December 18 Editorial

As I scramble to finish my holiday shopping for everyone on my list, I’ve come to the realization that our society has moved from a retail driven, money hungry, machine to a couture driven, money obsessed, machine with unattainable expectations for those of us who lead normal lives.
I’ll explain.
This day and age, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing a thousand commercials for luxury cars, lavish jewelry, the perfect home, etc. We watch shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians which features a filthy rich family with no concept of reality or what it takes to make a dollar in the real world. We obsess over what Kim was wearing today, or what she and her sister will buy for their babies for Christmas. We drool over their $15,000 handbags and lavish shoe collections, all while the media tells us that we too need these things to validate our existence.
Then there’s the “Housewives” franchises on Bravo where filthy rich women with questionable moral character flaunt their big houses, fancy cars, wardrobes, and even expensive wigs, all while cat fighting and calling those who can’t afford these things trash. Yet we eat it up.
And sitcoms aren’t any better. Let’s flash back to Friends for a second. Am I supposed to believe that these 20 something’s who work at restaurants and coffee houses can afford 2000 square feet of gorgeous Manhattan apartment on tips? Flash forward to the How I Met Your Mother era…..same story.
I happen to have several friends living and working in New York City, one, a reporter for CBS news, and the other a model who has been working consistently and featured in various print ads. Both live in studio apartments that cost upwards of $3000 a month. And I’d say they are doing pretty well for themselves.
I decided to dig a little deeper into the retail driven propaganda just to see how far it actually goes. I opened a copy of Marie Claire magazine and was shocked at the amount of over the top ads for fashion, beauty products, and just plain luxury that would please even Donald Trump. The first 30 pages were ads for companies like Dior, Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany & Co., just to name a few.
As if the ads weren’t bad enough, when I finally did get to the “meat” of the magazine, it featured articles like “The Bag Every Woman Needs” and “Nothing Says Love Like the Perfect Bling”. These articles didn’t feature reasonably priced items that 99% of American women can afford, but purses that ranged from $3,000 all the way up to $39,000. The jewelry featured from places like Cartier and Neil Lane just simply said, “Call for pricing info”, which I’m assuming means, “It’s so obnoxious we won’t even print it”.
Each magazine I looked at, one after the other from Elle to In Style to Glamour, all featured more of the same. Over the top spending and the message of “your wardrobe sucks if you don’t have this” slapped me in the face page after expensive page.
Do you know what would happen to me if I bought even the bottom of the barrel $3,000 bag? My husband would probably divorce me right before they repossessed my car. That’s right ladies and gentlemen. I can’t afford this stuff. I like to think that my husband and I do fairly well for ourselves. We have so much more than most, and for that I am thankful.
But one look at these magazines and shows can make anyone feel the need for more, more, more. It’s a cycle we need to break. Who cares if your watch costs $50 or $5000? At the end of the day does that really matter? And how true is the statement “the clothes make the man” in regards to ultimate success? Do people with money and expensive things really have a better life?
These are questions I’ll more than likely never know the answer to, and I’m okay with that.
As I shop for those on my list this Christmas, I’ve put so much pressure on the perfect gift that makes the right impression. At times in the past, I’ve even put myself in a bad financial situation just to make sure I gave something great. How silly.
This year, as the presents are wrapped and torn open on Christmas morning, I want to make an effort not to put so much emphasis on the material things. It’s easy to get caught up in the high society we see crammed down our throats in the media on a daily basis, but it’s important to remember one thing; the reason we are told that we need these things is to keep capitalism rolling in America. We aren’t the kind of people sporting this stuff, but we ARE the people working hard every day in hopes of one day capturing the dream.
Who needs it? Besides, I’ll take sipping a cocktail on the beach in my $30 Target bikini any day over slaving away on Wall Street.

December 11 Editorial

This week I did as most women (and men) in America did, and sat down to watch the Victoria’s Secret runway show. I’m not really sure why I do it every year. I don’t buy the looks featured, I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande (in public anyways), and when it’s over, I always feel a gaping hole inside of me where the skinny girl within’s soul used to live. This year was no exception.
Once again on my never-ending quest for health, fitness, and a body that I’m not embarrassed to put a bikini on, I had cut out red meat, sugar, flour, and for the most part carbs, a month ago. For any normal human being, eating clean and working out several times a week at a high intensity boot camp would have weight melting off of them, but just yesterday I weighed in to find that I had only shed 2 pounds. Pure torture.
Needless to say, the last thing I needed to bum me out was 47 gorgeous, long, lean beauties stomping down the runway in underwear to remind me how far I have left to go just to be a socially acceptable troll on the beach. I had made up my mind not to watch.
Within seconds of the show starting, my girlfriends began texting me. “Did you see that outfit?” “Taylor Swift is coming on next.” “They are showing behind the scenes stuff.” Like the reality addict and self-deprecating sadist I am, I couldn’t resist and turned it on just in time to catch a rousing lip sync of ‘Blank Space’ by Taylor Swift. It was almost as believable as the models being au naturel. See….I’m being facetious here.
Over the next few minutes I sat quietly inspecting my gut on the couch while thinking, “Is it really worth never being able to have anything you want to eat or drink ever again to look like that?” Then I snapped out of it when I realized that no matter what I gave up, my 5’4” busty figure would never look like that. It’s called genetics, and I got more of the Kim Kardashian genes than tall, slim, bikini model genes. Regardless, I paused the TV and did some sit-ups.
I continued watching and found a renewed sense of joy when I watched Ariana Grande in hopes that they would show her getting side-swiped by a set of “angel wings”. Even though they didn’t show it in the final edit, I still giggled over the thought of her face in the picture seen all over television for the past three days. There’s just something about her that makes me want to pull her hair. I mean, she’s a grown woman that dresses like a hooker and acts like toddler. I just don’t get it. I will however give the girl credit….she CAN sing. Take that Taylor ‘Lip Sync’ Swift.
As the show wound down, so too did my patience for the models continuously saying how “nervous” they were to go on stage. They all went on and on about how they felt like they were going to pass out. That’s not nerves honey… that called malnourishment. Think I’m being mean? I’ve read articles and seen interviews with the models where they talk about fasting a week or two before the show only allowing themselves liquids and cigarettes.
Besides, what do these girls have to be nervous about anyways? They are considered the most beautiful women in the world. If they can’t prance around on national TV in their underwear with confidence, who can? It’s not like they had a juicy steak and a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the end of the runway that they had to avoid.
If you ask me, the Dove campaign had it right. I’m far more likely to go buy that underwear I just saw on TV if someone with a realistic body was showing me what I might look like in it. Not some unattainable girl who will only lead me to disappointment when I lug my backside down to the store and try it on. But then I guess they wouldn’t have a multi-billion dollar franchise with an annual underwear fashion show that everyone on the planet watches (love it or hate it), would they?
So now, I would like to announce that I too will be fasting for 36 months or death, whichever comes first. Just make sure I look good in my bikini. Thanks Victoria’s Secret. For the record, this is a joke….not a serious recommendation. Totally kidding. (You have to put a disclaimer on things this day and age because people are stupid.)
When it was all said and done, I’m glad I watched it. No, I may not be anywhere close to being a Victoria’s Secret Angel, but it did give me a little push to keep going in the right direction. Tomorrow I will wake up, drink my awful green fiber shake, lace up my shoes, and go for a run followed by an hour at boot camp. It may only fall off 2 pounds at a time, but luckily I’ve got plenty of that to spare.
And who knows? Maybe with a lot of dedication and hard work you might just see me on the beach in one of those swimsuits without a towel wrapped around me. Hey, stranger things have happened!

December 4 Editorial

This week, I braved the age old tradition of decorating the house for Christmas. Usually my favorite time of year, I’m finding that real holiday cheer comes in the form of hiring someone to unpack it, untangle it, and hang it.
It all started as I finally convinced my husband to accompany me to our storage unit to retrieve the ample amounts of lights, ornaments, wreaths, and garland that lined the 4 tiered shelves. As we loaded box after box into the bed of his truck, I realized that I may have gone a little crazy last year at the after Christmas sale.
When it was all said and done, 14 Tupperware boxes filled the bed of the truck as I crammed the last little bit into the only inch of space that remained in the cab. My husband looked at me and said, “Seriously? This is ridiculous.” I knew he was right.
Once we returned home, I hauled everything in the house and stacked it so high in the living room that I couldn’t even see out of our sliding glass door. I had to get this crap out into the yard, and I needed to do it fast.
I immediately went to work on our 9 ft. tree, which I knew would eliminate at least three boxes of ornaments. An hour in, and I was ready for lights. Two hours later, I had them untangled. One more hour later, I had finally figured out why one strand was out and another was blinking. Kill me.
The next day, we both ventured out into the yard armed with 25 brand new boxes of LED lights. The joke is on you this time, lighting god’s…..or so I thought. Never in my life have I seen more twist ties, plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard, and extra bulbs. For a minute I thought I was going to need to rent a dumpster to get rid of all the packaging, but we decided to dress like ninjas and sneak it into our neighbor’s garbage cans instead.
After three epic fights, two trips to Walmart, and 6 new outdoor extension cords, the yard was lit up like the LAX runway. I’m pretty sure I noticed a few Navy trainee jets realigning themselves with my roof.
I thought about basking in my glory for a minute, but quickly changed my mind upon returning inside to find at least 8 more boxes waiting for me. I did my best to ignore them but decided I couldn’t after I had tripped on them for the 3
rd time. So I did what any good ‘Martha Stewart’ type would do….I crammed everything I could back into the boxes and I hauled them back to the storage unit. Enough is enough.
Now that the Christmas cheer is up, I’m glad we went through all the trouble. It really does help put me in the holiday mood, even if my blood pressure suffered. Now all that’s left to do is sit back with a cup of hot chocolate in 70 degree weather and enjoy it until after Christmas, when I intend on either moving or burning the house down so I never have to pack this junk up again. Happy Holidays!

November 27 Editorial

The holiday shopping ads are pouring in. Millions are recovering from Black Friday madness. You still haven’t found the perfect gift for everyone on your list. For a time of year when joy is supposed to abound, holiday shopping can seem, well, pretty joyless. Take the “bah-humbug” out of holiday shopping with a few simple tips that will get your gifts under the tree without losing your marbles.
Get big-ticket items out of the way first. If you know that you’re planning to buy some big-ticket items like a watch, a nice bag, electronics, or sporting equipment, make them the very first things you purchase. That way you’ll be able to budget better for the smaller presents you plan to give.
Have a game plan when you hit the store. Everyone knows that the weekends are the worst time to shop during the holiday season, so try to get your shopping done on the week days right when the store opens. If you can’t make it there early, try hitting them up just before closing. Most people do their shopping on their lunch break or between 5 and 7 after they leave work. Also keep in mind that the closer it gets to Christmas, the more crowded stores will be. Don’t procrastinate!
Avoid the madness by shopping online. Many of the same items that are available for Black Friday are also available online, so you can shop from home all while staying warm and toasty in your slippers. Cyber Monday offers some killer deals as well, so if you miss your chance for an item on Black Friday, try again on Monday.
If you’re shopping for gifts online, be aware that an increasing number of retailers are giving shoppers the option of ordering online and picking up items in-store. This not only eliminates shipping fees which can really add up, but it also makes life easier if you simply can’t get to the store until a certain time.
If you just aren’t sure what to give that person who has everything, try using websites and apps that will help give you some ideas like which allows you to answer questions about who you’re shopping for, and gift suggestions are generated, or Gift Plan, an app that allows you to store size, taste, and other details about people on your list, as well as keep an organized shopping list.
Still stumped on what to get that special someone? Don’t shy away from a gift card from their favorite store. Some might disagree with me on this one, saying it’s tacky because they’ll know exactly how much you spent, but I’d prefer to get a gift card from Ol’ Aunt Ida to TJ Maxx rather than a set of knitted pot holders. Just try to add something a little personal it, maybe like a short handwritten note, to make it more special. Besides, who doesn’t like to shop for themselves with someone else’s money?
Do yourself a favor and leave the kids at home. Yes, they are little angels, but when the holiday season rolls around, kids can get a little crazy. Entering a store to shop with kids hopped up on Santa, toys, and the “give me’s” can be a nightmare. Trying to wrangle a pack of wild Christmas crazed little elves will leave you distracted from the ultimate goal of getting in and getting out quickly with the right gift.
This next section is to help out the guys who are clueless about what to buy their ladies. Under no circumstances should you buy her a vacuum or any other household appliance unless she specifically asked for one. Trust me on this. She will hurt you. This also applies to gym memberships or exercise equipment. Trust me on this……she will hurt you. A general rule of thumb for most women is this; if it’s shiny, sparkly, has a convertible top, or four legs and fur, you can’t go wrong. This can be a tall order, but she’s probably dropping hints like bombs so pay attention. It will pay off.
If all else fails, take a step back and remember what the holiday season is really about. It isn’t presents and material things, so don’t stress yourself out or overspend to the point of defaulting on your mortgage. It’s just simply not worth it. Your real friends and family will understand and would more than likely rather just spend time with you anyways. Just put a little thought into each person’s gift and they’ll be thrilled whether it cost $10 or $100.
Happy holidays, and happy shopping!

November 20 Editorial

This week, I decided to flex my American rights and attended a concealed weapons class in order to apply for my license. What I thought was going to be a fun and informative day ended up being a snoozefest led by one of the most egotistical and annoying people I have ever met.
My husband and I arrived at 8:15 am, an hour that for me seems like the middle of the night, bright eyed and bushy tailed. We entered the classroom where we met the four other people we would learning with. When our instructor arrived, he informed us that he had pulled his back and was heavily medicated on prescription narcotics, a fact that became apparent very quickly when he began slurring words and losing his train of thought.
The first hour went by like molasses. Our tweaked out instructor talked about himself incessantly. I learned that he was an expert marksman (always a good thing when teaching others about guns), a minister, a former NCAA referee, and a winner on the game show ‘Wheel of Fortune’. In fact, he talked about himself so much, that I know he won $30,000 on the show and I can even tell you the answer to his final puzzle. I’m surprised he didn’t tell us that he was an astronaut.
By hour three I had learned very little about guns or gun safety for that matter, and I was beginning to think this guy was a hack. I fought the sleepiness that was coming over me in waves, feeling guilty for not being able to keep my eyes open, when I realized our instructor himself was having the same problem. Uh, dude?....You could’ve just cancelled the class. I don’t understand what “jubab da bab buurr” means.
Hour four rolled around and we were asked to share our experience level with firearms. My husband and I have both been around guns throughout our lives and have shot them frequently. The woman next to me said that her husband wanted her to learn how to protect herself and had only shot a few times. The three young military guys on the end blew my mind when they all said, “We’ve never really shot a gun before.” I did a double take. How is it possible to be in the US military with no experience with firearms? Isn’t that like military training 101?
It didn’t get any better when the portion of the class rolled around where we had to name the parts of the gun, load it, and unload it. These poor guys didn’t have a clue what they were doing, and I thought our instructor was going to have a stroke every time they called the magazine a clip. I have to admit I was entertained when we were asked to fire a plastic BB at a target and one guy missed and hit the wall. He was only off by about ten feet. I was hoping I wasn’t going to be is partner when we used real firearms at the range.
I finally woke from my day dream like state when it was time to use some real fire power. We paid our range fee for the day and all headed down to the area where we would be performing our firearm competency test. The instructor and his wife took nearly 30 minutes setting up targets and moving them two inches left or right, then back. They even spent several minutes moving each other’s targets around. To say the least, it was weird.
Finally, we were ready to shoot. We were required to hit the target, also known as a paper plate (so glad that I spent that $100 per person for the supplies this class required….really? A paper plate?), at least one time in five shots. My husband and I both hit the plate dead in the center on our first shot, yet the constant babying and obvious instructions droned on. After our next four shots hit the plate as well, you would think that it was clear that this wasn’t our first rodeo, but these people continued to touch our hands and put their arms around us while we prepared to fire. It was as creepy as it was annoying.
After the class was finished, everyone packed up to leave. I had recently purchased a new 9mm pistol that I had not yet fired, so I checked with the range manager to make sure it was okay for us to stick around to try it out. He said, “Sure, you paid for the day. Have fun and be careful.” When my husband went to the trunk to retrieve the gun, our instructor, who was packing up to leave, said, “If you want to fire that gun, you’ll have to pay for the additional class where we teach you how to fire your own guns.”
What? Was this guy for real? My husband looked at him with a strange face and said, “We don’t need the class. We already know how to fire our weapons. We have lots of them.” The instructor, who I’m pretty sure broke about every NRA rule and a couple of laws there is when he was handling and firing guns while under the influence of narcotics, said that we could do what we wanted, but he “highly recommended his class” and would let us take it for the discounted rate of $60 per person.
My husband just looked at him and said, “No thanks”, and we went about our business. Reluctantly, the instructor did the same.
When I took the time to look back at the day, I realized several things. 1) We could’ve taken the same class, probably learned more, and been done in two hours instead of 8 for less money at the gun show the same weekend. 2) If this guy had been more concerned about his students knowing about gun safety and gun laws rather than his personal experiences and resume, we probably would be more qualified to have a concealed carry license. And 3) I should’ve had a Red Bull.
If you want to own a firearm, take a class. It is important to not only know how to safely operate, store, and carry your weapon, but it is important to know the laws and your rights as well. But take it from me….do your research on your instructor. I’m not saying this guy didn’t know his stuff or wasn’t qualified, I just don’t feel like he shared it with us. Maybe next time he’ll be more “with it”.
At least I got to blow off some steam at the range. You never know just how much personal restraint you have until you spend a day with annoying people and loaded guns. Be safe and happy shooting!