Thursday, February 28, 2013


Really - it was fancier than this!
I don't think it is as simple as envy.  That suggests that I want what someone else has and maybe that's a small component of the feeling.  Wistfulness is a part of it.  Missing what I once had, even if it was less grand. Sheepishness or something  that's short of embarrassment is there, too.

These were my feelings last night when I walked into the home of a book club member.  A home designed and decorated in a style nothing like mine but in such an obviously expensive, no holds barred extravaganza of molding and cabinetry and designer excess that I was a bit awestruck. 

Since we host the club meetings on a rotating basis and we now have 20 members (!) I may end up moving before it is my turn.  If not, I have no idea where I will put them all.  My little house was overflowing when we had 10 members. It isn't like I am the only member with a small home. One member regularly hosts in a restaurant rather than try to make the logistics work and I could do that.

Part of my chagrin is that we rent and the home has not been well maintained by the owners before  we moved in or since.  At the very least it needs paint and it's long overdue for  a lot of updating and repairs beyond what Tom is willing to do out of our pockets - because we have already done quite a bit of that. So these things are not in my control.  I don't want to go around making excuses for the "substandard" place in which we live but it is always in my mind when people are over.

The wistfulness comes because we had really nice homes in the past.  Not only spacious, but nicely decorated and maintained.  We have never had high end interior designer budgets, but then again, I don't really have a taste for a lot of frou-frau and embellishments.  (Twice I have visited the houses we sold after the new owners poured a lot of money into them and for the most part, I think they were nicer before all the moldings and granite inlays and such were added!)

I enjoyed my nice homes when we had them and was aware of how fortunate we were.

I was willing to give up our last house for the little rental because it was in support of Tom pursuing his dream of a law practice. And 10 years later I am feeling, well, tired. 

Maybe what it boils down to is loss. I don't see an end to our financial stresses.  I don't see a time when we could own our own home again and have the ability to paint and choose window coverings and light fixtures and all those silly things that I feel so shallow just writing about but still somehow have a hold on me.

So I guess the feeling isn't envy - I don't want what my book club member has. I want to have something that is my own again.

Monday, February 25, 2013


It is time for Time Warp Tuesday again - hosted by Jenn, we all post photos from our homes and tell the stories behind them!  Check in with Jenn to see who is participating this week!

This is a professional photo that I had made as a Father's Day gift for Tom.  He loved black & white photos in silver frames - so that is what he got!  I had not planned to be on the photo, but the twins were not doing well with the whole process, so I joined in to stop the melt down.

Friday, February 22, 2013


1.)  Each morning for the past week I have crossed paths with the same car.  The driver I could not ID, but the passinger is a very large white poodle sitting in the front seat, strapped in and looking forward through the windshield.  The dog is very poised, sitting still and appears to be quite engaged in the road ahead.  Each day it puts a smile on my face.

2.)  Our experiment with Tom working from home is coming to an end.  We are packing his home office and moving him back into the very space he vacated in our little downtown.  I think it was a combination of the noise of a neighborhood full of families, young kids and all the coming and going and also the tedium of being in one place all day, not getting dressed and leaving in the morning, going out for coffee or lunch, etc..  I can relate.  Most of us who spent years at home with kids can relate!

3.)  We have not managed to see all of the Oscar nominated films but I got Beasts of the Southern Wild from Netflix and I hope to watch on Saturday.  We thought we had managed to miss seeing Lincoln in the theater, but it is coming to the local "art house" in another week or so and we will go see it post Oscars.

We really enjoyed Argo but have misgivings about seeing Zero Dark Thirty due to the political/torture misrepresentations in the film. Of course, there were apparently some historical inaccuracies in Argo and in Lincoln, too...The trailer for Amour was so depressing there is no way I want to see that one.  I love Silver Linings Playbook but it doesn't strike me as a Best Picture kind of movie.  And Life of Pi was all about the special effects and will sweep those awards, I am sure, but not a serious contender for the big prize.  I have mentioned that I thought Les Mis was ok, but Anne Hathaway's moment was the best part of the movie and I hope she wins.

The red carpet starts at 2pm here in CA - I am looking forward to it.

4.)  A week or so ago Zac called because he realized he had been bitten by a tick - in fact he extracted it whole and still alive from his posterior!  He researched and found a lab to send it to for Lyme disease testing.  I encouraged him (by giving him my credit card) to send it in so we could know if the tick was infected.  Today he called and the tick was not infected so the inspections of the bite area can be suspended and we can all breath easily knowing this won't pop up as a problem down the road. At least I hope I can stop worrying about it...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


First off - somehow I didn't realize that Sunday night's episode was the season finale, second I had heard at some point that Dan Stevens wanted off the show.  So last night when I was watching my recording, and I saw him speeding down the country road, giddy with happiness, I said "Oh no!" so loud that it brought my husband into the room. 

I read a few reviews and blogs on the subject of how the writers handled this season and I disagree with the idea that Matthew could not possibly be taken over by another actor.  I never found Dan Stevens appealing.  I liked the character of Matthew, but the actor playing him, not so much.  For me placing a new man in the role would have been just fine. 

However, and maybe this is because of the way the writers handled the season leading up to the crash; what would his character done with himself going forward?  Would being a gushing dad and having Robert on board with the modernisation of Downton been enough?  There could have been some drama if he insisted in going out to work as a lawyer again.  Perhaps the exit - though really too much on top of Sybil's death, was the best way to move the story forward.

I can't say I am all that interested in Rose entering the picture, though I think seeing her home life makes her more sympathetic. It does appear that they were setting up O'Brien to take off with Shrimpy and Susan to India, but other than that downstairs isn't geared up to be all that interesting, either. They say that the producers are casting a new romantic partner for Mary, so it looks like we are in for a leap to the future...

I guess we just have to wait until January to see if the storytelling improves - and to see what the Dowager has to say next.

Monday, February 18, 2013


It's Tuesday again - time for the Time Warp sponsored by Jenn.  Each week we post a favorite family photo and tell the story behind it...

I love this picture of my twins taking a nap together because (1) it shows how close they still are as adults and (2) it always reminds me of when I was pregnant with them. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


1.)  I am struggling mightily with my job.  I am working hard at maintaining the ability to go  and spend all day there and not come unhinged or any more unhappy than I am feeling right now. 

To that end I am making an effort to move get out of working - or at least working in yet another job that has little meaning for me and no financial rewards other than offering health insurance.  I have found a business I can start now, part time and have hopes to build it up to the point that I can quit my job and then continue to build it to the point that is is paying for insurance and the extras I would like to have in my life.

I have, as they say in this enterprise, partnered with Rodan+Fields Dermatologists.  R+F are the doctors who created ProActive and their skin care lines are sold by independent consultants like myself.  I have been using the products for several weeks and I am impressed by them.  (I will post some before and after photos soon.) I have been attending training sessions, using their online coaching and marketing tools and this weekend I will host my Business Launch.

Pretty excited.  Except that of the 30 people I invited and asked to RSVP only 4 have responded (all no.)  So what do I do now?  Lay in food and set up chairs for 20 people who may or may not show up?  I guess so - and start planning the next event...

2.)  I was reading about these websites where men are encouraged to post naked photos of their exes and post their personal information.  They are called revenge porn sites.  The creeps who create the websites remain anonymous and think that any woman who poses naked deserves to be publicly humiliated.

With all the horrible things I read and hear about on the internet, for all the jerks who post mean and hateful things,  the trading of child pornography, the easy spreading of misinformation - at east there is also so much incredible creativity, sharing of ideas and information which is useful and helpful.  So much humor and delight in learning about how others live their lives.  Friendships formed and bonds remaining intact. People being able to ask for help and receiving it.

3.)  Did you see the photos people posted after Valentines day showing the flowers they ordered and the flowers they received?  Totally reinforces why I always call a local florist when I am sending flowers to people out of town!

Tom gave me a huge bunch of red tulips from Trader Joes which are beautiful!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


At work I get a lot of newsletters and industry related forum stuff.  Many times there are opinion pieces by business owners and consultants. 

This week there was one about long term customers versus new customers.  I occasionally wonder if I am the only consumer who is offended by the  deals "new customers" can get that are so much better than what I can get as a long term customer, so this article caught my eye.

What if loyal, long-term customers requested their bills to be reduced by the amount being charged to offset the “free” offers made to new customers? How quickly things might change.

Free offers frequently start small. But innocent, complimentary offers often accelerate into awarding outrageous commissions, “finder’s fees,” travel junkets, fishing trips or outright kick-backs to people who refer work to us.

Okay - not exactly where I was expecting this discussion to go - what happened to the customer?  Why are we back to talking about the woes of the business owner?  It goes on:

A freebie mentality doesn’t involve only introductory offers to potential customers. It involves the people who work for our company, too. Are “free” health benefits and other “perks” really free? What about the automatic pay increases expected year after year. Who pays for that?

Business owners aren’t exempt from this freebie mentality, either. How often is the company check book used as a piggy bank for the owner’s personal purchases (some of which can be pretty grand) that bring no value to either the company or its customers?

Too often, these “perks” are viewed as entitlements of business ownership, rationalized by all the hard work and financial risk the owner takes in building his business. Somehow the concept of “someone always pays” gets overlooked.

I’m always intrigued when someone comments about a business owner’s ability to “write off” legitimate business trips, charitable donations or other business purchases. The underlying message is that these things are free.

Okay - so the customer has sort of been left out of this conversation in a direct way, but I understand that the writer is speaking to the "big picture."

As an employee of 3 different small companies in the past 10 years, I can testify that there is not simply one mindset driving the way business is conducted. With regard to employees and expenses, this is my experience.

I worked for a billionaire who didn't pay employees much above minimum wage, who didn't give annual raises (employees went for 4-5 years with no raise when I was there), who only paid the minimum 25% of the employee's health care premium and who gave a $50.00 Target gift card at Christmas.  They offered 3 paid sick days, we could earn paid time off and there was a bump if you worked a holiday. He did not mingle his personal expenses with the business.  However, he gave comps to friends and family, and used the services at no expense to himself for very long periods of time, making those services unavailable for paying customers.

I worked for a woman who was the sole support of her family (her husband was the "stay at home").  I got raises at least once a year, she paid the entire employee premium, we had paid holidays and vacation plus she paid for the week we were closed at the end of the year. She also gave year end bonuses which were tied to the profit of the company - very generous. I wasn't privy to all the bookkeeping but it did not appear that she ran any of her personal expenses through the company.

Now I am working for an owner who likes to think of himself as generous.  He pays slightly above average and I did get a promised raise during my first year. We get no paid time off - no sick days, no paid holidays, no holiday pay, no paid vacation.  He does pay 75% of the employee health premium. Every so often he will hand out a $100.00 bill. 

He likes to complain about how he can't afford to do this and that but as time has gone on I see and hear a lot which says otherwise.  He runs most of his personal expenses through the business.  He writes off his personal travel, for example, trips to Hawaii, Mexico and Las Vegas by "visiting a local businessman while he is there".  He writes off his clothes as "uniforms." All his and his wife's car expenses, entertainment, even their home utilities are paid by the business.

Does that make it "free" to him?  No.  It is his business and what remains as profit at the end of the year before or after expenses is his. However, if covering personal expenses makes it impossible to cover the needs of the business or offering a few days of sick pay, then it goes beyond being all about his paycheck.

We all pay for the business decisions being made.  As President Obama said in his State of the Union Address - if we raise the minimum wage then those workers will have more money to spend on goods and services. Bringing manufacturing back from overseas may cost a company more, but it will, in turn, benefit the whole of the economy.  Each decision has ripples - for good or for bad.

Employees who work without the basics of compensation and care become resentful employees;  probably not as effective and loyal as those who feel valued by their employer.  Customers who feel second best to the "potential" customer are likely to take their business elsewhere or just stop using that kind of service. 

As a customer and an employee - I feel the pinch on both sides.  I know that nothing is free.  My employer has the right to decide what is important to him when offering employee compensation.  I have to decide if my loyalty is being rewarded by the businesses I patronize and by my employer's business I put so much time and energy into.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


So this morning I totally broke my resolution for the new year and used the phrase "sure as hell" when speaking to an insurance company rep.  When she reacted by saying she preferred that I not use profanity I asked to speak with a grown up.  Yeah - not much of a love ninja today.

After I concluded my business (I am thinking after 30 years with my insurance carrier that it may be time to make a switch.) I recalled reading about this on the Scientific American website:

An almond-shaped structure in the center of the brain called the amygdala is a hub for emotional responses. When it’s in high gear, feelings tend to rule the neural roost, blocking the ability to rationally consider the best course of action. Ideally, we would all pause long enough for rational thought to take over—say, after someone cuts us off on the road or criticizes our efforts at work or at home. Some educators believe that such a skill should be taught to everyone at a very young age.

A curriculum called MindUP conceived by actor Goldie Hawn includes an activity called the "amygdala shake-up" designed to help children understand the need for this sort of patience. For this activity, a teacher creates a crude model of the amygdala from a soda bottle filled with water, sand and glitter. Then, in front of the class (or a single student), she turns over the bottle and shakes up its contents to show what happens when a person gets stressed or upset. Once the glitter and sand are mixed, she rights the bottle and waits for the sand and glitter to settle, explaining that the wait represents the time it takes the amygdala to calm down enough so that a person can make a good choice.

What an excellent thing to teach kids!  I like the glitter image, too.  It reminds me of that idea of "seeing red."

I also read this great post by a teacher who teaches mindfulness in her classroom.  She writes about the connection between the amygdala and bullying.

 I need to remember to take that deep breath first, BEFORE I react…instead of after when I am trying to calm myself down.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


1.)  Turns out those cigarette butts tossed out on the street may contribute something good.

Birds tend to like aromatic things to be woven into their nests and scientists have found that, in addition to plants, the plastic fibers of cigarette butts which contain nicotine not only smell they way birds prefer, but may help protect the birds and their offspring.  Conjecture is that the nicotine (tobacco plants generate nicotine because it defends against insects and their larvae) acts as an insecticide, driving parasites away from the nests.  More on this story can be found here.

2.)  A new government-funded report confirms what advocacy groups have been warning for years: The number of people in the US with Alzheimer's disease will almost triple by 2050, straining the health care system.  The main risk for Alzheimer's is age.

Alzheimer's is the only disease among the top six killers in this country for which there is no prevention, cure or treatment.  Despite popular notions; doing brain puzzles, exercising, and eating a Mediterranean diet do not appear to stave off Alzheimer's

"We've had great success in this country when we've decided to focus on a condition,'' Jennifer Weuve, assistant professor of medicine at Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago says. "We've done it with good research in heart disease, cancer and HIV, but we are in our infancy when it comes to Alzheimer's research."

3.)  I have no problem with the Post Office stopping Saturday mail deliveries to save about 12 billion dollars a year.  I would prefer that they charge more for junk mail which would hopefully cut down on all the trash I get every week - but that's not on the table. 

A lot of people say that e-mail and the internet are behind the financial problems of the USPS, but I kept seeing language about government interference and so I searched behind the headlines to understand what it is that Congress has been up to which has caused the money problems and found this on the Crooks & Liars website:

The problem lies elsewhere: the 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade, an obligation no other public agency or private firm faces. The roughly $5.5 billion annual payments since 2007 — $21 billion total — are the difference between a positive and negative ledger.

Why would the Republican-controlled Congress pass such an absurd requirement? Why, it's almost as if they were trying to put the Postal Service out of business!

Well, it's really a twofer. First, they want to break up the federal unions. And second, they want to privatize the post office and give those plum contracts to their good buddies at FedEx and UPS.

Yep, that sounds like our Congress.

4.)  Starting the weekend off with a date night at the gym and then out to dinner!  Hope it is a great weekend for everyone!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Make it a man in the tub and you've got the picture.
Valentine's Day is coming up. I work pretty hard to find a nice card for my husband because he is sentimental and takes them to heart. Beyond that - he is like most men in his disdain for the "holiday" and we rarely do anything special. I usually plan a nice dinner and maybe get him some good chocolate. Sometimes he gets flowers or something, most years not.

The Huffington Post ran a column by a sex therapist about men's expectations of sex (which equals romance in many of their brains) and how it just turns Valentine's Day into yet another occasion for the wife to give and do for him.

...women are working harder than men. Most are still being paid less for their work outside the home. They are likely to be shouldering more of the burden of household and child rearing responsibilities than men. Women in the workplace continue to face sexism, spoken and unspoken. They are often exhausted by the expenditure of energy trying to combat the sexism they face without appearing petty or bitchy. Their work day is almost never over when they arrive back in their homes. Adding insult to injury, Valentine's Day becomes an opportunity for men, in the guise of romance, to obligate their wives to sex when what their wives really want is time to relax, sleep, and have their houses cleaned by someone else. Therefore, for so many women their understanding of Valentine's Day sex is just one more task that she is expected to perform.

I admit that statement struck a few nerves.  At work I am stuck with these guys who think it is so clever to make sex related remarks and so funny to be crude.  It gets old and it is exhausting to "play along."

Also, even though my husband moved his office into our house and has a lot of free time during most days to go to the gym or out for a bike ride, to watch TV and surf the net - he does NO household chores.  NONE.  His lunch plate is sitting next to the sink when I get home.  The trash will spill out onto the floor and he will not carry it out to the cans. He will call me at work to tell me we are out of milk.

Meantime, I leave the house at 8am and walk back in the door at about 5:20 (If I don't stop for a quick workout; then it's 6:30). I go straight to the kitchen to start dinner, cook, clean up after dinner and do whatever other household things need to be done and rarely sit down before 8pm to whatever leisure I might pursue before I head to bed at 10. The weekend is taken up with cleaning, shopping and laundry.

I don't think it's the sex that most women mind - it is the lack of thoughtfulness about the realities of our lives.  No matter how many times or how many ways I have suggested that pitching in or taking over some chore would improve things, I get blow back.  And believe me, I am not a nag.  I think in the past 9 years since I started working outside the home, I have mentioned the subject  5-6 times. 

I am thrilled to say my son is not like his dad in this respect. He has learned to cook (his girlfriend doesn't like to cook but she likes to do dishes.) He cleans up, he does laundry. I am very proud of his attitude about these things.

I don't think my spouse is different from most men.  He doesn't see things as "women's work" he just doesn't see things.  He claims he doesn't do housework because I somehow won't accept how he does it... I think that excuse is tossed around in locker rooms across the country.  He has admitted to doing some things in a half hearted way in order to make it seem like he is incompetent and so I won't prevail upon him to do it again...sigh.  What makes it worse is his huge resistance to having a cleaning service in.  For me it's the best, most desirable gift I can currently imagine.  To him it is a huge waste of money. 

So I say to any man who might stumble across this post - even if you don't get it.  Even if it doesn't seem romantic.  Skip the flowers and hire a cleaning service.  You might just get a memorable night out of it.

Monday, February 4, 2013


This is Time Warp Tuesdays - sponsored by Jenn at Juggling Life!  Each week we post a photograph which we display in our home and give the back story.  Checkout all the posts at Jenn's.

This is our Hilda.  We had to put her to sleep last May shortly after her 14th birthday.  I love this photo taken just a couple of months before she died.  We took her to the beach.  She was usually camera shy but on this occasion she walked right up to the camera and snap - we finally got  a great photo.

I miss her very much.