Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Memories of childhood jobs


As far back as I can remember, I was always trying to make money. Maybe it's in the genes, since my grandparents were well-known antique dealers who used to do shows all over the country. My mom inherited their amazing haggling talents, and a few rubbed off on me, too.

From the beginning, there were lemonade stands, going door to door and selling apples from our tree to the neighbors, and of course, babysitting. Back then, money earned was for buying fun stuff, so I'd pick something I wanted to buy, have it put into layaway and pay it off as fast as possible.

At 16, I got a job working in a very exclusive country club, hidden deep in the woods, at the end of a very long and creepy private drive. The lovely Tudor-style mansion had been brought over by one of the Rockefellers, brick-by-brick. It was old, with low ceilings and interesting rooms. I was a banquet girl, who helped with all the weddings and parties of local rich or famous. Every day, it was a big job to stuff all my bushy hair under two to three hair nets, otherwise my boss would freak out. I think she was a drill sargeant in a former life. She was tough and ran a tight "ship."

My job was to put a lemon slice and ice in every glass, set the many tables perfectly and formally, and serve the food. It was fun to watch normally reserved, highly manicured people end up wild and crazy by the end of the night (thanks to the endless open bars served at all weddings.) One businessman wrote me a love letter and left me a rose from a bouquet sticking out of a crystal glassful of mousse.  He was bombed out of his gourd, but it was flattering.

Then, there was one wealthy family that I babysat their daughter, who was only four years younger than I. The father would pay me very well, usually $30 to $40 per day, back in the 1970's. They would take frequent trips out of town, leaving me alone with their 12-year old daughter in their huge, sprawling estate. I was only 16 but it was fun, because they let us go to the country club and eat whatever we wanted, at any time. So, we'd go swimming, check out the cute teenaged caddies, and eat Chicken Cordon Bleu and desserts until I was sick of them. Ahh, the good old days. It's time for me to me to warm up leftovers and sit out on the veranda, I mean, my balcony. Not fancy, but peaceful. And, working from home beats everything. Life is good, and those old memories remind me how glad I am to be independent and grown-up.

Here's a blast from the past, love the animation and music!
Sleeping Beauty

Bugs sure do grow big down here in Florida

Originally being from the outer suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, I am used to natural surroundings and an occaisional insect. But, since moving down to Florida, my knowledge of bugs has increased dramatically. Up north, there may be a few species of insect that can be troublesome. Down here, it pays to make sure the critters in your neighborhood stay outdoors, and don't come inside of your home.

It pays to live in a development that regularly sprays for bugs. Also, living on a higher floor helps, for the creepy-crawlies who don't care to crawl fly up high. When I first moved here, I had a lovely apartment on the first floor of a classy building. Unfortunately, everything crawled in, even with spraying, including huge cockroaches, ants of every size, and even termites! The owners of the building had to have the entire building "tented" to keep the lovely, old building from being consumed by the wood-chomping little buggers. Buildings with termites have to be tented every so often, so I moved. The heck with that.

Now, I live up high, and have nothing more than fruit flies (they grow those big down here, too!) and a tiny sugar ant or two. Nothing else. Oh, and down here in Florida, anyone with indoor pets STILL has to put Frontline or Advantage flea protection on them, because cats and dogs get fleas even indoors. It's unavoidable.

So, if you move to Florida, it's a great place to be but make sure to bring bug repellant or spray with you if you live in a place with lax bug extermination policies. Better yet, hire an exterminator to come monthly. Living among nature is wonderful, but bugs are the price you pay to live down in a tropical climate.

Joel Osteen is Very Motivational and Inspiring

Every Sunday morning, I force myself to get up early to watch a half-hour service by Joel Osteen, the Pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. How many pastors do you know that have the following of a rock star, and conduct services to a packed crowd in a former basketball stadium? The high quality, motivational content of his sermons packs them in, and makes us watch. It doesn't hurt that he's cute, either. It's nice to see someone who is moral, upbeat and a solid family man, who lives what he talks about. Nothing fake or hypocritical there. I'm not all that religious but his uplifting sermons really make my day a little brighter. With all the negative stuff we see on TV these days, it's good to be able to watch something that isn't corny, stupid or violent. This is good, common-sense information that I can use. He talks about improving our lives by postivity, reflection and being good to one another.

This is Lakewood Church. Incredibly huge.

If one of Mr.Osteen's sermons is particularly special, I record it on my DVR and play later, whenever I'm feeling down and need a boost. It helps to listen to a positive person talk in a straightforward manner, discuss subjects that I can really relate to, without trying to "save" or convert me. He just tells it like it is, and throws a joke in, here and there. I am not easily impressed, but am loyal when I find someone who can get and hold my attention consistently. Other great ministers are out there, but I can relate best to Joel Osteen because he's my age, and is very contemporary in his style.

Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zschech

Looking forward to the next Harry Potter movie

It won't be too much longer now before the release of the latest Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," hits the local cinemas. I usually wait for movies to come out on Pay-Per-View but in this circumstance, I'm going to go check out a matinee. Everything about the whole series of Potter movies intrigues me, from J.K.Rowling's amazing stories, to the highly creative effects and cinematography of each movie they put out. And, mostly, the talented actors tie the whole thing together perfectly. I've never read the Potter book series but have all the movies so far in my home collection, and will get this one too, whenever it comes out in DVD form. Before even seeing it, I know it will be good, dark plot or not.
Anyone who is a Harry Potter fan needs to check out Mugglenet.com, J.K. Rowling's site, and others who all showcase the world of Harry Potter. Watching these movies lets me forget about the everyday stress of work, and other responsibilities. It is a great way to enjoy fantasy that isn't cutesy or corny. These movies please such a wide variety of ages, which is hard to do. Even my cat, Blackie watched it on tv (see photo here):

Half the fun of seeing the Potter movies is the scenery, of the UK. It is so beautiful there. I went there many years ago and travelled all over England. I want to go back and see Scotland, and Ireland, too. So many of the sites used in the Potter films were in castles, churches and other picturresque locations throughout the UK. What a fascinating country with historic buildings everywhere.

So, when the movie opens, I'll be there. I hope J.K. Rowling decides to write more Potter books after all, because the public loves them and can't get enough. Me included. Keep 'em coming, folks...and don't kill off Harry, Hermoine or Ron!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another day, another dollar (literally)

My boss, Bill, is awesome. Overworked and underpaid, he works steadily and coolly, without losing it in a high-stress position. I would never, ever want a job like that. I have a mid-level job that is respectable but stressful enough as it is. Add to this a rough economy with customers who aren't buying right now. It makes being in sales frustrating and unusually difficult lately. So, I'm working my butt off, and trying to get my usually high stats back where they should be. Translated, the money will double once I do that. Bill is patient and doesn't push. He knows that makes me all the more stressed. I appreciate that.

This afternoon, I called Bill and we went over ways to help get me back where I was sales-wise. He said I need to get my confidence back, which is totally true. Just talking it over, after weeks of stressing about it, has helped. The rest of the workday didn't show improved stats, but tomorrow is another day. Our company is firing people left and right nowadays, nobody says I'm in any danger of losing my job at all, but still, I want to get the groove back to selling. This is a big company, selling products that aren't a necessity. When the economy takes a hit, impulse sales drop down and people become guarded of their money. I fully understand. Talking about that with Bill, he knows this is now an issue, and helped me to figure out how to address new concerns of our poorest customers. It helped tremendously. I am grateful and now have alternate ways of talking to customers, given the knew tools to do that. Sales is all about going with the flow. Ugh. I like things to stay the same, but they just don't. So, I take a moment to gripe, then let it go and start over. This is one of those times.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Learning about online marketing is a lot of work

I'm starting to get the hang of affiliate marketing, slowly, after much reading and research in general. At the bottom of my blog are some of the companies I've affiliated my business with. Please make sure to visit these great sites, as they keep food on my table and have products/services that you can really use!
I'm working hard to boost my income online, so that I can quit the day job and solely rely on not only my art studio but my writing as well. Money-wise, I see profits rise in both, slowly and steadily. Still, everyday living is expensive and I have to spend many, many hours hunched over at the computer to learn search engine optimization, and other online promotional venues to boost my web presence while not looking like a dork. Here is me (last year), where I usually am - at the computer, working late:

I live at this computer, and even dream of typing and html in my sleep from time to time. Wow, I've really become a computer geek. Well, it's ok, because working on this computer allows me to do my day job from home, and the rest of my work here, too. To break up the monotony, I sit at the drafting table and draw my drawings. It's nice to give my eyes a break from the computer screen here and there.

Here's my cat Beau, watching me work:

He sure has the life, and I'm happy to give him the best one possible. He's my desk kitty, always with me when I work.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Really fed up with my job

My day job really is getting to me. I am in sales for a large publishing company, and slowly, the job becomes more unbearable at time goes on. Insurance isn't any good, the script we follow is lousy and customers are broke due to hard times falling on just about everyone nowadays. I am not a "shark" personality like some salespeople here. I have a conscience and believe in the Golden Rule, not in making people buy things, no matter what. If I had my way, I'd just do my art and leave this sales job, but at present, that isn't an option. So, I bear it, as I watch co-workers suffer along with me. My best friend is two months behind on her rent, and unable to pay her electric bill, due to working conditions messing up our sales stats.

We used to be top in the company. Now, we're on the top team, but our stats are lousy. The bosses just say to "hang in there, everyone is hurting right now." Yeah, they make better money than we do, so for them that is easy to say. My lifestyle is nice, and I want to keep it, not end up having to lose all that I've worked for as I wait for the company to improve itself. I wonder how many other people are out there, in different companies, having similar problems? I went to college, worked hard, and would like to go back to doing art full-time. It pays well if I push it, so I may have to do that eventually. Time will tell. Until then, I'm keeping myself as mellow as possible, to get through the storm. So far, so good. I'm not giving up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are Definite Class Acts All the Way

Last night on Larry King, I saw Angelina Jolie being interviewed. What a classy lady. Forget all the silly gossip about her and Brad Pitt, the two of them are making a difference in the world, both in the US and abroad. More stars should follow suit and donate money to worthy causes, instead of flaunt their wealth.

It's commendable that Pitt and Jolie are adopting children and want more. Since they have the means, committment and desire, they'll make great parents to any lucky kids they have. They should have more biological children, too. Any positive and quality additions to the human gene pool would be an asset. Just look at Shiloh, what a gorgeous baby.

One project they're doing is working on a housing development of some kind for the Hurricane Katrina victims. Brad Pitt is an architecture buff, and is taking the project very seriously. Who cares if he left his ex for Angelina, some relationships weren't meant to be. Obviously, that was one of them. The focus is now on what he and Angelina can do to help others, while raising their kids, and doing other obligations. They sure are a busy couple. I wish I had just a little of that amazing energy of theirs. They are great role models for kids, so I hope the news does more to document all the great work that they are doing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I can't sleep tonight but am making the most of it

It's nearly 4am in the morning, but I'm wide awake. Worrying about money has taken over my ability to sleep. I'm working through the financial issues, and will get through them. In the mean time, I'm going to work hard, and do everything that I can to set myself up to make money online. Being up at night, I can forget the distractions of daytime, and peacefully work at the computer.

I worked an all-night job once, as a telephone operator, many years ago. It was a very peaceful job, since the phones stayed still most of the time. It was hard to adjust to not sleeping at night, but I did it for awhile. Back then, in my twenties, I was a ball of energy. Now, I have energy but not as much as back then. Why mine crops up in the middle of the night sometimes, I'll never know for sure. My brain just doesn't shut off, and is always thinking and analyzing. It can make me feel overloaded frequently, when going through problems like right now.

In a few hours, it'll be time to work again. I'd better get some sleep, if I plan to be good at my job. Being in sales, it is important to be "up" when working. It's harder to be that way when I'm not rested.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Peaceful Sunday Afternoon

It's a lovely, stress-free day on the phones. I am working, but there are few calls coming in, which gives me time to work on my artwork. Life is good. Last week was pretty crazy, but on the weekend, life slows down, just the way I like it.

There are many great activities I could do today, but I chose to work and make money instead of spend it. Friends wanted me to go to the movies, and out to eat. Another time, right now money is a bit tight, so it's best to keep working. I was sick for a few weeks, with a bad back problem (herniated disk), which put me out of commission for even my home agent job. Being flat on my back was not conducive to working on the computer or phone. But now, I'm healed, just a little poorer for the lack of income coming in. The art and writing has pulled me through. I'm a workaholic, so it's hard for me to stop working on something, whether it's writing articles, drawing for clients or taking calls. I could do without the call-taking, but that is steady money so it must be done. I have no commute to work and don't even need to use my car unless I feel like it. That saves a lot on gas. Here in Florida, gas prices are just through the roof. Living in a tourism area, it's cheaper to take a taxi than to use my own car anymore, since taxis are everywhere.

This morning I watched Joel Osteen, a preacher from Texas. Handsome, moral and articulate. What a man. How come I couldn't find a mate like this when I was looking? My old boyfriends and husband were handsome but lacking in just about everything else. I sure know how to pick 'em. Anyways, Mr. Osteen has the whole package, and is a true professional to boot. His sermons are so uplifting and positive, and I'm not even religious. What a good influence on the world he is. There needs to be more people like this, helping others to feel good about themselves. We need all the positivity we can get, with all the stressful events going on worldwide.

It would be so nice to have a vacation in the near future. I'd love to go visit my parents up in Cleveland, before the weather gets too cold. I call them daily to chat, and miss having the chance to do it in person. They are busy with their gardening, and all is well with them.

A new week starts tomorrow, how I hope it's a good one. There's a lot of work to do, but for today, it's at a leisurely pace, the way I like it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Paris Hilton Fiasco

What a huge mess the L.A. county court system is. First they let Paris Hilton get out of jail for some trumped up excuse, clearly violating the sentencing judge's orders. Then, the judge found out and ordered her back to court. After hoping to phone in her testimony, crying and screaming, Paris is dragged back to jail. Unbelievable. This grown woman acts like a little baby, and expects to be given special treatment in every way. And, her family is partly to blame, for raising her to be self-centered, egotistical and with no clear direction in life but to party and defy the law with drinking and drugs. It's sad that there are people out there who look up to this kind of person. Obviously Sheriff Vaca was someone who could be swayed by the powerful Hilton family, and he let the special treatment happen in jail until those with common sense stopped him.

Hopefully, Ms. Hilton will spend every day of the rest of her sentence in jail, and learn that she cannot manipulate others into getting her out of jail early. She has chosen not to go to college and to live a hedonistic life of drunken excess; now she needs to serve time for endangering others' lives with her driving. If she gets sprung from jail again, I will lose my faith in the American legal system. The law pertains to everyone, rich or poor. We all make mistakes, but we learn from them. It's time Ms. Hilton stops crying and starts to wise up. She isn't a child anymore, and now needs to be an adult, accept her mistakes and do what she said she would do originally, serve out her time fully. Saying things isn't enough, it takes doing them in order to be taken seriously in this world. Without integrity, we are nothing.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Clevelander Living in Florida

A few years ago, I packed up everything and moved down to the Tampa Bay area of Florida. My hometown is Chagrin Falls, Ohio; an outer eastern suburb of Cleveland. The area I used to live in was lovely but I was sick of those heavy winters and decided to take off for a warmer climate. Here is a winter photo of the Popcorn Shop, in Chagrin Falls :

Though I love Florida, I do miss Cleveland in spring, summer and fall. It's the snow I'm happy to never need to see again. Chagrin is picturresque old town, a place that anyone would be proud to grow up in. Here it is in the warm months:

I miss my hometown, but the ultra-rich have taken over. I cannot afford to live there anymore, but do visit the local Starbucks and shops whenever in town. And the local pancake breakfast nearby at West Geauga High School. The area will always be in my heart.

Now, I live in Florida, which is fascinating. It's so different from my midwestern upbringing. Here, there are bugs the size of plates, amazing vistas of ocean down the street from me, and huge amounts of traffic, that moves fast and the drivers are aggressive. Florida is flat, but the gorgeous natural lakes and parks everywhere make up for it. I live on a lake and though rent is high, I love it here. It isn't home in Ohio but I moved here to enjoy the sun, water and blue sky.

Life is good, and every day, I call my parents to say hello. Thank goodness for the phone company. I love my job (working from home in sales and running my art studio), and the great outdoors. My plants take care of themselves, out on my balcony. I brought a bunch of orchid plants with me from up north, they didn't like the dry air there, but here, they are in their element. They bloom profusely. This is a gardener's paradise.

Sure, we have hurricanes here. If they hit, my area is on high ground and I'm up high, so that's a plus. If the hurricane is really dangerous, it's time for a quick vacation up north, with my pets, to escape for awhile. I don't want to own a home here, too risky. Every time a bad hurricane hits, peoples' roofs get damaged or blown off. Not for me. I'll stick to letting the landlords maintain the property, and enjoy myself. Moving to Florida, it's a good thing.

The Daily Circus of the Phil Spector Trial

After work, I watched the trial of Phil Spector again. What is up with that guy? He is scary on so many levels. I really feel sorry for that lady, Lana Clarkson, whom I definitely think he killed. After seeing his many ex-girlfriends all tell the same story, that he threatened them with guns, it is hard to think that he actually behaved himself with Lana. She was stunning, and way out of his league. And apparently, very trusting of people she didn't know. The only thing she did wrong was to trust this man. In the end, she is dead, and when being booked by the police, he had the nerve to blame her death on her, in very derogatory and profane language. If that doesn't sound like a woman-hater to me, nothing does. His lawyers try in vain to blame it on her, too, by saying that she killed herself. Come on, people! If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck. End of story. If Spector gets acquitted, like many past stars have, I will have totally lost faith in our justice system.

Thinking about Lana, and why she went to Spector's so-called "castle" in the first place, my guess is that she was being polite. According to what was said in court, witnesses said he'd asked her to leave with him a few times, and she'd said no. That right there tells me that he was being pushy and somewhat desperate. She finally obliged to go with him, maybe she thought he could help her career along in some way. Befriending a famous producer who wasn't mental would've been helpful to an actress who was looking to get her career back on track. She rolled the dice on this one, and lost. So very sad. She could've been anyone's daughter. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and was caught in his trap. What a shame. She was found with her purse on her shoulder, in a chair next to the back door. She clearly wanted out. From what authorities say, he had romance on his mind. That would make me run for the hills, screaming. The terror she must have went through is unimaginable.

So, Spector sits in court, with his day-glo, polyester florescent pant-suits from the seventies and his fancy lawyers. He brought in a special chair for himself, so he could sit in total comfort during the proceedings. The ever-savvy prosecution team, seeing his attempt at looking superior, took the opportunity to bring their own pricey Aeron chairs too. He has spent his adult years being pampered, catered to and able to do whatever he wants. Well, if the jury has any sense whatsoever they will let him have the opportunity to see how luxurious a jail cell will be for his murderous ways. I remember in the seventies when there were reports of his being mean to his then wife. I was a kid and thought, "That guy is nuts." Well, now everyone seems to be agreeing with me. He doesn't help matters any by waving guns in women's faces, or going to court wearing clown outfits and crazy wigs.

To top everything off, Mr.Spector got married again. As everything else in his life (story about that fateful night, the hair, etc) that marriage is surely fake, too. He probably needed someone female to show the court that he is capable of being around women, and she probably needed money and security (an actress - oh, the shock!) No money in the world is worth living with a monster like that, in my opinion. If he's acquitted, she gets him forever. Or, until the money runs out from paying all those pricey lawyers. Either way, that marriage is a show in itself. They parade in with bodyguards every day, what for? He is hardly a rock star. Maybe he was famous in music once, but now, well - most people don't even know who he is other than he's on trial. Bodyguards. They have the easiest job in the world, protecting someone nobody notices. People would rather run from this guy than run towards him, I imagine.

I think Spector has let his past fame cloud his judgment and fool him into believing he is all-special, invincible and can do no wrong. Time will tell, when the verdict is read. Until then, I watch and and strangely fascinated by the craziness of the whole thing. That trial is more riveting than any soap opera. Lana never deserved this. I hope there is justice and that her family gets the verdict that they hope for. I've never known her but I've had friends when younger. We were social and used to go out as a group, to socialize in higher class restaurants and clubs. Nobody was ever in danger. We used to go out to breakfast at Perkins Pancakes after clubbing. Going to a stranger's home alone was a no-no way back when. Nowadays, even moreso. Lana was a little older than I am, so she probably thought since he had a driver and was famous, that he was trustworthy. This just goes to show, meet strangers in public places, and stay in public places until a true friendship is built.