If it's a story about me, then I'll say so up front.

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.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Feng Shui Your Ride!

Gee, Feng Shui for a car?  I just can’t see it, even though I do try to keep an open mind.  For instance, my BFF Bernice (she always says that while she appreciates being my best friend, she frankly worries what the other “F” stands for) rotated her dining room table because her interior designer said it was better feng shui for the room.  And, Lord knows, Bernice is making a lot more money than I am, and has classier dinner parties to boot, so who am I to argue?  Still……

I know someone else who got paid good money for installing a Bagua (Pa Kua) Mirror in a mutual friend’s home as a way of manipulating the negative outside energies.   Talk about negative outside energy – she would have been better off with a divorce lawyer if you ask me, but I suppose buying a mirror in a octagonal red wooden frame was cheaper.  And she can always use the mirror in her next marriage.

In my own home, I use the Yin-Yang theory in which the interacting forces of Yin (feminine) and Yang (masculine) keep us deeply interconnected.  As an example, the Yin closet is the big closet in our master bedroom.  And, not wanting to mix these universal forces, the Yang closet (for my husband’s clothes) is in the small guest bedroom down the hall.  OK, in all honesty, his clothes occupy half of that closet because I need the other half for my hats.   And in the bathroom, the Yang is exceptionally good about always putting the toilet seat down after use because he fears the Yin ch’i when certain people sit down in the middle of the night and get nothing but porcelain.   Trust me, nothing good can come from that.

Anyway, I thought I was pretty hip about this stuff until my blog-friend Diane alerted me to an article from the Ford Motor Company entitled, Ford Offers Feng Shui Concepts to Create a Calm, Organized Vehicle All Year Long.”  Well, as you can imagine, this article answered so many questions about what’s wrong with my life (and Brad’s too).   Just look at the accompanying diagram and you’ll see the problems right away. 

First of all, according to their diagram, my poor husband (who is a creative director) has all of his creativity stuck in the rear passenger wheel well.  Bummer!  That would explain his client who keeps going round and round the copy choices he has given her without ever making a decision so they can move forward.  Hello!

Also, 75% of the wealth and relationship energy reside outside the body of the car. That doesn’t bode well for the folks riding inside.  It might go a long way toward explaining our bank account, however.

On the other hand, the knowledge ch’i appears to be right smack dab in the middle of the driver’s seat, which my husband will happily embrace since he thinks that he is ALWAYS right even when passes a perfectly good parking spot or doesn’t move into the right hand lane until it is too late and then curses the other drivers who won’t let him in. I’m just sayin….

The Ford folks want us to put a medal or an icon or a picture in the glove box to reduce stress. Right now, all I have in the glove box is my vehicle registration, insurance card, the owners manual and a stale candy bar.  Since I’m Jewish, a medal or an icon probably won’t do it.  Maybe I’ll toss a “Happy Face” sticker in there so that at least I’ll remember to“have a nice day.”

I wanted to do further research, but when I Googled “feng shui your car,” I got 2,230,000 hits, a smattering of which showed that in order to have proper “feng shuiness” (yes, it’s the word that is actually used), I need to:
  • Choose the lucky color according to my individual feng shui chart (I guess my husband is SOL)
  • Choose the day of purchase that is positive according to my feng shui calendar (gee, we chose the day based on when we could afford to buy it)
  • Ring with hand bells inside the car to purify the energy (giving new definition to the term “Baby, ring my bell”)
  • Scatter sea salt on the car floor carpets to absorb negative energy (careful – that stuff will hurt like hell when it gets into any scratches you got on the beach)
  • Order license plates with only lucky numbers (our Prius says 62MPG)
  • And above all, do not hang crystals or anything on the rear view mirror, since it draws away the attention of the dragon from your protection. 
I don’t know about you, but I hate it when the attention of the dragon is drawn away from my protection.   I wonder how the dragon feels about air bags?

Are we having fun yet?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Open For Business 25/8

I don’t know about you but I just love it when a client calls at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday to “run some ideas past you.” After all, freelancers don’t need no stinking “sleeping in” on a romantic, rainy Sunday. Sleeping in only results in spontaneous sex. Better to lie beside your spouse and listen to a conversation about distribution quotas while you quietly seethe. That will bring the population growth down.

I also love it when clients call in the evening, during a movie. Do you answer? Yeah, so did the guy in front of me in the multiplex last night. First he tried whispering. Then he got “stink eye” from his neighbors. When someone beaned him with a wadded up napkin, he left the theater talking all the way. You could hear the conversation. It was about a deadline that had been moved up. (Why are deadlines always moved up? Why are they never moved back to give you some breathing room? Why is that?)

I suppose he could have ignored the call but my experience tells me that if you don’t answer, they will just text you. Over and over again.

Why are we allowing ourselves to become on-call slaves? Because we live in the age of instant gratification. Early morning; late at night; weekends; holidays. BTW, what are holidays? I haven’t seen a holiday since 1972. And I live in Hawai‘i, the state that has more official holidays than any other state in the union. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Day, Prince Kuhio Day, King Kamehameha Day, Independence Day, Statehood Day (which is celebrated by native Hawaiians by displaying the flag of the nation of Hawai‘i upside down – the international distress signal) and all the rest. Oops, did I accidentally say “rest?” Ha, ha! That was a joke. The only people who get to rest on most holidays are state workers. For everyone else, it’s just a day in which the busses don’t run as often (for our convenience).

And it’s not just clients who are guilty of this behavior. Suppliers also call whenever the muse is upon them. Because we’ve all become accustomed to being available not just 24/7 but beyond 24/7. I once wrote about the appalling statistics of American workers in comparison to those of other developed nations. We suffer twice the rate of clinical depression as our European counterparts. And we’re literally killing ourselves – in 1980, we ranked 11th in the world in life expectancy; we now rank 42nd.

I have a plan. (You knew I would.) This is a shocker, so you may want to be seated for this – freelancers and entrepreneurs could declare their business hours and then stick to them. Out there in the real world of non-freelance (aka “paid”) work, businesses actually post their hours right on the door. They do. Then when the end of the day comes around, they lock the door and they leave.

I realize that this is a far fetched concept. But think about it:

  • · When you call your bank after hours, does the President of the bank interrupt his dinner to answer your call?
  • · Would you expect your hairdresser to meet you at Starbucks on Sunday morning to review some pictures of hairstyles that might look cute on you?
  • · Do you wake your butcher up at 11:30 at night to tell him about your upcoming dinner party and get his “feedback” on entrée choices?

Let’s try, shall we? Let’s tell our clients right up front, in writing, the hours that we are available for meetings and phone conversations and then (gasp!) turn off the phone. Unless you are a trauma surgeon, let’s pretend that no one will actually die if we don’t take this call. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Some unexpected sex? I don’t know about you but I could live with that.

Are we having fun yet?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Using Mom’s Hairdresser as Your Focus Group

To write about my husband’s clients would be indiscreet and highly inappropriate and we certainly wouldn’t want that. So let’s just say that I know this certain guy (let’s call him “Bob”) who has a number of small business clients (let’s just call them “clients” because calling them Dumbo, although tempting, would be inappropriate).

In earlier times, “Bob” worked at a fairly major Chicago ad agency and so he understands the etiquette of how a marketing plan and its accompanying creative product are handled. He knows that there is a creative director through whom all creative product passes before going to the client. He knows that marketing is not the same as advertising, not all cost savings are a good thing, and you don’t “rebrand” your business by changing the logo.

But small business clients don’t always know this stuff and trying to get them to understand it is like trying to teach a pig to sing – it’s not only futile but it annoys the pig.

“Hey Bob, I know that you told me not to be passing your confidential marketing notes around the office because it’s just a rough draft and all, but I was so excited about the concept and so thrilled about the work I thought I should share it with just a couple of key people. Twelve people within the company (including an intern and the third-floor janitor) loved it but the lady who does my mother’s hair doesn’t like it and now I’ve decided that maybe we should rethink this whole thing.”


“You know that new logo that the professional graphic designer who specializes in creating logos designed for us? The one we spent two months, seven meetings, 56 phone calls and 1,146 emails about? Well, after I dropped it off at Bubba’s Auto Emporium on Monday to have it painted on the company vans, Bubba Jr. decided to take it to his high school art class and these kids have come up with something entirely different that is kind of cute.”


“Bob, you can take that professional film production money out of the budget because I met this retired welder at my cousin Blanche’s wedding last weekend. He just started a wedding video business and he’s going to shoot the whole package – the commercials and the training film – on his iPhone for a fraction of the cost. Can you have the script ready by Friday? We’re going to save even more money with the on-camera talent because Blanche offered to do it for free and she looks so nice now that she’s got most of the weight off.”

I’ll bet you think that I’m kidding. I’ll bet you think that I’m exaggerating. I will admit that these examples are a compilation of the kinds of things that several different clients have come up with over the past year. Nonetheless, this weekend “Bob” has to try to break the latest news to the art director. I’d tell you more, but that would be inappropriate.

Are we having fun yet?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do You Use Starbucks As Your Business Office?

I recently invited 25 strangers to come into my office and set up an expresso machine so that I can try to think over the din of the bean grinder and the steam frother.

OK, no I didn’t actually do that. But it makes about as much sense to me as a fellow writer’s recent suggestion that I should go down to my local coffee house to write my blog.

“Good morning, Charlie. How are you today?” This is the guy sitting next to me at the Starbucks where I am scheduled to meet with a client. This guy has his laptop open on the table, his Bluetooth in his ear and a notebook covered in scribbles. By the look of the stale coffee, he obviously set up shop hours ago using this as his permanent office.  Right now, he's on the phone.

“Not too bad. Not too bad at all. I played 18 holes on Sunday while the wife and kids were at church. I told her I wasn’t feeling well. You know how it is.” I think we all know how that is. “Did you get a chance to look at those numbers I sent you?”

I am assuming that this obnoxious non-church-going liar has an acute hearing problem. That’s the only thing I can think of that would account for his shouting every word. Or maybe it’s a design flaw – his mouth should be located next to his ear.

I try to read the newspaper while I wait for my client but I can’t think over the, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” going on beside me. There is a brief break in his sales pitch and it gives me an opportunity to notice the music blaring away. I realize that they are trying to sell the CDs at the counter but does it have to be so loud? Maybe that’s why the idiot next to me is shouting. Nah, he’s just a jerk. I know this because he launches into a sexist joke. The punchline is, “My name is Tonto. Tonto Goldstein.” I’ve heard this joke twenty times.

I look desperately for another table. No dice. I now understand why this was the only table open. I close my eyes and go into my yoga mantra: “Shutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutup…….”

It’s not working. He’s still there. The crowd is getting bigger. Three people holding their hot Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Lattes and double-shot Caffé Macchiatos are coveting his table and giving him stink eye but this is clearly not his first rodeo and he easily turns his head away from them without ever skipping a beat.

The noise levels are growing. The hard floors, bare walls and plate glass windows bounce sound like a Lakers game.

In mid-2011, Starbucks quietly began a process of systematically reducing the seating and available electrical outlets in their stores just to avoid freeloaders such as the jerk sitting next to me. And in many stores you now “buy” WiFi access in two-hour increments through your loyalty card (which is like a frequent flyer card that gives you credit for coffee and food purchases). I can’t say that I blame them but it’s interesting to note that it is 180° from Starbucks original branding, which was to recreate an Italian bistro that encouraged people to meet their friends and stay as long as they liked (thus the comfy sofas and conversation corners).

By the time my client arrives, the speakers are pumping Elvis ballads, the jerk next to us is getting desperate about closing a deal, and unseated customers are developing that mass-murder glaze. We ended up fleeing like rats from a burning restaurant with “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” echoing in our ears. We took refuge in my client’s car, balancing our coffee on the dashboard while trying to plan grant strategy. It was nuts.

Yes, I know that J.K. Rowling supposedly wrote the first Harry Potter book in an Edinburgh coffee shop with baby Jessica dozing in a pram, because her unheated flat was too cold. (They neglect to mention that the coffee shop was owned by her brother-in-law and she wrote in the back room, not out front surrounded by customers.) I’m no J.K. Rowling but I suspect that Joanne (that’s her name) couldn’t do it in a Starbucks today.

Are we having fun yet?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Clean Underwear for Everyone!

Have you ever turned your underwear inside out and worn it a second time? I mean, have you done it since college? (Or in the case of unmarried males, since you turned 50?)

Well, I’m not quite there yet, but it’s getting embarrassingly close. You’d think that being out of work would leave me a lot of free time to get caught up around the house, although those of you who have read my previous confession of procrastination ("How to Avoid Doing Anything") already know better.

The thing is, being unemployed is exhausting. For one thing, people expect you to do extra stuff that they would never otherwise ask of you. After all, “You’re not doing anything.” So chores that might usually fall to the man of the house have become my duties – things like getting the tax information together, paying the bills, taking the car in for repair, doing the yard work, snaking the bathtub drain, etc. Sure, my husband will point out that I always did those things even when I had a job. (Let’s not go there, shall we? I want to keep this marriage intact.) But nowadays, I feel extra guilty about not doing them because after all, I’m unemployed, bringing in no money and I’m not doing anything. So I’m not blaming him. Not today, anyway.

For one thing, I’ve applied for law school. While the chances for my getting in this year are slim to none, I’m optimistic about next year and I’m taking classes at the university, finishing my undergraduate degree, and studying to boost my LSAT score. So that takes a lot of time.

Then there is the community action volunteer work. As a business person, I was active in a number of organizations and I still hold office in some. Just because you are temporarily out of work, doesn’t mean you should remove yourself from your peers in the business community. Some would even advise that those contacts and visibility are more important than ever for future employment. After all, the tooth fairy isn’t going to pay for law school. And there’s my volunteer work with homeless shelters, which has been a part of my life for so many years I can’t even imagine a world without it.

And then there is social media. Social media is like heroin. The more you get “connected” the more relationships you form. And relationships, like marriage, require constant work to stay viable. My drug of choice is LinkedIn. And within LinkedIn, my “family” is Career Insider Network. But two weeks ago, I started seeing another group on the side.

It began innocently enough. Bloggers Helping Bloggers seemed like a good way to connect with other frustrated writers such as myself. But part of being involved with this group required that I read a lot of blogs. They were fascinating and I have learned a bunch of stuff. And because I find it rude to visit a blog and not contribute to the conversation even modestly, I always leave a comment as a footprint to show that I was there. Frankly, it’s gotten out of control. I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night and check my groups to see what’s going on. (Don’t tell my husband. He thinks I’ve developed a bladder problem.)

So now, the house has gone to hell in a handbasket. The laundry is piling up. I still haven’t finished my homework for tomorrow’s class. And while I’m making confessions, it’s after 4:00 and I haven’t eaten yet today. I’ve just been on the computer endlessly. Enough! It’s time to throw down my mouse and go cold turkey. I’m going to get dressed (yes, you heard that right), go downstairs and wash a load of clothes while I make myself a grilled cheese sandwich.

Free. Free at last! Clean underwear for everyone!!!.
(Are we having fun yet?)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Sympathy

I want to thank you for the sympathy cards and letters I have been receiving. The floral wreaths were nice, too. For those of you who were worried for my well-being, I want to assure you that I am doing better now and expect to live, even though I didn’t get the job.

Sure, I was excited about it. Certainly, I thought that the interview went pretty well, although in retrospect I suppose I should not have revealed my addiction to The Bachelor and Dancing With the Stars. I knew that the job required long days and some late nights and I just wanted to reassure the boss that I could tape those shows and watch them later. I should have kept my mouth shut.

I tried to dress in a businesslike manner, but maybe I overdressed. I’m not sure. I thought the glasses would make me look smarter and more serious but…… I just don’t know. Getting lost in the parking garage didn’t help either. Bummer!

It was a great job, too. It paid so little that when they warned me how low the salary was, I told them I didn’t want to know. Seriously. I knew that it would only depress me and the truth is, the money wasn’t the most important consideration, although, I’m sure my landlord would disagree. It was just a terrific, kick-ass job and it would have kept me out of the bars.

Long hours, lots of stress, low pay. Who could resist? Besides, it only lasted as long as the legislative session and then it would end. Most of us can do anything if we know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Working right in the middle of all that legislative action. Watching the trading and the voting and the lying and the lobbying and the poor legislators trying to do the right thing for their constituents during this lousy economic meltdown. It’s like watching a 24/7 poker game where everyone is bluffing and no one ever wins. What an education!

The people who ran the office were great, too. I knew the “big honcho,” although we are not best friends or anything. I hoped that would help. Maybe I do better with people who don’t know me.

I tried not to get my hopes up. My late mother-in-law would have been proud. Her motto in life was, “Don’t get your hopes up.” She taught it to her four boys and even though she is gone now, they still cling to the concept that the glass is always half empty. Maybe completely empty.

But in the end, I didn’t get the job. Bummer! If I discover that it went to some entry-level 22-year-old I am just going to slit my wrists.

By the way, tulips and daffodils with a somber black ribbon are always appropriate for situations like this, if you’re wondering…..

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.