Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reflections of a Breakup, Pt. IV – In a Daze

I’ve been somewhat at a loss to know where to go from here. I want to be careful not to sound too much like a broken record, reliving the same experiences over and over again in my writing. I feel like I have a lot I want to get out, yet the ups and downs of daily life have clouded my focus of late.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been contemplating two issues that envelop the situation I find myself in. The state of affairs concerning my friends and getting back into the dating game are each worthy topics for discussion, and both deserve individual consideration. For now, I’ll just preface the two issues and save the more focused discussions for another time.

The parting of my lover and I after such a long relationship has had a profound effect on the people in our lives. I hadn’t anticipated the kid gloves that had been placed on anyone who knew us as a couple. The issue has been a dynamic one, changing from day to day. Naturally, we’ve both got friends in our respective corners, but that’s hasn’t been a major issue. The people who harbor no loyalty to one over the other are the ones that have presented the most challenging of situations.

Getting back into the singles game is another topic that has consumed much of my attention and driven me to the emotional highs and lows I’ve been experiencing. I think that the conditions surrounding this situation are unique to same sex relationships. I see a dynamic that exists when two people of the same sex enter into a romantic relationship. There is a certain level of competitiveness that exists both during the relationship and after. I’ve never been known to have a high self-esteem, and this has done nothing to help.

These two conditions have become all-consuming and have worked to put me in a really dark place. It has long been my hope that keeping an online journal such as this would help me to get some of my feelings out there, to help me heal. Unfortunately, at the moment my mind is in somewhat of a hazy state, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to continue what I’ve started.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gayspeak: Is There a Gay Language?

Can you tell if someone is gay by the way they speak? Are there any types of physical, or linguistic, characteristics about certain people's speech that would make one think that person is gay? Or is it the words they use? What they say? Is it their body language? I asked these questions of ten people to find out what they think. Many of them had trouble pinpointing just what makes certain people sound "gay", but were sure that they would recognize it when they heard it.

As a student of linguistics, I find this subject quite interesting. I had never contemplated the possibility of a linguistic aspect to gay speech until I started thinking about it. If there are physical characteristics of gay speech, do they have an effect on how people view gays? In his collection of essays, "Gayspeak: Gay Male and Lesbian Communication" (Cheesbro, James W., Ed., 1981), James W. Cheesbro argues that "Communication-how gay men and lesbians relate to one another as well as to heterosexuals-is the major factor that determines public opinion about homosexuality."

How does the general public observe gay and lesbian communication? Is it through daily interaction with gays? I don't believe so, for the majority of people anyway. I believe that the prime exposure to gays for the general public is in the media. Inclusion of gays and lesbians in movies and television shows is now more common than ever before. Does the portrayal of gays in movies and television give an accurate view of gays and their communication characteristics?

These and other questions will be addressed herein. For the purposes of this essay, I will analyze these questions as they pertain to gay men only, as it is their speech "characteristics" I wish to uncover.

What's In a Name?

1924- "The NY Times first uses the word 'homosexual'".
1950's- "The NY Times routinely uses the word 'perverts' to describe homosexuals."1969- "The Los Angeles Times is boycotted for refusing to allow the word 'homosexual' to appear in any advertising."
1984- "The Wall Street Journal begins using the word 'gay' as an adjective, followed by the NY Times three years later."(Source-

Clearly, journalistic language has changed over time in talking about homo-sexuality. Many wonder how the word 'gay' became an adjective for homosexuals. Its origin and use as an adjective for homosexuals has always been fodder for discussion. After all, the word historically signified lively, happy, joyous, and bright. Traditionally, the derogatory words 'pervert', 'pansy', 'faggot', and 'queer' had been used by heterosexuals to describe homosexuals. It must have been a homosexual who came up with the use of this word, which has a more positive connotation

"The homosexual meaning of the word 'gay' actually goes back to the late 19th century. It happened during London's Cleveland Street scandal of 1889, during which a male prostitute, testifying in court, described himself as gay." (New words For Old- Howard, Philip-1977) It cannot be proven that this is the true origin of the word relating to homosexuality. Regardless, the word gay is now a part of all of our mental dictionaries as referring to homosexuals and not 'happy', 'joyous', or 'bright'.

A Gay Language

One of the questions I wanted to address in this essay with regard to people's perceptions of gays was the use of words in the gay community. I think that most people are aware of a gay slang, just as other slangs like African-American, Jewish slang, Hispanic slang, or any other slang. Usually one must be in the group to know its slang, but there are many words in gay slang that are known to all of us, such as drag queen, butch, or bull dyke. Do the words in this slang contribute to how gays are perceived by the general public?

In my research, I came upon a web site dedicated to a gay slang language that I had never heard of before. It's called 'Polari', and it originated within the homosexual subculture of late 18th century England. These homosexuals mixed with "the gypsies, tramps and thieves of popular song to produce a rich cross-fertilization of customs, phrases and traditions. As the Industrial Revolution dramatically changed settlement patterns, more and more people drifted away from villages and small communities and moved to larger towns in search of work and opportunity......A linguistic culture developed, feeding into that profession traditionally associated with poofs and whores: theater." (

So, at first 'parlarey', was known as a travelling showmen's language. It was never clearly defined as a language. "An ever-changing collection of slang from various sources including Italian, English, circus slang, 'canal-speak', Yiddish, and Gypsy languages." Although now considered a dead language, Polari has left behind many words still used in the gay communities. Here's a small word list from Polari of words still in use today:

basket- the bulge of male genitals through his clothes
bod- bodybona-
goodbutch- masculine lesbian
camp- effeminate
cottage- public loo (sex in restrooms)
dish- an attractive male; buttocks
drag- women's clothes
fantabulosa- wonderul
fruit- queen
hoofer- dancer
ogles- eyes
shyker- wig
trade- sex
troll- to walk about (looking for trade)

Some of the words on this list might be familiar to the average person, such as drag, butch, camp, etc. But most of the words on this list are still in use by gays today. Gay slang, however, does not owe all of its words to Polari.

Just the other day, a popular radio talk show carried on a long discussion about the word 'breeder'. A news story had run about a heterosexual man who had been fired by his gay boss. He was claiming wrongful termination and says he was let go because he was straight. He claims he was repeatedly called a 'breeder' by his predominantly gay co-workers and boss. As it turns out, this word is used by homosexuals to describe heterosexuals. The radio show hosts questioned the very existence of this word and asked listeners to call in if they had any information. Within a couple of minutes, a gay man called in and confirmed the existence and use of the word.

Other newer words have also come into today's gay slang dictionary. Here's a short list:

fag hag- straight female who prefers the company of gay men

PLU- acronym for 'People Like Us'

queer- used by gays as a positive connotation for homosexuality

dish- gossip

Communication between gays, what they say as opposed to how they say it, is quite unique. For instance, many gay males use alternate "lady-names", used as a form of address within gay circles. It's quite common for gay men to use the names of women when they are in social settings. I once knew a group of friends who named themselves after each of "The Golden Girls". (Blanch, Dorothy, etc.)

Portrayal of Gays in Television

As I noted earlier, the most common place to see a gay person today is either in the movies or on television. With each passing year, more and more gay characters come into our lives through these mediums. I believe that the public's perceptions about gays are most influenced here. Just as labels of gays and gay slang have changed through the years, so has the media portrayal of homosexuals.

Over the last 25 years or so, gays have mostly been portrayed as a source of comedy, both in television and cinema. When Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) had to pretend he was gay on the hit 70's TV series "Three's Company", we all laughed at his 'gay' antics in his interaction with the landlord, Mr. Roper.

The 80's brought the sketch comedy series, "In Living Color", which featured a regular skit entitled "Men On...". This vignette centered around two overtly gay hosts of a talk show who reviewed movies, television shows, and travel spots. The skits were very funny and they coined many a phrase for the water cooler. ("Then we went back to Greece!", "Two snaps up!", and "Jewel, the gum that explodes in your mouth!") However, these men were outrageously portrayed as very effeminate and came to be known as 'typical' homosexuals by many a viewer.

The 1990's brought even more gays into our living rooms. "Will and Grace" has become a hit show with not one, but two main gay characters. Although a little different than their portrayal in "Three's Company" and "In Living Color", these characters still seem to have the same 'gay' qualities as they did before: flamboyant and effeminate. These words seem synonymous with the word gay, partly from television, but even more so in film.

Homosexuality in Film

The documentary, The Celluloid Closet, chronicles the history of gays and how they have been portrayed in movies. It's a good documentary, with some excellent points of view narrated by stars such as Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg. Some excerpts of narration from the film, which relate to this paper, follow:

-"In a hundred years of movies, homosexuality has only rarely been depicted on the screen. When it did appear, it was there as something to laugh at---or something to pity--or even something to fear. These were fleeting images, but they were unforgettable, and they left a lasting legacy. Hollywood, that great maker of myths, taught straight people what to think about gay people.....and gay people what to think of themselves."

-"From the very beginning, movies could rely on homosexuality as a surefire source of humor."

-"The sissy---Hollywood's first gay stock character. The sissy made everyone feel more manly or more womanly by occupying the space in between. He didn't seem to have a sexuality, so Hollywood allowed him to thrive."

-"The production code didn't erase homosexuals from the screen.-----Now they had a new identity, as cold blooded villains."

-"Hollywood had learned to write movies between the lines. And some members of the audience had learned to watch them that way."

-"Whenever the subject turned serious, and actual sex was suggested, out came the blue pencil, the scissors and the scene."

-"The long silence is finally ending. New voices have emerged, open and unapologetic. They tell stories that have never been told----about people that have always been there."

The award winning documentary tells us a lot about how Hollywood has shaped the public's views on homosexuals. The film takes us to the late 1980's, around the time of Academy Award winning Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks. Since then, even more movies have been released featuring gay characters in lead roles. Such hit movies as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Birdcage, In & Out, Love, Valor, Compassion, and countless others have shown gays to exhibit the same stereotypes, for the most part. Much of what makes up this stereotype that I speak of is clearly the way gays talk, which brings us back to my original question:

Can You Tell If Someone Is Gay By the Way They Talk?

I did not pose this question on a survey. Rather, I randomly asked a handful of people, from students at the university to other friends and relatives, during the course of normal conversation. With each conversation, I became more and more interested in their answers. Here's a synopsis of what they said:

-Can you tell if someone is gay by how they talk?

Not one person answered yes. All of them either said no or sometimes. To those who said no, I asked them to think of a time when they've ever overheard someone talking and thought that they were gay. Each time I said this, the person acknowledged that scenario at one time or another. So, the final consensus among my subjects is that 'sometimes' is the right answer.

-When you can tell, what is it about their speech that tells you that they are gay? (I was attempting to get some answers that I could put into linguistic data).

It is here that I got the most interesting answers. Many of the subjects had to think hard about it. Some of their answers are as follows:-

"They talk high."-

"They speak with lisps."

"They use [s] a lot."

"They stress things"

"They make words longer."

These answers were similar in scope for each of the subjects. Many of them said that body language and the content of their words were also signs, but I would make it clear to each of them that I was specifically referring to their speech. Before I began my research, I tried to find my own ideas of what makes a person "sound" gay. I must say, the subjects seemed to concur with my ideas.

I came up with three factors, or characteristics, of gay speech. One of them is that they seem to have a higher pitch than the average masculine voice. As mentioned in one of the excerpts from the Celluloid Closet, "the sissy occupied the space between manly and womanly." I believe that this pitch, or tone, difference is accounted for in this statement.

The next physical characteristic of gay speech is phonological. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but it seems that gay men who fall under the category of speaking 'gay' emphasize fricatives, especially [s] and [z]. Or they make them longer than the average person would. There's also an almost dental quality to these sounds, commonly associated with a lisp, as one of the people I spoke to pointed out.

Finally, gays seem to stress words more emphatically than most. One of the main characters on Will and Grace, Jack, tends to do this often. The strongest word stress is usually on the last word in a statement. I'm not too familiar with the patterns of intonation, but I'd hazard a guess that a different intonation pattern exists here as well.

Obviously, these characteristics of gay speech are not characteristics of every gay man's speech. Not all gays speak in this manner. In fact, there are many heterosexual men who seem to possess these physical characteristics associated with gay speech. Unfortunately, a good portion of the general public believe that this is indeed how gay people talk. Yet another stereotype that exists in this world! The better part of blame for this rests clearly on the powers that be in the film and television industry. In order to make us laugh, these, and other stereotypical characteristics of gay men, have been quite often exaggerated by Hollywood. From the high pitched wails of Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, to Blaine and Antoine's 'Sssuper Bowl Sssunday Ssspecial' on In Living Color, to "Just Jack!" on Will and Grace, many of us believe that all gay people talk in this manner.

So, can we tell if someone is gay by how they talk? Not really. Of course, the depictions we see of homosexuals in the tv shows and movies are based partly on fact. So realistically gay speech characteristics do exist, but not in all gay men. Many gays do speak in a higher pitch, emphasize their s's and z's, and use different patterns of phrasal stress or intonation. It is these common characteristics in their speech that we have now come to know as Gayspeak.

A Moment of Change

Ever since I was a young boy, I've always dreamed of traveling around the world. Far away places like Europe, Australia, the Far East, Egypt, India, and even the American west, especially California, have always intrigued me. I come from a lower middle class socio-economic background, so I never really had the opportunity to travel much as a child. The only family vacation I ever went on was to Lake George in upstate New York.

As a young adult, I had my first opportunity to take a first excursion to an exotic place. After deciding to take a trip, a friend and I visited a local travel agency. We were excited at the prospect of travelling, yet not really sure where we wanted to go. We just knew we wanted to go somewhere fascinating and different than Long Island. Upon entering the agency, we immediately noticed an advertisement for Aruba, an island off the coast of Venezuela. The picture in the advertisement was your typical 'tropical paradise' advertisement, featuring white sandy beaches, crystal bluish-green water, palm trees, and of course, beautiful bikini-laden models sunning themselves with bright smiles on their faces and frosty margaritas in their hands. It was inviting, to say the least.

As the travel agent invited us to have a seat at her desk, we were immediately taken in by the alluring poster. She asked us where we wanted to visit, and we both simultaneously pointed to the picture. So, it was decided. We were going to Aruba. I've been hooked on travelling ever since.

Since that first marvelous trip in 1985, I visited Aruba twice more, both times with my ex-"other half." But overall, travelling has always been difficult, as I inherited poor money management skills from my parents and could never really afford to take the exotic vacations I always dreamed of taking. I have however managed to take small trips to places I could visit by car. This mode of travel is less expensive than flying, but the destinations were not as exotic.

There was a weeklong rainy holiday in Virginia Beach, a couple of weekend trips to Boston and Vermont, and a pilgrimage to the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio. (Roller coasters are my second love.) I've taken many trips to Florida, to visit old friends who became some of the many a transplanted New Yorkers living in the state. Finally, in 2000, we took a spectacular cruise to Bermuda. That has been the extent of my travels, until 2002

Life Change: Dare to Reach for Your Dreams

The year 2000 was a spiritual awakening, of sorts, for me. In January, I left a stable, yet unsatisfying job after fifteen years, to escape what was a miserable vocation. Unfortunately, I went from a job in the financial field to one in the insurance field. In other words, I jumped from the frying pan into the proverbial fire.

Five months into my new 'career' in insurance, I was still unhappy. My partner and I drove down to Virginia to meet up with some old friends and a relaxing weekend away from our jobs. It was during this weekend that I had a revelation. One of our friends had graduated from law school about a year earlier, and he had just left his position at a Washington DC law firm because he was unhappy with being a lawyer. He was returning to school to learn the library sciences, something he had been interested in for a long time.

On the ride home, I began to think about our friend's perennial quest for happiness in life. I envied him. I wished I had the know-how and the chutzpah to take such daring risks to find my own happiness. I was sick and tired of unsatisfying jobs which didn't even provide me with a comfortable life, financially. I decided to quit the very next day.

I cashed in my pension fund and my 401K to go back to college. I delved back into the past twenty years of my life to try and figure out what I needed to do with my life. After much soul-searching and introspection, I decided to pursue a career in teaching English to speakers of other languages. This would be the perfect vocation for me, as I have the patience, intelligence and personality to be a good teacher. As an added bonus, a teaching career would give forth a lot of time to travel.

This decision was a turning point in my life. As of the time of this writing, I am closer than ever to realizing that dream of becoming a teacher. During that momentous summer, I gained a new outlook on life. I began to believe that life is wasted if you don't try to reach for your dreams. Also, the time is never too late to start. I've seen far too many people giving up on their dreams without ever trying to reach for them, and I think that's sad.

Go to Italy, Are You Crazy?

With this new attitude, I decided that I wanted to pursue the ultimate vacation: Italy. My father was born in Italy some sixty-one years ago, and my mother's grand-parents came from there at the turn of the century. As such, to me, Italy was not just a land of beauty and splendor, but the place from which I have descended.

My true inspiration for this voyage was my Aunt Vi. Aunt Vi is now ninety-nine years of age. She is the sister of my mother's mother. She's a widow, surviving Uncle Tony for over twenty years now. About seven years ago, Uncle Tony's grand nephew was getting married in Florence. His mother, Uncle Tony's niece, was financially well-off at the time, and invited aunt Vi to the wedding and to spend two weeks with her and her husband travelling around Italy. Aunt Vi was then eighty eight years old.

During her lifetime, Aunt Vi had never traveled outside of the country. This trip was to be her first foray to Europe. And she was going to Italy, the place both of her parents came from. I was very excited for her.

Needless to say, her trip was fabulous. I couldn't wait for her to come home so hear all of the tales of wonderment of the things she saw. She began her trip in Florence, (for the wedding), then wandered southward towards Rome and Naples, and finally the Amalfi coast and Capri. The Amalfi coast intrigued me the most, for the pictures she brought back were spectacular in nature.

During her journey, she chronicled her adventures in a journal, which became the source of inspiration for this book. She not only saw the best Italy had to offer, but she did it first class all the way. I was happy for her, and it gave me the initial hunger to want to visit this ancient land of beauty and splendor.
My parent's families hail from various parts of Italy. Dad is from Trieste, a seaside city nestling the Italy's northeastern border with Slovenia, not too far from Venice. On my mother's side, southern Italy is represented. Her father's families, the Randazzos, hail from Sicily, while her mom's family, both the Piccarellis and Caratus called the region of Campania Salerno home. So naturally, I wanted first and foremost to see these places.

When I first brought the idea up to Joe, he thought I was crazy. I just quit my job to return to school full-time and his salary was meager, at best. But, I felt determined. I planned the trip to take place two years later, giving us plenty of time to plan and save. We fought about it a couple of times, and he finally told me, "Fine, you save and make the arrangements and I'll go."

I knew he didn't believe I would do it, but for two years, I scrimped and saved a dollar here, a dollar there. I broke bills to make change for rolling coin. I worked extra deejay jobs for whatever money I could make. I stole singles from my partner's pockets each morning. Within a year, I had saved over three thousand dollars. By the first day of our trip, we had enough saved to enjoy it comfortably.

And so, we went to Italy. All because I believed! Dreams can be turned into reality with a little faith and a little perseverance. The trip was the most spectacular of both of our lives, and I hope to return in the next couple of years.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Teaching English as a second language

English language learners are becoming more and more populous in today's classrooms. I work in a school district where only five years ago there were only two ESL students. Today there are over forty. In the past five years, many of the mainstream teachers were faced with new challenges that they had never had to deal with before. The following is a short, handy guide I've written for the teachers in my school for whom non-English speaking students presented a whole new set of challenges in their teaching. I hope this will be handy for any teacher who's new at dealing with the ESL population in their classroom.

Working with ESL Students

What do you do when you get an English Language Learner in your classroom? Quite often, they don't understand anything that's being said around them, which can result in frustration on both your part and the students'. Unfortunately, in our real world, there is simply no magic ESL school where they can spend their entire days learning both English and content area domains under the teaching of a trained specialist. Under our educational system, they must be in your classrooms.

People ask me all the time, "What other language do you speak?" My reply is always, "I speak a little Spanish, but that's not important."

In my career as an ESL teacher, I've had students from many language backgrounds. Turkish, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, and yes, Spanish! It's just not possible, though, for someone to be able to speak all of these languages. The following is some of what I do in my classroom and hopefully you can take into account when you have any of my students sitting in yours.



-Make use of graphic organizers, charts, diagrams, TPR (Total Physical Response the use of commands with physical modeling- think of "Simon Says".)

Write it down

-If you're giving an assignment out, without the use of a ditto, its sometimes critical for ESL students to have that little extra.

Keep it Simple

-If an ESL Student doesn't seem to understand what you're saying, try and find another way to say it. Here are some examples:

Contractions use "you are", as opposed to "you're" -Simplify the language, not the concept -Ask Yes/No or other simple questions, not open ended ones.

The Students

-Don't confuse English language proficiency with intelligence -In many cases, ESL students (including some in this district!) come from countries where school is not compulsory and they've missed out on chunks of school time.

The greatest bit of advice to any teacher with ESL students in their classroom is to keep these tidbits in mind, and STAY IN TOUCH with the ESL teacher. Remember, ESL teachers are trained in teaching these students with effective and proven methodologies. Not only are they responsible for teaching these students how to read, write, speak and understand English, but to support them in what they do in your classroom. So do yourself a favor if you haven't done so already, say hello to the ESL teacher in your school!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Reflections of a Breakup, Pt. III: Moving On

Tonight, I'm a little tired, mentally and physically. After having experienced the euphoria of some much needed attention the past couple of weeks, I guess I'm experiencing a little bit of a letdown. It's funny how your moods change with time. It seems a week ago I was full of hope and excitement, and today I feel tired and weary.

Being single and in my forties, I can't help but feel a sense of loss for the years spent seemingly wasted on a relationship I always knew deep down inside would end eventually. Why didn't I act sooner? If I had, I wouldn't be dealing with all this worry now. Who knows where I'd be?

I guess I'm not all that different from most. I am of the human species, after all. Neither the things that I want to be doing or the things that I should be doing ever seem to get done. I've become a serial procrastinator, focusing my attention on distractive activities that prevent me from thinking about the decisions I need to make. I need to act. Soon!

I've seen the breakup coming for a long time. I cannot wait until I am living on my own. At the beginning, I believed that when that day came I would have feelings of regret for making such a rash decision. I realize now that although it will be difficult at first, I will finally be able to make my own decsions about anything. The worst thing about being in a cohabitational relationship, to me, is having to answer for everything that I do. I don't like to having to answer for why I turned on certain light, why I'm watching a particular program or why I took an extra long shower.

At this moment, we are both on our laptops looking for appraisers to help start the process of me buying the house. He seems as eager as I to move things along. It's another singing reminder that the breakup was, at it's heart, a mutual thing. I feel eagerness still, but also sadness and fear to get moving on this.

I long with anticipation to be alone. I've yearned for it a long time, much longer than the elapsed time since our breakup. I want to spread my wings, the wings that have been motionless for far too long. Yet, the melancholy aura that presented itself in the aftermath of our split still surrounds me I feel sad that this division of two lives is not only the dismantling a relationship, but the eradication of a friendship that I believed would always be there. I've come to realize that I've been incredibly naive in thinking that it would. Ultimately, buying the house opens a scary, and potentially uplifting or disastrous new world.

Right now, I'm struggling, financially. I make a good salary, yet my bills practically take it all. Fortunately, I've managed to keep good credit due to the decisions I've made to pay my bills and not spend my cash. I worry, am I going to do this? I can say with honesty that at this moment, I still don't know.

So he's searching for appraisers, too. Maybe he's just as eager to move on as I am. I can understand that, but it's still a harsh reminder that only validates my feelings of being unloved and my subsequent decision to end it all...he wanted out as much as I did! His self-depreciation is stronger than mine, so I think he could just never bring himself to do anything about it. My feelings of guilt at being the victimizer have subsided. I have to live through the realization that it was more of a mutual thing.

So, it's time! Tomorrow I'm going to make that phone call and order an appraisal on the house. It's time to take that leap over the edge and into my new life...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Personal Diet Secrets

I hate the word diet! Going on a diet brings to mind images of people suffering through the unpleasant experiences of portion-rationing, skipping favorite foods, and consuming eccentric foods that they wouldn't normally eat. Any person who entertains the idea of dieting would fare better by taking a good look at how they arrived at their unwelcome body image in the first place, then committing to changing the habits that got them there.

In my experience, the only true way to achieve the body you desire is to make pledge to changing your adverse body-affecting habits. The key is not only changing your eating patterns, but to also commit to getting some exercise. Only a combination of the two will result in a lasting effect.

There are all sorts of diets out there. Many of them deliver on their promise of weight loss. Unfortunately, though, the weight loss is usually short-lived. The problem with most diets is that they stress the means to lose weight, but don't help to change the habits that will keep the weight off. Yes, the dieter does adhere to some sort of a routine, an eating schedule that can only last for so long.

I learned bad eating habits at a young age. I was always told I was "big-boned". During my formative years, I would spend my afternoons in front of the television eating any kind of cookie or chip I could get my hands on. It wasn't until the tenth grade that I realized I was heavy. One day, in gym class, we were given our yearly physicals. Part of the examination included height and weight measurements. When my weight was read at a whopping 256 pounds, I was devastated.

In the ensuing years, I tried many diets, shedding pounds only to regain them eventually. My self-esteem ebbed and flowed throughout. Although I never reached that weight again, I never attained my ideal body until I realized it wasn't about diets, it was about the desire within me to make some changes. The changes were twofold: change the way I ate and get some exercise.

Tips for Better Eating

- Stay away from fast food Did you ever see the movie "Supersize Me"? If you did, you'd realize that fast food is nothing but poison, threatening both your health and your look. I know we've all indulged in the familiar tastes of Big Macs and Whoppers, but they're not good for us on a regular basis.

- Cook more I've discovered that another contributor to obesity in America is fast food of another sort. Today's supermarkets are filled with foods designed for quick and easy meals that can sit in your freezer for months, to be eaten on a lazy night long after you've forgotten it was even there. Keeping the frozen lasagnas, Salisbury steaks, and pizzas to a minimum is a good thing. Try cooking with fresh ingredients. Take a good look around and you'll see that there are plenty of quick and easy things you can prepare which are much more healthy and tasty to consume.

- Eat regularly - To fend off the hunger impulses, munch on small snacks throughout the day. The key word here is small. If you eat one or two cookies between lunch and dinner, you'll find that you'll be less likely to reach for a second portion of a delicious meal. Maybe even exchange something healthier for the cookie, like a granola bar. Small steps like this one set the tone for a bigger overall change.

- Eat Slowly I was always a fast eater. (The reasons why could be the basis for a whole other topic. As such, I was always able to fit more food into my mouth and stomach before I realized I'd really had enough. I've made a conscious effort to slow it down, and I've found that I've become less likely to reach for seconds as a result.

Get Some Exercise

Exercise, or expending calories, is a must for anyone looking to take weight off and keep it off. I love to eat all kinds of foods. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't deprive myself of the foods I enjoy just because I wanted to look good. About three years ago, I became turned on to getting off of my couch and getting some exercise by a program I had seen but never watched.

"Gilad's Bodies in Motion", on Fit TV, is a show that's been around for years. It was filmed in the late eighties/ early nineties on the beaches of Hawaii. I soon started to exercise every day with Gilad and his friends. It was fun and not too strenuous. I kept at it and though the results were not immediate, eventually I began to notice results. The show's workout is well rounded and short enough not to be something I dreaded doing. The compliments soon started coming my way, and motivated to keep going.

I've since expanded my at home workouts. It's become a new habit.' As I haven't give up eating the things I love to eat, I can attest to the fact that committing to any exercise is a necessary addition to any diet.' I am 43 years old and in the best physical shape of my life. I only wish I had come to this simple, yet obvious realization sooner.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

State of the American Union

The state of our union is at once both regretful and promising. What once seemed like the highest of highs in the nineties crashed and burned early this century. The past seven-plus years have greatly diminished our relationship with the world and each other. But with the record length of a presidential campaign coming towards a foreseeable end, hope looms on the horizon.

Without question, the nineties will be remembered as a time of prosperity and good times. The economy was performing well, people were working, and home sales soared to record numbers. The nineties weren't all that rosy, however. The popularity of a President incited a wave of hatred towards him and all he represented, and that abhorrence came to a head in the election of 2000.

I hadn't realized the hate I'd developed towards the other side until the day after results of the election were finally confirmed. I was so angry at the time; I spent several hours putting all my frustrations on to twelve pages of paper, only to be ripped into pieces in the frustration of the helplessness I felt. Although the country had been experiencing good times, there was a certain group of people bonded together to start a movement, playing on the sentiments that would divide the masses by appealing to a segment of the population motivated by the distractive issues that had nothing to do with the nation as a whole, but issues that affected the liberties of the individual. Pundits and politicians alike played on moral issues to divide and conquer. From big-time radio pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, to the rising political players in the neo-con' movement, the American people flocked towards opposite ends of the spectrum, separating us into the red and the blue. In the moments of haphazard penning, I realized that this marked a turning point in our history. It was an event that would change the way we existed as a nation. The goal of dividing the country in two had been successful.

With the endowment of the presidency to George Bush by the Supreme Court in 2000, the lines had been drawn. Left-Leaning Americans were left in a state of shock as the Bush era forged ahead reversing an agenda that was the complete opposite from anything Clinton had done. At first, it seemed innocuous. The most egregious offense committed by Bush during the first nine months of his presidency was his record length of vacation time. That is, until September 11th.
At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the country became as united as never before. I recall being moved to tears as I witnessed the displays of unity all around me. Flags and banners hung on highway overpasses, the glances of solidarity towards fellow Americans became a source of comfort, and candlelight vigils outside my home with all my neighbors present all gave me the feeling of intense nationalism. I was overwhelmed with love and pride for my country.

In the aftermath, the President had the support of the nation and the world. He had been given the opportunity to take his place among the great leaders in history, to harness the collective energy of a grieving nation to face adversity in the eye and overcome it. Indeed, the world would have been behind him had he'd made the right decisions in achieving justice for what had been done.

Instead, September 11th, 2001 has become a point in time from whence our great United States became disjointed. Far too many controversial and decisive issues have been brought to the forefront to discuss in detail here, but needless to say, the country has been longing for something, or someone, to come along, to take us away from all this madness and bring us together as a country again.

The present campaign for the Presidential election of 2008 began in November 2004. Never before in our history has there been such an eagerness for change so early on in an administration. As we begin 2008 with the knowledge that change is on the horizon, people seem to be getting a little excited, and that's a good thing. Clearly, the Democratic Party, the party that's been suppressed for the past twenty-plus years is finally regaining the confidence it needs to right the ship. We have been presented with a group of talented people who all have the ability to right the ship, and we are fortunate to be given the chance to choose from among them. Every candidate on the Democratic side possesses the ability to steer the country back towards unity and prosperity.

In this campaign cycle, we are presented with two clear choices: a group of candidates who promise a redirection from the regretful course we've taken, and those who would continue to play on our fears and our divisions to their own ends, leading us further towards the demise of our great society. I am confident that the choice has already been made. The only question left is which person will be chosen to take the lead.

There is a light on the horizon. There is hope that Americans will finally see through all that's happened the past seven years and look towards the future once again with hope, hope that our time as a beacon for democracy and a champion for human rights has not ended. Of course, not everyone shares this optimism. There are still those out there who wish to continue the great divide for whatever reason. But for the first time in a long time, there is hopefulness. And come November 4th, the outlook is surely promising. And maybe, just maybe, we'll become the "United" States of America once again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Reflections of a Breakup, Pt. II

When I first began to write this project, I wasn't sure how I was going to approach it. The roller coaster ride of this experience turns minute to minute, day by day. How often I chronicle these emotional twists and turns is really undecided at this point. So much has happened since my last posting, I'm not sure where this will take me, so here goes...

Today, the Christmas tree came down. The afternoon became unexpectedly emotional as we were faced with dividing the ornaments and trinkets we've accumulated over the years into his and mine.

"You want this?" I asked of a glass snowman we had purchased together at an upstate market.

" can take it?" he replied.

"How about the Lenox Christmas Tree candle holder?"

"Hmm...My sister gave that too us."

"Alright, you take it."

On and on it went. The drudgery of this task marked the end of a last Christmas and the beginning of the formal separation of a life together. The seasonal baubles we had collected over the years hadn't ever seemed like much, but having to stake or lose claim to these familiar effects was not a pleasant experience to endure.

The process was a primer for what's yet to come. There are many more articles to be divided. Mementos from trips to Italy and Bermuda, photographs, the dishware and cookware, the vacuum, the furniture, everything we've accumulated in twenty years together has to be declared by one of us. Now we're both the same personality type. That is, neither of us is capable of asserting dominance over anybody. There was really no argument, only slight expressions of discontent at losing an item. How can I expect that to hold true for the rest of our things?

For three months, we've coexisted in a stagnant unpleasantness, neither one of us making an effort to wrest ourselves from the comfort of the home we've lived in for ten years. But it is no longer a home. It's become just a house, a place to fulfill the functions of daily life, without the contentment that usually comes with such comfort.

Financially, it's difficult for either one of us to make a move towards the transition from couple to single. Indecisiveness and uncertainty have ruled over us. Emotionally, we both yearned for the separation, with the knowledge that in doing so, we can both begin the healing process. We have no choice but to move forward so we can both start our lives anew. The dismantling of Christmas hopefully was the wakeup call we both needed to move on.

In the aftermath of this emotional event, I saw an opening to tell him what I'd been planning. I wanted to buy our house. I've been contemplating it for awhile, but I hesitated asking him for fear of a negative reaction. He was the one who saw the vision upon first sight and turned it into a beautiful, welcoming abode I was proud of. In my eyes, it was an investment, an opportunity to stop wasting money on rent and save money by paying into equity. If he had said no, that he wanted to buy the house, I wouldn't have argued. Unfortunately for him, he's in less of a position financially to make the move. I want to avoid the pitfalls that come with the sale of a house, making things easier for both of us. To my great relief, he agreed. And I'm going to give it a shot. I'm terrified and excited at the same time. I've never lived alone and never had to provide for myself on my own income. I have no idea what's to come, but for me it's my best option. So now it's time to move...

Career change success stories

Changing careers is not an easy decision to make. People settle into a line of work for whatever reason and oftentimes people eventually realize that they are unhappy with that vital element of their lives. Feelings of being trapped in a stagnant position can spill over into other parts of a person’s life, creating a nagging aura of unhappiness and malaise. If you’re one of the many who feel unfulfilled or generally unhappy with your current position, taking a chance at just might be the jumpstart you need towards self-fulfillment and a more satisfying life.

As a high school student, I always got good grades. I consistently ranked at the top of my class and had my choice of a variety of high-quality universities. After graduation, I entered Fordham University, a well known institution in New York City. An education at such a university would have opened doors not available to many. Nevertheless, during my first summer vacation, I started working a full time job. In my youthful naiveté, I believed it to be the greatest thing in the world, earning a full-time paycheck. By the time September rolled around, I quit school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would become the single worst decision of my life to that point and thereafter.

Following my departure from school, I dallied in many jobs. I was a busboy and waiter, an office clerk, and even a stock boy in a department store. A high school diploma does not quite afford one many opportunities for a well paying job. Not one of these occupations would be considered a real career, only a job. By the time I reached the age of twenty-five or so, I began to yearn a better life, to do more with it, and to find a career that I could be happy and financially comfortable with.

At the age of twenty-five, I got lucky. I found myself a job at a nationally recognized corporate bank as a teller. With a few years, my determination and intelligence allowed me to work my way up to the management side of the banking floor, and I had found myself a bona fide career.

As I worked my way through the ranks at the bank, I became more and more enmeshed in the company. Earning a manager’s title signified a new commitment to the company that felt a lot like giving up my life. My time was no longer mine. I became stressed and started to hate my job. I had felt lucky to have salvaged a respectable career, but in my heart I knew it just wasn’t what I wanted. For the last several years of working at the bank, I dreaded waking up in the morning.

One weekend, in the spring of 2000, I had an epiphany. I had gone to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to visit an old high school friend who had become a lawyer. We spent the weekend relaxing in his beautiful home, with a manicured lawn, a kidney shaped pool and a Jacuzzi. We played pool in his air-conditioned game room. I spent the weekend quite impressed with all the amenities my friend’s livelihood had afforded him. Towards the end of our relaxing weekend, my friend told me that he had resigned his position at his law firm. He was feeling unfulfilled in his job and wanted to go back to school to become, of all things; a librarian.

I was stunned! I spent the five hour drive home completely astonished at my friend’s revelation. I just couldn’t believe that a lawyer, with all he had in life, wasn’t happy. I began to reflect upon my own life. I concluded that if someone like him could make such a drastic move, why couldn’t I? The next morning, I handed in my own resignation letter to the bank. At first, I had no real plans as to what I was going to do. I truly believed, though, that if I didn’t try, I’d be doomed to spending the rest of my days feeling miserable and unfulfilled, stuck in the quicksand of a job I hated.

Many people in my life have since lauded me for bravery in abandoning my career. To me, I didn’t have a choice. I was always feeling unfulfilled, but hadn’t realized it. By the end of that summer, I had enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a local university at the age of thirty-five. Before I knew it, I had finally received that long-elusive Bachelor’s Degree I had always regretted not achieving almost twenty years before.

Today, I am in my fifth year of teaching English to speakers of other languages at a local school district, and I couldn’t be happier. The life lesson that I’ve learned from this experience is that one should never plainly accept their lot in life. If a person’s not happy with their career, they will never really be happy in their own skin. A career is a major component of a person’s life, and if that slice of their pie doesn’t fulfill them, there will always be a regrettable void lying somewhere within them that will follow them wherever they go. Never believe it’s too late to change! Take chances, seek happiness, and it will come.

Finding the best jobs for your personality type

How can you find the perfect job for you? I did, and you can, too! All you need to do is spend a little time doing some self-examination and introspection. Take a close look at yourself, your likes and dislikes, your talents, and your dreams and eventually you can embark on a road towards the career you’ve always wanted, but didn’t necessarily realize.

During my thirties, I left a career I had worked in for fifteen years. Generally, I had been unhappy and unfulfilled in my job for a very long time. When I resigned, I knew I needed to find a better career for me, one that would fit both my personality and my skills. The following is a list of the steps I took to find my ultimate job:

- The first step in the self-examination process is brainstorming. That is, writing down whatever comes to mind during the process. There’s no need to contemplate the items on your list. Just put them down. Take out some paper and a pen and take a few minutes or so to create three separate lists:

o Careers I’d Like to Have - Jot down any type of dream job you can think of for yourself, without regard to how attainable you think it may be. The key here is, think big! Don’t try and convince yourself that this or that career would be an impossible goal. You may be surprised to find out that you may encounter a related occupation that may just be feasible for you.

o Thing I Like to Do – On this list, jot down all of the activities and hobbies you can think of that you enjoy doing. Include activities or duties from other jobs you’ve had that you enjoyed performing. This is important when considering possible career choice that will hopefully last a long time.

o My Talents - Finally, and this is the most difficult task of the three, write down your fortes. What are you good at doing? Everybody’s got some sort of talent. It’s not always easy to realize the strengths inherent in you, but they’re there. Discovering your hidden abilities will take a lot of contemplation, but it is critical to the process.

- It is not necessary to create all of the lists at the same time, or even on the same day. Anything worthwhile needn’t be rushed. Once you’ve compiled your lists, plan on revisiting them on a regular basis. Once or twice a week would be optimal. The one you need to focus on the most is the career list. Peruse the listings side by side, trying to figure out where your interests and talents match your career choices. At first, it will be easy to cross out career preferences, as this record should have been a long one.

- During the process, it would be beneficial to collect any resource materials that could give you any information on the jobs on your list. News items, course and college catalogs, and trade web sites can provide valuable information that can help you later on in the final decision-making process.

- After a few weeks, you should have narrowed the list down to no more than five choices. It’s decision time! At this point, you should have spent a good amount of time considering all the factors that go into achieving a true ‘dream job’. Such factors include: educational requirements, length of time needed to complete such training, as well as other steps needed to be taken, such as resume or portfolio building, finding and joining trade networks, and searching want ads to see what’s out there. Make your choice and go for it!

A dream job, to me, is one that a person loves doing. A career is a big part of a person’s life and choosing the right one shouldn’t be taken lightly. Though the earning potential of a job can be enticing, it is not the right choice if it doesn’t fit who you are as a person. Far too many people work a job because of the financial stability it offers, yet for many something is missing. If you’re one of those people who fit this description, give this process a try. Perform some deep introspection and evidently it will lead you to your dream job.