GETTING LOST

 

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August 23, 2016

Hi, subscribers and a warm welcome to my many new ones!

How many of you think North is straight up? That West is left and East is right and South is straight down?

That has been a problem for me my whole life. I get lost everywhere! Don’t tell me something is “due North” because I have no idea what you are talking about.

People think I am kidding…until they drive with me.   I am cruising along with a passenger and suddenly they start screaming:

“NO, Ann – it is west, it’s west!”

“WHAT is?  Where am I?”

“You are going east!”

“What the hell is east?”

I am obsessed about being on time for everything and always, always have to cushion in “getting lost time” – usually 15 to 30 minutes prior to the event.

I live in a small town and when I first moved here I worked as a temp.  Giving me directions was hopeless.  Luckily, the agency knew everything by a landmark, such as:

 “Okay, let’s see.  Ann, when you leave your apartment, you want to turn left onto the main road.  Head towards  the Goodyear building which will be on your right.  Keep going until there is a McDonald’s and turn left. Then, keep going until you see a large strip mall on your right.  Just past this strip mall, turn right again and go for about a mile until you see a small white brick building on your left.  That’s where you want to be.”

I am in panic mode as I start out.  But, usually I will do a dry run the day before – and still get lost. Sometimes it is so bad, I can’t even find my way home and am pulling into every gas station I see.  The first guy’s directions I can understand up to a point, but then three miles later, I have to pull into another gas station, and on and on. Then finally I am home.

When I know with certainty I am going to get lost finding my next assignment (my “dry runs” don’t work), I call a cab and write down the directions as he drives. Cab drivers are great. They are so patient with me. They point out the landmarks and where to turn while I am writing it down furiously in blood. Once home, I type it up as a Word document. 

Okay, I now have the directions to get there, but how to get back? Smarty-pants people will be stunned and say: “You just go back the way you came!!” The word idiot is not said but heavily implied. Okay, smarty-pants, I can’t find my way back because there are stores, parking lots, etc. I didn’t notice coming in so the landmarks aren’t as easy to find. (Someone, anyone, please tell me this happens to you, too!)

Another problem is knowing what lane I am supposed to be in to make that left turn.  Seems easy, but when I get into a lane it is suddenly posted as “Right Turn Only”, I can’t slide my car over, so I have to drive around the block to get re-oriented again.

The absolute worst is when I turn off a major highway and come up to that sign that says: “Middleton left arrow” and “Townsend right arrow”.  I am not going to either of these places, so do I turn right or left?

They invented GPS for people like me.  I wish I knew how to use it. My closest thing to a GPS is Google maps.

I am having lunch with a friend on Friday.  I picked the restaurant. I have been there before, but a long time ago. I know there is a trick you have to know to get into the left lane in order to get into the parking lot.  I am almost certain I am going to have to sail past the restaurant, turn around, so it is on my right coming back.  I know I can find it then.

Okay, I am pathetic.  I know.  But you also need to know that if you invite me to dinner, I’ll bring a gourmet dessert because I do know my way around a kitchen.

Best wishes to you all,

Ann

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DEALING WITH THE DEATH OF A PARENT

 

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June 9, 2016

Hi, Subscribers ~

The following incident happened to me a long time ago, but I thought you might like to be aware of it.

My mother died from lung cancer about 12 years ago.  My father died 9 months afterwards.

During my mother’s short stay in the hospital, my brothers, sister and I visited her. We were stunned and shocked to see this otherwise vibrant and funny lady in a hospital bed, thinner, pale, with tubes coming out of everywhere.

This may sound weird, but this reality shock forced us to see our parents as real people, not just mom or pop.  It’s a very lonely and scary feeling.  This granite figure in our lives, whom we had always taken for granted, is now worn down to sand and is going to leave us forever.

I want to tell you how one of my brothers dealt with her impending death.  I wish to hell I had thought of it.

I watched him sit on the side of her bed.  While holding her hand, he read a long, long list of things he wanted to thank her for.

He went all the way back to kindergarten and thanked her for walking him to and from school everyday; helping him with his homework; all the wonderful birthdays she had planned for him and remembering the details of everything she had done for him all the way up through his graduation from law school.

Maybe this idea will help some of you who are dealing with the impending death of anyone you love.

Best wishes,

Ann

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THE MANY SIDES OF ALCOHOLISM

 

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March 25, 2016

Hi, subscribers and welcome to my new ones!

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There are many people in the world who are called “high functioning alcoholics”.  I have dated them and I have worked with them.  So have you, even if you didn’t know it.

Here are some behaviors to look for on a date:

When he arrives to pick you up, he smells of scotch or some drink much harder than beer. I can almost promise you he has had at least two strong drinks prior to coming over.

Once you are seated at a restaurant, he is immediately looking around for your waiter. He will try to act casual, but his eyes are definitely not on you.  Either is the conversation.  He is constantly looking around the room and casually say: “Well, I wonder where our waiter is?”  He is nudgy and nervous. Sometimes he will just grab any waiter to order a drink.  He’ll feel annoyed when the waiter says he will get his waiter.

Watch what happens when his drink arrives. How many gulps does he take to finish the drink.? It is usually three. “Nursing” a drink is not in his vocabulary.

Here’s an example that happened to me and is a dead give-away.

I was on a date and ordered a Margarita. I’m good for only one drink as I don’t drink regularly, so I can get plastered pretty fast.

Just before we started to get up to leave, he immediately reached across the table, grabbed my drink and asked: “Are you going to finish this?” I said no, so he finished it for me.

I once worked with a very nice lady who was probably in her 50’s.  Well dressed, good social skills. One night I got a call from her. She kept saying: “Oh, Ann I love you. You are such a nice person.” etc.  We never talked like that at work! It wasn’t until the second phone call that I realized she was very drunk.  I think she is what is called a “closet alcoholic”.

These people show up at work looking and acting totally sober.  But, when they get home, out comes the bottle.

I saw an interview on TV that the actor Dick Van Dyke (Mary Tyler Moore show) said he always showed up sober for work, but drank at least a quart of booze once he was home.

How do people like this get up in the morning and show up for work not looking or acting drunk?  I guess their bodies acclimate to it, I don’t know.

I met another very nice lady who was a home health nurse for my godmother.  I’d met her at least five times while visiting.  She gave me her phone number and told me to call her.  So, I did. She could not remember who I was.  She was totally distracted during out attempted conversation.  It hit me suddenly that she was plastered. What?!  I never saw her drunk on the job.  She was just bright and breezy and able to hold a flawless conversation.

I was once with my boss and his friend while we ate lunch at a restaurant. They kept filling up his small water glass on a regular basis.  Two gulps and it was gone.  I was so naive. It was pure vodka.

A lot of people with a drinking problem drink vodka during the day because they think it won’t smell.

There is also another trait you should know about alcoholics and it is an important one. There is a medical term called “alcoholic blackout”.  This means the part of the brain that serves as our memory gets totally shut down when saturated with alcohol.  They remember NOTHING. Absolutely NOTHING after drinking too much.

So, it is easy to get into a lot of arguments with them when they disagree with you. They do not remember the original conversation from yesterday evening.  

Sometimes it can go even minute-to-minute. You can call them a a jerk and they won’t react to it.  They literally do not remember what you said one second after you said it.

I am pretty sure that once they are in the minute-to-minute deterioration, that memory part of their brain is shot permanently.

Beware of the angry drunk. After two beers they get pissed off about everything.  They are the ones who start fights in bars.

Many women get raped by these guys and the poor woman is asking why?  She’ll be asking why for the rest of her life.  If the guy is drunk enough and he rapes a woman, there is a good chance he won’t remember it.  

Don’t go nuts…most guys most certainly DO know when they have raped a woman. However, if his memory is saturated with booze, there is a good chance he might not remember it and now he is serious trouble because when he is taken to court, he has no defense because he doesn’t remember it.  Found guilty, it is a felony and he can kiss his butt goodbye for 20 years.

Interesting side note about rapists and prison. There is a hierarchy in prison.  Prisoners consider the lowest of the low child molesters. Just a small notch up from them are rapists. 

A lot of abused women stay in relationships with men who are alcoholics and also have a hair trigger temper. A lot of domestic abuse results from that.

You can size up a guy pretty fast after two beers. Does he challenge everything you say?  Do small things piss him off? Trust your instincts and RUN. Never go back to him or that bar again.  

Always, always have at least $30 on you when you go on a date.  Also have the name and phone number for the taxi services.  Mine is firmly tape inside my wallet in a place I can easily see.

Of course, there are female alcoholics who mix it up with the wrong men and the men feel free to say: “Well, the bitch was asking for it.”

Okay, I’m going to lighten this up a little.

The best way to sober up a drunk is to make them eat.  Not coffee, just food.  If you can get them to eat a sandwich, cheese and crackers (or anything), they tend to sober up pretty fast.  So, at your next party, when you notice someone getting tipsy, give them food.

In summary, being an alcoholic is a bitch.  God bless the millions of men and women who are doing their very best to stay in recovery with AA and moving on with their lives.

Best wishes,

Ann

HOW TO GET A JOB USING TEMP AGENCIES

 

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January 26, 2016

To my wonderful subscribers and a warm welcome to my many new ones! Thank you.

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Okay, here we go…

On and off, I have worked as a temporary secretary for 4 years between jobs.

I want to suggest to you how being a temp can get you into the door of many companies where you couldn’t get into on your own.  They may also lead you to a full-time job.

When you go to an agency to sign up, they will have you fill out the usual forms  and a place to list all of your skills.  You will also have the option of selecting several types of assignments, such as:

(1) short-term assignments (1-2 weeks); 

(2) long-term assignments (a month or more); 

(3) Temp-to-perm  assignments – companies try you out before hiring you full-time.

If you sign on with temp-to-perm assignments, you have a better chance of getting a full-time job.  Try not to accept a full-time employment offer if you hate the place.  Check with your agency when you sign up to see what their policy is about being re-assigned to another company if offered a job you don’t want.

I always took short assignments because it got me into more companies. A few times they did offer me a full-time job.

On the form, tell the agency the type of work you are looking for in general: banking, medical, secretarial, clerical, manual labor, etc.

You will be tested on secretarial skills such as typing, computer knowledge, spelling, etc. Don’t worry if you bomb out on typing.  You can be a file clerk, receptionist, etc. You can also go back and take the typing test again after your jitters from the first time have calmed down in a month or so.

The easiest assignments to get are for receptionists.

I am not sure how the manual labor area works, so I can not address this. But, agencies do have this option available.

Dress accordingly: shirt, tie, slacks for guys and a blouse, skirt, heels for girls.  

It’s not a bad idea to ask the agency for feedback about how you are dressed and your make-up. Because of discrimination laws, the agency is not going to tell you this on their own, so you definitely need to ask them point blank what they think of your appearance.

Their feedback is important because you need to know if your “style” is too extreme and if it is going to limit where they can send you. 

The whole process of signing up and testing takes about 2 hours.  You do not need an appointment.

Bring your resume and references. Don’t worry if there are gaps in your resume.  The economy is lousy so they are very used to hearing people tell them they have been laid off.  You could be a mother getting back into the work force.

Once you accept an assignment, you are expected to finish it.  If you don’t, you will have a harder time being placed in a new assignment. Or, they may just let you go. So, to get your feet wet, I’d suggest short-term assignments to start.

The perfect balance is to sign up with two or three agencies so you can have more opportunities to get work.  There are also temp agencies that specialize such as accounting, medical, etc.  Check Yellow Pages or Google to find out who they are in your area.

The agency will also ask you how far you are willing to travel.  I’d suggest 15-20 miles.  It will give you a much wider scope.

Once an assignment is finished, the company is sent a survey card to see how you did, such as: Did you show up time?  Were assignments finished on time;  Was your appearance satisfactory, etc. The better grades you get over time lets the agency know you are a good bet and they should keep you busy and many times on assignments that pay more.

If a company liked you and your work, many times they will keep your name on a list of temps they want to use again.  So, you may be asked for by name.  The agencies love this. It makes them look good.

As far as I know, you are not required to sign any contract with the agency. I never have.

The agency will tell you your hourly rate for each assignment.  The more skills you have, the better the pay.  You are allowed to refuse an assignment. The company is expected to pay the agency on a separate bill, so it is not coming out of your paycheck.

If you are an executive who has been laid off, the worst mistake you can make is trying to find the same type of position and pay. Maybe through connections you could get help to get the same job and pay.  But, this is a long shot.

When going temp, you need to lower your expectations – a lot.

If you were in the arena of accounting and your salary was $60,000, you need to sign up with a temp agency that specializes in accounting. They also will keep you moving around to various companies where you may get a break.

Using temp-to-perm assignments will be your best bet to get a job in your field.

With long-term assignments, you may get stuck in a company you don’t like.  With short-term assignments, you will have exposure to more jobs.

So, here is the catch a lot of people are too proud to take:

You are no longer an executive with a secretary. You may be offered a temp assignment as an assistant bookkeeper rather than running the whole show.  

Many men in particular, find this too humiliating to even consider. However, you are now employed. Tell your friends who ask, that you are using the agency to find a new job.  Tell them it surprised you how much fun you are having and what a nice break it is from all the pressure of your old job. Use anecdotes and tell them about the various funny characters you have met and situations that have happened. Give it an upbeat twist and this should help you save face.

I am going to plug a movie:  “The Intern”. The man (Robert De Niro) is retired, he goes back into the workforce due to boredom. He is very low key and has to make humorous adjustments to the new generation and to his boss (Anne Hathaway). The movie is very uplifting. I highly recommend it if you are looking for work.

Psychologically, temp work is a great way to keep you moving out in the real world instead of sitting home making pointless phone calls and mailing out resumes.  It also helps ward off depression.

I know this because one cowardly phone call from my boss, while I was at home, laid me off and I was back to working temp jobs.  I had been the executive director of a county wide organization for six years making $40,000 with free health insurance.

There is an upside.  You are no longer saddled with the long hours, endless meetings, making presentations, etc.  You will have the relief of knowing you will leave work at five and have more time to spend with your family. 

So, basically there is work out there if you are willing to lower your expectations.

There are the “Type A” people who will just cast a much wider net and move to a new state where there is more employment. They may also take the plunge and change careers.

SUGGESTIONS FOR LOWERING YOUR DEBT WHEN UNEMPLOYED

I am in no way a financial advisor, but I can speak from my own terrifying experiences of being in debt and suddenly out of work.

Some ways to lessen your financial burden, are to slash spending on things you think are crucial, but which you can definitely cut from your budget:

Cell phones:  

Cancel all of them. You can get a basic cell phone for $19 a month through Cricket which is what I have. (No contract or on-going fees. Cancel anytime.) I am single and have the basic plan to use to call friends for a very short chat, cabs or AAA when on the road with a flat tire. You can get fancier plans which cost more and give you more hours, but try to keep it low. There are start-up fees, but they are not bad and you only have to do it once.

I keep mine in my purse but it is totally turned off.

Your monthly bill will come through a company named Great Call which will be on the address part of the envelope. Don’t throw it out as junk mail, as I almost did.

Giving up cell phones is going to be a very, very hard adjustment as most people use those fancy ones with family plans or the ones that take photos, and have 20 apps on them and give almost unlimited hours. If you are under a contract, ask them how to cancel it.  Tell them you have been laid off and can’t afford it anymore.

With the Cricket you will need to be aware of the minutes used because they go fast.  If you go over your limit, you will be charged for it at the normal rate. They will call you and suggest you buy a larger monthly block of minutes, which in many cases you may need. Try to keep it at $30. Cricket/Great Call is a good company. I never felt hustled.

Double-think every call.  Do you really need to call home from the grocery store and talk for 10 minutes? I have a landline phone which I use for most things. Prior to having a cell phone, I was in my grocery store and asked a customer service rep or a bagger if I could borrow their cell phone.  They were very nice about it.

Sit down as a family and gently let your kids know that finances are tight because their dad or mom was laid off and the whole family is going to have to lower costs.  Tell them you are sorry and try to look very, very sad and serious. Your kids have probably not seen you in that mood before (very often), so the shock of that will definitely kick-start them to be willing to help.

A great way to start, is to ask your kids what they are willing to give up to help with expenses.  I think you will be very proud of them as they pull together and be willing to forego a lot of luxuries they have become used to. Only one of them has to start talking about what they are willing to give-up and they should start pulling together as a group. No child likes seeing their parents really sad and worried.

Canceling their cell phone is not going to go over well with your kids, so tell them they have the option of paying for it themselves (get a job). They have plenty of kids around them to borrow phones from. 

If you are a business man or woman who owns their own company and needs a cell phone for work with more minutes, you may want to buy a second cell phone from Cricket with a lot more hours.  

I just called an accountant, and she said the second phone and fees attached are tax-deductible if used for work. (Save the attached paperwork that comes with the bill in case you are audited.)  In some professions the company will supply the phone and pay for the whole thing, especially for construction workers and realtors.

If you are using your personal cell phone for work, and not getting paid for it, tell your employer you need one the company will pay for. This is a common problem a lot of bosses don’t know about. I saw this frequently on “Undercover Boss” especially for people who work outside or make deliveries. Remind them it is tax-deductible.  You’ll get their attention with that one.

If you are lucky enough to have a housekeeper, bite the bullet and let them go, unless you want to keep this as your favorite luxury.  Actually, what I really did was cut the number of hours and asked her to come once a month for two hours instead of twice a month. Then I had to ask her if she could come only one hour a month. I told her the truth and she was willing to work with me on it.

The only reason I have a housekeeper now is because I have arthritis.  Making a bed or even vacuuming puts be in bed the next day.

Acrylic Nails

I know, I know. You’d need a loaded gun held to your head before giving these up. But, wow, they are expensive and the up-keep is supposed to be every two weeks.  Could you compromise and just get a manicure on your regular nails once or twice a month?

Doing it yourself at home is, of course, the best way to save a lot of money.  The last time I had a regular manicure it cost $25 plus tip.

But, wait — I am going to go against my own advice on this one. I feel fantastic after a normal manicure and your self esteem is going to need a boost.  So, go for it. I’d pass on pedicures.

I did find a nifty way to get a “manicure” and “pedicure” dirt cheap.  I asked if they would be willing to just cut the hand, toe nails and file them. That’s it. $15 plus tip. I fiddled around with cuticle softeners and painted them myself.

Credit Cards:

The kiss of death. You really need only one account preferably from your bank with two cards to share with your wife/husband.

Whenever possible, pay CASH for everything.  It will feel weird, but after awhile it actually feels great. I know some things you do have to pay with a check (mortgage payments, car payments, etc.). But, try to keep other flexible spending with cash.

Go through your credit card bills with a fine toothed comb. I was recently surprised to find out I was being billed monthly for a service I thought I had signed up for only three months! Next to that charge is always a phone number. Call it and find out what is going on.  Man, was I pissed.  But, when I called I was very calm and they were very nice about it. Don’t go into the attack mode. You’ll just make the whole process harder than it really is.

I cancelled it immediately and they refunded the current month’s payment.  But, I didn’t catch this for five months. That is why you need to check it monthly line by line. I hate to admit this to you, but this has happened to me at least seven times over 20 years. So much for taking my own advice.  I’d guesstimate that my failure to check my credit card statements has cost me $800 over time. That’s a lot of shoes.

Go into the bank, tell them you want to lower your credit limit to $10,000.  You can still request this lower limit even if you still owe them a lot more money.

Hold your ground – banks can be very pushy and ask why.  Do not tell them you have been laid off as this may backfire. Just tell them it is for personal reasons or that you are re-evaluating your finances. If they continue to give you a hard time, stand up and tell them in a very simple tone that you are closing your credit card with them.  This should help. Standing up is very powerful body language. 

Take your other credit cards out of your wallet, (they shouldn’t all be in there anyway), put a rubber band around them and stash them in your safe deposit box.  

I have heard on TV from well-known financial advisors that closing them is not a good idea, but I think they are wrong.  Here’s why:

I went into my bank.  I applied for a $2,500 loan for dental work and was denied even though my credit was excellent. I was told they had to factor in the “potential debt” I had from my other cards.

So, I closed them. I ordered one small thing from each card so I could get the info on the bill where to write and how to do it. However, it takes several months for this change to get through the whole credit rating system. I eventually got my teeth fixed.

However, I did hear some advice from a Financial Advisor I did agree with.  They strongly suggested that you take the credit card with the least amount owed and get that one paid off first. Then close it.  That way, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that you are getting control over your finances. Use the money you would have spent on your cancelled cell phones to pay against that credit card and that should help a lot.

Cancelling your cell phones will also give you another feeling of accomplishment. With one cancellation phone call you have just taken at least $150 a month off of your back.

When in debt, I just paid the monthly minimum. Financial advisors are against this too because of the interest charged, but they don’t have to worry about my next car payment, do they?

I know you can close these credit cards even if you owe them money. They just keep sending you a monthly bill.

Other things to review:

TV:  Do you really need 100 channels? I get by just fine with 35. Call your provider.  There are many other options that are a lot less expensive.

Dry cleaning?  Men, you can wear the same shirt twice a week if you are neat and wear a short sleeved t-shirt underneath to keep your under arms dry.   Of course, this depends on your job. If you are in construction, forget it.

Come on, ladies.  How many pairs of shoes do we really need?  I know you want more, but you can’t afford it during this upheaval.  This includes purses, too. Don’t get suckered into buying them because they are on super sale. For a few years, I had to literally stop going to many stores I loved because I  knew I’d buy something.

Showing your willingness to give up things (without whining) will help your partner know you are on their side.  They are not happy about this either.

Heat and AC

If at all possible, totally turn off you heat and AC when leaving your house for several hours while interviewing or working temp. I did this and saved at least $30 a month.

Most animals can adapt to this but check with your vet. You may need only a box fan on the floor. Teach your kids how to turn on the heat or AC while also using the auto setting after getting home from school. That way it is still turned off for at least 8 hours.

Another trick I used was to totally turn off the heat or air conditioning when I went to bed.  I bought an electric blanket for winter which worked great. I still have and use it. They last for at least 6 years. In some states you will need to keep the AC on at night, but set it as low as possible and use a large fan at night.

Groceries

Set a firm limit and stop buying all that junk food. Look at your bill after you get home. How much of that stuff do you really need? 

One trick I used was to put the budgeted grocery money in cash into an envelope and used cash from that to pay for food. That is a real wake-up call. Once the cash is gone, it’s gone. That’s when you start to get really serious and make a list and stick to it.  From what I have seen, soft drinks are the top offenders, bottled water and junk food come next.

Stop using debit cards. It is too easy to buy more than you need. I had to learn that one the hard way when my rent check bounced. Keep one in your purse/wallet for emergencies if you think you have the self discipline.

You can use your bank’s ATM for cash keeping your budget in mind. If you know you will need $150 for food that month, withdraw it and put it into an envelope marked “Groceries”.

If you have a Dollar General store, use it!  They will have 60% of what you need and you save a lot of money. Fancy brand names and all. I use mine all the time for toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, sanitary products, bar soap and laundry detergent, etc.  Make a separate list for the things you want to buy there.  It is too easy to buy all that stuff at a grocery store and pay top dollar.

Clip coupons.  At first it is annoying, but once you get the hang of it you might actually start enjoying it. I did. 

I was at a regular grocery store once and wanted to buy these ice cream sticks covered in luscious dark chocolate. I didn’t look at the price.  I just wanted them. When I got home and looked at the bill, I had just shelled out $6.90 for six bars in one box – $1+ each. Okay, I’m not perfect either.  Once in awhile I still bought a box when broke.

Do allow yourself a break from all of this madness. Once a month, a husband and wife can go to a very nice restaurant and have whatever they want.  Try to budget this in so you can pay cash.

Ship your kids down the street to a friend’s home. Pick them up after dinner. You will need this break very much even if you don’t think so.  Think of it as payback or a reward for all the miserably hard work you are doing. You really do deserve this break and won’t realize how much until you do it. Two hours of sheer bliss. (Try not to talk about your kids.)

Embarrassed about what your friends will think? Just say the word “laid off”.  You will not lose their respect.  Being laid off is happening all around them.  They will probably start telling you about other friends of theirs who have been laid off, too.

And remember:  This is not going to last forever. Once you get a full-time job, the pressure will be off. Plus, by then your family will have probably acclimated to all the changes, so keep them.

Try these suggestions, or your own, one at a time and give it two weeks or a month each. Go slowly. Making these changes is very emotionally draining and a lot of anger can go along with it.

I know this doesn’t even begin to cover all the realities you have to deal with after losing your job, so go on YouTube.  Find out how other people have adjusted to much lower incomes. There should be a lot of funny and cool ways to do it, which neither of us have thought of.

Best wishes to you all,

Ann

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YOUR BACKSTAGE PASS TO COMMUNITY THEATRE

 

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November 29, 2015

To My Wonderful Subscribers ~

Thanks to all of you for your overwhelming response to my last post:  “The Fun and Terror of Being Cast in a Play”.  I’m glad you liked it.  It was fun to write.

I also want to welcome my many new subscribers and thank all of you for your very kind comments!  I read every single one.  I’m sorry I couldn’t publish them all.                       

Oh, and while I am at it, I keep meaning to tell you guys that you totally crack me up!  You have email addresses that are so long and encrypted, the CIA could not break your code.

Okay, here we go:

In professional show business, a Backstage Pass is the most sought after thing to get.  It means you are allowed total access to the backstage of a Rolling Stones Concert, or Broadway play, or popular TV show.

So, my blog today is to give you a Backstage Pass to see what goes on behind the scenes of a community theatre production. 

I will address only those positions I have filled, otherwise we’ll be here all night

ASSISTANT SET DESIGNERS

This is the perfect place to start if you want to get your feet wet as a volunteer. It is called: “working on the set”.

The Set Designer is a paid employee.  He needs a ton of volunteers.  He’ll keep you busy, and there are so many volunteers, it is impossible not to have fun.  

The Designer has the blueprints for each scene in the play.  His assistants (you) do the following:  saw wood, put up walls, build staircases, paint sets, and anything else he needs every single night for the next four weeks.

You are not locked into volunteering every night.  Just let him know you can be there only on certain days.

You also don’t have to saw wood or do any heavy lifting.  Just tell him you want to paint sets.  That’s fine.

Here is a cool true story that I actually witnessed:  The lumber delivery for a particular show got so screwed up it was going to be three days late. The Designer was so well respected, that unknown to him, word got out that he was in serious trouble. On the day the wood was finally delivered, he was stunned to see all the carpenters from a huge construction company come marching into the theatre at 5:30 pm. They read the blueprints and got to work.  That set was up and running in two nights.  It usually takes 3 weeks….or more.

I volunteered to paint the floor of one set that needed large 12″ x 12″ black and white squares. It set the tone for the feel of a wealthy home. 

Everything worked out fine, until I realized I had just stepped on a wet square that was white.  My color was black.  So were the soles of my shoes. I hastily fixed my mistake as a large groan went up from the other painters.

DRESSER – An Assistant to the Costume Designer

This position is pretty low stress and I enjoyed it a lot.  You are helping an actor change his costume behind the stage because he has to be back on stage in three minutes. 

I stood in the wings with both arms straight out from my side like a scarecrow. On one arm, I had the layer of clothes the actor needed in a logical order.  My other arm was used as a coat hanger.  The actor quickly undressed, threw his old clothes onto my empty arm (or floor) and quickly grabbed the ones I had on the other.

One of the perks of this position is that you get to see a lot of hot guys almost naked.

STAGE MANAGER

There are many volunteers who absolutely love this position. 

I am not one of them.

I tried to do it, but was totally defeated after two days.  I had never done this before.  Why I volunteered for this position, I will never know.

My first day, someone shouted my name:  “Ann!” I ran over to them.  They said I needed to help coordinate the crew.  “Uh, what does that mean?” They told me, but I was not sure who the crew members were.

Then, I heard: “Hey, Ann! Where are you?” “Oh, I am by the lighting board.” Their reply was: “You need to be downstairs helping the costume lady!” Oh, okay.  It went on like that the whole night.

The next evening the same thing happened.  “Ann, where are you?  You’re supposed to be at the sound booth to help calibrate the levels for sound effects.” Okay.  So, I ran upstairs.  It looked like the cockpit of an airplane.  All night it was:  “Ann, where are you?”  Go here, go there.  

The next time I heard: “Ann! Where are you?”  I shouted back: “I don’t know, yet!  But, my plan is to go to the nearest bar before checking myself into the psych ward!”  I left and cried all the way home.

As I said, some people are superb at this.  Plus, they know exactly what they are supposed to do. That helps.

LIGHTING

I helped a little bit with this and learned something interesting.  There are these lights way up in the balcony just like you see in the movies. They are huge, heavy and very expensive.  Sometimes a light blows out and needs to be replaced.

You must wear cotton gloves to put in the new bulb.  If a single bare fingerprint accidentally touches the bare bulb, that area of the bulb’s surface is compromised. Once the lights are turned on, the bulbs get very, very hot.  That little fingerprint with your oil on it will cause the bulb to explode.  

SOUND EFFECTS

You order CD’s that have certain sound effects on them.  There are hundreds of these with all kind of noises you didn’t even know existed. So, when the Director told me he needed: a squeaky door, a train whistle, a screaming woman, a barking dog and a fire engine, I would look through the catalogue to find a CD that hopefully had all of these sounds on one of them.

The Director was a friendly guy, so I told him:  “You know, Mike, they have other sounds. Need anything for hot sex?” 

ACTORS

I covered the casting process in my previous blog: “The Fun and Terror of Being Cast in a Play” if you want to check it out. However, I did leave out an important point.  On that casting sheet, you can indicate if you do not want a speaking part.  You can still get cast for crowd scenes. That might be a good way for many of you to start.

HEADS UP:  This is related to sex.  I was in a production where I saw a female cast member (with generous breasts) trying to slowly remove herself from the scene to go into the wings.  She was wearing a rather revealing top, but the snaps did not stay snapped. The blouse started to slide down her chest as she tried to grab it (not quite fast enough) and ran off the stage into the wings.  The guys backstage said they got quite an eyeful. She made a lot of friends that night.

PUBLICITY

Publicity involves writing and mailing press releases to all the local papers to announce that a casting call is being held on certain days and times.  It will also include the types of actors the Director needs.  For example:  4 boys ages six to nine;  3 elderly women ages fifty to sixty;  2 middle aged men ages forty to fifty, and 6 women in their 20’s.

As it draws closer to the show’s opening, more press releases go out.

Do you have any idea what the worst mistake you can make when you type a press release? No, it’s not misspelling anyone’s name.  It’s getting the date wrong for opening night. The Director caught it before I mailed it.

PROGRAMS

These are the little pamphlets the audience gets as they come into the theatre.

Your name will be in there no matter what you did to help the production. It may not seem like a big deal as I write this, but when you suddenly see your name in print, it’s exciting.  

CAST PARTY

No drugs.  Just lots of soft drinks, beer, wine, great food, and rehashing the things that went wrong.  Throw in some light gentle gossip and you have a party!

This is how it works: The night the show ends, everyone piles into their cars. As pre-arranged, someone’s mother or more, volunteer to bake all day and lay out a feast. Everyone brings what they want to drink. The Director rarely attends this party, so as people start to loosen up, they start confessing to all the mistakes they made during the show. It’s fun to compare notes and find out your not so dumb after all.

So, this blog is your basic Backstage Pass which gives you a small overview of some of the volunteer positions in a community theatre.

Please remember, that in most cases you do not need to know anything. This is amateur theatre, so there are plenty of nice people to help you out.  Especially if you tell them this is your first time.

In closing, please don’t be intimidated by all my prattle. I lean towards Drama Queen and should be tranquilized on a daily basis.

Thanks again for your kind support.  My best wishes to all of you.

Ann

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THE FUN AND TERROR OF BEING CAST IN A PLAY

 

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October 25, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~

I had to take a break from my blog because of cataract surgery.  I also couldn’t think of a blasted thing to write about.

I finally came up with something I know well – amateur acting. Have you ever been in a play?  If not, below is the slippery slope of the whole procedure.

I have auditioned for many plays, but the fear of auditioning never goes away.  At one audition, I was shaking so hard, I could barely read the script.  I guess the director felt sorry for me and cast me anyway. 

Here’s the whole procedure from start to finish:

You read about auditions that are coming up at your local community theatre. You screw up your courage and go. Feel free to bring a friend for courage.  They don’t have to audition, they just need to be there for you. It just makes it less scary.

Jeans and a t-shirt are fine. You are given a clipboard with a form, then told to go into the casting room.  Take your friend with you.

On the form they usually just want to know your name, address, phone, any plays you may have been in – not required – and the type of part you want, big or small, basically.

You walk into the casting room and there are folding grey chairs and at least 20 people.  They all seem to know each other very well and are conversing easily. That will be your first moment of panic. You don’t know anyone and feel like a dork.  I don’t care how gorgeous you are, you are still going to feel a little scared and intimidated by the others.

I later found out from the other actors that all that talking was people covering up their own hysteria about the casting process. I hope that makes you feel better.

The director comes in and everyone shuts up and takes a seat.

The director collects all the forms people filled out, and starts calling people up to the stage. The directors are always very nice. They know you are terrified, but a good director also sees the “type” you would be good for. He also needs you more than you need him. Try to keep that in mind.

When the auditioning starts, he will assign certain pages for you to read. He’ll try people out to do various parts and switches people all around from part to part. Once he gets the big picture, he narrows down who would be good for each part.

If he keeps asking you to read certain parts, you know he is definitely interested in you. 

Once auditions are over (this usually takes an hour or more), you leave and wait for a phone call.  At that point, you are relieved the auditions are over, but now you are nervous again. OMG, what if I get cast?

Well, surprise!  You thought you did a lousy job, but are cast in a very large part. Then there is that roller coaster panic again.  What if I can’t do it?  What if I can’t remember the lines?

You will be told when rehearsals will begin. Usually, the people with the large parts are rehearsed first.  You will be given a script, and the director will tell you where to stand and move on the stage.  This is called “blocking”.

Don’t worry about trying to remember the lingo.  The Director will help you.

A “cue” is when the other actor says a line and then you say your line.  He may say: “Whew, that was some party.” That is your cue to say your line: “Yes, it was.” The thing you will hear the director say over and over is: “Pick up your cues!” Meaning, don’t wait so long to say your line.

“Upstage” means walking or standing near the very back of the stage. “Down stage” means you walking or standing on the stage nearest the audience.

“Stage right” means the actor moves to their right on the stage, not the audience’s right.

“Hold for laughs” means you stop speaking after your line, so the audience has time to laugh.  This can feel awkward as you need something to do while the audience laughs. It can mean anything:  if you are a man you could cross your legs and examine your nails, for women or men you can pick up something from a table and examine it.

It is crucial to “hold for laughs”, otherwise, the audience can’t laugh  because they are afraid they will miss the next line. Audiences HATE that, so just shut up during a small or huge laugh, so they feel free to cut loose.  They will now relax because they know they can laugh as much as they want to without missing the next line. 

You will be holding your script, so when the Director says “move down stage after that line” you write in pencil in the script a code: ds after your line to remind you to move downstage on that line.

You will be in evening rehearsals for five to six weeks.

There will come a day when the director will say:  “Okay, I want everyone off script next week.”  That means you have to know your lines and blocking by then without using your script.  It is totally appropriate for you to feel terrified. Everyone else is.

Somewhere during this rehearsal period, a very nice lady will stop by to take your measurements.  She needs to order your costumes as determined by the director. Fancy with flourishes, tailed suit, etc.

You will then have a “run through”.  This means you will be in costume on the stage and going through the whole play from start to finish for the first time. The first run through is usually a disaster and the Director knows it.

There will be several run throughs in costume.  There is an old saying that “a bad final run through means a good show”.

You are going to go off stage and down stairs to change your costume.  Many times someone is there to help you.  Then you race upstairs, then be sure you are behind the black curtain behind the scenery and be on the correct side of the stage to make your entrance.

That black curtain is called the “scrim”.  I don’t know why. 

You will also hear the word: “project”.  This means you need to talk louder so the people in the balcony can hear it. It will feel weird to you, but not the audience.

As to make-up, you usually bring your own.  It is normal make-up just like what you buy at a department store.  The difference is that you will put it on four times stronger than for the streets.  This is because the “kleig” lights are very strong and will wash you out. If you need help with this, the others  actors will show you how to put it on and how much.

Okay, it is show time.  You hear the audience come in and sit down.  There is a stage manager who is responsible for everything backstage. I’m not sure what that really means, but I certainly would never want the job.

There will be a prop table behind stage on the side. Your props will be there, but it is your responsibility to make certain they are there: a book, flashlight, umbrella, etc.

You take your place on stage or wait in the “wings” next to your entrance.

Then the curtain rises.

Once you get over the first five minute of jitters, you suddenly realize – “Oh, this is just like we rehearsed it”. I know that sounds weird, but it will happen to you.

Forgetting your line.  Every actor’s biggest fear. It doesn’t matter how famous you are. I have seen interviews where Oscar winning actors will easily confess the terror they feel when the camera starts to roll.

Especially on a stage, the director can not say “cut” to give you a second chance. Hopefully, another actor will come to your aid and say part of your line in a way the audience won’t notice.

If that doesn’t work, you have to jump to improvising. This can get scary because you have to remember the whole point of the conversation.  If he is talking about cats, you can’t suddenly start talking about dogs.  Just remember to stay in character. 

When an actor forgets a line it is called: “going up”. 

When the play is finally over, the director will have taught you exactly how to line up on stage when the curtain goes up for your “curtain call”.  Just do what he said.

It is really fun when you learn to “read an audience”.  You can tell from their applause if they LOVED it or not.  You can also learn to read an audience while you are acting. If they gasp after a line is said, that means they are really listening and are engrossed in the play.

After your curtain call (two or more is fantastic), the audience may keep applauding after the curtain goes down. The stage manager will then order the curtain to be raised again so you can take a second bow.

Reviews.  You have probably seen this a million times in movies.  After the play has its opening night, the professional actors have a party at someone’s house and wait until 5:00 am or so, to run down and buy the papers to read the reviews. They are truly scared to death.  A famous powerful critic can kill a show. He hates it, so ticket sales can dry up and they have to close the play. The actors are paid to be in this play, so if it doesn’t go over with the critics, they may be out of a job. 

So for us amateurs, we have to wait until the next evening to get the papers. We are scared of the critics, too. But the reviews are not barbed with cruel words.

They will mention by name the main actors and actresses and some supporting actors. They may compliment the scenery and wardrobe.  I don’t think I have ever read a really bad or mean review in community theatre.  The criticism I remember was the actors were not speaking loudly enough or the pace was slow.

In most amateur theatres, there are season subscribers. They have paid ahead and will probably come see it anyway.

The saddest part of being in a play is when it is over and you know your family of actors will scatter to the wind. You will have no idea how closely you have all bonded until you have to say goodbye.  I always found that part very lonely.

I read an interview with Janet Leigh who starred in a movie with James Dean. She said that after the movie “wrapped” – no more filming needed,  she found James Dean crouched under a grand piano crying very hard.  She gently asked him what was wrong. He said:  “They are all gone. It’s over. I feel so alone.”

Now that you have one play under your belt, you will probably be eager to audition for another one.  You may not get cast again at that particular theatre, but there are usually one or two more within a 20 miles radius.

You also want to check with the colleges. Many have “open” casting which means you don’t have to be a student to audition.

Plus, there are positions backstage “the crew” and you could apply for that. You would be assisting someone and learning a new skill.

I left out something.  Behind all this terror and insecurity, is also an adrenaline rush. So, if you are an adrenaline junkie, you are going to LOVE being in a play.

All and all, this should be on your Bucket List. It is a great memory.

Best wishes and a warm hello to my new subscribers!

Ann

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HOW TO ACE COLLEGE

 

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September 6, 2016 – UPDATE  

(Originally published August 20, 2015)

Hi, Subscribers ~

I published this a year ago about the same time. 

Since then, the number of my subscribers has increased significantly.  I thought I would publish it again for those of you who may have missed the original publication.

I hope this will help those of you who are going back to college.

Here are some excellent tips from books and students who really do know how to nail down A’s and beat the academic system.

STUDYING

Stop highlighting the daylights out of your text books!

What you are actually doing is highlighting what you think is important. Your professors don’t care what you think.  They only care about what they think is important.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Trot over to the bookstore and snap up a blue pen and a green one.  Forget red. It bleeds and clots like a murder victim.

TAKING NOTES

Once you are in class, use your blue pen to write notes on what he says verbally.

But, when he starts writing on the board, grab your green pen and write down all of that information including the weird diagrams.

Anything your professor puts on the board will be on a test.

Go back to your blue pen when he is not using the board.

You want this color system so when reviewing your notes, you will be able to distinguish between his overall teaching and what he puts on the board. Both are important, but give eagle eye attention to your green notes.

STUDYING

Here is a trick I used.  It felt tedious when I first tried it, but it worked:

The night prior to a class, I re-read my notes starting all the way back to the first day of that class. I did not study them, I simply read them. Then I went on to read the assignment. When I timed it, I found it took two minutes to do this re-reading, even starting from the first class.

The beauty of this is that when you just read  – not study – your previous notes over and over throughout the semester, it starts to get etched into your brain.  

When it is test time, you really do need to study all your notes. But, it should be relatively easy to remember everything since you have already read those notes 20+ times. 

WHERE TO STUDY

Try to re-read your notes and your next assignment in the library, not in your dorm room. You want as few distractions as possible.

If you still get distracted in the library, go to the “Absolute Silence” room.  It is quiet as a tomb in there and all college libraries have one.

Studying with your friends is great and study groups are really fun. But, if they can’t stick to the topic and would rather flirt with other students, bite the bullet and fly solo. Use one of those single desks facing the wall, or plant yourself back in the Absolute Silence room.

Another tip:

While you are in the library, there will be books like “What ‘A’ Students Know” etc.  Ask the librarian to help you find them. Read at least one. Those books are the ones I read and am drawing from for this blog. The ones I read were easy and light reading.  Find one that appeals to you and feels comfortable.

USE STUDY TIME EFFICIENTLY

Try to come up with a system you can live with and that is realistic. For example, some students have the amazing ability to structure their study time for Monday through Thursday night.

Friday nights, all day Saturday and most of Sunday they take off totally to go to frat parties, organize tailgate parties, take trips and, in general, just blow off steam and have fun. Guilt free.

Sunday nights, they make an attempt to head back to the library. They may have a killer hangover, but a few of them will be there.

Very few people have this kind of self-discipline, but it is the gold level.  Aim for it. If you can do just half of it, you should be in pretty good shape.

In one class, I was sitting next to a student who shocked the daylights out of me. He hardly took any notes at all. I asked him what he was doing and he said he took notes by writing down one word every few minutes.  I asked if he could recall the entire class from those single words and he said yes. Once he told me that, I was ballistic with jealousy.

If you have a brain like that, goof off all you want to!

TAKING THE TEST

Here are a few tricks to help you:

Read the entire test from start to finish before diving into it.  These few minutes will probably make you feel anxious since you are using up test time to do it.  Don’t worry about it. It is probably only one minute, although it may feel like more.

It will give you the big picture so you get an overall idea of what the professor is looking for before you start the test.

Ironically, it also forces you to slow down and in turn helps you to relax and concentrate.

Read the question.  Circle the key words. It helps you focus and zone in on exactly what your professor is asking.  I found this trick to be extremely helpful and used it on all of my tests.

Answer the questions with as much detail as possible.

I once totally bombed on a test, because I was leaving out what I thought was the small stuff. I was very upset and angry when I spoke to the teacher. I asked what I did wrong. She explained she needed more detail. So, I said “But, I know all of that stuff” and started to rattle it off. She advised me to put all that small stuff into my answers. I did, and started getting much better grades.

As the time draws closer to the end of the test, write down on the test how much time is left. For example, you are writing furiously and become aware of the time. You still have that essay question taunting you at the end that requires a lot of info. So, you tear into the essay question. But, after the third paragraph, you suddenly realize time is short and you have to pick up speed.

In the text while you are writing, simply put: (15 min) — and continue writing.  You will shorten your answers, but put in the key elements:  “Henry 8. Wanted son. Catholic church, divorces. United Church of England. No sons. Killed wives, re-married. (10 min) — By now you will be down to almost one word sentences. Get the main points down so your professor is aware you know this stuff. “Lincoln, Civil War 1861-5, Emancipation Proc, free slaves, assassinated” – and keep going from there.  (5 min left) — You are on warp speed.

I did this and it worked.  My professor accepted it.  He understood my timeline since I had scribbled it down and understood the need for my shorthand.

Every class and professor is different.  Adjust accordingly. After the first test, you will get the feel for what type of tests they give.

IF YOU ARE DROWNING

For even the smartest students, there are always one or two classes that totally throw them.

All professors have office hours where they can meet with you one on one.  Write those times down.

See them during office hours where you can have a melt-down, ask questions, and tell them you still don’t get it. You do not need an appointment.  Just show up. I thought there would be a line down the hall waiting to see him.  I was the only one there.

All of your professors have been teaching this stuff for years. They already know which classes or chapters will throw their students. They are expecting to see you.  They also know every question you are going to ask.

If you consistently (once a week or more) show up for their office hours for that tough course, there is a good chance you may get a B instead of a B-.  The professor will respect your effort to learn.  It shows that you are doing the best you can and at least making the effort to understand their class.  Professors like that a lot.

MORE HELP

Professors also have a very relaxed unstructured class in the evening. I can’t remember what they are called, but they are different from office hours.  

As many students who want to, show up and just throw out questions. You will not lose points for this. They usually last an hour.

You should hear about this class the first day, or just ask your professor. Definitely write this down.  

I can promise you there will be others there in the same boat. Even if your professor for this class is scary and tough, they understand you are there because you are floundering and may relax their demeanor a bit.

Be aware that you will have at least one or two professors you will absolutely HATE.  Keep your cool in class.  You have to get by this jerk in order to have enough credits to graduate. Many times, when you see them during office hours, they are pretty nice.  No promises.

GETTING EVEN MORE HELP

Grab as many resources as you can. For example, you know which students seem to understand the material that is throwing you.

See if you can get them and maybe one other person to form a serious study group. Once the word gets out about this group, you will most likely end up with similar students who don’t get it either.

It is very flattering to the student you ask for help, so it should not be hard to get one.

Here is another trick:

Ask one of your professors if you are allowed to get a real classroom late in the day to have this study group.  The blackboard will be available for diagrams, etc. and because you are among your peers, you can comfortably ask any questions you need to. The professor is not there so you don’t have to worry about the impression you are making.

Don’t wait until the third class to get help or you will always be playing catch-up making yourself feeling scared and miserable.

You should know after the first class and reading assignment that you are going to have a problem. That’s when  you shift into high gear for help. Do not wait!!

Not getting help soon enough and skipping class are the top two biggest mistakes you can make.

WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK

It is not all about getting A’s. Balance your student life with other things you enjoy on campus:  be in a play, join a debating club, take an elective that is just flat-out fun. All work and no play makes for a very lonely and depressed student.

To sum it up, college is a great opportunity that not everyone gets.

You will also meet a fantastic array of people, many from foreign countries. The friendships you make in college can last a lifetime.

Take full advantage of all of this. These will be some of the best and most memorable years of your life.

Best wishes,

Ann

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HOW TO HOLD A SUCCESSFUL YARD SALE

 

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August 16, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~

I would like to take a moment to warmly welcome my many new subscribers. There were a lot of you since my last post. Thank you for your support.  I am very glad to have you with us!

Okay, here we go…

If you are thinking of having your first yard sale – think BIG.  Have at least 50+ things to sell, if you can.

There are many people who like to collect specific things.  That old glass doorknob on a shelf in the basement has value to people who collect them, for example:  Old Boy Scout uniforms, vinyl records, CD’s, DVD’s, purses, shoes, vintage or modern hats, cribs, nursery toys, plates and utensils, old radios, decorative pillows, jewelry, bicycles, etc.

Yard sales are traditionally held on Saturdays at 7:00 am.

COLLECTING ITEMS TO SELL

Wander through your house or apartment from the attic to the basement.  Open drawers, rummage through closets, the kitchen, the garage.  You will be surprised at how much you have accumulated and really don’t want anymore.

Sit down with your kids and go through all their games. Ask them which ones they don’t want anymore. Add them to the sale.

Never assume that an old lamp shade or that old umbrella stand is junk. Lots of people would be happy to buy them. The artsy-crafty folks can see the potential in all kind of things, even an old broom.

Don’t overlook your garage.  There is usually a ton of things you could sell: old lawnmowers, all kinds of tools like saws, hammers, tool boxes and contents, gardening tools, old Christmas decorations, sleds, wheelbarrows.  This is a great time to clean out your garage.

There will also be a hoarder or two. They are attracted to all yard sales.

These usually sell fast: kids toys, board games, clothes and books for both children and adults, CD’s  and DVD’s.

Clump books in a box into sections and mark them clearly.  Biographies,  autobiographies, history, etc. They sell much faster this way.

Gradually move the smaller things up to your dining room or garage.

The day of the sale, your friends need to come over at 6:00 AM to help you move the larger things outside. Get as many men as you can if you are selling furniture.  Give all your friends 2 weeks warning and a reminder a few days prior.

Ask some of your friends to stick around.  You may get a larger crowd than expected and will need help with sales.

ADVERTISING

There are many yard sale addicts who scour the Friday night newspaper for ads about yard sales. Others, just drive around to find them.  I’m suggesting advertising because you will get much more exposure and a stronger response. That’s how it worked for me, anyway.

Four days prior to your sale, go to your local paper and talk to the nice folks in the Classified section.  Show them the rough draft of your ad, and they will whittle it down for you and make it efficient. This will also save you money.  Ask them to run it on Friday just before the sale. Most yard sales start at 7:00 AM, but be prepared for early birds who show up at 6:00. You can tell them you are still setting up and to come back.  They will.

SUPPLIES

Be prepared to spend around $50+ for supplies. I know this seems high, but think of it as a investment for your future yard sales. Most of these things you need to buy only once.

There are many, many less expensive ways to do this, but I am suggesting that you make this as easy on yourself as possible. If you have a yard sale every summer, all of these things will  pay for themselves quickly.

Get professional yard sale signs at Lowe’s. They will have wire legs taped to the back, so you can slide them easily into the ground. You will need four of them.

Place two signs at the two corners of your main big street that intersects with your road.  You want them on either side of your road so both directions of on-coming traffic will see them. Scatter the other two down your street.  They will see the yard sale so you won’t need a sign there.

Go to a grocery store where they know you and get roughly 25 plastic grocery bags. The baggers usually don’t have a problem with this if you tell them it is for a yard sale. Customers will need these after buying something.

Pre-printed price stickers. You can find these in pharmacies in the school supply section. Or, you can just use white blank stickers that are “removable”. Read the box carefully for this word.  You do not want “permanent”.

Free boxes from liquor stores. They are used to this request and most save them. They usually keep them outside in the back.  Keep going back every two or three days as there are usually more boxes.

Use a clothing rack on wheels.  You can get these at Lowe’s.  Assembly is easy. You will definitely be able to use this again in your home and next yard sale.

A long orange extension cord to plug in games to show customers that they work. (Borrow from a friend.) Or, just hook together two or three regular extension cords that you already have.

Batteries.  Same reason.  (You keep the batteries.)

SET-UP

Think like a department store.  Keep all like things together.

Put the price tags on all your items. If it is not priced, people may not hunt you down to ask.

Keep clothes hanging on the clothing rack, each marked with a price. Keep kids clothes on one side and adults on the other. All clothes should be very clean and ironed.  

Turn over the liquor cartons and throw a towel over them or colorful paper like wrapping paper. This will give you a flat colorful surface to display things on . People love color. They are attracted to it. Use lots of it!

MONEY

You will need cash.

Get one roll of nickels, dimes, and quarters. Get 10 $1 bills. Hard core yard salers know the prices are low, so I doubt anyone is going to flash a $100 bill.

A front style fanny pack or carpenter apron for the money. Those steel boxes are too easy for someone to walk away with.  Keep the money on you.

As sales start to pile up, hand off extra money to a friend to put in the house.

Be prepared to bargain.  This is the heart and soul of any yard sale.  If it is marked 25 cents, they will ask if you will take 10 cents. Keep that in mind when pricing.

Don’t bargain too much. The goal is to get rid of things and make some money. If the item is marked for 20 cents, they will offer 10 or 15 cents. If they suggest 10 cents, you counter offer for 15. If they say 10 cents again, take it.

Keep your front and back doors locked.

SET-UP

You can do whatever looks good to you.

Furniture should be in the front near the road as a lot of people are looking for this.

Baby clothes and toys are very, very popular.

Have your kids set up a lemonade stand on a colorful card table to keep them busy. Charge 10 cents per cup and be certain you have at least 25 cheap paper cups. It should pay for itself, especially on a hot day.

You can lay things on blankets.

PERMITS

You may need a permit. Ask the police about that. You don’t want your yard sales raided and shut down.

CLEAN-UP

This is pretty easy.  Most yard sales close down around 2:00 or sooner.

Have someone drive up and remove the yard sale signs.  Keep them for future use.

Put away the things that did not sell or donate them to Goodwill.

Clean up your yard thoroughly. Your neighbors will appreciate this.

Have coffee, ice cold beer and soft drinks on hand for your friends.

Sit back and count your money.

I hope you had fun!

Best wishes,

Ann

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VOLUNTEERING

 

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August 1, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~

I hope you all had a great summer.

As we get further into August, all you moms out there are probably counting the days until  your kids go back to school.  I know you love them, but geesh, three months of them screeching through the house?

I am bringing up school because after my retirement, I was getting bored.  I was used to 12 hour days, high pressure deadlines, and basically living my life at warp speed.

So, after retirement, I turned to volunteering. My lifestyle slowed down a lot, but it also picked up in other ways.

My first volunteer experience, was tutoring at an elementary school.   I was given a group of six third-grade kids in a small classroom. I tutored four separate groups of six kids every  day.

Did I know what  I was doing?  Noooo…but, the teachers gave me some structure as to what they wanted these kids to learn.

Six kids and I sat at a small rectangular table all of them looking at me with expectant eyes, or boredom.

I started talking about the various things we were going to learn and how they would accumulate a lot of different information.

It suddenly struck me half way through my second class, that I was using some pretty big words.  So, I asked them if they knew what the word “accumulate” meant.  A girl spoke right up and said flatly: “No”.  Then I started asking about other words and they continued to say off handedly “No”.  In hindsight this is funny, but at the time I was very embarrassed. They were supposed to learn from me?

It started to get better and I developed my own style of teaching.  In each class the students and I started to bond and laughter surrounded us.  It was great. To keep that vibe moving, I would ask a question, a kid would answer it and then I’d challenge the other kids if they agreed with the answer. Some very original thinking starting to pop up whenever I asked if they agreed. That’s when I felt the entire class click and all of us started to move together in the same direction and having fun. I had forgotten how cute it sounded when six kids start giggling. 

We whipped through the assignments the teachers gave me but, I was running out of materials.  I told the teachers I needed more, but they didn’t have much more to give me.  I asked if what I was doing was showing any improvement in the classroom.  They said things were improving and they were very happy with the progress. But, since new materials were not being given to me, I started to improvise.

I taught them the vowels and we put them to a simple musical rhythm and they remembered them. They also thought it was fun to dance around while reciting them..

Then I switched over to History and they learned who the President was, what kind of government we had, how many states, how many stars on the flag and what they represented.

Moving onto Geography, I found a map and  they started learning where the states were and where the capital of the country was. Gradually we moved on to four or five major states and they learned what they were famous for  such as Idaho for potatoes, Texas for oil and cattle, etc.

One day, I just put the map on the table and asked them to point out where the capital was and what it was called. Where were the states we discussed located? They leaned over the table in serious study. They would point at one thing, others disagreed, so the game was on. Without much effort, they nailed it.  Third graders can learn all of this stuff? Apparently.

The semester ended, summer was upon us, and my classes were over.

So, my second volunteer venture began by giving gentle manicures to the elderly in a retirement home with 80 beds.  WOW – did I learn a lot.

After setting up my station in the hair salon, I immediately started to get customers.  (It was all free.)  I used gloves and rubbing alcohol to create a sterile environment for both of us.

After I made sure they had no cuts on their hands, I’d place their fingers in warm water with mild detergent.  Then using pure alcohol, I started gently digging out from under their nails. Then I would file them.  I asked what color nail polish they wanted. I had bought bright red, pink, sparkled, silver, blue and every wild color I could find.

A group of curious ladies started to form at the door. I had them come in with their walkers and wheelchairs and a great gab fest began. I made sure there were plenty of chairs.

One lady told me she should have only clear nail polish.  I asked her if she had been raised a Baptist and she burst out laughing. So, I along with the rest of the group, nudged her into wearing a shocking bright red. Her eyes lit up and she loved showing them off to the other residents.

Business picked up very quickly to the point where I had to have a scheduling chart on the door.

As  the  manicures continued, I learned about their childhoods, what they did before retiring, how many kids they had, etc. They started talking over each other and I was laughing so hard, it was difficult to get the polish on evenly.

But, then I started to notice sadder things.

Most of their kids did not stay in touch with them. When a woman got a picture postcard from one of their kids, the women would come down the hall, out of their rooms, just to see the postcard.  The message was read aloud and that one thing was good for a solid 30-minute conversation.

Since their Social Security was usually being used to pay for their occupancy at the retirement home, they were dependent on their kids to supplement their recreation, or whatever.  A lot of their kids seemed to over look this.

The saddest thing I saw was when the bus for the retirement center came around and a lot of the ladies got on to go shopping. One lady could not go.  She didn’t have any money. I started to slip her a $20, but she firmly refused it.  Her kids had not sent her any money that month and I was devastated for her.

When the women came back from shopping, you would not believe how far they could stretch a dollar. They had bags from Dollar General where they picked up beads, elastic, trinkets and other things to make bracelets.  Then they would go to either Goodwill or sometimes a small store and buy a smock or bedroom slippers.  But, they also bought toothpaste, bar soap, shampoo.  I didn’t understand why they bought those everyday things, until I learned they were not provided by the retirement home. Or, if they were, they had to pay for them. I couldn’t believe it.

There was a happy ending.  While shopping, the ladies bought a few small fun things for the resident who couldn’t go with them.

So, if you want to do something really nice for someone in a lower income retirement home, go to CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens and buy bottles of a nice smelling shampoo, good bar soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand lotion, bedroom slippers, and some magazines or better yet, some movie CD’s.  Wrap each item up in colorful paper, put them into decorative bags with tissue paper and leave it with the director or the front desk.  They will ask what is in there,  so make sure you have the receipt and/or list. They have to screen for things that might not be safe for the residents.  Then you leave.

I did it and it made me feel terrific. I spoiled them rotten and bought at least 25 things.  If they were factory packaged in a group, I undid the package and wrapped each one separately. I hope it felt like Christmas for them.  I think I spent $45 and I’d rather give it to them via presents than any charitable group.

If you have parents in a retirement home, please remember to send them $25 or more a month so they have the money to go out when the other residents do and shop for things: crafts, clothing, personal hygiene products, and a stop for lunch.  It is a real social event for them and a chance to get away from their day-to-day predictable routine. Those trips lasted two or more hours.

These trips also helped to brighten their mood. Depression can be a real issue at a retirement home. Especially when parents feel they have been thrown away and forgotten.  Call them. Give them something computerized like a laptop so they can email you. If you think they are too techy deficient, I can almost guarantee someone there can teach them. They will also catch on to how to play games on that thing, lots of games, and enjoy it with the other residents.

Oh, in case you still think of the elderly as feeble and slow witted, I have a surprise for you. One day, I walked through the dining room out to the back patio and there were six of them playing poker.  (I believe toothpicks were the currency.)

In summary, if you love your parents, honor and respect them. Your mom was the one who made your birthdays fun. The sleep-overs she arranged. The great Christmases when you got what you asked for.  Who took care of your dog when he was sick?  Your dad who took you to a baseball came or watched you when you were in one.  The same guy who sometimes said: “Don’t tell your mother, but while she is out, let’s go sledding down that long hill.”

Definitely, don’t leave your fathers out.  Hair or no hair, men seem to still love baseball caps of their favorite teams.  Small computer gizmo games. Men love those computer-type things to play with. A cell phone. You know him better than I do, so think of something you know he’ll love. It does not have to be expensive. (Please, not a tie.)

Send tons of photographs of their grandkids.  A CD of all of their grandchildren horsing around in the backyard, birthday parties, playing in the snow, the dog running around and playing with them. The retirement home will have (or should have) a TV to accommodate a CD.  You also might enjoy knowing that the entire TV room is going to fill up to watch it together. They will love it and want to watch it over and over.

Keep the communication open between you and your parents.  Call and tell them you love them and miss them. Ask if they like their doctor.  Ask if they like the food. Ask if they are being treated well  by the staff. Ask if they have been sick lately, ask what it was and how was it was treated. Ask if people are stealing from them. Unfortunately, this can be very common, especially if they leave the money you send them in their rooms.  Tell them to leave their money with the associate director in her desk. You may also want to have a chat with the director about what they are doing to cut down on the theft. When the director does not hear from you, they can get psychologically lazy. Any kind of call from you to check on your parent’s well being will leave a very serious impression.

This communication between you and your parents is especially important the first three months after they have been taken away from their home full of family memories. They have just been put into a strange environment where making friends can be awkward and lonely.

Can you stop by? That’s the best present of all. Familiar loving faces. I have seen male and female residents burst out crying when they see their family. If they are physically able, take them out to lunch or dinner.  Bring a real present, not just flowers.

One day you will be at their funeral. Don’t wait until then to start feeling guilty about all the things you could have done.  You won’t get that second chance.  So, do it now.

Best wishes,

Ann

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PUPPY DOG TAILS

 

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June 11, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~

Since some of my previous posts have been pretty heavy and serious, I am shifting gears to something that is more warm and fuzzy – puppies and dogs.

What is there not to like about them?

They live to please you.

They don’t care what you look like in the morning as you roll out of bed with messy hair, no make-up and lousy breath.

Then, your urgent need to pee. Actually, as puppies, they are politely curious about what goes on in your bathroom. If you leave the door open, they will sit and watch you, blinking and cocking their head from left to right. Then when the flush comes, they jump back and peak their head around the corner looking at the toilet and then at you. While washing your hands, you look down at them and tell them you will explain this to them when they get older.

Oh, you know what is really great? They don’t care what you look like naked.

They also don’t care that you haven’t shaved your legs in two weeks.

They don’t care if that outfit makes you look fat.

What they do care about, is following you around with intense curiosity watching everything you do and hoping for a hug.

It is impossible not to spoil a dog. He wants to play with you, and you want to play with him. My dog was a Golden Retriever. The first toy I found for him was a tennis ball. I rolled it away from him assuming he would run after it and bring it back. The retriever instincts hadn’t kicked in at 3 months old, so I walked him over to the ball and rolled it again. He saw it moving and followed it with his eyes. Then nothing. He looked up at me and I reminded him he was a retriever and his DNA needed to kick in to gear.

I rolled it again. Nothing. So, I picked him up with his feet still touching the floor, and waddle walked him to the ball and sat him down. Then I placed the ball near his mouth. Nothing. He sniffed it, licked it, and just stood there. I was laughing the whole time and at one point I just hit the floor, rolled over on my back and suddenly he came over and started licking my face and wagging his tail. That was the end of the lesson for the day.

He yawned, so I set him in his cushy little doggy bed and let him sleep.

Well, as the months rolled past, he did get the instinct to retrieve and loved chasing Frisbees in the back yard. I’d keep throwing them, he kept catching them, but a curious and frustrating trait appeared. He would not drop the Frisbee when he brought it back to me. I quickly learned this was part of his game and he loved avoiding me as I lunged for it. He’d run around, come close, and I’d grabbed for it and he’d pull away. Then he decided it would be even more fun if he let me catch it, but not let go. This behavior with Frisbees or anything you played with him continued for the rest of his life.

I bought him one of those little tug-of-war ropes and he loved that. He could pull really hard on it and if I was not careful, he would some times accidentally bite on a finger. This time, I yelped a little and he dropped the rope and came over to look at my very small wound. Then he did the most amazing thing. He sat down, looked at it, and started licking it. I knew he was saying he was sorry, so I’d stroke his side and tell him it was alright and that he was still a good dog. He’d wag his tail and then – boom – he wanted to keep playing!

One day I got the idea of faking him out. When he grabbed something and would not let it go, I showed him a doggy treat and he’d let go. I loved yelling “fake out”, but he jumped right on me and kept on playing. Oddly, he always fell for that trick and never did catch on.

There were two events later in his life I will never forget:

The first one was when he wanted to play with this huge very sharp chef knife. I don’t know how he got it, but as he was coming towards me, I noticed he was holding the sharp side of the blade towards his mouth. I sat down and froze. Luckily, he was just walking not running towards me, so with the most calm and serious voice I could muster, I told him: “Drop it!”. He didn’t. So, I said it again and made firm angry eye contact with him. He lowered his head and dropped it. I casually walked over, picked it up, and told him he was good dog and I threw the knife in the dishwasher and told my family what had happened. We were more careful about not leaving knives on counter tops.

I always reward a good behavior by saying: “Good dog!” so they know I will not get mad at them after giving a command (as above) and having them obey it even if their behavior scared me to death.

The second thing was amazing. He was now grown and weighed 60 pounds. There was this large black dog the same size who liked to stare at him through a window in the living room. I had heard about dog’s hairs going straight up when angry, but this was a first for me. Every time that black dog came by to stare and antagonize him, my dog would go nuts. Hair straight up, growling and barking and basically going ballistic.

We never let him out without a leash, but our parents weren’t home, so we let him out. The window was on the side of the house, so the black dog did not see him coming. Talk about a double take! My dog lunged for him and the dog fight of the century broke out. We looked through the living room window totally in awe. With his dog hair standing straight up, we suddenly realized our dog was 80% pure muscle. The fight continued until the black dog rolled over indicating he had lost.

We went out, full of excitement, to congratulate him and hug him, but as we saw the black dog walk away, that dog rolled his tail around and flipped it straight up. (The universal gesture we all know.)

Well, our dog took off at warp speed and attacked him. This time the fight lasted 15 seconds and the black dog ran off never to be seen again.

We (my brothers and sister), were still outside in a semicircle as our dog trotted happily back into the house as we all took one huge step back. We looked around at each other and I said: “That dog is never sleeping in my bed, again!” But, dogs let go of emotionally charged issues must faster than we do. When we got the nerve to go back inside, he was wagging his tail, looking very proud of himself for guarding his turf…and us. We spoiled him rotten all day.

How do you explain snow to a dog? The snow is pretty easy.  But, the thunder? Oh, man. I tried to comfort him, pet him, hold him and tell him everything was going to be alright. Then, crash! Another thunder blast.

He shot out from under the table and ran upstairs. I ran up after him, found him squeezed under my bed. I threw back the sheet and blanket and patted the bed to tell him to get in. He did.

I laid next to him and pulled up all the covers and hugged him close to me talking softly. I guess it helped a little, but the storm went on for an hour and he was still shaking and whimpering. He protected us from that black dog, and now I was trying to protect him, but nothing I did seemed to help.

Finally, the thunder stopped and as the silence slowly settled over us, we both fell asleep.

Dogs never do get over the fear of thunder. You just have to be there and go through it with them.

Warm wishes to you all and to the wonderful dogs in your life,

Ann

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PASSING ALGEBRA AND LIFE

 

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June 22, 2015

Hi, Subscribers!

My computer is confused. It says I never sent this blog out, but I thought I did. If it’s a duplicate, my computer apologizes.

This blog was inspired by your comments and questions. I hope I got it right!

High school was hard for me. I flunked Algebra twice . They would give me a final grade of D if I wrote a paper on an approved topic over the summer. So, I did. I got the D and moved on.

In order to stay in college, during my freshman year, I had to take Algebra again because I could not “test-out” of it. Meaning, I had to show enough proficiency in it via a test, but I bombed out. I was furious. It was high school all over again.

But, I got lucky. I liked the teacher a lot. She knew we didn’t want to be there. But, her genius was that she didn’t fight us.

She used baby steps all the way through the course. She would present a very small (easy) problem on the board and showed us how to solve it. She presented the same problem over and over until we got it.

But, this is what really saved me. All teachers in college have two days a week with office hours. Students go there during those hours to get some one-on-one help.

I forced myself to go almost every office hour she had. I presented her with homework problems that I could not solve and then burst out crying from frustration and panic that I would never understand any of this.

I was stunned when I saw my final grade was an A.

What is the point of all of this? GET HELP in order to attain your goals in life.

In a previous blog, I mentioned that while in college, I went over to the table in the cafeteria where all “the nerds” sat. That was out of my comfort zone, but I made it happen. It was up to me to MAKE it happen. It was one of the best risks I could have taken. Now, I had a whole group of geniuses to run to when I needed the help with anything to do with math.

Did you find starting a blog easy? I didn’t. It was worse than Algebra. Confusion reigned – so I sent a letter to the local college to hire a student with the program understanding of computers to help me get moving on using WordPress. If I had not made the effort to FIND SOMEONE to help me, I would not be writing this blog.

To pass anything in life, get the help you need in any way you can in order to reach your goal. It really is out there and easy to find.

Did you know you can get “Interviews for Information”? That is exactly what they are called and they are usually easy to get if the secretary understands what you want. Some don’t so you will have to explain it. An “after hours” Interview for Information may help things along.

This is how it works. Let’s say you think you want to be a car mechanic, but want a reality check to be sure? Call and make an “after hours” appointment with a licensed mechanic. Not just someone who fools around with cars in their yard. If you make an official appointment, bring your questions and dress appropriately. A suit at a garage will look ridiculous. A clean shirt and slacks is good enough. For a business office, add a jacket, tie and normal shoes, not Nikes. Borrow the jacket or blazer from your friends and whatever you need in order to look the part.

People LOVE giving advice to someone interested in the same field.

You can do the same thing with anyone in any field. Tell the secretary that you were thinking of going into this field, and you need an “after hours” Interview for Information with whomever: your doctor, dentist, a librarian, an animal vet, someone in the Armed Forces.

The info you get in that interview will help you know where to go to college, or where to take some classes to accomplish your goal and a lot of things you never thought you needed to know.

It also helps you get important contacts. That person you are speaking to knows others in the same field. Ask if there is someone else you could talk to at another business. It’s fun for them to see someone interested in what they like too, so they will go out of their way to give you the names of others to call.

Always, always, always write and mail a thank you note the same day you see them. This may feel old fashioned, but it makes a very powerful impression on the person you spoke with. No one writes thank you notes, so by doing so they will remember you. This is exactly what you want. You may need them later. Show your respect by sending the note. Here is an example:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for meeting with me  and taking the time to answer my questions about owning a car garage. You told me a lot of things I didn’t know which were very important and helpful. I have typed up my notes and will contact the names of the other people you were so nice to give to me. Respectfully, Joe Smith

Doing these things is how you pass life and get what you want from it. Not always, but you will get closer than if you had not done nothing.

Start thinking bigger than you normally do. Do you want to be a licensed mechanic or do you also want to be the owner of your own garage?

There is a whole world out there with endless possibilities.

Go on Google and ask for a list of all professions. It is amazing the choices you will have, plus learn about professions you didn’t even know existed.

Remember, in the big picture, you want a career not just a job. But you do have to have many jobs to pay for classes to get your career. The money you invest in yourself will help make that career happen.

The most fun way to figure out a career is to think about things you like to do on your own. Planting flowers or veggies? Drawing things on your computer? Organizing a group of friends to create a team? Cooking? The list is endless. Just because it is a hobby does not mean you can’t make serious money making it a career.

I hope this is what you wanted.

Best wishes,

Ann

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LIVING WITH OUR REGRETS

 

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April 25, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~.

I would like to welcome my newest subscribers! Thanks for stopping by.

We are on to a new topic. This is for self reflection.

If you could start your life over again, what would you change?

We don’t get to pick our parents or siblings, but as adults (18+) we do have control over most of the choices we make, such as:

  1. Dropping out of high school
  2. Dropping out of college
  3. Getting married too young
  4. Having children too soon
  5. Getting hooked on smoking or other drugs
  6. Letting someone you really loved get away

We are all in this boat and many of us are drowning.

Most of us don’t get that second chance in life, but we can get some of it.

It is called a compromise.

Here’s an example: One of my brothers has an incredibly busy job. Many years ago I asked him what he would do over. He said instantly he wanted to be in a Rock ‘n Roll band. So, this is how he handled it: while still working, he gathered some musical friends together. They formed a Rock ‘n Roll band. They have gigs on weekends and are still going strong after 12 years. Are they rolling in money? Nope. But, he got rid of a regret and is having a blast.

What could we do to help our husbands and wives reach a compromise for something they regret?

I knew a man who started his own small business. After working for two years, he hired a part-time housekeeper for his wife. Why? He told me: (1) He never again wanted to see his wife on her hands and knees cleaning a toilet; (2) He wanted to free up her time so she could take singing lessons. She had always wanted to be a professional singer, but as with all of us, life got in the way.

Then she did something crazy cool. She set up a movie camera, moved stuff around in the basement and set up a mock stage with lights and a glittering curtain backdrop. Then, using pre-recorded music, she filmed herself singing her favorite songs. Their friends found out about it and wanted to see her films. She refused, saying this was her private fantasy and she wanted to keep it that way. So, she did and kept on recording.

Is her husband cool or what? That housekeeper cost him $40 a week. What did he give up in order to give this loving gift to his wife? He traded in his family’s cell phone plan for a much less expensive one.

A wife knew her husband had been depressed for years. He was a compulsive worker staying late at night and even going to work on weekends. They didn’t need the money, but he grew up very poor and was terrified of going back to that.

She got together with some other wives and they all bought season tickets to professional football for each of their husbands. Her husband totally panicked because he knew how expensive they were. But, after the first game sitting with his friends in the stands, he started to relax and over time, was able to ease himself out of his working obsession and have fun. This jolted him out of his rut, and he started going to a lot of sporting events with his buddies. Did his work suffer? Heck, no. He attacked his work with renewed energy and couldn’t wait to get out of there at 5:00pm to meet the guys for a drink and friendly banter.

Did his wife suffer? Absolutely not. She was relieved to get back the wonderful man she had married. She helped that scared little boy inside feel safe, blossom and grow. What did she give up? Nothing. He had never really been there for her anyway, physically or emotionally. But now that he was home a lot more often, their social life improved. He even took her dancing every month. Like most men he wasn’t crazy about it, but he knew she loved it. She got paid back rather than giving up anything.

Last but not least, I was at my regular grocery store on a beautiful summer afternoon. I was in the check-out line. The woman in front of me was in a hurry. She kept making bitchy remarks to the young girl at the register telling her to hurry up. Then the clerk needed a price check, so it slowed things down even more and she blamed the girl.

I blew up and grabbed her arm, saying: “Do you really think this beautiful young girl wants to be stuck inside this grocery store when all of her friends are out having fun? She is working because she has to. She’s attending the local college and needs the money for books and tuition. I know because she told me so. A lot of the young people working here are doing it for that exact same reason. She deserves respect – not your selfish bitchy comments!” She glared at me, grabbed her groceries and left.

That young girl working at a supermarket for college. Now there’s a compromise! 

In closing, life is about trade-offs. What are you willing to give up in order to get rid of some of your regrets?

Best wishes,

Ann

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THE BUG SHOE

 

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April 20, 2015

Welcome Back to My Wonderful Subscribers and Visitors!

I also want to extend a warm welcome to my new subscribers. We are glad to have you with us.

Okay…what kind of shoe does everyone wear? A running shoe, of course, with those waffle like soles, right? I am sure exhaustive scientific studies have been done to see what design the sole should be to help you with balance and leg fatigue.

I don’t care about that at all. I want to know if that sole can slam dunk a cockroach into the next century.

If you have lived in apartments with any kind of bugs (Boston has lots of them), you know that sinking feeling when there is a flash of movement on your rug. It is even worse if you don’t have your glasses on. But, there it is, skulking around on your rug, picking up speed when they sense your jerk of total panic.

If you are wearing your running shoes, what kind of sole does it have? If it is one of those waffle deals, then you are in bigger trouble than you thought. Sure, you slam your shoe on that sucker, but it always manages to go right between those waffle ridges and start wriggling away….fast. You jump on it again, and still that little jerk wriggles away…even faster. Your neighbors instantly recognize this sound for exactly what it is.

Let’s kick this up a notch. Let’s say you are lounging on your couch wearing just your socks. Then you see it, climbing up your wall. You wince then grab your running shoe and slam it onto the wall with a force that should leave a dent. (Landlords love that.) Then, you pull back your shoe for a second whack, but the bug is not there. It is not even squashed a little bit. It is totally gone.

Now you know where you are going to have to look, right? The sole of your very scientific shoe. It’s either wiggling around in those waffles or it’s not there at all. If it is not there at all, good chance you won’t sleep that night. Why? Because you don’t know where the blasted thing is or even if it’s dead. (Let’s pretend this didn’t happen in your bedroom. God only knows what they do in there at night.)

That is why everyone needs a bug shoe. 

What exactly is a bug shoe? It’s a shoe with a totally smooth, hard and flat sole. High heels are a good example, or flats. I prefer flats because the high heel can get caught in your shirt or hair at the worst possible time, thus losing precious seconds for launching your attack.

Oh, you should probably keep one in your kitchen, too.

This paragraph will probably rate this blog “adult content”, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I once cooked dinner for some friends. As I was cleaning up, there were several grains of cooked rice Pilaf on the counter. I turned around and stared in total disbelief: there was a small cockroach trying to mount a piece of that rice and was humping away. I watched it long enough to be sure of it, then gave him a condom.

If you have friends over who live in a house, they probably haven’t seen a bug in years. Well, maybe a few ants. We apartment dwellers sneer in the face of that. Ants are relegated to amateur hour.

Your guests may ask some polite questions about the shoes neatly scattered about on the coffee table or floor. Those shoes have been there so long you really don’t see them anymore. When your guests bring them to your attention, you hesitate. Do you tell them the truth and gross them out over dinner? Or, do you slowly gather them up and throw them in a closet? You are now defenseless. Oh well, her husband looks like a Marine. They’re fearless.

I heard about a guy who said when he saw one of those critters, he would open his mouth and squirt a straight stream of beer on them. Not a bad way to go, I guess. But, I’m glad I don’t live with him.

If you live in Florida, don’t even think of bringing home a carton to use for packing. Especially the banana boxes. You would not believe what can fit into those little corrugated ridges. But, I did it. Dumb me. I actually brought one home.

Later that night, in bed with the lights off, I looked at the bare floor and watched a shadow growing as large as my foot. Then it started to move. I was so scared, I practically flew into menopause at the age of 20. Luckily, I was living with a guy who was used to Florida bugs. He turned on the light. I dove under the sheets. He went to the kitchen and came back with a slice of cheese! There’s this massive beetle with wiggly things on it’s face and he wanted to be friends with it. I told him it was either them or me. There were five of them.

There is one good side to all this bug business. We develop fantastic peripheral vision.

Now, they have this TV show with a guy named Andrew, who goes out of his way to fly around the world to find bugs to eat! Can TV get any grosser? Well, sometimes “Chopped” runs a close second.

To add insult to injury, we actually pay rent to share those wiggly things with us. If they could be trained to empty the dishwasher, they might be allowed to stop by once a week, but only for ten minutes. After that, the shoe comes out.

Best wishes,

Ann

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SOCIAL SKILLS

 

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April 30, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~

After posting “Observations”, I received an enormous amount of feedback from you, which told me I had hit a nerve. You said you liked the content and hoped I would write more blogs similar to it. I hope this blog gives you what you wanted.

Also, thank you so much for your sensitive and thoughtful comments. I read every single one.

Social skills are basically good manners. It surprises me to see such a lack of them even among my friends. This whole thing may be a lost art, but I do know the lack of them can mess up a job interview, determine whether you are invited back to parties, and whether you find it hard to make or keep friends. The saddest part of this is, when people lack social skills – they don’t know it.

Here are several examples I have witnessed or heard second hand:

1. Men, always stand when a lady enters the room. Let’s say you are at a dinner party sitting on the couch and talking with people around you. The doorbell rings, the host answers it and welcomes in a woman alone or with her husband. As they enter the room to be introduced – the men stand up. This is a sign of respect and good manners. Men remain standing as they are introduced. After that, you should offer her a place to sit, even if it means giving up your own. Men sit down after the woman does.

I have been shocked to go to someone’s house and find three women dressed up for the occasion, standing there while all the guys are sitting on the couch not bothering to stand when introduced, or getting their butts off of the couch and offering these women a place to sit. I am not talking about frat parties, I am talking about the real adult world out there.

At a party, when the host’s mother enters the room for the first time, you better hop to it: smile, stand, extend your hand, say it is a pleasure to meet her. You make certain she is shown a seat and offered drink or food. A lot of sons drop the ball on this one. Then again, many sons ace it by gently placing their hand on their mother’s back as they slowly introduce her to his guests. You are supposed to be at full attention for this one. If you think your host is not going to care about or notice your lack of manners towards his mother, you are very wrong. Just think in terms of how you want your mother to be treated. And yes, it is totally appropriate for a younger woman to stand when meeting someone’s mother, or older person, whether male or female.

I am not crazy about standing because I have lost my balance a few times and practically bulldozed some poor woman or her husband. I still have to be sure I am centered when standing. Spilling red wine on a woman’s dress is not how you want to be remembered, but I am definitely on the books for this misdemeanor.

Men stand for other men and shake hands. It is a sign of respect and men are wildly sensitive to their social standing and expect this response, no matter who they are.

As an aside: this handshaking tradition started hundreds of years ago. It meant you were not bearing arms.

2. I am certain you know to stand when being met by a potential employer. It is cool if you know their name in advance, so you can use it while being introduced: “Good morning, Mr. Brown”. Put a smile on your face and enter the interrogation room.

I am so nervous at interviews, within three seconds I’ve totally forgotten their name and am praying I won’t faint.

During one of my most difficult interviews, the man’s desk was placed in front of those huge skyscraper type windows. Right behind him, there was a window washer on his scaffolding doing his thing. It was a serious challenge trying to do the interview while ignoring the window washer. Didn’t matter anyway. I misspelled a word on my resume and I told the guy I wouldn’t hire me either.

3. Please chew with your mouth closed. I had a friend who not only chewed with their mouth open, but made enough noise doing it that people actually stopped talking and stared at them. They never caught on, so party invitations dried up. 

4. Do not get drunk at any parties – ever!

As a general rule, people who are known to always get drunk at parties, stop being invited.

4. Please do not interrupt me! This drives me nuts!! The people who are doing it don’t even realize it. I have to keep saying: “Excuse me, but I haven’t finished.”

5. As a general rule, ladies should not swear. It makes you sound tough and ruins the image of you being soft and feminine. I know there are definitely exceptions, but around other people, try not to do it.  It really is a turn off to both sexes.

6. Please be on time. I was going on a trip for fun with some girlfriends at college. We all knew one of them was always late. Since I was driving, I warned her we would not be waiting for her. She swore she’d be on time. She wasn’t. I drove off without her.

If you really want to screw up your social life – be late as often as you can.

Great example: My parents were having a small dinner party. The “big shot” who had been invited, was known to always be extra late and people let him get away with it while slowly starving to death.

My mother warned my father that she refused to hold up the party waiting for this guy. My dad, no dummy, agreed. The party was on a week night so the hours were 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Guess who showed up for dinner at 8:00 and only got dessert? Guess who was shown to the door by 9:00? Yep, my mom would have made a great drill sergeant!

7. Hygiene. Believe it or not, there are people out there who are clueless that they stink. I worked for a female law professor who could clear a room in 10 seconds. Someone finally told her because she came in smelling sweet as a rose from then on.

Hygiene is basically keeping yourself clean and looking presentable to suit the occasion.

Guys ~ please keep your nails cut short, the edges smooth, your cuticles soft and your hands squeaky clean. This upcoming point is delicate, but I’ll try to give you a hint: women do not want anything below their waist that feels like a serrated knife or razor.

I’ll make the following a quick run-through. It reads more like a hygiene blog, but it is part of social skills.

(a) Brush your teeth morning and night. Then very gently pull the brush over your tongue from back to front. This gets rid of a lot of bacteria – seriously. That’s straight from my dentist. Use some mouthwash and you are good to go. Bad breath will keep many people away, no matter how wonderful you are.

I knew a great guy who always, always had gentle bad breath. I never had the nerve to tell him. See?

(b) Shower or bathe daily or every other day (depending on your profession). 

(c) Wear deodorant. Lots of it. Works best after a hot shower or bath.

(d) Wear clean underwear daily. (Your mothers told me to put that in.) 

(e) Keep the heels on your shoes fresh so they don’t slant and look sloppy. I knew a woman who dressed beautifully, but her heels always look messed up. Ruined the whole look. Same deal for you, guys. People think that others won’t notice. They really do and they will not tell you.

Best wishes,

Ann

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OBSERVATIONS

 

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January 26, 2015

Hi, Subscribers ~

I was 14, at home crying my eyes out, because I was too shy to go up to this hunky guy at a party that night.  One of my brothers told me that lots of men are attracted to shyness in a woman.  I said: “No they’re not! You’re just saying that so I’ll shut-up and stop crying.” He said, “Well, ok, I was…BUT (and if you tell anyone I told you this, I’ll kill you), I have a crush on a girl at school who’s shy. “Who?” He refused to tell me so, I asked what was so great about a girl being shy? He shrugged and said he didn’t know.

Several weeks later, I brought up the topic again.  He said he liked her because she made him feel chivalrous.  “What’s that mean?”  “It means, dufus, that I liked helping her when she needed anything, like when we took Algebra and stuff.  She sat right next to me and one time she asked me to explain something, I can’t remember what.  After that, she’d come up to me in the library or the hall and asked me for help with her homework. After awhile, I asked her out.” “You mean Sharon? The one you’re dating now?”  He blushed. I said: “She made the Honor Roll every year! She totally conned you!”

“I know she made the Honor Roll, but the point is she at least made the effort to meet me, even if it was fake. She wanted me to ask her out and it worked. Besides which, it turned out she was a hot date underneath all of that shyness. You may want to give that a try.”

Years later, I realized it was the same with me. I was attracted to shy men who had a quiet but strong aura of self confidence. And yes, they do make hot dates.

Later on in high school, when I wasn’t quite so shy, I went up to a group of guys who were having lunch. They were true geeks. They seemed to ace it in class and boy, did I need help. I was surprised to find them fascinating. In general, they are more interested in techy things than in people, so their social skills were a little awkward. But it was fun to realize that they were not neurotic like the rest of us. That’s why they could wear plaid ties and saddle shoes.

These were the same guys who gravitated toward each other and sat at their own table in the cafeteria. No one wanted to sit with them because they were not “cool”. But when we got into college, these were the same guys we ran to when we had to take physics. Or, at least I did.

I invited them over to my next party because we had become friends. But I didn’t just leave them hanging there. I stayed with them and made a point of introducing them to other people in the room. I nudged things along and told people these were the guys who came to my rescue and helped me pass physics. When people saw that I liked them, they went out of their way to talk to them. As I watched, I realized people respect intelligence no matter what the source and I learned a good life lesson to stop being so superficially judgmental.

It still blows my mind, that multi-millionaire Bill Gates, who was probably sitting at that corner table in the cafeteria, still hasn’t found anyone who can cut his hair right.

As an alleged adult, one of my first jobs was working as a very junior lab tech in a hospital. The coolest part of the job was that I was expected to wear a white lab coat. I could still wear 2″ heels and conservative but sexy clothes underneath…but, no perfume. That part wasn’t so cool.  Anyway, one day I heard one of the male techs say something like: “She sounds like a $2 hooker.” I looked up to see if they were talking about me, but they were in a huddle, so I couldn’t tell.

A few minutes later, a very pretty lab tech walked in. I didn’t particularly know her. But, I did notice the guys broke formation and went back to work.

At lunch, I asked them who they were talking about being a $2 hooker.  One of the guys looked  around and then leaned into me and said: “You know that blonde girl in the lab?” I said sort of. Then he told me she cussed like a sailor.  He said a lot of guys wanted to date her, but were embarrassed by all her cussing.  One even went on to say, “I’d like to ask her out, but I could never introduce her to my mother!”

I remember being naively surprised that cussing even had a negative effect on men. From then on, I checked my mouth at the door and felt a sense of superiority over the “hooker” whose career was later affected by her language. I guess cussing is like having bad breath or dandruff.  No one wants to tell you about it. 

I had an odd date with a guy once who seemed to enjoy steering the conversation towards his mother. He said he hated her and went on and on about it. I didn’t know what to say. He said he wasn’t living at home, but the whole thing felt weird to me.  I already knew that men and their mothers had a special bond.  If I criticized my mother in front of my brothers, they would immediately leap to her defense. So, I decided to stay on my side of the fence and say nothing.

When he was finally through, I simply said: “I’m sorry to hear that”. Period. I spoke with another woman about him and her eyes flew open. “Oh God, stay away from him. I’ve heard other girls say they were suckered into a date because he was so good looking.  He needs a psychiatrist, not a girlfriend.”

How many times have we been told to trust our instincts?  Well, I know I have too, but was never particularly successful at it….until then. Once I gained some perspective, I realized this guy had Ted Bundy written all over him.  Now when on a date, I will casually throw in a question about his mother and wait. So far, so good. This is actually a great filter!

Did you ever have a date with a guy who was really nice, but not for you and you didn’t want to go out with him again? Me, too. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but was never sure how to handle this. I asked a male friend and he told me exactly what to say: “Wait until he calls you. Just tell him that you enjoyed meeting him, but feel the two of you were not compatible. That way you’re not making it his fault.” That sounded good, but I was shaking inside the next time I needed to say it.

I keep hearing, after the fact, that some girl was invited on a dinner date and turned it down because she didn’t like the food he suggested. Such as squid…or something else that brings on your gag reflex. Why can’t she just say: “Well, I’m not crazy about squid, but if they have other Japanese food, I’d love to go with you.”

Am I the only one who does that? Many women who brush off a man in that manner are very pretty, self-centered and spoiled rotten. No man has ever brushed them off! Trust me guys, women don’t like that type of woman either.

I accidentally found a great way to meet men. I was at the supermarket, came out to the car and threw in the groceries. When I went to start the car it wouldn’t do anything.  I couldn’t even turn the key. I went outside, and pulled up the hood, stabilized it and just stared into it. I had no idea what I was looking for.

Suddenly men started coming over to see what was wrong.  They figured it out – it was some computerized safety issue which required me to push a button on the dash to unlock the engine.  It was really fun to watch these guys in action, asking me questions I could not answer and still working away at it. Maybe it made them feel chivalrous. I later mentioned this to a woman I knew, and she seemed to enjoy dashing my fantasy: “Oh, men just like to fix things. Women like to talk it to death.”  Oh.

Some of the best advice I ever got came from my father. It was just before I left home for college, and I didn’t see this one coming at all. He told me: “Don’t let the man choose you. You choose the man.” He told me this would become crystal clear as I got older. It did.

Best wishes,

Ann

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