The Cost of Convenience

When I told people that I was moving away from my small town in northeastern Ohio to the big city of Columbus everyone said to me the same four things. They were (in this exact order) “Oh that is so exciting!” then: “I LOVE Columbus, it is a great city!” followed by: “There will be SO many more opportunities for you there!” capped off with: “Too bad the cost of living is so much higher.” And I proceeded to nod and smile in agreement to all but ONE of their statements.

The cost of living is actually no higher here than it is in the region I was moving from. Lee, having lived here for over 15 years has observed on a regular basis that this truly is the case. Wages are higher—which is fantastic—but the overall cost of living is quite comparable. Or so I thought.

This week I discovered a few ways that a larger city is actually much more expensive than a small town. Lee, being a male, could not possibly have known about the disparity of which I am about to speak. I am talking about salon services. My recent post about beauty and perfect eyelashes accompanied by the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been having drove me out of the house in search of information on the local offerings in the personal beautification arena.

Although I have not yet secured full-time employment to help pay for these rituals, it never hurts to look… or to be prepared for that wondrous time when regular paychecks start rolling in again. At night I checked online for hair salons and during the warm, sunny afternoons visited a couple of nearby tanning and nail salons. Much to my shock and chagrin — it was officially time for my reality check and a reassessment of my rebuttal of Statement #4. Damn.

A cut and color costs twice what it did in my precious, little hamlet up north. And the ditzy, bronzed fetus seated behind the desk at the tanning salon looked at me like I was speaking another language when I inquired about anything at their facility. The only thing she knew how to do was blink, crack her gum and point to the giant, illustrated chart on the wall behind her… apparently showing all of the different options.

Without a little explanation, the chart, to me, may as well have been written in another language. I took a brochure (planning to decipher it later on) and passed by the lotion display only to learn that their least expensive bottle cost a mere $62 bucks. Top shelf lotions? Well over a hundred. Ouch.

But alas, my skin is pale, I need a trim and my roots are showing. I’m starting to look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo AFTER he has seen the ghost. And I don’t care whether you’re a small-town gal OR a big-city broad… That is never a good look for a woman.

I think I’ll start looking for Easter or Spring Break specials. Or perhaps they need someone to wash hair, sweep floors or clean the tanning beds in exchange for services while I wait for my dream job? Meanwhile, I’ll be calling my small-town stylist for an appointment the very next time I make it back to visit the family and slathering on a good self-tanner.

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Lashing Out

From the beginning of time women have been doing things to improve, enhance, augment or completely alter their appearance. I for one regularly highlight my dishwater-blonde hair, whiten my teeth and have been known to frequent tanning salons in the warmer months to maintain that “healthy glow” (and also to keep from blinding the neighbors at the sight of my ghostly-white thighs). 

Add to that a few things that I used to do that I no longer do… such as: maintain perfectly-polished, lengthy, acrylic, french-manicured nails, receive regular pedicures and attend appointments for massage therapy and laser hair removal. Why (you might ask) did I stop doing those things? Well, I wish I could say that I saw the light and learned to love myself for the beautiful, natural way God made me. But I would be lying. I stopped because either I or my bank account grew weary of keeping up with all of those costly and time-consuming procedures.

So I’ve learned to simplify my needs/expectations of myself and work with what I’ve got by seeing what I can find in the cosmetics department. This can be a worthy endeavor if you’re careful not to go overboard, buying every beauty product on the market just because tv/radio/magazines tell you that you should. Some products seem to do what they claim while others just plain disappoint. Usually I’m pretty good about not falling for every marketing ploy by which I am bombarded. 

However, there is one particular product that is my cosmetic kryptonite. I fall prey to the advertising schemes for this item with stunning regularity. The article to which I am referring is mascara. For some reason I am a sucker for long, thick black lashes that sweep so high as to reach one’s own eyebrows.

Beauty barons like Cover Girl, Loreal, Maybelline and Rimmel London are amazingly adept at getting me to believe in their product. I really do think that I can achieve thicker, fuller, longer lashes just by shelling out $10.99 and brushing their magic, inky-black potion on the lashes that I’ve got.

Problem solved.

But enter a new wave of cosmetic trends and treatments now available to appeal to our insatiable lash lust. I’m talking about eyelash extensions and products to help you grow your own “better” lashes. Salons are popping up all over the place in order to meet the demand and you can now ask your family physician for a prescription for medication that will cure you of your unfortunate affliction.

Yes, marketing departments for lash-extension salons, services and/or products have given the desire for “better” lashes an actual name: “Insufficient Lashes” … And no, I’m not kidding. Retailers and manufacturers want us to believe that our own desire for prettier, more appealing lashes is a now a legitimate health problem!

Even a long, lush lash-lover like me isn’t falling for this one. Perhaps a few years ago I might have bought into it… to the tune of $90 per visit! But the newer, simpler me knows that here is where I must draw the line. Although tempting, my natural lashes lathered with a little of that lengthening livener a.k.a. old-fashioned mascara will do just fine.

Interrupted

Of all things, it was a simple basket of laundry and the unopened April issue of Martha Stewart Living that got to me the most. Yes I knew that she was gone. Or I was—at the very least—attempting to wrap my mind around her sudden, unexpected and premature departure. But these small, mundane pieces of normal, daily life suddenly served as monumental reminders of a life interrupted.

When my mother-in-law-to-be passed away a little over a week ago, plans were being made while food and condolances began arriving. All sorts of larger details pointed to the devastating reality that a wonderful, caring wife and mother was taken from us way too soon. And yet I wandered around her home… finding myself entranced by the littlest things.

Bread crumbs of regular life have a way of lining a path through grief — making it utterly impossible to forget that time is capable of standing still. We are shaken. Taken firmly by the shoulders and put in our place by a power that is far, far greater than anything we can comprehend or imagine. We are reminded that we are not immortal. We are reminded just how fragile life truly is. We are reminded that time is a finite thing.

And then an intriguing thing happens.

Our perspective changes. Dramatically.

The regular worries of this life don’t weigh quite as much. Former frets and concerns suddenly seem petty and paper-thin. The slight we experienced by someone we thought was a friend loses it’s sting. The opinions of others don’t matter anymore.

You see, as I found out a week ago… death has an uncanny way of clearing away the cobwebs in our minds to make room only for that which matters NOW. Living fully. Living intentionally. Giving our energy and attention to those who deserve it most. Not wasting one, single ounce of it on futile people or endeavors. And finding every bit of joy and beauty there is to be found before our living too, is interrupted.

Ode to Springtime

Say what you will about the sorry state of our Union … but some things just don’t seem to matter quite as much when spring is in the air. We tend not to concern ourselves with things like the upcoming election, the economy, our current unemployment rate or the soaring price of fuel.

Yes… when spring has sprung, there is very little that can get us down…

It is light outside when we drive to work and when we return home. Daffodils seemingly pop up overnight, dotting the landscape. Gardens are planted. Lawnmowers and laughter can be heard throughout neighborhoods everywhere.

Crisp, white lines appear on baseball diamonds across America as the Boys of Summer begin their recreational reign. Birdsong fills the air. Windows are opened up, rolled down or taken out and replaced with screens… allowing the fresh air to push away the last stale remnants of winter.

It is also during this magically transformational time of year that the SAME birds who sing to you each morning whilst you rub the sleep from your weary, little eyes… also fly overhead and unleash a torrent of crap on your newly washed car.

Spiders, centipedes and other unidentifiable creepy-crawlies from the pits of hell appear as if out of nowhere scaring the $#@! out of you, making you reach for the nearest can of Raid or Aqua Net—whichever is closest.

As trees and flowers and other living things burst to life… your eyes water and sting while you sneeze uncontrollably as though having a grand mal seizure.

The ground thaws and frequent rain waters the thirsty earth while flooding your basement and turning your driveway into Monster Truck Mud-Fest 2012.

The weather warms and grows psychotic causing you to leave the house dressed in a snappy tank-top-turtleneck-wool-sweater combo, carrying an umbrella, sunglasses, gloves and scarf, rain boots, bottle of iced-tea, flip-flops, thermos of coffee, an ice-scraper and a bottle of SPF 30.

A sudden abundance of sunshine pours obscene amounts of sunlight through your dirt-brown window panes revealing how truly filthy your house is after you and your family have been trapped inside of it for 5 months straight.

The snow and ice melt away revealing dozens (if not hundreds) of dead twigs and clumps of leaves that have been deposited all over your rain gutters, flower beds and patio furniture.

The climbing mercury propels you to rummage through boxes of spring and summer apparel—and as though trapped in a nightmare from which you cannot awake—you and everyone else is forced to see your thighs for the very FIRST time since Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and the pizza, brat and beer fest that is March Madness.

Ahhhh Springtime… We are oh SO happy to see you again!

The Most Valuable Thing

I am sitting at the computer in my childhood home. The windows are open and a fresh, cool breeze is lightly brushing my face and neck. The birds are singing and I can hear children’s laughter just outside.

It is definitely springtime and the world is coming to life again.

Recently I have been reminded that life is the most precious of gifts with health and family coming in at a very close second. These are the things which should never be taken for granted.

Sadly, Lee’s mother passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon after a brief illness. We were not prepared for this — though no one ever is. And it has been an in-my-face reminder that life can change in an instant. In the blink of an eye or the brevity of a single breath our lives can be altered eternally and irreparably.

This week as you’re rushing from here to there to take care of this and that and all of the other “things” that we may deem important — take a little bit of time to stop and look around.

As you experience your surroundings—hopefully enjoying the very life and health that has been given to you—say thank you and tell your people just how very much you love and value them.

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

I saw a little black spider in the corner of the ceiling while in the shower this morning and even though I knew it would mean a slow, torturous death for the miniature monster… I also knew it that only one of us was going to survive this shower. It was either him or me. So naturally I chose me… and I drowned him.

Poor little guy. Here it is… finally, mercifully springtime and he crawls out of his tiny crevice either from wintering or simply because he was just born and he starts to build his first delicate web of the season… when all of the sudden some crabby bitch with a personal vendetta against all eight-legged creatures as well as the state of wakefulness in general has to come along and cut his life short.

And let me tell you that the shower isn’t exactly the easiest place to commit murder. Though it IS the cleanest. The problem with the shower is that said method of execution HAS to be what I like to call death by “splash drowning.” I call it “splash drowning” because one must repeatedly throw cups-full of water onto the offending beast and their fragile, new structure until they tumble from whence they came. 

Yes, death via splash drowning is far, far worse and deeply cruel compared to “direct drowning” in say, like… a sink or a toilet, because it is MUCH slower and the spider thinks for a bit that he actually has a chance of surviving this terrifying ordeal.

He’ll try to outrun the waves that continue to crash rhythmically upon him and he’ll do so successfully… for a bit… until, when out of sheer exhaustion, he’ll be spent. He’ll have nothing left and be forced to succumb to his fate, riding the river of death straight down the shower wall, across the floor of the tub… slipping anonymously and unceremoniously into his watery grave.

Now, you might ask: Did you, at any time, feel badly about torturing one of God’s creatures who was merely minding his own business, doing what he was designed to do by choosing your shower corner in which to innocently emerge from winter and spin his little web?

Well… I guess you could say that I did feel an itsy-bitsy amount of guilt and sadness as I watched him rushing helplessly “into the light”… until he got caught on one of the anti-slip treads on the bottom of the tub… and I gave him a swift, wet kick… right down the drain.

Comfort Zone

I didn’t need to call the cast of CSI to properly deduce what had transpired while my back was turned… A tipped-over plastic cup, a cell phone on the floor and a sheepish-looking cat hiding out beneath the table told me all I needed to know.

My 2012 vehicle registration form, passport renewal packet, voter registration application and my sister’s 40th birthday card (signed, sealed, addressed and stamped) laid purposefully on the dining room table. These items that were too important to forget or misplace and required attention in the near future were now soaking wet. Of course, the bill from the cable company (that I’d already paid) also sat there… dry as a bone.

The table was empty save for these items and we have no children running around so naturally I considered it safe to sit my cup of water and cell phone right next to them while I went to make the bed and check email. More wrong I could not have been. You see, Stanley has an affinity for knocking things off of the places where they sit. He especially like desks and tables. Pens, reading glasses, cell phones, pieces of paper, paper clips, keys and now apparently cups with liquid in them are not safe when placed on a table or desk. 

Here he is on my mom and dad's kitchen table... being entertained by a pencil.

Don’t ask me why these items are far more interesting to him than the dozens of cat toys I intentionally leave strewn about. If it has value, he wants to knock it over. Now, for some reason, end tables, shelves and coffee tables don’t interest him. Which is why it is safe to place breakable items on them. Thank God some places are still sacred.

But I can’t really blame him. It is my fault. I let my guard down and didn’t realize how comfortable he has become in his new home. He doesn’t go on his little sneak-attack, rampages of destruction when he’s in a new or unfamiliar place. He slinks around, literally lying low, slipping in and out of the shadows until he gets the lay of the land. It is then and only then—when he is truly comfortable—that the mischief really begins.

Well, welcome home Stanley. I’m glad that you feel happy and content in your new digs. I only hope the DMV doesn’t mind when I show up with a wrinkled registration form next week. And that they believe me while reluctantly taking the compromised form from my hand as I tell them in the cheeriest, most confident voice I can muster: “The cat did it. And I swear Mr. Motor Vehicle Man… it was only water.”