Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Presidential Pardon Me

Have you heard the one about our current commander-in-chief, who recently stated that the position of First Lady should be a salaried one?

I don’t know how you feel about it, Dear Reader, and far be it from me to get political here, but I think that it’s absolute nonsense.  Former First Lady Laura Bush agrees with me (she stated it in an article - I don’t actually know her).  I imagine the whirring sound we hear right about now is Jacqueline Kennedy spinning in her grave at the very idea.

In the article, Mrs. Bush mentioned the perks that come along with the position.  I think grand vacations on the nation’s dime fall into this category, as well as access to all the best wares American fashion designers have to offer.  You get to live rent free in a big house for at least four years, and have an entire staff of people ready and willing to do your bidding.  Depending on your political affiliation, Oprah and the rest of her ilk will sop you up with a biscuit.  What a life.

I can only imagine, though, that the role of First Lady comes with more than a few setbacks.  Media scrutiny is no picnic, I’m sure – you’re judged on everything from your primary causes to your hairstyle.  And imagine the family dinner table.  “How was your day, dear?”  is a loaded question.  The First Lady must brace herself for the response.  At times the President might regale her with stories of intrigue, high tension, and suspense.  Other times it may be all she can do to keep her head from falling into the mashed potatoes due to total boredom.

First Ladies have always fascinated me.  They didn’t sign on for the job, yet we expect them to step up and serve in some capacity.  Nancy Reagan encouraged us to say no to drugs, Hilary Clinton had health care, and now Michelle Obama is force-feeding our children healthy school lunches and encouraging us all to get into shape.  Noble intentions, but how effective are they?

Thirty years later, people still use drugs.

I won’t go into health care.

Students report that their lunches are awful.  They did that before the revised menu.  Heck, awful school lunches have been a staple ever since the idea of school lunches was conceived.

I think part of my problem with politics today is that the highest office held in our country has become a bit too pedestrian for my liking.  I don’t recall Gerald Ford swapping stories with Johnny Carson on late night TV.  Mary Todd Lincoln never graced the covers of any fashion magazine.  If you have any documentation that George Washington sat down and had a beer with a Regular Joe who disagreed with him, I’d like to see it.  There’s no mystique to it anymore, and I simply can’t take it seriously.  This isn’t necessarily a jab at our current administration.  I recall flinching when I saw Bill Clinton play saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show back in the early 90s.  I was 22-years-old, and had only been eligible to vote in one election up to that point.  Call me old fashioned or a stick-in-the-mud, I just didn’t think it was appropriate.

Nor do I think it appropriate for our First Ladies to draw a paycheck, particularly when we have so many in the country struggling to make ends meet. 

Perhaps I’m guilty of waxing nostalgic, but there just seemed to be more glamour, elegance, and a sense of true service coming out of Washington once upon a time.   Washington isn’t the only guilty party.  We can point fingers at Hollywood, too.  Yet perhaps we as citizens should shoulder the blame, for we’re the ones allowing it to happen. We’ve dumbed everything down to such a sad degree, so why should we hold our elected officials and their families to a higher standard?

Because it’s the thing to do.  Perhaps if we did, we’d see some pretty remarkable results.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming

I’ve debated whether or not to share this nugget with you, Sweeties, but I choose to do so because a) it may help someone somehow, b) it drives home the point that tact and elegance have quickly become charming little notions of the past, and c) I find it absolutely hilarious.

It started about two months ago when a former reader of this little scribbling of mine sent a personal message in order to complain about the content.  Excerpts from our exchange are as follows:

She:  it used to be so much more inspirational than this.  What’s going on?

Me:  There’s plenty of inspiring material out there for everyone.  I suppose as a writer I just feel compelled to go down a different road.

Later that Day

She:  But the stuff you write now is boring and not very funny.  I don’t get it.  You call yourself a writer, but shouldn’t writers have a point of view?

Me:  I suppose it helps to have a point of view, but I do it because I enjoy it.

That Night

She:  But aren’t you trying to run some sort of business?  I’m great at networking my own business, and I can assure you that what you’re doing won’t bring you any customers.

Me:  Aside from the occasional gig, I no longer have a business of my own.  I decided to go back to working for the man.  Life is easier for me that way.

The Next Morning

She:  Couldn’t hack it, huh?  I’m telling you, your blog is a big part of the problem.  I’m happy to offer my networking services to get you back on track.  I’ll even throw in a discount.

Me:  While I appreciate your offer, I must decline.  I’ve had every networking genius out there throw in his two cents, and to be honest with you, that’s part of why I no longer work for myself.

Later That Morning (boy, talk about persistence)

She:  You have a really rotten attitude.  I can’t believe I ever got hooked on your blog.  You’re a liar, too – promoting the positive attitude thing and then turning around and being really negative.

Me:  I’m sorry you feel that way

She:  It hurts my feelings that you won’t let me help you.

Me:  I’m sorry you feel that way

She:  Well, you’ve just lost yourself a reader.  Congratulations!


 Congratulations, indeed.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Elegant Summer Travel Tips - 2014 Edition

 I love clothes.  I love trips.  I love wearing snazzy clothes on trips.  With that being said, however, one thing remains that I don’t love:  lugging around tons of luggage, because traveling, while wonderful, can be a pain in the neck, so why add to the trouble by over packing? 
Unless one is taking a months-on-end extended holiday, one should never carry more than one suitcase and one travel-bag.  I’ve had the very good fortune to travel to many places world-wide, and did so each and every time with my belongings packed away in one mid-size case.
So, how did I do it, you may be asking yourself (or not).  I’m happy to share my elegant travel tips with you, Sweetie, provided you promise to abide by them:
1.      Go with separates, preferably in wrinkle-free fabric.  I spent ten days in Spain with only three pair of trousers and a small variety of tops and cardigans.  Mix and match, and take advantage of any laundry services your hotel provides.  If no service is available, or if you’re a tightwad, carry a small bottle of travel wash and rinse your things out in a sink if necessary.  Travel-size Febreeze is a God-send.
2.     I rarely pack shampoos/conditioners/lotions because hotels have these readily available.  If they don’t carry your brand, who cares?  You’ll be back to your tried-and-true products soon enough.  I once forgot to pack a toothbrush; hotels will gladly give you one just for the asking.  Same goes for razors, but not for restocking the mini-bar.   I learned that the hard way in Italy.
3.      This time of year, easy-breezy dresses are a must.  Rather than fold, roll and place them inside your suitcase.  This will leave you plenty of extra space for a couple of nice hats and a small accessory bag (mix and match your bling).
4.     When it comes to shoes, a couple of pair should do you.  Be sure to add a nice pair of heels in case you’re invited to a fabulous party.  I’m never invited to parties when I travel, but perhaps you’re more likeable than me. Or perhaps you just  give off a certain vibe.
5.     No need to pack a robe and slippers – your hotel will probably offer those, too.  Call ahead or check the hotel’s website before arriving in order to make sure. If not, take along one in the lightest of fabric, and substitute the slippers with the pair of flip-flops you’ve probably already packed.
6.     If you happen to be staying with friends, do take along travel-size essentials.  Nobody likes a mooch.  Don’t clutter the countertops with your toiletries, either.  Remain tidy if you want to be asked to return someday.
And while I’m on the subject, here’s a random sampling of other things you shouldn’t do when staying in someone else’s home:  complain, turn on the TV without asking, allow your hostess to clear your plate after dinner, point out the faults of your host’s home, not give them a gift at the end of the visit (preferably cash, if you’re staying with me), and nude napping.
So let’s move on to what not to do whilst staying in a hotel:  get drunk, get arrested, allow children to scream up and down the halls during ungodly hours of the morning, go out to the pool without a proper swimsuit cover-up, overindulge at the complimentary coffee bar (I’m guilty of this, so we'll take it case by case). Now that I think of it, these should also hold true if you’re staying with friends.
But the most important thing to remember is to never inundate your host or your hotel with every possession you own.  Lighten up when it comes to travel, Sweetie.  I think you’ll enjoy the trip so much more if you do.
Happy travels!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

That's Amore

They resembled those couples you see on TV commercials, the ones that promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness all thanks to a little pill.  Should your quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness last longer than four hours, you should seek medical help immediately.  Of course, I had no choice but to take an immediate dislike to them.
It happened at a restaurant that Mr. Newman and I enjoy on a regular basis.  It promotes a special each week called ‘Amore Monday’ – three courses at incredibly discounted prices.  Our couple in question, however, took the term literally, for such displays of PDA I hadn’t seen since I cancelled our Cinemax subscription years ago.
They sat on the same side of the booth, and had she’d been any closer to him, she would have been behind him.  Roaming hands, repeated kisses – it was quite a show, but not in a good way.  I (almost) couldn’t finish my manicotti, and you can forget about me focusing on any sort of dinner conversation with my better half.  It had been a while since we’d been to dinner and a show, and even though it was a horror show, we couldn’t wait for the next act.
He whispered something in her ear, and she chuckled in between gulps of beer that she swigged straight out of the bottle.  Okay, so maybe they weren’t exact replicas of the happy couples in those commercials.
Their check arrived and a dispute with their waiter followed.  Perhaps what they ordered hadn’t actually been part of the ‘Amore Monday’ special.  Perhaps she only drank four beers but was charged for five.  Or maybe the restaurant charged them a ‘Get a Room Because You’re Grossing Out the Other Patrons Fee’ that’s not noted on the menu. 
I don’t know how the disagreement was settled because dessert arrived, and this place makes a butter cake that you would not believe, Gentle Reader.  It’s a pretty presentation, too, or it was until Mr. Newman helped himself to a bite, knocked it on its side, and smeared the fruit topping all over the plate. 
Anyway, by the time I’d regained my composure over blatant cake abuse, the couple had left.  I’m assuming together, but you never know about these things now, do you?
On the drive home, I pondered their story.  Could they have been celebrating an anniversary?  Could they have rekindled a spark that had disappeared for a while?  Were they bonding over a happy or tragic situation? 
My guess, though, is that they were simply hammered.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Summer of My Malcontent

When I reflect upon past summers in which I had ample opportunity to do absolutely nothing, yet felt compelled to remain a little worker bee, I think to myself, “Wow, what an idiot.”

As a pre-teen, I continued my education during summer break through daily viewings of the CBS soap opera, Guiding Light (most of the little I know about life came from that show).   I then committed myself to reading any magazine I could get my hands on:  Seventeen, Young Miss., Bop – anything that had self-help hints, make-up tips, and the latest news on Rick Springfield. 

At age 16, I started working after school and during the summer months.  As an adult the allure of summer vacation drove me into a career in education, so what did I do?  I set aside each June, July, and August to work on my master’s degree (which I never got, by the way, and I don’t even care).  I then moved into an administrative role, and haven’t had any summer fun since.

That’s a lie.  We’ve taken many fantastic trips and spent a great amount of time around the pool.  I suppose my little musing today is my declaration of rebellion:  I’m not going to bust my hump working this summer.  I’ve got plenty of little tasks lined up to keep me financially sound until I return to the full-time grind in August.  The bills will be paid, the groceries bought, and a few gorgeous things shall be purchased, no doubt. 

Society tells us to work work work so we can get more more more.  I’ve got more than I need, thank you very much, and quite frankly I’ve been through the ringer the last few months, and I know that I’m no good to anybody unless I get some time to just sit and be.

Therein lies the challenge, though, Sweeties.  I find it difficult just to sit and be.

I feel guilty for doing nothing.  I always have.  Isn’t that ridiculous?

So I’ve made a little list of things I’d like to accomplish, which I know counters everything I’ve said up to this point.  Gosh, am I a contradiction today or what?  Who cares – it’s almost lunchtime and I’d like to get this thing posted.

Beth’s Summer Fun To Do List:

Proficiency on the ukulele (I dream of performing a little cabaret act in which I tell funny stories and then balance them with depressing songs.  Think about it:  ‘Guy walks into a bar…’ followed by ‘Today Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge..”)

Elegantly muse more –stop groaning. Ingrates.

Sew – My nieces’ Barbie dolls are swimming nude, and that’s just not done in my family.

Read – I do this already so I shouldn’t even put it on the list.

Anyhow, if you have the summer off, I encourage you to enjoy yourself.  If you don’t, I feel bad for you, you poor slob, and I do hope you can schedule in a little fun at some point. 

PS:  Because I’m a giver, here’s my recommended summer reading list, compiled with love just for you:

My Way of Life – Joan Crawford

Jenny and the Jaws of Life – Jincey Willett

Anything by David Sedaris

Gunn’s Golden Rules – Tim Gunn

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote