Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lifestyles of the Rich

I haven't made a new year's resolution in years, and I'm not going to make any this year.  However, last year I did decide to try something new: I vowed to myself that I was going to see how the other half lived. I was going to live like a rich person.

As you can imagine, this was going to be quite a trick since I'm not wealthy. But I figured there had to be some things I could do to make me feel like a high roller! I had no idea how I was going to implement this, so it was certainly going to be an interesting year.

One day in April my phone rang, and it was a friend of mine. "Hey, what are you doing Saturday?" he asked. "Um...nothing as usual. Why?"  "I have tickets to the Yankees game but I have a bachelor party in Atlantic City. You want to take the tickets?"

I was shocked. I'd never been to a pro baseball game before. And it was Jeter's last year. "Sure I'd love the tickets!" "Great!" he said. "They're suite tickets and all inclusive: so I'll overnight them to you."  "Om my goodness: thank you so much!"

So Brie and I drove down to the Bronx that Saturday, not really knowing what to expect. Suite tickets? But I'll tell you what: when we got there and entered the stadium and showed a concierge our tickets so he could tell us where our seats were, all of a sudden his demeanor totally changed. We were hustled to a secluded corridor, then went into an elevator, then told to show our tickets to someone else down another hallway...and then we were buzzed in...

It was like stepping into another world! That suite was loaded with food, drinks, desserts, big screen TVs and a "balcony overlooking the Yankees' dugout.  It was fabulous! And the other people in there were so nice and friendly: we figured they must have thought we were somebodies because why else would we have been in there? Yep: it was a rock star moment I could get used to!

Something that no one knows about me is that I am a BIG Eminem fan, and always wanted to see him live. But he never came to my area and his tickets were always expensive, so I never expected to see him. But guess what: my second rich experience was tickets to see him and Rihanna! One of my very good friends (it's not what you know, it's who you know!) had tickets but didn't want to go, so I was able to benefit from his largesse. I couldn't believe it! Once again: suite tickets! This time we entered the venue, showed our tickets to the concierge, and were ushered into a private elevator leading to the suite. Again: free food, beverages and an awesome view of the stage!!  I bet I was the happiest old lady in the arena! It goes without saying: it was the best concert I'd ever attended.  He was awesome, RiRi sounded great and I was able to check that off of my bucket list.

My best friend Annette has 3 boys that love wrestling. So when Smackdown came to town and I had access to discounted tickets but great seats, she thought it would be great to surprise them with not only the tickets, but also a limo ride to the arena. Since I knew someone with a limo service, I arranged the ride and she paid for it. Let me tell you: the best way to get to the Times Union Center and not worry about parking, is to have a stretch limo take you! Her boys were absolutely thrilled, and hey: I really liked it too! The best part was when the driver got out and opened the door for us, the people outside were all trying to get a look at who the "celebrities" were that got out. Guess the joke was on them!

I think my best moment though was the night of my company Holiday Party. I'm not a drinker so I'm usually the designated driver. I always drive. This year my best friend and her husband were going. Again, we thought it would be nice to take a limo. That way both she and her husband could have a few cocktails if they desired. And I didn't have to worry about inclement weather!

I have to say: I felt so...absolutely luxurious that night. I was all dressed up: drop-dead red and black dress, silver jewelry, high heels, subtle yet elegant makeup, designer perfume and a London Fog trench coat. My hair looked gorgeous, thanks to Annette. And didn't I feel like a movie star when a black Escalade pulled up in front, the driver got out and came to the door to escort me to the limo. It was a priceless moment!

Those were, to me, my 4 lifestyles of the rich moments. Of course I know people who live like this all the time. I am happy for them, but I know I appreciated it more. I am optimistic that I will have moments like this in 2015 as well. I'm not sure what shape they will take: but I am ready for them!

I wish you the best that life has to offer in 2015. Be well, be happy and be loved. I certainly will!

P.S. This isn't a paid advertisement, but the limo company is Platinum Limousines of Saratoga and they are wonderful. Tell them "Rita" sent you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Songs

Even though I will listen to Christmas music whenever I need to during the year, it seemed like this season was so short: there wasn't enough time to listen to all that I wanted to. I will even listen to this music after the holiday is long gone so I can continue to enjoy it.

We started listening to the holiday music channel on November 1st. Every night we'd leave it on for Vicky-toria so she could listen to it while she slept. Hey: even cats like Jingle Bells!

So with this in mind, and since it's Christmas Eve, I'm going to give you the rundown of my favorite Christmas songs. I'm sure they will all surprise you, and they are in no particular order.
  • Sleigh Bells - I love the instrumental. You can practically see the horses pulling a sleigh through the wintry countryside; and the trumpet at the end sounds like the neighing of a horse.
  • Little Saint Nick - Gets my toes tapping and makes me smile.
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem - Tells a lovely story of the place where Jesus was born.
  • Carol of the Bells - As much as I love this song, I have never been able to figure out the words! But I love the melody.
  • Silver Bells - my elementary school music teacher used to sing this at every Christmas concert the chorus had. She had a beautiful contralto voice and we all loved to hear Miss Bradley sing. And we were even more happy when she became Mrs. Corbin!
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel - I love singing this in church every Christmas season; and especially hearing choirs sing it at church.
  • Christmas Canon - I always said I would walk down the aisle to Pachobel's Canon in D, and this is the Christmas version of that song. It's hauntingly beautiful.
  • The entire Ray Conniff Christmas CD - if you haven't listened to it: you should!
  • Any Christmas music by the 101 Strings - I love stringed instruments, and when they are playing songs of the season it's even better.
  • Must Be Santa - When this song comes on, I get so excited my girls look at me like I'm nuts. Maybe it comes from a childhood memory that I can't recollect, but I love it soo much! I don't know why, but it makes me smile and clap my hands and bounce in my seat and sing along, even though I can never get the words right. But who cares? It's Mitch Miller!
So there you have it: my list of favorite songs of the season. I hope you got to hear all of your favorites as I did mine. I also hope you get to spend Christmas with the ones you want to: and not the ones you have to :)

With that being said: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Better To Give

Someone much wiser and richer than me once said, "Never give your talent away. Make people pay for it."  I have tried to live by that, but there is one recent incident where I am glad I didn't listen to that credo.

For the past 10 years or so, we've had a quirky little lady working in our company cafeteria. Her name is Cheryl. She worked the grill like no one's business! Not only could she make 5 orders at a time, she remembered people's names and what their "usual" was. She was amazing!

I didn't know much about her, but over the years we got to be good acquaintances: probably because she saw me almost every day of the week, and sometimes more than once! She wasn't married and didn't have any kids, but she did tell me a little about her family. Eventually she gave me a little of her background. She even got to know Brie, since she had been working there too.

We really liked Cheryl and all of her quirkiness. She was great at her job and seemed to enjoy it. She'd been working as a cook for over 30 years, so that's one reason why she was so good at it!

But eventually someone in the company decided to replace Cheryl's food vendor with another one. I'm not sure why, but it meant that she and several of the other people that I liked would be gone by the end of September. I was shocked and dismayed, as was she. However, she was quickly snatched up by another big company so at least she'd be set until she retires in 2 years. I was rather disheartened but that's how the world turns.

On her last day I went to the cafeteria and had her fix me my "usual" for breakfast. Then I gave her a beautiful card with my business card in it. I told her she could open the card at home. Then I gave her a hug goodbye and the last thing she said to me was, "Love you girl."

A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone I didn't know. I read it and it turned out to be Cheryl's sister. She told me how much the card had meant to Cheryl. She then told me that Cheryl didn't have an ereader or even a computer, but sure would like to read one of my novels.

You guessed it: a few days ago I mailed out a printed copy of "Three's The Charm" to Cheryl.  So what if I gave it away as a freebie? She was very good to me all these years and it was the least I could do for someone who became a good friend. Her sister emailed me again 2 days ago to tell me how thrilled Cheryl was to receive the book, and she read the entire thing in one sitting. That really made me feel good, and she went on to say how much she loved it and that I would hear from her soon.

So that's one royalty check I won't be missing. And for the joy it brought her: I'm glad I decided it was better to give.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tis The Season

It's almost Christmas time. I always hope that this makes people kinder and gentler. Sometimes that's true, but not all the time. However, I've been lucky this season and I'll share with you two quick anecdotes.

Around two weeks ago Brie and I decided to ride to work together because we were expecting inclement weather and Kitty wanted me in a safe SUV. Never mind the fact that I'm an extremely safe driver: Brie has an all wheel drive Tucson. So off we went.

Brie wanted to stop at Dunkies to get an iced latte; and I decided to get a small milk to take to work for my cereal. Brie gave the order and we drove up to the window. Since the cashier hadn't given her the price, she asked her when we got to the window. The cashier said, "No charge. The person ahead of you paid for yours too."  Needless to say we were flabbergasted. "Wow, that's awesome!" we enthused. Then Brie said, "Now I want to pay for the car behind me. How much?" The cashier told her and Brie paid: happy to pay it forward.

Yesterday I had to go to a certain store to buy a certain someone a certain present. This involved driving back to Saratoga after I had already been home. So in the rain I drove there. I located the item, or items and noticed none were on sale. Sighing, I hoped there would be a coupon in their flyer. Nope! So I resigned myself to paying full price.

Heading for the register, I hoped that I would get a kind looking cashier to ring me up, but it was a dour-faced older woman at the register. So no asking her about a coupon!

As she was ringing me up, I said, "I'm surprised you guys don't have any coupons this week." She looked at me and after a moment said, "I think I have a coupon we can use." Imagine how happy I was to hear that! So she finished ringing me up, waved a receipt-looking piece of paper under the scanner and announced, "$37.89."  My jaw almost dropped. That was a big drop in how much it was supposed to be! I told her thank you, paid and when I took my receipt I saw it had on the bottom 'total savings $43.27'! How had she made that happen?

I thanked her again and she replied, "Merry Christmas." I couldn't believe it. It's hard to find people that still say that! "Merry Christmas to you too! It's always Merry Christmas to me." "Me too!" she said enthusiastically. We smiled and then I left the store, feeling light-hearted in spite of the rain. Who would have thought the dour-faced lady would have been so nice?

I guess it's the power of the season. I'm happy that it is! This time of year certainly brings out the best in people. I can't wait to see what else is in store as we get closer to Christmas. And I can't wait to see what I do to makes people's days brighter! It's all about paying it forward; and there's no better time than the present.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Memory 3

When I first moved back home after the implosion of my marriage, it took me a while to get back on my feet. I moved back on August 3; but it took me until November 21, my birthday, to procure employment with a local company. Thankfully my cousin Ivy was instrumental in helping me get the job.

Within a couple of weeks Ivy let me know that the company was having a Christmas Party at the Queensbury Hotel and she would drive us there. This put me into a panic because I had a baby and a toddler, had just started working and pretty much had no money to buy a fancy outfit. Ivy, who was a superb seamstress, was making a ball gown out of gold lame and black velvet. I knew I'd look like the poor relation but what could I do?

I told my mother my dilemma and explained that I would make a poor showing in front of my new friends and coworkers because I didn't have the funds to buy a nice dress. Marie said, "Why do you need to spend a lot of money? You can go to the department store and I'm sure find something that will be just fine for you. I always say at the end of the day, wear what makes you  feel comfortable."

I thought about this a lot. Then one night after work I asked Ivy if she would drive me to Zayre's so I could find something. "What do you think they'll have there?" she asked. "I don't know but it's in my budget so there had better be something."

So at midnight that night I was walking around that store remembering what my mother had told me. And then I saw it: a turquoise oversized sweatshirt that reached mid-thigh, just like I used to wear to the club in my heyday. It was well within my budget at $9.99 so I figured I could do something with it. It looked good in 1979, so why not in 1985??

I didn't let Ivy see what I bought. After all, I knew I'd have to accessorize like crazy to do something with just a sweatshirt dress!

The night finally arrived. I wasn't one to wear makeup, but I did my eyes and lips. I did my nails in red. I borrowed a fancy turquoise and black belt to accentuate my waist (yes, I had one back then). I put on a couple of long silver necklaces and silver drop earrings. Then I had on black high heels and off-black hose with a seam up the back. Very sexy...

When I presented myself to my mother she said, "See? You look wonderful! No one will know it's a $10 sweatshirt."

And you know what? She was right! Even Ivy, in her gold and black velvet ball gown, couldn't believe how fancy I looked. Truth be told, I think she was a wee bit miffed that people at the party made such a fuss over me, but I'm sure they were being extra nice to the new girl.

It was a great Christmas party and a great memory.  I also have great memories of the Christmas party I just attended last night. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Memory 2

This memory comes from just 4 years ago, if memory serves. Each year for the past several years, I invite people to stop by on Christmas Eve for a snack, or to play games or just to visit because I love to entertain. Even if it’s just for a few minutes I like to see people to wish them a Merry Christmas.

But this particular December, I wanted to do something different. I decided that I wanted to make a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner just for me and my girls. Afterwards people could come over: but dinner was just going to be the three of us.

So for this special event I went to the local butcher shop (love those!) and purchased a prime rib for us to have for dinner. This was something that I love, but I’d never cooked before. I was so excited at the prospect of serving this: right up until I brought it home and Kitty announced, “I don’t like that.” I told her that in that case she didn’t have to have any but could eat the sides and be satisfied with that. Seriously? How could she be my child and not love beef???

Anyhoo, I told people that my house was closed for dinner, but afterwards the usual open house would be in effect. I fortunately had the day off, so I spent it cleaning and then putting dinner together. I wanted it to be special, so I set the table with placemats, real china, lit candles and took out the large wine goblets. Granted: we didn’t have any wine, and I don’t drink anyway, but that Iced Blue Lemonade flavored Kool-Aid sure looked pretty in those glasses!

During this time Kitty mentioned how good the prime rib smelled. I told her she couldn’t have any because she hated it. Of course I was kidding: I said she could have a tiny piece to taste.

And what do you know? That one taste turned into an entire serving because it was delicious! My first prime rib and it must have been delicious for Kitty to eat it, because she doesn’t even eat steak. Or maybe it was because the only other item on the menu was Mandy’s finger rolls. I was so excited about the meat, and I love finger rolls sooo much, I kind of let the other food slide. But it didn’t matter because it was a lovely dinner; we toasted each other with the Kool-Aid in the fancy goblets and just had a great time with just the 3 of us. Then after dinner we quickly cleaned up and opened the doors to a few friends and a couple of family members to drop in.

I sure would like to have that prime rib dinner again. And maybe this time: have a salad or a vegetable too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas memory 1

It’s the holiday season, so I thought I would share a few particular memories as we head towards the actual day.

This one goes back to when Brie and Kitty were little kids. Kitty had been particularly good that year, but little Brie’s behavior had been…well, let’s just say less than stellar! So I told her that if she didn’t behave: Santa wouldn’t bring her any gifts and she would be visited by the Coal Man! And everyone knows the Coal Man brings coal instead of presents.

But cocky little Brie didn’t believe that for a minute. So she continued on being…Brie.

Christmas Eve finally came, and I sent the girls to bed. Brie said, “I can’t wait to see what Santa brings me tomorrow!” I said, “How do you know Santa will bring you anything? You weren’t a good girl this year so you might get something from the Coal Man!” She giggled. “No I won’t. There’s no such thing.” “Okay then, we’ll see in the morning.”

When the girls were asleep, my sister came over: bringing the gifts I had stashed at their house. “Are you going to help me wrap?” I asked. “Oh I’m not good at that,” Robin said, settling on the couch with my remote to watch something scandalous on MTV.

I snatched the remote out of her hand, put the Yule Log tape in the VCR and told her that I needed help wrapping.  “Fine,” she grumbled, sliding onto the floor. I handed her something very easy to wrap: a gumball bank. In a rectangle box, what could be easier?

That’s when I found out what was easy for me was rocket science to my sister. It took her 45 minutes to wrap that present! “What in the world are you doing over there?” I finally asked.

She huffed and puffed and turned and taped and wrapped and finally said, “I don’t know how you do it every year. This is hard!” Only for her, apparently! But she finally got it looking somewhat like a lumpy present, albeit not one I’d want to receive! “Now grab a Christmas tag, write her name on it and try to move a little faster on the next one. I’ve already wrapped 12 to your one!”

So after the sisterly wrapping party she finally went home and I finished placing all the presents under the tree. Boy: the girls would be so surprised when they saw the bounty “Santa” left!

Of course they were up at the crack of dawn, woke me up and we made our way to open presents. While I was helping Kitty, little bad Brie grabbed the lumpy present and shook it, trying to figure out what it was.  She looked at the tag in horror: and then burst into tears! “Brie, what’s the matter?” I asked in concern. Why was she crying on Christmas?

“You were right!” she wailed. “The Coal Man left me coal!” “What are you talking about?” Then I looked at the tag and burst out laughing. Robin had written, “To a naughty little girl. Love, THE COAL MAN”!

Once I was able to contain my mirth, I had her open it so she could see it was only a gumball bank. Then all was right with her world…

I understand that I shouldn’t have laughed at her distress. But I will tell you: she was MUCH better the following year!