Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions


Historically, this is the time of year when people make resolutions about what they hope to improve in/about their lives. I just did a quick Google on "resolutions" and one of the first things that popped up was a Top Ten List (along with the comment that the majority of Americans will a) have at least one of these on their own list and b) probably won't keep it and will have it on their list again NEXT year).
Here are the Top Ten:
Spend more time with family and friends
Fit in fitness
Tame the bulge
Quit smoking
Enjoy life more
Quit drinking
Get out of debt
Learn something new
Help others
Get organized
Any of these ring a little ding-a-ling?
Even I, who several years ago decided to stop making way too many resolutions and focus on just a few areas for potential improvement (that all tie in with my Master Plan), have to admit that I selected two such areas that are close to two on this list. And, after doing a brief poll on Facebook, I noticed that many of my Facebook friends have similar resolutions to these. More on that later.
So, what's this Master Plan of mine? Well, I'll tell you in a second, but WHY I came up with it is probably more germane to this whole resolution topic.
Like a lot of people, every year, I'd come up with this too long and probably unreasonable list of things to either improve about myself or my circumstances OR something to do. Less than half-way through the year, I'd find myself unfocused, torn, frustrated, confused; mostly because many of the items really didn't matter, were not specific enough, or, should have just been status quo.
Case in point, this whole "lose weight/get into shape/take care of my health" resolution. To me, this is not something a person should pay attention to once a year; rather, it should be a life style. Either you do it, or you don't. If you don't intend on making your health a priority every single day of your life, stop kidding yourself, leave it off your resolution list and focus on something else in whatever time you've got left.
For me personally, this is just an overarching requirement to my life. If I don't feel good, nothing else is going to matter.
So, anyway; to avoid the long laundry list of too many unreasonable and unrelated resolutions, I wrote my Master Plan. Actually, I got the idea from a very interesting book entitled "Conversations with God". Religion aside, the concept is simple. People need to have a plan, whatever it is, to which every single thing you do fits in with that plan. In the business world, we call this a strategic plan.
My plan is somewhat fluid, but with sufficient structure to provide guidance. Like any decent plan, I've had to tweak it a few times, too; but, at least it's a map. What's that saying? If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there? I don't know about you, but, I'd sort of like to have some idea of where I'm heading (and why!)
Here it is:
Retire/Semi-Retire within Seven Years in Comfort and Ease with Sufficient Funds and Both of Us Active and Healthy.
Not really rocket science.
Since I'm already semi-retired, my primary focus is doing what is necessary to get Mr. B there!
For me to do this, I've got to be happy/healthy/motivated (and such there are many of my resolutions that fall into this category; 'cause if mama ain't happy, ain't NO ONE happy!)
Here are my 2010 picks:
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle (that overarching thing; I guess I only put it down because I'm OCD).
2. Continue to contribute to our cash flow "somehow" (yes, purposefully vague; who knows what direction this may take?)
3. Wrap up a few personal projects (note I did not say ALL of them!)
4. Accept imperfection in self and others (this is important to me because I sometimes get bogged down in wanting everything PERFECT; which ends up putting me in stall mode)
5. Learn/do at lease one new thing (gotta keep growing; note, this was on the top ten list)
6. Keep an eye on the future but enjoy the "present" of today (also on the top ten list but definitely something I have to remember (this sort of goes hand and hand with #4))
Those of my Facebook friend who responded had:
Lose weight
Stop taking crap from people
Get organized (this was a popular one)
Take control of my life/stop talking about it and put plans into action
Stop cussing (hmmm...nah, maybe I'll try that one for Lent :-) )
Happy New Year, all. Make 2010 worth it!
Mrs. B


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Few Christmas Photos

Our Tree Christmas Eve. Still Standing!
Pete. NOT Impressed!
The Crazy Cat Lady and Her Cats
Showing Lucy Santa Didn't Forget Her!
Lucy and Her New Duck
Mr. B and Niece Jacqueline
The Little T Cousins: Jacqueline, Kendal, Holly and Sophie
Ho Ho Ho..Oh, Wait! I'm a Reindeer, Not Santa! Mrs. B
Brother Nathaniel and Nephew Kendal
Brother Jon and Jacqueline
Niece Sophie and SIL Shannon
Jon, Jacqueline, Nathaniel, Kendal, Alina and Tara (Shannon's Niece and Sister)
Tara, Sister Kathy and Shannon
SIL Analee and Niece Holly
Mom and Mr. B
Dad and Jon
Nathaniel
Mom and Dad's dog Brook




Wednesday, December 23, 2009

East Commons: Part One


The other morning I walked out into the brisk 20-something degree air with Lucy for our daily exercise. In the slight breeze wafted the aroma of someone nearby cooking eggs and bacon and I was immediately transported back in time to the mid 80s sitting in East Commons at San Diego State University. Isn't it amazing how smell is so closely associated with memory!
Or, perhaps it is because The Kid will be going away (somewhere) to college next Fall that I've been thinking quite a bit lately of my own college experience?
In any event, on our walk, I let myself travel back in time to those good old days (and some parts of them WERE good!) Although there was much to ponder about, I settled on thinking about what the aroma of breakfast took me to; hanging out in East Commons.
I did not elect to partake in The Greek Life at SDSU; I had zero interest in it (even though SDSU had a notorious reputation for being THE party school). Rather, my friend Peri and I (we went through grade school, high school AND college together) opted from the get-go to hang out in the various cafeterias/commons before, in between and sometimes after classes.
Way back in the Fall of 1981, we started out at Monty's Den; typically sitting outside. This is where we first discovered the wonderfully dense cookies sold at the eateries throughout campus (funny how I just remembered that, too!)
It did not take long, though, for us to migrate to West Commons; mostly because it seemed to us that the older students hung out at Monty's Den (because they served beer there). Why we went ventured next to West Commons I'm not sure I recall; likely, it was because we both had classes nearby.
West Commons was our haunt of choice, then, until the Fall of 1982. I do know for a fact what caused us to leave West Commons for East Commons, or, I should say "who"; a guy by the name of Wayne.
One day while walking to the book store (which was near East Commons), Peri (who loved popcorn) decided to stop a the outdoor popcorn stand. Wayne, who was an East Commons cafeteria employee, was working the popcorn stand. He was a good looking man (21 or 22 to my almost 19) in a rough, blue collar sort of way. He was also friendly and engaging and seemed to be flirting with yours truly.
Over the next several days, I discovered I had an insatiable appetite for popcorn and we moved our hangout to East Commons.
At that point in time, East Commons, a vastly huge room, was divided into a non smoking section (near the main door) and a smoking section (the other side of the room close to the phone booths (remember those?) and the rear exit). There was also a patio area which we hardly ever used. The cafeteria portion was directly in front of the room and, to the right of it past the cash registers, was a stairway that headed down into the employee dining area.
Peri and I initially settled at a table somewhat in the middle of the room in the smoking section. Actually, we didn't have a particular spot then; we'd sit wherever, but it was generally in that area. I don't exactly know why we eventually moved to the far right table in the front (right next to the phone booths). Maybe it was so I could keep a better eye on Wayne (and his girlfriend, which it turned out he had) as he worked around the cafeteria? Or, perhaps it was due to the altercation we had with an Iranian man one afternoon between classes.
This being the early 80s, there were still uneasy relations between the students from the US and those from Iran (of which there seemed to be an inordinate amount, mostly in the Engineering school). The Iranians would sit together, usually in the middle of the room in the smoking section. They never spoke English so, if you happened to be sitting near them, you had no idea what they were talking about.
Anyway, on this particular afternoon, Peri and I were sitting at a table smoking away and drinking Diet Coke. This Iranian man (and maybe one or two others) sat down across from us with trays of food. They immediately set in to talking and eating, pointedly ignoring us; that is, until this one man realized our smoke was wafting in his direction.
It might be hard to comprehend this now that people hardly ever smoke in public places anymore and certainly not in a restaurant, but, neither Peri or I had any intention of putting out our cigarettes, even though it was apparent to both of us that our smoke was bothering him. Why? There were several reasons: We were in the smoking section. We were there first. They did not have to sit down there. We'd seen this particular group of men smoking in East Commons before. We were young and belligerent.
In any case, this man turned to us and in a very condescending way, told us (mind, he did not ASK us), to put out our cigarettes while he was eating. We didn't of course, upon which he glared at us hawkishly and said, "In Iran, women do as they are told". Peri retorted that we were not in Iran, in case he hadn't noticed; while I simply, and deliberately, blew smoke in his face.
He probably yelled at us; I can't really remember but I do know that Wayne (who as it turned out had been keeping an eye on me, too), came over and asked us if we were okay; at which point, I am pretty sure now that I've been recalling this, we stood up and moved to what would become for the next several years "Our Table".
Mrs. B

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Bad Year For Pets


No, not ours. In fact, by way of Ares, Athena and Apollo's way of thinking, this was a good year for them.
I realized, though, that many of my family and friends lost their beloved friends this year. LOTS of them. Why? I guess, most likely, it is the turn turn turn thing going on (older pets); some losses were just, simply, sad and tragic.
So, here is Mrs. B tribute to these loved pets. If I missed any of y'alls; please know, I'm still thinking of you!
And, we'll ALL be ready to see our dear friends again at The Rainbow Bridge!
Murphy H.

LuLu B.
Monty R.
Tweedle T.
Roxy M.
Bo T.
Willow T.
Shadow B.
Mack B.
RIP, our dear friends. We WILL see you again.
Mrs. B
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mrs. B's Birthday Dinner

For the third year in a row, my wonderful husband Mr. B became Chef B this past Saturday to make my birthday dinner. This year, I specifically requested two things; he came up with the rest of the menu. As always, the dinner was absolutely wonderful, as was the entire evening. I'm so lucky to have my very own personal chef. I'll always appreciate it!
Mrs. B

Fresh Mushroom Soup
Beef Wellington Baked in Sour Cream Pastry with Sauce Madeira
Accompanied with Gratin Dauphinois & Spicy Sauteed Broccolini with Garlic

The Chef with Main Course

Mrs. B Ready to Chow Down!
Chef B with Dessert: Cardamom-Coconut Creme Caramel (we have SIX left, folks!)
Chef and Mrs. B
12.19.09

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Old Age Ain't No Place For Sissies" -- Bette Davis

This is one of my favorite quotes; spoken by the famous actress Bette Davis (1908-1989). Anyone who has seen a classic Davis film can certainly imagine this quip flowing off her tongue, or, more like snapping off her tongue. Certainly, she was one tough broad.
So, it’s a favorite quote, but why? A few years ago (maybe 10), I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it. Now, though; it resounds with me.

Ok, I’ll admit; I’m not really sure that 46, the age I became today, classifies any more as old. Sure, ask my 17 year old step-daughter, or any one of my nieces or nephews (could they all speak coherently); and they’d probably tell you that 46 is ANCIENT. I know at times it does feel this way to me; fleetingly. Such as a few weeks ago when I was in the nail salon getting a manicure. I was explaining to the (quite young) manicurist that my nails were in such awful condition because I’d worn acrylic nails for over 20 years; beginning in 1987. She looked at me in an odd way and said, “That’s the year I was born!” Ok, ANCIENT MOMENT!

On the other hand, there are more people than not in my life who would resoundingly assert that 46 is definitely NOT old. My parents (and thank God I have all four still in my life), for example; and, family friends, former bosses and mentors; heck, they gleefully call ME a kid! And, of course, many of my friends who are either older or are experiencing this “certain age” along with me. I would hazard a guess that my husband doesn’t find 46 old (considering I am still younger that he was when I met him) and my brothers, one of whom is approaching a big milestone next year, KNOW better to consider their sister old (although my youngest does call me “A Thorny Queen”; that’s ok, I kinda like that!)

I suppose Bette might have meant several things in her quote. Although not a conventional beauty, she was an extremely striking looking woman in her prime; with wonderfully smoldering bedroom eyes. Heck there was even a song written about her eyes in the 70s; c’mon, you know it, “She’s got Bette Davis eyes!”. Definitely a compliment, I’d say. Anyway, she got older; her looks went from striking to somewhat terrifying (sorry to say); this couldn’t have been easy on a woman with such a strong personality and (likely) ego.

So, there is that. Oh, how many woman have lamented how they wished they could retain their youthful looks and yet possess the wisdom that only comes with the passing of years that necessitates those looks cannot possibly remain the same? It’s a wise woman who comes to grips with that fact because spending a life in abject misery constantly dieting and throwing money away on surgeries (that may result in one looking like a psycho blow fish) and thus garnering more pity and ridicule than would have resulted had one just left nature well enough alone; ain’t worth it. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was just such a woman in Cabo San Lucas a few years ago. Mr. B and I were out by the pool, thoroughly enjoying our foo foo drinks and one another when this (seemingly) gorgeous woman came up to settle down in the lounge chair next to us. Along with her was an entourage of friends, children, and an extremely handsome young man. When she was sitting next to me, I sort of turned to look at her and saw what the sun in my eyes had previously hidden; she was hideous. Yeah, her body was ok; but her face; well, in Greek times, it would have turned people to stone. Botox gone very, very, bad. This was awful enough; worse, though, was the way she was cooing over this young man who was obviously her boy toy (and he, just as obviously, was barely tolerating it until she bought him several drinks).

That was really depressing to watch but it was also a lesson. So now, yes, I’ll admit, I do not like some of the side effects of remaining alive; eye lashes and eye brows getting sparse, an odd ache in one hip on cold mornings, eye sight that continues to get worse each year and crêpey skin (although Mr. B still asserts I am not “creepy”); I’ll take these over looking like a complete fool (and, of course, the solemn alternative of not being here, period).

Frankly, I think what Davis was REALLY getting at with her quote was something much more painful than seeing some grey hairs or a saggy bottom; and that is continuing to live whilst those nearest and dearest pass on and the life you once knew; the times, the glory, what used to make you pulse and throb; fades away into memories. What is one to do when this happens? She’d probably have said, “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it”. Too true; what’s the alternative? Sitting around boring everyone with stories of your days in the sun? Yawn.

One has to honor and cherish the memories of those who are gone; smile at the thoughts of days gone by, but, for God’s sake; find new people to fill your life with (even if it’s just one or two; or, hey, maybe 15 cats); get involved with something, anything; to keep your mind active and alert, help someone worse off than you; all that stuff.

One other positive thing about getting older is the treasure trove of life stories. Oh, I do hope that everyone who is reading this is in a position to understand what I am talking about and has had some of these memories! Ones of adventures; of events that possibly you’ve never shared with anyone, not even your best friend. Ones that still make you curl your toes in delight and satisfaction. Ones that, when you are truly old, you can sit and remember them and cackle in enjoyment at their recollection (while those around you nod and smile and think to themselves, “Poor Auntie. She’s really gone around the bend now”). Oh, if they only KNEW!

Finally; as one ages, I think it’s important to realize the older doesn’t always means wiser. In order for that to occur, you must truly know yourself.

Hopefully, I’ve got another 40 years on this planet. Really, I do hope so. And, who knows how I might change over those years? Yet, right now, at this moment, I truly believe I know myself. I could candidly, and with little modesty OR over blown ego, list out any number of both positive and negative qualities about me.

Want a few? Here goes. I am extremely organized and detail oriented yet I can be OCD. I have superior judgment and intuition and yet I can be very judgmental at times. I give a lot of myself in many ways but I can also be bitingly cruel and a bit vindictive. I can be extremely impatient yet I am hardest on myself. I don’t make friends easily (I can be somewhat off putting, I guess); but, once I make a friend, they’re usually a friend for life.

And one other thing.

I AIN’T NO SISSY!

Mrs. B

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mrs B: Domestic Goddess! Watch Out, Martha Stewart!

I saw this recipe for Cranberry Liqueur in Cooking Light and was just struck to try it. For whatever reason, domesticity has reigned supreme this holiday season; that, and an unusual wave of (non-verbal) creativity.
Anyway, I started this batch of liqueur three weeks ago by combining cranberries, sugar, water and vodka into an old (but cleaned and sanitized) gin bottle. I put it in the pantry and dutifully shook it every other day. Today, I shook it one last time and then strained the liquid through a cheese-cloth lined sieve into a bowl. After, I poured the contents into a large glass measuring cup (yep, it made about 4 1/2 cups, just like the recipe said) and then poured the liqueur into these sweet little bottles I've been buying from Michael's over the past several weeks.
They are amazingly pretty, I think! According to the recipe, the liqueur will keep either refrigerated or in a cool dark place for up to one year. My batch made enough for seven bottles; six of which will be given away to local friends and family to enjoy; one we'll keep. Oh, and there was just enough extra to pour two cordial glasses full to share with Mr. B later on tonight.
I did have a small taste before I went through all the bottling effort; no sense doing it if it tasted awful. But, no; it's a yummy sweet but not overly so with the right amount of tartness flavor. The recipe said it could be poured over ice cream, used to drench fruitcake or served chilled in cordial glasses. It would probably also made a nice addition to a Cosmopolitan (although it would pack a wallop) or a glass of Champagne or Prosecco.
Cheers!
Mrs. B

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pete and Lily's Christmas "Cheer"

...as the pictures show...yeah, not bloody likely! Take this freakin' jingle bell collar off me! Pete looks pissed; Lily looks as though she just want to attack and eat it!
Oh, it's so much fun to "torture" pets during the holidays.
Mrs. B

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sometimes It Pays To Be A Pain In The Ass

I've blogged about a variation of this topic before (being assertive when you think you've been wronged in some sort of transaction) but I guess it's time to bring it up again. Why? Because lately, it seems, there are all sorts of traps out there set for people to get nickled and dimed if they are either not paying attention or don't feel like dealing with it if they are. Also, in a related vein; when you get crappy customer service/don't get what you paid for and just letting it go.
I don't know if it's because a) I was raised to be somewhat assertive (or at least the foundation was there and life and circumstances developed this trait) b) I learned while working to write a pretty decent "Don't Screw With ME" letter c) as of next week, I'll officially be pushing 50 (OLD BROAD TAKES SHIT FROM NO ONE) or d) all of the above; but, well, I don't usually let too much get past me unless I decide to let it go.
My advice, then, to others out there who, perhaps, haven't quite reached this frame of mind is: GET THERE.
Ok, here are the recent opportunities I had to be A PAIN IN THE ASS (at least from someone's perspective, I'm sure):
1. Doctor's office attempted to charge me the difference between their normal billing rate and the negotiated rate for a recent office visit. I DON'T THINK SO!
2. Our carpets are buckling in a bad way. More than they should be after only 3 years of being in the house. The guy who cleaned our carpets said he's never seen it quite so bad in such a new house. We contacted the builder and got the usual, "Well, your warranty is up". I really don't care; you guys did a crappy job so you'd better fix it. Mr. B added, "Or, you may as well give us the number to JD Powers (KB is always trying to achieve a rating of 10 for customer satisfaction on EVERYTHING they do) and we'll raise a stink with them". Remember the whole hardwood floor fiasco? We've got a similar situation here; drag feet, postpone, hem and haw. We finally got them to agree to DO it; now, we've just got to get it scheduled. If they think we'll forget about it...well, you know the end to that statement!
3. Mom and I went to Firebirds (a chain restaurant in the local mall) a few weeks ago for lunch. We had gone three or so weeks before and they gave us each one of those cards that you are supposed to bring back, unopened, by the expiration date and you'll get some sort of prize (usually 5% of your bill; sometimes a fairly decent prize like a flat screen TV). Anyway, we went back and handed the waitress the cards. "Oh, let me go get our manager to open those up for you!" Off she went and returned with the manager (some scrappy looking guy who seemed hardly old enough to be a manager of anything). "Sorry, ladies, those have expired", he said. Say what? We both looked; sure enough, they had...the day before. We had each thought it expired 11/30 but it expired 11/03 (ok, talk about a dumb expiration date). Ok, fine, so it's expired, here we are, can't you honor them anyway? We were only ONE day late, after all. "Nope, can't do it. It's not that we don't like you, though" he said with a (I thought) smirk and walked off. Well, we walked off, too; across the way to another restaurant. After thinking about it, though, I got even more highly annoyed and sent off an email to their corporate office complaining about the half-assed way we were treated. I immediately received a reply from their marketing department apologizing and explaining WHY the manager couldn't honor it (some legalese; whatever). She went on to say she was going to send me a few VIP cards and she sure hoped we'd give Firebirds another chance. Which we did, the other day. So, why couldn't the dumb dumb manager have explained this to us? We certainly would have understood.
4. We have several accounts with a regional bank, including our small business account. We've banked with them going on six years. Lately, I've noticed strange glitches with their bill pay system. A few months ago, it changed the address of one of our billers from what I'd put into the system to what they had in the system for that biller. I changed it back. The other day, it paid a fairly large bill three days earlier than I'd scheduled it for. Who knows why, but, it did; causing us to be temporarily overdrawn in our account (there was a reason, after all, why I scheduled it for the day I did; Mr. B's pay day!) Anyway, I noticed this negative amount in our account and immediately transferred money over from another account (why they didn't do this on their own is beyond me as is why they paid the bill three days early). By late afternoon, the transfer was "pending" (usually it is effective immediately) and they'd assessed a $36 insufficient funds fee on our account. I went ape shit over that one and sent a snot o gram to their customer service department telling them what happened and that if they didn't reverse the fee, we'd close all of our accounts and go else were. I meant it, too. In this economy in particular, who the you know what do they think they are pulling this stuff? Luckily, I received an email from them this morning assuring me they'd reverse the charge.
Man, this type of thing makes my blood BOIL; and, even though I get agitated, irritated, annoyed, etc., I do something about it, which, in the end, suits me far more than feeling like I just bent over and got royally screwed.
Mrs. B

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kids and Pets Are SO Alike!


As I was vacuuming for what seemed the millionth time (with five cats and one dog, there is always fur on the carpet and I can only stand it so long) and ran the vacuum over yet another faint stain (barf; courtesy of Lucy the other morning), I got to thinking how, when you sign on to have pets, you just can't expect to have a perfectly clean house. This led me down the path to the similarities between having pets and having children (it seems to me; since I don't have children, I can only surmise). Such as:
1. You're gonna have messes. Puke, pee, poop, spilled food and drink, etc.; and said messes will likely leave behind a few stains. Get used to it, or, you'll just go crazy.
2. They're gonna get sick; which will likely led to a lot of #1. Puke is especially bad; poor Clyde left several reminders of his existence on our carpet (faint as they are); and ask my mom how much fun it was to get my brother Nathaniel's purple Kool-Aid puke stain out of our carpet on Risa Court!
3. You may as well open up your wallet and hand your credit card over to the doctor/vet so they can a) take care of your loved ones and b) buy their next BMW.
4. They will get into all sorts of mischief when you are not paying attention. Shredding toilet paper and pulling Kleenex out of boxes appears to be a favorite past time of both young pets and young children!
5. Houses need to be both kid and pet proofed, with particular attention given to anything electrical. Although pets don't stick their fingers (or keys...NATHANIEL!) into light sockets like children might, they do tend to chew through electrical cords.
6. They have a fascination for opening anything you want closed. Doors, cabinets, trash cans, toilets; etc.
7. If you have more than one, they WILL fight; but, they'll also cuddle and love on one another, too.
8. They are sometimes planned and sometimes not but you love them all just the same (although, if you are honest, you may favor one over another).

9. Watching their antics can provide countless hours of amusement, amazement, entertainment and enjoyment.
10. Even though you look forward to time away from them, you think about them/worry about them/miss them constantly while you are gone.
11. They can irritate the heck out of you one minute and then turn around and melt your heart the next. And, if anything bad happens to them, get ready for your heart to simply break.
Mrs. B

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Little Red Nightie

This story could have come right out of an episode of "I Love Lucy"!
A few weeks ago, I was wandering around Target. I happened by the sleepwear section and discovered that Target had some pretty nice nighties. I mean NIGHTIES, as in, SEXY stuff. One in particular caught my eye; a little red number (I'm just drawn to that color). It wasn't overly expensive, but, I decided not to buy it.
I went home and started dropping some big hints to Mr. B about that nightie AND the fact that it would be nice if, from time to time, he bought me little gifties "just because". Ok, look; no one give me any crap here! I buy HIM little gifties all the time "just because" (not little red nighties, but, you get the gist).
In his Mr. B way, he somewhat acknowledged that he'd heard me and we went on about our business.
The weeks went by; no nightie. He DID bring me some very lovely flowers, which, unfortunately lived out most of their life in the bathroom (all five cats are plant chompers so I told Mr. B it's probably not worth getting flowers until they grow out of this stage, which, hopefully, they will).
Last Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve), Mr. B calls fairly early (4:00) to say he's on his way home but first he had to stop off at Target to get some shoe polish.
Oh, boy howdy! Target! C'mon, he can get shoe polish ANYWHERE.
I got to thinking he was going to waltz into the house with my little red nightie!
About an hour and half later, in he came. What did he have with him?
Shoe polish.
Admittedly, I was a bit peeved but, I didn't say anything.
I was, however, thinking quite a bit. Like, "How come men can be so OBTUSE?" and other thoughts in a similar vein.
After dinner, I must have been extra vigorous with the cleaning up as Mr. B asked if everything was ok.
One of the reasons our relationship works so well is we're pretty open about how we are feeling; we don't tend to stuff too much down/hold grudges. And, me being me, I've always been a straight shooter. So, out it came; all my wails and woes about not getting that little red nightie.
I was telling my troubles to the sink; Mr. B standing behind me. Finally, I turned around to look at him, and what did he have in his hands?
:-)
Ain't love grand? And, hey, gifts like these are ones that just keep on giving!
Mrs. B






Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Mr. B had great fun with niece Jacqueline yesterday; pampering, spoiling, feeding...and then back over to mom and dad for diaper changing :-)
More T-Day pictures available for viewing by clicking the link under Mrs. B's "Stuff".
Mrs. B

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'd STILL Hold His Hand!

This picture, which I'd never seen before, came courtesy of a family friend. It is (l-r); my Father, me, Bobby Jr. (the family friend) and his wonderful dad, Bob Sr. We were at a work picnic/party of my Father and Bob Sr's employer at a place called Indiana Beach.
The year was 1967 and Mrs. B was about 3 1/2 years old.
I don't remember it, but, I'm absolutely in love with this picture...and the fact I'm holding my Father's hand :-)
Love ya, Father!
Mrs. B

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Diatribe on Healthcare Reform


I began a thread on Facebook the other day about the recent appalling recommendation from a government appointed panel that women don't need mammograms until age 50. This set off a fairly interesting conversation amongst serveral of my Facebook friends who have differing opinions on the whole state of health care/proposed reform, etc. As it was I who started this topic, I figured I'd weigh in a bit more on what I think. And, it IS what I think; not necessarily right or wrong or even as informed as it should be. Incidentally, I've found what everyone has posted on my Facebook page to be well thought out and each post has given me food for thought. Which is as it should be.

IMHO, I see the current health care mess as a dysfunctional three-legged stool with a sometimes wobbly seat. By dysfunctional, I mean that, at any given time, one or more of the legs are shorter than the other(s); these legs being: The Government, The Insurance Companies and (let us not forget) The Medical Practices/Health Care Systems. The seat is us consumers; who either take care of ourselves physically and emotionally (or don't); get regular check-ups (or don't); have jobs (regardless of what they pay) or have had jobs in the past or are either retired, have been laid off, have found other means of money (inheritances); whatever (or have never worked and/or contributed in any way to society).
Because I think it's usually best to provide an opinion based on in some part personal experience, here is mine (long-winded as it turned out to be).
Leg One: Insurance Companies. Like most people, I've had my run-ins with them. Most recently, when having to shop around for a new policy, I received a quote from United Health Care (Aetna wouldn't provide an individual policy in NC) for a fairly decent plan. I knew I'd be paying a higher deductible in turn for a lower monthly premium, but, so long as the plan covered preventative/well-women care before deductible, a relatively low co-pay for office visits and a prescription drug plan before deductible, I was ok with it.
I completed an on-line application and received a pretty decent initial quote. I was then required to send in three months worth of premium and wait to hear the official terms of the policy/if I'd REALLY be approved from the underwriters (that dreaded group of folks who must complete their tasks while they are chained up in hell). About two weeks before the effective date of my new policy, I had a phone call from the underwriters. They wanted to know about my prescription for Clarinex (allergy medication); how long I'd been on it, how often I took it, the dosage, etc. I answered all their questions honestly.
A week later, I received my policy in the mail. I'd been approved BUT they had placed a rider in the policy that stated the usual $100 deductible per year for brand drugs was raised to $1,200 per year (there is no deductible for generic drugs, just a $15 co-pay per prescription). It was, of course, no coincidence that Clarinex is only offered in brand form (still under patent). They, in effect, assured that they would not have to pay for the Clarinex because, surprise surprise, a one year's supply is currently about $1,200. Additionally, they raised my monthly premium about $45 per month. I called and inquired as to why. "Because you take a prescription". "Excuse me, don't MOST people, even healthy people, take prescriptions from time to time?" "Why yes, but, that's the way the policy is written". In other words, take it or leave it.
I took it, because a) my other insurance was running out in a week and I done enough shopping around to know that this was about as good as it was going to get; b) other than the prescription thing, it covered everything I wanted it to and c) I could get around them not paying for my allergy medication by switching to Allegra, which does have a generic alternative (which they are covering at $15 per prescription).
However, what if this had been a drug that I desperately needed and either there WAS no generic alternative OR, even if there was, the generic wasn't as effective? As one Facebook friend pointed out, at least I had the option to tell them to go to hell and go find someone else HAD I WANTED TO; and, yet, chances are, I'd have run into the same thing with ANY one of them. For people that are truly sick/need the coverage/have had something denied and have filed a complaint; the insurance companies can be masters at the red tape nightmare. One woman wrote in an editorial (about a battle her cancerous husband had with their insurance company over a claim) that this is one way insurance companies have gotten around the whole pre-existing condition; they don't deny it, rather, they simply keep rejecting it, asking for more input from the doctors, sending more paperwork, etc. until the person gives up (or dies, which is what happened to her husband).
In this regard, I'd love to see some regulation, but, given this recent government panel's recommendation regarding mammograms, I'm no longer so sure that the government alternative would be much better. BTW, what I think I understand about the "reform" is that it isn't as though there will not be private insurance companies that folks can utilize, it is that there will also be what equates to a government insurance company that will provide insurance for anyone and everyone who needs it. Of course, this will mean the rates for the private insurance companies will skyrocket as they loose business. One of the issues that some folks have with the potential for the government insurance company (this is just what I'm calling it) is it's not going to be cheap to cover millions of people who currently do not have insurance (a vast sum of which can't afford to pay for it) and this means either more deficit and/or higher taxes.
The other issue is the concern that certain programs will be cut in order to pay for it and the folks who administer the government insurance company will be ignorant, uniformed, inefficient, have their own share of red tape and rude (think DMV employees and shudder). There is probably also a little bit of, "Why should I have to pay for other lazy slobs to be insured?" I know I sometimes feel this way, but, my feeling is there are more people out there that deserve to be insured but have been caught up in the same stuff I was (but denied for significantly worse conditions) than there are people that are looking for handouts who won't get off their butts and get a job (this would be one set of the wobbly seat contingent).
Leg Two: The Medical Practices/Health Care Systems (hospitals, medical groups, HMOs, PPOs, specialists, labs, pharmacies, etc. etc.) In this, I'm not referring to any particular PERSON (e.g., doctor, nurse, lab technician); although some of the administrative people can be quite rude. Anyway, really, my biggest rant is for this leg. I have countless examples of how ludicrous their fee/rate schedules are, or, how they try to confuse/bully people into paying bills that they are not responsible for. It may be as simple as sending a bill (say, for the difference between what they charged for a procedure and what the insurance company will pay (which they'd agreed to; the whole "preferred provider" thing) OR calling and leaving countless messages to call patient accounting and threatening to send an account to collections (for an amount you don't even owe). Some people, a lot of people, would either assume they owed the money and pay it, or, give in to the threats (especially in this economy when a bad blip on your credit is an even worse blight than it was before).
Here is one example. I had to go to the ER five years ago; nothing serious but Mr. B figured I'd best go. He took me at 2:00 am. They did a few simple fluid tests, I talked to a PA, they gave me TWO pills; but, mostly, I laid there waiting because my situation was not life or death and it was an ER, after all.
There had been a blip in my insurance coverage right around that time as I moved from an employee policy to COBRA. It was the same insurance company, but, they inadvertently dropped me out of the system so I showed up as uninsured. As I dealt with that, I started receiving the bills from my stint in the ER. All totaled, it was something like $2,000 ($100 of that was for the two pills; $50 a pill, give me a break!) $2,000 for, basically, a lab test, a brief consult with a PA, and two pills. It took about a month for the insurance company to get their act together and coordinate with the patient accounting people; in the meantime, I received bills almost daily with threats that they'd go to collections. I called patient accounting and explained what was going on; they wanted me to pay it, the entire $2,000, anyway, and then get reimbursed by the insurance company once the insurance mess got worked out. Uh, I don't THINK so!
What the insurance company ultimately covered was around $250; the rest was written off, yours truly paid absolutely nothing (other than my monthly insurance premium, that is) and I never heard from patient accounting again.
So, a person who did not have insurance would have been stuck with a $2,000 bill. My point here is, these practices are charging the very people who cannot afford and/or have been denied insurance astronomical amounts of money for services.
Along those lines, here is another, more recent example. Mr. B had an ER stay this past June. The hospital/patient accounting somehow missed the fact he had insurance (even though he gave the receptionist his card at check-in). He was sent a huge bill for one particular service but was told if he paid it right away, there would be a 50% discount. What the heck is this? Anyway, his insurance paid about 1/4 of the total bill, the rest was written off. He is STILL getting calls from patient accounting telling him he owes the other 1/4 of the 50% discount because it wasn't paid right away! The insurance company keeps telling Mr. B that he doesn't owe it, yet, they are not bending over backwards to help out by calling patient accounting, either. Are they in co-hoots? I don't know; but, again, this type of crap can't keep going on. Mr. B will sue their pants off if they put something on our credit, but, not everyone has the fortitude and wherewithal to do something like this; to fight back.
Leg Three: The Government. OMG, haven't we ALL had issues with some branch/agency/area our government? I cited the DMV before; I truly do shudder to think about a slew of lazy, uncaring, underpaid people deciding the fate of my health (if that, in fact, is what it will be; I'm not still not sure). Or, anyones health, for that matter. In all fairness to the current administration, they didn't get us into this mess, it's been a long time coming. However, I am annoyed that the two primary parties are spending their time bickering about this and refusing to work together to come up with a plausible solution. So, the Democrats came up with some reform proposal that means higher taxes, more burden on business, higher deficit and the Republicans scream and yell and call for a holy war (that Senator from Utah, gotta love him) and yet refuse to propose something of their own. How does this make sense? So, this will be the entity, potentially, that administers this new reform; a government who won't work together? What sort of worse mess are we going to end up with?
The Wobbly Stool. Us. First off, we need to take better care of ourselves; in general, Americans are so damn unhealthy. Obviously, this is contributing to the problem; an unhealthy person likely requires more medical care, and, if they are not insured, who is paying for the cost of their care? This drives up premiums for everyone else (like the uninsured driver premium we all pay in our car insurance). Even those that are covered who routinely get sick simply because they are not taking care of themselves drives up the cost for everyone else in their rating pool. Hey, I know sometimes a person gets sick, contracts a dreadful disease and it's not their fault, but, there are too many people out there that could do something about the state of their health and they are not. That's one wobbly part. Secondly, if a person has a legitimate medical bill to pay, they should pay it, or, if they cannot, make arrangements to pay it off as they can. No more throwing up the hands and saying, "I can't afford it!"; that doesn't mean you don't OWE it! People walking away from their financial responsibilities, no matter how harsh, is NOT HELPING the situation.
I've spent the better part of an hour writing out this diatribe. And, now that I've come to a close, I have to confess; I'm not really sure what to do about it. I don't believe totally Government run health care is the way to go, however, something has to change in order to keep the insurance companies and the medical providers from continuing to make profits at the expense of consumers bank accounts and lives.
And, consumers need to be more accountable for their health and finances.
So, I'll close with an all-American thing to do; blame our government parties for squabbling about this (and also the government in general); insurance companies and medical providers for not figuring this damn problem out. Hell, if THEY can't, who can? I dunno, perhaps all my super smart Facebook friends who, although are not in agreement, have been making the most sense I've heard about the issue so far!

Mrs. B

Friday, November 13, 2009

We Interrupt This Life Of Leisure For A Foray Back Into The Real World!


Here is the next chapter in the saga of the company I've been doing some consulting work for since August '08.
I knew my former co-worker and pal wasn't terribly happy in his HR position. You might recall "management" was bringing in an outside consultant to evaluate the department. I declined to attend and was later contacted by the consultant (interestingly enough, someone who I'd reviewed an offer package on for THE top HR job there but that never came to pass) so he could tell me he didn't need to talk to me. Uh, ok; didn't INTEND to talk to you, matey!
Anyway, life went on, bringing dribs and drabs of offers and various questions from that neck of the woods.
Then, this past Monday, I received an email from the 2nd in command HR person informing me that my pal had moved on to sales and marketing and she needed quite a bit of help putting together generic job descriptions and perhaps some other generalist work, such as writing policies.
Ok, in all honesty, these are probably two HR tasks that I loathe more than anything else (although easy enough for me to perform as I do seem to have the gift of the pen); the only worse thing, IMO, would be if she'd told me she wanted me to write an AAP; ugh (or, perhaps, lay people off. Never fun for anyone involved).
She sent me a grid of JDs to write; generic JDs (not geriatric); meaning, very, very general; nothing specific to a particular job. In addition to rank and file, there are a lot of executive JDs they need (which will be even MORE generic, since, last I looked, most companies don't have job descriptions per se for their executives). And, man, talk about the levels. Japanese companies are supposed to be lean? Not this puppy. In one management grade alone, here are the positions: Division Director. Director. Senior Director. Assistant Vice President. Vice President. Senior Vice President. Crikey!
But, hey, yours truly is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. If they are willing to pay me my hourly rate to perform tasks that a very junior level HR person in another company (like the one I used to work for) could easily do, that's their business.
Gotta get the old thesaurus out, of course, to find ump-teen other ways to say "responsible for" or "proactively" or "is required".
What all this means, of course, is I'm not living the life of Riley right now. I'm actually WORKING quite a few hours every day. This means little time for blogging, Facebook, chipping away at my projects, etc.
So, there you have it. This is what's been keeping me from y'all.
Until this particular gravy train leaves the station, that is.
BTW, The idiom "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" never made much sense to me, or at least I didn't try overly hard to figure it out. Since I keep saying it, I figured I'd ponder it.
Before I look it up, this is what I THINK it means:
"If someone, for absolutely no reason, gives you a gift of a horse, don't open its mouth to check how old it is, how healthy, or if it has rotten teeth, just be thankful you now have a horse. In other words, don't either make too much or too little about it".
...from Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms (left-over resource from my brief foray into teaching English)
"To criticize or refuse to take something that has been offered to you".
Origin: "Based on the idea that you can discover a lot about a horse's condition by looking at its teeth".
I guess I picked up something from that foray, as well!
Mrs. B


Monday, November 9, 2009

Eating and Drinking Our Way Around "The World" at Epcot


For those of you who have never been to Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival, let me explain!
The part of Epcot known as The World Showcase becomes this fantastic festival from (roughly) the end of September through the middle of November. In addition to the countries that a permanent part of the showcase (Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, USA (to name a few), additional kiosks are put up in (relatively correct) geographic arrangements around the showcase. Each represented country provides tapas-size portions of food and desserts, as well as beer, wine, and/or a signature cocktail. Non-alcoholic drinks are often provided as well (such as iced mint tea or smoothies). The cost of each item ranges from $3 or so up to as much as $10 (France being the most expensive country; are we surprised?) In addition to the special kiosks, the regular countries have their standard food/beverages available as well (such as Mexican food in Mexico, margaritas, Dos Equis, etc.)
So, the idea is to wander around the world and taste different foods, wines, etc. that you might not otherwise ever get the chance to try. Or, get your all-times favorites, it really doesn't matter so long as you have fun doing it!
In addition to the food, there are usually wine and beer tastings, free samples of some countries speciality import (this year Italy had an olive oil tasting), seminars on a variety of culinary topics, live music, shows, shops to browse in, restaurants (including a world class sushi bar in Japan) and good old fashioned people watching. For a (substantial) extra fee, one can make an RSVP to attend a Wine Maker Dinner; wines of note paired with meals prepared in real time by such famous chefs as Bobby Flay.
Following is a summary of most of what we ate/drank/did while at the festival this year. Keep in mind we went four days, so, we didn't do it all in one day! Also, it is 1.3 miles around the world; we went at least twice, if not three times, every day we were there. It took us about 2 hours per trip (a bit less when it was just the two of us).
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Beef Empanada with Tomato Salsa
Mexico City, Mexico
Corn Tortilla Filled with Shredded Pork and Purple Onions
Corn Tortilla with Chipotle Chicken
Quesadilla con Chorizo
Dos Equis Beer
Fiesta Margarita (as in, I had one of these each day, first thing!)
Barcelona, Spain
Taste of Spain -- Serrano Ham, Chorizo, Manchego, Olives
Shanghai, China
Grilled Chicken with Cumin and Traditional Northwestern Chicken Spices
Ginger Mango Rita (with vodka and rum)
Cape Town, South Africa
Mealie Soup with Crabmeat and Chili Oil
Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree and Mango BBQ Sauce
Bangkok, Thailand
Singha Beer
Munich, Germany
Nuernberger Sausage on a Pretzel Roll
Beck's Oktoberfest
Bologna, Italy
Prosecco
Chianti Placido
Vienna, Austria
Paprika Beef Stew with Bacon Dumpling
Hops and Barley (US)
Boston-style Crab Cake with Cabbage Slaw and Remoulade
New England Lobster Roll
Sam Adams Beer Tasting and LOTS of Sam Adams, in general
New Orleans, USA
Spicy Cajun Crawfish and Vegetable Stew
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
Abita Amber Beer
Tokyo, Japan
Kirin Beer
Marrakesh, Morocco
Beef Kefta Pita Pocket
Sangria
Tangerine Mimosa Royale
Paris, France
Kir Royale
Grand Marnier Orange Slushy
UK
BEER BEER BEER (e.g., Strongbow, Boddington's)
Cork, Ireland
Lobster and Scallop Fisherman's Pie (Mr. B says this was the best thing he had the entire time)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bacardi Frozen Mojito
YUM YUM YUM
I wish we could go back RIGHT NOW!
Mrs. B