Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What's in a Number?

It's been two months since my birthday. To celebrate the momentous event, I created a list of blessings for the number of years I've been alive. One of my blessings, number 34 to be exact, was "Church Friends." I have a boatload of blessings in the friends I have at church. Honestly, I could make a complete list of just those folks as blessings. Well, in the past two months, one of those friends can't get through a conversation without pointing out he didn't have his own "number" - to the point that I decided to put myself out of misery and make him happy. The things I do for wonder I'm single.

A J Caldwell, or Airman Caldwell, as I like to call him is the aforementioned person. A J is like that little brother that can drive you nuts one minute and do anything for you the next. I first met A J about 3 years ago at a one-day singles conference at our church. He was a new member and we happened to sit across from each other when the group went to Qdoba for lunch. We hit it off and have been friends ever since. A J once lived in an apartment I donned "Chez Hottie" since it was full of wonderful, godly men. He always thought it was completely due to him. I just let him think that to keep him happy. Do you see a pattern here?

The one thing about A J that I enjoy is his ability to dote on me, his sister in Christ. We don't spend a lot of time together (which he reminds me about regularly), but when we do, he almost always offers to valet my car wherever our group might meet up. He makes his living doing that right now, so he's great at that skill. It may be a small thing, but for a single, unattached gal, I appreciate my little brother in Christ melting my heart with an act of service. And, when he heard of my excitement when The Muppet Show came out on DVD, he gave me the copy he bought after he watched it. Another heart-warming moment.

A J will either love me or despise me after this post. Let's hope for a good outcome. This never-ending topic is now put to rest.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Bountiful Saturday

The holiday shopping season is well under way. Last Friday, known as "Black Friday" because of the profitable day it brings to retailers, is the traditional first real shopping day of Christmas. I braved the crowds and attempted to buy a very few items. I steer clear of malls and large shopping centers. People are nuts, and my idea of a way to spend a day off from work isn't fighting off screaming shoppers vying for the last XBox 360. This whole "Black Friday" name is ominous to me. Those closest to me know the experience of a Black Sunday about 5 years ago, and that wasn't a pleasant experience. So, Black Friday causes me to shiver.

Now that online shopping has taken off, a new phrase has appeared on the scene - "Cyber Monday." That is the Monday after Thanksgiving (today) when the online retailers see the highest jump in holiday sales. Almost every media newsletter I received today proclaimed the glories of Cyber Monday. I think it's a bit overdone. You can order from a lot of online retailers up until days before Christmas for a Christmas arrival (see that little e-commerce site, Amazon). But, as a marketing professional, I'm all about the hype if it means a great economic upswing.

I'd like to don the Saturday after Thanksgiving as "Bountiful Saturday." I made my normal bi-weekly trip to the grocery this past Saturday and it was a joyous experience. Not only was it almost void of people because they had loaded up the carts before Thanksgiving, but all the pre-Thanksgiving sales were still in force. I loaded up on 12-packs of Cokes at a discount and got a loaf of bread for 99 cents! My grocery bill was $30 less than normal. Now that's something worthy of its own name.

I may not run to the mall on Black Friday, but I make it a point to do my grocery shopping the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And it gives me something more to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Top 5 Least Popular Thanksgiving Dishes

5. Shipping Popcorn Stuffing - it sticks to your ribs, and you can travel anywhere without breaking.

4. Gimli-Gollum Gravy - it's good with an evil sort of kick

3. Darth Taters - they've been finely roasted and come out smokin'

2. Green Bean Casserole WITHOUT the crunchy little onions on top - who in the world makes that?

1. WKRP's Turkey Drop Surprise - As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thanksgiving

This is definitely one of my favorite weeks of the year. A three-day work week, with a lot of normal activities suspended. A four-day holiday weekend full of great food, family fun, friend fellowship, and much-needed relaxation. Why can't every week be like this?

It's also the week that the Christmas celebrations are triggered - if they haven't already started. Black Friday occurs the day after Thanksgiving when retailers feel the joy of ringing cash registers and visions of profits dancing in their heads. I usually put my toe in the water that day, but don't completely dive into the madness. Last year, I was working at another job that frankly had zero liberties, including the fact that I had to work the day after Thanksgiving. That has to be illegal or at the very least immoral. Thankfully, one of my many blessings this year is the return of the four-day weekend.

As you begin to prepare for however you celebrate this Thanksgiving, take time to truly count your blessings. And, as the air gets nippier and the Christmas carols begin playing, remember the real Reason for the Season. Don't get so wrapped up in the gift buying that you miss the real gift of Jesus that is the best Christmas Present ever.

Friday, November 18, 2005

My Argument for Reality TV

Some of my friends give me a lot of grief for watching mainly Reality TV. My response has always been that nothing else on TV is all that great, and I love the competitive nature of the reality shows I watch. I'm a purist who stays away from the romance-driven, relationship-hunting reality shows. Those are a poor spin-off of the true competition of working for a Trump or surviving on an island. A recent study came out that gives me even more ammunition for my reality battle.

The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation did a study that showed since 1998, sexual content on television has doubled. Seventy percent of all shows on television right now include some sort of sexual scene. But, where the real numbers shake out is when they break out the content by show genre. Comedy series contained 91% of sexual content, drama series contained 87% sexual content, but Reality shows contained a mere 41% of sexual content. The Bachelor and Bachelorette alone suck up that percentage number.

Although it's proven that Reality TV does contain some sexual content, compared to the other comedies and dramas, it is mild. No wonder I like Reality TV - it's one of the few places you can watch and not be inundated with sexual content.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

If the Shoe Fits...

I've been in search of the perfect sneaker/tennis shoe/athletic shoe for some time. I'm normally a Payless Shoe shopper, but unfortunately their shoes just don't have the life a shoe like that needs. I've finally found the shoe of my dreams...

The problem I face is multi-faceted. I have a somewhat big foot (thanks to my Dad), a wide foot at the ball of my foot, but more narrow at the heel. And, I don't like to be constricted in shoes. I get this trait from my Dad. My Mom used to tell us, "You don't HAVE to wiggle your toes in your shoes." Au contraire, Dad and I do. So, the challenge of finding a comfortable shoe is tough. For dressier shoes, I can go with sandals in the right time of year - made for the wiggliest of toes. And, clogs and mules were made just for my feet - easy to slip on and off, and my heel doesn't clomp out of it because of the wideness needed for my toes to fit. I'm convinced that if God wanted us to wear shoes, he would have created them in the first six days. Thanks to the fall of man, we're now bound by shoes.

I searched the web over, after seeking out shoes in the local stores, and found a pair on - the Propet walking shoes. I recognized the brand, but never really knew much about them. Intrigue set in when their website claimed they were the walking shoe company - ok, that's what I do, walk. I was also impressed at their "Tips" page that told you how to specifically lace up your shoes if your toes are cramped, your foot is wide in places, or you have a high arch. I fell in love with the slip-on - easy on and off - and decided to purchase a pair.

I'd not been real impressed with Zappos in the past, but their athletic shoe selection is much better than the rest of their site, which is limited in size and expensive in cost. I have to say, though, Zappos won my heart as well. After opening my free account and placing my first order, they immediately emailed me to say they'd express ship my shoes at no cost, and I'd have them in one business day. A sure way to gain a customer. As promised, my shoes were on my doorstep in one business day. I slipped them on and breathed a sigh - what a feeling. I've worn my Propets for their first full day and I may never go Payless again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wrong Number Etiquette

The other night I got a wrong number at home. It happens periodically, and the drill is always the same...

"Who's this?"
"Who are you trying to reach?"
"I'm sorry, you have the wrong number."

Ok, just a little lesson when reaching a wrong number.

Rule #1 - Don't respond to the Hello with an inquisitive Hello. You've reached a party, it's time to begin communication.
Rule #2 - Never, and I repeat, NEVER, ask "Who's this?" while never revealing your identity. Do you really think I'm going to tell a strange person who I am?
Rule #3 - Always ask for who you want, even if you hear an unexpecting voice on the other end. Who is to say that someone else grabbed the phone for your intended party.
Rule #4 - (Although it didn't happen on this call) Don't ask me "what number is this?" Ok, (A) you are a stranger, and (B) you want to know who I am, and (C) now you want to know what number you obviously just dialed? Tell me what number you are dialing and I'll verify if you dialed incorrectly or just have the wrong number.

In a world of identity theft, and crazed lunatics, I don't give much info out at all - especially to strangers randomly calling my phone. Put yourself on the other side of the receiver and I think your wrong number etiquette will improve.

Monday, November 14, 2005

You're Just Not Working Out for Me

Today it was announced that NBC will not renew the Martha Stewart version of The Apprentice due to low ratings. Sadly, I was one of the few folks who actually watched that version, already being a fan of the Trump version. Although this isn't shocking to me, I hate to see a good idea fall apart due to a basic marketing principle that probably cost them the show.

The only real difference in the two Apprentice versions is the mogul hiring the Apprentice, and the closing line to the departing interviewee. Donald made famous the phrase "You're fired." (Well, it was already a well-known phrase at corporations everywhere), but Martha used the softer "You're just not working out for me." - the Dr. Phil-like commentary of "How's that working for ya?" Some complained that the "softness" of the show made it bland. But, I disagree. The tasks were equally challenging and the drama amongst teammates always evident.

The key to Martha's loss is easy. The confusing marketing message of the Apprentice. NBC should have saved this version for an off season between Trump's version, which is gaining high ratings. Having that show as a "filler" would satiate the appetite of Apprentice fans while waiting for the next Trump newbie to be hired. Both of these shows premiered at the same time, on different nights. For the first few weeks, I couldn't remember if Jim, the irritating wild card, was on the Martha version, or the Trump version. (Oh, wait, that was Markus). Only diehard geeks like me would stick it out. Others decided to cut bait of the lesser appealing version (Martha), and commit to the old standby (Trump). It's the age old mistake of mixing your marketing messages. Gee, maybe that needs to be a lesson on an upcoming Apprentice task.

After I read about this cancellation this morning, I got an update this afternoon solidifying my theory. An article on AdAge interviewed Jeff Zucker, President of NBC, discussing the wins and losses of this televison season, and he cited that they never should have put both versions of Apprentice up against each other. Go fig.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Making the Most of Thirty-Seven Cents

If I have to pay 37 cents to mail a letter (and soon to be 39 cents), I like to think my money goes for more than just to deliver my package, but also to make receiving it a bit more enjoyable. It's the least our US Postal Service can do for charging outrageous prices for what we can do for free online. One of their recent debuts of gallery stamps are the Muppets - once great TV, now can be found on letters across the world.

I recently bought a bunch of these stamps, ironically ordering them online. If you read my previous post, my unfortunate fall at the post office was due to a trip to buy these very stamps. After that incident, I thought it was worth the dollar for shipping to avoid another ER visit. Charging a dollar to deliver stamps is a whole other blog topic.

The Postal Service is full of choices - Audrey Hepburn, Ronald Reagan, Disney Characters, and a multitude of flowers, flags, and animals. So, if you have to spend the money, let your personality show through.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

That Which Does not Kill Us, Makes Us Stronger

As you may or may not have noticed, I've fallen off the face of blog earth lately. Just call me Lemony Snicket and my series of unfortunate events. A couple of weeks ago I started getting flu-like symptoms which turned into a nasty skin infection on my leg requiring hospitalization for a little over a week. Then, once I was released, I got a little too happy about my freedom, and fell going into the post office. Instead of bouncing back up like I normally do, my sunglasses had caused a laceration above my right eyebrow and off to the hospital I go...again...for stitches and a CT scan. At the moment I wanted to cry, but later it became comical.

The lesson learned here is that I've got to slow down, regain balance in my life, and learn when to say no. I'm an extremist and love to live life to the fullest, but I'm not Mrs. Incredible. I'm healing slowly but surely (on both counts). There is a saying that goes "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." I don't feel like I could fight any battles right now, but it has made me stronger in my faith, and stronger in my convictions that I have to take care of myself. A tough lesson for someone who lives to take care of others.

Hopefully my hospital stays and yummy hospital food (yeah, right) are over for a long time. I think I could write a whole blog on my experiences, but I'll just savor them and sprinkle them throughout the blog when you least expect it.