Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Twenty Years Ago

It seems I've been bombarded by things lately that are all "twenty years ago"...high school reunion invitations on facebook (25 years!), Pat Benatar music (I was singing Hit Me With Your Best Shot at the top of my lungs this morning), and now I just read it has been 20 years since Footloose, the movie.

And on top of that? They are talking about a remake of this "classic" film. (AKA the film Kevin Bacon would like removed forever from his resume).

Damn I feel old.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gym Update

Although I've been bad about updating my count on the blog, I'm happy to announce that I've been GOOD about going to the gym. Although I doubt I will ever be able to drive myself to the level the trainer did for me in that one session (and at $55/session, there won't be many of those in my future)...I am continuing to go, 3-4 times per week and to keep moving. So far, since joining the gym on March 14th, I have completed 22 workout sessions!

My rewards? Not many so far. My weight has remained the same. And trying on summer clothes this weekend was another eye-opener that I have a long haul ahead to a slimmer, trimmer me. (And just as a special aside: Gloria Vanderbilt is a bitch from hell who makes very cute clothes but seems to think that XL means Extra Lean instead of Extra Large.)

A friend of mine recently told me the 70-30 rule for weight loss is 70% about diet, and 30% about exercise. Hmmm...I'm sure that I've heard it the other way around before...probably when I was trying to convince myself that living on salad but never budging an inch would allow me to lose 40lbs without breaking a sweat. But with my current workout regime and no weight loss, I'm convinced she is right - it's both dammit.

On the plus side, I do feel stronger. And the other day I noticed my posture is much better. Perhaps I am beginning to reverse the bend in my back created by too many hours hunched over a laptop. Also, I spent a lot of time (after my gym workout this weekend) cleaning out the garages, scrubbing lawn furniture and moving it around and hauling multiple loads of laundry up and down two flights of stairs and noticed (a) I didn't get out of breath carrying the items from one end of house to the other and (b) although I could feel the workout a little, I wasn't crippled with pain the next day.

Best benefit of all though was having Hubby tell me I felt "firmer all over" (wink wink)...sweet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Money Questions

Money seems to be a theme these days and I was just pondering some stories of windfalls and shortfalls in the last week that I thought I'd share.

Not too long ago a friend of mine divorced her husband who was lacking in money management or career skills. Having three children, they civilly split their (her) assets and she and I joked that essentially she would be paying herself child support for the next several years out of her newly enlarged and re-financed mortgage and her halved 401k plan. Or so we thought. Because although her husband walked away from the divorce proceedings with a healthy 6 figure check, it was GONE in less than 5 months and his checks to her for child support were bouncing. We kept laughing (cuz what else can you do) as she realized how much it cost her to buy her freedom.

Someone I know is renting a property to her niece. This niece originally was renting the property with her mother (don't try and follow the relationships, it has no bearing here) but tragically her mother passed away suddenly. In addition to the horrible and unexpected loss of a family member, this also presented two money issues - the first was that a stream of income was lost which put the affordability of the rent into question, the second was an eventual death benefit payment which could have afforded a 6-month pre-payment of rent. Needless to say, this story is coming to an unhappy ending where the death benefit has been frittered away (rumors put it in bad investments, inappropriate gifts to boyfriends, and god knows what else) and nearly three months have gone by without rent payment. This leaves all family members in a bad position - one needing the rent to cover the mortgage and other costs, one being in debt to her landlord/relative, and both in a position of needing to change arrangements with a potential loss of income and worse - family strife. So I guess it just goes to show you mixing business with family is just not a good idea.

Another friend of mine had her privately owned company bought out a few years ago by an equity company. The windfall to the owners was so large that they determined they would share some of the money with their senior management - she received a 6 figure check! She paid off the mortgage on her modest small home, paid off the mortage on her little lakeside cabin, invested some of the money, put some in savings, and bought herself some pretty jewelry and a nice vacation. She subsequently sold the lakeside cabin - having determined it wasn't really her bag - sold her little house - having found the love of her life and moved into his place - and other than throwing herself a whiz bang (and yet modest) wedding, is sitting pretty, feeling safe in her financial situation despite economic woes and possible layoffs.

And the most common tale of all these days - the dreaded job loss. One of my dearest friends has had a spouse put out of work by the economy. Since like most of us, they had little cushion on their month to month, two months after his job loss, they are now raiding their retirement funds to make ends meet. Hopefully this is a short term situation, but at the age of 42, you don't want to be starting back at zero in your retirement planning.

Today I received my 401k statement and noted that I have lost 3 years of "gains" in fund value. While the balance is still a healthy nest egg, it is demoralizing to see that I am running dangerously close to only have my original investment in place and with another serious loss in market I could actually have less than I put in! I called one of the fund advisors to talk about options - should I move my funds into another account? Specifically, should I move them from a variety of funds into one of the retirement data management funds that manages risk based upon your projected year of retirement? Essentially, the answer I got was - it's a crap shoot. Those funds have lost money with the down market too, and while they say they manage your risk, they aren't tightly managed based on market values, just spread across investments that have a certain risk-return ratio. I don't know....perhaps the ostrich head in the sand strategy is the way to go right now.

Hubby's latest scheme (in addition to doing all the right fiscal things, like increasing investment in 401k funds, paying down debt, and no revolving credit) is to chip in with his co-workers and buy an annual LOTTO membership, hoping against hope to be that one in a bazillion who hit the numbers and the entire department resigns at once. After all, you gotta be in it to win it.

What are you doing right now to manage your money? What would you do with a modest windfall? Are you managing a shortfall? Is there any magic bullet? Or are we all just f*cked?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Elvis Has Left the Building

Ok, so this only works if you think of Elvis as a dorky brainiac engineer or scientist who sits at the top of the pyramid that is my company. But anyway, Elvis, yeah, he's out. Since there are only about 5 women in the top positions of my company, I think of them generally as "he's" and they are all on their way to the annual shareholder's meeting.

The last several weeks have been nightmares of reporting, researching, and preparation for this 1.25 day event. Our team was responsible for completing the annual year in review presentation/video, the annual report, strategic summaries and presentations, proclamations for retirees, etc. And what typically happens when all of these guys gather is they pack in a bunch of other mini-meetings that all need research, reporting, and prep as well. Much of the content is considered confidential or proprietary and so it is difficult to delegate this work. There are short lists of trusted staff who are in the loop and I'm in the thick of that.

It's an honor and a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS all at the same time. Come to think of it, it's mostly the 2nd thing, because the honor thing wears off as you get tired and as you deal with the hassle of knowing stuff that seems like a big deal, but more often than not fizzles out in the long run.

I decided to take stock of the last few weeks and I've figured out that I have:
  • participated in more than 100 meetings since March 1st,
  • had 8 conference calls in late evenings to accommodate international time zones,
  • worked on average 57 hours/week (while getting salary pay),
  • prepared 26 individual full-blow strategic presentations,
  • drafted 8 staff news items (most of which are still awaiting approvals),
  • created strategies for 4 major conference events,
  • signed off on more than $200k in expenditures,
  • prepared salary and performance reviews for 8 staff members,
  • delivered one negative review including all pertinent Employee Relations activities,
  • sent over 1600 emails, received a similar number and processed
  • completed one semester of grad school,
  • joined gym and worked out 17 times (including once with trainer)
  • and posted 21 entries to this blog.

Shit. No wonder I'm so beat. Thank God Elvis has left the building.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reality Disconnect

Sitting on couch with laptop, eating McDonald's fries, sore from masochistic workout, flipping through a Land's End swimsuit catalog. Some of these things just don't go together.

In Brief....an Observation

While I'm drawn to the lime flavored colas on the market right now, is there anyone else that experiences the feeling that they are drinking a cleaning product rather than a beverage?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Ass Kickin'

Tonight I got a good, solid, ass kickin'. I made an appointment with a personal trainer at the gym. And subsequently learned I am very out of shape. My ass -- which did I mention was pretty kicked? -- is hurting already...can you imagine tomorrow? and worse...the 2nd day??

Anyway...it seems like a strange rather masochistic thing to do, PAY someone hard earned money to, you know, kick your ass.

When I was a kid - big rubber balls were fun. This one? not so much. This may look like a toy, but no - it is an instrument of abdomen torture.

Five pound weights? Seems wimpy right? Try doing 2 sets of 20 deep lunges with one on each hip. Those 10 extra pounds can really kill ya.

Treadmill seem tame? Try putting the incline at 15 and then have a sadistic woman increase the speed to 4 mph.

Like walking the track? Try it with a spunky muscle bound former model who keeps asking you short questions that require LONG answers and lots of wind.

Believe it or not, I'll be going back for more...but maybe not too soon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Open Letters: Fan Edition

Have you ever written a fan letter?

I have not.

I have composed them in my mind, many times, but they've never made it onto paper, not once. Every one, of course, begins with "I've never written a letter like this before..." because I haven't.

So, here is my first foray into fan letter correspondence....kind of an Open Fan Letter if you will.

Fan Letter #1: Aaron Sorkin

Dear Mr. Sorkin:

Although I have never before written a fan letter, today I had the opportunity to re-watch an episode of West Wing - Isaac & Ishmael, and I was compelled to reach out to its author. This episode, written to air shortly after 9-11, was offered as a play where familiar characters could depart from their existing storylines to pause and reflect upon the new world order through the eyes of high school students visiting the White House. I sit here, within 20 miles of the site of the World Trade Center, now nearly 8 years later, and with this episode I can feel myself return to the same sense of chaos and fear that was rampant in late 2001. I felt my stomach clench, I felt the need for answers to the eternal "why" question, and I felt helpless in the face of an overwhelming and unseen force.

But my correspondence is driven not by fear, but by the hope you somehow infused into that little one hour play. Slowly and painstakingly you pieced small puzzle sections together to give me history, to give me theory, to give me perspective, and to give me the light back at the end of that very long tunnel. You skillfully used each character to provide a unique perspective - CJ, the champion of the CIA and facing a return to the battle between personal freedom and security; Sam, the terrorist historian who pointed out that it has NEVER succeeded in its objective and has instead strengthened opposition; Abby, who brings the episode title into focus with the biblical history that underlies the fundamental difference between Arab and Jew and the stresses of a common people with an ultimate divide; the President, who gives the true definition of martyr (vs. the "dumbass murderer") and offers that a hero who would die for his country or ideals but would much rather live for it is really what we need; and Josh - always my favorite - who points out that accepting pluralcy - multiple coexisting and conflicting ideas - is the ultimate way to fight fundamentalists and extremists of all types.

Juxtaposing all of this is having Leo part of interrogating a potential terrorist suspect who also happens to be an Arab American working in the White House. This cautionary tale about guilt by association, guilt by stereotype, guilt before innocence can be proven, was prophetic as we embarked upon year after year of blurred lines between standing for our ideals and hiding behind our fears.

Thank you Mr. Sorkin for using your talent to explain the inexplicable, to comfort the inconsolable, to caution the radical, and to quiet the chaos...if only for a moment. And lastly, thank you for writing something with such staying power that while it allowed us to find hope in a terrible time, it also evokes enough feeling eight years later to ensure we never forget.

A Faithful Fan

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Sense of Duty

Spoiler Alert: If you are a fan of "HOUSE" and
didn't watch the episode on April 6th -

Don't read this!

So....what the hell happened to Cutner?? We started watching the show and were so totally shocked at the sudden suicide of this central character that I immediately started scrolling back to previous episodes of the show in our DVR memory to see if we had missed some major event. Then, I started thinking, what the hell happened to Kal Penn?

a. Did he get fired?

b. Did he piss off the wrong producer?

c. Did Harold and Kumar have another movie to make?

Nope. None of the above.

Kal Penn is going to work in the White House. Yes THAT White House.

Apparently, he has a great interest in politics, worked on the Obama campaign, and has pursued a staff job there. Not some glamorous ambassador type post either, but in his own words he will be "associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House."

Obviously he gets that Gilbert & Sullivan sense of duty stuff.

I think that is just the greatest thing.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Absent Without Leave

So the past two weeks I've been a bit absent from the blog. Turns out being a working woman, with some family visiting, as well as a home and husband, two cats and the new gym thing, really eats up your computer time. I have to say as well, that Spring is springing up all over and spare moments may soon be outdoor time and not conducive to the laptop.

All that being said, I've been blogging in my brain - too bad you can't read my thoughts, cuz some entertaining stuff going on in there. Although it's more likely a scenario like dreams. You know how when you wake some are so vivid and make so much sense and the minute you try to capture them and explain them the twisted and bizarre nature suddenly occurs to you.

Our house has been pretty quiet this week after a lovely week-long visit from my sister J and her hubby, as well as A's Mom and hubby and, of course, the apple of our eye Little Man A himself. I'm always astonished at how small our house becomes when we have the influx of family visitors and their luggage taking up every spare inch of the place. And conversely, how huge and empty it seems when they leave.

Here's a sweet little remembrance of LMA's visit. (I tried to capture some of him and our kitten running around - they became fast friends - but they're too quick for me).