Random Ramblings - The Blog to End all Blogs(from 1989-2012)

Random: A haphazard course
. at random: Without definite aim, direction, rule, or method <subjects chosen at random>

Ramble: To talk or write in a desultory or long-winded wandering fashion
(Retrieved December 18, 2008, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary)

Susana Maria RosendeThis blog contains reflections on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and often references contemporary events as well as personal happenstance. The writings are the random ramblings of Susana Maria Rosende, Writer/Artist/Designer/Entrepreneur/Single Mother/Citizen of the World! Susana's opinions do not necessarily reflect the official position or mission of Write Way Designs, the company. These writings are merely random ramblings.

For Susana's Random Ramblings, click the links below: Susana Maria Rosende

Our Mental Battleground (with Spanish translation)

Stop over-thinking and ruminating about your problems and sinking into Depression.

Marc Chernoff originally shared: The mind is your battleground. It's the place where the greatest conflict resides. It's where half of the things you thought were going to happen, never did happen. But if you allow those thoughts to dwell in your mind, they will succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your life. You will think yourself into a nervous breakdown, into depression, and into defeat. It is ultimately only our own thoughts that hurt us. - via: ?http://www.marcandangel.com/2014/05/14/20-tiny-thoughts-crushing-your-biggest-dreams/.

It's true. STOP over-thinking yourself into DEPRESSION. Learn to LET GO and TRUST GOD.

(En español) La Batalla en la Mente

DEJE DE PENSAR DEMASIADO EN LOS PROBLEMAS Y APRENDE A ENTREGARSELOS Y A CONFIAR EN DIOS. La mente es el campo de la batalla. Es el lugar donde vive el mayor conflicto. Es el lugar donde la mitad de las cosas que uno pensaba que iban a pasar nunca sucedieron. Pero si uno permite que esos pensamientos que habitan en la mente tengan éxito en robándole a uno la paz y la alegría, en la última instancia los pensamientos pueden llegar a robarle la vida. Si uno no deja de pensar en las cosas malas hasta puede llegar a tener un ataque de nervios, o a caer en una gran depresión. En la última instancia, sólo nuestros propios pensamientos son los que nos hacen daño. - A través de: ?http://www.marcandangel.com/2014/05/14/20-tiny-thoughts-crushing-your-biggest-dreams/.

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What Drives Us? (with Spanish translation)

What drives us? Or should I say, controls us? On what do we base all our thoughts, actions, goals, career, education, life? Is it money, fame, greed, power, material things? What if we were to lose it all -- our jobs, our homes, our money, cars, material things, status, social network, power, fame, reputation, physical beauty, health, even family and friends? What would we do then with our lives? What purpose or meaning would we have to enable us to even want to exist? What would keep us sane? Sometimes, one has to lose it all -- everyting -- to realize the truth. Nothing lasts on this earth. Everything is transitory, temporary. Everything but God. If we had put Him first in our lives, not only would things have turned out differently, we would still realize He was there for us, even when we had nothing else.

(En español)
¿Qué nos impulsa? ¿O debería decir, que nos controla a nosotros? En qué basamos todos nuestros pensamientos, acciones, metas, carrera, educación, vida? ¿Es el dinero, la fama, la reputación, la avaricia, el poder, la belleza física, las cosas materiales? ¿Y si fuéramos a perderlo todo - nuestros trabajos y hogares, el dinero, los carros, las cosas materiales,el poder, la fama, la belleza física, la salud, incluso a los amigos y a nuestras familias? ¿Qué haríamos entonces con nuestras vidas? ¿Qué propósito o significado tendríamos que nos permitirá hasta querer existir? ¿Cómo pudieramos mantenernos cuerdos? A veces, uno tiene que perderlo todo - TODO - para darse cuenta de la verdad. Nada dura en esta tierra. Todo es transitorio, temporal. Todo menos Dios. Si Le hubiéramos puesto primero, con la mayor importancia en nuestras vidas, no sólo tendríamos una vida mejor, nos daríasmos cuenta de que EL siempre está allí para nosotros, aunque no tengamos más nada.

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Mind Game Boot Camp

While unemployed in 2009, I accepted a one-month Contract Senior Technical Writer position at a downtown Orlando manufacturing company, a creator of RFID-tagged, all-plastic pallets. The owners had started the company after quitting their jobs at their biggest competitor, the largest wood pallet pooling company in the world.

The company manuals that I read for the first two weeks on the job advertised the firm's beginnings and purpose. Launched in March 2006, the company seemed cutting-edge and exciting! After all, the company boasted the world's first pallet rental service providing shippers and receivers with all-plastic pallets with embedded RFID tags. The pallets were 30 percent lighter than wood, which saved on transport costs and helped reduce green house gases. The plastic pallets were also more hygienic and easier to handle than wood pallets. Because they eliminated protruding nails and splinters, they reduced the risk of workplace injuries and damaged equipment. The embedded RFID tags also enabled shippers and receivers to track and trace shipments. Because the pallets were 100 percent recyclable, the firm boasted the creation of thousands of new green jobs for the U.S.A!

Rodney Dangerfield No Respect While this company had a good product with amazing business potential, its culture was less than desirable. The management also enjoyed recycling Contractors as part of its GREEN Job mission. While Contractors are often treated like second-class citizens in the workplace, during the Layoff Years starting in 2008, this company took advantage of the thousands of unemployed by hiring them on as Contractors and then "playing with them" like a cat plays with its captive prey.

A woman who braved the humiliations and was eventually hired on as a Permanent Test Team employee warned, "Be prepared to be tested beyond your wildest dreams." She should have said "nightmares."

Office Space Movie Milton in Basement

Each day, I was not only given a different place to sit, but sometimes it was merely a chair, other times it was a desk. While I'd experienced this type of chaos at other firms (I'd once contracted for a banking software company as a Technical Translator where they gave me a yellow pad and pencil for the first three days, and then sat me in a different room each day for the first two weeks, sometimes at a desk with a Mac, other times at a desk with a PC, until a cubicle near the Translation team became available) at this job, when I was finally assigned to a desk, it was moved from day-to-day, from room-to-room, including the hallway, so that each morning I had to hunt my desk down. As I left each evening, I tried to anticipate the next day's seating arrangement. Where would my desk be in the morning? The elevator? The sidewalk? The supply closet? The basement?

Pusing Desk out to street. One day, I had the foresight to arrive an hour before my start time. It was then that I encountered three 20-something "managers" giggling as they shoved my desk into the hall and realized the chaos wasn't due to the company's disorganization, but to its method of testing the fortitude of its newly-hired Contractors. As I followed the managers pushing my desk and chair to the elevator, and then to the top floor, I realized the benefit of an earlier start time meant I saved time hunting down my desk. But, that realization was soon followed by the thought that the search actually gave me something to do each day besides reading the company manuals. The first two 7-day weeks of my one-month contract (for which I was paid $35 per hour) were spent reading the company manuals as an example of the work I would create, and of course, hunting down my desk.

Do the Math, and then multiply that total by three, to cover the other two Contract Technical Writers hired the same day, who were also reading manuals and hunting down their desks, and then figure out why this company was spending so much money to hire folks to be unproductive. There were writers hired two weeks earlier who had experienced the same "welcome" to the company. Were we write-offs? Were they money-laundering? Were they planning on keeping the lone survivor? What was the purpose of these games? I never knew.

At 5:00 PM one Thursday evening, the Contract Technical Writers were ordered to stay "as late as it took" to help the Test Team meet a deadline. Some folks said they needed more notice, as they had to meet their car pool, pick up kids, etc. They were immediately terminated. (I called my ex-husband for emergency child pick-up duty, and luckily, he agreed.) That evening at work, we stood peering over the Test Team's shoulders as they worked. After all, we had no computers. At 9:30 PM, our Manager thanked us for staying late and sent us home.

At the start of the third week, which was hard to tell after working 14 straight days, I was assigned two projects that were due ASAP: a use case and a quick reference software user guide. Finally! REAL WORK. But, while I had been given a monitor and keyboard for my desk, I was missing the computer/CPU/workstation, so I couldn't do the assignment, and there weren't pencils, pens, or notepads from Supply available for Contractors.

Screaming Boss Luckily, on this day, my desk happened to be in close range to co-workers who whispered that I needed to order the computer at the front desk, so I did. However, it did not stop my manager from yelling about my lack of productivity. It had been an hour since I'd been given the assignments, and I had not yet begun writing. The fact that I had no computer didn't matter. Had I even begun to document in my head? It was amazing to watch a man yell for so long without taking a breath. It was also amazing that his histrionics were not a preamble to termination.

We were once advised to not bring lunch the next day, as it would be provided during a meeting. Our manager earnestly took our pizza orders, inviting us to specify vegetarian or meat toppings, thin crust or deep dish, white sauce or red. Smacking his lips, he promised it would be the best pizza we ever tasted. He also described this new, downtown, family-owned restaurant with great relish.


When asked if the restaurant was located within walking distance, he nodded and vaguely gestured in the direction of Lake Eola, which was across the street.

Lake Eola in downtown Orlando

Deviating from his usual formal manner, he chatted with us, describing with gusto the exquisite spices and cheeses and the equally tantalizing crust we would be sampling. He even suggested the best toppings to order. We each told him we looked forward to the meeting and the pizza. Several of the writers, who no longer ate pizza for dietary reasons, decided to skip breakfast the next morning so they could partake of the lunch. He seemed especially pleased with this news.

Prior to the luncheon meeting, the receptionist passed out paper plates, napkins, and plastic picnicware in anticipation of our meal. During the meeting, the president/owner of the company droned on about the history of the company and the fine details of the product, while he showed both a PowerPoint slide presentation and a video that duplicated everything we'd been reading in the manuals for two weeks, while our loud, growling stomachs nearly drowned out his voice. At the conclusion of the 90-minute meeting, our manager gleefully shouted, "Oh well! I guess the pizzas didn't arrive. Get back to work!"

Starving at Vending Machine

As the dazed and starving employees lunged at the vending machines, the company Accountant stood watch, arms crossed, and snapped at us through clenched teeth about how the company previously provided free sodas until everyone started stealing them.

Jesus is watching you...stealdietcokes

There were additional "tests," but memory wisely fails. My prayers were answered when I was offered a job closer to home in Research Park. Right before I gave notice, I asked for time off for a scheduled dentist appointment and was immediately terminated, despite their being pleased with the manuals I'd written after finally getting access to a computer.

Fortunately, I was more than ready to give notice, but I couldn't help thinking about how much I'd sacrificed in terms of time spent away from my family, friends, and pets during the seven-day work-week, where I often stayed late into the evening at a moment's notice to basically do nothing but stay late, while wasting my skills and enduring the humiliating and unjustified manager melt-downs...all for a paycheck.

exchanging war stories

I exchanged war stories with a fellow "one-month" Contract Technical Writer who had survived five months at this firm. Steve found me on Linkedin.com. His planned vacation had been approved during the interview, yet he'd been fired upon return for "taking time off from the office." It was UNPAID time off, to boot, as he was merely a Contractor and so received no company benefits. I think Steve put it best when he said it was as if we'd been hired due to some kind of mandate, but they didn't really want us there. It was the most unwelcome either of us had ever felt at a job. Steve should know about hostile environments, too, having served in Afghanistan as an active Marine.

Although we'd both experienced similar incidents in Department of Defense jobs, this firm took the cake for being the only commercial company with the Indoctrination Method I like to call Mind Game Boot Camp.

Having survived several assignments for the Department of Defense, I am certain at least one of the owners of this place was a retired military man, or at least the son of an old-school, retired military man -- typically a Drill Sergeant, or Drill Sergeant wanna-be.

In all, I survived six weeks of the "one-month" contract before jumping ship. It was one of the most stressful, interesting, educational, humorous (in hindsight) and even work-free positions of my technical writing career stint as a Contractor.

Unfortunately, my subsequent Contract assignment was for the Department of Defense.

Stay tuned for THOSE war stories at a browser near you.

* Mind Game Boot Camp eBook for sale! Just $.99 plus tax!
After paying, click here to download the PDF.

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Welcome to the 21st Century

It is always exciting when someone surprises you by embracing a new technology. A few years back, my son Joey convinced his paternal grandfather to transfer his gold coin and jewelry business from the local flea market to eBay. More recently, Joey's other grandfather, my 84-year-old dad, joined Facebook to keep in touch with grandchildren and former colleagues.

Especially gratifying, however, in this age of cutbacks, is when an employer takes the competitive edge by purchasing a new tool and then takes it even one step further by formally training the department in new tools, standards, and methodologies to ensure the company's position in the marketplace.

My employer is doing just THAT for our team of technical writers. Not only will we more efficiently produce documentation for customers, but we'll also streamline our processes by single sourcing and topic reuse.

Single Sourcing and Topic Reuse

These concepts are each important, but there are differences. Single Sourcing is the use of one source, such as the same XML topic, to produce several output formats, such as online help, PDF, and printed manuals. For example, a writer may include a reference to "pages" or "chapters" into conditional 'print-only' tags.

Topic Reuse allows a writer to chunk content to allow one concept topic to be used in different documentation and formats. A single paragraph writeup for a system's theory of operation may be used and then reused, for the system's hardware technical manual, its test bed documentation, and the training guide. Both concepts of Single Sourcing and Topic Reuse demand that technical writers consider how they write, both structurally and independent of format.

It's all about XML

Our new tool will be an XML Editor. XML is a markup language for documents containing structured information for content such as text and graphics, and an indication of the type of role the content plays, such as section heading, footer, or figure caption.

XML vs. HTML (the publishing language of the World Wide Web)

XML is a simplified version of SGML and a cousin of HTML. It was developed by members of the W3C and released as a recommendation by the W3C in February 1998.

While there are similarities between HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML), for example, in that each language involves tagging, they each have different purposes. HTML was designed to display data, while XML was designed to describe data. XML is also less forgiving than HTML, requiring strict structure, such as closing tags and same case.

In HTML, both the tag semantics and the tag set are fixed. An < h1 > is always a first level heading. While HTML updates its tags to keep pace with new browsers by the use of stylesheets, these changes are confined by the specific browser (for example, Internet Explorer, Opera, FireFox, Chrome, Safari, SeaMonkey) and the necessity for backward compatibility. To disseminate information widely, features only supported by the latest releases of the most current browsers are not always useful.

What is a Web Browser?

XML specifies neither semantics nor a tag set. XML allows the user to define tags and the structural relationships between them so that the user may create their own tags to define parts of a document because XML is a descriptive, not a procedural, language. XML describes what something is rather than performing an action. It also makes documents portable (they can be moved to any format or platform without elements losing their meaning -- whether the information is published to a browser, PDA, or other network-enabled machine, each device would use the information appropriately). Most importantly, XML does not stand alone. It needs other technologies, such as CSS, to properly display the results.

For more information, view the following videos:

An Introduction to XML: The Basics

Learn XML Tutorial Part 1

Eric Explains XML

Arbortext Editor Highlights

Example of How a Company Depends on Arbortext for Technical Publications

I am excited about the prospect of using XML and Arbortext Editor. Let the training begin!

Related Topics:

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Paying It Forward

FINALLY, someone who cares about society, our country, our world. Read about the Philanthropist to give money to those who hire the UNEMPLOYED at PA Man to Give $1,000 for Each Jobless Worker Hired

Someone is finally paying it forward. Kudos, my friend!

See related links, below:

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Watch TV on the Internet, and Save Money on Cable Bills

An easy way to save money is to cancel Cable TV and watch television on the Internet, and that doesn't just mean to watchYou Tube. There are free Internet sites that allow access to major networks for FREE! Just imagine having NO MORE CABLE BILLS!

Click the following links to learn more about these Internet options today:
  • Hulu -- for shows from major networks, including Fox, ABC and NBC.
  • Joost -- for free films and cartoons
  • Boxee.tv -- for major network content and Netflix
Enjoy! Also, see More tips on how to increase frugality by giving up items you can live without.

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Spell Check is not enough. Learn to read.

Last weekend, my son pointed to a misspelled sign. It's a game we've played since my boys were small, the Proofreader Game. This particular sign was hanging from a tree in front of a burned home. Not only was the place an eyesore, but someone had attempted to sell it by erroneously posting "For Sail," provoking a series of puns and jokes from my teenager about the feasibility of using the home's debris for a raft. Of course this conversation went awry once I informed him that Cuban refugees, including two of his cousins, had sailed 90 miles to freedom on lesser pieces of wood, but the point is that poor spelling hurts. It hurts one's message. It carries a stigma.

It is estimated that about 15%-20% of the current US population cannot spell, and that's just counting the native English speakers. Though most folks concur that poor spelling, typos, and grammatical errors hurt one's credibility, there is disagreement as to the reason for these diminishing skills. Some claim that poor spelling and grammar are caused by incompetent schools, the reliance on spell checkers, or the prevalence of texting. Others blame the Spanglish of the growing immigrant population. I disagree with all these folks, and adamantly know their arguments are flawed. You see, I know the truth.

The truth is good spelling comes from reading, no matter the language. I know. I grew up bilingual and hold a degree in English. I was also a voracious reader from childhood, often sneaking books into the shower or under covers with a ready flashlight. In fact, my mother often pried me from a book so I would exercise. She never knew I rode my bike to the library, stealthily returning home with a cornucopia of literary treasures in its basket.

My father and his books
My father may be the one to credit, or to blame, for my reading addiction. Our living room was always lined with bookshelves, and my personal library may never reach the numbers of the volumes in his home. He, too, cannot pass up a book sale, and exclaims that one can never have too many books.

Thomas F. Kelly, a trainer in school improvement planning and outcomes-based education in Shoreham, N.Y., agrees. In an article entitled Spelling: Tyranny of the Irrelevant published in The Phi Delta Kappan 1992 Phi Delta Kappa International, Kelly writes that good spelling is a function of visual memory, not of thinking, and therefore not a cognitive behavior for subjects that can be learned such as science, reading, mathematics, or social studies. One must see the written word to remember how to spell it. That is why one often hears a person say a word just doesn't look right as spelled. It's why I always know why someone's a poor speller. He or she is not a reader.

with my kids when they were little and books It may also be why my boys are excellent spellers and grammarians, albeit monolingual. It is because, just as their mother before them, and their grandfather before her, they are readers. In fact, they may have been the only babies enrolled in book clubs by the age of six months. I faithfully read to them every night before they learned to read on their own.

Good readers make good spellers. End of story.

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Job Hunting Tips

Unemployment No job is ever really permanent or guaranteed these days, and so it's important to keep abreast of hiring trends and practices in the job market. To make sure you are Resume-and-Interview Ready, click the following links from Careerbuilder.com for some worthwhile tips:

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The Catch 22

Unemployment There's a disturbing trend in current hiring practices. Not only is unemployment still at an all-time high, but employers such as Sony, many recruiters, and many job posters on Craigslist are now including the following requirements in their ads: "No Unemployed Candidates Will Be Considered At All," "Client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason," and "Must be currently employed," as if it weren't bad enough that all companies were doing credit checks on candidates, disregarding the impact of unemployment and foreclosure on credit ratings since 2008.

Apparently, there is no acknowledging the effect of the recession on highly qualified candidates, many of whom are now part of the long-term unemployed (46 percent of the current unemployed population). It would appear that companies are willing to steal talent away from their competitors instead of hiring the equally talented folks who are currently in the market. A better stance would be to resolve to hiring ONLY THE UNEMPLOYED.

Yet, even government officials, including Senator Judd Gregg, are putting the onus on the unemployed; this, despite the fact that our nation is still in a jobs recession, despite the temporary census jobs. More than 29 million Americans are still without work or forced into part-time work, making it a real jobless rate of 16.6 percent. Nearly 7 million people have been jobless for over 26 weeks (hence, the term "long-term unemployed") -- more than any other time since the Great Depression. To reach full-employment, we still need more than 22 million new jobs.

Everyone seems to forget that Wall Street was the real cause of the current Recession, not the hapless unemployed. In any case, never before has the phrase, "it's better to look for a job while you still have one," ever resonated as powerfully.

For more on this disturbing phenomenon, click the following links:

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The Year of No Job

It is the best of times. It is the worse of times. It is the year 2008-2009.

And I've never had a worse year...career-wise.

First, the HR VP of the company where I've been employed for 11 years emails a highly cryptic message about our jobs no longer being "guaranteed." To avoid the layoff, I take a job with the time share division of a hospitality firm that is unfortunately also hit hard by the real estate market and high gas prices. Six months later, I'm jobless when the entire division is laid off. Unemployed for just six weeks, I'm hired by a government contractor, a Draconian sweatshop of epic proportions, where I nonetheless feel lucky to be employed, until, alas, my project ends right before Thanksgiving, and along with it, my job.
Unemployment cartoon

So, it's back to the drawing board. And it occurs to me I've spent more time interviewing in the last 12 months, than I have in twenty years. Most frustrating was the blunt accusation that I was too old for a technical writing job. The recruiter actually bypassed the euphemistic "overqualified." (Click http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8068670 for my Good Morning America interview on THAT experience). Too Old to Work

Just as bizarre is the call from a company manager thanking me for a wonderful interview that I never attended, praising me for my talents and experience by citing different jobs I've held (proof that he is INDEED quoting my resume) and promising to keep in touch for future opportunities. (I can only gather that the person who interviewed on my behalf did a fabulous job, though NOT QUITE GOOD ENOUGH!) And I ponder the manager's reaction upon meeting me, for the first time, had I been hired.

To make matters worse, my freelance business suffers, too. Clients can no longer afford me. One resume client refuses to pay up front, so I agree to accept half down with the balance upon completion. She then emails me a photo of her check and stamped envelope, but is offended when I refuse to start until I have her three-dimensional check in hand. Another steady freelance client loses his business altogether, and promptly lays off all his employees, including consultants -- meaning ME.

As I ponder all my options -- completing my MBA, writing that novel, starting an entirely different business -- I find the only pleasure that I can...the extra mother-son time with Joey, and all the domestic duties I now have time to provide.
Joey and me Why cook spaghetti when there's time for gourmet? But, to my chagrin, that too, goes wrong.

I am earnest and ambitious. Lacking all the ingredients in the cookbook --and money-- does not deter me. I will use what I have. So, I search the freezer and cupboards for substitutes. And get creative. I will make sweet and sour chicken.

For the sweet, I have honey. For the sour, I have Mojito cooler.

I add the veggies (green beans and corn), and the 90-second microwave rice, and voila! Dinner is ready, and not half bad.

My taste testers - the dogs - think so, too.
Susana Rosende's Five Dogs I am proud.

But, the true test will be Joey, who at 15 is more finicky than the average two-year-old.

Joey stares at his plate.
Me: What? Eat! It's getting cold.
Joey: What is it?
Me (happily): Sweet and Sour Chicken!
Joey: There's corn in it. You don't know anything about me.
Me: You love corn!
Joey: Not anymore.
Joey fills his fork and examines it closely, then sniffs, as if it's poison.
Me: Come on! Eat.
He pours a few morsels in his mouth and nibbles.
Joey: I can't eat this.
Me: Why not?
Joey: I don't like it.
Me: It's all we have. And I slaved over a hot stove for an hour!
Joey: I wish you hadn't.
Me: Why don't you like it?
Joey: I dunno. It's just...it's just... wrong.
Me: What do you mean? Too sweet? Too...tangy?
Joey: All of the above. Sweet, salty, spicy. The chicken's gooey. It tastes strange.
Me: Come on. Give it a chance! Taste it again.
Joey: I had a mouthful. I tasted a lifetime.
Me (indignant): The dogs liked it!
Joey: And they will again.
As he pours himself a bowl of cereal, he seems to sense my despair.

And hugs me.

I pour half into the dog bowls.

And refrigerate the rest.

For tomorrow.

For articles on job search strategies, see the following:

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Poll Responses: Industries Least Impacted by Recession Economy

Click http://polls.linkedin.com/poll-results/60757/kpzpl to view current poll responses.

posted by Susana Rosende on October 9th, 2009, 9:55 AM

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Unemployment: I am not alone

An article in the South Florida Business Journal quotes the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation as stating that Florida's unemployment rate was 9.4 in February, up 4.2 percentage points from February 2008, and the highest since April 1976.

The same article quotes the US Department of Labor as stating that Florida's unemployment rate is higher than the national rate, which topped 8.4 in March.

In conclusion, this article states that Florida's seasonally adjusted rate means 874,000 people out of a labor force of 9.25 million are out of work.

I am not alone. But it doesn't make me feel any better. Unemployment Yes, times are tough. But I recall that we've all been through similar times before. "This, too, shall pass." Case in point: CNN.com's article about Layoff Survivors in 2001

Tips for what to do if you're unemployed: posted by Susana Rosende on April 22th, 2009, 5:08 AM

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Did you know we are living in Exponential Times?

Translated to Spanish at http://www.marilink.net/2009/02/23/vivimos-tiempos-exponenciales/ ?Lo Sabias? by Marilink

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Tips for How to Survive a Recession

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Buyer Beware of DELL Hell

In August 2007, I purchased a DELL 830 D Latitude Laptop, including monitor, docking station, Bluetooth keyboard, and wireless mouse for $3,019.44. It is by far the worse purchase decision I have made in my life. In fact, I refer to this laptop as my Expensive Paperweight.

The problems began as soon as I turned it on. There were constant blue-screens and memory dumps just after a few minutes, and eventually the laptop didn't power up at all.

The past year and a half since the purchase has consisted of a never-ending treadmill of phone calls, emails, and documented chat logs, including two separate occasions where technicians attempted to troubleshoot and repair the laptop on-site.

The techs replaced the motherboard, CPU, and Memory, but diagnostics run on the hard drives displayed errors the techs had never experienced and didn't know how to fix. One of the techs said I obviously bought a "lemon." He added, "It's happened before."

It probably has, more often than NOT.

But, despite my three-year extended warranty, DELL would not give me my money back.

After I got the BBB involved last month...that's right...December 2008, after almost 18 months since the purchase date, and more frustrating phone calls where I was endlessly put on hold and transferred to practically every department in the company, it was finally approved to replace my laptop with a NEW, not refurbished, laptop of equal or greater value.

I was told my laptop issue would be escalated, and the shipping expedited, with a slight delay due to the Christmas holidays, but to expect my replacement on my doorstep by New Years Eve. It never arrived, so I called.

The laptop had never been shipped. Due to the holiday season, all replacements were on hold until after new sales orders were delivered. The "tremendous amount of DELL 2008 sales orders" had created a huge shipping backlog.

But, not only would I have to wait until after the December holiday season, the ensuing holidays in January and February would further delay the shipping of my laptop.

That's when I learned about the specific holidays that were delaying their shipping schedule: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, Boxing Day.WAIT! BOXING DAY?! It's not a US holiday.

"Yes," the Level 2 Support Person from the Business Unit told me. "Boxing Day. Look at your calendar. It's a holiday."

Does anyone REALLY believe I'll ever get my money back, or at least the approved "exchange" for a replacement laptop?

I'm not holding my breath.

It was hard enough to be an unemployed single mom, with a struggling freelance business, and to lose 1/2 my retirement in this economy, but to know my one tool for sending resumes, networking for full time employment, and finding clients for my freelance business, was yet another economic drain, is almost too much to handle.

Unfortunately, my case is not an isolated incident. There is an entire population trapped in DELL HELL.

There's a website that catalogs customer complaints at www.ihatedell.net, which includes a forum listing a series of class action lawsuits against DELL. Even DELL employees are suing the company for unlawful conduct.

At least, I know I'm not alone.

But there may be a reason for the lack of product quality and poor customer and technical service.

See: http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSWNAB624720081231?feedType=nl&feedName=ustechnology&pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

The article explains a lot! This company is in trouble.

See the specs for my laptop below:

222-7945 Latitude D830, Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, 2.40GHz, 800Mhz 4M L2 Cache, Dual Core 1 $2,553.44
320-5301 15.4 inch Wide Screen WUXGA LCD for Latitude D830 1
311-5689 4.0GB, DDR2-667 SDRAM, 2 DIMM for Dell Latitude Notebooks 1
310-8713 Internal English Keyboard for Latitude Notebooks 1
320-5303 256MB NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M Latitude D830 1
341-4569 120GB Hard Drive 9.5MM 5400RPM for Latitude DX30 1
310-8796 Standard Touchpad for LatitudeD830 1
340-8854 No Floppy Drive for Latitude D-Family Notebooks 1
420-4790 Windows XP Professional, SP2 with media, for Latitude English, Factory Installed 1
430-2274 Dell Wireless 360 Bluetooth Module for XP, Latitude 1
310-7956 90W AC Adapter for Latitude D-Family, Factory Tied 1
313-5044 8X DVD+/-RW w/ Roxio Creator and Cyberlink for Vista Basic/Business, Latitude DX20 1
430-2436 Dell Wireless 1390 WLAN (802.11g,54Mbps) Mini Card Latitude 1
310-8798 Resource CD w/ Diagnostics and Drivers for Latitude D830 Notebook 1
312-0536 9-Cell/85 WHr Primary Battery for Latitude D830 1
312-0493 9-Cell/85-WHr Additional Primary Battery for Latitude D531 1
310-7275 Corporate Nylon Backpack for Dell Latitude, D-Family Notebooks 1
310-9147 US - System Documentation Power Cord, Latitude D830 1
982-3762 Contract - Next Business Day Parts and Labor On-Site Response, 2YR Extended 1
986-7838 Dell Hardware Warranty, Extended Year(s) 1
982-7280 Contract - Next Business Day Parts and Labor On-Site Response, Initial Year 1
986-7847 Dell Hardware Warranty, Initial Year 1
373-0024 Factory format of 2nd partition is NTFS, for Latitude, OptiPlex, Precision 1
373-0020 Factory Enable 60GB Primary Partition, Remainder Secondaryfor Latitude, OptiPlex Precision 1
310-7278 D/Port, Port Replicator for Latitude D-Family, Factory Tied 1
310-7287 90 Watt Additional AC Adapter with 3 feet Power Cord Latitude D-Family 1
430-2279 Dell Wireless 5520 Mobile Broadband (HSDPA) Mini-Card for AT and T, Latitude 1
310-8047 Dell Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse bundle, English, for Latitude Notebooks 1
Subtotal: $3,019.44
Shipping and Handling: $0.00
Sales Tax: $196.30
Total: $3,215.74

Visit http://www.ihatedell.net/forum/phpBB2/

There's even been a class action lawsuit against DELL in New York City:

Here's the link to the lawsuit: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2007/may/delllawsuit1.pdf

Here' the link to the Decision and Order by the New York Supreme Court: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2008/may/delldecision.PDF


Justice Joseph C. Teresi said in his decision, "Dell has engaged in repeated misleading, deceptive and unlawful business conduct, including false and deceptive advertising of financing promotions and the terms of warranties, fraudulent, misleading and deceptive practices in credit financing and failure to provide warranty service and rebates."

According to the decision, Dell deprived consumers of the technical support to which they were entitled under their warranty or service contract by:
  • Repeatedly failing to provide timely onsite repair to consumers who purchased service contracts promising "onsite" and expedited service;
  • Pressuring consumers, including those who purchased service contracts promising "onsite" repair, to remove the external cover of their computer and remove, reinstall, and manipulate hardware components;
  • Discouraging consumers from seeking technical support; those who called Dell's toll free number were subjected to long wait times, repeated transfers, and frequent disconnections; and
  • Failing to provide rebates that were promised to consumers.

Justice Teresi concluded that Dell lured consumers to purchase its products with advertisements that offered attractive "no interest" and/or "no payment" financing promotions. In practice, however, the vast majority of consumers, even those with very good credit scores, were denied these deals. In a classic "bait and switch" scheme, DFS instead offered consumers financing at high interest rates, which often exceeded 20%. Dell and DFS frequently failed to clearly inform these consumers that they had not qualified for the promotional terms, leaving many to unwittingly finance their purchase at high interest rates.

The decision also held that DFS incorrectly billed consumers on cancelled orders, returned merchandise, or accounts they did not authorize Dell to open, and then continually harassed these consumers with illegal billing and collection activity. Although many consumers repeatedly contacted Dell and/or DFS to advise them of the errors, DFS did not suspend its collection activity and Dell failed to expeditiously credit consumers' accounts, even after assuring consumers it would do so. As a result, many consumers have been subjected to harassing collection calls for months on end and have had their credit ratings harmed.

Justice Teresi ordered discovery in aid of restitution by Dell to be completed in four months and an injunction to prevent any recurrence of the misleading, deceptive and unlawful conduct by Dell.

More Class Action Lawsuits against DELL: (WARNING: Language)

Even DELL employees are suing DELL: http://www.nrtoday.com/article/20070803/NEWS/70803011

Angry Customers Make for Funny Customer Service Calls: (WARNING: Language) DELL Exploding Laptops: On You Tube, several frustrated DELL customers find satisfaction by destroying their DELLs:

Visit the following YouTube links for videos on why customers hate DELL: (WARNING: Language)
Maybe, I should have purchased an ASUS. Even after being run over by a car and drenched in water, it works better than my DELL ever did. Watch the amazing video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFzs11d_DTo&NR=1


<> Hi Susana,

My gosh I certainly feel your pain about your computer. I too had a rather crazy experience with DELL and that length of time must be how long the computers function. Some people I know say that they haven't had problems with DELL while others swear that they will never buy another one, no matter how great their prices are! I concur.

Within the first year I had problems with my computer. I called and they troubleshooted and that did ok for a while. Then I phoned them again because not too long after that, I experienced the Blue Screen of Death and this is the first time this happened to me since I began buying computers back in the early 90's. So, in order to fix that, because this particular issue is not covered under warranty (according to Technical Support - which by the way you have to pay in order to speak to them...talk about insane!), I had to pay $150.00 for an Operating Systems CD, which by the way they do not include with your computer, just in case you need to restore your system like I needed to do. So I bought it because I was using my computer not only for my personal use, but also for work. That plus the support I bought for that particular issue was for a year, so I thought I was good.

Well Susana, I kid you not, exactly one year and four days after I bought that thing, I experience the blue screen of death AGAIN and it completely screwed up my hard drive. When I called them, which connected me to someplace overseas and I could not understand what they were saying, except that I needed to pay another undetermined amount of money to (1) buy another part, (2) take it to a place where they could fix it (more money), (3) then I was to call them back so that they could guide me through the steps to get my computer up and operating again. Thank goodness this time I backed up my files which I wasn't very good at doing and bought another laptop. The heck with DELL. I hope that you will be able to get your money back or at least a brand new computer. They really need to do better with customer service!

Now could you tell me what the heck is "Boxing Day?" Is it a day to commemorate professional Boxers in sports or is it a day that is designated to pack stuff in boxes? That's a new one on me. Gotta do some research on that one!

Anyway, thanks for the heads up, which is not surprising to me. The best of luck with this resolution!

Take care,
Kym M.

Susana, you should take all the communications you have had with Dell and provide it to a lawyer to begin a class action. I am sure there are many more like you in the country.

I have had great luck with Dell product, but have never purchased a laptop from them. I have always purchased Compact and now since HP purchased them, that is what I buy. They began the laptop industry in the 80s and make a great product. I paid less than $500 for my last laptop and then added a $200 500K external storage that I connect with just a USB cable. It backs up the entire laptop and my desktop daily and it syncs all the files that I worked on that day. If I can help you set up a similar system let me know.

Sorry to here about your problems. If there is anything I can do to help you reach your goals this year, please let me know.

Happy New Year!

Tony P.

WOW that sucks, I am sorry hear about your experience. Thank you for the heads up I appreciate.

Good Luck and i hope you get it resolved.

BTW if they installed a 32bit operating system, the 4GB of Ram was a waste and they should have told you that because only 64bit OSs can use RAM above 3GB.

Jason J.

Hello Susana,

Happy New Year!

I guess, you should put this in your blog to spread the word out. Since business powerhouses are hand in glove with the respective admin, the only way to act is to use all available platforms to voice your anguish through such media. You getting back the replacement or compensation may be a far cry yet others could be alerted rather than being passive. Let me know, once you have blogged it.

Smiling Regards,

Jose R.

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Show Me the Money

Today, I allow myself two minutes for self-pity over my new jobless state ("whine, sniff, whimper"), and then run a mental checklist of my talents, skills, and professional experiences. There is no time to waste. I need money.

So, what do I have to offer? What have I accomplished in life, thus far?

I am a college graduate, freelance business owner, manager, writer, designer, translator, artist, and last, but not least, single mother who has raised two fantastic sons, one of whom was in his high school's I.B. program, received the Bright Futures Scholarship, and is graduating next year from Florida State's Music Composition program. My youngest, at 15, is a very talented high school student who has been building and networking PCs and creating websites since he was 11.

I am a survivor and thriver, and this, too, shall pass.

Like magic, as soon as I finish the self-pep talk and post my updated resume to job sites, I start getting leads for technical writing, copy writing, and translation projects for Write Way Designs, Inc. It is almost as if my newly confident aura is sending powerful vibrations through my keyboard to the Internet. I am great! Hire ME!

But, it's not magic. It's hard work. Looking for a job is a full-time job in itself.

This may well be the perfect time to make my dream come true and expand my freelance business into a full-time venture. The ailing economy seems to be the right time for freelancers, as employers lay off permanent employees and only hire temporary workers.

And right now, I'll take what I can get.

To quote our president elect Barack Obama: "Yes, I can!

For unique careers and job ideas, see the following:

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Barack Obama Wins. The USA and The World Celebrate

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Today is the Day: McCain vs. Obama

For a lighter look at the Turning Points of the 2008 Election, click:

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The Important Thing is To Vote!

This year's presidential race is exciting on so many levels. And for the first time in years, I like all four candidates, both presidential and vice presidential, so much so in fact, that I am still undecided.

Historically, Cuban Americans are staunch Republicans, citing reasons such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the fear that any view left of center may be socialistic, and therefore lead to Communism. If it sounds paranoid, you must understand that Fidel Castro denied he was a Communist until he was in power. Yet, the current issues of two wars (Iraq/Afghanistan) and the economy (layoffs, high gas prices, housing crisis, healthcare insurance) have me wishing for CHANGE (Obama), EXPERIENCE (McCain) (Biden), and WASHINGTON OUTSIDERS (Palin).

So, being the Technical Writer that I am, I research both sides, by reading about the issues and the candidates, and trying to attend and/or watch all the speeches and debates.

Sarah Palin was in Kissimmee one weekend, and my son Joey and I attended the rally with Republican friends. If you watch closely at the beginning of the video, you will see me with camera in the lower right-hand corner of the screen behind Governor Sarah Palin:


Click video below:

Despite the seriousness of the issues, I'm enjoying the humor and hope you enjoy the political parodies I've posted below, including the most recent Saturday Night Live show, featuring Senator John McCain:

Obama Rallys in 39 Degree Rain in Widener, Pennsylvania

Obama Rally with 75,000 People in Attendance on May 18th, 2008

"Evita Palin" 2008

Rednecks in the News and The Red Diaper Baby:

  • The BBC's Mathew Price talks to a tattoo-wearing self-described redneck, Jason Hill, about his support for the Democrat. See what this unlikely supporter for Obama has to say. Click "Redneck for Obama".

  • Sarah Palin calls herself a Redneck: Click "Sarah is a Redneck."


  • Angry McCain Gets Teletubbies off his Lawn:
  • Don't Cry for Me Sarah Palin:
  • Obama: Both a Red Diaper Baby and the American Messiah

  • Whether you vote for John McCain/Sarah Palin or Barack Obama/Joe Biden, the important thing is to vote. It is a privilege to vote in the United States. All American Citizens are urged to vote on November 4th!

    Last, but not least, while you're at it, vote for Time Magazine's "PERSON OF THE YEAR!"

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    The Real Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live

    Will the Real Sarah Palin please stand up?! The following videos present the clever and funny skits featuring Vice Presidential Candidate Governor Sarah Palin on last night's SNL. For the write-up, click http://www.celebitchy.com/16356/sarah_palins_saturday_night_live_appearance_featuring_mark_wahlberg.


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    Little Old Ladies Attack Obama Supporters at Palin Rally

    Many in the community have expressed shock and dismay about this growing trend of violent old ladies, some of whom brutally attacked Obama supporters at a recent Palin rally, by punching, kicking, scratching, and elbowing their victims, coupled with verbal abuse. For story, see

    As terrorized Americans prepare to protect themselves from further attacks, they look to their British allies across the pond. The Brits have been dealing with notorious violent biddies in both rural and urban neighborhoods since the sixties. See video, below:

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    The Vice Presidential Candidate Debate - ALSO Deemed a Tie by Most

    The Parody:

    For another response, see
    Folksy Palin Charms and Seasoned Biden Shines

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    The First Presidential Candidate Debate - Deemed a Tie by Most

    The Parody

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    Sarah Palin

    Yikes! Which one of the following two interviews is the funny one?
    (Suddenly, there's a lot of humor in the media about America's Sweetheart, the Republican VP candidate. Unfortunately, not all the humor was intentional.)

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    USA Vote 2008!

    Obama-Biden vs. McCain-Palin The upcoming 2008 presidential election is going to be a very exciting one, indeed.

    Taking into consideration all the national and global issues impacting the United States today, it is crucial to vote, and even more so to select the very best candidate to handle the unique challenges facing today's presidential candidates.

    (Click below to learn more about each of the presidential candidates.)

    All citizens of the United States of America should take the privilege of voting very seriously and carefully scrutinize both the position and the experience of each presidential hopeful before casting their votes.

    Digital Art of Susana's faced superimposed on the Statue of Liberty with the American flag in the background

    Thousands of Americans have already made up their minds. For those who have not, it's not too late, as the following video shows.

    Please click the link in the video (below) for a special presentation about the most recent presidential candidate to "come up from behind."

    For more humor, see the following video:

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    Petition Against Trademark

    As many of you know, my middle child, Sean, was born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH), a birth defect that today afflicts 1,600 babies, and kills 800 per year. Although CDH occurs as often as Spina Bifida and Cystic Fibrosis, CDH most often has fatal results. Dawn Torrence, the President of CHERUBS- The Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, Advocacy, and Support, also lost a son at six years of age to this birth defect.

    Dawn has worked tirelessly to bring awareness and support to the community, especially back when there were no support groups and CDH families had nowhere to turn. I, myself, credit Dawn's website and forums for the knowledge and support I received for years after the loss of Sean.

    Another organization has filed a trademark to "own" the phrase "Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Awareness" preventing others from using this language for fundraising and support in the future, as well as demanding that Dawn, and others, including myself, stop using this phrase on websites or literature for CDH advocacy, research, and support.

    While Breath of Hope is also an excellent resource for support and fundraising, and also run by a CDH mom, I believe it should, if not join forces with CHERUBS, support all other organizations that bring awareness to this devastating birth defect.

    Personally, I believe one shouldn't trademark the name of a health issue, birth defect, disorder, or disease, as it implies the ability to profit from it. So, while I wholeheartedly support Breath of Hope and its work, I support Dawn and CHERUBS in the fight against the filing of this trademark.

    If you agree, please consider signing the petition against filing a trademark for the language "Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Awareness" by clicking http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cdhawareness/. Again, stress that I wholeheartedly support the efforts of both Breath of Hope and CHERUBS- The Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, Advocacy, and Support, for all these organizations do for and on behalf of all the CDH families in the world.

    But, I believe that neither organization should "own" the specific phrase, so that all of us may be free to raise Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Awareness.

    In Memory of my son, Sean Matthew Lutz, (April 29th-30th, 1988)

    For more information on CDH, as well as resources and support information, please contact CHERUBS or BREATH OF HOPE, and click the following links:

    Dawn Torrence
    President & Founder
    CHERUBS - The Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, Awareness and Support http://www.cdhsupport.org
    270 Coley Rd, Henderson, NC 27537
    (252) 492-6003

    Sculpture of an Angel holding an infant

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    My Father, My Inspiration

    Photo of my dad holding me in his arms in Havana, Cuba. I was just an infant. My father, Alberto Carlos Rosende, Sr., has had a great impact on my life, both personally and professionally. He has instilled in me the values of family, hard work, and integrity, as well as the knowledge for the importance of having goals in life, and for never giving up, no matter the obstacles. He also inspired me to earn a university degree.

    Born in Havana, Cuba in 1926 to a working class family, my father learned at a young age that earning an advanced education was essential to gaining financial security. After receiving a scholarship to the University of Havana, he endured hardships (such as lacking bus fare or lunch money and needing to share college text books with his twin brother) to earn his Civil Engineering degree.

    His professional engineering career was curtailed in the early 1960s, when he chose to leave Cuba during Fidel Castro's revolution, and was then rejected for engineering positions in the USA during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Previously in management, he was forced to start over as a Land Surveyor to support his family. However, he persevered, eventually landing a structural engineering position in NYC to support his wife and--eventually five--children. After 20 years with the company, he was transferred to Houston, Texas during the oil crisis. In Houston, the company folded. My father was laid off and lost all his retirement benefits. Undaunted, he found an engineering job at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he was laid off and re-hired numerous times, and then continued working until a few months before his 80th birthday (even after undergoing prostate and quadruple bypass surgeries, and even after losing my mom, his wife of 44 years, to congestive heart failure). My UCF ID

    After my divorce, my father encouraged me to return to college to earn my degree. My parents then welcomed me back into their home, and helped care for my then-two-year-old son, while I worked two jobs and commuted to school. My father, who prided himself on not missing days from work, took the day off to attend my college graduation. Because of his example, I am inspired as a single mother to continue striving toward new education and career goals, and in turn, to pass my father's values and legacy to my sons.

    (In the top photo, I am being held by my father, in Havana. In the bottom photo, I am at my college graduation from the University of Central Florida.)

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    Diagnosed with Epilepsy

    Joey with rolled up jeans walking in surf (Photo at right is of Joey at Cape Canaveral, Florida during Spring Break in March 2008)

    On August 7th, 2007, my 14-year-old son Joey was swimming underwater at his grandparents' subdivision pool when his grandmother noticed he had remained in one spot for several minutes. She swam over to him, nudged him, and receiving no response, turned him over and lifted his face out of the water.

    Joey was blue and motionless. She thought he was dead. Read about my son Joey's story at Charities.

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    Turning 45 - Sometimes, You Just Have to Laugh

    When I'm Sixty-Four

    When I get older losing my hair
    Many years from now
    Will you still be sending me a valentine,
    Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

    Will you still need me,
    Will you still feed me,
    When I'm sixty-four?


    Well, I hope I make it to 64! At the rate I'm going, I sometimes wonder. My "female" issues are getting worse. Although my latest ultrasound came back "Normal," I'm still getting my period every 15 days, for seven days straight, and it is still debilitating enough for me to miss work for one or two days at a time.

    I always pray for my cycle to arrive on the weekends, so I can stay in bed -- or actually on the couch since I haven't had a bedroom since Hurricane Frances -- for two days without having to miss work.

    If I can't avoid leaving the house, I bring a towel to sit on in the car, and make sure I have a change of clothes. It's that bad. And often I'm in so much pain I don't know whether to call in sick or call an ambulance...or a priest.

    Feeling weak, I fill up on carbs. Too exhausted to exercise, my body has ballooned to gargantuan proportions. Racked with pelvic pain, my abdomen is distended as if I'm 23 months pregnant, and is tight as a drum. I'm so bloated, maternity clothes won't do. When I go dress shopping, I wonder if I should buy a tent at the hardware store instead.

    Turning 45 sucks! I have to keep reminding myself it's better than the alternative.

    There may be hope still. A co-worker, who had the same symptoms, and like myself, suspected Menopause,has found a cure. She had the lining of her uterus lasered. No more periods!

    Besides eliminating the painful physical effects, this procedure has also greatly improved her mental outlook. No more PMS! Really, men have no idea what women go through:

    Monthly Man

    With less than a week recovery time, this new procedure, Novasure or Endometrial Ablation, beats the old Hysterectomy hands down! She has her life back! No more PMS mood swings, labor-like cramp pain, intestinal problems, hot flashes, excessive bleeding with embarrassing accidents, the need to always be in close proximity to a toilet - which can be a problem in itself - extreme weakness, dizziness, crushing fatigue, blinding migraines, food cravings for chocolate, carbs, and BEEF.

    She, too, felt like a vampire, constantly craving steak. I understand completely. I drive by cow pastures and salivate. My dogs are running scared.

    I am always so tired and short of breath, I cannot even climb a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing like an Asthmatic running a marathon without his inhaler.

    A new and interesting phenomenon is that my hair has stopped growing. I haven't colored it in months.

    It's falling out in clumps, chemo-patient style, causing drainage problems in my bath tub.

    I didn't want to accept the fact that I'm losing my hair, but there's no denying it. It's gotten to the point where other people are noticing and commenting.

    Case in point: Shopping with Melissa.

    My sister Melissa and I

    Dresses are on sale at Dillards, so that's where we go, and select from the Reduced racks. Sizes 14 and 16 no longer fit. Undaunted, my sister leads me up the escalator. To my horror, we're in Women's, where sizes are accompanied by letters: 1X... 2X... 3X. I notice that one 3X dress could be sold in the hardware store.

    In the dressing room, Melissa detects my thinning hair. She suggests a shorter length and layer cut to help my hair look fuller. I fish scissors out of my purse and point them in her direction.

    "Here? In the dressing room?" she asks. "Now?"

    "Now," I say, handing her the scissors.

    "Okay," she responds, "But, let me brush your hair out first." And brush she does, gently, untangling and pulling my curls straight.

    "Bend over," she commands, "so I can layer your hair."

    I flip my hair forward as directed. She combs it straight and holds the hair firmly with one hand.

    "I'd like to cut right here, okay?" she asks.

    "No!" I respond. "Not that short."

    Melissa adjusts her hold. "Here?"

    I hesitate and then agree. She cuts straight across.

    "Stand up."

    I straighten and flip my hair back. We giggle at the hair lying on the carpet. What will the sales clerks think? What are WE thinking, turning a dressing room into a makeshift salon? Melissa continues to cut, deftly holding sections of hair at different angles. She finally stops.

    "There," she says as she fluffs my hair with her fingers. "It looks thicker already."

    I admire her handiwork in the mirror. My hair is now barely past shoulder length, and appears fuller. Of course, my bangs are still thin.

    My Haircut

    "It looks a lot better, Sue," she says. She adds, "You know, I read an article about Anemic women. Anemia can make your hair fall out. Are you taking vitamins? When was the last time you had a physical?"

    Silently, I continue to inspect my hairline in the mirror.

    "Maybe," Melissa suggests, "You could try Rogaine for Women."

    "Yeah, maybe," I respond while gathering my fallen locks into a neat pile.

    I give Melissa a hug, as we giggle together at our latest sisterly adventure - hair-cutting in a clothing department store dressing room.

    I select a black shell, two black skirts.

    Melissa insists that I also purchase a pink shell and matching black skirt with tiny, pink polka dots.

    "Do it, Sue!" she badgers. "I'm so sick of seeing you in a big, black bag. What are you, a Goth? Add some color to your wardrobe."

    "Black is slimming," I mutter. "It camouflages my problem areas."

    Bullied into buying the pink top and matching skirt, I mentally plan to wear the outfit when I lose 10, 20, or 30 pounds, but know deep down inside that I'll return it.

    As I pay for the clothes, my hair loss is still on my mind.
    I wonder if female-pattern baldness exists.

    Yikes! To my dismay, a later GOOGLE search reveals the answer is a definite Yes:

    Earth to Susana..."It's really happening. You're going bald."

    Now, I can empathize with my brothers.

    But, what is the catalyst for my latest symptom? Hair-styling? Pre-menopause? Anemia? Thyroid disease? Ovarian cysts?

    Or could it be the mold?

    These days, I gently wash my hair, careful not to pull or comb it when wet, and use the cool setting on the dryer. I don't want to lose any more hair than I already have. I am especially careful to style my bangs and hair to hide the thin spot and widening part in the front and on top of my head.

    I vow to never laugh at Donald Trump, or anyone else I see with a "comb-over."

    Then after a long, hard cry, I figure, why not laugh?

    Sorry, Donald. Believe me, I'm not laughing at you. I'm laughing with you.

    In 2002, David Letterman shared the Top 10 Ways to Describe Donald Trump's Hair. They included:

    No. 7: Trumpy.

    No. 6: Strangely hypnotic.

    No. 5: Unbe-weave-able.

    No. 4: Wiggy.

    No. 1: Taj Ma-helmet.

    Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

    Donald Trump

    The Donald Trump Comb-Over

    Donald Trump's Dog

    Donald Trump's Baby

    Donald Trump Wannabe

    Donald Trump as an old man

    Donald Trump as an even older man

    The Comb Over Wig

    How to do a Comb Over

    And the inspiration for the "comb-over" hairdo? None other than Homer Simpson:

    (Funny, isn't it? But, sad too. Yet there's nothing like walking in someone else's shoes to understand how distressing a situation can be.)

    I fight back the urge to cry again and remind myself: "It's only hair." God knows I've suffered worse losses in my life.

    Besides, "Bald is Beautiful," right?

    Model Eve Salvail

    American Actress and Movie Star Demi Moore

    Irish Singer/songwriter Sinead O'Connor

    The American Bald Eagle and beautiful actress and Movie Star Natalie Portman

    Actress and Movie Star Sigourney Weaver

    Bald Eagle and Best Tattoo

    And if I ever get to the point where I think it's not, there's a plethora of wigs to choose from.

    I may as well have fun with it.

    Related Links about hair loss in women:

    Related Links about Menopause:

    • Menopause and Hair Loss
    • Hair Loss And Thinning At Menopause
    • All you ever wanted to know about Menopause and Pre-Menopause (perimenopause) and were afraid to ask.
    • 34 Signs / Symptoms of Menopause including:

      * Changes in your menstrual cycle - i.e., longer or shorter periods, heavier or lighter periods, or missed periods

      * Hot flashes (power surges -- sudden rush of heat from your chest to your head)

      * Palpitations, skipped heartbeats

      * Night sweats

      * Insomnia and other sleep disturbances

      * Mood swings

      * General irritability and/or anger

      * Hair thinning or loss

      * Increase in body fat, especially around your waist

      * Forgetfulness, brain fog, problems with concentration and memory.
    • The Upside of Menopause (Humor and Cartoons)
    • Symptoms and Treatment for Menopause and Perimenopause
    • Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
    • Dr. Douglas Gearity to the Rescue
    • Oh Susana! Cartoon Boutique (T-shirts, mugs, and more!)
    • Have a Happy Period.(Humor)
    • Tampon Nightmares by Susan Hack (true story only women traveling outside the USA can understand)
    • Going Green with Luna Pads

      More information here.
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      Support me in America's Walk for Diabetes!

      Walk for Diabetes Logo We all know someone who's been affected by Diabetes, whether it is a family member, co-worker, or friend. But, between providing for our families, the soaring gas prices, sending care packages to beloved troops overseas, and the victims of Hurricane Katrina still taking top priority, it may seem difficult for us to find spare pennies to donate to the American Diabetes Association.

      As a single mother, I know too well how difficult it is to make ends meet right now.

      Yet, I will donate to this cause to help find a cure for the disease that shortened and diminished the quality of my mom's life. And I ask that you please consider making a donation -- even $1 -- to help improve the quality of life for millions of Americans.

      After personally seeing how Diabetes debilitated my mom, I want to make a difference by walking in the America's Walk for Diabetes fund-raising event. Please sponsor me with a donation -- just a $1 -- by selecting one of the "Walk for Diabetes" buttons in this blog. For less than the price of a soda, smokes, or candy bar, you can help fund research to find a cure.

      Walk for Diabetes Logo If you want to do even more to help, you can join me. The walk event is fun and great for the whole family! Our efforts will help set the pace in the fight against Diabetes. Let's get moving and beat this disease!

      Read more at Charities.
      posted by Susana Rosende on November 1st, 2006, 3:51 AM

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      Smart Kids...Smart Mom?

      Lucielle Ball in photo from I Love Lucy episode dressed as a gypsy and looking crazy A neighbor who knows my kids, and also knows I married twice, asked, "Susana, how come you have such smart sons? Did you marry smart men?" Without missing a beat, I replied, "As a matter of fact, I did marry smart men, but I'm smart, too!" Between giggles, she responded, "Of course, but I KNOW fathers have a lot to do with it," the "it" meaning the intelligence level of children, and more specifically, I surmised, of MY children.

      Although I defended my "intelligence genes," I admit to sometimes finding myself in situations worthy of an "I Love Lucy" or "Laverne and Shirley" sitcom. The following scenarios are prime examples:


      While crossing the office parking lot one morning, I felt rain, and turned around to retrieve my umbrella. Upon reaching my car, I unlocked the door, dropped the keys in the seat while reaching under it, triumphantly grabbed the umbrella, and slammed the door. Then I realized that YES, I was prepared for rain! However, my keys were locked in the car.


      When I was commuting a two-hour round trip to college, day care, and two jobs, any traffic delay was a major obstacle. One day I found myself behind an incredibly slow truck driver, and decided to pass him and whoever he was trailing. As I sped up to pass the truck, I found myself also passing the state trooper in front of him. The officers laughed when they saw the surprised look on my face, and promptly pulled me over. They were still laughing when they asked me to step out of my car and walk a straight line. They could not believe a sober driver had tried to pass them. Unfortunately, they also felt the humorous situation warranted a serious ticket.


      Once I came home from work to find my mailbox full of dirt. When I inspected it more closely however, the dirt seemed more like powder, and as was the media-induced paranoia of the day, I feared Anthrax poisoning. But before I called the police, I noticed the house was a mess and shouted for the kids to help me clean. While my eight-year-old, Joey, helped vacuum, my eldest, 15-year-old Brian, refused, stating, "If it's REALLY Anthrax, the police should be called right away. If it's not, the housecleaning can wait til morning. I'm going to bed." The sweeping, mopping, dusting, vacuuming, and uncluttering took 45 minutes. The police determined heavy winds forced extra dirt into the mailbox. No one came inside to judge my housekeeping.


      While making the kids eggs, toast, and bacon one weekday morning, I tried to save time by microwave-boiling Joey's egg. Needless to say, the microwave exploded, and the egg, and bowl it was in, shot out like a speeding flying saucer. Luckily, no one was hurt. But the microwave did not survive.

      But, hey, they say even Albert Einstein couldn't tie his own shoes, and was cursed with such a bad sense of direction, they had to paint a path leading to his lecture hall or he'd get lost every day.

      Yes, I have smart boys, who are not only "book smart" but have common sense.

      It's a good thing I married smart men!

      Images courtesy of:

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      Pig Teeth?

      Cartoon man flossing his teeth Years of antihistamines and lack of dental insurance contributed to periodontal disease, despite my diligent brushing and flossing. But, they say humor can get you through anything in life. When I opted to NOT be sedated during the second phase of my periodontal surgery, the surgeon chose to relax me by quipping funny lines.

      "Are you heartless, Susana?" he'd say. "You're hardly bleeding!"

      I'd giggle at the appropriate times, as much as I could, with my head back and mouth held open as the surgeon pulled back my gums, cleaned up the infection, then scraped the roof of my mouth and transplanted the extra skin on my gums. Cartoon pig Happily, he didn't do a bone graft (from my hip or something too gross for me to imagine--freeze-dried cadaver bone) to replace the bone loss in my jaw, but instead installed fetal pig teeth buds to stimulate bone growth.

      "Will you grow pig teeth?" asked my son, Joey.

      "No, just bone," I said aloud, while thinking to myself, 'I hope!'" Then to my dismay, I snorted loudly as we laughed together. Susana with pig snout looking like Miss Piggy

      Related Links:

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      The Cube Farm: A Happy Place!

      Dilbert Comic Strip I'm one of those lucky few who enjoys a full-time day job along with a part-time, freelance business.

      As a Senior Technical Writer/Supervisor in Corporate America, I'm luckier than most. I spend my days Mondays through Fridays in a family-friendly and flexible IT division for a company so nice it actually adheres to a Customer Service Excellence motto for both internal (co-workers) and external (the customers) clients. Once a year, the company holds a themed Customer Service Excellence (CSE) day, with free food, games, and casual dress for everyone, including the contractors.

      In addition to our generous two-week vacation to start -- three weeks after five years -- four weeks after 10, we also get 10 sick days, several holidays, two personal days, and birthdays off! Meals are catered for all-day meetings and training...yes, training! STC memberships are included for the technical writers and out-of-state trips to STC conferences are permitted most years.

      Not only is it a nice company, with nice people, but it has nice benefits to boot. During good years, our employees can expect to receive an annual bonus of up to 10 percent of our annual salaries! Most people stay at our company forever, retiring after 30 years. It is so nice, in fact, that I didn't think our company could be beat...until I heard about Google, the Search Engine so popular its name is now used as a verb.

      Dilbert animated cartoons Google's motto is "Don't Be Evil" and the niceties extend to its perks. First of all, free meals are prepared by company chefs at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California. On-site amenities also include a daycare center, doctors, dry cleaning, laundry, a gym, and basketball and volleyball courts. Google also offers 12 weeks of maternity or paternity leave at 75 percent of full pay, as well as up to $500 for takeout meals for the family when a new baby arrives. Buses (with wireless Internet access) are also available to shuttle employees back and forth to work throughout the Bay area.

      But the biggest perk of all is that the company's engineers are given 20 percent of their time at work to pursue their own ideas instead of company assignments. Last, but not least, all Google employees receive stock grants or options.

      Wow! It almost makes me want to pack my bags and leave sunny Orlando, Florida for sunny Mountain View, California.It sure is nice to know the face of Corporate America is changing. I think I can even see Dilbert smiling.

      Posted by Susana rosende on Saturday, January 17th, 2003, 7:51 AM

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      Famous Technical Writers

      1. Dilbert's Tina the Technical Writer

      2. Dilbert's Tina the Brittle Technical Writer

      3. Fox's Andy Richter

      4. Fox's Andy Richter Controls the Universe

      5. The Technical Writer - The Movie

      6. Amy Tan, Technical Writer and Novelist

      7. Kurt Vonnegut, Technical Writer, Novelist, and Graphic Artist

      8. Thomas Pynchon, Technical Writer, Novelist

      9. Dr. JoAnn Hackos, Technical Writer, Author, Director

      10. Laura Lemay, Technical and Creative Writer

      11. Lisa Higgins, Technical Writer, Humorist

      12. Jodi Picoult, Technical Writer, Advertising Writer, and Novelist

      13. Susana Maria Rosende, Technical and Creative Writer, and Artist
        (Hee hee...couldn't resist)

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      Resources for Technical Writers

      Thought-Provoking Videos from TED - Ideas Worth Spreading

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      The Downside of Technical Writing

      A Technical Recruiter once told me, "Susana, I have some advice for you...if you want to be a 'worker bee' go back to school and become a Nurse. There's just no respect out there for Technical Writers."

      He was serious.

      (Click me!)

      Newly-armed with my B.A. in English/Technical Writing, those were the last words I wanted to hear.

      But, 11 years later, I grudgingly admit he's right. The gods of the I.T. world, namely the computer engineers and programmers, often look down on writers. They figure they could do a better job of documenting their systems -- if they only had the time. What they don't understand is the importance of writing from the user's perspective, the main goal of the technical writer.

      Project managers and business analysts may forget to include writers in status meetings, or altogether, wreaking havoc with writing schedules as we scramble to learn systems well enough to produce quality documents at the last minute.

      What project teams often forget is that Technical Writing is not an isolated pursuit. Just as programmers build a product together, technical writing is a collaborative effort with engineers, analysts, Q.A. testers, writers, and editors.

      We cannot work in a vacuum.

      When the technical writer or editor is left out of the loop or receives no feedback on the documentation, the manual, guide, or online help is doomed. Sadly, in many projects, the user guide or online help is an afterthought, instead of being considered an essential part of the product.

      So, though a career in Technical Writing yields the most steady income of all writing jobs, unless one is a "technical Technical Writer," i.e. an engineer, web master, or computer programmer who writes, there are times one gets little respect.

      In every day life, there are many mind-numbing, soul-crushing, just-to-pay-the-bills job moments. During those moments, I wish to escape my career as a mild-mannered technical writer and editorial word Nazi for whatever soulless corporation I'm employed in at the time. But, then comes a project where my contribution is truly valued, and I fall in love with my profession all over again. The job of a technical writer can be an uphill battle, but those of us with inquisitive minds and a passion for writing, will nonetheless continue to pursue it.

      Cubicle Sweet Cubicle

      Technical Writers Rock!

      The Grammar Police

      When you need a technical writer.

      Read the manual.

      Clean up your grammar!

      Write Way Designs for technical writing, editing, proofreading, copywriting, and Web authoring and design.

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      On Writing and Censorship

      Top Censored Books

      01 - Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
      02 - The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
      03 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
      04 - The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
      05 - Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
      06 - The Witches by Roald Dahl
      07 - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
      08 - How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
      09 - Blubber by Judy Blume
      10 - Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
      11 - Night Chills by Dean Koontz
      12 - James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
      13 - The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
      14 - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
      15 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
      16 - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
      17 - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
      18 - I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

      Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

      Or rather...

      According to a researcher (sic) at Cambridge University, it doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.

      For a series of in-depth explanations, click here.

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      Growing Up Bilingual

      Ask Susana As a child growing up in the 1960s melting-pot neighborhood of Elmhurst in Queens, New York, I had the unshakable conviction that every human being was bilingual. One language was reserved for the privacy of one's home (in my case, Cuban Spanish), while the other --English-- was spoken with the rest of society. This attitude prevailed among my peers, first and second generation Americans with their own "private" languages --Spanish, Polish, Italian, Hebrew, or Japanese-- and English, our common tongue, which we had learned virtually through osmosis.

      It was English that we heard on our Saturday morning "Bugs Bunny Cartoons" and on the "Ed Sullivan Show." It was English that was spoken by the beloved Mr. Softee ice cream truck driver and the revered soft pretzel vendor on the corner. It was also English that emitted from the lips of the magical Santa Claus at the Macy's toy department, as we sat on his lap for our Christmas photos. By Kindergarten, we had mastered the language, while many of our immigrant parents were struggling through "English as a Second Language" night classes.

      The English language reflected our childhood realities at school and on the playground. Our ethnic tongues, increasingly relegated to the status of second language, bound us to the realities of our heritage, and reflected a distant culture our parents struggled fiercely to preserve. One language tied us to our past, while English connected us to our future.

      By the 1970s, my family had relocated to then-all-American, middle class Willingboro, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here there were no more "private" foreign languages, except for my family's, and a neighbor's occasional visiting grandparent. Still, there were "code" languages inherent to every sub-group: the jargon of the businessmen spoken by the fathers at the neighborhood block parties; the choppy-intuitive exchange of the young housewives accustomed to having their telephone conversations interrupted by their pre-school children; and the slang adopted by us teenagers, our own private language, where "far out" and "cool" meant "great!" and "bad" meant "good."

      Today, my parents speak to my sons in both Spanish and English. More often than not, my boys respond in English. Yet they are gradually learning the language of my childhood--as if by osmosis--as they absorb the conversations of their loving grandparents.

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      The Tune-up

      Being a single mom can be overwhelming sometimes. Susana and Joey in Photo Booth in 2002 For instance, today, as usual, had been a long day. There was an efficiency expert at work fueling rumors of layoffs, the cat was lost, the dogs were barking, my teenager's boom box was blaring Metallica, and I'd barely walked in the door and kicked off my heels when I started making dinner.

      After repeatedly calling the kids to wash up and help set the table, I felt myself starting to "lose it."

      When my eight-year-old finally came to the kitchen, I warned, "Joey, I'm getting angry!" Immediately, he ran to give me a big hug and kiss, accompanied by "Mom, I love you!" Joey winking I felt myself melting as I returned the embrace.

      Seeing my smile, Joey commented, "Aw Mom. All you needed was a tune-up!"

      He was right. Moments like these are what keep me going.

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      Too Heavy for Heaven

      I have made many half-hearted attempts to lose weight this year. Taibo classes, dog-walking, Slim Fast, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, aerobics. Of course, I didn't begin half-heartedly. Eventually, though, my attempts just lost momentum. It seemed all my exercise and dieting routines were interrupted for one reason or another: night class, work stress (translated stress eating), surgery, the kids' schedules, whatever... Susana and Joey in 2002 Now the clothes in my closet can fit seven women, as they range in size from 2 to 14. But my expanding waist line hit it's circumference peak last night, when I barely squeezed into size 14 shorts. Could it be? Size 16! Ah, will I EVER wear size 2 again? (I never thought I'd hear myself say this...but, I'd settle for a 10!)

      I should have listened to my eight-year old, Joey, last September and taken his words to heart.

      animated airplane

      Soon after the tragic terrorist attacks, I was scheduled for a business trip. Joey's fears made me cancel it, but when I told him I wouldn't be flying after all, he was philosophical rather than grateful.

      "You know Mom, even if you did die in a plane crash, I know you'd never leave me."

      "That's right, Joey," I murmured, "I'd be forever in your heart and mind, and you in mine." Susana and Joey in 2002 "No, Mom," he replied, "I mean you'd never leave this house. I'm sure you'd haunt the place."

      "Oh really?" I laughed, surprised at his imagination.

      "Yeah, you'd NEVER go to Heaven."

      No longer laughing, I asked, "Joey, why do you say that?"

      "Because, Mom," he said, "You're too heavy to fly up there!"

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      The Truth About Barney

      My boys have long since outgrown Barney, along with tricycles and building blocks. But, I fondly remember watching the show, a child on my lap, as we sang along with the songs.

      I even drew a cartoon caricature of my boys, with my youngest holding his favorite stuffed animal, none other than Barney. A reader once critiqued my drawing.

      His comment, "Barney? Beat him up or blow him up!"

      I've never understood the Barney backlash.

      Is it because he's too sweet? Does the show bother grownups because it is so unrealistic?

      Barney recalls a more innocent age when children used manners and respected their elders, instead of sassing authority figures (including parents) and shooting up their schools.

      Most cartoons and family shows today show powerful, intelligent-but-rude kids running amok with clueless or indifferent parents (The Simpsons, Dexter, Rug Rats, Malcolm in the Middle, etc.).

      Barney the Purple Dinosaur teaches love, respect, manners, friendship, peace, and accountability. What concepts!

      Keep in mind the age level of Barney viewers: One, two, three, and possibly four-year-olds? What would we prefer these toddlers watch if they are to watch T.V. at all?

      And how do Barney-Haters -- the"mature" adults-- react to "hands-across-America-Barney"? By suggesting violence (beat'im up or blow'im up).

      I ask you, dear readers, what is WRONG with this picture?

      Seriously, I suggest all "Adults" look deep inside themselves for the root of their fears.

      (The reader also admits to fears of the dark and spelling errors.)

      Being afraid of the dark is natural. You cannot see what is in front of you. Many are afraid of the unknown.

      Being afraid of mis-spelling a word is also common.
      Many are afraid of humiliation or embarrassment.
      (There is a solution: Use the Spell Checker or carry a pocket dictionary with you.
      Eventually, you won't have to look up the words.)

      But why would anyone fear Barney, the innocuous purple giant?
      • Is it the fear of recalling one's cruel or neglected childhood? (Read "On Forgiveness".)
      • Is it anger at the loss of innocence? (Allow yourself to grieve; then, move on.)
      • Is it the yearning to go back to Mommy's breast or womb? (Grow up!)
      Then remember for whom this show is intended: toddlers...
      young innocents who are still in diapers...
      those learning to say "please" and "thank you."

      Logic dictates that one would prefer for these wee ones to watch such a show (if we allow them to watch television at this age).

      Think carefully, Barney-Haters. Analyze your fears.

      If you STILL feel hatred, fear, and anger toward Barney after this analysis, visit a shrink.

      And I say the following, with heartfelt sincerity and caring, to all those Barney-haters and my reading public:

      "I love you...
      You love me...
      We're a happy family!"

      "With a great big hug
      and a kiss from me to you,

      Won't you say
      you love me too?"

      And for my fellow Latinos:

      "Te amo
      Me amas
      !Somos una gran familia!"

      "Con un abrazo y
      Un beso para ti
      Dime que me quieres tu a mi."

      (More heartwarming songs can be found on Barney's Greatest Hits CD.)

      PEACE and Paz,

      Readers Respond:

      "I guess Im just afraid of big sickly sweet characters like barney! He gives Ned Flanders [from the Simpsons] a complex!! Imagine how bad he makes everyone else feel! Really he's just way out of his time..or way too late! Ever heard of Humphrey.b.Bear ?!"

      "Well written! Finally, a sensible defense against all those folks who despise Barney! My two kids love that purple dinosaur, too. He's non-threatening and a source of amusement to them (as well as educational!). I never did understand why some people felt the need to destroy Barney.

      I guess they have issues..."--Amy :)

      "Watching Barney is fun if you have a kid in your lap soaking up the good messages. Alone it is a pill."

      "The corrupted song goes thusly:

      I hate you
      You hate me
      Lets go out and kill Barney"

      "If you can't beat him up, blow him up is my motto!"

      "Barney is great :) Long live Barney!!"

      The Barney I LOVE YOU song and his Greatest Hits CD was not that great at first but then after i drank 6 beers it sure sounded cool. And it got even cooler after the entire case was consumed and i was giggling like a fool face down in a pile of my own vomit singing that song about the lemondrops before i passed out.

      OK people, it has come time to grow up.If you are going to say something like a toddler enjoys this, thats fine.But if your gonna say that you enjoy this, you are inhuman.Barney is the antichrist, so that means you must stay away from his music CD and tv show at all costs.

      My seventeen year old loves Barney's Greatest Hits CD.He is always listening to it. He even brings it to college.All his friends sing along with it for hours.This CD is a great buy and is one of the jolly good ones. Barney is great. He even helped save my marriage! His good and pure ways made me and my wife realize that atheism is wrong. The way to go is Mormon.

      He also helped teach my 3 year old daughter quantum physics.

      Barney bless you!

      Good for toddlers through elementary school kids!

      I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old. They both love Barney's Greatest Hits CD. We have to turn it up loud on "If all the Raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops." And we all stick out our tongues and catch the drops!

      This is a great CD for calming kids down in the car or for getting them to dance in the house.

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      The Real Thing

      The other day I overheard a young co-ed complaining about the older, non-traditional students in her literature class. It was in the Ladies restroom, and the young woman was practically shellacking her permed mane with hair spray as her gum-popping friend nodded in agreement.

      "Those housewives," she whined, "throw off the class curve! All they do is study, while us real students have too many other things going on in our lives."

      "What a cop out!" I mused silently as I fished my comb out of my purse. As I did so, out popped my son Brian's toy dinosaur. It bounced on the floor and landed on the young woman's Reebok.

      As I retrieved the toy, I realized that I'm not always as organized and on top of things as I wish. Sometimes the only way to describe my current lifestyle is 'total mayhem."

      After all, being all of the following:
      • Single parent of a pre-schooler,
      • Full-time student,
      • Three-part-time-job member of the work force
      does not leave much time for studying, let alone anything else.

      What it all boils down to is knowing what your priorities are. Contrary to that young student's beliefs, those 'housewives,' and the other non-traditional students, have a lot more going on in their lives than taking classes and studying. Without getting into a feminist argument about the work and responsibility that go into mothering and running a household, I must raise one point: What the older, non-traditional students have over this young girl is a sense of purpose.

      If that makes us older, non-traditional co-eds better students, then perhaps WE are the 'real thing.'

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      In Transition

      From a distance, you observe her running around campus with her blue denim jacket and glossy red back pack, or bouncing around T-shirt and spandex-clad in Aerobics class, and you think to yourself: "Ah, the typical college student." More likely than not, you will barely notice her as she blends in with the rest of the fresh-faced and eager student body.

      Upon closer scrutiny, you notice that something is amiss. You detect the slight stoop to her shoulders and the frown lines on her face. You take note of the belly bulge and hips that only motherhood can create. No more bikinis for this woman, you realize as you recognize the signs of age and maturity. This is not a girl! This is a woman pushing thirty! She is not breathlessly running around campus! She is flushed and out of breath as she tries to keep up!

      So, you re-group and discard your first impression as you change your original observation to: "Ah! She is a typical University of Central Florida (UCF) student."

      This student, this woman, joins the growing ranks of the 1989 UCF student body, median age 26, known as Adults in Transition--the career changers, career advancers, recently divorced, newly retired, empty nesters, restless housewives, or just one on the plain old professional students on the 10-year plan, embarking on yet another new major.

      She may be one of, some of, or all of the above. Of this you can be sure. If you've reached this foregone conclusion, then you are on track. She is, indeed, a woman in transition.

      This woman has resumed her education after a three year hiatus spent immersed in the joys of motherhood, complete with 2 AM feedings, dirty diapers, and the relentless pursuit of a dignified maternity outfit -- one without a big bow on the collar which makes one resemble an overweight Bozo the Clown.

      "Ah, motherhood!" you nod in understanding. That explains the belly, and the hips. The sense of fulfillment incurred by motherhood notwithstanding, it also explains the urgent need for the intellectual stimulation that only a college environment can provide.

      This woman, alas, also joins the ranks of the recently divorced, wrenched from the secure womb of marriage, and thrust into the often humiliating world of dating, shifting in mid-gear from "Thirtysomething"* to "Dirty Dancing,"** painfully reminiscent of the world happily abandoned almost a decade ago, complete with sweaty palms and the awkward first kiss, but newly complicated by the need for baby-sitters, clothing to hide figure flaws, and the threat of AIDS.

      This is a woman struggling for self-reliance and independence, as she swallows her pride, and returns -- temporarily, son-in-tow, to her parent's home. This is a step backwards, she realizes, as she finds herself at square one: living with her parents; commuting to college.

      Strong-willed and determined, she plods along, strategically planning the completion of her degree to coincide with the exact day in time that her temporary Rehabilitative Alimony expires.

      * Television show depicting the lives of married thirty-year-olds with young children.

      ** 1980s' film depicting a sensual dance known as "dirty dancing."

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