September 26th

Today would have been my Mum’s 78th birthday.

As many of you know, she passed away from breast cancer (after keeping it at bay for an impressive forty-one years) in 2007.

I woke up, as I always do on this day, with her as my first thought and I was going to write this loving but no doubt tearful ode to her and her profound impact on my life. But it’s cold and rainy and bleak out, and I decided that she would much prefer I add some light to this day as opposed to just nourish the dark clouds.

So I’m going to tell you a story. The story of the very last conversation my mother and I had. Because it warms my heart. Hopefully it will warm yours as well.

She was in Hospice and I had been camped out with her in her room for the prior ten days. She had been spiraling down and I was, quite honestly, afraid to leave.

When I made the decision that I was going to stay with her 25/7 until the end, I asked her “Will my being here make it harder for you to go when the time comes?” She closed her eyes for a few moments and then said, “Perhaps…I don’t know. But let’s see.”

As it happens, she left this world the following day while I was in the community kitchen making myself some tea, so there’s the answer.

Anyway, my last conversation with my mother…

We had many discussions over the years on what happens after we die. Neither of us had really adhered to the Judeo-Christian ethic and both of us had very open minds when it came to global culture and belief systems. I tend toward the Agnostic with a bit of Eastern philosophy and Native American earthiness thrown in for good measure. Mum started out Jewish (as did I), somehow almost became a Catholic nun due to a torrid affair with a Priest (story for another day) and turned out an Atheist. Suffice to say, they were interesting discussions.

At one point when life was easy and she was healthy…and no doubt over a bottle of wine…during one such conversation, we had made a pact that whoever died first would, if indeed we carry on in some way after death, “haunt” the other – not in a scary way, but in a “hey guess what, there really IS an afterlife” kind of way, and we would do it in an unmistakable, undeniable manner that left absolutely zero doubt that it was us, and that we were somewhere watching over the other.

So, the conversation that day in Hospice began with my mother saying, rather out of the blue, “Well, I guess it’s going to be me doing the haunting.”

We both chuckled. What else could we do?

“Make it good,” I chimed in. “I mean, nothing subtle or polite, like you were in life. Be loud and unruly for once; make sure I know it’s you and not the wind, okay?”

She nodded, then dozed for a while. The humorous moment had come and gone.

I just sat there and watched her chest go up and down.

Eventually she opened her eyes and weakly patted the bed by her knees. I smiled and went to sit beside her. She took my hand. I looked down at it, frail and wrinkly and spotted with age, her paper-thin skin crinkled where my fingers intertwined with hers.

“It’s up to you to carry the torch now”, she said, and she somehow managed to look into my eyes with a momentary flare of strength and determination.

“I know,” I said. “I will.  Promise.”

“I know you will,” she whispered, “I know.” And her eyes fluttered closed again.

We sat there for several minutes like that. She would occasionally nod, pat my hand and mutter, “I know”.

My family came over from Russia in the early 1900’s. My grandfather, our patriarch, was born here in 1907, but his siblings were not. We are a tough, feisty, determined, stubborn, loud, emotive, take-no-shit kind of people who are intensely driven, sometimes to our detriment. In the typical old school European way, the men rule the roost. But in our family it was really the women who were the strong ones.

And man oh man, my mother and my aunt (who passed a year before and due to my mum being in and out of hospitals most of my life, had served as my second mother) were two of the strongest you’d ever want to meet. My aunt was a veritable juggernaut. My mother was a force of nature. If you knew either of them, you are nodding your head emphatically right now. These were the women who raised me.

Carry the torch.

Hers, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s…all of the women in my bloodline who came before.

Be strong yet always kind. Stand for what you believe yet keep an open mind. Speak your truth but always with respect.  Lead yet remain humble. Seek ever the high ground. Own every room you enter. Never forget your worth. Take nothing for granted.  Do not ever give up.  Live life on your own terms but always, always with honor and integrity.

The legacy of generations of stout, solid women with wide faces, wind blown cheeks, firm jawlines, penetrating eyes and colorful babushkas. Pointing with gnarled fingers.

At me.

I saw them, gathered around my mother’s bedside that day.

“All I ever wanted,” she had told me once, decades before from another hospital bed when she had thought the cancer was going to win, “was a daughter.”

When she dozed off and her grip released on my hand, I satisfied myself that she was breathing and went to make myself some Quietly Chamomile. When I came back, she had gone.

I opened the window so she could move on, lit a candle on the sill to show her the way, kissed her goodbye on the forehead and told her that I loved her and hoped to hear from her soon.

The room was silent. The starukha were gone.

It was just me now.  I took a deep breath and went to fetch the nurse.

That was five years ago now. Two weeks after her 73rd, and final, birthday.

So today, as I remember her, it is not with grief or sadness, for I am filled with thoughts of her life, not her death. I am making her immortal by sharing her with you. I am remembering her with a smile. With gratitude. With respect. With awe.

And with brightly burning torch firmly in hand.

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Franklin Covey “Giada” Binder Review

Well, my awesome new Compact teal Giada binder from Franklin Covey has arrived and I’ve been using it for a few days now, so it’s time to share her with the world.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter got a bit of a teaser from some photos I posted there and subsequently on the new Franklin Covey Flickr page, but now I am fully “moved in” and am ready to review this baby in full.

Since a lot of you are less familiar with FC binders than you are of some (shall we say) other brands, I will go into a bit more detail regarding materials, construction and the like, as opposed to filling you in on my inserts and system, which you are all probably already well aware of, thanks to my incessant ramblings.

Here we go……………..

The Giada is pebbled Italian leather finished with a vegetable dye (eco-friendly of course), so the color is very saturated and rich. It is available in brown, green, plum and teal, and comes in two sizes, Classic and Compact. You can check out the full specs on the FC website here.

I chose the Compact size in the teal color, which unfortunately fails to photograph in all of it’s cyan glory, but trust me on this, it’s totally gorg-ois!

The front of the binder, closed. I wish the color would come through better….it is beautiful!

A side view

The view from the top.

The inside of the binder before I put my inserts in.

As you can see, there is no fabric interior here…this binder is all leather, all the time. I have other all-leather binders from Franklin Covey that are several years old and they still look like the day they came out of the box. The color doesn’t rub off, nothing rips or tears; these things are built to last.

This binder features 2 pen loops (front and back), an open full length slip pocket inside the front cover, with a slightly smaller zip pocket and a secretarial pocket on top of it. As if that weren’t enough, there are also 4 credit card pockets and an ID window.

More detail of the inside front cover.

The back has the 2nd pen loop, and also two horizontal slip pockets.

The inside back cover.

Franklin Covey’s “Compact” size binders are their medium sized option. The dimensions of the binder itself are 6.13″ wide x 7.5″ tall x 1.3″ deep.  The Compact REFILL pages measure 4.25″ x 6.75″ and have a 6-hole layout similar to a certain British brand.

Generally speaking, the FC Compact size binders comes quipped with 1″ rings (occasionally even 1.25″), so despite the fact that ring size was not mentioned on the website, I was very surprised to see that the Giada has 1/2″ rings.

Ring size comparison: silver FC binder on top with standard 1″ rings. Giada binder in foreground with 1/2″ rings.

Damn near close to 1/2″.

This is what I get for assuming! As I have mentioned previously, with my new job duties, I have been having great success with FC 7 Habits 2 Page per Day inserts, and in a standard 1″ binder I can fit 6 months of these (including the full year of tabbed month on 2 pages that come with the annual refill set), plus some other stuff like notes, reference material and the like. Not a shit-ton (with the To Do list right on the daily page, to be honest I don’t need much else in my binder), but enough.

The new Giada with it’s 1/2″ rings can only accommodate three months of my diary pages along with my other stuff or, four months (the rest of 2012) if I only carry a few note pages as a capture tool and leave it at that.

“Compact” is actually a good descriptor for this particular FC binder, due to it’s smaller ring size.

A deal-breaker? Not really. Optimal? Not quite. My mind is still not made up yet as to whether 3 months will be sufficient…after all, I do have the monthlies for a broad overview…or if I really do need a full half year.

I will say that using this binder is truly a pleasure. The quality is outstanding. While it is obvious that the leather used is extremely high end, the binder is not wimpy or floppy. I have a feeling it will break in splendidly, and look forward to experiencing that, however I know you are all waiting with baited breath to hear this next bit…despite its solid construction and structured feel….IT LAYS FLAT OUT OF THE BOX.

Absolutely, positively FLAT. No training required.

I know right?!

Design-wise it is classically simple. The bold yet balanced shade of teal is certainly it’s most striking feature, however it still looks adequately professional despite being a fun color. Who needs bells and whistles when something is made well and demonstrates quiet elegance, right?

I have carried this binder into several meetings and gotten nothing but compliments on it. Even from men.

So there you have it my peeps. The first of what I predict will be many FC binder reviews. Head over to Flickr for photo notes and I hope you enjoyed this look at the Giada : )

 

An open letter to Slam PR, Filofax and Ms. Helena Bloomer, MD of Slam PR.

Below is a letter by David Popely in response to a rather eye-opening interview with the managing Director of the PR firm used by Filofax. 

I was going to add a link to it but to be honest, I don’t really feel like giving any PR to the PR firm.  Yup, I’m that disgusted.

If you read my blog, then I’m sure you frequent many other blogs published by the Philofaxy community, and you have no doubt read this letter several times this morning. I am posting it  to my blog solely out of solidarity for a group of people I respect, value and hold in high esteem.

This, sadly, is more credit that Filofax or Slam PR is willing to give them. We, who spend a significant amount of our income on the product. We, the devotees who are not fickle or who bow and bend with the winds of fashion. We, who believe it or not, actually do a hell of a lot more than “write notes”  or ponder which outfit we should wear tomorrow in our planners.

Yes, I am posting this letter out of a little thing known as loyalty. But make no mistake…not loyalty to any company or brand, loyalty to people I care about. People. Not dollar signs. 

Personally, I am through with Filofax. The results of this letter make no difference to me because I will not spend another dime on a brand who so callously dismisses the feedback of it’s core customer base, not to mention whose representatives make disrespectful, immature and frankly disgusting personal attacks upon others via a public forum.

Filofax has become like a bad boyfriend. I make excuses for the lack of useful or updated diary inserts each year when they are neglected in the new line. Again.

I gloss over issues of poor quality assurance like faulty ring mechanisms or “leather” I’m not convinced is actually such, yet still bears a price tag akin to a car payment.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a thing about being disrespected. I’ll be patient, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but once enough becomes enough and I reach my limit, I’ll be gone so fast and so far you won’t even know I was ever there. That goes for bad boyfriends, vapid PR firms and companies who think they can sit back and rest on past laurels.

In closing, I would just like to submit that we are a community. Period. Perhaps we were all brought together by our love (or in my case, a former love) for a product, but many of us have moved beyond ‘planner talk’ to form genuine friendships. We know each others kid’s names. We jump to support one another when someone is having a bad day. We rejoice together when someone is having an unbelievably fabulous day. We send each other care packages for crying out loud.

I’m a dog person, and I can think of no better way to put it than this: We are pack. You people are my pack. And you will be no matter what kind of planner is sitting open on my desk.

But enough of my babbling, here is the letter. Go get ’em David…………

Dear Ms Bloomer

This letter is a response to the interview recently conducted with you by FeaturesExec Media Bulletin, and is being posted simultaneously (more or less) on a number of blogging sites in the UK, the US and beyond.

What binds us together as bloggers is that we are all members of an international community and website devoted to all things Filofax, and are all passionate about personal organisation, and the Filofax brand in particular. We have read, as a community, and with increasing disbelief, your comments concerning the Filofax brand, and this is our response.

We note from your comments that, as a result of a ‘usage and attitudes study’ you have conducted, you have been led to the conclusion that the distinguishing features of Filofax users are that we ‘like to write notes’, and that we are ‘very interested in fashion/stylish accessories’. We can assure you this is not the case in either respect, and that we find being pigeon-holed in this way to be demeaning and insulting in a way you most probably cannot understand. We are a community whose passions are for good organisation and a flexible, functional system to underpin that organisation. Some of us, perhaps a minority, have considerations of fashion, but all of us care that our systems of personal organisation assist us in the lives we live and the tasks we undertake.

In short, if all we wanted to do was to ‘write notes’, it is highly unlikely we would invest in relatively expensive binders, refills and systems such as your client provides. We wonder just who you have asked to participate in your ‘usage and attitudes study’. Whoever they are, we can assure you they are unrepresentative of your client’s core customer base, many of whom have been loyal customers for over twenty years and now feel ignored by your client.

We want to suggest to you that the direction you are taking your client in is ultimately going to prove fundamentally damaging to their business. The fashion ‘business’ is notoriously fickle and fast-changing, and you seem to have convinced your client that ignoring and alienating their loyal core customer base will bring dividends in terms of a new, fashion-conscious, high-spending corpus. We want to suggest to you, and by extension to Filofax themselves, that when the fashion ‘carousel moves on, your client will be left neither their newly promised client base, nor the client base you have led them to abandon.  Do you really think this is smart business advice?

You say in your interview that you consider your brief with Filofax to ‘make (your client) fashionable again’. We would suggest to you that your client’s products, if they were ever ‘fashionable’ at all, were so because they fulfilled a function and a need which was perceived to be important to their customers. We now have growing evidence of a lowering of standards of manufacture in Filofax binders, of poor paper quality in refills, and of a lack of willingness to listen to your customers’ opinions. Several of our members, on voicing opinions similar to these, have been invited by Filofax (or whoever runs their Twitter feed) to communicate those opinions directly to your client. This has been done, and no further comment or reaction from your client has been forthcoming. We would like to know whether this is really the kind of public relations you wish for your clients? Or are you merely concerned with putting fashionable, well-heeled ‘bottoms on seats’ at London, New York and other Fashion Weeks with the aid of free give-aways of ranges of binders priced beyond the reach of the average core Filofax user and similarly poorly manufactured? We would suggest that your ‘fashion focused press office’ would be better employed communicating with the loyal, core customer base of your client, the majority of whom, it now seems, are on the point of abandoning your client’s brand in favour of providers who will listen.

We write as concerned individuals and not as representatives of the community to which we belong. However, it is worth noting that many of us have a very high annual spend on Filofax and related products, and we suggest that Filofax is in danger of sacrificing this loyal customer spend in exchange for something far less reliable in the long term.

In conclusion, we have every confidence that these opinions will be ignored as ‘unfashionable’ by your ‘attitude studies’ and ‘fashion focused’ executives. However, we care enough about the Filofax brand to communicate these opinions plainly to you, and to hope that Filofax will one day return to the business in which it flourished for over seventy years, of providing highly functional, attractive but reasonably priced, personal organisation systems to those who need them, which is an increasing number of people in the societies in which we live.

A Quote….

“life turns on a dime.

sometimes towards us, but more often it spins away, flirting and flashing as it goes:   so long, honey, it was good while it lasted, wasn’t it?”

stephen king 11/22/63

I Did a Guest Post!

The fabulous and fantastic Kanalt has graciously allowed me to return the favor of doing a “What’s In My Bag” post on her blog, Well Planned Life : )

Check it out here:

Enjoy!!

Flirting with Franklin Covey: Now on Flickr

Well, it only took 2 positive comments and off I went to Flickr to start up a new group!

In homage to our Filofax roots (and, let’s face it…addiction) I have named it “FC-ofaxy”. Here is the link…head on over and join the group if you are among those of us who like to dabble on the Dark Side ; )

http://www.flickr.com/groups/fc-ofaxy/

Flickr Withdrawal

So, believe it or not, in the wake of all the chaos of my job changing a couple weeks ago, I think I have found a planner system that will work for my new duties…and that won’t require either a humongous, backbreaking handbag, carrying TWO bags (one for work & one for weekends) and/or hiring staff to cart all my  junk around for me.

But it’s Franklin Covey inserts in a Franklin Covey binder.

I went to take some “on location” and action shots over the weekend to post to Flickr, but then I remembered that I can’t…because there is no FC-ofaxy group : (

Cue sad trombone.

If I want to share my non-Filofax planner success with you, I guess I will have to settle for doing so via my blog.

For the rest of this year, I am using 7 Habits 2-Page per Day inserts.

Laurie recently wrote about her FC Seasons 2-Page per day inserts here, and basically the structure is exactly the same as she described so well, only the design/color scheme is different.

I started out with an old black FC compact I wrote about here, but I am trying to be more fun & colorful, so until my teal Giada binder with 2013 Her Point of View 2-Page per Day inserts arrive, I changed over to another old FC compact that is a jazzy metallic silver.

Hey, it’s as close as I could get to an actual color from my old, bland stash.

This leather binder has a cool metallic silver sheen to it

I like the interior fabric used. If you look closely, you can see that this was once a zipped binder, but with a little Exacto surgery, it is now an open binder.

et Voila! Open binder ; )

Right now, since it’s so late in the year, I only have three months of the Day on 2 Pages inserts loaded up (September through December), with the full year of the monthly tabs so I can still have an overview of the previous months.

These rings could hold a lot more…

I also only have one tab in there, appropriately called “Brainstorm”. Here I capture just about everything…notes, lists, quotes…you name it, it all goes behind this tab.


Then, once a week or so, the quotes get cleaned out and put into my Commonplace Book, lists are (hopefully) all taken care of by then, notes can either stay or be culled if they are no longer useful. This minimal subject tab system is something I tried a while back when I was using FC and didn’t care for the 12-tab system. So far it is working out very well, especially with all that wonderful room to write on the 2-Page per Day format!

See how tiny the tabs are?

Finally, here is the back of the binder…it has a nice slip pocket for paperwork, receipts, etc.

A “What’s in my Bag” post is coming soon (I hope) as a guest post, but for now this FC system gives me the writing room and page real estate I need with my new work responsibilities yet still remains managably portable.

As most of you know, I have tried FC inserts in a Filofax binder with varying degrees of success in the past. It can be done with a Malden Personal, if you are okay with carrying your pen in the note pocket rather than the pen loop, because the tabs stick out just far enough to get all bent if you use the pen loop for it’s intended purpose. You can also do it fairly well with a Domino, thanks to the elastic closure, if you don’t mind carrying the pen in the rings.

Both are tolerable, but neither are optimal.

I want to stay with Filofax…I really do…but I can’t deny that the paper FC uses is simply GLORIOUS by comparison, the tabbed months KICK ASS and nothing sticks out annoyingly IF YOU USE A FC BINDER.

Sigh.

Would any of you be interested if I were to start a FC group on Flickr at all?

 

 

 

 

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