Advice to my Twenty-Something Self:

I was ‘home’ in Rhode Island for less than 24 hours because my mother’s annual Christmas visit now includes travel escort service on both ends. Once your parents reach a certain age, this is as it should be, but it’s also a reminder of the passage of time and just what that means. As a side benefit my sister visited on the front end of my mother’s stay and I had the opportunity to see some friends and relatives on the back end. This doesn’t happen often now that I live over 400 miles away from ‘home’. I come from a large family and the holidays were always a big deal in more ways than one. Now we are all scattered about the country and at best only get together for weddings and funerals.

 

As the youngest of this large family, I became an aunt at ten-years-old and am now a great aunt. Scary thought. One nephew and two of my nieces now have spouses. Soon there will be more grand nephews and nieces. I often think of my nieces and nephews as being perpetually in their twenties, but now, some are approaching their thirties. Yikes. Twenty years can disappear just like that.

 

One of my nieces just passed the bar exam and is now working at a law practice. I was listening to her talk about her life which is really just beginning and it got me thinking. In my twenties all I wanted was to have ‘life experiences’. Now in my forties, I just want time to slow down or to stop altogether. Sometimes it feels like I sprinted through life, anxious to complete the next thing on some invisible list. I rarely cast a look over my shoulder fearful that was behind me might try to hold me back. It’s OK. This is what we are supposed to do when we are young. Live. Have no regrets. There is plenty of time later to ruminate.

 

But if I could go back and advise my younger self, there are few things I would tell her:

 

  1. Money is a means to an end and nothing more. Learn how to save it. If you are fortunate enough to have a good job, max out your 401K from the start. You’ll need that money later. Trust me.
  2. Live within or below your means. ‘Stuff’ will not make you happy it will only burden you.
  3. Never say never! You will eat those words so often you’ll begin to choke on them.
  4. Love is all that matters. Marry for love. Marry your best friend. You might be poor, but you will be happy and you’ll find a way to survive, together. It still won’t be perfect but you will be happier than many others.
  5. Give to charity. Self explanatory. No matter how little you have, someone else almost always has less and could use some help. Sometimes a little kindness is all a person needs to get back on their feet and moving forward again.
  6. Have children. A career is a wonderful thing, but if you can’t manage to ‘do it all’ and you must choose one or the other, you’ll regret not having children if you really want them. They are our greatest achievements, even when we make mistakes raising them. You will have many jobs in your lifetime and several that you will never lament leaving. If having children is not possible, be the best aunt you can be to the children of your siblings and friends.
  7. Travel. It will expand your mind, teach you compassion, and open your eyes wider than any other experience ever will.
  8. Right now you are taking your young skin for granted, but your forty-something self will thank you for doing this one simple thing: Start wearing sun block every day, especially on your face and neck.
  9. Be worthy of trust. It will make you a good friend.
  10. Stop talking and do. Do something you are passionate about, even if it can only be a hobby at first. You need money to survive but you need fulfillment to be whole.
  11. Take care of your body. We each only get one and the better you treat it now, the better it will carry you later.
  12. Marriage is tough. See #4! Nothing will test your resolve more. Sometimes you will want to quit. You’ll need to decide what is and what isn’t a deal breaker. See the rest of the list, especially #3.

If I could go back and tell my younger self these things and she would likely ignore me and say, “I’ll never be as old as you”. Then I would look back at her and say, “Girl, you have so much to learn!”

Happy New Year all!

 

Like this post? Check out my page turning thriller: “Secret…”

Mooving is for the birds!!!

Mooving is for the birds!

Mooving is for the birds!

 

By my calculation, my family has moved four times in the last nine years, and we are getting ready to do it again.

Let me just say the entire process is extremely stressful. ‘Back in the day’ as a single person, I moved plenty, but then it was just a matter of tossing a few sad pieces of furniture into a friend’s pickup truck, and finding a new apartment. Moving with a family has multiple moving parts. Add in selling and/or buying a house and you have a whole new stress level.

Cat on ceiling!

Cat on ceiling!

 

It’s hard to say whether myself, or my husband is more high-strung throughout this process. We seem to take turns. However, we’ve been blessed with a Real Estate agent who manages to talk us down off the ceiling periodically.

I wonder is it the great unknown that causes all the anxiety? The what ifs which normally thrill me as a writer, are enough to make me become unglued as the head of this moving project.

As for my writing, it has taken the proverbial backseat yet again, while I sort out all the details of this move.

I feel badly for my children who would rather be enjoying a fun-filled summer and are instead stuck with me negotiating with contractors and cleaning out closets.

I am aiming for a bird-like a philosophy. Birds build new nests regularly. I found this article about Robins,  www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/BuildNest.html stating that they may build between 20 and 30 nests over the course of a lifetime. Birds go through a whole process in selecting a suitable site for their nests, collecting materials and putting the structure together with their beaks as their only tools.

Dove in England

Dove in England

Perhaps I needed reflection on this today, humbled by my feathery, woodland friends. Or maybe, moving is truly for the birds!

Thanks for reading and I know I am behind on Artistic in the District. There is more good to come as soon as I smooth out my ruffled feathers!

 

Overwhelmed in the T.P. Aisle?

Do you think about BRANDING much? Branding is the new buzz word. Every product on the market has a brand or brands. 

I find the number of choices overwhelming at times. Here I am in the toilet paper aisle, just trying to get through all the options. Drowning in a world of excess, where does one begin?

 

www.eileenslovak.com

The T.P. Aisle at Giant Supermarket

 

I refer to my trusty coupons for guidance:

www.eileenslovak.com

Coupons!

  • If I buy two packages of one brand, I can save $1.00.
  • If I buy one mega roll I can save $1.25.
  • If I buy one package of toilet paper and one package of paper towels of the same brand, I can save $1.00.

Suddenly my head is spinning! Then, I look at the prices of these brands: $8.99, $9.99. Are they serious? They do know what we use this stuff for? Right?

I think about how my kids go through it like it grows on trees. Oh, yeah, right.

My husband loves to tell the story of his days growing up in Ireland and the one room schoolhouse with the outhouse where all he had to use were old squares of newspaper. Ouch!

I try to think about which brand my family prefers. My husband suggests, “you know, get the ‘cushy’ kind, I hate that thin, skimpy stuff.”

Several different brands that claim softness and extra cushioning. These cushy on the ‘tushy’ types all look the same to me. I try squeezing a few to see if one feels better than another. It reminds me of a commercial from my youth. Advertising at it’s best, this is forever etched on my brain. Still, what makes one brand better than another?

www.eileenslovak.com

“I claim the 5th. Hey, it worked for Lois Learner”
-Licorice

 

In the end, I rely on some insider knowledge from my manufacturing days. You may or may not realize store brands are typically made by one of the major producers of any given product line.

Great Value is a Wal*Mart Brand

Great Value is a Wal*Mart Brand

Think about it. Supermarkets are in the business of selling food not manufacturing it.

What happens is, a private label, designed by a graphic artist, is placed on the bottle of finished product, the same product with the well-known name that might even be merchandised on the shelf right next to the store brand, but at a higher price.

The added cost of the specialty brand pays for advertising and marketing. The branded company is betting on your loyalty to their name brand to keep their share of the market place.

I pick up the trusty store brand toilet paper and place in my cart, tossing the coupons aside for a savings of $2.00 or $3.00 a package at times. Every week I save 25-30% at the supermarket by shopping the sales, selecting store brands, and using coupons where it makes sense. Every penny saved puts me closer to developing my brand, www.eileenslovak.com.

Thanks for reading!

For more fascinating facts about toilet paper see:

http://encyclopedia.toiletpaperworld.com/surveys-stories/toilet-paper-statistics

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/may-2009/home-garden/toilet-paper/overview/toilet-paper-ov.htm

A. Sex, Money and Sleep

Q. Name three things couples fight about.

Do I have your attention?

What is all the fighting about? Most would agree the problem is a matter of not enough.

 

#1 Sex

It is interesting that man and woman ever managed to procreate. For women, intimacy in the relationship is a physical manifestation of our emotional state. For men it is a physical act bringing about an emotional state. Do you see the difference? So how do you bridge this gap? The easiest way for men to get what they want is to give us what we want, emotionally. First, men would have to know what that is and women refuse to tell them because we think they really ought to know already, right?

Confused? I am not surprised.

Here are a few hints for men: It may involve listening. It may involve role reversal. On the other hand, it may involve role-play.

Now women cannot expect men to take on all the responsibility for this task on their own. For women, connecting with men may involve less talking. It may involve role reversal. On the other hand, it may involve role-play.

Then there is the problem of the other two things that we argue about getting in the way of #1.

 

#2 Money

A former employer of mine once said, “Money is only a worry for the middle class, because the poor don’t have any and the rich have more than they need.” He, of course, was wealthy. I was middle class. He was also a jerk, right?

Although, he may have been correct. For the middle class ‘striving to do better’ has become our mantra, even if we never feel as though we are making any headway. In the US, we worry about our lackluster economy. We wring our hands while watching our elected officials throw our money away with both fists. Food and gas prices soar, while salaries shrink. We feel, in a word, hopeless. It is difficult enough to support oneself in this environment but then add-on a spouse or a family and the stress multiplies.

We have only two options: spend less $ or make more $. Well, there are only so many hours in the day. With all of this weighing on the mind, how does a person ever get any…?

 

#3 Sleep?

Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. According to the experts at Webmd, getting less than this can cause a “sleep debt” which leads to impaired functioning, memory loss and/or lowered immunity.

What if you are working two jobs to secure more (#2) money? When do you sleep? What if your spouse is the cause of your sleep problems because he or she tosses and turns or snores all night long? When you are so exhausted, so worn out, how do you ever find the time or the desire for…?

#1 Sex!

Here we are right back where we started! Get some sleep folks! Guaranteed you will feel a whole bunch better.

 

Some good sources for Sex, Money, Sleep:

http://psychcentral.com/lib/sexuality-and-marital-intimacy/00012148

http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/24/news/economy/middle-class-economy/

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/video/sleep-personality

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements

 

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Idol Fascination

Well, I am officially a captive home viewer of this season’s American Idol. In case you missed it, here is my take away from last night’s show.

First, let ask you something. Does anyone else out there think that if all of your favorite contestants are still on the show, that you could very well be a guest judge? I mean, why not? You and I may not be famous and/or talented but we know what we like, right?

I was impressed when MK Nobilette sang “To Make You Feel My Love,” the Harry Connick Jr. love song from Hope Floats. The fact that I woke up this morning singing it is a sure sign MK is among my top three, that or I was dreaming about Harry’s blue eyes again last night ;).

Anyway, thanks MK! On a side note, she could easily get away with sitting on a stool, aka Jewel, and stop awkwardly trying to move around the stage. I find it distracting and unnecessary.

Caleb Johnson still has the biggest, booming male voice I have heard in a long time. If he does not win Idol, there will surely be a top rock band or two ready to take him on. Caleb gave a stellar performance of Adele’s “Skyfall.” Even if you are not a James Bond fan, you have to love that tune. They really could have stuck with all Bond movie themes instead of “Cinema Themes,” it would have made for a better show.

Among the ladies, last nights big voice award was a tougher call. Jena Irene and Malaya Watson belted it out as divas do, although, the softer performances of Jessica Meuse and MK, as mentioned, were no less captivating.

If the group is not already recording a top performers CD, I am sure it is in the works.

True confessions time: I watch the show, but I do not vote, because I can never decide.  I am no closer to making a decision now about my favorite than I was a few weeks ago, but I am looking forward to tonight’s show. Good luck all, from this spellbound home audience member!