Vacation Shaming

Five am is an ungodly hour to wake up for the daily grind, but here I am, nonetheless. I make my morning oatmeal, which I am eating for “health reasons”. Does anyone really like oatmeal? I follow the microwave cooking instructions to a tee, and this happens…

OATMEAL

I don’t have time for this BS because I hit the snooze button a few too many times this morning. The sticky mess is now stuck to everything, the mug, the microwave, and me!

Is this really my life?

I accidentally touch my hair before washing my hands, and am now frantically searching myself for any remnants of oatmeal. I think about Billy Schwartz from the second grade. He showed up to school with a speck of “oatmeal” on his chin. Someone shouted, “Ewww! Billy has a booger!” Poor Billy was forever after labeled “Billy Booger”. Lucky for Billy, his Dad was transferred before third grade, and his family moved to South Carolina.

I toss a bunch of food items into a bag and call it “lunch” before sprinting to my car. I cannot be late for work. My boss has a thing about tardiness. I’m an Office Manager for a medical practice. It is not my dream job, but I was lucky to find it. I gave up my Sales and Marketing career years ago to stay home, and raise my two children; a decision I don’t ever regret until I look at my bank statement.

I look down at the gas gage and see that I am on “E”. I shout a few curse words to no one, and speed off to the gas station. Now I will definitely be late, and that means the entire day will go downhill from there.

My job is OK. I get wear scrubs. This is a big plus. But, I also get to listen to patients complain, and sometimes get agitated about the limits of their insurance plan, demanding to know why it doesn’t cover hardly anything. I agree. It is a problem. Most patients forget everything I tell them prior to their procedure. I see their eyes glaze over while I explain how insurance benefits work. There are limitations, and in-network versus out of network coverage amounts. There are percentages, deductibles and maximums. It’s confusing. Despite the fact that money is extracted from our paychecks every week to pay for insurance, insurance really does not cover a whole heck of a lot. The average person is terrified, and overwhelmed by the whole thing. I want to say, “You should write to your Congressman and let him know how you feel. Maybe then Congress would then get off of their butts, and fix our broken system.” Instead I say, “I am so sorry that your service was not covered. How would you like to pay for this?” I am also the collections department.

On the way to work I am stuck behind a minivan with an OBX sticker on the back. This makes me think of Billy Booger again. I wonder what Billy is doing now? I wonder if he still lives in the Carolina’s. Why don’t I live in the Carolina’s? I find myself suddenly jealous of Billy. I’ve spent the summer avoiding everyone I know just so I don’t have to listen to their fabulous vacation stories. I am also ducking social media to avoid seeing their happy vacation photos with palm trees and captions like “Best vacation ever!” Vacation shaming should be illegal. My hot, sweaty “vacation” week was spent moving my eighty-six-year-old mother into assisted living for the second time. She WAS living with me, AND she has dementia (more on this next time), so her new living arrangement is a blessing. Plus, I spent my vacation money paying a bunch of medical bills.

OBX (code for obnoxious)

I want to pass the van with OBX sticker, because I’m sick of looking at it, but I’m trapped in the endless Northern Virginia traffic!!! What is with the sticker shaming? I don’t care how many stick people, stick dogs, and stick cats you have in your family! And now the runner’s mileage stickers are all the rage: 13.1 and, 26.2!!! So what? If I don’t run marathons I’m not good enough???

I need a bumper sticker that says: “ You win! You’re better than me! Can we please move on now?”

I consider rear-ending the minivan just to crumple that OBX sticker a little bit. Some small, sane, section of my brain tells me that these thoughts are not normal. I decide that Northern Virginia is full of people who are full of themselves, and vow to move to another state as soon as possible!

I get to work, and my first patient has a billing question. No one ever wants to pay their medical bills. I get this. I push them to back of my bill pile as well. Mind you, not five minutes earlier, this same patient was going on and on about the two weeks he spent with his family in Machu Picchu over the summer. Now he’s telling me he that he wasn’t “prepared” to pay his bill, and we will have to send him a statement.

I try a little medical bill shaming and say, “You’ll have to bring your vacation pictures next time.”

“Oh, I will!” he says, no shame, “Peru was amazing!”

I give up!

I ask my next patient if she had a nice summer, and she tells me it was a lot of work, and that she and her husband stayed in Virginia.

“Really?” I ask, suddenly hopeful. Someone else’s summer sucked as much as mine!

“Yes, we had to go down to Virginia Beach. We’re updating our beach house there, and we had to supervise the contractors. Renovating is such a nightmare! Oh, buy the way I think you have something on your shirt,” she says.

I make a mental note to stop asking patients about summer, and go to the bathroom to look in the mirror. There’s a glob of something on my scrub top. It looks like a wad of boogers. Freaking oatmeal! I wash it off to the best of my ability, and now I have a big wet mark on the front of my shirt above my left breast. I think of Billy Booger again. I should really look him up on Facebook. I just need to wait until October when the vacation shaming has fully run its course. I’m thinking I’ll have some time then before it all begins again on winter break.

Happy Monday all! I hope reading about my life makes your life seem a little better!

 

 

I don’t kill Orchids….

My 1st Orchid

My father was a Professor of Horticulture, but I have a black thumb. My family jokes about my keen ability to kill plants, flowers, and sometimes shrubs. It always ends the same way with me saying: “I just don’t know what happened.”

The innocent plant was fine one day, and then suddenly it wasn’t.

Plants are not really all that complicated. They require water, and a certain amount of sunlight. Somehow, I mange to screw this up, either by over watering, or by under watering, or by allowing too much sun, or too little. So maybe for me, it is not so simple after all. I have had moderate success with a few cactus. But any houseplant unlucky enough, to come and live with me, does not do so for long.

I believe that the quality I lack, and that most plant lovers possess, is patience. You cannot hurry nature. Nature moves at it’s own pace.

A friend of mine grows Orchids. For years I had been in awe of her amazing green thumb, and certain that these exquisite, delicate flowers, were surely beyond the limited nurturing capability of someone like me. Then, a coworker, (who obviously did not know me well), gave me an Orchid as a gift.

I panicked! I tried to give it away, but there were no takers. Then, I read the instructions. I was careful. I treated the flower like the fragile thing I believed it to be. I was diligent. Attentive. Patient.

And it bloomed! Even better it remained in bloom for weeks. I could not believe how simple it was to care for.  I gave it ice cubes, not water. I let it sit in a sunny window. Sometimes, I forgot the ice cubes. This was wintertime, so sometimes the sun stayed away for days. Still, it bloomed! Such a remarkable plant, I thought, that blooms at random times of the year.

And then, one day, this happened:

 

One at a time, the flowers went limp and fell to the floor. I had murdered the beautiful foliage, after all.

I was saddened, but did not have the heart to throw it away. This once living thing had brought me such joy! I let it sit in a corner, on the windowsill. I dropped an ice cube into the pot whenever the spirit moved me. I went on to kill other plants, like Poinsettias, and Easter Lily’s.

Several months later, something miraculous happened. It bloomed! I had brought it back to life…or at least nature had. My new discovery: Orchids go dormant, and then they have a blooming phase. This cycle continues as long as you take care of the plant.

Do not let anyone fool you, if I can grow Orchids, anyone can!

Here are some great resources should you decide to grow an Orchid of your own:

How to Care for Orchids

How to Trigger Reblooming of Your Orchid

Thanks for reading, and keep writing!

Kittens!!!

My daughter and I have been volunteering with HART pet adoption for the last few weeks. It is great fun and the best part is, I get my “kitten therapy”! In between, I am missing these having these little guys in my arms. So sweet! Check out HART (a no kill shelter) if you are interested in adoption, fostering or volunteering.

Ten More Buttery Chardonnays for Under $20

In search of better than butter: butterscotch and bargains!

As promised, this is a follow-up post of buttery chardonnay’s that fit the flavor profile of the #butter and #oak wine lovers. Even better, all but one were under $15.00. Martin Ray blends oak, cream and fruit to make a winning combination for under $10.00. William Wright is a smooth blend of caramel and oak for under $7.00.

 

For the new buttery top ten, I discovered an even better flavor: butterscotch! In particular, the aptly named Butter 2014 at under $14.00, and Bread & Butter 2015 at $12.00 did not disappoint. Layer Cake 2014 at $11.00 which I expected to be a trendy boutique wine, was quite good.

 

Hahn 2014 from Monterey County for under $12.00 is pleasantly fruity with a nice balance of oak and butter. I picked up my new favorite, Hob Nob Wicked Limited Edition Chardonnay from California, on a special price promotion for under $10.00. This is by far the best flavor value of the bunch.

 

Finally, the Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2015 at $11.00, Chateau St. Michelle Indian Wells 2015 under $15.00, and Sonoma-Loeb 2015 at $20.00 were all exceptional. At Total Wine and More, I was told that the Sonoma-Loeb Reserve and Envoy are even more buttery, but they do not fit my budget or blog focus for the top ten.

 

Let me know what you think of these wines and I promise to post a new list soon! Happy sipping all!

Thanks for reading and keep drinking great wine!

If you liked this post, please check out:

Ten Buttery Chardonnays for Under $20

 

Life Uncorked: Mastroberardino Historia 2000

 

This weekend my husband, Nick, and I uncorked a bottle of Mastroberdadino Historia 2000, one of the wines we purchased at the Radici Resort and Spa in Mirabella Eclano, when my family visited there in July of 2009. Trust me, it is not often that we have an opportunity to drink a sixteen year old bottle a wine, and one that predates both of our children, Nicholas and Katherine.

The taste: steeped in history, rich, bold, and earthy, took us back in time to what is poistively one of my family’s fondest memories of the three years we spent living in Italy: a weekend at the Radici Spa & Resort.

DSC00400
http://www.eileenslovak.com

This Family owned and run Winery has origins dating back to 1878, and is now in very capable hands of Vintner Piero Mastroberardino. We met Piero when we visited the resort back in 2009. The family, staff, and estate were both welcoming and exquisite. The resort encompassed everything we grew to love about Italy: history, fabulous wine, amazing cuisine and people who are passionate about their Italian culture, and want to share the experience with the world.

 

DSC00458
Radici Resort & Spa
DSC00412
Kat in front of the Golf Clubhouse at the Radici Resort & Spa

Seven years later, we still reflect fondly on the wine, food and accommodations and our experience that weekend, where we relaxed and dined like movie stars. Tucked away in the hills of Italy’s Campagnia region, this little gem is well worth the trip!

 

DSC00413
Little golfers
DSC00411
Pool at the Radici Resort & Spa
DSC00414
Tee Time at the Radici Resort & Spa
DSC00419
The grapes! http://www.eileenslovak.com
DSC00443
Rolling Hills of Campagnia http://www.eileenslovak.com

My family and I were thankful to have experienced this amazing place. If you visit, please share your thoughts. Happy touring and tasting all! Thanks for reading!

The wine: http://www.mastroberardino.com/

The resort: http://www.mastroberardino.com/en/radici-resort/

 

 

The Trump and Sanders Phenomenon

How do you begin to explain the current public interest in politics? Is it because the candidates offer more in terms of entertainment value or because they have actually struck a nerve? Are we tuned in just watch their antics or are they tuned in to us for once?

Possibly the most interesting aspect of the political rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is not in the why, but in that fact the Political “experts” still find it so baffling.  In my mind, herein lies the proof of just how out of touch those in Washington, DC truly are with the Country that they presume to govern.

A few years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Voting Rights” which sparked a great deal of debate. Then, I was of the mindset that Americans should not so easily take for granted their right to vote. What I learned from readers was that until they felt better represented by the candidates put forth, they refused to exercise their voting rights. The choice not to vote, spoke volumes.

There was anger in both the Democratic and Republican camps over the same political games and the question was raised that a truer, more in touch with the electorate, third party candidate was needed to shake things up a bit, as both parties were woefully disconnected from their bases. The Republican Party may have been the first to fracture, with the development of the Tea Party and a separate group of conservative right wing voters, but the Democratic Party is not held together well either. The true divide of both is even more evident now; showcased on the current political stage.

Wake up Washington!  Americans are fed up!

Bernie Sanders has answered the mail for Democrats by offering an alternative to career politician Hillary Clinton. For Democratic voters who want anything but the same old politics, Sanders is the new alternative as seen in the Delegate divide. His message is a draw for the changing and divided Democrats. Particularly tuned in are young voters, for whom Sanders presents a more liberal, European,

“free society” platform. He promotes free college education and an anti-war, anti-involvement stance. He has also captured the attention of older voters with his stand on social security. Whether or not these ideals are feasible, voters are responsive to the message. On the contrary, Clinton’s platform looks like more status-quo and four more years of President Obama’s current policies.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump has become the new voice of America. Although he has been called many names: bombastic, demagogue, non-Presidential and worse; none of the name calling and labels have done much to slow his momentum. His ability to speak off the cuff has America listening and taking notice of his focus on the conservative issues now being dismantled by the current administration: immigration, veterans, Second Amendment Rights, foreign policy and health care reform. A vote for Trump is a vote against the establishment and against the current administration.

Meanwhile, there remains an imperial attitude in Washington of: we know what’s best for the people and we’ll decide which candidates you get to chose from.  This way, at least on the surface, it would appear that we have a choice. On the Democratic side, Hillary plans to cinch the nomination by utilizing the super delegates. Proving again that the reason lifetime politicians have always dominated the political process is because they know how to manipulate it and in doing so, the voters.

The undercurrent of a contested convention on the GOP side still looms, echoing of back door politics. Murmurs of an already once defeated, establishment selected candidate like Mitt Romney could still cause an upset to front runner Donald Trump. Has the party literally learned nothing after all of these years? It is hard to imagine any other outcome from a contested convention aside from disgusted voters handing the presidency over to the Democratic Party on a silver platter. I guess in the world of politics, it is possible the Democratic Party alone is responsible for perpetuating these rumors? Or is there some truth to the undercurrent? Is the GOP responsible for floating the idea like a fly to see if anyone bites?

As rumors go, the Republican Party may well be responsible for promoting a Sanders third party run should Hilary finally defeat him in the Democratic primary. A divided party is easy conquest. Republicans know this first hand as their bickering within the party is legendary and has led to past defeat. There may not be a way to mend the fractures of a chasm so deep, leaving the door open for Democrats who historically are more successful at masking their differences.

Of course, it could also be argued that Sanders is hanging on too as he might need to rescue the party should Clinton be convicted in the ongoing FBI investigation into her use of a private e-mail sever and potential misuse of Top Secret information while serving as Secretary of State.

All of this combined makes for hot headlines and a media circus like no other. This is the stuff of good campaigns. So my final question is this: will you be voting in the 2016 Presidential Election, and if not, what reason is there left to give for not voting?

“You see, you give the people what they want, and they’ll come.” – George Jessel

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/hillary-clinton-vs-bernie-sanders-on-the-issues-2015-9

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/donald-trump-voters/401408/

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html

https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions

http://www.snopes.com/sanders-vs-clinton-delegate-count/

http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/18/lawyers-present-fbi-with-a-dilemma-in-hillary-clinton-email-server-investigation/

Chocolate, Wine & Dying Anyway? May as well enjoy ourselves!

Here’s hoping you enjoyed some red wine and dark chocolate yesterday in honor of St. Valentine’s Day!

I know I did.

WP_20130519_005
Handmade chocolates wwww.eileenslovak.com

 

DSCN3229
Brunello di Montalcino Casanova di Neri 2006 http://www.eileenslovak.com

Like you, I chose to ignore reports like the the JAMA Network study Resveratrol Levels and All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults which indicates there may after all, not be any real health benefits of consuming red wine and dark chocolate.

It was a lovely dream.

Based on this news will chocolate and red wine lovers cease our habits now that these guilty pleasures will not necessarily add years to our lives?

Unlikely.

There are still benefits that extend beyond the mere enjoyment wine and chocolate…like happiness.

The mood elevator Phenylethlamine a naturally occurring amine, best known as the “love drug” produced by our bodies when we fall in love is also found in chocolate. Some researchers say that if you crave chocolate or any other food, you may merely be deficient in one or more nutrients, vitamins or minerals like magnesium.

You could resolve this issue in the case of magnesium by eating seeds/nuts, green leafy vegetables or by taking a supplement. There is no need to turn to chocolate.

DSCN3228
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Do we drink red wine for its health benefits such as the presence of Polyphenols, U.S. National Library of Medicine as antioxidants? Or do we drink it because we like it and it makes us happy?

Tuscana & autumn 159
My hubby in Tuscany! http://www.eileenslovak.com

My family lived in Italy for three years. Over which time we spent many a weekend in the Chianti region, where the JAMA study was conducted.

Tuscana & autumn 137
“Enotcea” http://www.eileenslovak.com

Should we stop visiting wineries and frequenting chocolate festivals because these lovely tangibles have reverted to mere vices and are therefore unhealthy?

DSC00151
Nick and Kat at Villa Matilde in Cellole, Italy http://www.eileenslovak.com

Link to Villa Matilde

Fall and Winter 2010 004
Chocolate Festival in Teano, Italy http://www.eileenslovak.com

After three years of traveling throughout Italy, I can verify by my own experience, the inherent joy of the Italian people. What I cannot do is prove that red wine and chocolate are the reasons for this happiness. It is a good theory, and one that scientists may consider for their next study.

tuscany 069
Me in Tuscany!!!! http://www.eileenslovak.com

Until then, cheers with chocolate on top!

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Link to my E-Book!

 

Apologies & Book Sales Analysis

Twitter190c417_jpg

 

Apologies!

I’ve been away for awhile, and I apologize for completely abandoning my blog and WordPress over the last few months! THANK YOU to all who remained loyal to my site during my absence. Some personal issues crept up: a new job, my Mother (who has dementia) moving near us, writing a new book, family, children, sports and so on. Everyone has busy lives, right? Is this any excuse to give up my blog? Not really.

The first thing I noticed when I came back to my site was that it needed a major face-lift. I’m trying out this new, colorful theme. Please let me know what you think.

Paperback vs. E-Book

This morning, since I am writing a new novel, I was motivated to analyze my book sales since the publication of my first novel in January of 2014, “Secret Agent of God: the Captive Clairvoyant” which is available in both paperback and e-book formats. I consider my first book to be my sales guinea pig.

Here is what I discovered. Although it may not be terribly shocking to seasoned Authors, it might help some new Authors who are in the process of publishing their first book.

I had originally planned to only publish my second book in e-book format since unit sales of my e-book are 5X the sales of my paperback. However, the sales dollars generated from my paperback, while not record setting, are almost 8X the sales of my e-book. Huh?

I attribute this to one thing (tried and true publishing 101): in person sales. Working book fairs, craft shows, farmers markets, donating books and simply talking about my book to people I know or meet has generated more sales dollars than anything else. You can actually make a decent margin on purchasing books and re-selling them yourself. Where this hurts you is in Amazon ranking where you get zero credit for these sales.

This is the paper I used to work for. One of the articles I wrote for the paper helped spark the idea for my first novel. A few years later, the paper covered a book fair where I was one of the Authors. Ironic?

Bay Weekly

FREE, Countdown Deals and Full Price Sales:

I will try any advertising method just out of curiosity. Free does help your sales rank but I always wonder if anyone reads the free books they download. I rarely get around to reading free books and am more motivated to read a book I paid for even if I only pay .99¢ for it. However, my unit sales from year one, where I stubbornly refused to give my book away for free to my second year when I completely caved enjoyed a 90% unit “sales” bump.

That being said, I tried the .99 price point for my book and did not like it. I felt cheap! I felt like I needed a shower after every sale. Furthermore, I did not in reality, sell more books at that price point than I did when my book was priced at the golden number of $2.99.

Paid Advertising:

Yes, I tried this too. I found out I’m really good at spending money. This is the reality of advertising. Advertising is a mode of spreading the word about your book. I look at advertising the same way I view gambling, never spend more than you can afford to lose. There are multiple factors involved in a good campaign and you need to analyze what you did right and wrong. It helps to start with a good product, but even a good product can be sabotaged by a bad campaign. If I could afford it, I would hire someone to do this for me.

With Amazon advertising I managed to spend 6X what I actually made in sales. However, I did experience a huge increase in KENP, Kindle Edition Normalized Pages Read. Huh. Amazon pays royalties on these which is a nice bonus. The hope is that after reading some of your book, the reader is inspired to purchase it.

I have very little success with Facebook advertising, but I also have a small following there. Why? I really do not like Facebook. I quite often resent it. I keep my account because if I do not, I know that I will lose track of people who no longer live in my general vicinity which constitutes most of the people I know. Sound familiar?

I have had the most success with Twitter advertising because I love Twitter and have a considerably better following there. Make sense? I engage more there. And I feel as though the advertising capability is better suited for targeting, better reporting and allows me to customize my own campaign. Actually, I have fun with all of the charts and graphs and statistics they offer and therefore will actually go look and find out what I did wrong and right.

TWEET HIGHLIGHTS

Top Tweet earned 404 impressions

& Secret Agent of God: The Captive Clairvoyant via

So what have I learned? I have learned that I need to continue to diversify my marketing efforts. Free is OK if I only use it on occasion, but free is not a price point, it is only free. I like Twitter! I need to remember to blog once in awhile. I need to advertise wisely and not just roll the dice and then be to be lazy to do the analysis.

And by the way, I am running a Kindle Countdown Deal starting February 8th until February 15th. Check out my book if you dare!

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

 

 

 

 

FREE eBook Promo! & Here’s Why….

#‎FreeFriday‬ and Saturday 7/17-7/18 Read: http://t.co/OK0GFdB6J3 ‪#‎RRBC‬

Why Give Books Away Free?

When I first published my book, I was dead set against giving it away for free. Something about spending years of my life on something and then just handing it out gratis didn’t sit well with me. What I didn’t comprehend then was the massive uphill boulder roll of marketing a novel. It doesn’t matter how good your book is if no one knows it exists. Swirling in a storm of millions of books, it’s easy to disappear and maybe never even be seen at all.

So I tried the free book thing.

For a spell, I became obsessed with Amazon’s Ranking system. My novel hitting some of the Top 100 Lists was a drug, and I needed more. I began running monthly promotions and viola, my everyday ranking remained solid. Better yet, actual sales followed. HMMMM, maybe Amazon does know a thing or two.

Here’s a snapshot of my current non-promotional rank, which changes often.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,884 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

 

Why is seeing your book in the Top 100 is worth every free book? Because it means people are potentially reading your book. It means the cover, concept, writing, marketing copy, title, or something in that mix interested them enough to take the time to download your book.

Without readers, we writers lose our purpose. We are asking readers to take a risk. We are asking them to give us their time, which in many ways is much, more valuable than money.

Happy reading and keep writing!

Bombay Ficus

Running, Writing, Real Life Experiences & Relatable Content.

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Musings and books from a grunty overthinker

MAP THE JOY

finding joy in the ordinary

Reflections

Man is only a pilgrim on Earth

Yeah, Another Blogger

An Arts-Filled, Tasty And Sometimes-Loopy Jaunt Through Life

Cupcakecacheblog

Following the world of cupcakes

Ken's life

A Place for Me to Vent, Share, offer my opinion and have Fun!

Victoria Dutu Author Books and Paintings

Buy just now these Books and Painting created by me, VICTORIA DUTU. My paintings and books are about a world of soul, mind, heart, love, suffer, faith, God, man and women, powerful of heart and mind, victory, success, to be strong and winner in our time.

The Reluctant Poet

A Discovery of Enlightening Insights, Information, Humor, Writings and Musings

BBC America

Seeker of truth in a fictitious world!

BBC America

Seeker of truth in a fictitious world!

Quirky Wanderer

Travel stories (Told differently)

La Verzura

Life food travels & gardens, in Italy

to what place

Seeker of truth in a fictitious world!

The Public Medievalist

The Middle Ages in the Modern World

%d bloggers like this: