Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are You Dead Certain?

I don’t like Halloween. There, I said it. While that might not be a popular opinion, most children love it and many adults celebrate the day by attending parties and decorating their homes with witches, goblins, jack-o-lanterns and boo-tiful, (couldn’t resist) festive orange lights, a precursor of the Christmas red and green ones.
As a child, I used to enjoy going door-to-door to collect that FREE! candy, but I don’t do that anymore. These days trick-or-treating in your neighborhood can be a risky proposition, especially at unfamiliar houses.  A kid could do quite well making the rounds at the various organized candy-distributing functions, it’s safer, too.  Ya gotta love those bags bursting full of candy. Parents, stay calm and just keep repeating to yourself, “Now’s not the time to worry about cavities, now’s not the time….”    
For the past two weeks, different towns have hosted walking dead gatherings.  I can just imaging the creepy make-up, fake blood and hideous masks—the stuff of nightmares. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see the dead walking—not no way, not no howl (see what I did there?)! Given the number of deaths we’re exposed to, both in the news and on TV shows, it’s interesting how people avoid formulating personal ideas about what happens after we die. Check out what these people say about death:

Considering how they rambled, hemmed and hawed, you’d think the interviewer asked them to explain string theory. In the spirit of Halloween, take a moment to consider what you believe happens after we die.  What’s your theory? Are you dead certain about it?                  


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What’s In Your Collection?

Whenever our family goes shopping or out to dinner, I’m the one yelling, “Wait, I think we have a coupon!” I love to save money and getting something for free feels even better, don’t you agree? I thought I shopped fairly well until extreme couponing came along. Have you tried it?
Here’s how it works: A shopper uses coupons to buy multiple sale-priced items at the supermarket and then stores the items until needed. Slowly, over time, their homes evolve into private mini-markets. This process takes couponing, if it can be a verb, to a whole new level. The true experts pay a fraction of the actual cost of their groceries. Let’s meet an extreme couponer and take a peek at her stockpiles:

I like knowing that my essential items, such as soap and paper towels, are stored within reach, but when does stockpiling cross the line? How do you distinguish between a smart shopper and a hoarder?  You’ve seen at least one news story of the person whose possessions slowly fill every nook and cranny of their home; some of the worst cases require good therapy. People seem to collect all types of things—stamps, shells, figurines. As a child, I kept a small stone collection under my bed and I always enjoyed the soothing feel of the satiny, smooth pebbles. I believe, at some level, we all have a natural desire to acquire.
Tell us about your collection(c’mon, we know you have one). Better yet, what’s your emotional connection to it?  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The New $50,000 You

One of my favorite cable channels is HGTV (Home and Garden TV). They broadcast a slew of shows ranging from interior design and renovations to staging your home to sell and home buying. One particular show, “Bang for your Buck,” features a real estate agent and a design expert who examine three home renovation projects in a similar geographic area. Each one of the homes has undergone a renovation for the same room, i.e. a kitchen, for the same price, usually around $50,000. The experts review the completed projects, work up the numbers and decide which homeowner earned the biggest bang for their buck. The winners walk away with bragging rights, praise for their great decorating taste and the satisfaction of hearing that their money was well-spent.  
We love to decorate and spruce up our residences, but what if we used the money on ourselves? Judging by the media’s news coverage, many people are doing just that, take a look:

With $50K you’d be able to create a whole new you. Cosmetic surgery can carry a hefty price tag, but with a whopping $50k we could throw in a fitness trainer, spa and salon expert and still have leftovers to splurge on a new wardrobe. That might take care of our outer bodies, but what about the inside? 
How often do we slice and dice our personalities, our personal habits and our lifestyle choices to expose them to the probing light of deep reflection and examination? It’s a useful exercise and it’s free.  Some of the most valuable ways to improve ourselves cost no money, just time, effort and perseverance. You’ve probably heard that some of the best things in life are free. So what’s the best free thing that you have done or could do for you?                

Friday, October 7, 2011

Too Close! Too Close!!

Do you know anyone who might be classified as a hugger? Whenever you see them, you know they’re going to greet you with a big, warm hug. Then there’s the other group of people who feel a nice smile or a firm handshake is warm enough. I started out in the handshake/you’re-too-close club and eventually joined the hug club. Now I’m much more comfortable sharing my personal space, although depending on mood and circumstance, I can easily slip back into the you're-too-close club.  
I’ll give you an example. One time Terry,* a family friend, patted my pregnant belly, so I reciprocated. Surprise! Terry wasn’t expecting to get a belly-pat back, but that small gesture spoke volumes, in a humorous way. It said, “No touching the big belly, babe!” Beyond hugs or handshakes, wouldn’t most casual friends or acquaintances touch your arm or maybe your shoulder? So why do people see pregnancy as an open invitation to rub the big belly?
The rules for personal space vary by person and by culture. If you require a lot of personal space, big cities like NYC, will test your tolerance. In crowded NY subway cars strangers regularly squash up against strangers, and in parts of Japan, I hear they’re considering female-only sections on trains. Not a bad idea.
If you’ve ever had a too-close-for-your-comfort encounter where someone exceeded the unwritten rules for personal space, you’ll sympathize with these patrons:

As long as belly-rubbers pair up with natural huggers, everybody’s comfortable. When you’re forced to step beyond your comfort zone, how do you distinguish between a stretched comfort zone and compromise?     
*fictitious name