Fear Not The Mud

mudThis weekend I joined a few thousand other mildly crazy real people to take part in the Rugged Maniac, which is a 5k course made up of hills, mud, and 25 different obstacles to be tackled by the fit and those who wish they were more fit (ie: me).   Back in the springtime, a group of my co-workers thought it would be nifty to sign up for this event.  A great team-building opportunity, and heck, we had months to prepare.  Visions of ninja-like hard-core deeply focused training sessions danced in our heads – until of course we realized we all work full time and barely manage to fit in some form of exercise as time allows — and none of us really want to be a Ninja.

Nevertheless, we persisted, and together, with camaraderie and encouragement, we participated and all crossed the finish line triumphant (also wet, filthy and exhausted) together.

That evening, as I iced my knee and popped Advil like candy, I reflected on the event and what it taught me.

Power:  The sheer number of people who show up and participate in the event is amazing. There are people of all ages (teens and up), cultures, and various levels of fitness.  The ratio of men and women seemed an even match – once again destroying the concept of women being the weaker sex. It was a true mix of people and abilities.  Granted, I was not there at 9am when the elite athletes take to the course as a competitive race.  I’m sure they are speeding up and down the hills and flying through the air on each obstacle.  I’m happy for them, and I’m glad I did not witness the intimidation of their athleticism.  As for the rest of us, we all had some basic level of ability and fitness. As a matter of fact, just to get to the starting line, we had to heave ourselves up and over a chest-high blockade wall.   A not so subtle message that if you can’t at least do that, you may as well go back and be a spectator.  Seeing that many people pumped up to give it their all was a refreshing contrast to the doom and gloom news we hear about how unhealthy Americans are… supposedly skyrocketing obesity rates, debilitating injuries or illnesses and overall sloth-mode.  I saw no sloths.  Rugged Maniac has grown to 30 locations across the country and Canada, averaging a total of approximately 150,000 participants per year. That’s a whole lot of pretty healthy people.  Bravo.

Perspective:  We had a couple of 15-year old young women on our team, and they scampered through the course, with virtually no difficulties.  Mud Runs have been a thing since about 1995, and Rugged Maniac events have been held since 2010.  That means that I could have taken part in an event like this 10, 15, even 20 years ago when I was younger and much more fit.  I wish now that I had, and was wondering why I never did.  I think it is because in those days, I would have felt like I needed to be competitive, to place in the race, take no shortcuts and do every obstacle perfectly.  And I knew, even then, that I was not of the athletic level to do that.  So I backed away.  Fast forward to now, and at 53, my perspective has changed.  None of our team members were “in it to win it”, only to be “in it to finish.”  I chose to participate not just because of a wee bit of peer pressure, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.  I knew I had the support of my team, and if anything was just too difficult, I could go around the obstacle.  With age comes perhaps not just wisdom, but also a “what the hell, why not” attitude. My goal was to simply get to the finish line with no major injuries, and to not disappoint my teammates.  There were 3 of the 25 obstacles that I failed at, but still gave them an effort (video clip evidence below).  I went from a fast jog to a slow jog to a walk for much of the course.  And I still felt like I succeeded.  Even when, around obstacle #10, something went “ping” in my left knee and it was no longer operating at maximum (albeit aged and arthritic) capacity… I still finished on my own two feet.

The other perspective that makes me laugh is that not only did all of us crazy folks willingly sign up for the activity, but we paid to do so, AND we spent most of the event splashing through muddy water… either on our hands and knees, falling into it, or speeding down a slide into it, totally engulfed.  When else are any of us happy to be filthy and cold?

Positivity:  Speaking of happy…  every person there came out on a beautiful sunny early Fall day to have fun.  Teammates supported and helped each other, other participants called out warnings about upcoming obstacles, people stepped aside to let team members go together.  We saw one man dressed in a Spiderman outfit, another in a clown costume. There were team Tshirts with clever and funny names.  We yelled, we cheered, we laughed.  We bonded with our teammates – and in our group, formed an even stronger bond among co-workers and friends.  Every person there felt a proud sense of accomplishment.  It was a mass of happy, enthusiastic and muddy humanity in sunny and beautiful New England – a stark contrast to everything we see and hear on the news every day.  This is the stuff we need more of.  Time together doing something positive.

And so, today as I feel sore, am limping a bit, and have counted all of my bruises, I’m still glad I did it. That we ALL did it.

Now, for your amusement, a true Real Woman moment.  This clip is of the final obstacle.  After 3.1 miles of hills, thick mud and cold water, 24 other obstacles, and a knee that had given up, I knew damn well I would not make it up that wall.  But I had to give it a try.  Yes, that hurt a bit.  But it was worth it.


boot print mud





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Identification by Affiliation

hello my name isIt is somewhat amazing that not all of us Real Women are officially diagnosed with multiple personality disorders. As soon as we reach adulthood, we start accumulating roles and responsibilities and associations. Over time, we no longer become known as just who we are. We become…well, a few other related somebodies.

If we marry, we may or may not take on our spouse’s last name, but we become someone’s wife, just as they take on the role as our spouse.  Very nice…although I did lay down a law early on that I was never to be referred to as “The Wife.”

Whatever name we choose, it starts to get a bit lost or buried when we move on to having children.  When those little cherubs start going to school, get involved in sports and extra-curriculars, or are just part of every day activities, we soon become Someone’s Mom.  “Oh, you must be Suzie’s Mom”, or “Are you the Mom?”… We even begin introducing ourselves that way “Hi, I’m Joey’s Mom –”  then, almost as an afterthought, we throw in our name.  Which they may promptly forget.  So forever after, when calling the school, or inquiring about details on any activities, or making doctors appointments, we are Someone’s Mom.  At the gym where my son and I work out, for a long time one of the coaches literally called me Eric’s Mom because he couldn’t remember my name. Those of you who don’t have children, don’t think you are immune to this either!  If you have close nieces and nephews, or even pets, you are identified as such.  When I’ve called the Vet, or other pet caregivers like the dog walkers, I’ve identified myself as Juke’s Mom, Marjorie.  Again, my name seems to be the add-on after-thought.

Beyond our names, our very identities become secondary.  Walk into a room with your baby, toddler, or pet, and all attention goes directly to them. We become simply the vessel or mode of transportation and food provider.  Yet funny thing, attention goes quickly back to us if the child or pet cries or poops.  The majority of our time in our lives becomes devoted to helping that small being. We help them walk, talk, eat, understand life, and nurse them in time of need. It is all about them.

Ironically, as our children grow up, many of us swap our alternative identity for another similar role.  We become Caregivers.  Be it an elderly parent, grandparent, sibling, or aunt, if you are the primary care taker of that loved one, you become Someone’s Advocate, Someone’s Proxy, Someone’s Emergency Contact, Someone’s “It”.   In their world – which is a vast matrix of medical facilities, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and community services — we become known by affiliation.  There does come some level of comfort when all of their contacts have gotten to know you – and the nurses and staff of various facilities greet you as if you are Norm on Cheers.  But instead of ordering drinks and talking about your day, all conversations are about your loved one.  We rely on our previously developed skills, and once again we are helping them walk, talk, eat, understand life, and nurse them in time of need. It is all about them.

Earlier today I was having a phone conversation with a gentleman who works at my brother’s nursing facility, and he told me how much he enjoys his visits and conversations with my brother, and complimented how smart he is.  At that moment I had the same feeling any of us get when a teacher, or another adult, says something nice about our child.  It gives us a glimpse of how the rest of the world sees them, and what they are like WITHOUT our identity tied to them.  It is a feeling of love and pride. It is reassurance that they can be ok when we aren’t with them.  And most importantly, it lets us know that whatever we are doing, all those hours we devote to supporting them, the bits of ourselves that we set aside to be their Somebody, are worth it.

Some day we’ll have time to shine as ourselves again.  We can go back to our original personae or maybe try out a new one.  It will finally be all about us.  And you know what?  It probably won’t feel right, and we’ll miss introducing ourselves as Someone’s Somebody.


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Not So Glossy

mag rackSix years ago I started this blog after browsing a magazine rack in search of something entertaining to read while traveling.  At the time, I was struck by how none of the magazines related to me, or to the other real women in my life, so I decided it was time to have a portal where we could share what regular, real life is like.

Last week I was again standing in front of a display of magazines at an airport, and realized there has been little change over the past few years.  There are more special interest publications, especially those focused on food and home. There are more tabloid/celebrity gossip rags, with splashy headlines about people we don’t know yet apparently should be shocked by their behavior, style, or taste in men.  The biggest change is in the newsstand prices.  In Stylefor $9?  Us Weeklyfor $7? Seriously?  No wonder readers are flocking to digital editions.

What has not changed are the covers, the topics, or the messaging.  Still the unrealistically flawless faces peered down on me, articles promised me rapid weight loss, better style, increased wealth, better sex… and of course shallow peeks into the life of some gorgeous athlete, actress, or model.  I saw no magazines with images of normal, regular women, with helpful articles about things like dressing to hide muffin tops, coping with the insanity of raising teenagers while caring for an elderly loved one, or how to scrape together enough money to repaint your own kitchen and deal with stained ceilings.

After browsing my options, I decided to pick up yet another cooking magazine (one of the few I don’t already subscribe to), and two celebrity tabloids because I never read those and thought they’d be an interesting diversion (and were less than the cost of a pair of shoes).

With my purchases tucking into my bag, I felt prepared for my journey home. Until I was reminded of the stark reality of the continued decline (read: PIA) of air travel.  After learning of my first weather-related delay, I settled in to browse some of the glossy pages while I waited to hear updates on expected departure times.  Within the first 6 pages, I felt extremely out of touch as I discovered I was supposed to care which actress was spotting eating Fruit Loops, what celebrities were caught holding hands, and which celeb wore a certain style better than another. Even worse, I had absolutely no idea who several of the people on those pages were.  Sorry, but I truly have no idea who Tinashe, Rose Byrne, or Olivia Culpo are, and why I should be interested in their lives.  I guess they don’t travel in my circle of running errands to CVS and Stop & Shop, nor are they in the five shows I watch on Netflix.

I set the magazine aside and decided to opt for my other favorite airport past-time, people watching. Which, sadly, has become decidedly more boring now that 90% of people are sitting or standing hunched over their mobile devices.  No animated conversations between each other, no movement or activity, no interesting family interactions.  Just hunched and swiping or tapping.   There was a mom traveling with her two boys…they were on their tablets while she talked on the phone.  There was a young couple snuggled up together, watching videos.  And there was a weary mom with a baby who stared blankly with exhaustion.

Soon enough, my view changed thanks to news of more delays, and I joined others in the painstaking process of standing in line to determine our fate of rescheduling, re-routing and re-booking.  I now could just stand and watch the lengthy process of an airline attendant trying to rebook anyone who would be missing their connecting flight, thankful to not have his job.  At one point the line was so long that the attendant pulled out a snack and water cart which was conveniently kept readily available behind the counter.   It was somehow comforting to see that some human behaviors haven’t changed – free food will cause people to temporarily put down their devices and get up and move. Quickly.

With more time to kill, I ventured down the Terminal to find some quick lunch.  Soon remembering, again, that the options are never very good, nor healthy.  After waiting in another line at a semi-fast food establishment, I received a meal that was not even close to what I had ordered.  Which led me to some bonding time with other travelers standing to the side of the counter with their own incorrect orders.

Eventually we were allowed to board our flight.  One of the most absurd changes in air travel is the juxtaposition of more people, fewer flights, and much less physical space.  Yet so many passengers are still determined to bring carry on luggage, which not only have they had to tow with them through the airport and into bathrooms, but must next wrestle to fit into decreased space in overhead compartments.  Literally every flight I’ve been on lately has been at capacity level, and many of those carry- on’s must be checked last minute, thus defeating the whole purpose of dragging them along.  After a while, we got all settled in, and sat.  For 45 minutes. Then were told the flight was cancelled, and we needed to get back off the plane and – yup, you guessed it – go stand in line again.  Yee ha.

You get the picture of how the rest of my afternoon and evening went, along with a whole lot of other very real, and very tired and frustrated, fellow travelers.  After about 5 hours, I was shuttled over to another terminal to meet a different plane. I tracked down a charging station so I too could be a hunched-over-my-device human, and texted updates to family.  I then flipped through a few more pages of my trash magazines, chuckling at the pages showing that “stars are just like us”,  because they are spotted reading newspapers, grocery shopping, and carrying boxes.  Funny, I didn’t see any celebs hanging out in this mass of humanity waiting hours to get on a plane to head home “just like the rest of us. “

Minutes before boarding time, another announcement was made.  There would be a delay because one of the flight attendants was late, stuck in traffic.

And that, my friends, is real life.  It’s not about JLo and A-Rod shopping at a farmer’s market in Italy, or about Duchess Meghan’s bonding time with the Queen, or about Red Carpet fashion fails. It is about how we deal with delays, cancellations, and changes of plans.  It is about getting the wrong fast food, and hoping the vitamin water you are drinking is powerful enough to ward off the germs of the coughing and sniffling passenger next to you.  Some days, it is about being that woman, late for work, stuck in traffic, stressed about inconveniencing a whole plane full of passengers.

Real life is not smooth and glossy and flawless. It is often messy, bumpy and tiring. It is about adventures and having new stories to tell, and most importantly, it is about getting home safely to loved ones, even at 1am.

Sure, it’s ok to occasionally spend $7 to flip through images of that other world as a form of escapism and entertainment.  And it’s ok to be hunched over your device to get updates and stay in touch digitally. But once in a while, put them both down and dare to interact with other real life humans.  We are a non-glossy yet fascinating and beautiful bunch — flaws and all.







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Navigating the Lanes

lanesI took a short trip to Target after work today to pick up a few things.  After circling through the aisles with marginal success, I headed to the check out area and threw the proverbial dice on selecting a lane.  Seeing one woman already in process with the cashier, I thought marvelous, and pulled in behind her.

After loading my wares onto the belt behind her items, I realized she was in the midst of what sounded like a complicated transaction. She had the Target app, and was explaining to the cashier that she’d like to break it into two orders so the first order would reward her with a $5 gift card, which she then wanted to use on the second order. There was some sort of other technological issue in this process, which required a manager being called.  At this point, another woman had pulled in behind me. It was evident that I would not be checked out soon.  And I had reached that awkward moment of commitment with my purchases already on the counter and the next customer waiting in the wings.

Since I had some time, I observed the customer in front of me.  She clearly had done her homework on what to buy to get the best deals, and how she would most benefit.  I then realized she was purchasing a few personal items like shampoo, and several large containers of protein shake powder and healthy snack bars.  She was not only about 20 years younger than me, but she was maybe a size 4 on a bloated day.  My purchases consisted of some home goods like a few new bath towels, a couple of greeting cards, shaving cream for my husband and, well, there just may have been a package of oreos in the pile as well.  And no protein powder.

The woman behind me caught my eye and began to voice her frustration about the wait.  She had missed out on her chance when the lane next to us opened up and others had rushed over to fill in.  “That’s not fair” she said.  I smiled in a commiserating way and tried to occupy myself with reading tabloid covers and convincing myself I did NOT need a bag of m&m’s to hold me over through the ordeal.  Eventually the protein-powder-discount-earning customer completed her transaction (she saved $11, which was clearly worth the wait) and moved on.  At which point the cashier announced her shift was over and a different employee transitioned in.   Ok, I thought surely I’ll be making speedy progress at any moment.  Except that the system was not letting the replacement cashier get logged in.  Which, you guessed it, required calling the manager again.  And, you guessed it again, required more comments from the woman behind me.

As I waited, I watched the various lines with dodging and weaving customers and realized it looked startlingly similar to the crazy rotary intersection in my town. And I began to realize that how we navigate through these paths, and react to complicated driving patterns, shows a lot about the type of people we are.   The woman who had checked out ahead of me probably drives a Prius, and would take the time to map out the best routes to avoid the crazy rotary completely.  Or, better yet, she probably leaves the car home and runs to her destination, fueled by protein and youth.  The woman behind me would be in an SUV, honking her horn at slow drivers and drumming her fingers on her steering wheel.   Earlier in the day I had gone through that crazy rotary and had witnessed a wide variety of drivers.  There are the folks in a hurry, with no patience in dealing with any rotary rules, who just gun it and hope others get out of their way (yes, these mostly seem to be men). There are the timid and terrified folks who crawl through, or slam on the breaks in uncertainty.  Then there are the self-professed traffic control officers who pause and wave others on as if they are in charge of the rules.  Finally, there are the folks who navigate that route daily, who know how to work the flow and get frustrated with newbies.

I believe I saw many of the same people, mostly women, working their way through Target today.  Those who stop mid-aisle and cause back ups, those who are rushing to get in and out dodging slow pokes, those who seem to be out for a casual Sunday drive, those with families and a lack of focus, and those that seem bewildered and lost.  And when we all get to the end of the line at check out, we take a gamble as to which lane will have a green light, a red light, or the dreaded flashing yellow.

In order to remain patient and avoid road range, we need to remember we are all traveling these roads together.  On good days, we pick the perfect lane and it is clear sailing.  Other days, we get caught in a bumper to bumper situation while driving a cart that has a bad wheel.   We may get delayed getting home, but we can at least avoid a collision and be kind to each other along the way.







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Pretty as a Picture?

blank profileIt’s been one of those minor “social should do’s” that I’ve been putting off: updating my Facebook profile photo.  I’m one of those people who throws some kind of picture in there then forgets about it for months.  On the list of priorities in my life, it falls way down at the bottom.  However I realized the other day that my pic currently identifying me as me, was taken months ago during vacation, from a distance so you can barely tell it is me.  I just liked the surroundings in the photo.  So there it was.

I don’t feel comfortable taking selfies.  Unless I’m with other people, then I’m the obnoxious one wanting to forever preserve the memory of being together with loved ones.  Just ask my family and my close friends, I’m all about the group selfie.  But a photo I take of just me, myself and I?  That just feels weird.  And I never like the results.  I see young women posing for themselves frequently, click after click – I’m sure looking adorable – for images that quickly end up on Insta, SnapChat, you name it.   And I see other women on FB posting updated pics of themselves fairly regularly.  For me, I just feel awkward.

This weekend, at the end of a fun day with loved ones, I happened to be on a beach (one of my most favorite places in the world to be, no matter where that beach may be), and I figured what the heck, I’ll take a quick selfie because I have a great background.  Since it was bright out, I really couldn’t see myself, so I took just one photo and moved on.  Later, when I could better see the screen, I checked out the photo and like every R.W., my eye immediately picked out all the flaws and imperfections.  My hair was wild and all over the place from the wind, my makeup had melted off during a hot sweaty day, my teeth are not white enough, one eye was open more than the other giving me a lopsided look, and the way I was holding my head gave me double chins.  One quick look and I was all “eww, nope.”

In scrolling through other’s profile photos, I’ve noticed that they are either of something representing the person, like a flower or pet because they likely hate to have photos of themselves taken, OR they have posted nearly-perfect photos when they look great.  A lot seem to be taken in cars, I think because the lighting is flattering.  Our profile photos have become modern day modeling mug shots.  We naturally want to look beautiful and attractive and, well, as perfect as we can be.  Since we have the ability to take 20 photos within 10 seconds, then instantly review, edit, or delete, we can pick and chose until we have the best of the lot to share.  Gone of course are the days of film when you had one shot, and waited a week to see it.

The next morning, I was swiping through photos I’d taken and came across my beach selfie again. When the natural inclination to be critical started up again, I stopped and scolded myself.  Here I am, the woman who writes a blog about embracing our realities, being proud of our real selves and our real lives, and I didn’t want to use a photo that, when I looked at it with a fresh eye, was exactly that: the real me.   This is who I am, and who I was that day:  slightly disheveled, windblown, and… happy.  My smile was real.  I’d had a great day.  I was not looking like a model. I was looking like a mom who’d had a rare day off to play.

I thought about how odd it is that we are so hesitant to post photos of our real selves, as most of the rest of the world really sees us.  News flash:  most of the rest of the world never sees us right after we step out of the hair salon.  Most of the rest of the world does not see us in those first 15 minutes after we’ve done our hair, makeup, put on a great outfit and prepared to start our day, or our night out.  People see us after we’ve already been out and about.  People see us during and after a long day of work, or during a sweaty workout, or in a rush in our yoga pants and no makeup running through the grocery store.  Our loved ones see us first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and when we are hanging out, talking, laughing, crying, eating, shopping, hiking – experiencing life – when we’ve forgotten to even care how we look.  The real us is who everyone else sees, and who everyone else finds to be beautiful and amazing.  With or without makeup and special lighting.

And so I uploaded my photo to my profile.  Yes, at some point, if I suddenly take, or find, a photo of me that is more flattering, I’ll no doubt replace it. But for now, I feel like I’m trying to take a bit of my own medicine and celebrate the real me – flaws and all.

real profile

Here’s the funny thing.  My husband said to me “I’m surprised you posted that photo.  You are usually so concerned about how your hair looks.  I mean, I think it is a good photo, I’m just surprised.”   I had 35 likes on the photo, and one “pretty woman” comment from a friend.  Were they all just being kind?  Probably…hitting that thumbs up is just something we all do.  OR, they looked at it and saw me, not my flaws, and understood I was happily in beach mode.  That’s all.  No deeper analysis than that.

I wish we R.W.’s were more comfortable with how we look on our real days, and could finally learn to be less critical and be more accepting of photos of ourselves.  To be comfortable in front of the camera. After all, some day, when we’ve left this physical earth, there will be people in our lives who want photos of us as memories. Some of my very favorite photos of my mother are not the posed and pretty ones – they are the mom I remember and love, climbing rocks on the coast of Maine, working in the kitchen, hiking and bird watching, and being silly during holidays.   The key I believe is for us to realize and remember that photos of ourselves are not about the pretty face. They are about the person inside and the experience of what was happening at the time of that “click.”

So please, be brave and join me. Share photos of the real you. It’s time to celebrate how others really see us – imperfect and fabulous.



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Wash warm, Tumble low

socks“These aren’t my socks.”

“Wait. Are these my shorts?”

“Mo-o-o-m, this is Dad’s underwear.”

“Think this stain will come out?”

“How long as this stuff been sitting wet in the washer?”

Ah, yes, the joys of laundry.  It is a mysterious place, the laundry room, full of items in various states of cleanliness, clothing glaciers that seem to grow over night, and items that go missing for no apparent reason.  Everyone likes having clean clothes to wear, but not one enjoys the process of getting them clean.  I actually don’t mind the washing, drying (thanks to modern technology) and folding. It is the putting away that drives me nuts.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I live in a male-dominated household.  Dominated as in numbers, not by power.  (As a matter of fact, I tend to assume things would fall apart without me, but that’s a topic for another day.)  And while laundry issues are likely common in every household, there are certain  habits that are more prevalent with the male species.  Like men don’t share and steal each other’s clothing like women do.  Their stuff is their stuff, and they each have very particular tastes.  If there is any borrowing that happens, it is out of necessity.  For example, when my son realized he had outgrown all of his swim trunks this year, he borrowed a pair of his dads until we could get him new.  And there seems to be one pair of dress black shoes and a couple of ties that get passed around for special occasions.  But other than that, there’s no borrowing. As a matter of fact, they seem offended if one another’s items end up in their bureau drawers. They would not be caught dead wearing each other’s clothing style.  Separation of items is paramount.

Men’s clothing falls into two categories:  Good stuff vs. Dirty stuff.  Men have separate clothing items they will wear for “dirty work” and other clothes for “nice”.   We women have categories too, but our differences are more about the style & function than the filth level.  We may have workout clothes, gardening clothes, house cleaning clothes, business clothes, casual wear, and going out clothes.  Men have stained or clean.  Nothing ruins their day more than finding out they’ve been wearing their “good jeans” to paint in, or repair a car, or do yard work.  And those Dirty Stuff clothes?  Yikes – sweaty, dirty, smelly – that’s a whole laundry load all by itself.  At arm’s length.  While plugging your nose.  With your best friend, Stain Remover, at the ready.

Put a pile of laundry in front of a woman and in 3 minutes it is sorted by color, fabric and washing instructions.  Put that same pile in front of most men, and watch the confusion flood their face.  Sure, they understand for the most part that very dark clothes need to be washed together, and whites need to go together.  But everything in between?  No idea. One of life’s great mysteries to them is what to do about stripes and bright colors.  I think this is mostly because, let’s face it, laundry is waaaaayyyy down on the priority list. Most guys will do laundry only when they have run out of necessary items – you know, like clean underwear.

I encourage my guys to do their own laundry, preferably on separate days.  This happens only loosely.  For example, my son will start a load of wash, and it will then sit in the dryer forgotten until someone else needs to use it.  Or my husband will walk downstairs, see that a load needs to be switched, and will scoop up whatever is on the floor and throw it in for the next round.  Most often, I will end up finishing up various loads of left overs.  The good thing is most men’s clothing is fairly durable and not prone to lots of shrinking or needing special handling like line drying.  Hence why I’m happy to do my own laundry so my bras don’t end up tangled up in the dryer, and my hand wash doesn’t end up shriveled.

Then….there are socks.  Socks have lives of their own.  I’m not sure what happens between going from being on someone’s feet, to a laundry basket, to the washer and dryer, but these critters seem to multiply and divide on a whim.  I will find a PILE of socks coming through the wash and wonder how any one person can wear so many.  But then when it is time to match them up, at least one or two renegades have run off to join the Sock Circus.  So the unmatched items end up living together in a heap on top of the dryer, patiently waiting to see if their beloved mate shows up in a future load.  There is one pair, an actual matched set, that went through the wash recently, and none of the guys in my house claim them to be their own.  How does THAT happen?  Were the top-of-the-dryer socks having such a fun party one night that this ownerless pair decided to join in?  In reality they were probably left behind by a pool-swimming visitor and they got tossed in with beach towels and other summer paraphernalia.  So here they are, clean, matched, but no one will wear them.  Which means I will donate them, and let them carry on their magical mystery tour.

I love it when I see images in magazines of beautiful laundry rooms, sparkling clean, with lots of open space, white floors, tables for folding and stacking, plants in the bright and big windows, and cute little labeled tote containers for detergents and hangers. I imagine that everyone in the house would enjoy spending time in a room like that.  If it existed in the real world.  Our laundry, like so many others, is in the basement.  The cement floor, non-finished walls and ceiling, storage and furnace area of the basement.  Tight in space, cluttered with other things, certainly not bright and cheerful nor appealing.

My dream concept is to go beyond that spiffy white cute magazine laundry room.  I’d like to create a nice comfortable big bright space to embrace our washer and dryer, accessorized with a big-screen TV, bar and snack machine for the guys, along with a cozy curl-up in the sun corner for me to watch movies, read, or just relax with a glass of wine all while being productive and getting our clothes clean.  Don’t even think about putting exercise equipment in the same room, that just adds guilt and toil.  Soon all of the household inhabitants would race home with a “woo hoo, my turn to do laundry tonight!”.

I bet I could even find a way on Pinterest to decorate my new fun room with those lone socks.  Win-Win.



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Vanity on a Budget

madge_soaking_in_itAs both time and budget have gotten tighter in my world, I’ve taken on a more “loving hands at home” (LHAH) approach to some of my beauty routines.  Due to the fact that my patience level has not increased, the results are not always stellar.  For those of you out there who are DIY’ers as well, I’m sure you can relate to attempting to achieve lookin’ good on the cheap and quick.

I rarely get my nails done professionally now… I reserve that as a special treat before an event or a trip – you know, for when I’d like the look to last more than 5 minutes, or it is time for a professional to hack away at my cuticles.  I’ve resigned myself to being willing to let my fingernails go naked and short more often….sure, it would be nice if they always looked great, but that’s just not my reality.  I know many of you are going to be quick to want to suggest lots of nifty at-home systems like funky nail wraps and botanical soaking processes.  Thanks, but remember what I said – I’m low on time and patience. I buy pretty much all of my polish from the local CVS or Walgreens, usually looking for something on sale.  I will from time to time plop myself down in front of the tv and paint my fingernails after attempting to shape and buff them into something that doesn’t look like I just got out of the garden or just finished doing three sinks full of dishes. They never come out beautifully, but if the tv show or movie is long enough, they might just look passingly ok.  I’m notorious for not allowing enough dry time, thus creating bubbles, knicks or smudges.  Being right handed, my left hand always comes out cleaner and nicer.  All of us DIY’ers know the PIA process of removing polish off the skin around our nails. I’ve found the best option is digging at it after getting out of the shower the next morning.  I tried the polish remover on a Q-tip thing, and really, if I can’t handle a brush with my left hand, what makes a Qtip any better?

I will give kudos to the polish companies who know there are people like me out here. They have come a long way in offering paint that dries quicker and lasts longer.  Sort of.  Nothing dries fast enough for me to not get sheet marks when I go to bed, nor does anything last longer than 3 days.  Of course, if I took care and wore rubber gloves more, I might get a whole 4 days out of my not-very-much-effort work.

Most days it is easier to go without.  However, here’s the funny thing. In the summer, I must have polish on my toes at all times.  It is almost as if I have some secret code of conduct that requires that I never don a pair of sandals with plain toes.  As if anyone else cares?   I will take marginally more time, more often, to do an at-home pedi.  Again, nothing fancy.  Keep all your nifty foot baths, foaming salts, and toe separators to yourself.  I grab a small towel, throw some warm water in a bowl, use a fairly antique pair of nail scissors, and perform contortionist positions again in front of the tv to clean, trim, shape and paint my toes.  The great thing about this is that my feet are a distance away, so blemishes and mistakes are less apparent.  And the polish lasts a whole lot longer than on my fingers.  Truth be told, there are plenty of times when I’ll throw on an extra coat of paint to cover up dings before heading out the door.  Then when I eventually do remove the polish, I feel like a home renovator struggling to remove far too many layers of wall paper.

I also tend to feel more daring with funky colors on my toes.  Blues, greens, purples, neon – yeah, bring them on. I draw the line on yellow, orange or black because they look hideous against my pale skin.   Speaking of color, let’s chat about LHAH hair, shall we?

A few years ago, thanks to recommendations from my sister and a friend, I found the joy of home hair color.  It’s come a long, way, baby – it is no longer the scary multi-step smelly process of the 70’s and 80’s, requiring special tools and hazmat suits.  Kind of like the old days of perms, remember those?  My first perm was in college. I knew I was in for a treat when the stylist prepped by donning a mask, elbow-length rubber gloves, and opened all the windows in the salon.  Sure ‘nuff, what a treat. Nothing says Holy 80’s like a blonde afro on a painfully white small town girl.

I digress.  At-home color products fit my need: inexpensive, they only take about 30 minutes to execute, and I only have to open one window.  My current stylist is kind and doesn’t give me a hard time about my LHAH…only once has she given out a small sigh and said “did you color recently?”  In my world, that box I pick up at the grocery store or pharmacy for $10 does a good enough job to cover my roots and greys without having to spend $120 and 2 hours in the salon chair.  I will, however, admit it is not without some risk.  Due to a recent packaging change, I ended up with a darker shade than usual which was a bit of a surprise.  And my BFF reported that she just tried a LHAH color application and panicked when her hair goo turned purple… until she rinsed out and determined all was well, and that’s just what it does – to her relief, she did not come away looking like Barney.

I have one more LHAH budget color-related beauty process.  Thanks again to modern vanity technology, I get my early summer tan out of a lotion bottle.  I have to slather my dry skin with lotion every morning, why not let it get to work giving me some semblance of non-paleness?  Each spring I dutifully stop at the pharmacy and determine if I need light tan, light to medium tan, medium tan, or medium to dark tan. Granted, the first time I used them, I realized the importance of even coverage.  We learn by doing.  I was thrilled this year when my favorite brand finally seemed to crack the code on not making the lotion have “that smell.”  If any of you out there use these types of lotion, you know exactly what I mean.  Happy to report that the fine scientists of Jergens have made it smell better.  I don’t want to know about the long term affects are of whatever magic chemicals are giving me that “glow” – instead, I praise myself for avoiding UV rays.  Well, until the nice days hit and I’m out there in the sun anyway.

The younger me would probably have been aghast at any of my current LHAH activities.  But with age comes wisdom, or perhaps frugality, time pressures and less desire to primp.  My vanity is still securely in place. I just take a shorter, easier route to get there.


Posted in age, assisting, beauty, convenience, DIY, fashion, real style, real women, routines, self care, simplifying, skills, Style, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment