Monthly Archives: September 2011

From Mess to Message

   As I watched Dancing With The Stars, I wondered what had happened to J.R. Martinez to cause the scarring on his face. I did a search on the internet and found a wonderful article by BooksGalore on Hubpages.  He was badly injured in Iraq in 2003 when the Humvee he was driving ran over a land mine. Trapped inside the vehicle, he received burns over 40% of his body.

He spent three years in an Army hospital with his mother by his side. He endured more than 30 operations consisting of facial surgery and skin grafting. One of his ears was missing. He was devastated with his new face and lost his will to live. He began to view his life more positively with the help of his mother. He now is a national spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, an organization that serves veterans seriously wounded or disabled. The article quoted him as saying, “I was a mess, but now I’m a message.”

This story is incredibly inspiring to me. It shows that J.R. and many like him prove that we cannot know what we are capable of enduring until faced with great challenges. I think this story can be applied to many, many people. Although maybe not as extreme as J.R.’s example, can you think of anyone who has survived and overcome great challenges, maybe even not so great challenges? How about the single mother who works a job while attending nursing school so that she can provide a better life for herself and her children? How about the woman who survived breast cancer and is confident in her beauty despite suffering a double radical mastectomy? How about the physically challenged child who competed their first Special Olympics and was awarded with smiles, hugs and kisses?

Like J.R., they all can have a message. That message is, but certainly is not limited to, “I am someone special. I am strong in my own way and can overcome. I am worth it.” They teach us to see around our obstacles and to reach beyond our limits.

Being Tired and Stressed

   My work involves a great deal of mental challenges with occasional periods of physical exertion. It is the mental tiredness that wipes me out the most. When I am physically tired, it really is an almost “feel good” tired. As if I earned the right to be tired. Usually rest and sleep will relieve me of my physical tiredness.

   When I am mentally tired, it seems that rest just isn’t enough. Even when the body is at rest the brain can still forge ahead in high gear. There have been times when I thought I was distracted and trying to avoid the challenges of the day when a solution or clue will suddenly pop into my head. I guess that means that my brain was working on the problem anyway.

   To ward off the tiredness I try to keep my blood sugar levels up and drink coffee. I believe most people do this. I am not sure it really works, as it seems just to allow you to go further than you normally would. So I know that fresh water and carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables would serve me better, but unless I plan ahead and takes those to work with me, I usually fall back on snacks and coffee, knowing I failed to have a healthy snack and stumble stubbornly ahead.

   Like many places of employment, management, colleagues, and customers can enter panic mode and invite you along. I have been doing my job in logistics for about a quarter of a century. Everything can’t be a priority, even though it sure seems like that is what needs to happen. So, I pick out what I can do, get it done quickly and move on from there despite the panic filled queries that can sometimes bombard.

   Worrying gets me – let’s see – ah, yes – nowhere. I need to identify what is within my control, ask for help from those who do have control, and do the best I can. If worrying leads to planning, then I am all for it. But mostly, worry leads to more worry and fear and can be downright paralyzing.

   I also try to step back from the situation and look at the broader picture to make sure I don’t miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes we can be too close to a problem to see it in a different perspective.

   Multiple challenges, conflicting priorities and poorly executed stress management can leave you mentally tired even to the point of exhaustion. It can affect your ability to think and cause you to feel physically tired. The Mayo Clinic suggests eight tips to manage stress:

  • Think positively – optimism helps you to cope better
  • Embrace spirituality – exploration of your spirituality can lead to a clearer life purpose
  • Protect your time – learn to say no to demands on your time when you need to recharge
  • Keep your cool – focus on what you can do to gain control of the situation
  • Try meditation – focus your attention on one thing, such as visualizing an image
  • Seek out work and life balance – too much of either can interfere with the other
  • Keep a strong social network of friends, family and peers
  • Change your emotional response – think about stress as your reaction to an event rather than the situation itself

   In today’s world, it is very difficult to juggle all our responsibilities, obligations (voluntary or not) and goals (self-imposed or not). At times, we expect too much from ourselves. Of course, sometimes we expect too little. We need to give ourselves a break, take a little time to see what is important and move forward from there. Let’s use our stressful situations to learn new approaches, create stronger relationships and build our own character. We are where we are and who we are, and we can decide to move forward in a positive direction. Well, there is another curve in the path up ahead, see you there.

Bad News for Households

The Census Bureau released on September 13, 2011 their key findings for Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010. The following facts were lifted from the press release.

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage −16.3 percent – was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.

My thoughts are below:

The numbers above verify what many people have feared as we work through this economic downturn. Charts within the release showed the following: The region that realized the most reduction in median household income was the West. The region that realized the most increase in poverty was the South. The region that realized the most increase in people without health insurance coverage was the Northeast.

The unemployment rate remains stubbornly at 9.1% and others are under-employed, which one would assume has certainly contributed to the increases seen in this report. I am not sure that the jobs plan presented by President Obama will create that many new jobs. I do believe it will encourage employers to hire if they were already on the fence about hiring or not. I just read that retailers will scale back their holiday hiring, which is even more evidence that retailers are not enthused about this season’s prospects. I would like to see the works portion of the President’s plan be enacted. It will put people to work and as well as spending, it will eventually be an investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

There certainly is enough pain to go around. However, along with the pain, I have read where persons are standing tall by working one or more part-time jobs, starting their own businesses or finding other creative ways to maintain their existence. Some are going back to school, finding new careers. Even if more education does not lead to work right away it at least offers more opportunities in the future. The downside occurs if the education was paid for with borrowed money which could lead to continued unemployment coupled with more debt.

It is the struggle for survival and our imaginations that will propel us through this recession. It is our adaptiveness that will enable us to find new business models and services. Our ingenuity will create new technologies and adapt older ones just as the automobile replaced the horse. Even though some technologies seem to wipe out one sector, it sometimes can create completely new sectors of support and specialties.

I do believe that we will work through this, not only here in the U.S. but globally.


Retiring Overseas?

I am very blessed to still be working. Even though the company I work for is still doing well, I have still seen cost cutting, job consolidation and restructuring. I hear reports about many companies making profits, but are these top line profits or cost cutting that improves the bottom line? I hope both and wonder how much more cutting and consolidation can be had.

My investments are in mutual funds and ETFs. I even played commodities a bit but have since gotten away from them. My savings have taken a hit but are recovering somewhat. I love my work but the sense of permanence, which probably was never wise to have, is not as strong as it once was.

I have been exploring the possibilities of retiring overseas as a way to garner more from my savings. I have read some very interesting articles about Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Thailand, India, Northern Spain, Ireland and some others. I have been most intrigued by Thailand because of its low cost of living and reportedly friendly citizens. I have actually been thinking about India for a while, as I would like to help the widows that are there in some way, but that is another story.

As much as the cost of living is an important aspect of all of this, I still wonder about the political stability, religious tolerance or lack thereof, language barriers, and learning the etiquette of a different culture. What seems almost natural here could be insulting somewhere else. For instance, pointing with your finger in Thailand can cause offense, whereas here it is hardly noticed. I am willing to learn another language and culture. I think that would be part of the fun and adventure. But what about leaving behind my friends and family? What about my grandchildren (when I have them)?

But there is also food and medicine to consider. Is the water safe? Are there adequate medical facilities? Are my maintenance medications available? Is there a good infrastructure of roads and transportation? There is so much to consider. I believe I would visit the area first for a few months just to make sure it is suitable before arranging for hard ties to another country. Or maybe my retirement home isn’t overseas but just over the next hill. Anyway, it definitely has me thinking.

Have you ever dreamed of living overseas?