Serve Your Man First

speakeristic.blogspot.com Credit: Magazine illustration, 1954 (colour litho) by English School, (20th century) Private Collection/ © The Advertising Archives/ The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: English / copyright unknown

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Growing up in a traditional Puerto Rican family, I observed from a very young age the gender roles my parents and family members took on when going about their daily lives.  Although both my parents worked and had mutual respect for each other’s careers, when it came to certain things, tradition took over.

This was evident particularly at meal time.  My mother always served my father his meal before serving anyone else.  If they were at a function with a buffet style dining, she got up, went through the line, made up a plate for him first and then went back for her own plate.

As my sister and I grew older and paid more attention to this phenomenon, we made it abundantly clear how much we disagreed with this tradition and that it would not be repeated with our future husbands.  No way.

Our two loving brothers couldn’t resist celebrating this tradition and would ask my sister and I to serve them first.  We of course, didn’t.  I accepted serving my father first because he was my father but laughed at my brothers’ attempts to guilt us into it.  As it was, my sister and I were already miffed about having to always wash dishes while my brothers could go off and play.  Grrrr.

Well, it is 2015.  My husband and I have been married for 26 years (wow that sounds like a lot) and as promised, I did not take on the serving him first tradition.  If anything, due to my physical limitations, it was he who had to serve me first and do a lot more of his share of the household chores.

He did it all with an abundance of love.

As my husband and I face a change in his career which requires a tremendous amount of stress, long hours, night meetings, responsibility, devotion, commitment and leadership, there is nothing I want more than to take care of him.  Within my health limitations, I want to to help him in every way.

I want him to be healthy.  I want to make sure he sleeps well, eats well and manages stress in a reasonable way.  If this means being a “traditional” 50’s wife whose day is spent making her husband’s life easier, then so be it.

Bring on the cute short aprons and the recipes!

Bring on the drives to the dry cleaners (I’m not ironing) to pick up his shirts!

Bring on the slippers to warm his feet once he gets home!

Bring on having to take the recycling and trash out myself!

Bring on getting a lawn mower service (I’m not mowing the lawn!)

Bring on listening to every single boring detail of his day with a smile!

Bring on having to give him massages (maybe)!

And most of all, bring on serving him his meals first!

 

And I will  do it all, with an abundance of love.

 

 

 

A Closed Letter To The CEO Of My F-%@* Phone Plan

September 17, 2015

Dear Mr. CEO of Fauxrizon:

It’s me, Brick.  You know, the loyal customer who spent 6 days repeating herself with your outsourced employees in order to restore her internet?  The one who you sent a new refurbished phone to replace her broken phone and who cannot use her new refurbished phone because there is a vertical @ss line blocking the screen and not allowing her to type certain letters?  I thought that might jog your memory.

Listen, I know how extremely busy you are coming up with new ways to dupe idiot customers like myself so I won’t make this too long. Having worked in management for many years, I understand the importance and impact good customer service can have on a company.  It is  actually a pretty simple concept even a 5th grader can grasp.  Mano a mano, you and I know how it works, right?  Mistakes happen, you empathize, apologize, acknowledge the mistake and then you own the problem solving and resolution to make sure that your customer is satisfied.  Does this sound at all familiar from training you may have gotten way back when you were a pion?

I am typically a calm person with very low blood pressure, in fact, so low that doctors often mistake me for a dead person.  I am also fair and understanding and will be the first person to compliment, praise and recognize good customer service when I see it.  I am known to friends as the “letter” writer.  I have written letters to people such as Mr. Apple, Mr. Microsoft, Mr. Citibank and Mr. President of a prominent hospital, expressing my likes and dislikes of their business practices.  In fact, I wrote a complimentary email to the supervisor of one of your outsourced employees from India who held my hand (through the telephone wires) throughout my whole internet malfunction debacle and who talked me out of canceling my services with Fauxrizon.

So Mr. CEO, I have a few simple questions for you:

  1.  Do you and your Fauxrizon employees sit around a board room brainstorming ways to make your customers want to go postal on you?
  2. Do you conduct clinical test trials using innocent people from the streets to test out your company practices?  Do you use placebos to make those poor suckers think they are getting a good deal?
  3. Is a unempathetic dismissive personality a must-have requirement for your Fauxrizon employees?
  4. Do you brainwash them to be the cheapest they can possibly be and to not offer the warranted monetary compensation for their dissatisfied Fauxrizon customers?
  5. Is there a “back” room in corporate headquarters where all the broken phones go, where technicians sit around trying to fix them (but don’t succeed), and are then sent back out into circulation so that customers who had a defective phone get a second defective phone?
  6. Do you and the other big wigs at Fauxrizon have “monopoly” parties celebrating the monopoly you have over the business?
  7. Do the security guards you hire to stand guard at your locations to “help out” with rightly-so disgruntled customers, carry guns?

In all honesty, I do not believe you are really this evil.  There must be some integrity left in you that perhaps you have unknowingly repressed!  It happens.

Look, I am no CEO.  But what I am is a loyal customer with some common sense and intuitive knowledge of how successful a business can be when honesty, integrity and respect for customers are a top priority.

Sincerely,

Brick

ps.  How long will I have to wait for a second new refurbished phone with no vertical @ss lines to arrive at my home?

52, It’s Not Nice To Meet You

One year ago today, I decided to take advantage of restaurant “freebies” that are offered to customers on their birthdays (I am becoming my mother-in-law.) My plan was to go to a Mexican restaurant to eat my free birthday burrito and then hop over to an ice cream establishment to get my free sundae…because I’m me and I love food.

I was quite pleased with my grand idea and did not mind one bit that I was doing this on my own without anyone to share the experience with.  Isn’t that what blogging is for?  Some of you may remember that post detailing (TMI) how wrong the whole thing went.  Let’s just say I never made it to my free dessert location due to the fact that the burrito grounded me stuck on a white shiny porcelain fixture at the closest Target Store. Lucky for me, I was able to enjoy many other scrumptious birthday meals once I recovered.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 10.47.41 PM

Although I am very tempted to give the freebies another chance (check out the personalized invite above), I think I will pass and just stick to stealing sugar packets from restaurants and consider those, my freebies.

This year, due to my ailing stomach and aging intestines, I will most likely have a less than remarkable birthday meal/s.  I have been cutting back on carbs and gluten, not necessarily by choice but out of an attempt to ease the increasing daily abdominal discomfort.  It this what 52 looks like?

Let’s see, the birth-day meal possibilities are…endless.  It will most likely consist of a small bowl of cottage cheese with a handful of blueberries as my late breakfast, a round piece of cardboard (I guess they call them rice cakes?) with peanut butter and cucumber slices on top as my snack.  A cheese stick (“I can’t wait to eat my cheese stick”, says no one ever) will be my second snack followed by a salad topped with home-grown acidic tomatoes (that hurt my stomach) from my garden, chicken or fish, more flavorless fresh cucumbers also from my garden, a handful of almonds with some type of blah dressing.  I will then eat two whole bite size dark chocolates for dessert before I begin weeping.

My point being that pretty much anything I eat these days causes me pain and bloating.  I have reluctantly called my doctor to see if we can figure out what is going on THIS TIME.  I am NOT at ALL bitter that my body keeps failing me, really – I am NOT!  What would a year be like without some kind of illness or health challenge?  I wouldn’t know.

All is not lost, however.  I am still very blessed and fortunate for what DOES work and particularly for my family and friends and all that shit…

Thanks to my little sister (who just turned 50 – Thank GOD), the month of September promises to be a month of celebrations even if no good food is to be consumed by me.  My crazy cousins and I are taking her for a girl’s weekend in a couple of weeks to celebrate her being almost as old as we are. WOOT! WOOT!  It should be a weekend filled with lot’s of laughter, happy tears, incontinence (we are old) and lot’s of celebratory liquid gold!  I will sacrifice my abdominal discomfort to make sure my sister has a great time and is as drunk as a sailor!  Did I mention she finally turned 50?

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, our dear mother surprised my sister and I for our birthdays, with a trip to Monterey, CA where she lives for half of the year.  We are leaving mid September for 12 fabulous days of complete bliss!  See how happy I am that she turned 50?  We are two years apart and our birthdays are one day apart so by default, I get to tag along and get spoiled for HER 50th celebration.

So, 52, I guess it’s a little nice to meet you. 

Cut The Carbs, They Say…

Eat Less, they say

Everything in moderation, they say

talk-too-much-blah-blah-blah-o

blah blah blah

Cut the carbs, they say

Stay active, they say

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Watch your portions, they say

ctpost.com

ctpost.com

Cut all sugar,  they say

blah-blah-a-o-o

yada yada yada

Don’t drink, they say

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I hate you, they.

I am trying, damn am I trying.

But, I can’t even…

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Because…

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Teen-Wolf

I need THIS:

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And THIS:

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And THIS:

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And THIS:

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And THIS:

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Because…

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It has been over three weeks since I began doing what THEY say.

I lost 5 pounds and gained back 2.

I have eaten some carbs on weekends, then I go cold turkey during the week.

I still look like I am 12 months pregnant

and I am 12 months pregnant-hungry.

**********

Go to hell, THEY!

Listen Up Parents Of Young Children, It’s Time To Talk About That Dreaded C Word: College

usnews.com

usnews.com

Wait, wait, do not walk away.  Just hear me out.

I know this is not a fun topic and I am not trying to be a Debby Downer, but if you have young kids and you have not started saving for their college years, continue reading.  I promise I will not judge you.

{Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner.  Although I did work in banking for over 10 years and I know a little something about money, what makes me an ‘expert’ in this field is the fact that I am a mom of two college age kids who wishes she had saved way more money when they were younger.}

You still with me?

We can all agree that cost of attending college is absolutely absurd and that something has to change, yesterday.  But you cannot bank on it changing by the time your little one is college-bound. Here are the current and projected costs of attending college:

Projected 4-Year Tuition and Fees –

* Private College Today (Enrolling 2015) = $134,600.

* Private College in 18 years (Enrolling 2033) = $323,900

* Public/University Today (in-state resident) = $39,400.

* Public/University in 18 years = $94,800

* 2 Years Community College & 2 Years Private College Today = $77,400.

* 2 Years Community College & 2 Years Private College in 18 years = $186,400  

(source: savingforcollege.com)

****************

I know, I know.  This is extremely depressing to see but stay with me. 

Right off the bat, let’s clear up some common misconceptions out there about affording college.

College Funding Misconceptions

1. “That’s what financial aid is for!  We are not rich so we will definitely qualify for aid.”

{Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha(slaps knee)hahahahahahahahahahaha}

2.  “We can’t do anything about it now, we will find the money when the time comes.”

{BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA(snort)BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH}

3.  “Grandma and Grandpa will give us the money.”

{HOHOHOHOHOHOHO(even Santa is laughing)HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO}

I had to laugh (and cry) when I discovered how wrong I was and wished I had been better informed.

Although these common misconceptions may actually work out for some parents, trust me when I tell you that it is a small percentage of people.  Reality is typically not that rosy and most of us cannot afford to think this way.

Let’s discuss the first misconception, Financial Aid. “Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants(money that does not have to be repaid), loans, and work-study funds each year.” (www.ed.gov/blog).  To qualify for aid, there are several factors that are taken under account including student and parent income and assets, household size, and the number of children in college.

As a ‘middle class’ family with two children, we applied for aid for our son when the time came.  Although he qualified for subsidized and unsubsidized loans (I don’t consider loans aid since they need to be paid back) and work-study, the fact that we only had one child going to college and that we exceeded the income qualification (barely), we did not receive much real aid.  This only reinforced our belief that, once again, that the middle class get screwed.  Sigh.

Once our daughter joined the college pool two years later, we were awarded more aid (still not enough to cover the astronomical tuition costs), but this time from her college.  This aid will end as she enters her junior year because my son will have graduated and we will only have one child in college (this is where having multiples can have financial benefits).  What they don’t take into account is that just because your child is no longer attending college does not mean that you are done paying his college costs.

The lesson being that you should not expect or rely on federal aid to cover your costs. Many colleges will offer aid for the first year to lure students in, but will not offer that aid in subsequent years.  In addition, merit aid (based on achievement) is not offered as widely as it should be.

Having said all the above, it is recommended that everyone apply for Financial Aid.  The application process although tedious, is free and worth doing in the event that you qualify for any amount of aid.  For more information about Financial Aid go to: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college or https://fafsa.ed.gov.

The second misconception is that if you are financially strapped now, you will have plenty of time to ‘deal’ with college costs later.  Look, most of all are strapped and living paycheck to paycheck, but there is no way you will catch up later unless you expect to get a substantial raise or can accurately project a future significant rise in income.  

Starting the savings process early is the first step, funding it on a regular basis is key.  

We opted for a 529 plan for our kids.  A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. It is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans in 1996. Although contributions are not deductible, earnings in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is taken out to pay for college.” (source: investopedia).  See http://www.irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers for more information.

Although we opened up the 529 plans when the kids were young, we did not fund them enough.  When this happens you risk the fact of liquidating all the funds as early as the first year of college.  Let me say it again, we did not put away ENOUGH money.

collegeusatoday.com

collegeusatoday.com

Perhaps if you are fortunate, misconception number three will be your reality.  Grandma and Grandpa have set money aside for your little Johnny or Bette to attend college.  If that is the case, I applaud you and your parents.  There is nothing a grandparent wants more than to be able to provide for their cherished grandchildren.  But, if your parents are like most, their cost of living, their healthcare costs and their long-term-care costs have risen monumentally and they have had to re-adjust their finances.  Or maybe they suffered a tremendous financial loss in the stock market.  

The point is that there are too many unpredictable scenarios that could alter their well-intended plans to help your children financially.  Things may look promising now but you do not know what the situation will be as they age and live longer than past generations. See grandparents.about.com for more information.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

Our children understand that they will have significant student loans to pay back as they enter the work force and navigate this tumultuous economy.  This is a fact for most families.There has been an alarming increase in the number of four-year college graduates with very large debts. Back in 2004, only 1 percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree that year had borrowed $50,000 or more, adjusted for inflation. That grew to 10 percent in 2012.” (Source: us news.com).

Not all students are college-bound and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trade schools but regardless of what works for your family, there will be a cost attached to helping your children take advantage of the opportunities available to them, in order to succeed.

Although I am proud of our efforts and initiative we took early on, I regret not being better informed of the complexities, realities and steps necessary to prepare for our children’s college years and for letting some of those misconceptions blindly lead us along.

I hope that if you have young children and you were brave enough to have read this post in full, that you have learned something valuable and helpful to get you started with the  “C” word savings process.  

Now, go get started!

Dear Children, I Apologize For The Behavior Of My Fellow Adults

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Dear Children,

I am so very sorry that many of us have let you down.  I am sorry that we disappoint you on a daily basis by engaging in the very behavior we urge you not to engage in.

From a very early age, we adults encourage you to share your toys, say please and thank you, mind your manners, be kind and respectful to others and to never to be a bully. We take you to church, socialize you and expose you to people who are different.  We teach you tolerance and acceptance and hope that you will grow up to be a kind and happy adult.

But in reality, we fail.  We ourselves don’t share.  We are demanding of others, we do not take accountability for our actions, we blame others, we are not kind or respectful to others and we do the bullying.  We model the exact opposite of what we want you to become, and for that, I truly apologize.

I apologize for the times we yell at your coach during your sporting event.  I apologize for giving the finger to a driver that forgot to turn on his signal.  I apologize for saying bad things about your friend Tommy’s mother.  I apologize for calling your teacher stupid.  I apologize for judging our foreign neighbors and the gay waiter at the cafe.  I apologize for encouraging you to always fight to get your way and to question all authority.  I apologize for making you think that you are entitled and owed the things you want.

I am sorry that you saw the mean things we wrote on another person’s Facebook page and for the heartless tweet we retweeted.  I am sorry you witnessed us threaten to sue someone because we didn’t get our way.  I am sorry that we are not the adults we are supposed to be.

I am forever embarrassed and appalled that you have to witness adults engage in insulting rhetoric toward one another.  Everywhere you turn, there is an adult not behaving like an adult should.  An adult with no respect for others and absolutely no civility.

I apologize with all my heart that you have to hear our elected officials, the very people who are supposed to serve us, engage in preposterous rhetoric and behavior.  I am sorry that they have made a mockery of a diplomatic and respectful process our founding fathers worked hard to develop.   I am sorry that even at the highest level, there is bullying.  I am sorry that you are being held to the highest standards at school and punished if you bully someone, yet the adults around you get away with it day after day.

I am truly sorry.

I can only hope that you see how the behavior we are engaging in, does not work.  That the wisdom beyond your years helps you recognize how flawed we are and that in spite of it,  you choose to follow your little kind and growing heart to be the person you are meant to be.  That you let your pudgy little hand reach up to the sky and grab the opportunities that await you.  That your developing eyes see no colors, no borders and no walls.  That your innocent and caring soul knows without a doubt that spreading love and kindness is the ticket to a happy and fulfilling life.

I apologize on behalf of all adults.

When They Slip Away

9words.ca

9words.ca

There are people we come in contact with throughout our lives that make a significant impression on us, be it good or bad.  Those that ignite our sleeping flames and make us think.

The ones that impact us in a positive way are the ones we marvel at.  They talk the talk and actually walk the walk.  Be it their attitude toward life, their values, the way they treat others or simply, their smile.  We look to them in admiration and wonder what made them so remarkable.  We ask ourselves how we can change and vow to mimic them from that day forward.

When They Slip Away.

I mourn the loss of two such people, today.  Two acquaintances that impacted my life when they were living and even more, after they slipped away.

A 45 year-old mother of three adult children.  Head cashier at the local market where she was like a ‘mother’ to most.  Beautiful red hair put up in a bun, sparkling eyes to compliment her welcoming smile.  A laugh to remember and a heart of gold.  My children worked with her and adored her, as did all of her co-workers.  I saw her weekly as I waited in her line at the check-out no matter how many customers were ahead.  Her kids were her source of pride and she reveled in the fact that they had all moved back in with her and were once again, a family.  

A brain aneurism.  No warning, no sign.  Gone, just like that.

When They Slip Away.

A 55 year-old avid educator who was happily married with three children, also gone.  Someone whose children I gave Spanish lessons to, who was father to my daughter’s friend and school trip travel partner of my husband’s.  

Gastroesophageal cancer kicked his ass for three painful years, ultimately taking his extraordinary life.  It robbed him of his plans, his goals his explorations and his dreams.  His thirst for knowledge was insatiable.  He devoted his life to inspiring, encouraging and motivating the people in his life as well as those he came across. Everyone and anyone who interacted with him was touched and felt the magic-like effect of his presence.  You knew your life had been enhanced by the mere fact that you had met him.  An undeniable gift to all.

When They Slip Away.

These two people were not members of my family nor were they close friends of mine, yet here I sit today mourning them as if they were.  That my limited interaction with them while they lived inspired me immensely, speaks volumes about who they were.  That upon their death, they leave me with immeasurable lessons about how I should live my life going forward, is absolutely mind-blowing.  These two souls have undoubtedly changed me.

When They Slip Away

I leave you with a poem read by a relative at one of the memorial services I attended: 

Success

To laugh often and love much;

to win the respect of intelligent persons

and the affection of children;

to earn the approbation of honest critics;

and to endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate beauty;

to find the best in others;

to give of one’s self;

to leave the world a little better,

whether by a healthy child,

a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

to have played and laughed with enthusiasm

and sung with exaltation;

to know that even one life has breathed easier

because you have lived,

this is to have succeeded

-Ralph Waldo Emerson