My Secret Envy

Envy is never a good motion. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, after all.

Still, I gotta admit to it, especially when it comes to my male co-workers. Here are six things I really envy.

 

1. Shoes

I cannot tell you how envious I am of my male co-workers’ shoes. They are not expected to sport heels of any sort. Their shoes are designed for comfort, and it’s easy for them to get shoes with non-slip soles for our floors. We’re a heavy manufacturer, so we don’t have carpet anywhere except the CEO and President’s office. That’s it. So, those leather or synthetic soles on the bottoms of most women’s shoes turns the floors into an ice skating rink. We’ve actually had several women slip and fall on the floors.

 

Seriously, which looks more practical to you? Which do you want to walk the shop floor in? Or even walk to the bathroom wearing?

So yes, I buck this trend, and I accept the “hit” to my professional appearance accordingly.

 

2. Hair

Men can “do” their hair in about 2.3 minutes. The concept of a bad hair day is about as alien to them as putting their feet in shoes designed for Barbie rather than the anatomical realities of a human foot.

Men don’t have to blow dry, straighten, curl, or figure out which products do what. Best of all, most of the men I know get their hair cut for under $25 including tip. Yeah, that’s less than half the going rate in my area for a woman’s haircut.

If you talk to most guys about coloring their hair, they’ll look at you like you’re speaking Swahili. Yet, women over a certain age are expected to color their hair. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you’re of a certain age. The moment that grey starts to peak through, you’re expected to take care of it.

I hate going to the salon. Not only is it expensive, but I have to sit there while people I don’t know touch me and try to make conversation. Is there any more of a nightmare for an introvert?

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I am fortunate that I don’t yet have any grey hair. Yeah, I know, odd, but true. When I do start to go grey, I will have to make a hard decision on whether or not I buck the trend. Given my allergies, I am not sure I could even tolerate the chemicals.

Still, I’m jealous of my male counterparts that are considered distinguished with grey hair rather than just “old”.

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3. Make Up

As I confessed in this post, I already don’t wear it. I can’t.

As a professional woman, there’s a price to pay for this. My male counterparts are expected NOT to wear makeup. A few lines or wrinkles adds distinction.

If only…

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4. Pants

I work in heavy manufacturing. Wearing skirts or dresses, while possible, is pretty impractical. Even if I didn’t work in manufacturing, dresses are really impractical. I want to see a man put on pantyhose just once. Or having to sit with their legs just so. Or worrying about skirt length as they’re walking up or down stairs.

However, buying pants as a woman is a nightmare.

I can buy my husband’s khakis in about 3 clicks. Wrinkle resistant? Yep. Waist size? Yep. Inseam? Yep. Click buy and 95% of the time they fit perfectly.

Women’s pants don’t come in inseams. Or waist sizes. I think this is a ploy to keep tailors in business. See, I have to scour the internet to find a pair of weirdly sized pants (what exactly does 8, 10 and 12 relate to?!?), and once I find a pair that fits  (the size of which will vary by brand, by cut, and by phase of the moon), I then get to take them to the tailor and have them hemmed to fit me and the waist taken in.

I once asked a sales clerk why the pants were so darn long as I walked on the hems while trying them on. I’m average height for an American woman, so why don’t the pants fit me? She explained that they’re designed for women to wear shoes like the ones above. Um, yeah. I’ll just keep paying the tailor.

 

5. Bras

My male coworkers don’t wear them.

I cannot explain the “joy” of wearing one, or how long and hard you have to look to find the right one. I once told my husband to imagine having to wear a jock strap constantly. But, having never had to wear one, I have no idea if it’s accurate. The way he squirmed when I said that made me think it’s at least part way there.

 

6. Underwear

Men buy them in packs of 6 for under $20.  ‘Nuf said.

 

How about you? Ever feel envy for something, even if it was something small? What was it and why?

Sidewalks?

Why are people walking in the road when there is a perfectly good sidewalk?

No, this is not a rhetorical question.

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I see this all the time.  Just the other night, a man in dark colors was walking his dog on the road. Three feet next to him was a perfectly good sidewalk. A sidewalk we’re all required to shovel and otherwise maintain. Only reason I saw him was his the white on his black and white dog.

I know, I know, in the frozen tundra, sometimes not everyone clears off their sidewalk perfectly. But climate change has seen us with the warmest February on record! March has been much the same. There was literally no snow anywhere. So why would you risk walking on the road, during rush hour, rather than on the sidewalk?

Or, if you really hate the sidewalks, why not go to the dog park that’s a mile away? Or, the park that’s at the end of the block?

I’ve heard it said if you’re training for a marathon or 10k and taking it very seriously, roads are smoother and less prone to cracks. Except, of course, for the cars on them. Which, at an average of 4,000 pounds or so, seems like a perfectly safe thing to challenge. Because tired drivers coming home after dark during rush hour are always able to see you in your dark clothes and quickly respond. Especially if you slip, lose your footing, or trip on a rock.

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There is one gentleman that runs in our neighborhood who is a serious marathoner. He runs here because we have A LOT of hills, many that are very steep. He wears a lighted vest that flashes on both the front and the back. Very easy to see. I appreciate that.

Still wish he wasn’t on the road, but I can easily see and avoid him.

Not sure why others aren’t using the special trails by us dedicated to bicycles and pedestrians. We have parks. We have waterfronts. Why the street? Can’t be the view, certainly.

Look, I know walkers and cyclists are supposed to have equal rights. I know that some are very dedicated to their sports and want to train.

I’ve often wondered if they know just how dangerous it is to ride in traffic without a bike lane. Maybe even with a bike lane. Especially with impatient drivers that want to get around you when you can’t do the speed limit.

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This may be an unpopular thing to say, but I’m not entirely sure why it is okay to ride a bike or walk on any road with a speed limit above 25 MPH.  It seems like a disaster waiting to happen at the worst, or a traffic jam at the best.

Yes, yes, I know. Not very environmentally friendly of me. Or very sharing. But honestly,  sharing the street with others who are not in a car scares the living daylights out of me. I’m terrified I might hit them, and that would be on my conscience for the rest of my life. And, of course, I get frustrated when I have to do 15 MPH because I got stuck behind a bike in a 40 MPH zone.

Yes, I am trying to be more empathetic, but this isn’t about just me and the cyclist. This is about me, the cyclist, and the six people now lined up behind me all angry as they try swerve around me to get to work.

Maybe I’m more worried than the average driver about trying to get around a cyclist or pedestrian. My mother’s friend buried her nineteen-year-old daughter two years ago. See, the woman’s college cycling team was riding down a state road when she and two other members of her team were hit by a mid-sized truck.

None of them survived.

Her father happened to be assisting the coach of the team, and he watched his daughter die. He hasn’t been the same.

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The truck driver was fine, and the accident did little more than scratch the paint on his vehicle. Maybe, because of this, I’ve over-exaggerated the danger in my mind. Maybe not.

I’m glad that people are outside and improving their fitness. What I don’t understand is why anyone would want to be on the road with a 4,000 pound car unless they were in one, too.

 

How about you? Do you ever cycle or walk in the street rather than the sidewalk? Why? Perhaps you’ve seen this phenomena and have more insight into it than I do, especially those walking in the street.

Book Review: Lethal Bayou Beauty

Title: Lethal Bayou Beauty

Author: Jana Deleon

Series: A Miss Fortune Mystery

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No spoilers in this review.

This is what a book series should be.

The book stands alone, and there is very little rehashing from the first novel in the series. There’s a tiny bit of forward progression with the main character and her issues with her family, but not a lot. I didn’t expect a lot as this is a series.

The characters we fell in love with in the first book are back in the second, with a few more thrown in. While some of the characters were really archetypes, I didn’t care because they were so much like people I have known in my life. The author really did live in a small Southern town.

Again, this is a series, so while there is a love interest, things are moving along slowly. As I would expect.

The story revolved around our heroine, Fortune, getting embroiled in a small-town murder and singled out as the prime suspect. She knows she didn’t commit the murder, and so does the local deputy, but it’s not enough to stop the local gossips or lynch mobs.

The book has the usual hi-jinks of the Geritol Mafia and is a fun read. You’re not going to get Game of Thrones level intrigue here, and that’s okay. I can read it, enjoy it, and not get nightmares. I will say it has a happy ending, so need to worry on that account.

I love the strength and foibles of the characters, and I love the fact that there are numerous strong female characters in the story.

The characters all  stay true to themselves. There is never a point where I feel like they’re being forced along by the author.

The plot resolves itself well, and it feels natural. No dues ex machina or author god to force things along.

A good story, and a fun way to spend an afternoon.

10 Steps to Younger Skin

I came across an advertisement like this, and I’m not really sure how this is even allowed. I mean, no matter what I do, I am going to have the skin of a woman who needs yearly mammograms. I could do 10 steps, 20 steps, 100 steps, and my skin will not go back in time.

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And frankly, why should I want it to? Why does my skin need to look younger than it is?

To be attractive. To be beautiful. To be desired.

To be loved.

There is the reason. The real reason I’m supposed to want younger skin. I feel like I’m inundated with messages constantly telling me I’m not “good enough” to be loved. I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough. I’m just not enough.  So I must buy their product to look better, to be thin, or to appear rich. Their product will help make me enough.

Of course, that’s complete crap.

But if they can convince us to believe it, they have a market for life. A market that won’t be terribly sensitive to price.

Makes me wonder if this is part of what feeds the escapism some of us find in romance novels. In these stories, however old you are, whatever you look like, it’s always enough.

Outside of our fiction, advertisers are doing whatever they can to make us feel we need their product. Most likely because what they’re selling isn’t chocolate cake. Rather, their wares are something we don’t want or need intrinsically so they must create a market for it.

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And create a market they did. While there was almost no cosmetics industry in the early 1900s, the global cosmetics market was worth $460 billion in 2014   Let me show you that with the zeros:  $460,000,000,000. A year.   By 2020, it’s estimated to be a $675,000,000,000 market.

I want you to think about that for a moment.

California’s state budget is $171 Billion.

Okay, so bigger than the entire state of California’s budget. Not just bigger. More than twice as big.

I did some looking, and the cosmetics industry is scheduled to surpass US military spending of $598 Billion.

Could you even imagine if we spent that much money on anything else? What would the budget be to colonize Mars? To end global hunger?

Perhaps I see it this was because I have nothing vested in cosmetics. I don’t “put” on my face every day. You see, I have a strong allergy to most cosmetics. You don’t really want to know what’s in most of them. Even Web MD has warnings.

I can only use dye-free, scent-free products. The dye is an issue, but the scent in most products causes me huge issues. Given what cosmetics are made of, the makers have to use scent to cover it or no woman would put it on her skin.

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I used a bunch of different products, desperately trying to find eye make-up that didn’t make my eyes swell. Or foundation that didn’t make my skin red and itchy. Or lipstick that didn’t my lips hurt and make them swell. It didn’t matter if it was L’Oréal, Clinique, or Channel. Nothing played nice with my skin.

One afternoon many years ago, my soon-to-be-husband asked me if I needed to wear it at all. He told me I looked exactly the same with it as I did without, and besides, he hated wearing my lipstick if he kissed me.

That was the last day I ever wore make-up. I threw it all away, bought some dye-free, scent-free lotion that my dermatologist had recommended, and I never looked back. Do I sometimes miss making my long but fair lashes look dark? Yes. Do I miss my eyes swelling, or getting red and angry? Nope.

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About what my eye and the skin around it looked like after a bad reaction. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed the lotion I use, but it’s still dye and scent free. And my skin never reacts poorly to it. This says a lot because my skin reacts poorly to a lot of things, including the soap in public bathrooms. I have to carry hand-sanitizer in my purse or risk soap getting caught in my wedding ring and making my finger swell too large for the ring.

Abstaining from cosmetics hasn’t meant perfect skin, and I do get a bit of redness or an occasional breakout, but I stick with a gentle cleansing routine and lotion and it clears up pretty quickly.

I’ve seen other women who struggle with their skin and use cosmetics to combat it. I’ve often wondered if wearing makeup has actually made the skin issues worse for them, forcing them to buy yet more products.

Interestingly, science says my inner skeptic is in on to something . Yes, there is evidence that cosmetics are not good for your skin, which can lead to needing more products. Of course, there is no cosmetic company willing to fund such a study. Or, if they have, they haven’t released the results. So there’s only a handful of research out there.

But, there is also a such a thing as withdrawal from makeup. Because of course there is. You get customers to buy something they don’t need, and it has addictive side effects that include the release of testosterone when you quit using their products. This testosterone spike causes more skin issues, so you go back to using their products.

This isn’t growing into a $675 billion dollar a year industry because people need lipstick. They’ve made us want their product,  but it isn’t an innate want.It’s a manufactured one, and they’re going to make it hard to quit them if you ever choose that route.

Not condemning wearing make-up. You do you. Heck, I was so into the stuff at one point that I suffered elephant eyes to wear it. I miss mascara the most. I’ve got long lashes, but they’re fair. Really miss the mascara.

We all make choices and get to decide how to spend our hard earned money, but perhaps it’s something to think about before buying your next tube of lipstick or bottle of mascara. Remember, even in the early 1900s, make-up wasn’t popular and was mostly used by prostitutes. War paint indeed.

The rise of make-up came right along with the rise of advertising so they could make us want it.

Whatever you choose, it’s never unwise to take a moment to think about why we do what we do. To make sure it’s our choice, and we’re really doing what we think is best for us rather than what an advertiser may think is best.

Looking at you, commercials.

 

How about you? Ever get sucked into a product because of an advertisement? Do you regret it? Or maybe you came to love the product?

 

When You Fail the Test

Kids test you. A lot.

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Patience has never been one of my virtues. Even now, if you want to really rile me, have my computer decide to take it’s sweet time when I need something done.

Kids do this all the time. It’s the way they’re wired. They must test boundaries, push you, and see exactly what they can get away with every single day. Because, you know, the rules have changed in the last eighteen seconds.

Like all kids, mine have their annoying little quirks. The youngest refuses to eat bread crusts. Even if you cut the crusts off the bread, she’ll leave the last little ring of bread on her tray as if it were a crust.

So, there’ll be half a sandwich of crusts on her tray, and she’ll toss them to the floor and ask for more.

She is also an insanely picky eater. We’re trying to decide if she can grow-up healthy living on nothing but peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt, and fruit. She’ll eat any fruit under the sun, and a lot of raw veggies, but heaven help you if you offer her a piece of chicken. The offending morsel must not be allowed to stay on her plate. Oh no. It gets chucked across the room.

We’re working on that.

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Meal time is never a treat in our house.

Getting ready in the morning can be even worse, especially as we have a deadline to get out the door.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to get two kids into their coats, hats, and mittens and get them out to the car. Of course, then comes the bucking bronco as I try to get the youngest into her five-point car seat. You’d think she was going on a roller-coaster ride with the safety restraint system rather than the three miles to daycare.

This is when I yell.

Why am I so angry? Because we have places to go. Because I don’t want to be late to work myself. Because I want to be doing something other than dealing with their shenanigans.

And that’s the crux of it.

A lot of my test-failing is directly related to being frustrated. To want to do something – have a family meal, get to school on time, put them to bed – that they don’t really want to do. So, they resist. Sometimes directly by throwing themselves onto the floor, and other times indirectly as they refuse to be able to find their hat on thirteen degree day.

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Ask a kid if they want to go to the zoo, and see how fast that hat, mittens and coat go on!

My frustration is especially evident after a long day at work, or when I have expectations that may not always be realistic for small children. As this is my first time with kids, I don’t always have realistic expectations.

I don’t want to be the parent that’s always angry. I want to enjoy the beautiful little creatures that inhabit this house with me.

To try to get there, I’m trying to accept that there’s going to be a lot of times that I’m not going to get what I want.

I might not get a full hour of writing. I might have to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to go with the three oranges and eight strawberries she’s having for supper. But in the end, my relationship with them is worth the sacrifices. They are amazing kids. For the most part.

I’ve also learned to start getting ready in the morning sooner. If I get them to daycare ten minutes early, no one really minds. It saves a little of my sanity, if you can call someone that has voices in her head sane.

I’m figuring it out, and I’m making mistakes along the way. But I figure as long as I approach parenting with love, I can’t screw them up too badly.

 

How about you? Any coping techniques when things really frustrate you? Or getting kids ready in the morning? Ever have to deal with a picky eater? How did you handle it? Or maybe you’re the picky eater?

I Clearly Misplaced It

Looking for my motivation. Yes, I’ve clearly misplaced it, but I’m not sure where.

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That’s not entirely true.

We’ve had a run of nasty sicknesses in my house. From ear infections, to stomach flu, to five-day fevers, we haven’t had more than a couple weeks all year where someone in the house isn’t sick. Work has also been really busy, and my lunch hour has been usurped so that I can still make it home in time for the kids. We snuck in a mini-vacation as well.

Yet, that’s only part of it. I was super busy going into the new year, but I still found time to write. Even as we faced the holidays, which are my peak time at work, and potential unemployment and loss of benefits, I still made time to write.

But that isn’t happening now.

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You and me both!

I examined my work-in-progress. Perhaps the story is weak or the characters are flat, but I don’t think that’s it. The hero has been teasing around in my thoughts for a couple of years. The heroine is newer, but I feel like she’s well flushed out. I really get her personality, her background, and her desires. The plot dancing around the romance isn’t as robust as it could be. I’ve spent some time thinking it through, and I’m closer to having all of it nailed down without pigeon-holing my characters.

Remember, the moment I write an outline, the story is dead. But I do know where it’s going. Mostly.

Yet, I still haven’t been applying bottom to chair and making the first draft words happen. Why is that?

Honestly, I’m not sure.

I did recently get a new laptop so I don’t have to be cut-off from the family while writing. Perhaps that’s my issue. I’m less inclined to isolate myself to put words on the page. Apparently, being around other humans, even small ones, steals away my ability to write.

Maybe it’s something else. Something a little deeper.

After two years and three novels, I still have nothing published. Nothing ready to publish. My plan had been to finish the book I’m currently working on and then go back and make the final(?) round of revisions to Crowned Prince before trying to get an agent for it.

Perhaps I should contemplate working on a revision for either of the other two novels I have completed instead. I just don’t want to forget how to write fresh words. It’s a skill, like any other, and must be practiced. And it’s easy for me to get sucked into editing, letting the more analytical side of me take over.

Maybe it’s something else entirely.

Not the doubt demon, not exactly, but sometimes I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

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I haven’t forgotten you.

I’ve devoted a lot of time to writing for the past two years. I even worked on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. At the end of that time, I have some pixels on a screen, but little else. No agent. No book deal. Not even a manuscript that’s truly ready for an agent.

I’ve worked hard at it, and it feels like I’ve accomplished nothing.

I know me. I know making things happen motivates me. To have spent so much time on something and feel like I have nothing to show for it makes me rethink how I’m spending my time. Makes me question if I should be spending time on this.

I have to remind myself I haven’t really failed yet. I’ve barely tried. A handful of query letters a year ago barely counts as a full effort. And yet…giveup

 

Have you ever found yourself lacking motivation? What did you do to get your motivation back? Did it work?

“Us” vs “Them”

We see this a lot. Us versus Them.

It’s “your” team versus whomever they are playing. It’s the Rebellion versus the Empire. Democrats versus republicans. Geeks versus jocks.

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This was so my “in” group. C’mon DPS.

Pick your “in” group, and you’ll automatically have an “out” group. It’s everywhere, and once you side with a team, you will automatically favor them even if the evidence doesn’t agree with you.

This is called Social Identity Theory, and humans do it all the time. Once we identify with a group, once it becomes ours, a part of ourselves becomes intertwined with the success of that group.

Think how many times you’ve seen a sports fan became angry over how “their” team played. Now, if you actually owned the sports team, you’d have a lot riding on their success. But most of the people I know who are invested in “their” team don’t even have a bet riding on the outcome.

I’ve even heard fans make disparaging comments about fans of other teams. What would make an otherwise rational person hate someone else just for the team they support?

Social Identity Theory says this is actually pretty common. Once you identify with a group making it the “in” group, humans will discriminate against and disparage the “out” group as a means of making themselves feel better about the group to which they are associated.

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This is some pretty powerful stuff. Wikipedia links to a series of studies, one that shows people aren’t even willing to bet against their “in” group even though it could mean that they make money doing so.

There is some thought that this was an evolutionary response. Those that favored their own tribes to the exclusion of all others were more successful, had more children, etc. Hard to prove, but a reasonable theory.

Interestingly, though, humans are actually more successful the larger we make the “in” group. The research corroborates what Adam Smith said in The Wealth of Nations that human prosperity is dependent on the voluntary exchange between and co-operation of different nationalities and races.

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It’s an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, research shows us that Social Identity Theory tells makes us want to favor “our” group, yet other research shows us that this is not necessarily what makes us the most prosperous.

Sadly, this isn’t fiction. If it were, I’d get a note from my beta reader telling me about the inconsistency of my character, and how his actions didn’t align with his goal. I’d fix it, and all would be well.

Not that easy in the real world, even if does explain a lot things we see happening around us.

But, perhaps it gives us some insight into making a character that our audience will identify with. Give them someone that’s in their “in” group so that they’ll want to see them succeed even if he is a whiny farm kid more interested in racing speeders with his friends than tending to the droids on his aunt and uncle’s farm.

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How about you? Ever read about a character you could identify with and wanted to see them succeed no matter what? Or maybe you have a sports team you love no matter what? Or maybe you found yourself in one “tribe” when you wanted to be in another?