Friday, October 25, 2013


I am so not trying to make light of the situation of missing and exploited children, or anyone for that matter.  These children usually have worried parents, and anyone missing presumably has family going out of their minds searching for them.  I, for one, would be pushed off the edge that I’m currently on, if one of my children goes missing.

I am also not challenging the fact that the authorities questioned a Roma couple in Greece about a blond, green eyed girl that they claimed to be their daughter.  Just this past May, a man in Louisiana went shopping at Wal-Mart with his daughters.  He picked his wife up and upon arriving home, they were met by police who questioned them relentlessly.  Apparently he was white, so Wal-Mart shoppers and employees assumed he was abducting the girls.  For now, let’s forget about the fact that an abductor would mostly likely snatch one child and not three.  Also, in February of 2012, a man was cuffed and detained for what any wonderful grandfather would be praised for doing – hanging out with his granddaughter.  Why?  Because he was white, and she was black, and police do not take reports of child abduction lightly.

And please don’t compare this to white celebrities adopting black babies.   They don’t need any proof since the media bombard us with their stories, coupled with slide shows of their activities.  And no, I’m not going to question if these adoptions are sincere or if they are their latest accessories.  It is surely not my business.

So it really doesn’t bother me that people who see something that they think is out of the ordinary alert the authorities, because really who isn’t going to blame herself if she sees something and doesn’t say something, when something amiss is taking place?  And there is so much to say about the fact that although this little girl’s photo has been displayed over the international media, NO ONE has put her hand up to say, “That’s my baby!”  Again, that is neither here or there.  There are people to handle such matters.  The Roma couple has no proof that this is their child.  They are allegedly changing their stories which would give any reasonable person pause.

I’m not even troubled by the fact that another blond haired, this time blue eyed girl was found in Ireland among the Roma people causing them to get a bad name.  Look, we’ve all been there.  Timothy McVeigh bombs Oklahoma City – all skinheads get a bad rap.  OJ Simpson is accused of killing his wife and her friend – all abusive football players get a bad rap.  DMX cannot stay of out jail – all pot-smoking rappers get a bad rap.  Ted Kaczynski becomes The Unabomber – all child prodigy turn paranoid schizophrenic recluse get a bad rap.  We all have to live with some form of bigotry and prejudice.

Here’s what bothers me: the US authorities getting heavily involved.  Possibly the same authorities that have told the families of missing children that they are doing the best they can, that their hands are tied, that they have used all possible resources.  Yet, they can find time to investigate a possible abduction thousands of miles away.

Another thing that is getting under my skin is that this little girl is being hailed an “angel”.  No one, besides the people with whom she has been living, knows her enough to call her an angel.  And how can she be dubbed an angel, when no one has ever seen an angel?  But I suspect that if a little black ‘angel’ was found living on a Mormon compound nobody would question it.  Who am I kidding?  They probably still believe black people are cursed and would not be seen within a 1,000 miles of them.

At any rate, two positive things came out of this: the Gypsies, like everybody else, now have a politically correct name, Roma; and I no longer have to wonder what would be the outcome if a black couple adopted a white baby.  (Note to self – cross that off your bucket list.)

I hope these missing blond light eyed girls are reunited with their loved ones, but perspectively speaking, what I yearn for more is that every missing child is granted the same resources as those two girls, who were never reported missing in the first place.

Monday, October 21, 2013

When Will I Get Over Buying Facebook For $40?

Yippee!  I finally get to share my vast knowledge of investing with you - my readers, my friends, my peeps.  Okay, fine.  A degree in Finance & Investments does not an expert make.  And working as a financial advisor for one year in 2008 when the market crashed causing me to lose my job certainly does not help.  But I have been buying stocks since 1998, so with this 15 year old hobby, it is my pleasure to entice you with my wisdom.

So my investment strategy is to buy and hold – I’m not interested in buying shares in a company today and selling them next week at a profit.  My intention is simple:  I buy reputable stocks and hold them until I retire. (Okay, that was when I started in 1998 and had a job.  So don’t judge me now because I don’t work.)  But since you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, I didn’t want to buy just blue chip stocks – stocks from well known, large, financially sound and established companies.  And for the same reason, I didn’t want to buy into one or two industries only.  When I started investing, tech stocks were the craze, but it seemed like every time a tech company had an IPO – initial public offering – when a private company decides to sell shares to the public to raise money – the owners got rich but within a matter of months, the company goes bust and all the little investors lose their money.  So back then I just stuck with companies like Microsoft, Intel and Cisco for the technological portion of my portfolio.  They had been around for a while, and I could afford their shares.

In 2004 when Google went public, the price was $85 a share.  I probably could have afforded a couple shares if the funds from dividends – money companies pay you to own their shares – were in my account.  However, I was quite busy raising small children and not paying attention, so I did not put anything extra in the account for that venture.  Plus I was not in the mood to lose money on a fad.  But after Google shot off like a rocket, I wished I could turn back the clocks.  That baby is now worth about $1,015.  So even if I had bought just two shares, I would have had an unrealized gain – unrealized because I wouldn’t have sold them, so it would just be a gain on paper – of $1,850.01.  You cannot forget to include the commission of $9.99 I would have paid to buy the stock in the first place.

So I missed the Google bandwagon.  I also missed the Amazon and Priceline crusades.  Now IPOs are real tricky.  In the case of Amazon, underwriters – the investment bankers that assess the price of the new stock – thought the initial share price would be $18, a jump from $12.  When it unveiled, it was $30, but it had dipped by $23 at the end of the day.  Amazon bottomed to $5.51 in October, 2001.  That I could have easily afforded, but Amazon is not a blue chip company, so I was not taking that risk.  It is now worth about $325, so you know I want to kick myself every time I think about it.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  

Priceline went public in March of 1999 with a price of $16.  It fell to $1.30 in December of 2000.  Today, it is worth almost $1,100.  Again, Priceline is not established so I was not meddling with it.  Can you imagine if I had bought Priceline for $25 and it then fell to $1?  Of course I would have kept the shares I purchased, because I invest for the long run and I have to weather whatever storms come my way.  But that certainly would have caused me months, years of agony.  On the other hand, since I would not have sold them, I would be beaming right about now.

Therefore when facebook announced that it was going public, Myra was not going to play it safe and not get in on the action.  I determined that I was going to purchase 100 shares for $22 each.  I transferred the money into my investment account, and by I, I mean we, because my husband and I are a team, but for argument’s sake, let’s just stick with me.  I waited and waited.  I listened to the noise.  The underwriters changed the anticipated initial price several times.  They questioned the value of the company.  They went back and forth. I listened to some.  I ignored others.

On May 18, 2012, facebook went public.  It was a Friday, so my husband and I went to the gym.  I delayed leaving the house because there were some technical difficulties with the IPO, but then decided it was out of my realm.  By then it was announced that the initial price would be $38.  As I worked that treadmill and stared at CNBC, I saw the stock doing some acrobatic moves.  It went as high as $45 and by day’s end, it settled at $38.23.  I had some moments of panic, but in the end I was glad that I changed my buying price to $40.  With that increase, I was only able to get 85 shares.

For the next few days, weeks even, the neurotic individual that I am, I questioned if I had made the right decision by not sticking with $22 a share.  Over the next few months, I no longer questioned, I knew for sure I had made a terrible mistake.  That stock dipped all the way down to below $18 in September, 2012.  For months, every time I saw the red in my portfolio to show the loss, internally I pound my head on a wall.  Why didn’t I listen to my gut?  Why didn’t I trust my initial price limit?  Why did I change my mind?  And because I’m so anal, seeing 85 instead of a round 100 angers me more.

Currently facebook is pricing at around $55 a share, so my red has finally turned to green.  But you know me – I calculate how much greener it would have been if I had stuck to my gun.  I’m not impressed with the realized gain, because it could have been so much sweeter hadn’t I blundered.  I would have been so proud of myself if I had gotten it right.

And it doesn’t matter that I miraculously bought some shares of Apple at $80 in January of 2009, and they are now worth about $525 and went as high as $705.  It doesn’t matter than I have more gains than losses altogether.  It doesn’t matter that things could have gone the other way, and facebook could have kept going up after that initial $38, and had I not paid $40, I could have missed it.  None of that matters.  And the fact that when I finally retire (yup, I’m young enough for a few more acts) - and my fixed social security income doesn’t suffice, that it won’t matter if my stocks are at a round figure or a weird odd number because when paying for bread, milk and heat head my priority list, paying $40 instead of $22 for a stock a quarter of a century ago won’t be important.

I went through this whole financial spiel to illustrate that in life also, we have to stop beating ourselves up for that one thing that didn’t go as planned.  So what if you wore a light cashmere sweater to the Antigua Day Festival over the Labor Day weekend because you thought the temperature was going to drop like it usually does in the Poconos, but Harlem sweltered until midnight?  It still doesn’t matter if you had initially intended to wear a sleeveless blouse, but after seeing your husband wearing something heavier changed your mind.  So what if you spend weeks looking for the perfect watch for your husband’s first Father’s Day and when you finally present it to him, you suspect that he doesn’t really like it, and the store has a no refund policy?  So what if you worked hard to convince your son to try out for the school’s basketball team, and he refused, and you both later realized he would have easily made it?  So what?

Every time we change our minds from one thing to another and the first thing was the right choice, we beat ourselves up forever.  Unless we are psychic, there is no way for us to always get it right.  We need to forgive ourselves more and move on with the imperfect choices we have made because perspectively speaking, this is life, and we are all entitled to make a few mistakes.

PS:  Twitter is going public soon, trading under the ticker symbol – abbreviation that uniquely identities each stock on the market – TWTR.  I plan to make a modest investment, then let the chips fall where they may.  In the long run, if I hit, I hit; if I miss, I miss.  You can’t win them all; and you can’t lose them all!

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Love My Husband, But…….

My kids put a smile on my face every single day.  They are literally the reason why I look forward to each and every day.  Of course hubby still puts a smile on my face, but a different kind of smile….if you know what I mean.  And I know that everybody thinks that their children are the funniest, but these kids crack me up daily.

Just today we went to the dentist, and already there is a chuckle attached to the trip.  My husband’s dental plan doesn’t reach as far as Pennsylvania, so we have to trek to New Jersey for a dentist.  Every real job I’ve had, has provided me with a great dental plan if nothing else, but for some reason his dental plan sucks – every other benefit is wonderful, except the dental.  Let me find out that the person in charge has really bad teeth and wants everyone else to suffer!

Personally I like this dentist.  Yeah she is quick, but I think she gets the job done.  The kids think that she is a bit rough, but I don’t like being in a dentist chair, so the quicker I can get out, the better for me.  She also has the worst receptionist in the universe, but we get what we pay for, so I don’t expect a miracle.  My kids have been spoiled with the goody bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, fluoride, crayons, and stickers; but this is just not that kind of establishment.  And don’t expect one TV with cartoons for the kids, and one with news for the adults either.  This TV is set on FOX, so just live with it.

So needless to say, some people in my family are not impressed with the dentist.  Look, we once went to a dentist who had a bad case of halitosis, which made me wonder if this woman was right in her head.  I mean is it too hard to practice what you preach and use the products in the office?  I hear I’ve been known to exaggerate, but when I researched what other patients thought about her, although shocked, I was not surprised when someone mentioned her bad breath on the review page.  If she was a more pleasant person, maybe people wouldn’t have been so put off, but her attitude gave her breath some stiff competition. 

Anyway my youngest went in first, and when he returned, he looked at me, wrinkled his face and said, “I need to see her dentist diploma!”

He is a pretty smart kid but tends to be lazy with his reading.  A few weeks ago we were going to the store, and I told him to read to me on the way.  He was not happy about it, which showed in his delivery.  He used the gloomiest, flattest, huskiest voice he could summon to read quite an interesting story.  Annoyed, I stopped him and insisted that he read with more gusto.  Fifteen minutes later when we exited the car, my daughter whispered, “I don’t know why you wanted him to read out loud.  He sounded awful.”  I told her that he has to practice his reading, so that is one way of doing it.  We completed our transaction and were heading to the car.  Before opening the door, his brother said to him, “This time when you read, please don’t sound like somebody shot you in the kneecap.”

When these two boys get together, it is literally on and poppin.  Two weeks ago, they were talking about going to The Old Oaken Bucket football game when my youngest said to his brother, “Just so you know, we probably won’t be hanging out together.”  He was shot with a look that yelled, “Trick, I don’t want to hang out with you!”  Hardly ever fazed, he came over by me and whispered, “I just wanted to give him a heads up.”

So he insisted on playing football or what I call play-play football, instead of soccer, or what I call real football.  We tried to persuade him that football was a ridiculous sport, but all his many fans convinced him that because of his speed and agility, he would be perfect for the sport.  I gave in because when he bugged me the last year, I was not ready to put up with the time and energy that football entailed.  I mean, these kids are playing outside in all kind of weather conditions.  The parents are sitting down and watching this spectacle, and it’s just not that serious.  However, I’m glad he did it this year because the weather has been awesome for the past several months, give or take a couple of days, so I was able to get some tennis and walking in.  But it would have been nice if someone had alerted us that this age group has had a losing streak for the past six or seven years.

The first game his siblings and I attended was quite boring to the point where my eldest dozed off.  I had noticed for a while that my son wanted to quit the football team, but I am of the opinion that if you start something, you should finish it; and if you beg for something, then you should definitely see it through the end.  The only hint he dropped was when he asked, “There is no refund, right?”  Of course he was not factoring in all the gear I purchased, but I had made up my mind to let him play so he could get it out of his system, once and for all.  I heard him complain that they were playing in the dark, which he thought was ridiculous because there were moments when he didn’t see anyone and then bam, somebody appeared in front of him.  To be honest, I am happy that he is one of the smallest on the team, so his role is limited, because some of their opponents sometimes weigh as much as and over 200 pounds.  And I kid you not, I went to one game, and this one kid must have been about 6 feet 4 inches and rumored to have weighed 320 pounds.  My son weighs about 80 pounds, wet.

Sometime last week, he was getting out of the car when two of his teammates passed by.  One of them said, “I hear you don’t want to play football anymore.”  Homeboy didn’t even pretend that he was going to sugarcoat anything – didn’t even wait to think about a response.  I heard, “Yup, you got that right.”  I said, “You really don’t want to play?”  He replied, “That is the most degrading sport ever - a bunch of kids running around and beating each other up.”

On the other hand, my daughter’s humor always catches me off guard.  One day I mentioned to her that I always pictured myself living in the Italian country side riding my bicycle to the market to buy fresh produce.  She looked at me and said, “How do you know if you lived in Italy that you wouldn’t be living in the slums?”  So the other day I reminded her about it, and as I thought about it, I pictured myself on the bicycle, with serene music playing in the background.  When she made her remark, the music come to a screeching halt.  I relayed that to her.  She smiled, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, Mommy.  I won’t let you live on the streets.  You can live with me.”  And with an evil laugh and a villainous look, she continued, “Under my rules.”

Some people don’t have children by their choice, or by nature’s, and I’m not implying that their lives are not as fulfilled as mine.  I’m just saying that perspectively speaking, my life would not have been as full without these three little people who make every single day brighter. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Because Today Felt Like a Good Day to Write

The temperature in the Poconos is currently 81°.  No joke!  It’s October, early October, but it is still fall.  And normally the average temperature is about 65° at this time of the year.  It has been like this for about two weeks, so you know that everyone is in a great mood.

So after I left the doctor’s office, I decided to go to the mall to window shop.  No joke!  I can window shop.  I parked my car at the entrance so I could walk to the other end and simultaneously exercise.  I was in no hurry to get home.  The only thing on my agenda was cleaning.  Who feels like cleaning in this weather?  Not me.  That’s for sure.

First off, let me just say I was five minutes late for my appointment.  I waited about 20 minutes in the waiting room, which is unusual for this office.  Then I waited almost an hour for the doctor, very unusual also.  Did I get mad?  No way!  I took the time to check my messages on email and facebook.  I am so glad I gave in and joined the rest of the world and bought a smart phone.  Best invention since the wheel. J

So as I’m at the mall browsing, I knew IZOD would have something on sale that I could appreciate.  There was a golf skort that I could wear for tennis.  I’m in no hurry so I took four colors and two different sizes into the dressing room.  The smaller ones actually fit me.  I was feeling risky so I decided to visit stores that I don’t normally patronize.  I was surprised to see that American Eagle Outfitters had something I actually liked.  Three tops later, I realized this was getting serious.  At this point it wouldn’t hurt to enter White House Black Market.  They always have good things on the outside, but I can never bring myself to really liking anything once I got inside.  But today, what did I have to lose?

Not only did they have jean shorts in my potential size for $9.99, but my eyes fell on the cutest baby pink skinny slacks ever.  It was two sizes smaller than I had been wearing for the past few years, but you know how we women get.  “If I can just squeeze into them, I will convince the saleslady to call all the nearby stores for my size.”  Well my first surprise was when the shorts in my usual size were too big.  The optimist that I am, I always go to the dressing room with my current and old sizes, and today the smaller size fits better.  Then I put those pink pants on, and they were made for me.  No joke! 

They were $19.99, and I figured, why not.  Now you know this is Miss Frugal so since I’m too busy to go anywhere, why spend money on clothes that I won’t be wearing and might not fit when I actually have somewhere to go.  The saleslady thought the shorts were $14.99, which promptly caused me to correct her.  Then she thought the pants were $29.99.  Now it’s the only pair in this store.  It is probably the only pair in all of the stores because it is on the sales rack.  (As if I had to point that out.)  I said to myself, “Self, you are always finding bargains, so it is no big deal if you have to pay an extra $10 for something that you just got to have.”  The lovely saleslady got all my information since she was now going to hook me up with future discounts and birthday coupons.  After she entered the code, magically, the machine spitted out $9.99.  No joke!

Could this day get any better?

Of course I went to Au Bon Pain and got sandwiches.  I’m already on a roll, why stop!  Plus how could I explain to the children that I only bought their favorite sandwiches for myself?  As I left the mall almost $100 poorer, it dawned on me that this was the first time in about a dozen years that I had gone to the mall and had not bought anything for my husband or children.  And it felt great.  No joke!

Now let’s put this into context.  Some of you drop $100 on a wallet, but if you know me, you know there is no way I’m spending more money that I could put in said wallet.  Again, I hardly go anywhere so it would be pointless to spend money on clothes just to store in the closet.  And I am not one who looks forward to paying full price for anything.

So as I got into my car exactly two hours later, I thought about sharing this joyous day with my facebook friends when I realized I had so much more to say, that this called for an emergency blog post.

I live less than 15 minutes from the mall, and I know that the road is being fixed in a few places.  A few days ago, I had to wait a whole five minutes for our lane to get by.  But what the heck, it’s not like I had anything pressing to do.  About two minutes into my drive, I’m the third car in the line to be stopped, but who cares.  I spend the time responding to facebook messages.  Then one of my new favorite songs comes on, and I’m dancing to Blurred Lines.  Now if you know me well, you would know that me sitting and dancing is a prettier picture than me standing and dancing.  So it was a win-win situation. 

Oh, I was listening on my smart phone because if you have been paying attention, you would know from prior posts that my ride is a bit jacked up, so the radio doesn’t always work.  But today, I turned all the negatives into positives.  Because I am listening to iHeartRADIO, I get to choose the stations and the songs that I want to hear.  Then I turn my window down since I would be waiting for a while.  Guess what?  My window worked.  Yeah, part of the jackedupness is the driver’s window doesn’t always work.  But at that moment, it was working. 

Could this day get any better? 

After Blurred Lines, I changed the station to hear the end of Roar, and then Same Love comes on.  All my favorite songs are just being played back to back.  Now this post is rant free and controversial free, but apparently my favorite songs didn’t get the memo.  iHeartRADIO slipped in and out during Same Love, but again I turned that negative into a positive and that song lasted all the way home through the detour. (Yup the bridge is closed.  It is not a real bridge…just a Pocono bridge, which is really a bump in the road.  But they are repairing it, so I had to detour to get home.)

As I got home, 30 minutes later, I wished the hammock was still up so I could chill in it, but then I realized I could just use the outdoor chair I sit in to watch the children play sports.  It has a canopy, so it’s perfect.

The only thing that was missing from my moment was not being in my sky blue BMW convertible, but perspectively speaking, what I sacrificed to be in a jacked up Dodge minivan is totally worth it.