Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kris Kringle is Not My Friend

Every family has a different way of handling the exchanging of gifts at the holidays. Some families don't lay down any ground rules and some families do. I think it has a lot to do with the size of your family and its composition (kids vs adults). Sometimes it has to do with the family's economic composition as well. Whatever the reason, the underlying politics of the holiday gift exchange has always befuddled and flustered me.

I was always an advocate for having absolutely no rules governing the holiday gift exchange. (But then again, I am usually an advocate of less legislation & meddling from Big Brother - infer what you want). Each of us should be able to buy whatever we want for whomever we want. The problem with this has been the disparity in the value of the gifts exchanged (which I think is a dumb reason because I don't really want anyone to buy me anything) and the inevitable issue of buying presents for people for no other reason but guilt (Been there. Done that). For me though, the ultimate idea is to just forgo a gift exchange amongst the adults altogether - didn't think I'd ever see my family agree to that though.

My side of the family has been employing the Kris Kringle/Secret Santa method for the last decade or so. They each draw a name at Thanksgiving and have to buy that one person a present of a value no greater than $X to be opened on Christmas Eve. I say “they” because I have been exempted from the Kris Kringle for this whole time - well almost this whole time. I did it once and I don't want to ever do that again. (My husband & I have been on the free-for-all plan on the side ever since then.)

Regardless of whether Kris Kringle rules are being employed or whether there has been serious protesting on my part, my mother, sister and aunt & uncle will not be able to restrain themselves from buying my husband & me presents. They just can't. It's like a sickness. Even worse, there are only 9 adults on this side of my family. If you take the Kris Kringle cheaters I just mentioned, add my brother-in-law, my husband and me, that's 7 out of 9 people involved in this cheating. In all seriousness, regardless of the Kris Kringle assignment, my mother ends up buying presents for everyone. As I know they are going to cheat and buy my husband and me presents, I buy presents for them as well. What is the point of having a Kris Kringle again?

This year, the family has agreed to completely forego presents for adults and only buy presents for the kids. This was the agreement made on Thanksgiving Day. When I heard this, I was ecstatic. That's serious progress! After some time though, it became apparent to me that certain people (the usual suspects) were going to cheat again and buy presents for certain adults (including me). Ugh!

I love my family, but this is ridiculous. I've repeatedly told them that we don't want any presents. Nobody listens. My family has always been ridiculously generous with each other. We seriously fight for the bills when we all go out for meals together. Seriously. We're always picking up thoughtful things for one another for no reason at all. We're always going out of our way for each other and are always generous with our time when we can be. Since we do these things for each other all year long, remind me again why we need to exchange Christmas presents? This year we've agreed not to do that - but I've already personally witnessed a present being purchased outside of this agreement.

I still haven't figured out what my husband and I are going to do for the family this year. We've agreed not to buy anything for any of the adults, but they all agreed to the same thing and are obviously going to cheat. Why does holiday gift-giving have to be so darned convoluted in my family? If the “no gift” method fails this year, I'm suggesting the free-for-all for everyone next year. If the worst thing that happens is that you buy an extra present for someone you're not exactly close to or you feel bad that someone spent way too much on you, it'll be better than all of the crap that goes on while designing some gift-exchange scheme that nobody adheres to anyway. We'll see how this holiday goes and if the family restrains their gift giving gene. My hopes aren't high.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another Birthday. Yay!

I've been blessed with yet another birthday to add onto the big pile of birthdays that I have already accumulated. I think the years are flying by faster and faster these days. I think about how long summers lasted when I was a little girl in elementary school and how much my friends and I changed in that span of three months. These days, there really aren't any dramatic changes in appearance over the course of a season and there never seems to be enough time for everything. Blink today and it'll be New Year's Eve when you open your eyes. It's obviously not that bad, but when it IS New Year's Eve, and I look back on my birthday, I'm sure it'll seem like it just happened. I will be ridiculously grateful for any extra birthdays that I get to add onto my birthday pile.

I say, “Pile 'em on - just not too quickly.” I don't have any problem with aging, I'm just not in a big rush to do it. I've had a very full year this year and so I shall judge this past year as a success. Heck, if I haven't maimed or killed myself of anyone else, I'd probably judge a year as a success just for surviving - so I guess this past year was a smashing success.

The thing about having your birthday at this time of year is that it inevitably falls during the week of Thanksgiving. I get all sappy and nostalgic and grateful. This post is just going to be about me - sorry. So if you're reading this and you'd like to be spared the sap, bow out now - I totally understand.

Last year, at this time, I was worried about my aunt who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was flying home to Chicago to accompany her to chemotherapy every other week. I did that because I didn't want her to go alone and because it was obvious to me that if I didn't, other family members would have done it, but would have encountered a greater hardship in doing it than I did. Today, I am happy to report that she looks wonderful and is back to her old self.

At the same time both my husband's parents and my mother were looking to move into new condominiums in Chicago. I am handling all of that for them - from Boston. While we didn't have to do much customization for one of the units, the second unit was a huge interior design project. The airlines just loved me last winter. The first condo is available for a move-in this January. I think I'll be celebrating each of those closings pretty hard. Let's just say that I hope none of them ever wants to move again.

This year I was also fortunate to have stumbled upon a wonderful community at Twitter and to have met some of the most interesting and caring people as a result. I am definitely thankful to have made their acquaintances. They have brought a smile to my face on more days than not since I joined in late August and have been quite a source of inspiration and encouragement. This is my first “social media” birthday and from the moment I woke up this morning, I was encountering warm birthday greetings from the friends that I have made. Each one has been very special to me.

I have thoroughly enjoyed most of this last year. I say “most” because, as in most years, something horrible befalls someone around us whom we love. This year was no exception. All I know about those times is that I am grateful to have been able to provide some ongoing support to those affected.

My family gets upset with me for not ever wanting anything for my birthday. In fact, I always specifically ask them to not give me anything for my birthday. They say I'm not any fun (and usually ignore my requests). I say I'm saving them all the trouble of worrying about finding something for me. If they wish me a happy day, I am more than happy. I am so thankful to add another year to my growing pile of years here. I am also so very thankful to have been able to share my years with such wonderful people. I have the best husband, an awesome pup, great friends and family. I'm still generally healthy, travel a lot and am not wanting for much of anything. What more could a girl really want? Just more birthdays to throw onto my pile and more birthdays for the piles of my friends and family too. Thank you all - you know who you are.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

As my husband and I live just outside of Boston now and our families live in Chicago, we find ourselves back with our families in Chicago for the long Thanksgiving weekend more times than not these days. So, to us, the Thanksgiving festivities seem to last for our entire stay - which usually spans from Wednesday to Sunday, as it does this year. As tiring as it always is and as horrible as it is for our waistlines and cholesterol levels, we are so very grateful to our families for always being there for us and always wanting to make our stays in town enjoyable.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Easy Thanksgiving Travels

This year, in addition to the several things for which I am thankful, I get to add a safe and easy trip from our home in Massachusetts to my mother's house in Chicago for my husband, our dog and me. News and weather reports would have had you think that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was going to be a fiasco, but as it turned out, for us, it was smooth sailing all the way.

The New York Times printed an article today called “Fearing Worst, Air Travelers Find Smooth Going” that summed up our experience fairly well.

We did allow ourselves extra time as holiday travels in the past for us have been difficult. In addition, we were traveling with our dog, Sam, in the airplane cabin with us. When you travel with your pet, you are not able to check in electronically at the airport or over the Internet. You physically have to stand in line so the ticket agents can see that your pet is healthy and within the airline's size guidelines. You also have to pay the airline the related fee to bring your pet onboard with you. (In our case, it costs us $80 each way to bring Sam on any domestic flight in the contiguous U.S. on American Airlines.)

When we arrived at Boston's Logan Airport on Wednesday morning, there were either very short lines or no lines at all greeting us. We were the only people standing in the status line (Gold, Platinum, Executive Platinum, Business, First). The regular coach line consisted of 5 people waiting. The ticket agent said that the flights were all pretty full - over 90% in most cases - but that the lines hadn't been bad at all. The security line was a breeze as well - even with the dog in tow. There was a longer line at the airport McDonald's for breakfast than there was for security. Everyone was in a really good mood as well. Even though Sam was on her travel drug of choice (acepromazine) she was still into meeting and greeting the various people working to get us to Chicago yesterday.

We fly a lot and we usually fly American Airlines. Not a month goes by that one or both of us does not have to go through Boston's Logan International Airport. That being said, our experience yesterday has to rank near the very top of the pre-flight experiences at that airport for either of us. Certainly for travels with Sam, it may very well have been the best pre-flight she's ever had.

In addition, we had a great flight. We had an on-time departure - a real one. After the leaving the gate, we didn't go and park on the tarmac somewhere for a while. We taxied to the runway and were 2nd in line for take-off. We actually landed 11 minutes early. The pilot had been thinking we were going to land 20 minutes early, but there were more planes in the queue at Chicago's O'Hare than he'd thought. I certainly wasn't disappointed.

So I am thankful to all of the people that made sure that we and many other people like us had a safe and good travel experience yesterday. I wish all Americans everywhere a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First Snow & Traffic

Mobile post sent by Hooeyspewer using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Thanks, Nordstrom

While shopping yesterday, I noticed this sign in the window of the newly opened Nordstrom store at the Natick Collection in Massachusetts - and it actually made me smile. It wasn't there last week, as there were the usual mannequins in the window then. They are apparently preparing their holiday window decor behind this sign, but won't be unveiling it until the Friday after Thanksgiving. I thought it was very refreshing to see a retailer not just blow by Thanksgiving and take us into the December holidays as soon as Halloween was over. So, for that, Thanks, Nordstrom.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Macy's = The Borg

Today's Chicago Tribune carried an article entitled “Macy's Motivated to Matter” by Sandra M. Jones. The article is basically about the takeover by Macy's of Marshall Field's (by way of May Department Stores) and the three year plan Macy's has to reinvigorate the struggling State Steet flagship store. The article quotes Macy's North Chairman Frank Guzzetta and describes his ideas on the turnaround process he envisions. Now, when Macy's went ahead and cavalierly turned all of the Marshall Field's stores into Macy's stores, they lost me and very many other customers.

This isn't new for Macy's - the idea of just taking regional stores and turning them into Macy's stores. Two of the larger stores that Macy's absorbed into itself besides Marshall Field's were Jordan Marsh and Filene's, both of New England. I know a lot of people in the Boston area that are still more than a little steamed about the loss of these stores. Macy's is like the Borg of Star Trek lore - the great assimilators - and the villain (from the point of view of any non-Borg).

Frankly, the only way I see myself ever walking into a former Marshall Field's store again is for the know-it-alls at Macy's Inc. to bring back not only the name “Marshall Field's” to these stores, but to bring back the product lines that Marshall Field's carried as well. I'm all for change and for re-invention, but the idea of taking a Marshall Field's store and turning it into a Macy's is a GIGANTIC step in the wrong direction.

Here's the quote from the article that just made me ill:
“Now, instead of convincing shoppers that Macy's isn't all that different from the more upmarket Field's, the company is embracing the difference as a way to attract new customers.

“The focus of this building was on the Marshall Field's customer,“ Guzzetta said during an interview as he walked through the State Street store. “There are a lot of people who never shopped in Field's. There was a vision of what Marshall Field's was and they felt it wasn't the store for them.“
Is this guy totally joking? Living in Chicago for the first 28 years of my life, I did not know anybody who didn't shop at Marshall Field's for one thing or another. Seriously. I wasn't rich and neither were my friends. Marshall Field's wasn't like Neiman Marcus or even like Bloomingdale's. It was the store where every couple kept their bridal registry and where you could be close to assured to find a present for everyone on your gift lists. My family and I shopped at that store for as long as I've been alive. My christening dress came from Marshall Field's. My prom dresses came from Marshall Field's. My sister bought her couture wedding gown there at the State Street store and would go to the Walnut Room to eat after every fitting. Countless things were purchased there including the furniture for my loft in Lakeview. The same goes for lots of other folks I know.

Mr. Guzzetta seems to be saying that he wants the old Marshall Field's to attract new customers - the ones who never shopped at Marshall Field's previously. Well, yeah - the old customers of Marshall Field's are very aware of the ridiculous step down in merchandising, quality and service since the transition to Macy's. He's going to have to find some new customers to buy his crap. Most friends of mine in Chicago have moved on to Nordstrom as their preferred store. Only problem is that Nordstrom doesn't carry things like housewares and furniture - but there are other stores for that as well.

The folks at Macy's Inc. didn't take into consideration the fact that there was a lot of value in the green Marshall Field's box. I've lived in the Boston area for a decade and I avoided shopping at Macy's even before I had this beef with them. I used to wait until I flew to Chicago to do my shopping at Marshall Field's and Nordstrom. It's just not a good experience to shop at Macy's. (Thank goodness a Nordstrom finally appeared in Massachusetts!) Marshall Field's was a different story. When you gave somebody a present and it came in a green Marshall Field's box (or the old white ones with the gold scroll logo) it “said” something to that person. It said that you cared and that you went to a great store to find them something. There was something intrinsic to the Marshall Field's name and it counted for a lot with its loyal customers. Macy's? Definitely not the same perception. Definitely not the same store. Definitely not where any of my dollars are going this holiday season or any ordinary day in the foreseeable future.

Addendum: There is a group called that is working to get Marshall Field's back in Chicago. They have been holding rallys and trying hard to get Macy's to listen. Check it out. Also, check out the NPR piece that also ran over the weekend (thanks _ITGuy)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Today's Shopping Fiasco

I know it isn't Thanksgiving yet, but the retailers haven't seemed to notice and have started their holiday advertising and decorating very early. In fact, I would say that right after Halloween had come and gone, the retailers went into full holiday mode. That's all fine and good - they want to move onto December before the second of November, that's their call. I just ask that along with the pretty decorations and advertisements they take some time to tend to their registers and properly train their employees.

Today, my husband and I went to a big box electronics store to pick up yet another “project laptop” for him. We went at about 11 am and the store was not busy. A young salesperson asked if we needed help the minute we walked into the section, so kudos to him for that. My husband and I are probably two of the easiest customers to deal with in the computer section. We knew exactly what we wanted and knew they had it in stock. We really never have any questions for the sales people. Having to deal with one is usually just an added and unnecessary step for us (though necessary for the store's physical security internal controls). We brought our pile of accessories to the sales guy and he started to ring up our items with the laptop.

I am a member of their customer loyalty program, and as a member, I get coupons emailed to me. I had one for triple member points (which for this purchase was equal to an additional $40 in future discounts) and one for $20. In addition, because we purchased a laptop, we were entitled to an additional 15% discount on three of the accessories. Well, I guess this was too much for the first register because after all of the items had been scanned, it froze up and refused to process anything more. So, after involving another salesperson, we moved over to the next register, now with two salespeople in tow. They explained that while the last register acted up, the one we had moved to was temperamental and liked to beep at them a lot. Comforting, I know. The young sales guy managed to scan all of the items successfully but then the matter of coupons came up. The computer didn't take them. We had three sales people trying to figure out how the system should be manipulated to get the discounts done properly. I'm pretty patient, but this was ridiculous. I nicely suggested that they let me back there to look at what had and had not been scanned into the system - and they did! Two of the sales people took off to attend to others. The original sales guy stayed to ring us up and told me that he's only a seasonal worker and had just received his uniform yesterday. Why was I not surprised? To their credit, all of the sales people had been trying and were pretty conscientious, they just were lacking in training and equipment. We went through what had been scanned and which discounts were applied and how to manually apply them. Luckily, it all worked out with me behind the counter with him making sure that everything got applied properly. (I know I'm an accountant, but I shouldn't have to audit something like that.) I wished him luck for the holiday season - God knows he needs it.

So in addition to the lights and the music and the ads for the holidays, I'm hoping that they get their employees some training and some registers that work. I'm going to do the majority of my holiday shopping on the Internet again. I think I'm going to avoid that particular store like the plague until the new year.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Flu Shots at the MGH Walk-In Unit

My husband and I are going to be traveling a lot in the next few months, so I was anxious to get a flu shot. I've had a flu shot every year except for one in the last several years (and that was the year they were rationing them for pregnant women, the elderly and children - and I did get the flu that year). I really hate being sick and getting a flu shot is a seriously small price to pay for some minor attempt at immunity. The only bad thing about getting a flu shot is the usually ridiculous wait at the clinic/hospital/doctor's office and finding out where to go to get one in the first place.

This year, when I called my doctor's office at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to inquire about a flu shot, I was told that they had already run out of their entire supply. Classic. Luckily, the office attendant suggested that I go to the MGH Medical Walk-In Unit. I have gone to this clinic more times in the last decade than I want to admit. I have gone to this clinic whenever I felt that I was in need of non-emergency medical assistance and my doctor's office was unable to see me. So it made total sense that when my doctor failed me again, the Walk-In Unit would be there to help me out.

So I drove over to MGH this morning and walked over to the Walk-In Unit on the main floor of the Wang Building. Across the hall from the clinic, was a station that was set up in the hallway to dole out flu shots. There was no line. I walked up and was greeted by two very nice women. I handed one my MGH Blue Card and the other one administered the flu shot to me behind a curtain. Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am.

That was seriously the best experience I've ever had in obtaining my annual flu shot. Many thanks to the MGH Medical Walk-In Unit. I highly recommend going there if you are still in need of a flu shot and have a valid MGH Blue Card (hospital registration). Their hours are Monday - Friday: 8:30a.m. to 8:00p.m., Weekends and Holidays (except Thanksgiving and Christmas): 9:30a.m. - 4:00p.m. If you have questions for them, you can reach them directly at 617-726-2707.

Lesson Not Learned

Last weekend, my husband's mother called our house and mentioned to him that I was going to accompany her, her husband and my mother to a cemetery in the suburbs of Chicago on December 1 to help her and her husband purchase plots. There are two problems with this scenario: First, nobody ever asked me if I even wanted to accompany anybody to a cemetery to select plots. Second, I'm not even going to be in Chicago on December 1, so that would be more than a little difficult for me to pull off.

One of my pet peeves is when people make commitments for me without my consent. I am not attached to anyone except for my husband, and even he knows to check with me before he commits me to anything. We haven't run across this problem for almost 5 years with our parents and I thought that the lesson that we taught them then would stick for longer. Perhaps the lesson wasn't severe enough.

Six weeks before Easter Sunday five years ago, I found myself on the telephone with my favorite aunt in Chicago. She was really happy and excited on the phone and told me that she was SO happy that my husband and I were going to fly to Chicago and be at her house for Easter brunch. HUH?!

Turns out, my aunt had called my husband's parents to invite them to Easter at her house. (Our families spend most big holidays together these days.) His parents had recently moved to Massachusetts from Illinois to be closer to us (my husband's an only child - that's a blog post for another day). His parents responded that the FOUR of us would be there for Easter. Needless to say, I was very angry and explained to my aunt that my husband and I did not know if we could make it to Easter in Chicago yet and that we had made no plans with his parents. My aunt was seriously crushed.

I was angrier than a charging bull. My husband and I were actually 95% sure we could go to Chicago for Easter that year, but because of his mother, I really didn't want to go at all. So my husband and I discussed what had happened and agreed that even if we could go to Chicago, we wouldn't and we'd make his parents, who committed to going there, go on their own. That would teach them to ever make plans for us again, right?

A week before Easter, my husband finally told his parents that we weren't going to Chicago for the holiday. He nicely mentioned that they shouldn't ever commit us to anything. (I would have been a lot more stern about the whole thing, but as they're not my parents, I made him handle it.) We figured we'd wait as long as possible to tell them that so they couldn't get out of their obligation. Well - one would think that at least. His mother called my aunt and gave her some B.S. story about the landscapers having to be at their new house early on Monday so they would have to stay in Massachusetts for Easter.

Well, if I was angry before, I was doubly angry after I found out they backed out of Easter after we told them we weren't going. Luckily, my husband is totally amazing and agreed with me that we would not reward their bad behavior by spending Easter with them. They fed him the same B.S. story they fed my aunt and my husband told them that we were busy in town and couldn't spend time with them for Easter. (If plane tickets to Chicago were even reasonably priced at that point, we would have gone, but alas, they were not.)

So they made plans for us without consulting us and ended up spending Easter all alone. That was five years ago. You think they could remember that lesson, eh?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Late Night Lunacy

Yesterday, I changed the sheets and the blanket and comforter on our bed. I threw the old sheets and a couple of other sets of sheets in the laundry and then threw them in the dryer right before turning in for the night. We made it to bed at a pretty late hour for a week night for us and I was ready to seriously pass out. As I started to change into my bed clothes, my husband asked me what happened to the bed. When I looked, I saw a large wet area on his side of the bed that included the comforter, blanket and sheet. I also saw our dog, Sam, sitting on my side of the bed. Ugh! We looked at the wet area in disbelief - in the whole time we've had our dog, she hasn't done anything like that. She couldn't have really done that, could she have? Well, it turns out that she did.

Our pup Samantha is four years old and I've always thought that my husband and I were lucky to have her. I still do. She is a very sweet and loving dog and has pretty good manners. She doesn't beg. She doesn't chew anything that she isn't supposed to chew. She doesn't play with any toys that we haven't presented to her as her own. She's really playful, loves people and is pretty smart. So she barks a lot at passing people, dogs and vehicles? - she's a dog. But urinating on our bed? That's new and that had better not happen again. I think she must not have liked the way the new comforter smelled - it had just come back from the cleaners. Doggie psychology was not my major in college.

So there we were, scrambling for another set of sheets, a blanket and a comforter late last night. It would figure that there were three sets tumbling around in the dryer at that very moment. But never fear, I had more sheets in the closet. I'm pretty sure there isn't a medical problem that caused that spontaneous urination last night, but I'm keeping an eye on Sam nonetheless.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's National Veterans Awareness Week

Today is Veterans Day. Did you know that the week of November 11 through November 17, 2007 has also been designated “National Veterans Awareness Week?” This designation for an entire week is meant to make more people aware of the the great contributions of all of our veterans to our country. As our military is made up completely of volunteers these days, many people in this country do not personally know anyone in the Armed Forces. I believe that it is important for Americans to remember and be grateful for the people that have sacrificed of themselves for our country's security, prosperity and freedom.

I have relatives and friends that are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. I also have relatives that have served our country in the past. My grandfathers both served during World War II. One of my grandfathers served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, when the Japanese attacked our forces there. He was fortunate and returned home to his family. I remember stories of my grandmother not knowing if her husband had survived the attack for months as a result of poor communications at the time. My other grandfather served as a guerrilla for the U.S. Army Forces Far East, which resisted Japanese occupation in the Philippines. He was captured by the Japanese and beheaded. My grandmother was pregnant with their third child at the time and was brought to the place where her husband was left to identify him. It is said that her grief caused her premature labor. I don't doubt that. My grandmother never remarried and raised her three children without the aid of a husband as a result. On both sides of the family, the absence of the father for very long periods of time was very difficult. My mother has absolutely no memories of her father. My father first remembers meeting his father when he was five or six years of age. His father was a total stranger to him. For all of their sacrifices, I've never heard one word about anyone regretting their service to the country. If anything, it was an honor and a privilege for them to contribute to the liberty that their children enjoy now.

I look at the young men and women that are serving in the Armed Forces today and those that have completed their commitment to the military and I see the profound sacrifices that they and their families are all making for our country. These patriots have my most sincere respect and gratitude for their service and commitment.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

One Misconception of All-Girls' Schools

I recently had a conversation with a relative of mine and she told me that her daughter, who is in pre-school will be attending an all-girls' school. Now, I went to an all-girls' school for high school. I attended a co-ed school from kindergarten through 8th grade. While discussing this decision with her, I realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about all-girls' schools. The one I think is hilarious is the idea that girls who attend an all-girls' school will have more time to focus on their school work as they don't have to worry about their personal appearance -- there are no boys around to impress.

The truth of the matter is that most women naturally dress and make themselves up to impress other women. They may think that they are trying to impress men, but in truth, they're not really. Poll any group of well-adjusted males and ask them what they would want their wives or girlfriends to wear when they are with them. They're not mentioning clothes that can be found in the fashion magazines and when they mention “jeans” they're usually not specifying the brand on the label. Most guys like women to look “natural” and don't like a lot of makeup on them. Now, most all-girls' schools have uniforms, but there are still issues of make-up, hair and accessories (jewelry, purses, shoes, etc.) In addition, I don't know many all-girls' schools that don't have casual days at least once a month. I once had somebody say that it must have been great for me to not have to worry about hair and make-up through high school. What a laugh that was. I was lucky as I had a mom with really good taste that made sure I didn't have to worry about those things. Several of my classmates had it a lot rougher.

I think if we had men in our school, it would have been easier. Young women can be brutal to one another. With men around, the brutality would have probably been tempered as the men would have been there to witness the bad behavior. In my experience, I had to care about my personal appearance more in the all-girls' school than in the co-ed school. Sad, but true.

Friday, November 09, 2007

For Those In Service

I'd like to think that I am one of the most easy-going customers out there. I'm almost never in a rush and I'm pretty nice to everyone with whom I contact during the day. Most of the people who work at the establishments that I frequent know me and we usually exchange pleasantries or inquire about one another's spouse/kids/house/weather experience/or whatever - there's usually decent small talk involved. I'm pretty spoiled because there hasn't been much turnover in the staff at my gym/cleaners/groceries/post office/coffee joint/etc. and the people that have worked at those places have been very pleasant over the years. Today, I encountered two new people and both of them really just ticked me off. Mind you, they wouldn't have known I was annoyed because I wasn't so annoyed as to actually say anything. I was pretty pleasant. But geez - if you're going to work in a service position, please do not emulate either of the people I am about to describe.

First was a male senior citizen who was working at a local grocery store as a bagger. This guy was bitter. Now I don't know why he was working as a bagger, and frankly, not only is it none of my business, but it shouldn't be. We all have our own problems, guy. Please stop taking yours out on other people's potato chips and hamburger buns. Seriously. He was about as pleasant as a bad bowel movement. Why can't you be as pleasant as the senior citizens working at Disney World? If I run across this codger again and he so much as looks at me sideways again, I'm going to the store manager. Everyone has a bad day once in a while and I'm hoping I just caught him in the middle of one. You get a reprieve Mr. Angry - buck up before I see you next week.

The next person was the middle-aged male working as a cashier at the Whole Foods. If you don't know what you're doing, ask for help. Don't stand there trying to figure it out while the line grows longer and longer (and my ice cream starts to melt). This guy was cagey & nervous. Worst of all, he was trying to process the order for a cute, little old lady with a food stamp card. She stood there patiently while he fumbled and she looked a little embarrassed. I felt bad for her. FINALLY, he called for help and the manager came and processed the card in no time. Luckily, the store manager was overly sweet and comforting to the woman with the order in limbo. I was right behind this woman, and when it was finally my turn to get checked through, not only did Mr. Dense not greet me, he didn't apologize for the ridiculously long wait that could have been avoided if he'd had the balls to call his manager sooner. Even worse, as he was such a clod, I bagged my own groceries, which isn't a problem, as I don't mind - but instead of helping me after I finished paying him, he started to ring through the next customer. Note to dense cashier at Whole Foods: Unless there's a dedicated bagger there, you make sure the person you just checked through is bagged before you start ringing through the next guy. If this guy makes it through the Thanksgiving holiday without incident, I will be surprised. I'm staying away from this one as he has that “I don't belong here” look about him and he may just blow up there one day.

So, people in service jobs, all I ask is that you realize that your job is to serve your customers. Whatever baggage you personally carry should be left at home. For your own sakes realize that you're working at the job that you are working at for a reason. Try to make the most of your day instead of being a complete moron. You can try to make your jobs more pleasant by not being the miserable one all day long.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Moms Rock

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Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom's 65th birthday. Now, my mom doesn't know that I have a blog... and that's probably why I can post this entry about her here now. hee hee.

My mom and I have not had the easiest of relationships. At times, the best word for our relationship has been “strained.” We have had many disagreements over the years, as many mothers and daughters have had. She has done some things in her life that I cannot understand. But if I think about it on the whole, I'm pretty lucky to have the mom that I do.

Yesterday, I wrote a scathing blog post (which never did get posted) about the older generation in our family. I basically vented and let out all of the annoyances that have been eating at me like acid on iron come out. After I wrote that post I realized that my dad wasn't a target of my rant at all and that my mother was only guilty of buying me too many presents and wanting to spend more time with us. (So you can imagine who got me all riled up.)

So, if my mother isn't annoying me, why do we have a complicated relationship? Well, after everything that has happened in my lifetime, it is still understandable. However, I am lucky in that I can be brutally honest with both of my parents about what they do that bugs the living daylights out of me. I actually told my mom that her voice on the phone is like “nails on a chalkboard” to me and suggested that she email me whenever possible instead of calling. So now, we have nice discussions via email and when she does call us, it isn't as screechy of a nails on the chalkboard experience.

She is still working as an accounting manager and doesn't seem to have any plans to retire anytime soon. When I was a public accountant, my mom was actually a contact for some of my colleagues who audited her company. My mother is very smart and ridiculously efficient - my friends were wowed. I wished she was MY client (but that wasn't possible.) She did teach me a lot of things about professional presence and a lot of the credit for why I wasn't completely clueless about the professional world when I started working goes to her. (Then again, one of the reasons I went into accounting in the first place was because she told me not to. lol.)

I know I won't ever have to turn my mother in for any make-over shows because she always looks amazing. She has really good taste and her instincts as to what I may want or need are more right than not. She's very responsible and doesn't get herself into any situations from which I need to rescue her. Most importantly, she doesn't ever mean any harm to anyone and is usually just looking out for us. My mom's really thoughtful and kind. I could never say she didn't love me with a straight face because it's very obvious that she does. (There's a shrine to me at her house, a.k.a. my old bedroom, to prove it too and I'm almost 40.)

I called her up today to wish her a good one. We sent her a couple dozen roses on Monday so she'd have them at work all week before she had to haul them home. We'll obviously celebrate with her when we get home to Chicago later this month. So I hope my mom has a happy birthday. Maybe I'll tell her I have a blog and let her read this herself.... Ok, well, ...that may just be a bad idea.

Going to Face Torture at the Gym

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hooray for Cold & Rainy Days

When I woke up this morning, I really didn't want to come out from under my nice warm covers. The furnaces had been running all night and the outside temperature was in the 40's. I managed to pull myself out of bed and realized that it was raining heavily outside too. The rain from the previous week knocked most of the leaves off of the trees and I suspect this rain will knock off another round of them. When I walked Samantha this morning, it wasn't raining very hard, but it was cold, wet and grey. Samantha did her business quickly and promptly put her two paws on top of my shoe - which is her signal for, “Pick me up NOW, please.” She hates rainy days and seems to sleep a lot when the weather is bad. I know other people who find themselves in foul moods when the weather turns foul as well. I guess I'm strange, but I like days like these.

There are definitely exceptions to this feeling - the biggest ones being when I am at the airport and need my flight to run on schedule and when it's been raining non-stop for days on end - but in general, I think there is a need for cold, rainy days. I use these days to catch up on the more mundane tasks in my home that I would normally push off as long as possible. I get my personal finances in order on days like today. I don't stay inside all day though. I do what I have to do and don't let the rain hinder me. Unless I have to meet with somebody, I usually don't use an umbrella. I don't run into buildings from my car. I just let the rain fall on me. I'm the crazy lady in the store parking lot who is casually walking to her car without an umbrella in a deluge. Yes, that's me. I don't care if I get drenched, I get a kick out of the rain.

I haven't always been like this though. Growing up, my father wouldn't even let me play in the sprinklers. He thought that getting wet would lead to illness - never mind the bacteria & viruses. When I was working, I always had an umbrella handy and rushed through rain and snow to get indoors whether I was on the job or not. Now that I'm closer to 40 and have a decent grasp of my mortality, I try to slow my life down as much as possible and be aware of what is going on around me right now. Part of that has been learning to enjoy all of the weather that we get as there isn't a whole lot we can do to change it. One of my favorite times to remember was experiencing Hurricane Charlie from our balcony at the Grand Floridian Hotel at Disney. I try not to be sad about the weather unless someone is getting hurt.

It's actually really liberating to stand outside in the rain and enjoy getting pelted with raindrops. After you do it for a while you notice the people around you who are looking at you like you're a kook. Now, you may be one of those people who think I'm a kook, but I assure you I'm just having a good time.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I've Been a Bad, Bad Girl

It occurred to me that it has been a month since I felt compelled to post to this blog. Considering all that has happened in the month, I find this surprising. I spent a week and a half in Chicago staying in my old bedroom (which hasn't changed a bit since I moved out). I spent a good amount of time documenting my days as part of the 10 for 30 Challenge on flickr with some of my Twitter buds. My husband was sick - twice. My beloved Cubs got swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. My beloved Red Sox won the World Series (w00t!). My sister & brother-in-law hosted a wild Halloween costume party. One of my good friends from Chicago, who I thought may never give up his “bachelor” status, got married. There's been so much more too. It's been an eventful few weeks. So what's up with my lack of posting? I'm not entirely sure. All I know is that I have a ton to write about now and that I will try my hardest to not go silent for that long again.