Buying a Laptop

Old dirty keyboardIt is true that consumers vote with their pocketbooks. Over the last few weeks, this has been very evident in my family. We are far from early adopters. We’re “use it until it falls apart” kind of people. As a result, until recently, my daughter and I had been using Dell laptops that had seen better days. Both of us were dreading buying a laptop.

First of all, we were very disappointed with the poor quality of both Dell laptops. Both of them (less than 3 years old) had suffered long and agonizing deaths that began with power supply issues and ended with missing keys. My husband had replaced a number of pieces. We accepted that our laptops would soon be moving on to a toxic waste disposal facility, where they’d spend their final days living on the electronics equivalent of a farm in upstate New York.

We were officially in the market for new laptops. The reviews on Windows 8 were terrible. My friends who had Windows 8 hated it. Most of the reviews contained the words “confusing” and “frustrating.” That didn’t make me excited to learn a new operating system.

I wanted a non-Dell laptop with Windows 7. I had one choice – HP. My daughter decided that, since she was also not keen on Windows 8, she’d switch over to the Apple camp and bought a Macbook Air.

Granted, we are just one family in New York. I’m guessing that the folks at Dell and Microsoft don’t much care what we think. But we are proof that “the market” is made up of individuals who make informed buying choices and aren’t willing to buy stuff that doesn’t meet our needs. I think that’s a lesson that all companies — big or small — can learn from.

Today, blog about a challenging purchase or decision.


Should we take risks?

HIGH RISKWe take risks every day, whether it’s trying not to slip in the shower or avoiding a car accident on the way to work. Although some people enjoy the adrenaline rush of high risk behavior, I definitely prefer living on the cautious side of life.

So it was very out of character for me when, last summer,  I went skydiving at a local facility. I’d had some life-changing events happen in the previous months and skydiving seemed like a great metaphor for what I’d done — jumped into something new! I was (and still am) incredibly proud of myself for trying something that was totally outside my comfort zone.

Recently I was shocked to learn that a skydiver had died at the same facility I’d gone to, and that the employee jumping with him was critically injured. You can read the details here.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve followed the social media discussions with interest. Most were critical of skydiving in general and of individuals who take that kind of risk. As a society, we believe that we’re “better safe than sorry.” And I wonder if that’s true. Because we hold ourselves back from a whole lot of great experiences, just because we are afraid.

There is no doubt that this skydiving event was a tragedy. However, there is also great value in courage and in trying new experiences.

Today, blog about a time when you were afraid and took action anyway. How did it work out for you?



Celiac Disease Book Review: Jennifer’s Way

Even though becoming gluten-free seems to be a new fad, it is a serious matter in my household. In addition to myself, my husband and two kids all have celiac disease, which is an auto-immune disease that means you can’t eat foods containing gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye). We have been gluten-free since 2001. You can read my family’s story here.

My son spent several weeks this summer doing a political internship, which lead to our decision to binge-watch all six seasons of Spin City (a situation comedy from 1996 in which Michael J. Fox plays the deputy mayor of New York City). We saw cast member Jennifer Esposito interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. During the interview, we learned she had celiac disease, had written a book and had opened a bakery in New York City. (I also learned that Jon Stewart’s son has celiac disease.)

I was very curious about her story. Celiac disease is a great masquerader and presents with a lot of weird symptoms. Jennifer had most of them. It severely interfered with her career as an actor and had a long-term impact on her health.

She tells one story of having surgery and being very clear she had celiac disease. When she woke up, the nurse gave her a tray that included wheat crackers.  When she once again asserted she had celiac disease and could not eat wheat, the nurse “… squinted at me. ‘I’ve been a nurse for fifty years and I’ve never heard of that.’ … I could tell what she was really saying was, ‘You’re crazy.”

I’ve had the same experience multiple times, even at the GI specialist’s office where they’re treating me for celiac.

The latest estimation is that 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, so it may affect your life as well. Not only is this a good story, but it contains a lot of practical information for people with celiac disease, or anyone who wants to understand it better. This book would also be a thoughtful gift for anyone who is struggling to live gluten-free.


Good question!

Question marks isolatedI have been a freelance writer for more than 20 years. Over the years, I’ve learned that the key to a good interview is to ask good questions. This process begins by doing research on the subject matter and then figuring out what I’d like to know. If I’m interested in the answers, my readers will be too.

In my work, I have a reputation for asking good questions and gaining respect with the people I talk to. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always extend to my personal life.

One of my son’s friends had some major health problems that have required two hospitalizations over a ten day period. This was pretty scary for a 19-year-old young man who (we thought) was perfectly healthy. Although “Bob” was home and recovering, I remained concerned and have been asking my son about Bob’s health on a daily basis.

While we were grocery shopping, a text arrived from Bob. Apparently his grandfather had just passed away, after having a stroke two days beforehand.My first thought was for Bob’s parents. Within a week, they had a son with a serious illness and lost a parent.

My second thought was about my son. Why didn’t he tell me? I asked the right questions. He just didn’t care to answer them.

This brings me to the second part of asking good questions: The person you’re speaking with must be willing to answer. The right questions can bring out a person’s passion and excitement, but only if they’re open to the process.

Today, blog about questions that you’ve found to be effective.