Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

My Father

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Many of you have been following me since the beginning of this journey.  You know somewhere in the middle I took a break – especially from social media.  I never explained the absence and everyone respected my privacy.

In the fall of 2011 my father, Larry Opelt, started having pain in his abdomen.  On December 31 of the same year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which we later found out was inoperable.  He went through chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries.  On September 9, 2013 he passed away from complications of the disease.


My father worked for over 30 years as the Finance Director for the City of Adrian in Michigan.  In his spare time he kept the books and advised the owner of a gas station – taking the business from in the red, to in the black and then creating a fund so the owner could retire. He was asked to be on the finance committee of every organization he joined.

After retiring himself, he took a side job doing tax work for “fun”.  My dad also sat on the board of the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System for the State of Michigan for ten years.  Once he left his full time job, they asked him to be Chairman of the Board.  He also held the role of CFO for Alesya Bags, although I don’t think that ever made it on his official resume.

There is a misnomer that accountants like money.  Not so.  The good ones like numbers.  My father could look at a balance sheet and tell you something was off.  A restaurant check would come and he’d instinctively know what to tip at his normal 18% rate.   He knew if you’d added your golf score incorrectly in seconds.  It was a natural gift.

As soon as I started Alesya LLC I asked my father to be my business accountant.  It was, and will always be, the easiest hire I’ll ever make.  It was a gig he could handle in his sleep.  But more than that we had fun.  Dorky business fun – but that made it all the better.  It was our favorite kind.

Here we were – me in my 30′s and my dad in his 60′s – and he was still teaching me things.  We’d go through each line of my bank statements and make sure each expense was accounted for.  He’d add up what I was spending with one business and ask if I knew how much I was paying them.  His pencil would slam down on the table after I questioned his judgement, “You marketers never want to say it’s a marketing expense!  But it’s ALWAYS a marketing expense!”  He was right.

The morning after he was officially diagnosed, we were trying to figure out this new life around the breakfast table.  In an effort to be helpful my mom suggested, “Didn’t you both say you needed to do the Alesya Bags books?”

My father and I couldn’t look at each other.  We just hung our heads and cried.  This wasn’t a CPA and a business owner.  It was a father and a daughter.  And we’d wanted that relationship to go on forever.

In the final months of his life my dad all but begged me to send our records to my new accountant.  I didn’t want to because I knew when I did that meant the end was near.  Once I finally did it my account said they’d take a look and let me know what kind of shape we were in.

A few days later the call came through.  “Well, Alesya, for most people we charge a fee to get your accounting cleaned up.  But these are the best records we’ve ever seen.  Your books are in perfect order and there will be no fee.”  When I called my parents with the news we had the briefest moment of happiness.  Somewhere in this horrific mess something was it exactly as it should be.  For a second there was calm.


From the time I started earning money, my father talked about saving money.  We often created budgets for my college education and at the end of each one he made me add in a line for something he labeled Mad Money.  “You know, when you want a pizza or you have to go out and buy pantyhose?  Women are always buying pantyhose.”  I’d roll my eyes and add the extra amount.

My paternal grandparents gave me and my sister a $100 savings bonds for each birthday and Christmas until we were 18.  We both used the money for college.  Mostly books and any costs coming outside tuition, room and board.  I’d held on to a few and used them to start this business.  (Oh how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

One day while my father was ill I picked up the phone and there was a broker on the line.  The broker told me my father was on the call and he wanted to open accounts my girls who were then four and one.  There had been no discussion, but I knew immediately what was happening.

My father was setting up funds as if he was there for each one of my daughter’s birthdays and Christmases and able to give them those same savings bonds.  Later he told me, “Tell them to use it for Mad Money in college.  To buy pantyhose.  And to have fun!  You know?  FUN.  And tell them its from their Grandpa.”

Crazy as it sounds, when the statements come in the mail it’s like a note from my dad.  Watching him file his own documents every month for years on end I won’t ever be able to look at any statement without thinking of him.  And in the strangest way, filing away these statements is a comforting feeling.  You might call it a gift from heaven.  But I know my dad would say it’s the magic of compounding interest.  Either way – I’m grateful.  Not for the money, but simply for the numbers on the page.


Thank you for infinite understanding and support during what have been the most challenging of times.  There were many, many days when emails and calls didn’t get returned in a timely manner.  This blog stopped and I gave you little reason to continue following me on social media.

But yet, you did.  And you never questioned what was going on or asked me for details.  You just understood that there are some things in life more important than business.  I can’t fully express how wonderful that feels, but it really does.

Will there be other bumps in the road?  Mountains to climb?  Bridges to rebuild?  Undoubtedly.  For now, we move forward.  And it’s so amazing to know I have all of you right there with me.  Perhaps my father is with us too.  Rooting us forward, watching the bottom line and of course, making sure all the books are in order.

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Our Thoughts Are With Newtown

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Luminary Daniel Island SCLike many of you, my thoughts have been with the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  The children, the parents, the families and the town have all been weighing heavily on my mind.  It’s hard to know what to say or what to do in the face of such unimaginable events.

Our community held an event tonight that seemed to strike the right chord.  The PTA sold luminary kits with instructions that everyone our neighborhood was to put them out at the same time.  Besides being a great fundraiser for the school – they sold over 18,000 lights – it brought us all together for a common cause.   People held prayer vigils, sang carols, rode bikes and just generally spent quality time together.

While Connecticut is far away from us here in South Carolina, as the President said “I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”  Families of Newton, we are all with you.

Set Up 1

Set Up 2

Set Up 3



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Alesya Opelt Is Not My Name

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Larry and Cindy Opelt on their honeymoon in Bermuda, August 1972

My name isn’t Alesya Opelt anymore.  My married name is Alesya Macatol, but I continue to use Alesya Opelt professionally.  People always assume it’s for because I’m a feminist.  I just let them think that.

That’s not the real reason.

During the first day of my  sophomore high school English class imposing teacher Tom Pryor conducted roll call.  After each name he checked us off and quickly moved on.

“Alesya Opelt?”

I raised my hand.  Mr. Pryor paused and looked at me.  A 15-year-old’s worse nightmare – extra attention from a teacher.

“Opelt, Opelt, Opelt…” he repeated as he rubbed his chin in thought.  “Are you related to Cindy Opelt?”

“Yes,” I nodded trying to say as little as possible.

Mr. Pryor smiled, “And how are you related?”

“She’s my mother.” I responded.  The whole class laughed.  I wondered if I had something on my shirt.

“It doesn’t seem like Cindy is old enough to have someone your age.” Mr. Pryor questioned.  I shrugged.

After class I asked my friends Lisa and Susan, “Why did everyone laugh at me?”

“Normally, when you are asked you how you related to someone the answer is your aunt or cousin or something that.  It’s surprising that it was your mom,” Lisa explained.  Susan nodded in agreement.

“Oooohhhh,” I replied.  No wonder I didn’t get the joke.  It wasn’t surprising to me.

Cindy and Larry Opelt at a friend's wedding, May 1982

Growing up in a small town this happened all the time.  I had an unusual last name and only my immediate family lived within 100 miles.  Every time I’d introduce myself to an adult the response would always come back something like “Your father Larry and I play golf together,” or “Of course you are!  You talk just like Cindy,” or “Your dad and I have worked together for twenty years.”

Each time it happened I beamed.

Cindy and Larry Opelt in Adrian, Michigan - Christmas 2003

I was so proud when someone figured out I was my parent’s daughter.  My dad is smart, sharp and honest.   My mom is stylish, confident and shares my exact sense of humor.  They are both hard working and trustworthy with never hair out of place.  I’ve always felt like it gave me instant credibility when someone knew I was their daughter.

When I got married my only worry was that no one would realize I was the Opelt’s daughter anymore.  Silly, I know.  But I loved my last name.  Not because it signified that I was an my own person, but because it means I am Cindy and Larry’s person.  I use Opelt professionally because I never wanted to lose that distinction.  My parents are such good people.  It’s an honor to be associated with them.

Cindy and Larry Opelt in Gulf Shores, Alabama - March, 2007

Today is my parents 40th wedding anniversary.  In those forty years they’ve done a lot.  They had successful careers, earned degrees, built a house, traveled, raised two daughters and welcomed two granddaughters.  But their biggest accomplishment is having a happy marriage for the last four decades.  Growing up it gave me and my sister a solid base to navigate the trials of childhood.  Now it gives us a life to which we can aspire.

Living several states away from my hometown, no one asks me if I’m Larry and Cindy’s daughter when I introduce myself.  It doesn’t stop me from wishing that they would.  It’s now more likely that they ask me if I’m Maribelle or Dorothy’s mom.  And that’s pretty good too.

My parents with my daughters Maribelle Cynthia and Dorothy Lee

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!  I love you both very much. Thank you for being the ultimate role models. ~A

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Baby Update

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Alesya Nursery

Many of you have sent kind notes asking about how I was feeling, etc.  Thank you!  Here’s an update on the baby front…

As of today I’m 35 weeks along.  Four weeks from today I’ll be having a c-section.  It’s scheduled because I had a c-section with my daughter after 26 hours of labor.  (Good times!)

We don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl but popular consensus says I’m carrying like it’s a boy.  However, given how ill I was the first three months of this pregnancy others are saying it has to be a girl.  Looks like I’m back to 50/50!   We have names picked out either way.

I’m having all the normal side effects – trouble sleeping, back pain, fatigue etc. – but nothing out of the ordinary.  Like most people we’re hoping for a healthy baby and a uneventful surgery.

Alesya Nursery

As you may have noticed, I’ve decorated the nursery in aqua, khaki and white.  No, I don’t know something you don’t, I just think aqua could be either for a girl or boy.  Call me crazy.  Or perhaps just fashion forward.   If you’d like to see some of the other things I’m considering for the baby you can see them on my Pinterest board.

As my energy level gets lower and lower I’m made the conscious choice to keep Alesya Bags moving at full speed nonetheless.  It would be easier for me to take a step back, but it’s not something I want to do, nor do I think it’s best for the business.  Once the new baby is here I’ll have the task of running a company while not getting much/any sleep and it wasn’t wise to get behind now.

There’s no such thing as maternity leave for an entrepreneur.  It’s just a fact.  Would it be easier if I was male?  Of course!  But I don’t have that choice.  And frankly, I’m not sure I’d want it.

Again, thanks for all your concern and well wishes.  We’re on the official countdown now!  ~A

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Maribelle’s Christmas Ornaments

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Four days before Thanksgiving and we’ve started our Christmas preparation.  My daughter has a small tree of her own.  Now that she’s at the ripe old age of 2 1/2 I wanted to let her help decorate this year.

She picked out these painted ornaments in the December 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living.  Mostly because she is obsessed with paint.

The Martha Stewart Living iPad app (Which I must say is excellent and beautifully done – seriously, even if you’re not the Martha type, you should check out to see what can be done with the medium.) had a helpful How To video.

There was also a fun animated cover –

While Maribelle napped I set up the project.  We went the Michael’s earlier in the day and she picked out the paint colors.


With a 2-year-old we used plastic ornaments rather than glass.   It was a must.

I tried the first three paint jobs on my own.  The most surprising thing was the direction say “tap” on the ornaments to get the paint to disperse.  Um…I’d say “slap” or “pound” would be more accurate.

When Maribelle came downstairs she was very excited to get started.  This is her “thinking” face.  She takes painting quite seriously.

Her favorite part was squeezing the paint into the ornament.

My husband Josh even painted a few. We ended up with a several splattered and solid ornaments in sort of an Easter egg pallet.

We even had one “all-splatter” ornament thanks to Maribelle.

The ornaments need to dry overnight before we can use them.  Once the her tree is done, I’ll share it with you.  It’s certainly going to show more of her personality this year.

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Where Have I Been?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

ginger ale and peppermintI have a lot to tell you.  But let’s start with the big news – I’m pregnant!

The 12 week ultrasound was on Friday and the baby looked great.  Good heart rate, measured three days ahead of schedule and I even saw fingers and toes.  I still find the technology kind of amazing considering the baby is only 2 inches long.

My due date is May 25th.  After having a c-section, I need another one and it will be scheduled at week 39.  (Week 40 is considered your due date for any pregnancy newbies.)  In fact, my doctor said she could schedule the delivery date as soon as my next appointment in four weeks.  After being two weeks late the first time around, this is a revelation.

We won’t find out if it’s a boy or a girl.  For me it’s one of life’s great surprises.  Although I REALLY wanted a girl the first time around, now I can honestly say I’d be happy either way.  The second time around, I also know how important it is to have a healthy baby and that will be my biggest concern.

And now for the not so fun news.

I’ve been sick.  Really, really, debilitating, head in the toilet, can’t look, smell, think, touch or see food sick.  I’d love to tell you “Oh, it hasn’t been that bad!” or “I ate a cracker and then I felt fine!” but frankly, it’s sucked.

I was hospitalized with my daughter because I couldn’t keep water down – or anything else – for 48 hours.  This time I tried to get in front of it and started taking Zofran at the first onset of nausea at 5 weeks.  I was still so sick I thought the medication wasn’t working and at one point stop taking it.  After becoming violently ill again, I went back on the drugs.

For five weeks I didn’t eat any meals.  I survived on saltines, cereal, toast, ginger ale, peppermints, water and Flintstone’s vitamins.  I didn’t go grocery shopping, cook, go out to eat or look at the Internet.  (There is a LOT of food on the Internet.)

Eventually, my doctor added Phenergan to my regiment.  It’s a stronger drug but the side effects aren’t ideal.  You can’t drive on it and it pretty much puts me to sleep every time I take it.

My work suffered.  I haven’t been blogging, tweeting or posting on Facebook.  Behind the scenes I did what was necessary – answering client questions, paying the bills and keeping up with the manufacturing process.  I never was in my office and conducted business from my couch and at times, my bed.

To tell you it was a frustrating time would be an understatement.  I love working.  And to be so ill, for so long and have it keep me from all the things I love to do was depressing.  My family was very concerned, but there was little that could be done other than wait it out.

Thankfully, I’m starting to turn the corner.  The color has returned to my face.  I’m only feeling sick about half the time.  Last night I had a piece of pizza at our local pizza joint – smells and all.  I can’t tell you how nice it feels to return to the land of living.  Amazing!

Now on to make the hard push for the holiday season.  For most retailers it’s do or die time and I’m no exception.  Can’t wait to go through my first official gift season with all of you.  Thank you for your fantastic support.  You have really got me through some rough moments!

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Official Work Schedule

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Thank You Note from Rifle Paper Co.Stephanie, our nanny for the past year, had her last day with us on Thursday.  She had a wonderful opportunity to teach English to students in France.   Of course she took it – I would have killed her if she didn’t.

That doesn’t mean I’m wasn’t super sad to see her go.  My daughter loved her and Stephanie made all our lives better.  We loved having her in our home and wish her only the very best in her new journey.  (If you’d like to follow along, Stephanie has promised me she will keep us up to date on her blog.)

Today, the new nanny starts.  I won’t mention her by name, because I don’t think that’s fair to her.  As you may have noticed I didn’t mention Stephanie by name until now either.

Along with the change I’ve adjusted my schedule.  As I’m sure many of you can relate, I’m still trying to figure out my actual work hours.  Before today I officially worked from 9:00 – 5:00 PM (minus commute) Monday – Thursday.  Now I’ve changed my hours to 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Monday – Thursday and 8:00 AM – Noon on Fridays.

I’m telling you this because I get a lot of questions and have a TON of discussions with other women about “How I Do It.”  I changed my schedule because I work better in the mornings.  We’ll see how it goes, but already today I’m feeling more productive.

Generally, I work from an office.  This is a MUCH better for situation for me as I get easily distracted at home.  I’m still considering working from home on Fridays, but it makes me worried.  I might make it my coffee shop day as well.

Do you have a regular work schedule?  Or have you worked something else out?  I’d love to hear about it.

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Where I Was on September 11th

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

On September 11, 2001 I was living near San Jose, CA and up at 5:30 AM to get ready for a 7:00 AM Toastmasters meeting.  When Matt Lauer said they had “reports a plane hit the World Trade Center” I called my father at work.  We both agreed it must be a small plane and someone was protesting the stock market.

In the next hour we realized this was clearly not the case.

I got ready and went to the meeting at a local restaurant.  When I walked in the news coverage was being broadcast over the sound system.  There were screens set up and everyone was staring at them in silence. As I sat down the South Tower fell.  The loss of life just didn’t compute at that moment.

After an hour or so I got in the car and tired to call my parents.  At home.  At work.  All the cell phone lines were tied up.  Finally I got a hold of my grandma.  “Are you worried these people are coming to California?” my grandma said, “Don’t worry, they’re not.”  In a day of complete chaos, my grandma managed to make me feel better.

Then I drove into the office.  At the time I worked for the magazine Electronic Business which was owned by a larger publishing company called Cahner’s (now Reed Business Information).  We followed the news and by Noon we were sent home.  I was exhausted and fell asleep for several hours.

Around 5:30 PM I realized I forgot my phone at the office.  For work,  I’d taken a few flights from California to Boston and there were three phone calls from friends calling to see if I was on one of the planes.  Sadly, my friends were not far off in their line of thinking.

The next day at work we found out two men in our company, Andrew Curry Green and Jeff Mladenik, died on American Airlines Flight 11 which was traveling from Boston to LA.  I did not know these men.  I may have been on a conference call or two with them, but our office in California was small and I interacted with very few people in Boston.  It was terrible, shocking and almost unbelievable news.

Both their wives sent out heart wrenching emails talking about Andrew and Jeff, the men they were and their final days.  Our company set up funds for each family.  I donated as did my family and friends.

As I followed the news insistently for the next few months I tried to figure out why it at all happened.  I’m not sure I ever really did.


On the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 I can’t help but reflect on the changes in my life since then.

I’ve moved away from California, back to Michigan and now to Charleston, South Carolina.  I met my husband, was engaged and got married.  I worked for a company I loved, had to leave it and started my own company.

My grandmother is no longer with us.  My two-year-old daughter is named after her.  I sure wish the two of them could meet.

As I’m watching the coverage I think of the 9/11 heroes and the lives they have missed in the past ten years.  I cry.  Then I cry some more.

By listening to the stories I feel like I’m honoring the heroes in some small way.   I can’t do anything to change what happen to the thousands of people affected, but I hope they know there are millions of people who think of them every year – and not just on the anniversary date.  I hope that means something to them.  Their sacrifice means a great deal to me.

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Kids & Flexible Schedules

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Pigtails - Alesya Bags

This is the scene at my house this morning.  Our nanny (who we love and has been extremely dependable) asked last night if she could come in at 12:30 because her brother is unexpectedly in town.  My schedule is not very stable and I ask our nanny to be flexible, so on the rare occasion that she asks me for a schedule change I do my best to be accommodating.

Instead of getting a jump start to my week I’m getting “Mommy!  Close your ‘puter!  Pweese play wif me!”  And how can I ignore that?  (As I type I’m bribing her with a special morning episode of Dora.)

What is really frustrating about all this is that it’s always me and my “flexible schedule” that gets the raw end of the deal.  My husband has a “real job” and people who depend on him to be there.  Also, he’s the one making the money right now so I can hardly argue that he should stay home.  We need that income to do crazy things like pay the mortgage.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t be irritated.

Speaking of which, did you see the piece on the Today Show about how more restaurants and airlines are banning small children?  Listen, I get it.  I’d like to eat and fly in peace too.  But this trend seems to be taking to an extreme.

When I was about 12 my family was stuck in a plane with a crying baby.  I complained to my Father and he said, “Think of it as payback for when you cried as a baby.”  Couldn’t we all take on this attitude?

How’s your Monday going?  Anything or anyone on your list today?

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Inspired by O the Oprah Magazine’s article “Something New Under the Bun” we had a Build-a-Burger meal this weekend.  Tasty!

Veggies - Alesya Bags

Bacon Burger - Alesya Bags

Burger Ketchup - Alesya Bags

Burger Open - Alesya Bags

Cut Burger  - Alesya Bags

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