December 23, 2011

I’m three weeks late!

     I don’t know how this happened, well of course I know how it happened but you know what I mean.  I am usually very prepared and well aware of the time table.  In the past I’ve always had everything I need to prevent this from happening.  I can’t even blame it on being distracted by the kids as they’re teenagers.  Can I play the stroke card, no probably not. So how in the world did this happen?
     For the last couple of years I have been very diligent about mailing my Christmas cards out the weekend following Thanksgiving.  What did you think I was talking about?  Ok I know sorry set you up on that one a little bit (big smile).
     Seriously though I just don’t know where the time went.  I had all of my cards signed the week before Christmas. I also strive to list every child on the card.  I used to hate it when cards came to the house David, Betty and the girls.  Well writing and the girls takes maybe two seconds less than writing Bren and Sister.  Now this is not to say that I expect or impose that on anyone else it is just one of “my things”.  I can’t say that I’ve never done it in the past when I couldn’t remember a child’s name.  Now thanks to my handy dandy Christmas card excel spread sheet that will never happen again. 
    How did I lose three weeks?  Ugh; frustrating to say the least.  Seeing as how my cards were late I thought I would create a newsletter of sorts, more of a year in review.  Doesn’t sound like a major undertaking does it?  So tell me why I just can’t get it done?  Of course for some reason I cannot understand Microsoft Works has turned my two page document into 32,795 pages.  For some reason not only is MW preventing me from editing it also will not allow me to create a new document either.
                Well after another attempt at fixing my newsletter I have finally given up!  So instead of sharing tidbits from the year I’m enclosing a picture of the kids.  Of course despite the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken this year there isn’t one all three could agree on so I had to make a collage. Oh the things we suffer for our children. 
                Well my cards are probably going to arrive after Christmas but you know what ~ I’m not stressing about it and in itself is a major improvement.
                Merry Christmas


 

December 20, 2011

What's in your wallet?

     I have to admit I love those viking commercials.  However this isn't a blog about credit cards.  Rather those other cards we all carry around, store cards. You know the ones that give you store perks or discounts or help save for your children's college education.  How many of those do you have?
      According to KeyRingThing the average family has 12 loyalty cards on their key ring alone.  Quick FYI: A heavy key chain can damage your ignition switch according The Mustang Source as well as dozens of other resources and yes all those cards do count.  I personally think this number is incredibly low and here's my proof:


What you see above are all of my loyalty cards.  I have a separate wallet just for them and they're alphabetized.  Yes that's a Vera Bradley wallet that Treasure loving chewed the zipper off of ~ thank goodness it was a hand-me-down.  I HATE loyalty cards but there is no way I am going to turn down possible savings in the future now am I or should I?
     According to C.A.S.P.I.A.N. (Consumers Against Supermarket Invasion and Numbering) the discounts do not necessarily outweigh the benefits. Supermarkets that offer discounts to card holders only are raising the prices on goods throughout the store. Most of these loyalty programs cost the stores millions of dollars in annual operating costs, and you know who actually pays they costs don't you. In addition to the extra costs that the consumers bears for these programs there is also the privacy issue.  How many times are you asked at a check out to fill out this form so you can receive a free card?  Have you read all of the terms and conditions~ really have you?  They always want a  snail mail addy as well as an email plus your phone number.  And can we have your b'day info as well so we can send you a special coupon to celebrate?  Even when they promise to not share any of your information outside of their company what does that really mean?  T.J. Maxx's parent company is T.J.X. which also owns as Marshalls, HomeGoods and four other store chains in the US, Canada and Europe.  So is your information being shared globally? 
     Infosec Island, an IT security website, suggests that we regularly go through those cards we've been carrying around. In their article Loyalty Cards vs Privacy Concerns they also encourage destroying not simply throwing away cards you no longer use as well as finding out which have gone mobile.
   
     Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they feel each card is worth.  I have a separate email that I use for "commercial" needs.  On the upside....
     While shopping at Big Lots I handed the cashier my rewards card and was pleased to discover that I had earned enough points and was receiving 20% off my ENTIRE purchase~ woo hoo.  Unlike other stores that require you to register your points or use them by a certain date Big Lots tracks it all and let's you know when you've earned them.  Another favorite rewards card is my Hallmark Gold Member card.  Hallmark is another store that tracks your purchases and every quarter sends you a reward check.  Panera's works like Big Lots and at least once a month I'm earning a drink or bakery item for free.
     So shopping this weekend was actually a pleasure~ I received 20% off at Big Lots, used coupons and reward checks at Hallmark that paid for 2 of our annual Christmas Ornaments and had lunch for free at Panera's.  WOOHOO  loving reward cards this holiday season

December 10, 2011

85%

     The score of 85 on a test is above average, a good strong B.  Have you thought of that percentage in any other scenario?  Probably not, I certainly haven't.  The most recent headline I could find with 85% in it was from The Montreal Gazette on March 6, 1945, Cologne 85 percent in Ruins.  This weekend I learned that 85% of what we purchase arrives on boats.
     I have to be honest I never thought of that before.  Yes I am well aware how many of the non-food items have that are made in China or Taiwan on them.  But I sincerely have not thought about the transportation process.  Now let's take that thought a step further.  Have you ever given thought to the men who work on these vessels?  Now I know I have never done that....ever!
     Those men, known as Seafarers, are the focus of the International Ministries Center where Emily performed with the University of Mobile Chamber Singers Saturday.  The center is set up to provide these men with basic needs.  While many are in port for just a few hours often they are there for weeks on end awaiting their ship to return home.  The center offers transportation to area malls and sites, meals, toiletries, money services, phones and simply a place to relax.  These men face incredible perils while at sea which I guarantee you haven't thought about while listening to your iPod.  One of the men at the party Saturday said his biggest fear is seeing pirates AGAIN!  The center in Mobile had served seafarers from 149 different countries this year. 
     Shore leave for seafarers is vital.  After spending weeks on ships with co-workers and managers spending time with others is important not only socially but often medically as well.  These ships are not constructed with the comforts of their crews in mind.  Many ships have been compared to being a modern version of slave ships.  Time to get off the ships and reconnect with their families is their main priority.
      Cruise vacations have become more affordable over the years.  We've all seen commercials with the smiling attendants leaving cute towel animals on the bed or showing us into a glamorous dining hall.  What of course we don't see is the 30% of staff not permitted above deck on risk of punishment.  These seafarers are working 10+ hours a day on average.  On one cruise ship there was two showers and one working lavatory for one hundred workers and one mess hall for three hundred according to the Director of the ITF Cruise Ship Campaign, Jim Given.  Older ships had a ratio of 2 passengers to each crew member with newer ships running closer to 3 passengers to each crew member.
     .  While researching this post I was heartbroken when I further read that after suffering incredibly harsh work conditions more often than not seafarers rarely received their full pay.  One organization posted a number of settled lawsuits in the millions awarded to injured and underpaid seafarers
  In ports all around the world organization are stepping in to serve the seafarers.  In the United States the Baptist Association has a Seafarer's Ministry in just about every port.  In Europe there are a number of organizations meeting the needs of arriving seafarers such as ITF and Sailor's Society Chaplains.  SOO..

     This holiday season as we enjoy our share of the 85% of goods having arrived with the help from Seafarers take a moment to think about them.  Should you happen to live near a town that has a port why not find out what organization is serving seafarers and see what you can do to help?  If you don't live near a port town I am sure that most organizations take on-line donations.  Actually here's a great idea~ as you address your Holiday cards send one to an organization that supports seafarers and include an international phone card that you can grab at the gas station! To make things even easier here’s the address of the Center where Emily sang Saturday:
605 Texas Place
Mobile, Al 36603
    

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