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My husband and I just returned from the Us Open Tennis Tournament in Flushing, New York. We attended the tournament for 3 days over Labor Day weekend. Wow, it was one of the most amazing weekends we have ever experienced. We learned a lot about the ticketing process, how to save money and how to get autographs from the star players. So I wanted to share what I learned for all of the tennis fans out there who might attend the US Open in the future.

HOW TO GET TICKETS TO THE US OPEN

1. All tickets are based on seniority. You cannot just buy front row seats like you typically do for a rock concert (unless you get them from your well-connected father of buy them from a ticket re-seller for 5X the face price). Here’s how it works: There are 3 stadiums (Arthur Ashe, Louis Armstrong and Grandstand) and about 20 smaller courts on the grounds. All of the courts and stadiums are first-come first-serve EXCEPT Arthur Ashe stadium (the biggest one). Your first year to attend the US Open, your assigned seats in Arthur Ashe stadium will be the crappy ones at the top of the stadium. The ticket office told me that it takes about 5-7 years to move to the lower level because the US Open has about a 97% renewal rate. Your seats only get better if people don’t renew. Although our seats in Arthur Ashe were at the top, we still had a blast and could see the games crystal clearly – so don’t let this discourage you from going.

THE GOOD NEWS: HOW TO GET BETTER SEATS TO US OPEN FOR FREE

1. At every match (even the Federer and Serena games) there were empty seats at the lower level of our section. Almost every match we sat 20+ rows in front of our assigned seat by moving down to the empty seats.

2. During most matches, people leave early. During one match, we walked down to the lower level near the exit and as a couple was leaving I simply asked, “Do you plan on returning? If not, may I use your tickets?” They happily gave us their tickets to re-enter. We scored FREE tickets to the courtside seats simply by asking.

3. One of my favorite parts of the US Open was watching the tennis stars up-close and personal on the practice courts and the matches being played on the smaller courts. On the courts labeled P1-P5, almost every hour on the hour we saw Serena and Venus Williams, Stosur, James Blake, John Isner and a dozen others warming up just feet away from where we were standing. On the smaller courts, we got autographs from the Harrison brothers and Philipp Kohlschriber. My husband was standing next to Chris Evert and Boris Becker when I ran to the bathroom (Darn!). So if you can’t get tickets to Arthur Ashe, you can still get tickets to enter the park to see all of the other action.

4. There were several great matches in the Louis Armstrong stadium. Since it is first-come first-serve, I recommend getting in the stadium early. If there are two games you want to see which are being played at the same time, I recommend going to the Louis Armstrong game first to guarantee a seat, then move to Arthur Ashe where you have a reserved seat.

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HOW EXPENSIVE IS US OPEN TENNIS?

Once you enter the tennis grounds, the food and drinks are outrageously expensive. Just to give you an idea what we paid in 2012:
Bottled water or Gatorade: $5
Turkey sandwich: $12 (at a sit-down restaurant: $18)
Vodka mixed drink: $14
Beer: $9.50

TIPS TO SAVE MONEY AT THE US OPEN:
* Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up at the water fountains. This alone will save you $20 each day. On the really hot days, we drank 4-6 drinks each.
* Pack snacks or sandwiches in a small bag or purse
* Skip the pricy hotels and book a room on Airbnb.com or Homeaway.com. We booked a room on Airbnb.com in a lady’s apartment just 6 stops on the train from the US Open. We paid $300 for 4 nights! A hotel would have cost us close to $1000 – so we saved $700. Plus, if you attend the day and night matches, you will be gone 15 hours each day anyways, so why pay for an expensive hotel anyways?

WHAT TO BRING TO THE US OPEN

* Comfortable clothes and shoes – you will walk a lot, sit a lot and sweat a lot.
* Sun screen – only non-aerosol cans allowed in the stadium
* Hat
* Cash – many of the food vendors don’t take cards
* Umbrella or rain poncho – we had a few rain delays and there is very little cover outside the stadiums
* A permanent marker for autographs
* I splurged on a $30 UP OPEN hat. It’s now worth $1 million (wink wink) thanks to the autographs now on it. So buy 1 white hat or t-shirt and ask for autographs on it instead of a piece of paper.

OTHER RANDOM TIPS:

* Doors to US OPEN don’t open until 10am – so no need getting there at 8am (like my husband and I did the first day!). The lines go very fast. No need waiting in the heat.
* Immediately inside the gates to the right there is a TICKET UPGRADE window. If you want to pay the extra money for better seats (if they are available), you can make a dash for this ticket window as soon as the gates open.
* Oftentimes there are rain delays, so be mentally prepared to stay very late or miss your favorite player completely. I recommend buying tickets for more than 1 day to avoid having your heart broken. If a game is cancelled due to rain, it will be played the next morning.

If you are a tennis fan, add the US Open to your Bucket List TODAY – it is well worth the trip and money!

If anybody reading this has attended the US Open more than I have and has more insider tips to share, please add a comment below.

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Posted by: kateraidt | April 6, 2011

One Tip That Might Save Your Life

In 2005 when my first child was born, I had to have an unexpected C-section. All went fine with the surgery but once I got home I started having severe pain around the C-section scar. I went back to the doctor numerous time who simply “cleaned up” the wound and stitches. Each time I told the doctors that his treatments were not helping the pain, but no further action was taken. A few weeks later my husband and I were out of town and I woke up with such severe pain in my C-section area I had to be rushed to the hospital. A blood test was done to find that I had lethal levels of infection in my blood. I had a staph infection eating away my insides. When the surgeon opened me up, the staph infection was through my muscles, fat, down to my groin. I was in the hospital for 19 days and I had to learn how to walk again since my surgery was so invasive. If I had waited 1 more day to go to the hospital I wouldn’t be alive to share this story. The severity of my situation was completely preventable if the first doctor I was treated by had done one simple blood test OR given me antibiotics. I had neither.

I have sold cancer insurance for 7 years. I have had dozens of clients who have had claims with me. The one question I ask all of them is “How were you diagnosed with your cancer?” At least 85% of the time, my client was misdiagnosed. “You just have a stomach bug” said one doctor or “You don’t have the typical symptoms for ovarian cancer” said another doctor. Both doctors were wrong. Both of my clients are now dead.

Another common trend: I have seen many of my clients have a gut instinct that something is wrong. They are sick or have pain they have never experienced before. They want to have tests run “just to make sure” it’s not something serious. The patient asks for an MRI or biopsy to be done. The doctor says it’s not needed. The patient begs. The doctor still says “no”. The patient goes to another doctor who is willing to do the test. VOILA. The patient has stage 4 cancer.

My advice to you after my firsthand experience nearly losing my life to a misdiagnosis and the countless cancer cases which I have seen to be misdiagnosed. If your gut instinct tells you something is wrong, it probably is. Doctors are not Gods. Yes, we put our faith in them, but if your gut tells you to pursue an MRI, biopsy, X-ray, mammogram or a second opinion from a different doctor, don’t hesitate for two seconds. Get the care you need. The peace of mind alone will save you your sanity – and possibly your life.

Posted by: kateraidt | April 4, 2011

5 Secret Ingredients for Successful Parenting

A few weeks ago I baked my world-famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I am so good at baking these little suckers that I don’t even need to follow the recipe anymore. (Is that a good thing, or a scary thing?). So, I was making the dough and it wasn’t thick and gooey like it usually is. The dough was crumbling in my fingers. I did my best to make little balls to put on the cookie sheet. After they came out of the oven, they looked okay but they were hard and crunchy and they tasted like….

My husband came home from work. I said to him, “Try these. I made these how I usually do but they came out terrible today. I don’t know what’s wrong.” The first words out of his mouth were, “Did you put in the eggs?”

I completely forgot the eggs! How could I have forgotten the eggs? I was so mad at myself (and more frustrated that my husband caught the error and I didn’t!)

In many ways, successful parenting correlates to successful cooking. If you leave out even ONE simple ingredient, you’ve got a mess on your hands.

The 5 Secret Ingredients to Successful Parenting:

  1. Time and Attention – The average child today spends 5 minutes with dad but 20 hours watching television each week. There is no regulation on how long an infant or toddler can be left at a daycare center each day. 71% of American households have double income parents. One of the biggest crisis’ we face in America these days are the millions of children growing up without parents and parenting giving them true one-on-one, direct interaction each day. Investing time and attention into your children is the greatest investment you will make in your entire life – and the life of your children.
  2. Healthy Nutrition – Yes, we are a junk food nation…and our children are paying the big, big price. Kids are inundated with processed foods, sodas, juices, fast food and mass-produced cafeteria food – Daily! It is critical that parents lead by example and implement healthy options at home and avoid sugary and processed foods.
  3. Adequate Sleep – Studies are showing that children who receive even 15 minutes less sleep than their fellow classmates not only have lower IQs but also fall into the B and C category of grades at school. Inadequate sleep also has a tremendous impact on obesity, depression and overall brain development. So enforce strict bedtimes and make sure your children receive at least 10 hours of sleep each night.
  4. Positive Discipline – 80% of parents are either too permissive or too authoritative. Just like in cooking, if you under-cook a batch of cookies they are gooey and nasty. If you over-cook a batch of cookies, they are burnt and covered in carcinogens. The secret is to bake the cookies on the right temperature for the right amount of time. Same rule goes for parenting: Discipline when necessary by taking away priviliges or time outs – but too much criticism and physical discipline creates fearful children with low self-esteem. Find that perfect balance so your kids come out nice and yummy!
  5. Properly Coached Parent – Parenting is the most important job on Earth…and sometime one of the hardest. The first critical mistake parents make is not following the “recipes” for parenting. Most parents try to figure things out on their own or think their mother, sister or neighbor is their best coach. My parenting books are my lifeline and as soon as I stop utilizing them for proper guidance I know I am going to leave out the “eggs” with my children. Read 5 parenting books, then read 5 more. And then keep re-reading them. If you follow the advice that professionals offer, you are insuring yourself to have happy, well-adjusted, confident kids – and a little sanity for yourself!
Posted by: kateraidt | January 26, 2011

Do Kids or Marriage Come First?

Before I had children I always heard the phrase “children come first”. Then I started reading books on marriage and the common lesson repeated over and over was “marriage comes first”. So which one is it? The kids or you? As selfish as this might sound, you and the well-being of your marriage must be a priority. Why? If mom and dad aren’t happy, the kids aren’t happy. If mom and dad don’t show love and affection towards each other, neither will the kids. If mom and dad aren’t mentally and physically fit, neither will the kids. Success starts at the top. If you want to have a successful family, then mom and dad must be successful in love, marriage, respect and friendship.

Important Tip for Fathers:

“The most important thing a father can do
for his children is to love their mother.” – Unknown

Important Tip for Mothers:

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect says, “The wife can fulfill her need to be loved by giving her husband what he needs – respect.”

Haven’t you heard people say “My husband and I were madly in love when we got married. Then we had children, focused 100% on the kids, and then my husband and I drifted apart”?

 When was the last time you had a “date night” with your spouse? (Translation: a night alone without the kids) If you want to maintain a happy, healthy and well-connected marriage, it is critical that you have a date night with your spouse at least once per month (twice per month ideally). Dates do not have to be expensive. First, to avoid paying a babysitter, find a family in your area with similar age children and do date swaps: You babysit their children while they have a date night, then they will babysit your kids while you have a date night. It’s free! Since my friend Tasha and I started babysitting swaps, I have not paid for a babysitter in two years!

 I recommend finding an activity that creates communication and bonding between you and your partner. Don’t sit in a dark movie theater for two hours. Go play put-put golf, go on a picnic, go bicycle riding, go to a quiet, romantic dinner together, see a stand-up comic, etc…In a nutshell, do something fun or romantic which will bring back the memories of why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Re-connect. Tell old stories. Laugh.

 Whenever I get agitated with my husband, the first question I ask myself is “When was the last time we had a date night?” and the answer is always, “Far too long ago.”

 Activity:

Schedule a date night! Go get your calendar. Call your spouse right now. Yes, right now. While you are reading this article, dial his/her number. Now schedule a date (without the kids)! Mark your calendar for future dates. Don’t let this part of the book go blank – it will completely change your marriage!

Posted by: kateraidt | January 25, 2011

What to do if Your Child is Not an ‘A’ Student

The best employers identify the strengths of each individual employee and use those strengths and talents to build a better company. In a nutshell, they focus on the strengths, not the weaknesses. Same with parenting, it is far too common for parents to harp on their children for their weaknesses rather than their strengths. 

If I could change one thing about our world, it would be to completely re-vamp our education system, how we teach children, what we teach children and how we measure success in school. Our education system focuses on academics: math, science, English and history. This is great for the 15% of kids who are academically gifted. But what about the other 85% of kids whose strengths are not academics – but athletics, art, music, choir, creative writing, social skills or foreign language? Especially now that schools coast to coast are scrapping their music, art and foreign language programs, it is essential that each parent identify her child’s talents and provide them amble opportunities to thrive – because the schools aren’t going to do it for you. The end result? If your child is a talented athlete or gifted violinist but makes C’s or D’s in math or history, he is labeled a “dumb jock”, “stupid”, “lazy”, and “unmotivated”. On top of that, his SAT scores will not be strong and universities will throw your application in the trash. How do I know this? It happened to me!

All throughout junior high and high school I loved music, choir, drama and sports – those were my strengths. I struggled tremendously with academics. I never was a strong student and due to the “no pass no play” rules, I felt the pressure to cheat at times just to keep from failing a class.  I scored an embarrassing 750 on my SATs and only got accepted to Baylor University because I had many family members who went there (they had to take me!). But what were my successes as an adult? Was I a chemist, accountant or contestant on Jeopardy? No. Coincidentally, I was a singer, songwriter, salesperson, author, speaker and entrepreneur. My strengths as an adult are a carbon copy of my strengths as a child. It is unacceptable that our schools only recognize the academically gifted and force the other children to feel stupid.

 The same philosophy applies in business. Identify the strengths of your employees, agents, contractors or team. No employee or child should have to live in a one-size-fits-all world.

  • Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:
  Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”):
  Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
  • Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live. Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled “learning disabled,” “ADD (attention deficit disorder,” or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.

What are some strengths your children have that are not supported or recognized by your local schools? What is your action plan to help develop

Posted by: kateraidt | January 24, 2011

Is Your Child Being Bullied?

Is your child being picked on by a classmate? Is the bullying getting worse? Are you not sure what to do? We commonly stereotype the bullies as an Eddie Haskell-type punk. But the 21st century bullies come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

My daughter was a mere 3-year old when she started preschool. Her classmate, Michael, nearly suffocated her in a chokehold, pushed her off a playscape and hit her repeatedly. After many conferences with the school director, and no change in Michael’s behavior, we left the school. We ventured to a private Christian school. Immediately my daughter was bullied by her classmate Amanda. Amanda called her names, scratched, bit and kicked. Again, I brought this to the school’s attention. They began documenting Amanda’s behavior. Eventually she was expelled from the school. Now in kindergarten, my daughter is bullied by a kid named Bradley. After seeking professional advice and looking at the common denominator of dozens of adults who were bullied as a child, here is what I have learned about handling bullies:

  • Speak up. In all three situations where my daughter was being bullied, the teacher was not aware of what was going on until I brought it to her attention. In 2 of the 3 cases, the student was reprimanded by the school for his/her behavior and the bullying stopped.
  • When I was in 4th grade, my friends and I picked on a girl named Mary Anne. We said some very unkind things about her to some boys at a dance recital. The next evening, Mary Anne’s mother knocked on our door and shared with my mother what I said about Mary Anne and how hurtful it was. I was completely busted – and horribly embarrassed. I never bullied a classmate ever again. I have heard from many adults who were bullies that as soon as the victim’s parents confronted their parents, the bullying stopped.
  • Talk to your kids long before bullying starts on how to handle different situations

On September 13, 2010 Dateline NBC aired Perils of Parenting where several groups of teenagers were observed on hidden camera how they handled critical decisions – including bullying. In each scenario, there were three actors (the bully, his/her accomplice and the victim) and there were three other children who did not know each situation was staged. In all scenarios, there was at least one child who stood up to the bully and tried to protect the victim. By one teenager actively standing up to the bully, it gave the other kids confidence to stand up as well. The one child who stood up to the bully in each situation had parents who taught them from a young age to always stand up and “do the right thing” when someone is being mistreated.

Parenting expert Michele Borba, author of “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions” says, “85% of kids are witnesses or bystanders to bullying. They are the missing link. They have a tremendous power in these situations. If kids can learn how to step in safely when a peer is being bullied, the entire campus culture will change.” Empower and teach your kids the importance of standing up for classmates who are being bullied. And set a good example for your children. Michele Borba says, “We are appalled when a child doesn’t step in, but the average adult also doesn’t step in either.”

Immediately following the Dateline episode, I re-watched it with my daughter. I acknowledged that “Lucy”, “Jackie” and “Sarah” were very kind and smart to stand up to the bully and protect their friend. Two days later on the drive home from school, my daughter said, “Mommy, today Bradley was being mean to one of my friends, and I stood up to him. I told him to stop being mean.”

If a 5-year old can comprehend the importance of standing up for a classmate and feel empowered to stand up for themselves, then any kid can – as long as they have the support and guidance they must learn from you first.

Posted by: kateraidt | September 22, 2010

How to Lose Weight – without Dieting!

Weight Watchers, Atkins Diet, Zone Diet, fruit juice cleanse…I have tried them all, and none of these diet fads was a realistic, sustainable, long-term solution for losing weight – and keeping it off. After giving birth to two children, I carried an extra 15 pounds that I couldn’t lose if my life depended on it. After the calorie counting, point counting and food measurements made me insane, I finally one say said to myself, “Kate, stop focusing on being thin. Focus on being healthy. You are better off being a size 10 and being healthy, than being a size 2 and starving yourself. Do the necessary things you need to do to keep your family healthy!”

I sat down with my husband that evening and shared my epiphany. We collectively agreed that there were many things that we would do to start living a healthier lifestyle. Here is our plan we have stuck to for over a year now. The results have been dramatic:

  • No eating out at restaurants. We used to eat lunch in restaurants at least 3-5 times per week, and dinner at least 3 times per week. Not only is restaurant food an explosive calorie bomb, it is also expensive. We allow ourselves either Friday night OR Saturday night to eat out as a family. That’s it.
  • We plan all meals for the week on Sundays and buy all of our groceries needed for these meals on Sunday as well. We found that when we don’t plan our meals, it is too tempting on Wednesday evening for me to call my husband and say, “Honey, can you pick up some barbecue on the way home. We have nothing to cook.” I also get my least favorite (but healthiest) meal out of the way on Monday (salmon and broccoli) so I don’t skip it later in the week.
  • We all (mom, dad and kids) pack our lunches. A whole grain sandwich, kiwi and yogurt with bottled water is much healthier than any restaurant or school cafeteria will serve.
  • We avoid processed, frozen and fried foods. Instead of frozen chicken tenders we serve baked chicken, fresh fruit over frozen fruit and veggies in lieu of French fries.
  • My German-born husband says there is a saying in German people use when they want to lose weight: Friss die Haelfte. This means “eat what you normally eat, but just eat half”. So instead of eating 4 slices of pizza, eat 2. If you are craving a hamburger, share it with someone and eat only half. Instead of getting 2 scoops of ice cream, get the kiddie cone with one small scoop. Get it?

By sticking to this plan, I have not been hungry one second. I eat all day, but I am eating much healthier options. And when I eat something terrible, I simply friss die haelfte. I have 200 times the energy, I sleep better at night…oh…and I have lost 15 pounds – effortlessly!

It’s sad that our society puts such emphasis on outward appearance. I wish the day would come where instead of people saying, “I wish I had a body like Cindy Crawford” they would say, “I wish I had low cholesterol and a healthy heart like Kate Raidt.” We can’t always control the genes we have been given, but we can control the way we shop for groceries, how much we eat in restaurants and the example we are setting for our kids.

Posted by: kateraidt | May 29, 2010

Putting the Family Dog to Sleep

Today was one of the worst days of my entire life. At 11am my 18-year old dog, Sweet Pea, who I have had for 16 years was put to sleep. I had Sweet Pea longer than my husband and two kids – combined! She traveled the world with me: She lived in Hollywood, Prague and Germany. She accompanied me on movie sets, band practice and jogs around the lake. She definitely lived an adventurous, full life.

About 2 years ago she starting going down hill. She lost her hearing, she started having frequent accidents inside the house and when we went walking she starting losing her bearings. I took her to the vet about 6 months ago to get some feedback if it “was time”. The vet said “You will know in the bottom of your gut when it is time.” That day I didn’t have that strong feeling that it was time for Sweet Pea to go. I was secretly hoping that things would “take it’s natural course” and Sweet Pea would pass away peacefully in the middle of the night or she would have a heart attack. I was dreading having to make the decision on my own. Well, last week I came home and Sweet Pea was sprawled on our tile floors. She couldn’t stand up by herself. A few days later we were outside and the slightest incline in our backyard made her fall over. This is when I knew it “was time”.

On Thursday morning I called my vet and scheduled her appointment. I had 3 days to plan her departure and say our goodbyes. Friday night I grilled Sweet Pea a giant T-bone steak. I asked a neighbor to babysit my kids while my husband and I went to the vet alone. Looking back, I am so glad I made the decision to have her euthanasia planned. Nothing traumatic happened in front of the kids, in the middle of the night or while I was alone. I had my husband by my side during the procedure and this devastating experience was carried out as peacefully and professional as it possible could have.

After Sweet Pea was euthanized, the adorable veterinarian, Dr. Taylor, bawled along with me and gave me a huge hug. It’s the first time I have seen my husband (the tough guy) cry as well. Since being home, I have packed up Sweet Pea’s food, dog bed, leash and food bowls and I plan to donate it to the animal shelter where I adopted her 16 years ago.

If you are having to decide whether to put your family pet to sleep, I would take my vet’s advice: You will know in the pit of your gut when it’s time. When you are ready to make that phone call, schedule your appointment a few days out so you can give your pet the best few days of life you possibly can.

RIP Sweet Pea!

Posted by: kateraidt | May 21, 2010

Radio Interview With Dr. Flora Brown

This past week I was the guest on Dr. Flora Brown’s radio show in San Diego - Color Me Happy. We talked about career development, work/life balance and successful parenting. Here is a link to our interview:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/florabrown/2010/05/17/color-your-life-happy-how-to-have-a-successful-car

Posted by: kateraidt | May 14, 2010

Please use your voicemail!!

Due to the nature of my work, I make an abundance of outbound phone calls each week. What puzzles me is the amount of people I call and “interrupt” in the middle of something…then huff that they are in a situation that they cannot talk. What I want to say is, “Well then why the hell did you answer your phone and not let the call go to voicemail?”

Here are a few of my favorites from this past week:

“I can’t talk. I’m teaching a classroom of kids.”
“I can’t talk. I’m in a dentist’s chair.”
“I can’t talk. I’m driving and it’s dangerous.”
“I can’t talk. I’m in a swimming pool.”
“I can’t talk. I’m in the middle of a sales presentation.”
(…Well then why the hell are you answering your phone!?!?!?)

Are we so attached to technology and our phones that (gasp!) we dare not answer a call? Unless your wife is due to give birth, you have a loved-one in the hospital or you are expecting a call from George Clooney, there is no phone call that can’t wait 10 minutes or 2 hours to return. For the love of voicemail…give your students your undivided attention, keep your hands on the steering wheel, get your cavity filled, enjoy your time in the pool and close the sale – and tell the rest of the world to wait!

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