Tag Archives: Personal

Help Wanted Sign

   As I have been attending to my medical appointments and errands, I have been seeing more and more Help Wanted signs. It is nice to see this. I know that most of these are minimum wage jobs, but they are jobs nonetheless. I just read in one of my financial periodicals that the average unemployment wait is now 32 weeks, down from its high of 47 weeks. 8 months is still a long time to go without a job, but it does seem to be better.

   Many companies are still “right sizing”, outsourcing and flattening their reporting structure. In some cases, this is moving jobs from one company to another. Departments are shut and the work moved to another company, either here or overseas. The retailers seem to be more confident and asking for help, hopefully that means people feel more at ease spending their discretionary funds. Schools and colleges reconvening probably has some affect as well.

   My son has a full time job where he works overnight. He has just found a part-time job that he can work during the day, about 16 – 20 hours per week. He currently lives with my wife and me, but this income will allow him to move out on his own. As anyone moving out on their own for the first time, it comes with both excitement and nervousness. I am sure that he is looking forward to the freedom of being on his own, making his own decisions and not worrying about the rules and expectations of others. Yet, there is a nervousness about being on your own, realizing that you are surrounded by your support system.

   I have tried to reassure my son that I am still here. I still want to support him, counsel him and be available for advice. I don’t want him to be afraid to put up a Help Wanted sign when he is unsure or just needs assurance. My son and I have already agreed to examine his budget and decide together what his best plans are for meeting his needs, wants and savings.

   Another reason I like seeing the Help Wanted signs is that even in my own employment, there are cuts planned. Even if I survive the cut, many of the people I care about will not. I am glad to see that jobs are starting to come back to our area.

   Hope all is well with you. Take care, stay well and be safe.

Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

What’s Different?

What is the difference between my current diet and the ones that I tried before? First of all, only time will tell how successful this diet will be. The purpose of this diet was to improve my digestive symptoms. I am currently in my tenth week of Gluten free dieting which includes a month without any grains. My stomach is finally beginning to feel better.

But one additional effect of this current diet is that I am losing weight. I again, emphasize, this was and is not the main focus of this diet. But, hey, I will take it. Since I need to lose weight anyway, it is a most welcome addition.

My previous diets were just a lessening of the volume of food and calories that I was eating before. Even increasing whole grains and fiber were part of those diets. I now understand the effect of glucose spikes in the blood caused by wheat and other grains. Two slices of whole grain wheat bread raise your blood sugar levels higher than a Snicker’s bar. This in turn creates an insulin reaction that ends up storing the sugar as fat.

Even though I was tracking my calories and eating less of them, I felt deprived. The wheat and grains caused me to be hungry and stimulated my cravings for starchy foods. I would lose weight for a short while, but as soon as I began eating again, the weight would come back on, and sometimes even more. I was caught in the same endless cycle that many people are in.

So what makes this different? Removing the wheat and grain from my diet has caused me to seek out other sources of nutrition, namely fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Vegetables, especially, are low in calories but high in nutrition. You can consume several cups of baby spinach and broccoli and barely break 150 calories. I have purposely tried to keep my carbohydrates below 100g per day. I am eating between 90 – 150g per day.

Again, what’s different? Because of the food that I am eating, I feel fuller on less calories. I am not hungry as often. Since my blood sugar is being kept stable from the naturally low glycemic effect of most of the foods I eat, I avoid the sugar crash and subsequent cravings that come with it. I am simply not hungry all the time as I was in the past. That is be big difference when it comes to hunger.

My past diets made me hungry or feel deprived. I really didn’t feel much better, even when I did lose some weight. Since I have stopped eating grains, I have experienced many benefits, many unexpected. I knew about the brain fog, as it happened to me before almost after every lunch. I did not expect my energy levels to go up as much as they have. I did not expect my arthritis pain to go away. I did expect my stomach pain to go away, but it did not while gluten free, but is now much improved as I am grain free.

Yesterday, I took a 5.5 mile ‘forced march’ hike with my son. My joints did not bother me. I was a little sore when I got home but it wasn’t arthritis pain, it was a ‘dang, that was a hell of a workout’ kind of pain and it felt good!

Benefits so far: more energy; more alert; no arthritis pain; less hungry; less cravings; fresher foods; cooking adventures; better mood; and better sleep.

When I tell people that I am grain free, they sometimes ask, “Then what do you eat?” That is a very fair question. It is a question that I would have asked myself if someone told me they were grain free. Wheat, corn, soy and rice is in the majority of foods in the American diet. The diversity in the store is actually based on a limited set of ingredients. So once you explore the outside aisles you can begin creating vegetable and meat dishes that are not only delicious but very nutritious and healing to your body.

Is there a difference this time? You bet there is. I am feeling better in so many different ways; it is absolutely amazing how diet affects your overall wellness. Of course we know what you eat is important, but until you experience such a change in your life, you will never understand just how important.

My wish is for a better health, better foods, and a better life for you.

Is Messiness a Character Flaw?

Hi. My name is Harry and I am a slob. If you were to compare my life with the Odd Couple of years past, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, I am very much like Oscar. Also, like that same couple, the other side of the relationship, my wife, is neat and organized. I do not go out of my way to annoy her with my disorganization but it happens that way.

For some people, a bed freshly made in the morning is the perfect beginning of the day. It makes all things right in the world. Humanity can continue on its journey forward. But it really makes no difference to me if the bed is made or not. It doesn’t even occur to me that an unmade bed has any impact in my day.

Clutter does not bother me. I do not like filth, but I do not mind clutter. I have always been disorganized. I was always scolded by my teachers for being disorganized. I could never remember the combination to my locker (so I jammed the lock, so it wouldn’t fully lock). My desk at work is a mess, but I get my work done, meet deadlines and exceed expectations. Albert Einstein quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

“We have a tendency to think of messiness as a character flaw, but these people are generally more productive than neat people since they spend more time getting things done than they do straightening up,” David H. Freedman explains. “Plus, they’re often more imaginative than neater folks, since creative people usually find a bit of clutter to be stimulating and expressive.” David Freedman and Eric Abrahamson were co-authors of the book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place

So, is messiness a character flaw? Maybe, but I do not think so. Are messy people immoral? You know, the whole cleanliness is next to godliness thing. I do not think that is the case either. I honestly think it is just how my brain works. It just may be that I am constantly distracted by more interesting things, at least more interesting than tidying up. Or, maybe, the cost of tidying up may be less than the potential benefits. On one occasion at work, an employee was filing daily order papers, in order, after entering them into the computer system. The organizing, sorting and filing took about an hour out of her day. Almost no one ever needed to see those papers. I changed the system to a 31 day file, where she simply stuck all the papers in the file, unsorted, by day. Searching once in a while took a few minutes to half an hour, but it saved 20 hours of filing each month.

Neat people are fine too. The organizations help them feel in control. I know I control very little and I am in no way interested in being the general manager of the universe. My wife has files and places and she likes to know that everything is where it should be. I depend on her organization skills and am very glad she has them. As a side note, almost everything I put in a place so it would not get lost ends up never found. I almost always forget where that perfect place was. Oh well, it certainly is safe from me.

I think the difference is personality and how our minds are wired. I have accepted that I am messy. I am happy to be me. If you are neat, then I am happy that you are. It would be really great if we were accepted as we are. Sure, we have flaws, we all need to improve. I do make the bed because it makes my wife happy, not because it means anything to me. Making the bed really is an act of love. Besides, I’m just going to mess it up again later when I crawl into it. Such is life. This is Oscar, signing off.

A Rose for a Butterfly

This Friday, February 7, 2014, I have a medical appointment that will put me near the grave of someone I love very much. Her name is Laura A. VerDow Santelli. She died on February 20, 2010. Like the previous years, I will put a single red rose at her grave.

I know that she is not there, not really, only the shell of her body that her soul left behind, but it is my way of remembering her. I do this for my parents as well. I buy a bouquet of flowers and spread them on their graves. I could not do it last year as I did not travel to the state of my birth. I will this year. My parents names are Virginia and William.

David Eagleman in his book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, wrote “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

Mom, Dad and Laura, your third death has not come for I have not forgotten you and I promise to speak your names.

I look forward to placing a rose on Laura’s grave. She was my Butterfly. She loved life and was full spirited and fun loving. I do miss her and love her very much. Remember those that have passed on and say their names. Remember them for that is how they stay in our hearts. Because all of us, like my Butterfly, will have to fly off someday leaving our bodies behind.

Struggles and Triumphs

A son was born. Freshly arriving in this new world of ours. Eyes bright and in wonder of everything he saw. His mother held him close to her chest, beaming with pride at the incredible miracle she held. Young parents, inexperienced in the ways of these kinds of miracles, were happily concerned with the welfare and safety of this frail little human.

A little more than a year later, a second child was born to this couple. Again, seem as a blessing and gift, but it was a challenge to keep up with these two small boys.  As both boys grew, it seemed that the second son was progressing more quickly than the first. This observation and later concern was borne to be true. The oldest son was diagnosed with a developmental delay, learning disability and a turned leg that mildly affected his walking. This was not good news. What did it all mean? How would they cope? What did it mean for their son? What would his future be like? And where would they turn for help.

The parents found help through a local organization called the Happiness House. The staff at the Happiness House assured the parents and helped them with the necessary paperwork to petition family court to provide the necessary services for their son.

Later their son was diagnosed with ADD, OCD and suffered tics under the tourette’s umbrella. Braces were fashioned for his leg to straighten out his walk. Again the questions peppered the minds of the parents. Physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and other professionals worked with their son.

When this young boy was old enough to enter the educational system, he received a new team of professionals. He had difficulty learning school basics. But with steadfast persistence by his team, patience by his parents and, at times begrudging cooperation by the young man, he did learn.

‘Leo the Late Bloomer’ by Robert Kraus was a favorite book used by his teachers. The book carried a powerful message of hope. This young man continued to struggle all through school. Eventually the most visible tics subsided. He had learned to read and write. He enjoyed video games, riding bikes and taking walks.

Unfortunately, before he graduated from high school, his mother decided that she needed a different life away from her family. This was an incredibly difficult adjustment for the boys and their father. But with patience and courage, they moved on.

His high school counselor helped his parents find continuing services after school. New York’s VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities) provided referrals to the ARC of Ontario County. Their services placed him in a work program where he earned some money, learned to socialize with co-workers, and helped to develop his self-esteem. He blossomed there.

Along with his experiences in working, he wished to extend his life adventure by learning how to drive. After several years with a learning permit, he finally received his license. He continues to explore his growing independence.

It had been incredible to watch this young man push against these difficulties. Even though these conditions still exist, he still pushes gently against them. I am very proud of him. I am not sure of all the potential within this young man. But I hope that he knows that I will be in his life as long as I can to witness his further victories. This young man is my son, Brandon.

Brandon, if you are reading this, do not be angry about the challenges you face. Be proud of yourself, like I am proud of you, for all that you have accomplished. You are an incredible young man.

Remarriage Statistics

The US is the most remarried country of the western nations according to a study by Cherlin in 2009. In another study by Deal in 2005 found that one third of all weddings in America formed step-families.

I, myself, am in a remarriage. Being over 50, I am part of the statistic that 25% of people who remarry are over 50 years old.

Now, you would think that being married a second or third time, you would have the maturity and wisdom from your previous experiences. I would think that and do think that. However, even though I believe that a second marriage would be better, the Census Bureau in 2006 found that 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. But the challenges of remarriage are different. You deal with complex relationships made even more complex with differing backgrounds.

In most remarriages, I believe the main drivers of frustration are money and children. Expectations differ greatly, especially in the way children were raised.  What was totally acceptable and a non-issue in one household nearly commanded the death penalty in the other. This can definitely cause some tensions when you try to blend the two households. It is not that anyone is wrong, it is just different. This exists in first time marriages as well, but I believed it is amplified in further marriages.  It definitely take time, patience and trust to build newer, stronger relationships with the spouse’s children, remembering that it is a new dynamic for them as well. This is true for both minor and adult children, even grandchildren.

Both partners may have established careers and their own nest eggs.  This can be a concern of the children as well as the partners. Communication about goals and comfort levels can help alleviate money differences. It is also wise to determine in advance how monies are to be dispersed if one spouse passes away.

A 2002 study by Hetherington showed that on average, couples in step-families have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years. But with time, stress levels for couples in step-families can fall to normal levels found in first marriages.

I said earlier that I believe that I can use the lessons from my first marriage in my first marriage to improve the happiness in my second marriage. I will admit, that I was not prepared for the some of the unique challenges that have arisen. I plan on working hard in my relationship and working though the challenges. Love and marriage takes lots of hard work and its worth it.

Are you in a step-family relationship? What kind of challenges did you experience that you did not expect. How did you overcome those challenges. It may be true that 60% of second marriages fail. That means that 40% make it.

I know that the statistics are scary, but couples do make remarriage work. Marriage always has challenges and it is overcoming those challenges as couples and families that make relationships stronger.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

Fear of the Water

I like water. I like water that is very warm, in a Jacuzzi tub, with relaxing music and candlelight. I also like cold water to drink. I don’t mind warmed swimming pools as long as I can touch the bottom. I am not a strong swimmer.
Very recently, my wife and I were invited to a cottage by the water. I thought it was the ocean but it was actually Long Island Sound. We were in southern Connecticut. I have not visited ocean like water many times before. I took my children to the Delaware state beaches about 3 times and maybe visited Maryland beaches a couple of times. Even though I was raised not that far from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, my family did not leave the farm very often. I have never been comfortable around water.
Our hosts at the cottage took us to a private beach. There was only one or two people in the water but lots of people sunning themselves. A child scooped up a jellyfish from the edge of the beach. A responsible adult from the child’s party, ran out to the girl and took the net from her, warning the girl of the danger the jellyfish might pose to her.
Our host dived in and announced that the water was perfect. I built up my courage to approach the shore and move into the water. The water was a bit cool, but what really prevented my entry was the presence of a jellyfish near me, and another about 6 feet beyond that one. A swimmer emerged from the water holding his elbow declaring that he was stung by a little jellyfish. Well, that was more than enough warning for me to stay away from the water.
Am I afraid of the water? Yes. Should I be afraid of the water? Probably not. But this experience certainly did not help me overcome my fears of drowning or injury in the water.
I am glad that so many receive so much enjoyment from frolicking in the water. I enjoy watching them have fun. But as for me, I think I’ll stay on the beach. At least until I build up enough courage to try again.
The cottage was wonderful. Our hosts were wonderful. It was a great weekend. I am thankful that we were invited.

Where’s Dad?

If you are a Dad and you are involved, or at least try to be involved with your children, then Happy Father’s Day. But many children don’t have a Dad in their lives. About a third of American children are being raised without a father. There are many articles and pages on the internet concerning fatherless children and the effects that it has on the children.  Kirsten Andersen wrote an article outlining some of the latest statistics concerning children in single parent homes. It can be found here: The number of US children living in single parent homes has nearly doubled in 50 years.

In this article and others, Vincent DiCaro, the vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative blames this growing tend on many of the problems that we have in society. I agree. If fathers are in the picture, responsible and supportive, many of the problems will be lessened.

On the National Fatherhood Initiative website, some of the consequences of a fatherless household are astounding. Here is just a few of the findings:

  • Children in father absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor.
  • Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers.
  • High quality interaction by any type of father predicts better infant health.
  • Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.

At first glance, this does not speak well of single mother homes. I know that single mothers struggle to provide the best homes for their children. It takes incredible strength to work, care for a home and care for children. I respect that effort. But, I do think that the love of a father and the love of a mother differ greatly. Of course, it depends on the background and personality of each parent, a mother is more nurturing, protective and safety aware whereas a father is more adventurous, measured risk taking and independence. Neither love is wrong, it is just different. Men and women are different. Children need that balance from both parents to feel secure in the challenges that life has for them.

As I have said before, any man can be a father, but a child needs a Dad. A child needs a Mom too. There are homes without mothers as well, about 5 million children live in homes without Moms. Unfortunately, my children experienced the divorce of their parents. In my situation, I had custody of my children as my ex-wife left the country. I certainly would have preferred that we stayed together. My relationships with other women did not replace a “mother” figure in their lives as I would have hoped. They have grown up well despite the divorce, but I know that they are and will always be affected by the divorce. I love them dearly. Their mother loves them too. She says she misses them and I am sure she does.

I believe that America would greatly benefit from whole families, loving families, and strong families to provide the core and stability that our children need.

You mean … me?

   About 7 or 8 weeks ago, I came down with the flu which, after 3 weeks, morphed into a long lasting case of bronchitis. I was taking a mixture of decongestants, mucus thinners, anti-inflammatory steroids and an inhaler. All this medicine kept my brain fuzzy. I am not telling you this seeking sympathy. I am setting up why my mind was fuzzy and I felt exhausted.

   Now the point of the story. My manager called me into his office. He expressed his concern that I was irritable and seemed short with people. He inquired if I was upset with someone or something within the company. He had forgotten that I had apologized to him early on that I needed to concentrate harder to get through the fog caused by the medicines.

   I apologized again for my behavior. I try to be very upbeat because I know that I influence others by my demeanor, as we all do. Just as other’s actions and reactions can affect us, our attitude and candor towards others affect them.

   Even though I do not feel well, my trying to fight through the illness left me vulnerable to agitation. Luckily, my bronchitis is finally clearing. It was a great wake up call from my boss. It was a great reminder that even when we are not feeling well, our actions still have an effect.

   I tried much harder today to be mindful of how I responded to others. It is too easy to be tired and allow our reactions to go unchecked. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that our actions do matter. Yes, even me. And that other guy, you know, the one in my mirror.