Get me outta here!

The Little Tree, a Christmas Story

One day in early December a little girl set out to buy a Christmas tree. She wanted her family to have it for Christmas night. This was a special time in their home where they would decorate the tree together as a family. This year her mom had become ill and the family was not doing all the things they normally did at this time of year including buying a live tree. Sara, the little girl, went out to a few of the tree farms that set up shop during December to sell trees in her town. Trees For U was her first stop. Sara saw many trees but the price tags were expensive. $30, $40, $50 for a tree! Sara had only $10 to spend on this Christmas tree. She walked onto the next tree farm. XMAS TREES, said the sign at the entrance. She saw some smaller trees but their prices were high too. One of the workers on the tree farm came over to her to ask if she was lost. “No”, said Sara, I am looking to buy a tree.” “Great”, said Greg whose name was sewn onto the front of his jacket. “But, I only have ten dollars with me, said Sara, can I buy a tree for ten dollars?” Greg said, “That’s going to be tough. Why are you alone here, doesn’t your family want a tree too?” Sara looked down at the ground and began to feel sad. She told Greg how her mom had been sick this year and the family, her Dad and older brother were not doing the things they normally did at Christmastime. No one was decorating the house or the lawn. No one was playing Christmas music either. She used to dance around the dining room table to all the fun Christmas songs. So she said she decided to make everyone happy by going out on her own to buy the Christmas tree. “It will be a nice surprise”, said Greg. Sara smiled. He took Sara over to what he called a special row of trees. He said every tree in this row was $10. There were signs here that said the trees were much more, in fact, one tree had a $40 price tag on it. “Oh that was yesterday, today is a sale so choose one, and I will help you bring it home,” he said. Sara chose one quite a bit taller than herself but by adult standards it was still a small tree. Greg got Sam, another worker to load the tree onto a truck and he took Sara back to her house with the tree.

“How old are you?” Greg asked. “Eight”, said Sara.
When they arrived at her home her older brother Jim and mother were home and answered the door. At first they did not know what to think. After all, no one had considered buying a tree this year. “Sara, what have you done?” asked her brother Jim who looked surprised. Her mother, who was wearing a bathrobe, looked quite pale, thanked Sam, and offered him some additional money for the tree. “Oh no”, he said, “Sara paid for the tree.”
Sara’s mom helped her children and husband decorate the small tree that night. It brought a smile to everyone to see Sara’s mom helping in the decorating. Sara’s dad and brother could not believe little Sara had shown such independence in finding a tree on her own. “Sara, thank you for caring about everyone so much that you wanted to do this, but please promise me”, her father said, “that you will not go off alone again without me, your mother or brother.” Sara promised. After Christmas, they planted the tree in yard. The next year the tree was even bigger and they needed a tall ladder to put decorations and lights on. People all over the neighborhood got to admire the little tree that Sara had gotten for her family just the year before.christmas tree

THE END.

Vacation All I Ever Wanted…

The Go Go’s, that female rock/pop group of the 80’s had a song called, “Vacation”.  The title of this Blog post is a line from the song dedicated to that thought, it’s all I ever wanted!  It’s been several years since I’ve taken a proper vacation of a week away from home.  I’ve done the stay-cation  a few times in the past several years.  You know, getting away from home but not that far, within an hour somewhere you can get away. I’ve done pet sitting, house sitting, in the journey to “get away”.  Lovely cats they were.  I believe only one out of the three are still alive.  Sigh. The ugly winter is over, I can move around freely now.  It’s time for a getaway!  Oh, the places I could go?  If only the price was affordable.  Looking back on some fun vacations over the past 20 years.

Far Away Getaways

Far Away Getaways

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Tropical Vacation

Tropical Vacation

A Great Client Deserves Remembering

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There is much talk about customer service and how to do it well.  There have been books, lectures, seminars on how to respond favorably to achieve great customer service.  Companies, small businesses, entrepreneurs understand the value and return good customer service can bring back to you.  I’d like to talk for this moment about great clients. Great clients can make it possible to deal with less desirable clients as they come along. Mary Lou was such a client.

Being a Realtor isn’t an easy task. I’ve met the most unethical people I’ve ever had to work with doing real estate.  Lies, half-truths, misleading customers to get their way in hopes of a larger something or another. That’s from agents and customers alike.

I was lucky enough to have two great clients come my way the first year I was practicing real estate sales.  One bought a house from me, and continues to stay in touch,  and one rented a summer rental from me and continued to come back to me for the next six years to rent something.  Mary Lou Cain was the nicest summer rental client I have ever had.  She called me Honey Dear.  Who does that? No one.  She was disarming in her charm and grace.  She was a lovely person inside and out.  As a couple she and Charles had much to be proud of.  Retirees with discretionary income to enjoy lifes many pleasures.  Large family, grand kids to share their lives with. One son is a doctor at Columbia Presbyterian in New York.

People who met them said the same things. She was a lovely person. She kept in touch for Holiday’s and birthdays with people she only knew seasonally. I looked forward to calling her and helping them find their next new summer rental.  For two years they would rent the same home then look for something new.  Then two years again. She would compliment me on my choices that I found for them. “You always do a great job finding us something wonderful Kathy”, she would say, “you really do.”

Sadly I just learned I will not rent them a summer home anymore.  Mary Lou I knew had a cancer diagnosis last December but thought at the time it was controllable. With cancer you never know, and her Ovarian Cancer was not controllable. She passed the end of March.  Her diagnosis came too late.  She is at peace now.  I pray for her family, Charles and all their children and grandchildren that they have the great memories of her to sustain them.  Having gone through my father’s cancer death and Hospice care I shared with Charles my own experiences and he seemed comforted by that.  Hospice care givers are an amazing group of people. Charles is a wonderful example of an outstanding client as well. Always respectful and kind in his words. They made it possible for me to deal with less respectful clients. There confidence in me, and the way they expressed their gratitude buoyed me through other trying times. That is the mark of a great client.
  Charles said he thinks back and says Oh, if we did this sooner, if we did that sooner perhaps the outcome would have been different. But we can’t go back only forward.

RIP Mary Lou Cain. You will be missed greatly by all that knew you and you will stand in my memory as the best summer rental client I have ever had to date and probably ever will have.  Thank you for the memory you were truly dear to me.

MY PERSONAL DAY WITH THE ACA (AKA NYSTATEOFHEALTH)

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It’s three months into the new year. How we doing?  Ed Koch had that quintessential phrase follow him around for years.  He had the nerve to ask people and they told him.  Since January I’ve been overwhelmed with the antagonistic nature of the new health insurance that is mandated.  My old insurance which I had for five years was a PPO.  Not great but covered everything I needed it to and though there were glitches in time where a doctor or two didn’t accept it, in time all the doctors I needed to see did.  That’s not the case with this new insurance regime.

First of all: New York State created their own health marketplace instead of opting to use the Federal health channel.  Citizens of New York be heard “You cannot have a PPO as an individual member.”  Options are gone. Although there are different insurance agencies that offer coverage – all benefits are the same – all are HMO’s for individuals and no more sole proprietor status.  Sole proprietors are now lumped into individual category which were always those who didn’t work, or couldn’t work, and had a higher premium attached to it than a sole proprietor.  Promised last fall by the insurers that if a doctor of hosptial took their current HMO then they would take the new one through the healthmarketplace.  However, not so. Come January 2014 this health debacle unfurled a nastly reality. All is not the same.  Doctors were being told “they could not participate”, or they were in fear of even lower reimbursement rates than medicare participants so they opted not to take it at all.  It was three weeks before I ever got my ID number and that was after calling three different times and waiting an hour and fifteen minutes each time to speak to a BCBS representative.

If it wasn’t for my tenacity and persistence I would have been like thousands who just never got the ID card or number for the month of January. One thing I will say they are up on is sending out the monthly premium bill.  In fact I got two for the month of January!

Why isn’t this mess on the evening news a few days out of the week? This is something I don’t understand.  New York State screwed its citizens with or without the Cuomo administration knowing what was going on.  According to the New York State Attorney General’s office there are thousands a week filing complaints regarding lack of coverage or misleading information that led people to believe they had one coverage then the insurance companies turned it around and changed provider networks. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the largest  health insurance carrier in New York state and has had the most complaints. All Blue Cross Blue Shield across the country is now under Wellpoint a public company that seems to care more about its stock price then the care hundreds of thousands who signed up for coverage with them expect.  Changes are a coming. How we doing?  Not well.

Taking Care of YOUR Expectations

ImageEveryone wants to get paid what they are worth. The problem is, many people don’t know what their work is valued at. They may have ideas and surveys and studies may help shape those ideas.  But, when it comes down to it, working for someone else or yourself, fees are accessed and expectations are created.  Here’s a timely look at managing your client’s expectations.  I wrote this a couple of years back.

Managing a client’s expectations upfront has always been key in the public relations and marketing service field (I will now add any service industry, Real estate, healthcare, automotive, etc.). Having worked on the client side, the agency side and consulting side I’ve seen the 360 degree view from all sides. When you clash with a client, or agency, over goals and expectations within the first two weeks  of working with them somebody missed the boat.  When writing proposals most goals are clearly written and agreed to before any work takes place.  This is necessary before any contract is even written.  But, when clients blatantly can’t see the value in your work (they hired you because you know more than they do) what do you do?  Sometimes the best thing is to walk away.

Goal Setting is Key for any Proposal.  Almost every client I’ve worked with or talked to initially wants to be on the Today Show and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Some clients have shied away from that saying “they only want trades.”  I have had clients who in the past would want me to seek out media opportunities, as many as I could, just to approve or disapprove the opportunity – and nine times out of ten they turned them down. You know the scary ones where you get millions of media impressions in one minute like CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg radio or TV.  You know the really easy placements to get that take no time at all securing. The funny thing is that it is within their target audience and on message. What do they know that you don’t know?  I had one client say after turning down a media placement on a national broadcast television news show that they didn’t want the world to see their soft underbelly.  What?  Having worked with them for three months I didn’t realize they had a soft underbelly – and no amount of Pilates and or, yoga would help firm that up.  In retrospect the client wasn’t allowing us – the agency – full disclosure.  About a year after that media opp the company filed for bankruptcy protection and was later bought out. Goal setting needs to be objective, attainable and on message, but if the client isn’t disclosing to you their real self at the beginning, you may achieve the initial goals only to have them deflate before seeing them executed.

 

Lights! Camera! Action!

(Almost 4 years ago I was an extra in a movie filming here on LI where I live.  Josh Dumel is still married to Fergie even though at the time there was that “scandal” in Georgia following him around. Anna Paquin is now married to her then fiancee and Tom and Katie, well not so well.  How time has flown by.  Enjoy for some easy #Summer reading! Oh and if you buy the DVD – fast forward to almost the end and you can see ME running off from the wedding!) Oriignally published November 2009

Well last week I finally got my fifteen minutes of fame! Did you miss me?  I was an extra on the film “The Romantics” filming in my home town on LI.  I got to work in the movies for 11 hours and was paid for 10.  I believe that is what they call Hollywood Accounting 101.  It was an amazing experience.  I am not a morning person but had to be on set at 7AM.  I was up at 5:30AM – normally at that time I am going off to surgery or taking someone to surgery and then back to sleep. Not this time.  After sitting for two hours and told I had to change my clothes and have some product put into my hair – Hey I love hair and make-up – we finally went to the outdoor scene – A wedding. Yes I was a wedding guest to Josh Dumel’s and Anna Paquin’s character’s wedding.  It is so normal to have an outdoor wedding on the water in November on LI?!?!  It wasn’t bad for the first few hours of sitting and doing nothing.  But, after no lunch break ( we did get some small bags of popcorn, pretzel sticks, and few left over bagel pieces and bottles of water) what little we had were quickly taken away at our guest chairs.  We saw paparazzi doing what they do but this time their approach was by kayak and canoe and then they placed aluminum ladders on the small strip of beach and stood on them to take many pictures.  There were no lines in the scenes that they were shooting so for one scene, all we heard were the click, click, click of the cameras.  It really is a different world! Finally we got to go to our holding area.  No not a cell, but a bus with heat!  Yeah!

After an hour or so warming up, nodding off, and contemplating my future career in show biz, we were called back to the set for the final scene of the day.  Yes, it rains on us!  Don’t be jealous!  It was now a warm  46 or so and no sun to be seen.  Everyone was freezing!  Finally the scene was shot, we were rained on, and ran off!  Will you see me in the movie?  Maybe the rain scene as I ran past one camera three times – we had three takes.

The most thrilling moment? When they wiped me down from getting wet in between two takes – oh how I was spoiled!  Really nice people those SAG extras that I worked with that day.  Some complained all day. Others were there for their pension, healthcare bene’s, and to add-on to their credits.  Tom Cruise and Suri came to pick up Katie Holmes who is also starring in the movie and all cast and crew had lunch at a Church – lunch was at 5Pm.  That would be 2PM LA time so…  All and all, it was an amazing day.  And now I can say, I was an extra on a movie!

Remembering Dad’s Day

Many people have different reminders of significant people in their lives.  Looking at a scene in a painting, hearing a song, seeing a particular car, or the smell of a cologne or perfume can set your memory reeling into the visuals of a person who meant much to you.  For me, remembering my dad at this Father’s Day time of year is easy to do anytime I see fishing gear and tackle, or simply walking by the water.  For me seeing men casting at a beach reminds me of my dad’s love of fishing and the sea.  He had great respect for the water and calmness while navigating motor boats across the different tides.

One particular memory for me is when he took me out last minute one day a few decades ago on Peconic Bay on Long Island. We were headed toward Shelter Island in an aluminum boat about 17 feet long.  Mostly used for fishing, clamming in the creeks, this boat does not have high sides.  We got into the middle of the bay and this summer day there were many bigger boats zooming by.  One left very large swells which we were going to encounter momentarily.  I must have looked scared – yes I was scared – because my dad smiled and said,  “Don’t worry we stay in the middle of the swell and ride it out.”  Up! Up over the swells, and down the swells we went four or five times.  I envisioned us falling over board – AHHH!  ImageYes, I knew how to swim but one doesn’t want to encounter such a situation if you don’t have to.  My dad was in the Navy at the end of WWII and not much scared him on the sea.  Not me.  I gripped the metal seat so tight my finger tips turned white.  I shouted out-loud NO!!!! Which made my father just laugh more!  Finally the swells were over.  We continued to the side of Shelter Island off shore where we both took a very brief swim and got back in the boat.  Heading back home we encountered no swells – Thank God!  In times of stress, crisis, and strife – of which I have had a few I clearly remember my dad being calm whether it was happening on the water or land, whether in a boat, or car, or illness.  Just stay calm, keep yourself in the middle of things and ride and it through.  Thanks dad for the lessons and the memories.ImageImage