Category Archives: Opinion

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero

Warning: This post contains (mild) spoilers.

Yesterday, Rick and I went to see Captain Marvel in theaters.

Strangely, I’d heard almost nothing about it after it was released on March 8th. The only thing that had passed through my social media was some headline about an old white guy upset about the MCU’s mightiest hero being a woman.

Over dinner last week, my dad, who coincidentally is also an old white guy, and who has not yet seen the movie, expressed his own confusion about Captain Marvel being a woman. Having grown up with the kind of Captain Marvel who starts out as a little boy, shouts “Shazam!” and channels the powers of several ancient male heroes by morphing into a well-muscled, fully-grown man, he wondered how all of that was going to work.

First of all, there’s no reason a girl couldn’t channel the powers of male heroes, given the opportunity–their maleness and their powers are not mutually inclusive. Secondly, I’m not sure what the deal is with kids having to grow into adults in order to use their powers (this also confused me when I first read the W.i.t.c.h. series).

But, most importantly, DC’s Captain Marvel/”Shazam” is not the same character as Marvel’s Captain Marvel. And, as I’ve learned from my good friend Wikipedia (because I am in fact not a comic book nerd), Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel’s civilian identity) has been a fixture of Marvel Comics since 1977, when she first appeared as Ms. Marvel, in a new series of that name, after having gained her powers from events that transpired in the Captain Marvel comics. She finally took up the mantle of Captain Marvel herself in 2012 (although it appears there were a couple other women who also held Captain Marvel’s title and/or powers, at some point or another). So, yes, the first Captain Marvel was a guy, but Carol Danvers certainly has a legitimate claim to the role.

And Marvel nailed it with this movie.

It is the most normal movie I have ever seen.

“Vers” (played by Brie Larson) as she’s known when the story begins, is apparently an alien soldier from another planet, fighting a war against another race of aliens called Skrulls. When the Skrulls capture her and take her to 1990’s Earth (this is a prequel), she works with a young Nick Fury to find and defeat the Skrulls before they can infiltrate Shield and steal an essential piece of technology.

It sounds pretty straightforward, for a superhero mission, but along the way, Vers, who can’t remember anything about her past and has trouble controlling her powers (read: obeying; getting things right), manages to discover who she is and what she is really capable of.

I cried watching her self-actualization play out. This wasn’t a story about a woman being powerful despite being a woman or because she was a woman. This was a story about a human being–who just miraculously happened to look and act like me–realizing their full potential.

Brie Larson is beautiful, make no mistake, but they don’t make her up like a supermodel (cough cough, Wonder Woman), and she’s dressed from head to toe in a practical uniform which sufficiently protects her from both the elements and the vacuum of space. She’s fit, like I imagine anyone with military training would be, but she looks like a normal person, not somebody’s ridiculous ideal.

And our hero’s defining relationship? Carol Danvers’s friendship with Maria Rambeau, a black single mother and badass pilot, replaced what could have easily been a meaningless long-lost love interest, if this were a different movie.

Captain Marvel, despite the horrendous line of advertisement I found on this AMC theater page, is not a “(her)o.” What a strange and belittling advertisement for such an amazing and worthy character.

She is a hero.

Captain Marvel is smart, brave, and human, in addition to having powers on par with those of DC’s Superman. I’m excited to see her take down Thanos in Avengers: End Game next month.

In the meantime, go see Captain Marvel. (Go experience it in IMAX, too.)

Take your friends and your children with you.

Everyone should see this movie.

Reconsider How To Fight Poverty in Developing Countries

In today’s digital social media world, it’s very easy to contribute to a whole lot of causes that are claiming to fight poverty. Everywhere there are non-profits and organizations that claim to help people in developing nations – the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed My Starving Children and more. It’s so easy to contribute without thinking critically about where the money is going and if it’s actually making an impact. 
 
As a native Haitian who spent a year working at an innovative non-profit fighting poverty in Haiti, I believe we need to seriously reevaluate how we contribute to eradicating poverty. 
First off, we can’t assume that non-profits, even the biggest ones in the world, are using donations properly. Two years ago, NPR found that $500 million in donated funds for Haiti earthquake relief were missing. This is not an isolated incident. Non-government organizations aren’t often transparent about where donated funds go to, partially because we as the donors aren’t that interested. We just want to feel like we’ve done something good. 
 
Our desire to feel good about our contributions goes so far that we sometimes inadvertently hurt the very people we’re supposedly trying to help. This excellent New York Times article shows how volunteer missions trips to do stuff like build homes puts local construction workers out of business and strains the local resources.
Volunteering seems like an admirable way to spend a vacation. Many of us donate money to foreign charities with the hope of making the world a better place. Why not use our skills as well as our wallets? And yet, watching those missionaries make concrete blocks that day in Port-au-Prince, I couldn’t help wondering if their good intentions were misplaced. These people knew nothing about how to construct a building. Collectively they had spent thousands of dollars to fly here to do a job that Haitian bricklayers could have done far more quickly. Imagine how many classrooms might have been built if they had donated that money rather than spending it to fly down themselves. Perhaps those Haitian masons could have found weeks of employment with a decent wage. Instead, at least for several days, they were out of a job.
This type of short-term, self-gratifying contribution is so common that we’ve become immune to it and have lost the ability to see that it’s happening. Instead, we need to partner with local communities to determine their needs, their desires and gauge the resources they already have at their disposal. As the incredible documentary “Poverty, Inc.” demonstrates, the work Westerners often engage in rarely involves the locals in terms of vision-casting, planning and execution. We assume these people are unable to do it themselves, so we must do it for them. It’s demeaning and it perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
What must we do instead? Work with organizations that express an interest in long-term change that involves the local communities and allows them to set the priorities and direction. Consider if the way we’re each contributing is actually helping people, or just making ourselves feel good while furthering their poverty.
That is how to be an enlightened partner to these people.

Childhood Dreams

I was sitting in church this morning and this question was raised, “What was the dream you had for yourself when you were a child?” Then the follow-up question, “Did you attain that dream, or do you still have that dream?” This really weighed on my heart because my answer to the follow-up question is, “No.”
graduation crop
At the time I graduated from High School in 1993, I set out to conquer the world as a singer. I knew my talent wasn’t at the level of those on the radio, but I knew music was one of the only things I had been consistently passionate about since I could talk. My first vocal solo was at the age of 2 singing Jesus Loves Me in front of the congregation. My parents could barely keep the microphone from me from that point on. Choirs, musicals, church solos and music competitions became the norm for me. I loved stretching my vocal range, vocal styles and tested my stage fright in various sizes of audiences.

One of my favorite places to sing was any sporting event. The roar of the crowd would come to a hush when the announcer would say, “Now please rise as Keri Deike leads us in the singing of our National Anthem.” With the crowd quiet, the air crisp and the teams focused on the flag, with no band or recording to back me up, I focused on the pitch of the first note. The chills rushed down my spine as I started the beginning of the song, “Oh say, can you see…” and they would continue all the way to the climax of the song, “For the land of the freeeeeeee, and the home of the brave.” The crowd goes wild! (Well, not for me, but for the team they were about to cheer on to victory. However, I secretly stole a little of that applause for myself.) The RUSH of approval and appreciation for my talent throughout my young life propelled me to major in music in college.

Why am I not pursuing my dream?

After 2 plus years of singing in college, then in various bands in the Twin Cities, for numerous weddings and many church events, I began to slow down my pursuit of a life as a vocalist. Partially because I got married, singing didn’t pay well, then needed to work full-time, then later I became a mom. My focus and my passion shifted from being a singer to being a wife and then a mom. Priorities of how I spent my free-time went from “gigging” to “gigglin'” with my family. We spent money on a house and not on travel, then evenings out became evenings in as a family. Responsibility and duty overshadowed bookings and shows. The dream became something on the shelves of my mind and currently, only surfaces when I allow myself time to reminisce of days gone by.
Keri in band
I read a post recently on a fitness site that is making me reconsider keeping my dream on the shelf. In the quest of obtaining overall fitness, Robin Gregory shares the importance of finding joy again in the dreams we once pushed aside. This can lead to an overall feeling of well-being. There can be many set-backs in various attempts for success in our lives, but having a goal that we are passionate about can keep us moving forward. If we could open our minds the way we did when we were younger, with no limits to our imagination, we could maybe capture excitement, momentum and perhaps, a piece of the dream that was pushed aside by adult-sized obstacles.

I am going to purpose in my heart to find the passions I once lost. My dream may look different at this stage in my life, but it is still my dream to continue to use my gifts for people’s special days, for church and yes, even the occasional sporting event to honor my country with the singing of the National Anthem.

What dreams have you let go that you would like to pick back up again?

 

 

 

So much unwanted advice

In the day and age of social media, things like blogs, web pages, Pinterest and Facebook are all peppered with things you should or should not do to raise a child. To spank or not to spank, homeschool, public or private school, are you a creative lunch maker or just a boring sandwich pusher, do you teach them things or let them figure things out on their own, and I could go on and on!

I admit, when I have an issue with my child, I first go to family and friends for advice. But, if I don’t find an answer that seems to fit my situation, I know I can turn to the world wide web. There are many professional child psychologists, pediatricians, nannies, childcare workers and moms that provide sound and calming solutions. It amazes me the wisdom you can glean from these sites. However, when articles pop-up on Pinterest urging you to read it or someone rants on a Facebook post about how they saw a mom doing or not doing something, this barges in on me like a neon sign and tends to irk me more than entice me. Why? Because advice for children is not one-size-fits-all. What my child needs to curb a certain behavior may not work for your child and vice-versa. The fact that a lot of these posts insinuate you are a bad parent if you AREN’T practicing their latest finding is downright maddening.

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Mischievious

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There is pressure for our kids to be the best soccer player, the smartest student in school, the highest jumper, the most advanced in technology and the healthiest of eaters. I miss the days when it was okay for kids to try out a sport and see if they liked it before signing their summer away to be on the team. There is pressure from every angle, even from ourselves, to raise a kid that will overachieve as opposed to just succeed in this world.

Just don’t read the articles!

If only it were easy NOT to notice the articles.  However, because these articles pop up on Facebook, Pinterest, or as a header on a website you are shopping on, it is difficult to ignore the taunts. “What IF I’m doing something wrong?” If you suffer from anxiety or depression these articles can deepen your feelings of inadequacy and make you question everything you are doing or not doing for your child. The internet can be a great tool, a way to connect people with the latest information, but it can also be a dangerous web luring you in to “keep up with the Jones’s.” I think it is okay if you want to post what has worked for your child, but it would be great if you didn’t claim this to be the fix of all fixes and look down your nose to people who don’t share your ideals. I’m grateful that you had the luck to find that magic ticket in your family’s life, I might just try it on my child as well. But if it doesn’t work, or if I find that it isn’t in his best interest, then I will file your idea in my “things that didn’t work” file and move on. Don’t judge, don’t talk behind my back, don’t push your convictions on my family and give people a break for choosing their own path.

toddler

I do my best each day to try to be secure in who I am, what I’m doing and embracing the love and comfort of my family. If the internet is going to keep throwing out pop-up shaming and unsolicited advice, what I may have to re-think is the amount of time I spend on social media.

Wanderlust and the American Dream

Wikipedia definition: Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

I’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug. This isn’t a recent development; I’ve always been a wanderer, dreaming of exploring distant lands, meeting new people, and trying new things. Part of the reason I write is because I can create those places, people, and ideas on the page. It opens up a new world, an escapism, for others to enjoy.

 

Writing, though, isn’t a replacement for the desire to travel. In fact, I’ve realized my impulse to just go somewhere gets stronger every day. I find myself checking airline prices and reading travel blogs, daydreaming about when I might be able to stop living vicariously through other peoples’ pictures, stories, and happiness. Wouldn’t it be great to just get up, hop on a plane, and fly to Japan? Or backpack through the countryside of France and sip wine with the locals? I would, in a heartbeat, snap up a ticket to Thailand to visit a place that has different thoughts, experiences, and attitudes than my own.

Continue reading Wanderlust and the American Dream

Workplace Complainers

Do you have that one person in your office that constantly complains about the job, the people, the process, the day, the weather, or the fact that someone just complained to THEM? Is this striking a nerve? In my 25 years of employment in the “real world” I have often encountered people that rarely have a positive word to share in conversation. Unfortunately, I am the person who thinks I can have a positive affect on these personality types and, at times, wear myself out trying to change them.

I recently read a blog titled: How to Handle Chronic Complainers that listed all the efforts I ever attempted in making a difference in a chronic complainer’s life. When reading the article, I almost lost all hope! The list goes on about all the things that DON’T work!  Cheering them up, suggesting solutions, ignoring the or complaining right along with them. These are things I’ve tried and tried only to fail and wonder if I am the problem! Why are these people drawn to ME!?

But, there is a glimmer of hope offered by the blogger. A trick that DOES work. When a person complains to you or sheds a negative light on something, you can respond with something like, “You know, that sounds terrible. I don’t know how you deal with all of these problems.” This wording, in a sincere fashion, is what I have been searching for in my 25 years of work. Sincerely let the person know you are sorry things are so bad, that you understand the trials and acknowledging that you hear them. This statement doesn’t mean you agree with their point, or are siding with them on their negative approach.

Words of Wisdom from Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa once said,“Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” If we could implement this into our daily lives, how would that affect those that we interact with on a daily basis? If only we could embrace joy and contentment over anger and jealousy. I know, it is easier said than done, especially for the chronic complainer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to be fake at work. But, there is a difference between venting to a co-worker, seeking advice and living out life with those you spend a great deal of time with and bringing people down, asking for advice that you really aren’t going to follow anyway and trying to make a contest out of who has it worse.

This makes me think of Kristen Wiig as Penelope trying to “one up” everyone on everything.  Kristen Wiig/Group Therapy   AAAHHHH!  Maybe if the people in these sketches were to use the tip suggested by Alexander Kjerulf in his Chronic Complainer blog, Penelope wouldn’t be able to come back with her famous “one-upping” comments.

work complaints

What am I asking for?

My hope is that when we come to work we would try to focus on the good things about our job, co-workers, boss and company. Maybe just enough to not drag others down with you. If you want to tell me about an occasional incident or share something about your day, I’m all in. But, if you’re going to take my precious work time, in which I have a LOT to do, to complain for the sake of complaining, then I would rather you blog about it. I’ll read it when I get to it.

 

 

 

 

Fashion Staples

On a lazy day (if I ever have the gift of having one of these so-called-days) I love to browse magazines and the worldwide web for the latest fashion trends. When I was younger, I took pride in owning pieces in my wardrobe that rivaled the trends in Hollywood and NY. I always found a deal and certainly didn’t shop in high-end stores, but on my budget, I could find items that spruced up my attire. In the 80’s, it was the pop of neon or oddly-patterned bulky sweaters with patent penny loafers, tightly cuffed stone-washed jeans and a coordinating scrunchi in the hair. The 90’s led to plaid Vans, combat boots, bib overalls, over-sized plaid button down flannels and maybe the “Rachel” as a haircut. The new century brought a mix of the 70’s and 90’s with boot-cut jeans, the cami under a cardigan or shrug, the comeback of the capri, from chunky shoes to flip-flops and hair with chunky low-lights and the occasional “crimped”strand for a surprise. 

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80's

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90's

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Staying up with these trends can really be exhausting!

Lately, I have found respite in the so-called “Staple” wardrobe. This wardrobe contains pieces that experts build on as a foundation to anybody’s style. These are your go-to pieces when you just don’t know what to wear for an occasion, or when you just don’t feel like putting together a trendy ensemble but still look and feel put-together.

According to New York Magazine’s The CUT You can put 50 “simple” items in your closet and you will own a solid wardrobe foundation. If 50 items are too much to manage, Elle Magazine narrows the foundation to 30 Essential Wardrobe Pieces that if you mix and match on any given day, will provide you with a “pulled together” look. Each of these expert lists contain items we would expect: the Little Black Dress, fitted blazer, the Pump, perfectly fitting jeans and a handbag, along with items that are not quite as obvious:  Matching Pajamas, wrap coat and a Bateau shirt.

There's a certain level of luxury that comes with wearing posh pajamas. This silk set by Journelle is the kind you can lounge in all day and still not feel like a slob.  Journelle Garbo PJ Set, $225; journelle.com There's something mature and luxurious about this wrap coat, like you'd rather be swathed in cashmere and tied at the waist than buttoned up in a peacoat. It's low-key glam–a daily aspiration for us all. 	Toteme Chelsea Coat, $760; toteme-nyc.com There's a reason why this classic striped shirt has been worn by every intellectual, actor, and artist of the 20th century. This nautical-inspired top will become a mainstay in your closet. Seriously, you'll have to control yourself from wearing it every day. Saint James Naval II, $139; saintjamesboutique.com  Images from elle.com

And don’t think I forgot about the men that are looking for ways to step up their game! You also can build your wardrobe around staple pieces to ensure you have something for every occasion. Forbes narrows your staples to 10 must have items.Khaki pants, the perfect fitting solid-colored pair of jeans, watch and blue blazer are just a handful of items you may want to have on hand.

Khaki PantsSolid Color JeansBlue Blazer Images from forbes.com

If you are on a budget, try shopping at Nordstrom Rack, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. You can find name brand named or not-so-known brand name items that will help you build your wardrobe foundation that won’t break your bank.

Now that you have the tools to pick staple pieces for your wardrobe, grab a friend and go shopping!

Controlling the Weight of an Elephant

Driving to work this morning I found my mood going down the tube. It wasn’t just a case of the Mondays or due to the change in weather. It was a case of I hate people. Yep, I hate people. To be more specific, I hate people who are not focused on driving and nearly crash into me.

Continue reading Controlling the Weight of an Elephant

Social Media and Greek Mythology

 

The Greek myths are the most well known stories from ancient history, their stories and characters have influenced man and his decision making for endless years. Many classic tales from the myths have found their way through adaptation in multiple storytelling mediums such as the written novel, the stage play, the motion picture, the comic book, and the video game. This blog post plays the game of Freakonomics( From the novel of the same name by Stephen D. Dubner and Steven Levitt) and makes a comparison between the Greek Gods and contemporary social media.

In the beginning…

In Greek mythology it was not the Gods who created the universe, in actuality the universe itself created the Gods. In the beginning it was all a vast, empty blackness, Chaos had complete control over everything. Somewhere down the road came two children were born from this nothingness as Night and Erebus. As time went on the universe became more defined and other powerful forces were birthed and took control.

Similarly, it was “chaos” to get the first computers up and running and out of the many endless nights eventually came a more defined creation which led to bigger and better things, particularly the creation of the world wide web. Social networking sites have become the staple of the internet, the most used and popular are always linked to by most businesses on their official websites. In other words, what was once a big, empty, black screen has over the years become a very colorful, multi-layered, gateway to information and communication, a world in itself.

I’m going to go out of my way and say that social media sites are, in a way, the Gods of the digital age. Like the Gods of the Greek( Or any other mythology) they provide services to the people of Earth and are always in one way or another sought for, referenced, and used either for business or for personal reasons. They present us with many gifts and tools that at one point in time was not thought possible but for as much good as they can be there’s also possibility of negative outcomes. Big difference between these positive/negative outcomes is that unlike the Gods of Greek mythology social networking sites are not sentient and whatever mistakes or miracles that do happen through them is all on who is using them.

Obviously Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Youtube are the equivalent of Olympians. They rank the highest on search engines( Popular ranking) and must have a seat in the digital age’s equivalent of Mount Olympus( Whatever they might be). Facebook in particular I see as being the equal to Zeus, Facebook is still the king of social media at the moment, as a survey from PCWorld.com suggests it still is (Link: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2908172/facebook-still-king-of-social-media-among-teens.html). It’s relationship with the other popular social medias is, like Zeus’ with the other Olympians, generally good but there is certainly some level of competition and friction between them at times( Like when a new feature is added to one which is quite similar to another’s already existing widget). Every user can share content on their page for one social media to another, which creates a dynamic between the networks which further defines the Olympian unit.

MySpace, as well as other social medias that were once extremely popular that have now fallen from grace are the equivalents of Titans. Titans were once divine beings who controlled the world till one day they were usurped by the younger Olympians. Like the Titans social media like MySpace still exists however they are no longer apart of the “it” crowd and not used for major importance.

Other social media which is birthed from Olympian social media like Twitter or Facebook can be viewed as their offspring the same way as Athena and Apollo were the daughter and son of Zeus. Other social media which was created with major social networking sites along with outside parties could be viewed as demigods in the digital age, quite like a Hercules, who was born from a deity(Zeus) and a mortal woman.

Widgets, special tools for social networking sites, can be viewed similarly to the tools used by the Gods, such as Poseidon’s Trident.

Special and very interesting note – In Greek mythology Zeus was rather split on the creation of human beings to inherit the world, he believed they were capable of doing great many things but also could do bad to themselves and others and over rely on the Olympians. This is a similar to how some people view advancement of technology, they see the potential it can bring to many lives but the potential is there for it to be used in the wrong hands and be bad. This is true with social media because it can be a good tool in the hands of the right person but also do bad in the wrong hands, whether directly or indirectly. As mentioned in an earlier blog post of mine social media can really affect a person’s own mental health.

Any other similarities you guys notice between the digital age and ancient mythology?