Don’t Be Such an Ass

I work with a man. He acts like an ass.

My co-worker is funny and witty and clever. He often says exactly what is on his mind, and, on occasion, he offends someone in so doing, but he isn’t unkind, on the contrary, he is actually quite nice. He just doesn’t know when not to say something. He often says far too much. On conference calls he will talk far too long, or ask too many questions, or in some other way make a brief meeting turn into something much more than brief. And he acts like an ass.

Scarlette Begonia

There are other people I am around, frequently, who act like an ass.

Sometimes, I even act like an ass, I really, really don’t want to, but it happens. I know better. We all know better.

The ass I refer to is Eeyore.

Like Eeyore, my co-worker dismisses his ideas as poor, he is rather self-deprecating, at times, and finishes almost every statement or question with something like, “I don’t know, it probably isn’t a very good idea”, the funny thing is, he even has the same tone of voice, the same manner of speaking. Like Eeyore, other asses I’m around often expect the worst to happen and just resign to it. Like Eeyore, some asses I know just assume others don’t accept or appreciate them, or their ideas. Like Eeyore, sometimes I assume the worst.

Scarlette Begonia

I’ve confronted some of these asses with their outlook, explained how, really, what you truly believe, what you think, and expect, will usually manifest, good or bad. It’s the old positive mental attitude thing. I’ve had an ass or two reply to me, saying something like, “it’s better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it turns out okay.” Cheery.

One ass in my life believed so completely that the worst would happen, that he became completely paralyzed by his fear, he became totally unable to act to prevent that which he feared most. And in his inability, his strong belief and overwhelming fear, his worst imaginable fears all came to pass. His negativity was reinforced, and has had a domino effect on his life. He lost everything. Action and a positive belief and confidence likely would have changed the course of things. At the very minimum, with a more positive and optimistic outlook, even if the worst does happen, we are better equipped to pick up the pieces and move on.

Scarlette Begonia

There will always be asses. We will, invariably, be an ass ourselves, at some point in time. Maybe at many points in time. All I know, I think being an ass, like Eeyore, seriously inhibits joy and happiness. As a student of happiness, I believe this and intend to strive not to be such an ass.

To Change or Not to Change

Life is never exactly the way we imagined it, sometimes things are better than we ever imagined, sometimes, they aren’t. We’ve chatted a bit about fear and we’ve chatted a bit about change. To recap, ditch fear, embrace change, it’s as simple as that. Okay, simply said, harder to employ.

The real question comes up when deciding if something in life that isn’t quite all we imagined should be changed, or just left alone, accepted “as is”, and a compromise made. There are many things in life, especially those things we yearn for, try really hard for, think about, work towards, envision, focus on, concentrate on and visualize, and when it comes to be, isn’t nearly what we envisioned or visualized. I think sometimes our imaginations are so good, the imagined outcome ends up being far superior to the real deal. So, when this happens, do we seek to change it? Or accept it for what it is? And if we do, is this a compromise? If we don’t accept it for what it is, are we ungrateful?

This dilemma can apply to very big things in life, and to very small matters. The point is, change is not always easy and we often accept less, compromise, because it is easier than shifting gears and initiating very necessary change. We are afraid of the amount of effort to change versus the actual reward.  Again, ditch fear, embrace change. Simpler to say, harder to employ.

A seemingly small change I’ve made recently, at least small to most, but huge for me; I have always hade love/hate relationships with purses. I buy a purse and think we’ll be together forever. A week later, I hate it and in “the pile” it goes. “The pile” has recently been pared down to two boxes, with the last move. Two boxes of beautiful purses I can make myself carry for a day or two because of the color, the pattern, the size or some other temporarily tolerable benefit. After a couple of days, back in the box it goes and out comes the ONE and only purse I have ever truly loved. If you’ve paid any attention to my pictures or videos, you’ve probably seen the ONE purse I have truly loved; my Kandee Johnson Imoshion bag in leopard print vegan material.

My leopard bag was designed by Kandee Johnson, a YouTube entertainer/mom/professional make up artist. She has incredible style, a ton of practicality, great fashion sense and knows how, exactly, a real purse should be designed. Imoshion approached Kandee and asked her to design the bag of her dreams and the result, my beloved purse. There was some minor hysteria over a contest to win one, then more hysteria over ordering from the first limited batch, then more hysteria over ordering one from the extended batch after the first batch sold out immediately. Through some hysterics of my own, and by employing every family member with internet acumen to attempt to obtain one online (the only way they could be purchased), I finally persevered, and only because I was willing to set my alarm at some unholy hour and attempt placing an online order when the web traffic was a bit more manageable. I’ve had my Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard bag for just over a year. I have never, ever, ever, ever, completely worn a purse out. Ever. Until now. It is, literally, in tatters.

To clarify, this is a very high quality bag, but, I am brutally punishing to any bag I carry, and one I carry day and night, on my business trips, crammed under airplane seat after airplane seat, set upon the floor in every imaginable condition, carried untold miles holding a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, make up, a leather jacket, a wallet, an umbrella, a cardigan, a water bottle, snackage, electrical cords for various devices and even, occasionally, a bottle of wine, and weighing in at probably well over thirty pounds, is bound to die an earlier death than a bag that sees only occasional, light duty use.

As I prepared for my month-long excursion from California to New York, to New Jersey and on to Alaska, I eyed my sorry leopard bag. When I left home just over a week ago, it had a tear in the bottom, the pink satin lining was peeking through a half-inch round hole. The lovely turquoise tassel is long gone, the cross-body shoulder strap still looks brand new, but comes unclipped at the most inopportune time, usually when burdened with the most weight imaginable. The zipper at the top is busted so the bag is always gaping wide open to display its contents. The leopard printed “vegan” material actually wore thin in several areas and looks blurred. The metal studs were vanishing at an alarming rate. I eyed my poor bag and wondered if a) it would survive one more very long, very hard trip and b) would I look like a homeless person carrying it, especially to and from the clients’ office? I ploughed through all my other bags and decided a trip without this purse would be intolerable.

I have been routinely checking in with Imoshion to see if they’d be stocking any more Kandee Johnson leopard print vegan material bags and I would have willingly bought one, two, three. In every color. Furthermore, I get so many compliments on this bag, I could easily have sold another 1,000 bags had they been available for sale! But, the website perpetually said “Out of Stock”. I finally emailed them from the website contact form and told them about my relationship with my bag. They kindly replied, suggesting I follow them on Facebook for upcoming news. I have followed Imoshion on Facebook since the prototype giveaway over a year ago. So, I set them as a favorite, now every little photo and blurb Imoshion makes about every OTHER product they carry, creates a notification on my iPhone, which, frankly, is driving me crazy. Crazier, even, because none of the notifications have anything at all to do with the availability of a replacement for my beloved bag.

This weekend, in New York, the half-inch hole in the bottom of the exterior of the purse finally wore through to the interior, making a “clear through” hole out of which my treasures could tumble. The leopard printed “vegan” finish was peeling off like a bad sunburn. The bag was, really, almost nauseating to look at. I checked the Imoshion website one more time. “Out of Stock”. I caved. I went to Fossil and plopped down three times what my Kandee Johnson bag cost for a new bag. And it was on sale. At first, I was thrilled, more because the color was amazing, and it was genuine leather (sorry vegans). Mostly, though, because the nice salesman at the Fifth Avenue Fossil store found a way to embellish my “tote” with the cute gold key that “only came on the purse”. So, my bag is unique compared to others “exactly” like it. He had nice eyes, too, for the record.

I’ve been carrying my new bag for just over twenty-four hours and it is a major adjustment. I have a “system” when I move into a new bag so it will be easy to find things, I will use the same pockets for the same things. Always. Once I’ve “set up” a new bag for the first time, everything has a place and everything is always in its place. I am not one of those women who can’t find things in my purse. Well, about 99% of the time, anyway. This is a huge adjustment for me. I can switch domiciles more easily than I moved out of my beloved leopard bag into my new Fossil bag. After the first trip down a NYC street with it, realizing I could no longer carry a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, my leather jacket, an umbrella, a cardigan, a full water bottle and all the things a purse is supposed to carry, I remarked to my daughter that I was going to hate the bag. Soon. Of course she laid “dibs” on it.

Today was the first day I carried it to work, and, well, it worked. I did get the cardigan in. And a small water bottle. When I walked into my hotel in New Jersey, though, and both the ladies at the front desk exclaimed excitedly over my bag, I fell a little in love with it. It garnered nearly as much attention as my leopard bag, which, by the way, I can’t bear to throw away. It is in a carrier bag, carefully tucked in my one of my overstuffed suitcases. I will take it home, I suppose, and decide upon an appropriate ceremony and internment for it. Sigh.

I know this seems like much ado over a handbag, but I suppose many of you just don’t understand the depth of the relationship I hold with such an item. We travel hundreds of thousands of miles together; it is, truly, the one constant in my life. Always there. My friends, my family, my possessions, are with me only here or there. My bag is with me at all times, never more than a few feet away. Change was very hard, and I am still a little uncertain, but, I’m afraid there is no going back, at this point.

So, what in your life, big or small, has deteriorated to the point where you really should consider making a change? There are other things in my life that are warranting similar consideration. Truthfully, there should always be a LIST of things in our lives that are up for consideration. A list of things far more serious than a handbag; career, living situation, relationships of all types, fitness, health, diet, spirituality, attitude, social life. To name a few. If any of these facets, or any other facets of your life are less than spectacular, aren’t measuring up, have finally worn through and become tattered, it is not only okay to consider change, it is acceptable to seek change. In fact, necessary is the more appropriate word.

We should not be settling for less when we know in our hearts, in our souls, and in the deepest corners of our minds, that we deserve more. Sure, the superficial voice may tell us we don’t, but our true voice knows better and should speak up. We deserve more. An unfulfilling career, a relationship that is one-sided or languishing, whether a union, a love affair, a friendship or a family tie, our broken health, diet or fitness habits, or whatever else in life that is sub-par, should be rectified, reevaluated, rejuvenated or sent off to the recycling pile and replaced. And, yes, some of these things are easier to change than others, but they should be changed and you should be initiating that change. You need to finally decide it’s time to get a new handbag, especially if the old one can’t be made whole. And, yes. It is scary!

You should have seen me yesterday, with the contents of my leopard bag spilled all over the hotel bed. The carcass of the leopard bag by my side, the hot pink satin lining visible from every open pouch and pocket, looking a lot like blood from many incisions, like after an autopsy. I sat there amidst piles of lip color and coin purses, wallets and device cords, hair ties, batteries, SD cards, various small personal electronic gadgets, an umbrella and a half dozen reusable Whole Foods shopping bags (the really good kind with the amazing prints that cost $4 and support a worthy cause and have a single cross-body strap). I was a little distraught; how was I going to fit this into my new large, more expensive, but somehow smaller and less capable bag? I would have to adapt. I have already begun. I actually felt quite a bit better carrying my new bag today; I felt that my image is improved for finally replacing my tattered bag with a new one. I had a little spring in my step today that wasn’t there yesterday, like I was saying, without words “look at me and my new bag!” It is going to work out and the change will have been the right decision.

What other scary changes need to be considered, and made, in order to move forward in better condition, in a better direction, with more confidence, with improved self-worth and self-esteem? What other scary decisions will leave you shaky and uncertain at first, but happy and whole, after a brief period of adjustment? You will never know the good that awaits unless you are willing to evaluate changes to that which you are carrying around, full of holes, worn bare and thin, weighting your down with excess and compromising your (self) image. What are you hanging on to that could be replaced with something more serviceable, more rewarding, more fulfilling? Only you know and only you can identify and initiate what needs to change, and I guarantee, no one is immune from having something in their life ripe for change. We just fail to see it, or fear the outcome. It is time to ditch fear and embrace change. You deserve it.

My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
A change has been made. The new bag.
A change has been made. The new bag.

 

Three Generations, One Roof, and a Bottle of Wine

I’ve moved in with my elderly mother. She has been living alone in the house I grew up in since my father passed early last year. Other than being on a first name basis with everyone at AllState and the local body shop, she has been faring pretty well. She is lonely, I am sure, but the three telephone calls a day following my dad’s death became one, then finally normalized to the one or two a week pattern we’ve had for the past thirty years.

Her health has been deteriorating, but I stubbornly contend this is as a result of years of abusive diet roller coaster rides, mostly free fall, and a largely sedentary lifestyle. She isn’t at death’s doorstep, by any means, but she is certainly dancing around on his front porch, at eighty nine years old with a list of serious ailments almost as long as her driving record.

I am quite certain she values her freedom and independence, as do I. As the only child, I really have no one to consult regarding those difficult decisions adult children have to make; requiring she give up driving, pursue or refuse life prolonging treatment, move into assisted living. My personal philosophy on all this is that it is her decision. I am not going to persuade or dissuade her in any way from what she wants. The consequences be what they may. I inherited my intense stubbornness from her and my thinking is that two intensely stubborn people trying out “out devil’s advocate” each other on topics of such magnitude is probably not in anyone’s best interest.

Don’t get me wrong, we have always “been close”. I like to think that my mom and I have always had the type of relationship most hope for. Until recently. Now, in my middle age, I recognize the relentless poking and prodding and antagonizing we inflict on each other. And when I really think back, it has always been this way. She has always poked, prodded, needled, and tried to provoke me, and my dad, too, into some type of reaction. Usually negative. Usually us lashing out or poking, prodding, needling and provocation in retaliation. I have almost always stood my ground if for no other reason than to be right. Not convincing her to my way of thinking, of course. But right, if only in my own mind. I have been trying to teach myself, lately, that sometimes, just letting it go and not reacting is actually “winning”. Not that it’s all about winning. But it is.

Enter into this idyllic scene, my daughter, visiting briefly from upstate New York. Now, my daughter and I are extremely close. We have an occasional moment, but for the most part, and I think she’d agree, we are more aligned on just about everything than my mom and I are. Fashion. Food. Fitness. Politics. Religion. Philosophy. Media preferences. Leisure time activities. Life.

My daughter has also inherited the stubbornness gene. There are now three strong willed, stubborn, and somewhat selfish and self-righteous women living under one roof for a full ten days. My daughter did not specifically come to visit me, or my mother, we are just providing free lodging and some transportation, which is fine and I fully understand. She came to attend an annual convention for a youth group she has been involved with for the past several years. She also hoped to catch up with friends she didn’t meet up with during her last visit during the holidays.

The day after her arrival, my daughter and I decided to strategically remove ourselves from the house to a local wifi hotspot to work, study, read, write, people watch, but most importantly,  in order to try to regain our sanity after an intense session of “here, eat this highly processed, genetically modified, fertilized, pesticide laced, food like substance that contains enriched flour, refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fat, and a list of chemical additives you can’t pronounce, that you used to eat and enjoy all the time, that I know you won’t eat but like to force on you anyway because I bought it on sale, with a coupon, because it is approaching the expiration date on the package even though I know you don’t generally eat food that is processed, poisoned, packaged and that have an expiration date.”

We three have our definite differences in philosophies on food and fitness. My daughter an I eat organic and work out religiously, believing that both will provide the strength, endurance and flexibility to ensure a long, active, healthful life and the independence and fortitude to enjoy it to the very last moment. My mom has always embraced technological advances in processed foods and believes exercising wears out your joints, causes arthritis and is a health risk. And she was a registered nurse, and against her wishes, neither of us are, which means the argument is over, in her eyes.

So, back to the point. We were a few blocks from our destination, a local tourist attraction/wifi hotspot, which, ironically, is an eclectic collection of food venues, though most likely more wholesome than what we were being “offered” at home. Pandora muted and my cell phone started vibrating and buzzing. The screen identified the caller as “Mommy and Daddy”. I answered and the shaky voice on the other end of the call was all I needed to hear to know we weren’t going to Oxbow Market. Mom had been to the lab for her routine blood work for one of her conditions I can never seem to remember. Anemia, but not quite leukemia. The results were alarming and the clinic wanted her to go to the emergency room immediately. We made a series of left hand turns to correct our direction in a small town that has a frustrating affinity for one way streets. We piled Mom into the car after she reapplied her lipstick and gathered her cosmetic case together. Pride in appearance is one thing the three of us do agree on.

She ended up spending the night in the emergency ward in order to receive a transfusion, three units, to elevate her hemoglobin count to normal. We stayed the whole day with her, the whole evening, and finally headed back to Napa with just enough time to swing by Whole Foods for some real food for dinner before they closed. However, much to our disappointment, the Napa Whole Foods closes a full hour earlier than the Whole Foods I recently moved away from. We made do with a frozen, organic pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from the only grocery store we could find open at 9:13 PM. And some beer.

The next morning, we awoke with our day preplanned for us. Not working, for me, with deadlines looming. Not visiting friends, for my daughter, but going to the dreary hospital for however long before, hopefully, Mom was discharged. My daughter was upset to the point of tears, and wracked with guilt for her selfish thoughts. I was to the point of tears with resentment at this development and the toll it would take on my freedom, my ability to travel, which is required for my job and for my long distance relationship, my resentment for being the only child, and the guilt for these thoughts.

Mom was discharged and then nearly readmitted for the theatrics she employed over a leg cramp resulting from a diuretic she’d been administered. I tend to be extremely stoic and actually, quite intolerant of theatrics, performed by others. I think my daughter feels similarly. We were annoyed, and frustrated, not moved to compassion or sympathy. We three even have differing styles of manipulation. Sigh. Miraculously, we got her to the car and home. Then the long day of sitting home and doing nothing began. At least I could sort of work, between interruptions.

My daughter and I’d had hopes of trying out local yoga venues, the Dailey Bar Method in a neighboring town, the various health clubs in town, since none of the three I currently pay dues to are within a reasonable driving distance. All these plans were now sidelined. We haven’t worked out at all, which negatively impacts our mood. Tension rose further. I, thankfully, was able to rely on my son to stay with Mom over the weekend so my daughter and I could attend the youth group convention, from which my daughter was to  participate in a graduation ceremony, having reached the age of majority. This would be her only opportunity, ever, to receive this honor and the main reason she parted with a significant portion of her savings to fly to California.

We did make a trial attempt at short lived freedom later in the afternoon, with a trip to Whole Foods for some greens, some dark chocolate, some local beer and some wine. We found a wine from a neighboring county (ssshhhh) that was made from organic grapes. A Zinfandel. We were elated at our successful foray from the house, at our successful attempt to enter the doors of Whole Foods during their business hours, and at our purchase of real, recognizable foods. We returned home reinvigorated, rejuvenated and ravenous. I prepared a meal of udon noodles, homemade marinara sauce with ground moose meat my sweetie killed, processed and packaged himself, which I brought home in the checked bag a week earlier that I’d used to bring him California wine. Totally worth that extra twenty bucks for the second checked bag. With our “spaghetti” the three of us thoroughly enjoyed the organic wine. Over that bottle of wine, we got giggly, had good nourishment, good conversation and a good time. Differences of opinion, philosophies, preferences, lifestyles were all set aside and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. We laughed, we smiled, we felt blessed to be three generations of fiercely strong, stubborn, opinionated, independent women, under one roof, sharing a bottle of wine.