Just Say No to Advertising Your Business via Trick-or-Treaters

I’ve always loved Halloween.

As a child I looked forward to Trick-or-Treating with great anticipation.  I recall the year my Mom made ghost costumes for my sister and I, and there was the year I was Cinderella, complete with one of those horrid plastic masks kept on with the thin string of elastic.  Never mind that the plastic mask with the teeny, tiny eye and breath holes practically suffocated me .  Toss it, you say?  Oh, no.  It was part of my costume, and it was pulled down over my face and pushed up for breaths.  Every ten seconds.  All.  Night.  Long.

The last year I could get away with Trick-or-Treating was the year I turned thirteen.   By then too self-conscious and fearful of being uncool, the only possible costume was a hobo.  Every seventh grader in central Jersey was a hobo that year.  My friends and I made the rounds of my 1000+ apartment complex, finally heading home in triumph with a pillowcase full of candy.

By the next year I was simply too old to go Trick-or-Treating, at least without the censure of the adults opening their doors.  So I talked my neighbor into allowing me to chaperone her three and five year-olds, and I did that for the next three years.

As I got older Halloween became on of the joys of being a parent I most looked forward to.  I would accompany my nephews and my friends’ kids, and dream of someday.

Someday has been here for awhile now, and we’re about to celebrate Son’s sixth Halloween. They’ve all been memorable, terrific.  I’ve loved making his costumes, going to Halloween parties, last year’s parade at school, and Trick-or-Treating with friends.  We are working on costume ideas now, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to give up the be-the-cute-thing-Mommy-wants-you-to-be ghost (giving up the ghost – pun intended) in favor of his own choice of a “skeleton zombie”.  Sigh.

Not that Halloween hasn’t had it’s share of disappointments.  When I was very little we’d eat the candy apples and other homemade goodies we got as part of our cache.  Then sick people started putting things like razor blades in apples, so we had to give up those lovingly made treats and start inspecting our candy.

Then there was the bane of the northern childrens’ existence – being forced by our mothers to – gasp! – wear a coat over our costumes!!  Oh, the insanity of it all!

Now there is a relatively new trend that is irking me to no end.

People are advertising their businesses on the backs of Trick-or-Treaters.  There are blog posts all over the blogosphere promoting the practice, and giving suggestions on how to maximize the impact.   Entrepreneurs can attach business cards to candy, give free samples (that no child would give any type of hoot about at all – they just want CANDY!),  links to your blog and coupons.  Coupons for a “free” karate lesson (and afterward the big sell for $120/month lessons), or $5 off your $20 Avon order, or free estimates for pest control!

No one loves a coupon more than I.  And I understand that times are tough.  Finding creative ways to advertise is not only important, but vital to the survival of small business, and the recovery of our economy.

I get it.  I do.

But please don’t do it on the backs of children Trick-or-Treating.  I don’t want to be handed your business card, or invited to sell Herbalife.  I don’t want to think about you or your business while I’m watching my son bask in the glow of praise for his costume,  thank givers politely, and run to catch up to his friends.

I don’t want your business there.  It’s tainting one of the most fun, carefree rites of childhood.  Moving the focus from my child.  Where it’s supposed to be.

Don’t you understand that he’ll be thirty tomorrow?

So, if we are on the receiving end of your solicitation, know that it will end up in the trash, and I will be less likely to patronize your business.  Actually, pretty definitely not likely at all.

And, for the record, I also don’t want to see ads on textbooks, playground equipment, or school buses.  Capisce?



Remind Me To Never Go to Taipei…

From last year's  birthday trip to Metrozoo, where his only interest was the restrooms...

From last year's birthday trip to Metrozoo, where his only interest was the restrooms...

Everyone who reads my blog knows that Son’s favorite thing is a restroom.  Ever since he was a baby he has been fascinated by toilets, and they day he discovered a urinal our whole lives changed.  He wanted to be a urinal for Halloween, and whenever you ask him what he wants for his birthday his answer is invariably “A restroom!”

One of last year's efforts.  Today's are much more detailed.

One of last year's efforts. Today's are much more detailed.

Thank goodness he doesn’t  know about this restaurant in Taipei, the brainchild of someone who is obviously a kindred spirit to Son.  Or four years old.

“The servers bring your meal atop a mini toilet bowl (quite convenient, as it brings the food closer to your mouth), you sip drinks from your own plastic urinal (a souvenir), and soft-swirl ice cream arrives for dessert atop a dish shaped like a squat toilet.” toilet_rest_0219

Seriously, who wants to eat food that looks like poop?  Out of a toilet bowl.  While sipping upon one. Here are some more photos, for those who appreciate my not  posting them directly.

I’m one that loves desserts.  But you can bet your ass that I’m not eating ice cream called “diarrhea with dried droppings” (chocolate), “bloody poop” (strawberry) and “green dysentery” (kiwi). But my, how Son would love it!

No, we’ll not be going to Taipei.  But if any of you go, would you please bring Son one of the souvenier urinal cups?  He’d be ever so grateful…

Spontaneity and Sunsets

Copyright 1.18.2009

Husband is a planner.  He finds great comfort in knowing what will happen when, and plan changes are very difficult for him to process.

This, of course, is the exact opposite of me.

Husband and I were friends for 12 years or so before we started to date, and in all that time his abhorrence to spontaneity had never really presented itself.  One could think that we then could not have been very good friends, but I think it’s more because I was somewhat oblivious, as his decision not to hop in the car right now and drive to Cape Canaveral to watch a shuttle launch instead of going home and going to bed at 1 am didn’t seem that unusual.

In the first months we dated Husband planned some wonderful outings.  We’d go to Sanibel to watch the sunset, for dinner and a hansom cab ride along Las Olas Boulevard, or to Bok Tower Gardens to lie in the grass and listen to the Carillon as we watched the tree tops sway in the breeze.  All of these day trips were planned by Husband well in advance, and I was very content to go along for the ride.

Then we planned a trip to Tallahassee to go to a Florida State game.  We had spoken about other things we could do in the area, such as (what I considered the possibility of) going to visit the Caves at Marianna,  Wakulla Springs and the wonderful lodge there, and St. Marks Wildlife Preserve.

But oh, no.  Husband had it all planned meticulously – what we’d do each morning, afternoon and evening.  “Do we have to plan everything?” I asked, feeling a bit claustrophobic.

“Yes!” Vehemently.

“When can I pee?”

“I’m sure I can fit it into the schedule…”

After some discussion, Husband agreed to schedule some spontaneous time from 1-4 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Yes, scheduled  spontaneity.  Oh, how I laughed.


Now, many years later, Husband still must schedule  spontaneity.  Plan changes much be communicated as soon as possible, preferably over the telephone so the resultant bitching, moaning and complaning can occur while I place the phone on the table and go do… anything else.

So, imagine my surprise yesterday, when Husband declared that it was a beautiful day and he wanted to go… somewhere.  After a moment’s discussion he suggested driving to Sanibel to watch the sunset – a two hour drive.  Not ten minutes later all three of us were in the car with blankets, towels, sweaters, windbreakers, a cooler and my cameras and we were on our way.

We were there in plenty of time to stop by the wildlife preserve, grab a fun lunch at Cheeburger, Cheeburger and head to our favorite spot – a small area right where Sanibel meets Captiva.  The cool weather kept most others away, but they were fools, all.

We saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever had the privilege to see, and I spent that time with the two most wonderful people.   G-d has blessed me, truly.


Money and Identity

Thanksgiving is a five day extravaganza  in my family.  My sisters and  their families came into town, and we spend almost all of the time they are  here together because time together is so rare.

The kids have a blast – Son is thrilled to spend so much time with his cousins, and has declared on more than one occasion today that he wants to go live with them.

Days together revolve around meals.  All of our dinners are planned out before plane reservations are made.  Breakfasts and lunches are a wee more spontaneous, but we can always count on my father to plan lunch before the breakfast dishes are cleared.  We’re Jewish – food is of utmost importance.

Dad pays for everything.  He wouldn’t have it any other way. The other night the sixteen of us went out to dinner at a chez fancy restaurant, and I’m sure the bill came to at least $700.  None of us even thought of reaching for  a check.  It’s just not done.  And it’s not only when the entire family is together.  Even when it’s just the two of us Dad insists on paying, unless its his Birthday or Father’s Day.

I used to find this puzzling, and feel that I was taking advantage.   Shouldn’t I pay some of the time?  It’s only fair – and I have a very strong sense of fairness.

He and I once got into an actual argument over who was going to pay a lunch check  He got so angry when I snatched the check out of his hand, and I was shocked.  He told me that I was insulting him by not letting him pay.  Insulting him??????

And that’s when I got it.

For my Dad, being able to provide for his children has always been his number one priority.  Part of being a father is putting a roof over our heads, paying for college, paying for weddings, and paying for meals, in or out.

It’s part of his identity.  Who he is.  Money and parenthood are closely related to him, and he spent many years struggling to find the money to provide the things he felt he was required to provide.  And he always did.

We all make decisions about money, what it means to us,  how much we need to be happy, what we’re willing to do to get it.  Our relationship with money is part of our identities, and it colors all of our relationships.

And it’s taught me, again, that sometimes giving is being willing to receive.

Celebrating Thanksgiving Twice and Hanukkah Once on Thanksgiving Day

We’re not the only ones who will be celebrating Thanksgiving more than once on Thanksgiving Day.  I venture to guess that we’re one of only a few that will have TWO Thanksgivings and a Hanukkah, too.

Thanksgiving isn’t a day in my family – it’s a four day extravaganza.   We have many traditions (breakfast at the flea market on Friday, dinner out Saturday night and  various other and sundry fun things jam-packed into those four days) that are so entrenched that when friends misguidedly invite me to go on a Black Friday Sale hunt I must shake my head and decline.

We’d gone away the past few years, but this is going to be the first Thanksgiving at Dad’s new home without my stepmother, and we all feel it’s Especially Important.  Husband’s family has been so supportive the past yfew years that we’ve gone away, so we’ve made going to their celebration a priority this year.   We’ll go there first, relax and not rush, and then head to my Dad’s later in the day.

How did we start celebrating Hanukkah at Thanksgiving?  It all began in 1983, when Hanukkah fell on December 1st.  Us kids had already started to scatter, so it made more sense to celebrate while we were together. We decided to celebrate it the day after Thanksgiving so at least we had two separate holidays.  And that’s how it’s been ever since.

This year my brother-in-law has to go back to work in Atlanta on Friday, so we’re doing all of our celebrating on Thursday.

What am I going to be doing with my time over the next two days?

Two corn casseroles, two pumpkin rolls ( a yummy dessert), caramelized onions, pumpkin pie, rhubarb pie, and wrapping several Hanukkah presents. Already did the big shopping trip with my Dad (7 family members staying at his house).

Also last minute-shopping, wrapping, welcomes, non-Thanksgiving dinners, school, karate, laundry and cleaning.

Did I mention that I’m sick? I don’t even have time to go to the doctor – my sister-in-law gave me a Z-pack.

But happy! I get to see my sisters and their families, spend time with them and the rest of my family and spend time with Husband’s family. All the people I love most in the world!

On Monday I can collapse.

Just Call Me Grace

We were a little late leaving the house this morning. Son had his “late breakfast” in hand, consisting of an Oatmeal to Go bar and milk. He was directly behind me and I started to say, “We’re late, so let’s hurry and get into the car,” but before the word hurry got out of my mouth I stepped funny and got to experience that time-slowing phenomenon where you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, great. I’m falling. Don’t cry out! Son is seeing this! This is going to hurt. I’m sure I’m not looking pretty right now either. And Husband is really going to tease me! What am I making for dinner…, etc.” All this as I’m doing my best imitation of a porpoise bodysurfing on the driveway…

I lay there for a moment, checking to see if I have any excruciating pain that might indicate serious injury, and getting my head together. After all, Son had seen this happen and no matter how hurt I was my first priority was to make sure he wasn’t scared. So I said, “Whoops! I just went kaboom!”, which is what I always say to him when he falls. “My homework!” he answered, and I looked to see homework strewn about, and remembered I’d been carrying it. I wish he was so concerned about his homework when I was asking him to do it.

Before I could reply he asked, “Mommy, are you okay?” I assured him I was, and carefully got up. I didn’t even cuss. There was quite a bit of dirt, my knees were skinned but the most serious injury was to my dignity. Surprising, because I didn’t know I had any left. I thought it eloped with my pride. I think I’m all out of both now. I quickly went back inside and got a few bandaids, gathered the scattered homework and off we went to school.

That’s another of those quirky things about about motherhood. Son was my first thought. Protecting HIM. Even as I lay bleeding.

All in all I’m feeling lucky. Two years ago I fell in a full restaurant in the Bahamas, spraining my ankle and spending the rest of my vacation hobbling around. The time before that- six years ago – I slipped on a nut on a sidewalk and broke my elbow. Apparently I was even less graceful those times. Apparently when G-d was handing out grace I was too distracted over in the stubbornness line to notice.

What color are your glasses?

Everyone sees the world through the filters of their own beliefs. It’s as if we’re wearing glasses, and our life experiences and beliefs are the lenses. We unconsciously see the world through those rose – or crap – colored glasses, and that influences how we perceive everything from the opposite sex to money to politics.

Have you ever known anyone who had such bad taste in the opposite sex that they could be in the room with 100 people and they’d circulate to the only non-trustworthy one in the bunch? Or read a blog that was so rightist or leftist that the author cannot see anything beyond their own doctrine? How about the millionaire that started out so poor that they re-used Christmas cards or re-used their dryer sheets twelve times, even as they added zeros to their bank accounts?

Have you ever thought about what colors your glasses? Have you ever taken them off and examined them? Checked to see which beliefs are working for you and which aren’t? Noticed the tint and tried to clean them off and looked at a person or issue or candidate without the filters?

It’s hard to do, because while it’s easy to see others’ glasses, it’s hard to see one’s own. And harder still to clean them.

That’s Good Chicken

I’m proud of my roast chicken.

In my meager repertoire of fraught cuisine, my chicken is really good. Always moist, always full of flavor, always a family favorite.

Husband says I make the second best roast chicken in the world. The first he ate as a pre-teen at a roadside stand in Puerto Rico. I contend that time and memory has enhanced the good flavor of that chicken, and my guess is that if placed side by side with my chicken he would reconsider. The availability of my chicken, which he can eat on a regular basis, should also make my chicken edge out Puerto Rico. But whatever.

The other night my family got together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and my contribution to the meal was a roast chicken. That meant it had to be cooked, transported to my brother’s house and reheated. The travel and reheating made me nervous – would my flagship dish stay juicy, or would the travel and reheating make it just another rubbery chicken?

My worry was for naught. It was juicy, it was tender, it was delicious. Everyone commented on how good it was, and you could tell they weren’t just giving lip service. I was so proud.

What’s the secret of my juicy chicken? Well, it’s not heart-healthy. And it’s messy. Very messy. I wash my hands about twelve times while prepping a chicken, and I use a clean towel which goes directly into the wash afterwards. But it really works to keep those juices in.

I like to use a whole chicken, and I use the fryers from Costco. I buy a package of two for about $7, and one is enough to feed my family of three and leave leftovers.

First I wash the raw chicken, and pat it dry. Then my secret: I rub butter all over the skin, inside and out (you can use wax paper or plastic wrap). Then I pour salt onto my fingertips, and rub salt all over the skin, inside and out.

I know. But it’s sooooooo good.

After that it’s just a matter of adding your favorite spices. I use Lawry’s salt (you can never have too much, can you?), garlic powder (I can’t ever have too much garlic, either) and Italian seasonings.

90 minutes at 350° (no, I don’t preheat!) and it’s perfect. The juice runoff helps make a terrific tasting gravy, too!

Sometimes I’ll cut up some red potatoes, spice them up and throw them in the pan, too. Other times I bake potatoes, or you can do rice as a side dish. Add some veggies and a salad and I’ve fed my family a great meal for under $6.

What’s your flagship dish, one that’s easy and delicious and makes you feel really good to set on your table? Please share it with us!

Imperfect Pancakes

There wasn’t a lot of cooking going on in my house growing up. My Mom offered a very limited menu of chicken, hamburgers, chicken, meatloaf, chicken, pork chops, chicken and takeout. Breakfast was almost always cereal, with French Toast a favorite for holidays, and Matzoh Brie (basically French Toast made with matzoh instead of bread) for birthdays. I think I recall her making pancakes once, and that was from a box mix. My mother never cooked from scratch if there was a pre-packaged alternative. This was the late sixties and early seventies, so the choices did not abound as they do today.

Somehow my sister emerged from this culinary wasteland and found her way to becoming an excellent cook. She offers her family a varied and eclectic menu, from the most simple dishes to gourmet delights. This while working full time and raising two kids and running her household. I remain puzzled as to how she broke the mold, while I flounder having kept my mother’s tradition going.

Yes, I am not a confident, skilled cook. True that I am hampered by familial finickiness, but it’s also because I just don’t branch out and try new recipes often. So while my prowess at making banana bread and cool cakes is well known in my family, and I make a mean corn casserole and pineapple souffle, each new recipe I try is stressful.

And that’s just silly.

So, this morning Husband woke up and said he wanted pancakes for breakfast and asked me to make them. Just last week I had seen a recipe for supposedly wonderful pancakes, so I gave it a shot.

They’re pretty ugly. I think there were only two nicely round, evenly browned pancakes. But they were warm and fluffy and tasted perfectly scrumptious.

Restaurant pancakes may be pretty and perfect, but you can’t eat at a restaurant in your underwear. And instead of thanking a waitress while spending $30 on breakfast, I got a thank you kiss from Husband, and a sticky hug from Son, and spent about a dollar.

I think I’ll make chocolate chip pancakes next time…

One Less Regret

Kate at One More Thing wrote a thoughtful post about what to do if you discover you have only one month to live, and one of the things she said struck a chord with me (actually the whole post is full of chords). She said that she had no regrets.

I do. I don’t have many, but they are there. The biggest is not having had more children, and though it still makes me sad when I think about it I don’t dwell on it. It’s a fact, it’s there, but there’s nothing I can do to change it so there’s no point.

Another regret is the one friendship I’ve lost over bad behavior on my part. This girl and I met in junior college and were friends for seven years. The memories we made are way too numerous (and often scandalous) to share. Suffice to say that we were to each other that most important relationship in the life of any young girl: best friends. We were there for each other in all the ways true best friends are.

It was good stuff.

A few years after graduating college we were planning her wedding and I was making the agonizing decision to put my mother in a mental hospital. My sister was pregnant and her husband laid off, so I felt the burden was mine, all mine. After the wedding she offered me an escape, so I wound up moving with her and her husband to another state to help her in-laws renovate a home they were turning into a bed-and-breakfast. I was very, very depressed.

I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain. I sneak-smoked in the house, I didn’t do the work I said I’d do and I didn’t find a job and move out. It took three months to end a friendship of seven years, and it ended with accusations of theft (which I absolutely did not do) and anti-semitic slurs. My friend did not trust easily, and my actions (or mostly lack thereof) shattered that trust.

It was the only time in my life I ever lost a friend by anything other than normal drift. And I felt lousy about it. Sure, I was wronged, too. But I did a lot wrong. That didn’t help my depression any.

I came back to Florida and tried to put my life back together. I had gotten offered a job in an insurance office, and I clawed my way into a life. My depression gradually lifted. A few months later I wrote letters of apology to my friend and her husband and to his parents, and while I hoped to hear from her I didn’t expect to.

That was fifteen years ago. I’ve thought of her often over the years. I’m still friends with many of the people we knew together back then (I even married one), though she has lost touch. So of course it’s a regret. My actions helped end a friendship that meant a great deal to me.

Fast forward to today. I ran a search on Facebook for people who were at university the same time I was, and her name was the very first to pop up. I’d only been a Facebook member for a few weeks, and here was an opportunity I could not let pass.

So I sent her a message, and she responded. Open, friendly, welcoming.

I cannot tell you how freed up I feel that this burden of loss/regret/guilt has been lifted, and I can’t explain why it would be lifted just because she replied to my message. After all ,it’s not that what happened has been erased, and that I don’t still feel guilt and regret. But even if we don’t stay in contact I somehow don’t feel that sense of loss that I’ve felt every time I’ve thought about her over the past fifteen years.

Hello, old friend.

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