Category Archives: Girlfriends

The longest winter ever

I have finally seen the light! If you read Stormy’s post on winter in Minnesota, you will have an idea of how long we wait each year to see the sun break up months of grey. This year has been an especially brutally long winter as it trailed into April and just kept nailing us with more snow. This extra month has had a negative impact on everyone. It was as if we all almost gave up hope. My daughter, the optimist, seemed to be the only one holding out as she would walk out of the house each day, look surpised and sigh, “oh no, there is still snow.”

Five days ago

Five days ago

I thought I was getting through it admirably. Biting my tongue and telling the kids how fun it is to be able to make snowmen in April … trying to be a Pollyanna, which is not my forte. But, I knew I needed to fight the anger and resentment brewing inside me. Everything was bugging me more than normal. Plus, the long dry winter was having ill effects on my looks and this was not a mood helper.  My husband finally asked, “are you okay … are we?” I snapped at him that I wouldn’t know anything till I could actually see the sun. And that if it didn’t come soon, I may just head for the airport instead of home one night and send him a postcard from my tropical get-away.

Well this weekend the temperatures jumped. In fact they doubled and hit the ’70s and ’80s overnight. At first it was almost like waking up on vacation. You barely recognized the place. Everyone had on smiles. All the neighbors came out. Restaurants opened their patios for dining. People multiplied on the streets and around the lakes. No one complained about the crowds because we were all so happy to be out of hibernation.  All concerns took a backseat to enjoying the moment. I even started to look better instantly. It was a sunny miracle!

You could even see the positive effect the sun had on kids. I might go as far as to say they were a delight. They spent hours outside playing ball, bike riding, jumping on the trampoline, heading off to the park and for ice cream. Simply enjoying the freedom summer seems to bring to everyone. I didn’t do a thing that needed to get done. Cleaning, errands, grocery shopping, and bills all got pushed aside for just soaking it all in.

Instead, I spent my days doing nothing. In fact, on Sunday I spent the whole day with a girlfriend sitting on the deck, sharing too much wine, flipping through magazines, and getting fake tattoos from my daughter.  It was heavenly.

Yesterday

Yesterday

I am hearing horrible rumors that we aren’t completely over with winter and temps are going to fall just as quickly as they rose, so I am making the most of it in the meantime. Today, I left the office right a 5:00 p.m. (unheard of), took a walk with Stormy, brought the kids out to play when they should have been heading to bed, and now we are going to go sit out on the deck and enjoy a nightcap.

This blog post was also on my to-do list that was pushed aside this weekend, so I did take a break from the great outdoors to get it written since I couldn’t ask Stormy to cover another turn for me for purely self-indulgent reasons.  I’ll be back in a few days with a real post as I am forced back into hibernation.

I hope rest of you are doing some fabulous things to enjoy this very deserved weather.

Do we really need an excuse to party?

The other day, I got an “invitation” in the mail. Party? Fete? Soiree? Gala? Nah, it was an invitation to a direct-selling party. You know: Avon, Tupperware, Silpada, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple… There are dozens of versions.

tupperware_party_729-420x0oNow back in the 50s and 60s, direct-selling parties had a practical purpose. When my mother was a young wife, there weren’t nearly as many retail options and many households had only one car. For a young mother, stuck at home with small children, an invitation to a Tupperware party was a welcome opportunity to socialize with “the neighbor ladies” while seeing some innovative new merchandise. Add in some fondue or that nifty lime Jell-o with the shredded carrots and cottage cheese and you’ve got yourself a PAR-TAY!

Fast forward to today: I live in a major metropolitan area a mere four miles from the infamous Mall of America, one of the largest malls in the country. Moreover, I have high-speed Internet—which literally brings a world of merchandise directly to my front door. Access to retail is not a problem for me.

Do I enjoy an evening or afternoon of socializing with other women? Generally, speaking: Yes. So long as they aren’t trying to sell me something.

Although I have a pretty demanding full-time job, I understand the appeal of being an “independent representative” for a direct-selling company–either because your primary job is raising your children, or you just want to make a little extra money on the side. That’s all good. But I don’t understand the party-throwing aspect or the weird sense of obligation women feel to support each other in these efforts. I mean, I work for a company that pays me a bonus based on our revenue numbers, but that doesn’t mean I expect my friends to help me earn my bonus.

Actually, the selling part is fine. And if it’s a product I’m interested in and I want to support my friend, I may even go. But  it’s the obligation-to-buy/attend inherent in so many of these invites that I loathe. I remember an episode many years ago when my children were very small, I was talking with the mother of one of my child’s friends. She said, “I’m planning a girls night party a week from next Thursday, would you like to come?” As a young mom, I didn’t have a lot of friends that were in the same stage of life and welcomed the invitation. So I said, “Sure, it sounds like fun.”

avon-ladyA few days later the invitation arrived—to a party selling overpriced cosmetics! A classic bait-and-switch! I had already said I was free, so what could I do? I went to the party, resentful the entire time, and purchased the only thing that seemed reasonably priced—a clay face mask. (In addition to my aforementioned frugality regarding paid services, I’m also a cheapskate when it comes to cosmetics. Most of my stuff comes from Walgreens or Target.)

I know a lot of women will disagree with me and sincerely welcome the opportunity to attend these parties. But I think the draw for a lot of women is they sincerely enjoy social time with their women friends, but feel guilty about getting together with them. Getting together under the guise of a direct-selling party alleviates the guilt of ditching dad with the kids for an evening, because you’re “supporting a friend’s business venture.” So the subject of this particular rant, er, post is: Why? Why can’t women just get together to socialize without it being related to one of them trying to sell something to the others?

Thankfully, technology has made direct-selling without pressure an easier thing to achieve. These days, items can be sold via catalog parties, online or at an open house where the guests/customers can browse at leisure rather than sitting through a 30-minute pitch and waiting awkwardly for the order form to be passed along.

Again, I’m not bashing the ambition of sisters looking to make an extra buck. Not. At. All. But let’s treat it like a business, not a social event. If you want to get together with your girlfriends—do that. But do it because you work hard (whether in the home or outside of it) and deserve a night of fun–not because you’re one party away from earning the hostess gift.

Finding your happy place

For me, there is nothing in the world like being out dancing with girlfriends. I probably should be saying something like “having children,” “watching a beautiful sunset,” or “accomplishing a long-term goal.” But if I am being perfectly honest, my true happy place is out with girls dancing. It is the perfect pairing of two favorite things.

Dancing: My husband and kids know at any time Mom may throw on a playlist of a random genre and start a dance party around the house. It may be pop, glam rock, alternative, heavy metal, hip hop or even country (usually inspired by my last visit to the cabin and the local dance bar). Lately my morning routine has been blasting “Chicken Fried” and singing and dancing for the family. They find me a bit annoying but I’m hoping somewhere … deep down … they secretly find me fun and silly. How else do you break up a morning of crabby kids, a grumbling husband and facing another crazy day at the office? Especially since running away  does not seem to be an option.

Girlfriends: I don’t think I have to do too much explaining on this. Most likely, just seeing the word made you smile. These are those to whom you can say whatever you want to and they just get it. Some are really close and know all your intimate secrets. Others are fabulous neighbors, coworkers, workout partners or a  even random meet-up. They are the honest women who don’t try to tell you life is perfect, but are just there and get it with you. They make life perfect. Okay, I am gushing, but I do recognize when I am blessed.

So, combine these two fabulous things that make me feel completely free, totally myself,  and always put a huge smile on my face  – mix in with a couple drinks (the cherry on the top) – and I have a moment of selfish bliss. And that moment helps get me through a lot of other kinds of times.

I am hoping there are others out there who would consider volunteering or overcoming a challenge to be their happy place. They help add some balance to this world. (My runner-up happy place is on the couch – quiet with no one else around – with a glass of wine.) But, the important thing is knowing where it is and visiting it as often as you can.

Where did all my visions go?

Well, this year’s vision board was not as smooth of a process as last time. Perhaps it was a bit of the first-time novelty wearing off. Or, since I threw out to the online world that I would share it, I knew/I felt like everything I selected would be scrutinized by any followers (since there are only a handful of you at this point, this probably was a bit silly, but I have never been one who likes to look like an under performer).

Now don’t get me wrong. The swilling-of-wine and laughing-with-friends part of this project was a blast. But, I could not find the right pictures. Actually, I had no idea what to put on my board. Instead of inspiring, it had turned into a to-do list project. Witnessing others easily pull theirs together did not help matters.

So there my board sat empty, except for the smiling girl in the rain brought over from last year. I did find a photo of a kid blowing bubbles forming the word dream. That seemed like an obvious one since I had no big aspirations for 2013 – I might as well prepare for 2014.

“Knock off a few easy ones,” a friend suggested, “don’t just think big.” That got me on a bit of a roll…take better care of my nails, try wearing my hair in different styles, a clock to remind me of stricter time-outs with the kids along with adding a “drop everything to read” ritual to try to get control over my children (spurred by a turn off-the-electronics battle as I left the house).

Other easy ones to add an were photos representing getting into better shape. With finding-the-perfect-stomach-and-butt-photo a common search for everyone, the Yoga and Shape magazines were very popular. And soon a drinking game was created: Toast and drink every time someone calls out a spotting of the “It’s a Yeast Party” advertisement. Yes, I am serious that is an actual ad (and placed enough to create a game out of it).

By the end of the night, I had a board put together.  It was fine. (Anyone who knows me knows fine is not a word I like or aspire to in any aspect of my life.)

This weekend I decided to head up to the cabin to “clean” with a girlfriend (a post later on that). I decided to grab my board, thinking maybe I would be able to add something. I wasn’t quite ready to give up.

Well, flipping through magazines I happened upon a photo of a girl. (Is it more proper to say woman? Sorry if I offend anyone, but I am still in denial about my age and prefer girl.) Now I can’t explain what I liked about the photo. Sure she was attractive, but she also  just seemed put together in an eclectic way. Confident. Interesting. Not perfect. I don’t know exactly what it was, but something clicked. I tore off my last year’s spokesperson and put on the new girl. That was it. I finally looked at my board and felt inspired.

KitKat's vision for 2013

KitKat’s vision for 2013

I didn’t achieve that pure happiness of the blonde in the rain from last year’s board. And, I didn’t feel compelled to achieve it this time. This is a different year and I am different. I still want to settle my mind, teach myself to live in the present, and embrace contentment. But, maybe I want pieces of my weirdness, craziness, longing for more to also stay part of me. Be confident to be me  … temperamental, quirky, goofy, stubborn, spontaneous … the whole mishmash of stuff (naughty and nice) that—as a whole—people hired me, befriended me and married me for. I want to improve me without losing me – the good as well as the not-ideal. In this business of life, marriage, kids, career, I have already given up enough of me.

And I’ll tell you … sounds a bit silly, but a few times when I’ve felt my head judging myself, worrying or over-analyzing, I have focused on that picture, stopped myself and switched gears. (Well, and a few times I went down my crazy rabbit hole – but the girl in the photo I picked would give herself a break for an occasional slip up!)

I won’t bore you with what all the photos and words stand for (I will refer to them here and there in other posts) – but I’d love to hear some things others would put on their board. Remember, don’t just think big. I actually got the nail polish out and did my nails after walking by my board and being reminded. Maybe these things really do work. Heck, even Oprah.com promotes doing one.