Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Career Interview over at Savvy Working Gal

I don't often talk much about my 35 year career in the business world.  I'm not sure why because it obviously is a big part of my life.  So when Savvy Working Gal - who is one of my best SITS Sharefest buddies - asked me to do an interview on my working career, I immediately agreed. 

My Corporate Interview over at Savvy Working Gal

I'm pretty happy at how it came out.  She asks some good questions and I like to think I had some good answers.  It's not really a rags-to-riches story, but it's a good serving of empowerment and making the best of the hand life deals out to you.  

You can check out my fabulous Interview at her site Savvy Working Gal.  And she has plenty of other good stuff for both the Working Moms and the SAHM community.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Super Easy One-Hour Gift

This is one of my rare crafty posts, but this little idea was just too easy and too good to share.  I used it as a graduation gift for my friend's daughter, but you could use it for so many different uses for people of all ages - a neighbor, a co-workers, a friend from church.  Would be perfect for a last-minute birthday gift for a kid or an adult. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be pleased to receive a cute little gift like this?  

The supplies needed for this are very simple and pretty inexpensive.  I had purchased a whole stack on these darling multicolored Chinese take-out boxes for a couple of dollars at Michael's - they actually make awesome luminaries for Christmas as well!  I had some bags of different colored shred on hand on my craft room, so I picked a pretty yellow to go with the green box.  Then I bought some of that graduation themed metal confetti and a card at the Dollar Store.  Estimated cost about $3.00 for materials and card, not including the cash.  

Then all you need is some moolah.  I used $20 worth of dollar bills, but I'll leave that part up to you.  Try to get nice crisp bills from the bank.  Then you just take the bills and fold them into heart shapes.  There are dozens of videos on YouTube that will show you step-by-step exactly how to fold them.  Here's the one I used because it only has a few steps:

Here's a link in case it doesn't work.

It takes about a minute to fold each, so that's most of your hour right there.  I usually do them while I'm watching TV.  

Then just put some colored shred in the bottom and layer in the heart-shaped bills with the confetti.  Close it up, sign the card, and you are good to go.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Organizing the Disorganized Child

I know that most kids are going back to school during this time period, so I wanted to be sure you got the info in time to do you some good.

To me, the advantage of being an older Mom is that this isn’t my first rodeo. This month, we are making our 3rd trip through High School. Son #1 sailed through with flying colors, but son #2 had that ADHD business happening and it was pretty rough going. Since son #3 is practically a carbon copy of #2, I have a chance to do things a little differently this time around and hopefully get through with a little less stress (on both of us), and I hope a better outcome.

Image courtesy of [PhotoStock] /

One thing I’m doing differently is doing my homework - literally. A friend recommended a great book called “Organizing the Disorganized Child” by Martin L. Kutscher & Marcella Moran. I’m not only reading it, I’m blogging about it, partly to help me cement the lessons into my life, and partly to help you with your kids too.

The opening chapter really rang a bell with me. They start out by talking about brain development. Turns out that part of the problem is that these kids may not have developed mature enough brains to have the thought processes required for proper organization. That made a big change in my attitude right there. You can get mad at a kid you think is lazy or isn’t trying hard enough, but not at a kid who simply isn’t capable of what you’re asking.

Once you take the anger and frustration out of the equation, it’s much easier to focus on the strategies that will help your son or daughter be more successful. One place to start is right at the beginning, while you are buying your back to school supplies. 

One of the biggest pitfalls of the Jr/Sr High life is the “black hole” backpack. You want to look for a backpack with just a few pockets, and a simple notebook set-up that will minimize any confusion. I chose a Trapper Keeper notebook with front & back pockets and dividers for each subject. I labelled the front & back pockets very clearly as “PAPERS TO GO HOME” and “PAPERS TO TURN IN” so there is only ONE place to keep papers that need to travel back & forth. Simplicity is the key - it makes it so confusing for these kids if they have multiple places to look for their things.

The planner is also a critical key. You have to get them into the habit of writing down their assignments for every class, every day. Our rule is that if he leaves it at school, he has to go to bed early - a fate worse than death in his book. He also has to write something for every class - even if it is “No Homework”. Otherwise, he has to use the “phone a friend” option to call one of his friends from that class and get them to confirm the homework assignment. That stops the “I don’t have any homework today” excuse right in it’s tracks. And besides, "it’s totally embarrassing, Mom!" That makes it a great deterrent.

Setting up the study space is the next step. Structure is SO critical for these kids. Set up a specific time and place for studying and set it up in a way that works for your particular kid. A visual learner may need to have everything out where he can see it, while a different type of kid can only focus on one assignment at a time and can’t have anything lying around she might play with. Use a timer and schedule frequent breaks (also timed). Don’t forget the importance of praise and encouragement. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Consider locking up the electronics until homework time is over - we have an on-going power struggle with that one.  Mine isn't as much of a text-a-holic as most kids, but he can't bear to do the simplest task without his "music" and his ADHD kicks into gear when he has access to the Internet - he suddenly HAS to look up obscure bits of knowledge.  I need to nip that in the bud.  I have a similar problem at work, so sometimes I keep a pencil box handy to put my phone in time-out mode.  

One thing our school does is ZAP parties. ZAP stands for Zeroes Aren’t Permitted. They have parties every two weeks that can only be attended by the kids who have no missing work. Kids who do have missing assignments get to spend the party in study hall playing catch up. That is a huge incentive for these kids. Even if your school doesn’t have something like that, nothing is stopping you from making your own ZAP party for your kids and her friends. Maybe set something up to take turns hosting with a few other parents.

And above all, repeat to yourself every day. I survived my school days, my parents did too, and so did all my friends. Our kids will too.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Paying with CASH Hurts - It's a Good Thing!

I know most people think that money is just money, but I'm here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between paying for things with cash and with other forms of payment - including credit/debit cards, checks, or your phone.

Behavioral scientists have done probably hundreds of experiments over the years that clearly prove we have an emotional connection with actual cash that we don't have with other forms of payment.  Here are a couple that I remember hearing about:

  - Researchers put cases of soda in college dorm fridges.  Alongside the cases of soda, they put paper plates of dollar bills that represented the approximate value of the soda.  Then they waited a week and came back to check.  The sodas - all gone.  Every last one of them.  The dollar bills - nearly all untouched.  The students viewed the pilfering of sodas as fairly benign, but they clearly recognized that taking money - even a dollar, was a strong cultural taboo.

-  In another experiment, subjects were given an easy one-page questionnaire to fill out.  Half were paid the grand total of .12 cents in actual cash money, while the other half were given a voucher for .25 cents that they could redeem for a candy bar.  Even though the second half was paid the equivalent of twice as much money, the first group spent an average of 10% more time completing the survey.  Even though the payoff was such a slight amount of money, it still was recognized as being more valuable,

Interestingly enough, mere mortals like us are not the only ones who have access to this research.  You can bet that every corporation with a product to sell, knows this research backwards and forwards.  They know that you will spend significantly more money if you use a non-cash form of payment.  And they leverage that in any way they can.

There were actually commercials on a few years ago that were blatantly anti-cash.  They would show dancing water, rotating flowers, and tons of happy people moving in unison to happy music.  Then everything would come to a screeching halt whenever someone stepped up to the cash register with cash in hand, like it was a bad thing to show up with in God We Trust greenback dollars.  Then someone would whip out a piece of plastic and boom, all the music would start up and all was right with the world.  That was about as subtle as a ton of bricks.

Here's WHY they don't want you to pay with cash:

- You are much more price-conscious when spending cash.  It's so dang easy to just swipe that little plastic square and not think about the price.  There's no natural stopping point with a card like there is with cash.  Plastic just feels unlimited.  

-  You genuinely might not have enough cash with you.  Cash is a finite resource - when it's gone, it's gone.  No retailer wants to lose a $60 sale because you only have $58 in your hot little hand.  

-  Cash brings you back to the good old-fashioned state of "can't afford it".  It just feels more "real" when you are handing over a chunk of cash vs. an electronic transaction.  Try doing this with grocery shopping once in a while.  You become VERY aware of the prices when you are facing the embarassment of having to put items back at the register.  

I used this on my son a while back - the one that just got married.  He had a gym membership that he hadn't used in quite a while.  It was set up on automatic payments (here's a link to why THOSE are such a bad idea!) so he didn't really pay much attention to it.  So I told him to imagine going into that gym every month, reaching into his wallet and pulling out a nice, crisp $20 bill and handing it over to the muscle-bound guy at the front desk.  Then I told him to imagine just turning around and walking right back out of there without even getting the exercise he was paying for.  That was the reality of it, but he couldn't see that until he put the emotion of cash into the picture.  He called them up and quit the next day!  

That's why those envelope spending plans really work.  The ones where you put all your money for the month into different budget envelopes.  It's a lot like Weight Watchers - you only get so many points and then you're DONE.  No wiggle room - you spend money here, you have to take it from there.  Lawyers call that a bright white line - the clear difference between right and wrong.  

That's why, when I'm really broke, or when my spending is particularly out of control, I immediately switch to cash.  It's always a big eye-opener for me and I usually get my finances back under control at that point.  How often do you go on a strict cash basis?  Probably not often enough...

PS:  Tonight we learned the downside of paying with cash.  I gave my son a $50 bill to pay for his back-to-school supplies.  He came up to me with that look on his face - you know the one.  The "something really bad" look.  Sure enough, it had dropped out of his hoody pocket.  Fortunately, Target shoppers are apparently very unobservant because he found it on the floor by where he had been shopping - whew!  

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Photo credit:  Image courtesy of Janoon028 /

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Canvas Prints from Canvas Champ

Custom canvas prints are the new trend in decorating.  They are wonderful because you can do them up in any combination of photos, colors, or words in any size you like, and they are a remarkably inexpensive way to decorate your home.  

Canvas Champ offers a huge range of sizes and styles of prints - even banners for your business.  I particularly like the metal print photos - those look pretty cool.  They are having a big sale right now - 65% off site-wide.  The price for a standard 8 X 8 canvas wrapped print is only $10.

I love the look of multiple prints grouped like this.  Naturally, I received a free print as compensation for this post - fortunately, my son just got married, so I had a perfect reason for wanting a canvas print.  Here's my handsome fellas!  

Here is their info:


Now you know me - I always give an honest review of both good and bad points.  I'm very happy with my print, but I would be careful using the Mirror Image option on the edge treatments.  You have the option to choose a plain color, wrap the image around the sides (which would have cut off part of their heads), and mirror image.  Because mine was ordered directly from the manufacturer, they gave it the mirror image treatment, which created a little oddness around the edges with two extra sets of hands and a partial extra head on the top.  But since you'll have the opportunity to preview your canvas before you place your order, so you'll be able to avoid little missteps like that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke

My organizing tip for today is a book review for you.  I've been listening to the audio book of Throw Out Fifty Things - Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke.  I enjoyed it so much, I listened to it twice through.  I always love it when a book really makes you think and this one does.  

This book ended up being much different than I expected.  It isn't just about decluttering your house, although that's a big part of it, but it's also about throwing out old attitudes, limiting beliefs, old regrets, and perceived inadequacies.  

The title is a bit deceptive also, I thought throwing out 50 things sounded like a piece of cake, but what they don't tell you is that each TYPE of thing only counts as one.  So if you declutter 5 sweaters, 4 old lipsticks and a whole box of books, that only counts as 3 things.  So that makes it a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.  

I like Gail's manner.  She is fun and breezy, but also makes some good points about why it is going to help your life move forward to get rid of some of these old negative attitudes that are weighing you down.  She also has some great examples from her own coaching practice and the other books she has written - she's something of a life-change expert and has written several other books and a regular column for Self Magazine. 

Even if you are pretty good at the decluttering business, I think it is always helpful to have a refresher to kind of keep you on track.  I haven't quite gotten to 50 on my own list, but I'm getting a good start on it.  

Here's a link to the book on Amazon.   Give it a shot and see if you can find your own 50 things!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Smart Money: The POWER of a Properly Worded Complaint

As I mentioned recently, my son got married.  It was a very nice wedding, but there were several glitches that happened to mar the day.  It was kind of ironic because my daughter-in-law and I were both VERY organized about this and make sure we had all our ducks in a row (that's a joke because we had little rubber wedding duckies in the centerpieces!). 

It was really kind of funny because half the damned ducks wouldn't float, but were drifting around belly-up in the centerpieces - so we had to scoop them out and only use half the ducks.  Not the hall's fault, but it kept me distracted enough to not notice some of the other issues, such as the candles not being lit until halfway through the reception (sigh).   

Anyway, the ones who messed up were the professionals - the people who ran the wedding hall.  That was kind of bizarre because I hadn't done a wedding in 30 years and they do several of them each week!  The glitches themselves were fairly minor - no one spilled juice on the bride or tripped going down the aisle, but there were at least 8 or 9 different hiccups throughout the day and it definitely marred their once-in-a-lifetime day.  And that's just sad because you don't ever get a do-over on your one and only (hopefully!) wedding day.  

Afterwards, the bride and I compared notes.  Because of the hectic nature of the day, there were some things that she hadn't noticed and others that I hadn't noticed, so it helped to compare notes and this raised the total to almost a dozen different flubs.  We debated what to do about it - was there any point to telling them since there wasn't any way to fix anything after the wedding was over? 

Ultimately, we decided to at least let them know about the problems - if only for the sake of future brides, so that maybe they wouldn't experience the same issues that we had.  So, while the kids were off on their honeymoon, I drafted a very polite Email detailing our disappointment with the way our reception had been handled and gave them a specific list of items we were unhappy with.  

At that point, I wasn't really thinking about money.  I had paid for the hall as my contribution to the wedding and I counted it as money well spent, but I did suggest that they personally apologize to the bride and groom and that they might also want to consider a financial adjustment as well.  I kept the tone of the letter friendly and professional - offering them more as suggestions for improvement rather than accusations or criticisms.

Within hours of sending the Email, I had a very apologetic response from the Manager asking if I would please call her at my earliest convenience to discuss the issues.  I called her and we spoke for probably 30 minutes about the problems, with her apologizing profusely all the while and also thanking us for pointing out some of the issues that we had experienced.  Turns out that she had some of the same complaints and had been asking the owner to make some repairs and renovations to the building for quite some time.  She intended to show my letter to him as additional backup to her argument for getting some of the changes done.  

She also agreed to contact my son and daughter-in-law to apologize and voluntarily offered to refund 20% of our hall rental fee, which I gratefully accepted.  She even agreed to return a cake plate that we had left behind - saving me an hour-long drive to retrieve it and get it back to the bakery lady.  All because we took the time and energy to write a well-worded complaint letter.  

I think most businesses are that way.  They want happy customers and good referrals because they know if they displease people, they aren't going to get a lot of new customers.  So, especially if you are being polite and helpful and NOT all Bridezilla on them, they are going to do their best to keep you happy.  

You can see several of the problems right here.  The bride and groom's table, not decorated with anything - apparently, they ran out of centerpieces even though we had a small group of only about 8 tables - so of course they skipped the most important table in the room instead of one way back in the corner!  You'll also notice the cardboard box on the floor.  When it was time for the toast, the hostess who was running the reception just brought out the cardboard box of champagne bottles and set it on the floor by the newly married couple.  No glasses or anything - just a tacky cardboard box of unopened bottles.  I have no idea what she was expecting, but the best man (my oldest son) was so nervous, he just started doing the toast even though not a soul in the room - including his brother and new wife, had a glass in their hand.  So we had to stop and completely redo the toast after they had a chance to find the glasses (couldn't even find the champagne flutes, so we had to settle for wine glasses) and pour the champagne and sparkling cider.  Sheesh!  

The good news is - at the end of the day, they are married, and that's what really counts.  And we will have some funny stories to tell about their wedding - which will seem a lot funnier several years down the road.  And, Mom had enough money to get herself a new computer with the nice refund money.  I guess we'll call it a happy ending all around!

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