Survival (10/26/05)

Dear Zelda,

A friend in my office is organizing a company 'vacation' to Hawaii and, though attendance is optional, I am feeling pressured to go. Right now I am on a very tight budget due to some credit card binging and don't feel like I can add a trip to Hawaii to my debts. How can I say "no" without losing face?

A Float Without a Boat

Dear Float Without a Boat-

UGH. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to use our credit cards as debt-free floatation devices? If only we could sail the seven seas on exotic vacations that were guilt- and worry-free! Well, don’t bank on that’ll only end up with a free trip to Never Never Gonna Happen Land.

So, the task here is to keep the old “debt to income ratio” quiet, and send everyone off with a “bon voyage” without feeling like you’re going to be “lei’d” off?

We have two options. One, go on a faux vacation at the exact same time. Just shoot your coworkers a simple “RSVP” email with an “I’m so sorry but I booked another trip to Mexico almost a year ago, and it’s impossible to cancel now.” Of course, make sure that you know a little about the faux destination you are faux visiting and don’t forget to immerse yourself with some tanning cream to faux show you soooo did faux go (I’d stay away from faux having Montezuma’s revenge...not so pretty).

Or, if white lies are not your style, try option two. Spare the unpleasant details, but be honest, and explain in simple terms that this year you’ll have to pass because you’d like to get some bills paid off before you set sail into another round of revolving APRs. Don’t underestimate how many people can relate. Most everyone at one time or another has felt the pinch of the overdrawn bank account. Trust me, your office-mates can relate, and there is nothing shameful about it.

The truth won’t set you “debt” free...but it will set you free.


Dear Zelda

I hate my job! I don't want to get out of bed in the morning. I work for a family owned and run business and, while my salary is okay, I feel there is no way I will ever get ahead. My problem is that I like the family who owns the business. I grew up with their children, who now also work for the company. They refer to me as their surrogate son. I'm in charge of about 20 people and I don't enjoy hiring and firing them. How do I get out and stay friends with the family? Any suggestions?

Fear of Family

Dear Fear of Family-

We’re not talking about the Corleone family are we? (I want to make sure before I start dolin’ out the advice, as no one wants to sleep with the fishes!) Let me start by saying I wouldn’t worry so much about not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Personally, I’ve never met a bed I wanted to get out of. However, not wanting to get out of bed because you can’t stand the thought of going to your job is a whole different story…. I love my job!

Working for a family-owned business and not being part of “la famiglia” can definitely have its disadvantages. In a perfect world, “the surrogate son” would be valued and appreciated just as much for his hard work as the blood relative who may (or may not!) be putting in the same effort. But we all know that most family businesses are not a perfect world. Still, the fact that they’ve put you in charge of twenty people shows an incred-i-bull amount of trust and respect, and it’s probably not a position to be taken lightly. Just remember, to get ahead in a working environment, there will be times when you have to do things that you don’t like.

You have to decide whether you dislike the job itself, or the fact that as part of a family business, your options for upward growth are limited. If it’s the first one, and you just don’t like the job, I say it’s time for a change. You should be honest and straightforward with the family in saying that you are grateful for all they have done for you, but are interested in trying something else. If, however, you think the work itself is okay, but are feeling a little claustrophobic in the three-ring family circus, you might think of trying to move up before you decide to move out: talk to someone in the family about your concerns, and come up with a specific set of suggestions for what they might do or change to meet your needs in the company. If they are willing to make some reasonable compromises, or offer you some good incentives or the chance to advance further, great! If not, they will know that you respected them enough to try and work it out, but that you also have to meet your own needs, direct your own life, and ride your own hog.

Given the fact you like the family you work for, it may be worth taking the time to try and work it out. Finding a job you like is hard, but finding a job you like with people you like is even harder. If this family really does consider you one of their own, they will understand and support your decision.



Dear Zelda,

My Schitz Zu, Sally, has recently gained a lot of weight and I am worried what impact this will have on her health. Sally is my best friend and I can't even imagine life without her. Do you have any canine tips to take the pounds off Sally?

Schitz Happens

Dear Schitz Happens,

Unfortunately Sally’s not alone. Studies show that close to 50% (and counting) of all dogs in the US are overweight. I wouldn’t try to “schitz” a Schitz Zu, so believe me when I tell you it’s imperative that she goes on a diet, and sooner rather than later.

The first step here might be to take a step back and ask whether anything about your situation at home has changed recently that would have contributed to the extra pounds on the hound. Is there someone new in the house who might be contributing to the blooming belly (sinful snacks when snack-time is over)? Have your hours at work changed, making it hard for Sally to maintain a consistent eating schedule? Or has a certain someone just become a lazy “Schitz” (Zu), and opted for more leisurely sunning and less power-walking and running? If you can diagnose the cause of the weight gain, it will be all that much easier to put together a plan of “flab attack.”

Of course, a proper diet is as essential for animals as it is for humans, and pets should see their vet before starting any type of weight loss regimen. An overweight pet may be fat and happy, but the honest reality here is that their battle of the bulge can be just the beginning of a myriad of other health issues including respiratory difficulty, joint and tendon issues, digestive trouble, and even heart problems. As a responsible pet owner it’s up to you to follow the diet plan prescribed by your vet, which most likely will involve more exercise, lower-calorie meals, and lots and lots of TLC (okay, the last one is prescribed by me, but is nonetheless VERY important for any dog).

We dogs are pretty smart about most things, but when it comes to food, we just don’t know what’s good for us, and will keep on begging for more even after we should have stopped. Once you’ve talked to your vet and found out how much Sally should be eating each day, STICK TO THE PLAN, even when she puts on that oh-so-irresistible deadly weapon of a face the next time something is cooking in the oven. Even though she may think she wants to tunnel her way through the pot roast with her teeth, numerous studies now show that overweight dogs are far less comfortable, will undoubtedly lead shorter lives, and unfortunately will never fit into any of those smart doggy sweaters so “in vogue” this fall season. In the end, she’ll thank you!

Hang in there...your little Schitz Zu is depending on you.