Obsession with the Absurd

June 5, 2020

During the current Covid-19 pandemic everyone is rather on edge and often little things become blown out of proportion.  In this environment, perspectives on what’s important sometimes get off as well. Here’s my story of what happened with a next door neighbor over a small planting bed in the front area between our two townhouses. To me, it’s an example of how one’s mind focuses on the absurd when it doesn’t have anything else more constructive to capture the attention.  

Late one Saturday night a few weeks ago, my next door neighbor, also a single older woman sent me an email asking me to trim my bush. Her request seemed really out of left field as it was spring time and my bush had been in the ground for 23 years without it bothering any of my prior neighbors having also resided in the same house next door. Why suddenly did she worry about this bush? In her email, again late at night, she stated that she was concerned that my bush would harm her plants newly placed in the “flower bed” between our two homes.

As a point of reference, I’ve always maintained this area 75% because I’ve lived there longest and have paid for whatever was necessary. A couple years ago, suddenly the tree died and as it was deemed “my tree” by the neighborhood I was required to pay for the removal and replanting of another tree which set me back $1000. Her predecessor neighbor disavowed any responsibility for the tree stating that the trunk of the tree was technically on my side of the planting area thus my problem. This was her view even though the tree was clearly providing beauty and shade for the two homes. I graciously accepted the responsibility and when the bed had to be redone I didn’t tell the gardener to stop at my half, I had the entire bed redone without expense to the neighbor. I felt like I was doing the right thing.

My late night response to this neighbor’s bush trimming request was that I’d take care of it in the fall. Receiving my email only made her more determined to stand up for what she wanted and I got more emails demanding action. I was really having a hard time taking her seriously. We were in the middle of the pandemic, I was going out once a week for food and for a daily walk, and really didn’t want to think about trimming a bush. To me, it seemed so ridiculous.

The emails began to fly back and forth with me stating that I’d take care of it and her stating that she’d take matters into her own hands. Really? It was a bush and 6 inches away from her plants. What could happen to them? At one point I even told her that she needed a new hobby, and pointed out for example that I was learning to make masks to donate to the Million Mask Challenge. Well, this only made her angrier and she assumed I was saying that she wasn’t doing anything to help with the pandemic. In response, she told me that her daughter was a nurse in NYC on the front lines of things. Great, what are you doing? But this is really not the point. I didn’t want any trouble. I was minding my own business and she was making an issue about a bush that grew an inch in a year or two suddenly creeping up on her plants.

As far as this new neighbor of about 1.5 years was concerned, learning about how the tree was planted held no interest for her. She proceeded to send me nasty emails about how awful I was and how I didn’t greet her properly when she moved in. I’m not sure what she expected, but in my neighborhood people move in and out without much fuss. I never did anything to hurt her and was cooperative when she had work done on her roof and her contractor needed access from my roof to do his work.

About two weeks after the email barrage, I asked a friend to come over with a chain saw and trimmer to take care of the bush, obviously sooner than the “fall” that I had promised her. When we went outside to begin the work, I bent down and realized that she’d already taken pruners and cut some of the branches out of the bush. I couldn’t believe it!!! Talk about obsessing over a bush. My friend and I took a huge amount off the bush figuring that we’d do a really good job. But our efforts were not rewarded. Within hours I got another email from the same neighbor asking to meet me in the morning regarding my plants close to the street. My response was a negative. I held my boundaries and ended communication not responding. She needed to find something else to obsess about because I realized it was her mind that was the problem; nothing I did would ever satisfy her.


Creating a loving reality

May 19, 2020

If you ask someone what is missing in their life, many will respond that they’d like more love. The younger generation might feel that they didn’t get enough love from their parents, whereas the older generation might feel forgotten by their kids. Or, the working class might feel that they’re not appreciated at work. Those of one belief system may feel those of other beliefs (whether religious, organizational or political) are against them. And even there are those that judge themselves unworthy of even being loved.

Wow, with all this unloving going on it’s amazing that anyone is happily in love! But of course, there are many people that walk around with smiles on their faces while in relationships, having wonderful children, and happy at their jobs. So what creates loving vs. unloving situations? The question is an age old one of how can one be happy because in actuality, we create our situations (most of the time).

According to brain research as well as ancients religious texts, we create our world one thought at a time. I recently watched a great video on GAIA, the spiritual equivalent of AMAZON PRIME VIDEO Channel, which explained how the brain is wired. This video went on to explain how our thought patterns create new neural networks almost like beating a path to a door from constantly going there.

The result of constantly re-hashing how others were mean, angry, abusive or otherwise non- appreciative of us, is creating a mental state where we begin to believe that we are only deserving of abusive behavior. In other words, by thinking negatively about ourselves we begin to believe the negatively about ourselves which in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. This was a scientifically based video. The other end of the spectrum is the spiritual view where Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet and great psychic of the 20th century, promoted the idea that thoughts become actions become our world; or, as we think so we become. So here we have a case of science meeting spirituality; both systems giving support to the idea that thinking negatively is counter-productive to create anything positive.

Now my own universal law appropriate here is that nothing positive comes from a negative. In the case of love, if you don’t love yourself, how can anyone else do so? It also follows that if you want to be loved you need to be more loving yourself, as like attracts like. This is also promoted by many spiritual beliefs as well as the work of Edgar Cayce.

If we create our world one thought at a time and we need to be loving in order to be loved, what is the best way to create a loving reality? I believe the answer is clear! Be positive with your self-talk, have compassion with those around you, think before you speak working towards being the best version of yourself that you can be avoiding throwing stones at others for holding a contrary viewpoint; everyone deserves a place in the world and to express  their reality even if you don’t agree. Hold love in your heart for your fellow humans; one day we might need each other. There are many challenges at hand. No one knows for sure what will happen in the future. Have empathy. Stay in the light and be positive. These are all loving qualities to nurture and behold the love that returns. Voila, you’ve created a loving reality! (Granted, this may not be a perfect solution, but give it a try and see how life improves!!)

Comments are always welcome..


Sewing skills come in handy during a pandemic

April 24, 2020

I learned to sew in High School home economics class, where in I learned how to make very simple items. At the time, I never dreamed that these skills, somewhat more developed as I grew up and needed to alter dance dresses and make pillows to decorate my home, would help me get through the worst pandemic in my lifetime. As of late, I’m learning to make face masks for protection while going out into the public during this difficult period.

My first fore into making face masks didn’t go very well. Although I selected what appeared to be a straight forward pattern, complete with a how to video, I still didn’t get the final result correct. The finished product just didn’t look like the example in the video; it was too small. Taking a step back, I realized that my estimating wasn’t working; I was going to have to really measure and be accurate. Ok, so eyeballing it was the way I’d done things most of my life and this simple face mask just seemed too easy. Then again, during this trying time, my brain wasn’t working at full capacity. I guess when one is stressed the mind is so distracted that it’s harder to focus.

Home made facemask

As it was time for me to venture out for a weekly grocery run, I decided to take the masks with me. I put the five masks in the zip lock bags in my car and went off to the store. Waves of emotion came over me from embarrassment to suggest that someone take a handmade mask from me to pride that I was trying to help people who didn’t have protective gear. It made sense to me to bypass those customers already wearing masks moving on to those customers not wearing one. I asked one lady if she needed one for a family member and she refused, not even very politely. At this point I felt like she thought I had put the virus in the bag instead of a mask. Didn’t she get I was doing a good deed? Oh well, some people don’t understand the concept of helping others. Ok, keeping at it meant overcoming my own fear of rejection. On to the next person who was a lady not wearing a mask. I called out to her, “Excuse me, but would you like a mask? I’m making them” This time, the woman took it and commented that it looked very nice. Her response and acceptance made me sigh with relief both for her and for me that my efforts were ok. By the end of my grocery run I had given away four of the five masks. I took my groceries and my pride home.

I knew that my attempt to make the masks was not perfect but they actually looked pretty good. The first batch was pink, pretty much limiting my offer to women. In any case, the next day I was in the drug store and a woman actually came in looking to buy masks. I overheard her request and the clerk’s negative response, so I chimed in that I had one to give her. She initially thought that I wanted to sell it for money and I just shook my head and walked her to my car, keeping our distance. I reached into my car grabbing the last mask, handed it to her and was relieved to see her smile when she saw it. Ok, yes, it’s external gratification but sometimes it’s ok.

I’m continuing to make the masks with the material that I have and a bit more that my neighbor gave to me for this purpose. I expect that I can make 6-7 more masks which will not save lives nor make a difference in the overall death count of the country but it will keep me somewhat busy here and there. In addition, it might help a few people have some additional protection than they would have and if no more than comply with the current legal requirements for facemasks in public settings. In the end, it did make me feel like I was helping. Now I know how the women who worked in the factories during World War II felt each day as they came home. Everyone should do their part, even if it’s really small.

As always, comments are welcome.


Be friendlier

November 1, 2019

It’s an age old wisdom that we should look in the mirror first if we feel there is something missing in our lives. Thus when I decided that I needed more friends and that I would have to be more welcoming to bring people into my life. In other, I would have to be friendlier.

Ok so how do I become friendlier when I thought I was already a nice person who was polite and congenial to those that I met anyway? Well I guess it came down to my energy. What was the message that my energy was sending out? Although I felt friendly, perhaps I was inwardly insecure or afraid, which sent a similar awkward message out to the world. This was not what I wanted. In other words, as is quite common, I was guilty of sending out a mixed message. My outer voice wanted one thing while my inner voice was reflecting another. I needed to become congruent.

Thus I had to really become a happy person, feel good about myself, and raise my self-esteem which in turn would send out a happy vibe to the world. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I booked a social group and just smiled and talked with people being non-judgmental and accepting them for who they were. Suddenly people began to like me more. When I became more of a listener reflecting back to people what they were saying, staying present and really hearing them, even more people liked me. In turn, I was laughing more.

Before I knew it I was in my authentic self, feeling good and sending out positive vibes. Soon, I was getting return positive glances at my gym class at Zumba and in social circles. Then on travel, people would engage with me more. All of a sudden, I then realized that i was really making friends. I had become a friendlier person with all the associated qualities. My energy changed and I attracted healthier people into my life that warranted my friendship. As far as I can tell so far, these are people that really want to be friends, have no ulterior motives or axes to grind, no mood disordered and just healthy happy people. What a relief it is. It’s been awesome so far and I certainly hope it continues. I offer my personal experience to you so that you can give it a try and see what happens. As always comments are welcome.


We are our own worst critic

October 5, 2019

We know that being judgmental is not good behavior yet we judge ourselves all the time. That voice inside our heads can be positive or negative; this is called self-talk. Unfortunately, that inner voice is more often negative than positive reminding us of all of our faults rather than of our wonderful qualities. Why do we do this? The answer is low self-esteem.

                                                            
There are times in our lives when we don’t feel good about ourselves like when we decide that we’re not moving forward in our lives in some way that we think we should. We have a tendency to look at others then judge ourselves. They have the house already or a better job therefore we failed. We should be thinking that the other person is just ahead of us and we will get there in our own time. Everything in its own time, right? Or that’s how it should be. Instead, we judge others for having more or being prettier or thinner or going on a neat vacation.

Rather than judge ourselves, or others why not just accept the situation for what it is? Its human nature to compare one to another; we are creatures of a pack, team or community. But in those relationships we must take care not to think less of ourselves for our points that are just different. We all do this. Last night I almost didn’t go out dancing because I’ve gained a few pounds due to less activity while my ankle was healing from an injury. I convinced myself that I needed to go out and that being with people would make me feel better rather than being alone. The woman in charge of the dance who is very tiny commented that due to her hurting foot she had gained 8 pounds. Wow I was surprised. So it happens to many people. I felt ok and decided that rather than judge myself for having gained weight I would focus on losing it now that my activity could increase.

In other words when your self-talk becomes negative find a way to stop yourself to make it positive. Life will flow better and you will soar along with your self-esteem. Comments are always welcome.


Personal Accountability is the Way to Go

September 5, 2019

There is so much in the news lately about planning for retirement. We have at least 40 years to start putting some money away to take care of ourselves when we get older. Yes but you say, what about the current house, kids and bills? There just isn’t anything leftover. Well I disagree. I see how people spend their money. The kids have to have candy and soda at the movies or the parents have to have the next version of the iPad, cellphone or tablet. Perhaps it’s the necessity of eating lunch hour or going to Starbucks…

Yes you can enjoy your life when you’re young but one must pay the piper when they are finished playing as the saying goes. Whether its small change or dollars saved, there are ways to do it. Something has to be given up in order to have something later. Sorry but one cannot have their cake and eat it too. Why is it the government’s responsibility to provide for all that a person can’t pay for? I’m not talking about those truly in need. I give plenty to charity and believe in helping those less fortunate. I’m talking t people that get caught up in living the good life and then wonder why they are still working at 72 because they can’t retire….as they don’t have enough money to live on.

Let’s break this down. Daily Starbucks is $25 A week just for the world week. Then lunch is another $50 if it’s kept simple. What’s wrong with fixing a teabag in the office or a cup of coffee? And there are a ton of options to save money lunchtime from prepared meals from the store to actually making something or even just sandwiches from home. If one adds up 40 years of teabags and lunches from home we have lots of money. Ok not enough? Vacations once a year versus every holiday.. staycations can be fun too. An event locally can be fun and usually a lot less expensive than a quick trip to the Caribbean over  four day break. An exaggeration? Perhaps, but I know people like this…

I might be the exception but I took my lunch to work most days, ate a nice salad at the salad bar otherwise, was careful about electronic consumerism and was moderate about vacations. I paid extra on my mortgage to pay it off by retirement and saved yearly. I can now reap the benefits of the savings that I slowly put away year after year. In other words, I’m living the American dream. I worked my 40 years in a normal corporate job, saved my money and now can pay my bills and do a fair amount of travelling. I feel blessed that I have the money for doctor bills, household expenses and a trip here and there. Being in abundance by giving to charity means that God lets me keep the rest.

In summary, personal accountability is the way to go; slow and steady for 40 years not trying to screw the system in the last few years to make up for what you did or didn’t do all along. We pay into social security and Medicare so these are earned benefits not optional entitlements. That’s my version of the story and I’m sticking with it! Comments are always welcome.


People and processes don’t always cooperate

August 26, 2019

We all know, or have learned the hard way that human communication is not an exact science. The old adage is that’s why there are lawyers! Today, I’m going to relate a situation that I experienced regarding a transaction on EBay. The whole interaction went from a misunderstanding to bad then to worse. Then it got ugly! Sometimes people and processes just don’t go as one might expect.

 First, let me say that my perspective on EBay is pretty laid back because it’s not my main business; it’s very much a hobby and a casual one at that. I sell stuff to get it out of my closet and if I’m lucky, I get a few dollars for it. So what’s my story? I offered a beautiful designer red silk dress for sale at a fabulously low price plus shipping. The woman in question, whom I will call “The Buyer”, sent an offer. What I saw on my end was “an offer to buy at $50” which I accepted. I’ve been doing EBay for about 8 years so I don’t question offers. I just look at the figure and either accept the bid or not. Usually people pay within a day or two. My listing clearly states that non-payment after 48 hours will result in a cancelled transaction. If someone made a mistake in pushing “buy”, then an email to me indicating such will solve the problem. I’m not out to force any sales, so if there’s a mistake, I’ll cancel the transaction.

I accepted the offer and the EBay system put the offer in as a sale and sent the Buyer an invoice for the price plus shipping. No response. Several days go by. I sent a nice note with a reminder invoice – “is there a problem, I ask?” No response. More time goes by.  The EBay system opened a non-payment case against the Buyer automatically, which when she received the notice made her furious resulting in her sending me a scathing email stating that I hadn’t read her offer. What? I never saw any email or further detail about her offer. Apparently, she writes that she’s retired and doesn’t have the money. (Why buy if you don’t have money??) At this point it was very confusing to me because she referred to 8/30 which I assumed meant August 30, but it was August 20. I had no idea what she was talking about. Rather than calmly explain to me that she’d get money at the end of the month which eventually I realized, she raved at me that I hadn’t read the offer details (that I’d never seen) and basically was saying how stupid I was for causing this problem. As it wasn’t an auction item, just a fixed price, make an offer, she could have waited a few days until her pension check arrived. Rather, she chose to expect me to make the system work according to what was best for her. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

It became obvious to me that she had anger issues and was venting at me for other situations where she hadn’t been heard. I was just the one getting her venom over these frustrations in her life. I kept trying to write to her calmly explaining that the system was automated, that offers are translated into purchases, and that non-payment cases can be opened without me doing anything. She insisted that I cancel the transaction at this point which was impossible according to the EBay system even after I tried calling them directly. I wasted so much time over almost a week for a non-sale with this woman. I had packed this gorgeous dress with tissue paper in a strong box so that it wouldn’t get wrinkled… basically for naught. After 2 days of her insisting that I cancel the transaction, I find that she paid. It was the night before the payment was due or a negative mark would go against her. I figured that she paid to clear the case so that I could cancel the transaction. So I went into the transaction, which was now clear, and cancelled it. I thought this was what she wanted. She had not sent me an email to tell me that she changed her mind about cancelling the transaction and now she wanted it. So what happened next?

The next morning I got a wailing email, “oh, I’m going to cry. You cancelled the transaction after I paid for the dress!”  Well, yeah, after receiving email after email insisting that I cancel and no communication indicating otherwise, what else could I do? Then I get more communication about why did I do that? It’s like being in Wonderland! Ok, so I thought about it and my final email to her was my best attempt to be spiritual, “I’m sorry that you’re not happy with this transaction. Sometimes people and processes don’t go as one might want or expect. Rather than directing anger at me, a bit of patience might have been a better idea. It would also be a good idea to find a healthier channel to vent your frustrations that to direct them at me”.

The moral of the story is that when crazy interactions occur like this story; take a moment to reflect on the situation. Chances are there’s more going on than the immediate reaction. Usually, there are related experiences that the person is reacting to in this lifetime or a prior one. It’s easy to ignore the person but just a bit harder to consider how you can be a guiding light. Just consider that she needed to be reminded of her behavior and it took me going beyond the physical to tell her about it.

Although I had planned for this to be the end, there’s more. The woman wrote back telling me that “You’re a fool!” Well so much for being a messenger of light. I thought about her response a lot and I truly believe that I was guided to write back to her what I had to give her a chance to reconsider her self-righteous position. Unfortunately, she failed the test. Now the universe takes over and karma steps in. I believe that she’s really in scarcity and has a lot of hatred, anger and hostility built up over being in a compromising financial situation. But what got her there? Meanwhile, I live in abundance and reap the rewards. Comments are always welcome.             


Angels on my Shoulder

December 10, 2018

During my recent trip to Portugal I had several experiences where I felt that synchronicity was at play to the extent that it must be my angels at work helping me. The story I’m going to relate in this article is that of my day trip to the historic town of Sintra, where just when I needed help, it was available to me.

After several attempts to take a group tour on this particular Saturday during my vacation failed, I decided to go it alone. Armed with travel brochures, internet information on the key sights, and information of what not to miss, I left my hotel about 8:30 am with a very positive outlook. I had already mastered the metro system to the point of knowing where the nearest stop was and where to get off, but I didn’t know how to find the connecting train station for the out of town trip to Sintra. Buying the ticket was easy at the ticket booth which was manned with a live person, asking in English is a forte of mine as I don’t speak Portuguese.

angelThe next step was to get off the metro and find the train station. I started to inquire of my fellow metro passengers who either didn’t understand me or didn’t know. This was strange to me since it was with in a short walk of the metro stop. Everything is different when one is in another country and not familiar. On the third try I happened upon a family with an elderly gentleman who seemed to be the local resident and the others, the visitors. In asking this group about the location of the train station, I discovered they were from Poland. I chimed in that my heritage is Polish as my Mother’s father came from Poland in the early 1900s, a town called Silencia. To my surprise, I was told that they came from this same place. I was asking for help from people of my heritage land! As we got off the metro, the elderly gentleman, most likely their father, speaking no English but made to understand my goal from his relatives, pointed the way to the train station. Yes! Mission accomplished!

Having my ticket in hand I quickly found my train on the track already arrived. I barely made it into a seat before the train left so my timing was quite good. As I settled in the seat I had found after searching for one up and down several cars, I noticed French spoken near me.

 In my usual brilliant way, I asked the young woman closest to me “are you from France?” She replied, “yes, we are from Lyon”, referring to the 3 couples in her group. This brief introduction began a conversation about our day in Sintra and planned itineraries. After hearing about the place I wanted to see they changed  their plan and decided to join me. I was thrilled. We all got off the train together and for the next 6 hours became a new unit, wherein I was treated like one of them… something like being an adopted Mom. The young woman had left her 8 month old baby at home for this weekend away with her Mom so perhaps she was in a very nurturing mode.

It turned into a wonderful day for me, where at first I thought I’d be alone I was accompanied by a nice group of friendly people all day while touring interesting sights. We even stopped and had tea together. It was a very warm feeling to chat and interact with these young people for the day. About 3pm we parted company as our desires changed… with me wanting to view the inside of the Pena Palace and their only wanting to see the outside gardens.. We said goodbye with invitations from the young woman to visit Lyon.

About an hour later I walked down the hill, took the bus back to the train station, then the train to the metro and as I was coming up the stairs from the metro station I looked up in amazement… could my eyes be deceiving me? There was the same group of French people looking just as amazed! I knew then that I had been experiencing a divinely inspired day complete with angels on my shoulder to look out for me. How else could I have met the same group back in Lisbon?

Although I had a two week vacation on my own and did some organized tours during that time, some of my best moments were when I just trusted that I’d be ok on my own and went out into the great unknown. It was when I was in the hands of my guides, that I was truly guided.

Comments are always welcome.


Help, Don’t Hurt

October 15, 2018

There are so many times that people are passionate about an issue but their rantings only hurt the situation rather than helping it. We have a word in Jewish, Kvetching! And it is the equivalent of bitching, moaning and complaining consistently. So whenever we open our mouths to state our opinion, I’d like to suggest that we make constructive criticism meant to help rather than hurt all concerned.

In this article, I’d like to commend Queen Latifah for her recent commercial extolling the benefits of a good higher education. Apparently, as she explains, she’s achieved great success in life, but without the added benefit of a college education. From the sound of it, she feels and conveys in this ad, that with such advanced study, she may have had a better life, an easier time moving forward, or made more money earlier on. Now, of course, she’s well known as a prominent acting/singing personality and is making the big money as they say. But inwardly she still feels that a degree would be beneficial. To me, establishing all these benefits for her community and others at large is a great service to her listeners.helpful

I would also like to contrast her approach with the radio announcer typically on at the same morning slot. I listen to a morning radio show that caters to a predominantly black audience. The announcer of this show has a segment that he calls “a Racial Observation” during which time he refers to events of the day that point to the divide between the black vs. the white community. Perhaps a white policeman arrested a black kid and used force or a woman was assaulted and the perpetrator not prosecuted….in any case the situations are always where he is pointing to racial tensions in this country. During other parts of this show, people are making fun of multiple baby mammas and kids going home to empty houses, being raised by single Moms who don’t know where the father of their children are…. The point here is that neither accountability nor responsibility is discussed, rather just how awful things are and how unfair the system is to his group.

Well I’m a senior and there are a lot of things that are unfair to me too, but rather than kvetch, I’d rather give charity to help others and send positive energy to law makers to make it better for all concerned. In the end, I believe I will be taken care of by the powers to be because I live a heart centered life guided by my faith.

So back to Queen Latifah:. I salute her effort to extol the virtues of a higher education because it is the pathway to getting a good job and making something of one’s self. I had to work hard for my degree and in the end it has served me well throughout my career. So doing what it takes to go to school at night or by day if possible is a great way to be accountable and take responsibility for one’s life. So the next time you have something to say, keep it helpful and not hurtful. Comments are always welcome.

 


Yes Kiddies, there was communication before the INTERNET!

June 13, 2018

Ok, my apologies to all those readers who are old enough to remember life before the INTERNET. How did we ever do it? When I’m out and about and see people sitting next to one another and texting, streaming and listening to music non-stop I wonder if everyone has forgotten how to carry on a conversation. So have we progressed in our abilities to communicate with all this communications? There are so many viewpoints to tackle; I’ll just take one today.

InternetI not only remember the days before the Internet, but I was actively involved in the messaging industry that attempted to address the issues of connecting disparate companies around the globe. There was a huge technical problem at the time. Every telecom company operated with their own data format necessitating a data format conversion if any one company could send messages to any other company; thus much of message was intra-company. So there were lots of people using a single provider such as AOL, MCI, etc. and anyone within that company could send messages to each other. Wow, but sending a message to someone not using that carrier was tricky and once accomplished, expensive. There was a service fee to connect. If you had friends among several different carriers, you had to pay this fee for each different one. It would be like paying tolls for using all the different toll roads to reach the homes of friends living in different locales in the metropolitan DC area. This is the best example I can provide to understand how it was back then.

At the time, I was working for the US Government, in the branch called the General Services Administration or GSA for short. I participated in meetings with “standards bodies” both for US standards as well as travelling to Europe for the standards being developed there as well. The goal of both these regional bodies was to foster compliance to a common data format so that all this conversion would be a thing of the past. There was beginning to be some success of standards taking hold when I came into the picture around 1995 timeframe. It was then that I had the idea of asking industry to cooperate even further for a test. Why not move faster towards standards?

At one such standards meeting at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I raised my hand and asked the question “why are companies still using the 1984 standard when there is a 1988 standard?” (since it was already almost 1996!). And the leader of the meeting replied, “Great question, so you can lead the working group to find out!” Although I protested indicating that I was a mere government worker and not a recognized leader of any industry group, I was non-the-less appointed to chairperson of a committee to investigate industry cooperation. I took my new position seriously and without going into all the details, the result was a Challenge to industry which took hold slowly but gathered cooperation as predicted. I had a vision of how I felt it should work, that included the messaging part, a directory to store the names/address data fields and eventually a security component to protect the sender/receiver relationship.

The effort was picked up by the Electronic Messaging Association first in the US and then the European version of this same organization with what I would call great success having 14 countries and over 100 people involved. I have some great stories of both challenges and comradery that occurred over the 18 months that we all worked together to conduct testing with a standards-based data format which different companies would send back and forth. By the time that we were into testing, I moved from my government position to a telecom company – British Telecom that had a local office very close to me. It was lovely that their North American office was only 3 miles away, but I also spent a fair amount of time at their office just outside of London.

The point of this story is that real cooperation was required and real communication. We had many emails, conference calls and meetings all over the US and at different places in Europe. As the leader of the group, I did my best to foster teamwork, give recognition and appreciation and to plan group activities such as special dinners at wonderful local restaurants (with everyone paying their own way, but organizing was more than half the battle when one wants to eat in a lovely place in the outskirts of Brussels).

In the end, we were successful at moving international standards forward, but the Internet made it all a moot point. Like the wind, the Internet came blowing in with little security and me worrying how it would all play out. I was not an initial supporter nor an early adopter, but now I text, stream and play music off my phone like everyone else. I enjoy all the benefits that the Internet has, but I also have had my fair share of the issues that not having good security built in has brought to us all. But for this article, the emphasis is on cooperation and communication.

So when I see families sitting at the dinner table and are all texting and not talking, I smile at myself and mumble – yes, it’s nice that we’re all so interconnected now. But let’s do remember to talk to one another, take our friendships and relationships seriously and cherish the real times that we have together. Even while working to connect our world, my rag tag group of volunteers from the telecom industry would probably tell you that their days on our working group, as hard as they worked, was one of the best in their life. Why? Because of the comradery, the cooperation and the communication!

 


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