2019 New Year’s Resolution- Do.

For me, the word of the year 2019 is:

DO

Online dictionaries provide various meanings for the verb ‘do’, including to:

  1. Perform an action or a particular task.
  2. Work on something to bring it to completion or to a required state.
  3. Solve or work out a problem.
  4. Act or behave in a specified way.
  5. Achieve or complete something.
  6. Finish something or being finished with something.

It is an action verb – you’re not dreaming about something, or thinking about maybe taking some action – YOU ARE ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING.  Actually taking concrete and measurable steps towards achieving some goals.

As Yoda said, Do or do not, there is no try.  And for years now, all I’ve been doing is trying.  Trying to fit a workout program into a 75-hour work week.  Trying to look for a new job while doing the work of two people.  Trying to have a social life or write stories when I’m so tired after work that I just grab takeout and then fall asleep.

Somewhere in the last week, it occurred to me, when I was thinking about the fact that I fell asleep before 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve because I was too tired to stay awake:

There is plenty of time.  I’m just using it for the wrong things.

I’m giving my time away, to people who don’t appreciate it and for causes that will never provide a return to me anywhere near the effort I’ve put into them.

Time that belongs to me.

So this year is dedicated to  me doing.  Me getting that new job, by prioritizing a job search and actively networking.  Me getting in shape by making sure I work out.  Me having at least one social event a week, by seeing a movie, stopping in a bar to hear a local band, going to a museum.

That’s my New Year’s Resolution.  Just one.  Putting me first.

Me actually living my life and doing things to make my life a better one.

 

 

A new reality TV show

Let’s all applaud the newest reality TV show . . . Surviving the College Dorm Room Race!

At least that’s my idea for a new show, after spending the weekend dodging around parents and their almost-adult children shopping for back to college supplies. I honestly thought one family in Target was about to start a full-out brawl in the towel aisle.

Furnishing a dorm room seems to have evolved into a major production since my college years. Families with a set budget waste a portion of that budget racing from Target to Bed Bath and Beyond to Best Buy to the malls, all so their sons and daughters can have the latest, greatest, color-coordinated and stylish dorm room ever. They work their way down a long list of absolutely essential, can’t survive without them furnishings and techie-toys in a wide price range. And if they’re lucky, they survive the experience with part of their sanity still intact.

Saturday, I stopped into three different Targets, two Bed Bath and Beyonds, an organization store at the mall and Best Buy. I was looking for things to use in reorganizing and redecorating my apartment — not a major overhaul, simply some updating of towels, rugs, candles, etc.

As soon as I hit the housewares section of the first Target, the fun began. Race-walking down the bedding aisle, led by their daughter, came a couple, each with a half-full shopping cart. The girl had her tablet out, and was comparing — well, at first I thought she was comparing prices, but when I passed her I glanced over and saw she was actually looking at a picture of a pile of pillows and a throw (I think). Coordinating, I presumed, with her future roommate. Before I got out of the aisle, she’d dumped two sets of sheets into her Dad’s cart, on top of a duvet, at least four pillows and a mattress topper. I shook my head, remembering the narrow beds at Penn State that barely, just barely, allowed for one pillow and a narrow quilt.

That family and I met up again at checkout — they were ahead of me in line. The total for the bedding, lamps, plates, towels, rugs, wallart, oven and assorted knick-knacks? Seven hundred plus dollars!

As they walked out, the daughter told them they had to go to Best Buy next — for her TV and a new Roku.

At least that family wasn’t arguing, and seemed rather well-organized, compared to others I saw throughout the weekend. The next Target had the family arguing in the towel aisle — the daughter wanted Fieldcrest towels, the parents were getting her the Target brand and she was red-faced and whining over how they were going to embarass her in front of her new roommate. Her father was getting a bit red-faced himself while obviously biting his tongue. Her mother wasn’t holding back, telling her daughter if she wanted the other towels she could pay for them herself in a very shrill voice with extremely-colorful language. Clearly, they had overdosed on the back-to-school shopping safari.

The story was repeated everywhere I went that weekend. Parents and children, with and without lists, all armed with Smartphones and tablets, color-coordinating with roommates’ decor while hopping from store to store to compare product offerings and prices.

And every family was buying multiple cartloads of things to furnish the dorm room.

Really? That much stuff? I would love to see the size of these dorm rooms. My room at Penn State was something like 8 by 12 feet (if that), into which was already squeezed two large stationary desks, two closet units, two wall-mounted side cabinets and two narrow twin beds. There was barely room to walk down the aisle between the two halves of the room, much less fit all the things students today ‘need’ to survive their college experience.

I didn’t buy that much to take with me when I went to Penn State, largely because I knew I wasn’t going to start out in a dorm room. There were so many freshmen my first year at college that some of us ended up housed in study lounges. Since I was going to have to move in a few weeks, I bought the minimum amount of things I would immediately need. Quilt, pillow, clothes and school supplies, a few personal books.

A month later, I was assigned a room across the quad in Pennypacker Hall, and I was able to move everything in just one trip. At that point, my new roommate and I looked at each others’ stuff. My blue primary-colored quilt coordinated with her yellow primary-color quilt and the multi-colored rug she already had. We had a color scheme.

I headed out to the stores and bought more throw pillows to mix and match with hers. She had a coffee maker and a hot plate; I picked up a toaster and mini-crock pot. I added a set of plates and a couple of glasses for me, some plants in pretty pots and most importantly, more posters of sunny beaches (come January at Penn State you need reminding that there are warm places in the world). On the weekend, my parents gave us a sound system to go with her mini-TV, and we were set. My total bill for that dorm room was probably half what that first family spent just in Target, and I managed it in just two stores (one for the posters and one for everything else).

What really struck me, though, was the different treatment some of these students gave their furnishings and their school supplies. At the last Target, while I was looking over micrwaves (mine having died), there was a guy comparing different models of coffee makers. He was rather obsessively looking up product reviews on his smartphone when his mother came over and asked him what type of pens she should get. His answer? Anykind, ’cause he didn’t think he’d be taking that many notes.

My hope is that he meant he would be taking notes on his tablet, not writing them down, but I’m rather afraid that he, like other students I saw this weekend, was more concerned with his surroundings than his classes.

Meanwhile, I really think someone needs to turn this whole experience into a reality TV show. Assign each set of parents a budget, give them an excessively-long list of required items and then send them off with their excited offspring. Add in a time limit for shopping, create some sold-out product roadblocks and sit back and score the hilarity.

Why I shop online . . .

Contrary to the opinions of Mainstreet and the media, I do not shop online to avoid paying a sales tax on my purchases.

Congress, as you may or may not know, is considering a bill that would require online websites over a certain dollar volume of sales to collect sales taxes from their customers. The bill passed in the Senate; the House may or may not take up the matter later this year.

The media largely seem to refer to this bill as ‘the internet sales tax’, and people discussing the matter are screaming that the government is imposing yet another new tax on them. For the record, the tax already exists; it’s called a use tax. If you buy something in another state, and bring it home, you owe your state the use tax on that item. The tax is the same rate as the sales tax; the difference is that you’re supposed to remit it to the state, rather than give it to the retailer so he can send it to the state.

Most people don’t pay the use tax — they don’t know about it, can’t figure out how to report it properly, or just decide not to pay it. Nevertheless, it’s a real tax that people owe when making a purchase out of state.

However, even if the bill passes, it won’t stop me from shopping online. For me, the ‘lack’ of a tax being imposed on my online purchases is not the main reason I shop online. It’s not even on the list of reasons why I shop online.

Selection. At the top of my list is selection — or rather, the lack of selection in regular stores. I want to purchase a new laser color printer-scanner. Over the last week, I’ve browsed through Best Buy and Target, Staples and Office Max, even stores specializing in computer equipment. Each store offered, at most, three or four models — a low-end, a middle, and a high-end (extremely expensive) model. When I search online, I come up with dozens of models, at all prices, with a variety of features. If I can get a model with the features I want, and only those I want, why would I buy something that has vastly more features than I need, or settle for a model that doesn’t allow me to do everything I want to do?

Unique products for my tastes and styles. I live just outside Philadelphia, and so I have access to numerous department and specialty stores. Yet I often can’t find the things I want in the style I like. Last summer, I was looking for a simple necklace to go with a new outfit — I wear mostly sterling silver and natural stones. I am not kidding when I tell you I visited four department stores, and five other chain stores, and saw the exact same necklaces in every store. I hopped onto Etsy — and found my necklace in five minutes. Okay, so I had to wait two days for it to be delivered — I didn’t mind, since I had something I wouldn’t see on twenty other women at the party.

Easy, unlimited returns. When I buy something online, most websites have very open-ended return policies, as opposed to the stores’ ever-more restrictive policies which limit the time to return an item and set numerous conditions on that return. If I wear a pair of shoes, and the heel breaks off after three wearings, I can send it back to the site and get a new pair of shoes. Contrast that with my last experience trying to return a defective pair of shoes to a department store — I was told to contact the manufacturer; the manufacturer told me to take the shoes back to the store. I ended up tossing them out.

Saved Time. Shopping online, once I’ve established an account with a site, saves me time. Also gas, but mostly time. Let’s use Star Wars action figures as an example. The last few years have been miserable for collectors — Hasbro’s distribution problems resulted in stores getting new figures only occasionally and randomly. You could spend the day driving from Target to Walmart to Toys ‘R Us, and the only thing you would buy would be more gas for your car. Or, you could hop online to Entertainment Earth or Brian’s Toys or any of a dozen other sites and find exactly what you wanted in just a few minutes.

Price. Price actually ranks fairly low on my list. Yes, there are lower prices on some things online. I’ve also seen higher prices online. I like Essie nail polish. I can buy it for $7.79 at Target. Online, I usually find it for a flat $8-9.00. Yet I now buy it online — because the stores only carry some of the colors, and the ones that I want are generally not in the stores. Same scenario with Star Wars toys, or certain shoe lines. You can find your item for the same price — or cheaper or more expensive — online. The price disparity all depends on the website, the item you want to buy and the availability of the item in stores in your area.

I have many other reasons for shopping online, but those are the main ones. As stores carry less and less merchandise, I end up shopping more and more online. A case in point? Barnes and Noble. I used to buy a lot of books at Barnes, as well as magazines and endless cups of coffee. However, as the years have passed, Barnes has decreased both the number and types of books they carry, branching out instead to selling toys and other items. I’ve been told that they took this step because of decreasing book sales, as a result of online purchases for Amazon’s Kindle and their own Nook.

However, for me at least, it’s led to purchasing even more at Amazon. Now, some of that is because I’m digitizing my entertainment, to clear up clutter in my home. But it’s also because I can’t find what I want at Barnes anymore. I spot a new release in the mystery section — but it’s the third book in a series. Unless the author is immensely popular, Barnes will not have the earlier books. To read them, I’m going to have to go to Amazon (I already had Kindle before the Nook came out, and so I keep buying there rather than have two different sources for my novels).

And if I have to buy books one and two online, I might as well wait and get book three there as well, defeating Barnes’ purpose in carrying less books. Instead of cutting back on their overhead by stocking fewer books, it’s cost them a sale.

Nevertheless, the Mainstreet retailers are pushing for passage of the ‘internet sales tax’ bill, because they see it as ‘leveling the playing field’ between stores and websites. If I’ve understood their statements to Congress and the media, the stores believe this bill will result in people returning to shop in stores, as opposed to online, because they’ll have to pay the sales tax wherever they buy something, and therefore they might as well shop in a local store.

However, if and when the bill passes, I’ll still be shopping online for many things. For all the reasons I listed above, I often have an overall better shopping experience online than in a store.

And that is not good news for Mainstreet.

Wish Upon a Star . . .

In my dream, my coworkers are named Hawkeye, Obi-Wan and Cinderella, and I am a happy employee in the House of the Mouse — otherwise known as The Walt Disney Company.

Today is “Start Making Your Dreams Come True Day.” Your Inner Bitch would like to remind you that no matter how big your dream is, you have to start sometime. Might as well be today.”

That was the June 3rd entry in the ‘Getting in Touch with your Inner Bitch’ daily calendar. I absolutely love this calendar — it reminds me NOT necessarily to be a bitch, but to live my life, to keep my needs and interests in mind when going about my daily activities.

I read this entry at breakfast, and then throughout the day, jotted down my various dreams, no matter how nebulous or unformed they might be in my head. By mid-afternoon, I had a very long list. I have so many dreams — places to visit. Books to write. Events to attend, things to own, projects to accomplish, people to meet. I want to publish a successful book, travel to London, attend Comic-Con — the list goes on for four pages. But just what dream was my top desire?

When I caught myself humming the ‘when you wish upon a star‘ theme for the fourth time in twenty minutes, I realized that, subconsciously, I’d already made my choice. I knew, all along, which dream was at the top of my list.

Disney, as a company, posseses my three favorite things — Avengers, Jedi, and Cinderella. If I could choose any company for which to work, it would be, without a doubt, the House of the Mouse.

Don’t be mistaken — I do love my current job. I like my co-workers, my position’s responsibilites are diverse and professionally challenging, and every day I learn or do something new that stretches my abilities and uncovers a new facet of the law, business, medicine and any number of other subjects. Yes, there are the typical annoyances as well, things you will find at any job — a piece of equipment that refuses to work right, that vendor who just won’t follow your instructions, a project that is taking more time and effort than it should. Overall, though, my job is worth those little irritations.

But my company isn’t Disney. I don’t get to play with superheroes. I’ve never explored the galaxy with the Jedi. I didn’t go to the ball with Cinderella. And if I’m being honest, which is what I want to do in this blog, well, I still want to do those things. I want to work somewhere that I can daily interact with three of my favorite, long-abiding interests. Don’t forget, I collect Jedi action figures, read Marvel comics and still happily watch Cinderella whenever I need to boost my mood and attitude.

In my dreams, I work where I can see the next chapter in Marvel comics history unfolding, watch as a new cycle in the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars is crafted.

And fulfill my little girl’s day dream of living in Cinderella’s castle.

Oh, I don’t have any illusions that Disney is a magical company free of workplace tensions, employee infighting or tangled corporate politics. No company on this planet is completely free of those complications. What is important though, the question any employee should ask about their job, is this:

Are there enough intellecutally-interesting projects, emotionally-satisfying rewards, seriously-fun days to make up for those inconveniences?

For me, being involved in the worlds of Disney — Princesses, Jedi, Avengers, theme parks, movies and television shows, toys, cruises — all the components that make up the Mighty Empire of the Mouse — would, I believe, balance out any downsides to taking a job with Disney.

And, of course, as I thought this through, wrote this blog, I realized that there are a few downsides — err, considerations — that would have to be factored in should I seriously pursue this dream. For one thing, I’d have to decide whether I wanted to serve as an attorney for the Mouse. California is one of the few states that doesn’t have reciprocity in its bar admissions; to practice law there, I’d have to take another bar exam. When I sat for the Pennsylvania exam, I spent six straight weeks doing nothing but studying for 18 hours a day.

Yeah, that’s not likely to happen again. Not with my time constraints, work schedule, and financial responsibilities.

But I could work in other capacities — I’m a compliance officer, a trained auditor, a tax expert with a master’s degree. I handle intellectual property matters, litigation and human resources matters. I am a person who’s proven herself capable of learning, and then doing, just about anything.

And then, of course, I’d also have to move to California. This — ah, consideration — actually isn’t that much of an impediment. Yes, I’d miss my family and friends. But I’m single, unattached, and hey — there’s Skype and airplanes. It wouldn’t be the first time I just picked up and moved.

By now, you may be wondering, just what was the purpose of this post? In short, it allowed me to do a stream-of-consciousness thing. I noodled this post for about three hours, and while my fingers typed, my brain was thinking its way through the idea of maybe, just maybe, pursuing this dream.

Could I work for Diensy?

Should I try to work for DIsney?

In the words of one of the Mouse’s denizens (Yoda), “Do or do not. There is no try.”

So, do I?

We waste water

We waste water here in the United States . . . and no, I’m not talking about swimming pools.

I recently read several books about the water wars of the past 200 years in the United States.  I knew about the California wars, courtesy in part of the movie ‘Chinatown’, but who knew there were wars over water along the Great Lakes and in the Dakotas, high up in the mountains and quite literally throughout the entire country?  Once I’d read those books, I started thinking about all the ways I use water.

Our country has been experiencing a rather widespread bout of drought for at least the last two years.  The south, southwest, midwest and western mountains, even areas on the Pacific Coast, were bone-dry last summer.  Farmers’ crops withered in the fields.  Cattlemen were forced to sell their herds because they could no longer afford to buy feed or ran out of water to keep them alive.  One town even had to literally truck in water, because their sources completely dried up.

And that was just in the United States.  Over the last several years, I remember hearing stories about widespread droughts in Europe, Africa, Asia.  Polluted drinking water sickening entire villages.  The desserts expanding ever-rapidly, driving people from their homes into makeshift refugee camps.

People everywhere without adequate water to drink.

I have a bad habit of letting the water run while I brush my teeth.

Seriously, I never thought about it.  Flip on the faucet, wet the toothbrush, add toothpaste and brush, then rinse out your mouth and rinse off the toothbrush.  How much water could I possible be using?

A lot. Well over three gallons.

I stuck a basin into the sink and did my usual brushing Sunday night.

The basin overflowed.  It normally holds three gallons — and it overflowed before I had even finished brushing my teeth.

To put this in perspective, I’m told my dishwasher only uses five-six gallons of water on a normal wash cycle.  That’s six gallons to wash twice as many dishes as I have teeth, plus pots and a large amount of utensils.  And I usually run the dishwasher every three days or so — which means I am wasting three times more water brushing my teeth than I need to run the dishwasher once.

Those wasted gallons of water could have allowed a rancher to hold onto a cow.  Ensured the farmer could provide me with cobs of corn for a July 4th barbecue.  Let someone take a shower instead of a sponge bath.

Kept someone alive for a few more days in another country.

And then I started noticing other ways I’m not water-conscious.  I let the water run while I’m conditioning my hair and shaving my legs in the shower.  I fill up a pot with water to cook — and put the pot on the stove before I turn off the sink’s faucet.  I drink half a glass of cold water and when it gets warm – I dump it out, then get a new glass of cold water.

There are more, but listing my sins isn’t really the point.  The point is — all those little, unneeded, overuses of water add up, very quickly.  I estimated that I waste probably twenty-thirty gallons or more just between the shower and brushing my teeth.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of water, until you realize what you could do with it besides letting it run into the sewers.

Water crops.  Keep people and animals alive.

Put a little less strain on critical supplies at a time when water is an ever-more-scarce resource.

I’m not talking about banning pools, or saying never wash your car or water your lawn.  I’m talking about the little ways we just use water without purpose.  If we all just thought, turned off the faucet once or twice instead of letting the water run, how much water could we save?  There’s 300 million people in this country — how many of us are letting gallons of water run down the drain, unused?

Eventually, hopefully, our drought here in the United States will end.  But the fact remains, water is a finite source.  We can survive with different food sources — substitute chicken when beef is unavailable, enjoy brussel spouts when asparagus prices go up.

We can’t live without water.

And we’re wasting it.

The freedom to walk away

There is a certain freedom in giving up on something.

On taking one last, long, regretful look at it and saying “You know what? I’ve given it my all. I’ve tried. It’s not going to change, no matter how much more time and effort I put into it.”

And then you take the steps needed to walk away.

My parents drilled into me an exceptionally strong work ethic. No matter how hard or tough or bad or unpleasant something became, no matter how dark and deep that water was getting, you never gave up. You kept trying to improve it, change it into something better, for yourself and everyone else involved in it. You just hunkered down and gave it your all, to invoke the cliche.

But sometimes, your all just isn’t enough. You spend a solid year working on something, you try to solve it, you devote hundreds of extra hours to it – and in the end, there’s nothing more you can do about it.

Because the other parties involved don’t want it to change.

When you hit that wall (hopefully not at an excessive speed), continuing the effort isn’t adhering to a good work ethic, it’s just being plain stupid. You have to accept that the situation isn’t going to change.

And then decide whether to stay – or move on.

In one area of my life, I now accept that I have to walk away. I’ve poured my heart, my energy, my not-inconsiderable intelligence and experience and creativity into it. It’s been a year. I took a hard look at it again today and realized – nothing has changed. Nothing will change. The power to change it is not within my control. The parties who have that control look at the situation and either don’t see the change that’s needed – or see it and, frankly, just don’t care to change it.

It’s the classic case of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

When that happens, you can do one of two things. The solution so many people seem to choose is ‘close your mouth and endure in silence.’ And many situations warrant that approach – because they offer enough benefits in exchange for the inconvenience, annoyance and/or hardship to be endured.

That’s not the case here.  There are benefits, but honestly, I saw today that they don’t outweigh what I’ll have to continue dealing with if I continue on this course.  Having led the horse to the pond, it’s just standing here, looking at me.  I know it’s not going to drink. It may stand there forever, or it may choose to bite me.

It goes against my every instinct, but I have to say – it’s time. Time to change what I can control, which is my interaction, my continued participation, with it.

I realized that around 6 this evening. I expected to feel sad, to feel regret, to feel grief.

I didn’t expect to feel happy.

But I do. I gave it everything, and I can walk away without regret. The relief of having finally made a decision about it, of having accepted that it is futile to keep trying, is incredible.

Now I just have to stick to my resolution and walk as fast as I can.

This is me walking very fast.

Springtime Resolutions

I’ve made some ‘springtime’ resolutions, to replace the two New Year’s resolutions that I made — and promptly fulfilled.  If I could do those two things, those two very hard things, then I should be able to accomplish so much more.   So, for this spring, I will:

1.  Pay more attention to my career.

2.  Explore the area.  I’ve been to most of the United States — and yet, there are still so very many interesting places in the Philadelphia area that I haven’t seen.

3.  Get back in shape.  I’ve been attempting this one for two years, but this year will be different.  Because I’m not doing it alone, and I have a very powerful reason for doing it.

4.  Blog often.  Enough said.

5.  Knit out the stash.  Have yarn.  Found projects to match that yarn.  Now I just need to find the time to actually knit.

6.  Publish a book.  I’ve been writing, both original and fan fiction, for years.   I recently started expanding on a couple of those works, and realized that I could self-publish at least one, and see what people think of my writing.

7.  Re-organize my online life.  I’ve got accounts just everywhere.  But I can’t really spend all my life online, now can I?

8.  Learn a new language.  I once was fluent in several, but I’ve lost that edge.  Time to get it back.

9.  Break my habit.  I have this thing I do — not a bad thing, just a habit that I’ve long since outgrown.

And in 90 days, we’ll see how many of those I accomplish.