State of the Union (With Humor)

by Ouida on July 15, 2010

I have not posted for almost 3 weeks.  I’ve been visiting and I’ve had a visitor.  That visitor was my mother.  It was wonderful to see her.  We spent several days in the Southern Colorado town of Durango, Colorado. I think it is one of my mom’s favorite places and I have a whole new appreciation for it.  Then my partner and I went to visit friends at a yurt in Northern Colorado.  Problem was that neither one of us checked a map before agreeing to the trip. The yurt was (and still is) in the northern part of the state about 35 miles from the Wyoming border, 600 miles from where I live.  Hummmmmmmm.  Bugs staked out the area well before we did.  I brought my fishing equipment and managed to catch some brook trout.  Most I threw back, but there was one that I felt good about keeping.  I pan-fried him in butter and spices.  We dragged slices of the baguette we brought through the pan drippings (because you always have a baguette on a camping trip).  My catch made for quite a tasty morsel.  He didn’t come cheap.  I was covered most of the time by bugs while I was fishing.  They seemed to really like my hands.  After a few hours on the stream, my left hand had swollen to 3 times normal size, my fingers were sausage like and the tips were cold.  I couldn’t make a fist. We left a full day early.  I am happy to report that I am much better, my hand is back to normal.

Why did we go?  Aside from the obvious: We made a commitment and decided to keep it.  As I get older, I have honestly realized that it is important to maintain life’s connections.  They are gifts and living things.  Like all living things they have to be nurtured.  There are people that I have lost track of over the years that I sorely miss and I am now scrambling to find.  So we drove 600 miles to maintain connections that are important to us and resolved to check a map next time.

Our trip was long and we made several stops along the way.  I was going to blog about our stops and the interpersonal encounters because they were downright scary.  I left those encounters feeling that as a nation we are in trouble and resolved to blog about them in detail, but my mother sent me some pretty darn funny e-mails that get the point across.

So here they are:

Clean can be funny..

One day, a man came home and was greeted by his wife dressed in a very Sexy nightie.
‘Tie me up,’ she purred, ‘and you can do anything you want.’
So he tied her up and went golfing.


A woman came home, screeching her car into the driveway, and ran into the house..
She slammed the door and shouted at the top of her lungs, ‘Honey, pack your bags. I won the lottery!’
The husband said, ‘Oh my God! What should I pack, beach stuff or mountain stuff?’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ she said. ‘Just get out.’


Marriage is a relationship in which one person is always right, and the other is a husband.


A Polish immigrant went to the DMV to apply for a driver’s license.
First, of course, he had to take an eye sight test.
The optician showed him a card with the letters

‘C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.’
‘Can you read this?’ the optician asked.
‘Read it?’ the Polish guy replied, ‘I know the guy.’


Mother Superior called all the nuns together and said to them, ‘I must tell you all something. We have a case of gonorrhea in the convent.’
‘Thank God,’ said an elderly nun at the back. ‘I’m so tired of chardonnay..’


A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.
Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen.
‘Careful,’ he said, ‘CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my gosh! You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my gosh! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They’re going to STICK! Careful. CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don’t forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them Use the! salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!’
The wife stared at him.
‘What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?’
The husband calmly replied, ‘I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.’


Fifty-one years ago, Herman James, a North Carolina mountain man, was drafted by the Army.
On his first day in basic training, the Army issued him a comb.
That afternoon the Army barber sheared off all his hair.
On his second day, the Army issued Herman a toothbrush.
That afternoon the Army dentist yanked seven of his teeth.
On the third day, the Army issued him a jock strap.
The Army has been looking for Herman for 51 years.


Notes from a DC Airport Ticket Agent

God Bless America !
A DC airport ticket agent offers some examples of ‘why’ our country is in trouble:

1.  I had a New Hampshire Congresswoman (Carol Shea-Porter) ask for an aisle seat so that her hair wouldn’t get messed up by being near the window. (On an airplane!)

2.  I got a call from a Kansas Congressman’s (Moore) staffer (Howard Bauleke), who wanted to go to Capetown. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information, and then he interrupted me with, ”I’m not trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts ..”

Without trying to make him look stupid, I calmly explained, ”Cape Cod is in Massachusetts , Capetown is in Africa ”

his response — click.

3.  A senior Vermont Congressman (Bernie Sanders) called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando . He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that’s not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state.

He replied, ‘don’t lie to me, I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state!”

4.  I got a call from a lawmaker’s wife (Landra Reid) who asked, ”Is it possible to see England from Canada ?”

I said, ”No.”

She said, ”But they look so close on the map.”

5.  An aide for a cabinet member(Janet Napolitano) once called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas . I pulled up the reservation and noticed he had only a 1-hour layover in Dallas . When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, ”I heard Dallas was a big airport, and we will need a car to drive between gates to save time.” (Aghhhh)

6.  An Illinois Congresswoman (Jan Schakowsky)  called last week. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:30 a.m., and got to Chicago at 8:33 a.m.

I explained that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois , but she couldn’t understand the concept of time zones. Finally, I told her the plane went fast, and she bought that.

7.  A New York lawmaker, (Jerrold Nadler) called and asked, ”Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?” I said, ‘No, why do you ask?’

He replied, ”Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I’m overweight. I think that’s very rude!”

After putting him on hold for a minute, while I looked into it. (I was dying laughing). I came back and explained the city code for Fresno , Ca. is “FAT” (Fresno Air Terminal), and the airline was just putting a destination tag on his luggage.

8.  A Senator John Kerry aide (Lindsay Ross) called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii . After going over all the cost info, she asked, ”Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii ?”

9.  I just got off the phone with a freshman Congressman, Bobby Bright (D) from Ala who asked, ”How do I know which plane to get on?”

I asked him what exactly he meant, to which he replied, ”I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these planes have numbers on them.”

10.  Senator Dianne Feinstein (D)
called and said, ”I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola , Florida . Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?”

I asked if she meant fly to Pensacola , FL on a commuter plane.

She said, ”Yeah, whatever, smarty!”

11. Mary Landrieu (D) LA Senator called and had a question about the documents she needed in order to fly to China .  After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded her that she needed a visa. ‘Oh, no I don’t. I’ve been to China many times and never had to have one of those.”

I double checked and sure enough, her stay required a visa. When I told her this she said, ”Look, I’ve been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express!”

12. A New Jersey Congressman (John Adler) called to make reservations, ”I want to go from Chicago to Rhino, New York .”

I was at a loss for words. Finally, I said, ”Are you sure that’s the name of the town?”

‘Yes, what flights do you have?” replied the man.

After some searching, I came back with, ”I’m sorry, sir, I’ve looked up every airport code in the country and can’t find a rhino anywhere.”

”The man retorted, ”Oh, don’t be silly! Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!”

So I scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, ”You don’t mean Buffalo , do you?”

The reply? ”Whatever! I knew it was a big animal.”

Now you know why the Government is in the shape that it’s in!

Could anyone be this DUMB?


The interpersonal encounters

were similar to the notes from a DC ticket agent.  Mamma Mia!

Please comment.  What has become important to you as you have gotten older?

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The Power of Routine

by Ouida on June 27, 2010

One of the questions I ponder often is what makes one person different from another in terms of what they achieve.  The biblical parable of the sower talks about good seed that falls on rocky soil, seed that is stolen by birds and seed that takes root yet has different yields.  All of it is good seed yet some yields 10, 50 or 100 fold.  In other words the same good seed in good soil has different yields.  Why?  Perhaps his is a question best answered by the wisest sage.  So despite the fact that I constantly ponder this question, I’ll take it down a notch and apply the question to gardening, personal finance and task completion.

Why do some people complete their tasks online while others are late?  Why do some gardeners lose their plants to common pests like aphids and wind burn while others do not?  Why are some people plagued by late fees while others are not?

The answer lies in what you value and in the concept of routine. If you value the timely completion of tasks what do you do to make sure that happens? If you hate late fees, what do you do to make sure you never get one? If you love gardening, what do you do to make sure that your garden thrives and that you are not spending hundreds of dollars every year replacing dead plants?

The answer is routine. You develop a routine to make sure that your garden thrives, that your bills are paid on time, that your work is completed on time.  I have a great garden.  I love it and it has taken years to create.  In the fall, I winterize it.  In the spring I trim the previous year’s dead matter from the perennials.  I placed a drip irrigation system as the garden was going in so that I could water systematically with the turn of a knob rather than drag hoses all over the yard each time I watered.  I have tried very hard to systematize everything to make maintenance convenient.  Every morning in season when I have my coffee, I patrol the garden looking for pests and sign of sun and wind damage.  I perform the same task in the evening.  Walking through my garden during the growing season twice a day has become part of my daily routine.  Over the years certain tasks have become much less fun than others therefore I have learned to farm those tasks out, because having a thriving garden has remained a value to me.

Some might argue that I take the matter of routine a bit too far.  A friend of ours owns a nursery and greenhouse.  Like a phoenix from the ashes this garden paradise arose from an asphalt parking lot and a foreclosed upon Mexican restaurant.  I have a routine whenever I go there.  I go first to the grapevine and then to the honeysuckle. I have 3 shrub varieties and 3 vine varieties that I was introduced to at this green house.  I inspect.  What did I find today?  Aphids galore on the golden flame honeysuckle.  I told the owner who was grateful, but already knew determined to let the ladybugs do their job, eventually.  We both laughed agreeing that there was probably a program for me.  Then I remembered the orchid that I brought home only to find aphids on it picked up from the greenhouse where I bought it.  I’ll take my routine and philosophy any day rather than surrender my efforts to the devouring pests of aphids, late charges, over drafts and the like.

I took a sales class a few years ago.  The instructor had us do a painful exercise all on our honor of course.  Each night that we failed to make sales calls, we were to take a dollar from our wallets and burn it.  Just the thought of the exercise gave me palpitations.  Late fees provoke the same feeling in me.  Paying a late fee is literally a waste and does not enhance the value of the product purchased.  Paying a late fee on your mortgage doesn’t increase the value of your home and paying a late fee on your rent does not mean your landlord is going to reward you by putting in a new pool or laundry services.  Late fees are literally money up in smoke or money down the toilet.  They represent a waste and poor money management skills.  Anyone with a telephone, ATM card or access to a personal computer can pay their bills on time.  So if it is of value to avoid the fees it is easy to establish a routine around paying the bills on time.  Simply logging in, calling in or going to the ATM machine can be done on any schedule to make sure late fees never occur.

The same is true with task completion. If the desire is to write, then write a page on something every day.  If your boss has a project for you figure out how long it will take to complete and establish a routine around task completion until it is done.

I have become convinced that the reason some individuals are more productive than others is that the more productive ones have established routines geared toward what they value and ultimately toward higher production.

We have a choice, to maintain our homes through routine or risk coming home to a flooded house because we forgot to swap out the old hoses to the washing machine for new ones.  We can paint siding each year or have the sun blister and warp it until it needs to be replaced.  We can develop the routine of saving when we are 20 or 30 or go into panic mode at age 52.  There are so many things that we can do to unleash the power of routine in our lives.

Please comment. What are the things that have made a difference for you?

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Women and Money

by Ouida on June 22, 2010

A while back I blogged about the book, The Secret Currency of Love.  Now I am reading Financial Infidelity by Bonnie Eaker Weil.  There was an article on CNNMoney some time ago about the financial crimes committed in relationships and this book was referenced.  The contributors to The Secret Currency of Love, many of them high income earners,  were ashamed to admit that they wanted to be taken care of financially.  Dr. Weil reveals that at least a third of women desire to be taken care of financially regardless of their level of income.  This concerns me.  To be out of control and blissfully ignorant financially is to be a slave.  And I am of the belief that their are no benign slave masters even if that master is your domestic partner.  There is also a startling statistic:  either through divorce or death of a partner a woman will, at some point in her life, find that she has become head of household.  AARP data indicates that 48% of women over 75 will live alone.

Over the years I have worked with women whose spouses suddenly died or filed for divorce.  One of my friends told me of the humiliation that she felt when she realized that as as a result of her divorce, she was getting stuck with half of her husband’s credit card debts most of which were incurred while he entertained his mistress.  One of my colleagues experienced the sudden death of her husband only to find her grief turned to outrage and fear when she discovered that he had allowed his life insurance policy to lapse and he had amassed credit card debt that she knew nothing about.  She told me that for several months after her husband’s death opening the mail and packing his things revealed debt and expenses that she was simply unaware of.  She said that being at home was like waiting for bombs to go off as she discovered more and more about how her husband really ran their household.  I’ve worked with nurses who have had to endure personal bankruptcy because there were no marital assets to divide in divorce and the debt outstripped their income.  The converse is also true.  Women who are financially “in-the-know” can choose to leave unsavory relationships because they have the means to do so. A financially savvy nurse recently told me that she was happy she had the financial resources to leave her husband of 20 years after she learned that he was having an affair and refused to end it. As Carla Fried writes in her CBS MoneyWatch post:  “If women don’t see the value in being an active decision-maker in their financial security, then they bear plenty of responsibility for any future financial disadvantage.”  And therein lies the rub.  There is risk, not bliss, in ignorance.

Dr. Weil articulates that money is a stand in for many issues in relationships.  Issues that often began in childhood and were nurtured into adulthood.  She asserts that 33% of women will be be secretive in the area of money and, therefore, damage their relationship with their partner while 26% of men will.  A partner’s unwillingness to be open in the arena of money is a sure sign that the couple needs to go for counseling because deception or lack of openness in one area is a sign of deception in others.

I have simply seen too many women who refused to participate in their household finances find themselves left with relatively little after even decades of marriage failing to understand that the situations in which they were living were on some level simply unsustainable. Some of the wealthiest men I have come to know over the years have credited their wives with their success.  These men are business owners  with 30 to 50 years of marriage and I have found two traits they have come to value in their wives:  active involvement in the running of the family business(es) and frugality.

What can women do?  The road to becoming actively involved in family finances may be a rocky one and may require the aid of a counselor to navigate well.  These are strategies that I have found in the world of personal finance that women can use to become more actively involved:  1) review trusts and wills, regularly making adjustments as children age. 2) regularly review insurance especially life insurance.  Are the coverage amounts sufficient to replace at least 3-5 years of lost income?               3) review credit reports at least yearly. 4) review all bank accounts and the reasons for those accounts. 5) develop a household spending plan and stick to it.  6) regularly review retirement accounts.  7) know where all important documents are being kept.

These few strategies can help women remain in touch with their household’s relative wealth so that they can make responsible financial decisions regardless of their stage of life.

What are your thoughts? Please comment.

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Old Time Work Ethic

by Ouida on June 17, 2010

Recently I was sitting with two friends at dinner.  Both women are over age 60 and both found jobs in this economy.  The jobs are high-paying. One of my friends said that she thought the reason she had been able to find a job was her work ethic.  “We may be 60,” she chuckled, “but at least folks know we will show up.

At the time of the Great Depression, the number of self employed individuals was significantly higher than it is today. Since 1948 the percentage of self-employed individuals has declined steadily. Since the 1970’s the self-employment rate has ranged between 6 and 8 percent of total employment.  Has the work ethic in America changed as the rate of self-employment has fallen?

I thought about what she said and filed it.  Back in the roaring 1990’s the labor market was so tight that all kinds of bad employee behavior was tolerated. Monday/Friday absenteeism was high and folks figured they could just get other jobs if they got fired.

I recently Tweeted an article that appeared on CNN Money about the success of Amish businesses.  Their long term survival rate  is over 90%.  By comparison, the 5-year business success rate is 65% for the general population.  They attribute their success to humility and extremely hard work.

The other day we got a call from a colleague.  Her car had broken down and she was calling to cancel her clinic scheduled for the next day.  She was told to rent a car if she had to but she needed to be present as scheduled.  She showed up.  A couple of years ago, I got a call from another colleague.  She was about to leave on vacation in a few days and noticed a spasm in her back.  She wanted to see a massage therapist to work the spasm out.   Trouble was, the only appointment she could get prior to the start of her vacation was right in the middle of one of her clinics.  She called and, explaining to me that she did not want to head off to her vacation with a spasm in her back, asked if I would excuse her from her scheduled clinic.  My answer was, as Madea would say, “hell to the no.”

Many years ago, I wasn’t much better.  I was chronically 10-15 minutes late for work.  My dogs were sick, my car was sick, I had a hot date the night before.  Silly, silly stuff.  My mama told me that as long as I needed the income, I had better prioritize the job.  My mother raised 2 kids alone and rarely missed a day of work. The truth is that as long as someone needs their income, they had better prioritize their job or business.

Is this behavior a function of age?  Meaning the younger you are the more likely you are to see the need to earn an income in conflict with other activities like getting the car fixed.  I don’t know. I do believe, however, that something has happened.  In the name of family values people shirk work.  Even in households where a parent is home full time, I have watched adult health care professionals walk off the job to take care of something at home.  “Family first” being the last words they utter as they walk out the door. How about “without an income, there is no family, so I’ll just stay on the job.”  It is a foregone conclusion that work comes second.

We might just find ourselves in a position in which we lose our competitive edge to nations in which their citizens are happy for work and for whom the job or the business comes first.

Please comment.  What are you seeing at work?

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