Wednesday, June 27, 2018

For The First Time In History, It's Gonna Start Raining Men

There is an old saying about how things happen in threes.  With Wingman dying, my house flooding and losing my job-all in three months, you'd think that I would have been happy with just the 2012 version "Been There, Done That" tee shirt and given myself a pass.  But no, this year-with losing my job and putting the house on the market, I wanted another three-peat.

Because I was going to dump a man.

My quest involved replacing the idiot I inherited when my financial planner passed away suddenly.  The original guy saved me from having to live in a refrigerator box when Wingman died. On our quarterly sessions, he would not only bring up my garbage cans, bring me coffee, and bring the dog some treats, but yell at me, or at least lecture me about saving over spending.  The guy they assigned me wouldn't give advice without polling his office like on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" "Yes Barbara. We feel you should do this. Final answer." He only ever wanted me to meet him in his office, and when he DID come over-ONCE-it was without coffee or dog biscuits.  On January 18th-exactly 2000 days after Wingman died and after not hearing from him for nine months, the dog and I decided he had to go. And I decided to go to a dinner.

To coin The Marine's phrase, I was looking for "A Few Good Men."  And I discovered the Mecca of handsome young men dressed in nice suits with rep ties. I planning seminars.

I had been getting invites in the mail for this type of dinner for years.  I use to laugh, thinking about the decade I spent at Wrinkle City hosting luncheons for seniors to entice them to move there. Since this wasn't my first rodeo, I picked the one with the nicest menu, knowing full well what to expect.

Boy, I was wrong.

It is what I envision speed dating in Hell is like.  There were about 30 old women (and a few old guys thrown in for good measure) in Chanel suits and Life Stride pumps vying for the attention of three very well-dressed young guys. The guys looked rapturously at them as they droned on about their late husbands, the (insert) doctor / lawyer / industrialist and how they had no idea where to put all their money.  The men listened intently to EVERY. BORING. WORD. THEY. SPOKE. I laughed at the five other women at my table, regular diners on the financial circuit who told me that they go to at least one luncheon or dinner like this a week.  After dinner, a senior planner gave a very boring Power Point lecture about estate planning in New Jersey before he sent the young men to pick up the referral cards like bridegrooms looking for envelopes. The old hag to my left grabbed one guy with her red talons to pick his brain, so I picked up my card and left.  It seemed to me that this company was looking for the oldest, wealthiest clients, and I know I didn't fit their bill.

Since the food was good and I had no job to go to, I did it again.  A luncheon with grilled salmon, and a smattering of conversation with a bored planner who seemed to know he wasn't getting any-money or otherwise. And again, at an Italian dinner night, where I actually used a Wrinkle City trick and snuck out via the ladies room. I even started recognizing some of the same old ladies at these events. As probably the youngest person in the room by a decade or two, I'm sure they recognized me as well.

One night, it happened-one of "those young guys" was my friend's son.  He stuck to me like glue-listening to EVERY. WORD. I. SPOKE.  Pretending that he was interested in my life, and making all the right gasps at the horrors I'd faced, while the ladies around me gasped in horror that I was monopolizing his time. And I gasped.  Was I becoming one of them?  A woman filling her free time with free dinners and lunches by encouraging young men with my investments? Isn't that what my sons were for???

Then he started calling. Asking for an appointment.  Sending cards.  He even unexpectedly dropped by, and if he had just brought up the empty garbage cans, I might have caved and given his inexperienced soul my portfolio.  But in the end, I went with a trusted friend's advisor, a big ol' guy with over 20 years of experience, who I've only seen wearing sweat pants on casual Fridays, who speaks in sentences I don't understand, and who yells at me, or at least lectures me about saving over spending.

Like Wingman with his tank tops and cargo shorts, he leaves a lot to be desired with his fashion sense. More importantly, like my former planner, I trust him implicitly. We're already discussing what to do when the house sells, and how to invest the profits for the future.

And that's alright in my book, because the invitations are starting to pour in for the 55 + communities who want me to visit. From North and South Carolina, Florida to Arizona, they're offering 3 day mini vacations, complete with dining, use of the amenities and tickets to concerts.

I just need some of my money for plane tickets.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Love and Marriage, Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage

The Royal wedding is over. The royal horse manure has been picked up, the fascinators are back in their boxes and even Joss Stone, who sang at the royal after-party, is back in NJ with my brother rewiring her house. I’ll admit that I got caught up, along with about 1 in every 10 people in America. Today, on the eve of my anniversary, it's hard not to think about the glaring contrasts between the that and my own wedding, and even some of the others I've been a part of.

First of all, they got picture perfect weather while I married Wingman in a Nor'Easter which flooded the entire Jersey Shore peninsula. I sloshed down the aisle after my train fell in a puddle outside the church-no cute, toothless pages to carry it in. The flooding meant that people just couldn't show up to our $35 per person (including $2.00 extra for shrimp cocktail) beach reception, which certainly wasn't the case at the $45 million British bash.  I'll bet the royal guests would have paddled their own canoes to the castle if they had to. At the end of the night, Wingman's Best Man's uninvited quasi-girlfriend (a girl who yes, just showed up-good thing we had empty seats) took the top tier of my cake as well as the dorky dove topper-both which were never seen again. By the looks of Royal Best Man William's slim bride Kate, I doubt she even had a piece of the lemon elderberry cake, much less stole a whole layer.

Can one ever forget the looks on some of the Royals' faces as Bishop Michael Curry gave his impassioned sermon? "Not something ever heard before" said the press.  At Wingman's and my wedding, our pastor said words that we were sure could only have been written for the two of us.  That was, until the following week, when my parents attended another wedding, and the pastor uttered the exact same words to that couple. Since the bride was a recovering drug addict, you can only imagine what my mother looked like, hearing the similarities between me/her. Neither Queen was amused.

The royal couple selected music that meant something to them, played or sung by fabulous talent.  Heck, Sir Elton John cancelled two performances in Las Vegas just to be at Windsor. Wingman and I on the other hand, were met at the reception by the band we paid royally for, who not-so-politely informed us that since they couldn't find the sheet music to Gladys Knight and the Pip's "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" we didn't have a first-dance song. We were given a list of what they knew, said "what the hell" and asked them to play anything by The Beatles.  We were fortunate that they didn't know "Why Don't We Do It In The Road."

The new duchess was smart not to have bridesmaids. Those little kids were tucked in bed by the time the reception started, so the whole night was about her, and of course her hubby. Unlike at my friend's wedding when a bridesmaid was dancing too close to a candelabra. Her partner dipped her at the end of the song and her hair caught on fire. Fortunately, their photographer doused her with water so she didn't end up like a Michael Jackson poster child for Pepsi. Did I mention that "THAT bridesmaid" was me? And just like my own wedding, my dress was soggy the rest of the night. Still sorry about that Patti.

I got tired of listening to commentators talk about flying 3500 miles from New York, or even 5500 miles from LA with their entourages in tow. At least they could understand and be understood when asking where the loo was. Wingman and I and two of our boys traveled almost 8000 miles to a wedding where we couldn't speak nor read the language. After the ceremony, we were taken to a private party room and introduced to a group of businessmen/guests who we smiled at, and nodded our heads like bobble head dolls, before they left us for parts unknown.  The four of us picked at a leftover cold buffet, and wondered when the reception would start.  Much later, a member of the bride's family found us and apologized- it seemed that the reception was over and we totally missed it because no one thought to look for us. Ya'll think George and Amal were forgotten?

A stylist dressed MOB Doria Ragland in Oscar de la Renta, her dreadlocks gracefully held back by a Stephen Jones hat. Meanwhile at the same wedding I just mentioned, the stylist depleted what was left of the ozone layer coercing my hair into what she deemed a suitable wedding style-no hat necessary. The makeup artist scoffed at my eyebrows (I THINK that's why she was rolling her eyes and spitting), then proceeded to shave off half of them to draw a better shape. You KNOW that Serena Williams would have hit someone between the eyes with a tennis ball rather than go back to America sans eyebrows. And finally, so as not to stand out from the rest of the guests, (who all were shorter and had dark hair)  I was dressed in a very pretty but shapeless Hanbok, complete with crinolines and PANTALOONS. Yes, it was safe to say that my knickers were in a twist that day.

Finally, there were the photos of the bride's mom sitting alone in the pew of the cathedral; the father of the bride absent. Similarly, Wingman didn't make the ceremony of a very important wedding. Right before it started, I insisted to the wedding planner that my sons had to escort me down the aisle. When the ceremony ended, I had an unplanned "Duh" moment at the thought of walking out of the ceremony alone. But as I got to his row, my youngest brother stepped out, and escorted me the rest of the way, just as Prince Charles did with Ms. Ragland.

I know my brother did it out of love for me. I'm convinced however, that Prince Charles did it just to get away from his wife with her hat. So here's a toast to weddings. The good. The bad. And the ugly hat ones.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

She’s Leaving Home After Living Alone For So Many Years

Wingman was a partner in an up-and-coming Dotcom company which was eventually bought out by a much larger Dotcom company. The owner got cash for his shares of stock while all the limited partners got was their stock transferred to the new company. When the owner bought a big, beautiful  home, Wingman wanted a bigger home too. We argued about selling our little ranch-after all, in just a couple of years, the boys would be starting college (think tuition) and moving on. And where would we get the money for that bigger mortgage? Wingman rationed that once he could sell his stock, we'd be fine. Very reluctantly, I agreed to buy the home I live in now.

One week before we closed, Wingman lost his job.

A month later, a tree in the front yard keeled over, hit the house and broke the front door.

Two months later, the Dotcom bubble burst, and the stock we owned wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

Boy, did I hate that house then.

I have a rubber spatula in my kitchen that has “Desserts is Stressed Spelled Backwards” on it. And just like what happened back then and again in the Sandy period, stress is really starting to get to me. So much so that from gritting my teeth, I chipped a tooth. Not great, since my dental insurance expired the last day of January. The day my old job ended.

But it wasn’t because I lost my job. In fact, I was only out of work for a month before finding a position working for a builder only seven minutes from home. No nights, no weekends, every major holiday off. I wanted it so badly that I did something I’ve never done before: I baked a basket of cookies (in shapes of houses and the first letter of the company name), included a letter as to why they should hire me, and brought it to the owner. My friends scoffed at the idea, but since the glowing recommendations of former bosses and colleagues didn’t get me anywhere, nor my resume-heavy with management skills, I did that crazy something. And it was that basket of cookies that got me in the door. My timing was a perfect match for the company’s sweet tooth.

No, I’m certain that I chipped the tooth from what I’ve been thinking about every day since Wingman died: this house is too big and has to go. And every decision associated with putting it on the market has caused me stress. The idea of rejection, even if it’s this stupid house and not me personally, is killing me. What won’t potential buyers like when they come to see it?  Will they find fault with my color choices? Will they see a closet full of shoes and ask why I didn't update the bathrooms instead?

I’ve cleaned, painted, polished purged and prepped. Armed with only a rusty (thanks Sandy) hammer, some screwdrivers and my own ingenuity I've made my own minor repairs. When I screwed those up, I hired the experts. But it stinks to know that even after finding someone who wants this family-friendly house the way it is now, with its fenced-in yard, only a block from a park with a community pool club, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields and a boat ramp, some home inspector will come in and proceed to find it's hidden faults. I’m not sure if I can survive that scrutiny.

And when I list and then WHEN the house sells, there's the stress of finding a place to go. It's MY decision alone for the first time in my life, so there's no time for the "paralysis of analysis" or even just sweating the small stuff. This is a sizzling hot market for home sellers with more buyers than inventory right now.  So far, by the time I see what I like, it's sold before I can get off my butt to go look at it.

And when I do find that next home just for me, those sellers better be worried.  Because I'm going to judge them on how much space there is in their closets for my shoes before I buy anything.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Closing Time-Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

Once again, the unthinkable has happened.

The company where I am (well, WAS) a manager opted not to renew our store’s ten year lease. A few months short of a decade with this company, I find myself once again facing the challenge of looking for a new job.

The day I learned about the store closing, I was in NYC seeing the Christmas windows at Saks and Macy's, having lunch, doing some shopping, and was having a drink before getting on the train to come home. My phone rang and I got a message to call someone in Human Resources. Like the phone call I got when working at Wrinkle City, it’s never good when someone from HR wants you. True to form, I was told about my store and many others that would be closing in 45 Days. Besides it sucking to end the day like that, I left my only gloves on the seat in the bar. My hands stayed cold for weeks.

My store director and I planned the closing like the invasion of Normandy. We kept it under wraps until the official signs announcing the closing arrived the week after New Years. We told our clients, and directed them to our other locations. We packed supplies to be re-allocated to other stores on our downtime. We followed the company guidelines, and questioned all the things that the corporate office forgot about. We were good. Damn good, and finished a full day and a half ahead of the closing timeline. If we pushed a little harder, we could have closed even earlier than that. But for what? To be out of work a day earlier? So it sucks. Big time. And yes, I'm pouting right now, which only wine and chocolate makes better.

Anyway, it's been five days since closing. Five days to reflect on what I'll miss and what I won't:

First of all, I'll miss the people I've worked with over the years. OK, MOST of them. A few weren't cut out for retail. A couple were downright lazy. One even had a "peculiar" body odor, but heck, we were desperate one holiday season and needed bodies to cover night shifts.  Then there was the store director who quit the day before Black Friday-yeah, he'll never get a Christmas card from me. EVER. But the team we put together especially in the last 18 months or so was stellar.  I even got to check off a Bucket List item with one of them.

I'll miss some of our customers, like Janey, and Carmen and crazy Sivia, my Orthodox Gilda Radner who would actually sneak in on high holy days just to pay her credit card bill. I'm glad to be rid of the pigs, I mean, clients, who left clothes stained with makeup, inside out and on the fitting room floors for us to clean up. The ones who did it every stinking week, and never bought anything. I won't miss the people who expected us to take back clothes they wore most recently in "Saturday Night Fever" days because they lost weight, or gained it, or thought we gave lifetime warranties. And I can breathe easier knowing that I won't have the shoplifters, stolen identity thieves, and other deviants that could cure cancer if they put their minds to doing something legal.

I will miss the ever-changing seasons, the excitement of roll-outs and seeing new styles and trends. I won't miss working holidays, clopens (closing late at night, then coming back to open early the next morning), the summer of the mall bomb threats nor the security company calls at crazy hours.

True story: Thanksgiving night (the same year that store director quit), the security company woke me up to tell me that our store had been broken into. I drove like a mad woman 35 minutes to get to a store guarded with police like Fort Knox. Reviewing the security cameras revealed that a woman with a baby in a stroller was not happy that we opted not to open that night, and shook the doors SO LONG AND SO HARD that she broke the rod that secured the door through the floor. One more hard pull popped the lock. Thirteen people went into the dark store that night with the alarm blasting only to be stopped as they were leaving by mall security and the local police department. One guy actually told the cops that he thought "all the help was in the back on break".  And you wonder why I won't miss holidays and some customers.  

As organized as I was with closing our store, I have now created chaos at home. It's been a pattern over the last three job losses. When I was RIF'ed at the retirement community, I went home and immediately started moving furniture around in every room. Jobless after Superstorm Sandy, I had a floor full of soggy furniture and belongings to deal with-albeit not my own doing. Still, I gave away a nice baby grand piano that wasn't damaged for no real reason. This week, with severance paperwork signed, sealed and delivered, I've filled boxes with stuff to donate, to toss, to take to that new place to live...wherever that might be.There are sticky notes on every door in every room indicating what needs to be done.

I knew when I wrote my last blog that doors would be closing, and this was one of them. Selling this bear of a house is another big door. Although I've read that these life changes can cause people to actually die, I'm more concerned that Cosmopolitan magazine says stress causes acne as well as developing cortisol which turns into belly fat. I do not want to die with acne and pants that won't button. I have a sticky note on my closet door to that fact.

In "You've Got Mail" ShopGirl sent an e-mail to NY152 about her store closing. How I feel is not as dramatic as what she says, but it's close:

As a friend sent me at Christmas: Upward.

For The First Time In History, It's Gonna Start Raining Men

There is an old saying about how things happen in threes.  With Wingman dying, my house flooding and losing my job-all in three months, y...