Category Archives: Observe & Ponder

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

The “Ending” of My Life Will NOT Be Happy—But I Need to Be the Boss of It

Sometime in early 2009 I asked my lawyer husband to update my will. Six years later, I’m still waiting. I know he’s been busy, but really?

In case you’re wondering what prompted my request for a legal modification:

In 2008, there was a scene in Season 2, Episode 9, of Madmen, titled “Six Month Leave,” where Don Draper utters the following bar advice: “It’s your life. You don’t know how long it’s gonna last, but you know it doesn’t end well.”

His aphoristic words have been resonating with me ever since. I am most definitely not expecting a “Happy Ending.” But if I’m in charge of said end, I am optimistic that with a well thought out plan of action, I will be fully prepared to execute the whole sordid mess my way.

But first things first. As a means to the end, I’m hoping that this blog post will help to jump start a codicil and/or serve as proof of what I want in terms of my final wishes. I’m also hoping that this blog post will hold up in a court of law because there has been zero movement on my almost seven-years-already appeal to the hubby. And it seems unlikely that a new and improved version of my VERY OLD WILL is coming anytime soon.

Anyway, pending a revised will, durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy and DNR (no pun intended, but I’m not holding my breath), below is a quick and dirty amendment to the Last Will and Testament of Teri Dawne Schure.

And maybe this sounds outrageously depressing, but I have been busily and intensely engineering my last hoorah. While my friends have been planning European trips, and seeking retirement advice, I have been assiduously putting the final touches on my last chapter.

Control freak that I am, it should come as no surprise to those who know and still love me, that me myself and I will be orchestrating my closing performance. I am hoping for some dignity, a competent finale, with a little comic relief thrown in for good measure. Okay, it probably won’t be that dignified, because I expect all my homies to party like it’s 1999. And ever the hostess with the mostess, I am fully expecting my bon voyage to be one hell of a shindig.

I fervently hope that I have enough of a final-days-heads-up to spend them in a beauteous locale surrounded by mountains or the ocean. And if I get the dreaded Alzheimer’s, I pray my fam will do the right thing and proceed with all that I have requested in this post. (They’re probably reading this and thinking I won’t be the wiser, but just do it loved ones!)

When it’s my time, I hope to have all my cherished peeps at my side as I peacefully fade away. Oh and make sure I’m pumped full of shit loads of pain medication, and my iPod blasting. Music needs to be an essential component of my final act. I want my treasured iPod to be playing all of my fave tunes while I deliver my swan song.

And when my time here on earth is concluded, don’t count me out so fast, cuz I plan on having the last word, which will be recited aloud. And YES, it will, of course, include the as usual unwelcome motherly advice for my kids.

I am wholeheartedly expecting the end to be easy breezy although I recognize it may be stressy messy—and way more labor intensive and time consuming than I would prefer or planned for. So DO NOT forget to administer the painkillers.

And at my adios soiree, I want a B-I-G partay. No expense spared people. Pigs in a blanket are a must, as well as a signature Martini—Stoli up, no vermouth, three olives with or without bleu cheese. Oh and I definitely want a bunch of those delish Chicken Samosas from Trader Joe’s, some shrimp cocktail, and a killer Italian rum cake with chocolate and vanilla pudding smothered in whipped cream. Hey, I might be dead, but let them eat my favorite cake.

I can’t bear the thought of being stuffed into a coffin and then buried in the dirt. SO DON’T DO IT.

My daughter Ariel knows the drill. I’m to be cremated, even though it’s against my religion. She can put me anywhere she wants—in her attic, her basement, the laundry room, wherever. I’m not picky. But she needs to TAKE ME WITH. Wherever she goes, I go.

If anyone wants a Teri souvenir, I think I would make a standout piece of jewelry.

And per my usual research I found some fascinating ways to divvy me up:

Teri Hour Glass

Although it probably won’t function as a reliable timepiece, it will allow me to keep time at my own pace. Call it Teri Time.

Teri Diamond

Since diamond is my birthstone, I like this idea a lot. Plus, a Teri diamond is forever.

Teri Paint

You can mix me up with a little paint and use it for a Teri portrait.

Teri Candlesticks

You can create a one-of-a-kind Teri pair to add height, shape and interest to your tablescape. I would also be quite handy during a blackout.

Teri Suncatcher

Mix me into some stained glass and hang me someplace sunny.

Teri Bust

You can create a three-dimensional Teri likeness of me. This bust will not only be my spitting image, but it will also allow me to keep an eye on things.

Teri Jewelry

You can accessorize a la Teri wherever and whenever.

Teri Stemware

Handy dandy way to never drink alone again.

Teri Mask

Create a Teri mask King Tut style.

Teri Maracas

Drag Teri out for special musical occasions.

After reviewing all of the options, my personal preference (listen up Ariel), would be a Teri candelabra.

My favorite Disney character has always been Lumière from Beauty and the Beast. He has such panache and a bona fide bon vivant! Yes, I could definitely envision my candelabra self. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became.

So excited, that I e-mailed foreverence.com with questions regarding a custom candelabra. Mr. Dawson from Foreverence, got back to me immediately and was enthusiastic about working on a custom, 3-D-printed urn in the shape of a candelabra—ASAP. Mr. Dawson wanted to connect by phone to go over the project details. And he wanted to know if I had a specific candelabra in mind and if I could provide a photo. He was adamant about getting as much information as “we” could gather to assist their designers.

Whoa, maybe I’m not that excited.

And then there was the price. A mere $2,495.00 for a unique and custom urn. It seemed like an arm and a leg for a simple candelabra of my cremains, and I wondered if there was any wiggle room in the price.

Oh, and the process takes about two weeks once the design is completed. Mr. Dawson ended his e-mail with “Let me know if you have any additional questions, and when you would like to get started.”

Back off Mr. Dawson, I’m not in that much of a hurry. Plus, I need to shop around. Make sure your price is in line with comparable candelabrum.

But I did take scotch tape to paper to create the following rough draft:

Teri Lumiere

Okay, maybe my rendering needs some fine tuning. So once the Teri takers have placed and received their orders, I will leave the rest of me to my imaginative, fashion-forward daughter to design the perfect Teri taper holder.

But whatever Teri masterpiece my daughter deems appropriate to create, I want it engraved with the following:

Don’t forget to dream.  Don’t forget to laugh.  Don’t forget to live.

Bravo’s New Reality Show “Secrets and Wives”

Secrets and Wives

As someone who resides on the South Shore of Long Island, I was mildly interested in Bravo’s new show about six women from the North Shore. If there were any secrets, they were quickly and boringly revealed in the first two episodes. And only three out of the six are wives. The rest are single.

The show makes it abundantly clear that the “Wives” are wholly and utterly financially dependent on the past and present men in their overindulgent lives. According to the divorced Andi Black, “The men on the North Shore have the power, and they have the control.” I’m not sure where that leaves Andi.

Black’s friend Liza Sandler is being forced to sell her opulent mansion as part of her ultra-lucrative divorce settlement and is, in her words “paralyzed” by her current situation and ex-husband. She confesses to having an affair (according to the Page Six article it was with the modern day mad man, Donny Deutsch), which resulted in her divorce. If you’re going to play, you got to pay. Although it seems that Liza played, and her husband paid.

Gail Greenberg’s husband is a plastic surgeon, so she thinks she’s all that, except that she’s not. But she is impressively zippy on her SoulCycle exercise bike. Dr. G throws a fashion show at the Race Palace (an off-track race site), and as the models sashay down the runway, they announce what type of plastic surgery they had done by him. Noses, and lipo, and boobs! Oh my!

Black disparages people who live on the South Shore, calling them unsophisticated. Greenberg accuses Susan Doneson (originally from Oceanside/South Shore) of not being classy and questions her upbringing. Another South Shore dis. Their superiority is laughable. Black, who is living with Sandler and sharing her bed, discusses with her roomie, cringe-worthy topics like passing gas, and putting flowers in private and personal spaces to eliminate odors. These girls actually believe they are veritable pillars of sophistication and class.

While the women of the North Shore are quick to put down the geographically challenged who reside on the wrong side of Long Island, Black and Amy Miller are the only North Shore originals. Greenberg grew up in Harrison, New York; Cori Goldfarb is from New Jersey, and the rest of the women were originally from—the South Shore.

Cori Goldfarb and her husband own a spa that according to Black, is always empty. There is much discussion amongst the Goldfarbs and their COO about one of their not so hot products, the anal relaxing cream (they sold 7 in a year). The COO scolds them: “You don’t need to worry about the women in this community’s asses.” I kid you not.

Goldfarb brags that her friend Amy was an ‘It’ girl in high school. “It” doesn’t work, and is financially supported by her volatile boyfriend. Her 20-year-old son is seen running after an ice cream truck in a pink tutu and bunny ears. More sophistication. Amy’s boyfriend buys her a car—a Volkswagen Bug. Or is it a Beetle? A Mercedes 350 would have been a lot sturdier.

Doneson talks non-stop about working working working, but then asks her reluctant ex-con husband for money, complaining to him that she only has $1 in her wallet. Maybe Bravo will do her a solid.

While marrying wealthy and powerful men may have its advantages, it is by no means a reflection of a person’s sophistication or level of class. And Secrets and Wives is the perfect example of that.

If these Wives are any indication of what one might find on the North Shore, I’ll stay put, right here on the South.

My Love Hate Relationship with Facebook

Facebook

The world’s largest social network can be frivolous and sophomoric at best, and downright invasive and potentially dangerous at worse.

So what is it about Facebook that keeps me coming back?

According to the mighty F, the average user spends 20 hours a month on their site. That seems like a lot to me.

In the beginning, I’ll admit, I spent quite a bit of time looking at all the photos and comments from my newly-found Friends. And okay I posted my share of pictures. But NEVER a selfie. I’m not passing judgment; I’m just saying. But after a while, I got weary of all the emotional updates, the drama, the photos, the over-sharing, emoticons, and puffery.

Now when I log into Facebook, I mostly post entries from my blog. And who knows, maybe my Friends think my blog posts are worse than a selfie. Only my 216 Friends would be able to answer that.

And okay, I sometimes find some heartwarming and impactful videos and posts on Facebook. My favorites are the videos of soldiers coming home and surprising their loved ones. But there are also posts and videos that make me cringe.  A lot.

Come on people. Stop with the parental and grandparent bragging already. Your kids and grandkids can’t be that perfect!

And how many photos of you, your children, your pets, your grandkids, yourself, yourself, yourself…There is no need to finish the sentence. You get the picture.

Just last week Mona invited me to play Candy Crush Saga. A couple days later Penny needed my help to uncover an extra clamshell.

But the worst are those hateful, borderline racist Friends who use Facebook to highlight their repugnant views on politics, race relations, sexual orientation, climate change, religious differences, and whatever other derogatories they feel like sharing. Amidst the thousands of puppy love posts and videos, I have to view this smut?

It’s true, Facebook gives me the option to Unfollow but really, who wants or needs a Friend like that? I’m not interested in muting their opinions. I would much prefer to Unfriend these miscreants, although I never take this option lightly.

And I have a unique idea for birthday wishes. Instead of a Happy Birthday emoji, pick up the phone and say the real deal. But admittedly it would be time-consuming to call all of your hundreds of Facebook friends and family.

Facebook curates our lives. According to some, a relationship is only real if it’s on Facebook. And if there is a breakup, a must on your list of things to do is “Unfollow,” “Unfriend” or in cases of severe heartbreak—“Block.” If you have added this person to your “Life Event,” this too needs to be updated. And, of course, you now need to switch your status to “Single.”  I recently saw a post on my News Feed that Joe Blow was in a Complicated Relationship. I would hate to be on the receiving end of that missive.

And am I the only one who hates when people post photos of us without our permission? I recently logged onto my Facebook page and discovered a fill-my-computer-screen picture of me with someone I barely knew. Whatshername looked sensational, but I looked hideous.  I mean really? Get my approval before you start posting UGLY Teri pictures! I tried to be as polite as possible when in a private Facebook message I asked her to remove the photo or cut me out of it.  The next day I was relieved to see that it was down, only to resurface the next day with a bulldog face where mine had once been. I immediately unfriended the biatch. Yes, somewhere out there in the Cloud there is a picture of me as a bulldog.

Have you ever opened up Facebook to a huge photo of yourself that you didn’t post? As I prepared to post one of my blogs on my Facebook page I saw to my horror a picture of me in a white bikini bathing suit!  What was more embarrassing than the photo itself (if that was possible), was that my Friends assumed I posted the picture myself, WHICH I DID NOT DO.  The bikini pic had been taken five years earlier in Greece, and I didn’t even know it was in the Photos section of my Facebook account. The photo went viral with my Facebook peeps and God knows who else, with likes and comments from many of them wishing me good tidings in Greece. When I complained about it to my friend Robin, she reiterated my biggest fear: She was shocked that I would post a full page image of myself in a bikini; from five years ago. I was beyond humiliated and added a comment to the picture letting everyone know THE WHITE BIKINI PHOTO WAS NOT POSTED BY ME, after several failed attempts on my part to delete it altogether. I’m still trying to figure out how to get it off my home page and news feed.

Does anyone agree with me that the Like button is overused, and in many cases, used inappropriately? Someone posts a death, and everyone clicks Like.  There’s something wrong about liking someone’s death or sickness. Facebook should think about adding RIP as a button option.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word, so I think Facebook should also consider adding a Sorry button. This button would make it super easy to undo all of your wrongs with a quick click.

And then there is the TMI danger of revealing too much about yourself and your family. Friends who are incessantly posting photos of their children including their names, what school they are picking them up from, what extra-curricular activities they are participating in, etc., etc.  And how about those photos tagged with a geographical location that clearly identifies where they live. I mean seriously people? Don’t these Friends think this could be dangerous?  Every time you post about your child or grandchild on social media, you are helping to create a data-rich, enduring and potentially problematic online profile for your little lovies.  And it’s possible those lovies will be most unhappy when they discover that you exposed their lives to the world from birth.

Driving while doing anything social media related is dangerous, yet a recent study conducted by Braum Research found that 27 percent of drivers 16-65 reported using Facebook. Fourteen percent reported using Twitter.

The results of the AT&T survey were released last week, indicating that drivers who text are still the most prevalent of lawbreakers but are becoming so passé. These morons have graduated to using Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat and Twitter. They take selfies, chat, and shoot videos—in alarmingly large percentages. The survey found that 22 percent of those who use social media while driving said they did so because they are addicted. Sorry, but I just don’t feel your pain.

Now let’s talk about the FBI-worthy collection and mining of our data and invasion of our privacy by Facebook. We all know that ad-financed Internet platforms like Facebook and Google collect vast amounts of data about us. Heck, they probably know more about us than we know about ourselves. Just this week, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, announced plans to open users’ feeds to even more advertisers.

And Facebook announced in April that it would be introducing changes to its News Feed, including ranking content and advertising based on what we Like.

You may think that you see everything your Friends post via your News Feed, but you don’t. To inject advertising into our stream, Facebook uses an algorithm to control the News Feed, and what we see.

I have multiple Facebook accounts and have experienced first-hand Facebook’s double standard when it comes to the Likes that I get on my pages. For example, my Facebook page for Our Romantic Getaway has 1,103 Likes, and yet if I want to reach those people with my posts, I have to pay Facebook to boost the update to them. Really?  You’re selling my 1,013 Likes to others, and I can’t use them myself for free? Seems unseemly.

But for all my complaining, bad mouthing, and spewing, I still go back to Facebook for more.

My Memories of Poverty

Rat Cockroach-Infestation

Following the arrest and death of 25-year-old African American Freddie Gray of Baltimore, hordes of local residents took to the streets in protest.

During sometimes violent incidents, over 250 people were arrested, at least twenty police officers were injured, hundreds of businesses were damaged, and there were countless vehicle and structure fires.

The New York Times has been chock full of articles about Baltimore.  It seems everyone has an opinion. It also seems like the consensus is that there is no easy answer for what ails Baltimore.

It seems fairly obvious to me. Poverty. Sickness. Hunger. Fear. Helplessness. Hopelessness.

I spent my first nine years in abject poverty. I then spent the next five or so years in semi-poverty. The semi-poverty years were the good old days. It was the abject poverty that I can never forget.

Those first nine years of my life left an indelible and forever mark. Not one day of mine goes by, that is not touched somehow by those frightening, hopeless, and haunting years.

My first memory at about four or five was of intense stomach pain. My belly always hurt—real bad. I would go to bed with the pain and I would wake up with it in the morning. Turned out it was a combination of hunger—and worms. Yeah—my little body was full of worms.

Back to The New York Times: Many individuals have been quoted saying that the people in Baltimore need to take responsibility for their lives—their choices.

Okay, maybe you can say that about an adult. But how does a five-year-old child do that?

Now back to my memories of poverty.

The worms were scary for sure. But not as scary as the bugs. Big ones. Big bad cockroaches. They came out fast and furious.  And they were bold. They mostly came out in the dark—scurrying all over the walls and surfaces when the lights would be flicked on as we entered our apartment. Our tenement apartment was meticulous. But they came in droves anyway. Welcome home.

I still associate the bugs with my difficulty breathing. My grandmother thought I was anxious. I have often wondered if my childhood asthma was just an allergy to the constant inhaling of bug spray.

I was a scrawny and sickly child. Looking back, it’s no surprise to me—bug spray and worms can wreak havoc on a child.

And then there was the shoe box in the kitchen cupboard under the sink. I hated that cupboard. I hated the shoe box even more.

Every early morning, my grandmother would take the shoe box and roam around our apartment, throwing the successful rat traps into it. The shoe box would be full of rats with broken necks. My grandmother would calmly throw the rats into the outside garbage can and put the shoe box back in its place under the sink.

I was an inquisitive child, so I asked a lot of questions. I wouldn’t call myself a rat expert, but I knew quite a bit about them.

My math skills weren’t the best, but I knew that where there was one rat, there were many more. Rats have large families—up to forty or fifty. And since rats rarely walk more than a few hundred feet from their birthplace, if I saw one, the other forty or so were probably close by.

The good news: Rats had a one-year life span so they didn’t live long.

The bad news: Rats multiply like rabbits.

As you can imagine (or not), I was obsessed with those rats. So was my grandmother. She would methodically and carefully inspect all of the lower parts of our walls—particularly in the bedrooms, at about one inch from the floor.

You see, rats like to hug walls, and they would leave behind dark marks—oil from their hair. Rat residue. (BTW, I mostly slept with my grandmother in her bed.)

Oh, and rats eat mice, so they rarely cohabitate. More good news.

Although I would have preferred mice to rats.

But I didn’t have a choice did I?

While other children in better zip codes were doing whatever kids in better neighborhoods do, I was preoccupied by rat traps, rats, and cockroaches—mulling the same questions over and over in my head: Do rats eat cockroaches?  Do rats ever stray from the walls?

And as if that wasn’t enough fear for one young child.  My biggest fear of all?

The dark.

Because everything came out in the dark.

I often go back to those dreadful memories and wonder who I would have been had I never gotten out of there.

What if I never got out? Hopelessness. Helplessness. Five-year-olds turn into 25-year-olds.

Who knows, I might have set fire to a few cars and buildings myself.

 

Wedding Centerpieces that Won’t Cost You the World Versus Wedding Centerpieces that Can Save the World

Wedding Centerpieces that Won’t Cost You the World

Wedding Centerpieces that Can Save the World

Okay maybe I hyperbolize when I say that wedding centerpieces can save the world. But my suggestion could certainly save one person’s world.

Many of my friends and relatives are getting to the age where they are helping their children plan and finance their weddings. And according to the majority of them, most couples are spending about 8-10% of their total wedding budget on flowers.

I also discovered from reading several wedding websites, that the centerpiece is considered the major focal point at the reception.  The claim is, as guests walk in they can indulge in the fabulous table decor that you put so much energy, time, and effort into creating. (BTW, nowhere on those websites did I see anything about how ridiculously expensive centerpieces can be.)

According to my per-usual online research, the latest and greatest table statements are the “towering centerpieces.” The argument for tallness is to avoid blocking anyone’s view. No self-respecting about-to-be-married couple would want to do that. The higher the centerpieces the better to see you my dear.

To all you future brides out there, I would venture to guess that these “towers” are going to eat up way more than 8-10% of your wedding budget. And that is not including the bridal and bridesmaid bouquets, flower girl head wreath, and her basket of rose petals, mother/mother-in-law flowers, boutonnieres, altar arrangements, pew and chair décor, the toss bouquet and cake flowers. Cha-ching, cha-CHING.

I hear ad nauseam from my friends and family who are planning weddings and other momentous occasions, about the rarest of flowers sitting atop Eiffel Tower vases filled with water and beta fish (I’ve seen this one for myself), clusters of orchid blossoms and baby’s breath on gleaming silver candelabras adorned with smokeless dripless tapers (I’ve seen this one too), and black magic roses hanging from eight foot branches with moonbeam uplighting.

Oh and let’s not forget the twister inspired florals that create resplendent movement, horizontal pussy willows draped high above tables on gold spun wire, floral arrangements designed to resemble clouds at sunset, upside down Christmas trees adorned with crystal birds, blah, blah, blech.    Blech cropped

For anyone who knows my personality and blogging style, I just can’t resist scrutinizing the incredibly opulent, not to mention costly “focal points.” These floral monuments can cost upwards of $400-$500 per table. Probably more.

Let’s talk.

Dripless tapers: Nothing like a little fire to get the party started. And don’t forget to use the clusters of baby’s breath to help it along.

Beta Fish: Otherwise known as Siamese fighting fish. Seems like a bad wedding omen to me.

Horizontal Pussy Willows on a wire of gold: Puleeze.

And call me stupid, but when I envision twisters, the word resplendent doesn’t even cross my mind.

Are we really serious here?  Whatever happened to the mantra “People are starving in Africa.” And okay, maybe most aren’t focusing on the starving and suffering when choosing flowers for their wedding.

But what if they did?

As I trolled around the internet looking at all the centerpiece and floral options—and the cost, I couldn’t help but envision a more philanthropic option.

So look no further than this blog post for some great centerpiece ideas. Your exhaustive internet searching is over. As my wedding gift to you, I have gathered some impressive information, so rest those little phalanges and read on!

First, take a look at this towering masterpiece below.

tall-centerpieces-wedding-5

I won’t even try to guess at the cost of this monstrosity. But if you look very closely, you’ll see the itsy bitsy frame with a table number. This is the masterpiece I want to discuss.

How about taking away that gaudy centerpiece and keep it real simple. Just a small frame with a table number that could say:

Welcome to Table #1. In lieu of a candelabra, we helped young Leah, who has been living a life of neglect and hardship, to pursue her dream of a life of stability and success, by providing her with a dress for a job interview.

Welcome to Table #2. Instead of an Eiffel Tower vase full of rare flowers, we provided teenager Sam, who usually goes entire days without food, with a full day of healthy, nourishing meals.

Welcome to Table #3. Rather than black magic roses hanging from an eight foot birch branch, we were able to give a homeless kid, who usually sleeps on the streets, a clean warm bed and a safe and good night’s sleep.

Welcome to Table #4. There is no floral arrangement at this table in order to provide two homeless kids with a week of groceries.

Welcome to Table #5. We decided that instead of pussy willows hanging from a string of gold that we would provide a warm winter coat for a homeless child.

Welcome to Table #6. This table is void of floral accouterments because we decided to use the money to pay for doctor visits for five homeless children.

Welcome to Table #7. We decided to donate a week’s worth of transportation for someone who needs kidney dialysis in lieu of a floral arrangement.

Total bill for the above:  $431.00

Oh, and instead of throwing money away on bouquets, and the rest of that nonsensical nonsense, take a look below at just a handful of ideas to make better use of your money:

Bouquet of photos

Newtown Action Alliance

Prevent Child Abuse America

The Center for Victims of Torture

Animal Welfare Institute

National Military Family Association

Children’s Health Fund

Covenant House

American Kidney Fund

Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Child Find of America

Save the Children

Mental Health America

Starlight Children’s Foundation

Scholarship America

To all of you soon-to-be-married couples out there, I would like to say:

Lifelong love and happiness is the reason, devotion and friendship is the gift, kindness and empathy is the glue, and until death do you part is the lastingness.

And if any of you brides decide to take my suggestions, please let me know. I would love to write a follow-up blog piece about it.

 

My Almost Virgin Blog Post

Today marks my opening act—and my first blog post on The Teri Tome.

Before writing this post, I did my usual painstaking research to see what the hell I was going to blog about and why anyone would care to read it. Based on everything I fervently read, my blog has to be pithy, witty, wise, provocative, insightful, powerful, compelling and beautifully written.  It was also highly recommended that a Mission Statement be prepared. This blogging business is going to be way more time consuming than I originally thought.

So here’s my Mission Statement: I’m a first time author, and I really need to sell copies of my book Our Romantic Getaway. This way, I can retire, kick back and do nothing but write for the rest of my life.  And since authors are supposed to have blogs, this one is mine. I will try to be pithy, witty, and wise.

I’ll probably spend a lot of time blogging about myself, since I’m technically not allowed to talk about my kids. The primary reason being, I’m afraid to ask them for their permission.  One is still not speaking to me since I published Our Romantic Getaway  last December—seems I “stained” the family name.

I did ask my husband last night for permission to blog about him from time to time, and he reservedly and begrudgingly said okay, as long as he had the final editing say in anything I write about him. He also mumbled something about his right of privacy.

So based on the family slim pickings, I’m thinking that this blog is pretty much going to be about me. And I might throw in my observations about whatever might be in the news, or throw out some questions to my readers (hopefully more than just my BFF) about any old stuff.

And while this is my first ever blog post on The Teri Tome, it is actually the second blog post of my career.

My virgin blog post was written on Monday as a guest blogger for a good friend of mine, Olga Cohen, CEO of Grohen Technologies and the creator of a product called Vaginal Renewal Complex.  Olga specializes in vaginal rejuvenation.

When Olga asked me to guest blog, I had no idea where my posting was going to take me. But check out I Need Me Some Rejuvenation – BAD.

Back to this blog post: From the research I just completed, I concluded that I should probably answer the four very important questions readers are supposed to want to know below:

Q #1: Who am I?

A #1: This is where I get to brag. I’m the founder and owner of an international news web site Worldpress.org, which reaches over 50,000 unique visitors a month. I’m also a journalist, and a publishing and marketing consultant. I’ve been a director at Newsweek, a publisher and COO of World Press Review magazine, and publisher of Commentary magazine. As I previously informed you, Our Romantic Getaway  is my first novel. And I am working on a sequel, albeit very sloooowly.

Q #2: Why am I blogging?

A #2: Since you force me to spell out my intentions, I hope to entertain you, make some friends, keep my enemies at bay, and fulfill my requirement to blog. Oh and it would be great if I could sell some books.

Q #3: What will I be blogging about?

A #3: As stated above, I will definitely blog about me, the occasional state of the nation, the world, relationships between same-sex and/or opposite sex, friendship, loss, motherhood (without mentioning the offspring), with a little gardening thrown in there. Blogging about my relationship with a certain “someone,” may pose somewhat difficult, if not impossible, since my husband has now decided he wants out of all posts. We had a firm (on his part) discussion over coffee this morning re: his right not to be subjected to unsanctioned invasions of privacy. The rest of my blogging intentions TBD, because after all, who knew that my first blog would be about vaginal rejuvenation?

Q #4: How can you leave feedback?

A: Since I am still trying to figure out how my blog works, I have no idea.  But I’m working on it.

Stay tuned for my next blog post!