Living through an American Recession

Dealing with never ending life changes. Who says making lemonade is the best thing to do with those lemons life throws at you?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Curing trauma drama

"Good lord, get over it." I said to myself with a laugh about a complaining friend. As I uttered those words it was as though someone had held up a mirror in front of me.

"Huh..." Okay, so I ramble about old shit too, probably more than I realize.

Some of us go over old situations in our heads a zillion times getting us caught up in a ground hog day effect per say. Why? It surely won't change the outcome but it will change how we view our world today. Playing that record over and over again in our minds trying to figure out at what point it all went wrong and what we could have done differently. Then we project it into the future onto people we haven't even met yet.

I have been presented with yet another friend this year that bitches, moans and goes over negative scenarios a hundred times like they happened yesterday. Charged with the same emotional state, it's like cutting open an old wound and reliving the trauma.

Trauma Drama!.....

A natural function of our brain is to rationalize what it experiences through senses, categorizing every smell, assigning a memory to it and filing it away. Next time we smell apples that memory is brought up. But what happens when our brains experience a traumatic event? How does it rationalize what it experienced? Unless there a tangible method to analyze the data, it can't. Kinda like Robot from Lost in Space. "Does not compute." Then, like a computer we go over it and over it and over it struggling to make sense of it.

When you throw a ball up into the air and it lands on your head, it's not difficult to theorize why it happened, learn from it and move on. But when situations happen where one is the victim of someone else's  rage, negligence or harm it's impossible to test theories to find out what went wrong. Like opinions about rape victims from the way they were dressed to leading them on, yadda yadda. Just ways for the brain to rationalize a traumatic event. Shameful I know. Just ask any rape victim how many times they go over the situation in their minds trying to make sense of it?

 This is where religious people claim faith using a god, universe or purpose for some event that the brain can't rationalize.

Unless everyone sits down and goes through psychotherapy, the purpose of an event may never be known. There is no way of  knowing what's going on in someone else's mind, they may not even know why they did something. Mistakes, accidents, random events happen all the time.

I've created a miscellaneous folder in my brains filing system called "HUH..." filled with events that make no sense whatsoever. I contains sub-files like:

"Couldn't have done it any different"
"Limited technology"
"Well find out when we die"

In the mean time people do and say stupid shit, and I am people too. I'm sure there's a guy out there somewhere banging his head on the wall wondering what happened to us and where it went wrong. Sorry man....I don't even know.

I remind myself often something my dad told me when I was young. If there's something you can do about it, do it, if not let it go.

Don't get caught up in the trauma drama.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homeless system

Our society frowns heavily on homeless people. "Bums, drugs addicts, alcoholics, dumb people who can't manage money, con-artists or lazy." Homeless shelters, community programs, friends and family will just help you get back into the system. But what if you don't want to be part of the system?

Gone are the days of traveling west, finding a homestead and building a life for you and your family. Farming, owning a retail store, fixing things. Every  inch of our country is either privately owned or owned by a government agency. It's not illegal to be homeless, as long as you keep moving. If you stop on private property you are a vagrant who is either squatting, trespassing or loitering.

I once watched a group of homeless people sit in a park who chose to be homeless. They "didn't want to be part of a broken system."

"But you're wearing commercially made clothing paid for by someone else, using a commercially made toothbrush paid for by someone else, using commercially made toilet paper also paid for by someone else and eating food made and paid for by someone else." I said. "How is that NOT being part of the system?"

Choosing to live out of the system requires intelligence and resourcefulness. Living alone or in pairs, understanding sanitation and cleanliness, making money and buying your own food, clothing and necessities. Living that lifestyle because of life events is another story.

I've seen and experienced people going from relationship to relationship, family member to family member utilizing their kindness until the welcome wears out. The family members still have to pay for shelter, food and comforts. One can't "mooch" off those who are "in" the system, find those you can join that are not "in" the system.

Living in monasteries, work in exchange for room and board situations or finding a remote location are about it. If you're quiet, clean and don't start too many fires it can be done in smaller towns. Our system has been set up so no one gets out. While no one can force you to get a job, pay rent or buy their crap laws have been set up to make living homeless in the open almost impossible.

The only way to not be part of any system is to be dead and even then your ashes are now part of the earth or your body is taking up space in the ground someone had to pay for. Getting into the system to get out of the system is another way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Has Reality TV gone too far?

This year I did a bit of traveling abroad. While I was excited to meet some foreign co-workers, they were not so excited to meet me. They seemed to figure that I liked country and rap music, drove a fancy car and was wild and crazy.


Our satellite TV picked up American channels, hearing "Fucking Americans" scoffed from more people than I would like to admit while scrolling through shows. I laughed and said, "Surely you don't think Americans are like that?" To my dismay, they do!

I soon got over the anger and defensiveness of being categorized by some over-acted, stupidity of a TV show as "America". Hell, last time I wasted my time on reality TV was the first season of Survivor (which was fantastic). I've got my own reality to deal with let alone watch some wealthy housewife deal with her problems. Her lip surgery and my rent payment don't compare, nothing to learn there.

"NO, we are NOT like Snooki, crazy rich housewives or this Honey Boo Boo everyone has made a joke of. Once I stepped off American soil I realized how tarnished we are with this crap. Being in America we just change the channel and choose not to engage in such stupidity, but what happens when we leave? Our choice becomes hard work to prove we are not all stupid, wealthy or drunk.

Every culture on the planet has it's "village idiot" who has been made a mockery of for entertainment purposes for centuries, nothing new. But in our technological era, the planet is now watching our village idiot. Throw in a few commercials for pharmaceuticals, weight loss, lawyers and shopping and we've become inbred, ill, overweight, pharmaceutical Guinea pigs and consumers ready to sue the shit out of you.

In the mean time our real hero's who work hard everyday saving lives, raising children with two jobs, caring for elderly, feeding the homeless and just being an America we seem to be so proud of never gets a minute of time. What are we proud of? That idiots like Snooki and Honey Boo Boo become millionaires on TV for being morons while we work our butts off?

Most of Oprah Winfrey's success was showing the reality of human survival. She gave millions of people hope that we can make it, dreams do come true and hard work does pay off! She motivated and connected millions worldwide. Good positive TV DOES work, she proved it.

TLC was once "The Learning Channel". There is NOTHING to learn from idiotic shows like Honey Boo Boo. When we look backwards watching such primitive behavior it sidetracks us from thinking forward watching intelligent people that can inspire us to do new and amazing things. Role models were named to keep us looking forward and striving for a better world. 

Next time you travel abroad, be warned. These people have seen shit you may have never given the time of day to turn on. Last time I checked Americans were pretty great people, at least the ones I know and we should be able to travel without being scoffed at or feel in danger because of stupid crap on TV.

Take the time to offer your feedback to the networks airing these ridiculous shows ruining our reputation and show a real America. We are quick to tweet and facebook every opinion we have, make one opinion count.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The truth about change

The truth about change? You wanna know the truth about change? Well, it sucks sometimes. No, most of the time. it's in the ashtray of the car, under the couch cushions, rattling the the car cup holders, laying on the street or weighing down my purse. I find it in the bottom of grocery bags, on the floor, mixed with my jewelry, in pockets of my clothes. The shit is everywhere. And no mater how hard we try, the cash register always rings up $3.89! WTH! "No, I don't feel like rummaging through the bottom of my purse for 89 cents just to piss off the people behind me. But if I don't, I GET MORE CHANGE!

Change just needs to go away....

Change is everywhere. In every country, every social class, I've even seen my dog eat pennies. There is no escaping change. So how can we make change work for us?

I started with a change jar. Ok, a big'ol beer pitcher...shut up, it works...This was my way of acknowledging change existed and was not going to go away. I put all my change in it. I cleaned out my car, my cup holders, my jewelry boxes, the sofa, my purse and anywhere else the shit was hiding. I then gave it all a ride to the change booth. A magical place that transforms it all into usable paper for which I buy stuff. Stuff I need, and a maybe some stuff I don't. The point is, the change is gone. For the moment...

1. Change exists
2. Change will never go away.
3. The sooner you understand #2 and #1 the sooner you will recognize the it and know where to put it.
4. Change will always exchange for something. Good. Bad. It's up to you.

I refuse to be a victim of change, it will not piss me off anymore. When I see change I know where to put it. Use it now or save it for another day when I will know what to do with it. I've even learned to see it coming and prepare for it.

Change....You little bugger...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A sense of Entitlement

Legality aside in general, the word entitlement refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit. A "sense of entitlement" as it is commonly used.

As I watch the restaurant I work in close, a select few seem to exude this sense of entitlement, rationalizing and satisfying it by stealing. I have become a babysitter slapping hands as they try to fill their pockets with money, booze, equipment, and food, countered with resentment and lost friendships.

I'm not sure why this generation is so jaded and shocked by my lack of a sense of entitlement.  Perhaps it was that the previous generation was so graciously rewarded with company paid college, retirement, paid vacations and a sense of job security, travel and comforts?

As a  Gen Xer I certainly understand this feeling. My father was a WW11 veteran of the Air Force, received and engineering degree from UC Berkley paid for by a company that he retired from. As a senior he collected disability from the military, retirement and interest on savings. He never understood my struggle to attain loans for college, work entry level jobs with no sense of job security.

"Hard work, loyalty and commitment pays off." He said
"When? We are expendable." I replied.
Perhaps the sense of entitlement was always there, they just got what they wanted.They fought for equal pay, unions, safe work environments and labor laws.

So where does that rational to steal come into this picture?

If Mr. Jones across the street says

"Hey kid, I'll give you $20 if you mow my lawn every week."

You agree and continue to mow for 6 years. One day  Mr. Jones puts up a sign in his yard  advertising the house for sale. The house sells. Are you then entitled to go into Mr. Jones' garage and take his things because you feel a sense of entitlement? His things are still his personal property on his private property. There is no entitlement. You may be entitled to unemployment, earned sick time or unpaid vacation if that was part of your contract for employment but you are certainly NOT entitle to steal Mr. Jones' belongings.

Rebel without a cause

What is a rebel without a cause? Wouldn't the thing that caused the person to rebel be the cause? Perhaps this person is just doing his thing.

It always bothered me when people called me a rebel. Looking up the words actual meaning to see if I actually qualify as a rebel, it states:

A rebel is a person who participates in a rebellion.
A rebellion is a refusal of obedience in order aimed at replacing or destroying an established authority.

I would never consider myself to be a rebel according to social description. I have been labeled this only for the fact that I question things in life that I don't understand to be relevant to the situation. In no means have I ever wanted to destroy or replace authority or refuse to follow rules or laws.

Laws and rules are in place to provide consistency, flow and fairness for everyone. It eliminates favoritism and confusion allowing maximum function. Take stop signs for example. On a small road with minimal people converging at the same time, a stop sign is appropriate. Without one, people would decide that they should go first judging their situation to be more important than the other person going left. Putting up a stop sign and establishing rules that go with that sign are in place to stop possible bad situations from happening so everyone has an equal shot at going next.

But what happens when there is now too much traffic for everyone to stop? It now becomes a  problem interfering with the flow and creating traffic jams hence no longer serving it's purpose. The city must now listen to the complaints of the people, reassess the situation and create a new solution to the problem if one is needed and act. A traffic light is born.

When I was a kid I did't understand why I had to use a yellow #2 pencil vs. my .05 mechanical pencil or a green #2 that consisted of the same graphite?

Why do my red tennis shoes bother you? This isn't Catholic school. You're wearing blue.

Why does it matter that a man's hair can't touch his collar in a business office? I can clearly see how that would totally interfere with his accounting abilities. Or why woman had to wear skirts and blouses in a business office. How the hell can you be a good secretary wearing pants?

My response is always the same when I hear someone comment about being a rebel.
"Oh yeah, I can see how that's completely relevant to the situation. Where's the rebellion that they are leading?"

Perhaps any situation that causes an uprising should be assessed of the relevancy of it's laws and/or rules that govern it given current circumstances. People by nature are not mean nor rebellious. Our very nature is to just live and exist. People want fairness and equality not conflict and hardship.

When people complain about something it usually means it isn't working for them. Whether we live in small towns and huge cities, work for small businesses or large corporations, these "rebels" are everywhere. A simple woman like me sees a dysfunction in the flow and instantly becomes a rebel. Is an engineer a "rebel", a politician, a lobbyist, a priest?

Maybe we are all rebels at one point or another all seeking a better world.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Managing restaurant employees through a closure

I was recently promoted to supervisor in a restaurant 4 weeks before it announced it was closing it's doors in 4 days. The first day of the announcement was more rant than it was rest. Emotions were flying high. The original close date would have given everyone almost 3 weeks to find new employment, but considering business was almost at a stand still, another supervisor had "leaked" information of an impending closure causing people to quit, panic and start stealing, the company needed to pull the plug sooner...

A little over a month had past after the new GM arrived bringing with him a new supervisor, new ideas and plans of getting our restaurant back on track and making money when I was promoted. I was proud to supervise such a great group of people, even though a few of them had me worried. Not sure how they would take the news of someone who had only been with the company 3 months would go over with more seasoned veterans. Low and behold, they were all supportive and happy.

Our new kitchen supervisor had been on my "watch" list suspected of stealing money from the office and missing alcohol. As soon as he realized I was watching him, he immediately quit. Since then, nothing missing. Go figure...

It never ceases to amaze me the differences between the way people handle stress. Some just go with the flow, do their jobs while others act out. As a supervisor having never been in this particular situation before I'm learning quickly to roll with the different reactions.

On one hand I have those who are trying to help, empathizing and informing the customers smiling and keeping calm. Their tips are HUGE since the customers are now empathizing with the impending doom of them being out of work in 4 days. While others are stomping around threatening to quit, complaining about "fairness" and others just doing a half assed job. By the end of the night their tips reflected the attitude.

At this point we are on a skeleton crew in the kitchen and dealing with a dwindling supply of food, the 86 list is rising. So how do you as a supervisor handle the stomping, complaining few?

1. Know that getting them to understand or empathize with the companies loss or delema is pointless. Panic has set in and all they can see is rent, bills and food. Their basic survival needs are number one, not yours.

2. Praise, thank, listen and offer to do anything to help everyone through this. Suggest places to find employment, pick up slack where people have quit, etc. The decision has been made by corporate and there's nothing that can be done but to finish working to earn as much as possible and look for another job.

3. If you have enough staff, send them home. This is a prime example of a few bad apples will RUIN the whole by causing more stress, angry customers and a possible expedited closure on an expedited closure. If they threaten to quit, clock them out and accept their resignation.

4. If you don't have enough staff, damage control & communication with your customer is essential as soon as possible. Especially if you run the possibility of reopening another store or location. You must protect the name of the company for future business. Inform the customer of your closure, apologize for any inconvenience, for being short staffed or low on supply. They will understand.

5. Refer to number 2.

Loosing  a job is a major stress like moving or death. The ones that have been there the longest will hurt the most. Not only are they loosing a job but friends that have become family. They will act out angry or distant, the outward/inward projection of energy. Some will want an apology letter from the company and/or to be recognized for their years of appreciated service, some look for something tangible like "what are you going to do with the tv's", or the quiet ones who may be crying on the inside that need reassuring everything will be ok.

Either way, as a supervisor offering to talk anytime about anything is important at this point. Some of these people may have no one to talk to about what's going on and feel alone. Fear stimulates people into making bad decisions, especially when they are quick like this. Panic causes fear, fear causes stealing, anger, and depression. Everyone goes through the cycle of emotions either internally or externally. Being empathetic and offering a real open door policy is number one.

Everyone needs help in life to move through these natural cycles. Some get stuck in the anger phase, some in the depressed phase and some die and bloom regularly. As coworkers and friends just being empathetic and not judging people no mater what phase they are in is huge.

Judgement shows ignorance and ignorance is easily cured with knowledge. 
Non-judgement without knowledge shows curiosity and curiosity leads to knowledge. 
Judgement is the disease of knowledge.