Tag Archives: New York City

Drama Free Living

15 Mar

I do not know who said

Youth is wasted on the young;

but more and more I believe that this is true.

In our youth, we worry about everything: Will we have enough money?  Can we get ahead? Will my boyfriend/girlfriend be true to me? Who can I trust? What do people think of me? What can I do at work to make a good impression? Will I ever fall in love? Where should I live? What can I do to improve my career prospects? Will my children be smart?  Am I a good parent? And so on…

We spend so many of our youthful days (our 20’s and 30’s) worrying and engaging in drama-filled lives that we often miss out on the sheer pleasure of being alive.  I know I did.  I worried about family, loved ones, children, my children’s friends, my friends, the friends I didn’t have, career, my spouse, my spouse’s career, my career, schoolwork, field trips, out-of-town trips, you name it.  As a young mother, I was a master of creating and living in drama.  If there was not a crisis looming or imminent, I created one or allowed my children to do so.  What a waste of time, energy, and heartbeats!

Today, my life is much simpler and happier than the bygone days of worry about things I could not (fortunately!) control.  My children are grown and happily independent; I have the freedom to come and go as I please; my cat is happy and well fed; I have enough work and money to be happy; I enjoy lots of social occasions; I am healthy; and I am optimistic about the future.  What more could one want?

I wished for a drama-free life years ago – one filled with peaceful days free of conflict, happy times with my children, unconditional love and acceptance from myself, and supportive friendships.  Today these are no longer wishes but my reality, and I am truly grateful.

Youth may be wasted on the young, but the joy of youth is certainly not wasted on those of us who stay young at heart.  Wish for a drama-free life, and it too can be yours!

Have a great day,

Carol

Do Mean Girls Grow Up?

6 Mar

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~ Dalai Lama

If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  – Anonymous

Nice mantras, good ideals I grew up with, but hardly apropos in real life when it comes to mean-spirited women (who probably started out as mean girls.)

The Past

I grew up around mean girls – you know the type – the fashion princesses and cheerleaders in high school who made life miserable for anyone who was not.  I learned to fantasize that their home life was less than ideal or that they would fail at adulthood – anything to keep their taunting at bay.  Some were not so lucky and still hold the scars of teen torment into their adult years.  Who knows why girls (especially) are mean to each other… but that’s all part of childhood right?

The Present

As an adult, why would it amaze me to meet mean women?  After all, mean doesn’t go away (one of my mid-life learnings!) , but I never really thought about this until I met two of them this weekend!

Coincidentally, there was a new pilot TV show launched on ABC called GCB (based on the book Good Christian Bitches. The series considered renaming to Good Christian Belles but settled on just GCB.) The central theme is a group of women who have not changed much since their sniping, bitchy teenage years in Dallas, TX.  A main character returns to Dallas as a thirty-something widow of two teens, having been the biggest queen “B****” in high school.  She thinks she is reformed (in some ways she is), but her neighbors are former friends who remain proud current-day GCB’s and display nasty behavior in front of husbands, children, and congregations.  This series joins the crowded stage of women-behaving-badly shows like the myriad of “Housewives of xxx.”

(As an aside, I loved the Saturday Night Live mock trailer called Housewives of Disney! that you can find on Facebook or YouTube.  Send me a comment if you’d like me to send you the link to that parody!)

Will you Comment Please?

This weekend, I had two separate GCB-like (mean women) experiences and I would like your opinion.  I know that I am not perfect (or crazy!), but I was stunned to see such bitchy behavior in real life by women here in Tampa  Help me out – what is YOUR experience?

# 1. VERONICA (not her real name)

I was good friends with Veronica for about 2 years up until a few weeks after she started dating Bob.  We met him at a local pub and he hit on me first, but it was not reciprocal.  Veronica then started dating him and within 3 weeks they moved in together.  It should not have been a surprise to me when she asked if he could come with us and share the hotel room I booked and paid for in New York City just weeks later.  Originally I said okay, but realized that sharing a room with a new romantic couple would be uncomfortable so I told her no.  She got upset and they both stayed elsewhere. End of story – or so I thought.

While I knew she held a grudge and we stopped hanging out (he is not a nice person), it wasn’t until about two months ago that I found out that she was trash-talking all sorts of things about me (I found out from a mutual friend).  I let it go, considering the source, then ran into Veronica at a local wine tasting event on Friday night.  What a b**** she was there.  To my face she pretended to be as sweet as cream pie, but I knew that anything I’d say would be turned into venom against me.  It was an interesting evening as she squirmed when I went over to talk to her (she tried to avoid me) and simply exchanged small talk.

What would you have done?  Would you confront the person with their own bad behavior or do as I did and simply pretend not to know?

#2. BEATRICE (not her real name either)

Saturday I arranged for a new friend (of less than a month) and I to volunteer at a local event and I agreed to share a ride with her (she drove this time since I’ve driven her for the past month!) I drove to her place where I parked my car, and didn’t say anything to her about the fact that  she kept me waiting for 30 minutes (at the time pre-arranged for her convenience so she could have her “I need to sleep until noon on Saturday” time. Volunteers had to be there by 1pm and it was an hour drive.)  Enroute, I endured her tantrum driving to Tampa (I didn’t realize that traffic could evoke such foul language), two stops for her to pick up money and cigarettes rendering us 45 minutes late to the event.  I was embarrassed to be that late, but didn’t belabor the point since we were at least there!

All day she stuck to me like glue (I’m not used to people being tethered to me at a volunteer gig) and we ended up attending an after-party with organizers at a hotel courtyard.  One guy there was interested in me and I in him so we ended up spending a lot of time talking – and I probably ignored her.  As the party wound up and I got ready to leave with her, she disappeared!

As a friend, I got worried (she had too much to drink to drive home sober) and texted and called her to no avail.  I was DITCHED without a ride home and with no explanation or even courtesy to tell me she was leaving.  The next morning (there were no rooms available so I bunked in on the sofa of two guys who had a room – thankfully!) – as I was hailing a $50 taxi back to my car, – she finally returned a text saying “I am fine… you botched the friendship…. don’t ever contact me again.”   I asked the guys if I had said or done something reckless to her the night before and their response was simply – “we were there, she was simply gone, and wow, that’s f***’ed up!”

This GCB (she professes to be religious and righteous) refused to tell me what horrendous deed I had done to deserve being left behind, but other friends tell me that when alcohol and a guy are involved, bitchy women can become psycho.  How did I miss this whole segment of society to this point?  I realize that there really wasn’t a friendship in the first place to lose, but again, I am stunned at the behavior and would like to avoid this type of person in the future.  (She sent an almost identical text to a guy she had an “encounter” with just the week before when he left her on a Sunday morning.  So she has a pattern of dismissive texting.)

The Future… Advice please?

Do you think mean girls can grow up?  Do you meet these people when you are out and about?  How should I handle these people and what would you do?

Karma says that the Veronica’s and the Beatrice’s of the world will get theirs… and I do not wish harm on anyone.  But whiskey tango foxtrot, I do not need these people in MY life.

Have a great week!

Carol

Put on your own mask first…before assisting others

19 Sep

I am fortunate this week to have the company of my daughter who is down from NYC for a bit of time before she moves overseas to teach English in Asia.  She is one of the most caring and generous people I know and often espouses wisdom beyond her years.

Either yesterday or the day before (my memory is just not as sharp as it used to be), we were talking about the support she constantly provides to others, and how, at critical times of stress, one cannot lend support to others when it is most needed within.  I hope that she won’t mind me paraphrasing her words – but they were along the lines of

“Put on your own mask first… before assisting others.”

As women, I believe that most of us were raised to help others before thinking of ourselves — and, as a result, we support everyone around us, before tending to our own needs.  Often, when we need support, we find that we stand alone.  And, I might add, it is our own fault – we have a flawed belief system!  What gives us the right to expect support from others just because we give it?

Life is not fair (we know this by now) and there is no guarantee of reciprocity!  (I’ve said it before that The Golden Rule is a good theory for teaching children to share, but it seldom works in adult life!)

I’ve talked to several confident and successful women friends who were raised similarly (gosh, one of the Girl Guide sayings when I grew up in Canada was:  “A Brownie is cheerful and obedient – a Brownie always thinks of others before herself” – sheesh !!!!) — and share a diminished sense of self-worth!  When one gives away something that which is still needed (support), it is folly to expect survival.  After years of giving to others, we end up feeling resentful that no one is nurturing us.  The answer is that we need to nurture our own needs first!  This means giving ourselves ample support –be it financial, emotional, cheerleading, physical rest, happy thoughts, encouragement, empathy, unconditional love, etc. — BEFORE supporting others.   (A novel thought indeed!)

I believe that this “oxygen mask philosophy” should be taught to children (and adults who never learned it) everywhere:  Take care to support and love yourself (put on your own mask first); then – and only then – can we effectively help others.

To my lovely daughter – I wish for you all the wonders and love that the world can possibly give you – you deserve it.  I love you and I hope that somehow, someday, you’ll see my love as support and wisdom back to you.  Thank you for YOUR wisdom…

Have a great week!

Carol

Let’s stop being wasteful – in consumerism and in life!

9 Aug

I’ve had a great summer with more beach time than I can recall in recent years. It’s funny how peaceful and contemplative we can become when we sit still and listen to the repetitive lull of the waves lapping at the shore.

Times at the beach lead my mind to wander and wonder – about all sorts of mundane things… like what’s the point of so much consumption of “new” products when yesterday’s products still work?

Last week when I was in New York City, my daughter and I visited a few clothing consignment shops (formerly called second-hand stores) and I realized just how much greener our society could become if we all decided to reuse, recycle, and restore.  It was amazing how good were the clothes as the shops showcased next-to-new clothing, gently worn, at a fraction of the original price!  Some of the pieces still had the tags on them!  Why do we keep churning out miles and miles of new textiles when the ones already fashioned are still wearable?

As I was thinking, it occurred to me that another “wasteland” is in our heads… Have you noticed lately how people love to plant “waste” in your psyche with negativity the minute you mention something good has happened?  I have “friends” who chide me about wearing fashionable black nail polish that I love (“you’re not really wearing that color to work are you? That’s not professional!”) or who project jealousy through my clothing choices (“I don’t think your shirt really looks all that good with that skirt”) or who can’t wait to disparage a new interesting person in my life (“why would he like YOU?”).  When you stop to consider what  a waste of time and energy it is to: 1. listen to them at all; and 2. to allow their negative waste to invade your good day!

My new “recycling campaign” is to repeat and reinforce positive ideas in my head so that I can spread GOOD cheer and not “fertilizer” (aka waste).  I would be ashamed to say the things some people say to me!

Today, more than ever, we need to sustain and nurture our spirits with environmentally friendly thoughts and actions – why not plant seeds of positivism and recycle good words to others today?

Have a great week!

Carol

Dear Daughter, lessons from a female engineer (part 1)

21 Jan

It is amazing how life turns out… who would have guessed that growing up as the oldest of five children in Alberta, Canada that I would find myself today as a middle-aged, divorced mother of two adult children, in Florida and reinventing my career to set up the financial independence I dream of.  Even though I have spent my career in male-dominated industries, I am most proud of my children, who are living happy, healthy, and independent lives as 20’somethings in Brooklyn NY and St. Petersburg, FL.

worldMy life so far has been nothing short of extraordinary – I have enjoyed a great career as a professional speaker, author, engineer, and IT expert with two passports (US and Canadian) bulging with international stamps.  I love to travel and it has been a joy to share international and domestic business trips with my children. Over the years, they have been to Brazil, Australia, Holland, Germany, South Africa, Ireland, and India in their travels. There are so many places I still want to visit – and I hope to share future travel with family and friends. I have co-authored books with experts in Finland, Germany, the US and Australia, none of which has given me financial freedom (a 2% royalty from one book and none from the others), but provided me with great experiences.  I married too young, and moved directly from my parents’ home at 22 (it was expected in my family to live at home during college) and into a marriage.  Twenty three years and three degrees (his) later, I find myself happily divorced, but with encumbrances of a hefty refinanced mortgage, real estate downturns, medical bills, unemployment and disillusionment.  Nonetheless, today I am much more fortunate and grateful than many others around me – I have optimism, good health, and a vision of the future that includes a fully booked keynote presentation calendar for years to come. I am learning that there are many things more important than money (even though money pays bills!)

I grew up in an era when women did not go into Engineering, let alone Mechanical Engineering, and in my class of 65 ME’s at the University of Calgary, I was one of five female graduates.  I keep early lessons from growing up in Canada, relocating to the US, competing in a male-dominated field, and figuring out what life and love really is all about.  I am grateful to learn something new every day…

I read a blog yesterday by Jean Hsu on the Experience of Being a Female Software Engineer, and I realized that the more things change (technology and advances), the more they stay the same.  It made me realize that maybe you and other young women could learn from what I went through, and maybe avoid some of the missteps I made.  Hindsight is 20/20 and even though my daughter’s passion is English and Poetry, and not technology, I hold out hope that she will gain a nugget of insight somewhere in my words.

So, here goes, Dear Daughter (part 1)

Dear Daughter,

I remember growing up and wanting a daughter like you and a son like your brother, with a fairytale nuclear family, but life just does not turn out exactly as we plan.  While your father and I were not the right life partners for each other, we were together for your formative years and I hope you know that there was love – at least from my side.

I admire your strength and I envy your youth – you have an entire wonderful career and love life road out in front of you as it should be.  I remember the altruism and zest that I had at your age and I wish you all the excitement and great experiences that life can hold.

Here are a few things I have learned along the way that I hope may help you:

  • Take care of yourself first – you are the only you that will ever be. Nurture your feelings and respect your intuition because they are keys to the real you.  I taught you to take care of others first as I was taught, but if you do this, you will end up losing yourself in the process. After taking care of everyone for so many years, I found out late that no matter how much I gave to others, I was empty inside because I was not taking care of me.  It is not selfish it is good self-care.  As they say in the airlines, put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. In this way, you will survive so that you can then help others.  You deserve a great, long life.
  • Never allow anyone to impede your dreams. Safeguard your dreams from negligent, but well-meaning others who do not share your journey or passion in life.  Your dreams are yours not theirs, and no matter how much they might purport to know what is best for your life (including me) – follow your heart and your dreams.
  • Life is not fair, but you still can achieve greatness. It is still an inequitable world out there. Growing up in a male preferential family (Boys have to run out and play, girls do dishes and cook), I faced many obstacles based on gender. However, it is only a barrier if you let it be. You will face many men and women alike who will tell you that you cannot do this or that, but as long as what you are doing is not illegal or immoral, you have every right to take your place in any profession  regardless of your gender (construction, engineering, etc) – go for it!  Do not waste even one precious heartbeat on anyone who does not make a difference in your life – even if they get in your face!
  • Never make anyone a priority for who you are only an option. This was a quote on Facebook from a self-professed dating expert and while it pertains specifically to dating, it applies to all relationships.  You can avoid toxic friendships, work relationships, and heartbreak when you keep this point in focus.  If you are not good enough to be a priority in someone’s life, they should not be occupying a place of preference in yours.
  • Opportunity may come disguised as hard work or a gift horse. When I graduated from engineering school in the 1980’s, I had a few job offers extended solely because I was a female engineer.  The big oil companies needed to hire women and fast track us into management, so they made outrageously generous offers to us.  At the time, my ethics (and the influence of peers) were too high – so high in fact, that the mere suggestion that I would be perceived as getting the job immorally (people would invent rumors involving indiscretions for any female given perceived “unfair” advantage) prevented me from taking such jobs.  What a mistake! Those jobs might have given me a gender preference and put me ahead for the first few months, but I have faced far more discrimination from being female throughout my career since then.  I should have taken the opportunities at the time with a genuine thank you for the leg up.
  • Fall in love with yourself first. Self-love and self-esteem are two things you can never have too much of.  When you are healthy and happy with the person you are, you can give love freely and unconditionally to another.  With the amount of negative influence and reinforcement in western society, it takes at least a couple of independent living years to discover and accept who you really are.  Only now am I discovering and unconditionally accepting the true me, and it is a pleasant surprise. It was naïve of me to think that anyone else could love me as unconditionally as I deserve to love myself.
  • You are always worth it! You are unique, complete and perfect just the way you are. You do not have to change for someone else.  If you want to change, do it for you because it is you who must live with the changed you no matter what.   If someone wants you to be someone else (to please them) they do not deserve you.
  • You deserve to be loved unconditionally. You will find that if you wait for the right person it is worth more than if you settle for the first person you fall in love with. Red flags include having to couch your words (in fear of another’s response), unwillingness to do things alone, having to give up your friends in favor of theirs.  Life is too short to be with someone who does not love you for you.
  • Smile – a lot. A smile is the most inexpensive and powerful thing you can give to a stranger or friend.  You never know who will be affected positively by this simple random act of kindness.
  • Always be yourself. If you spend your life being someone else, you are depriving the world of the wonderful you.
  • Keep your girlfriends for life. Life can be lonely when things are tough.  There is no substitute for empathetic girlfriends who accept you just the way you are.  Your friends will outlast boyfriends and husbands. Never take them for granted or ditch them for a “boy” — they deserve your respect and will always be there when the boy is long gone.
  • Pursue your passion. A coach told me just this week to keep two things in mind for your career:

1. Choose a profession where you like the people in it (if you don’t trust lawyers, don’t become one); and

2. Choose an industry that has money to pay you.

He recommended that I get out of the business now, because only #1 is true.  The IT field has great people, but with rare exceptions they do not pay their conference speakers.  I have a choice to leave the business (I am not making enough money) or stay and go broke.  I love to speak to large audiences and would happily represent a company on a speaking or conference circuit, but my current business model is not working.  It is never too late to reinvent yourself.

Pursue your dreams, be yourself, and never be afraid to feel what you feel.  The present is the best gift you can ever give yourself, and is only rivaled by the joy that you have brought to my life.

I love you,

Mom

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Will work for…

12 Jan

I know that it takes fortitude to ask for support.

I don’t know about you, but the new millennium is strange:  everything I grew up to expect in life is upside down; jobs are not guaranteed, home ownership is no longer an investment, the middle class is shrinking, and homelessness is no longer the domain of a few downtrodden souls.  Here in Florida, the number of unemployed continues to rise monthly (Florida leads the nation in both unemployment statistics and real estate devaluation) and I am thankful to have a roof over my head.

While there are buskers who pretend along with others who may not deserve a handout, the benefit of the doubt has graced people I’ve seen with signs or an open hand.  Maybe it’s my upbringing, but I find it difficult to pass by without giving them something.  I often think “There but for the grace of God, go I,” were it not for good luck and education.

Have you seen how creative some of the signs have become?  It seems that today even the homeless compete for dollars (did you see the story about the New York person whose sign “Need money to buy weed” brings in close to $500 per shift?)  This was not the society I was raised to inherit – yet I find that there is little security today.  Here at the crossroads of mid-life, neither friends nor I wasted away savings or quit jobs; we are challenged because of downsizing and business cuts.  Do you see the same things occurring where you live?

As a young engineer who graduated in the 1980’s,

I was fortunate to have job choices and options – there were more jobs than applicants!  For years, I could move freely between jobs progressively up the ladder.  It was also easy to start my business in 1994 and to make a profitable living.  I had no idea how lucky I was then or over the next six years when I was able to support a freelance team of 5 people.  I kept my team gainfully employed with generous salaries for several years and life was good.  During this time, I could have advised other young women on how to build a profitable business easily and quickly — even though my secret was that I was in a niche and high demand market.

Since then, life has changed – business changed and contracts slowed, and today my clients want short-term (less than a week at a time)  project management and software metrics training.  I deliver high energy knowledge transfer in my speaking and consulting engagements, but the work “pipeline” remains low.  It is frustrating to have good health, an excellent reputation and skills, yet have open blocks in my calendar.  When I look at who I was with a highly successful business and who I am today, I am the same person of high integrity, but with more experience, credentials, and compassion.

Finding contracts online or via job boards is no longer a reality as anyone with a computer and a mouse can click their way to applying for technical jobs.  The key to finding work today is through connections – successful job seeking is based on who you know not what you know.

So, it is with humility that I say “will work for…”

I definitely need more speaking engagements and contract work!  Will you help me by referring me to your superiors, colleagues, and friends when you hear that they need a speaker or an instructor for their upcoming event?   I speak on topics ranging from project management to making technology a success to software measurement. In addition, I can be a spokesperson for your company at conferences to bring traffic back to the trade show floor.  My fees are reasonable and I am willing to travel internationally.

Recently my keynote speeches included the International Project Management Association Global Congress (Nov 2010 in Istanbul Turkey) and the International Function Point Users Group annual conference (Sept 2010 in Sao Paulo Brazil).  I deliver workshops on software measurement and quality topics throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Over the past 10 years, I have spoken in  25 countries including Asia, Australia, and South Africa.

Thank you in advance for your leads and kind help. My passion is speaking and consulting — I work best with companies who want to improve their business with technology. Please me email (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) or visit my other blog at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com for more information.

Thank you, I am grateful for readers like you.
Carol

websites: http://www.caroldekkers.com and http://www.qualityplustech.com


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NYC, the country…

22 Jun

NYCMy daughter lives in NYC (New York City) and loves it!

I never fully understood the allure of New York until this weekend, and I’m growing fonder of the place by the visit.  NYC is like no other place on earth and I think I know why.

Can you think of anyplace else where:

  • Everyone of every age seems to travel by subway or walk or bike?
  • There are so many unique fashion trends that no one stands out as different or strange?
  • Every neighborhood has its own flavor and celebrates traditions in the street (I experienced solstice (midsummer) today –Brooklyn style– with rock bands playing at corner restaurants on a Monday afternoon) – and world cup soccer is celebrated even if the U.S. is not playing a match?
  • People are universally accepted and (equally) ignored no matter what their race, creed or religion?
  • There are great restaurants and entertainment venues everywhere within walking distance or a short subway ride?
  • The city and boroughs stay open late (and you can get dinner past 10 pm!) – and are filled day and night?
  • Space is at a premium yet the hot summer heat doesn’t seem to create hostility?
  • Summer is celebrated nightly with rooftop parties and gatherings?

It’s so refreshing to find parks within the concrete jungle, European style street corner restaurants, delis and cafes spilling outside, people walking everywhere, cultural diversity being celebrated, and generally happy people all about.  As my daughter says, NYC is like its own country and she’s one of its proudest citizens.  Who knows, maybe someday, I’ll be one too!

Have a good week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright Carol Dekkers 2010…

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