That Four-Letter S Word

Sale headThere are a lot of S-words, many of which I use frequently, and some of which I probably shouldn’t. But there is one four-letter S word that is one of my most favorite words in the English language: Sale.

I love a bargain. I rarely, if ever, purchase anything at full retail price. I generally think that top prices are unnecessarily high – ridiculous even. I will avoid designer, high-end products in favor of finding a similar item at a much reduced cost. I have a BFF who knows that if she loses track of me in a department store or clothing shop, she can easily find me in the back, browsing through the clearance rack. Finding a great deal gets my blood pumping and allows me to give myself a “yay me” mental high-five.

If I come home and tell my husband about a particular shopping triumph, he will look at me with a confused expression and say “you don’t need to rationalize to me why you bought that.” He doesn’t understand. I’m not rationalizing the why of a purchase, nor am I looking for some sort of approval. I’m simply just excited about my success, running on a high from the thrill of the hunt. Like a wild game hunter who will proudly show off his trophy and animal pelt, I will grin from ear to ear as I happily proclaim that “I got this cute blouse for only $8!” Of course, being attracted to shiny signs proclaiming great savings can be dangerous. Even small amounts can add up. And I definitely have a weakness for those $1 bins filled with things I don’t need but find strangely appealing – like clothes pins in the shape of kitchen utensils, or note pads with magnets on the back that won’t stick to my fridge.

I do realize, however, that I am not on a level of Professional Bargain Queen like some R.W.’s out there. I’m more like a Discount Princess. I could do better. I feel delighted with myself if I hand over four coupons at the grocery checkout…as if that $3 is really going to help my bottom line when I’m buying two weeks worth of groceries. And I’m notorious for either forgetting to check my stack of retail sale flyers at home before heading out the door, or not keeping track of expiration dates until it is too late. But I have become enamored with certain tools like the RetailMeNot App (which just saved me 40% at Michael’s tonight, thank you very much), and I get all excited when I head to the register at Kohl’s to see how much more of a discount they are going to give me beyond the already marked-down price. Score another yay me.

The Professional Bargain Queens out there do amaze me, and put my shopping prowess to shame. One R.W. in my life has the knack and patience to really find amazing deals. She can recite the best weekly discounts from newspaper and flyer ads. She will go to three different grocery stores to take advantage of the best sales. While my pile of coupons sits in an unorganized and likely expired heap on my kitchen counter, this woman carries with her at all times a small portfolio with her coupons inside, likely organized either alphabetically, or via date. She will tell me amazing tales of how she slayed the Retail Beast by, for example, combining rewards points, coupons, sales, rebates, (and I think standing on her head) and ends up getting a box of her hair color for $1. Her smile and expression is one of “See? It is so easy. You should run right out and take advantage of that deal too!”

As impressed as I am, and as appealing as the endless possibilities are, I know I just don’t have it in me to reach Pro level. I’m sure if I did, I could put away more money towards a vacation or my son’s college fund. But instead, I think I will just be happy to have a closet full of fun inexpensive clothes and funky costume jewelry. And maybe be able to afford going out for dinner once in a while.

The fun of finding an awesome sale and the excitement of getting deep discounts made me think about how great it would be if we could play Let’s Make A Deal in other areas of our lives. Imagine if by doing three loads of wash, we could get a new pair of jeans for free. Or when making a quick and easy taco supper, it magically turned into a gourmet three-course meal. Or after working five days in a week, you get the next four off, paid. How about after staying up with a sick child all night, you automatically receive a weekend at the spa? Drop a dish while washing them, get a new set for free. Just think how much we’d look forward to doing our chores if we got rewards and time off in return.

Ok, I know, that would require magic. But a girl can dream. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the giddiness that enfolds me each time I see my favorite four letter S word.

Who’s up for a hunt?

 

 

 

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Giving Care

article-1228775-07417DC8000005DC-101_468x309Due to curiosity and a bit of a hunch, I did some research (aka Google search), and according to the U.S. Census, the population of people aged 65 and over is somewhere around 34 million. The population of people aged 40 – 60 is around 70 million. That means, generally speaking, for every two of us in our 40’s and 50’s, there is an elderly person who potentially needs caregiving. And that’s not counting any other people in our lives of all ages who need our extra help, like the disabled or ill.

Continuing my unscientific method, I believe that these statistics are backed up by fact simply by talking to anyone in our mid-life age range. Chances are really good that most of us have either in the past been responsible in some way for the care of someone in need, are currently a caregiver, or are about to become needed in the very near future.

I have many R.W.’s in my life who are experiencing the challenge of caring for a loved one – beyond the usual household maintenance of day to day family care. Some are caring for elderly in-laws who live in the same house with them. Some are having to make the agonizing decision of what to do about the fact that a loved one can no longer live independently. Others are currently in crisis mode, standing bed-side in a hospital. And of course many have had to see a loved one through their last days on this earth. At some point, virtually all of us will wear the hat of caregiver. And that hat is stacked on top of all of the others we are already wearing.

I myself have donned that hat for a few years, being the closest family member and Health Care Proxy for my older brother, who is disabled and dealing with a number of health concerns. As he has aged and declined, that darn hat has gotten bigger and heavier. Clearly, I’m not alone, and as I progress through this role and share experiences with others, I’ve determined there are a few basic attributes we all share:

  1. This is a job we didn’t ask for, we’ve had no formal training for, and we don’t know how long we’ll have it. Whether a slow and steady need over time, or a sudden and urgent demand, we are just in the right place at the right time to step up to the plate, put on our big girl pants, and do what we have to do. We learn as we go. We have to be willing, able, flexible and strong as an ox. And guess what. We don’t get paid for this job.
  2. Worry.  As if we R.W.’s need any more of this in our lives, our worrying kicks in to overtime. We can’t help ourselves, it just does. There’s never a moment in our day that we aren’t concerned about, and thinking about, our loved one who needs us.
  3. Exhaustion. The long and wacky hours, the sleepless nights, the 2am phone calls, the juggling of the rest of life with the caregiving role, it all adds up to be a gigantic energy thief. Beyond the physical demands that may be required, we are always mentally and emotionally on overload. Making scary decisions, asking questions, being an advocate for proper medical care…it all can be overwhelming. Then let’s not forget to add to this our own sadness or grief about the situation.
  4. Guilt. Ah yes, there it is. We are real women. We think we are super heroes. We like to be in control. And yet, some things are just plain out of our control, and we have to stand by and watch someone suffer. No matter how much we wish for a magic wand to make everything better, we won’t ever have one. Some times we are forced to make decisions we don’t want to have to make. Others in our lives will try to reassure us that we are doing the right things, and we cling to their words like some sort of life raft, so the guilt doesn’t pull us under.
  5. It’s just plain weird. One of the R.W.’s in my life today was sharing her feelings about the caregiver role, which she had experienced with her parents. She made the observation that no matter what is going on with our loved ones and our situation, the rest of life just keeps rolling along. And this can feel kind of bizarre. We emerge after many hours in a hospital, bleary eyed and frazzled, or from a long-term care situation, or from sitting with hospice watching someone take their last breaths, and there it is. Regular life. Our jobs, traffic on the highway, celebrity gossip, bills to be paid, home repairs to be made – none of that stops simply because we’ve been absorbed into a unique environment. Even though it feels weird, my theory is that it is a very good thing that life just keeps rolling along. We need to step away from that other environment from time to time, for our own sanity. We need to have the distraction of “regular life” activities. We need to recognize that there is still good in the world, and our loved one would want us to feel it and experience it. We need to know it is still ok to laugh and smile and find joy.

The best thing about so many of us having similar experiences is that we don’t need to feel all alone. Sure, some days or nights we will feel that way, but that is likely the exhaustion kicking in. So many of us have “been there done that”, and have all felt the same way at some point. We have all fought similar battles. We have all pushed ourselves until we think we can do no more, can give no more, and are at the end of our ropes. Then something small happens, like you unexpectedly run into a friend at Dunkin Donuts and she smiles and gives you a hug, and you realize you can continue to do more. Because you have to. And you aren’t alone.

So to all the R.W. caregivers out there, remember to take a break. To breathe. To find something to laugh about. Have faith that some day the sun will shine again and you will be able to relax. And believe that even in the darkest of moments you have given the most important thing you can possibly give to the person in your care: love.

 

 

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The Cinderella Complex

Cinderella balancing act

Cinderella balancing act

As a general rule, we Real Women are carrying far more on our plates at any one time than we should. I imagine all of us walking around like some kind of octopus waitress, balancing dozens of plates heaped with food along each of our eight arms. We must rush from place to place without dropping any food off of those plates, or breaking one of the dishes. Oh, and we have a full glass of water on our heads too. We know it is crazy, we know it is dangerous, yet rather than let go of any of those platters, we just keep going. If one starts to get empty, we fill it up again. If we take a break and set them down it is only temporary until we get up and start balancing again.

Now, keep in mind, some of those plates are full of things we love. For me, I imagine one plate full of chocolate – that’s my family and friends, and I keep that plate the closest and safest, and never empty it. Another one is full of bread and fruit – those are activities I enjoy, and as soon as I run out, I add more.   Our arms are full with things we want to hold tightly to… and we try to balance them with the responsibilities and must-do’s that are a bit more ugly. And, of course, there are the extra plates we take on because we think we have the room, the capacity, the strength, and we rarely say no. Instead, it is more like “sure, hand it to me, I’ll take it.”

So we all have our arms full. But we don’t all handle those dishes the same way. Some of us have the ability to lighten our load at random moments. Those are the folks who are spontaneous, and have the knack of living in the moment. Those women will drop everything (carefully) and just let it all be, while they focus their energies someplace else. They know those piles will be there when they come back, and they will simply pick up where they left off – until the next worthy distraction comes by.

Others put off picking those dishes up in the first place. These are the procrastinators. They have far more fun or important things to do, and will avoid balancing any of the plates until they can no longer ignore them. At that point they run on adrenaline and stay up all night to get those dishes emptied and put away.

Then there are the dishes-before-fun girls. These are the folks who work hard from the onset to take on as much as they need to, and keep going until every plate has been cleared off, and all is right in the world. Then, and only then, will they put everything down and enjoy some rest and relaxation.

I’m not sure why we are all wired differently. Perhaps it is based on how our mother’s handled their armfuls of stuff. Maybe it is simply what fits best into our lifestyles. Each style works. But for one group, watching the other group can be maddening.

I have run into this more often now, as my son has begun high school. Suddenly, with school work, activities, social life and general teen angst, his arms are getting full. And he’s struggling to figure out how to balance it all.

I am one of those work-before-fun gals. I’ve always been that way. In school, I would get projects done early because I couldn’t stand to have anything hanging over my head. Now, in my adult life, I still operate the same way – the difference, of course, is I’m carrying a lot more than when I was a student. But my natural tendency is still to get chores done first so I can “reward” myself with relaxation or fun afterwards. For example, today I got the house cleaned and laundry done before I would “allow” myself time in my pink room. (Otherwise known as my home office/writing room).   I see this as the Cinderella Complex. Get those floors mopped before putting on the pretty gown and shoes and going to a party. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I no longer always have the stamina to get all the work done first, nor enough hours in the day. And I may be missing out on some fun. I’m envious of others who can confidently put all those armloads down and go play. So I’m trying to be more like that. I’m trying to live more in the moment.

As for my son…. Well, he’s all about procrastination. Why do it now, when you can have fun now and pick up those armloads of dishes sometime in the future? Why do homework now when there’s time to relax and play – “I’ll get it done later” is his motto. And, so far, bless him, much to my anxiety, it seems to work for him, for the most part. Granted, he’s had a few late nights due to bad planning, and he’s had a couple of music lessons for which he was not quite appropriately prepared. I try to tell myself that is all part of growing and learning. And, being the mom that I am, I try in vain to drag him over to the Cinderella side. He’s a guy. He could care less about my girlie princess metaphors. So I tell him how great it will feel to be able to put his feet up and play video games knowing that all of his work is done. I know darn well he is looking at me and thinking “it will feel pretty great to play those games when I don’t have my work done, too.”

So the balancing game continues. Somehow we all manage, we all get from one destination to another, only occasionally dropping anything and having to deal with the consequences. And hopefully we remember that the most important times, the moments that we will most cherish no matter when they happen, are when we put our loads down, strap on the sparkly shoes, and go play.

 

 

 

Posted in Chores, family, Food, friends, home, home chores, housework, Kids, real women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And The Winner Is….

red carpetOh boy, oh boy, let’s get in to our comfy yoga pants, pop some popcorn and crawl under a blankie, because its here!   The kick-off to the “Hollywood Awards Season”!  The Golden Globes!

Ok, that’s the most excitement I can muster. Really, I tried. Sure, I’ll tune in for a bit…but only until my beloved Downton Abbey comes on, then I’ll change the channel.  Just like many of us real humans, I find awards shows mildly entertaining. The red carpet is a fascinating display of excess, where the beautiful, rich and bold preen for the cameras and must look completely thrilled to answer insipid questions like “how does it feel to be here tonight?” and “what designer are you wearing?”   We at home gleefully discuss how each one of them looks, how they act, and what they say. And, for me, there are always a number red carpet sightings that cause me to ask my husband, (as if he knows any better than I), “who the heck is that?” or “oh, wait, that’s what’s-his-face, he was on that show we used to watch…what was it called?”

There will be many shows and movies nominated for which I’m totally clueless – have not watched, nor even heard about. I enjoy some TV shows, and once in a blue moon get out to see a movie. But I rarely am familiar with the top nominees. And I’m not up to speed on celebrity gossip. I honestly don’t really care who broke up with who, who had who’s baby, and how much someone got in a divorce settlement. I have enough to keep track of in real life, to really care much about these folks’ personal lives. They are light years beyond by lifestyle, so I really don’t feel any sort of connection to them.

What amazes me is that there is actually an “Award Season.” In most other industries, there are singular awards given out for annual competitions. You enter whatever it is, and you may or may not win. But in Hollywood, if you don’t win a Golden Globe, you could still win an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, a SAG, a Peabody…. possibly even a Teen Choice. Gosh, dressing up in gowns, putting on million dollar jewels, getting crammed into a theater, and looking thrilled to not win over and over must be exhausting.

And then there are the hosts. Now those celebs have got to feel pressure. All eyes are on them to be witty, smart and entertaining, all in front of their peers. If they flop, they won’t be asked back. If they do a good job, they are heralded as being so darn outstanding, they should receive their own Host Award.

As I sit here watching, or at least sort of watching (I need to paint my nails, after all), I wonder what it would be like to have an Award Show for Real Women. For doing outstanding Real Women things.  Here are a few of the award categories we could consider:

Best Supper Preparation by a Mom on a Tight Schedule

Most Outstanding At-Home Hair Color

Safest Mom Taxi

Speediest and Most Efficient Grocery Shopper

Outrageously Exhausted Care Giver to Elder Family Member

Most Talented Chef for Re-use of Leftovers

Most Effectively Embarrassing Mom In Front of Teen Child

Highest Fashion Achievement at Lowest Budget

Greatest Attempt at Regular Exercise

Best Actor in the I Love to Eat Healthy Category

Most Exceptional Multi-Tasking Family Manager

Best Special Effects by Using Anti-Wrinkle Cream

Our Award Show would be fabulous. In place of the red carpet outside a glitzy famous theater, we could use the sidewalk outside a Target Store. Our Host would be Melissa McCarthy, because she is someone we love, who can make us laugh until we cry, and is the only celebrity we can come close to relating to. Rather than gowns, sparkling heels and flashy jewelry, we’d fashionably show off our best errand-running style in jeans, sweats, or wrinkled-was-fresh-this-morning business casual. When asked “How does it feel to be here tonight?” We’d answer “Great. My feet hurt, my back aches, my son/daughter needs a white shirt for a concert tomorrow, I have 35 minutes to find one, get home, make dinner, and get everyone to their music lessons/sports practices. So can we move this along?”   When asked “What Designer are your wearing?” We’d answer “My top is from Walmart, my pants are from the sale rack at Dress Barn, and my shoes are older than my first child, so I don’t remember where they came from.”

The Award itself, rather than being a heavy gold statue, would be either a pretty new scarf we could wear to work, or one of those Inspirational Quote Plaques we all love, but won’t admit we do. The Top Award of the evening would be a vacation to a spa, and we would ALL yearn to win it.

One thing is for sure. As we watch our peers step forward to receive their awards, our applause would not be fake golf claps accompanied by plastic smiles. We would truly, 100%, be thrilled that one of our own was recognized for her outstanding talent, perseverance and strength.  And 48 minutes later, when the Award Show was efficiently over, completed, cleaned up and we headed home, we would know that without doing anything outside our regular routines, we could be nominated for recognition again the following year.

Just by being our every day, fabulous selves.

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Blame the Babylonians

resolutionsAccording to many sources, the origin of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to the Babylonians, who reportedly made promises to the gods in hopes they’d earn good favor in the coming year. Many of these promises involved paying off their debts.

Similarly, Romans started each year by making promises to the god Janus. And supposedly, in the Medieval era, knights took a vow at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

I haven’t heard of too many men resolving to be chivalrous, but otherwise I don’t think things have changed much in the past 2000 or so years. As we bid adieu to one year and welcome the next, we still make promises for improvement. We may not be making these promises to various mythological gods, but we are likely still making them to a Higher Power, each other, or ourselves – all in the anticipation of new beginnings and transitions. We cling to our annual chance to start over.

We are either eternally hopeful beings, or just very slow learners. Because every year, the resolutions sound the same.   And each year, we have the same odds as to whether or not they will stick. But God love us, we step up to the New Year with the best of intentions.

To save us all some time as we get out the shrimp cocktail and champagne, let’s review the Top 6 Real Woman Resolutions, shall we?

Please repeat after me: I resolve to:

  1. Eat Better.   Whether we want to lose or gain weight, maintain, or just be more heart-healthy by cutting out sugar, fat and carbs, this one regularly tops the charts. We make valiant efforts to lose the Cookie Weight and Holiday Beverage pounds, and eat more salads. But honestly, ladies, there are really only a few among us who actually enjoy eating kale and tofu… (you know who you are, you freaks)…eventually some old habits will come creeping back. So I figure that as long as we stop binging on fudge and eggnog, we’ve made progress.
  2. Get more exercise. Loosely translated to: Look at my new Fitness Tracker, isn’t it cool!  Again, we take great strides (get it? Strides?) to up our exercise ante. Some of us crawl off the couch and start walking. Some of us join the gym that we’ve been avoiding. Some sign up with personal trainers. Some buy new bikes. Others of us vow to just do more, and more often. We have visions of chiseled, stronger bodies in our mirrors. And for a while, we are out there doing. Totally awesome. Until real life schedules and energy levels kick back in, and the lure of strapping on our sneakers fades. Last night I was watching Hollywood Game Night (yes, instead of exercising) and one of the contestants was a woman who said she got up at 3am every day to work out for two hours. Really? Come on…. I bet she eats Kale and Tofu too.
  3. Simplify.  Let’s face it, we are all coming off the end-of-year-holiday-Super-Woman binge and we’re exhausted. Perfect time to take stock of our To Do lists and start to make plans on how we can simplify our lives, cut back, and delegate — anything to make our daily chores and activities easier on our backs and our psyche. As we take down our Christmas trees and clean off our shelves, we make mental plans on what else we can “clean out.” Again, best of intentions. If any of us manage to take just ONE item off our regular list of To Do’s, or cut back on just ONE event or activity, we should consider this resolution a success. Worrying about doing any better than that just causes more stress. Which I believe is the antonym to Simplify.
  4. Be more Charitable. Especially at this time of year, we remember how fortunate most of us are, and vow to be better about helping others. We try to move our goals of volunteering and contributing from the “some day” bucket list to the “do it now” list. This is fabulous. The trouble comes in choosing who or what to devote our time, efforts or funds to when there are so very many worthy causes. Plus, did you already forget #3 on the list? That’s right, something else must go if we are taking on a new role elsewhere. And you know we aren’t good at that.  Good thing you didn’t put that Super Woman cape into storage yet.
  5. Take Up a New Hobby. Ok, truly, this one goes against #3 in a lot of ways. But I, just like so many of you, see the value in this one and get all excited by something new and shiny. A new way to relieve stress, a new way to express ourselves or get our creative juices flowing. A fresh start at something to break up the monotony of our usual routines. What do we pick and how do we fit it in? Probably wisest if we start small. Rather than signing up for 16 weeks of ballroom dancing lessons, perhaps we should pick up an adult coloring book and see if we can complete one page in a week.
  6. Quit. Something. We all have something in our lives we want to give up. Smoking, drinking, bitching, staying up late, watching junk tv, over-spending, our jobs, a relationship, texting while driving…there is always something that we should, or could, give up. As long as it makes us healthier and happier, then even baby steps towards this goal are an improvement.

And that brings me to the one final, easy, very achievable resolution. A promise that should be on everyone’s list – not just for us Real Women, but for the men and children in our lives too:

Be Kinder. There is a lot of anger, hatred and fear in the world. For our own survival, that tide has to turn. And soon. Merriam-Webster defines Resolution as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict or problem.”   Seems to me that if all of us tried a bit harder to be more compassionate, more supportive, and spread a bit more in the way of kindness, joy and laughter in our worlds, then we might just make some progress toward actually attaining and maintaining one of the most important resolutions of all.  Which will take the sting out of failing at some of our others – like losing that Cookie Weight.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

Posted in beauty, Chores, family, Food, Health, Helping others, Holidays, home, home chores, Kids, real women, Seasons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s the Little Things

mangerChristmas is a big deal. At least it is for those of the Christian Faith, and many more who are just looking for good news, joy and a touch of magic as we head into winter. The holiday in many ways has become all-consuming. Big and audacious, everything is over the top in activities, gifts, décor, celebrations, and oh, yes, eating.   Some of us spend weeks if not months preparing for the season, causing ourselves substantial levels of stress and anxiety mixed in with the excitement and delight.

I confess, I am one of those people. Every year I declare that I’m going to start earlier, or cut back, and save myself some anxiety and exhaustion. And every year I still dive in, full throttle. I decorate the house like some kind of Christmas-workshop mad scientist. I bake cookies until they are piled high and deep. I buy far more gifts than our budget can really comfortably handle, and I entertain family and friends every chance I get. If I don’t settle in on December 24th with bags under my eyes and a sore back, I feel like I haven’t done my job. And yet – I only have myself to blame, because I love every inch of it. Sure, I get myself overtired and stressed, but I wouldn’t push myself if it didn’t give me joy.

Yet as I get older, I’m realizing more and more that it really isn’t the big, bright and bold things that make the holiday perfect for me. It is the little things. The things that we might otherwise not really notice. After describing to my sister some gift packages I was putting together for friends and family, I kept saying things like “I just need a little something to put with this… “ or “I got him a little something…” my sister laughed and said to me “you are all about the little somethings!” Wise big sister that she is, she is right.

It’s not about the big moments:

It is noticing a young family out for a walk in our unseasonably warm weather, and the little boy is running down the sidewalk, his super-hero cape billowing out behind him – with a look of pure joy and determination on his face – that made me slow down and smile.

It is when our neighbor friends stop by, and we end up curled up on the sofa watching Big Bang Theory together because we all just really need a Time Out and to laugh.

It is when my rock ‘n roll teen son brings down his Frank Sinatra CD to put in my player so I have some “good” Christmas music to listen to.

It is when a young boy in Church School cheerfully explains to me that the Angel he has drawn has eight wings, and the holes he has punched in the paper are stars.

It is one single, beautiful lit candle that pulls our attention away from the laser lights, blinking bulbs and inflatables, and entrances us.

It is sharing a photo and a memory about a loved one who is no longer with us.

It is watching Miracle on 34th Street for the 34th time.

It is having a fun conversation with a single person during a loud and boisterous party.

It is a red bandana tied on the dog.

It is getting to the point where we laugh because half of the tree’s lights keep going out, and we no longer care that it won’t stay lit.

It is extra hugs from everyone and anyone.

It is a simple quote from a 7-year old boy that reads: “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

After all, when you think about it, all of this… the reason we put so much energy into this holiday and combine so many little moments into a big, giant event, is because of one precious, very important little thing: the birth of a small baby, tucked away quietly in a stable. That’s it. That’s all there is to it, really. If we remember that, then the craziness, the running around, the glitz and glamour, all comes back in to perspective and makes sense.

May you be surrounded by many amazing little things this Christmas, and find joy in every one of them.

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Annual Persuasion

Julia‘Tis the season to shop for products we rarely ever purchase in our normal day-to-day lives. We venture out on missions to find truly special, unique gifts for our friends and loved ones, and find ourselves browsing merchandise we would normally ignore. We also see products and promotions that just don’t seem to be around the rest of the year. Classic example: Hickory Farms. Magically the Hickory Farms booth appears in the middle of the mall around Thanksgiving, and just as mysteriously disappears by the New Year. I remember when I was a kid, Hickory Farms products were a year-round thing. My mother used to buy the H.F. Beef Stick to have on hand for pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres…. Yes, perhaps kind of gross to consider now, but affordable and accessible then. The other weekend, I asked the bored young man working the booth, where all of the Hickory Farms product goes during the other 11 months of the year. He looked at me as if I had asked him my question in a foreign language, and in his seasonal-part-time-employee tone, he said “uh, well, like, I think you can order it online anytime…”

If we real women feel challenged at times to find the right gifts, the men in our lives struggle even more. So tv ads aplenty pop up to convince them that apparently the best options are jewelry and perfume. I’m somewhat amazed by the really quite ugly and expensive baubles that are shown in all their glittering ostentatiousness in ads during the morning news and often wonder who really would wear most of them. Are we to wear that diamond pendant to work? Or to the grocery store? Perhaps when cleaning the house? I think not…. But what amuses me even more are the perfume ads. Generally we women have certain fragrances and brands that we prefer, and sure, receiving a bottle as a gift from time to time can be a nice treat. Yet during holiday time, the perfume ads become more and more bizarre and unrealistic.

There is a Lancome ad airing now that features Julia Roberts. She is in a beautiful white gown, and apparently is at some strange nightmare-induced party where everyone else is in black, and all tied up in marionette-like strings. Julia calmly smiles, breaks out of her strings and walks away. Umm…. Okayyy….. So first of all, HELLO, none of us look like, or have the life of, Julia Roberts. I am very certain that none of the R.W.’s in my life will be attending a formal party in a sparkly white full-length gown this year. And what the hey is the deal with the marionette strings? If we wear that perfume we can leave all the other losers behind and float off into the night?

Then there is the Dior ad staring Natalie Portman. Again, not a typical real woman. Even better, she is a bride about to be married at a ginormous mansion in perfect weather and a gorgeous dress. But no, that won’t do. She quietly says “sorry Daddy”, tucks a flower in her father’s lapel and does the Runaway Bride thing. But wait, there’s more. She dumps her gown off in a field, conveniently wearing an ever-so-comfortable skintight black dress underneath, and goes into James Bond mode to scale a ladder into a moving helicopter to take over the controls and fly away with some other stud.   Alrighty then. Just another day at the office, right ladies?   Come on, really with this?

What I don’t understand, (besides the ads themselves because they always leave me saying “huh?”) is who these ads are supposed to be targeting. Certainly not us real women. None of the ads convince me to wear whichever perfume is being promoted because I’m sure it will make me wealthy, gorgeous, and able to escape an already unrealistic life. And if they are targeting the men in our lives, can you imagine how confused THEY are? I would think they’d come away with the thought that “ok, so if I buy my woman this perfume, she’ll look like a super model, then she’ll run away.”

I would be much more impressed if any of these ads showed a real woman, heading out the door in the morning for her regular mundane job, or running a dozen errands on a weekend day, or a young mother struggling to get her kids ready for school, or a frazzled woman trying to make dinner and get her teen out to sports practice… and she pauses to spritz her favorite perfume. For a moment, she smiles and feels calmer, and better about herself, just enjoying the scent. And perhaps her very real man walks by and pauses and says “hey, you smell good.” Now THAT would be realistic. THAT would be believable. THAT would make me consider going to shop for something I normally don’t.

Yes, it is that time of year. Time to be beguiled by splashy ads and be convinced to buy items we otherwise wouldn’t. I do have fun shopping out of the ordinary, and going into stores other than my usual grocery store, pharmacy, and discount clothing store. I like finding unique merchandise online. But there still, for me, needs to be a purpose and a reason to make the purchase. And wanting to be Julia or a female James Bond is not it.

As for you, Beef Stick Guy, I’ll pass, thanks. But I’m sure I’ll see you same place, same time, next year. Enjoy wherever it is you go in between.

 

 

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