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Repost: The 9 Qualities That Help You Thrive Under Pressure

This morning I found this wonderful article from Time about traits that make a person successful.  Here is that article, reposted in full:

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young plantIn new and challenging situations, some people fold under pressure and some manage to squeak by. And then there are the people who really thrive—blossoming in the face of uncertainty or adversity. Now, researchers say they’ve pinpointed a number of personality traits and external factors that, when combined, can predict a person’s chances of thriving.

For their recent paper, published in the journal European Psychologist, scientists from the University of Bath in the U.K. reviewed a wide variety of research on what makes people thrive in all types of circumstances—physically, professionally, athletically, artistically and academically, to name a few. From those studies, they came up with two lists of variables—nine personal traits and six outside influences—that are common among people who continuously grow, learn and succeed in life.

People don’t have to possess every component on these lists in order to thrive, say the authors, but a combination of a few from each list could certainly help. That formula could include any or all of the following:

Qualities

The person should be …

  • optimistic
  • spiritual or religious
  • motivated
  • proactive
  • someone who enjoys learning
  • flexible
  • adaptable
  • socially competent
  • someone with self-confidence and self-esteem

External factors

The person should have …

  • opportunity
  • support from employers, family, or others
  • a manageable level of challenges and difficulties
  • a calm environment
  • a high degree of autonomy
  • the trust of others

These lists may not be very surprising—but the authors say that until now, there has been no real consensus for exactly what characteristics and circumstances help people thrive, or what we can do to increase our chances of doing so.

To sum up their research, lead author Daniel Brown, now a sport and exercise scientist at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., says that the act of thriving seems to come down to “feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.”

While some people maybe more naturally prone to thriving than others, Brown says there are things we can do to cultivate these important traits within ourselves. For starters, he recommends relying on internal motivations (things that are truly important to you) rather than external ones (things society says should be important to you), and trying to always look at new situations as opportunities for gain and growth.

There may be ways we can encourage thriving in others, as well—like our kids, our partners, or our employees. “It’s likely to be important for individuals to feel they have a choice in what they are doing, that they hold close and supportive relationships with people around them, and that they perceive themselves having some level of competence in the tasks they are completing,” Brown told Health via email.

More studies are needed to determine which factors are most important for thriving in specific scenarios, and the differences between thriving under serious adversity versus everyday stress, the authors wrote in their paper. But they hope their research is a good stepping-stone for understanding the psychology behind what it takes to be our best selves, no matter what life throws our way.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

 

 

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Language Switching and why I do it so much

If you are a fan of the Legendary Women of World History biographies or period dramas, you have no doubt noticed that I tend to bounce around languages a great deal, sometimes at the expense of being directly understandable in a given point in the book.  So why do I do it and why will I not simply put the whole damn thing in English like normal people do?

In a word, PARALINGUISTICS.  Paralinguistics is a social science term for the parts of verbal communication that are not inherent in the meaning of the words we use.  Paralinguistics is the HOW of our speech: its melody, its pace, its inflection and so forth.  Dialect and specific word choice is also paralinguistic. It conveys to listeners a great deal of information about a person and in particular information about gender, ethnicity, place of birth, place of residence, socio-economic class, even race sometimes.  Different places have different names for the same thing.

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The labels we use for objects varies greatly with our geography and our dialect. A classic example of this is our word for a sweetened carbonated beverage.

One classic example I studied in university in my “non-verbal communication” class was the word we use to refer to a sweetened carbonated beverage. No, it is not the same word everywhere.  In the southern United States, the word “coke” is used to refer to such beverages, regardless of brand (I heard this myself during my stay in Louisville, Kentucky).  In many Midwestern states such as Nebraska where I was born and raised, the word is “pop.”  In New England the preferred word is “soda” which is the word I default to. In fact I often very purposely avoid the word “pop,” much to the annoyance of my now late mother who complained that I “didn’t talk like a Nebraskan.” That’s because I had so thoroughly adjusted my dialect to what is normal in the greater New York City metropolitan area that I no longer sounded like someone from the Midwest.

crawdad crayfish

Is it a crawdad, crawfish, or crayfish?  The word you use is largely determined by where you are from.

Beyond geography, our paralinguistics tell listeners a great deal about our socio-economic status and education.  A person with a third grade education talks differently than a person with a university degree.  A person who has traveled a great deal also talks differently from a person who has never left her own town or village. The languages one speaks is a powerful communicator of this information and how that person is perceived.  As a rule, speaking multiple languages is a mark of education, travel, and often class.  It tells you very concisely who that person is and what her or his background is.

No where is this more evident than in the use of honorifics.

What is an honorific?  It’s a word we use to convey respect to another person.  A classic example is when we address a judge “your honour” and a member of a royal family as “Your Majesty” or “Your Highness.” In medieval societies it was especially important to show proper respect with these honorifics which include “your grace,” “my lord/milord,” “my lady/milady,” “my liege,” “sire,” “master,” “mistress,” and so forth.

Honorifics in the Legendary Women of World History biographies almost always follow the person’s nationality or adopted nationality.  So Princess Nest ferch Gruffydd respectfully greets King Gruffydd ap Cynan with the Welsh “f’arglwydd” which means “milord.” Use of “f’arglwydd” (or its feminine form “f’arglwyddes”) instantly tells you the speaker is Welsh. Likewise French Princess Catherine de Valois (book two) periodically speaks French, both to her family members and to the monolingual King Henry V, particularly during their many arguments.

When Matilda of England returns to London after the death of her husband, Kaiser Heinrich V, her persistent use of German and German forms of people’s names is there to tell you very concisely that she identifies herself as “empress” (German, Kaiserin; Latin, Imperatrix).  This is absolutely historical and it is a major reason why the Anglo-Norman nobility found her impossible to work with. Using German powerfully conveys how Matilda saw herself and how she insisted on being treated.

The use of language therefore tells you who the person is and how s/he self-identifies.  The actual meaning of the individual words is far less important than what the use of them says about the person as a whole and in the given moment.  Queen Elizabeth Tudor spoke at least six languages and therefore very fluently moved across them as she desired and the situation merited.  The immediate descendants of William the Conqueror spoke both English and French with the same fluency as many Canadians do today.  By necessity they used English, French, and Latin in the day-to-day administration of their vast realms.  Medieval Europeans prayed in Latin so all of the prayers found in the LWWH are in Latin as well.

Language switching in the Legendary Women of World History series is therefore essential in accurately communicating who these people were and the societies in which they lived.  It might be easier to render a prayer in English from a reader point of view, but it would not be historically accurate to do so. It might be more comfortable for some readers if all dialogue were in English, but doing so would strip out all of the paralinguistics that we all use everyday when communicating with other people.  It would be akin to writers universally using the word “coke” to refer to a soft drink without considering if that word is what a historical person or character would actually label the beverage.  A person from the southern United States most certainly would — but not all people in the United States are from the southern region nor are all English speakers from that region either.

 

Whether we realize it or not our word choices are an essential part of our daily communication.  More than simply which words we use, our dialects and use of borrowed words from other languages communicates a great deal about who we are to people.  Fluency in many languages is driven by many factors in our lives:  social, economic, educational, and professional to name just a few. How we speak is a major part of the tapestry of our lives.  Embrace that tapestry in your own life and use your understanding of it to enhance your understanding of other people.

 

 

 

Death and Taxes: Lessons Learned

Death and Taxes are the two things no one can avoid. While taxes is something we face every year, the death of a parent is something we face only once or twice, depending on our family situation. As I found out with the 2016 death of my mother, our knowledge of how to handle taxes after the death of a parent or other close loved one is very limited.

Despite all the information out there online on both subjects individually, I found it all extremely confusing as I tried to navigate that complexity of what happens with your taxes when someone close to you dies.  Tax law is very complicated and tax guidance is even more complicated. No one wants the liability of telling you anything just in case what they tell you does not apply to you. In most cases, people want you to spend massive amounts of money consulting with attorneys and tax professionals instead of giving you the most basic advice.  It’s akin to a nurse not telling me to run cold water on a burn and sending me to the hospital (at a delay of hours) when my hair caught fire blowing out candles when I was in university. The burn gets worse by not taking immediate action.

The following is what I learned filing my 2016 taxes.  My situation may be different from yours. You may have a more complicated tax situation than I did. What follows is some simple advice from my tax filing as equal beneficiary to my brother who was the executor on her estate.

Taxes to be paid:

  • The executor of the state must file Federal and State income taxes for the deceased. If the deceased has no tax liability, that is fine. But the returns must be filed on behalf of the deceased.
  • If deceased owns her home at time of death and it is to be sold, sell the home as quickly as possible to reduce tax liability and simplify your tax situation. Same for any other property that is usually taxed upon sale.  If you are not keeping the property for the long term, you make your life easier by selling it as soon as possible.
  • If you inherit any annuities or retirement funds, those funds are taxable by the Federal government if they were tax-deferred plans such as 401K, traditional IRA, etc. Pre-pay that tax before you receive any funds if at all possible.  It may not always be possible to pre-pay the taxes so ask the financial institutions involved about it.

The more you pre-pay taxes, the easier filing your return becomes. In this it is no different than when you choose fewer tax deductions as you are working and thus have more taxes taken out of each check as you earn. When the tax season hits, a refund is easier to handle than a big tax bill. Err on the side of caution and pay as much tax as you can before you receive funds from the estate so you don’t over spend and find yourself unable to pay those taxes when the bill arrives.

Now here is the good news:  what is NOT taxable:

  • Cash, savings, checking, and certificate of deposit funds.  That is because the deceased already paid income taxes on those funds.  You do not report these funds to the IRS.  It’s your money.
  • Proceeds from the sale of a home if the executor has paid all applicable taxes up front.  In the common case of a home being sold and its funds being dispersed to multiple beneficiaries, those beneficiaries do not pay taxes on it nor do they claim those funds as income because all taxes have already been paid.  For example:  a home sells for $100,000.  After taxes, attorney fees, and other closing costs the net sale is $80,000.  The Will specifies two beneficiaries which then each receive $40,000. The $40,000 received is not taxable because it’s the net after taxes are paid. The beneficiary does not pay tax on the $40,000; the money stays off the tax return.

 

good-morning-america-18-june-2001-002

My mother and me during a 2001 visit as part of the studio audience for Good Morning America.  This is us with anchor Charles Gibson, one of my mother’s favourite celebrities.

Now of course I’m not a lawyer.  I am not a tax professional. I’m a historian and an author from a humble background.  My mother was not a rich, glamourous person.  She was a teacher before I was born and a factory worker and retail clerk for most of her working life after I was born. She was very average, living paycheck to paycheck and doing creative things to keep us fed and with some sort of roof over our heads.  So her estate was not massive and there were no capital gains taxes that I needed to concern myself with.

Maybe this blog post is useless. But maybe it helps you too.  I stressed out for MONTHS over the tax consequences of my mother’s death. I smartly put 30% of my inheritance into a high yield savings account (I switched to Ally Bank to maximize those earnings) in part because I was terrified that I was going to have to pay nearly everything I inherited back to the government.  I did not. A tax professional explained to me what I just posted and set my mind at ease.  I hope this post does the same for you.

Rest in peace mom. May you find joy in your new incarnation and the love you never found in this life.

Repost: Don’t underestimate the life-saving power of urban trees

Health in Harmony is one of my favourite charities. HIH is dedicated towards rain forest conservation and tree planting efforts in critical south Pacific ecosystems where many of endangered plant and animal species make their home. Along with the Rain Forest Alliance they are doing vital work in combating global warming and numerous other environmental challenges facing our world.

Through these charities I found the following article regarding urban forestation and the importance of trees in our communities. Author: Matt Hickman

“Don’t underestimate the life-saving power of urban trees

Major new study details the pollution-scrubbing, temperature-lowering qualities of the urban canopy.

We already know that urban trees can help deter crime and prompt us to smile a bit more. We know that they mitigate stormwater runoff, sequester carbon and provide vital habitats to city-dwelling critters while lending invaluable visual appeal to otherwise foliage-starved concrete jungles. No argument here; urban trees are pretty much the best.

We also know that the health benefits attached to urban trees extend well beyond their uncanny mood-improving abilities. Urban trees are air scrubbers nonpareil, dutifully sucking up the pollutants that city dwellers release. This, in turn, helps the denizens of major cities breathe a bit easier — or, in more stark terms, breathe at all.

A comprehensive new study recently released by the Nature Conservancy titled “Planting Healthy Air” takes an eye-opening deep dive into the relationship between urban trees — or lack thereof — and public health, particularly potentially fatal respiratory diseases linked to dirty city air. The takeaway of the study — at 136 pages, there’s a lot to digest — is this: the planting of trees in cities cannot and should not be underestimated as it serves as one of the most cost-effective methods of curbing urban air pollution levels and combating the urban heat island effect. We’ve all taken refuge under the shady canopy of a tree to escape from the sweltering heat at one time or another, looked up and thought to ourselves phew, what a lifesaver. As the Nature Conservancy details, this is one hell of an understatement.

Nature Conservancy, the impact of urban trees on air pollution graphic (Graphic: The Nature Conservancy)

The lead authors of “Planting Healthy Air” conclude that by investing just $4 per capita in tree-planting efforts, cities could have a lasting impact on the respiratory health of residents. Additional trees planted in cities could potentially help reverse a truly troubling reality: more than 3 million people across the globe perish each year from air pollution-related illnesses brought on by the inhalation of fine particulate matter released by human activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels. Transportation-borne particulate matter — that is, the deadly air pollution released when firing up the engine of a car — is a biggie here. Trees can remove particulate matter released within their immediate vicinity by as much as a quarter.

What’s more, tens of thousands of city dwellers die each year from devastating heat waves. Given that canopies do a bang-up job of effectively cooling urban environments, their role in preventing heatwave-related deaths is also critical.

“Trees can have a significant local impact on pollution levels and temperatures,” notes Rob McDonald, the study’s primary author and a scientist for global cities at The Nature Conservancy, in a press statement. “Urban trees can save lives and are just as cost-effective as more traditional solutions like putting scrubbers on smokestacks or painting roofs white.”

Globally, a “conservative” investment of $10 million in urban tree planting activities could help 68 million people breathe cleaner, less deadly air and provide 77 million urbanites with the peace of mind that the next heat wave won’t be their last. As the study’s authors point out, trees are the only solution that can do both: cool and clean air.

Nature Conservancy, the impact of urban trees on urban temperatures graphic (Graphic: The Nature Conservancy)

Of course, certain cities would benefit more from per capita tree-planting efforts than others. Looking at 245 of the world’s largest cities, the study identifies which urban areas would reap the greatest return on investment (ROI) from more trees — and a lot of them. Obviously, densely populated cities that suffer from both high levels of air pollution and are often struck with deadly heat waves top the list.

A majority of the cities found to have the greatest ROI in terms of both cleaner air and cooling are (somewhat predictably) big, crowded, hot and located in South Asia: Delhi and Mumbai, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Karachi, Pakistan; Kathmandu, Nepal, and on. The African cities of Cairo, Dakar and Freetown, Sierra Leone, also make the study’s top-ROI list as does the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

While the study doesn’t provide case studies for all 245 cities taken into consideration, 15 cities across the globe with a desperate and not-so-desperate need for major tree-planting investments are further examined.

Atlanta, for example, was found to have a low ROI thanks in part to one of the densest urban canopies in North America. With trees covering 47.9 percent of the sprawling southeastern metropolis (the national average for U.S. cities in 27 percent), Atlanta’s “city in the forest” nickname is more than well deserved. However, the study does point out that Atlanta’s densely populated — and only getting denser — downtown neighborhoods could benefit from additional street-side trees, particularly with regard to heat mitigation.

Urban TreesUrban trees aren’t just easy on the eyes. In densely populated cities with high levels of air pollution, they’re also a lifesaver. (Photo: Takyua ASADA/flickr)

Denver, touted as being a success story in combating rampant air pollution that once held the city in a sooty grip, is also noted as having an all-around low ROI that’s largely due to extensive sustainability efforts and a low population density. However, like Atlanta, Denver’s increasingly crowded downtown neighborhoods sport a high ROI.

And there’s Los Angeles. While drought-ravaged, car-dependent L.A.’s citywide ROI is moderate when compared to other major global cities, localized tree-planting action is suggested in denser neighborhoods of central L.A. along with the cities of Santa Monica and Long Beach. The study concludes that an annual investment of $6.4 million in new trees in targeted neighborhoods could bring temperature-decreasing relief (a 2.7-degree Fahrenheit drop) to more than 400,000 Los Angelenos during Southern California’s sweltering summers.

Click here to view “Planting Healthy Air” in full and to see how your city stacks up on the tree-planting ROI scale compared to other cities around the globe. While most North American cities do rank on the extreme low end of the ROI scale compared to let’s say, Ho Chi Minh City, there is of course, always room for improvement. After all, a few more trees never hurt anyone.”

 

 

Repost: Sexism Sucks for Everybody, Science Confirms

Last week the Smithsonian Magazine reported on a fascinating study about sexism.  In the study researchers discovered toxicity in traditional ideas of masculinity.  It is eye-opening stuff which I hope will help you in your life and your relationships. Author: Ben Panko.

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Donald Trump is a classic example of a man who needs to feel strong and more powerful than everyone else at all times in order to feel worthwhile as a person.

“You don’t need science to tell you it sucks to be a woman in a sexist society. While American culture may have progressed since the time of Mad Men, women today inevitably still encounter those who would demean their abilities, downplay their accomplishments or treat them as sex objects. In Sweden, women can even call in to a “mansplaining hotline” to report their experiences of having things condescendingly explained to them in the workplace.

But being sexist, it turns out, also sucks for the men themselves. That’s the conclusion of a meta-analysis published today in the Journal of Counseling Psychology that aggregates the results of nearly 80 separate studies on masculine norms and mental health over 11 years. The meta-analysis, which involved almost 20,000 men in total, found that men who adhered to these norms not only harmed the women around them—they also exhibited significantly worse social functioning and psychological health.

A Parrot Thanksgiving

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December 2004. Mithril (left) and Aragorn (right) sit in my Yule tree.  That year Mithril’s hobby was throwing the collector ornaments out of the tree — especially my Princess Leia from the original Star Wars.

Way back in 2004 the following circulated on social media.  I always call it “A Parrot Thanksgiving” but its original title was “How to Stuff Your Turkey On Thanksgiving.”

Whatever you call it, this is what nearly all of us with birds experience over the holidays.
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HOW TO STUFF YOUR TURKEY ON THANKSGIVING

Ingredients:
1 Turkey
Stuffing
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Green Beans
Cranberry Sauce
Hot rolls and Butter
Relish tray
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Hot Coffee

Get up early in the morning & have a cup of coffee. It’s going to be a
long day, so place your Parrot on a perch nearby to keep you company
while you prepare the meal.

Remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

Prepare stuffing, and remove Parrot from edge of stuffing bowl and
return him to perch.

Stuff turkey & place it in the roasting pan, and remove Parrot from
edge of pan and return him to perch.

Have another cup of coffee to steady your nerves.

Remove Parrot’s head from turkey cavity and return him to perch, and
re-stuff the turkey.

Prepare relish tray, and remember to make twice as much so that you’ll
have a regular size serving after the Parrot has eaten his fill.

Remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

Prepare cranberry sauce, discard berries accidentally flung to the
floor by Parrot.

Peel potatoes, remove Parrot from edge of potato bowl and return him to perch.

Arrange sweet potatoes in a pan & cover with brown sugar & mini marshmallows.

Remove Parrot from edge of pan and return him to perch. Replace
missing marshmallows.

Brew another pot of coffee. While it is brewing, clean up the torn
filter. Pry coffee bean from Parrot beak.

Have another cup of coffee & remove Parrot from kitchen counter and
return him to perch.

When time to serve the meal: Place roasted turkey on a large platter,
and cover beak marks with strategically placed sprigs of parsley.

Put mashed potatoes into serving bowl, rewhip at last minute to
conceal beak marks and claw prints.

Place pan of sweet potatoes on sideboard, forget presentation as
there’s no way to hide the areas of missing marshmallows.

Put rolls in decorative basket, remove Parrot from side of basket and
return him to perch. Also remove beaked rolls, serve what’s left.

Set a stick of butter out on the counter to soften – think better and
return it to the refrigerator.

Wipe down counter to remove mashed potato claw tracks.

Remove Parrot from kitchen counter and return him to perch.

Cut the pie into serving slices.

Wipe whipped cream off Parrot’s beak and place large dollops of
remaining whipped cream on pie slices.

Whole slices are then served to guests, beaked-out portions should be
reserved for host & hostess.

Place Parrot inside cage & lock the door.

Sit down to a nice relaxing dinner with your family accompanied by
plaintive cries of “WANT DINNER!” from the other room.

An Easter meditation learned from cockatiels

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Ostara nest altar courtesy of Homes 4 Her. 

The egg you are laid in can either be your 1st shelter or your tomb. It takes strength to hatch, be true yourself. Most people will crack the shell just enough to stay alive in the egg. They don’t want to hatch; it’s easier to stay in the shell. But staying in the shell is ultimately fatal; a baby bird will starve to death if she does not fully hatch.

 

Until you hatch, you cannot nourish yourself with anything more than that barest amount of food that was provided for you when your egg was laid. To fly, to be the bird that you are requires you hatch. Being a baby bird is not easy. Yes you might falter and die young. But death is certain if you do not hatch.

You are you. Dare to hatch, to be fully born as the beautiful being you are. Take chances. Remember: you were meant to fly.

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