Jul 31, 2009 Uncategorized
Every year, I fly a bunch of times on jetBlue, occasionally on some other airline if jetBlue is full or the schedule doesn’t work, and then once on Midwest to Kansas City with the kids to visit my dad and step-mom. jetBlue is usually as good as it gets for affordable air travel. Weather and FAA rules kind of screwed me earlier this week when I was trying to get back from Chicago, but throughout the jetBlue crew was nice, shared as much info with us as they could, and even added a flight the next morning to get us all home. You can see why they’re always my first choice.
But jetBlue doesn’t fly from NYC to Kansas City, so I always pick Midwest. They’ve proven over the years to be reliable, and they serve hot chocolate chip cookies in-flight. They never have enough vegetarian meals for purchase, I’m talking never once when I’ve flown them, but whatever, I know by now to bring my own food. And they don’t have TVs. But again, whatever. It’s two flights a year.
One thing I’ve always liked about the NYC-to-Kansas flight on Midwest is that there have always been four seats across on the whole plane. I sit with my daughter, and my son sits across the aisle, usually with a businessman who is initially annoyed that he’s sitting with a kid, but my son wins him over with his politely lisped questions and good behavior (he’s an awesome flier).
So, I just went to the Midwest website to check in for tomorrow morning’s flight. When I purchased the tickets a few weeks ago, I noticed that I wasn’t given a chance to choose our seats, and since I only fly them once a year I couldn’t remember if I usually get to do that at purchase or not. Well, when I checked in online, I had a couple of surprises. Number one, more than half of the plane (the back half) now has five seats across, instead of four. Number two, seats had already been chosen for us. And three, none of us were sitting together. We each had a window seat, spread over four rows. My kids ages are on the reservation, so they know that they just separated five- and eight-year-olds from their mom for a three-plus-hour flight.
But wait, I don’t have to keep those seats! Why, look at this! For only $35 extra per seat, I can purchase a “signature seat” in the roomier part of the plane, and we can all sit together! Now, I have no problem paying for upgrades. I always buy the “extra legroom” seat on jetBlue. I do last-minute upgrades to first class when available (they’re usually pretty cheap at that point). I don’t mind spending extra money to get more of something. But I don’t like to be tricked into it. I feel like Midwest has set things up completely on purpose so that I’ll say “Oh my gosh, I can’t let my kids sit where I can see them! I have to buy the upgrade!” Not to mention, it’s not an upgrade, it’s just a restoration to what I got as a matter of course last year.
I’m not going to do it. I’m going to speak nicely to the gate agent tomorrow morning. And if they won’t put us together, then the people around us are going to have to put up with it. I’ll make it as easy on them as possible – it’s not the other passengers’ fault, and I’m guessing that someone will offer to switch with me so that I can at least sit with my daughter. But I’m not going to pay just because a bunch of people sat in a boardroom and said “OK, how can we pigeonhole people into paying more and make them think they’re getting an upgrade?” Nope, not gonna do it. And if the situation is the same next time I fly to Kansas City, I’ll be looking for another airline.
UPDATE: So, as it turned out I didn’t really get to make any kind of issue of this. I was at LaGuardia Airport during Saturday morning’s bomb scare, and as soon as the airport re-opened we were rushed through security to get to our flight (they were trying to get all of the scheduled flights out as fast as possible, in order, and ours was one of the first). As we were getting on the plane I mentioned to the gate agent that my kids weren’t seated with me, so he put my son in the first row and me and Fiona in the second. He thought those seats were free when he did it, but they weren’t and so at least two people had to sit farther back instead of in the great seats they thought they had. One guy glared at me as he went by, the other didn’t seem to care. At that point there was really nothing to be done. I’ve never seen them load a plane and get it in the air so fast. So, yes, I felt bad. I wanted us to sit together, but I didn’t want to kick other people out of their good seats to do it.
[If you don't want to read this rambling post about my inability to part with crap, here's the gist: listing a couple of items I wanted to give away on Kijiji.com was free, easy, and fast. You can see my Kijiji listings here. [UPDATE: Had to take down the ads already, the stuff is spoken for!] If you’re not in NYC, go to the site and change the location to where you are. Let the rambling commence.]
Kijiji is Swahili for “village.” And I’ve got an entire village worth of stuff lying around my house. Earlier this month, Kijiji.com sent a personal organizer to my house for about an hour free of charge to help make a dent in the massive amount of clutter taking over my life. I started the process about a year ago when I put a whole lot of stuff into Ikea boxes. I call it the Ikea-ization of my house, and while I haven’t added anything new to the boxes in months, I’m pretty happy that everything I put into the boxes originally is still there and organized, so I know I’m on the right track.
But as much as I would like to take absolutely everything in my house and put it in a nice little labeled Ikea box and stack it on a shelf, there aren’t enough boxes in Red Hook for all the crap that I’ve accumulated, that I’ve let the kids accumulate (it pisses me off that I can’t even blame this a little bit on The Ass – he just doesn’t bring much stuff into the house). I know that I have to get rid of some stuff. And while the personal organizer was here, I did throw out a bunch of junk. That was fairly easy, because it really was junk. But selling stuff or giving it away…eesh. If someone else would possibly want it, then that means that it’s good enough that I could possibly want it. So why would I get rid of it?
Here’s me getting a little nauseous at the thought of getting rid of anything:
The thing about me is, I talk big. When the very nice and capable Lisa Zaslow was here, in my living room, I said I wanted – needed – to get rid of stuff. And at the time, I meant it. I would have passed a lie detector test no problem. Lisa spent a little time showing me how little time it really takes to make a big difference. We just dug in and worked on my living room shelves. Lisa put post-it notes on shelves so that we could sort stuff for giving away and selling. And in about twenty minutes, things looked so much better! I had put some crap in the garbage, and set aside a few other things to list on Kijiji. Things were going well. I only felt a little sick to my stomach at the thought of getting rid of stuff that I probably hadn’t touched in over a year.
Here’s some stuff that I got rid of. Yes, it felt very weird to throw a baby (doll) into the garbage. And no, I didn’t ask my daughter if I could throw it out, but she hadn’t touched it in so long I doubt if she even remembered it was once one of her prized posessions.
Some of the clutter that I threw out that day included tile samples for a bathroom we chose tiles for more than a year ago, crappy plastic toys from birthday parties and fast food restaurants, and broken toys.
Here’s Lisa talking me through the plan going forward:
We moved to the dining room and Jenny and Alyssa, who were representing Kijiji, showed me the site. They walked me through posting an item on Kijiji, but there was really no explanation necessary. It’s very simple and intuitive. You don’t even have to sign up for the site in order to list something.
I had a lot of questions for Jenny and Alyssa about why someone would use Kijiji instead of, say, Craig’s List. The answer seems to be very simple: since Kijiji doesn’t have sections listing porn and escorts, it’s unlikely that someone looking for those things would wander over to your listing for crib sheets. There’s no provision for those types of services on the site. So Kijiji sounds perfect for local transactions. Although there is an “other” category that I hope they watch carefully. A glance there found an advertisement for “massages” by “young women.” I don’t know how one keeps those kinds of ads out, but if you don’t want to attract the kind of people looking for those ads, you have to make sure the subjects of the ads are all family-friendly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily against someone getting a rub-and-tug to help them with their tension (have I been watching too much Entourage?). But when I’m listing items for sale and that sale will be completed locally, in cash, I want the site to be free of offers like that. Or as free of them as possible. And compared to Craig’s List, Kijiji is a nunnery. [UPDATE: A rep from Kijiji contacted me to let me know that they take this issue very seriously, and that anyone who sees an inappropriate ad should click on "Report this Ad" so that appropriate measures can be taken. I just did it for the massage ad. Hovering over "Report this Ad" showed a drop-down list of reasons to report, and I clicked on "Fraud/Scam/Offensive". That was it. It took 3 seconds.]
Anywho, the visit from the organizing professional was almost a month ago. What happened? Well, I started off with the best of intentions. Before she left, Lisa got me to schedule half an hour for the next day to go through some more stuff and list a couple of things on Kijiji. I was talking about “Yeah, half an hour a day, I can do that.” But Lisa was adamant that I not try to do too much, that it would backfire. OK, I’m down with that. So the next day, at the appointed time, I set a timer for 30 minutes and got to work. I sorted a few more things, and then grabbed a puzzle that I wanted to list on the site. I figured it would be a good idea to put it together and make sure that all the pieces were there. Well guess what? Ten minutes later (yes, my daughter can put it together in about three) I discovered that a piece was missing. Shit. So, instead of just setting that aside and moving on to the next item, I spend the rest of the 30 minutes trying to find that one piece. And of course I never found it.
This was my way of delaying doing what I didn’t want to do. For the next few weeks I avoided emails from the nice Kijiji people. I kept looking at the small pile of stuff that I was supposed to list, and it made me sad. Sad because I had spent money on that stuff and not used it. Sad because I was unable to do this simple thing. I went to BlogHer, and while I was in Chicago, my husband cleaned. I hate it when he does this. He doesn’t sort anything, he doesn’t put anything away. He just takes everything in his way, puts it in boxes, and puts it up on a high shelf where I will never be able to find anything. So that got me moving again. He’s more than happy to leave all of the stuff alone if it’s out of his way. I have to get control of it.
MTV recently sent me the newer version of my beloved Rock Band game, so I took pictures of the old drum set and guitar and listed them on Kijiji. It was easy. It was beyond easy. I put in the relevant info – the price (free), a description, an email address that won’t be made public, my zip code so that potential buyers could get an idea of where I am but not the exact location – and I uploaded a picture. I previewed the listing, approved it, and then got an instant confirmation email. Once I clicked on the confirmation, that was it, I was done. From start to finish, listing an item had taken about 90 seconds. And the screen that I was taken to for my ad let me list it very easily on Facebook and Twitter.
It was so easy, I’m pissed that I hadn’t done it sooner. I don’t want to diss eBay, which I use frequently, because they own Kijiji. And eBay does have a local listing option. But eBay is not set up for this, it’s just an afterthought, and listing on eBay can be a pain in the ass. It’s worth it for something bigger, but not something like baby clothes or used shoes, or giving something away for free. Kijiji is just for that. Free, quick, local, simple.
So, we’ll see if I get any interest in the stuff. If you’re in NYC, check out my listings!
[UPDATE: In the time it took to pick the kids up from camp and get home, I had three people wanting to pick up the drum set and two wanting the guitar. So I've removed the ads. When I put up more listings, the link below will take you to them. This is, of course, a great endorsement for Kijiji regarding free items; the next test will be when I put things on the site for sale.]
Oh, and here’s how the shelf looked after about half an hour of decluttering. No, the shelves aren’t done. But I think that’s the point I have to get through my thick head: I don’t have to finish it. I don’t have to look at it as a huge project. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Jul 31, 2009 Amy in the Morning
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Jul 30, 2009 Amy in the Morning
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Jul 29, 2009 Uncategorized
A site that I write for, the NYC Moms Blog, has partnered with Yahoo to produce a video series, called “A Byte Out Of Life” and I’m in one of the first videos. I’d tell you exactly where I was, but then you might not see all of the other fabulous moms in the video.
Basically, I’m trying to prepare my kids for the real world. If I thought that keeping them away from the internet 100% of the time would keep them safe, I’d do it. But I’m trying to raise my children, not just keep them in a nice safe bubble. The internet isn’t going anywhere, and I want to feel secure that when they get out into the big bad world, they’ll be able to handle themselves.
Of course, that will all just be big talk if someone gross manages to contact them online, and I’ll probably become a Luddite for a little while. But for now, I’m comfortable with the amount of time they spend online and where they go. The problem is, I have no idea how long I should keep checking their browsing histories and only let them access the ‘net through the filter of parent-controlled software, but I know I’ve got years ahead of me still where I should still be doing all of that, so I’ll think about that another day.
Jul 29, 2009 Weight Loss
[I am NOT a nutritionist, doctor, nurse, or anything else that would give me any special knowledge about weight loss outside of my own experience. If you take anything I'm about to say as advice, you do it at your own risk and I take absolutely no responsibility. I'm a BLOGGER, and you should never take medical advice from a blogger, unless possibly that blogger is also a well-known doctor who has appeared repeatedly on Oprah. And even then, not sure you should. Just saying. To sum up: me, not responsible for anything you do.]
So I just got this email. Here it is in its entirety:
Well Susan, first off, I’m wondering why you’re asking. Either you’re a smart-ass looking for a laugh at my expense, or you are so vain/depressed/desperate that you would risk your life to be thin. I suspect it’s the first one, but since I like math I’ll play along. I’ll even use myself as an example. But if it’s the second one, my friendly suggestion would be to get yourself to a psychiatrist as soon as possible. The fact that you’re even asking the question (if it’s a serious one) scares me.
Checking a few different websites with calorie calculators (just google “how many calories do I need calculator”), I’ve found that I need anywhere from 1,700 calories to 2,500 a day to maintain my weight. That’s a big range, but I’m guessing that if I were fasting in order to lose weight, I’d also be exercising and being active to help things along. So I’ll use the top of the range, 2,500 calories a day. One pound equals approximately 3,500 calories. So, if I fasted (voluntarily stopped eating) and drank only calorie-free water, I would stand to lose about 5 pounds per week, probably a lot more the first week as my body gets rid of all the extra water it’s been retaining due to sodium in the french fries, frozen dinners and canned soup I’m no longer eating. I’m guessing I could probably drop ten pounds just in water weight.
At that rate, I’d be at the absolute bottom of my goal weight in just a couple of months (probably too thin for my frame, actually). Of course, that probably would never happen, because I would most likely die first. I’ve seen estimates on how long an adequately-hydrated person can live without food, and they range anywhere from two weeks to six months , depending on many factors: the person’s weight when she started, how much energy she expels while fasting, her overall health before starting the fast, etc. But for most of us I’m guessing it would be towards the lower end with absolutely no food. The six month mention was for an extremely obese person, who had hundreds of pounds to lose.
So, there you have it, Susan. I have no idea how fast you would lose weight, because I have nothing but your name and your email address, and those don’t give me a clue as to your height, weight and activity level. But for me, it would be somewhere around five pounds a week until I died, or the starvation-induced delirium caused me to get involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, where they would probably give me a feeding tube or force me to eat. The only pointer I can reasonably give you is to eat healthy, don’t go below 1,200 calories a day, and figure out why it’s so important to you to lose weight so fast – again, the psychiatrist might come in handy.
Jul 29, 2009 Amy in the Morning
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Jul 28, 2009 Weight Loss
I love Dr. Phil, and I agree with a lot of what he as to say (even if I often cringe at how he’s saying it). But I’ve never agreed with him on weight loss. I didn’t agree when I was thin, I didn’t agree when I was fat, and I still don’t agree with him now that I’m on my way back. And it all centers on will power.
Dr. Phil has said over and over on his show that if you want to lose weight, you can’t rely on will power. Instead, he pushes his guests to change their entire routines and environments in order to take the weight off. The house is emptied of junk food, the route to work is changed in order to not pass any tempting drive-thru restaurants. This has never made sense to me. For one thing, the foods that I really shouldn’t have much of if I want to lose weight are not necessarily bad foods. Some M&M’s are fine. Half a large bag is not. Cheese is great, as long as I don’t eat the entire package. Why in the world should I keep my family from eating foods that only seem to be making me fat, and why should I deprive myself of foods that are delicious?
And the McDonald’s Drive-Thru? It’s everywhere. I pass at least half a dozen on the way to camp each day to pick up my kids. Will power is the only thing stopping me from driving in every day and grabbing some fries for the road. So sure, if you were to put me in some kind of sterile environment where I didn’t have access to foods that can make me fat, I’m sure that I would come out thin. But I can’t live in that environment forever. Nor would I want to. I want to be able to have some dessert without binging. I want to be able to drive past McDonald’s and choose (most of the time, anyway) not to stop. And the free food? Oh my God, every press event I go to has delicious, free food – my weakness! But the thinner I get, the easier those decisions become.
I’ve often been tempted to join Nutri-System or some other program that would send me food, and as long as I ate that food I would lose weight. But then what? Do I have to eat that food forever? Losing weight isn’t easy, but neither is it hard. What it is, though, is a commitment from within, and changing the outside environment is a temporary fix. I need to be able to live and eat well in my world as it is. And my world is filled with fast food, and kids’ snacks, and the incredibly delicious pizza that’s one room away from me right now (and which is fine to eat as long as I stop at one or two pieces).
Did I eat more than I should have this past weekend in Chicago? Of course. But did I ever stuff myself? No. I did usually eat until I was very full, but I ate so much less than on any other recent out-of-town trip. It all basically boiled down to reminding myself that that wasn’t going to be my last chance to eat free food. That was it. Because I think I eat out of fear a lot of the time. Fear that the food won’t be there tomorrow. And really, convincing myself that I’m a grown-up who could go out and buy food whenever was not hard. So, I can be in the same room with chips and brownies and pasta and not just automatically go hog-wild.
Sorry, Dr. Phil. But I’ll be sure to call you when I catch my daughter pouring drain cleaner on my toothbrush.