Publication: “Shruti Loves Kit Kats”

Thank you to those who have been following my writing on this blog.

My non-fiction story, “Shruti Loves Kit Kats” has been published in Snapdragon: a Journal of Art and Healing !

Please check out the fall issue here.

I love this literary journal because it celebrates emerging and existing writers, and it shows how words can be both beautiful and therapeutic.


Spring Fashion Trends for the Feminist


  1. Tassels

“Tassels are so fun! You can wear them as earrings, on a chain as a necklace, or even lining a top!” — SexyMagazinewithMalnurishedModels

When I see a tassel, I think stripper. Thank you, cable television, for giving me images of strip clubs that I can’t unsee. I’m sure there’s some man I can blame for that.

Who brought this trend back anyway – a cowboy?

The grouping of cutoff strings on a tassel remind me of Aunt Edna’s pillows in the formal living room where no one sits except ladies awaiting a gentleman caller.

To use the word of the moment, let’s RESIST, shall we?  Or we could just call this trend much edgier!

Which brings me to….

2.  Pom-poms

“Pom-poms are so fierce.You can line a pillow, your dress, your handbag, and, of course, your ears! Plus,they can be rainbow-colored. O-M-ROYGBIV!” —SexyMagazinewithMalnurishedModels

I see pom-poms, and I think cheerleading; then I stop thinking. I’m not sure pom-poms are part of this girl’s “squad goals”.

And, by the way, aren’t items named with a repeated word meant for toddlers? Do you think Anna Wintour can say “pom-pom” without breaking into a giggle. It’s like a grown up saying “doo-doo” or “wee-wee”.

I say this trend is a “no-no”.

3. Frayed hems

“Intentionally distressed jeans are so 2016, to look effortlessly chic, try frayed-bottom jeans!” —SexyMagazinewithMalnurishedModels

I’m sure I won’t look like Huck Finn getting ready to paint a fence; I’ll look like a liberated woman set free from a double-stitched hem.

I think I rocked this trend back in the eighties when my mother was too cheap to buy me new pants and cutoff my sisters so I could wear them.

Speaking of my mother, I’m sure she can relate to this type of rebellion. Wearing frayed hems is just like burning a bra, but without the fire hazard.

4. The Cold Shoulder

“Showing a little skin in an unexpected way is way sexy; try a cold shoulder top!” —SexyMagazinewithMalnurishedModels

In some ways, this is exciting. I feel like us ladies have “cleaved” enough over the centuries to finally take ownership of what we’d like to expose. Why not don a blouse that’s just as butchered as a late-night Trump tweet?

Michelle gave us the right to bear arms; 2017 is giving us the right to bear random ovals of skin.

Personally, I like the cold shoulder turtleneck. It’s like the clothing equivalent of a mullet — business on the neck and party on the shoulder! Could there be a better look to thwart pussy-grabbing?

Just remember:

Whether you choose to accessorize yourself like a curtain tie-back or a throw pillow, whether you show flesh through frayed cloth or laser-cut holes, just remember it’s your body.

It’s all about CHOICE, ladies.

Roadside Rubble: an Earth Day Tale

One day, driving along the curvy road next to my street, my eye latched onto a white piece of paper stuck in the grass on the side of the road. As soon as I saw that piece of litter, I saw the rest – cups, containers, bottles. There was too much to count, too much for one person to even stop and pick up.

Is it really that inconvenient to hold your trash in your own car and then dispose of it later, I wondered. Someone else should worry about it. It’s not my problem, I thought.

Then there was some trash talking – not, the trash talk between adolescents on playgrounds and basketball courts – the garbage was speaking to me.

This is what the Roadside Rubble had to say.


“Whoa!  Whoa!”

Mr. Styro had been resting firmly in the grips of his purchaser, a dad-like guy, who was going at break-neck speed down a narrow windy road. Without a goodbye or any proclamation Mr. Styro was launched through the car window and onto the side of the road.

“What is this place?” Mr. Styro asked. There were brown, crunchy leaves beneath and large trees lurked in the background. He was not trained for this environment. This was no coffee shop.

“Hey, man,” said another styrofoam cup with pink and orange writing on it. “Welcome.”

“Where am I?”

“You’re in the land of the discards, the roadside rubble, the unwanteds. We go by a lot of names, actually,” the cup motioned to the other cups and plastic containers and paper wrappers around. There was a deflated beach ball nestled against a log and a large rubber tire partially submerged in the earth.

Mr. Styro trembled. Everyone around him looked so…damaged.

“You’ll get use to it. It’s almost like vacation. You get to be in the fresh air, no one is trying to put you back to work, and you’re safe from being turned into some other takeaway container. See that brown container over there: used to be a newspaper, then got waterboarded into becoming a vessel to hold organic lettuce. You’re safer here. Well, you’re safer here for a little while.”

“How long have you been here?” Mr. Styro asked.

“I think it’s been six months. I don’t mind it. I get to see the stars. Everyone is pretty nice except for Mr. Beach Ball. I’ll be here for quite a while. I’m Duncan, by the way.”

“What happened to the beach ball?”

“He rolled away from a pool party last May and he’s been deflated ever since.”

“How do you know you’ll be here for a while?”

“If no one snags me, I should be here for at least five hundred years; that’s how long it takes for the chemical bits of me to decompose. Old Cutie over there, the tiny styrofoam cup with the old pink and orange label has been here almost twenty years.”

Mr. Styro saw the wrappers hanging out telling jokes. Old Cutie and the other cups were keeping warm in the one sunny spot. All the plastic utensils huddled together. They must be used to being in a pack, Mr. Styro thought.

“Yep, everyone kinda sticks to their kind. It’s easier to hang with those who have the same biodegradable rate, that way you don’t miss your friends when you’re gone.”

“You said that you’d be here a while, but not if someone picks you up. What does that mean?”

“See that white and green sign over there on the side of the road? That says this road is adopted by some group of teenagers who are supposed to pick us up and throw us in the garbage. It almost never happens. If you see more than three teenagers walking, hide. They’ll come after you with these horrible pinching things.”

Mr. Styro wanted to take notes, wanted to keep himself from further misery. When he was born at the factory with his other family, they told him it was his duty to serve wherever he was called: coffee shop, office, birthday party. And it was his duty to handle the heat, to provide caffeine to the humans who needed it all day long. He’d have a great tour. He’d see the world, and, when his tour was over, he’d meet back with everyone at the landfill. No one ever mentioned anything about roadside rubble.

“You’re wondering if you’ll ever see your family again, right? The landfill? Look, kid, I’m not going to lie; It’s probably not happening. So get used to us; we’ll be your family now.”

The cup took him around to meet the other cups, each one starting to decay just a bit. The plastics still looked remarkably well. One plastic salad container told him that they were thinking of splitting into two groups: true plastics and biodegradable plastics. The paper products were all lumped together: wrappers, containers, newspapers, homework assignments, receipts. They lived each day like a party because they were the first to go. Then there were the others: a group of misfits who didn’t have enough of their kind to form their own group. The deflated beach ball, the broken lawn chair, and the clothing all stuck together, but didn’t speak much. The old tire seemed to be the elder, and he was certainly stuck in his ways.

“Why do the humans get rid of us so easily? No one said anything about this during training. We were supposed to feel pride in serving.”

“Ha!” the cup laughed. “Why do the humans do anything? They are an entirely strange species who drive too fast, eat too much and care too little for this land beneath us. But they rule. We’re at their mercy.”

Mr. Styro looked up when he heard the screams. A tiny long plastic green thing was flying through the air; another toss from a fast-moving car. The skinny green stick stood on its one leg, it’s tiny round head shaking in disbelief.

“Splash sticks go over there,” Duncan pointed to a small group in the shadows of the paper cups and plastic lids.

Mr. Styro recognized him. Cups, stirrers and splash sticks were like different troops working in the same battle. He felt sorry for the little guy, who was used to being supported by the cups and the lids.

Duncan leaned on Mr. Styro. “Don’t get attached to them. Those little guys don’t even get a chance to decompose gracefully. Usually some animal comes by and chews on it thinking it’s a bug or a stick.”

“Why don’t they move, get out of harm’s way?” Mr. Styro asked.

“Safety in numbers, man. Stick close to the road, then you’ll always have someone around.”


On Earth Day make a vow to be mindful with your garbage, and please, think twice before adding to the Roadside Rubble.

Locally, you can participate in clean-ups. Information is available here:

Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Great Saw Mill River Cleanup

What are you doing for the Earth today?

Valentine’s and Honesty Don’t Mix

*This was originally published 5 years ago,but the message remains the same: go ahead and lie*

Today is Valentine’s Day.  This is the one day of the year that it’s okay to lie to your loved one.

That’s right, I said it’s okay to LIE.  We do it all the time.  Check it out –

First, we lie to each other in the cards we give.  The bestselling cards are not the ones that speak the truths.  For example, here are honest greeting cards that didn’t make the cut for Valentine’s Day 2017:

1.  I love it when you pick the socks up on the floor without me asking.

2.  I love how we still have that spark – even if it only lasts 5 minutes at a time..

3.  You’re everything I ever dreamed of.  Of course, these days I can’t remember my dreams…

4. I wish I could find the words to tell you how much I love you, but I’m tired from trying to come up with words to beat my coworkers at Words with Friends…

5.  (And from the male perspective).  I love you just the way you are, even if you wear yoga pants 90% of the time..

Second, women lie to their men to CHALLENGE them.  Some common lies she will utter:

1.  “Don’t get me flowers because they die”.

Yes, flowers die.  This is a trick.  She doesn’t want generic red roses in a cheap vase with a big bow.   She wants you to put more thought into it.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be creative.

2.  “Oh, we don’t have to do anything for Valentine’s Day.  It’s just another day.”

True, it is another day.  So is her birthday, your anniversary and Mother’s Day.

3.  “Don’t buy me lingerie.”

This is actually not a lie.  She means, don’t buy some sleazy lacy thing.  She does mean that a nice set of pajamas or loungwear would be lovely.

4.  “This is just a holiday invented by the greeting card industry.”

Once again, this may not be a lie.  She means, tell me you love me in YOUR OWN WORDS.  No pressure…at least write additional words into the greeting card.

Third,  we lie to ourselves.

1.  We use February 14th as an excuse to  eat excessively rich foods because we think that’s romantic.

Eating a lot of chocolate fondue is not romantic.  The only thing hot and steamy after 10 forkfuls of strawberries dipped in chocolate will be your bowels…

2.  We buy the generic stuff because we don’t think we have the time or the creativity to do anything better.
You do and you do.  We all have online calendars to remind us well in advance and there’s this nifty thing called the internet with thousands of gift ideas – just borrow one.
3.  We make the holiday about couples when there are a lot of people we love in our lives.
February 14th is a great day to call or send a note to your single friends, mothers, grandparents and other loved ones.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just thoughtful.  If you call the single people, don’t tell them how fabulous your Valentine’s was – they don’t care.

So it’s your decision on how much truthiness you want in your Valentine’s Day.  While I don’t think it’s sensible to lie, there may be a few exceptions…at least when it comes to the greeting card situation.

P.S.  If you think you’ve missed your chance to do something really special, think again.  You can be thoughtful and sensible by buying 50% off candy the day AFTER Valentine’s Day.  If your woman is still insisting that she can’t eat chocolate, then break the candy up into pieces so all the calories fall out….


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Sensible Money: 5 ways to deal with your $$$

Those of you who know me personally have been waiting for me to put this post up?

“Susan, you work in finance. Why don’t you make your blog about personal finances?”  I’ll tell you why.

  1. I am not a financial advisor to individuals, and I have no certifications, like a CFP.  I work with large institutional clients who are supposed to be sophisticated investors.
  2. I don’t physically manage anyone else’s money, but my own.  I am not sure I even do that all that well.
  3. This world is crazy volatile and I think it is extremely difficult to recommend anything with certainty.

However, I like money.  I want to keep what I have and get some more.  But I don’t need it dominate my life.  So I streamlined all the advice I’ve ever received and cobbled it together with my 34 years of life experience to bring you these 5 sensible ways to deal with your $$$$:

  1. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do with your money.   Take suggestions and advice.  Do not take direction.  Just remember, to use a Bush-ism, you’re the decider and even if you’re paying someone for advice you’re still the one to blame if things don’t work out.  And if someone else is managing your money, make sure you know what you’re paying.  Is it an upfront management fee?  If so, how much is it?
  2. Do hunt for sneaky and costly habitsI used to think the easy saving tips, like “bring your lunch to work” or “skip the daily latte” were insignificant.  Could saving $5/day for something I otherwise really enjoyed really make a meaningful difference?  Depending on your goals, it may.  If you actually spend $4/day on a fancy coffee during the week, then, yes, you will save $20/week and $1000/year.
  3. Do listen to your grandma or any other person who was born during the Depression.  This generation focused on needs, not wants and had the responsibility of caring for multiple generations at once.  Usually, they had a lot of mouths to feed and had to learn to stretch a buck.  My grandmother has found a way to be both sensible and generous with her money.  If you don’t have your own octogenarian to talk to, send me a note.  I’ll have Grandma Clara get back to you.
  4. Do whatever it takes to sleep well at night.  This idea really goes beyond just money because worrying only creates internal action (stress) rather than external action (solving problems).  Are you losing sleep because of your debt?  Then refinance, consolidate or try to pay it down.  Are you losing sleep because you’re not getting as much as you want?  Then scale your expectations.  You need food, shelter and to care for your family.  You don’t need expensive meals out, McMansions and ridiculous vacations.  Are you worried about retirement?  Then go back to point #2 and look for money-sucking habits to break.
  5. Do treat your money like your best employee.  Make sure your money is working hard for you.  Don’t be a micromanager or an overbearing boss, though.  If you stand right behind it and watch every little thing it does it’s not going to perform as expected.  When you invest your money, it’s tempting to watch the price of your stock move daily or even hourly.  You’ll go crazy doing this.  If you’re investing it for the day and the day only, by all means, watch it like a hawk.  However, you’re likely investing for the longer term.  So just check in quarterly.  It will keep you from letting your emotions take over.

So, I know the next question is – “How do you deal with your money?”


Like my life, I have moments of success and a lot of average moments, but I think over the long run it will yield above-average results.  So here’s how I stack up against the 5 tips from above:

  1. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do with your money. I work in finance and am heavily influenced by others’ opinions.  After Lehman failed, everyone got really dark and started shorting the market.  I hopped in on that and made good money, but it was risky.  I am not sure I understood exactly how the ETFs that allow shorting worked (ie SKF, SDS).  I also got greedy and lost some…A year ago, it was the gold trade that everyone was doing.  I’m on the fence with gold….probably pulling the trigger soon, though.  I don’t invest in managed funds and prefer to pick my own stocks and other investments.
  2. Do hunt for sneaky and costly habits.  I recently started bringing my lunch mainly because the lunch options around my new office stink.  However, I noticed that a) I tend to bring smaller portions and healthier options than what I would buy and b) I’m saving at least $5 day.  I used to pay about $10/day for some big salad, now I spend $10/week on fresh vegetables, make my salad at home and top it with leftover grilled meat from last night’s dinner.  There’s always room for improvement here.  It seems like every bill is stuffed with add-on features I should reevaluate (ie cable, cell phone).
  3. Do listen to your grandma or any other person who was born during the Depression.  I’m a saver – thanks to my father, who was born during the Depression.  He had me investing my babysitting money into CDs at the age of 14.  It was a great habit to get into and I kept it up throughout my life and feel really good about what I have saved for retirement so far.
  4. Do whatever it takes to sleep well at night.  This is, by far, my biggest weakness.  I am prone to the “what-if loop”.

    What if my husband loses his job?
    What if our son needs a private school education?
    What if something happens to my mother or his father?
    What if I get pregnant with quadruplets?
    What if I had invested had not invested in  solar panel stocks?

    Any computer programmer will tell you that the only way out of a loop is to write an exit statement….so I let myself ride the loop for a bit, then I write an exit statement that takes me back to the present.

    For me, sleeping well comes down to minimizing debt and having ample liquidity.  The only debt we have is our mortgage, and we have at least enough cash to cover 6 months of expenses.  Could we use some of that to take some super nice vacations?  Yes, but it wouldn’t be worth it because then I’d be sleepless in a $400/night hotel room instead of my own bed.

  5. Don’t peek. I’m okay on this.  I don’t want to have to peek a lot, so I really like high-dividend stocks like Duke Energy and AT&T because they are less volatile and have performed well recently.  Traditional investment advice would have me invested more in growth stocks because I’m young, but I’m a bit of a chicken.  I get emotional with the volatility of growth stocks, so I save those for the retirement fund where I don’t trade as frequently.
I try to take the sensible approach to life’s problems and have found the above 5 points are simple enough to use on a regular basis.   However, it doesn’t cover all scenarios and circumstances.  Please share your thoughts, questions and insight!

10 Random Facts about Randomness

This might sound strange coming from someone who is a born planner (See this post), but over the years I have developed a taste for leaving things to chance or opening the door for randomness.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “random” is:

lacking a definite plan, purpose or pattern

I am not alone.  Most of us over plan our lives and get upset when things veer off course.  Perhaps, randomness is unavoidable and should be enjoyed as a critical part of life.

So here are 10 Random Facts about Randomness:

  1. Online dictionaries are using social media and its concepts. When you look up a word you can find the “popularity” of that word and you can share where you’ve “Seen and Heard” the word with other people through your Facebook account.  Try looking up “random”  at where you will find that “random” is in the bottom 40% of searches on its site.  Also, there are 7 Facebook comments about the word.                                                                                             

  2. Geek alert!  Random number generation is used for things like lottery winnings and slot machine payouts and simulating results for forecasting models in finance.  You can try it out yourself in Excel, using the RAND function. 
  3. The “random walk hypothesis“is a theory that stock prices cannot be predicted.  Think about that next time you pay a financial advisor or money manager.  See the chart below for the daily closing price for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  4. Randomness levels the playing field in leisure games, particularly games using dice.  People of different ages can have fun together without worrying about who is smarter or more clever.  Check out our family’s favorite game of chance, Farkle:
  5. “Fooled by Randomness is a book by Nassim Taleb, a professor, author and investor, who has dedicated his life to luck and randomness.  His theory is that humans are unaware of how much randomness there is in the world and that those who make money in the markets are just lucky, not insightful.

  6.  Random music moments can trigger nostalgia and/or make new memories.  In a world where everyone has an iPad, iPhone or other portable music player, we leave very little to chance when it comes to rocking out.  However, listening to the random radio can be a great way to hear songs you had forgotten about (The Proclaimers’ “500 miles”) and that trigger a memory to forgotten times (oh early ’90s…).

 The random radio is also good for introducing you to new songs or artists.  Isn’t that why we’re all singing Gotye’s “Somebody”…

7.  Randomness creates more interesting stories.  Try recalling a great vacation.  Was it so wonderful because you did everything you planned to do?  Perhaps you remember taking an aimless stroll in an unfamiliar city or meeting another couple while getting rained out of your planned activity.  I remember all the times we got lost more than all the times we followed the directions exactly.

8.  Play:children as randomness:adults.  The definition of play sounds awfully similar to random:  as a verb “to play” is to move freely or move aimlessly about.  As children, playtime is encouraged because it enables the child to develop creativity and imagination.  As adults, randomness may be the ticket to finding inspiration and creativity and, ultimately, to more productivity.

9.  People who live random lives are also known as Bohemians, hipsters, slackers, spontaneous people or fun people.   I wonder if these random people ever get a kick out of brief moments of planning and organization like us planners get a kick out of randomness??

10.  My mother used to have a notepad that said at the top, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.”  So maybe when we experience the Joy of Randomness it’s not so random and part of a bigger plan…

So whether you like it or not, randomness is everywhere.  Put the planner down and turn off the GPS for a bit.  You might as well embrace it and let life take its natural course…

“Backstory” – the perfect game for Memorial Day traveling

Traveling for the long weekend?  Anticipate waiting in traffic or to board a plane?  Why not take a break from staring into your mobile device or tablet and find your entertainment in the actual world and try playing a game of “Backstory”.  It’s a game that requires no batteries and is appropriate for all ages.  You can play it by yourself or even better, with your family.

We started playing “Backstory” when we were young and unmarried hanging out in NYC (mostly in restaurants and bars).  We were always on the lookout for celebrities, but often let down.  However, there were some fake-out moments.

When we saw celebrity look-alikes, we deemed them “Fake (celebrity name)”.  For example, ultra-skinny, long-faced girl with girly hair was “Fake Sarah Jessica Parker” or middle-aged man who looked like a scraggly drunk with blond hair was “Fake Nick Nolte” – actually, I think that was just Gary Busey that time…

Anyway, even in stylish NYC not everyone looks like a celebrity, so when we didn’t spot a celebrity or a fake celebrity, we wouldn’t let the fun end.  We came up with the “Backstory”for these ordinary folks, gave them names, developed a small plot line and in 5 or 10 minutes would create a story nearly as compelling as the average sitcom.

You, too, can get in on the fun.  Why not try playing “Backstory” on this Memorial Day weekend?

“Backstory” works like this:

  • Observe a stranger and then make them into a character complete with a “Backstory”.
  • Put a small plot line together that explains how they got here and where they’re going.
  • Determine whether they are married or single, fun or serious, in a good mood or a bad mood.
  • Speculate as to what kind of relationship that person has with the person or people they are with – are they lovers, friends, coworkers, etc?
If you’re playing with others you can:
  •  Each take a turn adding an attribute to your character or
  •  Each take a person in a group and develop you characters separately then come up with the plot together

It can be really fun, but there are some rules:

  1. Don’t stare for too long,that’s just creepy
  2. Don’t judge the people, this is not about stereotyping or critiquing another person’s clothing.
  3. Don’t tell the people that you were staring at them and making up a story….that game is called, “Stalker” and no one likes that game…
For example, while on our Honeymoon in Tahiti, we found these two strangers:
Pineapple Express Couple

Together we decided that she was a woman named “Marjorie” who had been married to “Phil” for 35 years.  They lived in Canada and had a mutual love for all things fruity.  In fact, Phil was a well-known fruit distributor in their hometown.  They had saved a small portion of Phil’s bonus every year for the last 20 so they could take a fabulous trip with their family.  However, when their son, Tyler, got fired again for looking at dirty pictures at work, they decided to ditch the family, buy some fabulous resort clothing and fly first class to Tahiti.  So far, they were very pleased with their change in vacation plans.  Marjorie was looking forward to shopping for black pearls in the town square tomorrow.  Phil was looking forward to the nightly show at the hotel and watching those half-dressed Polynesian women shake it again…

We may have broken rule # 2 in that particular “Backstory”….oops.  We couldn’t help ourselves…

By the way, “Backstory” can also be an ongoing game. It can make an otherwise dull daily commute into a quick and fun little ride.  I see the same commuters everyday on my 40 minute train ride and actually know very few of them.  They have no idea that I know each one of their “Backstories”…

It would be awesome to hear what kind of “Backstory” games you all come up with?  Please share!

Create your own magazine or newspaper

I am on an ongoing quest to make technology my friend and not my foe (see Techs and Balances).  Lately, my favorite technology friend-maker is Flipboard.

I’m seriously late to the game on this one.  Apple named it App of the Year….in 2010, and Time proclaimed it one of the Top 50 Innovations…once again, in 2010.

So I’m 2 years behind?!  Whatever…in my everyday life, I couldn’t find one person I know who was already using Flipboard.  So either we’re all collectively living in the dark or it’s just not mainstream, yet.  Well, as I promised you, when I find something incredibly sensible and useful, I will share.

What is it?

It is a social media and news aggregator that puts all the stuff you already like to read and put it into a pretty format.  In fact, that pretty format looks remarkably like a magazine complete with “flippable” pages.  So you can basically be your own magazine editor, which always sounded like a pretty cool job to me.

How does it work?

You create a Flipboard account and sync it to social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and then you add categories (News, Recipes, Lifestyle, etc).  Flipboard puts it all together so that you can access all of this content in one graphically pleasing spot.  Flipboard saves you from having to visit multiple sites and is ten times better than just using “bookmarks”or “favorites” on your web browser.

In the old days of “favorites” or “bookmarks” you had to do all the work by individually visiting the sites you liked.  Now, Flipboard brings the content of your chosen sites and/or categories and brings it to you, in addition to providing you other content it thinks you may be interested in.  I like things that do work for me.

Each category or source is displayed as a pretty little box on your Flipboard pages (so far you only get 2 pages).  You can “flip” the pages like a real magazine, and you can even save an article to read later by using the ReadItLater option (more on this below).

What devices is Flipboard compatible with?
iPad and iPhone.  Coming to Android soon.  Not sure if it is coming to Kindle.

Are there are other apps like this?

RSS:  “Really simple syndication” is a way to follow blogs or sites, similar to the bookmark concept, but it pulls the information together in a standard simple text format without all the pretty images and layouts.  Most sites now have an icon called a “chicklet” that looks like this:  .  Clicking on this button will let you subscribe to get updates on when there is new content on that site.  These subscribed updates are typically called feeds.  To access your feeds, you’ll need an RSS aggregator or feed reader.  Such as…

Google Reader:  If you have a Google account, you can sign up for Google Reader which will aggregate your RSS Feeds based on when each is updated.  Unlike Flipboard, it doesn’t add any other things for you to read and the layout is very basic.

Zite:    This app populates your Zite page with content it thinks you would like based on what you’ve already put into your Google Reader and what kind of Twitter feeds you subscribe to.  If you don’t subscribe to these things, Zite will still let you setup an account, and you can manually choose which categories you want to follow.

Zite uses a special algorithm to figure out what content you’d like, and then delivers that to you, as well.

One advantage Zite has over Flipboard is that it puts the original article in its entirety in the app, while Flipboard often makes you read the rest of the article in a browser.  The layout is prettier than Google Reader, but not as flashy as Flipboard.

GoogleCurrents:  this is Google Reader’s attempt to be more magazine-like.  Like Flipboard, you can sync with social media, but it doesn’t really support Facebook choosing instead to try to focus on and push Google+.

There is also Pulse, which is similar to Flipboard.  I haven’t downloaded this, so I can’t really opine on it, but it seems to be the 3rd most-liked news-aggregator based on my informal internet research.

What if I see something I want to read but I don’t have time to read it now?

Flipboard lets you opt to “Read it Later” using either Instapaper or Pocket (aka Read it Later).

Both of these are services that enable you to save web content in one area for you to read it later.  Once saved, you can login to these services and read your saved material even without an internet connection.  Both of these are great, not just for Flipboard, but for any web browsing.

Can I make SensibleSusan a Category in Flipboard?

Absolutely!  In Flipboard, there’s a red ribbon in the upper right hand corner than lets you add sources.  You can type “” into the Search field and should pop up.  Click on my blog and it will come up in Flipboard.  There will be a button on the upper left that says “Add”.  Click this and you will have added SensibleSusan to your Flipboard.

In addition, if you want the RSS Feed to access through some other reader, just click on the RSS button on the sidebar to the right of this site.

What are the limitations?

Flipboard is only available on iPad, iPhone and Android as of now.  It would be great it there was a desktop version, as well.

Bottom Line:

Google Reader is the easiest way to aggregate RSS feeds but it looks the least exciting since all feeds are converted to plain text.

Zite makes your life easier by bringing content to you and putting it into a newspaper-like format.

Flipboard also makes life easier by bringing content to you, but it incorporates social media, too and looks more like a magazine.

Personally, I like to use Flipboard to read mostly fun, image-driven content and Zite to read news.  In other words, Flipboard is my magazine and Zite is my newspaper.

I have only presented a handful of the options out there.  I’m curious to know what you’re using that you think is great  – please share!

*Oh, and in case I didn’t make it clear enough above, please make sure to sign up for your SensibleSusan updates either through email  or RSS (see the sidebar where you can put in your email address or click my chicklet).

Mother Earth and the Silver Lining

Perhaps I have been accused in the past of being pessimistic, but I think I am practical – sensible, really.

I hate when people tell me to think positive or that things will always work out.  How do they know?  Last time I checked, there are always thousands of reasons why plans get derailed or goals don’t get achieved.  There’s a whole list of phrases that really bother me:

  • Look on the bright side.
    • I tried, but I got blinded and couldn’t walk or think straight afterwards.
  • There’s always a silver lining.
    • Really, when I look up at the clouds in the sky, the lining just looks gray to me.
  • You just have to believe in yourself.
    • Sure.  I used to believe in Santa  Claus and the Easter Bunny, too.
  • Things have a way of working out
    • For whom?  Me?  I think it’s really 50/50 at best.  In what world is 50% winning??

My husband has been telling me to think positive.  My coworker tells me, if you wake up and think things are going to happen they will.  And the books!!  Don’t get me started on the plethora of books….

You mean all I have to do is just wake up think “I’m going to positive now!  Things will happen!”??  Let me tell you, my  negative sensible thinking has been going on for a while.  I have proof.

Yesterday was Earth Day.  You see, over twenty years ago I wrote on this topic.  The essay was dire and dark enough for the local paper to run it.  So to prove how far I have to go from myself to becoming a super-positive person, I’m sharing with you my “Mother Earth” essay I wrote as a 12-year-old.  See below:

Greensboro News & Record, Sunday, Nov 11, 1990

What will our Mother Earth look like 100 years from now?  She’ll be very, very ill, for one thing. Her surface probably will be very dried out and her beautiful features will be dead or dying.  Don’t expect all her limbs to be there.  She and her children will be tired and worn. Her children will be wearing gas masks and oxygen tanks because of all the chemicals in the air.  All clothing will be cool and light since the ozone layer has vanished and it has let extreme heat come in. This is also a cause for wearing sunglasses.  Her children will have to wear sunscreen to protect their skin.  Food will be scarce because all of the crops will have died. In 100 years don’t expect life to be fun or comfortable, we’ll be living dead.  So be kind to Earth, our mother.


Grade 7

Believe it or not, I was a happy kid.   I really don’t know where these dark thoughts from, and I can assure you that if I ever laid awake at night worrying it was about boys and gossip – not the environment.

So far, almost 22 years have gone by, and I think a lot of Mother Earth’s beautiful features are thriving and most people are surviving just fine without gas masks and oxygen tanks.  Although goofy weather events, including an incredible warm winter here in the Northeast, seem to be telling us something…

My concern for the next 78 years has less to do with the ozone layer and more to do with the economic environment – but that’s a different post…

So, 22 years later, I’m trying to be more positive – really, I am.

  • I don’t worry about money every second of the day – just a few hours
  • I don’t worry about what people think about me – all the time
  • I am trying not to obsess about everything being perfect all the time

I’m trying to be sunny.  In fact, someone awarded my the Sunshine Award a couple of weeks ago by TrishaDM.


The blogging award comes with some rules about sharing some information about yourself and mentioning/nominating other blogs.  I’ll get to all that soon.  Right now, I’ve taken this Sunshine award as a directive  – so, yes, I will add more sunshine.  And, I vow, that my next published writing will be more upbeat and at least written in a consistent tense (I can’t overlook all flaws now…).

By the way, I do believe there is some merit to these self-help books I mentioned above.  It would be hypocritical of me to eschew double negatives in writing and then permit myself to be doubly negative about positive-thinking books….

Full disclosure – the only book of the bunch I read was “The Power of Now”, which was a gift from my Aunt Sherry who was a generous and fun-loving woman bright enough to light up any room.  She is truly missed.  So I think it’s about time I reread that book, which is available free as a PDF here.  I’m positively overdue for rereading it….

“Gimme Dat Trophy” – 3 reasons why school didn’t prepare me for life

I wonder if our education system really prepared me for the real world.  3 things that bother me:
  1. Trophies for participation.
  2. The grading system  – “A”, “B”, “C” and “D” are all good enough to get to the next grade.
  3. Everyone gets to the next level the same way – Everyone has to pass grades 9, 10 and 11 before they get to grade 12.

Gimme dat Trophy

In  my mother’s house, there’s a vast collection of small, medium and large gold trophies with little girls in action.  They’re swimming, holding a bat and getting ready to shoot a free throw.  There’s also a box of multicolored ribbons, a binder of Certificates of Excellence and the occasional newspaper article mentioning my name.

Sounds impressive, right?  It’s an illusion.  It’s years of “awards” for participation, for showing up and for not quitting.  Some kids collected bugs, stuffed animals or comic books.  Me?  I collected awards.  My collection hasn’t had a new addition in a really long time…

It takes a lot of drive, determination and passion to be a winner and, often, a lot of failed attempts.   As a kid, I wasn’t competing out of passion.  I was competing to win a trophy – a plastic, gold-colored dust-collector.

“Gimme dat trophy….”  was the mindset.

In my head this mantra is set to the tune of “Gimme Dat Oscar”, a gangsta rap skit from Mad TV.  They did a spoof on Forrest Whitaker’s nomination for the Oscar in 2006 for his role as Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland”.  Hysterical clip – check it out:

I fall somewhere in between Generation X and Generation Y, which apparently, is also called the “Trophy Generation”.  Both Ron Alsop and Bruce Tulgan have written books using this term to descibe children who are so used to being awarded that they may be ill-prepared to excel in the corporate environment.


The Grading System

In school, there are 5 grades:  “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “F”.  The first 4 are all considered passing grades.  All you have to do is not get an “F” to get to the next grade.

Of course, everyone knows that you have to get the higher grades to be college-eligible, but, nonetheless, you can still be a high school graduate without ever doing your “best” work.

In the real world, the only grades that count are “A+” and “C”.  To get a promotion you have to be the best of the best or an “A+”.  Even if you’re slightly above average, it counts for nothing.  You get little recognition and seldom get promoted.  To make sure you get to keep your job you have to be at least “C” or average.  Anything less than that and you’re considered a failure and will likely end up on the chopping block.

There has been a lot of debate among educators and parents on this very topic.  I just think that the focus should be on the joy of learning and less on the need to get perfect grades.

Everyone rises at the same pace

Each child must spend one year at each grade and cannot skip ahead.  Occasionally, some smarty pants will get to skip a grade, but everyone will know why.  “He got a 1600 on the SAT in 7th grade!”

In the real world, some people get promoted multiple steps without any explanation at all.  Sometimes it is obviously for merit, but other times, it may just be a matter of being in the right spot at the right time.

I don’t think it makes sense to accelerate children through school because they need to be mature before facing the real world.  However, somewhere in the curriculum someone should explain that success may come sooner for some than others and that the only real measure of success should be your own metric.

It’s not that bad.  Just gimme dat trophy!

I am being a bit facetious here.  I’m doing just fine in the real world.  And don’t let my grammatically incorrect blog post title fool you –  I did very well in school.  Obviously, I learned enough to use big words like “facetious”, which is a word I use frequently in the real world…

I also know that children are sensitive and need positive reinforcement.   That’s the thing  – I am still sensitive and need positive reinforcement.

Trophies for participation and a generous grading system may have let achievement come too easily.   I was a great student and got mostly “A’s” simply because the “A’s” seemed quite attainable.  It’s as though we were given permission to set the bar low – a height that I grew accustomed to.

It has taken me a long time to realize that really successful people keep setting the bar higher for themselves without anyone setting it for them and that true ambition and drive propels one toward reaching goals – not recognition.

Disclaimer:  I am fully aware that my tune will likely change when my son is in school and particpating in sports and activities.  I’ll want that little bugger to feel good about himself and get as many gold dust-collectors that make him happy…

My kid is a genius: Part 1

Have you ever read the book, “The Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss?

It’s incredibly simple and woefully bland to look at.  It is 12 pages of simple words and filled with only 4 dull colors – brown, white, beige and 70’s yellow.

Surprisingly, my kid loves it.  Lately he has been making me read it to him 3 times before he falls asleep.  Why this book above the other more colorful books?  I initially had no idea.

I understand wanting to read “Good Night Moon” – it’s a cool little story.  I really enjoy the newly illustrated “The Little Engine that Could” because I like to do the sound effects and it’s beautiful to look at.  But “The Carrot Seed”? After reading the first few pages, I’m ready to crawl into the crib and head for a snoozefest.

Let me condense an already fairly short book for you:

A kid wants to plant a carrot seed.

One by one his family members tell him that it won’t grow.

He doesn’t listen and waters the plant anyway.

Nothing grows for a couple of days.  Then one day a carrot grows.

The End

Mesmerizing, right?

So why do I think my kid is a genius again?

He makes me read this book multiple times.  The other night after the second reading, he looked at me to make sure I was getting it.  I think he thought I was just going through the motions.  He sensed I wasn’t entirely “in the moment”, so he made me do it again.  Then a light bulb went off in my head – this is a story about persistence.

Slight dramatization of the actual exchange:

Owen turns to me and cups my chin in his hand.  He turns it slightly to face him.  With eyes wide he pleads, “Read it again.”

I flip back to the cover and begin to read it again.  This time paying attention to the words and looking at the very simple drawings and simple colors.

“And then, one day, a carrot came up just as the little boy had known it would.” I read aloud.

Together we looked at the young boy carting off his giant carrot in his wheel barrow holding his head high.

Owen turns to me and says, “He didn’t give up mom.”

“You’re right.  He really kept at it even when it seemed like it was unlikely to happen.”

The all-knowing blue eyes stared at me to make sure I got the message.

“Yes, Owen.  Giving up can be easy.  I should keep at it and make sure it happens despite how hard it may seem.”

My kid might be onto something.  Perhaps he sensed my defeatist attitude about my job lately.  Maybe he knew that I could do it but that I needed to be patient and keep at it until one day success would come.  By day I was getting pushed around by 200 lb men.  By night I was being put in my place by a 26 lb bundle of wisdom.

So, I’m keeping at it and hoping to cart home a giant carrot one day, just as my little boy had known I would.

Yep, my kid is a genius.

I’ve been given the Versatile Blogger Award!

This is not an April Fool’s Joke – I’ve actually been nominated for an award.  Thank you Peace, Love & Fabulous Things for giving me the Versatile Blogger Award!

First of all, I haven’t been nominated for an award since I was a kid.  Second of all, I can’t believe anyone cares what I have to say, especially enough to give me a shout out!

What is this Versatile Blogger Award? This is the way it works:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. Again, Thank you to the very clever and creative Rachel at Peace, Love & Fabulous Things
  • Include a link to their blog.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So, I will pay it forward.  I therefore nominate the following bloggers:

  1. TrishaDM‘s blog “At least we made it this far…”:  She’s a 4th yr Medical student passionate about Palliative Care and insightful on a daily basis
  2. Scout & Nimble:  Great looking blog with creative and stylish crafts  – she’s inspired me to attempt a few crafts.  Stay tuned, I’ll post results on my success…
  3. The Blumen Art Gallery:  a US woman’s musings on life in Germany
  4. Can You Stay for Dinner?:  another sensible woman who lost 135lbs and gained a healthy attitude towards food and exercise.  Great recipes and stories.
  5. Robotic Rhetoric:  very witty and insightful social commentary from an 18yr old in the UK who seems wise beyond his years
  6. A Detailed House:  great site for design lovers
  7. PaltryMeanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman:  a fellow tall woman’s take on life and society with a heavy dose of sarcasm…my kind of girl
  8. LeZoeMusings:  another mom and creative type who posts beautiful pictures, particularly of little house projects

I realize that’s only 8 bloggers.  I think 15 is kinda a random number and I should get to choose how many I want to nominate.  As I see more blogs I like, I will certainly give them a shout out….

And, in case you care, here are 7 things about myself you probably do not know:

  1. I wanted to be an architect growing up and preferred going on home tours to sleepovers
  2. I’ve played classical piano since I was a kid and have been desperately trying to learn jazz piano….it’s all in an attempt to loosen up, which I’m not good at
  3. If I had to do it all over again I’d be an entertainment reporter.  Who knew there’d be so many outlets for it?  E! News if you’re reading, we can arrange something!
  4. I haven’t lived in the South for over 10 years and I have lost any accent I ever had, but I miss it greatly!
  5. I saved my parents a ton of money by closing the gap in front 2 teeth by wrapping dental floss around them and pulling it tight every night.  You’re welcome Mom and Dad!
  6. I have won several belly flopping contests, but not since the age of 12
  7. I think it would be awesome to be known as Sexy Susan or Super Funny Susan, but I’m just Sensible Susan and I’m okay with that.

So thanks again Peace, Love & Fabulous Things for the award and thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog.  It’s been a really fun outlet, and I look forward to sharing more with you all!

Here’s your chance to tell me how you really feel – I’ve created a little poll to see what you’d like more of here at Sensible Susan.  Please take a minute to vote and feel free to comment with your own personal requests.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Welcome Back Don Draper!

Mad Men is back!  I can’t wait for the 2 hour season premier on Sunday at 9pm.  It has been far too long.

So, I know it’s super cheesy, but I had to do it – I Mad Men’ed myself and the hubby at the AMC site for the show – MadMenYourself.


There I am with perfectly coiffed hair meeting Don for a cocktail.  And that’s my husband attending a meeting with the  Sterling Cooper crew (drink in hand, of course).

Man, I wish the office place still looked this stylish.  I’m really sick of seeing men in blue check Brooks Brothers shirts and khaki-colored slacks.

So there are many, many appealing things about this show, but I think the magic is that it appeals to men and women for 2 reasons:

  1. The character of Don Draper– men want to be him and women want to be with him.  He’s so mysterious and bad, but sympathetic and vulnerable at the same time.
  1. The cocktail –  It makes an appearance in nearly every scene.  It’s almost impossible to watch the show without enjoying a cocktail of your own.  That’s why I have decided to share our family cocktail.

Surely we are not the only family with an official cocktail, right?  It is our personal twist on the Manhattan.  It is best enjoyed among the company of good friends and family.

I like my cocktails like my men – I only need one strong one and it better be stiff ….

The Master Builder 

2 shots Maker’s Mark bourbon

splash of red vermouth (about 1/2 shot)

dash of bitters

1 maraschino cherry


1.  Mix bourbon and vermouth in a stylish glass

2. Add a dash of bitters and stir

3.  Add ice

4.  Top with cherry and a bit of juice if you like

5.  Enjoy in style!

I admit it. I juiced.

Juicing is everywhere.  Celebrities are doing it.  There a thousand websites devoted to it.  There are businesses popping up all the time promoting their organic juices.

It’s not enough to eat organic fruits and vegetables.  Real nirvana is obtained when these things are slowly cold-pressed, packaged in thick glass bottles and sold for at least $10 a pop.

There are claims that ailments like ulcers, skin diseases and IBS can be eradicated just from juicing.  There’s even a documentary about it – Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  Catchy title, isn’t it?

I’m talking about juicing, cleansing, detoxing.   It’s all the rage in the NYC-area.  From Organic Avenue to Blueprint.  There is even the Master Cleanse (aka the lemonade diet)  which was first made popular in the 1970s and then again when Beyonce claimed that’s how she lost the weight for Dreamgirls.

Why do people do it?

  1. to lose weight
  2. to get healthy
  3. to rid the body of toxins
  4. to obtain inner peace and sanity
  5. to lose weight

What do I, Sensible Susan think of these reasons?

  1. it will be temporary
  2. eating whole foods is healthy – why do they have to juiced?
  3. isn’t the body a self-cleaning unit?
  4. paying $50/day for juice is insane
  5. it’s temporary and mostly water

So, why did I do it this past weekend?


Oh, and to lose a bit of weight…

I picked a long weekend when the hubby was away so I could do it my way and be a grouch without feeling too guilty.  I paid a significant sum to have the juices made for me and delivered to my door.  I got 5 juices a day: 2 green juices, 1 beet and carrot juice, 1 red fruit juice and 1 almond milk.

I like fruits and veggies and have tried being on a raw diet for a while, and so, I actually liked the taste of the juices and found them rather enjoyable.  I didn’t really miss food.  I should note that I was neither hanging out with any other adults that weekend nor surrounded by any cooked food.  I was like an alcoholic staying dry while on  Mormom retreat.  It was easy to avoid tempation in an unrealistic every day scenario…

I didn’t feel any hungrier on this diet than any other diet I ever attempted.  Did I find my Zen?  Um, no.  The only epiphany I had was discovering that homemade almond milk with cinnamon is crazy delicious.

I did feel a sense of freedom, though.  I was free from worrying about food.  I was free to think of other more important things.  I was free to feel like a celebrity – doing something all trendy and relying on other people to make and deliver my healthiness.  If I ever meet Gwyneth or Demi, I’m sure I’ll feel an immediate kinship with my fellow “juicers”.

Will I juice again?  Maybe.  I’ll do it for more sensible reasons though – just to enjoy the taste of it or to use up an abundance of fruits and veggies if I ever grow a garden or belong to a CSA.

The ultimate results:

I did lose 2 lbs – woohoo!  So, yes, I probably will do it again in a few months.  The cleansing part?  Well, the only thing that really got cleaned out was my wallet….

Another warning label to ignore…

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled against the FDA’s proposed warning labels for cigarette packs.  See story here

Currently, there’s a succinct warning label on the side of the pack that we have all seen and many have chosen to ignore:
The proposal by the FDA was to include graphic images that include rotting teeth, a baby enveloped in smoke and a body on an autopsy table.  The label would be placed on the upper half of the pack.

If you don’t think smoking is terrible for your health, then you must in a) living under a rock, b) deaf, dumb and blind or c) a rock star that believes he/she is immortal .

Warning labels are meaningless to us.  Jerry Seinfeld astutely pointed this out 18 years ago on episode #84 of Seinfeld, “The Wife”.

(from Google Images)
Thanks to the TBS reruns, I have seen this episode at least 3 times.

Jerry’s stand-up: Of all the places that you go all the time, the dry-cleaning relationship is one of the most bizarre. Because you keep giving each other the same thing, back and forth, over and over again. He gives it to you, you give it to him, he gives it back to you. It’s like it’s half his shirt, in a way. He has it as much as you do…you oughta go shopping with him. ‘What do you think of this shirt?’ ‘That would look good with a light starch.’ The only warning label people really respect is ‘dry-clean only.’ Y’know what I mean? Speed limits, lung cancer, cigarette warnings – your very life is at stake! People go, ‘Ah, the hell with it!’ But dry-clean only? ‘Oh, don’t put that in the wash! It’s dry-clean only! Are you crazy?!’

Maybe the FDA needs to team up with the makers of the clothing labels….

I am not an advocate of smoking, but I am an advocate for upholding the First Amendment.I can only imagine what type of warning labels would be next if these had been approved.

I don’t really want to see a picture of a fat person splayed across the next bag of Cheetos I buy or a diseased liver on the label  around the neck of a bottle of beer.

I don’t want to have to explain to my kid why there’s a picture of rotting teeth on the package of all the candy in the store.

Maybe they should go ahead and put those labels on.  I doubt it will deter people from enjoying their vices.  I ignored the Do Not Walk sign today when I crossed the road to make sure I caught my train.  I also texted a message to a client while driving.  I’m also consuming a Maker’s Mark Manhattan despite the label warning me that consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery.  Does my laptop count as machinery???




I would like to thank the Academy…a case for storytelling and free speech

March 7th, 2010, a day forever marked by two little guys both starting with “O”: Oscar, the little gold Academy Award in my hand below and Owen, the little miracle I just learned was coming into the world.


“Congratulations!”  they said as they handed me the gold statuette.  It felt both cool and warm in my hands – probably because it was metal and people had been manhandling it for the last hour.  I kept my acceptance speech short, but of course started with “I would like to thank the Academy”.

In case you can’t tell, the cheap gold drapery and Bush league podium were not actually from the Academy Awards. Kodak sponsored the event at the Time Warner Center, which happened to be located across the street from my doctor’s office.

Tonight I will be tuning in again to watch the Academy Awards where the Hollywood elite will bring the glitz and the glam, and, I suspect, a lot of politically-charged speeches. I know, cue the eye-roll. After feigning shock that they won and proclaiming it’s an honor to work with so-and-so, who is “such a genius”, the stars will likely make a comment about our current administration and the freedoms that are dangling before us. If I had a podium and that audience, I hope I’d say something, too, joining in the effort to preserve free speech.

Even though these stars aren’t like us regular people, we rely on them to bring stories  – thought-provoking or adrenaline-packed stories to help us escape and help us relate. We rely on them to help create worlds that we find just believable enough. We rely on these stories to give us hope and let us live, however briefly, in another world. And we hold these people to high standards of authenticity.

Look at last year’s Best Picture nominee, The Martian, starring Matt Damon. The movie was based on a book written by Andy Weir, who wanted to tell a story of an astronaut stranded on Mars and what it would take for him to figure out how to survive. Mr. Weir offered his story in installments on his own website – for free. He was so precise in his storytelling that he wrote computer programming, solved mathematical problems and researched how to grow potatoes just to make the story more believable.

His research for the book was so detailed that teachers begged for him to remove the profanity and create a textbook to teach students about physics and mathematics. See the New York Time’s article from Saturday that explains more: here.

That’s the power of good storytelling.

So my acceptance speech would go something like this:

I would like to thank the Academy for giving me an award show that takes me away from my average life for at least 4 hours one Sunday night each year.  I would like to thank the E! news channel for providing great guilty pleasure entertainment.  I would like to thank my husband for permitting me to make this Sunday my Super Bowl Sunday – a day that is planned around a lengthy television program complete with I-shouldn’t-eat-that food and extra imbibing (yay Champagne!).   I would like to encourage those in power to protect free speech, continue funding for the arts and to think out side of the box in terms of teaching our children. Also, I’d like to see more awards shows for actual geniuses in all sorts of fields: Best Plumber, Best IT Support Team, Best Researcher, Best Teacher, Best Stay-at-Home Mom, etc. I am grateful for storytellers and hope we all continue to share our voices and look for ways to connect.

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My kid – the bargaining chip

If I had Gisele Bundchen’s long legs, I would absolutely use them to flag down a car to assist me if I was broken down on the side of the road.

If I had piercing blue eyes, I would stare at men until they bought me drinks and offered me trips.

If I had unwitting charm, I would use it to get better seats on the plane, prime reservations and rooms with a view.

I have none of these things.  At best, I have had a handful of moments where my wit or smile may have granted me a few perks.  The problem is I am not always witty and friendly, so I need something else to win me VIP treatment.  That something is my undeniably, adorable son.

Is it wrong to use my 16-month old kid as bargaining chip?  I don’t think so.  I am not causing harm nor deceit.

You see, Old SensibleSusan would say that the only way to get decent service is to look both presentable and approachable.  And so, in most circumstances, I will put on makeup before leaving the house.  I will try to make sure toilet paper is not sticking to my rear end.

New SensibeSusan believes that there are times when looking put-together can work against you.  Looking a little disheveled can be advantageous.  Looking a little disheveled and carrying a toddler can be really advantageous.

Example #1:  We had to replace 2 cable boxes because the toddler lost the card that makes these things work.  I rather put a stick in my eye than pay any more money to the cable company.  So I went  to the cable store with 2 heavy cable boxes in a bag on my left shoulder and a wiggly toddler with precious curls bouncing on my right hip.  One look at his super blond curls, and I had all 3 service people behind the desk trying to help me.

Cost:  10 more minutes of aggravation trying to get the toddler in and out of the car while balancing the boxes

Benefit:  $75 card replacement fee waived, 2 stickers for the kid and curbside delivery of new boxes

Example #2:  We had the joy of dealing with a leaky kitchen sink this week.  The plumber said it was the faucet.  I did the research online, found the lowest price and went into the local plumbing supply store.  I knew the poor local businessman couldn’t compete with  So I printed out the online price including 1 day shipping cost and brought the paper and the toddler in to the store.

Cost:  down to only 8 more minutes of aggravation trying to get the toddler in and out of the car

Benefit:  $50 savings.

Example #3:  When my son was 9-months old, I took him on his first plane trip to see my family down South.  At the desk, the agent offered to switch my seat to another area of the plane where there was an unsold seat so my son could sit there, even though I had not paid for him to have a ticket.  When we landed in NC, my luggage came off the carousel with the entire top ripped off and about a roll of duct tape now securing it to the rest of the suitcase.  The baggage claim center gave me a brand new black rolling suitcase there on the spot.

Cost:  I don’t know if you can measure the aggravation of traveling alone with an infant

Benefit:  extra seat on departing flight, new luggage and emailed picture from the flight attendant of my son on his first plane ride

I’m not saying that this always works.  For every kind flight attendant, there’s some jackhole who cuts you off and doesn’t open the door for you.  In life, you have to use what you have, and right now he’s the best thing I have – so I will use him as my little bargaining chip.

If it works this well for me, imagine how well it might work for you if you’re a dude….nothing screams “help me” more than an unshaven dad in a ratty t-shirt with a kid in tow..

**Poker chip above was by made by a friend and owner of**

Operation Tech and Balances – Results

How much do I use the computer?  I overindulge.  A lot.  I did the math.  After tracking my use for 1 week in Operation Tech and Balances, I discovered that I spend about 48% of my time awake each day using the computer!  Now, most of that is for work – I work about 10 hours/day.  So excluding work, I use the computer about 12% of my time awake.  That’s almost 2 hours a day!

How do you find the time, you may ask?  Well, it’s split between pre-work and post-work, and is usually in 5 to 15 mins intervals.  It’s sneaky time that adds up throughout the course of the day.

Exactly what am I spending my time doing?  Here’s the breakdown:

31% (36 mins) Blogging

24% (27 mins) Reading news

18% (21 mins) General internet surfing

17% (20 mins) Email

10% (12 mins) Social Networking (Facebook and LinkedIn, mostly)

So I spend most of my time blogging.  That makes it sound like a super busy posting all the time.  Well, all that time includes drafting blog posts, reading other blogs on WordPress and checking my blog stats.  Hopefully, I’ll become more efficient with my time…

A lot of my time reading news is in lieu of watching the news on television.

General internet surfing includes researching recipes (I have to feed the family).  However, it does include a lot of time on my favorite time sucking site – Pinterest.

I was surprised to find that I spend almost 20 mins a day emailing, because I don’t feel like I am writing that many emails.  Well, a lot of that time is spent checking (1-2mins every hour) and responding to emails.

I’m not a huge social networking person away from the Blog.  I check Facebook once or twice a day to catch up with folks and to see their kids’ pictures.  I also used LinkedIn for a couple of minutes a day to catch up with the professional peeps.  Still, it takes up about 12 minutes of my day.

So how do I think I fared in Operation Tech and Balances?  Um, I think my balance is a little off.

I complain about not having enough time for a number of things – house chores, working out and keeping up with family.  Um, well, I think I’ve been lying to myself.

I don’t have time to take care of broken things in the house.  Um, yes I do, if I spend 10 minutes less a day reading the news maybe I could call a plumber or chimney sweep.

I don’t have time to call back so-and-so.  Um, yes I do, if I spend 5 minutes less on Facebook maybe I could directly talk to a friend.

I don’t have time to workout.  Um, yes I do, if I cut blogging time by 16 minutes and Internet time by 4 minutes I could do a 20 minute workout DVD.

I don’t have enough time to spend with my son. Of course, I can never have enough, but I can certainly find more time.  I’m guilty of trying to multi-task by checking email while the little guy plays with blocks next to me or reading news while he reads his books.  Yes, I do need time for myself, but I should try to be more engaged with him.  Also, I need to lead by example here and show him that the computer is not used all the time.

Oh, technology!  I do love you, but love is blind sometimes. I need to get my life back into balance and get back to my senses.

Anyone else out there feel the same way?  If you feel up to the challenge, take the 1 week Techs and Balances assessment and share how you’re spending your time?  If you want a quick and dirty spreadsheet to calculate your time, let me know, and I’ll send one to you.

Do Bee a Dick

I wrote a while ago about  my love of books.  I claimed it started with the Nancy Drew series, but maybe it really started with Golden Books.


They were colorful and had this beautiful gold strip lining the binding.  I am told they occupied quite a bit of my time when I was little.

Another childhood favorite was the Do Bee Books.

I loved these, as well. They were guideline books telling little ones how to be good little girls and boys or “Do Bees”.  I wanted to be a “Do Bee” and not be a “Don’t Bee”.

I think these books largely did their job.  I grew up a fairly considerate kid and, I think, a well-mannered and diligent adult.  Even today I think of trying to be  “Do Bee”.

More seriously, I try to be like the best “Do Bee” I ever knew, my father.  My father’s name was Richard, but everyone called him Dick.  It’s not a very popular nickname now.  In fact the derogatory nature of that nickname is something I encounter on a regular basis.  I work on Wall Street.  I encounter Dicks everywhere I turn and very few of them are actually named Richard.

When we were little my cousins wondered what they should call their uncle.  And so they asked my mother, Aunt Helen, if it was okay to call their uncle, Uncle Dick.  She said yes.

My father, Dick was a very practical, well-read and economical man.  I always admired him, and when said with the right tone, I am flattered to be called “Little Dick”.

Unfortunately, my father is no longer here, but his legacy remains.  I find myself constantly trying to be a “Little Dick”.  I think Big Dick would love that I created a website about sensible things.  Sensibility is one of the many traits we had in common.  I think if I had to write my own children’s book of manners I might entertain the idea of  using the title “Do Bee a Dick”…then I might come to my sense and rework that title…

Perhaps a better way to honor him is to start another category on this site – “Do Bee a Dick”.

Tech and Balances

I have a confession.  I am an information junkie.  I have always enjoyed reading, but this crazy thing Al Gore invented totally blows Encyclopedia Britannica out of the water!

Back in the day I could get direct information without banner ads screaming in my face and without access to shopping, entertainment news and social networking all a mere click away.  Most junkies can at lease avoid temptation trying to accomplish everyday tasks.  Alcoholics can typically do their jobs just fine without fear that a liquor store will one day pop up next to the copy machine at work.

The real problem is that I have a kid now.  This little toddler is looking to me for guidance on everything.  I can’t have him thinking that the virtual world is more appealing than the real world.  I have to lead by example.  It’s complicated by the fact that I work from home sometimes.  He sees Mommy on the laptop, Blackberry, PC, iPad…balancing the paper in my lap.

I don’t want this to bite me in the you-know-what one day.  I can already hear him using that line from that anti-drug commercial in the 80s – “I learned by watching you!”

So I found myself in a precarious situation today.  There’s a little alphabet and animal game he likes online.  I say to him, “Owen, you only have 10 minutes.”  He’s 15 months old with no concept of time, but I hope by the tone in my voice he understands that I am setting a limit.  I realize I am setting limits for him without setting any for myself.

I thought parenthood would make me think more of my child than myself, but it has actually make me hyper aware of myself.  When I look through his giant blue eyes, I can actually see all the flaws in myself that I need to fix so I can be the best role model as possible.  This kid is tough…

Alright, buddy, you got me.  If I set limits for you, I must do the same for myself.  So for the next week, I’m going to track my time online like a fatty keeping a food diary. I know it will show I’m over indulging…

So the only sensible thing to do here is to start “Operation Tech and Balances”.  I will record how much time I spend on the computer every day for 1 week, and I will categorize how I spend that time.  Some will be useful, like ordering groceries, paying bills, reading news, but some may be entirely futile.  I’m pretty nervous to see the results, but this is why I love numbers…they don’t lie.
By the way, I’m starting tomorrow…