Halloween Past

As part of The SITS Girls Blogtober Challenge for Throwback Thursday I thought I would share some old photos of my parents in their Halloween costumes from the year of The Wizard of Oz theme.  I think I went as Dorothy that year, but I can’t seem to find a photo.  Mum said it was okay to post photos of her and Dad as long as it wouldn’t get them arrested.  I think they’re safe.

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Enjoy!

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Make Time for Friends in June

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Girlfriends Rock

One-third of the way through the month of June and I’m finally getting around to composing my monthly happiness guide. According to my happiness muse, life in June should consist of the following items:

a) Remember birthdays.

I’m actually pretty good at this. Of course, I don’t remember everyone’s birthday, but for the inner circle people, I never forget. However, just in case, I’m creating a birthday calendar that will go up on my kitchen wall over the computer desk where I will see each day’s contents while making my morning coffee.

b) Be generous.

I don’t think there is anyone in my life who would argue that I’m not already really good at this. Too good, in fact. I would much rather do things for others, spend time helping others, or creating the perfect gift to bring a smile to someone else’s face than almost anything else on earth. My family routinely tells me I do too much, and that I spend too much time and energy doing for everyone else; I should concentrate on myself a little more. I like how I do it, though, so I don’t plan on making any change. I love making people smile, and it’s so easy to give of myself for that purpose. Making my friends and loved ones happy makes me happy.

I do realize that makes me sound like schmaltzy goody-two-shoes, but it’s the truth.

c) Show up.

See above. The person who loses out in this arena most of the time is me.

d) Don’t gossip.

I’ve gotten better with this as I’ve gotten older and have had an opportunity to see how harmful gossip can be. I’m not talking about the garden variety celebrity gossiping we all love to do about dresses and haircuts and the silly choices young starlets make, but about the stuff that is just plain mean and spiteful. The stuff that lingers and stays with anyone who has ever been so victimized. Leaving it behind will pose no hardship for me. In fact, I’m happy to have an excuse and a reason to turn that page for good.

e) Make three new friends.

This I am working on. I’m reaching out to other mothers at my son’s school, pushing myself to be more open and less guarded. I’m opening up more to women with whom I already have a passing acquaintance, and in one of those cases, I discovered a whole side of her that I never suspected. I’m smiling a lot more and saying hello more often. I have stopped thinking that women I’ve known for a long time, like those I attended high school with, wouldn’t want to be my friends now because we never were friends before. I have stopped presuming to know what people think of me and instead am giving them the opportunity to show me what they think with their behavior. I have also reached out to family members from whom I’ve long been estranged, and in each case, I’ve received notes saying, in effect, “I’m so glad to hear from you!”

I don’t know what precisely will be the outcome of my experimentation, but if I can count three more women among my contact list – even if they are not women I would go out to eat with or have to my home for an intimate tete-a-tete – then I will consider my experiment a success.

On Being a Junkie

It is said by many that the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.

I am an addict.  A beauty product addict, to be precise.  That’s right, I am a product junkie.  And this is my year to get the monkey off my back, to ignore the insatiable urges, to fight the irresistible force that forces me to buy all manner of beauty products: makeup, hair, face treatments, appliances, treatments…you name it; I’ve either bought it, tried it, or quite possibly, still have it stashed under my sink or in my linen closet.

The state of my under sink bathroom cabinet that tipped me over the edge:

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Notice the plethora of hair products, a particular weakness of mine. I have naturally curly hair, but neither curly like Bernadette Peters nor classically waved like Sarah Jessica Parker; no, my hair is somewhere in between, and accordingly frustrating as I try to force it to commit to one camp or another.  Unsuccessfully.  Thirty plus years of trying ended with me choosing chemical straightening over everyday rounds with the blow dryer and either a flat iron or curling iron. Since I would allow a professional wrestler to break my arm rather than let my hair go naturally curly, I felt quite safe in throwing out all the products targeted to making curls more prominent.

Notice also all the skin lotions.  I have exceptionally dry skin.  Like the old alligator in the Lubriderm ad campaign.  In preparation for the culling, I pulled out all the bottles and consolidated all the part-used bottles and tubs into other mostly empty bottles and tubs.  There are still a lot of them, but instead of twenty-five bottles and tubs, I’ve now only got about twelve.  Seriously, I don’t have to buy body lotion for about two years.  That’s if I use the stuff every day.  Which I’m trying to do since I hate the tight, itchy sensation of super dry skin.

The state of my bathroom counter that further contributed to sending me over the edge (not even taking into account Ernie Hemingway’s side of the two sink vanity):

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Again, notice all the hair products.  Is anyone sensing a theme?

And last, but certainly not least, the pile of old makeup that I finally threw out:

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I have resisted throwing out the stuff for years, mostly because every time I consider it, I see all the labels and cringe to think of all the money it represents:  Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder, as well as the occasional Cover Girl, L’Oreal Paris  and mongrel brand tossed in for good measure.  With it  all in the trash, that seems like a silly rationalization, especially when I consider that ninety percent of it predates the birth of my child, some of it ringing up the decade mark.

At age 44, it’s time for me to give up the fantasy that I will one day be one of those chic, lipstick wearing sophisticates portrayed in the advertisements of the aforementioned companies.  If I looked like Kiera Knightly, Jennifer Lopez, January Jones, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson, or any of the various ethereally beautiful models who peddle the products on their airbrushed and photoshopped faces, perhaps I’d feel differently.

However, my reality is that if I have a tube of lipstick in my pocket, it’s more liable to fall out and roll under my car seat, melting into a waxy puddle that can never be removed from my car mat than be whipped out at a moment’s notice when I have an impending business encounter. If I have a tube of lipstick in the inside pocket of my purse, it’s likely to be used as a pen or a crayon, not swiped across my lips to give my pale complexion a bit of color before I meet my husband for an unplanned assignation.

Lip gloss with a hint of color – I’m all about that. Those lovely little tubes that smell delightful but hold no interest for my child and are easy to put on without a mirror as I’m dashing around during the day?  Yeah, baby!  Stock me up.  But true color that could bleed or will make me look like a clown if not applied properly?  No way.

At least for the foreseeable future, those days are behind me.  Perhaps someday in the future, but even if I get there, my lipstick tubes will likely be ready for dissection by an archeologist by then.  Better to give up the fight now and simply admit defeat.  I can always buy new ones … when I don’t have mortgages and car payments to make, a rapidly growing child needing clothes every few months as he shoots up and out of them.

I wish I could say that I bought all these various products over the years because I’m a reformed shopaholic, and although that it a tiny piece, that’s not all of it.  The sad truth is that I purchased all the products because of an inability to accept myself for who and what I was.  I wanted curlier hair, straighter hair, glossier hair, tighter skin, brighter skin, less cellulite, longer and stronger fingernails, silky smooth feet, tanner skin without going out in the sun (although that’s actually a good thing).  I wanted to be the glamorous woman behind the products, the fantasy offered by those advertising geniuses.  I wanted to be noticed, to be envied, to be cherished as all of those women appeared to be.  I wanted to be a better me, a different me.

Since 2013 is my year to discover and embrace my bliss, it is about time to get rid of all the evidence and baggage I’ve accumulated over the years that allows me to put off facing the reality in the mirror.  I am … me. Just me.  No better than that, no worse than that.  I’ve got my strengths, my weaknesses, my admirable qualities and my traits that make me and others cringe.  I can try to change, but the only real change can come from within.  I can’t change my cynicism by wearing red lipstick, but I can change it by stopping myself from imagining that having those perfect pillow red lips will make me less of a doubter.

I can be happy with myself and find my happiness in the wonders of life all around me.  Trying.  Now THAT makes me happy.

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February: Remembering Love

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According to my magical happiness tome and my spiritual diva guide, Gretchen Rubin, February is the month to Remember Love.  Her suggestions for working on her marriage are categorized as follows:

a) Quit nagging. This is pretty self-explanatory, and I’ve actually been doing this fairly successfully for a while. I find I’m much happier when I just let go and take care of myself and my actions, rather than worrying about what everyone around me is doing.  I try to look at it as successfully managing my stress levels. The more I nag, the more my blood pressure rises and the higher my anxiety goes, so I stopped. Mostly. After all, nobody’s perfect.

I wasn’t sure how my little experiment was going to go as there was a part of me that viewed my inability to motivate action with my nagging as a sort of personal failure. Occasionally I think if my husband truly loved me he would do as I asked instead of ignoring me.  Am I alone in having that thought once in a while? Probably.  Nevertheless, I decided to try not nagging for a week and see what happened. The funny thing is the very things about which I had been nagging him began happening – WITHOUT ME EVEN HAVING TO OPEN MY MOUTH!

I gave it another week and got similar results. So I’ve kept my experiment going for a few months now, and I’m finding that more gets done when I keep my mouth shut and just take care of my own business. When I nag, not a whole lot gets done. It’s quite liberating, and I know my husband appreciates it because he smiles a lot more.

b) Don’t expect praise or appreciation. I’m pretty good with this. I keep my house clean for me, not for anyone else. I do the laundry not because I want people to be appreciative of the fact that they have clean clothes, clean towels and clean sheets, but because I want clean clothes, towels, and sheets, and it’s just as easy to do everybody else’s stuff when I do my own. Plus, I want my child and my husband to look neat and clean, but again, that’s my issue, not theirs. It’s taken me many years, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m OCD about my living space, and the craziness I impose is for myself alone. Consequently, I don’t expect a thank you when I clean up the kitchen after dinner or put clean clothes in their drawers. I do things because I want to, not because I want people to thank me. It’s just how I roll.

c) Fight right. Many years of dysfunctional relationship and lots of psychoanalysis during my teens, twenties and into my thirties has made me hyper-aware of how to fight so that it’s constructive instead of destructive. There are certain lines you just don’t cross, even with a spouse, or perhaps especially with a spouse. Children grow up watching their parents interact, which includes sometimes disagree or fight, and I don’t want my child to learn bad communication and interaction habits from me. I want him to learn how to cherish the people he loves, and if there is a disagreement, how to resolve it in a way that both parties feel heard and appreciated.

Of course, nobody’s perfect, so this will be an on-going project for the rest of my life. After all, I’m only human.

d) No dumping. Finally, something I’m great at! I don’t dump anything on my husband because I know he’s got his own concerns and stresses at work, plus a whole host of other weighty things on his mind. Consequently, unless it’s something really important or something that requires his counsel, such as decisions regarding our child’s education or medical care, I talk to my girlfriends, my sister, my mother, and leave that stressful part of my life behind when hubby walks through the door. He doesn’t need to hear how I’m wondering if I’m a bad mother because I don’t arrange enough playdates or because I do too much for our son.

e) Give proofs of love. This is hard because we’re both so busy, but that’s no excuse. A quick hug and kiss in the morning, a note tucked into his wallet, a brief touch just to say “Hi, I’m here,” can make all the difference in the world, can easily brighten a day. I know my husband sometimes feels – like every other man whose wife is preoccupied with preschool age children – that I’m distracted and am so focused on our son that I take him for granted and forget about him, so I need to change that. I’m going to start hugging more; hugging relieves stress, after all, and boosts feelings of closeness. Everybody can use less stress and more feelings of closeness. I’m also going to figure out a way for us to spend some more time alone, other than late evenings after our little guy is asleep.

I can’t forget why I fell in love with my husband in the first place. After all, the life I have now, the life I love, my miracle boy … none of that would have happened without my husband. So I devote the month of February to showing my husband just how much he means to me.

Hair Nirvana

Something else that makes me happy.  I have found hair nirvana.  I don’t mean a place, but an elixir that far surpasses any hair treatment I have ever used.  And I have used lots over the last 30 plus years that I’ve been doing my own hair.  I have found the kind of hair treatment that allows me to leave the shower, comb my hair and walk out of the house with wet hair.  When my hair dries, it does so without making me look as though I either fell into a vat of olive oil or stuck my finger into a socket.

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Argan oil.  Specifically, Arganics by NuMe.

This stuff is precious.  It feels great to handle, smells wonderful, and doesn’t leave my hair greasy feeling or looking.  It tames the ends, smoothes the roots, and even when my hair air dries, leaves it looking smooth and shiny as if it’s just been blown dry.  If I do use a blow dryer, the drying time is about 5 minutes.  And I have long hair, well past my shoulders.

It’s pricey, I admit, but a bottle lasts about a year, even with my hair length.  When you consider that an average bottle of hair treatment costs $6-$8 and lasts about a month, it’s actually less expensive than a lot of other things you can buy to put in your hair.

For a woman who has spent many hundreds of hours drying her hair with a blow dryer over the course of a lifetime, this product is a life and time saver.

I love it.  Just sayin’.