Remembering Armistice Day and Our Veterans

The red poppies are blowing today as the world marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice (11/11/18).

RealRedPoppies

As I watch French, German, American and other world leaders come together in Paris to pay their respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, I am thankful that veterans are being remembered and appreciated for their service.

An American Legion magazine is spread open on the kitchen table and a poignant photo of a WWII veteran is calling to me.  He is all bundled up in gloves and a blanket and is holding a small US flag in one hand and a hand written sign in another.  The sign reads, “Thanks for Remembering”.

In the end, that’s all most veterans really want- to be appreciated and remembered.

So on this important day, Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance/Armistice Day in Canada, Australia and many nations in Western Europe, it is my hope that as citizens of the world we can set aside our political differences and reflect on the positive impacts that countless servicemen and women have made all over the world.

There are over 20 million living veterans in the United States, representing almost 10% of the population.  If you don’t know someone who has served in the military, I encourage you to find out more by supporting your local VFW or American Legion posts.

20131109-4826K-Veteran's Day Celebration-0961-WEB

Marching in a Veterans Day Parade in Denver. Photo by Steve Smull

This Veterans Day is a very special Remembrance Day as we celebrate the centennial of the end of the First World War.

I proudly wear my red poppy to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those died on the battlefield.  I humbly pick up and carry the torch for those who came before me, knowing that they would say, “Thanks for Remembering!”

Happy Veterans Day America

BrendaPoppyhat

Respect and Inclusion for Veterans in Corporate America

Respect and Inclusion for Veterans in Corporate America

Trust, Respect and Inclusion. While these values may seem to be waning in American society today, they are valued more than ever by employees who yearn to be part of collaborative teams that make a difference and positive impact in their organizations and communities.

In a time of increasing disunity and fractured social groups, it is heartening to know there are companies and employee networks that promote inclusion and diversity with the benefit of development and engagement in our communities.  Like many people today, I crave a sense of belonging to something greater than myself that shares a common vision and objective.    With Charles Schwab and its many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), I am one connected and happily engaged team member.

As a US Army veteran, I am proud to say that Schwab walks the talk when it comes to fostering and supporting Diversity and Inclusion networks.  Our teams meet frequently and have strong executive support to provide a wide array of programs, events and services.

IMG_1658

What many veterans miss most from their time in the military is the sense of camaraderie, cohesion and support from their units and teammates. These bonds are strong and are established all over the country in Schwab’s Military Veterans Network (MVN) groups (over 550 members).

This sense of team and connectedness is important to me since, as an IT professional, I have relocated many times and I always felt welcomed, appreciated and assisted by the local MVN chapters.  These groups come together with shared experiences and unite under common goalsand priorities.  The teams work as a cohesive unit to actively engage with the community and non-profit organizations to help fellow veterans and their families.

The trust, respect and inclusion the MVN fosters continues to grow and we are strengthened by the feeling that “we are all in this together” or as my Navy friends tell me, “we are all in the same boat”.

Being of service to others and giving back is another key driver for many members of the MVN and our volunteer efforts are supported by all levels of management.  Whether it be serving Thanksgiving dinner to homeless veterans at the Phoenix U.S. Vets facility,  assisting at the annual Arizona Stand Down or painting rooms to shelter those in need, our motivated ERG teams are ready to meet the call.

IMG_5959

 

Charles Schwab has given me the opportunity and the honor to work with many veteran focused non-profit groups including Project Sanctuary, American Legion, VFW and Heal The Hero.

Through solid action and commitment, employers that walk the talk on supporting veterans can gain something back — the loyalty and positive engagement of those former service members. Trust, Respect and Inclusion are truly wonderful gifts that keep on giving.

This quote from Air Force veteran Terrance Purcell sums up what I think is most important impact of ERGs, “All of these things really touch my heart and make me proud to be a Schwab Military Veteran Network member.”

Reflections on the Mall : My 1980’s Top 40 List

My nostalgic yearning for life as it was in the 1980s continues for a number of reasons. Sad news of the passing of a childhood friend, an upcoming family visit to my hometown and the longing for simpler, more authentic experiences have me pining for my happy days growing up in the small, friendly community of Spotswood, NJ.

pacman-148906_1280

Last year I wrote a two part series on the popular Netflix series Stranger Things and the Dungeons & Dragon phenomena and today I am excited to share with you the latest update on Stranger Things season 3.

This quirky teaser trailer for season 3  had me LMAO and vividly remembering my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in 1983.

I visited the shopping mall the other day and it just didn’t have the same positive vibe that I remember growing up.

035_galinsky

Photo by Michael Galinsky

It looks like we will have to wait a bit longer to get our next 1985 fix since season 3 of Stranger Things isn’t scheduled to release until mid 2019.

IMG_4511

The other thing I loved about the 1980s was the music.  Everyday I listen to SiriusXM radio on my drive to work and I always end up on the 70s, 80s or Classic Vinyl/Rewind channels.  Hair Nation is also a favorite channel with its compilation of arena rock concert music.

Images of black and white band jerseys come flooding back every time I hear a song from Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Rush, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel or Lynryd Skynryd.

 

I also enjoyed Casey Kasem and the weekly Top 40 countdown so I thought I’d share with you my own list of memories from the decade of big hair and great movies.

The Top 40 List (in no particular order) of the things I miss most about the awesome 80s:

  1. Hanging out with friends and listening to records or cassette tapes for hours on end.
  2. Playing Asteroids, Space Invaders and Pac Man at the video arcade.
  3. Waking my Dad up bright and early on my 17thbirthday so he could drive me to the DMV in Rahway, NJ. He let me drive his 1972 Chevy Chevelle to take my driving test to get my license.
  4. Listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall on my Sony Walkman.
  5. Back to school shopping and getting a shiny, new Trapper Keeper note book.
  6. Paradoxes in clothing trends: Black parachute pants. White Painters pants, Overalls.  Day glow colored spandex.   Peach colored anything.
  7. Quality movies like Back the Future, Ghostbusters, E.T. and The Terminator.The list is endless.
  8. Hanging out at Brunswick Square Mall and my first job at York Steak House.
  9. Getting a slice at Taverna Pizza parlor for lunch during senior year at Spotswood High School.
  10. High quality teachers like Mr. Muschla, Mr Dziedziak and Mr. Perosa.
  11. Great coaches who inspired and motivated: Jean Lonergan Puff and Bruce Nissenbaum.
  12. Playing in large piles of leaves in the front yard.
  13. Watching or marching in the annual Memorial Day parade.
  14. Eating a Carvel banana barge with nuts after eating pizza.
  15. Making cassette tape mixes by recording them from vinyl albums or the radio.
  16. Listening to classic rock on FM radio WPLJ.
  17. Being able to go over to someone’s house unannounced and just knock on the door and ask if they want to come out and play.
  18. Climbing trees and occasionally having someone break an arm.
  19. Building forts in the woods.
  20. Playing in the “dirt piles” behind my house.
  21. Sitting around an open fire in the woods.
  22. Going to Devoe Lake and sitting by the small waterfall on the Immaculate Conception church side overlooking the American Legion post.
  23. Watching Fourth of July fireworks over Devoe Lake from the church parking lot.
  24. Play acting and performing skits with my friends on Maiden Lane and Bruning Lane.
  25. Riding our bikes to places my parents didn’t know about.
  26. Exploration and the sense of wonder at discovering new and buried things.
  27. Playing kick ball in the street until it was dark.
  28. Riding my bike and unicycle to school without a helmet (it’s amazing I survived).
  29. Watching my friends play D&D.
  30. High School Marching Band and Color Guard pride.
  31. Swing sets and dodge ball at recess after lunch at Appleby school.
  32. Walking home from school on the railroad tracks.
  33. Playing video games at the Sorrentos pizza parlor on Main St and Devoe Ave.
  34. Jumping off home made, wooden ramps with our bikes.
  35. Storytelling at sleepover parties.
  36. High school yearbooks with hand drawn artwork on the covers.
  37. Using a shiny, new Apple II in high school computer class and learning BASIC.
  38. Fun and festive carnivals behind the Catholic church.
  39. Fishing in down at the outlets and rivers.
  40. Going to the Movie City Five theater and it costing $1.50 to see a movie.

Getting to the Point

NEWS ALERT:

You have something important to say.

 Here are some tips to ensure that your ideas are heard.

Why?

  • Attention spans are short
  • People are inundated with information
  • Your ideas need to stand out
  • Focusing your point/purpose will help you hit your target

arrow-2886223_1920

One of my favorite movies from the 1980s is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”.  Little did I realize that it was teaching me valuable lessons on how to be an effective speaker.

The humor and sarcasm of Steve Martin in his scenes with John Candy are memorable, priceless and often times, instructive.

This fun quote from the movie applies to all Toastmasters.

“Here’s a good idea. Have a point.  It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”

Steve Martin’s Pointed Clip

What?

For decades, the objectives of Project # 3 in the Toastmaster communication manual emphasized that the speaker should strive to organize their speech with a focused and precise purpose. The project was later named “Get to the Point”.

archery-2721785_1920

Objectives of “Get to the Point” speech:

  1. Determine your general purpose
  2. Focus in on your specific purpose.
    • What does the audience really need to hear?
  3. Organize your speech so that the opening, body and conclusion all tie into and reinforce the purposes.

Interestingly, when I researched and found the archives of Ralph Smedley’s  “Basic Training for Toastmasters”manual from 1956, the concepts and techniques outlined are still relevant and applicable today.

OldSpeech3Toastmastermanual

How?

  • Give the headline (point/purpose) up front.
  • Early in the speech, provide the audience with a roadmap of where you are taking them.
  • Bring stories and supporting items together to reinforce the larger, single message.
  • Use an outline or a framework (a plan on which to hang your words).
    • For example, I find the acronym PRES helpful.
      • P- Point
      • R- Reason
      • E- Example
      • S- Summary
  • Frame the central idea so that no matter what, the audience will remember that.
  • Strive to have the closing statement link back to the opening (like book ends).

I had something important to share with you and it is my hope that my point was clear and that I made it mildly interesting along the way!

BrendaLogo2011

What nice genes you have!

We are all going to die.

This seems to be one of the few things that we humans all can agree upon.

Most of us don’t know when and there’s no escaping the fact that we all have an expiration date.

Over the last few years there is increased interest and availability of genetic testing. As a result, the age old debate of Nature vs Nurture is back on the minds of many people.

The idea that my genes can directly impact my health has fascinated me for years.  I was a biochemistry major in college and I especially enjoyed my genetics and psychobiology classes.

So here I am, pondering Life and Death.  Genetics vs Lifestyle.  Accept vs Adjust.

One of my relatives has a saying, “ You gotta die of something, right?”.

I agree and I just wish it would be of something other than cancer or heart disease!

no-cancer-sign

The idea to write this blog came to me a few weeks ago and below is the funny story that first made me laugh and then got me thinking.

It all started when my doctor handed me the results from my genetic screening test. I was relieved to see that it was negative for known mutations that can lead various types of cancer including breast, uterine, colon and ovarian.

In my excitement , I happily shared the news with a few of my family members on Facebook.

In a Private Message to them, I wrote:

privatemessage

Relative 1:  Yay!

Me:  We have good genes.

Relative 2:  Awwww good!

Relative 3:   I had good jeans once, I wore them all the time. I wore them while smoking, drinking, eating greasy food. I wore them while working doing all sorts of things like working with chemical solvents, insulation, paints and while cleaning up messes from backed up sewer pipes. So those jean that were once good are now stained torn and thread bare. But such is life. LOL

For many, Such Is Life is a common mindset and attitude.  This, along with,  Live and Let Live, Don’t Worry- Be Happy,  Life is Short are very popular paradigms.

heart-3405558_1920

The Genetics vs Lifestyle Debate

My genetic test results combined with the PM response from smart aleck relative #3 got me asking questions like:

How much do genetic factors contribute to cancer?

How much of this dreaded disease if out of our control?

dna-1811955_1920

I was surprised when I researched and discovered that only 5-10% of cancers have a hereditary component and that 90-95% of cancers are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. 

The research and evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, 30%-35% are linked to diet, 25%-30% are due to tobacco, 10%-20% are linked to obesity, about 15%-20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentages are due to other factors like radiation, alcohol consumption, stress, physical inactivity and environmental pollutants.

casserole-dish-2776735_1920

Those statistics shows that a great number cancer risk factors are in our control.  But are they really?  Control can be a funny thing and isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Realistically,  what percentage of Americans really want to, or are able to,  limit and regulate what they ingest and how much they move?  

I don’t know about you but I love a good, juicy hamburger every now and then.

chips-dinner-fast-food-70497

Accept vs Adjust

Do we simply accept that cancer happens in this toxic world of ours or do we adjust our habits in hopes of preventing or delaying it?

Can a healthy diet and active lifestyle prevent cancer?

In our polluted and stressful world,  does any of this really matter?

We are surrounded by environmental pollutants and UV rays everyday, does that extra piece of broccoli really help?

The Good News

Medical studies have shown that yes, you can help decrease your odds of getting cancer through healthy choices and good habits.  Knowledge and awareness of the risk factors have increased over the last four decades.

Protection from sun exposure has improved greatly over the last 20 years with increased availability of broad spectrum sunscreen and clothing with UV coverage.

The Bad News

We live in a toxic and stressful world and there are no guarantees in life.

A high percentage of Americans want to enjoy life and eat and drink whatever the hell they want.   You gotta die of something, right?

Addictions are real and difficult to overcome.  The food and tobacco industries have not helped to reduce in our every increasing desire for sugar, fat, salt and nicotine.

addiction-adult-ash-293402

There is a also a mindset battle that pits “modifying lifestyle” against the “live and let live” attitude.

Like most tough questions in life, there are no easy answers.

All I can only do is what’s best for me personally and try to set a good example for others.

I can work to educate and increase awareness.

But no one likes to be told what to do and the appetite for being lectured and harangued is low in these fiercely independent and freedom loving United States.

Everyone has a Choice.  We value our personal freedom.

change-choices-choose-277615

We all make daily decisions on how we want to live and what we put in our bodies.

I have the freedom to live how I want, knowing that it could be positively or negatively impacting my health.  It’s nice to have options.

I also have the power to observe what I see and write about it in this blog.

You have the choice to read my words and either ignore them or take action to change something in your life as a result.

Life is short, right?

beach-dark-dawn-39853

 

 

The Day After Memorial Day Inspiration

RealRedPoppies

At my Toastmaster’s meeting this morning, I missed the opportunity to give an Inspiration after leading the group in the Pledge to the Flag.

Here’s my belated message to the In Ahwatukee Toastmasters club:

Message Text:

Yesterday was Memorial Day.

The Word of the day was Remember.

The Song of the day was Taps.

The Image of the day was a long line of wreaths decorating the gravesites.

The Flower of the day was the red Poppy, blowing in the fields.

The Emotion of the day was too powerful and immense for words.

Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring Americans who died defending our nation and its values.

Yesterday day was Memorial Day.

This day of remembrance is always an emotional one as I visit national or local cemeteries for the annual services and tributes. This year the tears flowed stronger than usual as I listened to the heart-wrenching story of a Gold Star Mom who kept the memory of her son Christopher alive with a moving tribute of love and inspiration.  Tina’s son was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004 and she shared many joyous memories and touching impacts of his short life.  He and all the others who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country will not be forgotten.

Yesterday was Memorial Day and it was a powerful and moving day for me to remember.

Yesterday was a time to pause, reflect and pay our respect to our nations’ many heroes who have shown us that Freedom is Never Free.

33893721_10215825444367199_3918718243790913536_o

Photo by Steve Smull