Monday, January 30, 2012


Just when I thought I've opined on everything, I remember I haven't shared my thoughts on giving advice.

If you have ever worked with me, chances are you've spent some time in my cubicle.. pulling up a chair and talking to me about whatever is on your mind. I've been praised for being such a good listener. (Of course, this is a curse at times and for the past six months, I've removed the chair from my cubicle so I could actually do work and not have people yammering at my desk!)

I once heard a phrase that people ask for advice because they already know what to do. They're looking for validation or permission to do what they know they should. "Should I break up with my boyfriend?" Well, if he was that great, you wouldn't consider it, would you? "Should I go back to the store now and return the money I received accidentally?" Of course you should!

This is where the listening skills come in. Let the person talk it out and sooner or later, they'll hear themselves reveal the answer and the truth of what needs to be done. 

On the other hand, sometimes people are looking for true suggestions because they don't know what else to do. "How do I handle this situation?" And, chances are that someone else has faced something similar. There's nothing new under the sun.

I remember a great quote from Mrs. Carol Brady (the ultimate listener/advice bestower): Times change, but people don't change. So let's say there's a problematic situation such as someone has posted a video on YouTube and sent the link to everyone, and you are horribly embarrassed. This is not so much a situation of retracting emails and suspending videos. It's an issue of trust and communication. The hurt one feels is the betrayal of the original poster. Therefore, the core problem is how to handle the relationship and reconcile the feelings.

I'm the eldest in my family, but I tend to be the 'big sister' to a lot of my friends. I know others in my shoes would've been stronger advisers and would direct or guide my family on their decisions. However, I take more of the backseat approach and let them know what they need to do. However, ultimately it's up to them.

Much like my parenting style where it's important to lead by example. Sometimes I think people are so consumed by emotion that they do not always hear and/or register words that are spoken to them. Yet, they can see one's actions.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Faces Behind Facebook

So, Facebook killed my blog. You can see how the number of posts I've done has dwindled over the last two years. A quick status update or two with what's on my mind is much quicker than my whole blog post, over which I typically agonize and edit to death. So, now my blog can take revenge on FB!

It's How You Say It
Facebook's strength and success is not in its easy-to-use-and-so-consistent-interface (note the extreme sarcasm). It's really in the verbiage and labels it uses for different actions.

Example 1: You post something and few minutes later, you see "John Likes This". Now you think "Wow, that's so cool.. I'm so glad he liked it. John's a great guy and I'm glad I made him feel happy. Glad I posted it." This occurs continuously through the day.

What really occurs is the "Like" function hones in on people's need to please. You post something, your high school friend likes it.. you post again.. your college friend likes it. So by continuously posting and "liking", we're feeding our own egos and others' egos. It feels great to have someone agree and like what you did or said. Definitely come back later.

Example 2: "John Accepted Friend Request".
Wow. You're accepted. Isn't that what we all want in life? We send requests, we accept requests with nary a thought about what we're doing. Just riding the high of feeling connected to people who you really didn't connect with (or so you thought) last time you met, but now they've accepted you. All is good among you and your 1503 close friends. 

Take My Good Side

Everyone's status updates and profiles are what they want to show - photos where they look fabulous and younger, kids look adorable and their achievements abound, vacations are glamorous, etc. There are some posts I see that make me envious - such as friends on international book tours, recognition for prestigious career accomplishments, people who take off on Fridays in the summer. But, this is just a glimpse that people want you to see.So you always have to take things in stride and remember these posts are not representative of the whole picture. 

I was kind of surprised today when I read a high school friend's post. I haven't seen her in more than 20 years, but over the last two years, her FB posts have updated me on where she is in her life and we have a new connection. She's proud and excited mom of two teenagers, she sends warm shout outs to her husband on birthdays and anniversaries, she lost her father after a long battle with cancer, and she's developed a strong sense of her faith. So, I was surprised to see her post about her marital troubles and asking for prayers to rebuild their marriage. It saddened me to think of her in this situation. My first thought was "I had no idea!". But, how would anyone know? Why should anyone know? This is her business, no need to broadcast on FB that her husband left until she needed to tell everyone. She's been just showing the good side.

Yes, there are others who don't want to show the good side. I cried seeing another high school friend's announcement of her breast cancer and tried to reach out to her directly. She was one person (Most Likely to Succeed) that I've been trying to find through Google for the last 10 years. We were fortunate to meet last year and yes, she did succeed greatly!

By the way, it's painful to see I have friends who make FB updates about their cancer treatments.They have amazing attitudes and again, this is a side that we wouldn't know about.

You've Got a Friend..
 When I look at my list of FB friends with whom I communicate regularly (at least through status updates and posts), I'm quite surprised. There were some that I was reluctant to accept because I recall a bland parting or barely remember them. I casually accepted a request from someone who was a college friend of my best friend from high school. I may have met him a total of 3-4 times back in college and she always talked about him and said "Oh you'll like him because he's all artsy." Fast forward 20 years and I accept his FB request out of courtesy. Now, it's crazy to think that he's one of my active followers and commentators. Meanwhile, my best friend is MIA from FB.

And like a rosebush needs to be trimmed every now and then, so does the FB Friend list. I'll end here because I could add more about the generational gap, the need for privacy (or not), and just overall dependencies on the updates. I'll save it for another blog post. It'll force me to come back.

Enjoy the Beatles.. This song reminds me of one night my freshman year in college when my friend John strummed his guitar and sang this song to us in an empty dining hall.

John now posts pictures and videos of his musical adventures on FB so we're all connected again.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

He didn't say "Yes, I Can"..

He said "Yes,we can."

He wasn't going to do everything. WE all had to do some part of it, too!

I'm just getting infuriated at the circus that's springing up all around the 2012 Presidential campaign. Everyone's talking about the economy and what Obama hasn't done about this. I find the short term memory some Americans have shocking.

First of all, people were unemployed before 2009 when Obama took office. The Bush administration is the one who agreed to the bank bailouts, and Obama got stuck holding it. Am I really only part of the 34% that remembers that? What about the global scale - did we forget Osama Bin Laden already and participation in Libya with international allies, not just US forces. I still think Cowboy Bush would've landed forces Iran and North Korea by now.

To me, with my basic undergraduate knowledge of micro/macroeconomics, this is all cyclical. There was a false sense of wealth in the real estate bubble and it was going to go down (hence the term, "bubble"). It'll go up again and get to steady state, but it'll be much slower rise. You can get the conditions right, but you can't kick it any faster to go within 6 months or 1 year. It needs to go through its natural course for recovery. As for the jobs, they are out there and it's slower climb, but they are growing over the last 6 years.It'd be one thing if we were losing more jobs, but there are jobs out there.

The Republican jokers are all focusing on the economy and Obama's lack of action. They're playing to their audience. Frankly, all of the candidates the Republican Party are churning out makes my stomach turn. Everyone loved Herman Cain's economic plan, but could you have seen him at a G20 Summit with Angela Merkel? Rick Perry and Rick Santorum believe America is made of southern white, heterosexual Christians. I don't understand the talk of family values by Republicans and Tea Bag Party. Sarah Palin's "family values" show it's acceptable for teen premarital sex and pregnancies. This is a lot different than most immigrant households where boys aren't allowed to call the house, let alone sneak into our beds. (I'm just saying immigrant because I had friends from Bangladesh to Cambodia to China to Ecuador with equally strong restrictions)  I was quite shocked by Santorum's quote: "God has given us this great country to allow his people to be free." Wow. Divine Providence is going to rule the government. Jesus, take the wheel.

The last part that irritates me is the constant mantra of "less government involvement." Yes, fine, that makes sense though I'm not sure how dissolving Department of Education or Energy or EPA is going to help anyone. I thinking of our corporate reorganizations that happen and what the impact is (or lack of impact). We're just one corporation, so I always imagine that government agencies would be 10x more fun. 

Anyway, less government would be fine, but how is it acceptable that government should define what marriage and kind of family we should have (the Duggars will be the norm?).

Enough of that.

One of the sites I subscribe to on Facebook is Politifact. I like getting frequent updates on sound bites that they have researched. It's ridiculous that politicians are spewing half truths and the public is gobbling them up.

With all this said, I still believe in Obama. I'm disappointed in friends who were in love with Obama and have suddenly turned face. I still believe he's the most logical and refined person out there to represent the country. Unfortunately, he's in an odd position much like something that happened at my company.

A new manager came on earlier last year with a lot of energy and inspiration. We were excited because she promised change and we thought she could deliver. We all connected with ideas, we'd work as a team and move ourselves into a brighter direction. Unfortunately, we forgot about the Establishment. There are already organizational structures, defined profit margins and budgets and senior leaders who overlooked or overruled our recommendations. Eventually, the new manager was moved into a different role and another manager stepped forward. However, the Establishment is still there, which has been the only constant over the last 10 years there.

In case my comparison above wasn't obvious, Obama is like my manager. The Establishment is the rest of Congress. The Tea Party set afire to parts of this country and Republicans majority was elected into Congress. As much as Obama wants to make those strides, he's getting shot down (much like my manager). When Obama was running, I feared for this. I was a Hillary Clinton fan because I felt she had experience in the inside world of Washington. She tried to present a health plan early on and was shot down. She's been there, done that. I wasn't sure how Obama was going to fare in this. You have to work in the Establishment. A lot of the Obama fans don't feel like he's delivering either, but he's not going to go to one extreme or another. That's why we liked him - he was balanced. He's not perfect. I'd be knocking in my boots if I was to be perfect and make everyone around me content every day at work.

The structure of the US is not all about the President moving the country forward. It's everyone - Congress passing laws without playing games, people making choices for themselves in their own lives, small and large companies making smarter decisions for business growth and decreasing the gap between the 99% and the 1%.

I still believe in the message of "Hope" and its warrantee doesn't run out at the end of 2012.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Folding Away 2011

It seems this blog compels me to do the year in review post and publicly declare what I promise for next year. In a way, it's great that it's documented.

I've been feeling that 2011 was just awash - didn't accomplish the goals that I needed to complete this year. There have been a lot of unexpected waves, and I've just been trying to surf on those. I recognize though that it doesn't have to be that hard. We've had challenges, but the power is in our hands. I know some people have challenges that are out of their control (debilitating illness, natural disasters). So, I'm fortunate to see the ones we're facing are controllable and that's frustrating if we're not taking actions. No one to blame, but ourselves.

Since I do document my vision for the new year, I see that 2011 had simple goals - "find joy, meaning and honesty." In that sense, I did experience joy this year. We welcomed a new baby, we had my mother-in-law visit and it was a true vacation for her, and we had another large family wedding and another one pending, a vacation to Mexico with friends and family, ski trips and beach trips. 

Personally and creatively, I found joy and meaning in my artistic voice. For me, art and writing have been my passions since I was young. I've always sketched in pencils or painted watercolors. It was a way I could just unwind and lose myself. In 2000 or so, I decided to focus on my writing instead of art. Once my writing takes off, I'll come back to art. I did let go of the art, but it never let go of me. It would come out in doodles on meeting notes, designs on cards and gifts. This September, there was an art class being offered during my daughter's dance class. It's a class on experimenting in series of mediums (charcoal, pastels, watercolor, acrylic). There's only 3 of us, including the instructor so it becomes a relaxing time to unwind and learn at the same time. My instructor often tells me to not be afraid to use color or be stronger handed in my lines. I didn't realize I would feel so shaky about this - what if it's not right? how do I know what to do? Suddenly a white sheet of paper is intimidating. However, I know this is part of me and need to trust my artistic instincts.

I've posted my art projects on Facebook and find it so fascinating that the friends I've made since 2000 are completely surprised by my art, since they know me only as a writer. My older friends know or probably possess some sketch I've given them years ago. I love to give away my art. There's always more where it comes from.

Anyway, art was the joy and meaning for the year. In the middle of an absolutely frustrating and hectic work day, I'll suddenly smile knowing it's Wednesday and I have art class. It's one hour that I have for me - sorry I'm not picking up my phone when my hands are covered in blue and green colors!

For 2012, I'd like things to move in a different direction. I'll definitely sustain the art, but I've let my writing falter. A book project that was in the works too a different direction and I don't know what will happen with that. However, I've received an invitation to participate in a poetry reading in February. I've taken this as a sign that my writing needs attention.

I've also done the unmentionable by telling someone about an unfinished story. My father said a true artist doesn't reveal the work until it's complete. There was another quote I read that said if you tell the story before you write it, you've killed it. Anyway, in telling this synopsis, I've got an eager reader.

I've got the basic resolutions for health and career - find that work life balance. And, in terms of my career, I need to grab it by the reins and control it. No more riding the waves - I need to get my own boat and start paddling. I've learned that people at work won't necessarily  recognize or remember how hard you worked on a project, sacrificing your family time. However, your family will remember when you were late or on the phone checking emails. I've grabbed a few books from the library about organizing my time better.

As for health, I've given myself a resolution to come up with a plan by next week. Then, I'll break it down into subcategories with dates on there.

There's so much more we could be doing and hoping 2012 will bring a lot of excitement and change.