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This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dreading the Mailbox

The mailbox is a foreboding place these days. Like a 4:00 a.m. phone call, you know it’s not going to be good news. There was a time when I might look forward to a letter from a distant friend. Now friends just email me the latest YouTube link. Is it just me, or are you beginning to wonder if Susan Boyle knows a song other than “I Dream a Dream?”

Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes could be informing me that “I may already be a winner!” But I doubt it. Ed McMahon died and my hopes of an oversized check with my name on it died with him.

Nonetheless, I reluctantly trudged out to the mailbox this morning and here’s what I found:
3 magazines (I actually subscribe to one of them)
3 catalogs
2 ads
1 Christmas Card (from my insurance agent)
15 pleas for donations from nonprofits

‘Tis the season.

So I go through the stack. I pull out the “mailing labels enclosed” because I can always use more return address labels. OK, actually I can’t use more. I already have so many that I don’t know what to do with them. But I feel guilty throwing them out. Of course, that’s exactly what the nonprofit is hoping. That I’ll feel guilty about their having made up these lovely personalized labels.

The thing is: Lots of times they don’t get the name correct. Kay Lorraine. Sometimes they decide that my name must really be Lorraine Kay. Like I wouldn’t know my own name just because I’m blonde. And how do they know that I’m blonde? Worrisome.

Furthermore, my husband’s name is Brad Bate. Mostly, I don’t use his name. I use my husband a lot but his name, not so much. So I get Lorraine Bate, Kay Bate, Mrs. Kay Bate, Mr. Kay Bate, and – my own personal favorite – Mr. Brad Lorraine.

Anyway, I have too many labels. But my packrat mind keeps them all – just in case! Even the Christmas labels which, as a practicing Jew, are probably inappropriate for me, but the gas company doesn’t know that I’m Jewish so I use them to pay bills. I think of it as “Festive.” The Christmas Cards with the snow scenes are another story. As a Jew in Hawai‘i, they just don’t say “Happy Holidays” for me. But I keep the envelopes to pay bills with.

The only labels I don’t feel bad about tossing are the Jerry Lewis MD labels. Not because of Jerry or his kids. I give money every year to Jerry. But those are hands-down the most ugly labels known to man. Year after year, they never get any better. Horsy bold typeface set too close together. Yuk! Doesn’t the MD marketing department have an art director? Or someone with some esthetic sensitivity that can look at those suckers and say, “Guys, this is just crap.” It costs the same amount of money to print a nice serif typeface with decent kerning and leading as it does to print crap. Hello! So I throw those directly into the trash with no remorse.

But then there are the groups who send you a nickel. Do you peel off the nickels? Me, too. I just do it so that the metal doesn’t screw up the shreader at the city dump. That’s the only reason – I’m not really greedy; It’s an ecology thing. Sure.

At least it’s not as bad as the Indian Reservation that sends me blankets made from toilet paper byproducts.

Who knows better than I do how desperate nonprofits are these days? Each time I pass the empty building where the Hawai‘i Women’s Business Center stood, a pain shoots through my heart. They closed the doors over a year ago. I was the Executive Director. My husband says, “You have to move on.” Of course, he’s right.

In this economy, nobody has any money. So the nonprofits are glutting the mail. Can this possibly be profitable? I now own eleven free calendars for next year, filled with lovely pictures of polar bears and homeless children and whales-worth-saving. If those nonprofits took all of the money they spend on mailing labels, calendars, Christmas cards, Tibetan peace flags, and Indian blankets and did good instead, wouldn’t we all be better off? Or does no one give money to any charity anymore unless they get something or are guilted into it? Maybe that’s what we did wrong at the Business Center. Too much free counseling – not enough mailing labels. Sure.

Everyone is scrambling for every nickel these days. Not me, of course. I’m just trying to do my part to save the shreader.


  1. I didn't get the Indian blanket this year. I got the DreamCatcher thing that you hang in the window to catch your dreams before they fly away. I know what you mean about the Muscular Dystrophy labels being the worst! Really nasty. How come I don't get any free pens any more? I'm not giving anything to anyone who doesn't give me a free pen. That's my 2012 new year's resolution. LOL

  2. Its always annoying to get letters with your name wrong I get them from one firm that insists
    I'm scottish and calls me McSwift as if such a clan ever existed

  3. Okay, right off the top: After having fond memories of you at the Sabina Methodist Youth Camp I am a little surprised to find out you are Jewish. But then, I'm now Gay, so things do change.
    I keep the nickle too but I do it for the same reason I pick up every parking lot penny I see. The government counts all of the coins in circulation and if coins, for whatever reason, drop out of circulation then the count is off. The thought of that drives me crazy. It is also one place where I feel I can help the government because none of the bitchin', moaning and even voting I do seems to help.
    I also get a ton of cute return address labels. I made donations to several wildlife charities who promptly sold my name to other related charities. Now they all send me “free” crap. I got a call from one of them and told the lady I felt bad because they spent so much money sending me stuff. She said they considered it advertising – particularly the greeting cards with their propaganda on the back. So now it's fine with me. I also got the calendar with the polar bears. Cute, huh? Who do you have to donate to to get an Indian blanket?

  4. Having been raised in the Catholic tradition, I do not respond well to guilt.....so I keep my AHA stickers and even watch PBS occasionally and do not donate......and soon enough anyway, the USPS will reduce service, so instead of getting Newsweek, we'll be getting Lastweek magazine....

  5. I don't want to sound obsessive or anything, but I won't use those return address labels because I don't want Jerry Lewis determining my visual identity. It's hard enough trying to convince clients about the importance of a consistent, positive graphic appearance without being a bad example yourself. (I'm only half joking.)

    I guess we do give something to MDA every year, but certainly not because of Mr. Lewis. He did an amazing job of raising money each year, but I learned from shocked experience how hard it is for even the largest contributors to put up with his abrasive, mean-spirited, sometimes flat-out ugly treatment of people who wanted to help. Behind the funnyman facade there used to be a self-possessed, nasty tyrant.

    Good. I got that off my chest.

    As to the blog, Ms Lorraine, I loved it. I don't want to know about bills, but where there any checks in the mail?


    Brad Lorraine

  6. Brad, are you STILL bitter about that snotty experience that your advertising agency had with Jerry Lewis and his MDA staff? That was, like, 35 years ago. Get over it sweetheart.

    You have so many new things to be bitter about....

  7. One good aspect about being poor now is that I get very little mail from charities asking me for money. I guess they are worried that I may ask for help. Kay, you did not mention about the phony beggars. I was approached by women in nuns outfits asking for donations at the San Gennaro festival in NYC; only, to see them use the money to play the wheel of chance games and buy food with the collections. Or the gypsy at a flea market showing a picture of a man lying down with a white face and asking for money to bury her dead husband only to pass by her later with the same picture and asking for help to pay for her brother's cancer treatments.

    I guess the stories in the National Enquirer about Jerry Lewis being a very nasty person were true.

    Terry McSweeney
    Paramus, NJ

  8. Kay, once again, your blog is spot on! How about a great big bonfire with all the labels and "advertising"? Then, we'd save the landfills, too.

  9. Straight to the point and true Kay. Wonder if we can start sending all the 'junk' mail senders a bill for trash removal?

    BTW, you need to 'flog your blog' more often.

  10. Mr. Allen,

    You get the Indian blanket (and the Dream Catcher) from the St. Labre Home for Indian Children and Youth which operates five different schools in Montana and is actually owned by the Roman Catholic Church. The school was originally intended to educate Cheyenne and Crow Indian children but now has a 100-acre modern campus in Ashland that has very few Indian children in residence and absolutely nothing to do with any local Indian tribe. Do not let the photos on their web site fool you.

    In fact, the Northern Cheyenne tribal council has sued the Catholic Church in Yellowstone District Court because the Catholic Church uses the "plight of the Indian children" to raise hundreds of millions of dollars which fund a factory in Ashland, Montana that makes the blankets, plastic Indian beads, and dolls that get sent to donors.

    It is the largest and most successful fundraiser in the state. There are no Indians on their Board of Directors and no accounting of funds and they are required to file no tax reports because they are organized under IRS rules as a "church," not a school.

    Although they do run a school, the focus is on religion and St Labre's student test scores not only lag behind the state average, but sometimes behind those of their Native American peers as well.

    The organization fails the Better Business Bureau tests for charitable giving in seven different areas. You can read about it at http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/education-and-literacy/st-labre-indian-school-educational-association-in-ashland-mt-295

    This is a blanket that you don't want. There really is rampant poverty on the reservation but sending money to this Catholic Church scam is not the answer. I implore both the Biz Bitch and Minnesota Maggie not to continue to support this unworthy so-called "charity".

    Mary Little Wolf
    Indian Educational Specialist

    1. How can i give to native American children that really need help?

    2. I do not pretend to be any kind of expert on this subject. However, since you asked, I looked into this and think that the answer to worthwhile Native American charities depends on your interests. As a result of your request, I have now done quite a lot of research on this subject, tracking down Native American charities and nonprofits and then running them through the databases of CharityWatch, and the National Charities Information Bureau. I did not use Guidestar (Philanthropic Research Inc.) simply because it is a profit center and less likely to be unbiased.

      Here’s what I found:

      If you want to help feed, clothe and care for Native American families it appears that nothing beats The Native American Heritage Association (NAHA), dedicated to helping Native Americans living on the tribal reservations in South Dakota. The state of South Dakota is home to the poorest people in our nation. NAHA supports the Sioux people through medical, food, fuel, and clothing programs. They are given the highest rating in every category, including transparency, administration, programs and fundraising. 94.5% of their money goes directly to programs. They have the lowest administrative costs of any charity of their kind (1.8%) since most of their staff is volunteer. They get no government funding of any kind. 100% of their funding comes from donations with almost no fundraising efforts. Here’s a link to their website: https://www.naha-inc.org/

      If you are interested in Native American women’s charities, the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center is also highest rated in all categories. They spend 1.8% on fundraising. They have programs for Native American women and their families, such as emergency shelter for homeless families or women in crisis, family services to help prevent child protection interventions before they happen and a coordinator to insure that culturally appropriate services are provided to tribal members in need of family stabilization. They have a learning center for young children that is the equivalent of a culturally sensitive Head Start Program. Their mental health program provides outpatient treatment for chemical dependency, mental health issues, sexual trauma and they have recently added a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment program. Finally, they have a legal-resource program for women to help them fill out paperwork for court hearings, medical procedures, securing orders for protection, etc. Here’s their website: http://www.miwrc.org/

      Interested in protecting the rights of Indian Tribes? Check out the Native American Rights Fund, which is also highest rated. Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide. They’ve had some amazing success in both the courts and in legislation all over the country. Here’s their link: http://www.narf.org/

      Finally, if you are interested in education for Native American children, St. Labre has about the worst reputation out there. Everything that Mary Little Wolf stated I her post turns out to be true. However, Futures for Children, a nonprofit in Albuquerque, New Mexico has an excellent rating. They have 40 years of academic success for American Indian youth, mostly paying for secondary education for Native American scholars in need. You can read about them at http://www.futuresforchildren.org/

      In my research I found that a big Indian charity National Relief Charities, spends too much on fundraising and administration and not enough on programs for my tastes.

      There is also an interesting article on Questionable Indian Charities at http://www.citizensalliance.org/links/pages/articles%20and%20CERA%20news/Questionable%20Indian%20Charities.htm. They have a lot to say about St. Labre.

      Hope this is helpful, Anonymous.

      The Biz Bitch

  11. Humorous and yet insightful, as always, Kay.

    And, I wouldn't feel guilty about those nickels. You're being short-changed. We get dimes.

    Pentwater MI

  12. OMG. I too have more printed labels than I can use in another 20 lifetimes. Is there anyone who NEEDS more labels? I have them stashed everywhere. And most have spelled my name correctly...of course, I'm not a Mr. You are entertaining and informative.

  13. Nice to know Kay can still poke fun. I guess when fun gets poked we can expect either a belly laugh, a LOL...lol, guffaw, chort, snort, chortle, a belly roll, or at the very least a growling stomach...which for some of us will have to pass as fun. Things are not getting funnier as time passes in my mind anyway, but sarcasm and putting serious things such that a laugh is left as a way out is much more sporting tham bitching and whining...which is why I like your style Kay.

    Next topic for your consideraton is automated phone services as presented by the likes of our banks, telephone service companies, insurance providers, and other big institutions staffed by poorly paid morons all called "managers". I can't begin to think how to put it so it would be poking fun...but I'll bet you can.


  14. Oh, Stan -- You are so right. I hate those things. I'll try to work up a good funny about them. It won't be easy. They drive me nuts!!

  15. loved the post and the comments-

    as a nonprofit e.d., i too shudder at the waste, but so many of my own members, those very folks we advocated for- were the very ones who wanted to know 'what else' their donation was going to give them each year.

  16. heather in missouriDecember 21, 2011 at 3:58 AM

    My guilt has grown, changed, and blossomed with your post. I very obsessively throw everything out, including the nickel (or the occasional dime) unless I donate. I can't get it to the trash fast enough. But now, I must keep the money because if not, will I drive the trash companies to seek donations for the never-ending expenses of strange breakdowns?! And what will their freebie be? Ugh. So now I'm stuck choosing what to feel guilty about. Ugh. Maybe I'll save up the nickels and donate them when I have a respectable amount saved...

  17. Kay,
    As an Executive Director for a nonprofit I understand what you are talking about. I do send out over 900 letters of appeal to the community. We have a good return. But factoring in the cost of postage, paper, and labor of stuffing the envelopes it puts a large dent in the donations. I don't put in any cute return labels or prizes for the donor to keep. I just let them know what the donation can do for the agency. It seems to work. I do see your point and thanks for sharing.

    Gina from Indiana

  18. Wow! Good to know about the St. Labre school. I did some checking online and discovered news articles that back up all the things that Ms. Little Wolf said about that place. She's made a believer of me.

    The problem with the charities is that they sell your name to other charities. So one innocent donation quickly turns into 5 lbs. of junk mail. I don't know how to stop it. I once sent a request to be removed from several different mailing lists. But as an experiment, I added a fake middle initial to my name. Not only did I not get removed, I started getting all kinds of stuff with the fake initial inserted in my name. Which tells me that they sold that name as well.

    Maybe the post office going out of business won't be so bad after all.

    Sandy in Philadelphia

  19. As someone trying to enter the development field professionally, I know how wasteful it is for nonprofits to spend money on things that usually get thrown away in an attempt to get money. I also feel that selling donor lists is highly unethical. Donors want their money going to the mission. They do not want to get something of little value in return for their donation. Charity is giving with a purpose.

    Richard in Oregon

  20. I would like to think that Christmas will end this madness, but I know that it won't. Have you ever tried to get your name off of these lists? It's impossible.

    I liked this article. Very honest. You actually admit to keeping the nickels. that was very brave of you.

    Rockford, Illinois

  21. You can always share a few of those calendars with me. I must be off the list. No address labels, no blankets or calendars, and worst of all no nickels in my mailbox.

    Happy Holidays

  22. This is so true. My Dad has been dead three years and I am still getting mail addressed to him from the GOP. I keep sending it back at their expense signed "Deceased". Just got a piece last week. I know he was a card carrying Rep. but gee whiz, Republicans, get with it. When someone says they no longer exist, they mean it. I even lean that way but give me a break.

    Vicky in Columbus, Ohio

  23. Loved it. Can I bring my garbage mail to you? Can we organize a big fire?

    Norman Mark
    Santa Fe, NM

  24. Dear Biz Bitch,
    Your problem is that you give to too many charities. I stopped that mess a long time ago and just give my money to my church now. They know where I live, but that's OK.

    It's always interesting to me to read what is going on in America. You have the same problems that we do here in Ireland. Too many open mouths without enough food to fill them. Remember that they more you give, the more they will ask for. Its an endless cycle that never stops.

    Baile Atha Cliath

  25. Very well thought out, Kay

    Arnie Baird
    in New Jersey

  26. Whatever happened to Hotel California? And Ms. Tough Talk herself - Marissa? Also whatever happened to the thread that George Gurney started - several people felt the need to leave LinkedIn (you played a role in that, proud of yourself, BizBitch?) Anyways, at least ONE of the people who was burned by you and Ms. Tough Talk FOUND A JOB! You haven't yet - karma at work much?

  27. Dear Anonymous,

    I don't have any idea who you are but you are clearly not a fan. That's OK. There are lots of people who are not fans of mine. But I will answer your questions honestly (as always).

    1. The Hotel California is alive and well and thriving on LinkedIn. Thanks for asking.

    2. Marissa Garcia (who you refer to as "Ms. Tough Talk herself") was killed just over a year ago in a tragic accident at work. A fork lift dropped a pallet on her while she was walking through the floor of the warehouse on her way back to her office. She was a tough, smart, funny lady in her 40'a and she is sadly missed by many people. I liked her enormously. She took no guff from anyone.

    3. The thread that George Gurney started simply moved to another location on LinkedIn. It was his decision and his decision alone. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever left LinkedIn regarding that thread, They just moved to a different location.

    4. I am not aware of "burning" anyone but I am always pleased to hear of someone getting a job. If I had the power, everyone would have a job. As for me, I have applied to law school so it's sort of a moot question.

    5. Karma at work? Gosh, I hope so!!!

    Thanks for writing, whoever you are -- The Biz Bitch

    1. Actually one person practically shut down thier LinkedIn profile in response to your nastiness. You actually had the NERVE to joke about it. "I hope it wasn't something I said." It was. People came to the boards to honestly share and were spit on by you and Marissa. Not a word of contrition on your part. If I have screw loose, it is because of bullies like you and her. I PRAY that you get a taste of what you have done to others. You are so damned glib about what you have done. But then again, I never expected anything other than slick dismissal from anyway. Not to worry, you will get what you dish out.

  28. Dear Anonymous, Just curious who was 'burned' by Kay that recently landed a job? Certainly you are referring to me? Cuz ya, I recently landed a job. But never have I been burned by Kay, who has been nothing but supported and encouraging, helpful in any way she can be. Kay's Karma should be landing her a lotto win any day now. Perhaps you have your own weaknesses and faults to contribute to your situation, so that you prefer to remain anonymous rather than sign your name and add some specific detail to your invective? Perhaps we could help you deal with your personal issues if you come out of the shadows, instead of snarking from behind a tree. Well, I hope you find your way to happiness, in spite of your need to poke at others with a long ambigous stick. Regards, Kitti Brady

  29. Kay -
    Another amazing blog post. You are an amazing woman who shares her wisdom with others and is nothing but helpful. You didn't owe "anonymous" a response but you did and was honest and open. You Rock!

  30. As a newly made poor by firms I used to work for now bottom fishing for 25 year olds with 30 years of experience, I don't get any labels. Instead I get plenty of offers for more credit cards to pay off one with another.

    I also get e-mail every day on how to spend the VA benifits I spent 35 years ago, or how to sign up for government grant money for higher education levels since a lowly bachelors degree just doesn't have the brass ring attached to it once did.

    Yes Kay....Anonymous has a screw loose somewhere, but that's forgivable somewhat as we all lose a screw one in a while or get screwed being honestly snide, sardonic, or overtly clever. I'd say let it run like water off a ducks back, but that's just good advice that I don't take enough of myself....the oil in my feathers gets washed out with the pain of dispersants, detergents, and solvents too often to be immune to the disease of getting old and brittle. You have more than enough spring in your step to kick ass when you need to while mine is coming back.

    1. How dare you! People with mental health issues should not be so nastily treated. I pray you get what that nastiness deserves.. or someone you care about. You don't know me, and given what I have read, I don't want to reveal myself. People like you make more misery in the world and then laugh and step back when you they cry. YOU ARE GOING TO REAP WHAT YOU SOW.

  31. Kay, so sorry you didn't get the job. At our age it's almost impossible to land a job. Employers don't look for experience anymore. They look for young college graduates who they can mold to their ways. This is the new way of thinking in American companies.

  32. Thank you for the info about St Labre. I received one of their letters today about how their drinking water is rusty looking and their water infrastructure is failing. With $89 million in the bank, I think they can afford to upgrade their system.