Archive for October, 2006

Moldy Bread

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

You’re probably thinking I’ve lost my mind. What in the heck does moldy bread have to do with wisdom? You’d be surprised. Stick around and I’ll tell you.

My husband and I are bread fanatics. The anti-carb craze did nothing to deminish our love of the loaf. When we go out to dinner, our favorite part of the experience is the arrival of the bread basket with its precious cargo warmly wrapped in a linen napkin. On one occasion we pulled back the layers of linen only to find a fuzzy spattering of green mold decorating the surface. We were disappointed to say the least.

My husband and I are not confrontational. When the waitress returned to our table, we delicately offered she may want to be aware there is mold on the bread. We expected a look of horror and an apology or two. What we got was an eloquent speech about how there couldn’t possibly be mold on the bread. The bread was freshly delivered that day. The supplier is top-notch and reputable. Proper storage of the bread is never an issue. Her supporting arguments as to why the bread couldn’t possibly be moldy were very convincing. Except for the tiny problem of there actually being green fuzz on the crust, I would have believed her. When I pointed out the flaw in her position, irritation showed on her face and she coolly offered to bring another loaf. Um, no thanks. Not only am I not interested in a sibling of my green friend, now I’m starting to wonder if it’s possible she’ll spit in my pasta. (I’ll leave that for another Blog.)

At first I was surprised the waitresses’ first reaction was to deny the obvious and put so much effort into convincing us we were mistaken. I mean, the green fuzz was clearly visible. Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply agree, offer an apology and move to solution mode?

The more I thought about it, I realized her response wasn’t all that uncommon. It actually happens to varying degrees with different levels of success all of the time. Children have the least practice so they tend to have poor results when they attempt to argue away the obvious. There is a huge smear of chocolate around their mouths, yet they go to great lengths to tell you they haven’t gone near the cookies. Teenagers swear they’ve done their homework and then distract you with arguments about how you don’t trust them when they start to feel the corner they’ve backed themselves into. Employees and coworkers are adamant they followed up on an issue and offer there must be some technical reason why none of their phone calls, faxes or emails happened to get through. Do you see the similarities?

For the examples I’ve used so far, the person who attempts to argue away the obvious rarely, if ever, succeeds. Something strange happens when we go higher up the ladder though. When we try to call big business, politicians, celebrities and high-profile criminals out on their moldy bread, we are less likely to hold them accountable to the obvious. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say we will indulge their position longer. It may be we are more inclined to hold such individuals on the pedestal we’ve created (not the criminals, of course), so ignoring the obvious is more comfortable for us. It could also be we are met with more advanced diversion tactics, fancier words and louder retorts.

Let’s imagine I told a visible political figure the bread he’s serving is moldy. The argument would be a bit different. I’ve got something against carbs and want to give bread a bad name. This is an election year and I want to get the fungi haters among us to the polls. I don’t have the ability to see the big picture; that mold could be the new Penicillin. I have an agenda to close down the restaurant before it’s had a chance to be successful. I’m making a big deal when it’s an isolated incident. There are plenty of other loaves in the restaurant that are mold free. The mold wouldn’t be there if the person on the shift before him had done his job. Perhaps I put the mold there myself to get attention.

When the arguments get more sophisticated, distracting and personal, it’s easy to convince ourselves (or pretend) we were mistaken, back down and quietly eat the moldy bread. Who wants to do battle against that degree of rhetoric? Trouble is, once you know the mold is there, no argument is going to make it taste good going down. I try to avoid swallowing something I know is spoiled. If I don’t have the ability or strength to send it back, I at least leave it untouched so the server knows I didn’t like what was dished out.

My closing thought is this. We owe it to ourselves to notice the mold in this world, to make it clear to those serving it up we know it’s there and to refuse to swallow what’s spoiled. By taking this stance, we are more likely to avoid being served moldy bread the next time around.

I Think I Know Why I’m Not Rich!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

I came to the realization this weekend I’m not rich because I’m not shopping enough. Go figure. I guess I should pay attention to advertisements more often. Boy, to read about how much money people are ‘saving’ by buying this or that, it really makes you want to hit the stores. Of course, I don’t need this or that. I’d be willing to buy them though if it meant I was saving money. Saving money is the goal right? It should be the focus of a 35 year old woman who still has some good income earning years before retirement.

So I’ve made the decision this Monday morning that I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m going to be a responsible saver and start shopping more. This or that…here I come. I don’t have a lot of cash on hand to buy this or that. Good thing I have a credit card. Charging things has always felt unwise. Now that I know I can save money while charging, I feel much better about the idea.

Someone once told me if you save $10 everyday you’ll be in good shape. Let’s see, if I save $50 on a new leather jacket, $25 on that trendy purse with the fabulous buckle, $100 on a pretty diamond necklace (my daughter’s birthstone) and $3,000 on that luxury sedan I’ll have managed to accomplish an entire year’s worth of savings in an afternoon. Shear genius! My husband is going to be so proud of me!

Okay, all kidding aside, how often do we fall into this trap? How often are we buying things we don’t need, or are above our budget threshold, because we have convinced ourselves we are saving money? So many of my friends are saving to the point of being broke by buying this or that. Do this or that really enhance our lives to the extent they are worth compromising the security of our financial futures?

It’s fascinating when you sit back and consider how big an industry retailers have made out of helping individuals save money. Any Costco or Sam’s Club members out there? I’m a Costco groupie. Filling up my cart with items makes me feel responsible and proud. Never mind the flat of muffins I bought are likely to spoil before I manage to eat through my savings. Who cares that I’ll never use the 20 cans of tuna fish I managed to convince myself was a fabulous deal. Ignore the 8 pound boulder of ground beef with 20% fat is selling for the same price per pound as the ground beef with 7% fat currently featured as a sale item at my local grocery store. I mean, this is Costco. Everything in the store has to be cheaper, right?

Am I saying that sales and bulk goods stores can’t help us save money? No. They can go a long way to helping us save $10 a day and actually having that $10 to put in the bank. The key is to make sure we are experiencing savings on the this and thats we actually needed and planned to buy, sale or no sale. It’s a great deal when you can afford to pay $25,000 for a car and find a way to get it for $22,000. We are stealing from our future when we’ve saved $5,000 on a car that was $10,000 more than what we could afford to begin with.

I guess I’ll close with a little vote of encouragement for myself and whoever happens to kill some time on my blog. We can be smart about this. We can thumb our noses at these silly retail strategies that are designed to pull money out of our pockets so someone else’s future is funded. We can be protectors of our family’s future by knowing what we need and what we can afford to pay. Let’s get rich on our bank statement instead of in our minds.

Sale – 5 Pound Bag of Oranges

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

I know my husband is probably groaning over me telling my orange story again. He has heard it plenty of times. Sorry honey, it must be done. The world must know my citrus saga. The people of this great planet deserve to have the blinders taken off on what our 5 pound bags of oranges really amount to in the present day. Are you ready for this? 3.25 pounds.

Not long ago, I was hovering over a display of beautiful bagged oranges. They were on sale and stacked up in all of their glory at the front of the produce section. Though I don’t recall the actual price, I remember thinking it was a good deal for a 5 pound bag. I picked a bag, placed it in my cart and went on my merry way. Something was nagging at me though. I kept looking at my bag of oranges. It sure looked petite. Though it doesn’t take a great deal of might to toss a 5 pound bag in the cart, that particular bag sailed through the air with a fingertip’s effort. My curiosity started to get the best of me and I decided to hunt down a scale. A few minutes later, I had to do a bit of searching, I was staring at the indeniable truth. My 5 pound bag of oranges weighed a hair over 3 pounds. Unlucky pick? Nope. Guess who had nothing better to do than return to the orange display and start weighing bags? That would be me. It took 7 bags to find one weighing near 5 pounds. Most were hovering around the 3-3.5 pound mark. Some reached an admirable 4 pounds. None were over 5 pounds…surprise, surprise.

I could go on and on about the ridiculous looks and comments store management gave me when I shared my concerns. Afterall, so what if the bags are short a pound or two? That’s a blog for another day. Today, I’m thinking about the strength of a label. How easy it is to walk away with 3 pounds of oranges, no matter what inconsistencies may exist, simply because something or someone is telling us differently. What other labels have fooled me? What other labels have fooled you? When something or someone is identified a certain way, do you take that label as the unbendable truth? Now I challenge myself to get out the scale and measure things. I don’t brush off nagging feelings. It’s hard to know how many 3 pound bags of oranges are actually out there. There is some comfort in knowing I’m better prepared to spot them.

Don’t think for a minute this is the last blog on labels. My Australian friend Helen, mentioned in my About page, hates the labels people plaster on themselves and others. She’s really helped me to see things differently. Stay tuned.

My Maiden Blog

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Many thanks to my wonderful husband who surprised me with my very own blog page. To understand how the name came to be, you’ll need to visit my About page.

Why blog? Writing has always been fun for me. For the past 10 years I have neglected it terribly. In my twenties and early thirties I was more focused on climbing corporate ladders than expressing creative thought. Now I’m thirty-five, a mom and ready to take a moment to get in touch with how I see my world. Blogging is appealing to me because this is my page, for my thoughts. It’s not about debating positions with others. I don’t need to frame the page in a way that appeals to the masses. It’s simply about me and how I want to tackle issues.

Speaking of me, perhaps I should share a little bit about myself. If you asked my friends to describe me, I know many would use the words logical, funny, professional and kind. I hear these words often, so I’m not an ego maniac who has a sunny view of herself. I’m glad people see me this way because I go to great lengths to present myself in that fashion. My mother will tell you I have two core qualities working in my favor. One, I’m courteous. Respecting those who share this world with me is top of the list. It has always been important to me to try to consider how events, words, circumstances effect other people. It’s easy to know how I’m effected. Putting myself in the shoes of others takes effort, but it’s effort well spent. Two, I embarrass easily. That quality forces me to think before I act and speak. Life would have a lot less drama in it if people’s thresholds for embarrassment weren’t so high. Trust me, there is bound to be a post dedicated strictly to this concept in the near future.

So I’m off and blogging. My focus is really going to be to try to find the path of wisdom in everyday circumstances that seem to trip up the masses. Maybe my exploration of topics will help me come to conclusions that will keep my life and relationships on course. What a bonus if others get something out of it too.