My Goals for 2015

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do ‘resolutions’ for the year, I set goals. Resolutions are too restrictive for me. The word ‘resolution’ implies that you are going to do or not do something all the time. Then, when you inevitably stumble trying to keep a resolution, it’s too easy to say ‘I failed to do x’ and go back to your old ways.

Goals, on the other hand, are something you work toward achieving. If you stumble – eat that cheeseburger, forget to post a blog on a particular day – you haven’t broken your goal, you’ve simply taken a slight detour on the way to achieving it.

I spent the first week of this New Year taking a long, hard look at the events of the last year and the lessons I’ve learned from them. They weren’t pretty lessons. My father’s illnesses taught me that I need to pay attention – a lot more attention – to my own health. I found that, in a crisis, you learn more about your family members than you wanted to learn, especially what they really think of you. Stress makes people just blurt out their actual feelings. Add in my work situation, the behavior of some coworkers, and I realized that, now more than ever, I want something else out of life than what I’ve gotten. Actually, I realized that I deserve a lot more out of life than I have right now. And so I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for 2015, listed from least to biggest.

Goal Number 5 — Lose weight and get back in shape.

This goal will, I believe, be the easiest to meet this year. You see, I finally got a physical and discovered why my previous attempts all ended in failure. It wasn’t the food I was eating, or the frequency of exercise I was getting. No, it all came down to a tiny little gland in my throat.

My thyroid isn’t working.

The thyroid, for those who don’t know, is a one inch or so gland in your neck. For such a small thing it’s very important, because it produces the hormones that control your body’s metabolism and the functioning of your heart, digestive system, muscles and, oh yeah, your brain. Thyroid problems can lead to serious health issues or even death. My poor thyroid gland is trying its best, but it’s no longer capable of producing anywhere near enough hormones to keep my body running correctly.

Looking back over the last two years, I had every textbook symptom, from weight gain to exhaustion, brittle nails to mental fogginess. They started slow and sporadic and cascaded into a constant storm. I just never put the pieces together, blaming my weight gain and exhaustion on my massive workload or the stress of my father’s illnesses and the family dramas. Fortunately, this problem is easy to correct – I take an inexpensive hormone-replacement pill each day.

But that also means I no longer have any reason for not meeting this goal. My metabolism is humming along fairly normally, and better yet, Planet Fitness opened up a location five minutes from my house. That’s a measly five minute drive to reach a 24-hour, 365-day gym with all the bicycles, treadmills and weight machines I could want, not to mention a friendly staff to nag me into getting fit.

Oddly enough, I’m happy just thinking about the going to the gym. It’s great to have the energy to work out!

Goal Number 4 — The craft cabinet of doom.

I love to knit, make jewelry, occasionally sew and paint with oils. However, the last few years I’ve had no time in which to indulge myself. That did not stop me from stocking up on supplies, though, and as a result, the poor armoire in which I store those supplies is stuffed to bursting with yarn, fabric, beads and tubes of paint.

So this year, I will finish out those projects. I will knit – lots and lots of sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, there’s a two-page list! I’m also going to bite the bullet and finish knitting a set of Avengers dolls. I’ve found some lovely decorative pillows on Pinterest which I plan to make, and the remaining fabric will go to cover magazine files and storage boxes. I’ve already sketched out several designs for necklaces and bracelets to use up all my stone beads, and then, in the summer, I’ll set up an easel outside and finish those abstract paintings I mapped out three years ago. There’s also some mercury glass I need to wrap up for the next set of winter holidays.

The trick to meeting this goal? Not being distracted by all the pretty, shiny, new ideas I find on Pinterest. Seriously, that site should carry a warning that it’s hazardous to your mental health – and your wallet.

Goal Number 3 — Publish a book.

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (known far and wide as NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) for a number of years. NaNo is the annual November insanity where 150,000 plus people across the world try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It takes discipline, inspiration and no small measure of insanity to want to participate. The goal isn’t to end up with a clean, ready for publication book. It’s to write, consistently, dramatically, creatively, and to learn to trust your muse when you’re lead down a different path than the original intent of your story.

NaNo is not just a pointless exercise; it’s produced a lot of published works, including Water for Elephants and The Night Circus.

I’m not claiming to be in that class of novelist. But, as a result of my diligent participation in this annual exercise in masochism, I have three semi-completed books that hit well over that word count, and another two that hit the 30,000 word mark. Despite some interest, I’ve never actually had the time to follow through on publishing them, which involves a large amount of work to add additional scenes, rewrite the draft, edit the language and finally – gulp! – let the book loose into the world.

This year, I’m going to start in on that – on my own, so I can use the time I have as I find it and not be under deadline pressure from someone outside my life. I’m going to pick just one book, and take a fresh look at it. Do a proper outline, expand the plot I’ve already written, add in more characters where needed and do a better job at scene description. Edit it, spellcheck the heck out of it, give it to someone to read and tear apart, and then make the changes he/she suggests. Rinse, repeat, until I get it where I think it’s ready to be read by real people.

And then I’ll self-publish it. Amazon has a lot of self-published authors. I’ve bought some of their books and enjoyed most of them. So why not add one of mine into the mix and see how people like it? If they don’t? Well, I’ll still be able to add ‘published author’ to my list of accomplishments! And if they do like it, then I’ll consider the same treatment for some of the other things I’ve written, or the 19 ideas for books I’ve tucked into my projects list.

Goal Number 4 – A Job, A Career.

Okay. Deep breath here. For the first time, I’m going to honestly state what I want to do with my career.

And that is to look for something new in a job and . . .

Hopefully move to and work in – London.

That’s London, England, not London, Texas or any other state in the Union.

I think I’ve always been in love with Britain. My mom started me off by reading bedtime stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood. To this day, I devour every new book about them, as well as the wonderfully-convoluted Plantagenet family. My personal favorites are Eleanor of Aquitaine – that woman never let anything stop her for long! – and Richard II, who started well and ended so sadly. I’ve practically memorized Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, and the adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. My library makes sure I read all the latest British mysteries and novels.

My mother also bequeathed to me her love of movies, which only encouraged my addiction. I grew up watching British World War II dramas, Sherlock Holmes mysteries and every movie made from the great classics. If there’s a movie from the 1930’s to the present about England, Scotland, et al, odds are pretty good I’ve either seen it, have it queued up on online or am hunting for an old VHS tape of it.

My earliest memories of television are the same. They revolve around the classic Doctor Who and Masterpiece Theater, All Creatures Great and Small and period costume dramas. I’m pretty sure I was the only girl in my school who planned her schoolwork around Upstairs Downstairs. The only reason I still have cable? BBC America and PBS. Doctor Who, Law and Order UK, Downton Abbey (although I might prefer Upstairs out of nostalgia), so many other wonderful programs as well as my morning fix of BBC News.

For the longest time, I’ve dreamt of, toyed with, talked about the idea of moving to Britain and working there. But I never did anything seriously about it.

Why?

Well, for the sake of honesty, let me just point out that I have no actual long term personal or professional connections to London or to Britain. I was not born in Britain – although I do have a grandmother born in an EU country. I’m an American-trained, American-licensed in-house lawyer with a specialty in corporate operations, taxes, compliance and the internet, as well as a background as a business and HR manager. I have never worked in Britain – although I have some familiarity with its governance, legal and employment systems due to my employers having subsidiaries there.

Nevertheless, I want this. Life is too short to spend it pining for something and then regretting not doing it on your deathbed. I no longer have any ties to staying in the US, and I want to fulfill my dream of working in London. I want the joy of finally living in Britain, exploring all the places I read about and saw on television. I have a list, people, a list from high school, of places connected with the Plantagenet dynasty that I will need a solid year of weekends to see.

And if I don’t like it? Well, I could always come back to the States. But I think, given my adaptability and love of adventures, that I’d do just fine over there.

Now I just have to figure out how to get there. I’m a realist. I may not get a job there right away; maybe I’ll get a job that allows me to travel there frequently. After all, there are immigration laws and licensing laws and financial barriers in the way. The IRS penalizes US citizens who work abroad. But I can still start networking and examining how I can leverage my talents towards my goal, right? And even if I don’t get to London, right off, that process will be good professionally for me.

And that leads to the big goal.

Goal Number 1 – I Come First.

This goal is the most important. It’s me retraining my brain to accept that I should come first.

I was raised in a conservative family, and taught that as a girl I should always put other people and their problems ahead of my concerns. My mom gave up things regularly. My grandmothers did the same. And true to my training, I will cancel personal appointments so I can take on a new project at work or help a friend with a problem.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if, that is, I was just changing my haircut or manicure appointment or going to see a movie on another day.

But my ‘year in review’ showed me I don’t just put off little things. I cancel appointments at the garage for car maintenance and repairs. Vacations for which I’ve made reservations and waited all year. Financial things like balancing my checkbook. Even doctors’ appointments to deal with what turned out to be a serious health problem.

And that’s not good. At least, that’s not good for me. For the coworker with the last minute project, or the relative with a personal problem, it’s all good, because their work and worries get solved. Then I’ll scramble to take care of my own problems. Reality check: a lot of times my own problems don’t get handled, or at least, don’t get handled in a timely manner. It’s hard to squeeze more than 110 waking hours into one week.

And perhaps I wouldn’t have even considered changing things, until my father’s illness. When I learned just what certain members my family think of me, my life, and the things in which I am interested. I can sum it up easily enough – ‘what you want to do/currently do is stupid and unimportant, and no one works those kinds of hours so you’re just lying.’

I could be angry with them, or I could realize that they’re not going to change, there’s no use arguing with them, just release them and go on with my life.

I have to take care of myself – no one else is lining up for the task. And that means that I have to make sure my interests and concerns are handled by me in a timely manner. I have a right, just like everyone else, to keep my personal appointments. If people can leave in the middle of a project meeting for their dentist or their child’s school play, well then I can leave for a doctor’s appointment or to get my car repaired.

I’m not saying that I won’t continue giving my usual 100%+ at work. I wouldn’t know how to work any other way.

But it does mean that I’m going to make sure that if I have an appointment, I keep it absent a world-ending problem. And that I pay more attention to my own personal situations.

It’s only fair. To me.

Wow. I think I need to sit down now. That last one – that’s a big one.

Those five goals will consume this year.

Having said all that, we will resume regular postings now about Star Wars and books and things that need digitizing. Enjoy and Happy New Year to All!

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2014 — A horrible success

Although 2014 was a horrible year for my family, especially my father, I am still grateful for the year. Because at the end, my Dad is still alive and with me.

I started off 2014 with a lot of hopes and dreams in my brain. I planned to work on advancing my career, getting myself back in shape, finally finishing and publishing the book I’d been writing for two years. I mapped out my goals, set out basic plans, joined a gym.

Then in February, my Dad had a heart attack. Although it turned out to be a minor one, it still was a heart attack in an older man with congenital heart problems.

Over the next month, Dad went through a variety of tests to find the reason for the attack. He then had to undergo not one, but two, heart procedures to correct this new problem. It was a physical strain on a man who prides himself on being strong and doing everything for himself. But he worked hard at recuperating, and by mid-year, he was almost back to where he was before the ‘incident.’

He even came to stay with me over the July 4th weekend. July 4th in Philadelphia is a lot of fun. There are parades everywhere – from the major ones in Center City to our township parade with fire engines and antique cars and marching bands from local schools. We ate ice cream under the stars, watched fireworks from my balcony, and did the usual tour of all the golf shops in three counties. The following weekend, I went home and spent more time with him. I am so glad I did.

Because the next weekend, in late July, he had a stroke. A massive, bilateral stroke that left him comatose. He was transferred to a critical care unit at a major hospital, where we learned the type of stroke he’d suffered was rare, and that the prognosis – was not good. Essentially, we were told he probably would never wake up, would not make it out of the hospital alive.

They had obviously never met my Dad. He surprised everyone by waking up from the coma after a few days, and again began the long, difficult road to recovery. He learned how to breathe without a ventilator, and like an infant, started figuring out how to move his arms and hands and legs. The hardest part was relearning how to speak – the stroke left his larynx paralyzed, and you could see the frustration in his eyes when he tried to answer simple questions. But after two months, he had made enough progress to be transferred to a rehabilitation unit.

And ran into another problem, his third of the year – the nurses discovered a pre-cancerous condition. Back to the hospital he went for another round of surgery, and a reset of his recovery from the stroke.

But regardless of all these illnesses, my Dad is still here, still fighting, still determined to recover. Although he requires care and is in a nursing home, in just the three months from the last round of surgery, he’s now able to feed himself, stand and walk a bit, talk to everyone about everything and is incredibly happy Notre Dame won its bowl game.

He’s even able to come home for short periods of time – he spent part of Christmas with us, as well as the bowl game and New Year’s Eve.

Knowing my Dad, he’s probably planning on being discharged and back to normal by next Christmas. But I don’t care if he doesn’t make that goal, because my Dad is still here, and more importantly, still my Dad The happiest day of 2014 for me was about three weeks after he woke up from the coma – when I walked into the room, said “Hi Dad” and heard him say “Hi Shel” back to me. He appears to have had suffered little to no mental impairment as a result of the stroke, for which we are all so grateful.

So, despite achieving none of my stated goals for 2014, I count this year as a success. Because we pulled together as a family, and because Dad showed us once again how to be strong and successful and how to never give up.

I just hope 2015 is a quieter, safer year for him.

New Year’s Decisions

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I do New Year’s lifestyles.

Resolutions, as all the news feeds tell us, are ‘doomed to failure.’ They imply that you are adding, or deleting, something from your existence. That a state that already is a part of your lifestyle is going to change. And we all know change is hard.

I learned, from many attempts over the years, that if you pretend that the change you want is already a part of your life, you don’t have to think. No “I’m not going to eat that donut” or “I’ll remember not to curse this time.” Just — I don’t eat donuts. If it’s already a part of your life, you don’t have to actually change anything about yourself.

In other words fake it till you make it.

End of the year is always a hectic time in my job. Without exception, for the last ten years there’s been project, or a deal, or a contract, that absolutely, positively, has to be finished by December 31st. That kind of schedule essentially requires me to work 12-hour plus days, leaving little time to plan for the next year. And so, instead of getting to New Year’s Eve and making some on-the-fly announcement about the next year, I decided to take the first month of the year and do a “state of my life” analysis.

Some parts are great, or getting there. I’m getting back in shape. I’m certainly eating much healthier. I’ve been paying more attention to my career. I got some of my outstanding craft and knitting projects completed. And I began making progress in paying off my student loans and the accompanying credit card (grad school is seriously way too expensive!).

Other areas, not so good. I literally haven’t written more than 5,000 words in the last year. My nails are a mess. I still have more clearing to do in my home. And while I paid more attention to my career, I lacked definitive focus when it came to knowing where I want to go next job and career-wise.

And so I came to Chinese New Year. Having looked at things objectively, having tested out some ideas, I have incorporated these things into my life for 2014:

1. I am open to career exploration and change. There’s no reason why I can’t look for a relocation to Los Angeles and employment in a different field, or at Disney, if the right opportunity presents itself.

2. It’s time for me to redecorate. My apartment needs some changes and possibly a new color scheme. I love blue, and this seems to be the year of blue-hued home décor. So I’ve started spring cleaning before spring, and the money I make from selling off the excess will go into some new home décor.

3. I write. Every day. I joined an online group with a pledge to write 250,000 words this year. Considering I have been known in the past to write a 10,000 word fan fiction in just under 24 hours, I see no reason why I can’t rewrite that NaNo novel from two years ago, and self-publish it on Amazon for kindle.

4. I have the time to do little things for myself. Like regular manicures. I have a (now not) secret love for nail polish, and it’s time I started regularly applying it to my nails. So what if they get chipped within two days of the manicure (thanks to the filing cabinets at work). That just means I get to try out a new color on the next manicure!

And on that note, regular posting will now resume. As a teaser? I think I love the Old Republic.

Planning vacations

I am determined to take actual, real, away-from-work vacations this year.

Making those plans is proving to be harder than it should be.

I realized a couple of days ago, while peddling away on the bike at the gym, that I haven’t had a real vacation in several years. Oh, I am using my vacation days from work (I get fifteen days off each year). Every year, I take time off around the holidays, but since those days are occupied with cooking turkeys, Black Friday shopping, decorating, baking and then cooking some more, I shouldn’t count them as actual vacation days. And I do take other days off throughout the year, but on those days I’ll be dealing with car trouble, apartment repairs, or just running the errands I didn’t get to over the weekend.

But as far as using vacation days for a real vacation? That hasn’t happened in — I think maybe three years?

And that’s just plain wrong.

A vacation, a real vacation, involves going somewhere — preferably somewhere new — for at least one day, hopefully longer, without 1) hauling along work, 2) listening to people complain because they don’t want to be there, 3) picking up the dry cleaning and 4) oh, yes, doing work. A vacation involves doing something fun, interesting or unique.

I actually lost pace in my peddling as I tried to remember my last fun trip — which was to Amsterdam for Marillion Weekend in 2011. And even that trip was cut short because of work; I only had time to attend the Weekend, not go with my friends to Brussels and Bruges.

So I’m sitting here, with fifteen days to use up. Fifteen days that have to be scheduled carefully. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on trips, because I’m watching my budget for reasons that I’ll update on later. But I do want to go to some new places, try out some fun things. But where?

And that’s when I realized where I’m sitting. Smack dab in the middle of the Eastern seaboard, with major cities, museums, and attractions all within a half-day’s drive.

I started making some plans.

Growing up, I read and adored all the Sunnybank collie stories written by Albert Payson Terhune. As I traveled back from our New York office this week, I passed by Pompton Lakes, the location of the actual Sunnybank estate (what’s left of it). The annual Gathering at The Place (as Sunnybank is known) is next weekend, so I’m going to attend — even though it’s held on the weekend and I won’t use up any vacation time. The chance to visit the home of Lad, Dawn and Wolf cannot be passed up.

After that, I’m heading to the Maryland short in September. I love the ocean, and by going in the Fall I’ll get to enjoy it in relative peace and quiet. Plus, from there I can explore some of the little towns along the ocean and possibly places along the Eastern shore as well.

Despite having lived in Massachusetts for a number of years, I somehow never visited Salem and Danvers and that whole area of the coast (beyond driving through it on the way to Maine). I’ve just booked a trip up in October, to enjoy the changing leaves and visit the sites I didn’t get to see while living in the area.

And my final booking this evening was for the first weekend of November, to attend the Montpelier Races in Virginia. I was a horse-mad child; I am now a horse-mad adult. I’ve been to flat races, but have never seen a steeplechase/hunt race. And Montpelier is on my list of historic homes to visit – I’ve made several trips to Mount Vernon, seen Monticello twice, but never quite made it to Montpelier.

In between, I’m planning some days off to head to DC and see some of the newer museum exhibits, and hopefully this year I’ll also get to New York to see the Rockettes and enjoy some of the Christmas sights. I’ve also got to get to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, and I’d like to make it back to the New York Sheep and Wool Show again (my first trip was very rushed).

And so, to you, I solemnly swear — I will stick to these plans. After all, vacation days are meant to be used, in fun and relaxation, right?

A new reality TV show

Let’s all applaud the newest reality TV show . . . Surviving the College Dorm Room Race!

At least that’s my idea for a new show, after spending the weekend dodging around parents and their almost-adult children shopping for back to college supplies. I honestly thought one family in Target was about to start a full-out brawl in the towel aisle.

Furnishing a dorm room seems to have evolved into a major production since my college years. Families with a set budget waste a portion of that budget racing from Target to Bed Bath and Beyond to Best Buy to the malls, all so their sons and daughters can have the latest, greatest, color-coordinated and stylish dorm room ever. They work their way down a long list of absolutely essential, can’t survive without them furnishings and techie-toys in a wide price range. And if they’re lucky, they survive the experience with part of their sanity still intact.

Saturday, I stopped into three different Targets, two Bed Bath and Beyonds, an organization store at the mall and Best Buy. I was looking for things to use in reorganizing and redecorating my apartment — not a major overhaul, simply some updating of towels, rugs, candles, etc.

As soon as I hit the housewares section of the first Target, the fun began. Race-walking down the bedding aisle, led by their daughter, came a couple, each with a half-full shopping cart. The girl had her tablet out, and was comparing — well, at first I thought she was comparing prices, but when I passed her I glanced over and saw she was actually looking at a picture of a pile of pillows and a throw (I think). Coordinating, I presumed, with her future roommate. Before I got out of the aisle, she’d dumped two sets of sheets into her Dad’s cart, on top of a duvet, at least four pillows and a mattress topper. I shook my head, remembering the narrow beds at Penn State that barely, just barely, allowed for one pillow and a narrow quilt.

That family and I met up again at checkout — they were ahead of me in line. The total for the bedding, lamps, plates, towels, rugs, wallart, oven and assorted knick-knacks? Seven hundred plus dollars!

As they walked out, the daughter told them they had to go to Best Buy next — for her TV and a new Roku.

At least that family wasn’t arguing, and seemed rather well-organized, compared to others I saw throughout the weekend. The next Target had the family arguing in the towel aisle — the daughter wanted Fieldcrest towels, the parents were getting her the Target brand and she was red-faced and whining over how they were going to embarass her in front of her new roommate. Her father was getting a bit red-faced himself while obviously biting his tongue. Her mother wasn’t holding back, telling her daughter if she wanted the other towels she could pay for them herself in a very shrill voice with extremely-colorful language. Clearly, they had overdosed on the back-to-school shopping safari.

The story was repeated everywhere I went that weekend. Parents and children, with and without lists, all armed with Smartphones and tablets, color-coordinating with roommates’ decor while hopping from store to store to compare product offerings and prices.

And every family was buying multiple cartloads of things to furnish the dorm room.

Really? That much stuff? I would love to see the size of these dorm rooms. My room at Penn State was something like 8 by 12 feet (if that), into which was already squeezed two large stationary desks, two closet units, two wall-mounted side cabinets and two narrow twin beds. There was barely room to walk down the aisle between the two halves of the room, much less fit all the things students today ‘need’ to survive their college experience.

I didn’t buy that much to take with me when I went to Penn State, largely because I knew I wasn’t going to start out in a dorm room. There were so many freshmen my first year at college that some of us ended up housed in study lounges. Since I was going to have to move in a few weeks, I bought the minimum amount of things I would immediately need. Quilt, pillow, clothes and school supplies, a few personal books.

A month later, I was assigned a room across the quad in Pennypacker Hall, and I was able to move everything in just one trip. At that point, my new roommate and I looked at each others’ stuff. My blue primary-colored quilt coordinated with her yellow primary-color quilt and the multi-colored rug she already had. We had a color scheme.

I headed out to the stores and bought more throw pillows to mix and match with hers. She had a coffee maker and a hot plate; I picked up a toaster and mini-crock pot. I added a set of plates and a couple of glasses for me, some plants in pretty pots and most importantly, more posters of sunny beaches (come January at Penn State you need reminding that there are warm places in the world). On the weekend, my parents gave us a sound system to go with her mini-TV, and we were set. My total bill for that dorm room was probably half what that first family spent just in Target, and I managed it in just two stores (one for the posters and one for everything else).

What really struck me, though, was the different treatment some of these students gave their furnishings and their school supplies. At the last Target, while I was looking over micrwaves (mine having died), there was a guy comparing different models of coffee makers. He was rather obsessively looking up product reviews on his smartphone when his mother came over and asked him what type of pens she should get. His answer? Anykind, ’cause he didn’t think he’d be taking that many notes.

My hope is that he meant he would be taking notes on his tablet, not writing them down, but I’m rather afraid that he, like other students I saw this weekend, was more concerned with his surroundings than his classes.

Meanwhile, I really think someone needs to turn this whole experience into a reality TV show. Assign each set of parents a budget, give them an excessively-long list of required items and then send them off with their excited offspring. Add in a time limit for shopping, create some sold-out product roadblocks and sit back and score the hilarity.

Why I shop online . . .

Contrary to the opinions of Mainstreet and the media, I do not shop online to avoid paying a sales tax on my purchases.

Congress, as you may or may not know, is considering a bill that would require online websites over a certain dollar volume of sales to collect sales taxes from their customers. The bill passed in the Senate; the House may or may not take up the matter later this year.

The media largely seem to refer to this bill as ‘the internet sales tax’, and people discussing the matter are screaming that the government is imposing yet another new tax on them. For the record, the tax already exists; it’s called a use tax. If you buy something in another state, and bring it home, you owe your state the use tax on that item. The tax is the same rate as the sales tax; the difference is that you’re supposed to remit it to the state, rather than give it to the retailer so he can send it to the state.

Most people don’t pay the use tax — they don’t know about it, can’t figure out how to report it properly, or just decide not to pay it. Nevertheless, it’s a real tax that people owe when making a purchase out of state.

However, even if the bill passes, it won’t stop me from shopping online. For me, the ‘lack’ of a tax being imposed on my online purchases is not the main reason I shop online. It’s not even on the list of reasons why I shop online.

Selection. At the top of my list is selection — or rather, the lack of selection in regular stores. I want to purchase a new laser color printer-scanner. Over the last week, I’ve browsed through Best Buy and Target, Staples and Office Max, even stores specializing in computer equipment. Each store offered, at most, three or four models — a low-end, a middle, and a high-end (extremely expensive) model. When I search online, I come up with dozens of models, at all prices, with a variety of features. If I can get a model with the features I want, and only those I want, why would I buy something that has vastly more features than I need, or settle for a model that doesn’t allow me to do everything I want to do?

Unique products for my tastes and styles. I live just outside Philadelphia, and so I have access to numerous department and specialty stores. Yet I often can’t find the things I want in the style I like. Last summer, I was looking for a simple necklace to go with a new outfit — I wear mostly sterling silver and natural stones. I am not kidding when I tell you I visited four department stores, and five other chain stores, and saw the exact same necklaces in every store. I hopped onto Etsy — and found my necklace in five minutes. Okay, so I had to wait two days for it to be delivered — I didn’t mind, since I had something I wouldn’t see on twenty other women at the party.

Easy, unlimited returns. When I buy something online, most websites have very open-ended return policies, as opposed to the stores’ ever-more restrictive policies which limit the time to return an item and set numerous conditions on that return. If I wear a pair of shoes, and the heel breaks off after three wearings, I can send it back to the site and get a new pair of shoes. Contrast that with my last experience trying to return a defective pair of shoes to a department store — I was told to contact the manufacturer; the manufacturer told me to take the shoes back to the store. I ended up tossing them out.

Saved Time. Shopping online, once I’ve established an account with a site, saves me time. Also gas, but mostly time. Let’s use Star Wars action figures as an example. The last few years have been miserable for collectors — Hasbro’s distribution problems resulted in stores getting new figures only occasionally and randomly. You could spend the day driving from Target to Walmart to Toys ‘R Us, and the only thing you would buy would be more gas for your car. Or, you could hop online to Entertainment Earth or Brian’s Toys or any of a dozen other sites and find exactly what you wanted in just a few minutes.

Price. Price actually ranks fairly low on my list. Yes, there are lower prices on some things online. I’ve also seen higher prices online. I like Essie nail polish. I can buy it for $7.79 at Target. Online, I usually find it for a flat $8-9.00. Yet I now buy it online — because the stores only carry some of the colors, and the ones that I want are generally not in the stores. Same scenario with Star Wars toys, or certain shoe lines. You can find your item for the same price — or cheaper or more expensive — online. The price disparity all depends on the website, the item you want to buy and the availability of the item in stores in your area.

I have many other reasons for shopping online, but those are the main ones. As stores carry less and less merchandise, I end up shopping more and more online. A case in point? Barnes and Noble. I used to buy a lot of books at Barnes, as well as magazines and endless cups of coffee. However, as the years have passed, Barnes has decreased both the number and types of books they carry, branching out instead to selling toys and other items. I’ve been told that they took this step because of decreasing book sales, as a result of online purchases for Amazon’s Kindle and their own Nook.

However, for me at least, it’s led to purchasing even more at Amazon. Now, some of that is because I’m digitizing my entertainment, to clear up clutter in my home. But it’s also because I can’t find what I want at Barnes anymore. I spot a new release in the mystery section — but it’s the third book in a series. Unless the author is immensely popular, Barnes will not have the earlier books. To read them, I’m going to have to go to Amazon (I already had Kindle before the Nook came out, and so I keep buying there rather than have two different sources for my novels).

And if I have to buy books one and two online, I might as well wait and get book three there as well, defeating Barnes’ purpose in carrying less books. Instead of cutting back on their overhead by stocking fewer books, it’s cost them a sale.

Nevertheless, the Mainstreet retailers are pushing for passage of the ‘internet sales tax’ bill, because they see it as ‘leveling the playing field’ between stores and websites. If I’ve understood their statements to Congress and the media, the stores believe this bill will result in people returning to shop in stores, as opposed to online, because they’ll have to pay the sales tax wherever they buy something, and therefore they might as well shop in a local store.

However, if and when the bill passes, I’ll still be shopping online for many things. For all the reasons I listed above, I often have an overall better shopping experience online than in a store.

And that is not good news for Mainstreet.

Wish Upon a Star . . .

In my dream, my coworkers are named Hawkeye, Obi-Wan and Cinderella, and I am a happy employee in the House of the Mouse — otherwise known as The Walt Disney Company.

Today is “Start Making Your Dreams Come True Day.” Your Inner Bitch would like to remind you that no matter how big your dream is, you have to start sometime. Might as well be today.”

That was the June 3rd entry in the ‘Getting in Touch with your Inner Bitch’ daily calendar. I absolutely love this calendar — it reminds me NOT necessarily to be a bitch, but to live my life, to keep my needs and interests in mind when going about my daily activities.

I read this entry at breakfast, and then throughout the day, jotted down my various dreams, no matter how nebulous or unformed they might be in my head. By mid-afternoon, I had a very long list. I have so many dreams — places to visit. Books to write. Events to attend, things to own, projects to accomplish, people to meet. I want to publish a successful book, travel to London, attend Comic-Con — the list goes on for four pages. But just what dream was my top desire?

When I caught myself humming the ‘when you wish upon a star‘ theme for the fourth time in twenty minutes, I realized that, subconsciously, I’d already made my choice. I knew, all along, which dream was at the top of my list.

Disney, as a company, posseses my three favorite things — Avengers, Jedi, and Cinderella. If I could choose any company for which to work, it would be, without a doubt, the House of the Mouse.

Don’t be mistaken — I do love my current job. I like my co-workers, my position’s responsibilites are diverse and professionally challenging, and every day I learn or do something new that stretches my abilities and uncovers a new facet of the law, business, medicine and any number of other subjects. Yes, there are the typical annoyances as well, things you will find at any job — a piece of equipment that refuses to work right, that vendor who just won’t follow your instructions, a project that is taking more time and effort than it should. Overall, though, my job is worth those little irritations.

But my company isn’t Disney. I don’t get to play with superheroes. I’ve never explored the galaxy with the Jedi. I didn’t go to the ball with Cinderella. And if I’m being honest, which is what I want to do in this blog, well, I still want to do those things. I want to work somewhere that I can daily interact with three of my favorite, long-abiding interests. Don’t forget, I collect Jedi action figures, read Marvel comics and still happily watch Cinderella whenever I need to boost my mood and attitude.

In my dreams, I work where I can see the next chapter in Marvel comics history unfolding, watch as a new cycle in the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars is crafted.

And fulfill my little girl’s day dream of living in Cinderella’s castle.

Oh, I don’t have any illusions that Disney is a magical company free of workplace tensions, employee infighting or tangled corporate politics. No company on this planet is completely free of those complications. What is important though, the question any employee should ask about their job, is this:

Are there enough intellecutally-interesting projects, emotionally-satisfying rewards, seriously-fun days to make up for those inconveniences?

For me, being involved in the worlds of Disney — Princesses, Jedi, Avengers, theme parks, movies and television shows, toys, cruises — all the components that make up the Mighty Empire of the Mouse — would, I believe, balance out any downsides to taking a job with Disney.

And, of course, as I thought this through, wrote this blog, I realized that there are a few downsides — err, considerations — that would have to be factored in should I seriously pursue this dream. For one thing, I’d have to decide whether I wanted to serve as an attorney for the Mouse. California is one of the few states that doesn’t have reciprocity in its bar admissions; to practice law there, I’d have to take another bar exam. When I sat for the Pennsylvania exam, I spent six straight weeks doing nothing but studying for 18 hours a day.

Yeah, that’s not likely to happen again. Not with my time constraints, work schedule, and financial responsibilities.

But I could work in other capacities — I’m a compliance officer, a trained auditor, a tax expert with a master’s degree. I handle intellectual property matters, litigation and human resources matters. I am a person who’s proven herself capable of learning, and then doing, just about anything.

And then, of course, I’d also have to move to California. This — ah, consideration — actually isn’t that much of an impediment. Yes, I’d miss my family and friends. But I’m single, unattached, and hey — there’s Skype and airplanes. It wouldn’t be the first time I just picked up and moved.

By now, you may be wondering, just what was the purpose of this post? In short, it allowed me to do a stream-of-consciousness thing. I noodled this post for about three hours, and while my fingers typed, my brain was thinking its way through the idea of maybe, just maybe, pursuing this dream.

Could I work for Diensy?

Should I try to work for DIsney?

In the words of one of the Mouse’s denizens (Yoda), “Do or do not. There is no try.”

So, do I?