Once upon a Null Meridian

October 11, 2009

Ask any transmeridian worker such as an airline pilot, and you’ll hear how important meridians are for coordinating air travel and the like.

time zone globeOctober 13th marks the 125th anniversary of the Greenwich Meridian that runs smack dab through the lens of London’s Observatory telescope in its Greenwich quarter. The world was then divided into 24 time zones in 60 minute increments. At the time, twenty-six countries reached a mutual agreement on the world’s y-axis. The equator, having always been the x-axis of the planet, now had a perpendicular companion. Nations such as Afghanistan still tend to use their own personalized understanding of time accounting. But nonetheless, the world’s commerce relies greatly on this agreement the folks in DC at the International Meridian Conference agreed upon that autumnal day in 1884. Oh sure, there were minor adjustments with a redefintion of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) called Universal Time, then again in 1972 with UTC  (Universal Time Coordinated) based on atomic clocks that reset in case you goof up the settings. You can get them at any store these days. Much to our chagrin, our children tend to set them at odd hours. The other day the alarm went off at 5 am…

The history of time, along with our collective agreement about what time is, is an interesting one. Happy Birthday, GMT. We transmeridian travelers promise not to hold jetlag against you.

When E-mail kills…

October 7, 2009

My dear friend Guy sent me a link to a story on InternetNews the other day. It addressed the spate of suicides and suicide attempts at France Telecom (a key brand of Orange) in the last year (22 with 13 attempts).  The CFO of the company, Gervais Pellissier, admitted that 24/7 connectivity, thanks to contemporary hand-held devices, has increased employee stress levels exponentially. The very telecommunications industry that spawned our hyperconnectivity is the very one to meet its own demise.

“When you were an average employee in a big corporation 15 years ago, you had no mobile phone or no PC at home. When you were back home, work was out,” he said.

orangeWork was out. Done. Finished. And now people are finishing themselves off as they realize twenty-four hours a day is not enough. Somewhere along the line, people forgot that every business is comprised of people, not just machines.

I claim we have an abundance of time, but we need the heads of corporations, such as France Telecom, to realize there is also a limit to our availability. Just because I have 24 hours a day doesn’t mean the company owns it all.

Ironically, France has the most vacation days in the world. Yet people are ill-equipped to handle the expectations our 24/7 world has placed upon them. We need to return to a state of civility and normalcy in which our time-off is our own.

Just because we can answer the phone at midnight doesn’t mean we have to. I plead for more sanity in our workplace.

Enough is enough.

Slow Mom Movement

October 6, 2009

Kiwi magazine and I had a chat recently about living the slow life. Perhaps indicative of the topic, my phone didn’t work the day we were to have the moms meetphone interview so we had to reschedule for the following day. Embracing the slow, I realized there are many ways to connect with people. Luckily, my email was still working so the writer and I were able to remain in communication despite external circumstances.

The Slow movement is gaining a strong foothold in our society as people realize their current pace is not sustainable. At one point we all give out if we don’t rest and take time for self-care.

As the seasons change (for the Northern Hemisphere, things are turning colder), we need to be reminded to:

1) Breathe.

2) See the big picture.

3) Laugh. A lot!

4) Allow for tears and periods of mourning.

5) Accept ourselves for who we truly are.

Let us remember what is  important. And what is not. It’s not winning the soccer game or getting a perfect score that matters. It is the process of becoming we must cherish most. Slow Moms unite!

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, author of the fabulous Why Don’t You Understand: A Gender Relationship Dictionary, was kind enough to allow me to reprint this article I wrote originally for her blog. If you have a hard time saying ‘no’, listen up. It’s your turn now.

The Art of Slow ~ Just Say ‚No‘!

(c) 2009  Christine Louise Hohlbaum

This is a call for mindful living. Now, more than ever, we need to utilize the tiniest complete sentence the English language has to offer, the reverse of which refers to what you will always be if you do not heed its calling. With a little practice, the simplest, most powerful utterance in our fabulous system of words can be yours. Are you ready? Say it with me now.


If you refuse to occasionally shout out this word, this wholly gorgeous statement, you will be ‘on’ more than you’d like. Trust me. If you’ve ever agreed to organize that two-hour bake sale that took ninety days to arrange, you’ll understand.

As the holidays approach, many of us forget that word, as if we are toddlers all over again, learning the power of ‘no’ to get Mommy mad. During our evolution as human beings, ‘no’ somehow becomes a bad word, along with death and taxes.

But I am here to tell you there are ways to say no and still remain friends. I dedicate a whole chapter to the principles of saying ‘no’ with kindness in The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World. In three simple steps, freedom can be yours.

  1. Acknowledge. If someone asks you to do something, it is because they have faith you can do it or they like you enough to want to spend their time with you. If spearheading a new project or attending that party makes your heart sink instead of sing, acknowledge the person’s thoughtfulness for having considered you.
  2. Express gratitude and interest. Thank the person for their invitation, then show interest in their efforts.
  3. Decline. Once you have acknowledged the person’s request and expressed your gratitude for their consideration, politely decline with a few simple words. If ‘no’ itself is too hard, you can say you have an overlapping commitment.

It may sound like a lengthy process, but the entire thing can be handled in a few sentences. “It sounds like a wonderful opportunity that I am going to miss. Do keep me posted on your progress!” Saying ‘no’ is a lot like flossing. You may not notice an immediate impact, but, over time, you will appreciate the difference it can make in your life.

Still having a hard time pushing those two letters through your teeth and into the air before you? Remember this: saying ‘no’ to someone else is saying ‘yes’ to yourself. It is your personal bank account of time. How you spend it is entirely up to you!

Time Flow

October 5, 2009

Having children gives you a new perspective on time and how we manage the things we do within the time we have.

Just when you’re about to sit down with that well-deserved cup of tea, the phone rings. It’s the school secretary. Yup. Your kid has a tummy ache. Again. How fast can you get here?

Or you’re trying to capture that elusive thought on paper. You know. The nutellaone that’s dancing the tango in your mind? Suddenly, one of your offspring bursts through the door with the latest drama. You wave the thought good-bye (and you swear it snickers as it departs) as you turn your attention to your child.

The immediacy of children is not something you prepare for. It simply is. And you deal with it as best you can.

So when my casting agency suggested I vie for a TV commercial for Ferrero Rocher (they make Nutella, too), I welcomed the chance to move outside the four walls of my home office to a place of more regulated insanity. A TV studio versus homework woes? I’m there. At least for a time.

Then the school sent home one of its infamous memos  that are always last-minute. Can you make it to the parent-teacher conference in two days? Umm… Tuesday?

Hmmmm…I was supposed to be tasting chocolate on screen at that time…my husband could go, but then the kids would be home alone. The babysitter might have time…before I got too detailed in my thinking, I decided to give it up to the Time Gods. They knew how to handle it. I sat back and waited.

Then the casting agency called back to confirm my bid was rejected. I was free to sit on little chairs on Tuesday evening and listen to the teachers wax poetic (or not) about my kid.

Time flow is not something you control. What you can do is buoy down its river, splash in the pond of possibility, and watch your life unfold.

Just as it should.

Every time.

Bill was a smart guy.

“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” – William Shakespeareturtle2

And remember who won the Aesopean race, folks.

Weekend. We’re almost there.


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