Category Archives: Observe & Ponder

What to Do About Writer’s Block

writers-block-b

As a writer, I should be writing and as a blogger, I should be blogging, right?

Not.

These past few weeks, I have been making myself crazy trying to pull together a compelling blog post for The Teri Tome or a thought provoking article for my website worldpress.org.

It seems that I have everything yet nothing to share with my readers.

Because unfortunately the topics I want to blog about, or the situations around the world I want to highlight, don’t seem to be anything anyone cares about.

And all those familial memories I thought I could courageously share with my followers have become harder and harder to write. My “situations” that I have in the past been able to  articulate quite well, have been of late hurtfully gnawing at me and starting to feel too painful and too personal.

Have I lost my creative passion? Where’s the joy, the humor, the gut-wrenching irony?

I need to get my writing mojo back!  And fast!

So this morning, I figured I would jot down on a sheet of paper a few topics that have been floating around in my head. Lay out my ideas by hand, and you know, see if any of them have legs.

Here is what I came up with.

Trump’s love of Putin
At first, it sounded like the subject could work, but the truth is, Trump’s love of Putin can be covered in two quicky sentences. If Trump were a Russian citizen, he would be either dirt poor, dead or in prison. It doesn’t take a genius, or even Trump to know that if you live in Russia and don’t share your money with Putin, you’re probably going to be arrested, or poisoned.

Trying to lose those last five pounds
Everybody loves a diet story. But try as I might, I can’t lose the last five no matter what I do, so what’s there to write about? And okay it’s actually eight pounds, but who’s counting?

My obsession with germs
If you’ve read my blog entry about my sun phobia or my post about my biggest fears, I think you’ve heard more than enough about crazy Teri.

The next president of the United States is…
All I can say about this stomach churning topic is, “I have never…,” which doesn’t make for a titillating blog post. My anti-acids are at the ready.

Will I ever be able to retire?
More anti-acids. Plus this topic can be answered in one perfunctory word.  No.

Hillary’s basket of deplorables
I was only able to come up with three measly sentences for this topic, which a riveting blog does not make. (1) Let’s be honest, there are more than a basketful of racists, bigots, homophobes, and misogynists out there. (2) Tell me with a straight face that you haven’t met one, or six, or hundreds who fall into the basket. (3) Come on Mike Pence, man up and admit that David Duke is deplorable!

I need a new kitchen and a new car
I could only come up with five words for this blog post.  Not a chance in hell.

Syria
I can write for days on this subject. But the sad truth is, nobody really gives a damn. As an example, August 20 was the third anniversary of President Assad’s chemical attacks on his own people, killing over 1,000 Syrian citizens in 2013. Too bad nobody cares.

Milwaukee, etc.
As someone who lived in poverty as a child, I know first-hand that there are a thousand Milwaukee’s out there. But writing a blog post about Milwaukee or any other poverty stricken place in America would get me nothing but hate mail. Even though four out of five children, who live in Milwaukee, live in poverty. And even though that in 2013-2014, 84.3% of Milwaukee Public School students failed in reading proficiency and 79.7% failed in math. And by the way: Since Wisconsin was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848, it has had 45 governors: 31 Republicans, 12 Democrats, 1 Whig, and 2 Wisconsin Progressives, so don’t blame the Democrats for this shitstorm.  The lives of people who live in poverty apparently don’t matter. Nobody wants to hear any of this.

Zika Virus
I tried to compile a travel blog and began to round up a list of places that were Zika-free, but I was afraid of getting sued or worse, be responsible for someone going someplace I recommended and then getting Zika’d. So the only thing I could safely say was this: Before you travel, be sure to visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So much for my Zika-free travel blog.

American voter suppression
Now this is a topic I could sink my teeth into. Because, as I write this, Republican-controlled state House and lawmakers across the United States are actively and openly trying to prevent people from voting. The 2016 election will be the first presidential contest in decades without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. This should be a national scandal, except nobody gives a hoot. And let’s be honest, even with this small tidbit of information, my email will undoubtedly be flooded with hateful messages and accusations that I am a God-forbid, liberal. (Even though I’m not.)

Look at that! I managed to create something out of nothing and everything.

Yep. I made it to my 45th Staples High School Reunion!

Reunion 45th

To go or not to go? That was my Staples High School Reunion question.

But after all the handwringing, I came, I saw, I conquered.

After I had written my blog post about whether to go or not to go, I received tons of e-mails and postings from hundreds of people—many of them were former classmates but many were not. There was an incredible outpouring of support, but more importantly, so many of those who wrote to me opened up about their own heartbreaking high school experiences.

So I want to thank all of you for your honesty and compassion. Because in the end, you were the reason I decided to suck it up and go.

And sure, it was the same old reunion-type dialogue. We talked ad nauseam about the good and bad old days. We reminisced about this store and that restaurant. We told horror stories about our drunken forays from Portchester to Westport. Sit-ins, Cardinal Puff, detention, lots of pink and green, Devil’s Den, Steak and Brew, the girl from uncurl, blah blah blah.

But here’s the thing.

We also asked each other the deeper more meaningful questions. We talked about our parents, our siblings, our children, our grandchildren and our feelings. Nobody really cared about how we made our livings. It was more about how we made our lives.

And it was cathartic. Because for a brief few hours, I was able to go back to that time and place and rediscover that naïve teenager, with unlimited promise, within myself. I would like to think we all went back to that young girl or boy who possessed enormous opportunities; full of hopefulness, and youthful ambition and dreams that were actually possible.

It was restorative to hear stories about that young Teri I once was, and I was grateful to meet her again—this time through the eyes of others.

As Paul Simon so eloquently put it: “What a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences.” But my time of innocence has long past, so it felt good to celebrate who I was back then, and now as I enter my twilight years, to give me pause to reflect on who I am now, and how my life has impacted the lives of others.

I drove by what was once Mario’s, Oscar’s, the Red Barn, and Sally’s Place. I made my way to the spots where the Big Top, the Ice Cream Parlor, and the Remarkable Book Store once stood. And despite the sweltering heat, I walked the length of the Staples football field and then took a peaceful stroll through the Nature Center. I drove by my old house—three times. And then I pulled my car over and wept. A mixture of tears of joy for all that I have and tears of sorrow for all that I have lost.

As I shared stories with my fellow Stapleites, I realized that we walk a similar walk. And talk the same talk. And in our conversations, we all agreed on this: that our lives were rich, precious, painful, complicated, beautiful, miraculous, cruel, messy and loving.

Life caught up with the most talented, the most beautiful, the best dressed, the most popular, and the most famous. And finally, after 45 years no one gave a damn who was the loser, how many times someone was married, who was the sports star, who was the captain, who was the smartest, or who was the reject.

Because at our age, we finally understand that no one has escaped the pain and disillusionment of loss, outer beauty, disappointment, illness, drama, death, poor decisions, bad relationships—you name it, we’ve been through it.

We spoke of our children, and grandchildren, of siblings, wives, and husbands who were taken away from us way too soon, parents who committed suicide, and a son in desperate search of his birth mother. Doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs. A pastiche of 1971 spirits cloaked in 2016 bodies.

Yes, I made it to my reunion—the one and only Staples class of 1971. I was surrounded by compassion, confidence, vulnerability, and genuine interest in what I have been doing with myself for the past 45 years. With no awkwardness and no judging.

Okay, there was one moment of awkwardness when a former classmate excitedly pointed to me and exclaimed “OH MY GOD! YOU’RE ALIVE!!!”

“Uh, yeah, last I checked,” I responded warily. She proceeded to explain (as best she could) that she had been telling people I was dead because my photo was on the deceased table.

The deceased table?????? I sprinted over to the table and to my relief there was no Teri photo. Whew.

But on the serious side, we lost so many classmates. A heartbreaking reminder that life is short, and that if you believe in God, He most certainly works in mysterious ways.

And how about that Reunion Band? Wow. A bunch of 60 somethings dancing and grooving to outstanding music thanks to the talented Charlie Karp, Brian Keane, Mike Mugrage, Bill Sims, Bubba Barton, Bonnie Housner Erickson, Rob McClenathan, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, and Jeffrey Dowd. And a shout out to the incredible singers Kim Sullivan and Linda Satin Pancoast. And of course, let’s not forget David Jones on the spoons.

And who knew that Charlie had recorded with Buddy Miles, opened for Jimi Hendrix, and toured with Aerosmith? Or that Brian was the winner of four Emmy Awards?

And I don’t know about anyone else, but they really got me with their last song of the evening: Forever Young. Oh, if it were only possible.

The photo booth, the hand painted rocks from Compo Beach, the old time candy, new friends, and old friends. All in all, it was an incredible couple of days thanks to the tireless and I’m sure often thankless effort by Joanne Romano-Csonka and Bonnie Housner Erickson. Without the two of them, I don’t know if we would even have a reunion. Time and time again, every five years, they put their all into making a beautiful event for the rest of us.

At the end of an incredible Saturday evening, we all said our reluctant goodbyes, full of bear hugs, kisses, and good wishes, promising to keep in touch. We probably won’t.

And the woman who thought I was deceased? Well, she wished me well and reiterated that she was thrilled that I was still alive. Me too, girlfriend!

So for anyone stressing out over an upcoming reunion—and who, like me, keep going back and forth anxiously asking themselves the “to go or not to go” question. I say go. Take a chance. Reach back in time. Feel like a kid again.

And God willing, I’ll see my 1971 buds in 2021!

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
~ Paul Simon

Reunion 45th Deceased Table

My Staples High School Reunion—to Go or Not to Go

Nervous woman

As of right now, I plan on attending my 45th reunion from Staples High School in Westport Connecticut next weekend.

But to be honest, over the past few weeks I have gone back and forth and forth and back about whether to go or not to go.

At 63, I see myself as independent, confident and strong willed. But I wasn’t always that way.

My looming reunion has me going back in time to my 1968 self—anxious, teased, meek and weak.

Taunts like “Theresa the Greaser,” “Olive Oyl,” and “The Mod Martian,” were some of the names I painfully recall when I look back on those not so wonderful years.

I wasn’t invited to any of the fancy schmancy parties, although I would strain to hear the popular kids excitedly talk about them before class, in the gym, and at lunch.

At dances, I was the perpetual wallflower, sitting in a corner uncomfortably observing high school life passing me by.

And the fear of having my name “Theresa” be forever associated with the word “Greaser,” was the reason I decided to drop the name altogether and use my nickname, “Teri.”

I grew to hate my own name. If anyone called me Theresa, I refused to answer to it. As a result, I haven’t referred to myself or been called Theresa for over 48 years.

Now, I don’t want you to think I had zero friends because that wasn’t the case at all. I had some really terrific friends, which is why I’m on the fence about going to the reunion. But what if they don’t show up? Who will I talk to? Who will I hang out with? To go or not to go.

And I also don’t want you to think there were hundreds of haters out to get me. No, not hundreds, but enough to make my 10th year in high school unbearably lonely and downright miserable.

To ward off the haters, I reinvented myself in the summer of 1969, in preparation for the 11th grade. To give credit where credit is due, my best friend at the time showed me the wealthy way to fit in: the latest and greatest hairstyle, expensive, somewhat revealing trendy clothes, push-up bras, and makeup. Lots and lots of makeup.

I called it my war paint. To this day I despise wearing makeup and still refer to it as war paint. I artfully paint it on whenever necessary and wipe it off as quickly as possible.

But in the summer of 1969, I wore that war paint proudly—and often. And with the makeup, along with all the other superficial fixes, I succeeded in throwing Theresa far far away.

And I won the war. Because guess what? The haters stopped hating. Which was weird, because I was the exact same person. Okay, to be sure, I had way nicer clothes, straighter hair, and at least the appearance of bigger boobs.

My early high school experience definitely shaped who I am today; steadfastly intolerant of bullying and totally and utterly unimpressed with the rich and famous.

And all of that rejection was forever ago, so in preparation for possibly attending my 45th reunion, why is it that I can’t stop feeling like that anxious, skinny, homely girl back in 1968?

Which is why last night I made a final decision not to go.

Only to wake up this morning and decide to just suck it up and go already.

I don’t know if I’ll show up or not. I guess I’ll wait until next Friday and see how I feel.

At least I don’t have to worry about getting a huge ass pimple on my face. That was so 1968.

But, to all my fellow Stapleites: if I do happen to show up for the reunion, and you happen to see me sitting in a corner—wallflower style, pretending my phone is blowing up with activity, please say hello and let’s remeet each other.

Because I’m Theresa, hear me roar.

Teri Gatti 1971

The Fledgling Bird – Was It Pushed out of the Nest or Did It Fall?

The-baby-bird

My daughter stopped by today to explain as lovingly as she could to stop trying to fix things. She asked me to listen to a podcast about accepting that some things aren’t fixable, nor should they be. It’s part of life. Situations happen. Things aren’t always meant to be fixed. Accept situations for what they are. Accept people for who they are.  Face it. Mommies can’t fix everything.

After my daughter left, I decided to spend a little time trimming back some flowers. Chillax. Reflect on non-fixing.

As I hummed along, I thought I heard a faint cry of a bird. I looked around and couldn’t see anything so I resumed my trimming.

As I reached to pull a weed out from under one of my Leyland Cyprus trees, there it was—a tiny fledgling, struggling to fly and crying. I immediately and angrily looked up into the trees. Where was its mother? Couldn’t she hear its call of distress?

The phone rang, and it was my girlfriend. I told her about the bird. “Leave it be,” was her advice. It’s not me to leave anything be.

I ran into the house and pulled apart a slice of bread and ran back to the tiny bird who was still crying helplessly. I was fairly cognizant of the fact that the fledgling probably couldn’t eat bread, but I was in the fixing mode.  Podcast shmodcast.

I cooed softly to the baby bird asking “where’s your mommy?” I inspected the ground to make sure there were no ants or other bugs that could hurt it. And then I went into my office to try to finish up a project I was way past deadline on.

But every couple of minutes I had this nagging pull to go outside. To see what was going on. Look around for the mommy. And make sure no cats or squirrels were lurking about.

All afternoon I ran in and out of the house watching this stupid little bird. Why wouldn’t it just fly away? Jump onto a bush already, get to higher ground. Why didn’t it stop crying and try to help itself?

I googled what to do if you find a baby bird out if its nest. What I read was that maybe the baby fell out of its nest or maybe it was pushed. Pushed? What mother would do that I asked myself.

After some reflection, I answered myself. Okay, I suppose it depends on the child, or in this case, the fledgling.

No matter whether it fell or was pushed, I frantically continued to run back and forth from my office to the fledgling. The hell with my deadline.

On my way out of the house for like the fiftieth time, I saw the mommy, perched on my deck. I got very close to her and was able to take a photo. Okay, it was a little blurry because my hands were shaking but she never moved. This mother was defiant.

The-Momma-Bird

When I tried to get close to her baby, she swooped down but kept her distance.

I felt tremendously relieved that this baby bird had someone who cared after all. The mommy was hopping closer and closer to the fledgling while keeping an eye out for me.

I went back into the house, but I couldn’t focus on work at all. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t focus on anything but that damned baby bird. How long was it going to hop around? Was it hurt? Was it incapable of flying? Was it hungry? Please stop crying already.

Was there anything I could do to fix it?

I poured myself a glass of wine to calm down a bit. This bird had me all nerved up. I had been at this for five hours already! If you’re wondering, yes, I recognized the ridiculousness of the situation, but I simply couldn’t control myself.

That’s when I decided the only thing to do was write this blog post. Try to calm myself down and record it.

In between running in and out of the house checking on the bird situation, I was writing this post—cell phone in hand, should a photo op present itself.

The mommy bird was edging closer and closer to its baby but not fast enough for me. What was she waiting for? Come on. Help out your crying kid already. Fix the situation. Solve the problem. Avert disaster.

I finally had them both in my window view so I could now stay comfortably inside my house and go from window to window between the baby and the mommy. Willing mommy to come closer, I couldn’t stop going back and forth, window to window, the glass of wine still in my hand.

My husband warily observed the absurd situation and just shook his head in amazement. Nothing surprises him about my behavior any longer. He knows my MO.

I finally gave the bird fiasco a break and forced myself to try to burn some of my energy on the recumbent bike. All the while forcing myself to stay put—to keep peddling. Willing myself not to think about the fledgling. Leave the worrying to someone else. Someone else? Get a grip Teri. We’re talking about birds here.

Okay, so forget about working out. I jumped off the bike to check on mommy. She was still standing guard and hadn’t budged.

I thought about getting back on the bike, but I just couldn’t. I was too anxious. So back on the deck, I went.

The mommy was gone! But the baby was still crying. My husband, relaxing on the outdoor swing watched in astonishment as I ran in and out, out and in.

And then I saw the mommy! She was hidden in the tree coaxing her baby bird to join her, teaching survival tactics. Showing her baby how to blend in and conquer a dangerous world.

The sound of the ringing phone brought me back into the house. It was my girlfriend again. “You’re still screwing around with that bird? It’s been over eight hours!”

While on the phone with her I ran back out to the deck listening for the crying bird, my husband now in tow. And to my relief, the baby was still crying but high up in the tree this time.

Kudos to the mother. She had done her job. She had fixed things. Her baby was safe for now.

 

Microsoft Windows 10 Upgrade—When No Means No

Windows 10 automatic update
Windows 10 upgrade automatically downloaded onto my computer Thursday night at 11:15 pm.

To be clear, I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it, and I didn’t click on anything.

I simply woke up to this frightening choice on my desktop screen on Friday morning:

KEEP MY FILES
Removes apps and settings, but keeps your files.

REMOVE EVERYTHING
Removes all of your personal files, apps, and settings.

Geez, thanks, Microsoft.

How about a third choice: REMOVE THE WINDOWS 10 UPDATE, WHICH I DIDN’T ASK FOR AND REPEATEDLY CLICKED “NO” WHEN THE UPGRADE PROMPT WOULD APPEAR ON MY DESKTOP SYSTEM DAILY.

When I frantically called Microsoft Product Services at 1-800-642-7676, the technical support person was painfully aware of the problem. According to Mr. Techie (name has been changed to protect his identity), Windows 7 computers are automatically being upgraded to Windows 10 without permission—basically disguised as a security patch.

According to Mr. T, the automatic upgrade has affected thousands of people, and the only way to avoid the automatic update from occurring again was for him to manually delete any and all files on my system that are pushing the Windows 10 upgrade.

For over two hours I sat on the phone with Mr. T, while he painstakingly had to disable hundreds of embedded auto upgrades and updates from my system. Then he had to write and add a script to my system to make sure all automatic Windows updates were forever removed—hopefully.

And according to Mr. T, my computer system does not even support Windows 10!

How Microsoft Windows could automatically update my computer system, even though I had repeatedly clicked “NO” when asked if I would like to upgrade to Windows 10 is beyond my comprehension.

Especially when Windows 10 is not even compatible with my system and had I clicked the wrong button, I could have easily and irreversibly deleted every file, app, and setting on my computer.

Additionally, Mr. T informed me that anyone who has a Windows 7 system is in danger of this happening to them.

Listen up: According to Mr. T, anyone who has ever been prompted to update to Windows 10, should contact Microsoft Support and ask them for their assistance in physically deleting and uninstalling any and all files that are pushing the Windows 10 update before it’s too late!

And one more thing: Mr. T told me that the problem is going to continue until at least June 29, which is the last day that Microsoft is offering the free Windows 10 upgrade.

Until then, Mr. T said he has been working all day every day with angry people like me to ensure that their systems weren’t at risk for a Windows 10 hostile takeover.

Ms. New York Senior America–Wait, Me?

Beauty Pageant Winner Brunette
I recently received a call from a colleague asking me if it would be okay if she nominated me as a Ms. New York Senior America contestant.

Me? Ms. New York Senior America? Oh, puleeze.

I mean I’m all for world peace, but this was a stretch, even for me. I wasn’t sure how to respond. So I said nothing. Which is highly unusual for moi.

I guess my pregnant pause caused my colleague to assume that I was interested, or, at the very least mulling it over.

So she enthusiastically jumped right in assuring me that I had an excellent chance of winning because I exemplify what a senior woman is all about. Geez, thanks.

My response was to tell my overly zealous colleague that I was honored she thought of me while simultaneously trying to drum up a way to say NO CHANCE IN HELL diplomatically.

But before I could muster up the words she gushed away: “I’m e-mailing you the information right now. Don’t move.”

A few minutes later I had the lowdown in my e-mail folder.

CHARM  •  DIGNITY  •  INNER BEAUTY  •  APPEARANCE  •  ATTITUDE • ACCOMPLISHMENTS  •  ENTHUSIASM  •  TALENT  •  GRACE • ENERGY

Hmmm. My competitive self couldn’t help but read on…

The 60 years or older contestants, are judged in 4 categories:

1. The Interview: Private meeting to analyze personality, poise and ability to effectively communicate. Ms. New York Senior America needs to be able to wow the public-at-large as well as the media.

I could like, sooo do that.  

2. The Evening Gown: A runway look-see for judges to establish the presence of elegance, poise, and grace.

No brainer, duh.

3. Life Philosophy: A brief statement limited to 35 seconds.

Hmmm, since I am the queen of verbiage, I like, literally can’t even. But I could try.

4. Talent: Music, the arts, or any other activity appropriate for an elegant, senior woman.

I take this to mean that pole dancing is probably off the table.

Oh and the talent presentation is limited to a maximum of two minutes and 45 seconds.

Since I am basically talentless, this category was the deal breaker. Plus, sorry people, but two minutes and 45 seconds seems like eons.

I responsibly called my colleague back to explain to her that I had no talent whatsoever. I left out the eon part.

“I’m sure you can come up with something,” she cajoled and asked me to get back to her.

Now I’m supposed to get back to her?

Okay, maybe I do have some talent.

Let’s see: I could write a poem or read a snippet from one of my blogs. Snoring.

I could whip out a George Foreman grill and create a killer egg-in-a-hole. But could I debut egg-in-a-hole in 2 minutes 45?

I consulted my husband, who had a brilliant idea: I could take a computer and a screen on stage, and create an Excel pivot table from scratch!

OMG! I got so excited about the genius of his suggestion that I started to imagine all sorts of possibilities and scenarios.

Me, in an interview wowing the judges with my bada bing bada boom.

Me, in a ball gown, strutting and sashaying my creaky self.

Me, and my philosophy and mission of world peace and my game plan for obliterating ISIS in 35 secs.

Me, formulating and titillating the audience with my Excel spreadsheet brilliance.

The more I thought about it, the more invigorated I became. And the more sense it made.

I admittedly give a mean Queen of England wave, and I love to travel.

I could be the face of dignity, glamor, maturity, and inner beauty, to all old people.

I could share my spreadsheet talent with AARP chapters, nursing homes, senior Expos, and the elderly like.

As Ms. New York Senior America 2016, I could be the touchstone for the geriatric masses.

I could be a contender!

I CAN SEE IT NOW:

AND THE WINNER IS…

TERI SCHURE • MS. NEW YORK SENIOR AMERICA 2016

Teri Schure, a peppy 62-year-old, grew up on the wrong side of Bridgeport Connecticut, and has been a fairly reputable Long Island resident for the past 32 years. She never graduated from Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina, and wasted precious time majoring in music theory and minoring in piano. She never obtained a degree of any kind, nor did she earn any certifications. Her passionate and fascinating working career consisted of Excel spreadsheets and calculators. Since she doesn’t have enough money to retire, she continues to eke out a living doing a plethora of grunt work and continues to bust her butt every day to improve her skills.

Since Teri does nothing but slog and toil, she has yet to devote her time and skills to charity, volunteering for various non-profits, or any other causes in her community. Since she is a slave to the almighty dollar, she does not actively support any organizations at all.

Her interests include cleaning the house, paying bills, grocery shopping, laundry, and making sure there is dinner on the table every night.

Since she is still trudging and grinding away, she has no interest in art, dance, horseback riding, gardening, travel, piano, or theater.

Teri is thrilled and honored to be Ms. New York Senior America 2016. She looks forward to proudly promoting a positive image of oldness, while simultaneously extolling the importance of graceful perseverance and acceptance of the inevitable, to all women past their prime.

Her dream is to pageant beyond New York and become Ms. Senior America of 2017.

 

American Express Small Business Saturday Statement Credits Are Canceled for 2015

American Express Cards

The first Small Business Saturday took place on 11/27/10 and American Express encouraged people across the country to support small, local businesses by offering a generous statement credit of $25 off $25. The event was hugely successful, with people coming out in droves to shop and use their Amex cards.

For the past five years, small business owners have relied on the American Express statement credit program on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The program has helped to counter balance lagging traffic and sales during Black Friday weekend for thousands of small business owners.

My question to Amex: You didn’t think your decision to effectively cancel Small Business Saturday didn’t warrant an announcement on the home page of your Small Business Saturday website?

Shame on American Express for not making sure that small business owners were given a heads up that, for the most part, Small Business Saturday has gone bust.

When I went online today to find out what kind of credit incentive Amex was going to offer for the 2015 Small Business Saturday, I saw nothing on their website. But I did find several articles claiming that an American Express announcement that no statement credits would be offered this year, was buried somewhere in their FAQ section. I looked around on the Amex Small Business Saturday website for quite some time and found no such announcement in their FAQ section or anywhere else.

I ultimately sent an e-mail to Amex directly, asking them if they were in fact canceling statement credits. I received the following e-mail reply back from them:

As in years past, American Express will continue to drive awareness of Small Business Saturday and encourage consumers to shop small through local and national advertising.

This year we are not offering a statement credit offer for Card Members on Small Business Saturday, but are instead increasing the support and resources we provide to help small business owners market the day within their communities and truly make it their own.  Learn about the materials we make available at ShopSmall.com/GetReady:

  • Customizable marketing materials
  • Free online ads
  • Shop Small merchandise kits (while supplies last)
  • Educational event guides

We are also significantly expanding our grassroots advocacy efforts, such as the Neighborhood Champion program, to facilitate more community events and activities to engage local communities to shop small on Small Business Saturday.

Why would Amex have a Small Business Saturday and not have statement credits? What would motivate people to shop on that day vs. any other day?

Sorry, Amex but your offer to increase support and supply materials isn’t going to bring the store traffic to small businesses that your statement credit program did. It won’t even come close.

The popularity of Black Friday Weekend has lessened in recent years, as e-commerce has completely changed the scope of holiday shopping. And now Amex has decided to quietly cancel their statement credit program?

As the Executive Director of my local Chamber of Commerce, I have seen firsthand how successful stores have been on Small Business Saturday, thanks in large part to the American Express statement credit incentives.

I also witnessed hundreds of shoppers who swarmed the stores that day with loads of Amex cards. And I mean loads—per person. I saw one shopper with at least 50 credit cards. And I witnessed store after store printing out sales receipts that were eight feet long nonstop until they closed at midnight.

A little-known rule regarding American Express cards, is that you can have up to 99 authorized users on any one card—each with their own card, and more importantly, their own individual statement credits.

So I am assuming that American Express was tired of shoppers abusing the program. But they could have easily limited the promotion to one card per person, and that would have been the end of the abuse.

Instead, they canceled the program entirely, with no formal announcement. Not yet, anyway.

Below is a history of incentives going back to the 2010 launch year:

2010: $25 off $25 offer announced on 11/08. Registration opened 11/08. Spending valid 11/27-12/31/10.

2011: $25 off $25 offer announced on 10/06. Registration opened 11/01. Spending valid 11/26/11.

2012: $25 off $25 offer announced on 09/24. Registration opened 11/17. Spending valid 11/24/12.

2013: $10 off $10 offer announced on 10/01. Registration opened 11/24. Spending valid 11/30/13.

2014: $10 off $10 valid 3 times per card announced on 09/27. Registration opened 11/16. Spending valid 11/29/14.

2015:  No formal announcement made yet, that Small Business Saturday statement credits are canceled for 2015.

I get that American Express is trying to cut costs, but in my opinion they should have canceled Small Business Saturday altogether. Let’s get real, without a financial incentive, people won’t pay attention. Wasn’t a financial incentive the whole point of the program?

Incentives or no incentives. At least let small business owners know.

Nattering Nabobs?

Woman dreaming

I had a dream last night, although I didn’t remember having it at all until my husband mentioned it to me at breakfast. “In your sleep you inarticulately mentioned something about nattering nabobs of negativism.” I wasn’t able to remember the actual dream, but I did recall the words.

Nattering nabobs of negativism. Wha?

After breakfast at the beautiful Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews by the Sea in New Brunswick Canada, I googled the phrase. To be honest, I barely knew how to spell it.

It was a phrase used by Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew to refer to the members of the media with whom he had a very acrimonious relationship.

Agnew, who was extremely inarticulate, and later a disgraced VP, didn’t have the brains or the wherewithal to come up with such a memorable and jarring expression.

The phrase was actually written forty-five years ago by William Safire, the former Nixon speechwriter turned New York Times op-ed columnist, who died in 2009.

The nattering nabobs were the mainstream American news media. So what the heck was I dreaming about to cause me to mumble it out loud in my sleep?

To be clear, I have never uttered those words before last night. And now I can’t get the words out of my head.

According to Dictionary.com natter as a verb means to talk incessantly; chatter. As a noun it means a conversation; chat. The origin of natter occurred between 1820-1830. Its variant was gnatter.

Nabob as a noun means any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person.

No need to look up negativism. We all know what that means.

I’ve been wracking my brain to recall what it was I was dreaming about. I do remember something vague about someone making light of my words. I recollect saying over and over: “It’s my story to tell.” A blonde woman was vehemently shaking her head as if to say “no,” and trying to devalue my telling. She was refusing to listen and/or acknowledge what I was saying about my telling, i.e. my life.

I also vaguely remember thinking that she was usurping my words, my writing style, my story.

Who was the blonde in my dream? Was she the nattering nabob or was I? And what was I trying to tell?

 

The Eyes Have It

Portrait of Teri
Portrait of me painted by my daughter
Ariel when she was ten years old, and
one of my most prized possessions.

Research has confirmed that viewing a human face, sets off a unique reaction in our brains. For humans, faces are among the most important visual stimuli.

A myriad of information can be extracted from a single glance at a face, including their identity, emotional state, their level of engagement, and even their internal thought processes at that moment in time.

I feel very much the same about the human face and form in stone, bronze, pencil, paint, chemicals or photographs. Any human face in art form always draws me in, and the subtle deviations in figural appearance fascinate me. But it’s the eyes that evoke a particularly salient emotional cue for me.

As a writer, I’m always using words to explore emotions—either to express my own feelings or to evoke emotions in others.

So when I view a face in any art form, that haunts, calms, exhilarates or saddens me, I find myself asking the same question over and over again.

Are the feelings I’m experiencing, a mirror image of the artist’s emotional state at the time the work was created?

Whatever mood the facial imagery evokes in me, I can’t help but feel an affinity with its creator, assuming that he or she was feeling similarly affected at the time of its conception.

The facial images that affect me have nothing to do with its monetary worth. Its value comes from a sense of profoundness, and a feeling near impossible to express.

Below are but a few examples of images that are near and dear to me, although I’ve never been able to articulate exactly why.

Please share by posting some of yours?

The Smoking Girl

The agitated girl

Thinking girl

Greek Girl

The Jewish EyeThe worried mother

60 Is the New 40—but It’s Still 60

woman-looking-in-mirror-vintage

According to scientists, 60 is the new 40, and healthier lives mean people now hit middle-age much later in life. This is awesome news for me now that I’m 62. So I’m figuring it’s time to party hard, right?

No one likes to party more than me, but here is the question I keep asking myself:

Is there anything to celebrate about turning 60 and then beyond?

I’ve been assiduously mulling over the pros and cons of 60+. Try as I may, I haven’t found much to celebrate, and I’m struggling to think positively here, but there just aren’t a ton of advantages to oldness.

After much consideration, I was able to find one glorious Pro: I can finally say no.

I can’t avoid aging, but at least I’m now old enough to not  care one hoot about what anyone else thinks or wants. It’s finally all about me, with no regrets and no apologies.

So no, I’m not commemorating 62, but I have come to terms with it.  And I would like to think I’m at a stage in my life where I am also at peace with my age—and my wrinkles. But please do me a favor, and NEVER call me a senior.

And let’s be real—it’s exceedingly difficult to jubilate over my crow’s feet, laugh lines, jowls, and the dreaded “11’s” in between my hooded eyes. But the alternative is for sure a whole lot worse.

So I’ve created my own take on an old rant:

I’m old as hell and I’m not doing that anymore.

I first heard a similar phrase back in 1976 while watching the American satirical film Network. Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), was a longtime newscaster at the United Broadcasting System, who was fired because he skewed old. Beale couldn’t fathom losing his 25-year post as lead anchorman simply because of his age.

So in his next broadcast he announced to his viewers that he was going to commit suicide on his final program. UBS believed that they would have their greatest ratings ever and hyped Beale’s fateful and final telecast as a momentous, must-see event. No surprise that Beale didn’t follow through with his suicide threat.

But he did go on a maniacal rant and concluded his tirade by challenging his viewers to: “Go to the window and shout as loud as you can: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!'” His ravings make him an icon and Beale landed his own show and became the hottest TV personality in America.

Now, I’m not going to scream out any windows, and my “hot” days are long gone, but I can finally run my own show.

And I’ve given up faking my age. I used to shave off ten years, but it got complicated and confusing. One tiny white lie turned into an entire ruse. Take for example this innocent question: “How old were you when you had kids?” The honest answer is 31 and 35. But I had to remember the minus ten-year rule, so the fake answer was 21 and 25. “Wow, you were young when you had kids,” my friends would retort, as I sheepishly agreed.

And then there were the times that I forgot about the negative ten, and would ruminate about things that I was barely born for like almost making it to Woodstock. I had to backtrack that white lie by adding that my mother was going to accompany me since I was a mere six years old.

And then there was always the uneasiness that my husband or offspring would spill the old age beans. But those days are thankfully gone. Now, I just don’t care what other people think about my older-than-dirt self. Because I’m old as hell and…

Every now and then, I get requests from colleagues asking me to speak at some conference, workshop, or seminar. They try to convince me that it will attract lots of business prospects.

In the old days, even though I would have preferred to stick a hot poker in my eye, I would succumb to the pressure, and say “yes.” Now? I say, “Thanks anyway, but my prospecting days are over.”

As recently as five years ago, I understood the importance of doing things I didn’t enjoy or want to do. But those days are long gone. I’m older and wiser now.

When I’m asked to make dinner for the masses, I politely notify: “I don’t have the strength at my age.”

Turnaround business trips to wherever? “I’m not able to do that any longer.”

Obligatory outings? “I can’t sit for that long.”

Need help moving? “My back is shot.”

Now that I don’t have to prospect, cook, travel, or move people, I have a lot of time to ponder and observe women like me who are getting long in the tooth. And yes, there are some women aging quite well out there. But there are also way too many women who have gone under the knife, a few too many times. The search for the fountain of youth can sometimes get very (and I mean very) ugly.

You know the look: Windblown facelifts that resemble trudging through a typhoon…

Windblown-Look-cropped

…the permanently surprised face, the piggy nose, trout lips, way too big and white teeth…Listen up people—YOU CAN’T FIX OLD.

And let’s face it—ageism, no matter how young you look for your age, is a real downer. Plus as the saying goes: You’re only as young as your neck.

These days, it seems that everyone is obsessed with fixing old. There’s microdermabrasion, triphasic facials, Botox, fillers, hair extensions, acrylic nails. There are butt lifts, breast and chin implants, tummy tucks, liposuction, lip augmentation, blah, blah, blah. Is there anyone authentically old left out there?

And am I the only one who is sick and tired of the Victoria’s Secret models prancing around in undergarments? I can’t wait to see what they look like at 62. Oh, I almost forgot—I’ll be long gone by then.

I try to stay in shape—trying  being the operative word, because I’m just too damn old to be jogging, spinning, cycling, weight training, and the like. Hell, I can barely dance without limping around hunched over the next day.

I prefer to think of myself as “Native American Summer”—before politically correctness kicked in, aka Indian Summer.

Native American Summer

Somehow Native American Summer just doesn’t have the same ring, but call it what you want. Bottom line: I am under a warm calm spell, with the sober realization that a long, cold winter is on its way. As I enjoy the tranquility and serenity of my old age, I know that my personal El Niño is lurking around the corner.

I try not to look back at the days when I would walk into a room or down the street and actually get noticed. Now I am invisible to all. The upside of being a ghost is the increased freedom to explore who I am without all the scrutiny or outside expectations. My irrelevance has made it easier to relax—and be myself.

And I’m finally able to focus on what I want to do, and not what I should do to make everyone else happy about me, my lifestyle, my career, and my life choices.

I once read a fascinating article by Pulitzer Prize winner and psychologist Erik Erikson regarding his belief that there were eight psychosocial stages of life development. His theory has stuck with me and goes something like this:

The first year of life: “I am what I am given.”

Second and third years of life: “I am what I will be.”

Fourth through the sixth year of life: “I am what I imagine I will be.”

Age six through puberty: “I am what I will learn.”

Adolescence: “Who am I?”

Early adulthood: “I am what I love.”

Middle adulthood: “I am what I create.”

Late adulthood: “I am what survives me.”

Pregnant mom