Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sweet Tooth : Duck Donuts

So many things I haven't gotten to write about. I see all the pictures in my Google photos account that I've taken over the summer, but I've just lost my mojo to get them on the blog. I know, I know. I've been saying stuff like that for the better part of a year. :::pssst::: Look at what's gone on over the past year. Hard to write about nonsense. I'm trying.

My cousin lives down the shore. We see them almost every week of the summer. I try to get to Cupcake Magician in Red Bank, but funny enough, that happens more easily in the winter. Their hours don't work with mine in the summer- they close too early on Saturday for me to catch them when we get down after work, and too early Sunday for me to get there after the beach.

We started using Waze to go home from down the shore on Sunday nights because the traffic had been atrocious. I actually don't think we went home the same way twice this summer. One of the times we went up Rt 35, I saw Duck Donuts. It wasn't open but I saw where it is in Middletown, NJ. I don't know that area, but I made a mental note. Then on one of my message boards, someone told me I should go there. Once I knew where it was, I made it a mission.

The crappy weather Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we got down early enough to make it there.

I have to say, it's a very cool idea as far as doughnuts go. I thought it would be like the doughnut places by me- where you have to get there early or popular flavors sell out for the day. Even with cupcakes that happens. This is different. It's a made to order kind of thing. Like a make your own sandwich or salad.

You start with a base- I believe it's a plain doughnut or vanilla. Then you pick toppings. Like a frosting- vanilla, strawberry, peanut butter, chocolate, etc. Then you can pick glazes, sugar, hot fudge, sprinkles, etc. I was little overwhelmed since it was my first time there, so I just picked "favorites" off their menu.

Once I saw they were "made to order", I thought it would take a long time. But the girls who work there are actually pretty quick! We were really in and out of there in a short time. 

I got one dozen for us, then I got four for my cousin and her husband. Lesson learned. These are something you want to eat the day you get them or after. They were FANTASTIC the first day. I just thought they'd keep more like cupcakes. Good cupcakes stay fresh at least one more day, without any kind of refrigeration or freezing. These kind of sweat by the second day and by the third day, they're hard. That's fine- I just didn't realize. I couldn't (well, I COULD, but wouldn't) eat so many in one sitting or day. I just would've bought less at one time just to feed the three of us for one day.

One dozen was around $15. To me, that's a good price- because it's the same price no matter what you get on them. It makes it easy and economical. I would much rather bring these - let's say two or three dozen even, to a party or event, vs spending probably twice that on cupcakes. It's also much easier to cut and share a doughnut than a cupcake, which enables people to sample different flavors. Two thumbs up from me! I'll be back!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Wanna Be a Tiger Shark?

If you're looking for a low-key, fun, small swim team for your kid(s) ages 5-18, come to the Tiger Sharks. I had E on a bigger, more "competitive", more prestigious team, for a year. Guess what? It sucked. I had to drive to other pools, far away from home from practice. It sucked up all our time just driving to practice. I'm not going to even talk about what went on with the meets but suffice to say, we lasted one, very LONG swim season.

Then E joined the Tiger Sharks last September and it was a completely different experience. The coaches care about the kids. They know the kids. The team is smaller and newer, so of course there were some growing pains, but they overcame. At least I can say, with this team, I know who exactly who his coaches were/are and they know E. At best, he made friends, learned a lot, improved his swim times, and it was just an all around better experience. We didn't spend more time in the car than in the pool!

All the practices are at the pools in the Ridgewood YM/YWCA. The meets are dual meets with other Y/JCC teams. They have convenient monthly payment plans- just call and ask. 

Try-outs are this week and next. All you have to do is register online and then go. It's THAT easy. Go for it. It's a great team.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sorting it Out

I woke up, super angry, after an extremely frustrating dream, having to do with pants (my favorite Abercrombie & Fitch white capri cargo pants from the early 2000's). In my nightmare, a person cut in line ahead of me at the store. And she didn't give a crap that she was cutting. So I got hostile. Picture Frances McDormand in Friends With Money. It wasn't about pants though- the frustration, anger and anxiety I was feeling though. It was about waking up every day feeling unsettled and nervous.

Frances McDormand, Friends With Money

I go back and forth whether to put anything out there on my blog, on my Facebook page, or anywhere. Silence is dangerous and deadly. On the other hand, I just don't want to talk about what's going on in the world. I don't want to talk about racism, antisemitism, Charlottesville. I've just been quietly soldiering on, trying to keep my head down, eye on the prize of turning over elections to get people into office who are against all the hate.

I feel like I've done all my talking. I have been feeling like a lot of my talking fell on deaf ears. You know I'm at a loss when I don't even really jump into a debate about this on B's page. It felt pointless with the people's statements they felt bizarrely comfortable putting out there. I KNOW there's no WAY they would've felt okay putting those thoughts out publicly without the general feeling Trump has put out there as acceptable behavior. Now pussy grabbing, ridiculing everyone including the disabled, mocking people's looks, etc are all acceptable or easily explained away.

The guy on B's page said- "I voted for him. I don't see how he is any different than any other president when it comes to support.. you say what you have to in order to get their votes. But to blame him for one wacko's actions is a bit far reaching bro. 

 We needed a change here in the US. Trump was it. I would vote for him again for that reason alone. The sludge that we call Washington needs to go. The "Free" press is a one sided reporting agency. Never in my life have I seen such an outright war against one person as this president. If he farts wrong, they are on it. Also, I don't care about pussy talk - Sorry to tell you ladies, I am sure that every man has at some point thrown out a little locker room talk..."   

This- THIS, is the perfect illustration of what we're dealing with. When you believe that the "sludge" is everyone else but the devil with the orange face & that there's "one wacko" to contend with, that's where you have lost your humanity, credibility, and my respect. You know what- I'll give you- maybe locker room talk does seem to pale in comparison to: kill the blacks (using the N word), Jews, gays, Muslims, brown people of any kind, illegals, Mexicans, etc. Did I miss anyone? But if you have daughters or women in your life you care about in any way, maybe you should prioritize how men think and speak about women a little higher than pushing it off as "locker room talk".

I feel disappointed in a lot of people I thought were better humans than what they're putting out into the world. I have felt hurt & betrayed deeply by people who pretended to be something they're not. Made it out like they're on the side of love, understanding, openness, empathy & compassion, only to be on the train of hate, giving every excuse in the book as to why the vote and/or the hate should be overlooked. To my face seemed one way, behind my back, out of earshot, quite the opposite. I don't know that I've ever felt so duped & sad in my entire life. And for the first time ever, scared.

It *IS* comforting to see the quotes and memes about love, resisting, peace, so I can feel like I'm not living in a world just filled with selfies, navel gazing, and what the Kardashians are doing. I want to feel like people care, so it's nice to see all the people who aren't FOR the KKK, Nazis, white supremacy, and whatever other hate groups and feelings are being put out there. Posting quotes and memes though isn't enough. It's not actually DOING anything. The people that need to read, see, and comprehend, aren't interested or reading. They're like putting their fingers in their ears, saying "lalalalalalalala" and hiding behind faux religion, scripture interpretation, rogue sermons, and skewed history.

I know they aren't interested or reading because I specifically went to Facebook pages of some people I know I saw vocally supporting Trump before, during and after the election. I wanted to see if they changed their tune. Radio silence would've been better than what I saw on some pages. I saw what basically amounted to - "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater". That none his fault. Or just #fakenews! Regurgitated Fox News rhetoric. Some were radio silence and that was a tiny silver lining, but certainly doesn't inspire hope, peace, or love.

There was a very nice article written about our peaceful vigil and this blind hatred was the ONE comment. This just illustrates the complete lack of any kind of reality or common sense. #ThanksObama


I had actually forgotten about the vigil last night. I'd seen the event on Facebook and I knew I wanted to go, but it slipped my mind. At 7:23pm I saw a friend post she was there, so B, E and I quickly put shoes on and ran out of the house to walk downtown. It started at 7:30 and we made it by 7:35. I was encouraged by the approximately two hundred person crowd. After some emotional speeches, B pointed out someone, with her small children, that we thought was on the other side. I went over to her and found out she's a huge progressive and even though her children were tired, she made them attend anyway- because it was important for them to be part of a vigil against hate.

I immediately teared up. I couldn't help myself. It was just really nice to find an ally where you didn't know you had one. We're both white women but we come from different backgrounds, different religious backgrounds. To describe her on paper- white, practicing Irish Catholic, middle to upper middle class, she has the same characteristics of others I know who are Trumpettes. Finding out she isn't just made me verklempt. Relieved. I've had to lose, get rid of or been dumped by so many along the way, after having to find out via social media or conversation, that they agree with racism, alternative facts, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia. Or voted because of their own monetary agenda, not caring about what else they were taking with it. Or just through deafening silence to atrocities committed in the name of this new republican party.

My friend Arati Kreibich, who I want to see as one of the the next leaders on our town council, made a beautiful, moving speech. It needs to be heard.

The only thing I can come up with, for this passive acceptance of hate, is that people are so far removed from WWII that they don't really know what the Nazis did? That it's all just words in history books? I'm not sure- but lest anyone forgot, here are some photos- some from Charlottesville this past weekend, and some from the Holocaust. All those photos could be from the same time period.

I got emotional again, watching Jimmy Kimmel do his monologue about Trump's....speech. That speech, yesterday, when Trump said- "There were fine people on both sides". Jimmy said it best when he said something like- "if you find yourself in a group with nazis and white supremacists, there is no one there is that a very fine person". That he has to say that, and that I actually know people, real people, not just randoms in article comments or on Twitter, who will disagree with him, is soul crushing.

Someone I've known for 20+ years posted that "this" (what happened in Charlottesville) all happened because people want to rewrite history by taking down a statue. Please. Just be quiet. I don't have the energy to argue. I don't care how many articles you cite from so-called conservative, and/or openly alt-right websites, you're extremely privileged. You don't have any idea "how this all happened" if you think it's about feeling oppressed by statues. Until you really understand what empathy is, stop talking about who should or shouldn't feel oppressed by what.

I feel like I'm on a constant emotional rollercoaster. I've been on the edge of tears, filled with anxiety, and then consumed with anger at the flip of a switch. I felt a glimmer of hope and support when I got a message from someone that I grew up with. Someone I know who feels the same kind of fear I do- she's not Jewish, but has biracial children. It was helpful to feel the solidarity. But within minutes I was just reminded of all the people we both had to cut out that have turned out to be PROUD deplorables, burying their head in the sand, hiding behind alternative facts, and what they insist is fake news.

Seeing all the swastikas, hearing the chants, reading the signs, seeing all this hate alive, well, and proudly attributed to our current president and administration is surreal. Not fully denouncing AND blaming a new made up "alt-left" certainly doesn't make me feel confident that another Holocaust couldn't happen. Germany didn't think it could happen there either. We know how that went down.

As I've written before, I'm an atheist. Yet, I'm still a Jew. How does that work? Well, according to and 23andMe, I don't even get a specific country. I'm just "European Jewish". It's in my DNA. Even if I choose to be Saved tomorrow, I'm still a Jew. *How insane is it that I had to think after I posted this that maybe I shouldn't put that I'm a Jew out on the internet? That if it stuff goes down here, I just branded myself and my family...

I still get antisemitic remarks made in my own store. I had to explain to my son in age appropriate language when he was in Jewish preschool, what antisemitism is and means when Molotov Cocktails were being thrown into synagogues in my county. I had to engage in arguments with people in my own town who feel that "the obnoxious people", i.e., the Jews, had to ruin Christmas here because "things were fine the way they were when people were allowed to say Merry Christmas (last I checked they still are allowed), and we just had Santa and a Christmas tree". My husband was called "that Jew in the lamp store" when spoken about to other shop owners for not supporting a program monetarily detrimental to the small business owners. Both B and I get told we don't "look Jewish" all the time- like it's a compliment. I've consistently heard judgment commentary about how crazy it is to have to PAY to go to temple. I remember being asked if I was Jewish if and if that made me a "JAP" (Jewish American Princess). Those are just off the top of my head.

I don't need to practice religion to still feel discrimination just for being born of Jewish heritage. I don't have to practice Judaism to feel unwelcome or unsafe because by blood I'm a Jew. That's why religion and ethnicity are complicated when it comes to being Jewish. I'm not going to magically believe in God, but my blood is my blood. I can appreciate my heritage and quite frankly, since I've always been very "Damn the Man", I'm happy to be a minority. I like that little bit of difference I get to own. If anything, all this hate has made me feel closer to my heritage (not faith) because I like being the underdog. Nothing better than when the underdog comes out on top. I also think that we have to find a way to pluck something good out of such horrifying adversity. We're tough. We've managed to thrive no matter how many people or group want to extinguish us as a whole.

What I won't accept is people feeling like they are owed "the country". That they should get to walk the streets of a country that is supposed to represent equality for all, saying "Jews will not replace us", whatever that means, with tiki torches and swastikas. Considering we're still a minority, there aren't enough of us to replace anyone, and I don't know how we're trying to replace anyone, that's a bizarre chant. And turning citronella into a hate vessel is just lunacy. We won't "replace" you? No, we won't. We will coexist whether you like it or not.

I never cared much what people think about anything. Call it the Leo in me. Positive or negative- as far back as middle school- I was never a social climber, did my own thing, and never asked for opinions. I'm still the same today. It would've never occurred to me to hide being Jewish. It doesn't occur to me to hide anything. But a Facebook friend posted an article last night that reminded me of people like my husband, who was made to feel different, like an outsider, by his own friends, in high school just by being Jewish. How, when I met him, he didn't even tell people he's Jewish. For anyone to feel they have to do that is heartbreaking.

A police officer friend said to me last night- well, even if we were all the same color, or the same religion, hate would still go on- it would be the blue eyes against the brown eyes or the blondes vs the redheads. My answer was- "Well, we still have to try to be the change for the positive. We can't just do nothing". 

By the way- I'm often asked why I feel the need to go to rallies, vigils, and protests. Someone I knew as a kid saw pictures from a transgender support rally B, E and I went to in the winter. He assumed my kid is transgender- because why else would I be there? Well, that's exactly it. I believe we need to stand up for everyone, whether we are part of that marginalized group or not. It's called empathy. If only everyone would try it.

I'm just so sickened today so I don't know what else to do but write. It's not even really what I wanted to write, but it's the most cohesive thing I could put together at the moment. It's how I've felt for what feels like far too long. I don't want to fight alone. I guess I'm trying to appeal to those who have always felt like they just don't want to get involved in politics. It's time. Activism isn't a dirty word. We have children who have to grow up in this world. They need to know that we're taking a stand for a better future. We certainly have to do better than "There are very fine people in that group" in regard to Nazis and White Nationalists/White Supremacists.

These are not my words but this sums up how I feel:

Here's what you can do:

Something else to watch:

Just for your reading pleasure:
For the umpteenth time, having a black friend doesn't mean you aren't racist

One last, really important analogy:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Not Complimented

After my fourth very random email in the past week asking me to consider joining an MLM (multi-level marketing) business, and being told in two of those email that I should take it as a compliment to be asked, I really wanted to think about why I felt extremely annoyed instead of complimented.

It's not brain surgery, of course, to figure out. But I hadn't heard or paid attention before if I was told I should feel complimented. I really wanted to be able to give a well thought out answer as to why I don't feel that way.

I also want to say- I'm not writing this to offend people. If you're offended, I can't help that. I'm not writing this out of the blue, just to put down people's careers or companies they work for. I'm writing this, trying to explain, again, my sincere point of view, as I'm bombarded with requests to become part of a "team". No teams for me. I've never even played any sporting.

I don't know how to just ignore the requests because I feel like I'm forcefully having the ball put in my court, so to speak, of having to awkwardly say no and sometimes give reasons why. I don't like the feeling of being put in this position, as often as I am. I need to voice my thoughts on it so that maybe it will happen less. 

I realize that my issue, at least as I'm thinking about it today, is at the root of it, I feel like I'm being treated like I'm stupid. Like I'm stupid for either not joining or as if I must live under a rock and never heard of these businesses. Some I haven't, like the one my friend asked me about the other day (and I still love you NM). I'd legit never heard of it. I've never heard of it probably because after checking it out, I'm not interested in one product they sell so it wasn't on my radar. That's the nature of these businesses though. They start, get people in, market starts to get saturated, they get out, and jump to another new one. So if I never heard of one, chances are it's because it hasn't hit here yet or it's come and gone.

Then there's the piggyback of the really nasty/aggressive pitch of "I'm sitting on the beach while you're punching a clock. Wouldn't you rather be spending time with your family? You don't get a second chance to soak up your kids" that really chaps my behind. As if to flat out say- you're not a good mom if you work outside your home and aren't with your kids 24/7. Or there must be something wrong with you if don't see direct sales as the ticket to being home with your kids, i.e. what should be your happiness and contentment. One- that's just a play on mommy guilt. Good thing I was born without guilt and never warmed up to it. Two- not everyone wants or is cut out to work from home. When I worked from home for a tanning lotion company (not in direct sales, just by fact that the company was in Arizona and I live in NJ), I just got fat and stayed up way too late. Showering felt like a chore.

Work is also still work. Home or out of the house, when you're really "working" from home, you can't also be paying attention to your kids. If you say you can do both simultaneously, you're lying. Or you're the total exception and are a superhero. Your power is extreme multitasking. Good for you.

At any rate- I'm one of those who just doesn't believe it's so much better- at least for ME. You don't have a commute, but you have to be responsible for your work. You need time, energy and quiet for it. In my estimation, it's probably harder to work from home with kids because you're there. Your kids expect you to be able to give them all your attention. If you're at the office, your kids aren't there to make you feel guilty for doing your work or just there yelling "Mommy! Mommy!".  FYI- I work outside the house but I don't have a commute. So the commute thing isn't even a thought for me.

Back to why I find myself so pissed when asked to be part of this at-home work phenomenon. Even if I haven't heard of a particular one, do you really think I don't know what these businesses are or that they're out there? Or that I couldn't walk outside my store and spit, hitting someone selling one of them? I feel like when I get that email asking me to join, I feel like screaming- Do you think you're the first person or even the twentieth who has asked me?? And for all the major ones, at least in this area- Rodan & Fields, Lularoe, Isagenix, Beach Body, Thrive, Beauty Counter, Younique- even the old school Mary Kay & Avon- the market is pretty saturated. If I haven't started selling one of these by now, what would make you think I would start NOW?

Lastly- the emails about changing my life, the aggressive marketing about working poolside & spending more time with my kid(s), imply that my current life isn't fulfilling or that it's impossible for me to already love what I do. I have to say I'm insulted. It's totally discounting that I do actually love my career and am happy to go to work every day. Selling face cream, leggings or make up isn't going to push me over the edge to some kind of life's bliss explosion.

I don't care if you don't like the term "pyramid scheme" but the fact is- when you look at the structure of most of these companies, that's what the structure looks like. A pyramid. The word scheme just usually goes along with it. Some MLMs are, some aren't. Don't know which is which- but not the point. What pyramid means in relation to what I'm talking about is that the top is where the real earning potential is at. When I went down the rabbit hole years ago reading about what went down with MonaVie juice, I read all about how the structure works, how the people at the top are millionaires, etc. They ARE real millionaires. I get that. It makes sense. There would be no pyramids if it didn't work for someone. I certainly know though that it wouldn't behoove me to get in on the bottom, which is exactly where I'd be getting into any of the above companies.

Here's the thing, which is sort of the catch-22 or I don't know what to call it. I have real-life friends & acquaintances I see all the time, who sell MLM products. I don't have a problem with them. They know me- they know I'm not interested and they've never once even brought it up in conversation. (Thank you NH, KM, ML, LM, ST, TM, EC, JL, and anyone else I've forgotten because you've never brought it up). They know how I feel because they pay attention. They check in every now and again just about regular life, or they read my blog.

The people who DO send me the canned email and ask me to be on their team are people I know, consider acquaintances am friended to on social media because we have some common denominator- kids, an old job, same town, college, high school, or something. Maybe I met them at Newcomers when I moved here, drinking at the Progressive Dinner. I don't need to be BFFs to accept/request you on Facebook. However- These are people who never interact with me and I assume don't check my Facebook page or read my blog. Totally cool with that. I don't have an issue continuing to be be friended to people I don't have much interaction with in the past or currently because who knows how things will go. Paths often cross again.

Except that because we don't ever have interaction, it feels even more disingenuous to get that (clearly) mass email, which seems like it's supposed to have a tone of sharing and closeness- that they just think I'd be PERFECT for this opportunity, when they really have no idea. You don't REALLY know me if you think I'm going to be all in, happy and excited to be asked to make you money. And that's what it is- you're throwing something out there to someone for the purpose of them making you money.

I know someone who sells R&F, who truthfully, rarely posts on social media about it. She doesn't really solicit people to join, that I know about. She didn't do it to me. She got in closer to the top, years ago. She makes a decent dollar from it without really doing anything because I guess she has a good number of good team members under her. She explained the whole structure to me and that the money is in having a strong selling team below you. She's not comfortable making videos, posting incessantly about it, and she doesn't really try to recruit people. She's the exception.

I never felt like she had an agenda to sell me in talking to me or hanging out. I actually didn't even know she sold R&F until it came up organically in a conversation after knowing her a decent amount of time. Selling without drinking & sharing the Kool-Aid works for her and it didn't impact our time together. How it should be. 

I feel like it's common sense to know that if every time I posted on social media, or spoke to someone, I was really trying to sell them lighting, people would be hiding me or hiding from me. Yet, with these businesses, it seems like they're told that it should be your entire existence. And they basically tell you to be sneaky- to get together with old friends to discuss the business. Is it not hurtful to contact someone under the guise of catching up only to really have the agenda to either sell to them or get them as a team member. Honestly, I've been hurt by it. I think you want to break (or steal) bread with me because you miss me and all you really wanted was a pitch meeting. No. Just no.

Someone tagged me in a recent piece by Alden Wicker- so I posted it on my Facebook page with no commentary. Most people who did comment, some former MLM sellers, so not just biased folk who never did it, agreed with the article. Of course, there was a seller who did exactly what the article said- blamed lack of success on the consultants, not the company. Just totally refused to hear anything bad about the company. She also said something like- it's a slippery slope when women start judging other women for how they make their money. 

Now, yes, people did openly judge and comment sarcastically. I did not- I only gave an opinion when pushed by what I felt was victim-shaming (those who ended up in debt from selling Lularoe). I will say for the umpteenth time, I don't CARE how someone decides to make their money. I do judge the marketing strategies of many of the companies, the lack of real training, the act of implying that the sales should be easy and that it's not like really working. In the end though- not my problem. Until I'm asked over and over and over not only to be part of it, which is egregious enough since if they ever checked in with me, they should know at this point that I'm not interested.

They also ask "if I know anyone else who would be interested". I'm also supposed to do the work for them. I'm supposed to just be a vessel to endless contacts or something. How do I not feel used with that question? You don't even hit like on a photo of my kid in nine years, join in my interesting debates or conversations, or whatever, but you're going to ask me if I want to sell products under you making you money or send you my friends to do it. No one sees anything odd or problematic about this practice?

Don't get me wrong- if someone asked me for a favor, or if I thought I could match two people up with a great situation, especially a job, I'd be all about it. Again though- if I haven't sent you anyone thus far to sell MLM products, and you ask me now, am I all of a sudden going to hit my head, and be like, "you know, I DO know someone looking to sell xyz". How would I even pick which consultant I should be sending people? Make it like the Hunger Games? The first? The hundredth? Whoever has the longest lashes but least red eyes from using Lash Boost?

So no, I can't take being asked to join an MLM as a compliment. The way it's been done to me has put me in awkward situations. People I have to see every day. People whose kids go to school with mine. I can't even go to what's touted as a "mom's night out" for moms from school because it's become a giant sales pitch vs just hanging out, blowing off steam, and bonding. You don't call that a "mom's night out"- you call it what it is- a vendor event. Moms Night Out used to be meeting at the local Mexican restaurant, drinking margaritas and possibly having to coordinate getting moms home in the Margarita Mobile or Tequila Taxi? (I forget what their drunk shuttle is actually called). No one was trying to sell each other anything and it was just a good time had by all. Now, I don't even open emails about Moms Night Out because I feel like there's going to be some kind of sales agenda.

I can't take it as a compliment because I feel like I'm being used. Why am I being asked so much? Most of the people asking don't know me that well. They have no idea whether I'd be good at sales or not. I don't even use half the things these companies sell. The only logical conclusion to come to is that I'm being used for my contacts. People know that I know a lot of people. Lest I remind you all, AGAIN, that I had to hide my friends list on Facebook because an R&F consultant was going through my friend list, then started friending all my friends in order to pitch them.

For the record: I don't wear make-up often. No lotions or potions. I used lash stuff for a short spell that made me look like I'd been on a week's coke bender. I don't care what my cleaning products are made from as long as they work. I don't believe leggings are pants, don't want pics of Doritos on my camel toe- The few pair of leggings I've purchased were Jockey brand, and 12.99 at TJ Maxx or Marshalls. I'm happy with them. They don't rip like wet toilet paper. I don't take supplements and the only work out I do or ever plan on doing is going on my treadmill. Going on my treadmill only as fast as I can still hear the TV. I don't fast- I eat jellybeans daily. I'm not buying third-party green energy. I don't cook so no kitchen utensils for me. I don't wear mass produced jewelry- I don't even wear my wedding rings because I "feel" them on me.

I'M NOT SAYING THE PRODUCTS AREN'T GOOD OR DON'T WORK. I have no idea if they work. I'm saying- I am not interested in them. I don't want them. I don't use them. There is nothing about them that makes me want to know more about them. The same way most of you are not interested in the kind of lighting we make. Where no amount of posting pictures of before & afters makes you more interested.

I know where to find you if I want to sell something besides lighting. And hell, if you want to sell something without a pyramid structure, come to me and you can sell chandeliers for a commission if/when you ever sell any. That's what I can offer you. Not my contact list.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Instagram Etiquette?

I literally just Googled, "Is Instagram just for ass-kissing?". Let's say that I didn't get the answers I was looking for. Reminder to self- don't ever google "ass" and "kissing" together and expect anything but porn and such to come up. ***Pssst*** Really hardcore porn.

I was looking for some articles on Instagram etiquette, really. I guess that's what I should've put in the search box. But I'm not sure if that's what I'm looking for either. I'm only giving context of what's going on to illustrate that I'm so not in the know of how Instagram is supposed to work in terms of the compliment etiquette. I've said a million times- I'm a message board/Facebook gal. If someone posts something- a photo or story, on either one, the idea is to give thoughts on it. Especially on a message board- that's what the premise of them are.

I'm new-ish to Instagram. I joined a few years ago but I never really got it, and have said that I don't particularly like it. I'm getting the hang of it more lately. I don't hate it like I did. It can be weird because people use screen names instead of their real names, so half the time, I don't even know whose pictures I'm looking at. You can't post a photo in a response so that's annoying when the photo would be helpful. I also always feel like I need to make my responses shorter so I don't fully get to say what I want to say. I'm not exactly the most concise.

Instagram is mostly for work so on my work account, I unfollowed most people who are just actors or not in the world of some kind of interior design. I really needed to limit it because otherwise my feed was cluttered with stuff I wasn't even really interested in. I like the cast of Orange is the New Black, but I don't need to see every thing every single one of them posts. And with their hundreds of thousands of followers, they don't notice or care about my like. I unfollowed socialites or people that I'm not sure how I came to follow them in the first place.

I needed to focus. I have some personal friends from real life or my message boards in my work feed, then I have all decorators, designers, product photographers, and then some other people in that world or right on the periphery, but I'm not totally sure what they do.

Being honest though, even some of these famous designers, I don't like or get what they're doing. Our work/creative style, generally speaking, is not this "minimalist" or modern stuff. I've discussed this- to me, it all looks the same. I'm not being a dick. For twelve years, I've been looking at design one way- which is, "why would you want your home to look exactly like everyone else's?". I also know the difference between quality and cheap, imported stuff. I watch two people here, in my store, physically MAKE things. They make and cut patterns, sew, and painstakingly check their work before calling something finished. I feel I've earned the right to be able to pick out what's truly "high end" and what is not. I may not be famous or have a design show, but that doesn't make me less knowledgeable about what's out there in our industry.

Just as some short/quick background - We thrive on making lighting and lampshades special. I scroll past a lot of these rooms, show houses, etc, done by semi-famous to famous designers, and a lot of what I see really cool drapes, bedding, plush couches, but with really boring, cheap lampshades. Or really cheap looking cookie-cutter big-box store pendants and/or chandeliers.

As an aside, I was reading the comments under a photo of a designer's, where people were arguing.  I guess the designer referenced stuff looking the same, other designers purchasing from big box stores, and seeing the same rug all over the place in other design photos. She was accused of targeting certain other designers (from the jist I got). One of the arguments from other designers was that they are often on a strict budget and sometimes need to mix in big box stuff. Uh, I get that at like, Homegoods, they may be able to get stuff on the cheap to mix in. However, in this argument in the comments section, a chandelier from Pottery Barn was referenced. Pottery Barn isn't inexpensive.Sure, it's inexpensive compared to Italian Murano glass, but I wouldn't use Pottery Barn as your argument for having to do a room on the cheap. There are plenty of ways to get more for a client's money than to just go to Pottery Barn.

Most of the time, I click like on the room photos and keep scrolling. I'm trying to be interactive. I want to comment on the stuff I see because I *think* people want feedback. But then I'm not sure if they really do. All I really see is the oohing and ahhing over the work and no one ever saying they don't like something. Not that they should troll or be mean, but I don't find anyone having any kind of opinion. Every. Single. Comment. is just a full on hair-petting.

Last night, for the first time, I told the truth. I said I love everything in the room, that it's fantastic, but I would've done a different or "better" lampshade- meaning a more high quality shade. The chair, the art, the pillows, all looked very rich looking with a lot of color. The lamp had color. The lampshade looked like a cheap paper shade. Well. That was the first time this designer acknowledged anything I've said. I like and comment on his stuff a lot- it's not like I came out of nowhere to troll him. In fact, I've always commented with something very complimentary- short & sweet. I've just been totally ignoring the lampshade situation, which is bleak, at best. I do love his use of color and prints though- A LOT. He just said- "Well I like the lampshade we picked!" HA! His response came off so annoyed & bitchy to me. I replied back that it's just NMS (not my style) and that I said I loved everything else.

Now, this guy has thousands of followers, is in the Hamptons for some show house thing. People are kissing his ass left and right. I'm just wondering if that's the etiquette. Just tell people how great they are and call it a day. I know from looking through comments on other famous people's pages that there are trolls or they famous person will say- "Haters will be deleted" or something like that. But I think actors, musicians, and tv personalities, maybe expect or are used to having trolls on social media? Maybe designers aren't? I really have no idea.

I've only been really active on Instagram for the past couple of months. I can count on one hand how many times someone said something I'd consider mean about any of our stuff. Once, a guy, maybe on Instagram in the beginning said that he liked a "before" picture better than the after. Two ladies went back and forth, almost like they were a plant, saying we were expensive, and that people should go to some place on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Lastly, a lady who is just a Facebook fan of our page said she didn't like a lamp or something.

I totally get that our aesthetic is not the same as everyone else's, especially these days. I know people, especially younger, right now, are very into the modern thing. I catch HGTV every now and again, and from the look of people's homes in their thirties that I've seen, it all looks like what I see on these home renovation shows. Even Traditional Home magazine, on Instagram, is constantly posting pictures of rooms that are totally not Traditional. I just can't tell people that a whole room is amazing, spectacular and so perfect when I think the lighting sucks. I've been picking things in the photos out and saying stuff like- "Great sofa! Love the colors!" or "Amazing prints!" instead of saying that I just love the room, so I don't feel like I'm lying or complimenting the lighting.

It's not that I can't appreciate other kinds of lighting. I can, I'm just really not into modern- just my personal preference. If a follow a designer, then see their aesthetic is totally modern and minimalist, I just unfollow. There's no reason to give my opinion or be interactive, because we're just on totally different design pages.

There are others though, that I like ninety percent of what they do, it's just the lighting I don't get or like. When I say that I need to look at the designers name though to figure out who's room design it is because they mostly look the same, I'm not exaggerating. I happen to only know who the designer is who didn't like my lampshade thoughts BECAUSE he is a little different in his use of bright colors and mixing interesting colors and prints. Generally speaking, I think I can say that I know I'm going to like his rooms before I even see them. EXCEPT the lighting or lampshades. To me, it was like- "this room COULD HAVE BEEN stunning, if ONLY there was a better lampshade". If I see a fantastic chandelier, I compliment it.

I just can't lie when I don't like something. If I just scroll by and don't comment or hit like, then I'm not interacting, but I don't want to kiss ass over things I don't fully like either. If I just hit like, without saying something- either picking out what I do like and mentioning it, or saying I like everything BUT the lampshades, I'm reinforcing that I must like the whole thing. I also feel like if they're putting stuff out there, they want commentary. It's just whether they ONLY want to be stroked and ass-kissed. THAT, is the question.

Such a conundrum- Kiss ass, keep quiet, pick one thing I like, comment, and stick to that....Oh, social media. How I love and hate thee. #olddognewtricks

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Millennials, Mischegoss, & Belp

I don't even know where to start this one. I was HOT last night. Not the weather, not "in heat", but HOT, more, "under the collar". I needed to calm myself, and I had real stuff to do, since free time isn't given away like condoms at the pride parade.

I need to first thank my seniors, as in senior citizens, for being the great clients they are. I need to make my appreciation known. That's our main clientele in our store, Shades of Soho. I've explained why this is before, but for those who just happened to catch this entry, I'll give you the Cliff's Notes. Seniors respect quality and craftsmanship. They're actually patient. They get what we do- they know we make things. Made in the USA actually MEANS something to them. They're willing to pay and they are appreciative when they pick up their lamps and lampshades.

What is a Millennial? The majority of researchers and demographers start the generation in the early 1980s, with many ending the generation in the mid-1990s. That's what I'm going with. I hate to use blanket statements, and we've had SOME lovely clients in this demographic (like my friends), but I have to tell you- almost every time, they are a problem. They don't come in often, to be quite honest. They shop online, they want what they see on HGTV, and they don't think they need to pay for quality. Nor do they really care if it's quality because they'll just throw it away when they're tired of it.

We've had some real head-scratching, bile regurgitating moments lately with people in this age group within the past week. So I'm calling this entry "My Belp". Instead of Yelp, which, to me, might as well be the online mafia, I only have my blog as recourse for crazy or asshole. Yelp gives a voice to people who are angry and only can spew venom behind a computer screen. There is no trying to manage a situation face to face- it's just- smile in your face, then go home and type out some kind of maligning commentary. 

For instance- Robert Dawson: He's around thirty-three and married. I don't think he has kids. He came in and asked B to fix a plastic socket casing that broke and to recover an old lampshade. It cost around $200 which was 95% cost for the lampshade. The plastic piece was to be glued. He never said the electrical needed to be looked at. He handed B a plastic piece and said to fix it. B did that. And Sam made a stunning lampshade. Yadda yadda, Robert went home and expected the electrical to have been worked on, when that's not what was discussed or paid for. He called and was angry and B told him to bring it in.

B fixed it on the spot when Robert came back. He doesn't really have the time to do that, but he did it to be nice. Robert took the lamp and just left. No- "Hey, THANK YOU, what do I owe you?". He literally just took the lamp and walked out the door. B didn't go after him, even though that's a $25-$50 repair, and HOW WE PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE. B just felt like he did a nice thing and left it at that.

Robert then called B and berated him for not fixing the electrical the first time. Said he had to waste his precious free time, in traffic to come back, when it's "Lamps101" to just know what has to be done, and it should've been done right the first time.

Someone who left a review after Robert made a great analogy- Do you go to a mechanic for an oil change and expect them to have also checked and changed the brake pads? Of course not. He never said the lamp didn't turn on. So B just fixed what he told him was wrong. Robert then said HIS FREE TIME IS WORTH MONEY. His free time is worth money?! What the what now? He wanted us to PAY HIM FOR THE TIME HE HAD TO TAKE DRIVING HERE AND BACK. Ok, if that's how things are supposed to work, I'm going to start sending bills to CVS, my doctor's office, and the supermarket, every time I'm not taken or seen right away. Because my time, sure as hell, is certainly worth a decent dollar! He said that he is planning on writing us a bad review. However...if B pays him $25, he'll write us a good review. #thatscalledblackmail

B refused to be blackmailed. B was so angry, he called me at E's swim meet to ask my opinion. Since choking Mr. Dawson out for his entitled blackmail request, was not an option, and neither was giving him money we didn't owe him, we would have to take the review.

I'm telling this story not just because Mr Dawson needs to be called out, but just to illustrate that this isn't an isolated event. As this was going on, we were dealing with a similar situation. A young woman, somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-five, asked B for a quote on chandelier work, through email. B gave her some options, all with prices via email back. She then had someone else bring the chandelier in, with no instructions and no payment. He emailed her to ask what she wanted to do and she proceeded to tell him she got "four other quotes, all less than his..."

This email from her was after her public post that her local lighting store COULD NOT do the work. B has been doing this work for over twenty years. We KNOW there is no one else that she could've called for what he was going to do, let alone even know what it meant. She blatantly LIED just to get the cost down. If the cost was an issue, she should've SAID something. How about coming in, like an adult, discussing what she needed done, what would be the best option for her budget, etc. Instead, she tried to do it all behind a computer screen, wasting time, instead of saving, for all of us.

Further- another problem we encounter is people NOT reading emails or there's a serious lack of reading comprehension. I think I know why this is too- Mr Dawson put "TL:DR" before his bad review. As a woman of a particular age, I had to look this letter combination up. THIS, tl:dr, is an abbreviation to let people know a post/comment is long so the summary is right there or they can skip to the end. #howfuckinglazyisthis #slanderquicklyandtherestisirrelevant

B sends out emails with how we do things, estimated time frame, and any other pertinent information. It's just about guaranteed that he's going to get emails back with questions he's already answered in the body of the email(s) he already sent. It's happened with young designers or designer assistants in NYC, to people like the woman I wrote about above.

I knew that woman was lying about her four quotes. I didn't even consider working with her on price. She also low-balled so much, it wasn't worth it to do the work for that low. Her whole way of going about the situation, AND the lowballing was so insulting, it feels like we're being fleeced. We aren't a big box store and won't be treated as such. I told her that unfortunately couldn't meet her price and she could pick up her chandelier any time. What do you know? She said - "she'd like us to start the work". Of course, that's not how we do things, which B had TOLD HER IN THE EMAIL. You come in, we work together on what you want to do, make decisions, we give a price, you pay, we start. No pay, no start. On top of it, her chandelier is sitting here, taking up room, like we're a storage facility. #entitlement

We had another guy, recently, who was a little older. Not a senior, but in his late 40's I'd guess. He came in with a thirty-year old craft paper lampshade. It's a brown, paper, water-stained looking kind of thing. Back in the day- a cheap shade that went on everything in the 80's. Sometimes people want them now. We don't make them but we can get them. This guy came in like a bat out of hell from another lighting store that sent him to us- because we're the ONLY ONES who could help him. He wanted them yesterday, for cheap, and they had to be the same size or as close as possible. We didn't have the lamp, pictures of the lamp/room or anything. He was a little annoyed we didn't just magically have shades matching his old ones, but we said we'd get them within days, for the day he'd be back in the area.

We did that. We got them, early, called him, and he came. Complaints only. His issue was that the holder, the metal that keeps the lampshade on the lamp, wasn't the right color. Well, we'd need a time machine for that. The actual lampshade was almost an exact replica of what he had, but his holder was aged and rusted. Ours was new brass, because it is a NEW LAMPSHADE. He made B crazy with painting it, making it closer to his old one. He was rude and petulant. He came to pick up, grabbed the shades, didn't say thank you- not for getting them so quickly OR painting them, and didn't ask if he owed anything extra to paint the holders. It took B time and it wasn't easy. Further, it took him away from doing other work he needed to do.

Something like this but older, dirtier and uglier

B doesn't mind doing extra work, at all, even for no pay, but where is the common courtesy? Where is all this entitlement coming from? Why do people feel like their free time is worth more than our work time? So I don't know if it's an age thing, or just a jerk thing. Trust me, I have had crotchety seniors. I had a lady scream and curse at me, telling me we ruined her lamp and took advantage of an old lady because B fixed her lamp and now she can see the bulb. Well, she legit put her lampshade on upside down. So there was that. That happens way less often then problems with younger people.

We want to expand our business and make things that appeal to a younger market. However, I can't say that we're not a bit fearful. We don't need the headache of people who run to social media vs resolving things face to face. I'm only writing this HERE because I have no other recourse. I can't get the review taken down, I can't stop him from slandering my husband- what Mr Dawson wrote on Yelp was an outright lie. Nothing I can do. B tried to appeal to him first by being kind and saying not checking the electrical was "miscommunication" when really it was this customer never asking him to check the electrical. B was willing to accept some of the responsibility because he knew, he KNEW his "type"- the type to run to give a bad review.

We are ALWAYS happy to keep working with someone until they're happy. It's the attitude that it all goes down with. It's the interaction. We'd just like to be appreciated for the skills we have, the work we do, and how we hard we work to make sure people are happy. Mind-reading isn't one of our skills and we aren't in the habit of accepting blackmail- so if that's what we're going to have to deal with, I don't know how much expanding we'll be doing.

We LOVE what we do. We want to keep doing it. Really connecting with clients and making stuff they love is our passion. People who act like dicks dampen our day but not our spirit. So, here's my Belp review, and now it's out of my system....Suck it, you entitled douche, Mr Dawson. I think you owe me $25 for having to take the time to write this.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Maximizing Joy

Since summer started, my life hacks and accoutrements have really come out in full effect. Like, all my stuff that makes life easier, is in use and on display. No one will ever be able to say that I travel light, but I'm always extra prepared. I joke that we could live in my car, but we probably could, at least for a couple of days, quite comfortably. Food, water, changes of clothes, cleaning supplies, first aid, etc.

I'm not a survivalist in the true sense. I don't live on conspiracy theories, or even in any kind of fear. I'm not even that organized, in any traditional sense. My car and my space is almost always a mess or appears to the naked eye to be in some kind of chaos. I just happen to have STUFF. Meaning, I have umbrellas and/or ponchos if we happen to be somewhere and it starts raining. Or instead of having to buy a 16.9 oz bottle of Poland Spring for three dollars a bottle at some kind of event, I have this car canvas cooler thing strapped to the back of my driver's seat filled with my own bottles of water. E always has thought of my car as some kind of magical restaurant because food and water always seems to appear out of nowhere.

Stay with me here as I shift gears...I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were talking again about how it's summer now and they planned nothing for their kids. Now every day is a pain because they have to figure out stuff for their kids to do. They were like- why does everyone else seem to be on the ball and get this planned in February? It's cold & they don't want to think about summer. Meanwhile, I'm in the car, yelling at them, which is incredibly frustrating because they can't hear me. And E has been signed up for eight weeks of camp since the end of the last summer.

Ok- so you think I'm anal and really pay attention to detail now...NO. Ask anyone who really knows me, and they will tell you that I'm SO not "Type-A". I used to rely on my friend Cohen in pre-school to remind me that we had off from school, AGAIN. Because every other week there was another holiday. I've forgotten pizza day and given E lunch. I've had library fees up the wazoo.

I realized today what my deal is....I've been on message boards since I found the internet. I like message boards because there's the element of advice giving. Idea sharing, but also advice giving. I went to school to be a counselor. I'm not doing it in the traditional sense, but being in sales is still a form of counseling. Being a good salesperson means counseling someone into what to buy. Not just handing them something and calling it a day. So I use it, but not in the way I get total fulfillment. So I've become part of message boards. However, when things don't make sense to me, or seem to impede people's enjoyment, it's like a trigger for me.

Someone called me out for not being empathetic to a serious fear. I didn't take my answer as being particularly assholish, although it could have been construed that way, depending on how sensitive one is, I suppose. I realized that it's my nature to be a problem solver. I think it's usually how women describe not being understood by men. She wants to vent, he wants to find a solution. She doesn't want a solution, she just wants to vent. That's fine. However, I think like a guy I guess, and when someone presents a problem, my immediate thought is to find a viable solution. Then, I get annoyed when the response to solutions, mine and others, are just met with excuses. Usually, it's also excuses that don't really make any sense. I didn't see excuses in the situation this morning, I don't even know what the aftermath was of calling me out. I just mean in general with the excuses. You know- people that always ask for advice, or have things they're venting about but never seem to want advice, or have a million reasons why the advice won't work, without actually doing anything to remedy a situation.

In calling me out, it was said that it would be better to say nothing. I thought about it though, and I don't know how that's better. Even my answer, possibly on the bad end of the asshole-pendulum, does give a different perspective. If someone said- I'm having a fear but I just want to know that others can commiserate, I could just be quiet. But if someone isn't asking just for hair petting, I'm going to give it to them straight and say- no, this is not good, it doesn't make sense, and you need to do something different. 

The fear in question HAS/HAD a solution. One that seems relatively easy. Do xyz and then you don't have to be afraid. I guess the assholish part was the tone of, "why wasn't this solution common sense prior?", which I take ownership of said assholish tone now. But the overall solution seemed like common sense because it's what would make that person's life easier, happier, more joyous, if you will.

My friend had a fear of letting her kid have some independence. I told her to get the Gizmo Gadget like I got E. She waited and waited. Then we let them run amok at the town fair and she was really nervous. She got it the next day. She said that she's only pissed she didn't get it sooner. Problem solved. Not being all, "oh thanks to me"- but it was maximizing OUR joy- I was happy her problem was solved and then we could have joy TOGETHER, socializing, not having to watch our kids like hawks. 

I realized that my solutions for me, are all about maximizing my joy. My fun. Getting the most out of my time and not letting what could be a small thing, if prepared, stay small. I'm always focused on MY enjoyment and what will make MY life easier. Enter- my life hacks and As Seen On TV products, if you want to get more specific. My friend has been goofing on me since summer started, about my beach cart that I take everywhere. Everyone goofs on me that I bring it to the town pool. They're goofing until they're loaded down like a pack mule and trying to keep their kids from running into traffic in the parking lot. As I happily push my cart, filled with our bag, food, chairs, etc. without sweating, stopping, and dropping stuff.

Even with swimming & kids- as scary as water can be, there's still a way to maximize your joy. A lot of people, I've found, are paranoid about their kids and being around water, not knowing how to swim, and even dry-drowning. It doesn't make sense to me to just live with this fear, especially when the fear is debilitating to the point where you're not sleeping, worrying about what could happen. To me, the solution is to make sure your kids are proficient in the water.

I didn't want to have to worry about water. I made sure E had swim lessons as soon as he turned one, I think. I'm not a great swimmer- I can hold my own but I never swam competitively and I barely go in the pool now. By five, I had E try out for a swim team because I knew he'd be swimming or around water without me, and I didn't want to have to really watch him at the town pool. To me, swimming is a necessary life skill, not just an activity you do for fun, and I didn't even really have a specific strong fear about him and water. To be able to enjoy MYSELF at the town pool or the ocean though, I made sure that he's a strong swimmer. I made it a priority. It doesn't make me better than someone else- I just know what *I* needed to enjoy myself around water. If I only had money for one extra curricular activity ever- then it would be swim because it's not about what he likes, it's about necessity for safety. If he likes it, which he does, it's just a bonus. Hear me- I'm not saying I'm a better parent for making sure he can swim- I'm saying that if my peace of mind is being severely threatened then the answer is clear to me as to what needs to be done. Or if my fear is really unfounded, then I need a hypnotist, medication, or therapy.

I have Pack-It bags like I own stock because I don't want to deal with separate ice packs. I don't want to hear "sorry mama, I lost it". I don't want that aggravation for my OWN joy's sake. I have a side table that fits on my chair so I can keep track of all the stuff I like to have near me at the pool or beach without getting up. Those are for "fun". But my kid is signed up for eight weeks of camp the summer before the next, not because he's spoiled, or I don't want to see him, or even because I work, but because it would ruin MY time if summer arrived and all of a sudden *I* had to scramble. I would be miserable if I had to figure out what the hell to do with him everyday. We'd both be miserable. I have a cart so I don't have shoulder pain or don't lose or leave anything important at the pool or beach. I have ponchos in the car because I don't want to have to leave somewhere fun because it started to rain and getting wet would force us to vacate.

It's all about getting the most of our day, our time, our experiences, our fun. Or more specifically, mine. B was telling our friends yesterday that I'm the "most prepared" with stuff he and E likes- so that's my way of showing caring. It is...I care about their likes- I try to make them happy in that way. It's also a more of a way for us to be able to have the most fun. We don't get to go on vacation. We only have one full family day together a week because our store is open six days a week. In the little free time we have, I want to to suck every moment of joy I can out of it, with the the most...EASE I can find! Now you're all been told the method to my seeming madness.

Some photos of just a few of my joyous life hack accoutrements- just by the way...

cherry pitter
My face hole chair

Brown & Crisp bags
Beach chair side table

Saltwater Canvas Whale Bag

Clear $3 poncho from somewhere

My cup that unscrews to put ice in

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Start of Summer Days

I don't want to fall off the earth, so I'm going to throw you a short one just mentioning what I've been up to these days!

Summer is wind-down time for many but for me, it's just ramping up. School ends, which of course was a lot of chaos, but then that went right into camp. While I don't like a lot of idle time between camp and school, I literally had one free weekday. AND IT RAINED. I have to hand it to my friend Alex though- she rallied with me and we spent a LONG day, at the pool, in the....mist. It was actually fine because it was warm and humid for most of the day and we needed that rain for a cool off. The pool staff let the kids swim because there was no lightning or thunder so it was fine.

We also had the town Fun Fair, which everyone knows is my favorite four days of the year. We didn't go one of the days though because the weather wasn't promising and I wasn't spending $25 on a wristband for the rain to come down and send us home. We stayed late the three nights we were there and E was thrilled.

E also had what seemed like a lot of auditions, all crammed into like ten days. I was in the city more in those last few days of school than I had been in months. We randomly ran into Todd one of the audition days, the owner of Actor's Technique NY on the street, nowhere near his acting school. E hasn't been there for class in awhile because we have no time, so it was nice to catch up for a minute.

There was also E's Dancetc (Fair Lawn) hip hop dance recital thrown in there too at some point. It was a whirlwind making sure he got from NYC to his last dance class before the big day. But we made it! Recital was great- the kids worked really hard and it showed.

B and I got to go out one night too- sans kid. Don, my friend & hairdresser, gave us the recommendation to try Fin, a restaurant in Montclair. Apparently there are four restaurants in the same small area there, owned by the same people, but all different kinds of places/food. Fin is seafood.

First- the area is super cool. Parking can be a bit of a pain, but oddly, without knowing Don's address, we ended up parking right in front of his house! It was a short walk to the restaurant. I'd made a reservation- you have to or you're not getting in. Just like anywhere in Bergen after like six-thirty in the evening. I heard a couple ask for a table and they were nicely turned away because there was nothing available.

Second- It's a cool looking place- as is The Crosby next door, one of their other places. The front is totally open on both so it's a really nice atmosphere without actually being outside.

I ordered the fried calamari and a special with scallops and risotto. The calamari was a little soggy but I think that's totally because of how it was served. If it was served differently, it wouldn't have been. They put it in one of those paper things in a holder. Like other places do with fries.

My scallop special though- was amazing. It was so, so good. I don't remember what B had but he loved his too and I have a picture of it. Totally worth it. It's a little on the pricey side- I'd say it's on par with Legal Seafoods, but you don't want a cheap fish place either. So it wasn't unexpected. It's just not somewhere you can frequent if you're on a budget. I would try their other restaurants though after eating here. They do seem to care about quality cuisine.

Montclair isn't far from us. I don't know why we don't go there more often. I guess we just don't think about it. After dinner we went walking around and just took it all in. There was live music going on, a lot of bakeries and other kinds of shops. We've been to Montclair before, but just not in a long time and not without E, I don't think.

I can't believe it's almost July already. I've been wearing sunscreen, and I'm not tan, so it doesn't really FEEL like summer...not to mention the weather has been all over the place. But I'll take it over winter any day. Happy 4th weekend! Have fun and be safe!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as the longest day of the year. It will probably be light out until like 9p, which is awesome. This is my season. Living in NJ, we get such a small window of good, outside weather, that summer isn't relaxing in the LEAST for me (or us, because that includes B), but it sure is a good time.

I thought I might reflect on the past school year too, since this is kind of like my "New Years". There's Rosh Hashana, the "real" New Year in January, and then Summer Solstice (for ME). Reminds me of an old friend who used to say, "This is MY Superbowl" about the Emmy, Tony and Oscar awards. This is MY New Years.

I didn't have anything major happen to ME, but we did make and SELL my rainbow PRIDE chandelier. I never thought I'd sell it, but I had this amazingly awesome customer who I felt would really appreciate it as much as I do. I also was able to score an external freezer for twenty dollars from someone in town. Anyone that knows me and how I freeze everything, understands exactly what excitement and happiness this freezer brings.

Instead of just being a behind-the-computer-screen-slacktivist, I went to marches, rallies, and joined groups of likeminded folk who DO stuff. I found groups and an even louder stronger voice than I had before. I helped do important things for people who need help standing up to hate.

I got my DVR down to 62%. I don't know that I've seen such a low percentage before.

It's the last day of second grade for E tomorrow. He's thrilled. Unfortunately, he doesn't like school. Not because he's having a difficult time academically or socially. His own words are just- "I don't think we're meant for have to sit and do work all day. There isn't enough free time for fun stuff". He's not wrong- it's just going to suck to know he has a long time ahead of doing this. It's also no reflection on his teachers or the school- he just decided this year that he plans on being a rockstar, so he doesn't "need" school. Awesome.We told him that he needs to be really good at then and we'd like a shore house when he makes it big.

He had a good year though, all things considered. A year of new things. He started guitar lessons with a great teacher. He took hip hop class with Spex, which he loved. He was on a new (to him) swim team that was a much better experience than last year. He got dropped by one agent and picked up by a new (to him) manager. He worked background on the tv show The Blacklist: Redemption, which was exciting for us since we watch that. He became a TAD more adventurous with food. Not much- I still have a freezer filled with thirty-three peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and twenty-seven single servings of mama's meatloaf.

We gave him a little more physical freedom. He started walking to friends homes in the neighborhood. That was helpful to me because I was storing a brisket at my friend Alex's house and I was able to send him to go retrieve it for me. He felt very grown up setting out to pick up my meat.

Today he walked to school on his own for the first time. When I asked if he wanted to, he practically jumped to the door like a dog seeing his leash. He wanted to leave forty minutes before the bell rang but I put the kibosh on that. He crossed three streets, made it to school and even remembered to text me that he made it there. I didn't expect he wouldn't, but it's just good practice to remember to check in.

I know giving independence can be difficult for many. I've made light of it, but I know not every kid is the same and they're ready at different points. E is definitely an older eight than some others. Part of my insistence of doing this for him is because I strongly believe it's how they gain street smarts. How they get prepared to be set out into the world. The other part though, is having seen a friend the same age as me pass away, at forty. Our boys are the same age. I feel like we always think there is tomorrow to teach them something else- some way to take care of themselves. I know first hand there isn't always tomorrow, so I have this huge pull to make sure I cram him with every skill I can think of to make sure he is as capable as he can be, while I still am here to do it. Maybe that sounds paranoid? 

I just want to know he will be a fully functioning member of society by the time he's expected to be. We just watched this season's episode of Orange Is The New Black where Frieda's dad took her into the woods and left her there to give her a test- to see if she could make it back and in a certain amount of time. He left her the tools she'd need. She was able to do it- albeit covered in leaches at one point, but I totally got his mindset.

The other big thing that happened was that E was finally diagnosed with Tourette's. We got the diagnosis on December 27, 2016. Don't look at me with sad, sympathy face when I tell you in person either. I've never been happier to get a diagnosis for anything in my life and have it be "something". Why? What do I mean? Imagine going on like seven years of knowing something is "wrong" with your kid, but being shuffled from specialist to specialist, getting prescriptions for medications he didn't need, having scary possible diseases and syndromes casually thrown at you, and having seen twenty-three doctors. Well, that was us. Finally doctor twenty-four, recommended by a trustworthy source in the neurological field, was able to give us a definitive diagnosis. Not only that, showed me paperwork defining E and his issues, which is something no doctor prior had ever given me.

Long story short, E's symptoms are mild and present as allergies. Test after test, no allergies were showing up, but there were all these tics that looked like what someone with an allergy would be doing. Knowing it's Tourette's doesn't change what he's doing or any treatment, but it changes OUR mindset. Instead of wanting to tie his hands behind his back because he's rubbing his face raw, or worrying that he needs glasses because he's making a weird eye movement, we can just relax, know it's tics, that they'll wax an wane, and just breathe. It's never easy to watch your kid tic, but it's a lot less worrisome when you know why he's doing it- that he doesn't have a possible brain tumor or some other horrific thing. We can live with Tourette's.

There's nothing for us to do but watch it. The doctor said it could get worse before it gets better, but he gave us the possible light at the end of the tunnel that it could also go away by the later side of the teen years. It's hope. I'll take it. He doesn't fit criteria to medicate, because it doesn't bother him, or affect him negatively academically or socially. Now, we just let him tic, try to get him to notice he's doing it and try to calm it down, but if he can't, he can't. He has slight OCD to go with it, as that often is the case, but so do I. It is not easy to tell what's Tourette's, eight, Aquarius, genes, or asshole. It's all a learning curve.

I'll add that I still give him the magnesium supplement- I found chewables on or Amazon and I, *I* feel it helps. I'm going to continue giving them to him. It can't hurt. It's not an excessive amount of magnesium anyway, and a lot of parents have said they do magnesium as well. It wasn't totally off-base or some crunchy voodoo nonsense.

That's it really. School is going to be out tomorrow. The pool opens daily on Friday. I'm back at my perch and I now have a "crew". We made really good friends this year. Basically, I made sure to make the effort to really connect with people I like and foster those relationships, instead of just becoming the extroverted introvert that I naturally am. Or is it introverted extrovert? In any event, we have people I really love to hang out with, especially this summer. The best part is that they all like each other, which I think is rare. I don't actually know- I have always had friends just here and there, that didn't interact with each other. Now, I have people who can hang together, which is a lot of fun. I never had a "crew" before, besides B and E. I like it. Two of our crew are getting married in a few weeks, to each other, so we're looking forward to that too. I was even able to score a secondhand Sky brand dress to wear to it, which is fabulous.

E starts camp this coming Monday, and while that's been a whirlwind with the end of school and going right into camp, there's nothing like not having to make or deal with lunch for eight weeks. Not having to drop off or pick up is pretty sweet too. Unlike school, he does love camp (what's not to love?!) so he's excited and I'm excited because that means there's extra me-time built in there. I do take a day off here and there to go to the town pool ALONE. That's my happy place- alone, at the pool, with my new chair.

Happy Summer Solstice, friends!