is narrow. Hard for little or old fingers to hold and it is not at all intuitive on which direction it goes in. I’ve watched co-workers flip it around and around several times trying to get it in its socket. Add to that the complexity of having a thick foam protector case that we need to use in schools and it makes it even harder. Why did decent design stop? The plug was like an afterthought.

In design, nothing can be an afterthought. Good design incorporates all parts of the product. Good design is comfortable. Good design is functional. Very functional. Good design is beautiful.

So, if you make things at your company and you are looking for someone with an eye to make improvements, give me a call. I’ll take your whatevers and make your whatevers better.*

*Plus, I’m a lot of fun. And, I’m easy on the eyes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'll Choose Door Number Eleven, Please.

Today is a day of my favorite numbers. 11.11.11. Well, 7 is really my favorite number (maybe being born in July and all and having 7 letters in my first name), but eleven eleven has always caught my eye. I see it on clocks or on my cell phone. In printed material or on the side of the road. In my car. Since I always reset the trip odometer, I often see 111.1. Every time I see it, it speaks to me. It says, “Doors and portals are opening for you.” The you being me. (But, I’m sure if you see it, it would be for you, too). “Good things are ahead,” it also says.

I am thrilled to see even one 11 come up somewhere. So imagine today with it being three times (or five twice if you put the time of 11:11 in there!)? I usually set my alarm to wake up at 6:11 am. That time just feels right to me. Waking up to what seems like a daily encouragement message of possibilities can’t be a bad thing.

There are many things on the internet that explain the significance of the number 11 and I’m sure all those websites are being bombarded today. I happen to like Avia Venefica’s website… I’ve been checking her website for years since it describes the symbolism surrounding so many things like numbers, animals, Native American symbols, dream interpretations and so on. She even has symbolic tattoo information. Oh, hey, she talks about doorways too. It must be one of those universal, psychic love sort of things (which I’m totally into. That’s just another way to describe my fluffy bunnies and happy rainbows sort of world).

So, as Avia describes it, eleven is one doubled. One represents new beginnings and purity. And, eleven just doubles the vibration of that. How cool is it to think that every time the number eleven comes into our lives, it gives us the opportunity for new beginnings? Those are my portals. That’s where I’ve been able to manifest good into my life. No matter how much good we have, we can always have more (and show our gratitude for what we do have). And, when things aren’t quite right, it gives us hope that there is more out there. A new, clean start. We could all use one of those. Well, we may need many of those in our lifetime. Many many.

There is a blog link on that link above where Avia talks about the duality of the number eleven and finding balance in it. Balance is the word that my Sweet-Smelling Girlfriend uses to describe what she wants in life. I’ve always used the word harmony which, to me, incorporates balance. I guess it doesn’t matter what words you use to describe something, it’s just what it means to you personally that works. Same with numbers. Eleven eleven today could just mean Friday to some people. Could be world love and peace to (hopefully) many. Could be new beginnings and doors opening to others. Whatever it is to you, I hope it’s a good one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don’t Like Your Job? It’s Okay. You'll Probably Die at 9:00 am on Monday Anyway

We’ve all heard about the risks of heart disease. There are some that you can’t control: being male, being older (though that’s relative to me) and family history. Some factors you can control are: smoking, high “bad” cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, stress. And, other factors according to my new friend, Deepak Chopra, MD, are lack of self-happiness and job dissatisfaction.

Deepak says that in our culture, more people die at 9:00 am on Monday mornings than at another other time. Coincidence? We think not. We are the only species that distinguishes days of the week. The only ones who care about what time it is. The only ones who dread going back to work on Monday mornings.

Some of us can say our jobs are rewarding. Some of us can’t. Some of us can say that we don’t get paid nearly enough for what we do. Most of us can probably say that. Some of us have terrible coworkers. Some of us have coworkers who are great friends. Some of us are under constant pressure, stress and deadlines from the moment we walk in the door. Some of us have to take our work home.

Nothing like being able to work in jeans and sexy boots.

I know, personally, that I’ve had very few jobs that fit into the high job satisfaction category. The ones that do are the ones where I worked for myself. When I wasn’t micro-managed. Or, psycho-managed. Is that a real term? Gosh, I hope I just coined that. That is beyond true.

One of my worst jobs ever lasted 2-1/2 months. I was fairly fresh out of college. I was told that the executive assistant position would open up to design possibilities. The job that I really wanted back then. Heck, I was young. I figured I’d work for the owner of this company. Learn the ropes of this family-owned business. See what the other designers were doing and also learn from them. Then I could work my way into my desired role. What I found, though, was that it was the job from hell. That should actually be in all caps. THE JOB FROM HELL.

Have you ever ridden up or down in a tiny elevator with a woman who farted the entire way. Every time. Let me repeat that. Every. Time. It was as if the vertical movement released the gas in her body. It wasn’t silent and it certainly wasn’t without smell. I quickly learned to make an excuse as to why I needed to delay the torturous altitudinal departure with her. I was in awesome shape running the possible ten flights of stairs top to bottom to be able to catch up with her.

I was told we were too busy to eat while she stuffed Jenny Craig couscous meals into her mouth everyday and spit half of it out while yelling that at me. We were never that busy. I threatened to quit if I didn’t get lunch. I got a raise. And lunch.

I was asked to cut the tags off the mattresses. You know the ones that say, “Do not remove without penalty of law?” Yea. Those. I refused to do that too. She didn’t want the customers to be able to comparison shop. Messed up, huh? I said I’d quit if I had to do that. I got a raise. And, I never cut a single tag.

I was told not to help the people that came in if they didn’t look well-to-do. I was asked by nearly every customer to help me sneak them in so they could look at things without the owner knowing. I got a lot of thank you’s from them and I got to help them make design choices. The one day I didn’t help someone right away who looked like a grubby bum, I got yelled at. How did I know he was a premiere chef in the city? He looked like a grubby bum I told her. I did sell him a $900 crystal something. I got a raise. And, I never judged anyone after that.

I had to find phone numbers for the owner. Always last minute. Always in a foot high pile of torn corners with chicken scratch (read: totally illegible) on them. The owner would be screaming at me in a feverish pitch that she needed the number. NOW! I’d go ask the quiet women hiding in accounting for the number. When I suggested taking the pile of scraps and at least writing them in a book (the ones I could vaguely make out), I was told that her system worked fine. She actually screamed that. I told her I couldn’t work with her screaming at me when she needed a number. I got a raise. One day the pile “disappeared.”

I had to take memos. As any executive assistant should. But, did I mention that I had to stand across from her desk when I did? And, did I mention that she was an odd pear-shaped woman in her 60s? Who would wear Go-Go dancer-type, tight-knit dresses that were way too short? And, did I mention that she’d sit with her legs spread open? Without underwear? None. Nada. I thought my eyes were going to burn out of my head. That wasn’t even what a lady should look like down there. How I ended up being a lesbian after that experience, I’ll never know. I’d get screamed at to look at her while she was talking to me. I told her I didn’t deserve to be screamed at. I got a raise. And, I learned to hold my clipboard at just the right angle that kept my vision intact.

Did I mention that she was incontinent and peed on my office chair several times? And, on the furniture on display? Yea. Not good. Did I mention that I was the 13th executive assistant in 8 months? Did I mention that I got locked in The Silence of the Lambs basement? In the dark?

Her husband was a wonderful guy who obviously married her for her money. When he had his stroke, he was stuck there. He received OT and PT in his office. He’d have me drive him home when he got so tired he couldn’t keep his head off his desk. I’d load him up in their giant, white pimp Cadillac and get him comfortable on the couch. Then, I’d get a call from HER yelling at me to bring him back. I’d apologize to him and he’d understand and we’d drive back.

The best two weeks of that job were when she and her poor husband went to Florida. The two daughters, who owned 49% of the company, came in and we redid the five floors. Something that hadn’t been done in thirty plus years. I got to design. I got to create. My opinion was valued. Lunch was brought in for us every day. I got screamed at when the owned returned for letting them do that. I said they were better off and that sales would improve by bringing in new clientele. I was told that she was disappointed. That she wanted to give me her 51% of the business. Now she wasn’t sure. She was psycho. I quit. My pay had just about doubled but it wasn’t worth the stress or the tears everyday I shed when I got home.

So, no matter what job I’ve had since then, it just can’t be as bad as that. Maybe now I do have a screwed up vision of what a good job should entail? It has made every job since then seem like fluffy bunnies and rainbows. Even though my Monday mornings haven’t been perfect, at least they no longer entail illegal activity or scary wooha. How about you? Let’s talk Monday at 9:30 am. Maybe.

Please share your jobs from hell!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Touch. It Isn’t Just For Perverts Anymore

I’ve been listening to some wonderful tapes (yes, cassette tapes! I still have a player for them in my car too. Yay!) that belonged to the late father of a dear friend of mine. The series is called Magical Mind, Magical Body by Deepak Chopra, MD. Now I’ve heard of him in the past but besides seeing a quote here or there or a short article, I really couldn’t tell you much about him. But, I’ve been totally blown away by what I’ve been hearing and maybe I’ll write more blogs based on what he talks about, but today I want to talk about one of my favorite things that he was talking about. Touch. Not touch in any inappropriate sense (I just came up with the title as an eye-catcher), but caring, loving touch.

I don’t remember growing up in a very touchy, physical home. My memories of childhood were good, but I can’t say that I was hugged a lot. That kind of closeness didn’t start until my sister married into an Italian family. Gosh, everyone was all over everyone like it was so normal. I felt so at home. It freed a part of me. It seemed like it was all just very friendly and loving (there are skeletons in that closet where touch turned to abuse, but that’s for another story another day). Actually, based on what I just put in parathenses, why isn’t there a happy medium for touch? What would a happy medium be?

Lovers in Naples, Italy

Let me define touch. When I talk about it, I mean reaching out and putting a hand on someone’s arm or hand or shoulder or leg during conversation. I mean giving hugs. I mean wrapping an arm around someone when standing or walking with them…and pulling them in towards you during a happy or funny moment. I mean holding hands with my kids or with my Sweet-Smelling Girlfriend. Or, walking arm in arm with a good friend. If it’s a partner, touch is the gentle brushing up against one another during the day while doing even mundane things. It’s a reminder of the love you have for one another.

I have found that so many people are so sensitive to touch. Sensitive in that they don’t know what to do with it. Like it’s so foreign. New Englanders in particular seem to have a distance at which they are and aren’t comfortable with people. Put your arms at full length out to your sides and that’s their personal space. I’m kind of the person that ignores that invisible barrier. I’m not sure if I intentionally do it on a subconscious level or if it’s just me and my thinking that everyone will like it. Don’t forget, when you’re around me, you’ve entered into my fluffy bunnies and happy rainbow world. We touch in my world.

Drawing practice in a college art class.

Humans are sensitive to touch on a physiological level according to Deepak Chopra. Listen to these facts: Your skin is your largest organ. It weighs an average of six to ten pounds. Touch is ten times stronger when communicating than words alone. Premature babies have been found to benefit from touch. They grow and develop faster with it. People recovering from surgeries have been found to also recover faster with touch. If it’s such a powerful healing tool, why are so many people afraid of it?

Touch can bring to mind creepy pedophiles and inappropriate relatives or people from our childhoods that we have in our closets. Maybe if touch wasn’t so taboo, that it was just normal, maybe people wouldn’t have these weird sicknesses involved in needing it so badly and giving it a bad name?

I’m a touchy feely person. I admit it. I come out and tell most people that. That is if they haven’t figured it out in the first hour of knowing me. I’ve been told by many people that I’m too touchy. My Sweet-Smelling Girlfriend’s youngest son called me Touchy Wouchy (however you spell that…it just rhymes). I was once told I was almost creepy in my hugs (what’s a hug if you don’t put some feeling into it?). My ex told me that I’d be perfectly comfortable sitting on her lap with my hands in her pockets eating out of her cereal bowl. Yep. And the problem there is???

Deepak says touch can improve our buoyancy. I like that description in life. Who doesn’t want to be buoyant? I think that it is a way of connecting. Of showing how much I care. If you compare my touching with others’, I must obviously care a LOT. It’s just who I am. I don’t mean to smother those around me with touch. I don’t ever want to make it a bad thing. I guess I’m just hoping that people will see it as the wonderful thing that it is and that they’ll start touching more. I’m just spreading my love. One touch at a time.
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