Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Paralyzations Via Renovations

First: is paralyzation a word? Apparently not...but it is now!

There is so much that needs to be done in my house. I'm talking major renovations that are going to cost good money and lots of time. One is the outside of the house. I've got an old Tudor-style home, built in 1932. It's got brick, siding, wood shingles, and wood accents...and all are in need of replacement (well, I guess not the brick. Lucky me!). With that comes a new sliding glass door going out to the deck (or French doors, perhaps), a new front door, a new side door, and a new garage door. This is some costly stuff.

Then, I've got two bathrooms upstairs that are in need of replacement. The main hallway bathroom is huge and has a big jacuzzi tub...that does not drain, and therefore can't be used. All of the fixtures are black, so they collect dust like crazy. There's a pedestal sink, which I thought I would love because it looks so pretty...but it sucks. You can't put anything on it (like a brush or hairdryer or makeup while you're using them) and you can't store anything under it (like towels or medicine or whatever). It has bright makeup lights like you would see in a movie star's dressing room. Way too much for me. And the worst part is the wallpaper. It has three wallpapers, to be exact - the bottom is black with little while shield-shaped figures on it. The top is grey without much of anything special. And the middle - oh the middle. It has Trojan horses, in black, white and gold, traipsing around the room. HORRIBLE. The only thing I like about this bathroom is the beautiful chandelier I put in a few years back. Other than that, it is huge with so much potential and I hate nearly every square inch of it.

My master bathroom on the other hand is small, with only a stall shower (no tub). I could probably live with that if the tub in the other bathroom worked. But the worst part of the master bath is that it was last renovated in the 60's or 70's so it has that lovely avocado-green tile on the bottom half of the walls. I've painted the top half white and put some awesome artwork in there to try to cut the green...but honey,  it's GREEN. It needs to come down.

And my kitchen is another source of renovation fever. The wood cabinets were painted a number of years ago and I can live with them...but the floor is the ugliest brown linoleum and the countertops are wood-patterned formica. Horrendous. There is some charm in there, though - a brick archway between the kitchen and breakfast nook, wood beamed ceilings, built in cabinets in the nook. But still, the floors and counters and layout have to go. Again, I've decorated around it all and it's not terrible...but it's time for a reno.

Basically, I am overwhelmed by all of the construction that would have to be done. The big bathroom  and master bathroom have to be gutted...and my hope is to extend the master bath to the length of the house so I can have a bigger bathroom and add a second walk-in closet to the room. The kitchen is always a huge undertaking. And the outside of the house...ugh, we got one estimate at $30,000. And that's something that no one will even really notice!

Since I am overwhelmed by the idea of construction, I have turned my sights on my bedroom. It needs no construction. It's a big room with lots of potential. For some reason, when we moved in, I wanted faux paint on the walls...in green. I loved it for a long time but it has definitely outstayed it's welcome. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do in there and now *that* is paralyzing me. Right now it is a mishmosh of styles. There is no cohesiveness to the room and it feels all over the place.

I was talking to my husband last night about redecorating the bedroom (which is going to mean new furniture, bedding, rug, curtains, shades, accessories...everything) and I told him how I was feeling overwhelmed because I didn't know where to start. I want the bedroom to be perfect - to capture our lifestyle and our family and our tastes, to represent who we are, and to give us a peaceful place to relax and sleep. And maybe a little romance in there, too!

As he always does, he talked me down from my ledge. He pointed out our living room, which is exactly what we want it to be. Elegant and rich, but super comfortable and lived in. TV front and center since that's our daily life, but held in a huge, hand painted armoire that doubles as a piece of art, really. He pointed out the dining room, which again is just what we wanted. Not fancy, a little farmhouse-y, beautifully comfortable for every day use, gorgeous colors with the perfect artwork. And he pointed out our office, which, yes, once again is exactly our vision. Dark and moody, deep wine-colored walls, dark wooden bookcases filled to the brim with well loved books. Very Moroccan, layered fabrics and pillows on a comfortable pull-out couch, beautiful desk with gorgeous accessories from our travels. The downstairs bathroom is so "us" too - because I took a chance and did something really edgy in an old house. I painted the bottom of the walls a really dark charcoal grey and the top part a metallic silver, put a punky chandelier in there, and then used pink accents in the dramatically punk art. It's one of my favorite rooms. And finally, TJK's room. A perfect room for a tween-going-on-25. A soft sky blue, with hand painted clouds and a blooming cherry blossom tree, gorgeous bedding, shelves for all of her trinkets and collectibles.

Basically, all of the rooms we have redecorated since moving in represent us well. The rooms that need to be redone - the master bedroom and bathroom, the main upstairs bathroom, the kitchen - are the ones we have not touched since moving in. Like the bedroom - the furniture is from our apartment. There's a room-dividing screen, also from our apartment. And there is a big comfy chair in there, which is from an old living room set from the apartment. Nothing in the bedroom was chosen for this bedroom. This made me take a breath and realize that when I decorate rooms in my house, I do it well. The bedroom is just the next on the list...to be followed closely by the bathrooms and kitchen and outside...


Monday, February 01, 2016

George Michael Was Right: A Quick Remembrance of a Vodka Tour

When we were in Russia, we were so excited to taste some true Russian vodka. Well ok, I was really the one who was super excited and hubby sort of just came along, but it was all very exciting to me. We saw the palaces and churches by day, and the boozy fun side of St. Petersburg at night.

Throughout the trip, I had seen this couple who were hitting the same sights we were. They had that 50's rockabilly aesthetic, which is one that I really like looking at but have no interest in trying to pull off. I know I have my own style which I adhere to pretty closely, but the idea of dressing in that same rockabilly style every day is not attractive to me. However, it does fascinate me. All the cherry-print skirts and red and white bandannas and peep-toe shoes are pretty cute (on other people). And the pin curls in their hair...yesss. Again, not my personal style but definitely a stand out. Because they were dressed like this all the time, they definitely caught my eye. I found myself thinking that I'd like to meet them and maybe hang out for a drink because they must be pretty cool.
She was not nearly this cute, but this is how she dressed. Cherries for days.
When we got to the meeting point for our vodka tour (you can't just go out on your own in Russia - you need a very expensive visa to do so, and since we were only there a couple of days it made more sense to do tours), I saw the rockabilly couple waiting as well. They must have seen us around too, because they gave us a little head-nod of acknowledgment. As we boarded the boat (yes, it was a boat down the Neva River with vodka all the time, and it was amazing!), they chose to sit next to us. Perhaps they thought we were cool, as well? Well, duh.

The shots started flowing and we sang and yelled and chanted and also shopped and did some sightseeing and took a million pictures. We got to see another side of St. Petersberg - a really cool downtown side where young people were hanging out and drinking coffee at cafes, walking hand in hand down the Neva, and honestly, just being people. There is nothing like traveling and seeing foreign places to bring down your prejudices about other cultures and countries. We hit up a great chocolate shop, saw some amazing sculptures, and yelled and waved to anyone on a bridge as our boat sailed under it. We even learned to read some Russian, which I absolutely loved even whilst tipsy on the vodka.

And this rockabilly couple, the ones whose fashion choices led me to believe they were so awesome that we could be lifelong friends, were beyond annoying. They were loud and obnoxious and not in the fun way. They were crass and uncouth, and as Jersey as I can be, I am never those things. I am always respectful and thoughtful and conscious of my surroundings, especially when I travel. These losers made off-color jokes and were obnoxious and really quite uncivilized. They were every reason other countries hate Americans. Maybe their 1950's clothes really did represent where their evolution had stopped in terms of understanding the world around them. I hated them.

I couldn't wait to be away from them, and in fact, when we got off the boat to go shopping in Nevsky Prospekt, we made the decision to sit in someone else's seats for the rest of the boat ride so as not to sit by these people any longer. It might have caused a bit of unrest with our fellow travelers to switch like that, but it was worth it. Drunk on vodka or not, there was no way I was going to spend another minute talking to those circus animals without ending up in a Russian prison for assault.

Despite our initial opinion of them, we came to realize that George Michael was right. Sometimes the clothes do not make the man. The morals of the story are: 1) Sometimes people who look cool are really just the most uncool, 2) Americans really do need to check themselves when we go overseas so we aren't perpetuating the stereotypes of Ugly Americans, and 3) Russian vodka is really delicious and I want to go back and spend more time drinking it.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pearl Jam Made Me Break Up With My Boyfriend

I have been a Pearl Jam fan for a long time. In fact, the very first time I heard them, I fell in love and became a diehard fan immediately. My passion for the band has never faded.

The first time I saw them live was in the summer of 1992 at Lollapalooza. I was a punky kid who had never really been to a punk show. I was sort of nervous to go to a show like Lollapalooza, which at that time was really alternative and really strange and really intimidating. In fact, one of my regrets in life is not going to Lollapalooza in 1991 when Nirvana was there. Kurt died before I ever got to see them, so my fear of the freaks at Lolla (before I realized I *was* one of the freaks) held me back and fills me with regret to this day. But I digress...

I went to Lolla '92 with my boyfriend at the time, my best friend, and her boyfriend. My one and only goal was to get close to the stage for Pearl Jam, and I had no idea what that meant in reality. I just knew I was getting close to Eddie Vedder. I remember that they were second on the bill (after Lush) so they came on at maybe 2 in the afternoon. As soon as Lush finished, we ran up to stake out our spots...as did every other kid in the place. I felt ok about the spot we landed - not as close as I had hoped, but I was used to seeing hair metal bands from the nosebleed seats in arenas so just being in the vicinity of the stage was good enough for me.

As we stood and waited for the band, I realized I felt at home with all of these weirdo alternative kids with their piercings and tattoos and crazy hair and makeup. I wasn't sure what had made me so nervous, and I suddenly got very comfortable. I was with my people. And then Pearl Jam came out.

They opened with Even Flow and with the very first note, the pit went crazy. Everyone rushed the stage and we ended up way closer than we started thanks to the surge of sweaty bodies plowing towards us. I swear, I felt like the moment just overtook me. I stopped caring about how I looked or if my friends were still near me; I just became part of the experience. Everyone in the pit jumped and danced and moshed and screamed as one.

I loved it. I loved the energy and the passion. I looked around for my boyfriend after a minute or so and caught his eye. He was wide-eyed and panicked. In a terrified voice, he yelled, "I'M GETTING OUT OF HERE!" and expected me to go with him. I didn't. I acknowledged him and then turned back to the band. My best friend left too, but her boyfriend and I stayed and were experiencing this awesomeness at the same time. We locked eyes and gave each other a mental high five. He was feeling the same thing I was. It was just an otherworldly feeling, one that I try to describe to my daughter but I just can't find the right words.

This moment in time changed my life. As I moshed and jumped and danced and got kicked in the head by crowdsurfers, I knew that this was where I was supposed to be, And I looked at who was not there with me - my boyfriend of 5 years. He was suddenly a world away from me. Now that I knew this feeling existed, I knew I couldn't go back to Saturday nights watching television at his house or going to dinner and a movie. I wanted to see every show for every band as often as possible. And I knew this was not a life he would want to lead. Suddenly, just from that one Pearl Jam show, I knew I would be breaking up with him and going it alone for a while.

I felt free.
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And now, today, I am trying to get Pearl Jam tickets so I can take my daughter to see them and they sold out in like 1 minute. I did not get fan club tickets either. So now I'm going to have to overpay some dick at Stubhub who doesn't even like the band but just wants to make some money so I can see the band I have loved for nearly 25 years.

I miss the days when I'd go to the local record store on a Thursday night, stand on line to get a wristband, and come back on Saturday morning when tickets went on sale. I'd already have a place in line (the wristband gave you a number that was your place) and get to hang out with other crazy people who loved the band as much as I did (and I did this for so many bands, not just Pearl Jam). Now it's all scalpers just out to make money and true fans don't get to see the band.

Get off my lawn.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Finding My Joy After Not Becoming a Billionaire

I was hoping to win the Powerball's $1.5 billion last night and then I'd know exactly where my joy is: it's in my bank account. Alas, that dream did not come true, so now it's back to real life and time for that dream to rest for a bit.

When you think about winning that much money, you start thinking of all the things you would do if you could. You wouldn't have to work ever again, so your days and nights would be free to do whatever filled you with happiness. That idea gets the wheels turning on what you'd actually do with your time if you truly had free will to do what pleased you.

Here is where my mind went. Immediately, I set my travel plans. I'd plan for chunks of time in Africa, the Far East, Australia, the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, and Bora Bora, to start. Then I'd be off to Istanbul (terrorism be damned) and Morocco and Egypt, and then I'd take return trips to Spain and Italy and Croatia and Hawaii and Paris.

Then what? What else do I love? Beer. I'd perhaps open a gastropub, a casual one, in my current hometown. I'd hire people to run it well so we wouldn't fall victim to what so many other restaurants do. We'd brew a couple of our own beers (after hiring a Brewmaster), but mostly have craft beer from other breweries on tap. There would be lots of variety and lots of alternating taps. The food would be casual and hearty - classics with a twist, maybe.

I'd concentrate on working out, something I don't have time to do now as often as I'd like. I'd have a personal trainer and a chef who would cook healthy and delicious meals for picky ol' me. I'd work on making my body the healthiest it can be.

And I'd shop. Oh, would I shop. I think my first stop would be Chanel for a large quilted tote with the big interlocking C's on it. And then I'd order a beautiful Birkin bag. And then I'd shop for shoes and clothes and makeup until I dropped. And then I'd buy a Porsche Panamera.

Of course, I'd give some away. Some would go to family (my parents, of course) and friends. Some would go to charities I feel so strongly about (animal welfare. domestic violence survivors, veterans).

This morning, like everyone else in America, I woke up unable to do any of the things of which I had dreamed. It was back to the every day grind...which, I know, I know. I live a good life. I have a well-paying job and an amazing family and the ability to travel and drink good beer and eat good food and buy a nice bag every now and then. But does it all fulfill me? Does it fill me with happiness as life should? Most of it, yes. I can truly answer that with a yes. But when I think about work...

Work is such a mixed bag for me. The pay is good. I love my co-workers (mostly). I enjoy some of the work that I do, although it doesn't fill me with joy by any stretch. I occasionally feel like I make a difference. But I spend a good deal of time worrying about my job, wondering if it will still be here tomorrow. There is no peace in that, and I don't like living with a cloud over my shoulder.

And then I think...ok. So you didn't win the lottery. You aren't a bazillionaire. What would you do if you were laid off? What if you got a severance package and had the time to find something new? Would it be in HR? Would it be the same corporate grind, just at a new company? Or would it be a perfect chance to take a risk...to find what I loved and just go for it. Dedicate myself to it. Throw myself in, wholeheartedly. And where exactly would I be throwing myself...where does that passion lie?

I feel like I need to take some time to find answers to those questions so that my next life, post-this job, is one that makes me happy and doesn't just simply pay the bills.

Monday, January 11, 2016

I'm Planning to Win A Billion Dollars

So. I did not win $800 million in Saturday's Powerball drawing. Bummer. The good news is that no one won, so that sucker is now up over a BILLION DOLLARS. I have some of the money well spent already: firstly quitting my job, of course, and then on to the shopping. But the funny thing I realized as I thought about how I'd spend the money is that sure, I'd buy some new purses and shoes and all that stuff. And a Porsche. But the main thing my mind goes to is that with that much money, I could just travel the world forever and experience everything this earth has to offer.

That's when I realized that although I like "stuff" (as evidenced by my recent Konmari purge, which is still ongoing but has thus far resulted in my donating over 150 t-shirts...and I still have two drawers full that I'm keeping), I value experiences most of all. If you gave me a billion dollars (or even a thousand dollars), my first thought would be, "Where can we go?"

We are planning a trip to Captiva Island in the Spring with TJK's friend and her mom. As I looked at all the resort has to offer, I realized that this was a trip that would be full of experiences and not stuff. We can parasail. We can watch dolphins and manatees. We can watch one of the world's best sunsets from the deck of a yacht while sipping cocktails. The girls can take photography lessons, or mermaid-swimming lessons, or trudge through the muddy sand at the tide line for creatures who make their home there. With memories like those, do I really need a t-shirt to commemorate it? Does TJK need another stuffed animal? What more would we need, other than the photographic documentation of it all?

As I thought about all that money and what I'd do with it, my immediate answer was: this trip. At $132,000 per person, it's a trip I could only dream of being able to experience. And there are four amazing trips there to consider...all clocking in at over $100k per person. And what I love most about it is the experiences it would offer: flying on a private jet and staying in Four Seasons resorts would be experiences all their own, and hitting that many countries with that many sights to see...wow. And yes, I'd shop my wallet dry in the markets of Istanbul and Marrakesh, but the things we'd see and experience would outweigh nearly anything we could buy.

So while I can't see myself ever being able to afford that kind of travel (unless the gods of the lottery see fit to bestow me with a gift of $1b...which would be more than lovely), I can look at my own travel experiences, no matter how small or big, with the same eye to enjoy the moments. Get into the lifestyle of the place I'm visiting. Eat good food. Dance. Swim, Take chances and capture the memories.