Saturday, 31 December 2011

Living and Dying

The old year is dying and we await the birth of a new one. This is the story of duality – we live and die and try to find balance inbetween. Due to the fact that we are forward planning, multi-tasking and tipping ourselves over the edge we usually have little time for contemplation. Life is fast paced and Death is slow unless you meet it early.

Life and death bring us important lessons. The crucial one being that its important to live each day to its fullest. We know this in theory but cannot always put it into practice. Why? Because we’re held back by fear or guilt. We’ve made both of these our constant companions so we have no idea how we live without them.

Life has made us world-weary and we often try to find an escape from it – through alcohol or drugs. We’re all addicted to something that helps us forget about life. We do this because we have not chosen an authentic path. We have broken promises to ourselves, we have sold ourselves short, we have not used (or misused) our unique talents, we have tried to please – everyone – but ourselves.

Death, on the other hand, makes us afraid. We dread the thought of our demise. We think it morbid to talk about it. We cast aspersions on those who have chosen suicide as their way out. We think of death as something ugly.

Life and death are not any of the above. Life is a vast galaxy of adventures, full of villains and saviours – you get to decide who’s who. You are the casting director in the drama known as your life. You are also the star and remember to let your light shine bright.

Happy New Year!
Death is a joyful extension of life. You travel light, without body, but just a soul. Equip yourself well as, in death, you may have to answer for some of the choices you made. You take only your heart and mind so make improvements and adjustments to them whilst still in body.

Once you understand that life and death are your friends you’ll find peace amidst the chaos.
So live strong and live long on the eve of a new year.


Thursday, 29 December 2011

Purposeful Negativity

Everything on earth and in heaven has a purpose. If that’s so then every negative force also has a raison d’etre. It’s a tough one to swallow especially when you feel that your life’s been plagued by a series of tragedy, miseries, mishaps, mayhem and plain, old bad luck. It’s even worse when we believe that other people out there have not suffered similar fates and would never understand how it is for you.

You and your life are unique. You and your life are dysfunctional. You and your life are like buds that have never had enough water or sunshine to flourish. You and your life parted company long ago and now you think you’re living someone else’s life – you just don’t recognize it anymore!

Your life has been hijacked and there are hostages.  At least that’s how it feels whenever you try to follow your heart and do something meaningful. Emotional obstacles, financial obstacles, environmental obstacles all appear to thwart your plans. This is the grand plan since you are meant to miss some opportunities as you’re not ready for some and missing some of them could even save your life. 

Stroke of luck?
Just think of the job applicant on 9/11 (01) who threw a sickie as he changed his mind about attending an interview at a brokerage firm in the North Tower. Yup, the boy done good! When you miss a plane, train, bus or taxi there could be a reason so never curse your fate since it could save you from a worst one.

An optimist understands  that negativity serves a purpose and she tries to look on the bright side. When you snag your tights before an important board meeting it makes you feel a lot more human. There’s a silver lining in an injury – perhaps you were overdoing it and needed some well deserved rest. Hard times test your mettle and its good to improve your survival skills. As Martin Luther King once said : the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

Ride the storms
Negativity is a judgement and we can’t help making them. There are some negatives that we can’t find the flip side of and acts of God are excellent examples. When hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and freak weather conditions hit and leave people homeless and the environment devastated its not easy to find the bright side. When there’s a death through illness or accident we cannot see the purpose. A loving and heaveny father sends his son to die on a cross seems a contradiction. When we fail and make mistakes we cannot understand that there is a higher purpose.

Handling our failures is a learning curve. Dealing with the emotional aftermath and our feelings of not being good enough is like treading on hot coals – each step hurts.  As time passes we see that there was a reason behind it, an unexpected blessing, a moment of awakening, a resolution that would never have occurred without the negative event.

So live purposefully and see negativity as something that is character building and makes you appreciate the good times. 
Never wallow in it and do whatever you can to turn it into a positive. 


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The way to a man's heart attack is through his satellite dish

Who knew that when man first landed on the moon it would come to this? The reality of one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind is right on our streets when we look at the large spherical objects that has attached itself to the roofs of our homes.

I refer of course to the humble satellite dish that is multiplying and beaming into our homes  a vast array of sports and entertainment channels from all over the world. The satellite dish is like a cosmic kaleidoscope of visual media and there’s something for everyone. Satellite TV has whetted our appetites for more and more.

Couch surfing or channel hopping is now a bona fide activity. Being finger happy with the remote may develop into a competitive sport. Large, plasma screens have us transfixed and satellite viewing could turn into the next religion, such is its following. Devotees of the satellite are mostly male. Pictures of their favourite teams winning or losing, tales of woe (aka world news) from every corner and laugh out loud comedies all add to their joie de vivre. Life’s one big goggle box thanks to this dish.

For maximum enjoyment you need a comfortable sofa, a range of alcoholic beverages and a woman who’s a little soft in the head and great at DIY. While you’re watching your favourite program she’s been doing the laundry, cleaning the house, washing the car, buying the groceries, taking the kids to football, unblocking the drain AND she’s even managed to fit in a sumptuous breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It’s true the man on your sofa will not notice you unless he gets fed and he mostly notices when you’re not there to do it. During his long sojourns in satellite world he’ll be fixated. Eyes will rarely leave the screen and if his team is losing he’ll be foaming at the mouth with a heap of profanities to boot.  He’ll knock back the lagers shouting at the referee whilst the little woman and kids look on in sympathy.

It’s a sight to behold and no female need feel intimidated by it. In fact, she should congratulate herself on her superior position of being in the real world and coping admirably. The fact of the matter is that a woman (and children) need attention. 
If the man on your sofa has neglected skills then you need to devise a way of making him sit up. A
Aggressive displays of displeasure are undignified. You’ll have to get his attention the old-fashioned way.

Turn yourself into a dish
Cook up a storm. All those delicious smells wafting through to the lounge, man-on-the-sofa won’t be able to resist. Naturally he’ll want to partake of your delicious offerings  in front of the one eyed monster Turn on your best domestic goddess charm, put yourself on the menu and make his mouth water. He’ll be utterly smitten with your ample portions and things to tickle his fancy. Don’t scrimp on the healthy stuff but he needs coaxing into a healthful and active lifestyle. The man-on-the-sofa has a fragile ego and you’ll have to make him believe that it was his idea in the first place.

The way to his heart is filled with hardened arteries due to the inactivity caused by sofa surfing. You’ll either need to remove the satellite or the sofa. You may lose a little of his love but he’s gotta love his heart more. The blocks in his heart have to be cleared so leave the dishes in the sink and disconnect the one on the roof. 

Contact sports are just what the doctor ordered so get him moving but gently… with a game of kiss chase for starters followed by a vigorous main course. Ditch the dish and get that blood pumping!


Monday, 26 December 2011

Merry Xcess-mas!


At this time of year I find myself questioning what it’s all about…the festive season known as Christmas that marketeers have turned into stress-mas! I only truly enjoy Christmas when it’s all over and today, being the day after, it’s definitely on the way out.

Sucker for Santa!
Christmas is like a long and uncomfortable labour of shopping and eating and, once Christmas day is over, the rest of the month leading up to New Year is pain relief. Christmas brings with it a sense of expectation and most of those expectations have a price tag. Consumer greed has all but damaged the spirit of Christmas present and future and I long for a bygone era when Christmas had nothing to do with the exchange of gifts. I balk at the idea that we have to give because we get. It’s an obnoxious barter system that makes us feel all the more poorer in pocket and good cheer when we add up the cost of those little purchases.

This is where the magic happened
It was never meant to be like this. Christmas has magic because we remember a birth. A birth without balloons and fanfare. A birth without expensive presents. A birth that was politically incorrect since the baby was genetically modified by a heavenly source. In that sense, the baby’s mother, was a single parent although she had a male support in the form of a chosen father figure. The message that this baby’s birth brought was that of simplicity though the future that lay before him was anything but. 

When we put Christmas under the microscope,  it’s a mass of complications and clashing priorities. How much do we spend? Whom should we invite over? Why do people give such rubbish presents? Why should we give in to the pressure to buy, buy, buy? The only thing we truly mull over is the wine and mince pies.
Christmas Island treat

I may not fully understand what Christmas is about but I know what its not. I’ll probably have to wait until I’ve had a lot more Christmases to do it poetic justice.  Before that what I’m searching for is a place that’s never heard of Christmas….probably impossible. Perhaps on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean they’re not too big on it. There must be some corner of a foreign field where uncommon Christmas sense reigns and I intend to find it. 

If I don’t find my Christmas Shangri-La then my wish is to disappear on the 1st of December and to re-appear on 2nd January when the madness is over. Have you noticed how deflated January seems by comparison? In spite of the sales frenzy, I love the semi-normalcy of January.

Boycotting Christmas is not yet an option since I have teenagers who love to get, get, get. 
They’re young, they’ll learn that Christmas is more than a snow globe with shiny pieces of tinsel falling all around. If Christmas is anything you want it to be then I live in hope of finding a quiet space within it.

All I want for Christmas 
And so I wish you readers, love and light, a glad heart and good choices, new beginnings and new dreams, better coping and less moping!


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Great Tax Haven in the Sky

When it comes to finance and budgeting I’ve made mistakes. The most fatal one of all is that I believed that two incomes were better than one! Normally this would be true but the second income earner was not willing to split the household expenditure 50/50.  This is when I found out that love was truly blind.  I trusted someone to take care of the numbers and since he liked to control everything I thought he’d be in his element. Trouble was that he and I were not on the same spreadsheet!

Tax has never been a big feature  since my earnings have not been particularly noteworthy. I’ve never had breakfast at Tiffany’s or tea at the Ritz but they’re both still on my wish list. The tax I pay is deducted at source and what you’ve never had can’t hurt you, right? But something inside me hurts bad and my feelings over finance remain fragile.

Deep down I feel as if there’s been a barrier to financial fulfilment and I’m a woman who enjoys the finer things….some of them cost and some don’t. In middle youth, I’m in a better place emotionally that I’ve ever been. If money and emotions are connected then I need some serious pennies to show up.
The self-help industry believes that you attract particular conditions and people to yourself. I don’t know any financial wizards, I don’t speculate ( to accumulate) and  don’t even play the lottery – so maybe I’m the stumbling block on the path to my own financial success.
Feeling like a million dollars!
I always thought I’d be rich and I secretly hoped I’d be filthy – not through birth or parentage but through my own efforts – I want to be the six million dollar woman!  

However, my interests are not money-making. I write, I read, I parent, I lend an ear and I work (often for hours that don’t pay.) I’ve worked hard but not smart.  Long hours in the corporate world are not for me; drinks with the boss – uh, uh – am too true to my values for superficial social climbing. Its no surprise that I’m where I am in life but I do feel I’ve neglected something – myself.

Unravelling the knots
Since my youth I’ve had a self-sacrificing nature. I was the eldest and my parents came to rely on me as a second mother to three boys who were all younger. I was moulded into this paragon of responsibility and loyalty. I became a person whom you could rely on to do the right thing. I was brought up to be “a good girl” and I’ve never been able to shake that off. I used to be the ultimate people pleaser, the bridge over troubled water, the calm – before and after the storm. In a nutshell, I’ve sold myself short.

Some might say that this is a useful resource but it has not served me well. Friends and family expect me to be a bottomless vessel of selflessness. I get used up and sometimes frustration gets the better of me. Strangely, solo parenting has made me feel more whole. I don’t have to constantly give of myself to an ingrate and I’ve reclaimed my self-worth.
Re-balancing the books

The realisation that I am a precious resource has only just come home to roost. I’m rich on the inside and the tax man can’t get that!
 I’m in a stage of development that makes me believe that wealth lies on the other side of my thoughts. I know I’m travelling towards it but the journey is hard….so hard…that I feel like giving up – but I won’t. I’m re-inventing the path by finding a fresh one that works just for me. 

The problem with advice is that one size doesn’t fit all – we all have to feel a sense of accomplishment before we move into new territory. We’ve been so distrusting of ourselves, worn down with all the negativity, that we can’t believe that there are new paths to prosperity. Remember that we’re all getting rich but some are on the fast track and some of us on the slow to middle. Using the wealth you already have for well being is far more important than just working your butt off to acquire it.

I’ve come a long way in a few short years – to financial and emotional independence. Its empowering to know that I can do it. I want to live it up before I get to that great tax haven in the sky…..because then it won’t matter  what I had in my bank account… my spirit will be free. 

Those of you who’ve been number crunching and stretching that budget for a life time and ,equally  and those of you who haven’t,  can relax and have a pamper session in the celestial tax haven that has no return.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The rise and rise of the airhead

Stick a pin in it!

Q: What goes up and takes an age to come down?
A: A celebrity with bankable assets that are never invested in intellectual property!

The airhead is in fashion. This is a sad trend for all the feminists and empowered females who seek self-promotion when its based on our non-tangible assets such as charisma, wit and intellect. Never before have these qualities been so under threat of extinction following the popularity of reality shows such as: “The only way is Essex”, Made in Chelsea” and the latest offering, “Desperate Scousewives”.

The airhead is new celebrity. The most famous  airhead (formerly known as Jordan) -  Katie Price, is the first contender for the honorary title of “ Queen of One Brain Cell.” This is a woman who left the jungle  with a creature in tow in the form of the well toned Aussie hunk, Peter Andre. It was delusional love that was never to last. Lustful ego states were certainly great drivers and if there’s one thing an airhead seeks out for her life partner is….. another airhead!

Airy Fairy Filosophy
The airhead is now a brand with market force. Take Amy Childs, star of TOWIE, and you’ll see how far a hairdresser can go.  Its reported that she’ll earn up to $10 million in modeling contracts, interviews and endorsements. Childs made her name as cameras followed her ,au naturel in her day job, sharing her unique philosophies on life and love in finest Estuary English. The Queen’s English (she will not be amused) has had its vowels stretched as Amy tells us that her friends are “ well jel” of her new found fame! 

This new English is being touted as an Essex dialect and, as a self-respecting Essex girl myself, no English was ever spoken that way before! We’ve  been “vajazzled” and treated to all manner of cosmetic enhancements and it’s no surprise that demand for fake tans, false eyelashes and nails have risen by 40%.

This breed of female airheads (and there are male versions too) is dangerous. They are making money off the back of ignorance and vulgarity. This is not a new development. Ever since the 70’s when Mary Whitehouse was complaining about the lowering of standards of propriety in television, there’s been a serious upturn towards the sharing of the unwholesome and the unsavoury with wider audiences. Nothing is sacrosanct as we are invited to view “Embarrassing Bodies” exposing a number of irritating and unsightly conditions on intimate parts of the body. It may be argued that programmes such as these are informative but reality TV is just too much information.

Be strong in mind and body
Hopefully there’ll be a big wig in TV land, with a large hat pin, who can burst the bubble and call time on these shows. Even the posh versions only prove that money cannot buy you love or intelligence. The airhead is not how women should be portrayed. We are not vapid and underdressed morons. We want to see healthy role models on our screens, women of style and grace – young, old and in-between. 

Life is not about having the best look, wardrobe, boyfriend or car. Life is much bigger than that and so is your mind. Use it before you lose it and never keep truck with an airhead unless you’re helping to turn her life around.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Childless at Christmas

Little Miss Christmas
Christmas is all things magical and reminds us of our inner child. When we have children of our own we try to create an atmosphere of joy and love and keep the mystery of Santa Claus alive. Christmas is traditionally seen as a time for families to share and enjoy the festive season. Christmas has become so commercialised that Christianity has been all but removed from it. In fact, it’s now politically incorrect to speak about Jesus and the religious message of the season.

Peek a boo  hoo!
A well known journalist of a popular tabloid recently wrote of her sadness of not having children of her own. She explained that she would be sharing Christmas with her brother’s family whom her sister-in-law had magnanimously said were a quarter hers. The pain of childlessness is acute at this time of year but those who have a yearning for children often have a romanticised idea of what having children means.

I am a mother and deeply grateful for it. I’m under no illusions of what it takes to turn a child into a fully fledged and productive adult. It is work and the hardest work in every sense – emotionally and physically. Not everyone is cut out to be a mother and anyone who embarks on it with a host of romantic notions will have the stuffing knocked out of their dreams!

Choose wisely
Having a child is not a right, it’s a privilege – one that is often abused. If you want a tidy home, holidays every year, time for relaxation,  a clean car and a short “to do” list then you probably should not have them. To say that every couple should have a family is to say that everyone should own a Mercedes Benz. It’s just wouldn’t be practical.

Children are demanding little beings from the day they enter the world. They are fully dependent on their parents and one parent will be more prepared for it than the other. Hopefully that means one compensates for the other but sadly, selfish genes rear their ugly heads, and one of the parties will not pull their weight. 
In worst case scenarios you can’t even guarantee that your partner will stay the course of the marriage or child’s development through teens and adulthood.  Fatherhood carries with it a high rate of absenteeism.
Teen troubles

The other disturbing phenomena of parenting is that no training is ever provided yet we are asked to feed, toilet train, nurse, discipline, educate and play with our offspring.  Yes, we know how to react to cute, cuddly bundles but what happens when your tattoo sporting, hair dyeing, too much make-up wearing mini-me throws a hissy fit?

I’m someone who reads up about parenting since I believe that there were a few vital ingredients missing from my own experience. I’ve done my best to plug the gaps though, inevitably, I'm guilty of making my own mistakes. Sorry kids but your parents are human and humans are mistake prone!

The error rate of parenting is high and most damaging when they are threatening to the emotional  and psychological wellbeing of the child.  You’ll find plenty of this type of parenting in the media – bad parents  are far more newsworthy. These are the people who probably should have left parenting for another incarnation. They’re just not cut out for the demands and responsibilities of this noble path. 
In fact, I wish more people would desist from procreation and falling birth rates, at least in the Western world, are testament to that.

Christmas is not about this
So can you enjoy Christmas without children? Without a doubt – I’m bleary eyed from years of trudging around “Toys R Us” and children today are rabid consumerists so the less pressure to spend, spend, spend the better Christmas can be. If Christmas is simply shopping and over indulging then I’d rather someone cancelled it so that we can set a better example. 

Christmas is a season as much as any other. Children are a joy but you don't have to have had one of your own to know it. Somewhere a child waits for love and biology alone will not fulfill that need. Finding a child to love through sponsorship or by "borrowing" your friends and family is not difficult at this time of year.

Cherish your children and remember that a child is for life not just for Christmas!


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Uncommon economics - print more money!

In my quest to be more financially savvy I’m always on the look-out for economic advice that’s out of the box. So I’m jumping for joy to have found an uncommon and kindred spirit in Australian Economics Professor Steve Keen who advocates a bizarre yet, to my mind, enlightened way to tackle personal and corporate debt.
Professor Keen ‘s words ring true when we look at the crisis that the explosion of debt has created all over the world. We know the endless hardship of people (good people) who are trying to pay off their personal debts – mortgage, credit cards, hire purchase – as well as those struggling to get on the property ladder. A home of your own is a remote possibility in this modern era when space travel is being touted as the next mode of luxury travel!
Towering inferno of debt
Good financial management is not rocket science and it’s important to remember that the system of creating financial stability has failed not the individual. Politicians must shoulder some of the blame as poor leadership has given rise to the systemic (and spectacular) collapse of the banking system.  To clarify, politicians are reactive leaders – they adjust their policies and manifestos to anything that are vote winners – the neglect strategic thinking in favour of their egos.
Political selfishness has allowed banks to generate income for themselves by creating debts and the economic “heavyweights” in that sector  - the Chief Executives, Directors and others with fancy titles – have had a skewed vision of how capitalism functions. The global “ Occupy Wall Street” movement are the face of the new-age economist and they’ve resorted to street protests  as they feel betrayed and want society to be returned to a harmonious state. I’m with them in spirit and though they may be clinging on to a vague hope – at least there is still a little bit of hope in these dark times!
Prof Keen - uncommon economist
Professor Keen  goes even one step further – he suggests that the Economics departments of universities should be occupied by protesters in order to engender a shift in political power to bring about fresh thinking. Most economists (those who have graduated with an armful of prestigious qualifications and who now sit on the Boards of industry and finance ) and equally those who sit on armchairs pontificating, have had a mythical view of money creation. In Latin, the word “mortgage” is death contract and it’s ironic that paying off such a debt to keep a roof over your head has become soul sucking misery. Your mental health will be seriously challenged as you  borrow to live, live to work to pay it off and the interest you’ll pay will keep the banks in clover for a good many years.
Let's lighten the load
Banks make money by creating debt – that’s a hard fact of life. Some debts are a necessary and those that support innovation and new enterprise are to be encouraged. If we are to bring forth the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs their ideas can only be made tangible if money can be sought for business costs. Professor Keen believes this to be creative instability which is mostly beneficial to society.
You don’t need to be an economist to understand the negative social outcomes of financial hardship. Rioting on the streets and the lawlessness attributed to young people are clear signs that there is a need for new thinking. People have been betrayed and plunged into debt slavery. This is the lost generation as they learn to live with permanent recession and the destructive force of financial instability.

Professor Keen states that banks must start up again from scratch. They have become corrupt and distant institutions that play with money but do not use it wisely. I had personal experience of this when I worked in the retail sector of a well known bank in the UK in the late 90’s. The Manager would ask the staff to offer loans to any customer that requested one; the only pre-requisite being that they were employed; the size of their income did not matter. I thought it ludicrous at the time as some customers were just on a minimum wage. The bank did not seem to care as staff were told that there were lending targets and if these were met each month the manager would receive a bonus. If that’s not a strategy for failure then I don’t know what is! Little did I know that this was one of the many contributing factors for the financial crisis in the UK. “Golden Rules for Bankers: you never help people into debt when they walk in one gloomy winter morning and say they need to get away for some sunshine  AND you don’t reward your staff for lending other people’s money!
Debt relief
Professor Keen is right when he says that private debt must be written off. Therefore the Treasury must take the drastic step of creating money for debt relief. The Royal Mint’s presses in the UK must churn out millions of notes for the purposes of paying off private mortgages and credit card debts .
Think about it – if you were debt free today – how much lighter would you feel and how much would you strive to never get into that situation again – especially if you’d had better advice from a kind bank manager.
Banks and money managers need to be more friendly. People need educating in good financial instruments and banks should offer workshops to maximize these skills instead of capitalizing on the ignorance. A society that budgets together will pull together in hard times. Capitalism is corrosive if not curbed and monitored. Wisdom is not generally found in the corridors of power but amidst the despair a ray of hope glimmers.
Winning the war against debt
Professor Keen is throwing a lifeline to the economists who made titanic loans and have come unstuck by the ice berg of poor decision making  that has plunged us all into an ocean of debt. He’s known as the non-orthodox economist with the “biggest mouth” and, in the war against weapons of financial destruction, my money’s on the Professor!