Archive for August, 2009

Makeover Reality

Several of my friends (me too!) are unabashed makeover junkies. We’ve been watching the shows since they started making the circuit eight years or so ago.

Remember Fashion Police–the original? What Not to Wear with Stacy and Clinton is the American version of the British superhit by the same name, hosted by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, who just made their American debut with Making Over America. Following on the coattails of the highly successful Project Runway is Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, and who could leave out How Do I Look? originally hosted by Finola Hughes? There are also enough books on the subject to sink the Titanic, if that treacherous iceberg hadn’t already done it.

These shows make for good entertainment, and the episodes that build an appropriate work wardrobe are helpful, but there’s a lot I can’t relate to…and a lot that I wouldn’t want to relate to. Give up my Tweetie Bird red high-top sneakers, I don’t think so.

Still we can learn a lot of life lessons from these shows. Here are a few caveats.

1. Despite what we may want to think, appearance does matter, and it can give people insight into us.

2.There are always consequences and trade-offs in life.  

3. Anyone can, if not be model-perfect, improve their looks.

4. It’s better to have a few quality pieces of clothing than hangers full of fashion trends.

5. Many times people around us would like to give us advice but they don’t know the answer or they are afraid of our reaction.

These shows have actually brought out our inner fashion mavens. Here are a few cardinal guidelines they like to bandy around:

1. The little black dress is still in fashion. Just wear it in a fresh new way.

2. Neon colors do not cohabit well with basic black.

3. Unless you are six feet tall and thin, forego crop pants.

4. Ditto for tapered pants.

5. The structured jacket will hide a multitude of sins, besides giving the wearer a more polished look.

6. Pointy toed shoes are not as uncomfortable as they look and lengthen the leg, ergo making one appear slimmer.

7. Undergarments (see my article on Victoria’s Secret and Other Oxymorons) can make or break an outfit.

8. Women should never be seen wearing baggy t-shirts and jogging shoes in public.

9. There are colors other than black.

10. Spending hours shopping for the perfect jeans or the perfect dress is worth it!

Knowing the rules doesn’t mean we don’t break them. But being aware of them is a good thing–probably. At least it’s great fun!


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Sheryl Crow put the sentiment to music years ago…”A Change Will Do You Good.” That may be true, and often it is, but that doesn’t stop us from fighting change every lick of the way. Some may argue that this is the natural course of events, but is it? Or is it a learned behavior that can be, dare we say it,ch-ch-ch-changed?

Referring to change as an “new opportunity” may help to alleviate some of the stigma attached to it, but that tactic can take you only so far. Truly embracing change has to come from a deeper part of our individual psyches. Connecting to that part of us that “goes with the flow” will likely require an initial attitude adjustment. But the more we exercise that forgotten piece of us, the easier it will become and the more natural it will seem. 

Starting with the small things will help prepare us to fearlessly face the larger changes in our lives today. What if we started each day by asking ourselves, “What change can I implement today to make my life or the life of someone else better?”

I’m betting change would get a better rap and we would all have less stress in our lives.

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Recently the father of one of my friends passed away. When his mother passed away a few years ago, this poem, composed by his Grandmother, was read at her memorial service. I think her words still resonate to the spirit and I would like to share them with you.

The Enriched Moment by Marion Kinneman

There will be moments during every day when
my opportunity will come to show high courage:
Not some time in the futue when I am a little
better entrenched in my position,
nor when I have a feeling of greater security,
nor when I have more poise,
but now.

There will be not one moment but innumerable moments
during a day when I exercise divine patience:
Not some time in the futurewhen I am less tired,
nor when there are fewer annoying things to disturb me,
but now in this moment
which is the only one that I can fully know.

Sometimes during a day there will be an opportunity
to see some mood of nature which has beauty:
Not in the future when I have time to look for it;
nor when it will be so obvious that I need exert no effort to find it,
not in the future when I shall find it in some far-off clime,
but here and now.

And surely there is not a day, when, if I choose,
I cannot create for those about me moments of beauty:
Not in the future when I shall feel happier, and can do it more easily;
nor when I shall have more money to fashion things of beauty,
nor when I have developed skills for expressing beauty,
but now from the meager materials at hand.

And there is ever the oportunity for tolerance,
for charitableness and fellow-feeling:
Not in the future when the present bitterness is allayed;
nor when I have withdrawn from the complexities of life,
but in the now,
when I am in the mid-stream of a turbulent, surging and, at times,
almost engulging Life.

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A friend of mine recently left her job in corporate America. For years now she has longed to go into business for herself. Instead, she went back to a job similar to the one she had just left. Like most of us; she didn’t go after her dream. But that would be a HUGE step and I don’t blame her for being cautious. Many of us, however, have dreams that don’t involve turning our lives upside down. Yet we don’t go after them either.

Most of us simply pay lip service to our dreams. Our dream may be to travel to a foreign country or learn a foreign language, complete a Master Gardener class or earn a degree. Those are all attainable, although they may require a work-around. Being a winner on American Idol, however, may actually be out of the question–especially if your singing ability is equivalent to mine!

Often we pursue our dreams only when we are forced to.  That’s why times like these yield many “positive” BIG stories of people finding their calling and doing what they had always dreamed of. Given few other options, they found a way to make it work. Sometimes it takes finding someone to share that dream with us before we get our buttskies off the sofa.

But what if, for just one week or one month, we gave our dreams the benefit of our attention. What if we dusted them off, resuscitated them  and really went for them? What if we acted as though they were achievable and not just elusive dreams? I think we’d all be surprised with what we could accomplish.

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I’ve always been a do-it-yourself type of girl when it comes to personal hygiene. Thursday nights you’ll often find me in front of the TV equipped with polish remover, cotton pads (organic cotton) cuticle remover, files, orange stick and other assorted utensils, base coat, polish, top coat. I’d religiously “do” my fingernails and toenails. Until…a year ago I discovered the pedicure. I treated myself to one for my birthday, and I’ve never gone back.

Forget reading a book on the writing craft or PR–there’s nothing more empowering than getting a pedicure. The first time round I went for the whole shebang–the leg and foot massage, reflexology, hot wax treatment and polish. It was heaven in a footbath! 

Since then I’ve had regular pedicures all over town, from ritzy spas to little niche shops where English is definitely a second language. While some are more luxurious than others, the outcome is the same. I leave with 10 toes polished and perfect and ready to wear sandals or go bare.

If you haven’t had a pedicure, try it. It’s not just for the soles, it’s thereapy for the soul as well!

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In another lifetime I used to write technical manuals. We spent hours working hard to ensure that the counter-intuitive read like the intuitive, that the manual was comprehensive and easy and logical to navigate. The joke was…no one read the manual. Users would constantly call in wanting to know how to do this or find that. Our answer: Read the f***ing manual! 

That wasn’t really how we responded to the customer, but when the call ended, the whole group would call out in unison–Read the f***ing manual! 

Today the joke’s on all of us. There are no f***ing manuals. And despite the fact that I was as guilty as the next person–I often asked questions first and by-passed the manual–I miss having them around. 

Online manuals work well when you know exactly what your problem is and how to phrase it. It’s a quick fix and then you’re done. But for things that aren’t as cut-and-dried, for me anyway, they’re a wash. I prefer a more linear approach–must be that manual-writer mentality coming out. I actually print online manuals and keep them for reference. Don’t tell anybody. I bet I’m not alone on this.

Now if something doesn’t work, I can indeed, RTFM!

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