Category Archives: Entertaining/leisure

What would you do with 1/53 of a fortune? A whole lotto stuff!

lotteryThree weeks ago, unbeknownst to me, the Powerball jackpot reached $600,000,000. This is a lot of dough. However, not being much of a gambler, I wasn’t aware of the hype surrounding the potential payout until a coworker mentioned she was collecting $20 from anyone who wanted to go in on tickets. I just laughed and shook my head.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will let it be known that I have been known to bet on things in the past. Generally speaking, I’ll bet on things like which artist recorded a one-hit wonder or what movie actor started a career on which sit-com. Smarty-pants bets, with the common thread being my desire to prove I know more than my opponent does of matters about which nobody really cares. Often I win, because I have a surprising memory for trivial facts. Occasionally, I lose and have to eat a well-deserved piece of humble pie.

“Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways, women, gambling, and farming. My family chose the slowest one.”

Pope John XXIII 

However, I rarely partake in institutional gambling—where it’s simply a matter of me trying to beat the odds against a corporate entity, state government or Native American tribe. I know this type of gambling wouldn’t exist if the house didn’t have the advantage, so it’s easy for me to pass by a slot machine or blackjack table. In fact, during my last trip to Vegas (for work), I didn’t so much as plug the penny slots.

Yet, I was surprised by my reaction to my coworker’s invitation to participate in the pool. Not because I was passing up a bet, but because I wasn’t that enticed by what should have been a tempting jackpot. I realized, much to my astonishment, that I actually have pretty much everything I need—and the remaining things I most desire can’t be purchased with a gambler’s winnings.

This hasn’t always been the case. For many years I thought most of my problems could be solved with more money. Lack of an education? Money for tuition. Lemon of a car? Money for a new one. Lousy job? Seed money for starting my own business. Etc., etc. However, after slowly finishing school and building my career, I now have little debt, a comfortable nest egg, and money for small luxuries and occasional big ones. When I realized how far I’ve come, I felt a sense of accomplishment. At the same time I was concerned: Was my Powerball apathy a sign of depression? Could I seriously not figure out a way to spend millions of dollars?

All around me coworkers fell under the spell of the potential jackpot and ponied up their $20. Even the president joined in. Jokes were made about what a ghost town the office would be on Monday when everyone simultaneously quit. Although I like my job, I eventually succumbed to peer pressure—the jackpot wasn’t the incentive, but holding down the fort as one of the few “left behind” was not an appealing thought.

In the end, 53 individuals joined together to increase their odds of winning by a miniscule degree. And when I challenged myself to consider what I’d do with 1/53rd of the winning jackpot, I actually came up with a few enticing ideas:

  1. We could move to a really nice, one-level house that would make life easier for my husband as his Parkinson’s progresses.
  2. I’ve always wanted a shiny convertible.
  3. I could invest in my brother’s restaurant.
  4. I’d pay more of my kids’ college tuition/student loans.
  5. I’d buy a vacation home in a warm location that all of my extended family could share.
  6. I’d also enjoy being able to offer greater financial support to my favorite causes.
  7. And finally, a month in Bora Bora would make next winter much more tolerable (yes, Barbigrrrl, I’d take you with me).
This seems like a good spot to ride out the Minnesota winter!

Whaddayathink? This looks like a good spot to wait out my next Minnesota winter!

I’ll admit that I didn’t really give the lottery a second thought after I dove into the pool, but that’s okay. It’s no secret that we didn’t win, but I didn’t have a shred of disappointment. I decided I was already pretty lucky—I have everything I really need and my imagination is still intact. 🙂

You’re never too old to play hooky

As my previous post might have implied, I’ve had a worse-than-usual case of cabin fever/winter doldrums due to a worse-than-usual winter. In fact, I was seriously considering finding a last-minute airfare bargain, ditching my family and leaving town for someplace warm. I mean, I was SERIOUSLY considering this. But it smacked of “running away from home” (admit it, you’ve wanted to do this at times) and seemed…well…just a wee bit…unbalanced. So, I resisted the urge and dragged myself into work, as a responsible middle-aged woman should do. This may have been the same day I texted KitKat the line that prompted her recent post, and apparently great (though rebellious) minds think alike, because I decided to do what any defiant teen would: Play hooky.

I had learned a few days earlier that my middle child—a junior in college—would be coming home for a few days over spring break and knew seeing her would lift my spirits. I decided to “seize the day” or more accurately “the next day” to spend it with my darling daughter.

Okay, here I confess that I am—at heart—an extremely conscientious person with a self-detrimental work ethic. So, I didn’t fake being sick. But since I had no pressing meetings, I scheduled a spontaneous vacation day.

I skipped out of work that evening feeling a bit lighter than I had when I dragged myself in. When my daughter arrived home, we discussed potential options for our mother-daughter outing the next day. Now, my daughter is attending college in the Fargo-Moorhead area, where fewer trees dot the landscape to offer a break from the cold and blowing snow, and the fierce Minnesota winter I complained about in my last post has been magnified. So for our Cabin Fever Play Day, we decided to seek out green plants, blooming flowers, chirping birds, tropical fish and exotic animals.

A Sea Dragon

A Sea Dragon at the Minnesota Zoo

Our first stop was the Minnesota Zoo. Since it was a school day, I think I was the only mother there with a child over the age of five. I had not been for a zoo visit myself since the kids were…what? Preteens? A long time, anyway. Several new attractions had opened since then, and we walked through all of the indoor exhibits. Kids on field trips swam by us like schools of fish, and we saw plenty of real ones in the large aquarium (fish that is, not kids).

When is lunch?

When is lunch?

After a couple of hours we had exhausted our options for indoor exhibits, but not our desire to stay in the warm, green surroundings. So, we decided to hit another zoo in town—a favorite destination of my childhood: Como Zoo, which also has a lovely conservatory.

Not a bad role model for a pope!

Not a bad role model for a pope!

First, though, we needed sustenance, so we made a detour for lunch in St. Paul. As we dined, the announcement that the new pope had been chosen was breaking news. As the major stations showed coverage of an empty balcony for an hour (seriously!) while waiting for the new pope to make his appearance, we discussed the challenges he would face and speculated on what name he would choose. I guessed John Paul III would be the choice (to build an association with the more popular of the recent popes), but my prescient daughter thought St. Francis would be the best choice, as that was her favorite saint–exemplifying peace and humility.

Afterward, we headed to the conservatory to bask in the humidity and sunshine, and when we got to the wing with all the spring flowers, I was struck by two things: 1) The explosion of color, which was almost an assault on my color-starved eyes. In the dead of winter, the Minnesota landscape is white and gray and its residents follow suit, clothing themselves in black, gray and other dark, drab colors. 2) The intoxicating fragrance. Winter has no smell. Well, actually when you live in the city it smells a lot like car exhaust. Yuck.

The sweet smell of spring

The sweet smell of spring in the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Zoo

We headed home feeling a bit more optimistic. Spring would return, we just had to wait a bit longer. I also realized that I had spent a full day with my daughter—the longest time alone together I could recall—and I genuinely enjoyed every minute of her company. Not just because she’s my daughter and I love her, but because she’s a genuinely cool person. The flowers were a lovely bonus, but I was more enchanted by the girl who had blossomed before me into a confident and compassionate young woman.

It turned out that my day of playing hooky was just what the doctor ordered. For as KitKat pointed out, one of the privileges of being a grown up is deciding when it’s okay to act like a kid.

Do we really need an excuse to party?

The other day, I got an “invitation” in the mail. Party? Fete? Soiree? Gala? Nah, it was an invitation to a direct-selling party. You know: Avon, Tupperware, Silpada, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple… There are dozens of versions.

tupperware_party_729-420x0oNow back in the 50s and 60s, direct-selling parties had a practical purpose. When my mother was a young wife, there weren’t nearly as many retail options and many households had only one car. For a young mother, stuck at home with small children, an invitation to a Tupperware party was a welcome opportunity to socialize with “the neighbor ladies” while seeing some innovative new merchandise. Add in some fondue or that nifty lime Jell-o with the shredded carrots and cottage cheese and you’ve got yourself a PAR-TAY!

Fast forward to today: I live in a major metropolitan area a mere four miles from the infamous Mall of America, one of the largest malls in the country. Moreover, I have high-speed Internet—which literally brings a world of merchandise directly to my front door. Access to retail is not a problem for me.

Do I enjoy an evening or afternoon of socializing with other women? Generally, speaking: Yes. So long as they aren’t trying to sell me something.

Although I have a pretty demanding full-time job, I understand the appeal of being an “independent representative” for a direct-selling company–either because your primary job is raising your children, or you just want to make a little extra money on the side. That’s all good. But I don’t understand the party-throwing aspect or the weird sense of obligation women feel to support each other in these efforts. I mean, I work for a company that pays me a bonus based on our revenue numbers, but that doesn’t mean I expect my friends to help me earn my bonus.

Actually, the selling part is fine. And if it’s a product I’m interested in and I want to support my friend, I may even go. But  it’s the obligation-to-buy/attend inherent in so many of these invites that I loathe. I remember an episode many years ago when my children were very small, I was talking with the mother of one of my child’s friends. She said, “I’m planning a girls night party a week from next Thursday, would you like to come?” As a young mom, I didn’t have a lot of friends that were in the same stage of life and welcomed the invitation. So I said, “Sure, it sounds like fun.”

avon-ladyA few days later the invitation arrived—to a party selling overpriced cosmetics! A classic bait-and-switch! I had already said I was free, so what could I do? I went to the party, resentful the entire time, and purchased the only thing that seemed reasonably priced—a clay face mask. (In addition to my aforementioned frugality regarding paid services, I’m also a cheapskate when it comes to cosmetics. Most of my stuff comes from Walgreens or Target.)

I know a lot of women will disagree with me and sincerely welcome the opportunity to attend these parties. But I think the draw for a lot of women is they sincerely enjoy social time with their women friends, but feel guilty about getting together with them. Getting together under the guise of a direct-selling party alleviates the guilt of ditching dad with the kids for an evening, because you’re “supporting a friend’s business venture.” So the subject of this particular rant, er, post is: Why? Why can’t women just get together to socialize without it being related to one of them trying to sell something to the others?

Thankfully, technology has made direct-selling without pressure an easier thing to achieve. These days, items can be sold via catalog parties, online or at an open house where the guests/customers can browse at leisure rather than sitting through a 30-minute pitch and waiting awkwardly for the order form to be passed along.

Again, I’m not bashing the ambition of sisters looking to make an extra buck. Not. At. All. But let’s treat it like a business, not a social event. If you want to get together with your girlfriends—do that. But do it because you work hard (whether in the home or outside of it) and deserve a night of fun–not because you’re one party away from earning the hostess gift.