Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Sitting on our steps, as we came home tonight was THE box. Just in the nick of time!

In an earlier post, I talked about family traditions. And how some are planned and how some happen naturally.

Homemade Christmas cookies all the way from the kids' Grandma and Grandpa, living 2,000 miles away, are one of those organic traditions.

This is now the third year, since moving to California, that my mom and her husband have blessed us with their delicious creations, filled with love.

On Christmas Eve, after getting home from church where we sing songs of praise, having dinner, lighting the Advent candles, and before reading The Advent Book, we sit down for hot cocoa, and homemade cookies.

As the kids get older and more aware, this evening, this season of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, becomes increasingly special and meaningful for me.

As I sit here staring at my tree (I've been doing that pretty much every night since we got it on the first of the month), my heart bursts with thankfulness. Thankful that He came not just for a select few, but for all of us. Otherwise, I'm pretty confident that I wouldn't have made the cut.

"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Christ, the Lord.'"

Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spoiled Silly

Today, a friend sent an email to his entire address book, which includes me. (I'm a fan of the Blind Carbon Copy field, by the way). He was forwarding an anonymous email from a disgruntled customer of a well-known retailer.

Side note: If you are going to take the time to rant and complain and trash a company, at least have the character to sign your name.

Apparently this customer was unaware of the store's 14-day return policy, capped by a 15% restocking fee on opened items.

Even though the policy was written on the back of the receipt, you know how we humans are: we don't like to take responsibility, and prefer to blame another person for not paying attention to or inquiring about the rules. Or we don't agree with the rules and start to challenge their validity.

As I pondered whether to respond to the email, I had an epiphany as to why I was lacking empathy. It’s because the scenario rarely, if ever, comes up for me. Much of my everyday shopping is with a company that has a 180-day 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee return policy--Amway Global.

As a customer of Amway Global, I have been spoiled silly—I can try any product with zero financial risk. I can use a product for up to 180 days. If I don't like it, I can return it--and they even pay for the shipping back, supplying a self-addressed postage-paid label with every order.

As a customer of Amway Global, I give them my loyalty because they have earned it by placing a high value on me and millions of other customers.

And as a business owner of, which contracts exclusively with Amway Global and its affiliate stores, I am proud to offer that same return policy to my clients. How great it is to work with a company that stands solidly behind its products.

In an increasingly impersonal business climate marked by a short-sighted, dismissive mindset, Amway Global stands miles apart.

Even more impressive is the quality of their products, which enables them to offer such a generous return policy. In over a decade as a customer, I’ve seldom had to take them up on their offer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Start Paying Attention, America

I usually stay away from politics because I live in a suburb of Chicago that is so passionate about politics that mini-wars seem to break out if one offers a different viewpoint.

But today's events involving the pay-to-play arrest of our governor has pushed me over the edge. The 78-page complaint, here, is shocking (to those not familiar with The Chicago Way), to say the least.

I hope this wakes up the people of Illinois, and I hope this wakes up the people of the United States of America.

Rod Blagojevich was elected in 2002 under the banner of change. Sound familiar? Who helped Blagojevich get elected? According to Rahm Emanuel (Barack Obama's Chief-of-Staff-to-be), Emanuel, Obama, Blagojevich's campaign co-chair David Wilhelm, and another Blagojevich worker "were the top strategists of Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial victory," meeting weekly to outline campaign strategies.

We Illinoisans were sold a bag of lies. During Blagojevich's first term, there was no change from the previous governor, George Ryan, who is currently serving a paltry six-and-half year sentence for corruption which, among other things, led to the death of six children of the Willis family.

But even though there was tons of smoke all around Blagojevich in the form of criminal convictions and newspaper exposes, led by the Chicago Tribune, what happens in 2006? Obama endorses Blagojevich.

Also that year, Obama, to the dismay and disgust of anyone paying attention, including the local news media, endorses Todd Stroger, for Cook County President.

Do we learn? No, again the majority of Illinoisans voted for Blagojevich, as well as Cook County (which includes Chicago) voted for Todd Stroger, a completely inept candidate, a political hack, replacing his corrupt father.

Cook County's budget is bigger than most states. And rather than get rid of the patronage to balance the budget, Stroger increases sales tax, pushing Chicago's to a whopping 11%.

Two years later, again, rather than get rid of the patronage, Stroger is pushing for a $700 million loan to balance the county budget.

When I bring up the Chicago Machine to neighbors, when I talk about Richard Daley and his corruption, what do I hear? "Well, he has beautified the city." What? Are you kidding me? And if I start to talk about the lunacy of such a remark, I get an onslaught of "how much he's done for Chicago" and blah blah blah.

The only thing Chicago's mayor has going for him is that he's craftier than his governors.

Why do we have such a high threshold for corruption?

And now that Chicago and Illinois politicians are moving to Washington D.C., will things be different? If you voted for "Change You Can Believe In", pay attention.

Now all Americans are on Red Alert to see to what degree Chicago and Illinois politics are played out on a national scale.

What are you going to do, America? Are you gonna excuse it like Chicagoans and Illinoisans have? Are you gonna shrug your shoulders as you say, "Well, that's just how things are done." Are you gonna bury your head in the sand, stick your fingers in your ears singing "la la la la"? Are you going to be afraid and not come forward when you know there is wrong occurring?

If you want to embark on the path to awareness, and not just hype, then follow Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass who has been following Chicago and Illinois politics for 25 years.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A New Christmas Tradition

Today we received a most wonderful and thoughtful gift from our friend, Yves.

What Yves doesn’t know, is that for four years I’ve been looking for an Advent calendar, never really satisfied with anything I’ve seen.

When Matt and I became parents, certain things started to become important to us, like life insurance and family traditions.

Getting the life insurance was the easy part. But the family traditions part hasn’t been as easy. When our children were just a little over one year old, Matt got an assignment from Chicago Parent to write a story on family traditions for their November/Thanksgiving issue. Having a background as an investigative journalist, Matt immediately went into research mode, and came across a book by Meg Cox, “The Book of New Family Traditions.”

When I first read Meg’s book, I felt like I was cheating. Was it okay to take other people’s traditions and make them your own? Or are traditions supposed to happen organically; otherwise they’re forced and not significant or meaningful?

It’s actually a great book and has good ideas or can spark even great ideas for family traditions all throughout the year.

One area that I wanted to explore was traditions for the Christmas season which focused on the birth of Christ. In our homes growing up, the birth of Jesus was not a focal part of Christmas, so neither one of us had anything from which to draw.

One kind of obvious thought I had was, “Why not have a birthday cake?” So now, on Christmas Eve, right before bed (oh so healthy) we light candles on a chocolate cake, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, and enjoy our late-night sweets with a glass of milk.

I liked the idea of celebrating Christmas, not just on the 24th and 25th, which is what we typically did, but for all of December leading up to Christmas Day. (Jewish people have it right with Chanukah being a celebration of more than just a couple days.) So one tradition I found in Meg’s book was a “Literary Advent Calendar”. Our kids enjoy books. And we enjoy reading to them. So what we do is read one of 24 different Christmas-related books each night.

So Yves’ gift is perfect because it combines Advent and a book. It is "The Advent Book".

“The Advent Book is designed to be a family heirloom and the centerpiece of an annual Christmas worship tradition. The large full-color book with beautiful illustrations features 25 unique doors, each opening to reveal a picture and a segment of the Christmas story. The story is told in simple concise language so that even young children can be included in this Advent tradition. A new door is opened each day from Dec. 1st through Christmas in the manner of an Advent calendar. Because the doors are reopened and added to every day, family members enjoy the anticipation of remembering or revealing what is behind each door and learn the Biblical story by heart.”

Yves, we are so excited to start our new tradition tomorrow. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Filling In The Blanks...

As I wrote in my last post, I am playing a bit of catch up with what's been happening in Bridgett's World the last few weeks. Here's a continuation and conclusion...

November 9th - Simple Fun

We took the kids rollerskating at a rink. It wasn't something on our To Do list, an experience we thought the kids must have. We just happened to see a poster advertising the rink and decided that it would be a fun Sunday afternoon activity.

It was only when we strapped on our skates and entered the rink, that my husband and I realized that this could be a dangerous endeavor. Neither one of us had been on roller skates in at least 15 years, and we were going to be our children's protectors and guides who'd never had wheels strapped to their feet in their short five years on this earth?

As it turns out, we all did pretty well. I even remembered how to skate backwards!

The amazing part was to see the wide eyes and the ear-to-ear grins on our kids' faces as they circled the rink. Beaming. That's what they were. So excited, so joyful, so enthusiastic.

November 10th - "I Was Built For This Economic Tough Time"

Jim Flanagan and my husband have a mutual respect for one another as human beings as well as businessmen. Though we weren't yet officially his clients (we're kind of on the younger side of the spectrum for his clientele) Jim invited us to attend one of his hourlong presentations for his clients in these uncertain, tumultuous economic times.

One piece of information that Jim passed on floored me. He said that rather than bite the bullet when the stock market bubble morphed into the tech bubble, we artificially propped up the economy by lowering the interest rate. The interest rate, Jim said, was at 1.5% for 33 months. The last time this happened was right after World War II, and that was only for 7 weeks, not almost 3 years.

So lending became cheap. There was a political movement to increase homeownership, so people were approved for mortgages who never ever should have become "homeowners."

Sidenote: Homeownership is, for the majority, a fallacy. You're renting with an option to buy. Unless you don't have a mortgage, you do not own your home--the bank does.

Those factors are partly why our economy is in shambles. Another key element is the reality that Baby Boomers are about to exit their peak spending years, with a markedly smaller generation coming up behind them to fill that spending gap (read about the Generation Wave.)

The only other time I saw Jim before his presentation was a month earlier, at his home, where I also had the privilege of meeting his wife and three children. Jim showed us a fine piece of machinery he was using to build a new garage and lay a new driveway. He even guided my husband and the kids in having the unexpected thrill of operating it.

As Jim closed his presentation, he emphasized, "I was built for this economic tough time." In that moment, I reflected on our visit just a month earlier, when I met Jim in his grubby jeans, his work gloves, and his paper-thin T-shirt, willing to get dirty and work hard.

Intelligence is an importance asset, but it is meaningless without character. In a world seemingly lacking people of character and integrity, it's refreshing to know a man like Jim.

November 16th - The Power of A Shoe Box

As a church small group we had decided to put our efforts this holiday season towards Samaritan's Purse--Operation Christmas Child. I'd never heard of the organization, so I went to their website to find out about the program. I watched their video (the longer version) explaining how these shoe boxes of gifts are distributed. All of a sudden, tears welled up in my eyes as I'm watching this young girl moved by the gifts that a stranger, halfway across the world, had sent her and told her that she was loved.

I was surprised at my response. I was like, "Oh come on Bridgett. Get a grip." But after that video, I went from being dutiful in helping the needy, to being passionate about it.

I told my family that we were going to go shopping for some children, and to watch the video beforehand so that we were all on the same page with what we were doing. All three of them watched the video the next day before we headed out to the stores, and my husband told me, without knowing my response to the video, that he started tearing up watching it!

We went shopping, with our daughter's shopping list in hand (she doesn't know how to write just yet, so she drew pictures of the items we were to get), our boy picking out presents for boys his age, and our girl picking out presents for girls her age.

I spent the next few days going to local shoe stores collecting a shoe box here and a shoe box there. Other people in the area were apparently doing the same thing, and I started to explain to these confused shoe store workers about the gift of a shoe box. Some wrote down the web address eager to find out more.

We wrote a note to each child with a picture of us, and included it in their box.

We then all got together as a church small group, assembled our boxes, and prayed over them. I dropped them all off a couple days later, at a big truck parked in town, in frigid weather.

This shoe box experience all happened in a blink of an eye, in less than a week.

But the effect is long-lasting. It showed me that there is a difference between giving money to a cause and being involved in a cause. Not that I'm gonna fly off to the mission field any time soon, but I see how powerful it is when your heart is involved.

I see how, when you believe in something, when it's meaningful to you, when you feel it's worthy of your time and effort, you then make the time and you gain stamina, amidst your already packed life, to do what's needed.

I also learned, once again, how awesome God is, how blessed I am, and how effortless it is to have a grateful heart when I am others-centered and have a big-picture perspective.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Been Four Weeks??!!

It's been 28 days since I last blogged. I'm surprised the Weblog Police haven't come knocking at my door.

Rather than feel the pressure of attempting to play catch up and do a dozen posts in the next dozen hours; or act like the last 672 hours didn't occur, I'll do a couple of "filler" blog posts.

Brief highlights of the last few weeks. Here we go...

October 30th - Facebook Photo Causes Avalanche of Other Photos, Dialogue, and Memories
On May 31, 2007 I joined Facebook. My second visit to the site was seven months later when I got a "friend request" from one of my real friends. It wasn't until seven months after that--fourteen months after my first log-in, on July 23, 2008, that I visited again and added three other friends who had found me.

Within 24 hours, people were coming out of the woodwork, and my facebook friends were rapidly expanding. People I hadn't heard from in 10, 15, 20 years!

One group of friends are from my high school--The Chicago Academy for the Arts. I posted a picture of Jamie Harrold with the caption "Our playground". That picture had some of the funniest comments from fellow classmates, as they recounted some of our teenage escapades. That dialogue inspired Sean Guinan to upload 49 photos -- 49!!--none of us had seen before. It's been a fun and interesting and moving and rich experience seeing every one's thoughts and their perspectives, prompted by 20-plus year old photos.

October 31st - Halloween. Why?
Now that the kids are old enough to participate in activities, it's become apparent that I'm not really in to Halloween.

Not even addressing the spiritual aspect of Halloween,
I'm not a fan of:
*scary stuff
*knocking on strangers' doors

I do like:
*dressing up in cute costumes
*parties with healthy tasty food

Make note to self: Kids will participate in fun costume parties and costume parades, but will skip everything else.

November 4th - Obama Rally in Grant Park
There is much to say about this night. Many different images, thoughts, feelings. I want to mention just one aspect: the realization that Grant Park was the center of the universe that night.

My aunt sent me an email, acting like Charlie from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who just received a Golden Ticket. She was so excited that she had received a ticket to the event and she was able to invite someone. And she chose me.

Frankly, I was not interested in going. I was indifferent to the whole thing. Then I got to thinking...I'm an "el" ride away from seeing possibly the next president of the United States, with major implications which could be remembered for generations, and I don't wanna go 'cause I'm not really in to crowds or politics or staying up late or leaving my family for an evening? How lame is that?

So I went and I took photos, kind of with a historian/photojournalist/observer perspective. Here's a 28-second video of the celebratory crowd

a few minutes before Obama took the stage to deliver his sobering victory speech. Interesting juxtaposition.

My first inkling that all eyes were looking right where I was standing, was when I went on to my phone to send a "status update" on facebook. My friends all around the country were on their computers sending updates about their thoughts as they watched this event on television?

And then to see one from half way across the world write: "David welcomes America back to the world. We missed you."

Huh? It took the next 48 hours, as I watched the event on video, read accounts of the event in the newspapers, saw tons of pictures of the event online, to grasp the magnitude of what had occurred and that I was smack dab in the middle of it.

The most overwhelming was to see 700+ front pages of newspapers from around the globe, reporting the events in America on November 4th, 2008.

The world is watching America. Stunning realization, to say the least.

to be continued...

Friday, October 24, 2008

XS Gold: Energy Plus-Functional Energy

About six years ago, I was introduced to XS Energy Drink. I was not a Starbucks drinker nor an energy drink consumer. So at first glance, this XS thing didn't really grab my attention.

Then I read the ingredients, particularly the large amount of B12 as well as the adaptogenic herbs.

No sugars, no or low carbs, plus the fact that all the flavors actually taste good, separated XS from other energy drinks on the market.

Coming from the land of television and movies, I was educated on the virtues of vitamin B12. I received my first B12 shot back in 1992. The set medic came in our office and administered a shot to anyone who was interested in increasing energy and decreasing stress. Considering that we were working 14-hour days, everyone was interested!

Sixteen years later, I'm glad there's an easier, less expensive, less painful, and a tasty way of getting my B12.

And now as a mom of twins, needing energy and ridding myself of stress seem to be two high priorities for me--and my family, 'cause when mama's happy, everybody's happy!

Now comes XS Gold: Energy Plus. This is not a new flavor of XS. This is a whole new beverage. I've had a few cans over the last week and I have to say, it is powerful.

It's like XS Energy Drink is the foundation, and then some:

The amount of B12 has been increased to 480 mcg (8000% of the RDI). For comparison, a typical B12 shot is 1,000 mcg.

It contains 125 mg of the functional food, Essentra. I'm impressed by the natural way Essentra helps the body to:
reduce stress,
gain mental clarity,
support emotional balance,
enhance energy.

(This translates for me and my world: How to happily answer 349 questions from two 5-year-olds as I prepare breakfast, get them ready for school, unload the dishwasher, brush my teeth, kiss my husband good-bye, send him off with a smile and a wave, remember the 27 errands to be done, etc. etc. etc.)

And if all that weren't enough, XS Gold: Energy Plus also has a half-dose of the RDI of vitamins and minerals, plus acai, blackberries, blueberries, mangosteen, pomegranates, and red grapes.

It tastes pretty terrific too. It's lightly carbonated and has a rich berry flavor.

XS created this comparison chart of their competitors. (click on the chart to enlarge it)

I've not tried any of these. I'm sure they are good products. I just don't see how any of these are XS Gold: Energy Plus' competition. To me it looks like XS Gold: Energy Plus is all three of these products combined.

In other words, wouldn't I have to drink all three products to get similar benefits from one can of XS Gold: Energy Plus? Looking online, I would pay a total of $7.50 for these three drinks compared to $2.99 for XS Gold: Energy Plus.

I like the effect and I like the price of XS Gold: Energy Plus. I'm gonna go for the Gold.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Attitude About the Details

Life is so much about details. I’ve heard that to be “successful” it’s 2% details and 98% attitude. I must admit that it wasn’t until today that I realized I was minimizing the importance of details, rather than maximizing the importance of attitude.

In the past, I would focus on big-picture stuff, while neglecting the details. I would think that keeping a huge vision in front of me meant that I could ignore the details. That somehow they’d all work themselves out, because life was 2% detail and 98% attitude, right?

To be honest, I just didn’t want to deal with the details. I’m not a detail person. Talking and thinking about big stuff and fun stuff is far more exciting than actually doing the work!

Well, the result of this neglect is I would get so far behind, buried in the minutiae of stuff that had piled up, and my attitude would turn sour. Then I’d have to stop everything, unbury myself, deal with any cranky feelings, work to resume my great attitude, ignore the details, get buried, stop everything, unbury myself, and on and on the not-so-merry-go-round I would go.

The latest example is that I just got done, three days ago, with our 2007 taxes. I filed an extension six months ago, because I was just too busy with big-picture stuff to do the taxes. Yeah, right.

This way of life has been an ongoing cycle for a long, long time.

And today, that cycle has been broken. Details are extremely important and necessary. It’s not about not doing the details. It’s to do them, do them well, and in addition, work on having a great attitude. It is not an either/or proposition.

Because I’ve finally come to understand details’ incalculable value, I’m learning to appreciate and embrace them.

What comes to mind was this past summer, when we taught the kids to ride their bikes. I remember how frustrated our daughter was when she couldn’t seem to get herself moving. She couldn’t get the pedals to turn from a standstill position.

With great detail I walked her through the positioning of her foot, with her toe pointed up, and her heel on the top pedal, lifting her body up, and pushing down on that heel with all her might, as she held on to the handle bars, and used her other heel to continue the momentum, while looking straight ahead.

On top of this detail, I also walked her through having a great attitude. Teaching her to replace words like “I can’t. This is too hard. No!” with words like, “I can do this! I’m a winner! I’m a champion! Yes!”

I could be cheering my daughter on, jumping up and down with great enthusiasm. But without the detail, we’d be at a standstill, wouldn’t we?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tina Turner: One Hot Ticket

Have you ever tried to explain an amazing event to someone? You end up saying, "Well, you just had to be there."

That's how I feel about the Tina Turner Concert. We saw Tina (from the eighth row!--Thanks Amway Global!) on Monday at the Allstate Arena. Without spoiling it for those who will be catching her tour around the country, and the world, here are some pictures and videos.

Tina knows how to put on a show. Theatrics were high on Monday, with the spectacular sets changing almost as often as Tina's outfits.

Tina on stage, and up close on the screen behind her.

Look at those gams!

More than keeping up with her dancers.

Walking in heels, twenty feet in the air, above the audience.

A video of Tina getting the crowd involved with "What's Love Got to Do With It":

A video of nostalgic film clips, energetic Tina, and a packed house:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Show Before The Show

Last night Amway Global, sponsor of the Tina Turner Concert tour, treated Matt and me to her electric performance at the Allstate Arena.

We got to the stadium ahead of time to see the Mobile Brand Experience vehicles which I wrote about in my last post. I had seen these as they were being prepped.

But last night, we got to experience them.The two MoBEs were parked on either side of the arena entrance.

The Nutrilite semi-trailer is so massive, it could be seen clear across the arena parking lot.

The entrance had pictures of some of the Nutrilite ambassadors, volleyball queen Gabrielle Reece and soccer superstar Ronaldinho.

Matt checked out the display showing the process of Nutrilite supplements--from the seed in the ground, to the product in the bottle (seed to serving).

I checked out a well-crafted brochure highlighting Nutrilite's:
*70-year history
*6,400 acres of organic farmland
*procedures of processing plants within hours of harvest to maintain their nutrients
*cutting-edge technology with 150 patents
*180-day money-back satisfaction guarantee

The 1,000 square feet inside the semi-trailer looked like one big farm of fresh plants, fruits, and veggies.

Outside, Bob Tully from the Center for Optimal Health, showed us the interactive LCDs--here picturing Team Nutrilite athletes, including recent Olympians.

By the time we left the trailer, the sun had set in Chicagoland.

We then headed over to the Artistry motor coach, a mini spa salon.

We stepped on board and there was a lovely display of many of the Artistry products. There were drawers and cabinets filled with beautiful samples in frilly gift pouches for visitors.

Jessica, who I know from her blog All Dolled Up, was hostess extraordinaire.

The candles set the tone, with their calming smell and soft light.

Matt received a pampering paraffin treatment.

And here's a short video documenting the "procedure".

We waved good-bye to the Artistry ladies, and headed inside the arena to experience the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll.

Stay tuned...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Amway Partners With Tina Turner: Mobile Marketing Is Simply the Best

This week, I had the privilege of feasting my eyes on Amway Global's Mobile Brand Experience.

It's one thing to read the description, and a whole different deal to see the Artistry motor coach and the Nutrilite semi-trailer up close and personal.

The Artistry vehicle is like a mini Artistry Beauty Institute. The products are nicely displayed along the walls, with salon chairs in the back, ready to pamper visitors.

right side of motor coach

back of motor coach

left side of motor coach

The Nutrilite vehicle is a whopping 1,000 square feet, modeled after Nutrilite's Center for Optimal Health. Inside it looks like a multi-media bountiful farm.

right side of semi-trailer

back right side of semi-trailer

left side of semi-trailer

I found out that Bob, a gentleman I met in January at Nutrilite in California, will be on the road with the semi-trailer. He is super knowledgeable, super passionate about health, and super entertaining!

Bob holding up the tablet of Double X we created.

The 20+ plant concentrates that we used make Nutrilite's flagship supplement, Double X.

And where will the vehicles be? For the next couple of months, they will be traveling across the country for the Tina Turner Concert Tour, which starts on October 1st in Kansas City.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Letters to Matt" - Part Three

The next day, I went to Paper Source to get a binder or scrapbook or some kind of book thing, and I completely changed my idea of how I was going to present this gift because I was finding nothing that was matching the nebulous picture I had in my head.

One of the happy workers suggested that I make the binder scrapbook book thing I had in mind. Yeah, I really had time and patience for that!

I decided to present the letters as letters. Loose. In a beautiful portfolio on beautiful paper.

I hurried home and printed out the letters before getting the kids at school.

Thirty-one letters.

9,700+ words.

After the kids were tucked in to bed, I sat Matt down and explained that I had a birthday gift for him and apologized for the tardiness.

I handed him the portfolio, he opened it up, and read the title page,

“Letters to Matt—a celebration of your 40th birthday”.

I said a few words, and then shut up.

He held the portfolio in his lap and didn't move. He was stunned. Speechless. Rather than look through the pages, he asked me who they were from. It was as if the pieces of paper were too precious to handle.

Letter writing...a quickly vanishing art form. Oh how precious is that ink on that paper.

He was experiencing that pull between wanting to devour the letters and wanting to savor each and every word.

As he sat mesmerized, I quietly got up from the couch and left him alone for the rest of the night.
Periodically, I’d glance over at him. Reading, taking it all in, stopping, walking away, coming back, resuming, reading, taking it all in, and repeating the process several times.

He sent me an email the next day, a simple “P.S. I’m still reeling from that wonderful gift.”

I am too.

Thank you everyone. Thank you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Letters to Matt" - Part Two

In the middle of the following day, I remembered about my little project and thought I’d see if anyone had responded. I was SO excited when two people had already emailed their letters. Hot diggity!

The next several weeks were hard because I normally share my enthusiasm for things with Matt. I’d find myself ready to blurt out, “Oh I got another letter today!”, and then realizing, “Oh yeah, that’s right, he doesn’t know about that.” When you have zero secrets with someone, even keeping a “good” secret is a bit unnerving.

The deadline came, and I had twenty-something letters sitting in my designated email inbox. Then a few days after the deadline, I had three people ask if it was too late. No! A few days after that, two more people sent theirs in.

So now I had all these letters, which I hadn’t looked at, done anything with in those six weeks. Just let them “pile up”.

Now I was like, “Okay, you’ve GOT to finish what you started.” The task seemed daunting.

Thankfully, I had my aunt to help me talk through how the final product should look.

Questions like:
Should every letter have its own page, even if it’s a short letter? (yes)
Should everything be in the same font? (no, font choices are like handwriting)
How should the letters be organized? (by categories—family, friends, colleagues)
Should there be anything that unifies the letters? (same margins and same paper)
Should I edit/correct anything? (spelling, but not syntax or grammatical stuff)

I waited for Matt to go to bed, and I got to work. This was the first time that I read any of the letters, and I had to keep stopping. They were so thoughtful, so wonderful, so rich, so overwhelming.

All the different voices, different perspectives. And yet common themes, similar observations of who Matt is, from his friend he’s had since they played in a sandbox together, to his newest colleague, and everyone in between.

I remember thinking, “Okay Bridgett, this is Matt’s gift. You cannot freak out and upstage his gift with your blubbering emotions. Remember to have restraint and leave him alone to experience all of this.”

To be continued in my next post

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Letters to Matt" - Part One

What do you get a guy for his 40th birthday who really isn’t a gift kind of guy?

How do I acknowledge a milestone birthday for my husband, when a lavish surprise birthday party isn’t in the cards since most of his friends and family live out of the state and even out of the country, leading filled-to-the-brim lives?

How do I pay tribute to my boyfriend of nineteen years? What would be meaningful to him?

The idea came to me about six months ago, kind of out of the blue, when I was doing dishes or something mundane. Since Matt is a writer and loves, loves, loves the written word, what if I had significant people in his life each write him a letter marking his 40th birthday?

For many years, Matt has paid tribute to his friends and family by writing true stories, in newspaper form, about them. He even started to offer his services to those he didn’t know, as an amazing keepsake with "Your Front Page".

Knowing that I would absolutely do a terrible job if I tried to imitate Matt’s brainchild, I decided to let everyone else do the writing!

Originally, the goal was to have the gift completed by Matt’s birthday, which was almost two months ago. But at about the time I was going to break in to his laptop for email addresses and send out the request for submissions, Matt’s dad fell ill and his health rapidly declined.

Matt flew down to Florida and spent the last few days with his dad before his dad left for heaven on May 29th. No one knew just how gravely ill his dad was, as evident by this Father’s Day tribute Matt had written three weeks earlier, which was published just two days before his dad moved on.

Life was immediately different in our home after that, and I thought about abandoning my gift idea. But rather than abandon it, I surrendered to the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen in the time frame I planned, but that it was still worth doing.

So I sneaked out of bed on the eve of his birthday, gathered email addresses from his laptop, set up a separate “LetterstoMatt@” email account for people to secretly send their submissions, and I sent out emails to about 65 friends, family, and colleagues explaining my vision for the gift and giving a five-week deadline (which was extended another week since we ended up being on vacation on the original date).

It was 2 am, there was no turning back, I had no idea what to expect, didn't know who'd respond, how they'd respond, and therefore hadn't really worked out all the details regarding the final product.

I crawled in to bed, hugged my slumbering husband, and prayed to God that people would be inspired and I left it all in His hands.

To be continued in my next post…

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reality Check

The other day, I was having a mini-rant about having to make dinner for the umpteenth time, having to bring the car in for an oil change, having to do my gazillionth load of laundry, and having to do a bunch of paperwork for the new school year for the kids.

Later that day, my five-year old daughter was having a mini-fit about having to clean up her table before starting a new project.

My words to her were, “Why are you fighting reality? This is life. It is what it is. If you are going to fight reality, you are going to be one very frustrated little girl, and waste a lot of energy in the process.”

As has happened many, many, MANY times since giving birth to my boy and girl five years ago, the words I said to my daughter rang loudly. The words weren’t for her, they were for me.

Why was I fighting reality? The things I was ranting about are my responsibility.

Since then, I’ve started to make a list--kind of like you’d have if you were starting a new job and needed to know what your position entailed.

Actually, a few lists: As a wife, a mom, a keeper of the home, a business owner, a daughter, etc.

I list my responsibilities and a plan of action to fill those responsibilities for each role.

Some are easy to define, like providing good healthy and tasty meals and snacks for my family.

Some responsibilities may seem a little intangible, such as to honor, respect, and support my husband.

But then I’ve challenged myself in thinking what would that look like in action? As an example, walking away when talking to me, or rolling my eyes, or interrupting him, or not making a certain um, activity, a high priority, or acting like he’s really putting me out when he makes a simple request, are ways of not honoring, nor respecting, nor supporting him.

I’m not done with my plan of action. But one thing that became really is hard. Living a purpose-driven life takes focus, planning, and work.

I think I had been fighting that reality. Life is hard, but it sure is worth it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why American Express Has My Loyalty

About two and a half years ago, we got a Gold American Express Card. They were offering a bunch of points (50,000) and waiving the annual fee for a year. As they say…”It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

Though there were great benefits that came with the Gold Card, they were currently unnecessary for us and our lifestyle, so the $125 annual fee was not a good investment. But we really liked the customer service of AmEx. So after the “free” year was up, we continued patronizing AmEx and switched to a Small Business Card.

Yesterday was another reminder of why we really like that company.

I got an email the day after our bill was due. A thoughtfully written email, basically saying, “Hey you didn’t pay your bill and it was due yesterday.”

I was in a panic and we immediately called them to pay over the phone.

This is what I love about AmEx: Not only did they waive all fees for paying 24 hours late, but they didn’t act like it was some huge favor they were doing us.

We have years and years of pre-AmEx experience with other card companies, and the difference of how this phone call went is like night and day.

The woman on the phone looked at our account, saw what great customers we are, realized that this (paying late) was a fluke (my excuse was that I was so wrapped up with the kid’s first week of Kindergarten that I forgot to schedule the payment online, like I normally do) and kindly took care of it all in less than two minutes.

In a world which lacks great customer service, common courtesy and genuine people skills, the employees of American Express are a breath of fresh air.

And it's smart business.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Artistry - True Science - True Beauty

In my previous post, I laid out my background in and respect for the world of advertising--as well as the irresponsible abuse and misuse of advertising that some engage in. My case in point was a L'Oreal ad and a Garnier Nutrlitioniste ad and website, touting "clinical studies" to make sketchy claims about their products.

Any company seeking to use science--legitimately and ethically--to help sell their product, I recommend they take a lesson from Artistry.

The company, one of the top five selling prestige brands in the world (according to Euromonitor), employs clinical studies in the right way.

This Artistry ad shows a silicone skin replica, which is thoughtfully explained as an actual impression of the skin used to measure improvement in the number and depth of fine lines. Based on that replica, the ad then lays out objective proof of this product's effectiveness:

Artistry Time Defiance Intensive Repair Serum, based on the measurements of this silicone skin replica, shows that in 14 days it:

Improves skin clarity by 261%
Reduces the appearance of fine lines by 99%
Improves the skin smoothness by 83%

The scientifically based data are more than a few cuts above the subjective opinions rendered by women in the L'Oreal ad and on the Garnier' Nutritioniste website.

In addition, companies would do well to stand behind their products as Artistry does.

The company backs every one of its products with a 180-day money-back satisfaction guarantee. That’s six whole months.

So even if after using an Artistry product, a customer finds it doesn’t meet her standards for whatever reason, she gets all her money back.