Oprah’s economic fix for family needs reality check

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with all these talk shows and morning news segments that try to help me survive these “tough economic times.” A segment that aired yesterday on Oprah was downright appalling. (I’m still slapping myself for even watching. I’m done with Oprah.)we-need-groceries-she-needs-exercise-what

If you need some expert from the Oprah show to “teach” you how to cut what you spend weekly on “take out” from $400 to $59, you’re an idiot. You should be arrested just for being stupid. And so should Oprah for featuring these people. Are they kidding? These people need help making ends meet? Have you ever noticed that the people on these shows live in HUGE houses? Drive SUVs? Have big screen TVs? Airing it is an insult to those of us who know better.

 People like this don’t need financial help, they need mental help. People are STARVING in this country and this particular family was spending $20,000 a year on take out? I don’t care how much money you make, if you spend that kind of money  and then try to tell us that you know you need to cut back because these are “tough economic times” but  just don’t know how, you’re a dumb ass.  And, these experts that Oprah showcases? Wow. How hard is it to tell these morons to open up a box of pasta and jar of sauce and toss the take out menu from Applebees?  Just for fun, I would have loved to see Suzi Orman come in and wag her finger at them. Jerks.

 I challenge Oprah to send one of her experts over to my house. I dare them to look at my budget and tell me where to cut. Regardless of having a comfortable income, we never have or would ever spend that kind of money on take out or even on eating out no matter how many hours a week we worked and certainly not because our kids didn’t like what we cooked.  I live in a modest home, have never purchased a brand new car, and 50% of my wardrobe is purchased at consignment stores. Show me how to cut my $100 a week grocery bill in half. Go ahead. I dare you.

Oprah, if you want to really help us in these “tough economic times” then have some guts and make it hard for your experts. Have them tell us something we don’t already know. Excessive spending and selfish attitudes are to blame for the recession. People should never have been living like this in the first place. Stop showcasing them as faultless, helpless middle class Americans, stuck in the middle of an economic crisis. Instead, have a show that can help the millions of desperate people in this country who would be happy to eat the scraps of $400-a -week-in-take-out leftovers. 

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Fashion icon Barbie turns 50 today, touts tatoo

Barbie turns 50 today. What a role model she has been. She has held up magnificently well. She continues to challenge herself by mastering different professions. She has kept her style up to date and makes cutting edge fashions work for her. And, regardless of the public outrage, I think she’s old enough to get a tattoo and put it anywhere she wants. With skin that doesn’t age, why not?

Barbie, fabulous at 50

Barbie, fabulous at 50

 

For most girls growing up in the 60s, having a Barbie doll was a rite of passage. My sister Maryann, who is five years older than me, was the first one to get a Barbie, the one with coifed blond hair. Maryann also had Midge, who had red hair and freckles. On a good day, my sister would let me play with her, but Midge was no substitute for Barbie. Everyone knew Midge was the ugly one.  

My Barbie was the first bendable Barbie and she came packaged with a neon orange bathing suit. It was not a good look for her. I changed her into a smashing white lace two piece and accessorized with matching wrap, straw hat, beach bag, and high-heeled sandals.

The way I see it, all that controversy about Barbie’s freakishly proportioned body diminishing my worth as a female is just stupid. Everybody knows that Barbie HAD to be built that way otherwise the clothes just wouldn’t have hung right.

I may not have been a particularly astute kid, but I sure as hell knew my body was never meant to look like Barbie’s. She was plastic for heaven’s sake. She had no nipples or body hair or, um, genitalia. With all the other women in my life with real, soft, buxom, warm bodies, why would I ever think that SHE was what I was suppose to look like?

I yearned for her wardrobe, not her boobs.

Barbie was, and always will be, a fashion icon. Playing with her was about dressing up and experimenting with style. Barbie had mini-skirts and maxi-skirts, black cocktail dresses, fur-trimmed ski parkas, go-go boots and fabulous handbags.  She always had the latest in fashion and for a kid like me who grew up with three pairs of shoes: brown school shoes, sneakers and black patent leather, and hand-me- down clothes that never fit properly and were horribly out of style, my Barbie doll case was a plastic box full of fashion possibilities.

If we’re going to blame Barbie for something, blame her for the 40 pairs of shoes in my closet, my obsession with wood hangers, a compulsive collection of handbags and scarves, and for the fact that I’m willing to spend an insane amount of time finding the perfect outfit for an important occasion.

So here’s to Barbie and a half-century of teaching girls that, yes, a red velvet clutch with tiny gloves tucked inside can be the ultimate prize. And here’s to all the women who grew up loving Barbie – and their own beautiful bodies. 

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A little more honesty (and humor) as we age, please

I’m a loyal reader of More magazine, it “celebrates” my age. Over 40. In terms of women’s magazines, I relate to it more than say Glamour or Marie Claire and certainly more than Cosmopolitan. I don’t read Family Circle or Woman’s Day, although I used to. The fact is I just don’t need another recipe for boneless breast of chicken. imageaspxSo while I prefer More than any other, I admit, I’m getting weary of the “How Great Life is over 40 Testimonials.” I know. I know. Embrace your age. Love the skin you’re in. Yeah. Whatever. Here’s what would be fresh.  Interview someone over 40 who admits to having to pop a couple of Advil with her morning coffee before she can start the day. Honestly. I want to hear a woman over 40 candidly talk about hemorrhoids and how she found a really good cream that gets rid of that awful itch.  I want to hear a woman over 40 talk to me about thinning eyebrows. I want someone to admit the reason they don’t have sex more is because they’re too damn tired to undress – and then get dressed again, not because they’ve lost their will.

I don’t feel inferior reading how some women over 40 feel more confident because I know they’re mostly full of shit. “I love being 50.” Yeah, right. You’re now ok with having stomach fat and gray hair and having to spend a fortune to replace all the metal fillings in your mouth because some 30-year-old dentist told you they’re getting old and will crack at anytime.

Look, I am more comfortable with myself than I was at 25. I know myself better. I understand the world better. I’ve traveled. I have more money. I have better friends and a great marriage. I raised two terrific daughters.  And, I don’t give a rat’s ass about so many of the little things that I used to when I was younger. But I do wish I had the more resilient body and skin I had in my 20s, heck even my 30s. I wish I were still a fearless skier. I’m not so afraid of falling, but that I won’t be able to get myself back up again. I wish I didn’t have to put on glasses to read the directions on the back of the brownie mix box. I wish I could experience the joy of being a young mother again. I wish I didn’t have to work so hard to lose weight and stay fit. I wish I didn’t have dreams about my teeth falling out.

The idea behind More is to make us feel good about ourselves. I know that. And I do believe plenty of women are OK with being 50. After all, embracing it is healthy, physically and mentally. There is a lot of really good life to be had at 40, 50, 60 and beyond.  But I just hope that as we age, we can be more honest with each other and stop pretending that we’re 100% OK with our bodies aging. I’d be so much more OK with turning 50 if I new it meant more honesty and humor and a truly effective hemorrhoid cream. 

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Social networking: Diversion during a down and out economy

Out of work? Join the crowd. No really. Join the crowd. Online. It’s where we’re all hanging out. 

According to a report earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, surfing the net is how we’re keeping ourselves busy, occupied and out of trouble.   

It also keeps us from going off the deep end. 

The article quotes a psychologist who contends there is evidence that Internet games, blogs and social networking sites provide a “psychological benefit because they prevent a downward spiral of rumination.” In other words, it keeps us from drinking ourselves into a stupor.     

Here’s why I think this article is spot on:  Social networking is the lifeboat on a sinking ship for me. To the critics who suggest I’m wasting my time or avoiding reality, I say: Aren’t you lucky to still have a job to go to everyday.

Just as people flocked to the movies during the Great Depression, today’s out of work workers are flocking to the Internet. They’re doing it for a number of reasons but mostly because it’s so damn diverting.  Last week, I spent an entire day writing “25 Random Things About Me.” I admitted to the world that I go weeks without changing the sheets on my bed and that I’m addicted to scratch tickets.  It was absolutely cathartic. Who needs a therapist? (Hell, who can afford one?) I may have avoided looking for work that day, but no way was it a waste of time. It lightened my mood and energized me. Sometimes, you just have to know when to escape. 

Probably more important, the Internet keeps me from feeling isolated. From the minute I was laid off nearly two months ago, I was communicating with co-workers and friends who were in that sinking ship looking for a life raft, too. Because the company cut off my networked email, the only way I had to communicate those first few days was through Facebook. It’s how I found out what was happening; how I found out about others who had lost their jobs, too. It helped diffuse anger, fear and helplessness. 

A bond was formed during those first few weeks and that connection sustains me day after day as I build a business while looking for full-time work. It’s like a support group.

Social networking allows me to socialize with more friends more often, sometimes on a daily basis. The first thing I do in the morning after pouring myself a hot cup of tea is check my Facebook news feed. It’s like meeting my girlfriends for breakfast. 

Could I go out? Go to the movies like they did during the Depression? Sure. And I do. Social networking is just a different kind of diversion. 

I agree, what we do with our day is much different than what we would have been doing 10 years ago or 70 years ago if we found ourselves out of work. Are we better off because of the Internet? For me, I don’t know how effective I would be with out it. Searching for full-time work, building my content development business, writing my blog and doing volunteer work keeps me busy, but it would be a lonely kind of day with no one but myself to talk to. I need the social interaction that the Internet provides. And, frankly, I’m grateful for it. 

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Why no sassy boots, Michelle?

Without question, watching Barack Obama be sworn in as our 44th President of the United States was an experience I will never forget. We spent the day at the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum in Boston (aka Dorchester for you locals) and I can’t think of a better place to spend it. It had much of the same excitement and jubilation of being in Washington, D.C. but without the cold. His speech was rousing, poignant and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything – including a dumb ass company meeting.

This outfit so could have used a pair of sassy boots.

Her outfit so could have used a pair of sassy boots.

 

 

But really, can we talk about something more important than this historic peaceful transfer of power? The First Lady’s outfit. I admit, I’m disappointed. After all, she’s a classy woman with a tall lean body. She had SO many choices. So what was with her outfit? The color, ick. What color was that? Gold with a touch of Lime? The style? It looked like a mother-of-the-bride outfit, didn’t it? Is she so tired of people comparing her fashion sense to Jackie Kennedy that she wants us to be afraid to look? And what was that thing at the neckline? Metal? You don’t wear metal outside in the middle of January, duh! You’d think being from Chicago she’d know that. Perhaps she wasn’t cold. That would explain why she walked around with her jacket open. I wanted to scream, “Button up your coat, Michelle, for Heaven’s sake! It’s 20 degrees out there! And where’s your hat.” I’m surprised her mother let her go out like that. Flat pumps? Please. I would have forgiven the choice of outfit had she worn a pair of  sassy boots, tall black leather. *sigh* Such a wasted opportunity to look totally smashing. 

A white wool mid-length coat with faux fur collar in soft brown would have been my choice. Oh, and sassy boots. Can’t wait to see what she’s wearing tonight.

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Inauguration Day: Using hope as a strategy

As our 44th President is sworn into office this morning, I, like much of America, and the world, am hopeful for a better future. As the economy continues to spiral downward it’s a tough mantra to follow, but for many, hope is the only strategy. 

For those of us who have lost jobs as a result of the economy, hope has to take on a new, or at least more poignant, meaning. As we send out resumes, make calls, figure out how we’re going to pay the mortgage after the severance runs out (if we were lucky enough to get one), hope is the rock upon which we all stand.   

So today as I watch the news and listen to the stories of faith and renewal, I’ve posted my view of my lay off experience and why  I’m betting that hope will see me (and all of us) through.  

In mid-December, I become one of the millions of laid off workers in this country. The company cut 76 workers, 12% of its workforce. They say they feel bad but it has to be done. It is not about performance, they tell us. It is not that our skill sets are no longer required. It is because times are tough and they believe consolidating positions will help. dsc09279a

The phone call is well scripted and rehearsed. They offer me 18 weeks severance and an extension of my health care. I know this is a good deal and I don’t complain.  Within three minutes of hanging up the phone, I am disconnected from the company network. A month later, my job is posted on the company’s website. Executive Editor. I hear the salary is considerably less.  

We are told to come into the office to collect our things on the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. No one is there except a company executive who opens the door. It makes me sad that nine years of my professional life fit into two small boxes but I’m relieved there’s not so much to carry out the door. I feel like I have a disease and no one wants to come too close. The executive never looks me in the eyes. I want to say “Fuck You” as I leave, but I don’t.   

I get messages on Facebook for the next several days. Many people say they’ll pray for me, which makes me laugh. I think this is a bit over the top. I’ve lost a job, not a child. I suspect they are relieved their jobs have been spared but secretly think it is because they are better than me so I “defriend” them. One former colleague calls and shouts: “Congratulations!” when I answer the phone. I think this is a much better thing to say. 

The package that details the “terms of my job termination” arrives via special delivery. My package is bigger than some of my colleagues’ packages because my package also includes information about age discrimination. I can’t help it. I think this is funny, too, but in a pathetic ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’ sort of way. Not only am I out of work, I am old. 

I attend a job fair recently and am interviewed by the press. She refers to me as a victim of this economy. I tell her I am not a victim. I have been given an opportunity to redirect the course of my life. Some of this is bullshit, but thinking of yourself as a victim doesn’t help the situation. 

I make a conscious decision to approach the job search with confidence and enthusiasm and I do it so well, it feels like an out of body experience. I get calls from friends who ask how it’s going. “Great, I say. Really, really great.” And I mean it. I start a blog. I join a local freelance writers group. I take a masters class. I get freelance work. I contact everyone I know and have ever known. I have lunch with friends. I change the trajectory of my professional life. I have a blast. 

I am determined to keep my energy up even though responses to applications have been rather pitiful so far. I have applied for eight positions for which I am perfectly qualified, but I have only heard back from one. I had an interview on Tuesday. I thought it went well, but they have not called me back. It’s hard to be patient. 

I am just one among millions caught in the crossfire of a crappy economy. I am a sobering statistic, I know. Still, even though I don’t believe for one minute that this had to be done, it is what it is, and I move on. Instead of a barrier, I see a challenge. More important, I say it’s OK to hope. If hope can motivate a nation, it can motivate me personally. Yeah, I do believe hope is a strategy. 


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Watch Obama be sworn in at your local library

As much as I would love to be at Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, the fact is, I cannot handle the crowds. I took my daughter to the Million Mom March in Washington, DC years ago and if there’s one thing I learned that day it’s that being in the middle of 100,000 people is way out of my comfort zone.  Plus, there are no hotels available  within a 200 mile radius.

Spend Inauguration Day at your local library

Spend Inauguration Day at your local library

 

 

So this morning I looked online to see what kind of inauguration parties I could get myself invited to (sadly, I was not invited to any of the some 100 balls given around the country on Tuesday night). Harvard Book Store  looks like it’s hosting a pretty cool event but space is limited. I’d go if I thought I could get there early enough and not have to wait outside in subzero temperatures. (A DD coffee and a pair of Cuddle Duds can only keep you so warm.)

I also came across an article that said some local public libraries were hosting events, free and open to everyone.  Some were even serving food, which is always a big plus for me.  As an active advocate of public libraries, I was impressed that our libraries would play host and encourage people to witness this historic event. But I was not surprised by the heated, angry comments posted to this short little article by readers. Upshot: some  people are just not as excited about our 44th president as I am. But there’s also this: People get pissed off when a public institution gives forum to something they don’t agree with.

Why wasn’t this done for Bush (file this under ‘I’ve been living in a cave for 8 years’) and why should taxpayers pay for any of it were the top complaints. First, let’s be clear. It wasn’t done for Reagan, Bush Sr., OR Clinton, either. I suspect it was because there wasn’t this level of interest. This is an historic event. People are pumped. The libraries are leveraging that enthusiasm, as they should. Second, as far as I can tell taxpayers are not footing the bill for these parties. In most communities, it’s funded (and hosted) by local volunteer organizations, such as the Friends of the Library or the League of  Woman Voters.  Hooray for volunteers.

In cases such as these, too many people think they’re justified in protesting an event because they find the topic personally offensive  and use the “taxpayer dollar” as a scape goat.  Get over it. Obama is in and I’m watching it at the library.

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