It’s Not All Bad

actorsYee-Gads. Enough already. So much daily doom and gloom, it is exhausting and sickening. We can’t escape being bombarded with fear-inducing, anger-generating news every day. Questionable leadership, threats of war, climate change, the destruction of our earth, heroin epidemics, terrorism, racism, poverty, you name it, we have become a nation obsessed with drama and extremism. We fear for the world our kids are growing up in, and even worse, our kids never escape the messages we are sending either. And it is taking its toll, certainly. We hear far too much about drug addiction, suicide, depression – so much so that we fear that is the new norm. But is it?

Years ago, we shied away from talking about some of the more challenging issues and bad things in our world, preferring to hide the hard stuff. But when did the tide turn so much that now we seem to only be able to talk about everything that is wrong, while we sweep all the good things under the rug?

Yes, I said good things. Guess what, there ARE still good things, good people – and get this – good kids — in the world. I know, because I’ve seen them. Kind of like catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, it is amazing what we can witness when we peer through the fog that surrounds us.

This past weekend a couple of my girlfriends and I attended a Drama Club production at the high school. My son was making his acting debut, so with sweaty hands and beating heart, I watched the stage. It was a challenging historical drama, not a light-hearted fluffy musical. (Because, well, again, we apparently can’t get our fill of drama.) I came away deeply impressed with all of the kids. On top of their regular school work, they were able to pull off memorization of extensive dialogue and learn how to emote and act, and work together as a cast & team. They were good. Very good.

After the performance, we took my son to get ice cream, and lo and behold, most of the rest of the cast was there too. As we settled in to our booth across from the group of kids, I watched them, excited and exhausted teenagers, interacting and talking… in person, without technology. I especially noticed the girls. They were all beautiful, full of youthful energy, smart, and – wait for it – happy.  And I knew that at the same time they were on stage acting, a bunch of other teens from the same school were playing in sports games or practices. Or off doing other activities, jobs, and clubs. As a matter of fact, it was happening in towns all across the country. Thousands of healthy kids making good choices. Being good, decent kids. They, for some weird reason, are the ones we never hear about.

Sure, there will be the super stars. A handful of all of those kids will go on to achieve amazing things. One will make our environment healthier. One will develop a cure for cancer. One will invent the next hi-tech tool that will change the way we communicate and work. One will win an Oscar. One will become a professional elite athlete. One will become President. We will hear about them, we will know their names.

But what of the rest? What of the good, decent, hard working, passionate kids who will be successful in their own ways, and will actually go through life pleasantly happy? Why do we never hear about them, nor do we notice when they become us: good, decent, satisfied adults?

That evening at the ice cream shop, my son nicely introduced us to some of the kids we didn’t know. I explained to the girls that I have known the two BFFs at my table for most of my life. We then said “This will be you in about 35 years.”   The look on their faces I think was a mix of fear and happiness. Fear that they will some day be “old” like us, happy because we were proof that some of the friendships they make now will still be with them for decades.

The next night, after a fun day visiting and shopping, we had a BFF group dinner out with five of us ladies. I thought about all of those young girls again. I wanted to tell them that some day they too can be middle-aged, middle-class, menopausal, hard working, care-giving, weight-fighting, energy-craving wives, moms, and friends. They will discuss medical diagnosis, stories about bra shopping, commiserate about work and family stresses, compare good and bad marriages, worry about their children, and empathize about caring for elderly parents. And they will laugh so hard they will be glad they wore panty shields, and other people in the restaurant will move to further away tables. They will be incredibly strong, smart, passionate, healthy women. They will be blessed and lucky to have each other, and to have the lives they are living.

Against apparent popular belief, our worlds will not end tomorrow. There is still good in around us. We just have to be more aware of it, recognize it, welcome it and appreciate it.

And once in a while, we may just have to stand up and applaud it.

 

Posted in age, beauty, Entertainment, family, friends, Health, Kids, moods, Relationships, school, Uncategorized, World news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retro Coolio

retro womanI anticipate that some day, in my more advanced years, I’m going to reach a point where I no longer worry about what I eat, what I say, and whether or not I’m trendy. My dream is to be that happy old lady who pedals around on her wide-tired bicycle with a basket on the front with my little dog along for the ride, a big floppy hat on my head, stopping to buy a big fattening chocolate muffin to then sit in the sun and watch the world go by while I chat with my equally eccentric old girlfriends. Hey, you never know. In a perfect world, it could happen.

In the meantime, I find myself, and many other R.W.’s in my life, caught in that odd Gen-X mid-age stage where we are struggling in our own minds to stay relevant and avoid being dowdy and un-cool. We have reached that age where at any given moment, we may open up our mouths and hear our mother’s words fly out. When we shop, we agonize between fashion and comfort. At work, we try to stay up on current trends and understand that huge millennial generation. Our iTunes playlists hold a range of music that spans 40+ years. None of the hairstyles in magazines seem to work for us. And we are constantly trying to stay aware of the next healthy superfoods to fight back menopausal pudge.

I feel fortunate that I have a teenager in the house who helps me avoid the dark abyss of irrelevance and cluelessness, at least to the best of his abilities. He helps me to understand when someone is salty, or sus or when something is GOAT. He rolls his eyes to let me know that bae, bro and squad are already terms no longer used, even if I just figured out last week what they mean. He introduces me to new music from Bruno Mars, Panic and Gorillaz…some of it I even like. Yet the other night it was Styx’s Come Sail Away that was blaring from my car stereo while I sang along, knowing every word. I have social media to help me catch up with at least the most obvious style news, like Coachella fashion (yes, I actually had to look up what Coachella was), the fact that skinny stretch jeans are out (thank God, they never looked good on me anyway, are mom jeans back in yet?), high heels are out (kind of a bummer), and funky sneakers are very in, but don’t you dare be caught wearing basic white Keds. Guess I better not let them out of my closet this summer. As for food trends, I may from time to time feel adventurous to try something new. I will add flaxseed to my food, and kale to my salads. But down deep I will just stick to the basics of diet: Green leafy veggies are good for me. Brownies are not. So I will simply try to balance how much I eat of each.

So there we are, mid-life R.W.’s, teetering every day on the edge of in and out. Today a co-worker shared the best phrase with me. He said we are Throwback Cool. I love that!  Not new hip, not old school, not hopelessly lost. We are still cool in a retro kinda way. I plan to use the term frequently. It is totes awesome.

After all, without us, who would extol the virtues of leg warmers, the beauty of a lava lamp, debate Starsky vs. Hutch, or share the skills of driving a semi-automatic VW Bug? That kind of retro coolness can’t be learned. It just has to be experienced.

So the next time one of us puts on a cardigan sweater and a pair of pumps, fails to use a texting term correctly but rocks SnapChat, give us a high-five. Or a fist pump. Or whatever we are supposed to do now. Because we aren’t old. We aren’t young. We are Throwback Cool.

 

Posted in age, beauty, clothing, Entertainment, Food, friends, moods, Pride, real style, real women, shopping, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Closet Indecisiveness

clothes I wearIt is the epitome of a First World Problem, and I am embarrassed and feel guilty for even admitting it.  But Lord knows I’ve embarrassed myself before with this blog, and I know I’m not totally alone with this confession.  Ok, here it is: my closet is crammed too full of clothes.  Even worse, probably at least a quarter of them I don’t wear.

I have actually found myself in the situation where I’m standing in our little closet (notice I’m even frustrated by the size of the closet, because, hey, THAT is the issue, not the quantity of crap wedged into it), attempting to put clean laundry away, frustrated and swearing at the hangers that are getting tangled because everything is so squashed together.

One would think there is an easy fix for this issue. After all, every season, I clean out a pile of clothes to donate. I try to stick to the practice that before I bring in something new, something old has to go. So I should have a nice roomy, tidy closet. Yup. Should. But don’t.

My mornings follow the familiar pattern: first I stand there staring at my hoarding issue, waiting for something great to jump out and scream “Wear me! Wear me!”.  Eventually I succumb to the fact that the wardrobe fairies are not going to help me. I paw through, pushing aside things I never wear, eventually selecting the same things I always wear. I pause and wonder “have I worn this yet this week?” then off I go.

The problem, I believe, lies in the internal conversations we women have with ourselves in the Cosmic Closet Universe. We enter the portal, strong and confident, determined and ready to purge and clean. After all, we are powerful women who make important decisions all day long in other areas of our lives. But something happens in that small cave of space. Indecisiveness kicks in. It goes something like this: This blouse would look great if I could find a pair of pants in exactly the right color to match. I’d wear this skirt if I had awesome boots to go with it. My husband gave me this five years ago, I don’t want to hurt his feelings by tossing it. If someone invites me to a cocktail party on a beach, this would be the perfect outfit; that could happen, right? This style might come back this year. Why don’t I wear this? If I lose ten pounds and wear the right bra, this dress could look as good as it used to on me. Maybe with enough make-up I can get away with wearing this shade of yellow. These jeans aren’t comfortable, but they are cute. What if I get rid of this, then next month wish I hadn’t? I read that stripes are in, maybe I should give this one another chance. Ooooh, I forgot I had this skirt! And my favorite: Well, I can button these pants…do I need to be able to breathe or sit down?

So the effort is there. The desire is there. We eventually emerge, sweaty and tired from hauling clothing around and trying things on. We feel like we’ve been productive. We are proud of the small pile of items we are giving away or throwing out. And we hide the fact that we’ve opened up space by secretly expanding into another closet. This is why our guest room closets hold fancy dresses and our basements are the hide-away for off-season pieces.

We come away swearing that we will not purchase anything else frivolously. Only necessary items, like white shirts and beige bras. We pledge that if we don’t wear something all season, it will be removed.

Then it happens. We start a different conversation with ourselves when we walk in to an Alternative Clothing Universe, otherwise known as a retail shop. It usually starts like this: “ooh, this is so cute!” (Cue the Theme Song from Jaws.)

Perhaps it is time to start a support group. Anyone got a big empty closet available for meeting space?

No? I didn’t think so.

Posted in beauty, clothing, home, moods, real style, Seasons, shopping, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Missing the Mark

mad men1There has been a lot of discussion lately about a certain Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner.  In some agency room somewhere, an idea was born and went through all of the expense and effort of concepting, scripting, storyboarding, casting, shooting, editing, and finally airing – only to be castrated by the public.

I’ve spent my professional life involved in various aspects of marketing, communications, advertising, and promotion. I’ve experienced how an idea that seems so great can…. well, in the words of the Pepsi Execs, miss the mark.

I will admit that when I watched this particular spot, my first reaction was: Wait. Whut?   I just didn’t get it. There were just so many questions in my mind – why was the musician sad? Why was the photographer frustrated? How many more “culturally appropriate” people could they cast in one spot? But why is it a beautiful white model and a handsome white cop who somehow save the day with a Pepsi?   I don’t need to continue to dissect the ad, I’m sure you’ve already heard enough about it, and likely viewed it yourself before it got yanked off the air.

As much as I think perhaps the media has had a field day with this failed spot, I did have three primary thoughts after hearing the reactions to it.   One, that was a whole lot of ad budget money down the drain. Two, thank goodness we have this fluff to focus on to give us a break from scary world events, and Three, how cool is it that we consumers are so in tune with what feels right, and what doesn’t?

There have been a whole lot of bad ads in the history of consumer persuasion. Yet I think in years past, perhaps we didn’t realize they were bad – at least they rarely garnered the level of immediate response that we experience today. Maybe that is because we women, who are the primary purchasing decision makers in most categories, now aren’t afraid to let the world know what we think, what we like, and what is cool and what’s not. There were a few really, really degrading ads in the old days that got the National Organization of Women (NOW) in an uproar, but for the most part we didn’t recognize when things “missed the mark.” Or, perhaps it is because in decades past, the majority of creative agencies were made up of men, so bad ads were just only worth a sigh and an eye roll.

There are a few memorable pieces from my youth that when I look back now, I just think “yikes”.  I’ll bet Kendall would feel better if she saw any of these:

clairolClairol offered a variety of appliances to “turn her on.” Nope, nothing gross about that.

madgeAh, and good ol’ Madge. Giving women mani’s by soaking their unsuspecting hands in dish soap. Because, you know, we spend so many hours stuck home doing dishes, we should be thankful that the soap won’t dry out our hands.

noxemaThis one shows how we used to think it was cute to let our children burn to a crisp in the sun. Oh, don’t worry, it will just turn in to a nifty tan. Skin cancer? What’s that?

And speaking of cancer, this one in particular kills me. Blow smoke in tipalether face and she will follow you anywhere? This one is bad in so many ways. How about blow smoke in her face and get slapped in your face in return? Or blow smoke in her face and take years off her life?   Oh, so very bad.

As for TV spots, there were plenty of awful attempts there too. Like pretty much any feminine product spot in the 80’s… anyone remember “fresh as a gentle breeze”? Yeah, right.

So yes, Pepsi failed to put their best foot forward on their most recent effort. Perhaps they were a bit tone deaf to current sensitivities and world events, or were not prepared for how discerning today’s predominantly female consumers can be. But they weren’t the first to make a bad ad choice, and won’t be the last.

That’s ok. We enjoy making fun of them, and wondering about the agency brainiacs who came up with the concepts. I’ve been on both sides of that fence. We are human after all, and not perfect.

There is one tradition from the old agency days that I think might be worth bringing back….. How creative might we all be with a Margarita Bar in our offices?

mad-men-roger-vodka-milk

 

Posted in advertising, beauty, communication, Entertainment, friends, moods, real style, real women, shopping, Style, Uncategorized, World news | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Makin’ pancakes

pancakesI started my day Friday morning doing something none of us Real Women look forward to doing: Making pancakes. Not in a fry pan. In a mammogram machine.

Any of us over the age of 45 are familiar with the routine. You know the drill. No lotions, no deodorant. A perky nurse or technician ushers you in to a changing area no larger than a small closet. Inside is one clothing hook, one mirror, a small chair or bench, a rack of random magazines, and a lovely starched johnnie coat.   Take off everything from waist up, put on the fashionable jacket, open in the front, come on out when ready.

From there you join the friendly technician in the mammo room. She asks a few personal questions, runs through your history. Which is a test of your own memory trying to recall dates of certain events that involved your boobs. Soon you step up to the pancake machine. This is not a time to be shy.  Nor is this a great time to be small-breasted, but hey, that part is out of our control. The technician, who is happily chatting about the weather or children or pets, maneuvers your body into an awkward half-hug around the Mammo Beast. Your breast is unceremoniously placed on top of a platform. Then the perky tech starts to move the clear top plate down. At first, it feels like ‘hey, this is no big deal’ until she gives it that one extra last tightening crank. Holy cow. If you are brave, you look briefly down at your body part and think “huh. Didn’t know it could do that.” She then quickly moves behind her protective xray wall and says (and this is my favorite part) “hold your breath.”   Really, there’s no need to say that. The Beast has already taken my breath away. After a quick flip of a switch, she comes back and releases your pancake – err, I mean, your breast. But wait – there’s more. She repeats the process, but from side to side so you end up with a flapjack on its edge, while your arm is wrapped lovingly around the plate holding the death-grip handle. But remember to keep that arm and shoulder relaxed down, chin up and – oh, right, don’t breathe.

Next comes a couple minutes of awkward cocktail-party chatter while you stand there, partially dressed, waiting for her to make sure the image was successful. Then it is time for the other side. Same fun, but it is lefty’s turn while righty is screaming internally to you “What the f- was that? I thought you loved me!”

In a few minutes, the torture is over and you take your reddened boobs back to the closet to get dressed, hoping they will re-inflate to their original perkiness. Depending on the facility, you either hang out and wait for a radiologist to review the images right then and there, or like me, are sent home and told that if there is a problem, you will be called, otherwise a good old fashioned letter of A.O.K. will arrive in the mail. Many of us have experienced the dread of being told “could you step back in? We need to get another look at something”, which is often followed by even flatter and more painful pancake creation.

Generally this momentary torture is over within minutes and your boobs forgive you after a few hours and some Tylenol.   Is it fun? No.  But it is vitally important.

It is because of this regular appointment with the Mammo Beast that some white dots were discovered in my images almost exactly three years ago.  After a lumpectomy and radiation, I’ve been cancer free since, and God willing, for the rest of my life. It is because of this pancake-maker that several of my friends and loved ones have caught issues early enough to have similar experiences as mine and now look forward to healthy futures. It is because of those few minutes of breath-taking squeezing that so many R.W.’s are able to be armed and ready to go to battle and come out a winner in the end.  At the very least, who doesn’t love a good mammo story as a conversation starter for the next Girls Night Out?

If there are any of you out there who don’t have regular dates with Miss Press-Alot, I beg you to make an appointment today. Don’t be afraid, don’t put it off as something you ‘don’t have time for’.   It’s not that bad, and it quite literally would and could save your life. Trust me, it is worth putting up with a tight squeeze.

Besides, you could really luck out and take home a nifty pink emery board or magnet as a “booby” prize.

 

Posted in age, doctors, Health, medical, real women, self care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rinse Cycle

FL BeachNot everyone enjoys the beach. My husband and I are fans, but my son would rather admire it from a distance, preferable from a café table. I have relatives and friends who can appreciate the view, but hate the heat and the grit of experiencing it up close.

After working a tradeshow in Florida last week, my husband and son flew down to join me for a long weekend off, and a chance to visit with my brother-in-law who lives just a few short blocks from the ocean. In my son’s lifetime, this has been generally an annual journey – a sojourn of sorts to take a break from northern winters.

My hubby and I especially like to take morning walks on the beach. Shortly after the sun is up, it is more peaceful than mid-day. Before the families venture out for a day of sun, surf and sandcastles, before the kids hit the waves with their boogie boards, and before the teens crank their tunes and toss frisbees, the beach is quiet. The hotel workers hose off the decks and pool areas, washing away the previous night’s party remnants. The umbrella vendor starts to set up his stand and rakes the seaweed from preferred perches. We pass a couple beachcombers and exercisers, and watch the little sandpipers zipping along in front of the waves grabbing bits of plankton for breakfast.

And the ocean keeps doing what it always does. It is as if that great expanse of water, with the waves coming to shore, says “well hello puny human, nice of you to visit again.”   That surf never stops, no matter what we have going on in our little worlds. And each morning, the waves will still be there, wiping the sand clean, obliterating our footprints. It is like a rinse cycle, giving us another fresh start.

The bride and groom who had their reception on the beach last night are now starting a new phase in their lives. The child with his sand castle bucket has a new blank canvas to create on, and new adventures awaiting him. The fisherman has a new spot on the beach and new chance to bring in a prize catch.

Walking along this morning, I wondered how often any of us real women let ourselves go through a rinse cycle? We spend far too much time carrying around stuff from the past, even from the previous day, never feeling quite done with whatever we are trying to accomplish…. And at the same time we are worrying about the future, about what is next, what awaits us down the road, about what our next steps need to be. When do we take that quiet time to regroup? To stop mulling over what was and obsessing about what will be, and just breathe and start fresh? To look at the horizon instead of focusing on the grains of sand stuck to our feet?

We are all familiar with the instructions found on most shampoo bottles, informing us that we should “rinse and repeat”.   Instead, I think more of us need to “rinse and reset.”

Then we’ll be more ready to dive in.

Posted in age, family, fitness, Health, moods, real style, Seasons, simplifying, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mental Overtime

Yesterday 3 amI got up after my usual menopausal restless night of sleep and went about my regular morning routine. I like my home routines. They give me peace, they center me. I can work through things in my head while going through my usual motions. Get the dog out, feed the dog, make sure son is up, make breakfast and lunch, put in a load of wash, see son off to school, tidy up kitchen and bathroom, make notes and lists.

At some point I paused in my routine and looked at my kitchen counter. This is what I saw.brain stuff
And I thought that it must look even worse inside my brain.

It is no secret that we women think about, and worry about, a ton of stuff. ALL. THE. TIME.   Our brains never really shut down. And sometimes in life – ok, pretty frequently in life — the usual quantity of “stuff” flying around up there gets even more crowded by additional issues.. a sick family member, an upcoming trip, an event to plan for… whatever it is, instead of taking something else away, we just pile it higher and deeper until we feel like our heads may just truly spin right off our bodies.   Come on, I know its not just me — anyone else checking to make sure you quite literally haven’t lost your head?

I imagine that inside our brains is an intricate factory with multiple levels with really, really busy workers, all who must be powered by caffeine because how else could they keep up?   Those factory workers are true multi-taskers, being bombarded with errant thoughts and worries that they are tasked to manage. Something like this:

Gotta pick up son after school have to call the hospital and possibly get up there at lunch to talk to doctors about family member need to jump on these 5 priority items as soon as I get to work the President wants to cut PBS funding? add notes for house sitter to the pre-travel to do list get some packing done tonight wait did I switch over the laundry? Not sure I liked that last episode of This is Us, what time is that meeting did the dog poop when he went out what am I going to wear? Oh crap more snow this weekend should I see the dermatologist about this spot on my arm need to pay the bills tomorrow get to the grocery store wow I’m tired why are my keys in the fridge?

It is no wonder that the factory workers in our brains get a bit cranky and mischievous and want to get back at the rest of our body at night. Oh, you think you are going to finally relax and rest? We real women crawl into our comfy beds, and do all the tricks we’ve learned to get to sleep…. Read, meditate, maybe even have whoopee with our partner, whatever it takes to feel that blissful feeling of drifting off to slumber land. Until around 2 or 3am, when those weary overtime brain workers decide to fight back. First they rouse the bladder to wake us up. Then they ask the legs to get restless. For those of us in the right phase of life, they then ask the endocrine system to throw in a hot flash. THEN, the fun begins with either truly bizarre and complex dreams, or just flashes of to do lists and world issues to ruminate about. The swirling begins, topics like work deadlines, household chores, worries about the children and the state of our country, and really vital subjects like should we paint the ceiling, and what if there really was a zombie apocalypse?  Eventually those trouble-making brainiacs calm down, the thoughts and twitching subsides and we slide back to sleep. 20 minutes before the alarm goes off.

With the light of day, we wake up, weary but feeling like we are the true wonder women we are, and we tackle our days. Some days are more successful than others. But conveniently, we always have other R.W.’s in our lives who are in the exact same boat and totally get it. They are the ones who make us laugh, give us a hug, and commiserate.

Best of all, we have each other’s backs – or shall I say back up brains. Have your brain factory people talk to my brain factory people, we’ll do lunch.  Let’s meet at 3:00, shall we?

 

 

 

 

Posted in age, Chores, communication, Health, home, home chores, housework, Kids, moods, real women, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments