Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Test of Time

I think my family is pretty wired. We only have two cell phones, but five computers for three people. When my grandchildren came to visit, they each brought their Nintendo Ds, a great babysitter on long trips.

So, it caught me as strange that the five of us (two grandparents, father, two children, ages 5 and 9) could sit down over two nights and play a game of Monopoly. At one point, my grandson had lots of houses, but very little cash and we laughed at how thoroughly modern he was.

As we close out the old year, I’ve been wondering about those cultural icons that survive the test of time. In some strange way, Lucy hangs in there. I wouldn’t necessarily turn to the Lucy show, but if I was bored and flipping channels, I might stop by for a thirty minute visit. She still is one of the best comic geniuses of all time. The same can be said for Carol Burnett.

I had to look up a recipe for cooking acorn squash this afternoon and of all the cookbooks I have, pulled out the Fannie Farmer one that was originally published in 1898. Mine was dated 1965, but it’s still my favorite for the basics.

As you’re celebrating the New Year, take a moment to share about the tried and true that hangs around year after year, offering comfort and joy.

Here’s to a wonderful New Year for everyone around the world.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Credit Card Trauma

I received a strange letter in the mail letter yesterday. It seems that a Chase credit card I’ve had since 1978 was cancelled because it hadn’t been used in a couple of years. It hadn’t been used because it had a lousy rate. I kept it because I’d had it a long time and wanted to show my credit history.

My first ‘professional’ job was working for a credit company. I used to watch women come in and try to buy furniture on credit, but they hadn’t established any in their own name and couldn’t qualify. I made a promise to always have credit in my own name. In fact, when I married my current husband, I was sent a new application to include my new husband on the card. I refused to fill it out. I called them up, explained I was the same person I had been before the name change, had never missed a payment and there was no reason to believe I couldn’t have the card solely in my name. They backed off.

Women today still don’t have credit in their own name. If they become single through a divorce or death, it’s like they don’t exist. It’s a shame.

I called up Chase this afternoon and worked my way up the chain of command until I talked to Steven. When I explained this was my credit history and begged a little bit, the card was reinstated.

I know this is has happened to others since I’ve been reading about it on blogs and forums today. My suggestion is to give them a call. I don’t know that you can get your card reinstated, but there’s no harm in trying.

I was assured my credit score wouldn’t be affected, but I’m not convinced. Your credit score is based, in part, on the ratio of credit available to you and your outstanding debt. If they cancel a credit card, that ratio could drop and change your score. In today’s world it’s not worth the risk.
For more information about cancelling a card card, read the following:
I just saw this article and want to pass it along to people who have had their credit cards cancelled.

Return to Quiet

First of all, let me say, I’ve been a reasonably functioning adult for many years. I raised two children, worked, went to school and was a contributing member of society.

So, why is that when my two grandchildren come to down, I’m barely able to function? Don’t get me wrong. I keep them fed, clothed, bathed and entertained. That’s the problem. When I was a parent 100% of the time, I didn’t feel the need or desire to entertain my children. Words like, “go watch TV,” might have been uttered from my lips. Now, as a grandparent, I am trying to come up with new and exciting things for us to do the whole time they are here. As a result, my work, and this blog all went by the wayside for a week. I’m not sorry.

They left last night and there a stillness that has nestled in the corners that I’m not yet used to. I’ll be back to normal. I miss the little voices, the smell of cleanly washed hair and the special energy that comes from having children in the house again.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Looking Back

I don't bake much anymore. The last time I made homemade bread, it got moldy before it was eaten. That took care of that.

I still like to make rolls for Christmas morning. Usually, it's sticky pecan rolls, but this year I decided cinnamon rolls. I've used the same recipe for almost thirty years, and it was fun to look at the ingredients through the splatters of time.

I don't have a mixer any more. I just couldn’t justify the cost when I bake so little. I don't have a sewing machine any more. Same reason. After making all my own clothes and home decorating, when the old machine died, I knew that phase of my life was over.

I usually think about the future. But, it's been interesting thinking back about times long gone. Not happy or sad, just interesting.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Solitaire Anyone?

There was report last week stating 63% of Americans play video games. Since we don't have a video game through our television, I assumed smugly, they weren't talking about me. Oops, that figure includes people who play solitaire.

If there's a twelve step program, I'm here to state I'm a solitaire addict. I'm making that declaration in the hope I can get on the solitaire abstinence wagon. It starts out innocently enough. I start my computer in the morning, and as I’m still taking my first sip of coffee, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I play a game of solitaire to wake up. I then read my email, and start about the day’s business.

The problem occurs later in the morning. I’ll sit down to start writing. And there it is, a bad case of writer’s block. The empty screen stares back at me. My mind goes blank. What do I write? Where do I start?

And then, before I even realize it’s happened, I’ve dragged down the menu, clicked on Solitaire and there I am, wasting my time. I will often play until I’ve won. Thank God, I win a lot. The problem is, my mind goes numb and it hasn’t helped my writer’s block at all.

Today, we’re working on changing things. I know the writer’s block looms around every period. Today, I have a plan. Instead of playing a game of solitaire to unblock, I’m going to paint. It may still be a drain on my writing time, but I’m hoping the shift to a creative outlet will help get the right side of my brain juices flowing. At the very least, I’ll have a painting to show for my effort.

Just curious if I’m the only junky in the bloggershere or if there are other closet gamers?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I wrote in my last blog about 100 extra calories a day adding ten pounds a year to your weight. As I’ve grappled with my own self-indulgence, I’ve been struck by how it relates to other articles I’ve read recently.

Did you know that over half of the world’s population exists on one bowl of rice a year? I read that last summer when gas and grain shot up. We forget as Americans how quickly we’ve shifted from surviving at near starvation levels to an absolute orgy of options. Choices abound, not only in food, but in other commodities.

Recently, there were reports of a band of parents writing to toy manufacturers to pull back on their advertising. They explained they couldn’t afford the toys their children wanted, had a very hard time saying ‘no,’ and wanted the toy people to help them by not thrusting tantalizing commercials for frequent viewing.

Haven’t the last few years been an exercise in indulgence? Whether we’re talking about food, homes, or toys, we’ve allowed ourselves to get caught up in a feeding frenzy of “I want, therefore I deserve.” Of course, we have an economic system that is based on feeding our constant desire to indulge at every whim. Americans work more hours per capita than any other group of people. We live in heightened state of stress to make money to feed the python of consumerism. We suffer from obesity and other lifestyle related ailments because we haven’t learned to say no.

Where do we go from here? One thing is clear, we can’t continue on this path. Our bodies are ill, children spoiled and our spirit is broken. We have an increased chasm between the haves and the have-nots, but everyone can be in debt to pretend they have it all. No one knows what the next couple of years are going to bring. One thing is for sure, we shouldn’t return to our old ways. We need to find another way of defining success, and what it means to be a proud people.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The 100 Calorie Dilemma

I read something earlier this week that has stayed with me. Basically it said that eating even 100 calories a day over your allotment can had up to 10 pounds a year.

Ouch! that hurt. I'm notorious for looking at a sweet or a treat and saying to myself, "It's only a hundred calories. What harm can it be?"

I can live with my weight where it is, but really don't want to add more. How do I now shift my desire away from my little 100 calorie treats?

I'm not sure what the answer, but it's definitely got me thinking.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Practice What You Preach

I’ve been very lucky have a source of steady income over the last twenty years. It’s allowed me to do a lot things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise; get another degree and start three businesses, for example. Like so many other people around the country, I can no longer count on it to provide what I need to pay my bills. My private practice as a career counselor is slow because people can’t afford the price for individual coaching. I need to find additional sources of income. Last week I spent time thinking about what I’m really good at and where there is a need that I might be able to fill.

While people can’t afford to pay for individual counseling services, I can utilize the current technology to help people at either no cost to them or for a very small investment find work. While this blog is still devoted to retirement life, I want to broaden the scope of what that entails. I will now be talking more about creating income in this new economy. (I started to write “find a job”, but I think people need to throw the doors open to finding income anyway they can-legal and moral ways, of course.)

I read the following this morning. It’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in a silicon valley newspaper discussing the difficulties young people are having finding work right out of college.

"I feel like I put in all the work [in school] to not have a job,"said Jillian Crawford, 25, who's been looking for a marketing jobwith a tech company since she graduated with honors from San JoseState University in June.Ms. Crawford has applied to about 25 marketing jobs withoutreceiving much of a response. She remains committed to finding a jobin Silicon Valley and would be dismayed if she had to lookelsewhere.

This is a problem many college graduates are facing, along with their parents who are having to open their home back up, so these young people don’t end up on the street.

There are no easy answers to the economic and labor problems facing the country right now. I believe, as an individual, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can find work.

What else might Jillian do to find a job? The article discussed how companies in silicon valley are more apt to hire people with experience who can hit the ground running. This provides the first clue as to what Ms. Crawford needs to do. It will not help to go back to school to get a graduate degree and it will not benefit her to take a retail job with the hope of getting marketing work later on. What she needs to do is find a way to get experience anyway she can. If that means taking a part time job to pay the bills and volunteering time in marketing, then that what she should do.

Here a some suggestions for Jillian to get experience and exposure. First, she should contact the local chapter of the American Marketing Association. Speaking to the executive director, tell him/her she is a recent graduate with a degree in marketing and she would like to get involved in the organization. She could inquire if they have any programs for recent graduates, or if they have a mentoring program. She can ask for names of members who might provide advice. She can also join in online professional groups such as Linkedin to connect with people in the profession.

Jillian can contact the San Jose State Career Center to see how to get names of alumni. She should start developing a list of people who graduated with a degree in marketing. In addition, review the list of 25 companies she applied to, identify the ten she would most like to work for, and start to contact people from San Jose State who work for these companies.

Arranging for thirty minute meetings, Jillian can explain how she applied for a marketing job, and ask for their advise about becoming a better candidate. Ask them to review her resume. It sounds weak if she didn’t get interviews, and there may be things she can do to spice it up. She wants to talk to as many people as she can asking them for advice, information and referrals (AIR).

She also might contact the local chamber(s) of commerce. She can explain her situation and see if they have suggestions of people she can contact for volunteer or paid work. She can contact independent marketing consultants to see if they need an assistant.

Jillian may also try contacting non-profits in her area and see about volunteering in their marketing department. Organizations still need to get their message out. There will continue to be a need for people with good skills.

She needs to be willing to try other activities besides answering ads. If she is willing to get out, meet people in the profession, do volunteer work to get experience, she will eventually be able to find a job in her field.