Story Value

random musings and episodes from the life of a 40 something comidienne/corporate refugee/mom - since whatever doesn't kill you provides excellent story value.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall Street Wackiness

Well, well, well ... Lookiloo who's featured in the Wall Street Journal. Hilarious .... on so many fronts.
I have not invented a new system of arbitrage, nor a secret system for embezzeling fractional pennies on each dollar of hedge fund gain (at least not one that I'm going public with)!

It seems I scored coverage in the Wall Street Journal -- for leaving. Who knew? I'm like a farmer paid not to plant crops. "Just quit & we'll pay you and say nice things in the media."

The reporter interviewed me over several days, asking for incredible amounts of revealing detail, which I was almost too eager to provide. I'm easy that way.

Funnily enough, almost all the details are wrong: from chronology, to spelling, to quotes. What, no fact checking at the WSJ?

I had to be told by others that my story had run, because when you're no longer on Wall Street -- you don't need to read the journal.

What next, my own show on CNBC? I definitely look less tired than Maria Bartiromo. I long to be the "funny honey" -- I'll call up the top dogs today and promise to go nowhere near financial services in return for my own prime-time special. Cold turkey never looked so good!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


If you want to test the depths of your love for someone -- watch them get sprayed in the face by a skunk and see how much togetherness you're willing to endure.
I still like to think I'd have no questions if this happened to my husband or two children ... but with our dog, I was surprised how quickly ny fickle heart was re-evaluating the relationship.

Teddy has been a member of the family for a year and he his absolutely the best dog ever. He's cute, smart and lovable. I think he could save me from choking like that dog in USA Today or alert loved ones if I ever was trapped in a well.

I'm ashamed to say that none of this came to mind when he was sprayed ground-zero by the worst smelling skunk juice I have EVER encountered. I gagged and immediately thought "oh well" as I fished in my pocket for a $20 to pin to his collar for Alpo. "Good luck in the world smelly, we'll miss ya!"

Heck, I still have the breeder's email. I could probably get another that looks just like him.

My train of thought was stopped by a single look from my husband. He has mastered the wordless "shame on you" look that conveys utter disappointment and inspires a more selfless call to action.

"Set him free and call Animal Control." I suggested. Again, the look. "I don't mean we'll give him away -- just have Animal Control give him the bath tonight and then we can "adopt" him in the morning."

I thought this was a clever solution. My husband didn't even acknowledge I had spoken. I think he's just jealous that he's not the 'out of the box' thinker I am.

"Just get the dog shampoo." He said.

Eager to redeem myself, I brought him the dog shampoo and began to scour the Internet. There were about 200 hokey cures and more point/counterpoint chatter about the Tomato Juice bath myth than the Zapruder film. In the midst of this chaos, I saw promise -- a website that claimed to have tested 58 different skunk juice remedies and held the salvation of several 100% guaranteed instant solutions using common household products. Sold! for $27.00. I know this sounds like a ridiculous investment, but you must understand.

By this time, Teddy had run in and out the family room and the whole house reeked extreme. Eye-watering, nose-singeing, lung-burning, gut-wrenching stench. I dry-heaved in the bathroom for ten minutes and had was reduced to shallow mouth-breathing through a shirt. Even though it was 10:00 at night, we were in the third day of an crazy 95 degree+ heatwave and it was still at least 85 degrees in our living room. I thought, forget Antrhax, if the bio terrorists figure this one out, we'll all be bowing to Mecca. Threat level puke.

After typing in my credit card number in order to receive the awesome stench-eradicating wisdom, I downloaded a simple PDF document. The first eight pages were some clown's personal story of their dog being sprayed by a skunk. Um, shut up for $27.00! The next ten pages itemized roughly the same series of remedies I had found for free using Google. I had been hoodwinked by marketing genius that I knew I might find inspiring once I could breathe again. Right now, I needed oxygen.

I made the midnight dash (ok, 10pm) dash to CVS where I speed-shopped for vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, Sprite and about 8 Summer's Eve disposable douches.
That, right there, is love. Love means having the courage to put 8 disposable douches on the counter for some buck-toothed, faux-hawked teenager to snicker about while he rings you up.

I'm sure I'm the talk of the skate-park. "Peee-Ewww, here comes Mrs. not-so-fresh. What a lovely Summer's Eve! heh, heh, heh." Whatever. I had a dog to douche. Or rather, I had a dog-douching to watch. When my animal control idea was shot down, I demoted myself to bathtime cheer-leader.

I raced back home with the supplies and my far-kinder husband washed Teddy down repeatedly with every concoction listed in my $27.00 manifesto. Then he stripped down outside and streaked back in the house holding a wet Teddy over his goodies.
I only wish I moved faster to snap our Christmas photo.

My husband and Teddy rinsed off inside and called it a night while I placed the recommended dishes of coffee grounds and vinegar around the house to clear the air. Nothing doing. The stink hung in the air with the persistence of a Special Olympics telemarketer. (note: it took me more than 10 minutes to get that bozo off the phone the week prior.)

We all slept fitfully, except my two boys who didn't notice a thing until they were eating breakfast. Day four of our heatwave and we were off to the boy's school for end-of-year ceremonies.

My 3rd grader's back-pack cleared out his classroom. All the kids had to leave their backpacks in the hallway for the rest of the day.

At the kindergarten celebration, we oddly ended up at a table by ourselves. No one said anything, but I could tell by the pressed-lip smiles that the stench cloud had followed us out in the world.

Two days have passed, and I am sorry I ever thought about getting rid of Teddy. The stink still lingers, but we're getting used to it.

I do have a couple extra Summer's Eve douches left -- I wonder what the return policy is on those babies. I'm feeling much fresher.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hoosier Mama?

For reasons too boring to enumerate -- I find myself spending quite a lot of time in Indiana these days. Woo Hoo - the Hoosier State! I like to try to rally myself into a frenzy of self-induced euphoria when contemplating my next trip.
I decided to Wikepedia "Hoosier," since I probably shouldn't be bandying the word around, without the foggiest sense of its meaning. I learned that little lesson, the awkward way, in more than one foreign country.
The Wikepedia experts are a little vague on the origin of the Hoosier term. -- They speculate it originated as either a slurred greeting, an expletive used to get someone to 'dummy-up', or some reference to white trash. Any term that could serve those three purposes simultaneously automatically becomes my new favorite expression! It's the language trifecta!

Speaking of racing, that seems to be the principal source of excitement in Indianapolis. The Indy 500 isn't a mere day-long spectacle to Hoosiers. Nah, there's about two weeks of thrilling events, including "Carb-Day," which I learned (again, the awkward way) has nothing to do with thousands of local Atkins Dieters ransacking the Macaroni Grille.

Since I'm spending about one week of every four there for the foreseeable future, I am trying my best to go native. Its a little more challenging to blend in than I originally anticipated. They are only a two hour plane ride away, but Indiana is proving to be a 'whole new world' for this gal from Boston. Here's some of the interesting culture-shock experiences I've had thus far:

1: "Dog is my co-pilot" -- The last time I checked, Indiana was not in the Bible-belt. Maybe it's just the folks I'm rolling with, but God seems to come up an awful lot, in places you wouldn't ordinarily expect. Like budget discussions. Recently, a colleague said "well, if it please Jesus" when discussing an equipment investment. At first, I just thought there was a Hispanic guy running Purchasing. Nothing doing. I haven't seen anyone near the office who looks vaguely beige, never mind ethnic. Once I heard Leviticus quoted and a marketing meeting ended with "Amen," I realized I was in the land of Ned Flanders. Hi-de-li-ho Neighbors! I should be OK as long as I keep it to a 2 drink maximum at work events and avoid all pointed questions about whether or not I've found my 'personal savior'. I have a feeling "Jose Cuervo" would not be an acceptable answer to that question -- though they share the initials "JC", and I might make the bonus round with that!

2: Drivin' (like) Miss Daisy -- For a city with a love of auto racing, they sure ain't speedy on their freeways. Almost no-one drives in the left-hand lane, or passes one another -- which is mind boggling for this Boston driver. Almost as mind-boggling as the speeding ticket I received for doing .... 72mph on the Freeway. 72! I almost laughed out loud -- until I saw it was $150 fine for going even 1 mile over the speed limit. 72 ... I almost wanted to ask the (very nice) police officer if he could make the "7" a "9" so I could save face at home -- where we drive 72 ... in the driveway! I nearly invoked the Lord's name myself -- and not in the good way.

3: Its a small world (on my plate) -- I'm no gastronome, but I do love me some fine dining -- especially when I'm out of down on the corporate dime. When I Googled "Indianapolis Dining," the list of options began with Cracker Barrel and ended with Olive Garden. Sigh. I asked my resident friends -- Don't you guys have any indigenous delicacies, like lobster or BBQ or deep-dish pizza? Nope. I thought I'd be working my way through the mall food court, beginning and ending with Orange Julius, when suddenly I discovered a hidden gem on the Interweb -- "Blu Martini"! You know, when they leave the "e" off of blue, you're in for a treat vs. lowering your expectatins for the "kozy koffee kottage". There are intentional misspellings and then there are C words which begin with K. Kool.
My enthusiasm flagged a bit when I saw Blu Martini in person. The web photos didn't do justice. I could not tell online that it was at the end of a strip mall, next to an ADAP auto parts store. The interior had a feeling of old roller rink / a Midwestern community theater production of 'Sex In The City' --- mmm, not so much.
Oh well, at the Olive Garden, they "treat you like family" -- Here's hoping they treat me like someone else's.

On an up note, my find of the week was that you can bring cocktails into the movie theater in Indy. Schwing! After my blu, blu dinner, I went to see Sex In The (real) City at the local art cinema. The in-theater cocktails added a real dimension to the experience. Even though it was a Wednesday night -- the local gals really got festive. Everywhere around me glasses clinked and the women repeatedly yelled out to the screen (and to each other). It was a little like Rocky Horror with 20% less mascara. Pretty hilarious. I wonder what they yelled during Brokeback Mountain.

In reading this post, I realize I come off sounding like a snotty Easterner. Its not that I consider myself superior (Ok, a little). Mostly, I just feel like Sarah Jessica Parker whenever I visit -- not as Carrie Bradshaw -- but as Patty Greene in 'Square Pegs', always 1/2 a beat or 27mph off.

I guess I'll just have to ask myself "What would SJP do?"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In which I discover (yet again) that I'm no genius

The difference this time is that I am holding the official MENSA letter as documented evidence. Why do I have an official letter from MENSA? Well, that's where my true non-genius thinking shines through.

As I have been working on my budding career as a speaker, trainer and author; I can't help noticing the credentials of my new peer group. Everyone seems to be a Dr. of something or other. People have degrees out the wazoo, have published books or completed incredible feats of strength or daring-do.

I'm sort of a "discount motivational speaker" -- I haven't climbed a mountain with no limbs, paddled a kayak full of emergency supplies down the Amazon without my sight, or overcome a debilitating disease any more serious than Chicken Pox. I haven't lost 100lbs (at one time), I've never been homeless, or completed a race longer than 5K. I'm sort of a yawner. "Climb every mountain, as long as its your driveway."

So, being a savvy marketer - I decided it was time to bolster my credentials. Now, I'm no Doctor -- though I read a lot of Doctor Seuss and used to be a big fan of Doctor Who. And all that book lernin' required to get an advanced degree seemed like such an awful lot of work to go through for a single sentence in my web bio . Surely there had to be a better way ...

That's where MENSA came in. Instant credibility. No muss, no fuss, 3rd party authentication that I was a genius, a "certifiable genius" -- ooooh, the speaker bookings would come rolling in!

So, I took their online test -- while I was on a boring conference call. The results came back instantly -- close, but no cigar -- you may want to try our home test. Hmmm, would there be peeing on a stick to find the genes for genius? I decided to try it.

MENSA sent me a home test for $10. My husband just rolled his eyes and said, "You paid $10 to find out if you are a genius, I would have told you for $5!" That is now looking like a good deal that someone smarter might have taken.

I scurried up to my home office to take the test in absolute quiet, yelling down for my husband to time me with a stopwatch and keep my boys quiet. "Shhh, Mommy's trying to find out if she's a genius." I am sure there was a lot of silent shoulder shaking going on. They have all been busting on me ever since -- "Go find out what the genius wants for dinner ..."

I completed the test and felt I had done my best work under optimum conditions. All that remained was for the MENSA people to send me my window decal and wallet ID card.

Instead, I got a rejection letter. Oh -- it was polite, and filled with big words I had to look up in the thesaurus.

"The criterion for membership into MENSA is a score in the upper two percent of IQ. As you can imagine, that is a small fraction of the population." (2/100ths, I believe ... did that one in my head!) "Many highly intelligent people do not qualify on this home test due to contributing factors that affect performance." (Like, for instance, being an idiot)

I didn't completely embarrass myself ... turns out that I'm in the 12th - 18th percentile. I'm smarter than your average bear, but that doesn't translate into a pithy speaking credential.

Guess I'm going to have to hack off my limbs and fjord the Amazon -- because I'm still too lazy to go back to school. Either that -- or maybe I'll audition for "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader." I mean, how hard can it be?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play

Is it me or is every other woman over 4o suddenly becoming a "Life Coach" ? Coaching seems to be the new "it" occupation. Nearly every woman I know is coaching or in the midst of coach-training.
I think the training may one of the chief enticements of the job, since it sounds like summer camp for adults. You have a legitimate excuse to dump family and work obligations for multi-week retreats in the woods, where you come up with amusing names for your coaching 'tribes' like the "White Pines," the "Soaring Eagles" or the "Naughty Pineapples."

At coach training, it sounds like you spend many hours earnestly engaged in inner-self exploration, challenging "comfort zones" by engaging in rigorous physical challenges and developing leadership potential by calling each other out on their stuff. It sounds like self-development, but this somehow qualifies you to give other people semi-professional advice for pay.

That is the cherry on the sundae - When you're finished being a naughty pineapple -- people will actually pay you cash money to hear the advice you used to give away for chardonnay.

With so many friends in coach-training, working towards their 'gold whistle', I have recently had the unique opportunity to play guinea pig for them while they hone their skills.

I love the part where they open our session with, "This is not professional advice meant to replace qualified psychological counseling or therapy."
I ask (not even snarkily) "So is this just like you giving me your personal opinion on my life and what you think I should do, as a friend?"
(insert eye rolling here -- theirs -- I hold a poker face)
"No, I'm coaching you -- giving you tools and techniques that I've learned through my months of leadership training I gained on the Internet and on retreats."

I do think there is value in having a professional relationship with someone who can help hold you accountable for your life. It's sort of like a personal trainer for your brain.
Hell, I'm too WASPY for therapy and I'm so lazy, I'm willing outsource my self-discipline.

Full disclosure: I have actually used professional coaches to great personal benefit. It's when 85% of my girlfriends become coaches is when I get a little suspicious on how high the bar might be.

Suddenly the same lunchtime gab fest we have about my socially-retarded boss, becomes something a stranger is willing to pay $175/hr for! I feel dirty. Ordinary expletive-laced, laugh-filled gossip sessions take on a serious tone and feature strange phrases like "I want to acknowledge what you're putting into the space." or "Can you tell me a little bit more about how that made you feel?"

I just want to scream, "Good lord, I'm talking about the jack-ass working the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru -- It made me feel thirsty for coffee! Can we turn off Dr. Joyce Brothers for two minutes?"

But that's probably just my naughty pineapple envy showing. One of my coach-in-training friends just coached me to resume my blogging after a 10 month hiatus and look how good that worked out. Give her the golden whistle and me the brochure for Coach U -- I could use a summer retreat!