The colors of Christmas

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Some, who are reading this, may wonder why a black and white photo with no snow was chosen to be included in a blog post entitled “The colors of Christmas”. It’s really quite simple. For some, the season of Christmas brings no color at all, no fancy lights, or dinners or parties. No joyful trimming of the tree or waiting for presents to be received or to be given.

For some, this can be the darkest time of the year, when they may feel most alone. Now, there are some that revel in the loneliness and in some ways actually welcome it. For those individuals, this time of the year is not unlike any other time. Just another day in which to get things done while others are spending time with friends and family.

Yet, for most people who dread this time of the year. It is a 30 day reminder that they do not share this joyous time of the year with someone. No one special for them to sit with and enjoy the endless onslaught of Holiday movies, nor to share a hot cup of cocoa at the end of the day.

Well, if you find yourself reading this, and find yourself one of those individuals, no need to fret this year.

I, myself, have been one of “those people” for a few years now. In fact, this will be the eighth Christmas and New Years season I have spent alone, and am hear to say that, it may not be easy, but, you can make it to the new year.

Instead of focusing on the fact that I have no one special in my life right now with whom to share the holidays. I focus on myself. During an eleven month period, one can accumulate quite a lot of stuff. During the holiday season is, for me, the perfect time to reduce the “stuff” I have.

Old clothes go to the Salvation Army, old books go to the library, and I go through and clean out my “catch -all drawer” (and we know we all have one!). As a photographer of community events, I then go through my SD cards, drives, and pictures folders on all PC’s and devices, to make sure that they have all been categorized and uploaded to the cloud, so that they are readily available.

After that, I get into my own “Holiday Traditions” of watching “The Thin Man” with a nice cup of hot tea (with lemon), some chocolate chip cookies (is there really any other kind?!),and then settle in for the showing of the “Doctor Who Christmas Special”.

This year, however, I am adding a new tradition to the mix. And that is of being online. If you read my blogs, and I know there are not a lot of entries, if you find yourself not having anything to do this weekend, give me a shout-out.

We can email, exchange thoughts on movies, music, or just whatever. Just my way of saying that “no one should be alone on the Holidays”. Yep, sounds a bit cliché and a bit sappy. But, I will be here blogging all weekend and if you wish to chat, let me know in the comments.

Till then and make sure you are ready for this years “Doctor Who Christmas Special”, it comes on this Sunday (Christmas night) at 9:00 p.m. on BBC America.

 

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Shutterbug (Again)

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One of the first items I received from my father, before his passing,  was a medium format camera which, sadly, over the years that camera has been lost. In an effort to get back in touch with a hobby that I enjoyed, I recently purchased a Nikon Coolpix B500 camera.

Now, I would not call myself a photographer by any means. I just enjoy taking pictures of the city that I live in (Port Huron, Michigan) and pictures of the events that happen in our area. Looking back on some of the photos I took in the last two days, it is a hobby in which I look forward to giving more time to.

By the way, the photo above is a shot of one of the many fine restaurants in downtown Port Huron. This is the Vintage Tavern. Originally shot in color, then a black & white filter was applied.

 

Not the upper middle class yet, but..

Being a regular day to day worker in today’s economic arena, can be a challenge, and to some, it can be a daily struggle. Many are living “paycheck to paycheck” and that’s with the help of government benefits, while others, including those with a higher level of education are struggling to even find a job.

I am one of the few that have been lucky not only to secure employment, but most days, enjoy going into my workplace. There is comradery, teamwork, and when you least expect it, great fun to be had.

But, on to the real topic here, which is, living on a not so glamorous rate of pay. As most of us in the customer service field. Our salaries are not to be bragged about. No “fight for $15”. no union (for most of us), and lots and lots of hours!

The task for most of us is how to manage the income we do get from our daily employment to make our lives rewarding to us, allow us to enjoy the things we like to do and to do this without breaking the bank!

Although I am not rich by any means, I do manage to take care of my finances, and in turn, they take care of me.

Saving for a rainy day..

We have all heard the phrase “Save for a rainy day”. And for a number of us this is where the challenge starts. How can you put away any funds from your weekly paycheck, when you need every penny just to get buy? My answer: Open a checking and savings account.

I know, I know. Open a checking and savings account is not a way to save money. But, it actually can be. With most banks today, checking accounts come with a debit card. With the debit card and direct deposit, it makes it easier to track where your money is going on weekly basis.

Still not seeing the savings…

At the moment, you are probably not seeing the value of the checking account and debit card. But, these two, coupled with a savings account, can start to see savings within a 30 day period. Let’s do some math. You bring home (after taxes), an amount of $738.49.

Pay yourself first by transferring the $8.49 into your savings account. Now you have an even amount of $730.00 to work with! At the grocery store, you spend an amount of $75.18, leaving you a new total of $654.82, minus cell phone bill of $65.00, half-months rent of $240.00, and credit card payment of $160, leaves you a grand total of $189.82.! Transferring the $9.82 into your savings account gives you $18.31 that you didn’t realize you had.

You now have $180 left from your wages to cover gas, laundry, and other things that might pop up.

Oh! Now I see the savings!

What you make may be lower or higher than the figures I use here. But, the outcome can be the same. By using a savings account to balance your checking account to an even amount, can start to show a savings very quickly. I have been using this method, and now have a very comfortable savings amount. I have also been able to purchase a couple of penny stocks, and am now working on the purchase of mutual funds.

So, as I said, not in the upper middle class yet, but I keep plugging away at it everyday.  You can as well. Try it a little at a time, even saving a dollar can be a great start. as the old Nike commercials used to say – “Just Do It”!

 

 

What a day for a daydream…

Night Sky in Port Huron

Got a surprise when I logged into my WordPress account earlier today. It has been almost 30 days since I sat down and wrote myself  letter! and in my eyes, that is for too long.

You only get what you give..

Well, it has been quite a 30 day period for me. Discovered some things about myself, and found myself becoming stronger as a person because of it and that is something that all of us look to be – just a little better and a little stronger than we were the day before. As for me, to that end, I have decided to return to doing something that I enjoyed quite a lot in the past. I allowed it to get away from me during the years I enlisted into the US Army. But, now I feel it is time to do it once again. Starting later this year, I will once again be playing the piano.

Nothing fancy, just returning to an enjoyable past-time. Now, there was a period in my past when I was the keyboard player in a local “Top 40” cover band and we played everything from Van Morrison to Prince!  And let me tell you, it was quite a bit of fun. Now, not going to be playing  in a band anytime soon, just looking to rebuild my technique and style.

Days of Wine and Roses..

Also, keeping me busy and allowing me to be able to pick up the type of keyboard equipment I wish to play on, is the additional source of income. As many of us are doing these days, I am not only an entrepreneur, but also returned to the field of customer service. This was not an light or easy choice to make, as I was hoping that my business would be able to sustain my very modest lifestyle. However, since I reside in a small town, the additional source of income will not only allow me to pursue my musical interest, but also will give me access to the necessary funds needed to keep my business up and running!

Well, for right now, that is about it. I know its a bit short, but there will be more after the weekend. And don’t forget, if you have BBC America in your channel lineup, be sure to watch the return of Doctor Who to airwaves this Saturday at 8:00 p.m.!

What was there before the Internet?…

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Life, Love, and pursuit..

Sorry for the delay in between post, but have been taking some time out to tighten up my social media, and also to take a little time to reflect. Personally, I think it is a good idea sometimes to just unplug from the Internet and social media, in order to take a step back and remember life before Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and blogging. A time to re-energize yourself, put priorities in order, and regain your focus. Hence, the writing of mine at the top of the page.

“Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto”

On my Facebook page, I stated that in this age of technology, we live all aspects of our lives online. From ordering our groceries to finding our life mate, so much of our daily lives are online. And I wondered – “What would happen without the Internet?” Do we remember enough of our basic social skills to still be able to hold a conversation without the assistant of Google, Pulse, or any other news feed for a topic? Did we retain information in our memory to again go to a store, purchase a card and gift, and deliver a birthday message in person? When we relax, do we remember how to pick up an actual good book, or do we automatically reach for our iPad, Galaxy Tab, Nook, or Kindle, and just download the latest seller? Or even something simple as writing a letter to a friend, do we type it or do we take out pad and pencil and write them a letter and (gasp!) mail it to them? I remember, in 2003, there was a large blackout on the East Coast, lasting for at least a few days. No cable T.V, no satellite radio, and of course, no Internet. Now, as Shakespeare would say – “Therein lies the rub” – because even though there was no way to access the information, local radio stations would report the standard reply – “For more information on the progress of repairs. you can follow us on (insert web address here!).

“By the clicking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes..”

The blackout showed me exactly how habit-forming looking to the Internet for our information has become. No longer do we call the operator or look in the Yellow Pages. We now Google or Bing a business to inquire about their hours or products. When we look to make friends, we search our online social media feeds or any number of dating sites. Not that there is anything wrong with that, the thought on my mind was that we are quicker to friend someone online rather than the person we see everyday. And shouldn’t be the other way around?

“Try a little tenderness..”

So, try a little experiment of your own. The next time you want to get in touch with a friend, don’t text or even call, totally surprise them with a visit. On someone’s birthday, buy the card early and mail it to them and take the gift there in person. If you know someone that enjoys reading, buy them an actual Barnes & Noble gift card, instead of a digital one! You may realize that you have forgotten just how pleasing these little acts can be.

As always – Take care, have fun, be safe, and trust me…there is always a reason to smile!

A little late to be relaxing..but, oh well..

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Busy, busy week!

This weekend was a welcome one to see. It was nice to be able to take some time off and just take a nice stroll and have a relaxing day. Taking time to reflect on some recent changes and life happenings and all that kind of mental relaxation.

Just doing me (as the hip kids say..lol!)

Most importantly, took some time out and concentrated on making the best of my social media connections. About a month ago, LinkedIn allowed me to have a Premium Membership. And over the weekend that membership was used to reach out and connect with individuals in the fields of marketing and social media. The membership allowed me to send direct email to heads of social media and marketing departments in firms such as: SMG Venue Management, Rock and Roll Museum and Hall of Fame, and a couple of major movie studios. And when I did that, an amazing thing happened – positive replies were received back! Now, this is not an endorsement for LinkedIn, but I do have to say, that using direct email within a professional platform like LinkedIn, was pretty cool, if only for a while.

Using Social Media to be socially productive!

For me, this is what I have always thought social media was for. To reach out, be productive, and make contact with individuals in the career fields you are most interested in. And with the Internet making it easy to find the names of those who work in various fields, its a shame not to reach out to them. Even if you get no answer back, you have been bold enough to make the first move, and with some power-players, that bold move can not only get you noticed, but also help them to remember you.

Make sure they can see the real you.

So as you reach out to professional individuals no matter what platform you use,  be Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or any other platform, be sure to present a professional look to not only yourself, but your content as well. Do you have to start deleting friends? No, rather instead focus your posts on the fields you are interested in, and maybe start a blog to increase your web presence. Be bold, but also be respectful as you reach out to professionals in the career fields you are interested in. You may be surprised as to who will answer you back.

 

 

 

 

Shocks rather than quiet..

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Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction…

Read a interesting article/study over this 4th of July holiday weekend.  From the University Of Virginia, a study was done that most people would rather give themselves an electric shock rather than to be alone with their thoughts.

http://www.today.com/health/people-would-rather-shock-themselves-be-alone-their-thoughts-1D79883179

I found this interesting because that is actually when my best thoughts come to me, is in a quiet room as I am actually trying to go to sleep! As I took a look at some of my FB friends posts over the past few days, a number of them seem to be able to exist with their own thoughts in a quiet room.

Time Out = Quiet Time?..

It also led me to think of a common practice among parents – which is “Quiet Time” for youngsters who become rambunctious or get themselves in trouble. My thought on that was – “Has this quiet time led to individuals not wanting to be alone with their thoughts?” If you think about it in that respect, then you may have to say “Yes”. When we give a child “time-out”, we are having them sit and give thought as to what led them to being punished in this manner. So as they get older, do they tend to associate “Quiet Time” with punishment and therefore subconsciously do not want to have to “think about things”?. According to the study, the participants were in range of age from 18-77, so in many ways that theory would not play out. So it still begs the question – “Would you rather shock yourself than be alone with your thoughts”

Just my thoughts as we head out of the holiday weekend into the first full week of July

Hope you had a great fun-filled 4th of July and may you have a great week!