Scaredy Cat Faith

I have that scared feeling in the pit of my stomach right now. I hate this feeling. Because of the Government shutdown, I have not received a paycheck and I have been stressing about paying the bills. After being turned down from a bank for a loan to hold us through, I felt myself cracking under the pressure. Instead of giving into the panic I was feeling, I got alone with God and He calmed me down.

I’m still scared but I’m believing God is going to get us through this situation. Faith isn’t always about feeling but about believing. Although I still have that scared feeling in my stomach, I am still believing.

Someone once said that the Bible says “fear not” 365 times which is one for everyday. That’s a good thing because I certainly need to be reminded of that every day.

The Bible says faith is the substance of things hoped for but the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1). That has always been a cute little Bible verse until you have to live it and you are not seeing how things are going to work out. There are some that I have heard say that you can’t have fear and faith together. Okay, so can you introduce me please to this race of super humans because that just doesn’t exist in the real world. I have learned that with believing in God that you many times you have to do it with the fear.

I can have all the faith possible but still feel that scared feeling in my stomach. We have to have a scaredy cat faith. We believe but do so while holding down the fear inside and keep it from overcoming us.

I am scared right now but I believe God will help me through it and make a way. I have also learned that having faith doesn’t mean I can just sit back and do nothing. I still need to look for where God is leading in this situation. He’s not likely going to drop a bag of money on my head but He might lead me to the right person at the right time. I don’t know how He is going to do it but I do know it isn’t faith to curl up on the floor and worry about it. I want to be in position where God will make a way. God wants us to go forward in faith, not sit down and wait for it.

Having faith isn’t easy and sounds nice when you are not facing a crisis. It’s easy to have faith when you are standing in church singing praise and worship choruses off the screen. When you have to walk by faith and go through something is where you make it happen. The bumps and knocks in life aren’t comfortable but the reality of living by faith.

Somehow God will see us through this time. I really hope it’s sooner than later but I’m taking it one day at a time while looking for the opportunities that God could open for me. I’m not into religious cliches. I’m into results.

So how do you have faith when you have that scaredy cat feeling?

  1. Talk to God – a LOT. This is the time you need to ramp up your communication with God.
  2. Be silent. Also take some time to be quiet. These are the times He can calm your soul and the troubling waters inside of you.
  3. Read His promises. Get a list of faith building Bible verses.
  4. Listen to encouraging music. There are some awesome songs out there that will keep you encouraged.

Let me tell you, this isn’t easy. Believing God when you’re scared is no fun. These will be times that will try you and push you to your breaking point. Just keep with it and do it while being afraid.

Advertisements

The No-Pay Payday

payThis is a strange day for me.  It is usually the day I get a paycheck from my Government employer but with the current “partial” (it’s not-so-partial when it directly affects you) shutdown, nothing will be deposited into my bank account.  So, I have been scrambling.  When I left work for the Christmas holidays, I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen.  We always assume (yeah I know what it means to assume) that cooler heads would prevail and everything would get worked out.  Today I turn on the news and they still say “no end in sight” and that after this weekend, this will be the longest government shutdown in history.

To add insult to injury, my supervisor called and asked me to report to work on Monday to support some of my “essential” co-workers who have been working during the shutdown.

Right now my bills need to be paid.  I’m not okay with this.  I am not on strike and I am not voluntarily sacrificing for funding for this wall.  I just want to work and pay my bills.  The suggestion that we should “barter” with our landlord is yet another example of how politicians are out of touch with reality.  Even if I could barter with my landlord (which I don’t have one) how am I supposed to pay my other bills.  Not many of them are understanding.  Sure, they might defer payment or give you an extension but many times this is still reflected on your credit score.  Getting a loan?  Yeah, try that one when you apply and you AREN’T GETTING A PAYCHECK.  Duh.  Is anyone home?  With the end of the shutdown nowhere in sight, how are you going to make the first payment on the loan if you get one in the first place?

I don’t like being in this position.

Get another job?  That would work if I wasn’t being called back into work and how long am I supposed to work another job?  What other employer is going to agree to hire you when you return to your normal job when the government re-opens?

Someone said to contact my congressman.  I did.  Three days ago.  No response.  None.  Zip.   He’s still getting a paycheck.

I have read people’s comments who say they are willing to make the sacrifice for the funding to build the wall.  I am not.  I did not asked to be held hostage in this negotiation.  It is ridiculous to suggest that I should.  As I have told others, I work for the American people, not a political party.  In fact, we aren’t even allowed to identify with any political party or do our jobs with any political favoritism.

I see reports that government workers are protesting and picketing the White House.  Yeah, that will show them.  Ineffective.  I read where lawsuits are being filed for making us work while not being paid during the shutdown.  Yeah, let’s see how successful that will be.  Point is….no one cares.  Our employer certainly doesn’t care.  If this were a private company and the owner refused to pay their employees until he got what he wanted, people would be livid about it.  The only people livid today are my fellow 800,000 workers missing a paycheck today.

I’m not asking for sympathy.  I know most people don’t really give a damn.  I’m just pretty mad about this – especially today.

Wowed By The Oculus Go

oculus go2Christmas has passed now and it seems that I was on Santa’s nice list this year because I got a pretty awesome gift.  Santa (via my wife) got me the Oculus Go Virtual Reality headset.  It was totally unexpected and definitely the “wow” gift of this Christmas.  Let me tell you about this awesome high tech toy.

Oculus Go is a standalone virtual reality headset which does not need to be connected to a phone or PC.  It is a very immersive entertainment device.  You can watch movies, play games, browse the Internet and many other things.  Just today I orbited Mars, watched some scenes from “The Greatest Showman” and played arcade basketball.  When I talk about this being an immersive device, you feel like you are in it and not just watching it.  There is nothing that compares to it.  Thanks to YouTubeVR you can also view thousands of videos in 180 degree or 360 degree video.  Even when it isn’t filmed for a VR device, watching standard video clips are still pretty good as it is like watching them on your own 30-foot screen.  The crystal clear optics and state-of-the-art 3D graphics makes the Oculus Go feel more like a personal theater.

The device comes with a nifty controller that you can use with one hand so you can navigate through apps and games.  It is very comfortable to use.

The audio is really better than you would expect with very good quality.  You really don’t need headphones unless you don’t want to disturb people around you.  Although you can’t connect headphones with Bluetooth, you can use a short 3.5 mm cable to connect without getting tangled up with any cables.

Some of the things I have done so far with the headset is watch a bowl game on ESPN, played a virtual mystery game (which ended up scaring me pretty badly), checking Facebook, using a meditation app to virtually sit next to a waterfall or in front of a fireplace.  There are so many uses for this headset that I am sure I haven’t even come close to all the capabilities of this amazing high tech device.

The only thing that is a downer is the battery life which is about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  In reality, it is probably a good thing so you can give your eyes a rest from the headset and it’s still long enough to watch a movie or play your fill of games.  I hope that my cable service provider will eventually be available so I can stream my TV to it as well.

The Oculus Pro is a little pricey but you do get what you pay for and the quality it worth it.  The 32GB model is $199 and the 64GB headset is $249.

I have been very impressed with the Oculus Go and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a personal VR headset.  It has been an exciting device to use.  I didn’t ask for it but I’m really glad that “Santa” brought it.  I’m eager to go get it right now after finishing this blog.  In fact, I wish I could use the headset to write this blog.

If you are looking for me, you will find me in the virtual world.

 

 

Sidelined Litigation Support Specialist

 

sidelinedI am currently sidelined by my employer during the Government shutdown.  I have been deemed to be “non-excepted” which means they think I am not essential during the shutdown.  I really don’t know how to take that.  Although my co-workers who were tagged as being essential are still working without pay, I am not comfortable with being put on the sideline until the politicians can decide on funding the wall.  I don’t like this situation one bit.

So I am doing odd jobs and chores around the house to keep busy until I get back in.

I have to reflect on this because I do become essential when an attorney needs a video clip or help with playing a file.  Don’t tell me that I am “non-excepted” because I can assure you that I certainly become essential when they need something or help with an eDiscovery issue.  I don’t know how they are managing those issues right now.  Unfortunately, I am prohibited from helping.   I suppose they are getting it done without me.

On the other hand, this may be a good thing.  Maybe they will see exactly what I contribute to the mission on a daily basis.  No, I’m not saying I am the most important person there but I am a team player and I do my part and I’m damn good at it.  I have always taken pride in doing it and I want to be back doing it again.  I’m completely frustrated that I am being forced to sit out because of some political tug-of-war.

Right now instead of managing data, complex databases issues or assisting the legal support staff with discovery or trial issues, I am trying to figure out how I am going to pay my bills and what I need to do to manage my budget while my paycheck is on hold.  I would rather be dealing with a discovery issue than my household budget.  I am confronting another stress that I hadn’t seen coming.  I had projects that I had planned to work on now but I’m on the sideline.

Since 1996, I have been involved in litigation support duties for my employer.  I have sat in the “hot seat” of hundreds of trials over the years.  I have been the ringmaster of technology in the courtroom while assisting the legal team in presenting documents, photos, audio and video in the courtroom.  The technology has changed so much over the time I have been doing this.  While I first started, we had VHS tapes for video and audio cassette tapes for audio recordings.  Today, the audio and video comes through in a variety of formats and software programs.  Instead of easier, in many ways it has become more complex.  If you ask any of the attorneys I have assisted in those trials, they would all tell you that I was very much essential.  I wouldn’t be on the sideline like I am right now.

I have been through other shutdowns, furloughs and delayed paychecks.  The last time I was also sent home but then when the workload was too much, I suddenly became essential and was asked to go in to handle it.

While the news only reports that the Government shutdown is causing trash to be out of control in the national parks, they ignore the hundreds of thousands or government workers who are forced to the sideline because they are not considered to be essential.  Not much is said about that.  Many of us would rather be back to work AND getting paid for it.   Since I am not the employee who is not able to pick up the trash at a national park, most people won’t know or care that I am not able to do my job.  It doesn’t matter to me what other people think.  I know and that’s all that matters to me.

I don’t know how long I will be on the furlough bench.  It doesn’t look too promising that I will be back in the game anytime soon.  I can assure you that I will be ready when the call comes and whether or not my employer considers me essential or not I will get the job done as I always have throughout my career.

 

 

Bored With Bowls

bowl gamesSomeone asked me last night:

“Is this the playoffs?”

“No, this is the Sugar Bowl.”

“What are they playing for?”

“To win the Sugar Bowl.”

“Oh”

Now that we have the four-team College Football Playoff system, it seems that the other bowl games are now nothing more than consolation prizes for the teams which didn’t make the four-team cut.

I have heard many commentators and read articles from writers who poo-poo the idea of expanding the current playoff system.  I really don’t understand why not and I have heard all the arguments.  I know even with an 8-team field that there would still be controversy on who you would pick to be in it.  It’s true that even with the NCAA Basketball Tournament there is still debate there too even with a 68-team field, but you’re going to have the debate regardless on how many teams you put in the postseason.  That still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a playoff system.

I have always been an advocate of an 8-team playoff system which would give automatic berths to the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC champions and three at-large berths to the next highest ranked teams.  This season it would have been Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Ohio State (Big Ten), Washington (Pac-12) and Alabama (SEC) as the conference champions and then the three at-large berths to Notre Dame, Georgia and UCF who are the next highest ranked teams.

If you really wanted to be completely inclusive, you could give automatic berths to ALL of the FBS conference champions, not just the “power” conferences so then you would have a 12 conference champions when you add the AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt then four at-large berths to make it a 16-team field.   I’m not really sure we are ready for that but then that would create yet another controversial subject.

The FCS, which is the next division of the college football system, has a 24-team playoff field.

Bowl games have become the NIT-Tournament of college football.  I have to be honest and wonder if players are truly bragging about winning the “Belk Bowl” or the “Cheez-It Bowl”.  Bowl committees don’t really want to see the playoffs expanded unless they are included in the playoff games as well as trying to hold onto the traditions of the past.  Even with an 8-team playoff you can still keep them in a bowl-format with four quarterfinal games and two semifinal games.  This would add four bowl games to the playoffs.  What’s not to like about that?

Back in the old days we had to wait until after the bowl games were played to find out who the AP and UPI would vote as the champions.  And if the polls disagreed then fans would argue the entire off-season on who was the TRUE champion.  At least now we KNOW for certainty who the true champion of college football will be.  We may not agree on the teams included in the football “final four” but at least we have a real champion now.

Is there a perfect solution?  Probably not but I think just one more expansion of the current playoff system would make the post season a more realistic playoff.

 

 

New Year, New Opportunities

Happy-New-Year-2019Here we are at the start of 2019. This is when people make resolutions for a new year. Most people resolve to lose weight or give up some type of unhealthy habit. I’m not going crazy on the resolutions and I’m not going to join a gym. Gym memberships are usually crazy this time of year. Aside from that, I still have a few things on my list that I would like to accomplish this year.

My wife has decided to start “us” on a plant-based diet to start the year. She hopes to become vegan. I’m not so sure I’m there yet myself but I am certainly not far from eliminating meat from my diet. About the only meat I eat now is chicken. I can probably do the vegetarian menu but not sure if I can take the vegan plunge just yet.  It isn’t necessarily to lose weight but to eat better.  It seems that every time we cook at home we ask the same question:  “Why do we eat out again?”

Along with the change in diet, I have some other things I would like to accomplish in 2019.

I would like to be more healthy. I’m not necessarily thinking about losing weight but I think if I make more of an effort in my food choices, exercise and meditation that I can accomplish this.  I think it is just as healthy to focus on the spiritual as well.  I closed last year trying to spend at least five minutes a day in silence.  You won’t believe how hard that is to accomplish.

I would like to find a book agent. If I am going to be successful in publishing a book, I need to find an agent to give me a chance to do that. I can’t make it happen but I need to make a better effort in promoting myself to potential agents.  If I don’t find one, I’m still going to press on.

I would like to worry less about the way others are acting and more about what I am doing. I let the actions of others frustrate me too much. I have little control over others then I shouldn’t let what they do frustrate me.  This will probably be the one that is the most difficult to do.

I would like to get in a better financial situation. I’m not always good with budgets and numbers. I hope I can improve on that this year.  More money isn’t always the answer.

I would like to move to a new house. This might affect the previous paragraph but we have been looking for our house for a long time. Maybe this will be the year if everything falls in the right place.

I would also like to be a more disciplined writer this year. I have my moments but not enough to really sustain momentum with the projects I am working on.

As you can see there are a lot of goals I have set for myself in 2019. I try not to do the resolutions because I don’t necessarily want this to be something directly related to the calendar and starting January 1st because if I have an off day I don’t have to feel like I’ve blown it for the rest of the year.

Most Americans have some type of resolution to start the new year, but how long do people actually stick to it?

A new study says 74 percent of people are still living up to their resolution six months later, while 39 percent make it through the whole year.

When it comes to the most searched goal online for 2019, personal health tops the list for both men and women.

Starting an exercise routine and losing weight are top of mind for millions right now, after a long holiday break filled with food and fun.

It’s recommended adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week. Weight training should be included in routines twice per week.

The second most popular resolution is saving money, followed by sleeping more and spending more time with family.

According to a University of Scranton Department of Psychology study, people who took the time to make resolutions were 10 times more likely to change their lives for the better after six months than people who aspired to do better but didn’t make a formal New Year’s resolution.

We all should set reasonable goals and do our best to meet them.  I think we make a mistake if we set out with a daily resolution because too many times if we fail to keep it one day then we tend to throw in the towel for the rest of the year.  Set reasonable goals and work toward them.  It isn’t about how many days in a row you do something, it is the determination to keep at it and see it through.

As we enter into 2019, let’s aim for something to improve our lives and the lives of others around us.

Happy New Year!

What It Means To Be Furloughed

nonessentialI’m not happy right now. I just got the notice that I have been furloughed. Thanks to the standoff between the President and Congress over funding for the wall, my paycheck is now being held hostage.

Most non-government folks don’t know what this means, nor do they really care.  The common thought from the public is that all government employees are overpaid and lazy. While that is true in ANY business, that’s not true for most of us who take pride in our jobs and what we do for the American people.   Also, just because we work for the government it doesn’t mean we take sides either.

So, it doesn’t matter to me if you are a Trump supporter or anti-Trump, this government shutdown truly affects normal, hard-working people, not the politicians who will still get their paychecks while those of us in the trenches of the government workforce have to stress over paying our bills.

I have been a federal employee for the past 35 years which includes eight years of military service.  When these government shutdowns happen, it is quite stressful and very frustrating for me.  First, the bills still have to be paid.  Although they have paid us back in the past there is never any guarantees that will happen.  I don’t know many people who can afford to miss a paycheck or have it delayed when you have bills coming due at various dates of each month.  Second, even though the general public is told that the government is “shutdown” there are still people working.  Agencies determine who are the “essential” and “non-essential” personnel.  Today I have been put in the “non-essential” group and thus I am not allowed to go to work.  The frustrating part of all of this for me is that the people who are working are creating more work for me to catch up on when I return.  My work doesn’t get done because I am furloughed.  My feeling is that if the government is shutdown it truly needs to be shutdown and NO ONE should be working unless it is for safety or national security reasons.

The last time I was furloughed, I was told I was non-essential until the work started piling up and then my supervisor said I needed to come it to handle the workload.  Well, that’s a bit hypocritical don’t you think?  I am non-essential until the workload piles up and then I become essential.  And the folks that have to work during the shutdown usually won’t get any more pay than those who are not allowed to work.  That isn’t much fair either.

I don’t like this whole government shutdown tactic politicians use.  Never have.  There should be a way to get things done without punishing hardworking employees that truly work and do their jobs.

Most of the general public don’t care that people like me have been furloughed.   They are quite critical about it and truly don’t understand the situation.  Believe me, I’m not asking for sympathy.  I just want to go back to work and I’m mad as hell that the politicians hold our paychecks hostage during these times. The shutdown hits people like me pretty hard.  While roughly 800,000 government employees are set to be affected by the shutdown and likely won’t see back pay until after it’s resolved, another subset of contractors isn’t going to be paid at all. As many as 2,000 subcontractors in federal buildings including janitors, security guards, and cafeteria servers are not only experiencing a sharp break in their work schedules, they also won’t be compensated for this pause.

As for members of Congress, they will see no breaks in their pay whatsoever. Unlike other government employees, they won’t even have to rely on back pay because their salaries are written into the Constitution and will be continuous throughout the shutdown.

And that’s fair?  So how are we – the average government worker – responsible for this shutdown?  Shouldn’t the ones would caused the shutdown be more directly affected?  This doesn’t make sense to me.

I hate being a pawn in these political standoffs.  I have a mortgage to pay, Christmas to pay for and bills that won’t understand that my paycheck may or may not come.  Honestly it often seems that politicians don’t think very much of us.  They all seem to buy in to the myth that we are all overpaid and underworked.  Most of us take pride in our jobs and do it regardless of whether our leaders are Republican, Democrat or any other political party.  We do our jobs to support our country.  We work for the American people.  The taxpayers (including me) pay for our salaries and most of us do it with integrity.

It’s frustrating to constantly be put in the this situation.   Last time it was about funding the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and this time it is about the wall.  It will be about something else next time.  It really gets old and wears down the federal employees who just want to do their jobs.