A New Perspective on Bliss

Di backyardIt doesn’t really take much to make us Real Women happy. Really, it doesn’t.   Sure, we’d all love to win the lottery, hire a butler or housekeeper, become ladies of leisure and spend our days shopping or having lunch or travelling the world…. But for the most part, we are able to distinguish fantasy from reality, so we set our standards for happiness at slightly more attainable levels.

Treat us with love and respect, make us laugh, and once in a while, let us go “off the clock” – and we are well on our way to contentment. Sure, our younger, more high-maintenance selves may have in the past needed a bit more than that… but as time goes on, our perspectives change.

This past weekend, I traveled to visit a couple of BFFs. It was one of those very rare occasions when I was driving by myself. Just me, myself and I in the car. And although I was not looking forward to the length of the drive, and was worried about the boredom factor, I soon realized that it was just fine. As the miles ticked by, I allowed myself to go off duty. Rather than try to solve all of the world’s problems in my head, or worry about whatever I wasn’t getting done, I attempted to practice some mindfulness. The colors of the foliage along the drive were spectacular, so I soaked the sights in. I considered such lofty conundrums as why the first windshield bug splatter is invariable at eye-level on the driver’s side. I cranked up, and sang too, my 70’s channel on Sirius. (Play That Funky Music).   I daydreamed. I did some writing in my head.   And though I wouldn’t call the drive heavenly, it was not all together unpleasant.

Upon reaching my destination, we three lovely ladies immediately went into sloth mode. The hosting girlfriend lives in a beautiful home in the woods, at least 9 miles from the nearest town. It is like stepping into a woodland resort. So it is easy to become one with a comfy couch while gazing out at the trees. We talked, we laughed, we caught up on each other’s lives. We watched trash TV. I mean real trash. Programming we otherwise would not be caught dead viewing. We made drinks and sat out on her deck and watched birds. Really, we did.

20 years ago, we would have been all about going out to a funky bar, or out to a party, or gathering a big group of friends, or going to a club to dance – or even hitting the theater for the latest new movie.   But now, what we crave the most is just….relaxing. Having no time constrictions or must-do responsibilities.   Dressing up and going out on the town on a Friday night was fun then.   Lounging around in fuzzy socks with a few close friends is heavenly now.

Now before any of you (especially those who are still young and trendy) are completely appalled, I will tell you we managed to summon enough energy and desire the next day to take a nice walk in the morning, followed by some fun shopping, and then went out to dinner that night.   We even got out of our sweats and put on real clothes… at least for a few hours.  But we still stuck to the theme of the weekend of no rushing, no game of beat-the-clock… we roamed wherever our whims took us. It was lovely.

I had the added bonus of being able to visit with my brother and his family before heading home at the end of the weekend.   My timing was great, because both of my nephews were home — so I had the joy of catching up with them, and get their updates on the trials and tribulations of high school and college. Sitting around their dining room table, listening to stories and laughing a lot – yup, it was family bliss.

As Real Women, we can find enjoyment and delight in the simplest moments in life. We don’t need jewels and designer clothes and yachts with cabana boys….well, ok, those things would be pretty awesome. But time to slow down and enjoy just “being” —  those are the moments that mean the most. Sadly, we don’t take them often enough.

Let’s all try just a little bit harder to fit a few moments of bliss into our days.

 

 

Color My World… Please

colorful_candies_womens_shirtLike most Real Women in the Northeast, I recently packed away my summer clothes and dug out my fall and winter wardrobe.   After successfully making the switch, I stepped back to survey my closet. And got depressed. 95% of what is behind that door is black, grey or brown… with a few bits of navy mixed in for excitement. Bleh. I decided that since I had filled a bag for goodwill of clothes I’d never wear again, I could treat myself to a little shopping. I ventured out in search of color.

So far I’ve visited four women’s clothing stores. And in each, I have seen… a sea of black, grey, brown and navy.   It is dark outside in the morning when my alarm goes off. Soon it will be dark by the time I leave work in the evening. Winter is around the corner, with grey stormy skies and cold temperatures to match the short daylight hours. So I ask you….why in heaven’s name do we want to mirror that in our clothing choices? Why do we also want to be dark and dismal?   Shouldn’t the opposite be true, and have the stores filled with bright cheerful colors to lift our spirits?   Surely flannel, wool and fleece can be created in colors with some life to them. The one lively color I’ve found in most stores is what I can best describe as bright apricot. I have nothing against this color, I think it is very pretty. But on a fair-skinned blonde? Not a great option.

This weekend one of my BFF’s and I took a couple hours to venture forth in search of color and style. We are continuing our campaign to “stop the frump” and went bravely into the world of retail. I was focused and determined, aiming only for tops in bright colors that would fit and flatter. I came away with a white blouse (at least it wasn’t black or grey), a grey and tan flowy long top to wear with leggings, and a dark purple and black tunic. Hey, at least it has some purple in it, right?   Pathetic.

As she and I roamed the racks, we decided that this world is in desperate need of retail clothing stores targeted to a very specific demographic: peri-menopausal real women. If we had the funding and ability, we’d open one ourselves.   First, there would be no heavy sweaters in our store. Just looking at sweaters makes us sweat. The only sweaters that we’d offer would be light-weight cardigans that are easy to remove for every hot flash. Tops with stripes across the bosom would be taboo as well. Heck, let’s just eliminate all horizontal stripes.   While we are at it, enough with the glitter and sequins. Somewhere along the way, someone convinced us that we mature ladies look good in loose, patterned shirts that have been bedazzled.  Sure, one or two in the closet can be fun – but really, stop after two.

What we would include in our store would be comfortable yet funky styles. Clothing that lands somewhere between extremely fitted, and mu-mu’s…. made out of fabric that drapes smoothly without being binding or lumpy. And hello, let’s have some color. Not blinding look-at-me-I’m-fluorescents, but colors that have life to them, that will perk us up and make us look alive and healthy, not sallow and depressed. Perfect wardrobe options. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

One area where clothing manufacturers seem to be starting to make headway into meeting the needs of mature women is with pants. More and more I’m seeing tags that read: curvy fit, modern fit, comfort waist, even ‘magical balance tummy control’. Lord knows we can all use some magic in controlling our tummies. Browsing through a display of jeans now is like navigating a denim jungle…. This one offers to slim my stomach but boost up my bootie. That one has stretch denim for added comfort. These are mid-rise boot-cut, and those are relaxed fit, straight leg, at-the-waist. And that is all just about the fit – then there are the colors, ranging from faded and torn to dark and crisp. With decorative stitching or, yes, here too, bling and sparkles on the pockets. The possibilities are relatively endless – and yet it can still take just about forever to find the perfect pair that looks good and feels good.

I caught a story on the Today Show recently (granted, it was on the weekend, when most of their stories are human interest and lifestyle focused – aka, fluff) that was about purchasing and caring for jeans. The wizards they interviewed enlightened viewers by suggesting we think about our body types, and where we will wear the jeans (work vs. out with the girls) when we are out shopping. One even suggested heading to the back of the store to the clearance rack for better deals. Really?? I ‘m a bit concerned that there would be any R.W. out there who wouldn’t already know all of this. But then they threw me for a loop when they gave tips for the best way to care for your jeans. They said jeans should be worn 4 -5 times before washing, and when necessary, to wash inside out, in cold water, gentle cycle, line dry.   Wait, whut???   Silly me, I’ve always viewed jeans as durable items, made of denim, which purposefully ages with time. Core clothing items that I can throw in the wash. I have enough clothing that needs special treatment, I can’t be expected to baby my jeans! Now, granted, I never spend $150 on a pair of jeans. Perhaps if I did, I’d give them special attention…. Right after I had my head examined for investing that much in jeans.

This weekend, I will take a short trip to visit a couple of my BFF’s. In preparation, I will pack some of my black, grey and brown clothing options, and throw in a couple pairs of jeans that I have recently yanked out of the dryer.   And perhaps, while we are together, we will do a bit of shopping and continue our search for color, comfort, and non-frump style.

It is a noble quest – and we are up for the challenge.

 

 

A Never-Ending Cycle

rotary signWe’ve all done it. We walk into a room, pause, and the first question that leaps to mind is “why did I come in here?” Or we’ll open a cabinet door and stare blankly, wondering what we were looking for, only to eventually realize we meant to open the fridge.   In most cases, I prefer to believe these are not early signs of senility, but more purely an example that we Real Women have too much on our minds at any one time. We are constantly forcing our brains to multi-task.

Just in the time it takes to get up from the chair in the living room and walk into the kitchen to check something on the calendar, our thoughts are likely running something like this: “ow, my knee hurts, I must have been sitting too long – or it could be those lunges I did in workout last night…getting old sucks…ugh, this dog has more toys spread out all over the place than a toddler – oh, that reminds me, I need to check to see if we have a coupon, he’s almost out of food, I wonder if hubby can stop at the pet supply place tomorrow on his way home…yikes, those plants need water, better get some on them before they die – did I start the dishwasher? The recyclables have piled up again, gotta remind my son to take them out –ooh, almost forgot, I have to leave him lunch money tomorrow…..”   By the time (90 seconds later) we reach the kitchen, whatever the original reason we had for going there has now been pushed down about 20 levels in brain multi-tasking.

Similarly, one of my classic moves is to go down to the basement to get something like a roll of paper towels…but on my way I realize a load of laundry needs to be transferred over, I need to hang a blouse up to dry, I remember to grab the milk out of the spare fridge to bring upstairs, and then get distracted by something like an old photo album and decide to find a picture that would be fun to post for Throwback Thursday, and 10 minutes later I go back upstairs with not-so-cold milk, and no paper towels. Until I get back into the kitchen and see the empty roll on the counter and groan.

Frustrating? Yes, of course. But these brain stalls get downright annoying when they happen while out and about in the world, doing errands. I know my husband wonders how I can possibly always have so many “errands” to do.   This is because men believe errands equate to pleasure shopping…. but all R.W.’s know that is not the case. A true definition of errands is: “an annoying chore involving running around taking care of anything and everything that can not be accomplished at home or at work. “

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a “lister.” I make lists for everything – To- Do lists, meal lists, and most especially shopping and errands lists. This is not purely just for the joy of setting pen to paper… it is to help my feeble, overwhelmed, multi-tasking brain to have even the slightest chance of remembering what I need to get or do, and to get everything accomplished. My rule is that if I have to remember more than 3 items, I make a list. This probably sounds a bit sad, especially to the younger readers out there. Trust me, some day you will do the same.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Rita Moreno speak at a women’s conference. Part of her talk was about the aging process, and tricks to keep our brains and memories sharp. She gave a few tips and tricks to help keep us mentally alert; one was to attempt to remember lists in our heads. She suggested, for example, that if we needed to go into the store to pick up milk, toothpaste, bread and apples, that we simply remember the first letters of each word, so in this case: M, T, B and A…and that would help us remember what we need to get in the store. I tried this, a few times. And failed. Not because I couldn’t remember what those letters stood for, but because I got distracted by all the other letters on the way in to the store. “ooh, look at those flowers, those would look great in the kitchen, I’ll get them on the way out… ok, so now M,T, B, A and F…. hmmm, F, do I need fruit?” and so on.

And so, in the same spirit as using cruise control on my car, I write out shopping lists to control my impulse buys. Yet, no matter how hard I try, even if I plan well ahead, and get everything on my list, I will get home, unpack groceries, and discover there was something else we needed. This weekend, for example, I got home and my brother called to say he forgot to tell me he needed batteries, could I pick some up for him? And my husband reminded me “my candy jar at work has been empty for weeks, did you pick up any for me?”   Sigh. Ok, so later in the day, I swing by CVS to get batteries and candy.   Done. Right? No, not really. That evening as I was taking out my contacts I realized I’m almost out of saline…. And I forgot to get blueberries for the bread I wanted to bake…. Argh. Next day, swing into the store for saline and blueberries.

Clearly I realize this is the epitome of a First World Problem. Aww, poor me, I have to get in my car to drive to any of several well stocked, clean and safe stores available within 3 miles of my home to buy what I need. Gee, rough life.   But honestly, after the third round of “forgot we need….”, I’m not thinking about how lucky I am. I’m weary and frustrated. At some point I draw the line. If we think of anything else, it is just going to have to wait until next weekend. Because certainly I’ll be out doing errands again. It’s just part of a Real Woman’s life.

So I’ll start a new list on the kitchen counter … right after I find a pen that works, oh, and check my son’s homework, let the dog out, think about the blog post I want to write later, help my husband gather trash to go out, and return a phone call…. Wait, why am I in the kitchen??

 

 

 

Surviving Away Time

turn downWe Real Women often talk about and dream about escaping from reality. Getting away, have time to ourselves. To take some time to stop caring for everyone else, and give ourselves a little time out. Books have been written extolling the virtues, even the necessity, of stepping away to get back in touch with who we are. A few years ago, when I was working my way through my own personal mid-life crisis, I read Joan Anderson’s “A Weekend to Change Your Life.” Although I felt her encouragement to escape regularly to a beach for self-contemplation was not necessarily realistic, she did make good points about taking breaks to not lose our own sense of self.

That said, I do believe that getting away, no matter where, is healthy and necessary. In a busy R.W.’s life, this doesn’t happen often….and that’s ok, as long as it does happen sometimes. There is something somewhat amazing and decadent feeling to an R.W. to have something as simple as a hotel room to herself. Even if it happens because of a work obligation.

I have never had to travel extensively for work, and I’m glad for that. I have never had to feel like I live out of a suitcase, or spend more days away from home than in home – and that suits me just fine. Once in a while, though, a bit of travel pops up. Right now is one of those times – I’m away from my family for three nights/four days. My guys are back home fending for themselves. I will be working hard, but tonight, as I sit in my jammies on a big bed all to myself, I’m feeling a bit spoiled and special.  I do miss them. And by day three, I’ll be more than ready to head home.

We R.W.’s are not especially good at letting go well enough to truly relax on our own. We worry about what’s going on at home. Let’s face it, we don’t think they can survive without us. But guess what, they are quite capable…. really….they are.   It has taken some time, but I have dispelled some of the great R.W. Myths of Being Away:

  • They will starve on their own. I still make sure there are HungryMan dinners in the freezer, I make a meal or two ahead of time for them, I leave restaurant coupons out for them – and usually they never need any of it. Lo and behold, they know how to make food for themselves.
  • They will fight without me there to referee.   We R.W.’s play interference on a regular basis between sibling children, even between the kids and our spouses. We worry they will be miserable without our presence. Miraculously, they get along just fine.
  • School work will be forgotten, or the bus will be missed, or the dog will not get fed, or….. We may be the primary taskmaster and timekeeper in the house, but without us there, the other inhabitants are surprisingly capable of following directions and reading clocks.
  • The house will be a total mess when I get back. You’ve taught them well, and they’ve grown accustomed to having a clean environment. Sure, the dishwasher won’t get emptied, the beds won’t be made in military fashion, and there will likely be a pile of dirty laundry waiting, but the house won’t look like it needs to be condemned. Besides, they are too scared by your potential reaction if they haven’t picked up after themselves by the time you get back.

The irony of course is that while we are away and irrationally worrying about them, they are doing the same about us. I know darn well what they are thinking, and I can assure them that while I’m away, I will not become a wild party woman and dance drunk on tables (I’m far too old and tired for that nonsense), I will not fall in love with some dark stranger in a bar (I can’t keep up with the men in my life now, why would I want to add another), I will not leave my door unlocked and invite in a burglar (I’m far too emotionally attached to my laptop and Kindle), and I will not become more enamored with life on the road than life at home (I crave my own bed, family and routines too much for that.)

So these occasional getaways are good for us all. We R.W.’s get in touch with who we are when we are not playing the role of mom and wife, and we prove to ourselves, and our families, that we will all endure our time away from each other. By the end of our travels, we are happy to return home to our loved ones.

But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy only having to get myself up and moving in the morning, matching the room’s climate control to my comfort level and hot flashes, having the tv remote all to myself, and feeling pampered by a nightly turndown service.   It’s going to be a struggle….. but I’ll survive.

 

It’s In The Bag

purse girl“Here’s what happens with a purse. You start small. You start pledging yourself to neatness. You start vowing that This Time It Will Be Different. You start with the things you absolutely need—your wallet and a few cosmetics that you have actually put into a brand-new shiny cosmetics bag, the kind used by your friends who are competent enough to manage more than one purse at a time. But within seconds, your purse has accumulated the debris of a lifetime.” — Nora Ephron

Purses, bags, totes. Vital tools in a Real Woman’s world. Sporty, funky, dressy, designer or bargain bag, there is one out there for every mood, style and need we may have. Many of us accumulate substantial collections of bags, and yet still yearn to find the “perfect” one that meets our primary need: a fashionable place to hold all of our mobile stuff.

Some of the R.W.’s in my life go the simple route and have one or two bags they carry at all times, no matter what they are wearing or where they are going. These tend to be larger, sturdy purses with multiple compartments. That purse has become as much a part of them as their right arm, and no matter what they may need, they are guaranteed to be carrying it within the depths of this portable vault.   Like an episode of “Let’s Make a Deal”, you can ask one of these R.W.’s if they have any item – tweezers, band-aids, tissues, stain sticks, cosmetics – anything – and within 30 seconds of rummaging, they can produce said item.

Other R.W.’s I know use purses and bags as a fashion statement. They have a bag for virtually every outfit or every day, and certainly match to the appropriate season. They somehow have the ability and time each morning to select the suitable purse, insert the items they will need for that day, and head out looking fabulous. Their totes make statements, catch attention, say something about their personalities and style. These women have also usually mastered the art of living with a small, quaint, cute bag when the style calls for such.

As for me, I tend to struggle somewhere in between. I’m a big-messy-practical bag kinda gal yearning to be the small trendy purse fashionista.

If you place me in front of shelves of lovely new handbags, I will invariably reach for the smallest, cutest, most impractical one in the display. I will then carry on an inner monologue, trying to convince myself that I’d use it when I just need to take a quick run to the store or out to dinner and only need to carry a credit card and a lipstick, since that is all it could possible hold. Just like Nora described, I start out with grand illusions of going small and neat. If I do try to use a small purse, I end up trying to cram too much into it, getting frustrated when I can’t close it, or can’t figure out how to wedge in my phone.

If I select a more practical satchel, I find I do the same thing as I do at home with my closets: I fill whatever space is available. Check book, store rewards cards, wallet, personal products, cosmetics, pens, receipts – you name it, I throw it all in. Then I start to hate the fact that the purse is heavy and bulky.

I have quite a few bags in my collection. My husband does not understand this whatsoever. In men’s eyes, purses are mystical, magical, scary items. They don’t understand how we can have such an avid love/hate relationship with them, nor how necessary we believe them to be in our lives. They also don’t understand how some of us R.W.’s need to have lots of them. Most men hate it when an R.W. asks them to hold their purse for a moment – they quickly look around to make sure no one sees them with it, and then hold it at arm’s length as if it is a poisonous snake. Ask a man to go into a purse to find something?? Fugetaboutit. And yet, I have lost count of how many times while out and about with my husband, he will hand me keys, or some other item and ask “can you put this in your purse?” Huh. Who needs the purse now?

The silliest thing of all is that within my collection, I have bags that I have rarely used, or not used in a very long time. Perhaps I no longer like the color, or style, or functionality…Yet for some reason I’ve kept them. In contrast, I have others that I’ve used so much, they have become worn and ugly. Like a well-loved teddy bear, they are thread-bare and tired, and no amount of cleaning or repair will bring them back to their former beauty – and yet, again, I can’t seem to part with them.   And with all of this variety, I still continue the hunt… the hunt for the next perfect bag. It’s an R.W. thing.

A couple of years ago, my BFFs came up with a brilliant idea: jewelry and bag swaps. We gather all of our accessories that we no longer want or use, pile them together, and review, trade, and pick through, selecting whatever we like. Anything that doesn’t get claimed is then donated. These swap gatherings are very fun, because great stories are shared as to how some of the items were acquired, historical accounts of gifts and impulse purchases are described, and spontaneous memorable modeling moments emerge. And, best of all, we each go home with new-to-us items, including bags, at no cost.

After all, no R.W. can have too many, right?

 

 

Far From Extreme

couponsI have a great deal of respect for you RW’s out there who have mastered the art of couponing. There are plenty of you who know how to truly get good deals and save money for your families on products you use on a regular basis. Bravo, I am impressed.

I am bad at couponing. Not completely useless, but nearly. I only have myself to blame. I don’t put the time and energy into searching out the best deals or cultivating the best coupons.   I have no great system. I collect a variety of coupons simply because they have come to me directly, with little effort on my part. Of these small stacks of coupons that I gather, only an even smaller fraction of them actually get used. I have my reasons…. admittedly, most are not really good reasons, and my lack of participation varies depending on the type of coupon.

Grocery Store Coupons:

  1. The majority of these that I collect are from the newspaper and those that are handed to me at the check-out counter. There are times that so many get spit out after my transaction that I wonder if I could use them for wallpaper. Clearly a sign that not only do I spend far too much time and money in the grocery store, but… they’ve been watching me. The system cranks out coupons based on my buying habits and products I frequent. Scary.
  2. I then pile the coupons in a messy little stack in the desk organizer on my kitchen counter. If I remember, I will flip through them before I head to the store – and if any look appropriate, or haven’t expired, I may actually remember to bring them with me. I see successful couponers traveling the aisles with their very own filing system in hand, just like my mom did. Not me… the handful I might bring with me end up in a waded up pile in my purse or pocket, or tucked under the lettuce in the top of my grocery cart. I hope the file-system people don’t notice. They would be appalled.
  3. The majority of the time, I find a different brand, or store brand, that is still less expensive than the brand for which I have a coupon. OR, I realize that I have to buy 6 of something to get $1 off. Who needs 6? OR, the exact product variety or size stated on the coupon is not in stock at the store. So back to the pocket those coupons go.
  4. By the time I work my way up to the cashier, I have just one or two coupons that I can actually use. Which, of course, can be rather embarrassing, given the quantity of groceries I am purchasing. So I end up trying to make a joke with the cashier, like “gee that $ .75 sure is going to make a dent on this bill!”.   Usually they are not amused.

Retail Shop Coupons:

  1. These I generally acquire through the mail. At one point in my life I did a lot of catalog shopping, and those retailers have never forgotten about me. Similarly, I have rewards cards for the shops I frequent. Each of these retailers like to send me love notes, or catalogs, both accompanied by promises of percentages off if I would be so kind to visit them again.
  2. Of course, these same retailers send me e-love notes. Lots of them. My personal email account is filled every day with offers to “stock up now”, “order today to get an additional 20% off”, or “buy one, get one half off.” The majority of these e-love notes get deleted. I just don’t have the time or interest to wade through them. Again, if I put the effort in, I’m sure the rewards would be lovely.
  3. So my gift cards and coupons from retail shops get stacked together in yet another spot of my kitchen counter, under my car keys. My logic of course there is that before I head out to do some shopping, I’ll browse through the stack. I used to carry all of these coupons and offers with me – but they only succeeded in making my purse fat and getting in the way. In reality, when I stop to sort through the stack, I end up disposing of at least half of them because they’ve expired before I’ve gotten a chance to use them.

Receipt Coupons:

  1. These are the coupons that are printed out at the bottom of receipts from certain stores, to be used during your next visit. CVS is the king of this.   Every time I shop at CVS and use my rewards card, I get coupons and offers in return. Even better, some times I get dollars off anything at my next visit.
  2. For some reason, I’ve decided the best place to store these coupons is crammed into the back of my checkbook. I guess this is because I go to the drug store, or craft store, or wherever else I get these receipt coupons, so often that I may as well keep them with me.
  3. I seem to do pretty well with these coupons. Well, that is, when I remember to look for them before cashing out. And if they aren’t all expired due to lack of attention.

I recently, rather by accident, caught part of an episode of “Extreme Couponing” on TV. I was in shock.   These people seem to devote their lives to the whole process. And what I really don’t understand is the quantity of goods they store in their homes because of the great deals they get. Does anyone REALLY need a 5-year supply of toothpaste?   I could never in my wildest dreams be that fanatical. Besides, I basically hate grocery shopping, so anything that requires me putting in MORE time there is out. And so, I limp along, really not being terribly successful in achieving great deals or savings.

Maybe some day I’ll find the time to get better at it. I could at least perhaps be one of those RW’s who will stop at 3 different stores to get the best deals, or who has alphabetized coupons in a cute folder, or goes beyond the newspaper and mailbox to obtain coupons. Maybe.

Tonight I used 5 whole coupons at the grocery store, and saved $6 off my nearly $300 bill. That just may be my new personal best. There could be hope for me yet.

 

 

Professional Perspective

vanna2“Its not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know my letters.” – Vanna White

During a recent meeting, one of my Real Women co-workers was doing a fine job of demonstrating a product to some customers, so I called her Vanna. We laughed and talked about how we both have watched Vanna White through the years, and we both agreed that some days, we’d like to be in her shoes.

I remember even as a teenager, when Vanna was just joining Wheel of Fortune, I thought I’d like to have her job. All she had to do was dress in fancy gowns, do a lot of clapping, and turn some letters. Seemed like a pretty sweet gig.

We encourage young women today to go into any field of study – to aim high, that they can do anything they want to do. They can be lawyers, doctors, scientists, professional athletes, CEO’s – anything. We strive to be good role models, and thankfully there are strong examples of successful, talented, professional women in real life, in the news, and on TV for girls to emulate.

When I was a young girl, I had plenty of resilient, beautiful and intelligent women in my life. However, women in strong careers and professions were sparse. Those who did work outside the home were usually in classically “female” roles – teachers, nurses, and secretaries. All hard working, talented Real Women and good role models, certainly…but in those days we didn’t have many examples of what else we could do with our professional futures.

TV and movies didn’t help much. There were waitresses (Cheers and Alice), receptionists or assistants (WKRP and Mary Tyler Moore), or loveable moms and housekeepers (Happy Days and The Brady Bunch).   Not really what we’d think of as career women (ok, Mary Tyler Moore was pretty close).  As a matter of fact, women in traditionally male roles were so eye-opening that in the mid-80’s, there was an entire sitcom based on the role reversal of a female Ad Executive and her – gasp! — male housekeeper (how can we ever forget that loveable yet goofy Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss?).   On the big screen, women were cast as fighting their way into male-dominated work places – again, generally playing the part of secretaries (9 to 5 and Working Girl). Even if a role showed a woman doing a “man’s job”, there was a counter-balance – hence why Flashdance’s female welder by trade was actually a struggling dancer in disguise.

Regardless of these “role models”, we women of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s found our ways into career paths that were not generally based on the stereotypes in the media, and with time became not only accepted but respected in all areas of business and industry.   It hasn’t always been smooth, but we’ve worked hard to get to where we are.

Ironically enough, after years of working our ways through all the catch phrases: climbing the corporate ladder, breaking through the glass ceiling, interrupting the old boys’ network, I think many of us have grown tired. All that climbing, breaking, interrupting, and proving ourselves has been exhausting…and some of us have maybe decided it just wasn’t worth that much sustained effort.  After a certain age, I see more and more women looking to make a change, cutting back on the craziness… maybe going to part-time work, going back to school, giving up the corporate world for volunteer work or home businesses…. In general, simplifying and finding roles that bring less stress, more peace, more enjoyment, and more fulfillment.

And so perhaps, all along, Vanna had it just about right. She still gets to wear beautiful clothes, and over time her job has gotten even easier – rather than turn a letter, all she has to do is push a button. Oh, and still clap a lot (she must have amazingly calloused palms) and occasionally pose next to a grand prize like a car or beach resort.   When I did a bit of research, I was surprised to see that Vanna is only eight years older than me. Yet while I have worked for at least five different companies or industries throughout my career, she has had the same job for 32 years. Smiling and clapping literally all the way to the bank. So yes, on some of the busy, tiring, I’ve-had-enough kind of days, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit jealous of her. Who’s laughing now, eh Vanna?