"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom" Albert Einstein

"A dame who knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up." Mae West

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Not-so Taxing Season

I have wonderful clients, especially during tax season. For some reason, after I prepare their taxes, they come back bearing gifts - some too extravagant, some handcrafted, and some yummy for the tummy. But I appreciate each and every one.

This is a rose made of duct tape. How many duct tape roses have you given your accountant for a job well done? I feel honored that I am probably only one of a handful who can say that they received one.

I got a $25 gift certificate to a local eatery and $100 in gift certificates to a nice bar/restaurant in the neighboring college town.

A male client gave me his made-from-scratch chocolate cake with cream cheese icing. (Sorry no picture available, it disappeared too quickly).

Another client in the landscaping business gave me this dried hydrangea arrangement arrangement she made:

This stained glass heart was custom made by another male client who is now permanently disabled and is trying to start a new career making custom stained glass pieces:

I've also received two $5.00 cash tips.

Then Friday, a client showed up with this floral arrangement:
The mug was cute and the flowers were nice, but smack dab in the middle of the arrangement was this little Christmas sweater:

On the back, was this:

She wanted me to know that I have a huge fan base in the community that loved my newspaper column and who actually do understand my sense of humor.

I don't think I can ever retire. I just love my clients way too much to leave them.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Math for Kids

As part of their homeschooling, my daughters attended classes held by Don Cohen, better know in the Champaign-Urbana area, as The Mathman. He and Jerry Glynn have been offering algebra, calculus and advanced math classes for over 31 years. They truly know how to make mathematics fun and interesting to both children and adults.

In 1988, Don wrote Calculus By and For Young People (ages 7, yes 7, and up) and developed videotapes and worksheets to coordinate with the book.

On the worksheets cover page, that little girl with the striped blond hair is my daughter #2 (at age 4) and daughter #1 (at age 6) is featured on the inside title page of the book.

Daughter #1 is also featured in both videotapes - Infinite Series By and For 6 year-olds and Up and Iteration to Infinite Sequences with 6 to 11 year-olds. I believe they are now all available on CD.

Here is some of the actual work my younger daughter did at age 4 7/12 (as they liked to say). Mr. Cohen used her workbook for illustration at several teacher workshops.

This graph is from daughter #2's workbook:

What I really liked about the program was they allow children to develop their own problem solving skills in math; they show how one can solve math problems many different ways and still arrive at the correct answer. They also introduce highly complex math problems at early ages and show the relationships of easier math to more complex problems. And all of this is done in an exciting, fun environment.

Both daughters did extremely well in all subsequent math courses in high school and college and received high scores in the math portions of college entrance exams.

If you live in the Champaign-Urbana, IL, area, I would highly recommend their program. If you live outside the area, The Math Program books are excellent for homeschooling programs or for supplemental work in public schools. You can order the books here. We were happy to be a part of Don's publications and we get nothing from the sale of his products. We just really believe in his approach to math.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Garage Bands

I have been wondering why kids today are not involved in "garage bands." It was quite common when I was growing up in the 1960's to see groups of junior high and high school kids putting a make-shift band together and jamming out in someone's garage or on someone's front porch (much to the chagrin of the neighbors).

Up and down the streets on weekends, one could hear the amateurish three chord songs of the Beach Boys or a bad imitation of the drum solo of Wipe Out by the Surfaris.

It appears to me that those creative times in a small town have all gone by the wayside. Everything children are involved in these days seems to be scheduled, no spontaneity, no free time to let the creative group juices flow. Or have these things just left small town America for the more urban areas' punk rock scene or do they only erupt later in college atmospheres?

I miss that cacophony of creative teen musicians jamming. In the meantime, here's a good website about 1960's garage bands.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Great Buy On a Great Education

If you have a smart high school senior and want a first class college education for a bargain, take a look at Stanford University. They have so much in endowment funds that for families with incomes less than $100,000. they will waive tuition, and for families with incomes less than $60,000, they will also waive room and board.

I have a client with a son going there and they qualify for these waivers. It's a fantastic opportunity for intelligent kids from families who could not otherwise afford to send their children to a superior university.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Praying Canines

A dog in Japan joins in daily prayers at the local Buddhist temple.

I have a former tenant who had a dog that also prayed. When the owner said, "Ginger, pray to Jesus" the dog would sit up, put her paws in a prayerlike fashion, and look to the sky. She, too, was a Chihuahua.

Perhaps that breed is slightly more religious than other more agnostic breeds. I can see a Chihuahua being a Christian or even Catholic, but I'd like to know how the Japanese Chihuahua became Buddhist, or for that matter how a Chihuahua became Japanese.

Practice what you preach

Ryan at Smile Politely has a commentary on some of the houses local pastors occupy. As is often the case, what pastors preach and what they actually do are oftentimes inconsistent. And it isn't just the high profile ones who are guilty.

Bargaining & Haggling

There were a few news stories this weekend about how shoppers should haggle with retailers to get better prices. As one who had a retail business (in addition to my regular job) for over 20 years, let me tell you exactly how things work.

You can normally haggle over big ticket items (appliances, electronics, musical instruments, etc.) in big or small stores. If the mark up from wholesale cost to retail is 100-125%, there's a great deal of room for negotiation if you're looking at a $1500-$5000 item. The merchant still has room to make some profit.

Small dollar items are another matter. There is nothing more frustrating than having a customer haggle 10-15% on an item $50 or less. I've had customers ask if I'd take 10% off a $10.00 item. Please go shop somewhere else if $1.00 makes that much difference to you. It isn't worth the retailer's time to deal with you.

Antique shops and shows are notorius for giving customers at least 10% off the purchase. The little known fact is that most antique dealers build that additional 10% into their prices knowing that customers expect them to come down 10%. The customer then is not actually getting a deal, they are simply paying the market price, but feeling better about it.

As a consumer, you can ask and haggle, but more than likely you're not getting a better deal. You're probably just getting the fair market price or you're getting a reduced price for an item that the store promoted or will be promoting at that price eventually. If you are truly bargain hunting, check the clearance aisles or start going to liquidation auctions.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Whose money is it anyway?

California courts have ruled against Starbuck's policy forcing sharing of barista tips with supervisors. They have been ordered to repay $86 million in back tips plus interest.

I worked as a waitress while in college and never did I want or have to split my tips with others, including busboys, hostesses, other waitresses or management. I worked my tail off giving my customers great service and my generous tip income proved that people appreciated my good service. Why should I be forced to share the results of my labor with others?

When a company forces low-paying "servers" to split their tips with others who may not be providing similar good service, the company is acting just like Big Brother government, taking from those who work hard and perform well and giving to those who just want more income. In all fairness, in this case, it appears that Starbucks didn't want to pay management higher salaries so they just forced lower paying employees to share their tips to subsidize the managers.

Excellent job performance should yield greater income. If managers are good at motivating their employees to perform, then they should be rewarded with bonuses. If servers are good at providing customer service and generating large tip income because of it, they should be able to keep it all to themselves. Those who don't perform should get the boot, not a cut.

The BIggest Loser Bachelor

As intellectual as I am, I do have a certain affinity for mindless reality TV entertainment. Therefore I hereby admit to you that I never miss an episode of The Biggest Loser and The Bachelor.

Watching contestants grunt, sweat, climb, and run while I sit in my comfortable chair with my cool refreshing beverage, provides me with an air of superiority that, lucky me, I don't have to go through all that crap. Of course, after four months, those contestants look buff and beautiful, and my rear end has doubled from all that sitting while watching them, but hey, I wasn't the one who signed up to look like a big ass fool on national television or promise to give up my soft drinks.

The female contestants on The Bachelor always fascinate me. Are there really that many stupid college educated women that are so desperate for a man that they'll slip the Bachelor a pair of their panties, or sway their booty in his face?
Apparently the answer is yes. I watch this show as a parent and wonder if these girls' parents are hiding under the covers at home thinking "that's really not our Emily, Staci, Suzi.... is it? Please don't let her make the Final Four or else we'll have to appear on TV with her for the home visit and then everyone will know who raised this wonderful specimen of a daughter."

I swear this show is like a beauty pageant Girls Gone Wild series. No wonder none of these guys (except one) ever stay long with the girl they pick in the end - reality steps in and he sees just how much substance the girl really doesn't have. Still, it's awfully fun to watch them make fools of themselves.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jesus, eggs, and solid bunnies

A little boy was telling me the Easter story and he said that after Jesus died and they went to his tomb, Jesus wasn't there, because he was out delivering Easter baskets to all the good little children.

It was bound to happen sooner or later - the blending of Easter fantasy and Easter religion. One of our local churches even sponsored an Easter egg hunt last weekend.

It appears that this blend was actually a calculated move on the part of early Christians. They decided to incorporate some of the pagan traditions into Christianity to make the religion more palatable to those non-believers who didn't want to give up their spring festivities.

Whatever the reason for celebrating this weekend, I find it an excuse to have my once a year Cadbury egg, that sickeningly sweet confection, that the Easter Bunny lays on my kitchen table annually.
And if the Easter Bunny is reading this, please remember how I hate biting into one of those nice milk chocolate bunnies and finding that the entire center is all air. Solid chocolate only, please.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Illinois Corn Flake reaps flakey bidding war

There's been some big bidding at eBay on a corn flake that is shaped like the State of Illinois. Of course, now there's all kinds of copy-cat state flakes seeking the same dollars.

Bad and Good Moments of Growing Older


1. The day my Victoria's Secret catalog arrived and I realized it was addressed to my daughter.

2. Watching a commercial about urinary problems and the setting is a Class of 68 reunion.

3. People assuming that the young man accompaning me is my son, not my boyfriend (He's neither)


1. Having to show my ID to the clerk at Bergner's to get my discount on "Seniors" day even after I show her my "Seniors" card.

2.Strangers assuming I am my younger brother's wife, not his 6 year senior sister.

3. Having naturally grey highlights in my hair that I used to pay big bucks to add artificially.

Monday, March 17, 2008

5 interesting things about me Meme

Katherine tagged me and this was tough because just a few months ago I did a "100 things about me" for my 100th post. These are new:

1. My maternal great,-great,-great,-great (etc) grandfather loaned Gutenberg the money to build his printing press.

2. I was the first female president of the local Chamber of Commerce and also the second.

3. I do a very good imitation of Elaine's famous Seinfeld dance scene.

4. Walking down from the Parthenon in Athens in 1991, I saw a man whipping through the air what, at first glance, I thought was a lariat, until I realized that he was wildly masturbating in full public view. That was a trip I'll always remember.

5. I remember hundreds of numbers including license plates, phone numbers, zip codes, routing numbers, bank accounts, credit card numbers, passwords, etc., but I have a difficult time putting names with faces.

I'm not tagging anyone else because I think this meme has pretty much made the rounds.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gifted kid, smart parents

Here's what happens when parents don't run to a TV station to seek help for a toddler who reads at an early age. She grows up to be a bedazzling diva groupie of Leslie and the Lys. She has always been different, but a whole lotta fun sort of way.

That's daughter (on left) with friend and The Leslie in the middle.

Hubby jointed in the gemtastic attire.

Rhea at Boomer Chronicles also met Leslie in person.

Good news. Bad news.

The bad news is my friend passed away about a month ago. Yes, it was lung cancer from all those damn cigarettes she smoked.

The good news is that her brother has begun the search for the little red-headed girl. Hopefully more doors will open for him than would for me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just asking

Does anyone else think that Silda Spitzer looks like a worn out version of Jennifer Anniston?

Spitzer Spittle

Nobody cares, but here's my opinion regardless:

1. A man/woman seeks sex outside the marriage because there is some problem within the marriage. A prostitute is not the problem - she/he is just a symptom of a larger wound.

2. A public official who gets a U of I 2004 award for ethics in government and then gets caught with his pants down deserves all the humiliation he gets. If one eagerly compromises his principles in private life, why would he be different in public life? A person of character cannot live two separate lives.

3. Any wife who requests that her politician husband not step down from his position after this incident is as power hungry as her husband. Apparently working on the marriage is not her first priority either.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New meaning to term Tree Hugger

The latest in knitted art. Sweater trees. Knitters have gone bonkers knitting coverings for park benches, telephone poles, and anything else they feel needs to be covered. These may even be worse than Christmas sweaters.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gifted kid, dumb parents

Here we go again. Another couple shoving their gifted child into the spotlight. The mother, with tears in her eyes, says her daughter is so different - "it's not easy to be different. That worries me."

So worried they were, that they ran straight to the local TV station to "reach out for experts who could help..."

Some of you know that my oldest daughter was doing the same thing at an even earlier age, but we hadn't taught her sign language or drilled her. She just started reading. Did we run to the local tv station for help? Did we put her on display to reinforce the fact that she was different? Absolutely not.

We rejoiced in the fact that she loved reading and gave her all the books she could handle emotionally. By the time she was three it was becoming more difficult to find emotionally appropriate material. Then we sought help, not from television, but at the nearby big university who had experts in early childhood development, and from teacher friends, family physician and other real experts.

If these parents are really worried about their child being different, quit parading her around in the public like a freak and do some real parenting.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oh, Baby!

I have heard of it happening, but never believed it. Now I do.

A friend just found out she's pregnant and is due in two weeks. It may have been an even bigger surprise if she hadn't fallen on the ice and went to the doctor because her back was bothering her. She and the soon to be born baby boy appear to be just fine.

Now she and hubby are doing some power shopping. Their other children are long past the baby stage.

I know some of you preggies must be very envious.