Fang’s Rainbow

rainbowMy husband is a power shopper — meaning that when he needs things, he buys them in bulk. He’s not hauling his ass to the mall to come back with one shirt! He stocks up. He doesn’t want to have to return for the same item for at least a year — and I’ve seen him stretch it to two years. He usually just goes to the same store and repurchases the same shirt in the same six or seven colors. This method works for him, mainly because in my husband’s world there are only twelve colors anyway.

“Fang’s rainbow” consists of red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, brown, black, white, gray, off-white, and, of course, maroon. Fang is partial to maroon, which is why it has a place on his color wheel. I don’t even know how exactly to characterize maroon. It’s really less a shade or a tone, more an amalgamation of red and brown. He’s convinced it’s a fabulous color, though, so who am I to argue?

I’m his wife, that’s who! The woman who has to be seen with the man in the maroon shirt. I’m not, as you can imagine, a big fan of maroon. It has very little place in the fashion world. I am of the opinion that only Harvard students or alumni should have access to maroon. They’ve earned the right to it’s ugliness.

Fang and I engaged in a stimulating discussion regarding colors recognized by the rest of the civilized world vs. Fang’s perception of color prior to embarking upon a recent semi-successful polo shirt shopping expedition, in which yours truly was somewhat of an unwilling participant. To be honest, I only went along to try to stop him from buying any more maroon shirts.

The only positive thing I can say about this trip was that at least we weren’t pants shopping. Because shopping for pants with Fang is a real treat. Partly because he’s difficult to fit; partly because he’s stuck in the ’80’s. Fang may well be the last person on the planet who actively seeks out pleats. He labors under the delusion that they look good on his body. They don’t.

It took some convincing on my part, but I actually got Fang to abandon his usual store, in favor of one that I had noticed on MY last foray into the mall, had a far more extensive collection of polo shirts. While they indeed offer maroon, they also carry somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-odd other colors. And that’s just in “their” brand — the brand that lined two walls in the Men’s Department. I was drawn to the lilacs, the seagrasses, the corals, the aquamarines and, the salmons; Fang, on the other hand, was determined to find blue, red, green, black, brown, and, of course, maroon.

Somewhere along the line I noted that he had selected, in what was probably a feeble attempt to humor me, something a little more colorful, something that wasn’t maroon. It was, however, gold. Not a nice, orange-y gold, but more of what I would describe as a hideous mustard-y gold.

Knowing Fang as I do, I did not ask him why he wished to look like a Century 21 agent, I simply attempted to steer him in another direction. Avoiding orange and yellow altogether, I pointed him toward the asparagus, coral, powder blue, orchid, and plain old pink. As I was acting as his valet, as well as his personal shopper, when he wasn’t looking I surreptitiously ditched the gold. I was hoping he wouldn’t notice.

For what seemed like hours, I watched as my husband compared and contrasted the heft and construction of what must have been a hundred polo shirts. Fang prefers a medium-weight! I had, at this point, grown weary of this exercise. So, I handed him the few shirts that he had decided upon and left him to his own devices. It was getting late and I needed to head upstairs to buy myself an umbrella — to replace the one that had somehow disappeared from my life — the one that was last seen leaving the house with Fangette. I promised Fang that I’d make it back before he made his final selections.

Imagine my surprise when he showed up in the umbrella section, purchases in hand. To be fair, I was gone longer than expected — I didn’t head right over to the umbrella area — I made a brief foray over to where they sell women’s tank tops. I had purchased one the week before and was very pleased with the neckline (this gal LOVES a V-neck!) and the fit — even in a size large the armholes are not designed to fit Popeye. I hate it when the armholes on a tank top don’t cover my bra. Hate it!

Distracted by my own purchases — I even managed to find a cute “cheetah-print” umbrella — I didn’t even think to check out what my husband was going home with. It wasn’t until much later that I thought to investigate.

I am happy to report that he didn’t find or purchase the gold one. Sadly and, I guess, inevitably, he is now the proud owner of yet another maroon polo shirt. It seems that I did make some impact on his final selections, though. Because nestled amongst the red, the black, and the gray, I was delighted to find an ultramarine and a sage. Some progress, I suppose, is better than no progress at all. Perhaps next year he’ll work up to orchid or, if there is a God, salmon.

photo credit: rainbow

In Search of… The Perfect Pair of Flip-Flops

flipflops“Aaaaahhhhh!”, said my feet, as I slipped them into what I had determined was the perfect pair of flip-flops.

You shouldn’t underestimate the power of the perfect pair of flip-flops. Nor should you assume that one’s ability to find such an item can be done with anything resembling alacrity. They don’t just jump off the shelf at the first shoe store, for crying out loud! No. They hide out in the hidden recesses of the fourteenth or (sometimes!) the fortieth store you enter. Like the “little black dress”, a decent pair of flip-flops is integral to any wardrobe. And can be just as elusive.

There are any number of versions of the “little black dress”, so it’s easy to understand why a person can spend her life searching for one. Flip-flops, on the other hand, because they are, by their very nature, a simple configuration of sole and thong, should be a far easier thing to stumble upon. Except that they’re not. At least not for me.

The main reason that I have so much trouble finding ANY flip-flop, let alone the “perfect” flip-flop, is genetic. If you were to look at my feet, you’d probably be surprised to discover that, although they share a hairline, my father is NOT, in fact, Fred Flintstone. Flip-flops are foot-shaped, my feet are, like Fred’s, brick-shaped. They resemble unfinished pieces of sculpture — like the artist, after chiseling out the toes, got bored or, possibly even died, prior to shaving the proper amount of granite off of the sides.

The shape of my feet, or lack thereof, has not been enhanced by a lifetime of working on my them, either. What little arch I started out with in life is now almost nonexistent. This means that while others can wander around in $2.50 Old Navy flip-flops, I require something a little more substantial — something that fools my brain into thinking that my feet have an arch.

I am also afflicted with a chronic case of plantar fasciitis. You can look it up. Suffice it to say, “it sucks”. I very often feel like I’m walking on broken glass. Luckily, my case is milder than most — it only flares up once in a while. Wearing the wrong shoes, though, — like flat, unsupportive flip-flops — is sure to bring it on. Trust me, no one wants that. Because it makes me miserable. And I’m not the type to suffer in silence.

As if I don’t have enough problems, I also have a recurring issue with a couple of corns. They take up residence from time to time between my fourth and my fifth toes. I’ve entertained the notion of obtaining those “toe” shoes to keep this annoyance at bay, but I have it on good authority that NO ONE will be seen with me while I’m wearing these! It’s tempting, though. Some days, choosing between a friendless life of loneliness and despair or not being agitated by corns, seems a no-brainer. What I have discovered is that if my shoes are wide enough, but not TOO wide, at the top, I can keep the corns from growing so large that they actually resemble an extra toe!

Finding a pair of flip-flops that have an arch to combat my flat-footedness, are padded enough to alleviate the plantar fasciitis, and are wide enough to keep the corns from forming is a nearly impossible task, particularly if you also want them to look somewhat stylish. It goes without saying that I want them to be fashionable. Why bother with expensive and time-consuming pedicures if you can’t show off the results by sporting some cute-ass flip-flops?

That I go through this every year is mind-boggling. But, I do. Because flip-flops stretch out over the course of the winter. I don’t know why. I’m sure there’s some perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for this. My theory, less scientific but certainly more plausible, is that Hobbits sneak underneath my bed, raid my flip-flop stash, and wear them on their adventures. Searching for rings and saving Middle Earth requires footwear. Hobbits are the only creatures, outside of cartoon characters, who have uglier feet than I do.

Yesterday, after trying on about one-hundred pairs — ranging in price, might I add, from $14.99 to $55.00 — I finally found a pair that fit all of my criteria AND only cost $24.99! I was really happy with them. Until I got them home and modeled them for Fangette, who immediately asked me why I had purchased “orthopedic” shoes. My first reaction was to argue with her, to tell her that they were not “orthopedic”, that they were “cute”. And then I took a second look at them. That’s when I realized that she was right. They weren’t cute at all. But here’s the thing — they fit and they’re comfortable! So, I’m keeping them. In fact, I may even go back to the store and buy them in another color!

It hasn’t escaped my notice that being satisfied with comfort and fit or the fact that I can no longer be trusted to deem a shoe “cute”, is a sure sign that I’m middle-aged. Cool. I’ve always wanted a pair of Birkenstock’s.

photo credit: flip flops (me)

Supermarket Panties

braI probably shouldn’t admit this without donning my funny nose and glasses disguise, but I have never purchased a bra from Victoria’s Secret before — before yesterday, that is. Panties? Yes. Pajamas? Of course. A thong? Just the once, but that’s a story I shall save for another day. NEVER, prior to yesterday, had I EVER left that store with a brassiere for myself wrapped in that delightful, yet a little too pink, striped bag. My teenage daughter shops there all the time. Fangette, of the lovely “C”-cup, has always been able to shop there for her undergarments. But, me? Never.

Victoria’s Secret has never been my “go-to” store when shopping for bras. Seeing as I am a “DD”, I have always been far more comfortable at Macy’s or Kohl’s. And, okay, I’ll admit it — once or twice I may have plucked a couple of those “Playtex 18-hour” jobs off of the display at Target. While they are certainly not my favorite brassiere — not by a long shot — there have been times when, owing to a lack of money, a lack of time, or some combination of the two, that I have been forced to resort to that old stand-by. Those things always make me feel like I’m wearing my mother’s bra, but what can you do? Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

Speaking of measuring, one of the things that I hate about places like Victoria’s Secret is that they almost always insist on measuring you — to make sure that you are wearing the correct size. I find it intrusive, rather than instructive. These experiences have often left me feeling a bit squeamish and, well, fat. Not that I’ve ever been particularly fat, but I’ve almost always been a little overweight. And the girls? The girls, especially on my small frame, could probably have their own zip code. And the sales clerks almost always find a way to make me feel stupid — they always manage to work in how I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra or exclaiming over how long I’ve owned the model I walked in wearing. Whatever. I have no doubt that left to my own devices I’ve frequently chosen the wrong size bra. I don’t care — at least I did it in private — absent the snickering of thin, judgmental, and condescending sales clerks.

I didn’t set out to go bra shopping last night. It just kind of happened. Over the past year, or so, I’ve lost a little weight. As a result, I’ve had to embark upon a few shopping expeditions. I’ve discovered that I love JC Penney and Ann Taylor Loft. Last night, in an effort to procure a couple of more Loft t-shirts (LOVE THEM!) before they reverted back to their regular price and to bolster my severe lack of lightweight bottoms, I headed off to the mall. I did this, may I add, all by myself.

More often than not, when I go shopping I have Fangette in tow. Her presence limits me for a number of reasons. The first and foremost being because my kid could bankrupt Bill Gates — and I am no Bill Gates. Every time we go shopping, even if the purpose of the trip is for me to procure something as simple as a bag of socks, she manages to wangle a good bit of money out of me for such necessities as infinity scarves, a new pair of Vans, yet another pair of Hollister jeans, or those American Eagle chinos that she loves, loves, loves! And don’t even get me started on Aerie. I should own that place. Usually, I’m lucky if, by the end of the trip, I can afford a pair of socks, let alone the multi-pack I set out to purchase.

Aside from the obvious financial difficulties that shopping with your average adolescent female present, there are other, more sinister, elements to having her along. Like, for example, being told that I look “ridiculous” in everything I try on. Now, I’m not saying that the blue paisley peasant blouse did not, indeed, put one in mind of an actual Russian peasant (for a small woman, I am broad-shouldered and, thus, must guard against anything that draws unnecessary attention to that area of my body), but I think that “ridiculous” should be reserved for things that make one appear clown-like — things like oversized red shoes or multi-colored striped jumpsuits. That sort of thing.

I’m not an idiot. I know that she deliberately undermines me — that she understands our limited resources and takes full advantage of my self-esteem issues (especially where my shoulders are concerned!) knowing full well that if I buy nothing, there will be more money to spend on the things that she wants or needs. It’s simple economics, really. It’s in these moments, when she demonstrates her true manipulative nature, that she both exasperates me and makes me proud. She’ll do well out in the big, bad world. If nursing school doesn’t work out, there’s always politics!

Most of the time, though, she is just downright annoying to shop with. So, it was with great pleasure that I browsed through JC Penney last night. I even found myself an awesome pair of something called “boyfriend fit crop chinos” — luckily, they only had one pair in my size, otherwise I might not have had enough money to even consider wandering into Victoria’s Secret. For a woman that has been known to buy her panties at the grocery store, I tend to suffer from “sticker shock” at Victoria’s Secret.

Their prices notwithstanding, I also find the atmosphere there slightly off-putting. There are just altogether too many choices. Too many colors. Too many descriptors. It’s also far too well-lit. I would prefer to purchase my underwear the way I imagine people purchase their cocaine or lay down their bets — in a more clandestine atmosphere — like on a street corner or in the back room of a smoke-filled bar.

But, there I was. And, as luck would have it, there was also a very bored and extremely lovely young woman whose job it was to guide the likes of me — a woman who was wearing a clearly ill-fitting undergarment — through the enormous rabbit hole that is Victoria’s Secret — without actually making her feel like she didn’t belong there. Her name, in a quirky twist of fate, was Vicki. (Seriously. It was. It was on her name tag and everything!)

She was probably only a couple of years older than Fangette but, unlike Fangette, her job was to get me to spend money on myself. And, boy, did she ever! That she did so in such a way that I barely noticed is as much a testament to her warmth and force of personality as it is to the training program provided by her employer. (I suspect that this young woman could sell a ski lift in Florida — she was THAT good!) It was, far and away, the absolute BEST bra shopping experience I have ever had. It was a pleasure. I only hope that when I am ready to replace the bras that I bought last night that Vicki hasn’t moved on to greener pastures — like the used car lot or some other such place where her commission rate will, undoubtedly, be much higher. I hope that she sells bras for the love of selling bras. Because she’s terrific at it!

I loved her. And the girls? They are very grateful to her. They got some very well-deserved pampering and attention! And, dare I say it? They look magnificent!

photo credit: bra (morguefile.com)

For the record, I have not received remuneration of any kind from ANY of the retailers mentioned in this post!

Trading one addiction for another!

IkeaI was a little worried that I was becoming addicted to Ikea. And, really, no one wants that. And by no one I mean my husband.

It started innocently enough. I got a loveseat there, but like any gateway drug, the loveseat led, inevitably, to more. The more in this case was a chair. A new television warranted a larger media console (sounds so much better and fancier than television stand, don’t you agree?), which required another trip to Ikea where I left with not only the media console, but also with a couple of free-standing cabinets for the kitchen.

Not unlike children’s birthday parties, redecorating projects can quickly get out of hand. One minute you’re calmly lining up all the kiddies for a nice round of pin the tail on the donkey, the next thing you know, little Shushma is nearly stabbed with the thumbtack that is, well, integral to the game (plus, you didn’t have any Fun tack). Luckily, also integral to the game is the blindfold that, as luck would have it, took the brunt of little Shusma’s near blinding. Who’d have thunk that a recently spun kid, now dizzy from the spinning and armed with a sharp object would become confused and point this same sharp object at her very own eye? Not you, that’s for sure. Naturally, panic ensues and a little party game becomes, to put it mildly, frenzied and chaotic.

Frenzied and chaotic would be excellent adjectives to describe my former decorating style. You know, if it fits, it sits; if it’s free, it’s for me. This philosophy led to many, many mismatched and ugly pieces of furniture over the years. This time, though, I am determined to be different. To take my time. To think things through. To actually make an effort at some kind of style. I’ve chosen Cottage Chic or Shabby Chic, or whatever those design-y folks are calling it these days. I like it’s ease. I like it’s comfort. I like that it’s basically built around the color white, which even I can’t screw up. Although who knew just how many shades of white there are out there? Not me. Not at the outset. Now I know. It’s slightly worrisome, but I’m going to soldier on. I like slipcovers that I can throw in the wash. Although I am, at this very moment, writing this in an effort to delay doing just that. So, what else is new? “What do you mean you didn’t get the pen off the couch cushion today?” “I was writing. Do you think blog posts just materialize? Like pizza? Which, by the way, only appears because I picked up the phone and ordered it. Sheesh!”

I will not even get into how a nearly 17-year-old girl-child got ink on my nearly brand-new white slipcovered Ektorp loveseat or how this almost caused World War III to erupt right here in Northern New Jersey. The point is that I can get it out with a little hairspray and some laundering, which I plan on doing right after I finish writing this post. So, get off my back, wouldja?

That Ikea though, what a place, huh? So clean and organized and well-lit. They kind of make you want to live in those rooms, no doubt while enjoying their equally enticing menu selections — namely, the Swedish meatballs and the cinnamon buns — don’t they? Yup. They do. And I fell prey to their evil genius. I am, after all, a mere mortal in search of affordable white wood-like furniture pieces that I can shabbify with some toile curtains, gingham pillows, and possibly a bit of interesting molding.

To this end I made a list of all of the things that I know the good Lord would want me to have from Ikea. Even Our Lord could not convince Fang to live in a catalog page. He wanted to check out other places that sell furniture. All I can say is “Screw the Lord and Thank Heavens for Fang!” because if my husband had not talked me down from the crazy Ikea branch that I had found myself perched upon, I never would have found my current obsession — a place not far from here called “Handpainted by Cookie”.

Maybe it was the paint fumes, but the minute I walked into this joint I knew I had found a kindred spirit. This woman, along with her handy and affable husband, obtains antiques that would otherwise end up in landfills or spend the rest of their days as chipped wood. They make any necessary minor repairs and provide them with beautiful paint jobs. Oh, and there’s also a dog that greets you at the door. Gotta love a place of business where pets are permitted to roam around.

The actual showroom is small, but delightfully decorated. I fell in love with and ultimately bought a white chalk-painted Art Deco dining table with a pop-up leaf and six gorgeous chairs. I have my eye on a beat up china closet that I spied in the warehouse. I know it will look fetching in a lovely shade of dove gray with white hardware. Even Fang agrees that it’ll work for us, but I am, uncharacteristically, going to wait until I get the table in and situated before I make any hasty decisions.

If it looks this good in a parking lot, can you even imagine what it will look like in my dining area???

If it looks this good in a parking lot, can you even imagine what it will look like in my dining area???

Tomorrow The Redhead and I will head over to “Handpainted by Cookie” and load up Bubba with my new purchases. While I’m there I’m hoping to convince Cookie that she should be on the look out for a French Provincial desk with cabriole legs for the woman who, in the coming months, will become her best customer. Because I need lots of shabby things. Lots.

If you’re sitting there shaking your head and thinking, like Fang, that I’ve just traded one addiction for another, you’d be right. I would, however, make the argument that this tiny slice of heaven located in an unassuming Moonachie, New Jersey warehouse is a far, far better obsession to have than Ikea.

photo credits:
Ikea
<a href="dining room table ” target=”_blank”>Dining table

My Exciting Thursday

moodfabriclogoSomewhat guiltily, I shoved aside hovel purging and did a few more interesting things yesterday — not, perhaps, as necessary as hovel purging, but, still in all, far less mundane and back-breaking than filling more bags and boxes with the detritus of my life. Following what turned out to be a bus ride that had it’s equivalent in the expression “slow boat to China”, I went to Mood Fabrics in NYC and drooled over toiles, velvets, and the hundreds of other beautiful fabrics they have to offer. For a fabric hound such as myself, there is no better place to while away a few hours than on West 37th Street in Manhattan. Maybe they have more toile at, say, The Palace at Versailles, but I suspect that they would frown upon my clipping a swatch. Mood and the other fabric stores in the area actually encourage the swatching that will, no doubt, land you in a French prison. (I wonder if they still use The Bastille?). Also, I can’t just hop on the 163 Local to gaze at the toiles enjoyed by Louis XIV and his ilk. Sampling the Versailles toiles and enjoying three hots and a cot on the French government would require airline travel and a passport. I’m adventurous, but I’m not THAT adventurous. Frankly, I was antsy on the OVER ONE HOUR bus ride to the city (see “slow boat to China” reference above) — it normally takes about 45 minutes midday — a seven-hour plane ride would be out of the question.

I spent an hour trying to find the Joe Fresh location that was supposed to be on 34th and Fifth. They were supposed to be having a sale on sweaters. And they don’t sell online. (Can you even imagine?) There was no Joe Fresh on 34th Street or anywhere in the surrounding area. No one that I asked had ever heard of such a store. I did, however, manage to stumble upon a place called The Manhattan Mall. I only ventured in because I thought that Joe Fresh might be tucked away inside of it. It wasn’t. Don’t worry, though, I didn’t come home empty-handed. I still managed to feed my cashmere addiction at, of all places, JC Penney. (You all need to check out what they’ve done to JC Penney — it’s not just Worthington anymore, boys and girls!) I managed to leave the store with a cashmere sweater for myself and one for my daughter. And, GET THIS, it only cost me $40 total. Forty bucks for TWO cashmere sweaters. Unheard of.

I downed a delicious and much needed vanilla latte at Starbuck’s on 33rd Street (the one thatstarbuckslogo is literally in the shadow of The Empire State Building). I even managed to have a moment of self-awareness and a mini-adventure in the bathroom line. In a city known for its dearth of public restrooms, Starbuck’s should be commended for the fact that they have at least one in all of their locations (at least the one’s that I’ve been in). Also, there is no need to ask a barrista for a key nor have I ever seen a sign indicating that only Starbuck’s customers are welcome to use the facilities. This appeals to my sense of fairness and democracy. While I applaud the Starbuck’s bathroom policy in theory, the reality, as is often the case, is somewhat different, especially when this reality has a direct and deleterious effect on me. (Communism looks great on paper until you’re the one subjected to a lifetime of potato peeling based solely on your inability to read as well as some of your classmates in the first grade!) So, there I was. About to break out into the “pee-pee” dance in the shadow of one of the greatest architectural wonders of the Western world when it hit me that I am not as egalitarian as I like to think I am. As excellent corporate policies tend to do (Rite-Aid takes back opened/used cosmetics — no questions asked!) word has gotten out regarding Starbuck’s lax lavatory regulations. And not just to the folks that work in the area. No. Word has spread to those folks that live in the area. More specifically, word has gotten around to the local homeless population.

I have nothing against the homeless. In fact I think it’s shameless that there are homeless and hungry people living in this country at all. That being said, I must tell you that yesterday at Starbuck’s I harbored a fair amount of ill will against a few homeless people who had managed to scooch in front of me on the restroom line. And scooch they did. One minute I was alone and next in line for the W.C., the next minute they were in front of me. I honestly have no idea how this happened. Perhaps I was daydreaming or looking at The Empire State Building. Maybe I had a small seizure. I really couldn’t tell you. All I know is that they had somehow taken up residence ahead of me. Sure, I could have said something. I could have made a scene. But I’m a middle-class, middle-aged suburban white woman who has never even considered voting for a Republican. Tangling with homeless people in a public place istheempirestatebuilding just not my style.

I should have taken it as a bad sign when I watched as the two women went into the loo together. I should add that they did so with all of their goods and wares in tow. This, as you might imagine, took some time and maneuvering. Oh, and there was still one more poor soul with his cartful of supplies ahead of me. I weighed my choices. I could stay where I was or I could make the mad dash across Fifth Avenue to the Starbuck’s across the street. It was a classic case of choosing the known versus the unknown. I opted for the former. At the end of the day, I don’t know whether or not I made the right decision, having no knowledge of the goings on across Fifth Avenue. Though I imagined, as I stood there with a nearly exploding bladder (why? why? why? did I order a Venti? A less gluttonous person would have gone for the Breve!) that there was no line for their, more likely, swanky and sumptuous facility. I had, by this time, reached the point of no return. It was too late to get across the street in anything resembling a dry state. Having already shopped for sweaters and been successful, I could not imagine that I would have the same luck procuring new jeans and underwear (and, God forbid!, socks), but don’t think I didn’t consider it.

I stayed put and counted the minutes (13!) that the pair spent in what I was beginning to think was a mirage of a lavatory. I assumed that they were showering and doing some laundry. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when they finally emerged (only to have their bedraggled compatriot go in behind them) looking much the same as when they had entered. For whatever reason, this annoyed me. I expected to see that they had at least made some minor improvements to their appearances. So, there I was, judging the homeless, tapping my foot, doing some kegel exercises, and, I am sure, rolling my eyes when one of the fine folks who is employed by Starbuck’s actually took notice of my discomfort and allowed me to use the employee bathroom. He was not wearing a name tag and I plum forgot to ask him his name. Whoever he was, I would just like to say that he is a fine human being who, in addition to rescuing a soon-to-be covered in urine person from her latte excesses, also has excellent taste in footwear. His patent leather kicks were to die for! Also, he wouldn’t even hear of taking the tip I proffered after emerging from the restroom. Who says New Yorkers don’t have a heart?

On most days this young man and the kindness that he showed me would have been the highlight of my day. But not yesterday. No. Yesterday I had the pleasure of being surrounded by exciting people. You see, the reason that I went to the city at all was to have dinner with a group of women from GenFab. GenFab is a Facebook group of (mostly) women of my generation. We’re not Boomers. We’re not Gen-Xers. We’re the ones that fall in between. I came to be a part of this group a few months ago at the urging of my friend and fellow blogger, Amanda Fox, over at The Fur Files. (Thanks, Fern!) They are a great group of supportive, talented, and wonderful women. Over the last few months they have been working on launching a website dedicated to issues that are pertinent to our age group. (Don’t worry, I’ll promote the launch!) They asked for contributions and have agreed to publish one of mine. This is not what drove me to join them for dinner last night, though. No. I really just wanted to be in the company of these dynamic women. (I’m hoping some of it will rub off on me!) They were all so welcoming and, given their accomplishments, not the least bit pretentious. Usually at 8 o’clock on a Thursday evening I am apologizing to some moron for bringing him what he ordered and/or dealing with my immature co-workers while covered in the barbecue sauce that I had spilled on my shirt during the lunch shift. Do I need to tell you what a nice departure this was from that? I didn’t think so.

genfabdinnernyc2713This was first “in real life” meeting with folks that I have met through blogging. I won’t lie, the idea of this was a little daunting. More daunting, though, was knowing that I was going to meet virtual strangers, most of whom I admired. For a couple of weeks prior to the dinner I was both excited and a little bit worried. I thought about dying my hair, getting my nails done, wearing better clothes, whitening my teeth, and making other adjustments to my appearance. Basically, I wondered if I should change who I ultimately am. In the end I decided to just be myself, warts and all. I’m happy to report that it went well. I don’t think anyone cared that my hair was in need of a dye job and that my nails were in need of a manicure. If my teeth weren’t white enough, no one mentioned it. And my attire? It was fine. Here’s the thing: these women were more interested in WHO I was than in what I was wearing. Many of them seemed genuinely interested. And some of them had even read my blog. And they admitted not just to reading it, but to actually liking it. Wow!

So, now comes the hard part. I really want to mention, by way of a “thank you”, everyone that I met last night. I want to encourage you to read their blogs and their books, subscribe to their web magazines, watch their movies, and, just generally, get to know them, but I fear that I will leave someone out. I’ve decided to put that fear aside and not squander this opportunity to promote them and GenFab. I’ll do the best I can and list everyone that I can remember. If I forget any of you, please remind me who you are and what your blog/website is and I will update my list. I promise you that my intention is not to exclude anyone! For those of you who fall into this “fabulous” generation, consider joining GenFab. You won’t regret it.

Better After 50
Grown and Flown
An Empowered Spirit
The Chloe Chronicles
stylesubstancesoul
Connect with your teens through technology
The Louise Log
Relocation: The Blog
100 Sleepless Nights
Books is Wonderful
Second Lives Club
Oh Boy Mom
Boomer Wizdom

photo credits: starbucks logo (starbucks.com), The Empire State Building , GenFab dinner pic (Cathy Chester), Mood Fabric logo (fashion how-to.com)

Avoiding the “Vague Idea”

crucifixMen are not really equipped for the whole shopping gig. Yes, I know. This is both sexist and promotes a certain stereotype. Sometimes, though, stereotypes linger because they’re true. For example, I’m Irish. I used to drink a lot. Many Irish people drink to excess. Not all, but many. That’s how it became a stereotype. Because it’s true. Perhaps you know a man who is not challenged by a shopping trip. Good for you. He’s a keeper! If you are not, however, involved with the exception to the rule — a man who has the shopping gene — don’t despair. All is not lost. They can be trained. Ultimately, what must be avoided is anything resembling the “vague idea”.

In our early years together my husband was fond of purchasing me jewelry. The problem? I don’t really wear a whole lot of jewelry. Well, at least not the jewelry that he was choosing. In an effort to indulge the obvious pleasure he got from shopping for jewelry, I started to drop hints about jewelry that I might actually like to own. (Enter the “vague idea”.) They were, I thought, fairly straightforward things. I mentioned items such as, a cross pendant, “X” earrings, or a simple gold chain. How could someone screw that up? Fairly easily, as it turns out. The small, elegant, understated cross turned into an elaborate filigreed crucifix that might at one time have belonged to Madonna. For those of you who don’t know, there is a difference between a cross and a crucifix. A cross is a modified “T” shape; a crucifix has a sculpted and bloodied man wearing a crown of thorns affixed to the “T” shape. I like Jesus as much as the next gal, but I don’t want four gruesome inches of his death hanging from my neck. Too flashy and overtly religious. Definitely NOT me.

The “X” earrings? They were large enough to partially obscure my cheekbones and heavy enough to stretch my delicate earlobes. When I returned them I think they put them back on the branding iron from which they had been removed.

A simple gold chain? Try a quadruple herringbone. Cleopatra probably sported something smaller. It gave me a neck ache. I also imagined that it might catch the eye of some ne’er do well who would garrote me while attempting to tear it from my tender neck. Again. Not for me.

Those jewelry store clerks definitely saw my husband coming. He fell, hook, line, and sinker, for the old “bigger is better” adage. And he fell hard.

Obviously I returned all of this craziness. (And made a handsome profit, I might add.) Following the quadruple herringbone disaster (he really could not understand what could possibly be wrong with something so obviously expensive and well-made — and in Italy for crying out loud!), he vowed never to buy me jewelry again. Obviously his inability to select something appropriate was all my fault. He stayed true to his word, though, and steered clear of the jewelry stores when my birthday, Christmas, or Mother’s Day rolled around. I began to receive things like candle snuffers (designed for taper candles, which I do not own a one of), snow boots (bright pink and two sizes too small), scarves (mostly “medallion” prints, I’ll likely drag them out when I’m 80), pajamas (flannel and sized to hold at least one other person — and, no, not because he had any kinky ideas — because he operates under the assumption that my feet are petite, but my ass is at least two sizes larger than it really is), and, of course, the inevitable robot vacuum cleaner (he does the vacuuming, so I guess that one worked out for him).

More than twenty years of well-meaning, yet still not quite right, gifts forced me to adopt the bold strategy of asking for exactly what I want. No more hints. No more leaving dog-eared magazines or catalogs lying around (like the ones he used to look quizzically at finding atop his pillow). No more candle-snuffers, cleaning-related products, or stage-worthy jewelry for me! Last year he even relaxed his “No Jewelry” policy and agreed to buy me the small Tiffany “Love” ring that I’d had my eye on for ages. This year I asked for AND received a new pair of chocolate brown UGGS mini boots (in the proper size!). Let me not leave you with the impression that my husband is perfect, though. No. He’s still working out the kinks with the whole “Christmas pajama” tradition. This year they weren’t flannel nor were they completely ludicrous. They would have been great if it weren’t for the see-through white top that accompanied the XL bottoms. So, while there’s always room for improvement, there is no substitute for proper training.

photo credit: crucifix

The Pub Crawl at the Mall

drinkingshoppingThere was a time when malls were for shopping. These days they are veritable entertainment complexes. Drinking establishments are around every corner. The mall is a great place to be an alcoholic. Those of you with a drinking problem can take full advantage of this by participating in a little activity I used to engage in, back in my drinking days— “The Pub Crawl at the Mall!”

Here’s how to play:

Reward yourself with a drink, or several, following a successful purchase. Start small. Buy a box of cards that you have every intention of sending out (but that you never will). Earn a glass of buttery Chardonnay. Chilled.

Knocked the Christmas pajamas off the list? Time for a martini! If you’re feeling particularly festive, opt for the green apple martini. Request a cherry garnish. Red and green! Fa! La! La! La! La! La! La! La! La!

Two gifts and two drinks down— and it’s not even noon! Plenty of time to do more damage to the pocketbook and the liver!

Now that you have a slight buzz on, hit one of the finer department stores. Surely someone on your list (or everyone) can use some nice earmuffs. Buy a half-a-dozen. Throw in a couple of scarves for the ladies and several body wash sets for the guys. You’re on a roll now! Get yourself some lunch. A few chicken wings and a couple of beers should do the trick. Find the place with the Christmas Ale on tap.

Woozy, yet fortified, make your way to the big electronics store. It’s only a little walk through the parking lot. And it’s right next to the place that offers $1 margaritas and free chips and salsa after 3:00. Timing is everything! Kill some time browsing and asking questions of the staff about things you have no intention of buying. Take a crack at making the right decision regarding DVDs. (Remember, last year you bought two copies of “A Christmas Story”— don’t make that mistake again!) Listen intently as the clerk describes the slight, but critical differences, in the latest entries to the “point and shoot” digital camera marketplace. Let him sell you the most expensive one, because it’s 3:05 and, let’s face it, there are a few margaritas calling your name. Never mind that your husband has no interest in photography.

There’s nothing quite like the late afternoon tequila high. It is, however, short-lived. And the only way to recover is a nap. From experience I will caution you about having a brief lie-down near the fountain. There is a very real possibility that you will be pelted with coins and/or picked up for public drunkenness. To avoid the potential for embarrassment (not to mention the attendant legal fees), for the love of God, spend the $12 on a movie ticket and sleep in the darkened theater. Choose wisely, though, don’t go for the blockbuster or the cartoon, select the boring indie title (if there’s a foreign film playing— even better). There’s a good chance you’ll be the only one in that theater, making the cocktail-induced snoring and drooling a non-issue. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, you will need the $15 jumbo bucket of popcorn to soak up the $5 worth of crappy tequila. Don’t cheap out.

This combination of carbs and rest should give you a second wind. Don’t waste it on more shopping. Unless, of course, it’s a brief foray to one of the kiosks where “As Seen on TV” products or calendars are sold. That’s fine. Take ten minutes to grab a pasta pot that’s also a strainer (!) or “The Audobon Official Bird Watcher’s Calendar”. You’ll undoubtedly be able to unload these items on some unsuspecting loved one.

You could rest on your laurels and go home now, but if you want to finish the game (and what self-respecting alcoholic wouldn’t want to do that?), you must cap off your adventure with at least one coffee drink. For added points, ease into this portion of the evening. Nothing says the holidays like a smooth, smoky 12-year-old Scotch! Bartenders just love customers who order $30 drinks! (Remember to tip accordingly!)

Don’t worry about the killer hangover that will be incurred by your fun-filled day of drinking. Starting your day as you finished your night is always an option. Throw a little Bailey’s in your morning coffee. It’s a real eye-opener. Enjoy this tried and true hangover cure while you guiltily fish through your, mostly useless and ridiculous, drunk purchases. Oh, and have a second shot ready for when you tally up the receipts. You’ll really need the “hair of the dog” then. Because “The Pub Crawl at the Mall!”? It never comes cheap.

photocredit: drinking and shopping