Wednesday, October 7, 2009
So this week, I'm looking back. Frankly, I'm shocked how quickly the years have flown by.
Even with the visible passage of time wandering my house in princess pajamas, 5 years has snuck up on me so fast. Not that my 'baby' is a five-year-old ... but that 5 years ago was a neon-encrusted year for me. Huge changes, loss, new friendships, soul-searching. I can remember it all very, very clearly.
Yet those intervening years have dulled the neon, making that banner year more of a speed-bump and less of a brick wall. When I consider those I lost - my beloved Grandma for one - what used to be agony has dulled to a tender ache. I miss Grandma Dollie still, and wish she could have seen her little great-grand-daughter grow, but I'm no longer reduced to tears when I see her picture. Concurrently, the new friendship I forged in those troubled times has matured, and become a comfortable relationship I can depend on despite the 1800 miles separating us.
And so the passage of time has been, well, a blessing. Even while etching faint lines around my eyes, slowing me down and adding a few pounds, it has blunted pain and softened hurt. Whatever I think about that new number under "age", I'm grateful to be older.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
The economy is not recovering.
I know this because of my own series of leading indicators:
People in my job are still extremely worried about layoffs.
Goodwill is still packed with shoppers on the weekends.
eBay sales, while doing ok, are mostly to people wanting a STEEP discount, even on already less-than-retail pricing.
There's no way I'll be able to sell my house in the next year or two - heck, maybe in the next 5 years - despite my growing family's needs for more space.
So...I'm going to keep my purchases small, try to keep stocking my eBay resale items while not worrying so much about jewelry and such on Etsy (where sales are hurting), and hope that things improve before Christmas.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Like some 65% of all Americans, I fall into the "overweight" category - yes, I'll admit that out loud. And like the vast majority of people in this category, I have struggled, dieted, and fought over and over to get back to "normal". Why, then, do I continue to fail?
I've struggled with my weight for many years. Even in high school - when anorexia was chic, SlimFast was the breakfast of choice, and I was physically active several hours each day (sports, PE, etc) - I was flirting with the upper limit of that normal range. When I left for college, and swapped field hockey for hours in the lab, the weight started to pile on. Granted, my meals then consisted of mac & cheese, raman noodles, and ice cream - I won't claim to have made all the right decisions.
Still, in the years since college, I've learned many things. Out-negotiating a car dealer. Maintaining a home with luck and Lowes. Using a cookbook, and even making yummy meals from my imagination. The days of microwave cheap are over.
And I happen to think I'm an intelligent, strong person. I've earned an advanced degree in physics. I've weathered some pretty big 'storms' in life. I exercise self-restraint all the time, saving money for trips and getting up for work even when tired. I know all the right things I need to do when it comes to nutrition - lots of veggies, lots of fruit, less meat, avoid restaurants and fast food - and I try to exercise 3 or more times a week.
So with all that going for me...why am I not thinner? Is the dieting industry part of the problem? Meal replacement shakes and bars aren't real food. Counting calories or points or whatever the latest "magic number" is only leads to mild OCD. Every "diet", every "weight loss strategy" revolves around an obsession with food - how much you eat, what you eat, when you eat, and how you workout to counter what you ate. With that much thought and energy centered around food, how can you not be hungry and stressed out - and want something to eat to make you feel better?!
I wish I knew what the answer was. Why can't we just eat - good food, REAL food, nutritious food. Eat soup with dinner because you like the taste, not because you think the liquid will fill you up. Have a salad for the delicious crunch of lettuce, not for the low-calorie aspect. Is there a way to reach that place again? To eat when hungry, stop when full, enjoy - but not too much - the taste, and move on with the rest of your day?
I don't know. What I do know, is that I'm done with dieting. It's never done me any good - it just makes me more stressed, more hungry, and more grumpy. If that means I'll never reach that magical 'normal' number again, so be it - at least I'll be happy.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The 4-year-old girl whose mother referred to tantrums as "diva moments" - and shrugged them off, along with the $70,000 in pageant-related expenses.
The 7-year-old twins competing against each other - and mom had her favorite, as everyone in the family and audience could tell. (I suspect the therapy bills for the 'lesser' twin will be legendary)
The cute 8-year-old boy, and his 2-week-old brother - both dressed in tuxedos, and proud mom comparing their on-stage 'performances'.
An hour of self-involved parents, wrapped up in their own dreams of winning children. An hour of tired, unhappy children. Why did I subject myself to this? Why would anyone think this is ok?
Let me just say...my children are beautiful. They have freckles, missing teeth, and silly grins. Their hair is windblown and messy, their clothes occasionally torn or muddy. They laugh and smile and dance around out of shear joy, not to please someone with a "Judge" sticker on their shirt. They will never enter a beauty pageant, but they will win praise - for hard work, for good grades, for being friends with the new kid, for trying their best in soccer. They are learning to value themselves and others for qualities inside each person...and not for the exterior appearance.
If there were an inner-beauty pageant, my children would be winners. No crowns necessary.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Come on now, how useful is Twitter, really? Text messages are limited to 160, and I've never had a useful text 'conversation' that didn't require several back-and-forth message. And yet somehow we're supposed to get profound information in just 140 characters or less.
I don't think so.
If I want quick news, I'll check the mobile sites for MSNBC or CNN.
If I want gossip, E! works, or a swing through the grocery store check-out lane.
Frankly, I can't see that anything I would Twitter would be worth someone following...especially since you can get the same updates through Facebook, or text, or email...
So thanks, but no thanks. I'm not going to join this flash in the pan.
Next fad please!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Backyard garden bursting with veggies, and demanding harvesting.
Family vacations to Disneyland.
Looming Mexico trip for just the adults.
A bright coral-red nail polish that catches everyones eye.
A child support battle going to court.
Life is complex right now, and some things are sliding to the side...my blog, my jewelry, my ebay resell business. I intend to return to them all - hopefully soon - but please understand that right now there are just too many distractions.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This surprises me not at all. I've had several 4-way stops drag on while multiple people "after you" too much. I learned to drive in New Jersey - if someone motions me forward, I'm going. Even if they don't, I might go anyway.
Still, nothing illustrates the insane overpoliteness of this area like the following totally true story from last week.
Our town is located off a 2-lane highway...we'll call it Highway A for all the stalkers in the audience. To get onto Hwy A, you take a long, sweeping on-ramp. The speed limit for Hwy A is 55 mph, but thanks to the long on-ramp, you have plenty of time to get up to speed AND see cars already on the highway.
So it's a weekend morning, and I'm driving the kids in our minivan. As I start up the on-ramp, I see exactly one truck barrelling down Hwy A. (Doing 55 - they don't speed much around here either) There's nobody behind him for miles, so I take my time up the ramp.
Except, he slows down. A lot.
Yep, some crazy driver ON A HIGHWAY slowed down to probably 35 mph to let me on. FOR NO GOOD REASON.
And sadly, this is far from the first time.
I almost miss the offensive driving of NJ...
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Benefit's Hello Flawless powder foundation - A new pressed-powder foundation that people seem to either love or hate. Me, I love it! I previously used Bare Escentuals foundation, but found it too light a coverage at times - and the powder didn't travel well. However, with my oily skin, I hate using liquid foundation as it just doesn't look natural (and applies oddly). So Benefit's formulation is great for me. The powder glides over my skin and absorbs oil well. The compact travels without mess. Best of all, you can change the coverage - a light dusting with the brush, or heavier application with the sponge, or somewhere in-between. Like Bare Escentuals, it's not cheap - thank goodness I have a hookup for a discount!
Monday, May 4, 2009
So I'm at the on-site fitness center at lunch today, elliptical-ing my way towards summer. The TV is tuned to ESPN, of course - 95% of users are men, so that means we must watch sports of some flavor. I usually tune it out, but today I forgot my iPod. And hey, did you know we're in countdown to Mother's Day?
Based on the frequency of flower-delivery commercials, I'm guessing the average Guy doesn't.
This wasn't just frequent ads, however. This was downright insulting. For those with a developed frontal lobe, this was the subtext:
Are you a guy?
Do you think you should buy your mom something?
Are you inept at everything?
Buy flowers from us, moron!
This was a ProFlowers commercial, with men talking about how satisfied they are with the flowers from ProFlowers. (Ok) Followed by commentary from an actress-mom saying "when I get flowers, I feel remembered and appreciated." (Cue gagging) Then, to top it off....
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
You know it as the local car dealership.
With prices low, rebates plentiful, and a great rate from my credit union, I figured we should at least LOOK. Our 04 Explorer runs fine, but when you pile all the kids in there, little space is left for other necessities, like groceries or luggage. We need a minivan - a big one.
My first trip out this weekend didn't yield much. The sales people looked only mildly desperate, and the reaction wasn't what I expected. (Since I have been offered meals before to buy a car - a cup of coffee on a rainy day would seem like the least they could do)
Perhaps I'll try again - I wasn't feeling well, hubby wasn't there, so it might not have come across as serious. Still, for an industry struggling...not the way to bring in this customer!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
With so many consumers trying to save, why aren't more companies marketing "we'll help you save money"? (I've only seen a few Discover ads like this)
Home Depot should offer free sessions on home gardening and energy-saving upgrades - people will buy pre-cut lumber, plants, weatherstripping...
Auto shops can offer discounts for MPG-improving services to 'keep your big investment on the road longer'.
Where are the companies lining up to help us FIX what we own (shoes, clothes, computers)? It might generate less revenue per shopper right now, but you'll get more people in the door...and most people still spend more than planned.
Wish this applied to eBay - but I'm doing what I can. I've written a "mini-book" (now 21 pages and counting) with almost 100 ideas for saving money...and I'll shortly be offering it for sale for just $3.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Rarely seeing the sun (all that Oregon rain).
Hearing about the dissolution of a long-term marriage.
Watching the workload at your business slow down week by week.
Struggling to make friends in the limited free, adult time you have as a parent. (And no, befriending my kid's friends' parents hasn't been so successful)
Wanting to make a change - new job for spouse, new car, vacation somewhere sunny- and being terrified of commiting to a possible mistake.
Life isn't terrible, but it sure is harder and harder to be happy, relaxed, optimistic right now.
Monday, February 2, 2009
So I'm doing my 2008 taxes this weekend. The personal part isn't so hard - two W-2s, some mortgage statements, few goodwill receipts.
The business part however...wow. I've easily spent 4 hours putting everything together (s0 far), and along the way, I've noticed the following:
1. The first half of the year was OK. My total sales and profits were on track to beat 2007.
2. Starting around August, everything tanked. Views and sales were DOWN. Big time.
3. Averaging the year out, my net profit actually shrank $2, about 10%.
So I'm starting to wonder...should I keep going? I'm going to report a loss for 2008 - I can deal with that, since it includes things like vehicle depreciation that don't really hit my wallet. But at what point do my profits become small enough to make this not worth my while?
You'd think that a resale business would do well right now - everybody wants a bargain, right? But I have two major problems going on. For one, more people are shopping "my" thrift stores, so there's less good inventory available. And for two - people are seriously bargain hunting. It's not enough that a brand new, designer pair of shoes is listed for 20% of original retail - darn it, that's still $50! They want it for $45, or $40...or even $20.
For the moment, I still enjoy my bargain and thrift hunting - so I'll keep at it. (And the jewelry business will stay open, just because I enjoy creating so much)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The last time my workplace stopped like this, with everyone glued to TV or internet, we watched the Twin Towers fall. I never thought I'd experience something like that again.
Yet there we were, riveted to the screen. And I am, frankly, speechless.
Friday, January 16, 2009
My grandmother grew up in Dust Bowl Oklahoma. The sounds of her day were mostly cackling hens, mooing cows, and the wind rustling the leaves. They had to make special trips - very seldom - to listen to music more complicated than just singing.
Now, my family is surrounded by intricate music, of all kinds, all the time. Radios, music video channels, iPods, streaming audio. I wake to music, listen during my commute, tune in during my workout...enjoy mood music late at night.
And for all this glorious excess, we have become indifferent, fickle even. Yesterday's favorite station is ignored, downloaded tunes languish in electronic folders. Most of all - we now find ourselves making special trips, finding free time, to get away and enjoy some QUIET. You know, rustling leaves, nature. So who had it 'right' after all?
Monday, January 12, 2009
Buying on eBay
1. Always, always, always check the seller's feedback. It's not about total score, it's how many negatives and neutrals they've had recently - and why. For high-volume sellers, I recommend using the search at www.toolhaus.org/cgi-bin/negs - all you need is their exact seller ID (available on the listing pages).
2. Sometimes a good seller gets a few lousy buyers, and their feedback score suffers. Read the feedback, and the seller's response (if any) - you'll quickly see if this is a basically good person, or someone to avoid. Don't expect perfect 100% - all sellers get the occasional unfair hit.
3. High-volume sales can mask a LOT of flaws...and even established sellers can suddenly go crazy (or have their accounts hijacked). Recent feedback is crucial to avoid these.
4. Use a credit card through PayPal - you'll get PayPal protection AND protection from your credit card.
5. Ask questions! Too many buyers assume something (the item is new, the item is real, they are paying $20 for overnight shipping) when the answer is unclear in the listing. Send a message to the seller, and be sure to keep their response - it's binding.
6. Be wary of buying from new sellers. Try to stick with sellers who have earned at least 20 positive feedbacks or more. Yes, it's unfair to newbies - but most scams come from low-feedback accounts.
7. Never, ever conduct a transaction outside eBay - not only will eBay potentially shut off your account, but it is VERY likely to be a scam.
8. If you are going to buy clothing on eBay, take the time to know your measurements. Pick items from your closet that fit well, measure at key areas (chest, waist, hip, etc) and compare to the listing. Be aware that many sellers do NOT accept returns for incorrect size, so be sure it fits to begin with.
9. If you get taken, complain. Loudly. To eBay and PayPal and the seller. Even if it's a $0.99 trinket, please complain - so there is a record of this seller being bad. Otherwise, other people will get taken too, and eBay won't know who to go after.
10. If you're going to spend serious money ($100+), become a semi-expert in the item. If you want a Louis Vuitton, do some research so you can spot the fakes. Know what kind of features a real Rolex will have, or what colors iPods are really available in. Some fakes are hard to spot, but many are super easy if you know a little about the real product.
Selling on eBay.
1. Be the kind of seller you'd want to buy from - answer emails, put lots of detail in your listing, and offer a return policy.
2. Know what you are selling, especially if you are a reseller. Fake everything is out there! (Especially at thrift stores) Plus, underpricing your items is a waste of your time and money.
3. Bad buyers really do exist - and can be anyone. Reserve the right to cancel a bid, and check on your bidders (especially those with no or poor feedback). Look for patterns of complaints for small/non-existent problems.
4. Use delivery confirmation at minimum when you ship an item. Otherwise, you have absolutely no proof of shipment.
5. For fragile items, wrap extremely well, and take a picture before sealing the box. Require insurance, and BUY insurance from the Post Office (don't pocket the money).
6. Remember, PayPal and eBay are not your friends - when a problem comes up and there's no proof, YOU will be wrong.
7. If you are considering allowing "local pick-up" of items, DO NOT meet at your house, and ALWAYS have a friend (preferably big and strong) with you. If an item can be shipped, require shipping - even if they live nearby. It's safer all around.
8. Selling to international customers can open up the range of who buys from you - but only do it if YOU are comfortable with it. It does require more work (customs forms, etc), and scams are common.
9. Not everything sells on eBay - do a search for your items before listing. This can also help you get a realistic idea of how much something might sell for. Lots of "nice" clothes, jewelry, and electronics go for almost nothing - because nobody wants them.
10. When you have a buyer complaint, do your homework and give the buyer the benefit of the doubt. Could you have missed that small hole? Was the package mis-delivered by the Post Office? Yes, some people try to get things for free (always require an item's return before refunding money!), but is it worth going to war with a buyer over a $20 sweater? Especially when eBay might side with them?
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Lately I've been inundated with offers from American Airlines... I've had enough. Two credit card offers addressed to my kid this month! Email AND mail - and why? Can you imagine the damage that could be done if someone else gets these offers?
So - American and Citibank, you've made me angry. QUIT soliciting a 5 year old! She's a minor, and I KNOW your data on her will tell you that!!!
(Sorry, just had to get that out)
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Come on - this is just silliness. Name calling, really? From the awkward way she said it, it was obviously just for show. Is she really that desperate for attention and book sales?
Friday, January 2, 2009
We were celebrating our 3rd anniversary, and in style. (Plus no kids!)
We stayed at the luxurious Heathman Hotel - upgraded to a suite for the happy occasion. I've never felt to pampered...the bed was super comfy, and the room included really good coffee, steller breakfast in bed, robes, L'Occitane toiletries...I didn't want to leave!
Dinner was fondue - cheese, chocolate, lobster. Mmmm
Breakfast in robes, relaxing, reading the paper, sipping champagne...
Kids, what kids?