Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day

It’s currently 35 degrees in my little corner of Southeast Texas.  The greater-Houston area has all but shut down as we brace ourselves for ice-meggedon, or whatever the heck meteorologists call it these days.
Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, we simply referred to it as ‘winter’.
I don’t want to come down too harshly on the place I now call home, for I understand that if you’ve never experienced cold, icy weather you really don’t know how to behave…or drive…or dress….I liken it to obnoxious, disrespectful children.  Sure, your initial response is to take them to task, but you soon realize it’s not their fault – they simply don’t know any better.  Then you can smile smugly and place full blame (and the gossip that’s surely to follow) on the real source of the problem – their parents.
But I digress.
As a child, the anticipation of snow and the inevitable ‘snow day’ brought about such excitement and hope to my young world.  Snow days, of course, meant no school, and no school meant a day in which to focus on what really mattered:  books, Barbies, and at 2pm, the day’s episode of Guiding Light.
The night before a potential snow day, I’d pray harder and faster than I’d ever prayed before.  The Baptists taught me to ‘ask and it is given’, and I took it to heart.  They also taught me intolerance and harsh judgment, which goes to show that sometimes it’s all just one big crap shoot.
But again, I digress.
Early in the morning of a possible snow day, my mother would tune into our local radio station, KDHN –Your Little Home for Big Country Music.  We’d wait…and wait…praying that the farm reports would soon end, and that God and the school superintendant had reached an agreement that we could all get on board with.
Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t.  The Rolling Stones taught me that ‘you can’t always get what you want.’  This lesson somehow always pleased a great number of Baptists, even though they preached against rock and roll.
Once again, digressing.
As an adult, a snow day means (at least for me) a day of limited ‘work from home’ activities, cleaning house, laundry, and any other task I can find to keep me busy.  I like being busy, and I like getting dressed even though I know I’m not leaving the house (honestly, what is our society’s fascination with staying in pajamas all day?)
A dear friend born and raised in New York City scoffs at Houston’s anxiety that comes along with below-freezing temperatures.  In spirit, I’m with him, but I’m not without empathy.  If you’ve never experienced it, you don’t know what to do, which was evident this morning when I spotted my neighbor wearing a winter coat and shorts.  The whole city is downright confused.
I look upon these days not with the excitement I had as a child, but with an understanding that perhaps the universe is telling us all to slow down a little bit.  The world will keep turning if we don’t have to show up anywhere.  We’ll all be okay if we force ourselves indoors every once in a while
By 9am my ‘work from home’ had been completed.  The house is clean, and the last load of laundry turns quietly in the drier.
I have books to read, Barbie clothes to make for the two fabulous nieces, and although it’s no longer on the air, I can still find episodes of Guiding Light on YouTube.
Perhaps I haven’t lost that child-like excitement I once had.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Goods and Services

I was hanging dill leaves over my front door this morning thinking about a recent conversation I’d had with an acquaintance -a nice, successful go-getter type of gal in my community whom I admire.  She asked why I didn’t have my picture on my business cards.  I explained that while I still dabble in a bit of consulting, I’ve landed a gig with a wonderful educational institute and the cards they provide me with are the standard fare they provide for all of their employees.  My name and contact information is on each one, but everything else comes straight from ‘the man’.

Oddly enough, she wasn’t the first person to ask me that question, so I feel the need to fully address the situation.

I began my consulting practice about five years ago with the intention of helping people learn how to dress and how to behave.  It eventually took on a ‘mentoring’ aspect, which I enjoyed.  Had it caught on completely, I might still be out there promoting it full-force.  It didn't, but no worries - the new gig keeps me blissfully busy.  I still have a handful of regular clients, so I’m just not inclined to bust my behind trying to get ‘me’ out there.  Those regular clients, by the way, came my way through word of mouth.  All the snazzy marketing materials, all the local meet and greats, the TV and magazine appearances and such amounted to nothing as far as the ‘bottom line’ was concerned.  In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to eat and buy shoes, but as you well know, we do not live in a perfect world.

Anyway, back to the business card question.  In the super-early stages of my sole proprietorship, I did include my picture on marketing materials.  I then proceeded to get emails from a creepy (and married) individual who had no interest in my professional services.  I don’t consider myself a ravishing beauty, so it just goes to show that there are a lot of sad, desperate jerks out there.  Since I don’t like sad, desperate jerks, I removed my photo from said marketing materials.  He finally left me alone after the phrases ‘restraining order’, ‘your wife’, and ‘tire iron’ were thrust his way.

Promotion.  It should be a simple concept, but it’s not. 

Sure, business owners and those who provide various services must do it and do it well.  Self-promotion is an entirely different thing, and I discovered that the lines blurred for an awful lot of so-called professionals out there. 

Creepy Email Guy made me gun shy.  Combine that with the fact that I’m a pretty private person so you can therefore understand why certain types of promotion didn’t work in my favor.  In our age of technology, advertising should be easy, but it’s not.  I think we’ve got too much information at our finger-tips, and too many folks out there promoting things that may not necessarily be real. Our culture has become one big illusion in which everyone’s a celebrity (even if it is in their own minds).

“Look at me!  Look at me!”

No offense, but I’m tired of looking at you, quite frankly, and I’m okay with the fact that you’re probably tired of looking at me (I hope Creepy Email Guy is, anyway).  I’m incredibly happy doing what I do these days, and I’m content to limit my social media exchanges to things that amuse me that will hopefully amuse others.  Sometimes I even try to pass along information that might educate, but I no longer feel as if I have to do it every hour on the hour.

I’d much rather pursue other interests, like hanging dill above my front door.  You may wonder about such an activity, but as I mentioned earlier, I like to keep certain things private.



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Way of Life

Cheers, Sweeties, and Happy New Year to you all!  As the insanity of the holiday season winds down, many of us may find ourselves taking time for quiet reflection.  Perhaps we’re making resolutions, setting goals, and listing intentions that will make every self-help guru out there proud – and wealthy.  Let’s face it, we’ve so many ‘coaches’, ‘spiritual leaders’, and ‘success trainers’ out there that determining what’s best for us can be downright daunting. We’ve spent unspeakable amounts of money on books, courses, and seminars, and I wonder just how effective the deluge of self-help information out there actually is.   I’ve been guilty of the ‘you can do it!’ overload, so much so that when I go back and reread some of these musings I fall ill.  It’s not that I don’t buy it anymore – I do – but we’re so overrun these days with it that I’m officially over trying to contribute to it. 
Yet that does not mean I’m not seeking ways in which to improve myself.  As a matter of fact, I’ve discovered the one helpful guide that truly resonates with me. 
Joan Crawford’s My Way of Life.
I ask that you put aside any preconceived Mommie Dearest notions.  There are too many accounts out there contradicting the allegations made by Miss Crawford’s eldest daughter, Christina.  I won’t go into all the details here, for you’re quite capable of conducting your own research.  Although the film Mommie Dearest remains one of my campy guilty pleasures, I don’t believe for one minute she abused her children.  (Side note:  it is my sincerest hope that someday I, too, shall be in a position in which I must chop down rose bushes with an ax while wearing a full-length gown in the dead of night). 
Old Hollywood is a hobby of mine, and my studies over the years reveal that Miss Crawford was strict, disciplined, and extremely dedicated to success.  I admire those traits.  She was beautiful and stylish, which are always additional pluses in my book.  After reading My Way of Life and Googling Joan Crawford until I gave myself a headache, we might go so far to say that she was certifiably insane – another admirable trait, in my opinion.
I received this book from my sister, who so gets me and, well, my way of life.  Out-of-print for years, I’m sure she had to jump through myriad hoops in order to get her lovely hands on it.  I spent the whole of my Christmas vacation devouring it, and am compelled to share with you, gentle reader, a few of the highlights and advice Miss Crawford offers in order to ‘maintain your best, intelligent, enterprising, seductive self at all times’.
At the time of the book’s publication, Miss Crawford’s film career had all but vanished.  Aside from a few scant appearances on television, her primary role in 1971 was that of Goodwill Ambassador for Pepsi Cola. Her late husband, Alfred Steele, was president and CEO of the soft-drink company, and following his death, Miss Crawford took it upon herself to remain a vital voice within Pepsi.  She regales My Way of Life readers with stories of being busy…very busy…so much so that each and every day was a whirlwind of phone calls, meetings, appearances, and travel.  Yet in spite of her terribly full calendar, she still managed to look and feel fantastic.  How did she do it?  Read on….
Life in General
I’ve persuaded myself that I hate things that are bad for me-fattening foods, late nights, loud and aggressive people top the list.  I’m with you, Joan, and my intention for 2014 is to avoid all of the above.
We all have our problems, but I don’t inflict mine on my friends. Preach it, Sister.
I abhor dropper-inners.  Even my own children wouldn’t think of dropping in without calling to see if I’m busy.  I don’t like dropper-inners, either, and I’ll take it a step further by telling you that I don’t like phone messages or texts simply stating call me.  Give me a reason to do so, and I just might (I think I may have out-Crawford Joan on this one).
Miss Crawford walked down the aisle four times, so obviously we should look to her as an expert on the subject.  She spoke lovingly of each of her husbands in the book, and that’s a good example for all of us to follow during any sort of break up.  Why waste energy playing the blame game? 
She advises us gals to take an active interest in our husbands’ careers.  I do that, but after having been called everything from Yoko Ono to Lucy Ricardo, I’ve backed off…..a little.  I say follow JC’s lead, but understand your audience.  Mr. Newman is no Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and vice-versa.
You may say to yourself, I’m not Joan Crawford.  I can’t afford trainloads of caviar.  I don’t think I need to elablorate on this, but I will tell you that it was a favorite line bandied about the Newman House during our holiday hosting preparations.  It replaced our usual Do you want our guests to ring in the New Year constipated? line.
Home D├ęcor
Be prepared to spend a sinful amount of money and go through an awful lot of trial and error until your home is absolutely perfect and a true, tasteful reflection of you.  Miss Crawford muses about early decorating mistakes before hiring a team of professionals, and shared a story about a wall-paper so busy that ‘Judy Garland fainted and had to be carried out of the house’.  As an amateur Judy Garland historian, I think I can safely say it wasn’t the wall paper that caused Judy to pass out.
Most of Miss Crawford’s travels required no less than fifteen suitcases.  By the time you have your German maid, Mamacita, place tissue paper in each sleeve, the old ‘roll it’ method simply won’t work here.  Factor in your matching hats, gloves, and shoes, and it should be no surprise when your house-man, Mr. Grant, must make numerous suitcase-laden trips to a waiting limousine parked out front by the tennis court.
Looking the Part
Miss Crawford’s secret for beautiful skin and hair can be summed up in one word:  mayonnaise.  But not just any old mayonnaise – one she made herself to insure that no harsh chemicals were used.  I like it!  In order to maintain one’s figure, she recommends several While Doing Something Else Exercises:  knee bends while scraping carrots, arm flexes while on the phone, etc.  Good tips, but the one I like the most proves tricky to do while you’re doing something else.  It requires you to sit on the floor and walk your buttocks across it.  I tried it, and definitely felt the burn in my core region.  I was also pleasantly surprised to discover a nice sheen on my tile floors afterward, so, yes, I suppose this counts as a two-for-one deal.
A Touch of Magic
The final, all-too-brief chapter discusses what I think should be the most important aspect of anyone’s way of life:
Charm isn’t something you can turn on like a tap with a pretty little-girl simper.  Charm is an ease with people – all kinds of people.  It’s wanting to be a giver.  Responding, communicating, having a genuine interest in people.  Try to make it a part of your way of life.
I shall, Miss Crawford, and thank you.