Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gratitude Served Up in an Acronym With a Side of Narrative

There's no doubt about it that gratitude should have a place in our lives every ding-dong day. However, isn't it fabulous that on the eve of this holiday --Thanksgiving -- we receive a gentle reminder?

My gratitude knows no bounds, but it knows a few words of expression:

I’m grateful for those moments when I can pay it forward, only looking backward long enough to express gratitude to those who paved my way. I’m grateful for this upcoming holiday featuring my favorite foods – carbohydrates and turkey – with my favorite people – friends and family. I’m also grateful for the chance to create an acronym (I’m grateful for those too), and I cannot allow a good acronym opportunity to go by.

Healthy living as a habit
Affable people
Pie (the kind with an “e” on the end)
Pets with their unconditional love
Years measured in memories

Trips of exploration: near & far
Happiness exuding from my family
Abundance in everyday life
Nature’s bounty as far as the eye can see
Knowledge gained: current and future
Shared experiences
Good hair days
Inspirational moments
Variety being the spice of life
Innovative ideas
Nonsensical comedic moments eliciting laughter
Gifts of love

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Bit Fitter

By: Diane Dean-Epps

I’m in a new relationship. And I’m married. And my husband doesn’t mind. In fact, he is very encouraging.

Now, before you think less than highly of me I want to let you know that, yes, my husband does frown upon me dating and, no, this isn’t some sort of relationship reboot where I declare my multi-decade union reborn anew.

My latest relationship is with my activity tracker known as the FitBit. Thus, no marital vows, nor state laws have been violated.   

My latest acquisition offers me the best POSSIBLE kind of relationship as there is no shaving, talking, or “I don’t know. What do you want to do(ing)? Just sharing, but the good kind of sharing involving stats and goals. There is also a tacit agreement to move it for lost it (translation: sweat) continuously.

I have so many loves in life and the FitBit combines a surprising number of them, the proverbial “top 10” of which are:

1.    I love technology.
2.    I love working out.
3.    I love accountability (a boon to any uber responsible person).
4.    I love self-inflicted competitive strategies.
5.    I love information.
6.    I love free, life-changing apps. (Think “Shazam” and how many thousands of hours it saves when you are trying to remember the name of “that” song.)
7.    I love earning non-valuable prizes and accolades like electronic badges and emailed “atta girls.”
8.    I love setting goals.
9.    I love self-improvement (as long as it’s my own idea.)
10. I love watches.

FitBit. Even its name is so who I am; a little bit fit, but not so much that I look like I’m all tendon and I need to eat a sandwich. 

I want to at least appear to be sensible enough to eat some real food. Like maybe horking down a bi-weekly sandwich, augmenting that nightly sensible salad consisting of one lettuce leaf, an anemic tomato, and a few abjectly lonely slices of cucumber all drizzled with the fragrant, if not fulfilling lemon juice. Yum! Pass the “I’ve lost my zest for life” shaker, please.

The windfall that was my FitBit ownership came about because my daughter didn’t like hers. She said she was never able to figure out how to correctly set her watch.

Initially I had one seemingly insurmountable problem: I could not, for the life of me, remember the name of which Fitbit model I had, mainly because I hadn’t purchased it. This throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the whole shebang during set-up. I must have texted my daughter a half dozen times with the ‘ole, “Now, honey, which one do I have?”

After overcoming that hurdle which activity, more’s the pity, I could not log in as an activity, I had that sucker calibrated, on my wrist, and set to “stun” in about 20 minutes.
Subsequent to my new status as a member of the “FitBit-Wearing Club” I got a bit curious about the name itself, so I launched right into the anaerobic activity that is research.

I found out the fine folks who manufacture this device came up with FitBit as shorthand for the “wireless-enabled wearable technology device that measures data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal metrics.”

Good call.

From morning ‘til night I’ve got that wearable technology on “go time” letting me know when I’m in a fat burning zone (decidedly different than my usual daily self-flagellation activity of noting when I’m in a fat eating zone), how many steps I’ve taken, the number of miles I’ve logged in, and how that heart rate is holding up. As an honorary member of the “ME” Generation I love these updates that are, well, all about me.

All was well…well, until it wasn’t.  

It is only when you are attempting decidedly un-FitBit activities that you may get into a bit of trouble. Such as self-tanning.

Do NOT apply self-tanner sporting your expensive wrist-dwelling device. I'm guessing everybody does this, particularly if you’re into fitness? It gets all into those insert-holey slits on the watch, and it mucks up the works.

I’m quite vigorous in my application of this product being a Coppertone-boomer who is only too familiar with the social ostracization that occurs when you are striped and orange. Though I’ve banished my Bain de Soleil days, the pain lingers, if not the tan.
There I was burning time better devoted to valuable step-logging time trying to find items to quickly clean the crevices of the apparatus. I was running around, scrubbing, cleaning, and recalibrating to the point where I was really starting to feel the burn.

Hold on.

Running, scrubbing, cleaning, and recalibrating. Sounds like valid tracking activities to me. Let me go log those in while I’m thinking of it. Maybe logging is also an activity with the typing?

Signed, A Bit Fitter and a Shade Wiser.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

***HUMOR*** The HR Professional’s Interview Wish List (In Funny World)

Ahhh…laws…so helpful…so not helpful.
Inarguably, employers and employees alike would agree the workplace has benefited greatly from stronger safety laws and better defined tenets as to what constitutes professional respect. Nonetheless, there is a drawback. Or two. Take, political correctness, for example.
I’ve long felt the political correctness pendulum has swung too far when it prevents us from letting a co-worker know they look nice, are wearing a fabulous garment, or we’ve noticed their eczema outbreak has cleared up.
Haven’t we all had one of those weeks, nay years, when the only thing keeping us from throwing down a daily liquid lunch is a colleague’s kind remark about our appearance?
Be that as it may, there is an even steeper climb than the ascent that is maintaining a bias-free work environment. Hiring. Specifically? Interviewing. Even more specifically? What you can and cannot say in an interview.
Navigating the rocky path up Mount “To Vet” means remaining cognizant of what you can and cannot reference when you’re trying to determine a) Does this candidate have the necessary skills?; and 2) Does this candidate seem sane?
From these thoughts are spawned amusing, perhaps even cathartic, lists. If laughter is the best medicine, then lists that make you laugh are… oh, never mind. Let’s just get to this tongue-in-cheek wish list organized around (some) actual human resource interview categories.  
Inappropriate Questions and Comments Human Resource Professionals Might Utter Were There to be No Laws, Proprieties, or Witnesses
Interview Questions That Might Have Been Asked in 1976:
(Note: Substitute “Hippie” for “Goth” and “unwashed hair” for “triple nose ring.”) 
  1. Appearance Profiling: I’m sorry about my startle reflex just then. You have such an unusual style of make-up application. What would you call that? Goth? Is that a term they still use nowadays? By the way, the triple nose ring is quite the statement.
  2. Experience: I notice you’ve had several jobs that, interestingly enough, ended in the same month. Would you please elaborate upon how such a freakish and questionable coincidence might have occurred?
  3. Criminal History: When I called your references, which included your third grade teacher, the responses were all strikingly similar, to wit, “Has it already been five years?” “No comment,” and “It just goes to show you, you can never give up on a person.” Might you explain this?
  4. Personal Life: Do you participate in any 12 Step programs and, if so, what step are you on, and why?
  5. Marital Status: I see here you’ve indicated “Ms.” on your job application; however, I see a ring on your left hand. Why not just cut to the chase and choose “Mrs.?” Does this mean yours is not a happy union?
  6. Political Party Affiliation: You’re wearing red, white, and blue today with a festive flag pin on your lapel. Are you appearing in a parade today, or running for political office?
  7. Religious Preferences: Would you have an objection to working on Yom Kippur? And a follow-up question, if I may. Do you think it’s best to say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” or none of the above, and why?
  8. Photographs: Do you mind if I take a picture of you? I’ve got so many applicants I don’t have a prayer of keeping any of them straight. We’re hiring from within the organization anyway, but my boss wants me to go through the motions. Ready? “Say, unemployed!”
  9. Physical Data: Our organization prides itself on first impressions. Would you be willing to adopt a sensible diet, join a gym, and meet weekly with our on-site image consultant?
  10. Ancestry/Birthplace/National Origin: *I notice you’re from Stockton, California. Wow. I’m sorry.
 *You guessed it. I am from Stockton, California and many people have made this comment to me over the years, which sometimes leaves me with my funny bone out of joint and, subsequently, a bone to pick.
Having participated in more than her fair share of interviews on both sides of the hiring table, Diane Dean-Epps is NOT an HR professional, nor does she aspire to be one. (I know. You are relieved and who can blame you?) What she does lay claim to is her status as a humorist with a specialty in finding the funny in situations that at first blush are not so much humorous as disastrous. Interviewing qualifies. Hands down.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Best Possible Outcome

It was a tough week at the old salt mines. I’ve been working with an organization undergoing a substantial amount of change and while we are getting clearer on the need for processes, not so much on the outcome subsequent to this finding.
 Suffice it to say, this state of “being, or not being” does not provide one with a strong sense of accomplishment at week’s end. However, the week did end, bringing me to my blessed weekend.
 Contemplating either booking a quick transformational sleepover at the local ashram, or an intensive two-day neverending session at my gym I opted for an approach that seems to work for me: To do what was right in front of me. Therefore, I stayed the course and kept my previously scheduled Saturday morning hair appointment.
As is “per the uz” my miracle hair worker and I yakked the hours away discussing the burning issues of the day and solving the most difficult problems of our time. This included topics such as why adult dogs insist upon relieving themselves indoors when they know better, irritating people who always want to guess your weight-age-next sentence, and the unwanted appearance of ruffles in female fashion for women over the age of ten.
I began to relax, even feeling sleepy, as I experienced the “r” word (no, not retirement), as in relaxation.  During the final phase of my hair naturalization process, I decided I would treat myself to a trip to the Flower Barn for some garden acquisitions to see how long I could prolong this newfound relaxation thing.
Oh, sure, I still had the niggling feeling challenges lie ahead for me, specifically, when Monday dawns more early than bright, but hey, mirror:  Look at those stunning highlights!
Off I went to purchase posies, noting as I traveled from here to there that spring had definitely sprung with all of the gorgeous greenery showcasing its glory post-drought. Just as I was wheeling into a parking space I saw a flash of blonde hair via my peripheral vision.
In hyper mode my vision became multi-directional as I noticed simultaneously that a woman to my right was reversing her van out of the parking space, toward me, and the toddler was continuing to run, toward me. I grasped in a nanosecond the impending tragedy that would be the van, or me, or both of us hitting the little guy. I slammed on my brakes.
And you know what?  A miracle occurred, but not on 34th Street.  I stopped in time, the van driver stopped in time, the toddler stopped in time, and time stopped, just like everyone says it does.
All we were left with were a crying tyke and a crying Diane. It was in that moment I was reminded of one of those universal truths we receive so often, if we would only pay attention.
You never know what’s next; you just have to know it will be the best possible outcome. (True, it may be a matter of applying your brakes.)
Today I experienced the best possible outcome and that makes Monday’s outcome not matter so much at all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Commuting and Rerouting

Dear Caltrans,

I like you.

I like your ever-expanding color palette of safety-inspired fashions.

I like your hip, shortened name denoting mobility and Cali-style fun.

I like the fact that you are out there every day making sure the roadways are safe, free from debris, streamlined for traveling efficiency, showcasing the application of highway-supportive dollars.
What don’t I like? Surprises.

Oh, don’t get me wrong I like the good kinds of surprises that include cake, gifts, cake, and discovering long-lost friends and pieces of my newly excavated wardrobe.

The kind of surprise I’m not fond of, my darling Caltrans, is a highway rerouting on a busy, post-holiday-weekend Tuesday. This type of surprise never offers cake, or gifts. Typically the only discovery I’m making is how adept I am at keeping my Honda Civic from qualifying as an unofficial entry in the Caltrans-sponsored Bumper Car Rally.

There I was drafting off of the feeling that only a three-day, fun-filled weekend fueled by a pay day and poor choices can provide. I was cruising along with my commuting comrades at an altitude of approximately 67 mph when I noticed all was not well along the Sacramento Westbound 80 corridor, beyond the usual dull roar of traffic.

Initially I figured there was just an unearthly mass of worker bees attempting a return to work in order to make more money, having spent all of it during the aforementioned weekend festivities.
I was wrong.

Right around Truxel Road is where it all went to heck in a medium-sized car. The road I had traveled previously diverged and then disappeared. In its wake were a myriad of low, cement walls, squished orange cones, and redrawn lines that looked as though the Caltrans workers had had an even more entertaining weekend than I had.

In short, none of it made any sense and we had no warning. Zip. Zilch. Nada. There was a collective metaphorical scratching of commuting heads as we all slowed down, pivoting our heads this way and that, trying to figure out: a) Who was punking us?; b) Where had Highway 80 West/San Francisco gone?; and c) Had I-5 South/Los Angeles gone with it?

Adding to the fun of the whole fiasco was the fact that an autobahn-inspired merging lane was coming at us as we struggled to decipher the Transportation Code that would gain us entry to our next Highway Portal.

I felt as though I was inside a video game and it was exactly how you would think it would be: life-threatening, hot, and uncomfortable.

While I appreciate the forwarding-thinking, save-water-for-drinking messages Caltrans has crafted and strategically placed on their signs, I can’t help but feel a small message regarding a LARGE rerouting might have merited more board time.

Here’s a sample: Dear Commuters: Good morning. We have a surprise for you, so stay tuned! Love, Caltrans.


Dear Commuters: I hope you had a fabulous weekend. I know we did. You will see what we mean. Fondly, Caltrans.

OR even more helpful.

Dear Commuters: Warning. We have rerouted your journey, so for god’s sake slow down, take stock of your surroundings, hover your foot over that brake, and get ready for the ride of your life. Cautiously, Caltrans.

Change is good, Caltrans, and by that I mean: Please change your signs. Love, Commuting and Rerouting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I'm Online Though Not Necessarily On Board

Interviewing.  It’s not the same process it was ten years ago.
I would venture to say it’s not even the same process it was a year ago. From my recollections, I think we’re somewhere around the sixth iteration in overall methods, which reflection merits a trip in the “Remember When” Machine. 
Sit back, kids, and let me provide you with an ever-so-brief overview of … the interview.
Remember When…
You stopped by a business where you, or your parents, knew the owner, and you filled out a job application so brief it looked more like a W-2? Version 1.0.
This application was just a formality because your folks had already begged the owner to give you a job/income as you were closing in on your eighteenth birthday which was tantamount to a ticking clock, or time bomb. Then you were interviewed and hired on the spot.
Alas, babyboomers, if-not-the-greatest-generation-then-certainly-the-largest, moved out of their hometowns.
Those crazy kids couldn’t wait to:
  1. a) go out and find their bliss b) apply for those newfangled credit cards; and c) get away from their parents.
Because Then…Remember When…
Version 2.0. You looked for a job in the newspaper and made a multitude of appointments with business owners to talk about why they should hire you? This created situations where you showed up ready to speak with total strangers about prospective jobs you didn’t have the foggiest idea how to do, much less get. Fortunately, bravado was very much a valued commodity back in the day, so you were hired on the spot.
(I’m sure you’ve seen these newspapers of which I speak, displayed in the streetside Smithsonian Institute that is a newspaper stand. It’s the American version of the British red telephone box.)
Computers made their way out of military facilities and onto the open market by virtue of a couple of wild-haired, brainy entrepreneurs who may not have gotten the girls, but they did get the last laugh.
Because then…Remember When…
Version 3.0. You created a document known as a résumé touting your sundry skills and life-changing accomplishments, so business owners would call you to make an appointment?
These were mailed via the good ‘ole U.S. mail which ensured employment of at least half of the 307,490 mail carriers out there, if not your own.   
This résumé (curriculum vitae in fancy talk) was a one-page fabrication turning activities like mowing the lawn into colorfully scripted terms such as “self-employed landscape artist.”  It was considered cutting edge, employment-seeking technology back in the eighties resulting in several scheduled interviews. After saying they would get back to you, at least one employer nearly always did.
Then the crazy computer fad caught on with a vengeance and now every employer expected that slick homage to creative writing.
As it turns out, a multitude of people who might not have been stellar employees were stellar writers ensuring a mega volume of material, so the multi-tiered interview process skidded onto the scene.
Because Then…Remember When…
Version 4.0. You sent out your résumé, got a call from the prospective employer who scheduled your first interview, you were interviewed, and then if they liked you, really liked you, the callback resulted in the second interview?
This was so successful that a small, but powerful group of prospective employers decided if candidates were willing to be interviewed twice, perhaps being interviewed by twice as many people would also go over. Thus, the interview by committee was born. In this version you were hired at the end of your second interview.
Change Was a Comin’…
Version 5.0.  You were contacted by a Human Resources Specialist of some flavor who scheduled your phone/in-person interview. Usually there were two people calling/interviewing you, and then for your second interview the interviewing team would have doubled in size again.
Version 5.0 features this group interview scenario requiring a preponderance of qualification from the interviewee. While the résumé provided the golden ticket for entry the parallel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory doesn’t end there. You were expected to “tour the factory” and watch out for the hot chocolate river...metaphorically speaking.
At the outset it was a bit of a sticky wicket because you were being interviewed by multiple people rendering eye contact challenging. In fact, keeping up with the multiple questioners made you look as though you had a stigmatism, or something to hide. Additionally, your body language became challenging as your attempts to turn toward the interrogating party turned into an aerobic interlude.
You were rewarded for tenacity because after your battery of interviews you were invited to join the team.
And this brings us to modern-day interviewing. Every prospective employer knows we will comply with just about any request to score that all-important interview. (Three hundred and fifty words about why you feel you’re perfect for the job, anyone?)
Because Now…
Version 6.0. Duhn-Duhn-Duhn: You have the advent of online job listings, applications, assessments, and communications.
We are firmly in the eye of the perfect storm that represents the online component-ness of everything. Consequently, I’m not sure at what point in the process you’ll get hired, but do interview up.
It is de rigueur to fill-out online applications mirroring the concise master’s thesis that is your aesthetically pleasing résumé.   
However, you are also likely to be asked to complete a cognitive assessment, a personality assessment, a response to possible workplace scenarios, and/or an essay responding to a prompt that is a variation of that English class standard “What did you do over your summer vacation?“ which is “Why do you want to work for our company?”
They are all online and you must be quick-thinking, quick-typing, unique, collaborative, and genuine, often at the same time, all within approximately 15 minutes.
May your sessions not time out before you're finished.
Vaya con résumé.

Diane Dean-Epps lives and works in northern California, teaching English to Generation Y-ME?! in real time and writing books in her spare time, to wit:  Maternal Meanderings (Humor), Last Call (Humorous Mystery), KILL-TV (Humorous Mystery), Quiet Boundaries (Poetry), and I’ll Always Be There For You…Unless I’m Somewhere Else?!  (Humor). Her numerous essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including MORE magazine, NPR’s This I Believe, The San Francisco ChronicleThe Sacramento Business Journal, and Sacramento magazine. Her blog may be found at: