Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not going green any time soon.

In an effort to sanitize out my new (old) husband's bachelor pad and turn it Our Home again, I've been buying a ton of cleaning supplies for our house-cleaner to use (notice, I did not say I would be cleaning it myself. That's because I won't be). We're talking a full range here, hardwood floor cleanser, dusting spray, toilet bowl cleanser, tile and tub cleanser, glass cleaner, oven cleaner, all-surface cleaner, etc. I've noticed that all the major brands now have a "green" alternative. That is, and please correct me if I get this wrong, a cleanser that is friendlier and safer for the environment. Right.

I noticed right off that green cleansers are consistently more expensive than their non-green counterparts. Interesting. To me, "green" means not being wasteful.

I was curious. I bought two...a green glass cleaner and a green hardwood floor cleaner. We have a dog who spends a lot of time on the floor, so it seemed like a good area to test out. I noticed that neither cleanser worked very well at all. As a matter of fact, they just didn't work. The green glass cleaner didn't contain ammonia, so it left most of the dirt behind in a streaky mess, and the floor cleaner, well, just didn't work at all, and smelled funky.

So does going green mean sacrificing efficiency and utility for the sake of Mother Earth? I ended up returning the glass cleaner and throwing out the floor cleaner (so much for reducing waste). Until they make green versions that work and are cost-effective, I'm not on board. To me, going green means passing on something for which you no longer have any use to someone else who will (see my post on gemachs and freecycle), re-using something when it's still old but still functional, and not spending money on stupid things. I do believe in respecting our environment, i.e. don't throw trash on the street, and don't destroy things that don't need to be destroyed.

The rest, frankly, is all a lot of hype.

And I thought my second wedding was a little off the beaten track

This couple (apparently frum!) beat us out by a mile.... More wacky weddings here. Love this wedding cake.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Culture of.....Sheitels

Imagine four young, attractive women sitting around a small room, chatting about their sig-oths, candidly revealing their latest gripes or raves about their careers, their friends, their in-laws, their lives, as another woman flits around ministering to them, working on each of them one at a time, chatting and drawing them out, laughing and joking.

A scene from Sex and the City?

Nope.

The salon workroom at Shaindy the Sheitel Macher. Yes. Can't make this stuff up.

When I got married the first time, buying and styling my sheitel was extraordinarily stressful. I got used to the idea of covering my hair pretty quickly, but I was never sure of how it should look or fit or how much it should cost. I'm a little more relaxed now. I have more control over my money, sheitels have gotten much cheaper, and I am more aware of my sense of style. Having worn a sheitel for five years, and watched as my friends got either very good or very bad sheitels, I know what works and I know what doesn't. I can also tell within five minutes whether a shaitel stylist knows what the heck she is doing or whether she is snowing me.

So this time around, I've been taking my time dealing with the sheitel thing. I had two headband falls from the first marriage, one of which was salvageable and one which, sadly, has now been demoted to a hat fall (soon to be further demoted to a gemach donation). Shaindy miraculously managed to rework my old full sheitel into a much more modern look, and I bought a new one from her that is totally foxified. All the while she's been working on these, I've told her the saga of my marriage/remarriage (she's divorced and remarried too, though not to the same person), complained about my boss, shot the breeze about different business ideas, talked about my new community, old community, tried to fix up some single friends on blind dates, etc. She takes a break while working on me to nurse her baby, make us a cuppa joe, and do her own stretch of kvetching. My sister-in-law drops by with her own sheitel issues while we are there. Other women step in and out waiting for their appointments. We walk around with our hair showing, our shoes off, our jackets and purses piled up on the waiting room divan. We play Jewish geography, compliment each other on our shoes, complain about the economy, talk about books we are reading, classes we are attending, drink Shaindy's coffee, and just hang. And buy sheitels.

It's always girls' night at Shaindy's. And it's kinda nice.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Deal roundup

Great deal

This freshwater pearl and gold bead necklace is on clearance at Ross-Simon's. If you use code WELCOME, you will get free shipping. It's $19.95, but of course, you will click through Ebates before you buy it, right, and get 7% back, bringing it down to $18.55 with shipping?

This is a gift for a woman, say 25 and older, boys. It's sophisticated, very much in style, and given that these are really pretty pearls and the beads are 14Kt, she will think you spent way more than you did. I got four of them, one for me and three for gifts. My friend bought 12 of them (she's in a business where she is constantly buying things for people). Can't beat it with a stick.

Tally on this year's bonuses

I finally got my $500 cash bonus on Options Xpress this weekend, as a result of this offer (expired). This is probably the largest cash bonus that I've ever gotten that has cost me nothing. That brings my total on cash and gift card bonuses since January up to about $1,200.

  • $25 on Etrade for opening a new account;
  • $50 bonus for joining the Lending Club and another $50 for signing my husband up. I'm pretty sure they don't allow you to withdraw the $50 anymore...I think you have to use it to fund a loan. We withdrew the cash and closed the accounts;
  • $90 bucks back on Ebates. Note that I didn't buy anything I wouldn't already have bought. Some of this came from referring friends. If you haven't signed up for Ebates yet, I'm not sure why. This is the biggest no-brainer ever. You simply click through the link on their site before you buy something online that you were going to buy anyway and get a portion of your purchase back. And it's real, folks. I get a check every three months;
  • 2 $5 Amazon gift cards on Swagbucks; Swagbucks is actually a fun program. You can earn a reward fairly quickly...45 points gets you a $5 Amazon gift card. You get rewards simply by searching through their toolbar and occasionally, they post free codes on their blog or Facebook page.
  • 2 $25 Amazon gift cards from Stamps.com (plus $25 in free postage). This actually cost me $18 because I allowed them to charge my credit card once but they sent me an extra Amazon gift card as a result; you can read about my Stamps.com experience here. After I closed my account, I signed my husband up, took the additional $5 in free postage and then canceled. We won't be buying stamps for a while.
  • $250 cash bonus for opening an account on WT Direct (expired);
  • 2 $50 Macy's gift cards from MyPoints;
  • $75 voucher on JetBlue for booking a flight that I would have booked anyway. It was actually supposed to be only $50, but since they sent me the voucher a month late and I called and complained, they threw in an extra $25. I put the $75 toward another flight that is going to earn me another $50 voucher.
I know lots of you think most bonuses aren't worth your time, but it's a simple matter to set some alarms in Outlook when you sign up (like "cancel this offer on this date" or "call this number if you don't receive gift card by this date") and have it track your bonuses for you. Bonuses earned through anything but a bank or a brokerage house are tax free, btw.

I spend about 15 minutes a day dealing with my freebies and bonuses. This also includes all the free samples I get, which weren't included in the tally above. The free samples are substantial and in some areas, really money-saving: I haven't bought dog food/treats or shampoo in a few months. I know some of you don't have 15 minutes to spare, but for those of you who do, let me know and I will keep posting offers like these. $1,200 in five months for doing pretty much nothing is a nice little perk, especially in today's crummy economy.

Just a little aside on the new marriage: I used to try to do this sort of thing when I was married the first time to my husband, and he pretty much scorned it. Told me that it was a waste of time and effort and would never amount to anything substantial and that half these offers weren't real. So I stopped pursuing the whole bonus/freebie thing. With my New and Improved Husband in Marriage version 2.0, not only is he proud of me for getting us all this free cash and stuff, he's given me his s.s. number and free reign for doubling our goodies by signing him up whenever I sign myself up. Now that's trust. And it's even more satisfying to share the haul with him because he finally appreciates what I'm doing. What a difference.

Monday, May 11, 2009

More Dumb Listserv Posts

I subscribe to the same listserv as WG that the previous post came from. She's not the only one who's noticed that there are some really dumb posts appearing there on too regular a basis. Other friends and I sometimes laugh about some of them. I mean, really? Do you really need to post certain questions to a community mailing list? Do you really want everyone to know how helpless you are?

Here are some examples from one of today's mailings:

Best place to buy linen

Where is the best place to buy linen at reasonable prices???
Thank you.

(Um, why don't you go online and search? You're already on line. Make some phone calls.)

Question

Does any one know of a "shidduch club" besides Hillcrest Shidduch Comittee, sheefa, and Five Towns Shidduch Club?

Does anyone know of a shadchan?

(Dude-- or honey-- if you haven't been able to make it work with three shidduch organizations, plus how ever many other individual shadchanim you have probably already dealt with, maybe finding the right shadchan isn't the problem.)

And then there's this one:

directions for camp iron on labels

lost the directions for the iron on camp labels if anyone has them and is
willing to send them to me i'd be very appreciate. thanks


(Directions for iron on labels? Um, you iron them? ...On?)

More to follow, you can be sure!

Friday, May 8, 2009

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

This was recently posted to one of the Jewish community listservers to which I subscribe. I changed a few things here and there to protect the poster's anonymity as best as I could.

5 months pregnant and havent seen a doctor!!

I have a huge problem. I don't have insurance so I applied for Medicaid. However I could not apply unless I had a green card which I had just lost along with my wallet just a few weeks before. I could replace it but it would most probably arrive after I have given birth. Now that I'm expecting I'm eligible for Medicaid w/out replacing my green card. I was told that I need a letter from a doctor stating that I am pregnant in order to put the application through. My family has a history of premature births. I was told I should be monitored because of this. Everyday that goes by I'm more and more nervous!! I have no idea who to go to and am afraid out of my mind. Anyone have any ideas? Does anyone know someone who will take me without insurance at least until I get Medicaid?
I just don't know what to do with this. Is this woman stupid? Is she just completely frightened into paralysis? Is she insane? Five months pregnant and no prenatal care? Does she give a damn about her child?

We have a messed up health care system in this country, granted. But we also have an institution called The Free Clinic. Many major hospitals have them. They are all over the country. There are a ton of them in NY. If you can't pay for medical care, you can still get medical care, for free. I was under the impression that this was a well-known fact. If this woman decided not to see a doctor for herself, fine.

But to not see a doctor when she is FIVE MONTHS PREGNANT?!? I'm thinking that this is some form of child abuse. I'm serious.

This woman is an idiot. I understand she's scared and confused, but there comes a point when she needs to resolve her fear, confusion and self-imposed helplessness for the sake of another human being who has no choice but to depend on her. This is procrastination of the worst possible kind, the kind that could potentially harm a child. What exactly will she do when the child is born and needs medical care?

I just don't know what to do with this. The woman is just an utterly neglectful moron.

ARE-EE-ESS-PEE-EE-CEE-TEE

Well, I finally got my bloggering self married. Yup. It was actually a fun wedding, though very different from the first one.

The first thing I've noticed about being married again is that almost nothing has changed. I don't feel too different, at least not yet. My focus has shifted, of course, and I'm a little busier and a lot happier. But other than this bauble on my finger (a pretty damn flippin' gorgeous one, I must say), and this rug on my head, I just don't feel all that different. Well, except for the respect thing.

I first got married in my early thirties, which means I spent much of my adult life as an unmarried woman. In between marriages, I was divorced for about two years, and so I was able to step back a little and get some perspective on how marital status affects the way people see you. Over the course of this journey, I've been a part of three separate Jewish communities, two of them in New York. Interesting to see how things work.

No question that, across the board, I got and get much, much more respect as a married woman than as a single or divorced one. There is just no question. And it is really troubling.

As a single, I didn't even understand what it meant to get any sort of respect or recognition. I was used to being asked if I "needed" a Shabbos meal. I was never asked to help with any Jewish organizations or really to participate in any meaningful way in the community, other than doing singles stuff. The most common topic of conversation was shidduchim, dates, what (not who) I was looking for, what I could do to meet people, etc. I was barely half a person and didn't even know it.

Then came marriage. Instant credibility. I was asked to serve on several boards of Jewish organizations. I was treated as an asset at Shabbos meals, rather than as a liability. People in the Jewish community came to me for advice on finances, career stuff, community issues, etc. I was less of myself because of my horrible marriage, but my marital status somehow made my personhood status skyrocket.

Then came the divorce. I became persona non grata faster than the speed of light. No one asked me to volunteer anymore. I was an even greater liability at Shabbos meals (got invited out much less), I guess because divorce is still a stigma, or perhaps because I was a living reminder of failure and unpleasantness. I just don't think the frum community knows what to do with divorce(e)s, especially the ones without children.

And now, suddenly, my star is rising again. The Husband and I are completely booked for every meal on Shavuot, with invitations to spare. We both noted that last Shavuot, we each had only one invitation in our then respective communities. I've been snagged to teach some women's classes and two organizations have invited me to serve as a board member. The Husband too is re-emerging in the community.

I hate this sort of in-bias in the frum world. Why is it that someone who is not married is considered less than valuable? Why does marriage, rather than accomplishment, buy you instant respect? Why isn't there a higher place in the frum food chain for singles or divorced people?

I told The Husband that having been through this particular ringer, I was going to fill up our Shabbos and YomTov tables with singles and divorce(e)s, and try to engage them to become more involved in Jewish leadership roles wherever I could. He agreed.

Not everyone who is part of The Tribe is also part of the mainstream. Time to start hacking away at the bias.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stupid Things People Say

I struggled with the title a little... should it be Stupid People Say Stupid Things? Or, People Are Stupid? Or maybe Stupid people Are Insensitive? And Stupid?

Okay. Anyway...

I'm talking about when people don't think-- stop, and think-- about the possible impact their words might have. That they might not be talking to whom they think they're talking to. What am I talking about?

My business is in a frum area, and I have many occasions to deal with frum (Orthodox) clients. When I'm with clients, they often are engaged doing something by themselves for a few minutes, while I work nearby attending to other things. They often strike up conversations with me in the "Jewish Geography" vein. You'll see what I mean; a typical conversation recently went like this:

Client: So, where do you live?

Me: I live in [nearby town].

Client: Oh, very nice. I know Rabbi [Young Israel Rabbi] very well. Do you know the Goldbergs?

Me: I don't think so, no.. . it's a big town, gotten really big.

Client: Ah hah. So, do you have any kids?

Me: I have two daughters.

Client: Oh, kenayna hara! How old?

Me: 6 and 9.

Client: Very nice. Where do they go to school?

Me: [local Hebrew Day School].

Client: Very nice.... and what does your wife do?

Oof.

It was just easier to answer the question the way I would have had I still been married- "She's an accountant". Even though I really wanted to say something like, "She's dead." Maybe next time, I'll just reply, " I don't have a wife."

But I'm trying to be the professional, nonchalant and in charge of the encounter. So I kept my mouth shut. After all, it's what they expected to hear. They'll never know otherwise.

The next example was much more irritating.

I was talking with a regular client. She's a good, client, uses my services regularly. But she's very opinionated, in that local Jewish way, and to make matters worse, she never shuts up. I often have to do the whole thing where I'm inching to the door, hand on the knob, trying desperately to give visual clues that our business is concluded.. but she never picks up on it, just powers right on along.

So, we were talking-- well, I was just trying to make small talk-- about her daughter who was studying in Israel. I asked if she'd be returning for a second year. "No, it's not happening, we just can't aford it," She said. "And besides, she wants to go to college, so she has to start getting that going." I inquired what she wanted to do.

"She wants to be a therapist," she said. Not physical or occupational or speech-- that would be typical-- but psychology. "Because that's a good career for someone who wants to have kids, and be a mommy. My kids know that I raised them to put family first, and not have nine-to-five jobs where they'll have to go off to work and leave their kids with a stranger for 8 hours a day. I think that if you're gonna do that, better you shouldn't have kids."

My kids' pictures are right on my desk, not two feet from her. They were both in full time day care from age 3 months. We had no choice- my ex had only three months paid maternity leave, and we couldn't afford to have her not work, and provide the income and the health insurance that kept the kids healthy. It wasn't an option. And never mind that there's not a shred of evidence that proves that kids in day care most of the day are any worse off, by any measure, than those raised by a parent or relative. Would it have been better if my kids hadn't been born?

Idiot. And she thinks that I'll probably agree with her because I wear a kippah. Kids are born every day to welfare mothers, born sick, addicted, poor. Thank God some parents are lucky enough to have a job to go to, and that gives them the means to enroll the child in a day care. Day care isn't a dumping ground for kids to languish while parents go laugh around the water cooler-- it's a structured environment that's chock full of stimulation for kids' growing brains. The caregivers are supervised, and most even have degrees in child development. This isn't some tichel-lady's basement with a bunch of Little Tykes toys and some pizza bagels.

Idiot. I used to like her, but now she's really pissing me off. But I'll continue to be professional, because she's a client, and she pays her bills.

But sometimes you just wish you could tell people what you really think.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bulova watch for less than $30

I have worn Bulova watches for years now. My parents started me off with one at my bas mitzvah, followed by one at my 21st birthday, wedding, and I finally graduated to a gorgeous solid gold one with diamonds, right after my divorce (bought for me by me). They are great watches for both men and women...beautiful, classy, elegant, Swiss movement, last forever. They have become a favorite gift of mine to give for bas mitzvah and graduation presents, as they have high name recognition and they are something that can be worn for years. I can never seem to find the low-end ones for under $75. Here's a link to a women's everyday, gold plated one for $30 with free shipping. Use coupon code TW5PAFF and it becomes $28.50 (5% off). Keep in mind that this is an unheard of price for this brand of watch, even on the low-end. I ordered 4 to keep for gifts.