The Lifestyle

I am a huge fangirl of lifestyle books.  I like to read about capsule wardrobes, and unique organizing systems.  I love to read about how to make your home chic, and how to throw an amazing dinner party. I love to read about beauty routines, and how people pamper themselves.  I may not actively choose to do all these things, but the joy in reading about them…priceless.

I recently read “Living Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Timeless Secrets for Everyday Elegance, Gracious Entertaining, and Enduring Allure” by Tish Jett (2018- Rizzoli). I want to be elegant everyday!  I want to enduringly alluring! I don’t want to entertain, but I can skim that…. So you see- I went into this book with certain expectations. I went into page 1 as a lump of clay, and I expected to come out as a beautiful and unique sculpture. And I as sit here writing in my bathrobe and fluffy slippers- I don’t know if I’ve succeeded…

L’art de vivre is loosely translated as the art of living. But can you teach someone the art of living? And more importantly, do people need to be taught how to live?

I get sucked into the philosophy of these books because I am always trying to live my life more minimally and simply. And this book does do that..to a certain extent. The capsule wardrobe is explored- have ten or twenty great pieces and manipulate them to form many different looks and outfits.  Buy quality over quantity.  Alter clothes so they fit perfectly. Stick with a neutral color palette.  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. This is truly my goal: I want to own no more than ten articles of clothing per season, and just be able to take five minutes to pick out an outfit, yet look fabulous.

Yet, here’s where they start to lose me: the author advocates always being “dressed”.  She writes in slacks and loafers.  She puts an apron on over her good, expensive clothes when cooking.  I just don’t think this is practical. I write in my bathrobe, or in my gym clothes, or in sweats and a t shirt. When I begin to cook dinner I change into a gross t shirt (I am not the neatest cook in the world). I am a true believer in comfortable, junky clothes. If I’m watching TV at night, I don’t want to be in slacks and a blouse… So does this mean I’m not effortlessly elegant?

And let’s delve into the household aspect for a second.  I do not iron my 8000 thread count sheets and spritz them with lavender water. I know.  You’re wagging your finger at me, asking me how I can exist like this….here’s a secret- I own very nice sheets but they are by no means the equivalent cost of a mortgage payment… I wash my sheets…I put them back on the bed…I sleep fine.  But I guess not elegantly.

I also do not have an armoire filled with table linens and different baskets and things that can be used as a centerpiece on my tablescape.  I have a vase that I fill with flowers. For Thanksgiving I throw a couple of gourds in the middle of the table.  At Easter I put some plastic eggs…You’re beginning to get the idea of how I entertain…Elegant? Not even a bit…

I don’t make my own potpourri. Apparently, there is no way I can master l’art de vivre without drying petals…Here’s the thing: I am all for a simple, sophisticated lifestyle. But once I need to start making my own potpourri, I’ve lost the simple. It starts to veer off into territory I don’t want to explore…

Then there’s the charm part.  I am not Princess Charming.  I am Queen Sarcasm. I don’t know how to “small talk”. I do not know how to start conversations with strangers.  I am great with people that I know- I can talk to them for hours.  But put me at a cocktail party with people I don’t know….I freeze. I revert to “Wow- can you believe how windy it was today?” I can read books about how to talk to people, but that doesn’t mean I can actually do it…Elegance….fail.

So….

Am I more elegant or alluring since I read this book? No.  Probably not.

Did I enjoy parts of this book? Yes.  Very much so.

Did some parts of the book make me want to throw my ipad across the room.  Yes.

And I guess that’s the thing about lifestyle books: we read the parts that are important to us, and we skim over what doesn’t work. No one lifestyle book is going to work for anyone because we are al unique people: we are not one size fit all.  We all have things that work for us, and we shouldn’t change it just because a book, or website or blog says that we should.  The art of living is when you figure out a way of life that fits you, brings out the best in you, makes you feel confident and at ease. It makes you internally elegant and alluring. So write your own art of living book, even if it’s just for you.

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A Tale of Two Aunts

Last week I lost my Aunt M, wife of my Father’s brother.  My Husband also lost an Aunt- the wife of his Mother’s brother.

When my parents found out about the death, they talked to my two cousins, sent a fruit basket to the house, and figured out if it were feasible to get from New Jersey to Louisiana.  When my MIL found out about the death, she asked the children of the deceased to pay for her plane ticket from Florida to New Jersey.

Let me backtrack: I have never met my Husband’s Aunt, nor the cousins, nor his Uncle when he was alive.  Obviously, it wasn’t a distance thing because they only live an hour away from us.  I never met them because my Mother in Law hadn’t spoken to her brother in about twenty years.  They reconciled about eight years ago, sort of, and then he passed about two years ago.  But to be clear, the relationship was contentious.  And now, well, now there’s no relationship again.

See, oddly, the family of the deceased did not take kindly to my MIL asking for a plane ticket. After my MIL’s third email about the trip up from the funeral, the daughter of the deceased called up screaming.  And my MIL hung up on her.

When Husband relayed this story to me, I just looked at him and said- “everyone remembers that your cousins Mom just died, right? That even though it was expected, it’s still hard and she’s raw? And that the “job” of those around her is to make her feel a little better about her loss? Not to aggravate her?” My husband just shrugged his shoulders.

If I wrote this story in a book, people would say I wasn’t being realistic, that this would never happen in real life. But as we all know, truth is stranger than fiction.  And people act in mysterious ways. I’m sure when my MIL relays this story to her friends she will undoubtedly make herself the victim (let’s face it, we all spin stories so that we show that we are wronged)

So the moral of the story is: think about what you’re saying and what you’re doing.  Think about how your actions affect those around you.  Consider for a brief moment what they are going through. And try to act in a way that is true to yourself, but considerate of those around you. And don’t hang up on a person who is grieving because they’re not doing what you want them to do.

 

The Interview

A few months ago I told you about my daughters dilemma- show up late to a college open house or miss her tennis match.  Last weekend she was invited to this particular university club again- but this time there would be no choosing- this time she would not only be on time, she would be early.  This time it was for the interview.

Now my daughter is the queen of advance preparation. A few days before the interview she approached her guidance counselor and said- “Interview this weekend. Any tips?” To which the counselor replied- “Don’t worry- the interview doesn’t matter at the majority of schools.  Which school?” And my daughter dropped the name and the counselor said “except that one.  Let me tell you what to do.”

  1. Be on time
  2. Clean, neat appearance
  3. Eye contact
  4. Provide a resume or CV
  5. Do not give one word answers
  6. It’s OK to tell them about your achievements- don’t act like an idiot, but it’s not bragging in an interview- it’s what they want to know
  7. Be mature yet effervescent (my daughter had her interview after a certain round of newspaper articles recently came out)
  8. Be prepared to ask them questions
  9. Shake hands
  10. Don’t be nervous
  11. Email a thank you within 24 hours

Ok- so my daughter was armed with this info- but trust me she was nervous.  I was nervous. My daughter is an amazing student, great leader, good person.  She is also not so great when she is interacting with people she doesn’t know.  She’s a wonderful writer and her personality comes through in everything she puts on paper, but unfortunately she is like me in person: awkward and introverted.

So- knowing this- we had interview lessons in my house.  We asked questions so that she would get some practice at answering questions, to learn how to be mature and effervescent. Yeah- that was fun.  The least charming person in America attempting to teach the second least charming person in America how to be charming…

Now the day of the interview hosted its own set of challenges. My daughter chose to wear a skirt, long sleeve t shirt, tights and short boots.  The outfit was appropriately businessy yet showed that she was a teenager.  The only snag we hit were the tights.  Now, I grew up in a generation of pantyhose and tight wearing.  My daughter has not.  Needless to say my daughter called out to me: “Hey- can you come here?” and I walked in to find the crotch of the tights somewhere around her knees. “These don’t fit.” And I looked at her and thought – really 99th percentile and you don’t know to ball up the tights and slowly put them on? So yes- we’d prepped for everything except how to get dressed…

But before you know it she was out the door and on her way. She felt the interview went well.  Which was the best news I could hear. She felt confident, and that she gave it her all. And I’m slightly calmer now- that is over.

Of course- she has more schools to apply to and already got an interview date for another school…but at least she can put on tights.

Honestly, I don’t know if interviewing ever gets easier. I think we all face them with a little bit of apprehension- I mean- you are going into a room to have people judge you.  If that doesn’t make you nervous them you have nerves of steel…

But it’s all good.  We all survive interviews and live to tell the tale…

 

 

That Was Rude

Last week I talked about a comment made to me on the street- “Nice Ass Grandma”. Several people commented on the remark for its rudeness and sexual connotation and how it’s demeaning to women.  And I agree with all of it.

But….

I don’t like any rude remarks regardless of what they represent.  I don’t think anyone should ever say anything rude to anyone else.  Pretty much ever.

Have I said rude things? You bet.  Have I regretted them? 99% of the time.  Sometimes I have been treated so poorly I don’t think I was rude enough in my response. So I’ve been rude and people have been rude towards me.

However- do you know the rude behavior regarding my physical appearance to be the most annoying? When someone comments on my height.  I am five feet two inches tall on a good day.  Which is under average.  Which makes me short. Do you know how many comments I’ve received about being short? I don’t- but I know it outnumbers every other thing said to me.  And the people who have commented on my height are all backgrounds, race, religion and sex.  Some were outright mocks, some were backhanded compliments, and some were just plain obnoxious.  All of them bothered me.

So here’s my question for today: Why do people feel the need to say something, anything about another person? Does it make them feel better about themselves? Do they just have an innate desire to not be a nice person?

Now- I’m going to skip to other types of rude behavior.  Do you know who has made the comments that have affected me the most?  My Mother. My Mother has made the rudest comments to me, the ones that hurt me the most deeply.  You want to know why I spend so much time talking about parenting, trying to be a better parent? Because I know how much a parent influences their child.

Do you the next group of people who make the rudest comments to me are?  My inlaws.  I am treated with disdain pretty much every time I interact with them.  there is not an occasion when they have not said at least one rude comment.

So here’s the thing about rude behavior.  It’s everywhere, and spoken by everyone.

How do we stop it?  Well, we each have to stop being rude to one another. If every person doesn’t actively make the effort to be kind to others we will never rid bad behavior.

 

Happy Halloween

Today is the day that the waking household will have to listen to the dog bark between 6 and 8 pm.  When you live in an apartment building you hang a little sign over your doorknob, and the trick or treaters have a designated time slot to come a knockin. My daughter has gone from candy getter to candy accompanier (our neighbor down the hall is now ten- when she was younger she asked my daughter to go around the building with her) and now she is thrilled to be candy giver.  She will sit at the dining room table doing homework and wait for the bell to ring.  We are giving out, I think M&M’s and whatever else came in the assortment pack we buy. Hopefully nothing I like.

Last year my daughter wore devil horns and a red shirt that said “PRADA”. Though she loved the costume, she found it was annoying to have people come up to her, squint, and them say “OMG that’s so funny”. This year she specifically said she did not want a clever costume.  She also wanted to go the group costume route- which means she left the house this morning donning my husbands oxford cloth shirt and tie, jean shorts, sunglasses and a baseball cap.  They’re calling the look “frat boy”. On a funny note, my daughter never got to dress up for Halloween at school until high school- the closest they came was having the 4th graders dress up as their favorite literary character (that was the year my daughter was heavy into American Girl and she went as 70s child Julie) She also had a “party costume” which was a red riding hood capelet- but that’s a whole other story.

Now I don’t usually dress up for Halloween- I just take my broom out and leave it on display. But if I were to dress up I think I would go the pirate route…there’s something earthy and raw about a pirate- I think it’s time for me to explore that side of my personality…

But for now- Have a great day and don’t eat too much candy!!

A Different Type of Gratitude

When I jotted down notes for today’s blog my intention was to complain about something my Husband did. Nothing major, just something annoying.  Then last week I was talking to a friend, and I asked if in my blog I wasn’t particularly nice towards my husband.  The response: well, you do sort of paint him in a negative light.

So I thought about that. And I realized it’s true. When I blog about my Husband I tend to complain, or write when he does something wrong.  Of course, sometimes the stuff he does is so stupid it’s funny, other times it’s because he’s really pissed me off. It’s easy to write about these things- funny and angry practically write themselves- the words just flow onto the page.

This is the thing about long term relationships (19 years)- it’s easy to pick on the flaws- you’re just more aware of them.  At the onset of a relationship you sweep the negative under the rug, you figure you can work on it later.  The beginning is all about the good: presents, sex, fun. But as years go by….

On Saturdays I have been trying to focus on the good parts of my life- the little things that I am grateful for. And I admit, even when I am trying to focus on all the good in my life, I still undercredit my Husband. I forget about the things he does which make my life easier and better. It becomes so easy to miss all the good because it’s so easy to focus on the bad or annoying.

So…going forward…I am going to try to think about the good things my Husband does. I am going to try to not let the little stuff drive me crazy (and as I write this I’m annoyed because he did something insignificant to most but to me it took my out of my morning ritual and it’s eating away at my brain) but I’m going to try to remember the good that he does.

I guess that’s the key to successful, long term relationships: the ability to let the positive shine thought and let the negative slide to the background. There should be a relationship journal where every night you must write down one bad thing and three good things about your significant other. This way, you get to vent, but you also get to praise. You get to look at your SO in a better light, while accepting that they are human and have faults. It’s all about perspective: how we choose to view the people we are with.

Resolution Style: The Update

As December turned to January, I made a pact to up my style game.  At the close of last year I felt that my wardrobe was just bleh, and bleh wardrobe morphed into bleh mindset.  So I began my journey to style.

First off- it is really hard to add style to your life, especially if you are a minimalist, understated sort of person. Where do you start? How do I add a little flair while still retaining my personality? And how do I do all this when I hate shopping? I even wrote a follow up blog detailing my difficulty in working towards this goal.

Enter Stitchfix- the monthly service that sends you clothes. This was great for me: I was able to add some great pieces to my wardrobe with little personal fuss.  I also tried things that I might not have tried otherwise.  This step alone added something- I went a little out of my comfort zone- just enough to add a little zip.

Then I really began playing with accessories.  As I normally start out with a neutral black palette, adding things really helps. I began playing with texture and shape and I daresay color. I started going a little bolder with my jewelry.  And it helped.  I felt better walking out of the door every day. Friends commented on my look and on my choices.  I knew I was on the right track.

Then a few weeks ago I wrote about my favorite black dress, and I described how I accessorized it different ways for different occasions.  My friend Cozy commented on how she like the styles I was able to create…and it was at that moment I realized that I had done it- I had worked my way towards creating a personal style that made me feel good about myself, made me feel unique, made me feel put together. Last year at this time I felt I was sort of hiding in my clothing.  I don’t feel like that anymore.

So yesterday when I met up with my daughter for lunch, she looked at my slightly above the knee grey dress, knee length down vest, knee high boots (I have a thing for knees apparently) grey cuff bracelet and silver pendent and she said “Look at you Mom. I like the look.  it’s totally you.”

And I smiled to myself. I wanted to switch up my wardrobe a little and I did it, but I’m still exactly who I am. Just a little more so.

 

Nice &%$ Grandma

I went to the gym last week, did my usual hour on the elliptical. As I was watching HGTV, the guy on the elliptical next to me started chatting me up, in a pleasant manner.  He was age appropriate and rather attractive, so I was enjoying the banter.  I admit, though I am totally in love, the positive affirmation from someone I don’t know did make me feel good.

But, here’s the thing. You can never let yourself get too cocky…

A short time later I was running errands (my daughter had pre ordered her Halloween costume and I told her I would pick it up at Party City). As I was walking home, some random person shouted:

“Nice Ass Grandma”

Of course I relayed this story to my friends.  I got the following responses:

  1. OMG- I just told my Husband and he’s hysterical
  2. Well, at least he thought it was nice
  3. GILF
  4. On behalf of all men I apologize
  5. Only in NYC
  6. Tell me more about the attractive guy at the gym

What was my response?

GRANDMA.  He referred to me as a Grandma?

Now, I realize I am old enough to be a Grandma.  I know that there are plenty of women my age who are Grandma’s.  My cousin D, who is six years younger than me, just found out she is going to be a Grandma.  So I get that.  But I just don’t feel like a Grandma.

What does a Grandma feel like? I don’t really know, except to say that I don’t feel like one. When I think Grandma I think cozy cardigan sweaters, and little wire rim glasses- sort of like Mrs. Claus.  And I know that’s not how Grandma’s look nowadays.  I know Grandma’s can be hip and cool and fun.  My Mom, obviously a Grandma, still looks youthful.  But there’s just something about the connotation…

I know I have to come to the understanding that I am getting older.  And getting older is not a bad thing- as we’ve stated before, it’s better than the alternative.  I need to accept the fact that I am still the same person I have always been, but with a few extra lines and dryer skin, and knees that hurt when I take the stairs too quickly. But it’s OK. I know that one day I will be a very cool Grandma….

My Song

“I love music, any kind of music”.

I didn’t write that line. That credit belongs to the iconic songwriting duo Gamble and Huff, as was sung by the O’Jays. And that simple line sums up quite neatly how I feel about music.

What is it about tunes and lyrics, hearing musicians play instruments and singers sing songs, that makes many of us feel good? What makes some songs become popular? What makes some songs stay in people’s minds forever?

There are some theories.  I know there’s a mathematical formula about beats per minute that supposedly is found in many chart toppers. Certain singers have voices that are just so pure that people will listen because the vocals are that incredible. There are musicians that play their instruments so well that you can’t help but be in awe of them. But those are just theories…and there is no universal song that everyone loves. Every listener takes something out of a song, a piece of work. Everyone has music that just speaks to them.

One of my songs is “Iris” written by Johnny Rzeznick.  There is something about this song that resonates with me, and also every other Goo Goo Dolls fan as evidenced by the crowd singing the chorus at the concert I attended recently. And of course my blog sister Cynthia, who has written about this song as well.

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now
And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight
And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive
© BMG Rights Management

So what is it about this song? Why does it grab my attention? Seriously, other than the obvious romantic stuff (cause we all know I’m not particularly romantic), what captivates me?

And of course, what are the songs that captivate you? Which songs will always be on the playlist in her heart?

 

 

Who ya gonna call….

Stressbusters.

When life gets stressful, which it will, what do you do?

I’ve whined of late about how my head is going to explode as I watch my family, my friends and myself get through some tough times. And we all need coping mechanisms to get us through the tough times. Today, I’m going to give you the things that work for me.

  1. reading very light novels (they make me smile and remember that there will be silly moments in my future, and happy endings)
  2. organizing things (it helps to make order and calm out of something)
  3. exercise (nothing makes me feel better than breaking a sweat, or lifting weights or just putting one foot in front of the other- you and your body are stronger than you think)
  4. hot bath (lavender salts, your troubles just float away)
  5. cooking/baking (you have to pay attention to a recipe- you don’t have time to worry.  My family has gotten pumpkin scones, pumpkin cookies and yellow cake with chocolate frosting over the past three weeks)
  6. music (I put on music and my shoulders drop down about six inches)
  7. talk to a friend (the other day I just spit out my whole list of stresses to my friend. After I did it I fully exhaled for the first time in a month)
  8. Writing (this blog and my journal have been brain saving)
  9. puzzles/games (this is another example of getting your mind occupied for a little bit so that you’re not dwelling on whatever issues ail you)
  10. getting a good night’s sleep (seriously- lack of sleep isn’t good under the best of circumstances- when you’re stressed it’s worse)
  11. Photography (taking pictures calms me- I’m thinking about light and angle and framing- nothing else)
  12. Playing with my dog and cat (come on- they’re cute and furry and snuggle)

So- what are your favorite methods of stress relief? How do you cope when everything is piling up?