My First Real Job

My first real job was as a berry picker in the Skagit Valley In Washington state. I started when I was 9 years old picking raspberries for a husband and wife that had a small farm that was just about a half-mile from our home. I was one of the few white kids in the field picking berries to make a little money for school clothes hanging out with my sister and having some fun.

But after the second half-assed day on the job, not picking my row thoroughly, Darrel the owner walked down my row before assigning another one to me and taught be a very important lesson. He spoke to me like an adult and explained how my low quality work impacted his life and the life of his family as well as took money out of the pockets of other adults working in the field along side of me to support their families. He told me I needed to decide if I wanted to be a quality worker and stay employed as a picker in his field or if I wanted to go home.

I decided I wanted to stay. I also believe I worked harder for him because he had treated me with respect, told me my options and let me choose. I worked in the fields for him for three more summers, each year getting better at the job and earning more. I would leave the strawberry fields of Sakuma Brothers as soon as the raspberries in Darrels fields were ready to pick.

A recent report on NPR about Anthropologist, Seth Holmes, who spend a year and a half working with migrant berry pickers had this to say about the work in his new book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.

Picking Berries At Speed, Duration Required Hurts The Body

Holmes says he often felt a lot of pain in his knees, hips and back while picking.

“It always seemed like whichever position felt the best, I was the slowest at picking, so I always felt like I had to pick in the most painful position, bent over with both knees as far as I could, in order to be as fast as I could,” Holmes said. “And at one point, I wrote in my journal, ‘This feels like pure torture.’”

It was very hard work, sore back, sore knees, sunburns, scratches from the needles on the bushes, I still have scars. My three summers of hard field work turned into 3 more seasons working in his small processing plant, standing on the line picking out the bad ones, dumping flats in to the clear freezing cold water to clean them for the line, preparing berries for jam by adding the exact right amount of sugar to the berries to get the ratio correct, packing the perfect berries for shipment overseas in special little boxes.

Every summer started with a stomach ache too, because the first day I would eat so many of the perfect, yummy berries that inevitably I ended up with a belly ache by the end of the day. But, oh it was so worth it. There is still nothing like a fresh Washington state strawberry or raspberry, no sugar needed.

My work paid for my school clothes each year, my first car (a used 1973 VW 412), school fees, band camp and any fun I had. Those summer jobs helped me in so many ways: it gave me a work ethic, helped me understand the economy of money and helped me appreciate people from other cultures. The migrant Mexican workers were the first foreigners I ever met and all of them that I worked beside over those six summers were kind, funny, hardworking and an inspiration to a young impressionable kid about taking care of your family, working hard and enjoying your life.

A summer job and responsibility should be on every kids resume before they graduate highschool.

Did you have a summer job as a kid? Do you expect your kids to work in the summer?

 

$600 Well Spent

Omaha Sunset

 

The repetition begins at an early age,

with competition to make the grades.

It’s early to rise, to knot the ties,

sip your coffee and monetize.

The work is hard, but still we strive,

because a new toy is in our eyes.

Do we love the work we do,

so often only the lucky few.

To pay for the life that we live,

our sweat we must give.

 

I have gotten on a rhyming bent these last couple weeks. It seems to happen to me when I start reminiscing and thinking about life in a more reflective way. I think the return of my grandfather to Washington, a visit with my parents and sister and then my nieces graduation this weekend all had me thinking more slowly and reflecting on how quickly time passes. Life truly does go by in a blink of an eye and I seem to miss so much of it.

I need to quit working to pay for “things” and rather work to pay for the experiences of life. This week was a great example of what I would like to do more of; I spend time with my beautiful, sweet, talented niece Hailey and her family. I was able to hear her sing in a performance, meet her new college roommate, finally meet her step-dad(who has been in her life for nearly 13 years) and hang out and laugh with my little brother. The four day with airfare, rental car, food, etc cost me $600, for me that was money well spent.

What do you work for and how do you spend money well?

Are You Afflicted With Smart-Ass? I am!

IMG_0672  Hello. My Name is Shari and I’m a Smart-ass!

Do you ever beat yourself up for things you have said or done? I do, all of the time. It’s usually because of a smart ass comment I’ve made in a meeting that I meant to be funny and people did laugh. But then, afterward, I worry, was someone offended? When the joke isn’t at my own expense, I hope I picked a target with a sense of humor and a willingness to play along. But still, sometimes it nags at me and I feel like I should track the person down and apologize.

I am a smart-ass from way back. I think, quite possibly, I came out of the womb with a raised eyebrow at my mother asking what took her so long. When I came out of my shell, in junior highschool, I might have been considered one of the class clowns; always popping off with something to get a laugh or reaction.

I also constantly use humor, self-depreciation or a silly comment to try to deflect from a difficult situation or when conflict arises between other people or when god-forbid someone gives me a compliment. I think it stems from spending my formative years in a house with a lot of conflict, with parents that spelled swear words at each other. I’m not sure if their thinking was that it would protect my vocabulary because they spelled out F-U-C-K-E-R at each other rather than said the word. But, fucker is actually one of the first words I learned to spell. I spelled it out for my grandpa’s neighbor, Mr. Fox, he was not impressed. I was immediately marched home and exposed. My grandmother laughed when he told her what I was spelling and I was told to go outside and play.

An environmental impact from my youth that continues to afflict me today!

Are you afflicted with anything?

 

 

 

Banning the Snarky

IMG_0301  Me

I recently wrote a post about a snarky comment from a reader on one of my “6 Word Memoirs” and even though I wrote about not changing the post because of the comments; if I’m honest my initial reaction was that of having someone yell at me in line at the super market for accidentally brushing into them – apologetic, shrinking away, cowering.  I stayed away from that site for a couple of days, even though I was really enjoying the posts and coming up with my own.

When you put yourself out there, show your cards and share yourself, you are not going to please everyone; some people don’t agree with my point of view and some people are just horribly unhappy and want to share that with everyone else.

By nature I am a people pleaser and this is going to be a challenge to my psyche to take the criticism, constructive or destructive, that will inevitably come by putting myself and my thoughts out into the world.

But, this is also making me look at my own behavior and I have to admit I can be snarky and negative with the best of them, though I hope I don’t attack or bully people. But even that, I am sure I have probably done, at some point.  I am going to work on that part of myself, what is the saying, “you are what you put into the world” or something like that or maybe its “you get, what you give”? Anyway,  I hope you understand what I mean.

I don’t want to perpetuate the negative in the world and my world starts with me and the people around me. From today forward I am “banning the snarking” and a positive approach will be my reaction to every situation even the unhappy or difficult ones, because the only thing I can control is my reaction to what happens around me and to me. I will approach a problem or difficult situation with an eye to solving it in a positive and constructive way. No more negative, bashing, snarky responses that get me and those involved no where.

Now, I know this is easier said than done, as they say, but I am going to consciously try to be more positive in my approach to every situation and I’m “banning the snarky”. Wish me luck.

Do you have any helpful tips for getting through life’s difficulties with a positive approach?

 

 

 

Learning to Take a Compliment

IMG_0580  If words could kill, I would be taken down by a compliment!

I am so wired to deflect a complement it’s become an affliction. The other day the Director of the agency I work for gave me a complement in a meeting and I turned red, started to sweat and stupidly did a little 3-year olds clap, you know the little giddily quiet hand clap. What a freaking spaz!

I avoid meetings and events where awards, service recognition or other opportunities to be recognized are happening because it fills me with so much anxiety. And it’s a little strange because I am interviewed on T.V. quite a bit, I have done live T.V. and Radio shows, I talk to people at events all the time and am generally an out-there extrovert selling my book of business without restraint. But selling myself or worse someone pointing out something nice about me puts me into a sweat filled anxiety attack that makes me want to hurl.

I know I should smile, hold my head high and just say thank you, but that is f’ing  hard for me to do!

So I did what any mentally ill person would do, I searched the internet for the best psychological advice I could find. What? I spent all my mental health funds on a new sweater. Anyway, I found some helpful tips that I am going to put to use and I am posting a few of the best here incase some of you repurposed your mental health funds for a cocktail dress. One of my favorites comes from: Manolo for the Big Girl 

“You wouldn’t go up to someone and say “Hi, you know your favorite green cardigan? It’s awful. Seriously. It looks like a tennis ball sexually assaulted your grandma.” (well, I’d say that, but you all are nicer than I am) because obviously they LIKE the sweater and you don’t just go up to people and tell them they have bad taste, even if they really really deserve it.

This is doubly true in states with concealed handgun laws.

See, it doesn’t matter whether you believe the compliment or not. If someone says you have a lovely singing voice and you say you sound like a frog, what you’re telling this person is they have bad taste in music.

Rude.

So, next time, instead of making an ass of yourself, make A ASS of yourself:

Acknowledge – body language, a nodded head or a hand to the chest (preferably your chest) conveying you heard what they said and it’s touched you.

Accept – the actual words you use, “Thank you” is a good start. Keep it brief.

Smile – a smile lets them know they’ve made you happy, even if you don’t believe them

Shut up – Don’t devalue the compliment or try to repay it. You don’t want them to feel like they were fishing for a compliment of their own.

That’s it.”

 Clementine’s experiment, say it with me….

“So, we’re here with a little experiment. The next time you receive a good-hearted pat on the back, respond with two simple words:

Thank you.

Now, we’re not being sarcastic here. Nor do we have any intention of making light of something we all struggle with on a regular basis. Yet, those two commonly-used words are truly the best solution. Try it with us:

“Congratulations on the big promotion!”    Thank you.

“Wow! You look amazing this evening.”     Thank you.

“Your home is so lovely.”                            Thank you.

That’s it, dearest Clementines. No disparaging qualifying statements needed.”

And how could I not include a tip from the place where all geeks go for information, wikiHow suggests,

“When accepting the compliment as it is, even if it’s not something you agree with, keep the reply simple and stay focused on the fact of receiving the compliment and be appreciative that the person was happy to compliment you. Some examples are:
“Thank you very much” or just “thank you”. These are simple, timeless classics that should be easy enough to utter even if the compliment has caught you off guard. If that’s all you can think to say, leave it at that.
“Thanks, I appreciate that.”
“Thank you; that’s a really lovely thing to say.”
“Thanks – that makes me feel really good.”
“Thanks. That means a lot to me.”
“Thanks, you’re a kind person.””

Now with all these great tips at hand I will move forward in life no longer defecting a compliment but rather replying – Thank You!

How about you – any social situation make you want to hurl?  Can you take a compliment?

Meditation is Hard Work

New England 2007-23 I began my meditation commitment about two weeks ago.

I enjoy the sitting still and breathing for about 30 seconds, then my mind wonders, I start to fidget, I open my eyes and look at the clock and it hasn’t even been 30 seconds, try 15 seconds. But I do what I’ve read, take it easy on myself, bring myself back to my breath, relax my shoulders and try again.

I have been reading more about meditation and the practice that is going “mainstream” and found this article in the New York Times by Tony Schwartz, More Mindfulness, Less Meditation that had some interesting points.

Here’s the promise: Meditation – and mindfulness meditation, in particular – will reduce your cortisol level, blood pressure, social anxiety and depression. It will increase your immune response, resilience and focus and improve your relationships — including with yourself. It will also bolster your performance at work and provide inner peace. It may even cure psoriasis.”

Wow, if it’s this great why isn’t it required in school just like gym and health class? And now it is really becoming the fad de jour when Rappers and Silicon Valley folks are getting on board, not to mention the Seattle Seahawks.

50 Cent meditates. So do Lena Dunham and Alanis Morissette. Steven P. Jobs meditated, and mindfulness as a practice is sweeping through Silicon Valley. A week from Saturday, 2,000 technology executives and other seekers will gather for a sold-out conference called Wisdom 2.0, suddenly a must-attend event for the cognoscenti.

The author, Mr. Schwartz, has been a regular meditator for nearly 25 years according to his article and wrote a book about it called “What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America” but his years of experience tell him that it isn’t a magic cure for all that ails you. He writes,

The simplest definition of meditation is learning to do one thing at a time. Building the capacity to quiet the mind has undeniable value at a time when our attention is under siege, and distraction has become our steady state. Meditation – in the right doses — is also valuable as a means to relax the body, quiet the emotions and refresh one’s energy. There is growing evidence that meditation has some health benefits.

What I haven’t seen is much evidence that meditating leads people to behave better, improves their relationships or makes them happier.”

 He goes on to write;

“Consider what Jack Kornfield has to say about meditation. In the 1970s, after spending a number of years as a monk in Southeast Asia, Mr. Kornfield was one of the first Americans to bring the practice of mindfulness to the West. He remains one of the best-known mindfulness teachers, while also practicing as a psychologist.

“While I benefited enormously from the training in the Thai and Burmese monasteries where I practiced,” he wrote, “I noticed two striking things. First, there were major areas of difficulty in my life, such as loneliness, intimate relationships, work, childhood wounds, and patterns of fear that even very deep meditation didn’t touch.”

I don’t expect meditation is going to solve all my problems, but I hope if I keep practicing that it might bring me a little bit of peace, help me focus more on what matters and help me understand myself a bit better. Maybe I am asking too much?

Mr. Schwartz’s column also gives some suggestions about starting with the basics. I might need the remedial class!

“First, don’t expect more than it can deliver.

Second, start simply.

Third, don’t assume more is better.”

The three steps in the article include more practical advise about using it wisely including this comment from Catherine Ingram, author of “Passionate Presence“,

“There is a difference between mindfulness meditation and simple mindfulness. The latter isn’t a practice separate from everyday life. Mindfulness just means becoming more conscious of what you’re feeling, more intentional about your behaviors and more attentive to your impact on others.”

I see both mindfulness and meditation with possibilities for improving me. If I improve me, I can use what I learn to improve things for others in and around my life. So I will keep trying, two minutes at a time.

Do you meditate yet? Why not – everyone else is!

Doggy Style

IMG_0640  Mo chillin in the window sun.

Funny, I posted my story about how our dog Maddie came into our lives “We Don’t Need A Damn Dog” and the next morning I came across this article in the New York Times by Jane E. Brody, “Life With A Dog: You Meet People.”

Mrs. Brody writes that she has been a widow for nearly 4 years and felt acquiring a four legged friend would be a better option that a two legged one. That comment made me chuckle. And this observation about those who encourage and those who discourage your dog ownership.

“While most dog owners I know encouraged my decision, several dogless friends thought I had lost my mind. How, with all my work, travels and cultural events, was I going to manage the care of a dog?

No one asked this when I decided to have children. In fact, few people consider in advance how children will fit into their lives. If you want a child badly enough, you make it work.”

One of my work friends responded to our addition of Maddie to our home with “Why the hell did you get a dog?”  Non-dog people just don’t get it.

Another passage that rang so true was about how much her little furry friend makes her laugh.

“Yes, he’s a lot of work, at least at this age. But like a small child, Max makes me laugh many times a day. That’s not unusual, apparently: In a study of 95 people who kept “laughter logs,” those who owned dogs laughed more often than cat owners and people who owned neither.”

Mo apparently doesn't get "Doggy Style"

Mo apparently doesn’t get “Doggy Style”

Our two crazy dogs crack us up everyday with silly antics. They also seem to instinctively know when we have had a terrible day or need some love and attention. When my husband recently came home after a stint in the hospital those two wouldn’t leave his side for days, just very mellowly hanging out with him until he felt better.

And as the title of the article states: “Life with Dogs: You meet People” she writes of the number of people that she has met because she has her little Max.

“But perhaps the most interesting (and unpremeditated) benefit has been the scores of people I’ve met on the street, both with and without dogs, who stop to admire him and talk to me. Max has definitely increased my interpersonal contacts and enhanced my social life. People often thank me for letting them pet my dog. Max, in turn, showers them with affection.”

Because of Maddie and Mo my husband and I know most of our neighbors; well I should say most of our neighbors children. We can not walk through our little neighborhood without some of the kids shouting “Maddie and Mo”, “Maddie and Mo” and stopping us so they can shower some love on the two of them and get kisses in return. And these two are little social butterflies, they just bask in all the love and attention.

Jane Brody’s article also goes on to share some common sense tips before acquiring a canine companion as well as links to other studies about the benefits of having a pet in your life.

Having Maddie and Mo in our lives has definitely had it’s challenges, from the chewed molding around the house that we are still saving to have repaired, to the middle of the night potty runs and the occasional scuffle over food.  But every challenge has been met by three times the joy from the love they shower on us and the laughter that they bring to our lives everyday. I can’t imagine my life with out them in it!

Do you have a pet in your life?

Life is good Pet Tees

Do You Meditate? Why Not – Everyone Else Is!

New England 2007-23  Do you meditate?

I don’t really, but I have been sorta of trying. It seems like every article or blog I read lately has something about meditating and how much it benefits your life.

Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress and lifestyle guru always has something “new age” on her site GOOP. This is from her New Years Resolution to start meditating post  and this excerpt is from Mark Epstein, MD the author of a number of books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy.

“Meditation, as taught by the Buddha, was a means of taming the mind by bringing the entire range of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations into awareness, making the unconscious conscious. There were already various forms of meditation widely practiced in the Buddha’s day but they were all techniques of concentration. Buddha mastered each of them but still felt uneasy. It was fine to rest the mind on a single object: a sound (or mantra), a sensation (the breath), an image (a candle flame), a feeling (love or compassion), or an idea. This gave strength to the mind, a feeling of stability, of peace and tranquility, a sense of what Freud came to call the ‘oceanic feeling’. While this could be relaxing, it did not do enough to change the mind’s complexion. Buddha was after something more.”

Another blog I enjoy, Zenhabits, also had an article recently on “The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life

I’ll save you the suspense: it’s two-minute meditation. And it’s extremely simple: take two minutes out of your extremely busy day (cat videos) to sit still and focus on your breath. Just keep the gentle fingertip of your attention on your breath as it comes into your body, and then goes out. When your mind wanders, take note of that, but then gently come back to the breath.

Almost all of the articles tout the ease as well as the difficulty of meditation, but how much better, uncluttered, relaxed, zen, etc, etc you will feel. And, if you practice often enough it will become a tool you can invoke at anytime.

Another article by Dan Hurley in the New York Times Magazine that had a section that took me a bit by surprise, it includes the work of psychologist Amishi Jha’s with the U.S. military, helping solders learn to meditate to better their performance in combat situations. An excerpt from the article;

We found that getting as little as 12 minutes of meditation practice a day helped the Marines to keep their attention and working memory — that is, the added ability to pay attention over time — stable,” said Jha, director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. “If they practiced less than 12 minutes or not at all, they degraded in their functioning.”

So much for new age, hippy dippy make yourself and the world more relaxed. The article also talks about some of the down sides of too much mindfulness; that it can inhibit your creativity and stifle your ability to let your mind wander to the benefit of your life. But the final paragraph from the article sums up the “sacrilege” versus using new tools to be better at what ever you do in life.

“After meditating upon such sacrilegious findings, no doubt the Buddha, who taught a middle way between worldly and spiritual concerns, would have agreed that there is a time for using mindfulness to discover inner truths, a time for using it to survive a battle or an exam and a time to let go of mindfulness so that the mind may wander the universe.”

I am generally a skeptic, but I have been so stressed out by almost every aspect of my life lately that a hint of desperation is setting in, I am going to give this a try in earnest. Beginning today, I am going to meditate everyday for at least 2 minutes. I will follow-up on my experience and progress or in my case probable ineptitude in some upcoming posts. namaste.

Do you meditate or practice mindfulness? How does it improve your life or maybe the lives of those around you?

 

Start

Sun and Sand

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” 

I have been re-reading a lot lately, time to flip to the next chapter.

I saw this on another blog on Tumblr and wanted to add it here! here is a link to the sources blog http://fromherheartapocalypse.tumblr.com