Thursday, December 18, 2008
Current mood: inspired
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Over the course of the next several blogs, I will be sharing quotes from a book I'm presently revisiting, "Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living."
In a recent therapy session, during which mindfulness is thought upon and the transitory nature of emotion is emphasized, I brought up Bruce Lee and his spin on philosophical matters with respect to the concept of mindfulness and the paradigm shifts necessary to understand and work through stress and anxiety.
I also "A ha'd" that I was revisiting the idea to take up a martial art in the New Year as both emotional/philosophical and physical fitness. "Striking Thoughts" is but one of half a dozen books by Lee that have called my bookshelves home for over a decade.
I've wanted to study Jeet Kune Do, the martial art system and philosophy developed by Bruce Lee himself, which translates to "The Art of the Intercepting Fist."
To label Jeet Kune Do a "system," however, contradicts the very core principles of the art, which draws both movement and philosophy from a variety of traditional Asian martial arts and American boxing, and is thus, as Lee said, "using no way as way and having no limitation as limitation."
Since mindfulness is at the root of the cognitive behavior therapy I am receiving, I thought it would behoove me to quote Lee's definition of "calm." My main issue is is that I get caught up in the intense emotion of a given experience, and my responses to that emotion can sometimes be illogical, unrealistic, catastrophic or physically harmful. It is useful to label them as this:
A) The Emotion (anxiety, stress, fear, paranoia, et al)
B) Space for Mindfulness, detachment and dissection of that emotion and its consequence
C) The Ultimate Action or Reaction
My problem is that I start at "A" and manically slide straight over to "C," without stepping back and slowing down my response so that it can be met with a healthy, productive, realistic response. There are several ways to achieve mindfulness at point B, breathing and meditation being just one example. Bruce Lee's interpretation of point B is this:
.."At this moment, stop inwardly...when you do stop inwardly, psychologically your mind becomes very peaceful, very clear. Then you can really look at 'this.'" --Bruce Lee
Monday night is my introductory Jeet Kune Do lesson at a highly respected martial arts academy here in Chicago. Wish me luck and check back soon for another inspirational quote from Bruce Lee.
Monday, December 8, 2008
For me, anyway.
Readers who frequent my blog know that one of my life's major stressors has been my inability to find a full-time job, an albatross weighing my neck down for upwards of a year now. I keep very accurate job-search records; to date, I've sent out over 700 resumes. So's not to pigeon hole myself into any narrow employment category type, I'm hitting a broad spectrum of industries and jobs of which I have the necessary skill set. I'm willing to work for a reasonable wage that still allows me to support my child, and I have a decade and a half of practical, valuable experience. My ideal situation now would be to work in an administrative/secretarial role within a medical practice or hospital, while receiving on-the-job training in a clinical capacity, with the five-year plan to include nursing school at night in order to earn my R.N. while I work.
My ideal job situation would also allow me to have a modicum of time to still assist with activities and responsibilities at my son's school, as I do now, and maintain my bi-weekly band practice and performance schedule, all while not having to trudge my son to through too many hours of before and after school day care.
Finally, the right job that satisfied all of these criteria presented itself. I'd responded to an ad on Craigslist for an administrative assistant/ophthalmology technician at a doctor's office on the Northwest Side of Chicago. While they required administrative experience, they were willing to train on the clinical side, which was perfect for me, seeing as most medical offices and hospitals to which I've applied require at least one year experience in either role within a medical setting.
The doctor phoned me to set up the first interview later one Sunday evening, while I was watching "Desperate Housewives" and making my son's school lunch for the following day. He was impressed with my resume and credentials and wanted to meet me early that week. The practice was not only brand new and starting from scratch, it was 6 blocks south of my house on the same street and had a very convenient work schedule. I scheduled my interview for the coming Tuesday.
The first interview went fantastically. The doctor was personable and gracious, and he reiterated his impression that I had a great resume and experience. I felt that I aced all of the pertinent questions and was encouraged by the dialogue he and I shared regarding the position. At the time, the doctor informed me that he'd received about 100 resumes, and had paired down the interviewees to roughly 20, and that I was the front-runner for the job after our meeting. So hooray!
The call to schedule interview #2 with the doctor's office came just two days later, which I found most encouraging. I researched "second interviews" on the internet and spoke with my mother at length, who herself has been the administrative assistant in a doctor's office for the better part of 20 years. I arrived promptly at interview #2 with my notebook and list of references, and was only mildly nervous because the doctor saw fit to have all of the interviewees sitting in his waiting room at the same time.
That seemed like an odd style, but perhaps the doctor had scheduling conflicts with patients or something. In any case, I felt like I was at an "American Idol" audition rather than a job interview.
Interview #2 went likewise swimmingly, and I arrived with some marketing ideas for the doctor's burgeoning Lasik eye business, as he requested at the end of interview #1, as part of my background is as a marketing and public relations assistant. During this meeting, however, the doctor said that the position would focus more on the administrative and clinical end than marketing, so my ideas, while appreciated were unnecessary. Fine. The interview also focused on a bit more about my interests and my 5-year plan, and other qualities that reiterated his impression that I was the front-runner for the job. I was then introduced to the other doctor in the practice, an old-as-dirt ophthalmologist in his mid 80's, and interviewed further with him. Then I met that doctor's receptionist, who turned out to be a friend of a friend, so we chatted for a bit about what a small world it was, etc. Back to the reception area where I sized up the competition, as it were, and filled out their standard job application. The two other candidates present were a young Hispanic woman and a young Polish woman. The Polish woman and I chatted briefly small talking about something that was on the television in the waiting room, and it was clear that she was a relatively new immigrant to this area.
Once my job application was completed, I left the interview with the impression that the other two candidates didn't have a PRAYER of getting the job over me, since my skill set, maturity, professionalism and sparkling (??) personality kept me as the front-runner. Plus, I can speak both Spanish and conversational Polish, which is growing increasingly necessary in our area due to the influx of immigrants.
The doctor asked me to come to interview #3 the following week (time TBD) with a list of questions about the practice that I wanted to ask him. Again, I sought my mother's advice since she's been the administrative assistant for a doctor in a private practice for almost 20 years. The third interview seemed more of a formality to me than anything else, and I surely didn't think that the two much younger, non-degreed applicants would outshine me.
The week passed, and even giving the Thanksgiving holiday, I found it odd that I hadn't heard the Monday following about interview #3. Cutting some slack, I decided to call about the job a few days later.
A young woman with a thick Polish accent answered, "Doctor's office, may I help you?"
She informed me that the doctor was at lunch, and when I inquired about the position, she indicated to me that it had, in fact, been filled. While she didn't say "BY ME, YOU LOSER!," it was clear that it was the same young, Polish immigrant girl with whom I hobnobbed in the waiting room two weeks prior.
So not only did I not receive the courtesy of a phone call from the Doctor himself notifying me that I didn't get the job, I was forced to call myself and speak to the woman who beat me for it, both of which did not sit well with me.
I was, quite honestly, trying to approach it with a "it's their loss" attitude, but the situation is growing increasingly aggravating to me. I'm sure the Polish chick, who was all of 20 or 21 years old, settled for a much lower wage than what the doctor and I mutually agreed was warranted, and I'm sure she speaks fluent Polish rapidly and sans any errors that might befall me as a non-native speaker. Plus, she was cuter than I was, so I'm giving an extra point in her favor for that one.
It apparently doesn't matter that I've lived in that neighborhood for my entire life, that I know the area backwards and forwards, or that I have a bachelor's degree, or that I've got an enviable, if not a tad colorful resume, or that I know Windows XP like the back of my hand, or that I get along with the elderly, or that I'm dependable, mature, friendly or freakishly intelligent and a quick learner. I'm not a first-generation, right off the boat Polish immigrant. And I hate to be salty, but they aren't appearing to have nearly the difficulty in this economy and job market as someone like me.
I told my friends and family, the only trouble I might have with Polish in this position was that I didn't know the medical terms for the parts of the eye, but I could've learned that as quickly as any other component of the job, as I have friends who are native Polish speakers who could've taught me. It's just majorly irritating that the Northwest Side has become Little Warsaw, and while it never bothered me logistically or culturally, I'm through with waving my Polish flag with pride, because the immigrants are flocking to this area and scooping up jobs that people like me are totally qualified for, purely because of the language barrier. These days, you can't go to the grocery store, or the bank, or the bakery, or, evidently, the doctor's office, without there being signage, literature or employees who speak BOTH Polish and English. It's an old argument and American cliche to wonder why immigrants can't learn to speak English, and America is still composed of a vast melting pot of different nationalities, blah blah blah. But they're taking jobs out of the hands of American-born citizens, applying for and receiving American public aid and Social Security and settling for lower wages and poorer working conditions than their American-born counterparts, setting in general a lower standard of professionalism and poise in my area of the country. And I've just about had it with that.
Pondering this very subject had me awake at 6:30 in the morning, an hour before I need to get up and get Luke ready for school. As we speak, I'm multitasking and reading the new batch of want ads on Craigslist and Careerbuilder.com, and sending out more resumes and applications, all for jobs for which I'm qualified and capable. I doubt that any of this week's legwork will materialize into a paid full-time gig, but I keep hoping.
That said, I don't think pierogies and kielbasa are on tonight's dinner menu, and I'm reneging my membership in the Bobby Vinton fan club. Not a dzien dobry!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Goodness Gracious, That CAN’T Be Healthy (Nevermind True)
Current mood: awake
So I'm awake, I made a pot of coffee, and I'm searching LimeWire for the version of "O, Holy Night" that Luciano Pavarotti sings in both English and Latin. Whenever Luke rolls out of bed, I will bake him the afore-promised cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast. Then I'll contemplate going to the 10:45 am church service, unless, of course, I fall back asleep, leaving God to shake His head in disappointment. Ah, well.
At any rate, I have to take issue with the extremely annoying ads that myspace includes in my profile, home page and banners. I understand that myspace programs the site to place "relevant" ads on our pages, though I can't remember when I might have indicated to myspace, my blog or the world in general, that I feel the need to lose weight. Granted, at my heaviest in 2006, I weighted 216 pounds and I now weight 127 pounds, but this is not a factoid I publish or email or advertise on a regular basis when I'm online.
Technically, then, I lost 89 pounds over an almost 3 year period, mostly by diet and exercise, but about 25 as a result of quitting the sauce in February, and probably another 15 by employing my "all nicotine and stress" regiment.
The ads on myspace show before/after shots of a woman's very large midsection, claiming "I lost 27 pounds in 2 weeks!" or a bikini-clad woman's after picture next to her before, where she's donning a frock by Omar the Tentmaker, exclaiming "I lost 37 pounds in a week and my friends can't believe it!"
Neither can the rest of the sane, general population, dear. To say these ads are outlandish is an understatement, and I honestly can't grasp that even the most despondent and desperate obese person would put much credence in them. Advertising is advertising, and quack products are quack products, but please...27 pounds in 2 weeks!?!?! Maybe if the woman had a serious attack of Crohn's disease or spontenously had all of her limbs amputated (now THAT would be an "after" picture!). Otherwise, no diet claim could ever, in history, provide such rapid results; or certainly, not without also admitting that the user was suffering from a cacophony of rapid weight-loss related dire, serious medical complications.
People who either know me or have seen my "before" pictures frequently ask me "how I did it." I did not use weight loss medications or supplements, nor did I have any sort of surgical assistance. My plan was to eat sensible, healthy portions of very mostly whole foods, drink lots of water and exercise for 1 1/2 hours, six days a week at my gym that was similar to the "Curves" chain (cardio, hydraulic machines and free weights).
For the first few months, my weight loss was consistent but slow, usually 2-3 pounds a week. Once my metabolism revved up, the most I would lose was 5 pounds a week, though it's hard to estimate since my trainer only weighed and measured me once every six weeks. Measuring, to me, was even more important than weighing, because often, inches would come off or tone up (as a result of the exercise) without losing a given amount of weight. Slow and steady weight loss was the key to both good health and successfully reshaping my appearance.
My weight loss plan satarted in February of 2006. By October of that year, I'd lost about 50 pounds and 47" from my frame. My BMI (body mass index) had returned to a healthy level from an obese level, and technically, I could have stopped losing weight at that point. It was a mazing, however, how pounds just melted off after I stopped drinking in February of 2008. Alcohol metabolizes in the body like 100% pure sugar, so it's absence, plus me drinking 2 liters of seltzer water a day, helped. Then the whole nicotine and stress diet...don't ask.
Bottom line--healthy wiehgt loss is possible and probable if you follow a sane, healthy plan. No magic pill will melt 27 pounds off your body in 2 weeks and if it does, you'll likely die of cardiac arrest.
And myspace? Put something new up, sheesh!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
To date, however, most of this has never happened, apart from the City of Chicago dancing around the decision to provide water to our building since our MIA landlord owes them $1500. And Comcast notoriously has problems with our cable/internet service, usually requiring their technician to be intimately involved with the light poll in our alley.
Today, however, the Comcast being out was my fault. I was about $50 behind on my cable/internet bill, so my service was cut off while I was downtown. The self-imposed inconvenience was easily remedied and our service restored, so that turned out okay.
But Today wasn't done.
Luke and I came home, and he had to use the washroom. Too much toilet paper led to the toilet overflowing, and water running up the toilet, all over the bathroom floor, down the hallway and into the dining room. Again, more or less easily remedied problem. But I was growing more discombobulated as time progressed.
After some light grocery shopping, I realized I forgot to buy almond milk at the store and/or take a box of it home from Chris' this morning. In an effort to multi-task, we combined the milk run with me getting a haircut, the last two haircuts having turned my head into a complete clusterfuck of non-punkyness. It took a Croatian to remedy the damage done by the last two Polish stylists, and for that I certainly wasn't going to complain that the Croatian kept getting her scissors stuck in my ear cartilage piercings, both of which are still pretty fresh.
With almond milk and a decent coif, we returned home, where we have to trudge up 2 flights of steep, wooden stairs to get into our apartment. I'd swept the snow off, but a thick layer of ice from Thursday remained, and I neglected to procure salt. Naturally, I slipped and fell down 4 stairs on the second tier, spilling my purse. My left knee is a bit sore, as is my ankle, but it took me about 10 minutes to realize that blood was dripping from the knuckle of my pinky finger and down my hand.
The Murphy's Law day continued when Luke asked me, since the eviction hasn't come through yet, if I would put up our Christmas tree. Breathing deeply, I begrudgingly agreed, and brought the tree downstairs from storage. The instructions for the stand are totally ambiguious, but the tree is relatively straightforward--3 pieces that click into one another.
Simple enough, right? But this is me. And this was Today.
I became so irritated with the tree stand the first time I struggled with it's assembly that I didn't notice that the whole time, I was attempting to slide part 3 into where part 1 was supposed to go. Using my newly-acquired skills through cognitive behavior therapy, I stepped back from the tree situation and decided to take a break and make dinner.
This proved to be a good move, seeing as once I'd fortified my body with dinner and clicked on "To Kill A Mockingbird" on Movie Plex, I had a fresh pair of eyes with which to approach the tree's assembly. And that time I got it right.
Until it was time to untangle the ball of lights I hurriedly put away in the box after last Christmas. In the meantime, I explained the day's events to my mom on the phone, and she offered some unexpectedly sage advice..."Oh, just throw them on there and it can look like a Charlie Brown tree. At least you put one up so Luke will be happy." And he was! He was even more happy after I de-clumped some of the lights and strung some of them all the way around the tree. This leaves the tree crookedly standing with a minorly Big! Huge! Clump! right in the middle, but oh well. Some ornaments and bead garland and no one will really play that much attention. Remedy! Who wants to tree trim at Camp Swanky with us?
Today, as a proper noun, however, has much more significance than merely being Wow, What a Day that Clusterfuckedly Sucked Due to Increasingly Irritating Events. For today is December 6th. Today is all monumental and adorably important to me and someone I love very much, someone to whom I'll be forever grateful and whose friendship and support have been critical to my recovery, healing and soul. I want him to know just how much he's appreciated and how much I will always treasure our friendship. We have a running commentary about how we'll one day sit on a porch swing in our 80's and look back fondly at all of our adventures, for sure, but I'm not thinking that the revisitation should be on a December 6th unless we've both retired to Boca Raton in the interim.
Today I will soon retire to bed, in a functioning, warm apartment, sober and in the company of my son, having shared a quick goodnight on the phone with the love of my life.
Thank you, Today.
God Bless You, Christopher.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"Crosswalks," right. In America, we call them "Crosswalks."
I'm starting to wonder if it's either mere coincidence or rather a nefarious plot that motorists routinely attempt to plow me down in the Jewel parking lot. But suffice it to say, if I'm feeling the need to place my hand on the hood of someone's car and say "LOOK OUT!," pedestrian preservation laws are being broken. Just sayin'.
My aloe and cucumber hand lotion has instructions for use on the back of the bottle. They read, "Smooth over entire body after exposure to sun or for anytime moisturization. The marketing team at Suave have nicely narrowed down when it's appropriate for me to use my hand lotion. I no longer harbor any uneasiness about moisturizing any and all of my body parts all the live-long day.
This is day 3 of me fighting a cold. Luke had one. Chris had one. So assume utter doom in my body's vain germ-fighting capability. (calling in for reinforcements.)
Blech. I'm behind on finishing about 3 really profound blogs. This isn't one of them.
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear when interview #3 will take place and if I got this cool job at an opthalmologist's office. I'll call them tomorrow.
Luke has a serious crush on pretty little blond girl in his class, Grace. The following went on verbatim:
Grace, to teacher: "Mrs. Barber, can I roll my sleeves off? I'm too hot."
[Grace rolls up sleeves.)
Luke to Grace: " I wouldn't mind it if you took your shirt off!"
Where's another 8-year old cockblocker when need him?
Luke (in car en route home, me still flabbergasted): "She has a really cute belly button too."
Best course of action? Pretend I don't hear the last comment and seek out potential shelters in which to hide when Grace's Very Angry Father comes looking for me and my mojo drenched son.
Uh, duly noted? KIDS! THEY ARE 8! Holy crumbs that's a conversation I want to avoid until it's not my weekend and Craig can field Luke's sexual education. Surely, Craig will come up with somehing less offensive as a proper teaching aid. All I could come up with was having Luke listen to Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off." Actually, we YouTube'd it, and his only comment on both the message and it's delivery was, and I quote, "Classy!"
Prayers and God's grace are being answered and witnessed to me in droves lately. Prayer is such a powerful gift. The practice of approaching life looking through "not-entirely rose-colored glasses, let's call it, is so vital. The Christian approach is to treat others as if they themselves were Jesus and that we should act as if we're approaching it looking through Jesus' eyes. Make sense? Easier said than done, for sure, for we are all guilty of mistreating others. We are, by nature, sinful beings. Our negative emotions about others often cloud our capacity to love, celebrate life and express empathy. I could blog on for hours about how prayer and grace and faith in religion affects us on a daily basis, but anectodally, that will have to wait until the next blog posting! ;)
*ADDENDUM!!!* Boy, I sure make a lot of typos when I write blogs at midnight after I've taken my cavalcade of meds!!!!!!