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The Little Things

November 18, 2009 1 comment

Every day, something annoying or frustrating can happen. We can forget something we really needed to remember, or we can continuously remember something we would love to forget. Either, way, challenges and obstacles are always in the way. It has been my experience throughout my twenties that the small, insignificant things are what make or break my day.

Today, for instance, I decided that in order to make my day slightly more bright (considering I am fighting a cold), I would bring in my laptop and use it instead. I am a beloved mac owner, and using my laptop is definitely easier for a lot of things. Plus the frustration doesn’t have to build – Office Space Style – while I wait for things to load.

Because of this little conciliation, I was forced to reroute my email, and can’t quite get the fundraising database to work on here (anyone out there good at this??), BUT it makes me smile more.

There is more fun noise when I type and I feel more like I am working and I am not just waiting for someone to give me something to do.

Either way, it got me thinking about those little things – and how much they can make or break us. Lately, as I read more and more blogs from really awesome people, capturing pieces of their lives, I wonder what makes them so special.  We like to read about other people cooking, cleaning, working, writing, dreaming.

All the while we are captivated – by the very same little things that matter to us, and reaching a common goal: to appreciate those things for what they are.

Today, my little thing was the mac. Tomorrow, maybe it will be my chai, or some other random Starbucks funny story – of which I have many. Maybe it will even be an amazing blog comment – hint, hint!

I hope all of the little things in your day are bringing you a smile too.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Are You There God? It’s Me, Blog.

November 16, 2009 6 comments

Are we all alone? Blogging has been great for me. It has opened my eyes to new things to read online, new communities to join, and ultimately, new ideas that are growing inside my mind about lots of different things – and the dedication that it takes to share these things with the world.

The only problem I have found with blogging so far, is that I have the distinct feeling that I am sometimes (not always, thanks commentators!) talking to nobody. I am out in the abyss of blogging, where many float but few take root.

That may sound a little bit dramatic, but it is what makes blogging challenging. Everyone can have a blog (everyone with internet access and a little bit of time), but everyone doesn’t keep it up. In my career, the total number of blogs started has been five, including this one.

I had one just about Yoga, one about people who help the world, one about sustaining Africa, and one about how I didn’t really know how to use a blog. None of them lasted for longer than a month, tops.

I think this had a lot to do with the fact that I was only discussing them with my husband. As thrilling as that is, I was really interested in these so-called “other readers” that exist out there in cyberspace. There were supposed to be millions, right? I hadn’t attracted so much as three.

Now, with my relatively recent involvement in Brazen Careerist, I have discovered that many people blog without expecting much of an audience – and the reverse also happens. We blog not wanting an audience, and then sometimes get one. The internet is so funny this way.

Ultimately, what I have learned from Brazen is the fact that marketing is a huge part of blogging as a serious entity. If you blog about the adventures of cat, dog, and kids, maybe marketing doesn’t need to be in your plans. But if you are like me, and you want to hear other people’s view on a variety of topics – and hopefully succeed in helping people in the world, an audience is crucial.

I am thankful that for the most part, I feel content with whatever audience life brings me that day. Yes, there are those times when I look at the WordPress.com stats, and feel sad that no one really knew what I had to say on that afternoon, but I keep trying.

Learning about the process requires a lot of shouts into the dark, but the most can be learned, I think, when you study your own voice.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nursery University

November 13, 2009 1 comment

My oh my, and I thought New York City couldn’t get any more hilariously crazy. New York is my favorite place in the world. But it has some of the most incredible income stratification in the world.

In case you want to see exactly what I mean, check out the documentary Nursery University, where we are taken into the world of the elite of the elite in the quest for the perfect…nursery school. The movie chronicles the aspects of the search for schools that are the “feeder schools” for the elite intermediate and high schools. This can ultimately lead a child to….

THE IVY LEAGUE.

Well New York, you have pretty much made me nauseated. I usually have a fairly laid back approach to the wealth that exists among the poverty, because that is what makes the city interesting in some ways. But the idea behind the effects of competition, and those that are ultimately squeezed out of a 2-3 year old’s playtime at school, was a lot for me to take.

My experience was interesting. I don’t remember my entry to pre-school, but I do remember my interview for kindergarten. Yes, interview. My mother was working full-time and needed a full-time kindergarten, and my grandfather wanted me to go to Jewish private school. So I wound up at an interview at the top Jewish school in the country, reading the teacher “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”

I don’t think I realized my school was different until I started hanging out with the kids at home – and realized that they were meeting so many more different people than me. Today, I can’t really imagine being surrounded by people who are all the same. I am in an interfaith, international, intercultural relationship that gives me the opportunity to even more fully explore the differences in the world around me.

New York is one of those really funny places where the same things about it that make it awesome are the same thing that make it the symbol for corporate greed, a society out of touch with reality, and the ways in which the rest of the world lives.

I can’t really be surprised that there are families that pay $50,000/year for pre-school. I lived and worked among them, and I even babysat some of those kids to pay my rent.

Ultimately, these kids will either wind up completely jaded – or they won’t. The majority of the kids I went to school with for 13 years at my school have turned out accepting, active in making the world a better place, and trying to move beyond the walls that held them for so long with the same people.

Will I make these types of crazy decisions as a parent? Not the $50,000 ones. But if given that shot, would I take it?

New York never ceases to surprise me – and make me thoroughly confused.

Categories: Uncategorized

Lending A Hand.

November 12, 2009 1 comment

Today I read an article forwarded to me by my husband in The Washington Post. I am normally not a Post reader, but this article in particular was begging for me to discuss it. Essentially, the article states that the Catholic Church is threatening to take away its social service contracts if DC passes a law to prevent organizations from discriminating against gay men and women. This doesn’t mean, the article points out, that the religious organizations have to allow weddings to be held in their buildings, BUT it does mean that they cannot enforce discriminatory practices over charity work.

Now, I was in this discussion recently with many other readers of Matt Cheuvront’s blog Life Without Pants, when he posted about the recent passing of anti-gay marriage legislation in Maine. I am a full supporter of gay marriage, and I know that can be a controversial viewpoint. But really, I was utterly shocked at this piece of local news.

I haven’t officially changed my New York license, but I am a DC resident, and to see this become such a divisive issue over homeless shelters and AIDS clinics has really made me ashamed. The article discusses Catholic Charities, whose $10 million dollars of funding for programs directly impacts over 70,000 people.

As a nonprofit fundraiser, I know the value of $10 million dollars in aid money. It is priceless. In this economy, charities are suffering because of a lack of funding.

Many may think I am completely wrong to pass judgment on these organizations – and you may be right. Charities, regardless of their religious affiliations, have their agendas. I know this first hand, and maybe even perpetuate it each day. It is part and parcel to competing with the companies that have the dollars and a great deal of the power. Are we as constituents and concerned citizens able to demand that our nonprofits and our charities be as ethical as our corporations?

To a certain extent, yes. We have the 501c3 tax status in the U.S. that gives nonprofits certain privileges as a result of doing good for the community. What if that good has somehow been lost because of a particular belief?

I am thoroughly interested in the discussion, and would love to hear more thoughts.

On a personal level, though, I urge the DC City Council to pass the anti-discrimination legislation.

Categories: Uncategorized

Laziness. The Devil’s Quality?

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Devil DepictionToday I woke up thinking about a few things. One, the fact that I believe I have a stress fracture in my foot from the half marathon (BUMMER 2009). Two, I thought about laziness. Mostly the fact that I find it almost nauseating when someone is lazy.

I’m not sure why this is – except for the fact that I come from a typical New York family. Go, Go, Go every second to accomplish the next thing. It is probably also not the healthy way to be. Luckily, I am trying to convert myself into a combination of the two.

One thing about laziness in personal life, is that it affects the precious few that are surrounding themselves with you by choice (or at least by family ties.) The thing about laziness in your work world is that it affects others. It mostly affects us that are closer to the bottom. We are used to picking up the slack for those up above that are busy with other things, but what happens when there really are no “other things” that these bosses are doing?
What happens when they are just choosing to not do their share?

This is always a problem, especially in companies where those at the top are confident in their staying power, and the ability of their staff to do the job for them. Is this good for our skills but bad for morale?

I have always been the type of person that strives to do my best for reasons that are not usually justified. No one is going to reward me all the time, but I just feel like my best is what has to be done. I think this is really a quality found a lot in Generation Y – we love to do our best.

There are probably complex societal reasons for all of this, but what matters most is that it exists. The need to do better is what will make the difference in a difficult economy, and ultimately, in the many various fields in which Gen Y finds itself.

Us perfectionists will get the job done.

Categories: Uncategorized

Daddy, I Want My First Credit Card!

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Ah, yes. The ultimate request from someone looking to start their own spending. I myself didn’t receive a credit card for my own use until I was in college, and even then, I could not escape parental wrath. They were seeing and receiving statements, and therefore knew exactly what type of spending problems I could get away with.

At first, I used it sparingly – staring at it like some sort of H1N1 flu carrying entity in my wallet – right alongside my NYU ID Card and my license. Then, it became amazing. Did you know that you can have sushi every night of the week? Did you know that you can pay someone to bring you toilet paper from around the corner at the deli?

In New York,  it is all possible. At the end of my sophomore year of college, I had a formative money experience. I went to the ATM machine at the local market, and when my receipt came, I peered over the edge of the paper – afraid at what I would see. There was something I had never seen before: zero was the balance. Not $10, or even a more respectable $100. Zero. But it had given me the money anyways! I was so confused.

Being the Einstein that I was at the time, I called my  mother frantic.

The conversation went like this:

Me: What does it MEAN when it says you have zero??!

Mom: WHAT?!

Me: I took out 20 dollars and it gave me a zero balance. Did I have exactly $20 in my account?!?!

Mom: IT MEANS IT’S OVERDRAFT! I JUST GAVE YOU MONEY! THIS IS INSANE! WHAT DID YOU SPEND IT ON!?!

Me: Bad static, gotta go.

….in any case, it was bad news. It was the first time I realized the following 2 lessons:

1) It is better for banks and credit card companies (for the most part – bankruptcy not withstanding) when you tend to spend more than you have. This means you will incur a fee. A fee that when paid, goes directly into the profit pile.

2) Unless you have a lot of money, a job usually is required.

The second part may seem like DUH do you – but really, my 19-year-old head was just not caring about those things. I had gotten into my favorite school, was out every day in my favorite city, and those pesky things called “bills” simply weren’t on my plate.

Little did I know that my college was paid for all in loans that we are now paying back, and the money that my parents gave me at the time came out of whatever money my mom worked 60 hours per week to make.

Allow me, blog readers, to make a point – I know that I sound like a spoiled brat. And I was. I wasn’t caring about consequence, and I was trying to live the life that my rich Long Island friends could live that I could not.

My mother has a great job – a job that puts her in a bracket among many people. But she definitely couldn’t afford to pay for my irresponsibility.

Now, I know some of you must be saying – “But it was college! We were all dumb!” It’s definitely true. But those lessons really made me learn the accountability and control and freedom that can come from making your own money. No, it is not as fun. No, it is not as much. Yes, I struggle every month to pay my bills on my nonprofit salary – but that day was the last day I ever took money from my parents without realizing what it meant.

I got a job babysitting, began interning, and volunteered at a homeless shelter – a decision that ultimately led me to the nonprofit sector.

Today as we watch many people who took mortgages they couldn’t afford, had credit card bills they couldn’t pay, and even more debt accumulate around us, I think back to that day. There are times when I am stretched very thin, but I have become an anti-borrower. I hate lending, even when people classify it as “good debt.” It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.

As I grow and learn more in this industry, and ultimately, in this global culture, my relationship with money is ever-changing.

So, thanks Mom & Dad. I really liked the Sushi, but I am becoming a better cook. Lessons learned.

Making Us Notice

November 2, 2009 1 comment

Invisible Children Movie PosterLast night, as I sat in my typical Sunday funk about returning to work today, my husband had me watch some random documentary that he got online. In this case, it was the independently made and not well-known Invisible Children – made by three young typical American guys that went to Africa to discover the world.

At first, I was a bit repulsed by their attitude. One even commented that he wanted to “you know, get some meaningful change in my life.” The unspoken agreement there was that going to Africa and being exposed to extreme poverty would do this for them. Maybe they were right My husband being African, I automatically became defensive.

Until I got a little further into the film, and realized that its important to be this honest when making a film for an American audience – which this obviously was. You can’t pretend the things that go on in Southern Sudan and Uganda are normal to your everyday existence, because, ultimately, they are not a part of your donor’s everyday existence either.

The film takes them to Sudan where they are trying to “Discover” the origins of Darfur’s raging conflict. Really, all they find is the fact that security and travel is so restrictive, that there isn’t much to do. They meet a woman that suggests they visit Northern Uganda, where many Sudanese are fleeing.

Their path ultimately leads to the story of these Invisible Children – young kids that sleep in the bus depot and the hospital at night to escape murder, beatings, and abduction by the rebel army. They meet a kid named Jacob and his friends, who sleep where rain water pours in, but it gives them some sense of privacy away from the other kids.

Still camera shots capture the mass entry and exit of these children over a typical night, and the effect is monumental. Bodies upon Bodies are piled one on top of the other, sleeping, trying to dream away their nightmares.

The movie is another shock documentary, in the end instructing people to do something and raise awareness. I am hoping this blog post does a little bit of that.

But like most things, it got me thinking about my own desire to work in the field. Would I be okay with this type of reality? I would like to think that I have an open mind, and that I can try. I would also like to think that my honesty and ability to convey a message is also important and effective.

The movie inspired me not because it was particularly original in its’ take – and sadly, not even in its content. It was, however, a few young people’s attempt at capturing their truth and sharing it with the world.

This is, for me, always the most important thing.