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Meritocracy Part II

Since this has turned into more of a frustrated appeal to reason, let’s take it one step further…

Congress (You had to know this was coming)

(http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/114_20150106_Salary.pdf)

CONGRESSIONAL OFFICE Representative Annual Salary Total Annual Salaries of Staff Per Rep # of Reps TOTAL
House of Representatives $ 174,000.00 $ 944,671.00 435 $ 486,621,885.00
Speaker of the House $ 223,500.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 223,500.00
Majority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Minority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Senate $ 174,000.00 $ 944,671.00 100 $ 17,400,000.00
President pro Tempore (VP) $ 230,700.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 230,700.00
Majority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Minority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Total Cost of Salaries

(*doesn’t include budgets for offices/extras*)

$ 661,849,685.00

 

“Government shutdown” is such a common state of “emergency” today that kids probably think it is part of the Congressional schedule. The irony is that when the government “shuts down,” most of the people in the table above continue working and getting paid. Why? Because they think they’re the “core” of the government. Like your body protects the essential organs (heart, lungs, brain) when there’s a crisis, the government protects itself (literally).1

How? The 27th Amendment protects the members of Congress from not getting paid during a shutdown…

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxxvii)

How nice it must be to write the laws in such a way as to make yourselves the only protected class in case you (collective) can’t get it together enough to pass a budget for every other government entity. 2

What are those other entities that feel the wrath of Congress’ discord? Here is a sample of some agencies that lost all or part of their funding during the 2013 shutdown:

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Department of Defense

Department of Education

Department of Health & Human Services

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Food & Drug Administration

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Justice

Department of Veterans Affairs

Internal Revenue Service

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal Communications Commission

Social Security Administration

 

Though some of you may be excited about the IRS losing funding, what it caused were delays in the payment of tax refunds, not tax collection. The money they did receive was funneled into criminal investigations. (Erb, Kelly Phillips (October 1, 2013). “With Shutdown, Taxes Still Due But You Can’t Ask IRS For Help”. Forbes. Retrieved October 1, 2013.)

The CDC had to lay off 68% of it’s employees which prevented flu surveillance to help prevent a pandemic.  (“CDC Shutdown: No In-Depth Investigations of Outbreaks”. The Wall Street Journal. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2013.)

Let’s pretend for a minute that the members of Congress and their staff work full time (2,080 hours a year), that means that every hour they work costs the US Taxpayers $ 318,196.96.  Ted Cruz filibustered for 21 straight hours during the 2013 shutdown. That alone cost tax payers, $ 6,682,136.16. Over Six and a Half MILLION dollars of wasted time as one Senator attempts to prevent or delay a vote (Obamacare this time).

Best part… there’s no way to fix this because how would you ever get a majority in Congress that would agree to pass an amendment to counter the 27th’s guarantee of a set salary?

So what do we do? Raise money to buy an island and form a utopian society? Maybe… I prefer to “jump.”

 

Sources

1 – They had the option to furlough their staff, but most representatives kept their staff working “for the constituents.” (Todd Spangler (October 1, 2013). “Furlough of congressional staff depends on who you work for, what you do”. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 4, 2013.)

2 – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/30/how-congress-will-still-get-paid-in-a-government-shutdown.html

Meritocracy… My “Merit-ass”

The disparity in wealth has been in the news since the stock market crash in 2008. I’m sure we all remember “Occupy Wall Street” and the “One Percenters.” Obviously, in a meritocracy like America, this is not a new problem… let’s jump back a couple hundred years.

In the early nineteenth century, we had Robber Barons (industrialists) like John J Astor and John D Rockefeller (America’s first billionaire) who were accused of using exploitative practices t amass wealth at the expense of their workers while creating monopolies and “buying” government support with money acquired through selling inflated stock. Hence the name – Robber (Criminal) Baron (illegitimate aristocrat).

When the “tech bubble” was created, we got “silicon sultans”2 like Bill Gates & Mark Zuckerberg (both college drop outs).  Though they are both incredibly philanthropic with their vast wealth, neither of them graduated from college and using their niche genius, they were able to amass vast fortunes in a rather short period of time.  Bill Gates was 23 when he became a millionaire, 31 when he reached billionaire status. Mark Z was 23 when he became a billionaire. That’s great… for them and whomever their charities support. Gates and Zuckerberg’s financial realities aren’t even conceivable for most Americans who struggle paycheck to paycheck with thousands of dollars in student loan debt because we believed the old myth that you “must have a college degree” to do anything of worth.4

Now let’s take the income and wealth disparity to the local level, leaving the One Percenters behind…

I we don’t have a specialized genius, instead of amassing a fortune with our creativity or ingenuity, we get to amass crippling debt to go to college so they can fill our heads with information that doesn’t exactly have practical use in the real world, outside of some sciences. (Chemical reactions are important to chemists.)  I’ve seen arguments about what you really learn in college – networking, writing/communication, critical thinking, etc.3 but none of these require a post-secondary education to learn. Most of the things you learn in college can be “self-taught.” However, you still have to have that little piece of super expensive paper saying that you spent four+ years “enrolled” in bettering yourself (aka partying) for most people to take you seriously.

So then you finish university, have (hundreds of) thousands of dollars in debt, and get a job at a great company.  Your salary isn’t great, but it’s a “livable wage,” and the company is a Fortune 500 so there are endless growth opportunities! You couldn’t be happier! This is the life!!

Fast forward 7 years… after three layoffs, though you’ve worked really hard, been active in extracurricular activities, held leadership positions, willingly worked overtime, etc. you’ve received only three pay raises. The first, when after almost 3 years as a temp with ridiculously expensive benefits, little time off, and a meager salary, you FINALLY get the offer to become an “actual employee,” which was originally supposed to happen after one year.  Two years after that, you get a small promotion, with another meager raise to justify you coming back to a project you had left previously to avoid getting laid off because they really need someone with your experience.

Two years later, you are excited about the chance for another promotion… and then the “email” comes stating that there will be no “non-executive” pay increases, cost of living (COL) increases, equity adjustments, or promotions for the next year, except in the case of the highest performers (which are always visible at their high level) because the company needs to stay competitive.  The President of my business line has said that they don’t think it’s right for some to get raises and not all, so there will be no promotions in my line, except for the top two levels, because like every other corporation, we only promote based on merit… (more on this in the next paragraph). However, if you would like to be eligible for any promotion in the future, please spend your personal money (hundreds of dollars) to get certifications through national professional organizations so if we decide to reinstate salary increases next year, you may be eligible for one.

The key in the above “review” is that the pay increase block was only for “non-executives” because the “executives” will still be getting their multi-million dollar bonuses. Under the logic for the limited promotions and pay raises, in order to receive one, you must be a top earner. Since our CEO has been in office, the corporate stock price has dropped 40%. Last year, he was ranked as one of the top 25 Worst CEOs in the United States. Yet, I would bet my job that he will still be getting his Four Million Dollar bonus this year. To refresh, my $1200 cost of living increase would put us out of competitive range, but his $4M bonus, which is entirely Over Head (OH) and not billable to a project like I am, doesn’t affect our competitive range.

 

Yes, I’m being extreme because there are roughly 35,000 employees in my company throughout the world. However, there are at least 5,000 executives who get at least $2M in bonuses through the year. This is $10M dollars a year in, predominantly, OH. Let’s say half of the remaining 30K employees are in the US. If we gave a $1000 across board COL increase, that would be $15M, which would be predominantly chargeable to a project (and profit earning).

 

I just don’t understand the logic…. If you are going to withhold opportunities for advancement or pay increases, do it across the board – no exceptions, using that “team” mentality corporations shove down our throat but ignore when it doesn’t suit their needs. Enough swigging the Kool-Aid!

Obviously, you are intelligent enough to see this charade for what it is, and your dream is (as it always was) to work for yourself, but with the student loan debt and meager salary, you can’t afford to save enough money to allow you the “window” to get set up independently.

Rock, meet hard place…. But this kind of struggle is what great American dreams are built from! So here we are – blogging to every other person with a dream and confusion about how to achieve it, but determination that you will!

 

Sources

1 – http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

2 – http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21637338-todays-tech-billionaires-have-lot-common-previous-generation-capitalist  This is a great article! It isn’t exactly along the lines of this post, but I would recommend a full perusal!

3 – http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/really-learn-college

4http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/business/economy/dropping-out-of-college-and-paying-the-price.html?_r=0

 

You are what you…

Put on your face! For many of us, society has imposed often unrealistic views on appearance and beauty. Hello contouring and botox – do they not realize that’s a toxin – botulin that blocks nerve signals that tell your muscles to contact, temporarily paralyzing the facial muscles to smooth your skin TEMPORARILY leaving you without expression?!  People who are ok with that should probably stop reading now because the “PSA” below won’t phase you and may even encourage you to consider formaldehyde in your anti-aging routine.

For the rest of you, I am a female! Believe me, I get it! Everyone wants to feel attractive! Every time I take a picture I wish I’d “powered” through a few more 90s myself.  That being said,  I am not someone who feels the need to wear makeup or do my hair every day. Predominately because of the time required to both apply and remove it. I am not a morning person so getting up an extra half hour early to make sure I had time to apply makeup and do my hair isn’t going to happen. Though I know I should probably wash my face every night, by the time I’m ready to fall asleep at night, I am less that motivated to add steps to my bedtime routine. Would it kill me? No.  However, from my 15 year history with makeup, I know that I am less inclined to add steps to my beauty regime. I wash my face every morning, and that has kept me wrinkle, bag, and dark circle free for the past twenty years. If it ain’t broke… right?

That being said, there is something that is broken. Terribly so!  The break is between the cosmetic and beauty industry, its regulators, and its customers. (And this isn’t in reference to animal testing which is a horrible, unregulated practice –https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/why-we-do-it/arguments-against-animal-testing )

Most people have this lovely idea that they are safe when they purchase cosmetic and beauty products because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the companies that produce these products.  According to their website, the FDA’s main “responsibility is protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation” (http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WhatWeDo/).

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C) (http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/FederalFoodDrugandCosmeticActFDCAct/default.htm) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) (http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/ucm148722.htm) are the laws that give the FDA jurisdiction over cosmetics companies.

Under the FD&C1, cosmetics are defined as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body… for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” (FD&C Act, sec 201(i)).  This includes most products you would consider beauty related (minus “soap” http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm115449.htm).

The FD&C also deals with safety and labeling of cosmetics. This act prohibits the marketing of: adulterated or misbranded cosmetics.

“’Adulteration’ refers to violations involving product composition – whether they result from ingredients, contaminants, processing, packaging, or shipping & handling.” 1 You can look up the details of what classifies as adulterated at the FDA’s website1 below.

“’Misbranding’ refers to violations involving improperly labeled or deceptively packaged products.”1

You can check out the first source below and read all about it for yourself. The regulations that are in place aren’t the topic of this post.  I just want to give you the resources to check my arguments, if you are so motivated. (See Source 3, which challenges some of EWG, source 2)

The MAIN point of this post is what isn’t covered or regulated.  The Environmental Working Group is a great organization that’s main goal is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. They are non-profit and non-partisan.2  They have a Cosmetics Database called Skin Deep (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/) where you can search over 63,000 products to see what exactly you’re putting on your skin. Below is a list of SOME of the ingredients in common skin care and make up:

BHA: The National Toxicology Program classifies butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It can cause skin depigmentation. In animal studies, BHA produces liver damage and causes stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas and interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels. The European Union considers it unsafe in fragrance. It is found in food, food packaging, and personal care products sold in the U.S.

Boric acid and Sodium borate: These chemicals disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. Men working in boric acid-producing factories have a greater risk of decreased sperm count and libido. In animals, high doses cause testicular damage to mice, rats, and dogs. Both the European Union and Canada restrict these ingredients in body care products made for children under three years of age and require that products containing these ingredients be labeled as not appropriate for broken or damaged skin. No similar safety standards are in place in the United States. The cosmetic industry’s own safety panel states that these chemicals are unsafe for infant or damaged skin, because they can absorb readily into the body. Despite this guidance, boric acid is found in some diaper creams.

Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients (including Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine): Coal tar, a byproduct of coal processing, is a known human carcinogen, according to the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Hair stylists and other professionals are exposed to these chemicals in hair dye almost daily. Europe has banned many of these ingredients in hair dyes. While FDA sanctions coal tar in specialty products such as dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, the long-term safety of these products has not been demonstrated.

Formaldehyde: A potent preservative considered a known human carcinogen by the International Agency on Research on Cancer. Formaldehyde, also an asthmagen, neurotoxicant and developmental toxicant, was once mixed into to many personal care products as antiseptic. This use has declined. But some hair straighteners are based on formaldehyde’s hair-stiffening action and release substantial amounts of the chemical.

Formaldehyde releasers – Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidzaolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15: Cosmetics preservatives that slow form formaldehyde to kill bacteria growing in products. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. The preservatives and the formaldehyde they generate can trigger allergic skin reactions. Formaldehyde releasers are widely used in US products. Not surprisingly, more Americans develop contact allergies to these ingredients than Europeans.

Fragrance: It may help sell products from face cream to laundry detergent, but do you know what’s in it? Fragrances are in everything from shampoo to deodorant to lotion. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. Recent research from EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, none of them listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Our advice? Buy fragrance free wherever possible.

Hydroquinone: A skin bleaching chemical that can cause a skin disease called ochronosis, with blue-black lesions that in the worst cases become permanent black caviar-size bumps. In animal studies, hydroquinone has caused tumor development.

Lead: A neurotoxin in popular hair dye Grecian Formula 16 and other black hair dyes for men. Lead from hair dyes travels from hair to doorknobs, cabinets and other household items, where children can ingest it.

Methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone: Preservatives, commonly used together in personal care products, among the most common irritants, sensitizers and causes of contact allergy. Lab studies on mammalian brain cells suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.

Nanoparticles: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles appear to be among the safer and more effective active ingredients in U.S.-marketed sunscreen creams because they do not penetrate the skin. But avoid sprays and powders containing these nanoparticles, which could penetrate your lungs and enter your bloodstream. Many other nanoparticles have received very little testing, yet they readily penetrate the skin and contaminate the body. Cosmetics manufacturers are not required to disclose the presence of nanoparticles in products.

Oxybenzone: Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber, found in the bodies of nearly all Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In human epidemiological studies, oxybenzone has been linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies. A study of 404 New York City women in the third trimester of pregnancy associated higher maternal concentration of oxybenzone with a decreased birth weight among newborn baby girls but with greater birth weight in newborn boys. Studies on cells and laboratory animals indicate that oxybenzone and its metabolites may disrupt the hormone system.

Parabens (specifically Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, and Isobutyl- parabens): Parabens are estrogen-mimicking preservatives used widely in cosmetics. The CDC has detected parabens in virtually all Americans bodies. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

PEGs/Ceteareth/Polyethylene compounds: A family of conditioning and cleaning agents that go by many names. These synthetic chemicals are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. government considers a probably human carcinogen and which readily penetrates the skin. Cosmetics makers could easily remove 1,4-dioxane from ingredients, but tests documenting its common presence in products show that they often don’t.

Petroleum distillates: Petroleum-extracted cosmetics ingredients, commonly found in mascara. They may cause contact dermatitis and are often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities. They are produced in oil refineries at the same time as automobile fuel, heating oil and chemical feedstocks.

Phthalates: A growing number of studies indicate that chemical family damages the male reproductive system. Pregnant women should avoid nail polish containing dibutyl phathalate. Everyone should avoid products with “fragrance” indicating a chemical mixture that may contain phthalates.

Resorcinol: Common ingredient in hair color and bleaching products; skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and frequent cause of hair dye allergy. In animal studies, resorcinol can disrupt normal thyroid function. The federal government regulates exposures to resorcinol in the workplace, but its use is not restricted in personal care products.

Toluene: Volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner and potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing and causes nausea A pregnant woman’s exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may impair fetal development. In human epidemiological and animal studies, toluene has been associated with toxicity to the immune system. Some evidence suggests a link to malignant lymphoma.

Triclosan & Triclocarban: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban), very toxic to the aquatic environment. Often found as contaminants in people due to widespread use of antimicrobial cleaning products. Triclosan disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones. American Medical Association and the American Academy of Microbiology say that soap and water serves just as well to prevent spread of infections and reduce bacteria on the skin. Overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance.

Vitamin A compounds (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinol): Vitamin A is an essential nutrient but not necessarily safe for use on skin. Studies show that when applied to sun-exposed skin these compounds can increase skin sensitivity. Furthermore sunlight breaks down vitamin A to produce toxic free radicals that can damage DNA and hasten skin lesions and tumors in lab animals. These ingredients are widely used in sunscreens, skin lotions, lip products and makeup. EWG urges consumers to avoid leave on skin and lip products with vitamin A.

Animal-based ingredients: Many consumers are asking manufacturers tough questions about ethical sourcing of their ingredients. Vegetarians, vegans, and people concerned about animal welfare frequently seek to avoid ingredients derived from animals. However a number of animal-based substances are found in cosmetics, and might not be clearly labeled as such. If you are concerned about avoiding animal products the best bet is to choose brands claiming to be vegetarian or vegan or labeled with the PETA and Leaping Bunny logos.

Still not convinced to possibly re-evaluate your skin care? Try Personal Care Truth (http://personalcaretruth.com/).  They have a really interesting article on the safety of synthetics and what exactly we mean when we say “safety.” Are we talking about safe for:

(A) the people who make it  – transporting in bulk?

(B) the environment  – soil, septic tank, waterways?

(C) the end user – on your skin, in your bathroom?

(D) all of the above

(E) none of the above

 

Here are some highlights:

  • Decyl Glucoside is a commonly used natural alternative to Polysorbate 20 in terms of spritzer solubiliser. It is much more irritating to the eyes than the latter, synthetic alternative. However, more importantly it has much higher long-term toxicity to aquatic life than Polysorbate 20.  This is probably not what people choosing natural cosmetics want to hear – not as safe on EITHER count.   The other commonly used synthetic solubiliser is PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor oil and that too trumped Decyl Glucoside as a safer alternative.
  • Emulsifier wise I was confused that the natural alternative to the Cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth-20 seemed to be much safer given the fact that both are predominantly cetearyl alcohol and that is the biggest contributor to irritation potential.   As long as the data I have for cetearyl alcohol is correct I’d bet that both of the above would be on a par in terms of eco and skin safety.  Interestingly there was little information available on the olive derived ingredient.
  • Surfactant wise while both of those are natural the caprylyl-capryl glucoside being a sugar based non-ionic is often touted as the safest choice.  This, along with Decyl Glucoside (a solubiliser and surfactant) are clearly not as safe as we expect them to be based on MSDS sheet analysis.
  • Natural preservatives seem to be equally troublesome in terms of their potential to irritate or damage eyes although environmentally all that I looked at were OK.  I guess this matters more when you are looking to preserve spray products or eye creams as eye irritation would be less of a concern otherwise.
  • Chelating agents are where we get a favoring towards natural as the sodium phytate has better skin compatibility than EDTA although environmentally there is little issue (EDTA biodegradation does require an alkaline soil though).  The big difference here is the price with EDTA being well under a third of the price per dose of Sodium Phytate.

Introduction

As I sit here on my couch, I have so many thoughts flying through my head. There are so many things I feel like I need to do. There are so many things that I want to do. Yet somehow in the past 30 years, I have allowed myself to be lazy – to let internal confidence prevent me from being externally active. That ends today.

Today, I am starting to be an active participant in my destiny. I am done living with the idea that things are just going to come to me. I am done allowing myself to justify my laziness with the thought that my destiny will happen on its own because that’s the way things are supposed to be.

Today, I will begin sharing my insights with the world. Today, I will no longer be selfish and keep these revelations internalized. Today, the world will become a better place because I am in it!

First, let me explain the past – the story of development that led me to this point.

I am a 30-year-old female. I work for a Fortune 500 company, yet that’s not descriptive of me or who I want to be. Theoretically, there would be many opportunities at such a company. However, for me I feel that this job is just holding me back from becoming who I am meant to be.

I graduated from college in December 2007. I was fully “checked.” Checked in this context meaning that in my world of lists, the correct boxes had been marked off.

College graduate ✔️
Intelligent ✔️
Ambitious ✔️
Boyfriend ✔️

In my mind, I had all the essentials. I had a piece of paper to open doors. I had mastered the art of writing papers and studying to graduate. I knew what my life goals were. I wasn’t a miserable single girl. I had it all, right?

Wrong… In reality I had a piece of paper that certified my debt and proved that I was not financially mature. I had intelligence that I wasted because I was used to having things handed to me. I was lazy and subconsciously refused to strive to be the best that I could be. I wasn’t ambitious – I had an idea of what I was passionate about but no plan, or real desire, to work to set or achieve goals to peruse those passions. I had a boyfriend, but not a partner. I had what, from the outside, looked like a good life… I guess, but what was in reality a huge facade.

Educated ✖️
Experienced ✖️
Motivated ✖️
Determined ✖️
Realistic ✖️
Independent/Free ✖️

I lived in a superficial state of being. I let the concepts of the world determine what I valued, how I measured myself, and who I wanted to be. I was able to survive without actually doing anything. If I couldn’t find work, my family was there to support me. If I got into trouble financially, they would bail me out. I could find work, that was in no way helping to create a path to lead to what I honestly believed was my destiny. I have known this for the past six years. Though there have been times when I was “motivated” to change something, to inspire growth and development, or to realistically look at my future and create a path to lead to my perfect self, I have one skill that has apparently been honed to perfection, and that is laziness. I am able to become complacent in any situation. I don’t know how I have allowed myself to be comfortable with a complete lack of any sort of drive, motivation, passion…. Even sitting here writing this, I could very easily convince myself to sit down the paper and take a nap. I can see and feel how much work is in front of me, and there is a part of my brain that is almost audibly protesting this change to our (brain and my) comfortable complacency. It is reminding me of how much I enjoy the freedom to do anything, or nothing, as my heart desires. It is reminding me that being challenged equals work. It is warning me that this could take away from my other great aspirations – like developing new friendships or finding a partner. It is challenging my sense of materialism by suggesting that work like this won’t provide financial freedom. It is threatening me, saying that challenging the system, be that of government or my own internal musings, is unpredictable and not a sure means of success. It is attempting to embody the fear that failure will equal a horrible life. That I will become the poster child for my greatest insecurities. It is very convincing.

Today, however, is the day that my brain and I find accord and become partners on this quest for radical change and improvement. Today is the day that I quit letting my insecurities and doubts stop me from doing what I want to do. Today is the day that I finally become the person that I’ve always believed I was. Today is the day of my rebirth.

Work in Honduras

Ever since I was little, my family adopted children off the Angel Tree in the mall. It was always something I looked forward to. I try to adopt at least one family every year now that I’m an adult. Last year, I convinced an organization I am on the board of to adopt a local military family for the holidays.

This year, I have been inspired to reach beyond the boundaries of the United States to help families in Honduras. I came across the church in the included picture through a man I’ve been friends with for awhile. We met through a dance class but had never really talked about anything personal until last week.

We were having dinner after class last Tuesday and, in an effort to get to know one another better, were asking those infamous “icebreaker questions” like “if money wasn’t a concern, what would you do?”

He paused for a moment… like he was unsure what his answer was, but when he started talking, the passion shown through his eyes was captivating. His energy became contagious as he started talking about how he goes back home to his home in Honduras every Christmas bearing gifts for the children whose families can’t provide basic necessities like clothing and food, kind of like a modern day Santa Claus (my words not his). He started telling me about Father Matias and the ministries he is trying to provide for the many families who are in need in this community.

The Father has a passion for the children in his community. He has set up several soup kitchens through out the town to provide food for the children whose families cannot afford the provision of such a basic need. They completed construction on a small school (K-3rd grade respectively) in an attempt to provide education and lunch for these children. There have been times when there wasn’t enough food to open the soup kitchen or the school.

We live in a world where so much is easily available to us. Even if you’re low on funds, there are places like McDonalds with their dollar menu or local soup kitchens to get food. This Christmas, a group of friends and I have decided to be “Santa’s little helpers” and raise funds to buy clothes and food to send to these children.

We want to continue to support Father Matias’ efforts throughout the year (stay tuned), but to kick off our involvement, we have asked him to collect the names of 5-7 families who have a special need so that we can collect food, clothing, and maybe a toy or two for the children to help them celebrate Christmas without the usual stress.

That’s where you come in! Though we would love to be able to do this on our own, we are all theoretically “entry level” and don’t have the resources to pull this off on our own. So we are asking that you look around you and realize how much we have been blessed with and then imagine for a moment that all of your “comforts” – a roof that doesn’t leak, shoes with soles, a full pantry/refrigerator, etc. wasn’t there. Imagine having to tell you children that they had to share a potato for dinner because that was all you had.

Think of how much money you will spend on presents for family members who live with similar “comforts.” Some of whom you only see once a year.

Now think of the families we are asking you to help support… the families who don’t know where their next meal will come from; families who don’t have shoes or a solid roof above their head and ask yourself how much more even a small gift to such a family would mean. How much more your money could bless someone this Holiday Season.

We have received information on three families now. The first two are single moms. The third family lost their home and possessions in a fire recently.

If you would like to make a donation, please go to the link below:
http://www.youvegotfunds.com/profile.php?pid=219

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Link

http://www.nationalreview.com/exchequer/353292/bring-draconian-cuts-Kevin-williamson

This article follows the path where my last post left, because I couldn’t figure out a way to add more and edit the current text.  (#noviceproblems)

Let me begin by defining draconian: rigorous, unusually severe or cruel.

This is important because it is a word the President used to describe proposed cuts during his 2012 Associated Press Luncheon. I wonder if his opinion has changed in the past year and a half when the House passed a bill that would cut 8% in energy and water development for 2014.

The best point of this article is when the author proposes cutting the Dept of Energy entirely because the Dept of Defense can cover the nuclear arsenal (do we really need checks and balances for this?) and the National Science Foundation could handle any research functions. Though it sounds harsh to those who would be at risk for losing their job if something like this happened, in reality, the only way I can see to circumvent a horrific financial depression is to eliminate entire departments and organizations. That being said, I am not proposing the elimination of programs like welfare, food stamps, and medicaid… yet. I am proposing a reevaluation of the entire federal system to consolidate and/or eliminate redundant spending and programs.